If you're wondering where I've been this past month, I have a very good reason for my absence. Having survived a very painful gum graft and Chicago's Polar Vortex, I felt for sure that things were on the up and I'd soon be experiencing new adventures and blogging about a wealth of exciting new experiences. I even had a belly-dancing class and an axe-throwing workshop in the diary, thus marking my belated new-year's resolution to try new things... and then the world started spinning. Literally.
If you've ever been at sea in a force eleven gale on a small boat, or drunk yourself into such an oblivion that you can no longer stop the room from spinning, then you'll have an idea of what vertigo feels like. It's feeling permanently drunk but with none of the fun. It's like the worst sea-sickness but without the help of a sea breeze or a steadying horizon. It is quite possibly one of the most debilitating conditions I've ever had. Having had it before, when vertigo struck this time, I knew what I was in for, and it didn't include belly-dancing, and definitely no axe!
To be honest, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. I was weepy and frustrated. Everything had to be cancelled and I resigned myself to at least a week of laying still and quiet. With the help of sea-sickness tablets, things began to slowly improve, but only if I moved with the stealth and speed of a prowling tiger. To make matters worse, there could be no reading, no writing and no screens. I was miserable. What kept me going was Son#2's great care (with husband away on a work trip, he made me tea, walked the dog and did the laundry) and the kindness of friends and neighbours who inundated me with offers of help.
Having just got a great new substitute teaching position at two of the huge local high schools, I was enjoying plenty of work assignments. I was already becoming known in the English faculty and teachers and students were beginning to ask for me. I felt useful and energised by my time in the classroom and I was loving learning, firsthand, the differences between the UK and US Education systems and English curricula. So to suddenly be back at square one - unable to work, drive or even watch TV was a bit of a body blow.
To be blunt - I was just about as pissed off as I could be. And then God showed up and did His thing. To be fair, he was probably fed up with listening to my moaning. Just as I was wobbling my way through pre-dinner (non-alcoholic!) drinks with some new friends, the subject of my vertigo came up, and one new friend causally remarked that he was a neurologist and could cure me. And cure me he did. Ten minutes before we went for dinner, he carried out the Epley Manoeuvre* on me and I was instantly cured. I couldn't help but think that God sent me a neurologist - if only to shut me up!
But before I could get back into the classroom or down to the gym, I had one more hurdle. A second gum graft. Last time I endured a fortnight of terrible pain only for the procedure to fail. So this time, when my periodontist suggested a second attempt, I was less than enthusiastic. But once again, I felt like God had things in hand - the dizziness was gone, I had no work assignments for the next week -just get on with it! So, for the second time in six weeks, I went under the knife. Miraculously, four days after the procedure and I have experienced no pain whatsoever, barely a twinge. I am completely dumbfounded by this because the pain last time was second only to childbirth. I ate nothing for almost a week and barely left the house for two. Same doctor, same gum, same procedure, same pain relief... but a totally different experience.
Why so different this time? Because I think God gave me a new perspective - one of trust, patience and above all, gratitude. The morning of my second surgery, Son#1 called with the terrible news that one of his dearest school friends had just found his college housemate dead in his bed. They call it sudden death syndrome and if anything can so tragically illustrate how precious and fleeting life is, it's the loss of a young person, taken too soon and without explanation. And God knows, that made me grateful for everything in my life - even dizziness and a mouth full of stitches.
This last month, I think I've felt the full spectrum of emotions - I've felt frustrated by minor but debilitating illness, despair and impatience at not being able to do any of the things I had planned. But I've also felt joy and gratitude. It's left me in quite a spin, both literally and metaphorically, but perhaps now, I'm on an even keel again.