This week, I find myself having more extreme sensitivity than usual due to PMS and some additional stresses that have come my way. I’m emotional and reactive, and I’ve had issues come up at work (badly behaving students) and at home (re-surfacing drama between Newman and me). On top of this, yesterday I had “minor” dental surgery that has made me feel more pain than I’ve felt since, well, the last time I had to have this surgery a few months ago. I have had to get my gums grafted in two spots; don’t even get me started on how old this makes me feel. The side-effects of the meds to manage the pain are almost worse than the pain itself, so it’s a toss-up between moaning and crying from one or feeling vomity and woozy from the other.
This morning, a new source of irritation arrived in the form of a well-meaning email from my sister that really hurt my feelings. I called my mom, crying and letting out some of the emotional build-up that has been accruing. Her advice to me was
Try to focus on the positive.
This is a recurring mantra in my life but one I continue to find difficult to put into practice. I tend to process things for a long time, both verbally with others and internally in my own mind. I want to let things go, but I end up holding on to them for too long.
Because I was feeling sensitive this week, I was, at one point, irritated with one of my best friends at work because she was complaining a lot about the job after recently returning from many months of maternity leave. In my mind, she’s had it good: she got to miss the worst part of the year and since then has been skipping out here and there taking advantage of her new-mommy status to be with her gorgeous baby. Outside of my initial annoyance (jealousy?), I don’t blame her for this at all. The truth is, it’s very easy to get used to the “good life,” and it can feel brutal to have to re-adjust to a different version of reality. The “good life” can involve its own challenges, such as my friend is dealing with in New-baby-ville, but sometimes we have to do the work of reminding ourselves of how good we do, indeed, have it.
At the same time, there’s a time and often a good purpose for complaining, and we shouldn’t beat ourselves up about venting, especially if it’s to a friend. I once unfriended a woman from Facebook because when I occasionally posted about difficulties at work, she would comment that I couldn’t complain because I had summers off. It’s a stereotypical reaction to teachers that I used to get defensive about. Now, however, it just reminds me that no-one can fully appreciate another person’s frame of reference. It is human nature to compare notes and find ourselves wanting (or better off, as it may be), but ultimately, there are valuable experiences and lessons to be found in every walk of life, in every aspect of humanity’s “grace and rude will,” as Shakespeare puts it. Our job is to be where we are, fully, and to also try to connect and share with others, trying to shelve judgment long enough to learn and appreciate.
I’ve wallowing in how miserable I feel, but I can’t justify that on its own anymore, so here’s an accounting of some of the positives.
Counting My Blessings:
It’s embarrassing, really, how good I have it in relation to my complaining. Here are some of the many ways I’m lucky:
- I took the day off today to recover. A good decision as I’m too woozy to drive or stand up for long, but I felt a bit guilty, so I counted; it’s the seventh sick day I’ve taken this year. I’ve taken sick days to grade, to take care of Free, and to recover from my two surgeries. I get fifteen sick days a year, and I usually end up taking eight or nine. In addition, this year I’ve taken a personal day and had several more days off to attend professional conferences. This is the first job in my life where I’ve had sick/personal days as part of the package. I haven’t yet gotten to the place where I don’t use them (like Newman) or I don’t appreciate them deeply. Right now, I’m panicking a bit that it’s the afternoon and I haven’t yet been outside or graded a single thing. It’s ok though. I’m taking a day, and I have them to take. That’s a blessing.
- Spring is here, and there are at least six months of mostly goodness ahead with the weather. Come July, I get two months of vacation. It doesn’t get better than that.
- As if that weren’t enough, next week I celebrate my birthday, and then I’m off on a Caribbean vacation with my man. Last week, I visited Marshall’s and hit the bathing suit jackpot, buying no less than five new suits. Caveat: I haven’t done the second try-on session yet–you know, the one where you might discover you must have been high in the dressing room or the lighting in there was the kind that lies or perhaps you have gained ten pounds since then or you realize that dangly gold metallic things hanging off bikinis are never, in fact, a good idea. Even so, I’m hopeful that my odds with five new suits are pretty good for at least one to travel with me to St. Thomas.
- My kid is awesome. Nothing new to report there, but you can’t count blessings in your life without noting that when you have a kid in your life who is healthy and happy and safe and who loves you as much as you love her, life is good, period.
- Newman and I are back on track. Despite the ongoing blips on our radar screen, last night he raced home to check on me at 5:30pm when I was hysterical after driving home from the dentist’s office in great pain. He held me, told me how much he loved me, and tucked me into bed before heading out to meet his kids for dinner. Despite our challenges, the one thing that becomes clearer and clearer through it all is that we are both in this relationship for the long haul, and we are working through things together as full partners. It means everything to me to know that he’s on my side.
- Need any more reasons to be think me an entitled snit for ever bitching about anything? Here’s one: I’m thirty-eight, and I can still call my mom up when I’m upset, and she will still listen to me and love me unconditionally and help me find a way to feel better, and when I take her advice, it always works.
There are so many gifts that are out there for us, and so many more we can give if we just stop fixating on what’s broken, what feels bad, what isn’t working. Making my list helps me remember how good I have it, but that doesn’t mean that I never have the right to complain, either.
If we can stop feeling sorry for ourselves and stop feeling ashamed of ourselves, we might be able to get back to work and friends and all the things that really matter. I, for example, care about the bad behavior of my students because I care about them. I worry about my issues with Newman because he is my everything in love and life. The pain in my gums will pass, and it will most likely save me from losing teeth later. And that email? Behind the thoughtlessness of its delivery is a kind, loving sister who meant well in reaching out. We will work it out; this much I know.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I must get on with my day. Suddenly, I have a lot to do and feel quite eager to do it.