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Monday, May 21, 2018

Living By The Code

Have you ever stood in the middle of a clothing store and watched a fifteen-year-old girl stand in such indecision and frustration she is close to tears? Have you watched as your child stands on the precipice of being an adult and lives in fear of the choices they make? We want our children to be strong individuals but the world works against them at every step, trying to turn them into automatons who think as one mind. Any individuality is beaten out of them with rules and education.

I spent last night watching my niece in such a conundrum over what pair of pants to buy. It wasn’t because she is an indecisive individual. She, in fact, found several pairs she liked immediately. What held her frozen in indecision was whether they would pass her school’s dress code. She wouldn’t even have been in search of new pants if not for the dress code. The pants she wore to school that day had been banned and now she was in search of a replacement pair. I saw nothing wrong with the pair she had worn. But some teacher had been scoping out the underage teenage girl’s behinds and found hers was distracting. So I stood watching, with a broken heart, my niece put back hanger after hanger of clothes that would have been perfectly acceptable to wear to church but weren’t good enough for school because of some male pervert who likes to look at little girl’s butts.

A teenage girl looking a clothes in a store.

You know what the funniest thing is? She couldn’t wait to go to high school because they have a lighter dress code than her middle school did. I find it interesting that the boys rarely get dress-coded but the girls are taken daily out of class and told until they change clothes that they cannot return to class. What does this tell these students? It says that a males education is worth more than females. I bet no boy has ever stood in the middle of the clothing store asking his best friend if he thinks the outfit he has picked out will get him kicked out of class. Then they wonder why test scores are so low, let the kids stay in class and actually teach them instead of staring at their bodies. It isn’t the boys we need to be afraid of it is these grown men and women on power trips that end up making these girls so body conscious.

Yes, I added women to that last observation because it is the female teachers who are sending these girls out of class. I know one girl who was sent to the office and her crime was a tiny rip in her jeans right at the knee. I personally delivered her a replacement pair of pants just so she could return to class. I went to school many times with holes in my jeans, being from a farming community there were a lot of kids who did, but not once was I asked to leave class until I could put on a pair of pants without holes. I would have missed school a lot if that had been the case. Which brings up my next rant, what if these are the only clothes these kids have because they live on or below the poverty line? Are they to be denied an education just because they are poor?

All of these outfits would violate my niece's school dress code.

I grew up poor and I know the hardship my parents went through every August to make sure three kids had school supplies, new shoes, and a couple, yes, I said a couple of new outfits. My Dad had to work overtime and take extra work on just to make sure we had that. I am left dumbfounded at the disregard the school districts have for the kids being raised in poverty.

If anything speaks to what the world has become we need to just look at the schools to find out. We have kids going on shooting rampages because of being bullied. The sad thing is the bullying is taught by these teachers who send a kid out of their classroom for something as innocent as a rip in their jeans. I spent a good portion of the night in that store trying to find a pair of pants that didn’t have the “in-style” rips that is all the rage these days. If it is the fashion of the times why are the kids being made to pay for it? With all the hate no wonder the next generation is so confused about expectations.

The future is now. These kids are being raised to believe that what a person wears is more important than what a person does. They are being taught it is all right to single a person out for being just a bit different. They are taught that education isn’t important. If they thought it was important they wouldn’t feel the need to nitpick every little thing about what a kid is wearing. With this happening more in schools I understand the homeschooling movement has become a norm. Kids learn better in an environment that is nurturing, not critical. When they are too worried about what they are wearing, or if they are offending someone, they stop caring about school.

A trio of store mannequins.

I am a strong proponent of school uniforms. I think it evens the playing field between rich and poor, in that it doesn’t make school a fashion show but an educational environment. There are those who talk about the cost of said uniforms for the poorer students. What they don’t understand is that most parents would rather find the way to buy a few uniforms, especially if they can be worn more than one year, than have their children kicked out of class until they change clothes. I have seen my niece in school where uniforms are worn, and in schools with a dress code and I think she was far happier when she didn’t have to worry that what she wears to school will get her in trouble.

I know this has been a lengthy rant, but as I mentioned at the beginning. I hate to see my niece cry. I have watched a girl, who once liked school, become someone who says she is stupid and ugly. No kid should be made to feel that way. I would love to hear if you have ever encountered this problem. Just leave me a comment below. I hope that this will find you loving fully and laughing often.

Monday, May 14, 2018

The Fear of Living

Have you ever backed out of doing something you love because the cost was too high a price to pay? Have you ever lost friends because you canceled doing something with them one too many times? Have you ever felt like a loser or worthless because you can’t do what you once did without a second thought? Have you answered “yes” to any of these questions? If you have, you are not alone. There are others out there who have answered in the affirmative as well. I have said “yes” to all of them as well.

There are many people who live with chronic illness and the price we pay for each excursion in our life costs us in exhaustion, pain, and flare-ups. What once brought us joy only brings us pain. It brings us a sense of embarrassment because we just don’t have the physical or mental capacity to handle life. We start out the day with high hopes that today we might not pay for having fun, enjoying time spent with family and friends. That we won’t decide that we have been feeling pretty good for awhile so maybe we can go do something physical without having to call the day short because the pain becomes unbearable or our mind has decided to send the wrong warnings to our body and fight or flight has been engaged.

We decide to go spend time with friends at an event and just the small amount of exertion to our muscles cause our pain receptors to begin firing. Soon just taking another step leaves us in tears of pain and frustration. We wonder what did we do to not deserve to have a little enjoyment from life? We go home in tears because it hurts so bad, and exhaustion is dragging you down. It takes every last ounce of energy you have just to make it to a comfortable spot to land because it is going to be a moment or two or three before you can find the impetus to rise once more.

I find myself planning the simplest outings to cause the least amount of aggravation to my body. I make sure I go to crowded places when there is the least chance of my Panic/Anxiety disorder to be triggered. Each step metered so that my muscles don’t have a reason to cramp or spasm. I pray that I will still feel the ground under my feet each step I take. I remember before my body turned against me of time spent with friends going to social events, going out shoot pool and spend a relaxing evening just being together. Now I have to figure in the cost of such activities. On how much pain I have been in the last few days, what medicines I can take to get me through a night of fun? I have to live with the toll such activities will have on me the next day or so after. Am I really in the mood to recover for two or more days for just a few hours enjoyment?

Funny how something no one can see outward signs of, can wreak such havoc on your life. Yet there are signs if someone just takes the time to look. For me it is in the way I move. Where once I fast walked everywhere, now I creep along; measuring each step. I am afraid if I misstep I will fall or worse break my ankle. I live in fear of doing anything that will end up with me on crutches. I am worthless at using crutches. The time I tore my Achilles tendon, I scooted or hopped everywhere just so I didn’t have to use them. Although now that I think about it, I realize hopping around like a demented bunny was dangerous too.
A stuffed puppy with a broken leg.

Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you that I have a limp. My sister-in-law said just yesterday that I waddle. Gee, that is a picture to put in one’s mind. I picture myself waddling along like a rotund duck plumped up for the roasting. More times than not, my fists are clenched to prevent the spasms that twist and contort my fingers. There are so many signs that the average person glances past. They are too busy finding ways to demean your suffering or to criticize those of us that live with chronic disease and illness. When what they should be doing is thanking God that it isn’t them and having some empathy.

They think when they see us get out of our cars at the store after parking in a handicap space that we should be in a wheelchair or some such. They don’t realize for the majority of us it was one of the hardest things to do. We didn’t want to deal with the criticism and the hate. We didn’t want to admit that our bodies had finally convinced us that something we were most likely feeling “denial” of our limitations had finally won. On my good days I do park a little further away and as I do I pray that during my shopping, my legs will continue to work and not begin the horrible spasms that bring me to the floor. The pain that drives me to leave my shopping cart in the middle of the store and make my way slowly back to my car. A day of joy turned to pain.

I do have to admit that living with chronic pain has taught me to enjoy the small things. To take life one step at a time, and gather what joy and happiness I can find in each moment. It has taught me grace. I am slowly learning to be thankful for the simple things in life that the healthy tend to take for granted. I wake up thankful for each day I can continue to waddle and limp. I know that as the years progress that I will lose more of my freedom until I am trapped inside a body that is a twisted caricature of who I once was.

I catch myself studying wheelchairs and making plans for how I will deal with losing the ability to drive my own car. That is going to be one of the hardest things for me to lose. I have anxiety attacks just thinking about it all. What is worse is I lay awake at night worried about being a burden to my family. It’s bad enough being the childless, single aunt who collects cats. I am not ready to be the crippled aunt too. I remember when I was the fun aunt. The one who would let you do the things the parents would say no to. Now I am looked at with disdain, no longer worthy.

I started this post to highlight what it felt like to give in to chronic pain and illness. To show what one loses when given the diagnosis. How it feels to live in our shoes. I know it became a bit morose but that is the facts of life with silent diseases. Those who suffer them, suffer them alone the majority of the time. It’s is hard to ask for help and support. Especially if you were that person before your body betrayed you. I am letting everyone know that it doesn’t have to be a lonely road we walk. There are others looking for the same thing, there are supports groups, agencies, all who offer a helping and guiding hand. Don’t be afraid to reach out, or be surprised when that outreached hand is taken in someone’s gentle grasp.

Do you see yourself in this post? What are some of the things that you have given up due to your diagnosis? Do you search for support and find none? Let me know in the comments what you do to live a meaningful life or if you wish for help. I am only a text away. Always remember to love fully and laugh often. Until next time.

A hand reaching out in pain.