(Shout out to Tupac for the quote.)
A few weeks ago, I found myself in yet another frustratingly familiar place. Sick. I hate being sick. Hate with a capital “H” for “Hell no I don’t have time to be at home in recovery. I have too much [fill in appropriate expletive] to do!” If you know me at all, then not only do you know this statement to be true but you’ve seen it in action when I show up to work looking like a character from The Walking Dead (And no. I don’t know any of the characters’ names because the only time I ever watched was when Big Tiny was on there and that’s only because the actor who played him is one of my former students. Shout out to Theodus Crane!) My doctor often quips that the only time I show up in his office is when my proverbial limbs are falling off. Most people think I work even when I’m sick because I’m a stubborn workaholic with a perfectionist complex. Okay. True. (Shout out to Dad for that trait. Thanks Dad!) But when you have Lupus (which I do) you can’t work like you are the embodiment of a Waffle House, open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I mean you CAN (cuz I do) but eventually, you find yourself closed and no longer scattered, smothered or covered (Sorry for the food references. I live in Georgia, it’s 6:30 in the morning, and I’m hungry). This is where I was when I began this story 14 lines ago. Sick. Again.
Now, when you have Lupus, sick takes on an entirely different tone. Sick for me can mean flu symptoms that last weeks not days, muscular skeletal pain that has you dragging your limbs like the zombies in Michael Jackson’s Thriller (I know THOSE zombies), nerve issues, headaches, skin issues, memory issues, you name it. And because Lupus is an autoimmune disease the symptoms show up when they feel like it whether you want them to or not. This, of course, makes it really interesting when Lu shows up for the 4th time this month and requires you to stay home from work. Again. Normally, this would add alarm to my frustration but it doesn’t because I have grown grateful for the desert I’m in.
Wait. What? How’d we get from being sick to being in a desert? I know. I’m really good at going off on tangents but there is a point I want to make. Stay with me.
Most people think desert and think of place devoid of much life. Hot, dry, not much going on and definitely not somewhere you want to spend vast amounts of time. This, my friends, was how I was feeling about my job. Yeah. The one I used to love? The one that used to have me excited about writing lesson plans and reading 100+ 9th grade essays? (Okay. I’m lying. You’re right. I was never excited about reading 9th grade essays. Sorry.) That one? Yup. I had reached a point where I felt stagnant. The very place that helped make me the teacher I was proud to be was no longer a place I felt like I could bloom. I began to hate it. And then I got sick. And my principal told me not to come to work. And she said “you have too much to do in the world and you can’t do any of it if you’re sick all the time. Rest. We got you. You’re in a safe place.” Say what now? Yup. That’s what she said and she meant it. This is when I realized that as much as I didn’t want to be where I was anymore, I needed to be grateful that I was there. Had I been anywhere else, had I gotten the new job I said I wanted, had Lu decided to make her grand entrance like she did back in March and had me flat on my back until May, I might have been writing this from my car or under a bridge somewhere because chances are I wouldn’t have a job. But I’m not. I’m sitting on my sofa, typing this up, and thinking about making a Waffle House run.
See, sometimes you have to find and focus on the positive in the midst of the negative. Sometimes you have to find the flower in the midst of the desert (See what I did there? I told you to stick with me). So today, and every day, choose to look for the flowers. They may be the people you work with, the kids you teach, the email you received, the fact that you just got a phone call from a co worker asking if you wanted Waffle House (YEEEEEEESSSSSSSSS! I love my peeps!) but find at least one stem. Maybe the end of the day you’ll have collected a bouquet.