(Bear with me, folks… it’s a long one.)
I’m usually a pretty sentimental sap. Much to my family’s amusement, I cry a lot. Movies, commercials… you name it. I find emotional meaning in more than most people, and I tend to love reflecting and being introspective.
So, when I say that I have been counting down to close the book on 2014 since mid-October, you can imagine what sort of year it’s been.
Don’t get me wrong; life is always busy, and there’s always something. Over the last 18 years, I’ve come to accept that life is moments of beautiful in a sea of messy. I don’t expect it to be all sunshine and roses. But sometimes, stuff just piles on and piles on, and you can’t catch your breath. And that’s how my (our) year was, beginning as early as late January/early February.
I could probably write an enormous posting, with details and chronology (you’ll come to find, I’m definitely a writer at heart). But I’ve been trying to develop my skills in writing succinctly as well. So, in the hopes that I don’t lose my small audience after only a couple of articles, I’m just going to hit the highlights.
- The Munchkin was able to start an intensive ABA therapy program. The amount of paperwork, red tape, evaluations, and legwork that goes into not only getting a child evaluated and accepted into an ABA program, but also securing insurance approvals, puts the IRS to shame. It took over 4 months to get everything in order. Since June, he’s been doing anywhere from 8 to 20 hours of therapy every week.
- My love life has been somewhat of a rollercoaster this year. Without going into too much detail or naming names, it suffices to say that my heart got pretty trampled on… not just once, but three times between the first of the year and just after my birthday. After that (and with everything that cropped up shortly thereafter) I guess I sort of gave up on it for a while.
- The budget at home has been super tight all year, owing primarily to the fact that the Munchkin’s paternal unit (whom I will henceforth refer to as “SD”… you can use your imagination on that one) has failed to pay child support for over a year and a half. Couple that with the insane medical bills we’ve had this year (almost $50,000 before insurance), and you’ve got a very empty wallet.
- In late August, we learned some very disturbing news about the Munchkin. I can’t really disclose any details, nor is it something I would share publicly. What I can say is that the Munchkin is relatively okay, and is now seeing a counselor. The situation itself is over, and we’re just working on moving forward now.
- Early on in the year, I started having bilateral shoulder pain. It eventually progressed: ulnar neuropathy, Raynaud’s symptoms, and numbness down both arms. Then I started to get dizzy. Physical therapy alleviated some pain but exacerbated the dizziness. MRI revealed a syrinx in the spinal cord which was later determined to be asymptomatic, but in the interim sent us on a wild goose chase. Two months later, I was sicker than ever… severe fatigue, in pain throughout my entire back/neck/arms/shoulders/hips/legs, dizzy to the point of nausea, blurry vision, unable to focus, memory loss, photosensitivity, and muscle weakness.Long story short: 11 months, 2 rounds of physical therapy, 6 MRIs, 1 MR neurogram, 2 CT angiograms, 3 weeks of vestibular rehab, an EMG, tons of labwork, and 4 specialists later, I *finally* got a diagnosis: fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome.Ironically, this is the exact same diagnosis that my mom has, though she was older than me when it developed. So… now I’m trying to figure out how to move forward. I’ve been released to exercise, though apparently my jogging days are over (which actually makes me pretty sad). But these conditions can be managed. My task now is to create a new “normal” and then try to maintain. I feel both daunted and hopeful… almost an entire year to get to the bottom of what was going on left me incredibly exhausted, physically and emotionally. But now that I have a name to put with it. I have a treatment plan. And I know that it is something that can be managed, and not something more serious. New medications, being able to do yoga again, and having a treatment plan has already made me feel loads better. So, I’ll keep moving forward from here.
The year wasn’t all bad, however.
- January was frigid (damned polar vortex) complete with dying furnace at home, but
that cold weather also brought my very first sundog (though I didn’t have my camera, dang it!). I transferred (as a student) to the university (from community college), which was a lifelong dream as I’ve wanted to attend my dad’s alma mater ever since I was a kid.
- February brought my first official campus event. I designed, planned, and executed an “international tour of tastes” featuring foods and flowers from all over the world, in every country we work in. It was well-attended, despite another round of snow, and (from what I’ve been told) people were talking about the ethnic food and imported flowers for weeks. Amazing what you can do with some imagination, good vendors, and a decent budget, huh?
- March brought the Munchkin’s 9th birthday. We celebrated with an overnight getaway
to an indoor water park hotel, an Imax movie, and the kiddo’s first trip to the symphony.
- In April, I was lucky enough to get to go to Washington, DC to watch one of my longest and dearest friends marry the love of his life. It was a whirlwind weekend filled with incredible food, chic hot spots, impossible-to-get-in-to restaurants, beautiful sites, glittering gowns, sharp tuxedos, and more love than you can imagine in one room.
I was exhausted when I got home, but it was a true moment of feeling like you are exactly in the right place in the world, and I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.
- May brought finals (and I managed to eek out a B in Finite!) and the end of school.
- June and July brought the busiest summer I’ve ever had. Our department puts on three summer programs for students: one for 20 US high school students (2 weeks), one for social entrepreneurship for 20 European undergrads (4.5 weeks), and one for 100 students from the Middle East, North Africa, and Near Asia (5 weeks). All of these programs involve business and entrepreneurial education and cultural immersion experiences. I put on 19 events over the course of 45 days. Despite the insanity, it was so much fun. I learned an incredible amount while planning these events, met some of the most amazing kids, made new friends from Morocco, Syria, and Pakistan, was exposed for the first time to Islamic
and MENA culture, and had a huge amount of fun doing it. I was exhausted by the time the last student left Bloomington, but I can’t wait to do it again (even better!) this year.
- August and September brought the start of fall semester, Brown County weekends, wine festivals, photo shoots, and times out with friends.
- In October, I took the Munchkin on our first real vacation. My friend in DC invited me to come back and bring the Munchkin. I learned earlier this year that DC is actually a really affordable place for families; all of the Smithsonian Institution museums and zoo are free, as are all the National Monuments (Ed. Note: the Roosevelt Memorial is my fave!), and the cost of living is similar to Indianapolis. Fall was better for us because of Munchkin’s asthma, so we drove out over Fall Break.
We walked and walked and walked… over 10 miles in 3 days. Munchkin took his first taxi ride, saw his first mountains (if you count the Alleghenys), and took his first subway ride. Again, I was exhausted, but it was entirely worth it.
- In November,Padré (my Dad) came home from Colorado to visit. He usually comes home once a year fora couple weeks, but this time he came home for a month. He spent a huge amount of time helping me around the house, doing repairs and helping clean up the yard and such… all the things that I hadn’t been able to get to due to my health struggles. He took Munchkin to school every day, helped with homework, drove him home from therapy, and put up with movies andMinecraft and YouTube parody videos. He stayed for Thanksgiving, and we did all-family
pictures. It was so awesome to have him around, for both me and the Munchkin.
- December brought finals (finished with an A- in French and a B+ in Sociology, and I raised my overall GPA by 0.289!), a long-awaited diagnosis, a quiet Christmas at home, time off to relax for the first time in months, and a renewed sense of hope.
I’ve never been one to put much stock in the zodiac or astrology or that sort of thing. That being said, I read somewhere that this past year (’14) was the Chinese Year of the Horse, which supposedly signifies painful change. I certainly did find that to be true. But my grandma always told me that going through pain in life was like the fire used to refine ore into silver. I have found through the years that she was usually right. So I have to believe that this time, too, the hard times will pass. It already feels as if things are starting to look up, so hopefully this is a sign of things to come. I’ve lived through a lot over the years (especially the last decade), but I also know that I’m incredibly fortunate compared to a great deal of the world, and knowing that helps me keep my balance in the seeming unfairness of our daily grind.
I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions. I gave it up years ago after deciding that an asinine date wasn’t a good enough reason to start something; that if I wanted to make life changes, I should do it when I was ready and motivated, not based on popular customs. But I do, on occasion after being particularly reflective, set new intentions for myself. So, my intentions going forward into this year are:
- To be kind to myself through sleep, exercise and body therapies, and establish a new ‘normal’;
- To learn ways to ask for help when I need it, without feeling guilty or like I’m being a burden;
- To continue to work hard in school but not beat myself up over my GPA;
- To keep fighting like hell to do my job well, even on the days when I get thrown under the bus by others trying to protect themselves, because what I do matters for my students, for my coworkers, and for the lives my work allows me to touch (however indirectly) in the world’s emerging and impoverished economies.
- To keep working with Munchkin, even when his sensory processing and communication difficulties are challenging;
- To continue to advocate for the equal treatment and open respect of – and increase my own understanding of – all people and cultures, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, politics, sexual orientation, religious belief (or lack thereof), age, disability, or any other distinguishing factor, as I feel that this is what I give back to the world for everything I have and all the amazing people I’ve been blessed to meet;
- To continue to keep an eye out for a man who will be a worthy partner, but also to protect my heart and be very selective in who I allow in; and
- To be more purposeful in spiritual pursuit… to pray, meditate, read, ponder, discuss, build up, and reflect in meaningful ways on the work of the Architect of the Universe in my life.
To these ends, I do not put a time limit, as I think these are lifelong processes. But putting them in writing creates intention, and a way to reflect back later. I would encourage each of you to do the same, if you feel this speaks to you in some way.
With all that said… may the coming days, weeks, and months bring us all fresh perspective, fresh eyes, fresh motivation, fresh inspiration, and fresh air. Here’s to a better 2015!