I woke up this morning at 3:45 in the morning and proceeded to have an anxiety attack about an impending snow storm. I live in a very hilly neighborhood where traveling in the snow is often very difficult and dangerous at times. I am a teacher, yet my school has refused to allow us to work from home except during a COVID-19 emergency. They claim it is because they support in person learning over remote, but we know that is not the entire story because we have far more students continuing to choose remote rather than come to in person these days. Two out of four of our classrooms continue to offer only remote learning, so this is all a farce. In fact, when they are forced to close, they cancel all classes including the remote, so how are they supporting continuity in educational services? I have spent 32 years as an educator. I just reached the magical age of 55 and I have had enough. I cannot retire, nor do I wish to stop working, but I am done with being micromanaged and having my health and well being in the hands of those who honestly do not care.
A friend recently spoke to me about reaching that line that would separate her from what was wrong and what was right for her life. Reaching the line. For each and every person there is a moment where you do, indeed, reach that feeling of having enough. The realization of having not achieved all that you could be achieving. The end of being treated in a manner less than what you deserve. I have reached that place.
Last February, I was not feeling well, I went to urgent care and received medication for a respiratory infection. I was home resting and my employer was not happy that I was out of work for more than one day. I returned while still under the weather. This resulted in my getting sick again in March. I did not return to work quickly after that. I was sick from March 9 until the end of March. My doctor suggested that my husband and I get tested for COVID-19. At this time, our part of the country had limited tests and only gave the test if a person met a certain criteria. My part of the city only had 2 people who had tested positive. We were afraid, but we headed to the emergency room to be evaluated. We were treated and testing was not deemed necessary at this time. However, we had enough symptoms to quarantine. I proceeded to go home and spend much of the next three weeks in bed, with a fever and many other symptoms, which in March were not considered COVID 19 symptoms. I kept in contact with my doctor because he wanted me to return to the emergency room if I had trouble breathing. During this time, I was the mother and wife my family had never seen before. I really could not get out of bed easily. I was running fevers daily, I was shivering under several blankets, my body was a mass of pain, and inflammation. I have rheumatoid arthritis, therefore the pain in my joints was very intense. I could not eat and what I could eat, I did not keep much of it down. It was too taxing for me to raise my arm to get a bottle of water or Gatorade to drink, but my husband checked on me regularly to force me to drink something. I have a C-PAP machine, so my husband had me sit up, propped on pillows and using the machine all day to help my cough and regulate my breathing. In addition to that, he forced me to get out of bed and walk up and down the hallway and even the staircase, which I cried about because my joints ached so badly. I normally have a terrible time losing weight, but I dropped 15 pounds in two weeks. I was extremely pale, and my cheeks had a sunken look to them. Standing was difficult, I felt like at any time, my legs would just give out. My husband was recovering from illness as well, but he was a week ahead of me and had run a fever for only three days to my total of 17 days of fever before it finally broke. As someone with a 96-97 degree normal body temperature, and had run a fever so rarely that we could count it using two hands, this was a very difficult time for me. On the final day I ran a fever, I awoke at 5:00 in the morning to use the bathroom. I practically crawled to the bathroom because I felt so weak, and I looked at the face in the mirror and almost did not recognize myself. The world around me was cloudy, I could barely see. I dragged myself back to bed, looked at my pillow and somehow I knew that if I laid down, I was going to die. I just felt it. I felt like I was floating over myself, like in a dream. I reached for my C-PAP mask and it was a struggle for my hands to put it on. Somehow I got it on, I sat on the edge of my bed, I kept putting my head between my knees, breathing was difficult. I saw my husband sleeping on his side of the bed, I had no voice to call him, my arms would not work to reach out to him. I started to talk to God in my head. I said ‘God, my father is very sick, he said once that he could not survive losing a child.” His heart was broken for a friend who had lost his daughter and often said he did not know how this friend got through it. I continued to speak to God silently, ” it is your will to do with me what you want, but I know that I am needed here with my family. I know I have more to do in this world. I pray you give me more time.” I sat there for an hour. All of the sudden, I felt like a huge weight was lifted from me, I could move again. My arms worked again. I stood up and my legs did not crumble. I sat back down and woke up my husband. I told him what happened. I took my temperature and I had no fever. After more than two weeks of fever, it was finally gone. Some of my energy returned. I felt awake. I was grateful, I was happy.
That day, I went outside for the first time in weeks. I sat in a chair in my back yard with a mask on. My mother, who lives next door, looked out of her window and gasped. I was very pale and she was not expecting that. I felt better, but weak and beat up. I know that I am a survivor, that I was very close to not making it to the next day.
Two weeks later, my father took a turn for the worst. He suffered another stroke and passed away the next day. It has been a very sobering experience to lose someone during COVID-19. It was April 2020 in New York City. Therefore there was no funeral. A simple graveside service with just my family and my brother’s family, and two of my father’s caretakers. My oldest brother was not allowed to leave his state and come to us. My Aunt was not allowed to travel and say good bye to her brother. None of the members of our large extended family were permitted. The many people whose lives were touched by my father were not able to see us, or to pay tribute to a man who meant a great deal to them. He deserved so much more than a 15 minute speech and prayer at the cemetery. Afterwards, we were not permitted to be together, to eat together at a repast. It was a sad and lonely time. I do not feel recovered from that. It is a very hard way to say goodbye to a loved one.
In May, I took an antibodies test and it confirmed that I had indeed had COVID -19. I truly feel that I barely scraped through that illness.
That is why I now hate to waste time. I want to be happy. I want to do what I am supposed to do, to leave my mark on this world. Life is way too short and we are all here for a specific reason. I do not believe I am here to be sitting at a job where I feel as though every move I make is micromanaged. Every idea I have is shut down by someone who has a great need to be the one who controls all that happens in every aspect. I am too old to be where adults are punished for advocating for their rights and sharing their opinions.
The line has always been there, and the day arrives when you are finally standing with your toes right next to that line. You either cross that line and lose yourself or you walk away and do what makes you happy. We all deserve to be happy. Happiness is not what you have to hold in your hands. It is not expensive cars, clothes, jewelry or accessories. It is getting up each day motivated and energized to do what makes you feel alive. Life is not counting the days on a calendar until you get to the weekend or to a vacation. It is celebrating each moment, it is being so comfortable where you are, that a vacation is simply being happy in new surroundings, rather than an escape from your everyday world. Happiness is who you share your life with. Whether it is your spouse, your friends or your pets, or even if you are comfortable being alone, it is where you should be content, and calm.
One day, we wake up and realize that we do not live forever. That our family and friends will not always be there. At any given time, we can leave this earth. There is simply no time to waste being miserable. I have reached the line and I know that it is time to walk away and do what is best for me. I have worked hard raising my children, doing what is best for others. This is for me.
I have great plans to use the gifts I have been given to make other people’s lives better. What better way is there to live, than to make others happy?