Sunday, March 29, 2009

Golden Rule

Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Love your neighbor as yourself. But there is something we often miss in these two statements. Both assume that you love yourself FIRST. It’s so easy to push beyond our limits when we do it in the name of love and care. Take a look at your life right now. Now, pretend that what is happening in your life-your chronic illness, your trials and tribulations, your stresses-are happening to your best friend. What advice would you give them? How would you help them? What stops you from treating yourself in that loving manner? A sense of responsibility? Inability to see options? Rugged individualism? Pride? Unreasonable expectations? Noble self-sacrifice? There are always choices if you are willing to look beyond your preconceived notions about things.

Be kind and gentle with yourself. Love yourself so that you will be able to love your neighbor!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Disaster Movies

Who needs to pay to see disaster movies when we have created an entire library of them in our minds? There are two types of movies in this genre. First there is the Retro Disaster Movie. In this one, we relive things-conflicts, nasty medical procedures, hurts, failures. Second is the Future Disaster Movie. In this one, we imagine potential horrific events. Whether we are viewing the Retro or Future versions, the result on the body is the same. STRESS! And stress makes everything worse. Stress kicks the immune system into high gear, raises blood pressure, releases sugar from the liver into the blood stream, tenses muscles, and diverts blood from organs to muscles. Our own disaster movies put us in a constant state of stress. Stress causes disease. Stress makes existing diseases worse.

Are you wondering why there is no Present Disaster Movie? When we are busy watching the Retro and Future Disaster Movies there is no time to see what is really happening now.

What are your disaster movies? How many times have you watched the same movie or variations on that movie? What would you rather be watching? Why don’t you do that now?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Circle of Life

Last October, I resigned from my inner school by fax, never to return. I love inner city teaching. I had a great year the year before. But changes in administration and support caused things to deteriorate in an already fragile situation. I had to decide whether I should keep on no matter what or do what I needed to do to keep my lupus at bay. I chose to leave. And it was hard to do.

Last weekend, I was in a Broadway Revue at the high school that I also served. On Friday morning, our feeder schools came for a special performance of the show. I saw my middle schoolers from the school I left coming in. My heart sank. I never said good bye to them or gave them an explanation. Sometimes you don’t do things well, you just do them any way you can in order to survive. I hid out back stage, not knowing exactly how I wanted to handle this and knowing it was inevitable. A nun left that school over the summer and went back to teaching at the high school where I was also working. She came back stage to tell me that the kids saw me, asked to see me, but that she told them to wait because I was getting ready to perform.

At intermission, I bit the bullet and went over to the kids. All but two hugged me over and over, asking why I left asking me to come back. I put on my best smile and told them that life brings changes. I reminded them that they were near graduation and the changes in their lives would lead them to move on, too. But, to tell the truth, I missed them, too!

Only two girls did not greet me. One had some significant emotional problems, so I was not surprised. The other was my “straw that broke the camel’s back.“ On my last day, two sixth grade girls got into a horrible, violent cat fight in the cafeteria. I tried to separate them. Another teacher joined me in trying. Finally, a male parent had to join in. I got the one who started it. She was still flailing and kicking. And I ended up being the recipient. This was the girl that ignored me that morning.

I took a deep breath, regrouped, and played the second half of the show. But that school was not done with me. This afternoon a woman appeared in the support group that I facilitate. She looked terribly familiar but I could not place her. After a brief exchange, I realized that she was a volunteer at that school who was part of my stress last fall from day one. I know she meant well. But she was clueless about how the school functioned and what worked. Honestly, I was less than pleasant with her when I worked there. OK, I yelled!!! (Suppressed feelings are not good for you, you know!)

And now here she was presenting herself at the support group. I could only imagine how much courage that took on her part. Or just how isolated she felt with her lupus. I was a little uncomfortable, too. Who wouldn’t be? She was diagnosed just before I resigned. She wanted to tell me, but our relationship was so contentious that she didn’t. I am glad she came today. She was an asset to the group. She no longer has the energy to volunteer in that school. How wonderful is it, that we could put that experience behind us and deal with the larger problem of living with lupus.

I don’t know what I think about all of this. From where I am sitting right now, after a 12 hour day, the only thing that comes to mind is living in the present. We can’t change the past. We can’t control the future. These people represented some very difficult decisions for me and some dark times. I am sure I represented the same things for them. But in some wonderful way, without words or analyses or apologies or laying of blame, we were just human together-me and the students, me and this fellow lupus patient. And it’s all good.