125. it's not a bad number, overall. i mean, if that was my bowling score -- it wouldn't be too bad considering that i've only bowled once in my life. if i paid that much for a concert ticket to see someone i really wanted to see -- it wouldn't be too bad if they put on a good show. if i won that much playing video poker or scratching a lottery ticket -- it would be good. if i found that much money in my coat pocket left from last year -- that would be really good. if that was my weight -- it would be fantastic!! but as a bottom number on my blood pressure -- it's a bitch!
i guess 125 could just sum up my week. i have seen that number on the machine every day this last week. i don't normally check my blood pressure because i can tell when it's up. once it's up enough for me to notice, then i start monitoring it every day until it's back down. i've been dealing w/ it for a long time, and taking medication seriously since i was 32. i don't toy w/ it and i don't skip doses. it's just not worth it. so when it flares up, i don't need the machine to tell me. my face is red, i feel hot, my mind feels like a gerbil on a wheel running and running, and my head hurts. not just a regular headache, but a headache that hurts w/ every heartbeat -- kaboom, kaboom, kaboom, kaboom, kaboom.
pretty soon, it's all i can think of. pain w/ every heartbeat. and hope to God i don't have to cough, sneeze, or tie my shoe -- because those things are extremely painful now. sure, i've tried bio-feedback, and it can be helpful. deep breath. relax. deep breath. relax. kaboom. kaboom. . kaboom . . deep breath. kaboom . . relax . . . kaboom. deep breath. . . relax . . kaboom. think of something calm. kaboom. . . kaboom . . . deep breath. . imagine waves washing up on the shore . kaboom. . . sandy beach. . . deep breath. . . relax. . . kaboom. . . waves. . . slight breeze moving the palm leaves. . . waves. . . deep breath. . . kaboom. . . now put myself there . . . deep breath. . . sun on my face . . . kaboom. . . hear the waves . . . roll over to work on my tan. . . kaboom. . . relax . . . waves. . . . . deep breath. . . imagine the warmth of the sun. . . kaboom. . . boom. . . imagine the waves roll up onto the sand. . . slight breeze still blowing swishing sounds from the palms . . . boom. . . deep breath. . . relax. . . waves. . . warm sun. . . boom . . . relax. . . deep breath. . . beautiful view of beach and ocean. . . deep breath. . . boom. . . tired. . . warm. . . sun. . . waves. . . breeze. . .swishing. . . waves. . . ah, there we are. welcome to my perfect world.
the problem w/ this scenario is that there are no people in my perfect world. no one on my beach, no one on my ocean, no one on my island -- except for me. and i'm not even there until i imagine me there. so there i am on my imaginary island, lying in the sun, listening to the waves wash up onto the shore and the breeze blow through the trees, feeling comfy and relaxed. then guess what happens -- some idiot comes up and starts talking to me and poof! it's gone. the world i just worked so hard to create is gone!
the kabooms start to intermingle w/ the booms again as it progresses back to all kabooms. depending upon the person and what he or she wanted, of course. as i plaster an appropriate look on my face, my mental self is ripping their face off and tacking it to the wall and chalking up another tally. i'm not seeking victims for my wall, but if they wander in my path . . . but of course, ripping in to someone or throwing a temper tantrum would be inappropriate, so that behavior is not an option. unfortunately, that just puts more stress on me -- i can't break and can't show the stress that i'm feeling. i just bottle it up.
"jill, would you type up this letter and send it out to the family?" swallow, blink, smile before responding "sure, i'll do that this evening."
"we sure wish you had more time to come visit us." swallow, smile, remember everything they've always done for me and say, "i know. i'll try to be more careful. maybe my schedule will be less crazy soon."
"jill, did you know you missed trash day today? you guys didn't get your trash out to the road on time." smile, mentally tell myself to be nice, swallow, and say "yeah, mom. i know. it's not the end of the world, you know."
"honey, you know if i were you, i would make my kids do more around the house to help me out. it would be nice if your house was always ready for company." swallow, count to five, think how ridiculous that request is b/c i don't have time to have company anyway, smile, remember that this is the woman who birthed me, swallow, count to five again, plaster a smile on my face and say, "i know, mom. but our lives are different than yours was. i am the sole support here and that means working double."
6:30 on my day off for easter break the phone rings, "so, what are you doing today?" deep sigh, count to 5, swallow, smile, "well, so far, i was sleeping. when i'm done w/ that, i guess i'll get up."
"you know what you could do today? you could (insert shitty job here)!" like maybe i didn't know i needed to get that done and all i was waiting on was someone to tell me about it. typical response -- swallow, deep breath, count to five, and say "yeah, i know it needs done, but i have other things i have to do first."
"oh? like what?" deep sigh, count to 10, remind myself that i'm lucky to have a caring mother who really does care even though she drives me nuts most days, smile and say "like grading papers, averaging grades, planning my lessons, writing an article for my boss, responding to my review from work, writing a proposal to present at a state seminar for writing teachers, filling out a grant request, getting the oil changed in my car (in the drive-thru thingy)," ---- and then list about 10 more things so she knows that i do have an idea of what needs done in my life.
"mom, can i have $20 for gas?" deep sigh, struggle to remember where i have hidden money, smile and thank God that i have my children, and say "yeah, let me find some."
"mom, would you tell scott to make sure i get my phone messages?" stare, mentally rip her face off 2 times and make 2 tallies for that, take a deep breath and say "yeah, i'll remind him to be more considerate."
"jill, you need to talk to mom about her shed. the roof needs fixed. she won't listen to me." swallow, blink, count to 5 and wonder why he thinks i care if the shed roof leaks, deep breath, and say, "i'm sure she'll be calling here soon. i'll bring it up."
"did you proofread my paper?" deep breath, mentally whack him w/ the golf club before ripping his face off for putting paper off until the last minute to write, make his tally on my wall, look down, reply "no, i haven't gotten to that yet."
"did you remember that saturday is your nephew's birthday?" swallow, sigh, reply "yes, mother. i already have his gift and we'll call him to sing to him."
"hey jill. i'm coming to visit mom and dad saturday so i'll be in town. i'll come by your house around 7." deep breath, swallow, stall, reply "uhm, well, i guess that would work. we'll order out or go to chicken mary's for dinner."
and on and on and on. i keep it to myself for as long as i can, but after a while i just have to have some space. when it gets really bad for me, i'll just look at my kids and very calmly say, "i'm really under a lot of stress right now and i don't feel very well. would you guys try really hard not to fuss at me, not to fuss at each other in front of me, or put any extra stress on me?" that usually helps some, but they get so worried about me and then they start to hover. just hanging around me, talking to me about meaningless stuff b/c they're nervous, checking on me, watching me, being there. and that starts to get on my nerves. it feels like i've only got one nerve left and i'm holding it right out for people to jump on all the time.
what the people in my life don't realize is that sometimes i would just like to say "GET OUT OF MY FACE!" or "LEAVE ME ALONE!" or "DO I LOOK LIKE I CARE?" or "BACK OFF!" or just flat out flip the bird. a double, even. just to make sure they got the message. but i don't. i can't. my personal make-up just doesn't allow me to do that. my sense of self doesn't allow my emotions to rule who i am. i don't want to act in a way that i will regret later, either in private or in public. and disrespect, whether it is to someone i love or someone i don't know, is totally unacceptable to me unless extremely provoked and totally intentional. it will not happen because i lost control. my head says that my temper doesn't get to run the day and my blood pressure doesn't get to run the day either. now get a grip on it and get back to life.
usually whatever sets these spells off is situational or a combination of events, but usually things that are totally, or at least mostly, out of my control. that was the deal this time as well. the baby was in the hospital, i had more month than money, it was easter weekend, plans to get together for family dinner, celebrated birthdays, worried about a friend, a huge grad school project due, students were nuts at school, it was a full moon (if you think that doesn't matter when you work in a school -- you're an idiot!), the mower needed serviced and the yard needed mowed, everyone had spring fever, and a HUGE push at school preparing for the state tests next week, i had a date (which turned out good, but was still stressful ahead of time!), i had concert tickets and had promised scott that i would go w/ him, had volunteered to read at the academic quiz meet, had to notify students who was accepted to national honor society and who was not, and keep up w/ life.
ugh! what a week. and it was even a short week, w/ no school on monday! i should've called in sick on tuesday, but i wasn't prepared enough in my room for that. so i went to work tuesday knowing that i was going to take wednesday off as a sick day. the mental push is just too much some times. i knew if i went to the concert tuesday night and then gambled a little that it would be midnight or 1 when we got home. i already didn't feel well, so add being tired to that as well. didn't make for a good plan for wednesday. i always feel that if i can't go to school and treat other people's children like i would want people to treat mine -- w/ love and respect -- that i should not subject them to my presence. translation == if i feel like being a bitch, i stay home. i may be the only positive person some kids see in a day, and i don't want them to suffer because i don't feel well.
i started taking "chill pills" monday morning; they are the equivalent of elephant tranqs, but they just weren't taking care of it. basically they take the edge off -- of everything. my frustration, my temper, my impatience, my logic, my intelligence, my personality, my common sense, my friendliness, my sense of humor, my empathy, etc. totally deaden the senses. they make me feel like i'm wrapped up in a protective layer, operating simultaneously w/ the world but running on a parallel plane. i'm there, but i'm not there. i'm there, but there is a buffer of separation between me and the rest of the world. they do make it easier to sleep during this time, but i hate the feeling i have when i take them.
so, i took a mental health day. it was probably really a physical health day, as blood pressure was the real problem, but it's partly mental, too. i intended to spend the day at home, alone, in peace and quiet. but it didn't work out that way, as summer was still home w/ raven recuperating from rotovirus. i'm not sure i would've stayed home if i had known they would be there, but it didn't turn out too bad. raven was still kind of fussy and tired from being sick, and she wanted lots of attention. i needed some peace and quiet and time to get some rest.
"MAMOM! UP!! UP!!" standing at my feet w/ her little hands stretched up, wanting up for some loving. nothing in the world about her is upsetting to me. no matter how tired or sick i am. no matter how fussy or tired she is. everything about her is perfect and wonderful. i picked her up, and she scooted up on my shoulder and laid her head down. that felt good. i sat down in the rocker and rocked w/ her while we watched our sleepy time movie -- SWAT. she drank her juice, we watched the movie, and we rocked. she fell asleep in about 15 minutes, but i went ahead and rocked her sleeping body for another hour. it just felt so good and so relaxing to rock a sleeping baby. that's good blood pressure medicine.
my day off didn't help me as much as it should have because i had too many interruptions and not enough peace and quiet. plus, i had to be at work that night at 11, so i was still short on sleep. thursday was reading day at school, so that meant that most of my classes were very calm and quiet. that helped a lot. friday was a half day, w/ shortened classes and students dismissed at 12:30. of course, i would be sitting in in-service all afternoon, and i was dreading it already because they're usually a stupid waste of time. i was really feeling down on friday and stressed as well, so i was glad the week was over.
i was late getting to inservice because i was finishing up an important email. i wasn't too concerned, though, and really not motivated to get there at all. the part of my mind that wasn't listening to kaboom, kaboom, kaboom was thinking about the email i had just sent. i sat down at a table near a friend and plastered on my "i'm totally capivated and impressed" face, tilted my head slightly to the left like i was listening closely, and shut down my mind. well, as much as i could, anyway. there were still things that i was thinking about and/or worrying about, but mostly just trying to be blank. i figured i had almost 3 hours of this and i should be able to get some significant biofeedback done in that time. i started building my mental picture -- beach, sand, sun, waves. i could mentally construct a whole chain of islands in that amount of time!
i hadn't been there long before i was paying attention to the speaker, and he was really good. he was talking about how we need to use LOVE as a verb, an action verb, in our lives because so many students don't get love anywhere else. he was a fantastic speaker, a great motivator, and good example. i wish i had felt better while i was listening to him, because i'm sure i would've gotten more out of it. i worked on my 50 by 50 list a little in the parts that got just a little too sappy for me. yeah, they were meaningful, but if i paid too close of attention it would make me cry. i was afraid if i started crying i wouldn't be able to stop -- so i just stopped it before it started. easy plan. and the 50 by 50 list is a good thing, too, as it helped me focus on a brighter future and built some definite things to look forward to in life.
when i left the assembly, i felt a lot better, both from the speaker and from thinking positively about my future. i said a prayer as i walked to my room, asking for strength for myself and blessings/peace for a couple friends who i was concerned about. i went to my room and just sat down at my desk for a few minutes, head in my hands, thinking. i needed to just let go of some things and not worry about them. i just have the hardest time saying "here God, would you hold these for me for a while." i don't have trouble asking for help w/ things (at least from God), but i have trouble letting go of the reins. i don't know why, though, as i only get to drive until i'm in trouble anyway! i would think by that time i would be happy to let them go!
i packed up to leave as soon as possible. other teachers were standing around in the hallway, bitching about different things, but i wished them a great weekend on my way by because i figured i didn't need any more faces ripped off and tacked up to my mental wall to tally. the sunshine was beautiful on my way home, and i turned up the stereo and sang at the top of my lungs. they do say that music calms a savage beast, and i was probably running close to that this last week -- at least on the inside. life was moving on and i was, too. when i got home, summer and raven had baked cupcakes and were fixing hamburgers for dinner. i worked on a couple computer projects for a while, ate supper, held raven, and went to bed early so i could go to work at 11. i promised myself that some of my worries wouldn't be thought of again until monday, so i had some time off from part of them. my blood pressure was on its way down and would probably be close to normal by tomorrow. the bad thing, now, is that there is usually a crash on the way down, where the body is just so exhausted from the internal pace it has been keeping that it just wants to sleep. i hope so, as natural sleep will certainly be a welcomed treat.
what i always remind myself as i'm going through these tough times, especially if i'm really starting to stress about it, is "this too shall pass". regardless of the trials and struggles, we live through them and we move on, learning from our experiences that we had on the way. i've learned a lot of lessons that i don't think i really needed to know, and if these experiences were for character building purposes, i've got more than enough character, too. maybe i'm just an overachiever, or an OA as my students would say. i guess the real problem is that i just care. probably too much about some things and definitely too much about some people. i can't help but try my hardest and keep pushing myself for more. i allow my life and my priorities to get out of whack and it starts to hurt. it's amazing, though, how quickly those priorities change when i am faced w/ my children or my grandchild -- as they truly are my most important reason for living. after all, who will call them some day at 6:30 and ask what they are going to do today or make sure they got their trash out on trash day? who will say to them "well, if i was you . . . " or come up w/ ideas for their time?
ME, that's who.