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So what do you do?

Posted Nov 25 2010 1:09pm
This is a question I used to love to answer. Instead of just saying 4 th or 5 th grade teacher, I would go on some long rant about how I love to challenge the minds of nine and ten year olds, helping them to fall in love with reading and find their voice as writers. Now I dread this question. Even though I have decided right now that I’m not going to work full time (for health reasons), I still want to say that I’m looking for a job. That’s better than not working at all, right? It would be easier if I was staying home and raising a child because then I could just say I’m a stay at home mom. But somehow I can’t exactly say I’m a stay at home mom for my three year old black lab.   I’ve even had people comment how I’m lucky that I’m not working. Lucky? The grass isn’t always greener, I want to say.   I just smile and nod, and think I wish I was working. Why are we so obsessed as a society with work being the thing that defines us? This is something I struggle with immensely.   I feel like I’m being lazy and I should be contributing to society in some way. It seems so selfish to be home focusing on my health. But the truth is, if going food shopping is exhausting, I really am not healthy enough to commit to a full time teaching job right now.   This breaks my heart! I recently even turned down a replacement third grade position because I knew deep down I’m not ready to work full time. The truth can be so painful!
So what do I do? No, I don’t sit and eat bon bons all day while watching soap operas. I try to keep as busy as I can without being too busy. Recently I started subbing in some local schools. The most I’ve worked so far in a week is two half days. The great thing about subbing is I can work as much or as little as I want. I already decided that I’m not going to work this week because with Thanksgiving coming up I need to conserve my energy. Also, last week I had a terrible bout of insomnia and I’m still recovering! I wanted to have some part time work so I can get out of the house when I’m having better days and break up my week. My husband works extremely long hours and I do get rather lonely. Also, having a chronic illness can be rather expensive because most of the doctors that I work with don’t take health insurance.
On days I don’t work, I usually try to plan my day with some activity and some rest. I have an ongoing to do list. However, I really need to prioritize my list and realize sometimes things have to wait. If I need to get food and do laundry, then I have to say no to other energy sucking activities like organizing my linen closet or cleaning the refrigerator. Planning is key. If I know I’m meeting up with a friend at the mall for lunch and some shopping, I won’t plan to get anything else done that day and I will plan to have leftovers for dinner. Luckily for me I have many restful hobbies that I enjoy, such as knitting and reading (and now blogging), so I’m not forced to just lay on the couch and watch tv all day! I also always get outside for little bits of time when I take my dog Raven out to play fetch or take her for short walks. On most days, depending on what I have going on and how I’m feeling, I will try to get in some light exercise. Right now I’m slowly working up my walking stamina. Also, I go to gentle yoga once a week and ideally practice a few stretches each day. I really never find myself getting bored at all!
So although, I’m sad that I can’t work right now, I try not to let it get me down. I try to make the best of my current situation and dream about what I’ll do when I’m healthy again. I look forward to going back to teaching when I know I’ll have the energy that it takes to do the job well.   I would love to go back to get my masters degree and become a reading specialist, or study nutrition and teach healthy cooking classes for children. Or maybe I’ll go another direction and get certified to teach Iyengar yoga and help people that are suffering with chronic illness through gentle or restorative classes. There are so many things that I want to do. And it’s frustrating to be trapped in a sick body! In order for any of my dreams to come true, I need to focus on healing. I need to try and live a stress free life. (if that’s even possible) I need to be kind to my body and rest when it’s exhausted. I need to stop worrying what people think and do what I know is best. I need to put my health first. Because if I don’t, I probably won’t be able to achieve my biggest dream of all….becoming a mother.

Professor Hyland, now fully recovered from CFS, states,"I think the inspiration with CFS is that you can get better, but you need to be careful and manage your lifestyle. Once you start, then you know that you are on the road [to recovery]. You have setbacks, but you do get there in the end. I feel that I am lucky to have recovered, and my message to those who haven't is 'don't give up hope'. You have to work at getting better.”
Read more in this article:
http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_magazine/previous_issues/articles/20
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