Sunday Night Optimism 

You know those awful ten things posts? Yeah, I’m going to do one of those. 

I was being a bit of a grumpybum earlier, so decided to a list of reasons to be happy.

*accessibility warning – there are some fast rolling image gifs at the end of this post*

1. This guy. We’ve been together nearly 13 years & married for 11 of those this year. Aside from snoring like a dying gruffalo, he’s pretty amazing.

2. Mrs Gypsytree visited this summer. We didn’t get to see each other as much as we’d like as their summer started a month before ours does, but we got a lovely evening in where we celebrated them finally owning a real proper house in Norn Iron. I still miss her being a few minutes up the road, but they’re ever so happy & that’s good. 

3. I’m superhuman. Wheelchair racing has transformed being in a chair from a loss of mobility to a doorway to new friends, supportive but very real competition, and a sport that I can participate in for the first time since forever without crippling pain. Don’t get me wrong, it hurts, in fact on the first corner of this particular race my hip popped so badly that it came all the way out & I pushed 800m with a fully dislocated hip & a subluxed shoulder. At the end I was gasping for breath & Mr Geek had to haul me out of the chair and push everything back in & feed me morphine.

BUT, I competed in my first race with my friends, showed people we’re enabled, & we all came away with fist bumps and massive smiles.

This is the face of someone who is going to FINISH this race.

4. We’re getting somewhere with the joined up thinking. I’m now officially seeing the neurology team at UCLH and not only are they looking into the POTS symptoms, they’re being joined up and looking at the other weird nerve issues with the lack of feeling & strange reflexes in my feet, and looking at ways to manage the EDS. It means more time & lengthier stays here, but it’s progress and very positive. They even encouraged my chair racing as a positive way to keep the autonomic car crash that is my body as functional as possible 😆

5. Half way there! The scary seven are still enjoying lashings of ginger beer together. Despite now living 600 miles apart, the minute they get together they’re back to being the same tribe that they’ve always been. This year we couldn’t physically make it up to “our tree” so settled for a bench instead. They didn’t seem to mind, although this once again confirms that it is impossible to get a photo of all of them making a near sensible face!

6. My life doesn’t have to be restricted to reality. My hands may not grip pens or paint brushes anymore, but on a good day I can hold a controller and paint virtually. The VIVE has allowed me to return to using a virtual paintbrush & now sit quietly in a vast dark room and paint in 3D. The best bit is I can choose from any size brush and whilst the virtual brush size changes, the controller remains the size of a crutch grip & is as light as a tv remote control. I’ve learnt how high I can lift my arms now without dislocating (Although I still get engrossed and utterly forget, then re-enact the scene from Horton hears a who where the mayor runs from the dentist). Weirdly, I can self-propel in VR & it feels like normal.

7. My friends are just as daft as me. When it comes to showing cancer where it can shove itself, we certainly did. The volume of physio tape it took to hold three women with connective tissue disorders together must’ve made KT rub it’s hands together, but nothing beats seeing your proper mega serious marathon runner friend skipping beside you in a tutu. To top it off, Lizzie on the far right, won the whole flipping race as the 1st finisher in just over 17 minutes. There’s a reason she uses the hashtag #RoadToRio in her posts. And when (not if) she brings home a medal one of these days, I’ll still be chasing her like a slightly defective whippet after a rabbit!

This was one of my happiest days from 2016.

8. Yeah, ok, it had to be in there somewhere. I’m not out there kicking arse every day. Quite a lot of days I’m in here wondering how I’m going to make it those 5 meters to the loo without ending up on the floor in a heap. So to keep me amused, I have Pokèmon Go! There are a few teething issues with servers and the fact that the developers rather forgot that people with physical disabilities may have rather an issue with walking that 10k needed to hatch an egg, or get out there & explore for PokeStops… I’m sticking with it for now in case they add some more accessible features. Until then, here’s the bastard that chewed up 11 of my pokeballs & still got away!

9. Friends. But more importantly, friends who understand why I cancel plans at short notice, double book myself because my brain is shot to pieces, who still invite me to things even though I’ve declined the last four hundred times because I’m too tired. And who get that me being too tired means I’m probably actually in too much pain to be near people. Some of them are fellow Spoonies, others are just empathic enough to see through the “I’m okay!”.

They’re good people. 

10. And very much not least are Beanpole & TinyPants. They are wise beyond their years and not given nearly enough credit for the caring that they do. I have the best time with these tiny little ladies even if I do have to pretend I’m actually a grown up who’s in charge on occasions. There aren’t many 10 year olds that just stop acting up or having fun because they can see that mummy is in more pain than usual. They carry stuff, they give up trips out to snuggle in bed with the TV, they get on with their homework so I can nap. I may regret being so impressed with them once they turn into unresponsive grunting teenagers!

For now, I’m pretty thankful & optimistic for a good week. I hope yours goes well too. Xxx

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Chronically Optimistic

I quite often feel bemused when people look at me just getting on with life and exclaim “I don’t know how you’re so cheerful”, or “I don’t know how you do it. You’re really brave.”

Anyone who actually knows me, knows that rather a lot of the time I’m angrier & more irrational than a wasp, and spend an unnecessary amount of time holding pity parties. Generally this is in the privacy of home where Mr Geek can appreciate the full spectrum of my whining. God, he’s a lucky bastard.
But as I trundle out of the door, Mr Geek gives me a kiss & grumbles something about dinner and I slap a smile on.

Because, you know, if you take a deep breath & smile…. it confuses the living shit out of people. I smile at people because it makes people feel nice to be smiled at. I love my good morning routine as I roll past the ladies in the front office, the premises guys, & the happiest maths teacher on the planet. 

It doesn’t matter that I’m struggling with increasingly uncontrollable pain levels. I’m more than my body. I might not be physically dancing about in a snorkel anymore, but I’m still me. Weirdly, the end of term approaching has reminded me that I’m more than the sum of my parts. Rather than finishing this year haggard and wondering what a bloody stupid idea it was to become a teacher, this year I’ve been a wreck anyway so actually I’m ending it appreciating all the ways that teaching allows me to be a real person.

Next year, I welcome my new form (my last lot have now flown my nest after 3 years of growing into adults!). Each of us in the year team have a special reason for students to be placed with us – think of it like a teacher talent tree. Mine is routines & extra TLC. Our routines are visual and planned in advance – I am happiest when everything is structured & my kids tend to be those that thrive on similar. The TLC bit applies to a whole range of reasons. Kids arrive with a spectrum of issues that reflects the adult world, from shyness to mental health to physical health. There is no child that doesn’t benefit from someone who welcomes them as part of their extended family. In turn, I get to witness their successes, their soap opera style relationships, hand out birthday cards, read to & with them, I’m the sympathetic ear when they need one, and the kick up the backside when they’re being a knob. My last form witnessed my health decline rapidly over 3 years & they used it to forge intensely empathic responses to others who needed help. I didn’t think I could be prouder.

Then I was when I met my new form. I ended our induction day by showing their parents photos of our day together where they’d overcome fear of school, of new places, of sensory overload, of looking silly (posing for selfies with our form teddy bear when you’re 13 wipes out any Alpha male ideas). Just like having another child, you don’t divide your love, it multiplies. And stealing the words of an old headteacher “you’ve gotta love em. Children, no matter how old, need love”.

So as one academic year ends (in a week and 1/2) & another is right around the corner, I’m optimistic. By September, I’ll have my Master Teacher badge which sadly is just that – gone are the days of elevated pay, but it’s nice to be recognised as a subject specialist & be involved with training new Computer Science teachers.

Making it through the tough bits means I reap the rewards of being a stubborn arsehole who’s still got more fight left in her. And, well, Mr Geek, that lucky bastard gets at least another academic year of me falling asleep on my marking & being a diabolical wife.
Maybe this year will be the year I finally get around to submitting my fellowship for the Society for Education… dream big 💖