Lessons Learned

It’s been quite a semester.

An alternate title for this blog post might be, “The Effects of Chronic Pain on the Overachiever,” but that sounded a bit like an article in a professional journal, so I opted for the shorter, more vague label instead.

Over the past five months, when I added ZERO posts to this blog, I *almost* wrote the following pieces:

1) a tribute to my awesome, passionate, eager undergraduate students, who made me happy every Tuesday when I showed up to teach their Classroom Assessment course.

2) a happy reflection on my new favorite winter sport–snowshoeing, which turns out to be a terrific cardio workout as well as a fabulous way to explore the snowy woods.

3) a humorous piece about my car, which for several months has become a traveling library and a constant reminder about the realities of life as a part-time professor with a “real” full-time job and faculty appointments at two other campuses.

4) a description of the colors and joy of a long-awaited spring, featuring the image that will remain in my mind for a long time: a group of teenage girls running with complete abandon across a bright green field.

I thought about each of those posts. I composed them in my mind while driving from home to school, from school to university, from school to college, from home to a doctor’s appointment. I thought about what I would write when I had a bit of time to sit, think, and form words from images. I thought about writing while I was lying in the MRI and CT scan machines. I thought about them while I was doing yoga breathing. But I didn’t write them. Instead, I’m writing this post. And the lessons learned have a lot to do with tolerance–of myself, of weakness, and of ambiguity.

I have a degenerative injury in my spine. Three discs have ruptured, and three vertebrae are deteriorating because of the loss of protective material between them. The nerves that run from my lower back down to my feet have been compressed, resulting in a collection of symptoms including pain, spasms, numbness, tingling, and loss of some mobility. I’ve had two surgeries to remove damaged disc material, but the injuries have recurred multiple times now. My excellent neurosurgeon and I have made the decision to move on to a more permanent solution: spinal fusion. In about 6 weeks, those pesky discs will be removed once and for all, and the three vertebrae will be fastened together with titanium hardware and ¬†artificial bone.

I have re-learned the importance of being intentional about every day. I can decide, every day, whether it’s going to be a good day or a bad day. I can decide how to present myself to myself and to others. I can share joy–about all the things listed above, as well as so many other wonders. Every day, I can recognize that I have a great life, except for this one physical challenge.

So…I’m quite certain that there will be many new posts coming on my long-neglected blog, because I’ll be spending some quality time on the couch this summer.

In the time between now and then, I’ll be celebrating my birthday, organizing a teacher institute, taking a brief vacation, and traveling to a conference in Atlanta. Then I’ll spend a week in the hospital. THEN, I’ll get to hang out on the couch.

Watch this site for further updates.


3 responses to “Lessons Learned

  1. Take care of yourself! Looking forward to further updates.

  2. Can’t wait for more entries as you come to be on the road to recovery….

  3. Wow, I’m so sorry that you’ve been going through all that. I think you should write each one of those blog posts anyway. Get them in the pipeline while you are on the couch. Best of luck on the recovery.

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