Whole enough

On April 21, a Tuesday, I got a migraine. It hung on through Friday; just as it was exiting the building of my body, something twinged hard in my right lower back, and I spent that weekend unable to move or sit or lie down without pain. By this Tuesday I was able to stop taking megadoses of ibuprofen and sitting/sleeping with a heating pad, and then the migraine returned. Today, Friday again, it is still here, for the 4th day.

Most of the time, migraine does not leave me writhing in pain in a dark room, because I have medication that usually works and keeps me able to mostly function. I can usually work when on my meds. They can make me slow and fuzzy, and fatigued, and feeling generally off, but after I take them the sharp, stabbing pains and the vice grip on my skull subside, so it feels like relief. Slow, fuzzy, fatigued, and off are a gift, when I consider the alternative. The alternative is entire days entirely lost to pain that literally brings me to my knees.

Most of my work meetings begin with a grounding activity, in which we are given some stimulus to help us center our ensuing conversation in our students and families, the majority of whom are people of color and/or living in poverty. The general theme when we are sharing our responses to the stimulus, since we’ve been closed, is this:

We are so fortunate, to be living in the privilege we do. We need to keep at the forefront our families who are not.

True and true.

Fortune is a relative thing, though, isn’t it? (Seriously, after you finish reading, come back and click on this link.)

In comparison to those who are sick, out of work, working on the front lines (which increasingly feels more literal than metaphorical), and/or targeted by bigots, we white educators who are working are fortunate. As an educator who is not providing direct service to students, I am more fortunate (at least in some ways) than those who are. (More than one I know has shared this teacher’s post this week.)

And yet, as the title of a book a therapist once put in my hands claims, The Body Keeps the Score.

I’m writing these words having woken up, again, in pain: spikes in the head, sharp ache in the back (it’s still with me, though not accute). The dull, medicated fuzz is settling in.

Jena Schwartz, a lovely writer I follow, shared these words today:

The other day, I was setting out for a run. The thought came to me: “Death is all around us.” Then came the very next thought, as I took in the blossoming trees and greening grass: “So is life.” And right away, I knew in some deep place that these two facts are never not true. Death and life, always right here, all around us. It’s like Neruda wrote: Budding among the ruins.

Day 49: Budding among the ruins

Jena also offered this:

“And we also know that grief, like any painful emotion not given an outlet, does not just vanish. It goes inward. It takes up room in ways that remain invisible yet are everywhere, not unlike a deadly virus.”

We are all, right now, living among the ruins, of so many things. And even the relatively fortunate among us are grieving. That grief might look like frenetic activity. It might look like laughing inappropriately. It might look like weeping over nothing and everything. It might look like sudden fury over triviality. Or it might look like inertia, binge-watching, or chronic pain.

Mondays through Fridays, I don’t have much room to grieve. I suppose that’s why it goes inward and takes up space in my body, a place where it is largely invisible. Weekends, I get to let it out, so I can be whole enough to dive back in come Monday. Often that takes the form of writing here, but I’m feeling the call to do something different this week. I’m feeling the call to do nothing. I think this is going to have to substitute for the usual Sunday post.

Wishing you a weekend of whatever it is you need to be whole enough to keep going, to bud in whatever kind of soil you find yourself rooted in. Because we all deserve to bloom, even now. Maybe especially now.

7 thoughts on “Whole enough

  1. Kate says:

    I’m sorry you’re in pain and hope you’ll be able to get the rest you need to feel better soon.

    That graphic you linked was powerful.

    • Rita says:

      Thanks, Kate. I’m OK. That graphic made me so deeply furious, at so many different things. I wish everyone would see it.

  2. Marian says:

    I’m so sorry, Rita, that you’ve had so many days of pain. Sending you a hug and hoping a weekend off work will help.

    As Kate said, the graphic of Bezos’ wealth is powerful. For several years now, I’ve made it a policy to not shop at Amazon unless absolutely necessary (as in, I honestly need the thing, and Amazon is literally the only place where I can get it). I know he’s got many other businesses, and even if we all stopped shopping at Amazon, it likely wouldn’t hurt him, but I still wish everyone would just wake up and grow some principles. (I’m painfully aware that I sound like the woman portrayed in #5 on Kate’s Friday Finds. Can I say I’m so weary of this world where thoughtfulness and principles are derided? And can I also tell you that I am freaking out just a bit at what’s happening next door to Ontario?)

    • Rita says:

      I also avoid Amazon, but when I do shop there I use Amazon Smile, set to benefit the non-profit that runs my brother’s group home for disabled adults. Of course, not buying anything there today because of the worker’s strike. Haven’t bought anything there for quite a while now.

      Kate’s #5 made me smile. I’ve tried (and failed) to be that woman–because of what the piece illustrates so nicely: It’s impossible. If everyone would wake up and grow some principles, we might not have the situation going down next door to Ontario. Although those people say their protest is all about principles, it’s really not. And it’s scary as hell.

      I hope you’re doing OK.

    • Rita says:

      Hi again, Marian–
      I just read your comment to Kate about #5, and I see now a different meaning in your words here. Or maybe just, a deeper one. I’m sorry I wasn’t reading more carefully. I should know better, especially with you, who always means things deeply. (I was really, really tired yesterday, but I’m more myself today after a decent night’s sleep and a cessation of accute pain.)

      I guess the piece made me smile because I didn’t really see it as an attack? I know it was. I know I’ve done (or tried to do) many of the things listed in the article. But somehow the attack rolled off me, and what I saw instead was that it’s not possible to do everything “right” (because there’s no perfect right in any of this), and what I took from it was a kind of permission to let go of attaining an ideal. I think that’s been a recurring idea for me this week. I keep stumbling and stumbling, and in one situation, in particular, what I’ve seen is there was no way I could have walked through it in that would have felt right to everyone involved.

      I share your weariness with the world. I’ve been feeling it ever since irony became so fashionable. I think the best we can do is live in ways that feel right to us. Remain open to different ideas. Let go of all the things we can’t control, even as they impact us and force us to re-think and change our choices. Stay connected with like-minded others. I come back again and again to something a boss once told me: You are never going to please everyone. What matters is pleasing the right people. If the people you respect are with you, you’re on the right path. There are many of us who value thoughtfulness and principles. Those things matter, even if they aren’t popular.

      Take care, Marian. I do hope you’ll write about some of the things you’re trying. I always appreciate your words.

  3. Kari Wagner Hoban says:

    First, I am so sorry about your pain. I of all people can understand this completely. Sending you some serious love.

    Second, that wealth infographic got me infuriated. LIKE PISSED THE FUCK OFF. Why isn’t HE helping our country more? Why is he that wealthy? I want to never shop at Amazon again.

    I hope this weekend is pain-free for you.
    Kari Wagner Hoban recently posted…Birthday Week: Make it a ThingMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      YES, I see your PISSED THE FUCK OFF and raise it times a million. Why aren’t we all angry and rioting about it? It’s not just Bezos, either. Like the guy who made it said, there’s about 400 people who are obscenely wealthy. And here are all the rest of us, fighting each other over the scraps that are leftover. Carrying guns into state legislatures to have the “right” to go back out in the world and risk DEATH and calling it freedom. People like Bezos are, quite literally, willing to let “essential workers” die, and are selling us the idea that we have to so that our way of life can continue. It’s a convenient way to keep us from seeing what our way of life really is and what theirs is and how we make theirs possible.

      Clearly, I’m not doing super-swell in this new way of being, but in many ways there’s a lot more sanity in my personal world now than there was before. I am sick to F’ing hell of working myself into the ground (and watching others all around me do the same) for an increasingly lesser way of life. And the reason we are working that way is because we are trying to respond to and mitigate the harm done by the redistribution of wealth over the past 3 decades. I wish we could all wake the fuck up before it’s too late (if it isn’t already).

      OK, so I have some feelings about this… 🙂

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