True Grit

On Monday, a day off, I felt like garbage. I spent far too much of the day prepping for the week’s lessons, and by early afternoon I had a pain running down the right side of my neck and was cranky as a hangry toddler who’d missed naptime. I figured I’d been sitting incorrectly for too many hours, so I took some ibuprofen, even though I’m not supposed to because of my acid reflux, and then I piddled away what was left of my day, feeling even worse about how I was using my time.

School went all right on Tuesday, but I couldn’t stay awake in the afternoon to grade student work, my neck was worse, and I was still grumpy. I hated how another day felt wasted, but I couldn’t seem to get myself to do anything.

*Cue the migraine*

Thinking that there might be some connection between my neck pain and my ear that had plugged up several weeks earlier, I finally made an appointment to see the doctor on Wednesday to get my ear flushed out. I figured I could talk to her about the neck pain, and if nothing else, at least I’d be better able to hear my students again.

Sure enough, both ears were plugged. And that right one was super-infected, which might have been creating the neck pain.

I was sent home with an antibiotic (thank you, modern medicine) and instructions to rest, and then I did something pre-pandemic Rita never would have done: I called in sick for the next day.

I was pretty sure I could go to school and teach my two classes and go home. I wasn’t contagious, and I could power through on my migraine meds. It’s more work to set things up for a sub than it is to just show up and teach. Also: substitute shortages are a very real thing in Oregon, and I didn’t want to burden my colleagues, who would be asked to cover my classes.

But post-pandemic Rita is working to resist that kind of thinking and action. She finally realized that, hey, all that listless doing nothing wasn’t a sign of some character defect but was one of illness, and she needed to take care of herself. (Too bad she didn’t clue in and take care of her plugged ear sooner.)

So I stayed home, and I didn’t beat myself up for yet another day of doing a whole lot more of nothing much.

Not sure who needs to hear this (besides me, who needs to hear it regularly even though I’ve been through this cycle more times than I can count): When we can’t get ourselves to do things we want or need to do, it means that something is wrong. Not that something is wrong with us, but that something is wrong for us.

We’re not lazy. We might be conflicted, depressed, overwhelmed, anxious, bored, or sick, but we’re not lazy. Or undisciplined or too dreamy or any other kind of too much or not enough. (Lazy is word we often use when we’re too lazy to figure out a more accurate one, imo.)

Better to figure out what the real issue is and deal with it than to suffer through frustrating days wearing a psychological hair shirt. Sometimes real grit is doing a thing that feels soft, especially if you’ve been socialized to think that it’s your job to solve all the problems you see. There’s a line between rolling up your sleeves/pitching in/doing your part and sacrificing yourself in a noble but misguided (because futile) effort to put band-aids on hemorrhaging wounds. Seems a lot of us are looking for it these days. If you’re one of them, hoping my little story might help in your search.

And that’s all I can manage for a post this week. (See above.)

PS: A post by a blogging friend has me wondering if I need to state this clearly, so I will: I always welcome comments and discussion, even if I don’t ask a direct question to solicit them. To me, discussion in the comments is as much a part of blogging as anything I post, even though it can sometimes take me a bit to respond. (See above, again.) Feel free to chime in with your experience, your questions, your pushback on my ideas. I’m here for all of it.

10 thoughts on “True Grit

  1. Kari Wagner Hoban says:

    Oh, my friend, it’s as if we share the same brain. It’s an honor to share one with you.
    I’ve been wading through my emotions lately. I, too, had a migraine this week and subsequently slept for two-hours during the day. Reading that you let yourself rest, that you took care of yourself, and allowed yourself to feel the pain, the illness is one of the best things I’ve read this week. We don’t have to be perfect, we just have to be.

    Sending you love.
    Kari Wagner Hoban recently posted…Podcast #24 Engagement Vs. NumbersMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      Oh, hell no–you don’t want any part of my brain! 🙂

      I’m sorry you had a hard week, too. It’s a good thing we don’t have to be perfect, isn’t it? Because I don’t know anyone who is. Why didn’t they tell us that when we were growing up? (Maybe they did and I wasn’t paying attention. The more I read about ADHD, the more it feels like looking in a mirror. But that’s another whole topic.)

      Sending you love back. You take care of yourself.

  2. Stephenie says:

    Rita, every time I read your posts I think “oh, I should comment because this totally resonates with me!” And then I get distracted. 😂 My attention span has suffered greatly over this pandemic period more than I ever would have expected.
    One thing I have noticed (and embraced!) the older I get is the LESS I care about what other people think of me. I used to feel guilty about taking a sick day, and feel like I had to explain in detail how sick I was, just in case someone (I don’t know WHO) would think I was faking it to sit home eating bonbons all day. Or pie. It is exhausting. Really, we could all use an extended break just to process the invisible grief that just keeps coming. Our bodies and minds in this day and age are just not built for this constant gruelling stress and worry. Our fight or flight mechanisms are on at all times which may have worked for cave people who were being stalked by sabretooth tigers (probably the wrong era but whatever ) but not so well for us. In my place of privilege , I find it hard to give myself a break. BUT I’m trying. Just keep hanging in there!

    • Rita says:

      I have similar issues with distraction–I call it squirrel brain. So, I get it.

      I also understand what you’re saying about feeling you had to justify absence. The truth is that if I’m calling in, I’m usually really bad. With my migraines I could never stay home all the days I don’t feel well. But it’s still so often (or has been) that I guess I do worry a out people thinking I’m staying home when I don’t really need to. Yeah, shouldn’t care what people think. I do so much less than I once did, but…yeah. I agree with you that this experience we’re all living through has taken a toll on everyone (privileged or no). I think we’re only just beginning to see the fallout from that.

  3. Kate says:

    Good job, Rita!! I’m so sorry to hear you’ve been under the weather, but think it’s so great that you decided to slow down and take care of yourself the way you needed. We need to do that for ourselves, and we need to share it and show it so other people feel like they can too.

    • Rita says:

      Thanks, Kate. That’s really why I wrote this. I agree that we often need to see someone’s else’s experience to be able to give ourselves what we need.

  4. TD says:

    First I’m so sorry that you have been dealing with ear infections without knowing, Rita. I’m hoping the antibiotic will zap that out along with stiff neck and headache!

    Second allowing yourself to take sick day(s) for much needed rest is the best natural medicine and benefits your students when you are well when present. And anyone taking mental health day(s) also benefits community.

    Piddling around the home is one of my favorite ways to spend time. Piddling isn’t waste of time. Rest well!!

    • Rita says:

      Thanks, TD. Oregon has recently made mental health days an excused absence for our K-12 students, and I’m so glad to see that change! I have absolutely needed those kinds of days at times. I’m going to have to work up to feeling OK about piddling days. It’s not that I feel a big need to be productive. It’s just that there are so many things I’d like to do, and never enough time for all of them.

      • TD says:

        As you say, “It’s just that there are so many things I’d like to do, and never enough time for all of them.” I think this might be one of those universal feelings, at least I and people I have come to know on a deep level have talked with each other about throughout my life, including time, energy, rest, sleep, support, resources and money. This has become clearer to me as I have aged (climbing that spiral staircase up as I learn from you).

        • Rita says:

          Yes, and I’m beginning to think that if you can increase the time you have available, you just add more things to the list of how you’d like to fill it.

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