Friday, May 13, 2005

Meaningless titles

I finally broke last night.

Actually, I started breaking in the elevator as I went to meet with a professor yesterday afternoon. Nauseous and exhausted and nearly twenty minutes late, it’s like it finally hit me: I can’t handle school. Even just a little bit of it. Just my piss ass 5 credit hours. And if I can’t handle it, I’m going to have to drop out again. And if I drop out this time, I don’t see how I’m going to go back anytime soon. Not only is a Ph.D. apparently out of my grasp, but it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that so is an M.A.

I HATE this fucking illness.

I HATE how much it’s taken from me.

I HATE how much it just keeps taking.

In my moment of profound self-pity last night I exclaimed to my walls lined with books that it’s not right. I’m too smart not to have a PhD. Didn’t my advisor say when I was an undergrad and rattling off all sorts of unique research ideas that I was going to create my own new field and be publishing like crazy? I’m too smart not to have an M.A. I mean, I’ve even published a little. Not even a damn Master’s degree from my piss ass state university?

Of course, there are plenty of people who are at least as smart as I am who don’t have Masters or doctoral degrees. I’ll survive without them as well.

They are just silly, meaningless titles in the long term scheme of things.

But they’ve been important to me.

Important if I ever want to teach.

And I so miss teaching.

Hell, at this point I even miss grading those pathetic undergrad papers where they don’t even understand the difference between a run-on and a fragment, not to mention a clearly articulated thesis.

Well, okay. Maybe not quite that much.

Not that I’ll be able to manage teaching in a classroom anytime soon. I can’t even make it to class as a student regularly enough as it is.

And Monday I have a social worker coming to assess my situation for assistance with housekeeping and grocery shopping.

I can’t even take care of myself by myself.

I remember two years ago when I had my Social Security hearing in front of an administrative law judge regarding my claim that had been denied. The judge asked the vocational expert if, based on my past education and symptom history, there was any type of work I could do. The vocational expert said that because of my poor health there was no job for me in the national economy. My Legal Aid lawyer was ecstatic. I’d won my case. When the ruling came a month later fully in my favor, it was bittersweet. On the one hand I was so relieved that after two years I was finally going to have an income. But I was approved because I was essentially useless.

I know at this point it’s time to let go of those last remnants of my old life. Of that energetic student who could study three languages and pull off “A” research papers at the rate of a page an hour. I know God is leading me elsewhere and that where ever that is, it’s not a bad thing. Indeed, it’s probably quite wonderful in its own way.

But this week it’s been hard to let it go. I miss it.


In time the fork my life took
as illness changed its course
will wander to the main stream
and there below the long waterfalls
and cataracts I will begin to rush
to the place I was going from the start.
I imagine looking back to see
the silted mass where a huge bend
holds sunlight in a net of evergreen
and the sky unable to bear its own
violet brilliance a moment longer.
Out of shadows where the channel
crumbles comes the raucous sound
a great blue heron makes when startled.
Scent of peppermint rides breezes
from the valley and I catch hints
of a current beneath the surface
just as darkness unfurls.
There I imagine what was lost
coming together with what was gained
to pour itself at last into the sea.

By Floyd Skloot (a fellow CFIDS victim) from his book The Evening Light. (He's got some great poems, so do buy it if you can, or any of his other books.)


Talmida said...

Aw, Michelle, I'm so sorry to read this! Tell me you know Sylvia who blogs at Bookworm?

I'd offer to cook you a casserole if you lived in town (but I'd be lying if I said I'd come vacuum for you. ;) ).

Feel better.

Susan Rose Francois, CSJP said...

Hang in there Michelle. You seem to have the best perspective you can have about the situation.

I'm actually in the Rose City myself but I can't tell you when the last time I vacuumed my own appartment was! I have been known to make the ocassional casserole though if you're ever desperate!

Michelle said...

You know, I didn't know Sylvia at Bookworm -- thanks for the link! I've tried looking through Blogger for CFIDS related bloggers and haven't had much luck. Nice to find someone else, especially as I never seem to make it to support group meetings.

Thanks for the casserole offers. No worries about vacuuming -- I've got hard wood floors. And one of these days they'll actually get swept. Until then, slippers will suffice. ;)

Anonymous said...

Hi there! Sorry we have to meet at this low point, but hey, been there, done that (I couldn't even buy a bleeping eyelash curler yesterday---got overwhelmed by the choices and the warm weather--how many kinds of eyelash curlers does the world need, anyway?!?).

I'd love to get a PhD too but even if it could be done online (which I'm not entirely comfortable with) I still don't know if I could do it and have enough energy left over to take care of myself. <big sigh>

Joe G. said...


I'm very sorry for your pain and struggles. OTH, I'm very happy you are aware of the CFIDS Foundation. I haven't kept up with them for awhile, but maybe it's time to re-connect.

I'm happy you have the Internet to connect with other, too.

My thoughts are prayers to you.

Michelle said...

So happy to have you, Sylvia!

LOL -- you actually use an eye lash curler? You are a brave woman!

Yeah, I'd be pretty wary of a PhD online too. The doctoral program I've been looking at is in England where they have research degrees that don't require years of coursework. But,as I'm not getting very far with at home research for my MA thesis, figure a PhD probably isn't going to be an option anytime soon.

Thanks for your wishes and prayers, Joe. Yeah, have known about the CFIDS association for a few years now, though I find I actually interact more with ProHealth found at Immune Support (see the middle of the links section). Not only can I buy good, reliable supplements there, but they have an enormous library of articles related to CFIDS/ME/Fibromyalgia as well as chat rooms.

I'm sooooo grateful to be online. I think I'd go crazy being housebound without the Internet and the friends I've made online. Though, I'd probably get more reading done. ;)

Joe G. said...

OK, I'll check the ProHealth/Immune Support site. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Actually I haven't used an eyelash curler in decades (hence the need to buy one). It's sort of an experiment.

Ya, where would sick people be without the internet? I shudder to think. Yes, we'd get more reading done but we might be in danger of getting Don Quixote syndrome!

Michelle said...

Ah okay. Experiments are cool. :)

Don Quixote Syndrome?

Anonymous said...

DQS = getting so mesmerized by fiction you try to live like the characters in novels!

Michelle said...

You mean that's bad? ;)

Anonymous said...

Well, only if you have no Mr. Rochester to live happily ever after with! ;-)

Michelle said...

Sigh...yeah, that can be a problem. Mine is in England (he he - yup, really) but will be coming over next month for the summer. {very big grin}

Anonymous said...

I know how frustrating this dd is. I find that looking at life through a different lense can be helpful. I'd love to be able to contribute more to the world and hope i can someday but 'til then I'm going to work on learning to be content with how things are. It's not easy for sure.

I like listening to people like Terrence Mckenna who says: "And we're told no, we're unimportant, we're peripheral. Get a degree, get a job, get a this, get a that, and then you're a player.

You don't even want to play in that game.

You want to reclaim your mind, and get it out of the hands of the cultural engineers who want to turn you into a halfbaked moron, consuming all this trash that's being manufactured out of the bones of a dying world.'

- Terence McKenna

Yeah! That's the point of view that works for me these days!


Michelle said...

Ah, thanks for posting and reminding me of this old post. :-)

It's been almost two years now since posting this, and I do still find myself grieving over my lost academic career from time to time -- as would be expected. It's been a huge loss for me in a life that so many point out to me has included a great deal of loss.

In regards to your comments, I think my thoughts in a post from just a little more than a year later resonate a bit with your thoughts. But the socio-cultural-economic messages we've been brainwashed with since the womb are hard to tune out. I still struggle to this very day with remembering that I have value in just being me rather than in what I can produce. Some moments I can easily let those constructs go. But, of course, other times I lose whatever Zen-ness brought me to that point.

I suppose the good thing about this dd is that we have the chance to see our value beyond our ability to produce that others living on the other side of the surface of healthy living don't. And maybe, for once, we the sick can count ourselves lucky.