Thursday, July 12, 2012

Up Off the Asphalt

Photo Credit: Morguefile by Alvimann

Tomorrow it is time for my Friday Retroflective. It is already past time for another Team Ambiguity post. My editorial calendar smells like old gym socks. For this, I tell you, I am sorry. Would you like to know why?

My wisdom teeth are impacted. I wrote about them some time ago. It was one of those vague, esoteric posts that cause kind people to send sympathy cards in the comments section, but I had been trying (and failing) to point to something else. Eleven years ago, these teeth were supposed to come out, but I kept them, due to obstinance, poverty and hope. If you want to know something about me, there's a lot to that. I hope aggressively. I ward my life against decision making with the possibility that things might just get better. I am capable of hoping in the same place, in the same way for something that will never come for years past when most people would have gone somewhere else.

Back to the teeth. These last several months, I have been thinking I have developed TMJ. This would make a sort of unfortunate sense because I already have fibromyalgia and chronic migraines and Hashimoto's Disease and asthma. I am used to "having" things. Also, when you live with fibromyalgia, it spawns related conditions. Sleep disorders. Irritable bowel syndrome. Costochondritis. Jaw problems. I lived with this for four or five months–this clenching jaw and stupefying pain that set off other pain–and then, I went to the TMJ dentist. And he told me that all my pain is probably because of my wisdom teeth. Well, not all my pain. All my new pain. And I thought, Oh...Who knew a little infection could cause all that? I have lived with all this pain for nothing because pain has become so normal.

I have to admit to you that have a hard time writing about pain. When I re-read what I have written, it seems like a call for sympathy or a hard-luck story or one of those aggressive "differences" people keep explaining to others to excuse everything that they do. I truly hope it isn't any of those. I don't really know how to write my life without writing in my fibromyalgia occasionally. Like everything else, it teaches me things. Sometimes, some of these things work around in my mouth for weeks until they must be said.

My baseline for physically "OK" has been extremely low. This hit home for me the other day when I was searching on the internet. I am halfway through summer, and I work for the schools. My body feels awful and I can feel fall coming for me. I was Googling "chronic pain" and "when to stop working." I found an online support group where one woman was debating whether or not she should leave her job.  Another woman replied to her and said that she had decided it was time to stop working the day that she collapsed in the parking lot at work. She knew she was done.

The immediate thought that I had was that if I had fallen flat in the parking lot last year I would have gone home and slept or gone to the doctor, but that I would have been there within two days because I needed to see reading groups, or needed to test children on schedule. I was needed. So needed that I couldn't stop if I collapsed. And collapsing was not far-fetched. I walked down the stairs to my work more than one morning with my husband watching me to make sure I didn't fall. I often held the railing all day long to get to and from classrooms. I called a friend to try and determine if I should stay at work or go to the ER. More than once. I called in sick maybe twenty times. The other 160 days I worked sick. Some days barely sick. Some days almost in tears. My bar for normal has sunk lower and lower.

Something in me has snapped this summer. I have spent two weeks with my work contract sitting folded and unsigned on my laptop, knowing what I wanted to do and waiting for a burning bush to tell me that I'm right. So, Tuesday, I wrote a letter of resignation and I just pressed send. Then, I felt like I would vomit. I cannot stand to let anyone down. If I get too close, I can see the kids I love and am committed to, I can remember their data points, I can smell the hallways of my school, see the smiling faces of my co-workers. I could so easily be sucked into a whirlwind of love and commitment again–one that makes me happy and lets me make a difference, but one that means that I have to get up from the asphalt if I fall because children are going to depend on me. If children depend on you, you will get up bloody, you will come in still smelling of vomit, you will breathe deeply and dissociate from the pain because their needs are more important than yours. I could say that doing this for two years has made me a better person. I think doing it more will make me a sicker one. One who can't get up to play with her own children or to help her own husband in the kitchen or remember why she loves to be alive.

I am filled with excitement, trepidation and grief. I have lost something dear to me. But, more than that, I have won back something that I misplaced. Life is always giving birth to me. Again and again, I am delivered through darkness, into strange light and cold air and new possibilities. Again and again, I am welcomed. Again and again, this begins, comes to fruition and ends. The life I knew as a healthy person, for now at least, is gone. The future is full of things I do not know.

I am going to start by going across the country to the balsam-smelling woods and the heather-studded shores of the Atlantic Ocean. I leave tomorrow and I will not be back for several days. While I am gone, different muses will entertain you. I have already got their posts in the hopper and you are in for a treat. When I come back, we will have grand fun together.

To tell you the truth, I can hardly wait.


  1. Tara, you have walked thru the fire, helping other people, putting them before yourself. Perhaps(?) you have learned that to be truly helpful, you need to be as healthy and whole as possible? I pray you find better health for when you do, your capacity to help and nurture others will expand tenfold.
    My thoughts are with you. Heal, Tara. Care for yourself.

    1. Thanks, Darlene. I think you are a wise woman. I hope you are right because I would hate to have a life that wasn't about making a difference. I like the context you created for me. I think I'll step right into that.

  2. Don't you hate it when you write a post you think has something else going for it, and everybody takes it as a self-pity thing? Happens to me all of the time.

    But wow... Sounds like a huge step that you knew it was time to take. Looking forward to hearing about your upcoming adventures!

    1. I often embed a lot of weird meaning into seemingly banal communications so I think its my own fault. Either it communicates or not, I suppose...Besides, it's very rude to talk about pus. It's nice that people bother to reply to this kind of thing. I am blessed with wonderful readers.

      Thanks for the well wishes. I am looking forward to the time to breathe and set my pace quite a bit slower, to write and rest and see if I can set that baseline higher again.

  3. Tara, I commend you for what you've been able to do while handling so many physical burdens. I also have fibromyalgia, TMJ, and it seems like a lot of other weird pains and discomforts that I can't even describe well to a doctor. I think you've made a good decision for yourself, one that you had to do. I'm sure it's hard for you. But there will be other ways for you to help people and make a difference, and I know you'll find them when you've had a chance to rest, retool, and hopefully start to feel a little better. Best of luck to you! The world needs more people like you!

  4. I too struggle with expressing pain, for fear that someone will think I am looking for pity. Write what you write. Write what you feel. Be you, and the rest of us totally get it. Anyone who has spent time here at FIA knows you don't fish.

    I'm so happy to hear you've taken this step. I send you loads of love, knowing it's a tough call to make, and knowing you'll miss it a ton. I also know, somehow, that you will shine for it.

    Have a great time on your trip!!

  5. What?! You quit? I had to find out in a blog post?


    just kidding! I hope the wisdom tooth extraction makes a big difference for your pain hon and being able to get more rest next year too!

    luv ma

  6. I'm the same way when it comes to writing about pain, also. For that matter, I feel that way when it comes to writing about our entire life with special needs. I would like to offer a glimpse into the life, however I'm always conscious of walking that fine line with my words so that it doesn't seem like a call for pity.

    Hoping for relief for you soon.


  7. Tara, you should ALWAYS remember why you "love to feel alive." Yes, chronic pain or chronic illness is a bumber, speaking as an insulin diabetic with asthma, but you can go on. More vitally, you can be the star in the sky of someone who needs light, a direction, support, and a glow-smile. I keep telling my Cathy that when local school kids she once taught run up to give her a hug, voluntarily, she has done wonders in their lives. So too have you in helping kids with reading as a TA. So, remember that ripples in a pond are always spreading out, endlessly, and they never die away, even when the original pebble that caused them has sunk to the bottom. Love/life ripples bless the universe. Tom.

  8. Hope your life gets a little less painfilled when the wisdom teeth are out. Chronic illnesses are tough *hugs*

  9. Wow. I think that takes a tremendous amount of courage. Good luck in the future. And I hope that wisdom teeth extraction eases some of your pain!


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