As I write this, I’m still debating whether to post it. This blog has sort of become a public diary in a way, expressing thoughts and feelings I wouldn’t dare to say aloud. I don’t typically share my deep feelings. My friends and family all know me really well, and I don’t hide things from them, but there are things I typically would keep between myself and my therapist.
But she’s out of town this week so I guess the Worry Warrior audience will have to do.
I went in for my MRI on Wednesday. I was nervous because I’m claustrophobic and I couldn’t take any antianxiety meds because they make me sleepy and I was driving myself. So, clad in the fabulous paper smock and shorts they provided, and after assuring the technician for the millionth time that yes, I’m sure I’m not pregnant, in I went. And I did really well. I closed my eyes and focused on my breathing, thought about the books I’m currently reading (I say books, but people who know me well know it’s actually fanfiction…), and made it through. I did open my eyes once, simply out of curiosity, but shut them again almost immediately.
Then, once I had put actual pants on, I went down the hall, got bloodwork done, got my flu shot, and picked up my medication refills. All in all, it was a productive morning. By this point I was exhausted because I had been up since 5:30 and I actually had to slap myself in the face a few times to stay alert while driving home. I took a nap, then around noon I made myself lunch and checked my email.
Wow, I thought, pulling up my notification email, the results came in quickly!
It read: “Miss Harrington, I am very pleased to say your results came back normal.”
Nothing else. No follow up, explanation for my various symptoms, or next steps to take so I can go back to living my life. Just this doctor’s feelings, and the word ‘normal’.
But I don’t feel normal.
At this point my anxious stomach decided to show up, so I threw the rest of my lunch away and went back to bed.
At least it’s not something bad like cancer, I thought, trying to console myself. But then what is it? Why can no one help me?
I’m not proud to admit it, but I called in ‘sick’ and rescheduled my meeting with my advisor that afternoon because I was just not able to get back out of bed. It wasn’t a complete lie; I was still exhausted and probably could have used the extra sleep. But I also could have come in. (David, if you’re reading this, oops… Sorry.) My alarm went off again at 5:00 and I forced myself to get out of bed and head to campus for my LGBT 101 class. It’s a once a week, so missing once is missing a whole week’s worth of material. But I did the bare minimum. I waited until the last possible moment to get out of bed and leave my apartment. Didn’t eat dinner, didn’t even brush my hair. Just threw on my sneakers and barely made it on time.
Luckily that class we mostly watched informational videos, so my contribution was not required. When I remembered to do so, I took notes, and exchanged the necessary pleasantries with my classmates. Then, when class ended, I stood up, and immediately fell back into my seat, dizzy as hell and with shooting pain in my back. After a few minutes, when I was sure I wouldn’t fall over, I left the classroom and made it back to where I had parked in the garage.
And then I lost it.
Anyone passing by my car would have thought a madwoman was behind the wheel. I cursed at the top of my lungs, punched the seat next to me, and sobbed like I was going for an Oscar. I was furious. I was frustrated. I was confused. I was in pain. I stayed that way for at least 20 minutes, letting all the emotions out in the relative privacy of my car parked in a dark corner of the garage. Then, I pulled myself together, as I always do, and drove home.
I called my dad and chatted with him for a little bit, which always makes me feel better. I came home, struggled through my French homework, emailed some professors, and went through the motions of being a good student. Once the basic necessities were done, I crawled back into bed, not bothering to change my clothes or brush my teeth. Just curled up in a ball, my back still throbbing, and scrolled through social media on my phone, hoping to find a distraction interesting enough to take my mind off the pain.
What’s the point? What is the point of making all these appointments if no one can help me? What is the point of studying French if my mystery illness makes it almost impossible to remember simple vocab or understand when someone is speaking to me in English, let alone a foreign language? What is the point in trying if I’m on my own? What is the point in any of this? Why am I here? Why am I alive if my life is just pain? If this is life, do I really want to live?
Then, there it was. A sign from God, the universe, or simply the Facebook algorithms that decide what posts I see.
“If you need help, here are some resources”. It was some websites and links to free online counseling, and then at the bottom, the suicide prevention hotline.
Without thinking, I called it. After the prerecorded message instructing me to call 911 if I, or a loved one, was in immediate danger, I was connected to a friendly sounding woman who introduced herself as Alex. Funny how things work sometimes, right?
I think it is important to note here that I am not suicidal. I don’t want to kill myself; I don’t want to die. I just sometimes don’t really want to live either. And that’s enough of a reason to call.
We spoke for over an hour, going over my feelings and frustrations, my thoughts and worries, and my complete lack of solutions. We went through online support groups for chronic pain, and together, remembered that life is so much more, I am so much more, than this illness. Even if sometimes it doesn’t feel like it.
So there it is. Most of the time I try to hide how hard it all is, but this time, you’re seeing the raw truth. You were getting the truth before, it was just strongly, strategically edited. But this time it’s straight from the horse’s mouth. You know, if the horse was named Alex and could type.
Having a chronic illness, living with chronic pain, and not knowing for sure what comes next is scary. It’s fucking terrifying. And it’s hard as hell. And yeah, sometimes it makes me question why I’m here, what I’m doing, if it’s all even worth it.
But then I remember that it’s in those moments, those moments of hopelessness, that I am at my strongest. Because despite it all, I’m still here. And for now, that will have to be enough.
To my Friends, Family, and Loved Ones,
Hi there. It’s been a while since we’ve talked. Not chatted, we do that a lot, but really talked. How are you? How are you really doing? Tell me all the ups and downs, the hopes and worries, the dreams and aspirations. Fill me in on life. I’m sorry I haven’t been there to experience it all with you.
I’m sorry I couldn’t go to that thing with you, or support you at that event, or go out with you, or even spend time doing nothing together. It breaks my heart every time I have to say ‘no’. And I’m afraid that with every ‘no’ I get closer to being uninvited. They say, ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ but they also say, ‘out of sight, out of mind’. I am so frightened of the latter.
I feel like all we ever talk about these days is my health, my illness, and me. Please know that this isn’t because I don’t want to hear about you, or talk about other parts of life, it’s just that right now, this is my life. It’s not all encompassing, at least not every day. But it’s always there. I know that it’s changed our relationship, and made some things more difficult, but I will do everything I can to keep us together.
It’s a weird balancing act, isn’t it? Some days I’m running around with you, finishing projects, going to the movies, and laughing like I used to. Then other days I’m stuck in bed with a pharmacy on my bedside table and so much guilt floating in my mind.
I’m writing you this letter because I want you to know how much you mean to me. You are such an important part of my life; I cannot imagine it without you. Sometimes I forget to say it, but I love you with all my heart. I might not ‘get better soon’ but I am working hard to feel better soon. Thank you for being patient with me. Believe me, I’m just as frustrated as you are.
You are so important, and so are your struggles in life. I want to hear all about it and I want to support you in every way I can. Please never feel like you can’t confide in me because I might have it worse. Everyone’s lot in life is different. I’m just glad that our lives intertwine.
You mean the world to me. When I am sad, stuck in bed, I think of you and all the fun we have and tell myself that this too shall pass. And it will. Because if not, when will we have fun again?
Thank you for being here for me. I know that sometimes you don’t know what to say or do, but just knowing you care is enough.
I love you. I love you so much. The next time I have a good day, you know I will be right there by your side, enjoying it with you. Until then, you’re welcome to join me while I stay horizontal. I have enough blankets for the best fort imaginable. Though excuse me if I leave the construction up to you 😊
Hello friends and family! It’s been a while since my last update. I was shocked to realize today that there is only about 5 weeks left in this semester, meaning my project due dates are all crazy close, so I’ve been a little busy.
As my last few posts have been a bit heavy, today I am going to regale you with the tragically pitiful, 100% true, funny-if-it-hadn’t-happened-to-me tale of That Time I Got Stuck on the Floor.
Tuesdays are my busiest day of the week. I work first thing in the morning, have class right after, and then go to my campus ministry’s weekly meeting. Normally this means that by the time I’m chatting with my ministry friends, I’m quite tired. The week this story takes place, I was exhausted.
I had thrown my back out the week before doing God-knows-what, so I was a little grumpy, a lot sore, and 100% done with it all. Towards the end of the meeting my back really started to twinge, so I decided it was time for me to stop ignoring it and actually do some physical therapy stretches. Now, I didn’t just want to get up in the middle of it all, lay down on the floor, and rhythmically lift my legs 30 times. The campus ministry room has a closet in the back that’s part storage, part I-need-a-moment space, so I got up and went back there, careful not to disturb the discussion happening.
Once back there, I eased myself onto the floor and began my stretches. Cat/cow, leg lifts, child’s pose. The whole deal. It wasn’t until I did my 30 seconds of rest before getting up when I realized, I couldn’t. I couldn’t get up. I was stuck.
I wish I could say this was the first time this had happened to me. It wasn’t. I wish I could say that because this had happened before, I knew how to deal with it. I didn’t. I wish I could say that I dealt with this rationally.
The thing about this particular campus ministry meeting was that we were discussing some pretty heavy scripture and it was making people really emotionally vulnerable. And we weren’t discussing it in our normal small groups. Oh no. We were going around, talking one at a time, so everyone could hear. This meant that any call for help would interrupt the entire group. So, due to a clever mix of brain fog and generalized anxiety, I did not call for help. Instead I decided my best course of action was to be quiet and wait it out until someone came into the back room and could help me up. If they didn’t step on me first, that is.
Remember the heavy scripture I mentioned? Apparently it was such a good discussion that no one wanted to leave and go to the back room to refill their drink, grab another cookie, or say, help out the pitiful twenty-two year-old living Life Alert commercial.
So there I lay. And I waited. For 20 minutes. All because I was too anxious to interrupt the discussion.
*Insert intense facepalm*
Eventually there was a pause in conversation, and right as I was steeling the courage to alert people to my current state of carpet impersonator, someone said “Hey, where’s Alex?” I responded, “I’m back here! Pastor Laura, can you come back here for a moment?”
The rest of the ministry’s conversation continued and my amazing, wonderful, confused pastor came into the room to see what was wrong.
“… look down…”
I wish I were kidding.
Pastor Laura quickly realized that she couldn’t help me up on her own. She could pull me to my feet, sure, but that would cause immense pain and possibly further damage, so we decided help was required.
Interjection time. I love my campus ministry. I love them to death. We are full of people who are passionate, love God, love each other, and care for the state of the world. It is worth noting however that we do not do well when it comes to subtlety.
There were only a few minutes left in the meeting; we were about to do our evening prayer and say goodnight, so PL and I decided she would wait until the room cleared out a bit before calling in the reinforcements. That way I would be less likely to become a spectacle. So off PL went to lead the group in our closing prayer, and I continued to lay on the floor, becoming quite familiar with the water damage on the ceiling someone really should check out.
I had just remembered that our evening prayers are done with electric candles, overhead lights turned off, and that the back room lights were also connected to the switch when-
Aaaaaand, it’s dark.
To my credit, I tried to make the best of the situation. I really did. I had never realized just how dark the back room became without light, and how bright the stars could be, coming through the window. I took a moment to breathe, relax, and think about my blessings.
Then the lights flashed back on, blinding me in the process I might add, and people started, ever so slowly, to leave. Eventually only Pastor Laura, the Methodist seminary student Rachel, and my friend T.J were left. I didn’t see them come in as I was still doing an involuntary staring contest with the ceiling. But I heard them come in, and then pause as Pastor Laura explained the situation.
The three musketeers helped me up and drove me home, making sure I had enough painkillers in my system to sedate a small elephant, and informing my roommates of my invalid status.
The next day I was able to pry myself out of bed and drive, oh so carefully, to see my acupuncturist. You wouldn’t think that sticking a bunch of tiny needles in someone could do any sort of good, but the spasmings eased and I was able to breathe freely again. Quite literally.
There isn’t really a moral to this story, unless you count ‘always bring your phone with you when doing physical therapy’.
I’m able to laugh at this entire situation because A.) I’m no longer in as much pain B.) I’ve never taken myself very seriously and can recognize that this is the most ridiculous situation to happen outside of a sitcom, and C.) I’m not embarrassed. Chronic Illness and disability leaves very little room for embarrassment, and frankly, who has the time?
And truth be told, as my Dad likes to say, “People with inner dignity are never embarrassed”.
Someone really should check out those water stains though.
The first week of school is finished and capped off with a 3-day weekend. No class on Labor Day, so I have another week to finish the readings I was assigned. Once the weekend came, all I could think was thank God.
I have organized my schedule so that on most days, I only have one class. Tuesdays and Thursdays, I’m working in the mornings before French, and depending upon my administration assignment, I might be spending Mondays and Wednesdays manning the script library, but home assignments for those commitments are slim to none, so my brain can rest easy. Or so I thought.
I’ve finished the week already behind in most of my homework. Some of this has to do with the fact that my text books didn’t arrive until Wednesday, but then Thursday I had horrible back pain and found it difficult to concentrate on menial tasks, let alone academic articles on gender discrimination and pay gaps in the American workforce.
I’m not sure where my brain has been this week, but if it’s here, it’s taken a staycation because it is just not working right. Typically when I’m dealing with brain fog I can recognize the symptoms. I feel cotton headed, my thoughts are slower than usual, and I typically have a hard time concentrating and understanding anything more complex than ‘eat and sleep’. But this week my brain fog came with the horribly misguided notion that everything was fine. I didn’t notice that things were slipping between the cracks until it was too late. I shut myself out of the apartment twice, leaving my keys inside, though I was able to get back in because I had forgotten to lock the door in the first place. I got lost on my way to school most days of the week, a feat in itself as this is not a new route, and have been forced to keep my GPS on at all times just in case I forget whether I’m turning right or left, or even forget where I’m going and why. Those are the scary moments. I know I’m driving somewhere, but whether it’s to campus to class or in town for groceries, I can’t remember without serious thought. I also keep forgetting to take my meds, luckily remembering only about an hour late so there aren’t any serious consequences.
To top it all off, Friday I was supposed to go to class at 1:00 and leave at 4:00, drive to pick my brother up and then we were going to meet family for dinner. However, the night before I hadn’t slept well because of back pain and spent most of the morning only remembering the time 4:00. My thoughts were simple, practically monosyllabic, along the lines of ‘eat, take meds, get to campus at 4’. Which of course, is when class got out. So I arrived on campus just in time to park and realize that I’d fucked up. Again.
All the new brain fog moments and memory lapses felt more intense due to my new habit of walking into things. I don’t know whether I’m just not paying attention or if I really need to get my eyes checked but turning corners has suddenly become a dangerous pastime. I’ve walked into door frames, the kitchen counter, the coffee table, opened doors on myself, shut doors on myself, and hit my head on my car door too many times to count. I’m starting to look like a study in blues and purples.
The good thing in all of this is that I have a doctors appointment on Wednesday. First thing in the morning, much too early for me to consider it a decent time to be awake, I’m going in for an MRI of my brain and brain stem. I don’t know exactly what they’re looking for, but my guess is pretty much anything out of the ordinary. I’ve lost all feeling in the top of my right foot, to the point where you could stick me with a needle, and I wouldn’t know. (The doctor actually tried this.) But hey, at least when I slam my foot in the door for the 5th time this week, I won’t feel anything.
I have never been good with small spaces. When I had my first MRI done when I was 16 my head did not have to go in the machine because they were just scanning my legs and back. But despite the fact that my head wasn’t in the small tube, and the tube itself was bigger than usual because it was an ‘open’ MRI, (though let me tell you there was nothing open about that monstrosity) I panicked and had to push the little button they give you so I could come out. The scan took much longer than it should have because I just couldn’t relax.
So this time, with the prospect of my head fully in that tube of doom, I’m concerned to say the least. My doctor offered to prescribe me some anxiety medication, but I have to drive myself and most anxiety meds make me very tired. I guess this one I’m going to have to handle on my own.
I’m not just afraid of the small space, or the loud noise, or the doctor in the other room incessantly commanding ‘don’t move’ when I’m pretty sure no part of me moved at all. I’m scared they’ll find something. Some popular theories thus far for my current state of being are, ‘MS’ and ‘brain tumor’. Now the statistical probability that it is either of those is so extraordinarily slim. But it’s still not a comforting thought.
Even more scary than any of that though is the idea that they will find nothing. Not that I want them to find cancer or anything serious like that, but the idea of going through this whole process, dealing with this myriad of symptoms and pain, and then leaving right back at square one with zero answers and no intention of looking for anything else? That’s what’s keeping me up at night. There’s only so many tests they can run, only so many scans they can do, before we eventually have to call it quits. Maybe my fibromyalgia is just causing some unusual symptoms and I have to learn to live with the fact that sometimes I lose my balance on a flat, stable surface. Maybe it’s “all in my head” and I’ll get yet another referral to behavioral health, ignoring the fact that I already see a therapist regularly. I don’t know what they’ll find, but I’m most scared it’s nothing. Because you can’t treat ‘nothing’. You can’t fix ‘nothing’. You can’t get help for ‘nothing’. And that is fucking terrifying.
But I can’t count my results before they’re cleared. In the meantime, I should probably catch up on my schoolwork. And maybe look into some heavy duty coverup for those bruises on my legs.
Day One, Fall 2019 Semester: One class, begins at 4:00pm. Continues until 6:40, but has a break in the middle, and is taught by my favorite professor. Able to sleep in, do laundry, and organize myself and my things before heading to class
Day Two, Fall 2019 Semester: Arrive on campus at exactly 9:00 to finish new hire paperwork for the theatre costume shop, back at apartment by 10:30. Spend afternoon doing physical therapy and readings for Monday class. Back on campus by 3:30 for French class, followed by dinner and campus ministry. Leave campus by 8:00pm, arrive at apartment shortly after. Begin going through first two class syllabi and writing assignment due dates in planner. Get about halfway through French syllabus, then stop, completely overwhelmed.
It’s only Tuesday. I’ve only had two classes so far, cumulatively taking up less than 5 hours over two days. Yet today, right now, at 10pm as I write this, I’m absolutely exhausted. My stomach is cramping with the familiar anxiety school brings, and my head is spinning with due dates, medical forms, and university disability support claims.
Tomorrow’s class (I only have one class a day, save for Tuesdays and Thursdays where I work before class) is another 3 hour lecture, but it doesn’t start until 6pm, so I don’t have to worry about oversleeping or not having time to prepare myself. Thursday will be easier this week than the rest of the semester as I don’t start work until next week, and Friday I have an Acting for the Camera class I’ve been looking forward too. All in all, I have a great semester ahead, and more recent, have a nice week. I’ve done my grocery shopping and meal prepping, syllabi are printed, school supplies organized, and hell, it’s my birthday tomorrow!
So why am I feeling this way?
I feel sad, anxious, overwhelmed, achy, and exhausted. And it’s only day two of the semester. Does this bode ill for the rest of the year? I don’t know.
What I do know is, chronic illness shows up in weird ways. My schedule might not be what some people consider ‘busy’, or even difficult, but to get my body to comply is a full time job.
I’ve decided to stop for the night and take a deep breath. I can organize the rest of my planner tomorrow. Tonight my job is to shower and rest so I’ll be ready to go tomorrow.
Since I returned from France, I’ve faced the challenges associated with navigating life with chronic illness and invisible disability. This is all new territory for me. I haven’t lived my whole life with these issues, at least not to this extent, and I’m learning every day what my body can take, and what things I need to do in order to live in an able bodied world.
It’s easy to get stuck in the circle of ‘why me?’ thoughts, especially when in this kind of mental funk, but that does no good. Not for anyone else, not for me. The best thing I can do is keep moving forward. Take it one step at a time. Recognize that I have new limits, but that doesn’t limit me. My dreams are ever expanding and my goals are still reachable. I just have to allow myself time.
So for all the other spoonies out there starting a new semester of school, a new job, or hell, just living life, we’ve got this. One step at a time.
So here we are again. Just me, my bed, and my pain. Oh, and about a metric ton of pain killers.
Who knows what’s caused it this time? Maybe I overexerted myself walking up that flight of stairs, or possibly I sneezed too aggressively. (You’ll have to excuse the sarcasm; it’s a coping mechanism.) Either way, I woke up around 4am feeling like a truck ran over me, went ‘hmm I wonder what that was’, backed up, and ran over me again. And that I have surgically implanted corkscrews in each of my shoulder blades twisting up the muscles nice and tight. Metaphors aside, I think the best way to describe this pain is with a simple “ouch”. Or maybe some prolonged groaning.
I was supposed to work today. I say ‘work’ but really, it’s more fun than that. I am a caregiver to a family friend with disability (ironic, right?) so when we’re together, we mostly just hang out, watch movies, bake cookies, or get our nails done. We try to do things that are entertaining and enriching, teaching life skills while having fun, but today it just wasn’t happening. When I got up around 4 this morning to see if stretching would help the pain and immediately got stuck on the floor, I realized today I had to call it in. Sending a text message to your boss calling in sick is never an easy thing to do. Sending that text message at an ungodly hour while praying that your fingers cooperate long enough to type and not drop the phone on my face again, is more so.
This summer I had the privilege to work as Artistic Director for a Music and Theatre Camp, my fourth year at camp and my second year in the position. I went into the job with accommodations in place to avoid as many bad pain days as possible, and to help when the inevitable fibro flares reared. I was wary about my body’s ability to keep up, as last summer I had thrown out my back by deigning to tie my shoelaces, but with the accommodations in place, I was confident I had the support I needed.
That didn’t make actually utilizing the accommodations any easier.
My first pain flare happened on opening day of second session. By that point we had already been on the mountain for a few weeks so it’s reasonable to assume everyone was a bit tired. But we had just come back from a 24hr break, and no one else needed to sit down as often as I did. No one else had to remain seated during the reading of the Gospel at All Camp Worship. No one else struggled to remember the names of returning campers through a haze of brain fog. Nope. Just me.
Throughout the rest of the summer, I took advantage of the accommodations made for me and rested when I needed to, even opting out of a particularly active Evening Program. I did it, but it wasn’t easy. There’s always a voice in your head saying, “push through” or “rally” or “you’re not doing your job” and it’s especially difficult when you have to sit out from something you really would like to do.
At camp we have a game called King Ball. It’s like Capture the Flag on crack, and it’s one of my all time favorite games, despite the numerous injuries it’s caused. (Hey, if those kids catch the ball with their face, it’s still a point, right?) I love King Ball. My body does not. So the decision was made that I would sit out with the injured campers (no one said camp was without accidents) and lead the group in seated games, and cheer on the teams playing. Someone had to do it, and here I was, readymade for the job. At least I was still able to participate in some way.
Later that session I had to sit out another evening program, but this time I couldn’t just be on the sidelines. I was advised (lovingly told) by my boss to take an early night. Shower and go to bed. It was what I needed. But was it what I wanted? Of course not.
This summer I learned a really important, if not difficult, lesson. You can’t push through a chronic illness. You just can’t. Sounds obvious, and on some level we all know it, but I’ve ignored it for a while.
You feel guilty when you have a disability. You feel like you’re letting people down, like you’re not doing your job correctly, like you’re a burden. So, you push through. You tell yourself that pushing through will keep others from having to pick up your slack, but in reality, it just adds more work for them later on. Sure, my friends and fellow counselors wouldn’t have to have an extra adult around in case I needed to step out, but the next day, after ‘pushing through’? They’d have to do my job all day because I would be too wiped from ‘pushing through’ the day before. Was I really helping anyone? Was I really adding to the camp community? Nope. And on top of that, I was pushing my body, adding stress, and overall doing more harm than good.
It’s not easy to step out, to allow yourself to say “look, I need this break”. But it’s necessary. For everyone’s wellbeing.
Today I am trying to remind myself of this. Yes, I missed work today, but it was necessary. I am not a burden for doing what I must for my own health. Staying in bed all day, as nice as it sounds and as awful as it actually is, is what I needed to do. So I’m doing it.
For my fellow spoonies who are still stuck in that never-ending inner monologue of Not Good Enough, know that you are more than enough. Your value as a human being is not reliant on your output to society. You do not need to be ‘useful’ to be loved and cherished, or ‘capable’ to be worthy. You are enough, exactly as you are.
I’ve spent the last month or so up in the Shenandoah Mountains working as the Artistic Director for a Music and Theatre Camp. This place is one of my favorites in the world, even after traveling through parts of Europe, and is truly a place apart.
Being in the mountains, MAT camp (as lovingly rebranded from MAD, Music and Drama) requires a lot of hiking up and down trails, sleeping in screened in cabins, practically bathing in bug spray, and complete removal from technology like computers and phones, though thankfully we still have indoor plumbing. Working at camp forces me to disconnect (the reason for the long absence from this blog) and take time to be in the present. This can be very difficult, especially as the BTSWorld app just came out and I am itching to play it, but is something that I believe is good for me.
I think boredom is underrated. When I was young, I used to complain to my mother, as all children do, that I was bored. She would give me suggestions like coloring, playing with my stuffed animals, taking a walk, and if all else failed, cleaning. The prospect of doing any chores quickly quieted my whining, and eventually I learned to entertain myself. I don’t really do that anymore.
When I get ready for bed in the evenings, I listen to audiobooks. Typically I listen to ones I’ve already read, like Harry Potter, so I won’t stay up wanting to find out what’s next, but this is a new phenomenon in the world of Alex. I didn’t have a phone until high school, and I didn’t have a smart phone until I was 16, so I didn’t have constant access to entertainment. Occasionally my siblings and I could talk my parents into letting us move a small tv into our rooms for the night so we could watch movies to fall asleep, but this usually led to fatigue-induced grumpiness so the tv was rare. Sometimes my sister and I would listen to music while falling asleep, like jazz or classical, but while soothing, didn’t entertain me in the same way audiobooks do now.
As a child, while waiting for sleep to come to my overexcited brain, I would tell myself stories. I created entire worlds in my head, some based on books I was reading or existing in tandem with those universes, others completely of my own creation. I can’t remember the last time I did that.
I remember a time when we were in between moves, so my family temporarily moved into a small 2-bedroom apartment. It was raining so we couldn’t go to the pool, we’d already played the board games we had with us, and we didn’t have any toys as they were still packed away in boxes waiting to be brought to our new house. When complaining to my mother about being bored, she suggested I clean the bathroom, so I immediately went and found something to entertain myself. My brother, sister, and I drew a bunch of different sea creatures on paper, then placed them around the apartment, pretending to be touring an aquarium. If I had been in that situation now, I probably would have just pulled out my computer, scrolled on Facebook for a while, and then watched some Netflix.
The point I’m trying to make here is not that technology is inherently evil or bad, I just think I sometimes let it be all consuming. Boredom forces creativity, and I think that’s something I’ve been lacking recently. Working at camp means that I don’t have instant access to the technology I’ve become dependent on, and suddenly I’ve become more creative. (Some of that comes with the job description of Artistic Director, but still.) The other day, I made Harry Potter style wands with my campers using wooden dowels, hot glue, and some paint and glitter. I also helped make individual journals with scrapbook paper and string.
Working on crafts and being creative is something that both calms me and excites me, centers me and causes me to think outside the box. I just had to be a little bored to remember.