Mad as hell…

imageFor several weeks I have been immersed in elder care.  The way our elderly are treated is repugnant in every way.  My heart aches for those who have little or no family and, therefore, few to no visitors.  Patients in facilities must have advocates, otherwise they are treated as though they are disposable.  The manner in which our “care” facilities are run is abhorrent to every moral and ethical fiber in my body.  And yet, not a thing is being done to fight against the companies who run all facets of our healthcare systems.  Money is always the bottom dollar.  Our elderly are robbed of their dignity and respect.  It makes me ill.

What can one citizen do?  I have no idea.  We are always told we, as individuals, can make a difference.  Can we really?  I don’t know.  I’m not even sure how to find out.  I look at the state of our country right now, the lack of cooperation that exists, and I feel demoralized.  Somehow, I must figure out how to make a difference.

It hurts me so to see individuals who were so productive and vital, just sitting and staring.  Many of them cry out because they need a small bit of attention but the health care aides can’t be bothered to answer their calls.  I’ve overheard too many comments like:  “I’m not your aide,” “If you keep using the call button, I will take it away,” “What do you mean you have to go to the bathroom again?”  This is a tip of the iceberg but it hurts me too much to go on.

Workers who tend our elderly are not well paid.  Patients are often made to feel they are doing the patient a favor by tending them.  Hello?  It’s your job.  I’m sorry you have to work two jobs to make ends meet.  I worked two and three jobs until I was 40.  I know I’m resented because I’m there each day with my loved one and obviously “don’t have to work.”  I’m retired.  Give me a break.  I worked hard.  How dare you judge me, someone you don’t know, and then treat my loved one poorly because you resent me.  Why can’t you just do your job?

Just as nursing is not performed as it was initially intended…when nurses really fussed over and cared for patients, our whole healthcare system is shot to hell.  It is dictated in 10-15 minute increments because that is what the healthcare companies deem appropriate.  I often feel like a cow being prodded along as my doctor, or more commonly physician’s assistant, keeps an eye on the clock.  They “hear” me and don’t actively “listen” as they are too busy typing things into their laptops.  Now I’m just in full-blown rant mode.  Time to stop.

To quote Peter Finch’s character in Network-“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”

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A few confessions of a retired teacher…

My academic teaching career didn’t begin until I was 30 years of age.  I’d taught tennis to various age groups from the time I was 15, but that’s different from classroom teaching.  Being a teacher was wonderful.  I loved it.  I think I would be hard pressed to list a bunch of specific reasons, but it boiled down to loving my subject matter (English) and being able to share that passion with my students.

I’m proud to say I taught in a well-respected school district, in a high school that always ranks in the top few in our area.  Believe me, we have many, many fine schools in said area.  The fact that it was the school I also attended made it extra special for me.  As teachers we were expected to be on top of educational trends and to push ourselves.  As a person who expects a great deal from myself, it wasn’t difficult to identify with the high standards to which I was held by the school district.  I worked hard, most of my colleagues did.  I never minded working hard.  I wanted to do a good job.  I expected myself to do a great job.

To say that teachers have an easy job means someone isn’t familiar with teaching.  Though I recognize there are different challenges at each level of education, I am only able to speak to teaching at the high school level.  Thankfully I was a member of a very good teacher’s union.  Our contracts were usually reasonable.  During my career I was expected to teach five classes per day.  I received one lunch period per day.  So that leaves two “free” periods per day.  Free period is an oxymoron.  During one of those “free” periods, I would be assigned a duty.  For one semester, I would have the duty three times per week; the other semester, the duty was required two times per week.  A duty may have been a study hall or a hall supervision assignment.  The hall supervision may have been scheduled on the far side of the school.  Study halls might have contained 15-30 kids.  By the way, our district is touted as having a 14:1 student-teacher ratio.  I don’t know in what century that occurred.  Over my career I averaged a student load of 120-145 kids per year.  In writing courses there were often 30 students per class…and 1 teacher.

Also during free periods I could use the rest room, make a phone call, grade papers,have a snack, answer emails, grade papers, run to photocopy lessons for an upcoming class, see a guidance counselor about a student, grade papers, formulate future lesson plans, research for an upcoming unit, grade papers, etc.  Many days all of those activities were accomplished during that 43-minute free period.  And on some days, when supervision wasn’t required, I got to do it twice!  I have forgotten many other things done during free periods.

This is all under the assumption that the administration is doing its job so that I’m able to do mine.  I’m able to say that, for the most part, our administration-department level, school level, district level-was staffed by professional, collegial, and caring people.  However, there were small percentages of time when that wasn’t the case.  It made my life a living hell and impacted my health.  It’s a shame that some individuals must cut others down to size to make themselves feel better.  I don’t care to speak on that subject any further.

Through it all, I made a decent salary and received good benefits.  And yes, I’m retired.  Was I ready to retire?  Not really.  I had more to give my students but if you recall, there were some negative impacts to my health.  My mind and body would not allow me to continue in the manner to which I was accustomed (see also self-imposed high standards).  Could I have “phoned” it in for the remaining four years until I reached the 30 year requirement for my full retirement pay (60% of final average salary)?  Yes, I could have.  Others had done so.  In one reactive hissy fit, a teacher used two years of accumulated sick leave as a protest against an extracurricular position he didn’t receive.  Unfortunately I have integrity and a conscience.  For the first time in my life I had to “give up.”  I disappointed a bunch of kids; I let them down.  I will always regret that.

So yes, I’m retired.  I love it for the most part.  While I’m sad that I receive a substantially reduced retirement benefit, I’m happy to have good health insurance.  And since I will mark my 60th year soon enough, I am inching closer to collecting Social Security which I have paid into since I was 15.  I hope it’s still available in a few years.

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Patience, my dear girl –


I’m sitting in the local history area of the NY State Library. I’ve come to look at three newspaper articles pertaining to my school district history project. The newspaper I need has not been digitized and is still on microfilm. Not a problem, I’m familiar with most types of microform.

However…you saw that coming, didn’t you…however, the film must be pulled from the basement of this enormous building. They only do that every half hour and tack on a half hour for it to be delivered. I must pass almost an hour until it’s in my hot little hand.

As a dedicated reader and researcher, I’ve always loved libraries. But I don’t know what transpires within libraries to turn the workers into passion-less entities who seem very unhappy in what they are doing. Hey, I know a few librarians and they are certainly not like that in their behaviors.

I digress because I am impatient and don’t like sitting idle. Heck, I’d be happy to take the elevator to the basement and get it myself but that’s not allowed. Still, I’m very fortunate to have access to a wonderful repository of history. The fact that it is housed with the NY State Museum is an added bonus.

There is a sweeping panoramic view of Albany and its surrounding areas from my 7th floor perch. The windows are hazy, maybe they are meant to be but they look just plain filthy. To distract myself I’m allowing my mind to wander and to think of what this view would have been like a few hundred years ago.

Given our spate of tropical downpours lately, I’m sure the residents would have worried about the encroachment of the Hudson River on their settlement. In the early days, housing and businesses were close to the river’s edge and there were no mechanisms in place to control flooding. Because Albany is almost at sea level and the Hudson is a tidal river, it flooded often. That would lead to outbreaks of illness and disease for which little treatment was available. Makes me feel darn fortunate.

The vista still shows plenty of trees and hills in the distance. It’s easy to imagine the rolling hills and farmland that occupied this space until 100 years ago. Some of what I see in the distance was land that is integral in the project I am researching here today. The circle closes. And it’s almost time for my microfilm to appear.

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Glorious sacrifices?  I think not.

I haven’t written a blog post in eons.  Wish I could say I had a good excuse, or even a bad one.  I will cut myself some slack because I’ve been working on my book project.  Honestly, I’ve avoided blogging because sometimes it seems readers just want to see angst and really frank personal honesty.  Not there yet, and maybe never.  I don’t feel I have any serious life lessons to pass along, in fact I’m not so good with my own life.  But I have finally accepted that I’m what people call a “deep thinker” (wtf?), though when those words are used the accompanying speaker often wears a look of trepidation as though it’s an albatross around one’s neck (water, water everywhere…).

So, yeah, I think about lots of stuff and the channels of my thoughts change constantly.  I mostly find what is swirling in my head pretty interesting but at times it’s a tad disconcerting.  The last few days, I’ve found my thoughts to be very emotional.  The foundation of it all relates to the horrible mess of our current society but I’ve been very moved by some of what I’ve been writing.  In writing a history of our school district, I’ve become very attached to much of what I’m writing.  I’ve “studied” some of these people for well over a year and feel as though I knew them personally.  Much of what has been told to me through personal interviews is often colored by the fact they are childhood memories.  Kids are wonderfully unfiltered and I think some of these folks have been surprised at how their stories come out.

I’m digressing.  Here’s the deal…several people spoke of a wonderful young man, kind of an all-American boy.  With smiles on their faces, they related how he taught them swimming or how they had watched him as a competitive diver.  One man shared he hadn’t known the fellow well but liked him because the fellow dated his older sister (3-4 yrs difference) and didn’t treat him like the proverbial kid brother.  He was treated as a peer and engaged the kid brother in meaningful conversation.  But the individual stories always ended with some version of “it’s a shame what happened.”

Now, I was a kid when the Vietnam thing was taking place.  I remember it was a contentious topic.  I remember the daily kill count reports at 5:00 p.m.  I remember the social unrest it caused here in the U.S..  As a ten year old, I wasn’t equipped to understand the real essence of it.  But, I learned.  And I learned mostly because I was to teach a Vietnam-era novel as part of the curriculum in 11th grade American Literature.  I’ve always felt history is important to literature, important in understanding the time period in which a book is set and influences its overall character.  So I immersed myself in all things relating to the Vietnam War.  Since it was not my job to influence what students were to think of the war, I tried to gather information from all manner of resources.

And I learned.  Through my father and uncle I had gained some understanding of WW II and the Korean Conflict.  I’d long been a Civil War buff and know a fair amount of that gruesome spectacle.  Through genealogical research, family members of mine have served in:  the American Revolution, the Crimean War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, WW I, WW II, and Korea.  I’ve sampled the poetry from many of these conflicts and have watched oodles of documentaries and films.  There is nothing glorious in war.  No amount of veneration will convince me that it serves a worthwhile purpose.  Read a few chapters of Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun and try to find some exaltation.  Watch the film Glory and see how you feel at the end.

Listen, I have a deep reverence for these men and women who give and risk their lives for our continued freedom.  They make the ultimate sacrifice.  I guess my feeling is they shouldn’t have to do it.  Let me share a few titles and lines from poems I admire:

“Into the valley of Death/Rode the six hundred.”  “The Charge of the Light Brigade”–Alfred, Lord Tennyson

“And who are you my child and darling?/Who are you sweet boy with cheeks yet blooming?”  “A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim”–Walt Whitman

“We are the Dead.  Short days ago/We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,/Loved and were loved, and now we lie,/In Flanders fields.”  “In Flanders Fields”–John McRae

“Who should dare to write their praise/Do so in the plainest phrase./Few names last, where many lie;/Even names of battles die.”  “An Epitaph for the American Dead”–Yvor Winters

“Godspeed, Marine!  Here’s my old wartime copy/of the Twenty-Third Psalm./”When assailed from all sides, it will provide you/with great solace and calm!”  A Dad’s Letter to his Marine”–Robert Hinshaw, CMSgt, USAF, retired

“He’s lost his right arm/inside the stone.  In the black mirror/a woman’s trying to erase names:/No, she’s brushing a boy’s hair.”  “Facing It”–  Yusef Komunyakaa

And I learned…of love, of loss, of horror, of tragedy, of senselessness, of loyalty, of brotherhood, of fear, of sacrifice.

I’ve expended tears and prayers and am so thankful for these three to have marched through my consciousness.

RIP – Col. Richard Kibbey (BCHS ’52), Lt. (Jg) Henry Klein (BCHS ’57), 1st Lt. Dean Allen (BCHS ’59)

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Duplicity?  There are a few sides to that issue.

I was brought up in a household where manners and courtesy were expected and practiced.  As I grow older, I am so thankful for that training.  I’ve long been an individual who despises phoniness and subterfuge.  It’s difficult for me to comprehend some of the gyrations and ridiculousness that individuals perpetrate on others.  I’m not one to participate willingly in some of the psychological games people play, but don’t think I don’t know how it’s done.  

Passive-aggressive individuals pose unique challenges in society.  Why do I see them as duplicitous?  It’s simply that some of them present themselves in a certain light and then do something entirely different.  Some would say they’re hypocrites.  They’re not.  They’ve chosen not to be confrontational and then done what they’ve wanted anyway.  In other words, they go along with a situation but then subvert the actions after the fact.

One of the areas I’ve found this to be prevalent is while serving on various committees throughout my life.  During my teaching career, I served on two bond issue committees.  The second bond was huge ($91 million dollars).  I was one of 22 committee members.  Always present in the back of my mind was my home training to be conscientious and to put forth my best effort.  Knowing I represented a few constituencies, faculty and fellow twin residents, I took my role seriously.  We met on 16 consecutive Monday nights for a few hours at each meeting.  A large issue arose, midway through the 16 weeks, over school buildings and handling a growing population.  We had it figured out.  There would be an addition to one elementary school.  The committee was in agreement.

The very next week after our meeting convened, we were told that we needed to plan for a new school to be built.  It wasn’t a question of discussing the issue, it was an order.  Naturally we were aghast and upset.  But administrators deftly steered the bond issue in the direction the Board wanted to take all along.  There is so much more to this story but suffice it to say it was the last time I served on a district committee.  Committees are formed to satisfy a requirement.  The work done is seldom reflected in the outcome.  That is duplicitous.

I’ve headed committees where the members were in agreement in meetings as to the issues and forward momentum, only to have one or two members later undermine the work of the committee in their own fashion.  Why not indicate disagreement during the meeting itself?  These same people are often the ones who have not thoroughly read the meeting materials or read the background information pertaining to the committee’s purpose and/or role.  That is passive-aggressive behavior and it’s duplicitous.

As one who is organized and takes my responsibilities seriously, these folks frost my cupcakes.  And I’ve allowed them, over time, to suck the joy and enjoyment for some activities from me.  It won’t bother them.  They don’t have a capacity for empathy.  I was taught not to stoop to the levels of poor behavior.  And I won’t.  However, that doesn’t mean I won’t defend myself.

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The past has passed…

imageI’ve spent far too much time living in my own past.  Granted, it was a time of happiness for me.  But if it deters one from moving forward, it’s time to shut the door on its examination and to forge a new path.  I know I’m loathe to refer to Jay Gatsby and his experiences too much, but Nick Carraway really grasps the obvious when he states, “He talked a lot about the past, and I gathered that he wanted to recover something, some idea of himself perhaps, ….”  My mind frequently revisits my childhood in Vermont.  Granted we moved when I was entering the second grade, but those few years in Burlington are forever cemented in me.

However, they’ve become a standard against which I measure myself time and time again only to find I don’t measure up.  I have to leave the past in the past now.  I’m not who I once was.  And I’m learning it’s okay to be a different person.  Would I prefer to be the slimmer, more athletic person I was in my youth?  Sure, I would.  But it’s impossible to ignore the water that’s gone under this bridge in the ensuing years.

The other day I drove past my childhood home in Burlington.  I’m always struck by how much smaller the dead-end street appears, how much closer to the street the house is positioned, how “tired” the whole scene appears.  Though I wouldn’t want to live there now, I still enjoy what I experienced there when I was young.

I was a happy-go-lucky kid, quick with a goofy smile and equally quick to go running off into the woods to reenact some television show I’d watched.  I could swim, skate and ski with ease and had no trouble keeping pace with the boys on the baseball field.  Throughout my teenage years when I visited Burlington every summer, I could still swing myself into a saddle with ease though I can see from photographs that the goofy smile had disappeared and was replaced by more of a brooding countenance.

Life can wear us down and suck the joy from any activity.  Reality tells me I’m far too overweight to try to swing into a saddle.  It would not be fair to the horse, I’m told.  Skiing and skating on a permanently damaged ankle, from an icy fall thirty years ago, would now be difficult but not altogether impossible.  Burned out from teaching tennis for over thirty years, with practice I could probably still slam a tennis ball fairly well.  I’d be slow on the baseball diamond but could still catch, though with bad shoulders I now throw like a girl.  Put me in the water and I can still swim like a fish.  I’m so thankful for that.  And thus, I look to the water for continued healing.

What’s the point?  Instead of reliving my past in the comfortable world of a child, I’m able to see a path that leads me to that happy-go-lucky kid…the one who didn’t care if her hair was a mess, the kid who protected other kids who were bullied, the kid who immersed herself in books.  Wait a minute, I’m still that kid.

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Did I do enough?

imageIn the wake of the most recent school shooting, I’ve been so proud of the young people in our country.  They are showing the adults how to effect change in a peaceful manner.  They are so articulate and are using their collective voice for the common good of all of our country’s citizens.  They understand change may not come quickly, but they also understand how votes may affect outcomes.  I like that.  These kids finally understand the power of the vote.  Good for them.

I turned 18 in 1976.  I was a freshman in college.  Our political science professor asked the class how many were registered to vote in the upcoming election.  All of the students raised their hands, with one exception.  I was the exception.  The professor called me out.  In a quiet voice I admitted I wasn’t old enough, my birthday was two days after Election Day that year.  He proceeded to make fun of me and called me a baby.  It turned me into a committed voter.  I don’t like to talk politics but I never miss an opportunity to vote.  I could have let that negative experience dampen my desire to vote.  It shows how teachers have the potential to impact our lives.  That professor appears occasionally on the local news as a consultant.  I’m proud to say I laugh each time I see him and I blow a huge raspberry at him.  I love my inner child.

Back on task.  The other day I was in a local market.  A young man at the cash register called my name loudly and proceeded to tell everyone within earshot how proud he was of his group’s effort on the Cleveland Torso Murderer’s project.  He felt they solved the mystery.  The young woman at the other register said, “Oh my God!  I did the Jon-Benet Ramsey case.  It was so cool.”  Granted some of the customers were dumbfounded by the somewhat graphic discussion that followed.   In my head, the critical voice said, “they really learned.  That was several years ago and they remember details.”

The cold case squad project in my Detective Fiction class was my sneaky way to get a bunch of checked-out seniors to research…and they had to do extensive research.  They didn’t even know they were researching.  In order to handle the antiquated language of Edgar Allan Poe, I broke down “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” into multiple sections.  There are at least a dozen witnesses in the story and they each had conflicting information.  We made a grid on the board and filled in information each day, like a real case board that detectives use.  There are plenty of other stories about dozens of lessons and units.

Let me tell you this, I learned so much from all of the kids who passed through my classroom.  They humbled me, they challenged me, they enriched my life beyond my wildest expectations.  I loved teaching and sharing my passion for literature and writing.  At times like the other day, I felt good about what I’d done.  Even though I’ve been retired for a couple of years, I still rehash lessons and think of better things I should have done.  It’s time to let that go.  I gave them all I had and I’m so glad some of them were impacted in a positive manner.

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A few NBA players, a few million people, and me…

What could I possibly have in common with all of these people?  It’s pretty simple:  depression, anxiety, panic attacks.  And thanks to three prominent NBA players it’s finally getting some press.  Kevin Love is the latest to discuss his mental health issues.  DeMarcus DeRozan and Channing Frye have already discussed their challenges.

Like any health condition, if one hasn’t experienced it, one cannot understand it.  There are so many people in our society who firmly believe those with mental health illnesses possess the ability to “buck up” and act normally.  Do they honestly believe that we enjoy feeling horrible?  It isn’t like a broken arm that is easily fixed.

Even with treatment and medication, these conditions may persist in a lesser form.  I’m glad it’s finally getting some press but it’s taken public figures, in this case professional athletes, to lend it some acceptability.  Because our illness isn’t tangible, it’s misunderstood.

I’ve had people behave awkwardly toward me only to find out they had never spoken with a person with an anxiety disorder.  What?  I communicate just like everyone else.  It’s when I’m quiet that I’m waging an internal battle.  Once, while attending a graduation ceremony, I confided to a “friend” that I wasn’t feeling well and was having an anxiety attack.  I was told to go outside, get some fresh air, and get hold of myself.  I found another ride home for my “friend” and then went outside, got in my car, and left.  But this is what happens.  People don’t want to deal with us.  It was a tough lesson.

If it takes celebrities to help enhance the understanding of the plight of depression, anxiety, and panic attacks, then so be it.  If you know someone who is afflicted, please don’t make light of it and lose your patience.  No one feels worse than we do when we are unable to do the things we want to do.  And whatever you do, don’t ever tell us to “suck it up.”

Posted in anxiety, depression, Illness, inspiration | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Let’s get real, people…

Kids are dying unnecessarily in our country.  These mass shooting tragedies do not have to happen.  They just don’t.  I’m certainly guilty of putting my thoughts and prayers out there but the folks in Florida are correct…we need action.  Writing to our legislators is one way to do it but they are too fearful of losing their jobs so most will not stand up to our current President.  Our current President doesn’t have a clue about the realities of day to day life amongst us “common people.”  He was raised in a vacuum of privilege, attended private schools and has people who do everything for him.  I’m not sure when he last stepped into a public school.

Though I stay away from political discussions for the most part, this whole mass shooting issue has me disgusted and upset beyond reason.  I’m not a total anti-gun person but I am an anti assault weapon person.  There is no reason for individuals to need to possess an assault weapon.  But let’s talk about the real problem.

There is no quick fix for this issue.  Banning some types of weapons, advocating for mental health treatment and having resource officers in every school are all starting points.  However, there have been huge changes in our society in the last few decades and those have not been taken into consideration.

Speaking as a retired teacher, who taught high school English for 25 years, I’ve watched our young people become desensitized to many things.  As a kid I watched plenty of television but was fully aware of what was real and what was fantasy.  Because of the advancements in technology, the television and films kids watch today are ridiculously realistic and horribly violent.  Naturally they seem to assume this is how life is conducted.

Our nuclear family structure has also changed drastically.  Our society has become one in which people value and prize material items to the extent that they don’t want to make economic sacrifices because they want to have “stuff.”  This often requires both parents to work outside of the home.  Children are not as closely supervised, are indulged, and are largely not held accountable for much of anything.  Look at the role models they have in professional sports and the entertainment industry.  Look at the fashion trends for young women.  If they don’t dress in a trendy fashion they are ostracized.

Social media has created a new level of viciousness in bullying.  Kids are bullied and where one or two other kids might have known about it, now entire schooldays and communities become aware.  Naturally teen suicide has increased along with teen depression.

I’m too upset to continue.  I’m well aware my opinions will not be agreeable to all.  They are my opinions, based on my experiences in a community similar to that of Columbine or Parkland.  There is no simple answer but we are existing in a society where our leader is a huge schoolyard bully.  Just look at the names he’s given to individuals through his social media participation:  Lyin’ Ted Cruz, Crooked Hillary, Sloppy Steve, Rocket Man, Sneaky Dianne Feinstein, Lightweight Kirsten Gillibrand, Dumb as a rock Don Lemon, Little Marco Rubio, Crazy Bernie Sanders, Psycho Joe Scarborough, Cryin’ Chuck Schumer, and, of course, Pocahontas.

I’m going to be thinking long and hard about how I can effect some change.  Our legislators certainly don’t have it within them to be of help.

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Best laid plans…

As most of us know, we can plan, plan, and plan some more.  And, as most of us know, plans don’t always work out.  I adhere to a firm belief that things happen for reasons so when things don’t pan out as I feel they should, I force myself to stop and take a deep look at the big picture.  In other words, God is trying to tell me something and I darn well need to stop and listen.

Don’t believe me?  You don’t have to but I know it’s true for me.  Case in point:  January 1977.  Midway through my freshman year of college, I was working and partying my way through the semester break.  I was young, healthy, had no clue what I wanted from life, but was attacking life in a willy-nilly fashion.  I’d just spent a semester carrying a full load of classes, working at least 30 hours per week, was trying to find my way in a college environment ill-suited for me and hanging with a whole new group of friends.  As one who chose to live home and go to college, my high school “friends” who went away to college seemed to forget I existed.  Knowing I was financially responsible for my college education, I spent most of my free time working.

Unbeknownst to me, I had just navigated a very difficult emotional few years and was ripe for disaster.  I chose to go out with some former high school friends, I was sooooooo thrilled to be included, even though I was not feeling well.  We went to a couple of bars, passed a can or two of beer between the six of us in the car, and had the kind of fun night that 18 year olds have.  The next day I visited my school’s campus and bought my books for the upcoming semester, then I went to work.  I still didn’t feel well but that’s life.  Within the week I would be diagnosed with mononucleosis, a rather serious case it turned out to be, complete with jaundice and a distended liver.  My exceedingly busy life came to a screeching halt.  I’d attended exactly one day of class for the second semester.  I wouldn’t be back in a classroom until the following autumn.

Threatened with a hospital stay, I assured the doctor I would be a model patient.  It wasn’t difficult because I was only awake for about one hour out of the day.  It was just past midterms when I was deemed healthy enough to go back to school.  Really?  How was I supposed to do that?  I accepted the semester was a wash, had no social life and didn’t know what to do.  I did what I do best, I read.  Since I read quickly, I went through the entire Agatha Christie collection within a month.  Then I discovered the work of Mathew Brady, the revered Civil War photographer.  It took all of my strength to peruse those huge books containing the collections of his work.  The tone of the photographs matched the bleakness of my outlook on life during that time of illness.  But after weeks of quiet rest, countless blood tests, and hours of introspection, I came to the disturbing conclusion that I was not happy with my life.  Well, I had plenty of time to think about how to change it.

When mid-April rolled around, I had formulated a plan.  It involved working full-time for the remainder of that semester to save even more money so I could transfer schools after two years.  As time passed, the plan became more specific but it was conceived during that time of recuperation.  It had taken a major event to allow me to stop and evaluate my life.  That isn’t to say the resulting decisions I’ve made have been stellar but I always learn something from these episodes.  This has happened a handful of times in my life.

It’s happening now.  Approaching this shoulder arthroscopy with a cavalier attitude, after all I’d had the other one done a few years ago and it wasn’t bad, I figured I’d be up and running within five days.  Yeah, well, I’ll have some coffee with that crow, please.  As much as I can plan for things, I again forgot the lesson I’ve learned from the esteemed poet Robert Burns:  “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men/Gang aft a-gley.”  No matter how carefully I’d planned, I forgot to figure in the x-factor, or the great unknown.  What I didn’t make much of an allowance for was pain.  The other one wasn’t terribly painful.  This one is.  Overall, I deal with pain quite well.  This time it’s knocking me for a loop.  Taking pain meds and driving are mutually exclusive.  I live alone.  Hadn’t factored in the non-driving circumstance.

The upside is I’ve had loads of time to reflect.  I’m so thankful to have a man in my life who seems thrilled to help me.  And he even understands that I have difficulty accepting help.  And he keeps returning even after I’ve had a meltdown, cried, yelled, and used language that I didn’t even know I knew.  This generally happens in the late morning after the shower is taken.  It’s not pretty.

But it’s canceled out by all of the good.  My neighbors and friends have overwhelmed me with meals, treats, and flowers.  I’ve had several visits filled with laughter.  And I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on the current state of my life and what needs to be tweaked.  Overall I’m very grateful that my period of convalescence will not be lengthy and that I’m so lucky not to be dealing with a far more serious issue as many people are.  Most of all I need to remember to be thankful and humble and patient.  And I need to remember that any plans may be disrupted at a moment’s notice.

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