Friday, April 28, 2017

Looking Too Good

Art by Molly E. Carlisle
There is some obvious irony that on one of the worst days in my life, a day I spent picking through the ashes of what had been a 24 year career, people kept telling me how good I was looking.

It was my last day at Union Middle School, the end of year faculty dinner. Though I effectively quit at the end of February, there were still things I needed to clean out of my classroom and there were goodbyes to say.

I probably did look relatively good. During the last several years I  “invested” in nice clothes. For  six months I religiously followed a diet of shakes, bars, and leafy greens and therefore lost sixty pounds. And I spent the last three months on sick leave. Compared to the zombie I had been for the last year and a half, I was doing pretty well.

I worked sick for a long time. Rheumatoid Arthritis hit in my early thirties. But my brain mostly worked, so I was able to do my job. 

Some years I walked with a cane. My husband made sure I had a comfortable office chair and a very ergonomic stool for perching in front of the classroom. 

Some days were better than others, but I functioned until fibromyalgia took away a lot of my brain power and doubled the load of pain.

All of this is old news. I laid my teacher persona to rest last summer and don’t care to dwell in the past. But I have a problem. I am on my last appeal for Social Security disability. Some time next year I will go in front of a judge to prove I am too sick to work. 

I desperately want to work. I know I don’t have what it takes to teach, but I look at every worker I see out in the world and imagine myself trying out that job.

I could do something else well. For a little while. If I am well-rested, take all the drugs and an energy drink and put on my best smile, I can function like a normal person for about two hours. 

The cost is hours or days in bed too exhausted to look at a book or TV. 

But the judge will be see me during the functioning two hours. 

Helena and I have a similar style. Maybe I'll be fine.
I recently watched a youtube video about framing. The point was that even when we are trying to be honest and natural on-line we "frame" ourselves and decide which parts we are going to share. I do that in real life. Maybe you do too. 

I am still wearing the nice clothes I bought to teach. I wear skirts and blouses to nap and sit on the couch knitting. I choose accessories to go to the grocery store, or the mailbox. Dressing up makes me feel more together, sharp, important. 

I don't even like sharing disabled, depressed, useless me with my family or my self. So how do I frame myself for a judge. Do I need to dress down? Should I dress like I would if I still had to get to work by 7:30--something inside-out or buttoned wrong. Do I need to wear two different colors of shoes to show how my mind is really functioning instead of what I can put together after three hours in bed staring at my closet working up the courage to get up?

My legal assistant wants to keep in closer touch. I guess I'll ask her. In the meantime there are more medical records to collect and many months to wait until I even get a hearing date.  I could be much sicker or much healthier by then. The future is hard to plan for right now.


Here's a follow-up on last week's blog:
I survived the Science March. It was fun.

The weather was beautiful and from the time we got on the train we were surrounded by fellow science fans with signs. Of course signs were carried, but they were also posted on strollers and taped to dog halters. There were families, groups of work colleagues, Boy and Girl Scout groups, groups of friends of all ages.  I went with my two adult sons (who care about science, but only marched to humor me).

It was my kind of hike. We walked two (long, Salt Lake City) blocks from the train station to the gathering point, then sat on the grass at the park for half an hour. Then we marched two blocks to the Capitol Building. Marching in a group of thousands turns out to be a good speed for an old lady using a cane. I couldn't yell and march at the same time, but I was okay.

Saturday, march day, was the first day on my new biologic and on an increased dose of fiber drugs. It may be a placebo effect, but I've been okay this week. My okay is eight hours of sleep at night and another three hours sleep in a nap, but I don't feel totally depleted.


I currently have three things on needles. The shawl, wrap above is odd and destined to get odder. it is made from some homespun I put together from two different color ways and is tied together with naturally dyed orange. If I can find enough orange it will also have lace around the edge. I'm probably keeping this one. It's me.

The silk scarf I am working on when I don't want to lose balls of yarn may end up in my shop. It looks a little odd right now because I am knitting it from yarn that was already knit a year ago, so it is curly. We'll see how it looks once it's washed.

And I think this will be a very nice, soft hat, which I will definitely sell if I don't give it away.

Finally, I have done all the finishing work on last week's knits and they are listed in my shop. Both are from soft merino blends and would be nice Mother's Day gifts.


  1. First, I love Helena's style. My last day at work was awful. If it is any comfort I got those same things said to me. I hated them just as much. Just awful.


    1. Maybe saying someone looks good is something to say when it's awkward and you don't know what to say. Come to think of it, there are always people who talk about how good the corpse looks at a funeral.

      I hope being away from work has been more good than bad for you like it has for me.