For the last six months, I’ve been doing my best to relearn all the math I once knew, but lost to 20 years of disuse. Twenty years is a long time, especially as my brain atrophied while living in the tent just as surely as my body noticeably did.
I have deadlines I must meet for some of this math. Two of the classes I want to take this August require I pass proficiency tests before I can register. Chemistry only requires I know algebra, but calculus requires a knowledge of trigonometry as well. It’s been rather frustrating to have this roadblock before me. The sheer volume of past college credits I bring with me to this school means I have to pay over $1000 more each semester for my classes – yet the credits do nothing to meet any of my requirements because they are over 10 years old. Seems a harsh welcome back to college after all these years.
Therefore, I do what I must to try and relearn the math as quickly as possible. My hope is to pass the placement tests in time to register for my preferred class times – or even to get the class at all. It’s a very real possibility that chemistry or calculus could become completely full, with wait-listed students ahead of me, by the time I can register.
What does this mean? If I don’t take calculus this August, then I must wait another full year before joining the mechanical engineering degree program. I already feel on the old side of going back to college for a potentially 5 year degree. To add on a sixth year is a hard concept to contemplate and so I push myself very hard to complete my math studies.
Yet, I struggle.
I recently completed intermediate algebra and it actually went pretty easy once I was able to focus and commit to regular study hours. I’d struggled the first few months of this year with it, largely because I was undergoing a lot of mental and emotional healing from scars left long ago. The healing process took almost all of my time and left me exhausted, too tired to focus on mathematical concepts. I felt the weeks passing by, only a bit of math done here and there; my time before CSU in August growing shorter.
As I said, finally I am done with that – only to be faced with college algebra and trigonometry still to be learned. These are proving to be more of a struggle to learn on my own, hard concepts without the aid of someone to help explain small details I do not inherently understand. Its so frustrating to do this on my own. Without a doubt, I could easily ace these topics if I were part of a formal class. I just can’t afford the tuition for summer school and financial aid for college will begin in August.
It’s also frustrating because we were told, repeatedly, that there would be no wait-list at Vocational Rehabilitation and that they would be able to help with retraining costs to a new college degree. I’ve now been on their wait-list since September 2013 and have no idea when I will finally receive their aid. Were I off the wait-list and fully in their program, then it is likely they would pay for these summer courses I need.
It’s all just so frustrating. I’ve said that word many times here, but it is true in so many ways. It is hard to have your life taken from you by a series of mishaps, overcome the challenges of long term chronic illness, only to be met by more roadblocks when trying to rebuild your life again.
Then last night a new thought occurred to me.
In winter of 2010 and spring of 2011, I honestly began to question how I would survive another winter spent living in our tent. It was a terrible time, my health was horribly low, and though I still had the fight in me to keep living, my body had become very weak – perhaps too weak to handle the rigors of a Washington winter. Every year I would come out of the previous winter happy to have made it through, yet already dreading the return of winter in six months time. That last winter was different though, there was a lot more snow and freezing temperatures. As well, living outdoors was taking a serious toll on us by then and the thought of another winter began to look rather grim.
It was in that moment of time when life miraculously shifted and within six weeks we found ourselves in Hawaii. Six weeks from wondering if we’d even live another year to instead living the next two years on a tropical island. Simply incredible.
Last night I was lying in bed, my head resting on Jeremy’s belly and the dog’s head resting on mine. I found myself enjoying the moment of peace and wellness life had brought me and reflecting on the differences between this life and the one I had in the tent. In that moment, I also found myself realizing that I have all the time in the world left to me because only three years ago I thought I had no time left at all. Every moment I have now is an amazing gift.
Why am I so worried about this math stuff? I’m worried because it will take me another year of college if I don’t teach myself trigonometry this summer. Yet, that extra year is a year I very nearly didn’t have. I now have to ask myself – is spending this next year enjoying life, enjoying my hard earned health, and savoring my return to college really that bad, even if it becomes an extra year of school?
I think not.
I’ll still try hard to finish my math studies and take calculus this August. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t work hard towards difficult goals – it seems to be what I do in life. However, I hope to keep this new sense of perspective. Every day is a gift I created from the darkness my life had become.
Every day I am living a life I would have considered the best dream in the world just a few, short years ago. Every day I want to remember that I should stop and enjoy this journey, no matter how long it takes me to get there, because its amazing I was even able to find this road to walk.
This is a beautiful road.
Almost a year has passed since my last post here, yet I am disappointed with my lack of posting at the second blog site Jeremy and I teamed up for. In truth, though he is a great partner for many things, blog writing is not one of them. This sapped my enthusiasm for writing and over the months turned into more silence than anything. In that time, much has happened, but what brings me back here today is this blog itself. Several weeks ago I began to reread my old posts here and appreciate once more how much Sundog Tales has always meant to me. I’ve shared so much of my journey, it’s only fitting that I come back here in these final months before I begin to attend Colorado State University in August.
Where does one begin? Perhaps there is no need for a beginning, for you already know me so well. A quick catch-up then.
In short, life in Colorado has been filled with many ups and downs, as any life is – healthy or chronically ill, and I’ve been undergoing tremendous growth to overcome these challenges. I’ve had the excitement of applying for and being accepted to CSU for the fall semester. This in turn kicked off a world of doubts and fears about my capabilities to return to school, being productive once more, and in some ways more importantly – to feel successful while doing it.
All those years living in a tent, day dreaming of being healthy again, working or going back to school – the reality is both much more fantastic and also more difficult that I had imagined. Somehow in each of my daydreams, the me I would become when well was the same me I had been before becoming sick. Other than knowing I was mentally a lot stronger and physically a lot weaker now, in my mind’s eye I was still the same 24 year old woman I used to be.
Boy was I wrong!
I am vastly different than who I had been. Though the tent felt like time was suspended within it’s walls, it was in fact not a time machine at all, waiting to deposit the old me 13 years in the future the same as I’d been before, but instead a device slowly molding me into a more mature and motivated person.
This is ever so obvious when I attend functions at CSU, surrounded by undergrads who are often half my age with problems I no longer identify with, such as which party to go to or who is dating whom. Worse yet are the functions for incoming freshmen and transfer students. The freshmen are often accompanied by parents who are the only ones asking questions, a glazed look on the kid’s faces, and everyone wondering where the dorms are. These are not problems in my world. My world is about paying rent, walking the dog, spending time with Jeremy, and otherwise devoting myself to my studies.
No, the me of 2001 who would have been only a bit older than these kids is as surely gone in the past as VHS tapes and a world without cell phones.
This morning I was writing an essay for a scholarship (something else past me had never done) and one of the questions was on how have I grown as a leader through my leadership activities. Well, as someone who was bedbound much of the last decade of my life, let me tell you – there wasn’t much call for leadership activities. Then I woke this morning with the thought on my mind, this right here is a leadership activity. I have reached lives I have never known, inspired people with my words to be more than they were before reading my stories, and that to me is a leader.
It reminded me of how much this blog and all my readers have meant to me over the years and I realized that at one of the greatest points in the story – I left. I went elsewhere and was hardly there too. It’s time I remedy this and finish this story, you all deserve nothing less.
So pull up a chair and settle in, because there will be more blog posts to come over the next few months as we count down to the first day of school – August 25, 2014.
I have enjoyed this chakra meditation video very much over the last few months. It has a nice grounding effect and is quite relaxing.
Each day Jeremy and I do some combination of between 2-4 meditations spread throughout the day. It is part of the Gupta Amygdala Retraining Technique we have been doing and it helps immensely. Though the program starts you off with guided meditations of their own and cd’s to help you get started, we’ve taken it beyond those to now encompassing other meditation styles too.
Sometimes we skip the afternoon meditation in favor of a walk in the park or around our semi-rural neighborhood. This also seems just as relaxing and really depends on the day as to which we do.
Over the last several months of this program I have had a lot of time to think. Originally I was unsure as to when I would share with my reading community that I was doing the Gupta program, as it is a bit alternative and honestly, I wasn’t ready to face people judging me or how I choose to heal myself. Sad that even with all I’ve been through from these illnesses, there are those people out there who will harshly judge anyone who dares to break their own boundaries by becoming well.
Unfortunately, I did indeed face some negative criticism and a fair bit of what I felt to be an irrational anger towards me for not sharing on my blog all the intimate and private details of my life. As though somehow by denying this person those details, I am not only standing in the way of their own healing, but outright doing them harm.
I hate to admit it, but even despite finding their position to have been in the minority it did take away some of my enthusiasm for sharing this healing journey with you, my readers and friends. At this same time in life, I found myself to be going into a bit of a downturn in health because of our cat, Tashi, waking us multiple times a night and causing enormous difficulties. I love that cat, but she knocked down a considerable part of my health for the better part of four full months. All in all, as you may have noticed, I haven’t been posting very much for sometime now.
But that’s about to change… just not here.
Now I’m bouncing back quickly, more quickly than I had even dared to hope! With this gigantic boost in health is also the same boost in motivation to get a move on life. Jeremy and I are going to see about moving to Colorado, sooner rather than later, and start the process of getting back to school through the work training programs available to us.
Jeremy and I started a new blog for us to share, A Thousand Miles, where we will detail out more of our adventures while trying to find enough money to make the move. Being on Social Security Disability and food stamps doesn’t leave much money to try and save up for a big expense, and being on an island means big expense if you want to move off it. Plane fare alone starts around $1200! If we actually want to take with us anything besides carry-on luggage, such as shipping our computers to Colorado or blankets, well the costs skyrocket.
Life is full of challenges and as any who’ve read my blog here for very long knows, we take each challenge and overcome them. It’s all just a matter of time.
I’ve been down and out of life for the last couple of months, mostly because Tashi has been waking us up multiple times a night since mid-February. She’s a wonderful cat in all other ways, but sadly she has trouble with being afraid of things in our home environment which we have zero control over.
The main trigger for her nightly wake-ups seems to be our neighbor’s voice coming in through our windows at all hours of the night. I don’t blame the neighbor, she works until midnight and we knew that before moving in. Everything is at a normal speaking volume, she’s just awake much of the night. We’ve worked far too many lousy jobs that require that sort of shift to complain about someone else who’s working that shift and simply unwinding at night by chatting with their boyfriend.
And so we’ve found Tashi a new home. It’s a good home and she will be moving there at the end of this week. There are 3 other cats and a dog, along with some nice folks. A much bigger home, more windows for her, and most importantly – neighbors who’s windows are much further than 5 feet away.
I’ll be very sorry to see her go. I haven’t posted much about her here, but she’s been a real highlight in our lives these last 6 months. Were it not for this constant lack of sleep and what it’s done to our health (a full stop on our healing progress for CFS and some regression), it would be a great joy to keep her with us.
However it seems to have come down to staying tired and feeling useless in life or keeping a wonderful cat – oddly it was a hard choice. But then being tired and feeling useless is actually what most of life felt like since becoming ill in 2001 – it’s only recently begun to change at the end of last year so I’m not as familiar with what that feels like anymore.
What I do remember of December (2012) and January (2013) was a great deal of delight in feeling my energy coming up, actually being able to see and feel life returning to a more normal picture, and being happy that my existence isn’t dictated solely by feelings of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Multiple Chemical Sensitives. Thankfully, I’m still seeing MCS improvements, even just yesterday going into a store (Costco) that we had to avoid in the past like the plague due to all the odors and such. Now it was just as I remembered it from when I went as a kid with my mom on shopping day – everything smelled just the same, not overwhelming or frightening. Life with MCS really is coming to a close and it’s both a brilliant and wonderful thing.
I know this can happen with CFS too and unfortunately its all too clear that right now that means as best of sleep as we can manage so our nervous systems can calm down instead of being jarred awake several times a night. Truly, Tashi is going to a great home with one of the worker’s at the cat sanctuary we adopted her from – actually the woman who helped us pick her out. The woman had always wanted Tashi, seemed a little sad to see her go, but had not wanted to make the commitment before. She’s had a change of mind now that she’s seen just how wonderful and loving Tashi is as a house cat – they’ll do well together I think.
Hopefully in a few weeks time Jeremy and I will be seeing more energy again. Neither of us can hardly wait for the adventures on our horizon and have lots of motivation to make them happen. Brighter days should be coming our way, even if they are a little more lonely without my dear Tashi.
Have you ever been to a nude beach? I went to my first one today!
Little Beach is part of the Makena State Park and known for being clothing optional, as well as it’s Sunday night drum parties. It’s a very nice little cove at the end of a quarter mile hike. The snorkeling wasn’t spectacular, however we saw some fish we’ve never seen before – including a small school of fish probably each the size of a large dog. As well, several sea turtles made the whole trip very worthwhile.
Yet, we didn’t go to Little Beach for the snorkeling – we went for the whales. Humpback whales migrate here each winter from December through April. According to my research, Little Beach would be just about the best place from shore to watch them passing by. Shortly after we arrived we were greeted with an amazing site. Two adult humpback whales only a few hundred feet off the shore, swimming along and doing their own thing. Though we didn’t see much more than their back spines each time they came to the surface, it was a fantastic site that brought tears to my eyes.
I mean, how fantastic is it to have seen something like that so close in the wild?
I wasn’t on a boat with dozens of other tourists or some other modern means to be out on the water with them. No, I was just standing on the shore of a beach I’d hiked out to and seeing them as I am, a human on land, and as they are, majestic beauty in the ocean. Absolutely one of the most amazing things I’ve seen in my life.
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen whales, not even here on Maui – just something about them being so close I felt like I could nearly touch them… wonderful.
Have you ever wondered what whale songs are like in the wild?
Sometimes when you snorkel here during the winter you can hear them signing to each other underwater. This is the second time I’ve been lucky to hear them. Today they were loud enough to be easily heard, even over the white noise of the choppy waves we were snorkeling in. It was very magical, especially the times when we’d find a turtle to swim with. Whales whistling and calling to one another, following a sea turtle as it wandered the reef, scores of brightly colored fish swimming below us – I’ll always remember this.
I found myself at one point being struck by how diametrically different my life is now compared to March in Washington while living in a tent. Almost every year the last snow of the season would be sometime in the next two weeks. We’d be completely and totally exhausted from surviving another freezing and snowy winter only to look forward to a ridiculous amount of rain for the next two months, praying this summer would be warm and sunny. Often times it would be a wet summer too with nary a good, hot day to burn off winter’s chill before turning into Autumn and starting the cycle all over.
Instead, here I was snorkeling nude in the ocean, warm sunshine on my backside, while swimming with whales and turtles!
If life can change so dramatically for me in such a short period of time, just think of what else I can do. I am getting healthy again, there is no doubt about that, and sometimes like today I can really feel just how possible it is to change my situation for the better. It has taken an enormous amount of hard work and tenacity, but just look at where I am now!
I used to feel like I could inspire others to follow their dreams, grow as individuals, and reach places they thought were too distant – but sadly, I couldn’t do that for myself. Now I look at how life has changed me…I can be my own inspiration and reach my own dreams.
If I were to be able to speak to the illness that has stolen so many years of my life, I would have to quote one of my favorite movies – “Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the (life) that you have stolen, for my will is as strong as yours, and my kingdom as great — You have no power over me.”
It seems I have finally accomplished another dream today. For the last year I have wanted to open my own etsy store just as Jeremy had done for his steampunk jewelry business. I’ve seen him excitedly checking his email and finding that he’s sold something, it looked like a lot of fun! Problem was, I didn’t know what I wanted to sell…
Then last March I bought a nice DSLR camera and started taking pictures. It seemed pretty obvious what type of etsy store I would be opening up, it was now just a matter of time. In less than a week we found out had to move out of our apartment and the rental search began. As mentioned in previous posts, life with moderate MCS can be difficult – having to find safe housing that didn’t make us ill only made this more so.
As the months went by and we still were unsuccessful at our rental search, my ability for photography greatly declined as every bit of energy went into finding us a safe place to live. I would take my camera out for a trip perhaps once or twice a month, but anything more was beyond my physical abilities.
Then we moved! This is a wonderful apartment we have lived in these past 3 months and I often find myself thinking about how much I love it here. My energy came up a bit and again I began my day dreams of an etsy store of my own.
My last post told of winning a prize in a photography contest, it was the first step I took towards my store. Before preparing that photo for the contest, I still hadn’t readied a single photograph for printing. Many show how much I have left to learn about controlling my camera and setting up the shot – which means most photos need a lot of post processing work in Lightroom. However I didn’t let this deter me from my goal of starting up a store, just means I have opened it with less photographs than I had originally planned.
Which brings me to my grand opening of UNTAMED Photography! 😀
I hope to add to my store over the next few weeks and am very happy to have finally gotten through the steep learning curve to finish opening today. I hope you all enjoy the couple of pictures I have put up there already and I will be writing about new ones as they are listed.