Like Flies to Fresh Air

“How are you today?” one of my AP seniors asked when he came into the room Wednesday.

“Honestly, not great,” I told him since I’d already confessed to a different AP kid who saw me in the hallway earlier that I’d woken up at 2:30 in the morning to discover my insides coming out and had to deal with it in an exhausted stupor.

“Are you out of spoons?” one of these compassionate kids asked, having heard me explain Spoon Theory before.

“Yeah. Actually, yeah. I’m in spoon debt.”

My body gets mixed signals with the nerve damage, and sometimes a normal upset stomach can be debilitating for a day or two. In this case, I’ve spent five days with stomach cramps and leg spasms that have a couple possible causes. There’s a default list of troubleshooting that I’m working my way through, and I’m hopeful to be back at it on Monday like nothing ever happened. (Before you offer suggestions, I know my body better than you do, so I promise I’m acting in accordance with the information I have and am doing what is most appropriate for my age, demographic, and spinal cord injury.) However, this brought me down on Tuesday hard enough that I had to skip tacos; the next day I then missed my first meeting of the morning, barely made it to the second two meetings, raced home to shower before coming back for a lunch date with a student and to teach my last two classes of the day. Anja was gracious enough to spend our whole hour working out a couple crazy tight knots in my exhausted, spazzing calves. She was also kind enough to remind me that we can get back to the tough stuff next week when I lamented how I’d been looking forward to an intense floor workout.

“Why are you even here today?” my two compassionate English students asked me when they separately heard I wasn’t feeling great.

I decided long ago that I wasn’t going to let a spinal cord injury rob me of joy in life. I’ve even found some gifts that come only because of my injury – moving to New Zealand for a year being the top of that list. However, the point is that I refuse to skip a day of school just because I woke up to a mess in the middle of the night. Instead, at 2:30 in the morning, I gritted my teeth, did what I could, changed my sheets, and tried to sleep once I finally crawled back into bed.

I love my job.

That’s why I went to work in the morning. My first meeting was with another English teacher who I’ve been assigned to help in her first year teaching. Meeting with her is an absolute joy because she loves literature and theology and learning – it’s like a college version of me has shown up in Kandern – so I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to encourage her and see how her lessons went last week as well as hear what she’s planned for the coming week. I came back for classes in the afternoon because I’m the most qualified to teach my AP English kids the difference between a hyphen and a dash (which, fun fact, I’ve used incorrectly on this platform because inserting an m-dash is a nightmare most places other than word processors; context matters). I mean, maybe I could have been calmer in my presentation to them instead of yelling, “You’re going to embarrass me if you turn in a paper to college professors with a hyphen where a dash belongs!” but I was trying to make a point. I care about their learning, and after twelve years of Abeka lessons, I’m a legit queen of grammar. The commas in that previous sentence are on point. The grammar in the previous two is colloquial.

I love my job.

In Bible class this week, we ended with my “Understanding” Jonah lesson. It’s the second of four times we read Jonah in class, but this time, I make the students get up and move around for the actions to visually represent how when Jonah was asked to go to Nineveh, he literally ran the opposite way. I believe learning sticks better when you laugh during acquisition; I won’t ever forget the personification of the ship that “considered” breaking apart as three of my kids did a hula dance pretending to be the ship separating from each other while our Jonah actor laid on the floor chuckling in his “deep sleep.” In the other class period, the student assigned the role of the voice of YHWH asked if we could do the same thing for Psalm 119 on Monday.

“Well, it’s harder to act out, but sure, we can try to see what figurative language would look like.”

“No, I just mean, can I stand on the desk while we read it again.”

“Oh, yeah, you can definitely do that.”

I love my job.

Friday in AP English we were discussing the second assigned section of Dracula. In it, there’s a crazy person who spends a lot of time attracting flies to his window in the insane asylum. His purposes are far from wholesome. I was thinking about those poor flies (and spiders and birds) a lot today as I was airing out my stinky house and doing laundry. There were loads of fat, fleshy flies in and around my entryway especially today. The stench had lingered with only my makeshift midnight cleaning in the middle of the week, so I kept my front door and back window wide open all day, did two loads of laundry, and emptied the trash, and did as much additional cleaning as possible (some of my house is not exactly cleanable from a wheelchair, and I’ve not yet achieved balance and cleaning at the same time). Unlike the intentional crazy guy’s use of sugar on the window sill, my new friends were attracted to a much nastier smell, and I was honestly pretty ready to be disheartened by the whole ordeal because it was stealing my Saturday, and I was still feeling the strong muscle pain that’s robbed me of sleep this past week. My default these days is to shoo them outside rather than first reaching for my swatter and smacking them against the nearest surface – another contrast to the Dracula character hoping to draw life from the buzzing insects.

Recognizing this contrast is where my perspective changed today. I’ll go through a lot of effort to preserve life instead of to take it. I’ve even started apologizing to spiders when I kill them if it’s not possible for me to evict them easily. Yeah, I might be a crazy person, but it’s a different kind of crazy. I want those flies and spiders to have fulfilling lives doing what God created them to do in nature – which is why I do my best to escort them out of my house where they would be trapped in addition to bothersome to me.

The flies only showed up at my house today when the windows had been wide open for hours giving the stench time to spread while I slowly tried to eradicate it. Everything I do is slow. Slow but persistent, and this morning was yet another day where I asked God for everything. Over the past six years, I have had these awful nights about once every six to ten months, and I want this week’s to be the last. The flies can come in the spring when students bake cookies with the windows open, and I’ll teach the kids to shoo them away while I also teach them to respect other life around them. In Dracula, the lack of respect for life on a small scale leads to lack of respect for life on a large scale. I want to model what I teach. I believe God is still at work in my body, and I’m still asking for more small scale and big scale miracles to show up. I hope you’ll follow my example and ask for crazy things that lead to more fulfilling life.

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