Humming Along

When I woke up this morning, my cells were vibrating. I don’t know how else to describe it other than to say it feels like my body is humming. I’m not a doctor, but when this happens, I imagine I’m having an inflammatory response. To what? To living my life.

This is the fullest fall I have had since probably 2011 or 2012. By 2013, I was collapsing on the couch immediately after arriving at home, wondering if we had something edible in the fridge or if I had enough energy to drive to Chipotle to pick up “dinner”.

After a years-long journey back to wellness, I am in the third year of the great experiment called, “Can Mrs. Rathje really return to the classroom?” and this year I’m pretty close to matching the load I had prior to being diagnosed with autoimmune disease. Granted, I don’t have teenagers living at home or even a pet to take care of. I am “simply” returning to the “regular” demands faced by teachers across the country, and two weeks shy of Christmas break my body is humming.

A typical work week for me includes 5 hours of commuting, 16+ hours of instruction, 14+ hours of grading and planning, a handful of meetings, some lunchtime and hallway supervision, and all kinds of miscellaneous “duties” such as separating teenagers who are verbally escalating toward a fight, texting with a student who doesn’t have transportation to get to school, doling out snacks to students who are “starving, Mrs. Rathje”, or listening to a student tell me why she got into an altercation with someone she thought was her friend and why that altercation resulted in her one-day suspension.

I am fully invested in my work and the lives of my students, but school and my students are not the totality of my life.

My husband and I have also been blessed to invest quite of bit of time with family this fall. Since October, we’ve travelled to Ohio, Missouri, and the Dominican Republic. Not only that, we have traveled within Michigan to see our parents and siblings and have enjoyed an extended visit from our son.

We’ve also connected with several friends — through our weekly small group community, coffee dates, and other social functions.

And, we’ve participated in some personal and professional enrichment including presenting at a couple of conferences, both separately and together.

We are living a pretty typical professional life, but my body is not wired for ‘typical’.

I will note that this old girl has been hanging in there. Yes, Covid knocked me down in October, but I got right back up (and was temporarily knocked down again and again got back up). Other than that, the bod has been getting it done.

But over the last few weeks she’s been clearing her throat (Ahem!) and raising her hand (Excuse me?) and asking for a little attention.

It started when we were in the Dominican Republic over Thanksgiving. We were totally relaxing — our hosts wouldn’t let us lift a finger! And while we were sitting on the lovely patio surrounded by luscious plants and later lounging on the sofa, listening to Adrea Bocelli on surround sound, my body began to quietly whimper.

There, there, I said. Relax. You’re on vacation. Try to enjoy it. We’ll be home before you know it.

But she continued to whine, so I loaded up on Motrin, did some yoga, took some deep breaths, and soaked up the surroundings and the lovely company we shared.

And, when I got home, I hobbled directly to the chiropractor.

“It’s the travel,” he said, “it always has an impact.”

Then, I met with my therapist who said, “Don’t underestimate the impact of your work stress and the emotion of family interactions on your body.”

And then I went to my physical therapist who said, “You might want to consider getting a pain injection.”

[Dammit.]

I’d been hoping I could do it all and manage my pain without an injection. I had been believing that my discipline — my yoga, my diet, my writing, my therapy — would be enough.

I’d been hoping I could teach at full capacity and travel and present at conferences and still enjoy my improved health.

And, really, for the most part, I think I can, if I also get periodic pain injections and continue being disciplined, and that includes taking significant rest at intervals. I’ve known this, but it seems I’ve always got to test my limits.

And, my body has told me that we are at our limit. Period.

So, this morning, as my humming body and I crawled out of bed, we said goodbye to my husband who is making a whirlwind trip — involving eight hours of driving inside of the next 24 hours — so that he can attend our granddaughter’s birthday party.

I am sad to be missing the festivities. I miss stuff sometimes — that is my reality.

And, at 10am on Saturday, I am still in pajamas. I have done 20 minutes of yoga, eaten a noninflammatory breakfast, drank a lovely cup of green tea with ginseng, am finishing my first of many tumblers of water, and am writing this all down because I need to admit that it is true.

I love my life. I really do.

I have a supportive and loving husband, a remarkable family, a cute little house with an extraordinary garden, a career designed especially for me, and countless high-caliber friends.

And, I sometimes spend quiet weekends at home alone, reading, soaking in the tub, putting together a puzzle, or working on a sewing project.

It’s the miraculous rhythm I get to live in this next chapter.

[He] is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine.”

Ephesians 3:20

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