Zombie Susan moves about slowly with an empty look in her eyes. I shuffle along the walk from the main office to my second floor classroom. My body screams through the exertion, my hips complain, my breath comes rapid, I continue towards the safety of my room.
I remember a couple of years ago, suffering with fever and what later was recognized as pneumonia, I made it to my classroom and collapsed against the door. I had to catch my breath before I got out my keys. The Art teacher saw me laying on the floor next to my door and against my protest called security and the nurse. Soon, the administration and the nurse had me in my room and sent my students into the Art room instead. They called my husband and sent me home. I would have been fine, I said.
When my cancer relapsed but was still trying to ignore the tumor in my neck that eventually grew through my esophagus to my trachea. My dad said that he heard me breathing at night – stridors – which happen when your trachea is compressed. He told me he was concerned. I said I was fine – even though I could not normally swallow, nor walk more than a few paces without getting winded. He told me this analogy that has stayed with me ever since. He said that I had been sinking into a hole into the earth and I was standing in it with just my head exposed and I have just gotten used to the horrible, uncomfortable nature of my body losing all its function. Yes. I was in a hole. He was right. I am in that hole again right now.
How does one continue the unsustainable? How do I grab a moment here or a moment there to make it through this semester? I have no idea. I feel desperation and panic. My house has long since went to hell – my daughter moving out at the convergence of summer school ending and school/school starting. I should be grateful that my sense of smell went weeks ago with head cold #1 (currently experiencing head cold #2).
The tasks are so large. The time is so short. And I talk so much about me me me me me me me me me me me! I am having trouble connecting content about project management and leadership to anything that relates to me. I am only concerned with what skills will make me seem to be a viable choice for a job outside of education. The fact that I am still a teacher and exposed to so many dangerous organisms everyday works against showing my internship that I am a hardworking, intelligent individual that can get the job done.
So how does one fake not being sick? I know you irresponsible people that can actually take cold meds (I can’t) and you mask your symptoms and go about your day as if nothing is wrong at all. With my naturally hoarse voice, I sound sick, look sick, move like I am sick, move slowly, am slow to react to words. I cocoon into myself in sickness in the closed door confines of the fall classroom until the emergence of Susan in the spring as a butterfly. Healthy. Smiling. Eager to learn. Hopeful.
Maybe that is it. I look towards the end and just hope I get there. My cardiologist told me last week that my heart damage from last year is reversible – which I dreaded was my death sentence. I spent an entire year avoiding looking into his face (and my echo results) to hear that I was not dying. I am so stupid. Could someone throw a ladder down here in my hole so that I can climb out and join the rest of you?