If cleanliness is next to godliness, then I’m really ungodly. This is the time of year when the stacks of paper are piled high in my classroom and on what I call my ‘control counter’. I have one counter in my kitchen, that is MINE. It doesn’t have my name on it, but it’s MINE. Mail, voting manual (Oh gosh, I’ve got to look at that between now and when school ends? AHHHHH!), essential oils, medications, post-its with reminders and anything else important go there. Field trip forms have been signed, monies have been doled out for 8th grade graduation event and teachers’ gifts, graduation gifts purchased, retirement cards purchased, going-away gifts purchased for work friends moving along to new places, costumes purchased and pressed for girls’ choir performance, suits purchased and pressed for the man & boy in my life, Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm tickets purchased (sounds like a lot of money, huh? It is.) In the meantime, my house has been completely neglected. (You understand, little 1950s house, that I love you, I just don’t have time right now to sweep the corners and clean your floors. Cob webs, schmob webs. Your spring cleaning appointment is delayed until summer.) The kids don’t need clean sheets, it’s not like they’re wetting the bed or anything. (Thank God. That might be the straw that breaks this camel’s back.) And laundry…fu-getta-bout-it. (Fish something out of the dirty clothes, kids. If you didn’t tell me it needed to be washed before bed, you’re outta luck at 7am when you NEED it.) You want dinner kids? Dinner, again? (Yes, Joy, they will want dinner between approximately 5 and 6:30 every night. Why do they always want to keep eating? This time of year, kids, it’s a can of meatball spaghettios, tacos from a taco truck, Digiorno pizza, or ramen.) Keepin’ it real, folks. Next month I’ll have time to cook gourmet meals again.
Thinking back, there were times that were much worse than this 2016 end-of-year. Year 2011, was one of my worst years to date. I’d just finished my master’s degree in March of 2011 and my lower back had gotten progressively worse. I was in constant pain and thought after the stress of completing my degree, that the pain would somehow just subside. This is what I’d hoped. Every morning I’d wake up and it would take me about a half hour to stand up straight. Bending was excruciating.
I hobbled through the rest of the school year and made it to summer. Most days, it was the same half hour of pain and slow movement. I kept telling myself, “This will get better, you just need to start exercising. You just need to eat better.” But exercising was painful too. So I just took naps and OTC pain meds to make it through the day. In June of that year, I finally went to the doctor and explained that the pain was unmanageable. What doctors usually do for back pain is prescribe Vicodin or other narcotics. I was in such pain, I didn’t hesitate to take them. The next option was to begin steroid injections in my back.
July 2011, I was determined to move forward on our family vacation to San Diego. I slowly gathered all our belongings and supplies and meticulously planned out our family meals for the week to make sure we’d all have what we needed at the campsite. When we arrived at our destination, I could hardly get out of the car. I went in and registered. Then I went to the bathroom. As I was sitting and taking care of my business, I tried to get up off the toilet and the pain was so life-sucking that I almost screamed as I stood up in this public restroom. (I didn’t because I didn’t want the other bathroom mates to think I was giving birth.) Then I realized my pants were still on the floor. I couldn’t walk out of the bathroom without my pants on…I’d have to bend down and pull them up. Anyone who’s suffered with back pain knows how hard bending can be. I bent down in slow motion and pulled up my pants feeling like I might literally break in half. This beaten-down-mama made it back to the car and Steve had to lift my left leg into the car because I couldn’t even lift my leg by myself.
As we approached the cabin we were going to be staying in for several nights, I totally started panicking because I COULD NOT MOVE at any angle. It was the worst pain of my life. Worst. Pain. Steve called an ambulance. I was so embarrassed. I hate feeling dependent, like I don’t have my shit together. I was completely dependent on these rescue workers to lift me out of the van and put me on a gurney. I remember screaming and moaning. Shortly after, I was given morphine to dull the pain. I could still feel pain through the morphine. Pain, we’ve all felt it. If not physically, then emotionally. Our ways of coping often only dull the pain and sometimes, only slightly.
After 6 nights in the hospital, I was finally able to go the bathroom on my own. I insisted that they let me stay until I could go to the bathroom by myself. (I thought that was a reasonable request.) During that hospital stay, I was assigned 2, yes two, 20-something cute male nurses who had the task of wiping my ass. (Could this get any better? Oh. My. Gosh.) Thank God I was drugged through that whole experience. My sense of humor was intact and I would make jokes and wise ‘cracks’ about how ‘no one can wipe my butt like I do’ or ‘You missed a spot.’
It was humiliating. I handled it the best I could. I became intoxicatingly (if this isn’t a word, I’m coining it) aware of my weaknesses and limitations. I was discharged with a prescription for liquid morphine and our neighborhood pharmacist was able to fill the prescription. After that, my personal physician wouldn’t prescribe that to me, so I was switched to percocet.
July through September of that year I was on these narcotics to dull the pain. I had microdiscectomy surgery in September to remove part of the 10 mm bulge that was sitting on my nerve. Months of physical therapy and pain medications continued through the rest of 2011. My goal was to be completely off the narcotics before I went back to work. It took me a couple months to withdraw completely from the percocet under the my doctor’s care. She assured me that she would help me detox from it gradually. She gave me another medication to help me wean slowly. I had previously tried to just stop taking it, but the mood swings were terrible and so unlike my normal personality that it scared me. (I remember crying and having a breakdown in the kitchen because the kids wouldn’t eat their bacon. Yeah, crying over bacon.) I was a totally irrational hot mess. I spent the remainder of 2011 detoxing from narcotics.
2012 was a year of recovery and learning to manage stress, kind of. In January, I went back to work, working with 3 teaching job shares (long story). I kept that arrangement the 2013 school year also. The following summer in 2013, incidents escalated with my sister resulting in court visits and heartache to achieve custody of her daughter, our Little. One thing you can always count on is that things WILL CHANGE, it’s all about how your respond to the change.
I have been so grateful for my health after the 2011 experience, which included what we refer to as the Great Poop of 2011 in our house because, if you didn’t know this, narcotics make you extremely constipated. Oh yeah, and that event occurred at the ‘bedside commode’- yes, a toilet in my room because I couldn’t squat low enough to sit on the regular toilet. I also had to use a walker because I was so unsteady and slow upon returning home. I felt way older than 39. Again, I am totally grateful to have moved past that terrible year.
I’ve gradually learned to take better care of myself. As we know, life isn’t just about ourselves. (Can I get an AMEN?) However, we can’t take care of others as effectively if we don’t put the air masks and life vests on ourselves first (as they say on every safety speech before you fly). 2016 was my year to do something about my weight and health by taking more drastic steps.
At this point in my life, it’s my Hallelujah year- 2016! (Even though this week, I’ve wanted to throw in the towel.) This is one of my favorite songs originally written by Leonard Cohen. Take a few minutes to pause and listen to both versions.
Over the Rhine‘s version of Hallelujah. It’s totally worth it.
Jeff Buckley’s version of Hallelujah:
Now you’ve paused to Hallelujah with me. (((Hugs.))) In a few weeks we’ll be able to say Hallelujah that the school year is over.
Until next Friday…Love you loves.
Gastric Bypass post surgery update:
I’m down 48 pounds in 10 weeks. I’ve still lost weight this week even though I’ve not had a lot of time to plan meals and exercise. This is a miracle. Normally I’d gain 5 to 10 pounds this time of year from all the stress and chaos.