The Calm After the Storm, or Complete Life Slowdown

I usually take a long time between posts. I am a mother of two extremely active boys (active as in their energy levels – not active as in over-enrolled in too many activities – good to distinguish between those two), I’m a teacher who’s never figured out how to do the job efficiently and I always seem to have some added bits to my job that I like to include as a growing professional but that do take up some of my time. Aside from that I have my private life, something I rarely write about on here, which needs time as well for running, reading, napping, among other things. I have a full life and I’m grateful for it, but I’ve had to shift gears recently and before I get back to blogging solely about work, I need to transition my mindset with this post. So, while I usually have lots going on that gets in the way of blogging, this past three months or so of quiet in this space reflects the overall quiet in my life for a ¬†very different reason.

The simple reason for the downshift is that I’m sick. I’ve been very sick since December, but was getting sick from last August on. It’s a recurrence of a simple but all-encompassing condition that has led to a huge simplification in my life. Am I taking medication? Yes. Is it working? Sort of. Will I get better? Yes. That last question and answer are the only two that really matter and once I figured that out I was able to relax and be thankful that it is the type of illness that can be treated either through medication, a procedure or surgery. Until I’m better, I just need to relax and chill out and let a bunch of things go. Not easy for a person like me. I don’t do “sit and relax and do nothing” very well.

I was a bit startled, in the midst of being sick and still at the mopey, panicky stage about not being able to function at my usual 110%, to read a couple of posts by others who were going through rough times too. And not just any others, but people I look up to in the education world. First, after being forced to cancel my registration at a conference I’d been looking forward to attending, I read George Couros’ post I’m Tired. George wrote that post while at that same conference that I was supposed to be at.

When I get tired, or rundown, or sick like I am now, I always think ‘why can’t I be like ____? They can go, go, go, go, go and accomplish all sorts of things and never get tired or sick. Why can’t I do that?’ and George is one of those people that I watch and think that about. His post made me realize that maybe even those super-productive and mega-successful people out there that I watch and try to learn from aren’t quite as perfectly indestructible as I think they are.

Soon after reading that post, I saw a tweet about Shelley Wright’s post I struggle: lessons I’ve learned from being an inquiry teacher. Shelley is another one of those productive, ‘how does she do all that’ people that I watch and learn from. To read about her struggles, in connection to George’s post, stopped me and made me think. Not only do those super-achievers crash and burn once in awhile, they also experience the same (in Shelley’s posts on inquiry – exactly the same) challenges that I try to ignore and work through. And when I ignore and plow headlong with positive determination through day after day of tough, hard emotional and physical work, it takes it’s toll. I’m not indestructible, nobody is, and while I realize that at some level, it’s not getting through that stubborn, ambitious, must-keep-going, thick head of mine, hence illness that will last for at least 3-9 more months.

Two connected posts, at a time when I needed to realize that it was time to stop and just ‘be’ for awhile and let my body and mind have some time to heal, were enough. I found a way and stepped back at work. I stepped way back at home. At first I thought I just needed physical rest, but after two months of that not working I discovered that it was holistic – mind and body. Not only a quiet, rested body, but a calm, relaxed mind – that final piece in place was the magical ingredient.

Letting go in total has finally allowed my system to start recovering. I’m sleeping 12-14 hours a day. I’m still taking the medication. I still have to pace both my body and my mind. But I do, after months of wondering what I was going to do with my ailing body and scattered mind, feel some hope. I’ve found, at last, a sense of calm that things are going to be okay.

I may have little to no cognitive clarity or anything resembling mental acuity but those who know and care about me are patient and seem to be enjoying, for the most part, my scatter-brained, laid-back, who-cares, attitude towards life these days. Thank goodness I’ve been teaching for 17 years and still love it, as that experience and love for what I do makes it possible for me to continue to work, something, up until last week, that I wasn’t sure I’d be doing after Spring Break. And thank goodness for a supportive, if small, network of family and friends who love me and are helping to pick up all the slack I’m just happily leaving behind me.

So with that, I’m hoping that now I can move along and start getting things back to normal, professionally and personally. I’m thinking this is now the calm after the storm. Hopefully it doesn’t take me another three months to post, but if it does, I would wish that it’s because my life is back to normal and not because of a health-enforced, complete life slowdown.

Imagery: Morups Tange by sramses177 and storm a brewin’ by Steve took it, both¬†accessed March 22, 2013 from Flickr.com

6 Comments

  1. Shelley Wright says:

    This is a great post. Incredibly honest & insightful. While reading it, I was suprised at how many similarities there are between our lives. The truth is, if I don’t take care of myself & watch the balance in my life, I get sick, and I often can’t shake it. I’m not sure how often we talk about things like that in education. It’s easier to talk about the great things we’re doing in our student’s lives.

    So thank you for your honesty. I think it’s instructive for all of us. And I admire your courage to let go & allow yourself to heal. Take care, S.

    • egregory says:

      Thank you Shelley. I’m quite certain that one major piece missing in the field of education is teacher wellness. I think if we all looked after ourselves better that we’d do a better job of teaching for a much longer time. It’s such a wonderful profession, but even after all this time I don’t know how to do it without putting in 110%. It’s wonderful to connect with others such as yourself who understand the struggles and face them head on.

      Very glad you stopped by!

  2. Melva Herman says:

    Great post. Taking time to care for ourselves is something many of us do not do. I am recovering from my second knee replacement and learning this lesson. My first replacement was last June, and I missed the end of school but had the summer to get well. Now I have been off work and was feeling quite useless but have channeled my energy into getting well. I do my physio, I ice and elevate, I take pain medication, and I REST. Rest is healing and restorative, yet so often we feel guilty for doing it. It is as vital to our well being as eating fruits and vegetables. Thank you for pointing this out so eloquently.

    • egregory says:

      Thanks Melva. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. Rest is so difficult. It’s strange that to relax and stop and heal would be so tough, but it generally seems to be. Best wishes with your healing and good for you to channel energy into getting better!

  3. Aviva Dunsiger (@avivaloca) says:

    I really appreciate the honesty of this post. It’s true that as teachers, we rarely seem to write or reflect on our personal lives, but I think that it’s important that we do. They are a part of who we are, and as you shared here, it’s because of what’s happening in your life right now that other things have changed as well. I just hope that you recover quickly, and then if you blog or not, at least the reason will not be a health-related one.

    Aviva
    http://www.weinspirefutures.com

    • egregory says:

      Thank you Aviva. I always worry a bit when I write more personal posts on here, but really, we teach who we are and if we can’t acknowledge that at least some of the time then there’s a real problem with our profession. Thankfully there are supportive, genuine people like you and Shelley and Melva who remind others that it’s okay to be plain old honest and human in spaces like this.

      I’ll finish off with good news – I saw the doctor on Friday and I finally received some good news for the first time in five months! Recovery in progress!

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