The last few weeks have been very intense. I’ve been attending CSU for two weeks and prior to that were many student orientation activities designed to make us feel more a part of the college. It’s been a lot of fun, but also an incredible amount of stress returning full time to classes.
Calculus was a bit of a surprise and I found myself quickly swamped. My instructor is a graduate student and this is his first time teaching. He’s nice and tries hard, but that doesn’t really take the place of experience. When comparing the learning experience of myself to that of Blue Jess who’s taking calculus at the community college, I feel she’s getting a much deeper teaching of the subject. It’s taking a lot of extra study time for me to make up for what isn’t being taught in class, but I’m getting there and feel as though I’m doing well.
Speaking of being taught in class – I found it rather odd that in every one of my classes, the first two times we met were mostly fluff. Nothing was being taught, it was all about the syllabus and how to be a student. I understand these are typically freshmen level courses, but as an experienced student ready to learn it was a little frustrating. Especially as the homework kept coming in, but no instruction was given on how to handle the problems.
Chemistry was my favorite class. The instructor was humorous and had a dynamic teaching style. Unfortunately, by not coming to it fresh from Intro to Chemistry, the homework load was enormous. A few days ago I decided to drop chemistry for this semester and try it again closer to when I’ll be needing it.
Intro to Astronomy has been ok enough so far, I think it will start picking up soon though. We have been covering the ancient Greeks and Romans and their contributions to modern astronomy.
I’ve had to pick up a one credit odd course since dropping chemistry in order to keep my financial aid, therefor I shall also be taking a class in West African contexts and perspectives. It begins in late October and will hopefully be very interesting as I hear the instructor is pretty great.
It’s been a bit of a frustrating thing to drop chemistry. I don’t like feeling as though I could have done more, done better. Truth is, there is an enormous amount of stuff going on right now in my personal life and this heavily contributed to my choice in dropping chemistry. There is only so much of me to go around and still actually feel like I’m not neglecting something important. Still… while the reasons are sound, I can’t help but wonder if I could have done chemistry had my personal life been less chaotic right now.
I have had a good time meeting some new people last week in various clubs. I’ve even volunteered to be a student council representative for SHPE – “Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers” and pronounced as “ship.” I’m curious as to where my involvement with them will go as they are a friendly group of people and I can see being with the club the next several years of my education.
Last April I began going to a CrossFit gym to do a dramatic boost to my fitness level. I’ve been pretty consistently going three times a week ever since. I love working out there, such an amazing group of people. My hope at the time had been to see my endurance raised enough to handle a full day of school and homework when I began at CSU. At one point last week, I was climbing 4 flights of stairs with a heavy backpack on my back full of textbooks and easily keeping up with everyone else. The thought struck me around the third floor that this was exactly why I’d been working out so hard all summer – I’d achieved my goal.
Even though I had to drop chemistry and feel a bit of failure in doing so, the reality is that I have achieved so much more that its time to focus on all the success. I have moved here, applied and been accepted into CSU, received residency so I could afford to attend, gotten my math skills up to the level they needed to be so I could succeed at calculus this fall, gotten my physicality up to the point where being bedbound only three years ago seems like it happened in a different lifetime, and am healthier physically, mentally, and emotionally than I have ever been before in my life.
That is a heck of a lot of success to culminate in these last few weeks. No wonder I feel so tired, it’s been a very long road to get here and now I see that this road has only just begun. Life is an adventure and I’m incredibly happy to be on this one, even when I’m feeling tired and drained by the road I’ve been walking to get here.
This is what February 13th looks like from Hawaii at Waihe’e Beach, Maui. (pronounced why-hay-A)
We walked around the bend seen in this picture, then set our picnic down in our usual place. I turned around and was surprised to see this wonderful rainbow stretching the sky behind me.
The weather cleared to almost full sun, mid-70’s, and the water was warm enough for a long soak after a brief shock of cold when first diving in.
Waihe’e is one of our favorite beaches here so far. It’s a reasonable drive and usually quiet. Today it was just the two of us and a whale we saw breach the surface out past the reefs. The wave break you see in the photo (where all the white topped waves are) stretches a very long ways and provides a protected area for swimming, floating, and snorkeling year round.
So far at Waihe’e we’ve now seen many various aquatic life, a sea turtle, a monk seal, and the humpback whale.
A long, meditative rest followed by a good soak in the ocean left me feeling recharged and somewhat centered for the first time in weeks.
The new year has been one of great healing for me, but this is a painful healing of old emotional wounds, both from before I was ill and after, that have their thorns in daily life. It has left me drained and on the edge of slipping back into the crash of November/December. Though it is frustrating to have had only a week or so in early January where I felt as though the crash was finally lifting, it is hard to find fault when the culprit is healing.
Healing is not always easy or happy making, but as long as one is willing to embrace it, then with time you will find a rainbow has sneaked up behind you to brighten your day.
Home is a tent right now. A medium sized tent, sitting in a patch of woods in the Pacific Northwest. Alders, maples, cedars, and other various trees shelter us from the world outside. A world that has now become too toxic for us to live directly in any longer.
Growing up I had seen my mom diagnosed with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS). I had seen that it meant she could not be around perfume, fresh paint, or insecticides – but almost everything else was still fine. This is what MCS meant to me, a mostly normal existence with something akin to allergies to a few really stinky things.
By some twist of fate, I now understand that for some of us with this condition its meaning becomes dramatically different. The word ‘sensitivity’ doesn’t even come close to describing the reaction my body can undergo when exposed to various chemicals that are commonplace throughout our modern society. The normal pathways the body uses to remove the chemicals we are assaulted with on a daily basis, these are clogged and sluggish for me resulting in an overload of things even in the tiniest amount.
I have no idea how many of us with extreme levels of illness from chemicals are out there. Most of us tend to stay at home in environments specially tailored to ease as many symptoms as possible. We rarely go shopping and usually only a few stores are tolerable to be in for any length of time. You won’t see us at the movies, bookstores, or any event that has a gathering of people. Were you to see us, other than a few odd things easily dismissed, you wouldn’t know how ill we were at that very moment because most of us have learned how to play the role of ‘normal’ very well.
If you saw me at your local co-op, you would see a woman in sun faded clothing, who has a bit of a lost and tired expression on her face, heavily flushed cheeks, and glassy eyes. That is it. That is all that would stand me out from anyone else at the store, and all but the intensely flushed cheeks and facial expression would be semi-normal for this alternative minded town.
Meanwhile inside me is a different story. My head is in a thick fog, hence the lost expression while wandering the aisles. The flushed cheeks are intensely hot, even painful, and seem to be tied to my body trying to induce a fever to burn off the invading toxins, as it would do with a virus. It is likely I have a headache, am dizzy and would have a hard time standing in one spot long which also leads to more wandering around the store. The entirety of my body becomes numb to normal sensations. Not numb like a limb that has ‘fallen asleep’ but numb as though so over stimulated it simply stops processing new data. I have often been amazed at the miracle that my feet keep walking, that I can actually speak, hold objects, or even remain upright because none of that seems possible when you can no longer clearly feel your body. Other various symptoms will occur as well, but are not as consistent as these.
This will all continue for several hours after I have returned to my safe environment away from further influence of civilization. The following days will see me with all of these symptoms to lessening degrees and a great deal of pain along every nerve in my body, but a completely new symptom also becomes fairly dominant. It is from the CFS and called post exertional malaise (PEM). My muscles are beyond fatigued from the simple act of briefly shopping for vegetables the day before. Weak as a kitten, ridiculously easy to become tired from even sitting up for more than a few minutes, it lasts from a day to several weeks depending on many factors – most of which are beyond my control.
Every trip out negatively impacts my life for days or even weeks, therefore I go out into the world only on very rare occasions, and typically only for medical reasons. I am not alone in this, it is a condition surprisingly many of us share to varying degrees. Yet rarely would you ever know the person standing next to you, swaying a little on their feet, might be having strong reactions to the very same air you are breathing safely.
Since moving to a tent in January 2002, I have visited two people’s homes that did not leave me feeling the way I have described here – all other homes have caused similar or even much more severe reactions. It is for this reason we decided to try and build a home safe from common building materials which are mind numbingly toxic. It is this type of home we dream of living in one day. A home where we can feel safe, warm, and most importantly – a home that does not make us continually ill on a daily basis.