572: Family

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Family can be your greatest treasure and resource, the source of unending strength and encouragement.

Family can be your greatest disappointment, the source of incredible angst and unmitigated pain.

Some family members are the most stalwart, loyal, got-your-back, genuine humans on Earth

and some can’t be trusted as far as you could throw Mount Everest on a clear day.

Some show you a genuine and honest face of acceptance and unending love

others show a mask of genuineness and honesty that is as pretty and as false as a cubic zirconia – and is worth even less.

As you grow older and wiser, you learn to appreciate and honor those who return your love, and to avoid those who don’t.

Even if you gave birth to them.

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565: Mea culpa maxima

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It’s all my fault.

You would not have it any other way – you cannot possibly bear any responsibility, now, would you?

Things, and people, which cannot be borne are best forgiven, and then assiduously avoided, because pain is…..painful. It is possible to think of you, now, without anger. But not without pain. Yet. When I have achieved that goal, it will be possible to remember you without sadness.

I invested in you. The money is irrelevant – it is only money, no matter how much money it was. I invested myself into you. It is now time to invest in myself, even though I don’t do that very well yet. I have spent so many years investing in others instead of me, that it is difficult to even believe I am worthy of investment.

Working on it.

On all of it.

541: Married

Marriage

It feels very new.

Shiny. Unblemished. Stain-free. Clean.

Like a new pair of running shoes – a little stiff and awkward still.

Bright with the promise of new, uncharted miles to be run.

Possibilities. Unlimited horizons. Opportunities.

No hint yet of fatigue, or of sweat. Tears. Pain.

I know those things are there, too, waiting to be discovered. Experienced.

Shared.

That is what marriage is, what marriage means.

Good, bad, easy and hard, exciting, sad.

I am here for you.

Welcome home.

536: Endings

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Some things end peacefully, easily, smoothly, calmly. *Some* things end that way, but my life (and my luck) don’t usually work out like that. When something ends, quite often, it isn’t nice. Quite often when something ends, it is downright painful. And no, I am not talking about ordinary, everyday things like the ending of a meal, or the ending of a novel (although, truth be told, I’ve had a few of those cause me some angst, too). The endings I am discussing are a little bigger. Things like relationships, jobs, chapters of life, lives themselves (whether human or animal).

When something big ends, it is seldom a smooth, painless process, even when it is a necessary, unavoidable, or even a healing process. There is still some stuff to sort, and some more stuff to deal with. I always said lessons cost you time, money, or both. That’s true, but they also frequently cost you pain in addition to the time and/or money. Some things are so traumatic they trigger Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which by the way, has nothing to do with war. It is any traumatic event that you are unable to process and get beyond, and you relive it in all its horror over and over. Thankfully, for most of us, those events do dull with a reasonable amount of time and we can move on. But an accident, surgery, a rape, a mugging – any event that traumatizes you can cause it.

You’d think I’d get used to it by now, these endings, and it would not be such a big deal every time one of them happens.  As if the process and the maturity of understanding it makes it hurt any less.

Meh.

238: Grit Your Teeth and BEAR IT.

Last week was truly from hell. Monday, I got my contract documents for my next job in Panama, a two-year contract I am thrilled about, and I printed them, signed them, scanned them and e-mailed them back. I also finished the trimester report cards for two classes – way early! YEA!! That was just about the last positive thing that happened!

Sometime in the night, Monday night, IN MY FREAKING SLEEP, I apparently herniated a disc in my back. HOW do you do that in your sleep?? Tuesday I hobbled to work with considerable back pain, eating Tylenol like candy all during the day. OUCH. When I got there, we got the sad news that our director (the person who would be called our principal in the US) had passed away from her battle with cancer, after a year and a half of fighting it. Hers started with lower back/leg pain, too – just like I was experiencing.  It was a tough day. The University called in two counselors and we held two assemblies to inform the students, who were understandably upset.  And, my back pain got worse. And worse.

Thursday, school was called off for the funeral. I was unable to attend,because I was unable to stand up for more than a few seconds at a time. I spent the day medicated, and getting gradually more and more nauseous, until I began vomiting. What fun – back pain, and tossing cookies. Friday, I called in to work, since I still could not stand, and was still puking. The University clinic injected meds, since I could not keep them down, and they dispatched me to Fez, a big city an hour away, for an MRI. That took until 7 pm, and I got home shortly after nine. Saturday morning, I returned to Fez for the verdict – which was a MILD (OMG, if that was mild I don’t even want to THINK about how much a real herniation would hurt) herniation that would not require surgery IF I obeyed directions and took the next week off, medicated it and let it heal. DONE DEAL. My mama didn’t raise no fool.

I did stop on the way home and put my report cards on my Flash drive so I could work on them as I was sitting down at the computer while at home for the week, and actually keep up with work. Fortunately, this month is my lightest teaching load this year, so subbing for me requires the minimum, and I am sending in lesson plans for my three classes each day.  We are reading Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream for the seniors, the 10th graders are reading Eric Hoffer’s essay, The True Believer, and the 11th graders are reading The Great Gatsby, since somehow they missed that one in earlier years. So, I read, make out lesson sheets and e-mail them to school. The students are e-mailing their finished work to me at home. Heck – why do I need to go in??

141: A pain in the….back

I am enjoying my first day off work for illness in well over a year. I noticed a twinge in the shoulder two days ago. I had not picked up anything particularly heavy, not started a new exercise routine, so I figured it was just a twinge. Not so. Yesterday, by the afternoon, I was visibly grimacing each time the twinge reared its ugly head and bit me savagely when I moved in what it considered an inconsiderate way. Two Tylenol blunted it enough to finish the day and drive home. Sleeping, however, was not fun. If I shifted during the night in bed, it bit me hard enough to wake me up countless times. I did not know how many times I normally shift in bed during sleep, but I now know it is far too many times. OUCH!! OUCH!! YE-OUCH!! ad nauseam. More Tylenol. So, I called in sick to give the pain time to subside somewhat.

If I had earned this annoying pain by picking up something I should have known was too heavy for me, I would figure this was just desserts for my hard-headedness for going ahead and picking up something that I should have known was too heavy for me to lift by myself, and I would not now be feeling sorry for myself. However, I didn’t do that – I swear!! Sheesh. I guess I have to do more sit-ups and crunches to strengthen my abdominals. I hate sit-ups with a veritable passion. Might explain the back pain.

Anyway, during the day, I finished the student’s read check questions on one of the novels we are reading in class at school: The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. Interesting novel. Coming from the American South, it is refreshing to see someone from another culture admit that prejudice is a universal human trait. I’d grown used to hearing that my own culture has copyrights on prejudice, ya know, what with the slave thing and all. It is as if slavery were invented there and ended there for the entire human race once it was eradicated from there – as if.

Anyhoo, while I sat gingerly in one place and processed literature, my husband went and purchased 200 dirhams worth of additional firewood to get us through the last few days in this month before payday, toted it bagful by bagful up to our third-floor apartment, put in away in the wood bin. I sat in one place and felt guilty for not helping, but helping was OUT of the question, even though I normally would have helped, and hubby was very nice to me (as he usually is). Then he headed off to a downtown cafe to meet a dude about seeing some property. He saw a piece of building land that actually might do for our retirement plans. We have been looking for, and at, property for a few months now, since we got the bright idea to stay and retire here in Morocco, and give ourselves a little retirement income in the process.

The university I work for hires foreign faculty frequently. These people get a housing package with their contract of employment: usually a furnished apartment in University-supplied housing. Lately, though, as the university has  grown, they have out-grown their available housing for both students AND faculty. So, to tempt people to move out of University housing and obtain their own apartment, they recently upped the housing allowance. Problem is, in the small ski resort town where the University is located, what the University pays towards housing will not begin to pay for an apartment’s rent, much less all the stuff that you must provide for an apartment here in Morocco, since apartments here generally come with four bare walls and a roof, nothing else – not even a water heater.

As a consequence, my husband and I figured we could cash in some stuff in the US, buy a building lot, and put up an apartment building. We plan to occupy one apartment ourselves, and rent out the other, furnished apartments to University personnel, who we know have the funds to pay their rent regularly (lots of regular Moroccans don’t do such a good job with that, according to our current landlord). I still have at least ten more years I can teach, so if it takes us ten years to do this, we’ll be just about on time for retirement.  The little town where we currently live is 10 kilometers down the mountain from the ski resort town, with a resultant drop in housing and living costs and a rise in winter temperatures – both of which are good things. Plus, I go to work every day anyway, so I can drive a shuttle van and offer free shuttle service to our future tenants. We can also offer the free use of washers and dryers in our building to our tenants, which is something else the University charges its residents for.

It gives us a part-time job, and a business, AND a place to live in our “golden years.” If it works, and we are consistently pretty full of happy tenants and make money – we might even consider building a second one – maybe putting in an indoor pool and a workout room, where I can do sit-ups and crunches to keep from having nagging back pain like today. Just one problem: what will my daughter think when she discovers her inheritance is in MOROCCO?? Well- maybe she will love it here as much as we do!

81: Sciatic nerve

I vaguely knew what a sciatic nerve was. I remember seeing some commercials on TV that mentioned that sciatic nerve pain can begin in the lower back, and can spread down the leg and even into the feet and ankles. I do remember hearing about that.

Hearing about that, and EXPERIENCING that, are two vastly different creatures. Like an ant and and elephant. Since our little plastic car has been wrecked, I have been walking to the grande taxi stand in Azrou (15 minutes uphill), taking the taxi to Ifrane, where I work daily, and walking to the school (30 minutes uphill), then walking back to the grande taxi stand in Ifrane (30 minutes, but at least downhill), and taking the taxi to Azrou, which lets me out for my last 15 minutes’ walk home, again, downhill this time. That is an hour and a half of swift walking a day, usually loaded with my laptop and other papers. The walking has made an impression.

First, my behind has really slimmed down. You would THINK this would be a cause for rejoicing – but NO. I sit on my behind for hours per day, while I work on the computer as my students get their assignment for the day and begin working on THEIR computers. I used to have a nice, cushy behind. This new behind is bone and muscle, and MUCH skinnier. It does not appreciate being sat upon so much. It discusses this fact with me, its owner, daily.

Second, I have gotten so full of sore and stiff muscle and joint pain that walking is becoming an endurance contest, each and every day. Occasionally, the stabs are so sharp, my knee gives way beneath my weight. If I sit for a minute, I stiffen up so badly that my first few steps make me look 90 years old, hobbling, grimacing, holding on to support, until I can limber up enough to walk fairly normally. Steps, either up OR down, are agony.

My doctor gave me some meds that killed the pains dead. What relief!! But, gradually, creeping up on me Indian-style, the pain has returned. Yesterday, I went for x-rays to try and figure out what is causing all this – other than the walking, which is completely self-evident. Wish me luck!!