A Loss Unexpected, Part II

In my previous post, “A Loss Unexpected, Part I,” I shared a growing sense of loss, that I need to figure out what’s been lost, and how to recreate myself to alleviate the losses.  I mentioned I’ve lost the hugely important ability to be easily social, and have lost the bubbly person, the one who always has a smile. She’s gone away and I want to find her again.  But wait–there’s more!

I didn’t sign my contract for next school year–I’m no longer employed.  It’s official.  Not only have a lost employment by choice, but I just lost my chosen profession, at my chosen high school.  This school is a challenging school to teach at because many of the students live lives I cannot even imagine, they don’t have parental support that they desperately need, and many come from severely low-income homes.  My class room provided a safe haven, I gave them unconditional love, and I impacted many young people’s lives in a positive way, creating a ripple effect of goodness and love.  Except for the few who chose to ruin the “nice” teacher.  Over the past ten years of teaching there, I honestly can’t tell you how many kids told me they came to school just so they could see me, visiting between classes if I didn’t teach them that day, coming back after their semester was over… just to see me and feel loved.  Loved just because they are who they are.  Honestly, they were my babies, waking me up at night as I’d worry about them, thinking about ways I could help.  They’d share life issues, learning problems, all sorts of challenges and frustrations with me… I was their school mom.  I’ve lost that feeling of usefulness.  I’m also a burden financially–I don’t have income, but cost money to “operate.”  That’s pretty heavy too.

I’ve also lost the luxury of being known as a hugger–I can’t hug most people anymore because of their clothes detergent, dryer sheets, shampoo, conditioner, hair styling products, deodorant, lotion, self-tanning product, perfume, or cologne.  And I am a hugger.  This is a huge loss in my life, not being able to hug people.  Those students I was talking about that would find me usually needed a hug too.  But now I can’t.  I see former students, as I live in the district I taught in, and we automatically and gleefully head towards each other to share a hug until I remember I can’t.  It’s always a shock.  Still.  Our world is overly perfumed with artificial scents.  Essential oils don’t seem to bother me a bit; it’s the fake ones, created in labs, and there are 1000’s of them, so I can’t be treated for just a few with allergy shots.

Friends and family are actually apprehensive to be around me because they worry if some new product they’re using will cause a reaction.  A dear friend asked if the gum she had in her car was ok, because it was artificially flavored.  That seemed fine–apparently food scents don’t hit me the same way as smell-good scents.  But to realize that people feel uneasy being around me is rather devastating.  I’m a people person, forced to be a semi-hermit. My mother in-law let me know that she bought some unscented shampoo for everyone coming to the family reunion to use.  Bless her heart.  Shampoo is actually low on my list of triggers.  If I’m in the vicinity after a shower was taken with a trigger shampoo, then yes, bad news.  But there are so many things in our world today!!  My vets office is almost too fragrant.  We’ll see how that goes today when I take the two pups for their shots. If it’s bad, they’ve already said they’ll bring the dogs out to me and I can wait in my car.  We had to change my son’s dentist because they wouldn’t stop using plug-in air fresheners.  Here’s something they didn’t apparently believe; if you’ve used it in the past week, and haven’t fully aired out the space, it’s probably still in the air and on the cushions and in the carpet, particles getting sent back into the air as people sit and walk, for me to have reactions with. I’m unable to go into fragrant stores, have to avoid aisles of, and sometimes the aisles next to, the detergents and scented cleaners and air fresheners. Think about this the next time you go into a store.

This challenge is almost unfathomable.  No wonder I’m feeling loss.  And fear and dread and constant apprehension.  Will it get better?

tbc

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A Loss Unexpected, Part I

I’ve been feeling a growing sense of loss.  And sadness, fear, discouragement…  That’s SO not me!  I’m the sunshine in the crowd, the one with the life and energy, the sometimes irritatingly always-happy-person, the bubbly one.  Well, my bubble burst, so now I need to move forward.  To do that, I need to figure out where I lost that part of me, why I lost it, and what to recreate OR create to feel whole again.

My health issues have kept me mostly housebound for the past six months.  I have a hyper-sensitivity to unknown chemicals in fragrances due to being bombarded in three of the classes I taught in high school.  Just a few girls, but no one would come forward to say who was doing it, as there’s a great deal of bullying that goes on. According to the kids who shared their concern about it and wished they could help, they told me the perpetrators thought it was funny to watch me have an allergic reaction; huge itchy, burning, raised, red hives on my face, and eventually my eyes would burn, itch and start to swell.  They hoped I would have to miss school, because !!! everyone knows that when you have a sub, you don’t have to do anything and can’t be held responsible for learning anything.  Therefore, you don’t have any tests, and ultimately don’t have to take a final.  Wrong. Administration didn’t back me when I asked for support in November of last year, in a way that I thought would be effective.  I had asked if I could send a letter, (approved by the lead principal,) to my student’s parents about the seriousness of the situation with severe repercussions (which would have to be done by administration,) if additional fragrance misuse was done.  Also, I wanted to post signs in the hallway and in my classroom stating they were Fragrance Free Zones.  Admin’s response was that I needed to tell them which classes were doing this, and principals would come and “catch them.”  If I couldn’t catch them, how would they?  Doesn’t that make it even more of a game?  I’d already told them what class periods were doing this to me.  I never followed up with any more requests.  Why bother?  I posted signs myself.  But that made things worse.  It was now a deliberate assault that I was unable to prove.  But I’m experiencing the aftermath–the inability to be in most public places.

I haven’t taught since the middle of January.  I’ve been on FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act,) so no paycheck, but at least I had health insurance.  The human resources department extended my FMLA  until the end of the year, because we’d hoped for miraculous results with the shots of Xolair.  It’s oh-my-goodness expensive, has to be given every four weeks, and is preventative, not curative.  No such luck.  As of this past Monday, I still have negative reactions to good smelling people.  An odd outcome is how often people take offense that I’m allergic to something they use that smells nice.  It’s not at all personal, yet people often act as if it is.  I know they didn’t do this to attack me.  But an offense is done toward them, unintentionally.  And if you knew me, that’s the last thing I want to have happen.  It hurts me that people don’t understand I’m not attacking them, but what makes them smell good is extremely dangerous for me, possibly deadly.  Not by choice. Trust me.  I’ve lost the freedom to go anywhere at any old time because there might be someone who smells good.  I have to decline parties/gatherings/functions where there might be people who smell nice.  Isn’t that insane??  I’ve lost the “me” who is social.  And I’m SOCIAL.  As in Butterfly.

There’s more that I’ve lost.  I can only think about this for a little while at a time because this is so huge, trying to figure out the new me.  At 53.  Hey, that rhymes.  tbc…

100 days of happy

I signed up today to do a photographic “happy” memoire over the next 100 days. On the website, it states that only 71% of participants succeed. They don’t have enough time is the main reason. In our extremely busy lives, we forget to be HAPPY. Or we don’t have time to note that we’re HAPPY. How sad is that???!!!???

I’ve been feeling pretty low lately. There really are legitimate reasons. Hubby is looking for a replacement job since his employer lost their contract; having broken my foot 1 1/2 weeks ago, I’m wondering if I also damaged the tendon (which will then require surgery;) still trying to come to terms with my uber hyper-sensitivity to fragrance. OH — and I resigned from teaching next year, by not signing the contract. Maaaan, what a hard decision. Even though teaching is becoming more and more challenging, the threat of violence hang over our heads the whole time we’re there, and the fear of more fragrance assaults that could literally kill me, I procrastinated with my final decision until the day the contract was due. And I still didn’t notify my principal until the next day because I just didn’t want to finalize it.

With all of this going on, a friend informed me that she was signing up for this challenge of showing/finding/honoring 100 days of happy. She’s a pretty happy soul, in my estimation; life seems to be going well, she’s young and healthy. Well, heck–if Kendra is going to do this, me too!!

I like the idea that by consciously thinking about what is making us happy, we become happier, more appreciative of what’s in our life, filling our minds and hearts with gratitude. As Kendra said, can’t hurt!

Today, one of my big moments of happy came from my 4-legged daughter, Gracie Jane. She’s a spazzo, crazy, joy-filled dog. Can you see her smile? Hard not to be happy with a creature who’d never had a home until ours, is so thankful when you come back to the pack that she smothers you in kisses and talks about how much she missed you. Watch it–she’ll jump up and give a kiss on lips if you’re not watching–she’s part border collie and jumps like she’s got springs in her feet! If we humans kiss on the lips, why can’t she? I mean, we’re all family aren’t we? Yeah. no. I almost lost my cookies one time when she even got her tongue in. blech. I do love her. But no French-kissing from a dog. nope. But, she sure knows how to make me feel happy!

Gracie Jane

Gracie Jane

What was your happy moment today?

With warm wishes on your journey,
Nance

 

Honestly, the moments matter

It’s such a joy to watch others recognize that the moment they’re experiencing, whether it seems good or bad, positive or heavy, exhilarating or exhausting, is an important part of the creation of who they are and will become.  It’s not solely, but I tend to live vicariously through others. I’ve been on medical leave since the middle of January, this year.  I’m working through the frustration, the fears, the loneliness, the worry, as well as the joys, the peace, the love that comes forth when you have a health issue that people really have a hard time relating to.  I’m hyper sensitive to fragrances.  Some, not all.  It’s manmade chemical compounds, we think, which cause me to have severe facial hives that burn, swell and itch horribly. If the exposure is dangerous enough to my body, my eyes burn, redden and swell as well, so I have to carry an Epi-pen everywhere I go, just in case my body goes into anaphylaxis. There are thousands of ingredients in fragrances, so my allergens cannot be narrowed down to be treated.

My health challenges stem from female high school students, mine, who thought it was so funny to watch me go through the stages I just mentioned.  I’ve always had sensitive skin, but have been able to cope with the world quite happily without endangering myself. Also, for these students, it was great that I’d get ill enough to have to get a sub, because everyone knows that you don’t have to do any work when there’s a sub!  Therefore, you don’t have any tests, or even a final!  Those things can’t be expected since the “real” teacher wasn’t present.  WRONG.  A good teacher still creates a learning environment, which I did through my sub plans, but most students didn’t choose to participate in that particular environment.

So, three of my five classes were exposing me with increasing frequency and intensity during the first semester of this school year.  I’m a FACS teacher (Family and Consumer Sciences) aka Home Ec.  You know, it hasn’t been called Home Ec. for over 20 years, yet if you say that’s what you teach, everyone knows basically what you teach.  Funny.  Only it’s so much more now–it’s not about “homey” stuff per say, but about possible career options young people might find interesting.

My classes for the past few years have been Housing and Design, Family Living and Parenthood, and Child Development.  I could NOT have gotten better classes to teach!  I love these three subjects.  Seriously love helping young men and young women find out stuff that may make their lives easier, better, more comfortable.  Confirming stuff they’ve hopefully heard at home, or sharing unknown but VERY important information that could make a difference in their lives, now or in the future.  Opening up lines of communication, providing the ability to see other versions, and maybe teaching empathy.  Making them THINK about the pros and cons of spanking or hitting children, for example, as well as learning other options to use instead.  Helping students understand that their environment, whether a house, condo, apartment, mobile home, basement, room, or wherever they call “Home” is important for emotional and mental health.  That colors really do matter differently to each one of us.  That you don’t have to have the newest and the biggest to seriously be content and happy.

I love what I teach.  I’m supposedly adored by a many of my students (according to them, according to how many former students came by for daily hugs as I did hall duty, and according to my subs sharing with me.)  Yet, I cannot be there, due to a few.  They ruined it for all of us.  And are probably really proud of themselves.  Those poor children.  What on earth would go through your mind, making you feel like it was okay to accost someone who is “nice and really cares” with a substance so dangerous that it could potentially kill.  And how is it that no one, not one single student, would dare come forth to tell on those students.  And how is it that those who supposedly cared wouldn’t step in as they saw the attacks happening to stop the perpetrators with a few words.  It tells me that there’s too much fear.  Don’t get involved.  The payback will be so much worse, you’ll wish you’d never done it.  I cannot imagine living in a world like some of my students.  I step forward, at the store, when a parent is losing control with their child, and maybe provide a way of handling it.  Maybe they just need a moment of support from another adult, or a second to catch their breath. I’ve interacted with children, reinforcing the caregiver’s ideas, because sometimes, even toddlers need to hear that the adult is right.  I step forward to say something’s not ok or acceptable.  Apparently I’m unusual.  I wish I wasn’t.

If I wasn’t, I’d still be teaching the stuff I love to teach.  I’d be living a normal, outgoing life, instead of a semi-hermit lifestyle.  I’d be moving forward, instead of struggling day in and out, worrying as I enter the grocery store or a restaurant, wondering if there will be a dangerous exposure to a scent that smells lovely.  I found out something this past weekend. A hose broke on the washer and we have to wait for the part, so we went to the Laundromat.  No biggie, right?  We’d dry the clothes at home.  Not a favorite hangout, but I did it for years before I got a washer and dryer of my own.  Guess what’s there?  Lovely, clean scented clothes.  Clothes detergent that caused me to get hives; burning, itching, swelling hives.  It didn’t progress to my eyes or respiratory system, but ohmygoodness.  I cannot go to the Laundromat.  huh.  I knew some detergents bother me, because I can’t go down the cleaning aisle at the grocery store.  And a freshly laundered jacket belonging to one of my son’s friends caused hives when he came over to play.  In my own house!  I hadn’t thought about GOING to the Laundromat, and the possible danger.  Now I know.

All of this is due to some 10th, 11th, and 12th grade girls “playing a joke” on a nice teacher.  My life is changing.  I don’t know where it’s headed, but I’m on a journey.  All the moments matter and it’s very important for me to remember that happiness comes from the journey, not the destination.

Warm wishes on your journey,

Nance