May 31, 2014
My story is mixed and complicated, and I have only recently reached a peace with it, so I will tell you now where I am (physically and spiritually). I have retired from my beloved university on disability following a major MS exacerbation several years ago that caused me to be hospitalized for six weeks–temporarily unable to move, to speak, even to think. Scary for me and especially for my family and friends who had to watch. I felt like I was in Kafka’s The Metamorphosis – you know, when Gregor wakes to discover that he is an insect and struggles first to get back to his job, without letting anyone know what has happened to him. That strategy doesn’t work out for Gregor, and it didn’t for me. How do you hide the fact that you’re (suddenly, inexplicably) an insect?!
When I became somewhat alert, I was aware of and grateful for the healing, encouraging thoughts of my students, friends from all over, and colleagues, who sent me snacks and loving good wishes. Vicki Goldston (Minister Vicki) even set up a Facebook page for me so that friends could post comments! Still, I was painfully aware that I hadn’t finished the semester, and I wanted to go home, even though I really had no idea that weeks, rather than days, were passing.
Anna with her cat Piper
I am feeling much better now, and my decision to retire was the right (and, though this is less important to me, the only) one. I am now living in Montevallo, Alabama, the small town where I grew up, and am having fun reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. I have joined a water aerobics class for people with MS (at a facility that trains paralympians, no less!) and am enjoying the community of people who share similar struggles. And water has itself been so central to my healing: drinking, swimming, and watching. We drove yesterday to see the rare and beautiful lilies that grow on a shallow and fast-moving swath of the Cahaba River near here, and their beauty was and is healing and spiritual.
Physically, I continue to get stronger, but MS fatigue is a constant companion. I can read much better than I could when I left the hospital. Though reading is tiring, I’m grateful that I can do it at all. I am able to write, though not at the pace or for the long stretches of time that I once took for granted. Typing is slow and maddening, and editing is sometimes physically and intellectually draining. Still, my quality of life and my independence are moving in the right direction, slowly.
Spiritually, I find inspiration and peace where I can, sometimes in surprising and relatively ordinary places. Birds visit my yard, flowers and trees bloom, rabbits chase each other, the sun sets gorgeously, the moon catches my attention, the cats and dogs hop on my lap, the fish-tank gurgles and the fish flash their colors, the TV is a mindless source of entertainment when I’m tired, and my bed is soft and warm. Watching my soon-to-be-teenaged son grow and prosper is a constant delight (except for those times when it is “less of a delight”). In short, life is good.
Until next time,
Love and peace,
Anna grew up in Alabama, spending her entire childhood in the same house where her parents still live today. Anna is a retired Professor of English and Women’s Studies from the University of North Alabama, where she charmed her loyal and adoring students for almost twenty years until a bad MS exacerbation convinced her that she should start spending her days playing games on her iPad, reading and writing whatever and whenever she feels like it, and watching the birds feed outside her window.