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Friday, August 1, 2008

Fishing for Phantom Stressors

I woke up feeling dazed. It was not a good night. Things are beginning to trouble me. I feel anxious about going back to work. Can I handle teaching five classes? Will it be possible to finish everything I need to do in the contract day so I can come home and rest? Can I still be respected even if I cut way back on my involvements and activities? When will the next relapse come? Will it come at all? Are we prepared for a future where I can’t work or perhaps even walk?

I wrote yesterday about how the combination of MS and my training to be a yoga teacher have really helped me with staying present. These have been an absolute blessing that have allowed me to enjoy my summer without fear for the future. The last several months have been the most worry-free of my adult life but as Monday approaches the panic is setting in.

I don’t officially start work for a few weeks but Monday I have a meeting for my school’s instructional leadership team. Here is the problem: I was part of a team that was instructed to create three brochures for our school’s new arts academy but I have done very little. I had a group leader who seemed to be on top of getting the work done. She sent me a draft to edit and I did so but now she seems to have disappeared and I don’t know if the work is complete. Now I have a long weekend in front of me with multiple obligations and I am wondering if I am going to have to do the work on Sunday night. This has literally never happened to me before. Ordinarily I would have finished the work a month ago but this time I just procrastinated and counted on my group leader. Now I am a bit concerned that I will be humiliated in front of my team because our work is not done. I am really not sure what to do.

I am trying to give up my type A lifestyle but lately I have read so many stories about MSers who got fired that I am a little concerned that someone will decide I can’t do my job. I know I will not be fired but I am concerned that I will lose the respect I worked so hard to earn.

I am also beginning to worry about the school year. I usually would have spent hours at work over the summer preparing for the upcoming year. I did not go to my classroom even once this summer and now I am questioning my preparation. I have not updated a single handout from last year and I went ahead and posted all the old ones on my web page without even looking them over. It’s all the little details that make me fear that I will have to forget my resolve to draw boundaries at work.

The idea of working like I used to scares me. There is a relapse behind every bush. Today I feel pretty awful physically. I imagine that three straight weeks of yoga is catching up with me but I still have one final class to attend (Ugh). I gave in and took some ibuprofen but my acupuncturist says this is bad for my over-worked liver. I am telling myself that this is a one-time deal to get to yoga today but I am afraid that when I start working, I will have to make many such bargains with myself.

Despite this parade of worries, I am trying to refocus myself in the present. Last night I did so with breath and I was able to go back to sleep. Now I am trying to trust that I will still find a way to do the things I did before without compromising my peace and sanity. I think the reason I got so sick in the first place is because I never drew any boundaries. Now I am trying to just meet my obligations. I do not want to slide back into my old lifestyle. I want to keep my caffeine intake down. I want to eat a little breakfast every day. I want a lunch hour (really 25 minutes) that is sacred and uninterrupted by work or by students in my room. I want to take those 25 minutes and relax every single day. It sounds simple enough…

In yoga we call final svasana one of the hardest poses. This may seem strange since it is usually three to five minutes of silent meditation lying on our backs with palms up but this is hard. Our heart is exposed, the room is free of voices and we are left with our own head. We are not supposed to fidget or think about our grocery lists. We are to remain completely present. That is the kind of lunch I want to have during the year to help me rejuvenate and keep my inner calm. I know myself. This will be very hard. I will think about work that is undone, papers to grade, the upcoming freshman class etc. I suspect that I may find it harder than svasana but I dare not skip this sacred lunch. In my gut I feel that it will be the key to staying relapse free during the year. I hope that the lessons of this summer stay with me as I jump back into the rushing stream where most people live. May I be the silent pond in the midst of the torrent.



Your fears are completely natural but do not need to take away from your growth and calm. I can't help you with ideas for the art's brochure, unless you still have the files and could polish it up from the edits you already made.

As far as school, there's nothing wrong with using the same handouts and curriculum. That's one of the benefits of teaching the same subject for many years - you don't have to reinvent the wheel each year. During the lunch break, try turning your classroom lights out and maybe locking your door. Kids will more likely than not respect your quiet time.

Ok. Now I've forgotten what else you wrote. But know that it will all be okay.

Joan said...

Wow, can I relate to your post! For YEARS, I experienced exactly what you eloquently describe. Even now, although I don't have a paying job, I still have obligations and feel overwhelmed by even the small ones. My world is getting smaller (not a bad thing), but I'm still affected by phantom stressors.

Denver Refashionista said...

Thanks ladies. It always helps me to work out all my thoughts on paper. Once they are written I can let them fly away... When I was in yoga today it occured to me that the average person does not complete 200 hours of yoga in two months so I really must have a well of inner strength, even when I doubt it.

Whenever I put things on my blog I feel so supported by the comments of those in the MS community because your words are genuine and I don't feel judged. It also feels good to hear from those who have been there, done that. I feel understood here in a way I never do in my everyday life. It could be the environment but I think it is also that the people who take the time to read my words and comment really do care how I feel and accept me for feeling the way I do.


I realized something I was going to add. Depending on why you need the Ibuprofen, I have an alternative which my acupuncturist recommended to me a very long time ago. And it really does make a difference with pain levels, aches, and muscle stiffness from overexertion.

Try Arnica 30c Pellets

I've found them at Whole Foods and GNC. And they really do help.

Lazy Julie said...

Oooooh, Denver. All I can say is, I feel ya! One day at a time, my friend. Today is all we have.
Lazy J

Diane J Standiford said...

cnrexrWhere to begin? First let me say I envy your yoga. I really believe i will benefit your MS body all your life. Now my philosophy about "being in the present." There is no sich thing, such a concept exists only in our mind. I don't exist only in my mind, impossible and unproductive and unhealthy. The "present" is: the past and the future, always combined. People think it is the "now" and being there purges all past and keeps worries abou future away. There is no now. Every instant is the past and future. I live there and I am at great peace there, find great strength there, cherish the love and wisdom there. It is there that I overcome, build, grow. In 1990 and for many years before, my body's life included a disease--MS. In 1995 it also included ovarian cancer. Since 1979 it included caring for an ill partner. I could be called a worrier, but I have corrected people for years, and just yesterday researchers confirm my belief, hat I am not "worrying" I am thinking and figuring and my brain is helping Diane find the best paths to take to survive and thrive while living with all that life has put before her. My job with the city--man considered "stressful" I do not believe in "stress." It is a word to describe a feeling people have when many things collide.(I can't go into my whole philosophy on stress here) but in 1997, after being legally blind, unable to type with both hands, recovering from cancer, on and on, my dept. f 3,000 decided to meger with another dept. that I knew nohing about and at the same time we had to learn a new computer system. One guy commited suicide, one woman had a heart attack, long story---classes were daily and the usual handling of citizen accounts by phone and in person had to continue, plus new YOUNG employees were brought aboard, how could I handle this? Could I learn all that was needed(over 6 huge binders of information and more each day), could I keep up as I had before? I too am a "type-A" (psycho-babble) personality; my job was very important to me and I wanted to do the best job for every citizen I dealt with, no mistakes. It was a challenge. Life lived to our full potential is all about seizing opportunities and attacking challenges head on. Is it hard? Yes. But overcoming is so empowering. I was right where I was meant to be. Clearing the brain via meditation is great as long as you do it to free up space for more opportuniies and challenges. MS does not poof-go away. But you can overcome, you can be stronger and feel more alive than ever before. Focus, zero in, divide and conquer regarding your teaching duties. Just as you are flexible in Yoga, now you must transfer that to MS, you ust stay flexible. Bend but don't break. You will learn to handle your career differently, BETTER than before. Believe in yourself as the universe does. You are as powerful and enduring as it is. That's enough for now. Seriously, cast your rod and reel overboard and focus on the beauty of the water. MS doesn't have to change YOU in a bad way.

Diane J Standiford said...

Sorry about all the spelling errors, it's 4am or somethng and you/I can always tell my weak fingers by the vowels I don't strike hard enough. LOL Thank goodness I'm typing for smart people who can add the missing keys. (and those letters at beginning...the requested code...hmmm)

Denver Refashionista said...

Thanks. I'll quit wallowing now, at least about this...

keli said...

I totally hear you on the fear of "How do I slow down?" I, too, am a Type A, and it is just not in our nature to relax! Yoga definitely helps, but I don't do it to the extent you do. We need to do those things for ourselves. But I horseback ride and am preparing for a show tomorrow. So much for resting! that is what I love to do and I will pay for it Monday and Tuesday, but that is worth it. During those precious 25 minutes you get for lunch, put a note on the door that says "Out to Lunch", turn out the lights and focus on you. You will start to learn your limits. You will know when to listen to your body, when to skip a class or function because you don't feel well. You'll find that once you get back into the rhythm of work, you will be able to read your body, but you have to remember to listen!
I am a firm believer that staying active is the way to a healthier life. So keep up w/your yoga and whatever else makes you feel good!

Merelyme said...

i hear you. it is scary to not be able to predict the future. logic usually helps me in these circumstances. what is the minimum which needs to be done and how can you break that up into manageable goals. i think for all of us...there comes a time to re-evaluate our lives and what we can reasonably accomplish. but you don't know until you try.

wanted to thank you for all your lovely comments and support. i hope to visit you often.

Denver Refashionista said...

Thanks to the whole community that has commented on this post. I really value your thoughts and ideas. I fianlly gave in an drafted the work for Monday "just in case" and now I feel better. I think you all are the right that in time I will learn my limits and learn to manage what must be done.

Bubbie said...

That was a very honest and brave posting.
If you are like me, it really helps to spill it on paper or keyboard, Morning pages help me get the gunk out.
The only advice I have for you is to keep your yoga lessons with you and stay in the now. Anxiety for uncertain futures don't belong there. Know that you are very talented and capable and do the best you can.

Jorgo said...

Your post is raw and deeply insightful. You let yourself be seen.

In doing so you flushed out so many supportive and understanding people.

What a wonderful thing blogging is. What a place to find people who care and share.

All your life you have been a doer. Now you are aware that the "doing" may be a trap for you.

It will probably be enough that you have that awareness. The need for a balanced life - a little more at peace. By helping and looking after yourself, you help so many.

Denver Refashionista said...

So timely a post for me as it turns out. I am thinking of giving up a stipend in order to find more peace and sanity. I am deeply appreciative of all the support.