Last June I resigned my full-time teaching/school administrator position to relocate to Michigan from Missouri. I did this because a) I love my husband; and b) I have a life-style changing auto-immune disease. I took six months off from work and have been gradually introducing more and more work into my life since January. I’m almost a year into this grand experiment, and I’m eady to review some of my observations.
After the initial dust settled from our cross-country move, I spent a significant amount of time on the couch watching Netflix, in my bed resting, at the gym exercising, and on my computer blogging. I really needed that time to recover after over 20 years of parenting, schooling, and working at or above my human capacity. It was lovely — I had time to make friends, I began to listen to my body, I reconnected with my love for writing. It was healing physically, yes, and also emotionally. For the first time in twenty-two years, my husband and I were living alone, enjoying a slower pace, and sucking up every minute of it.
But, I couldn’t quite rest easily because I didn’t have any students in my life. I know, I know –over the past umpteen years I have fussed and fumed about the menagerie of kids that have sat across the table from me — they are egocentric, they don’t meet deadlines, and, indeed, they smell bad. But, you know, I love them. I can’t seem to get enough of them. Something magical exists within each of us — an innate ability to learn, to process, to interact and be changed — that will never cease to take my breath away. I had to have students back in my life.
It started with just one guy — a graduate student who needed help on his dissertation. What a joy that was! I got to have a text-based conversation with him about educational practices and how they impact learning! That taste just whetted my appetite, so I moved onto a retired writing instructor who had written a novel and just wanted a final proof for grammar and punctuation errors. That led me to set up a profile on an online service connecting teachers with students for one-on-one assistance. In six months I have logged over 120 hours with almost twenty different students ranging from sixth graders to graduate students. I’ve worked on research papers, vocabulary lessons, dissertations, speeches, and test preparation. Each lesson is different, each student a challenge.
So why didn’t I stop there? While tutoring independently, I could still maintain my exercise regimen, still build friendships, still find time to rest. Why did I have to push the limits and take on a job that will soon be at forty hours a week for the duration of the summer? Because I had to know. I had to know if I was imagining my limitations or if they were real. Maybe I was just burnt out from teaching and sorely in need of a vacation. Maybe I had imagined all my symptoms. Surely I didn’t have that much pain, that much fatigue, that much stiffness. How could a regular job be too difficult for me?
Because it is. This week I worked thirty-two hours at the agency and an additional seven hours tutoring. Not quite 40 hours, but it was a bit too much. Yesterday, at the end of an eight-hour shift, I met some friends for drinks and dinner. I called one of my friends by the wrong name — twice! This is a friend I have known since the fall! I was mortified. I thoroughly enjoyed the evening, but I was home before nine and crawled straight into bed — no reading, no television, no nothing. I was entirely depleted.
This morning I woke up crabbily. I can feel the inflammation through my body like an electric current. It is as if I am electric blanket that has been turned up to ‘high’ — I can feel all the wires as they heat up. My lips are dry and tingling. My back and hips ache. My eyes are screaming, “If you think you are going to put those contacts in, think again!”
Yup, it’s too much. And, just to be sure, I am going to push it a little further. This week will be a little lighter because of a trip I am taking for the second half of the week, but then I am certain I will be working over forty hours a week for the duration of the summer. Why don’t I just walk away now? Because I know me. If I walk away right now, I will rest up for a few weeks then start thinking that perhaps I was imagining my fatigue, maybe I didn’t really have all that pain, maybe my symptoms weren’t real.
Nope, I’m not going to walk away right now. I am going to finish the experiment all the way to the end to be sure I come to all the right conclusions. My hypothesis is that I am going to be utterly exhausted and ready to slow back down, but I’ve got to complete this experiment to be sure.
The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.