If you have been reading my increasingly erratic blog this month, you probably know that I have pneumonia. That is making it especially difficult to write regularly, because some days my brain works, and some days it just wants a nap. If these were normal times, and I had spent the last two weeks in bed, sipping tea and juice and watching British mysteries for their cure-all properties, I would probably feel a lot better. However, these are not normal times, they are these times, so my nearly two weeks (and counting) sick leave has involved getting up every morning, getting my whirling son moving in the direction of getting dressed AND brushing his teeth AND taking his ADHD medicine AND getting all the way to his desk in time to start class. Then I sit nearby and remind him of his assignments, calm him down when he freaks out, help him troubleshoot and reminds him every three minutes when he has another class coming up so that he remembers to log in to that one too. I’ve made only a few terrifying screen appearances as “What-the-heck-happened-to-Miles’-mom?” in this process. But, hey, I am not teaching!
All of this is to say that when I re-read my after visit paperwork from the urgent care facility where I was finally diagnosed, I had to laugh when I saw that one of the symptoms that should send me directly to the ER, do not pass GO, do not collect $200, was “a feeling of doom.” By “laugh,” of course, I mean “chuckle meaningfully inside my head because laughing out loud will trigger a disastrous coughing attack and the doctor did not see fit to order a cough syrup prescription.”
A feeling of doom? I did not think that was an actually official medical thing. If so, most of us are in real trouble. I don’t know about you, but I have been suffering increasing feelings of doom since February of last year, well seasoned with feelings of temporary terror, existential ennui, and frustrated boredom. Strangely, what I have felt most with pneumonia is a sort of relief from the cessation of all of these emotions. I am extremely anxiety prone to begin with, but I have been much too sick to worry about anything. I should double check that paperwork and see if it says anything about “cessation of doom” as a signal of alarm.
As I am starting to recover, very slowly, some of the anxiety is returning. For example, missing two weeks of email from work means that I had, as of this morning, accumulated 297 emails. In addition, my district abruptly changed course and decided that we will return middle and high schoolers to the classroom on April 19, and immediately following next week’s spring break, we will report to the building to be trained in all the safety procedures. I’ve attended meetings with many questions and no answers, and have missed probably a dozen more while I have been out. The one thing that I know for sure is that I will have to report to work (and damn this pneumonia for not hitting AFTER I was vaccinated instead of BEFORE) and my son will still be doing online education. As far as planning goes, my husband and I have reached two conclusions. “This is impossible” and “we have no idea what to do, but we guess we’ll do it.” Well, that, and I don’t know all the details about what his school is doing because I napped through dinnertime and the beginning of the evening meeting about return to school tonight.
As a test of my return to reality, I attempted work today. Wednesdays are asynchronous learning, and our training meetings were cancelled so people could come out to school and start setting up their classrooms to share since teachers will move and kid cohorts won’t. As I have pneumonia and also, as a temporary teacher (for the third year), I don’t actually have a classroom at the moment, I was allowed to skip that part and work from home, as usual. I tackled my email and read all the vague and conflicting announcements and memos about returning to school. I taught my Advisory class, which required me to sit up for half an hour and talk, which wiped me out, and also let the kids tell me how much they missed me and how glad they were to see me again. And I got to discover that HR has ordered me to fill out medical leave paperwork because I have missed more than five consecutive days of work, and that I cannot return until I am cleared by my doctor. Since I worked today, not cleared, I now have non-consecutive leave, and no one is quite sure what that means for the paperwork. What I do know is that if sitting with my feet up and answering email for several hours, teaching for half an hour, and making the occasional spectral appearance in my son’s Zoom class meant that I needed to nap all afternoon and straight through dinner time, then I probably am not fit to return to work, and need to get more subs to cover the last few days until spring break. I am worried about my students, confused by two weeks of work without me to help, about my ability to contact them and their parents about any missing work that they should tackle during spring break, and what on earth is going on with the return to school issues and what I am supposed to be doing and where I should be doing it come March 30. I also would like to know when I am going to start to really get well.
Feelings of doom? Check. Bring it on. I’ll roll up my sleeves and stick with the mantra that has kept me going for the last year and trust that it will carry me through. “This is impossible. I have no idea what to do, but I guess I’ll do it.”
If that does not work, I am sure that somewhere, there will be a form to fill out.