Short Term Disability

Round II comes to a close.

Tomorrow I return to my role in higher education after being away for three weeks in recovery. I have had an uneasy feeling in my stomach all day. Numerous times I’ve walked up to my husband, arms extended, and requested “Can I have a hug?” And by hug I mean a gentle one arm over my shoulder, half-assed hug that you give someone you don’t really want to hug (hardly therapeutic). He doesn’t want to hurt me.

This is the second time in the past year that I have had to take short term disability. My first round, I was out due to a very difficult labor and delivery of my son. He weighed a whopping 9 lbs. 4 oz. and was 22 inches long. One of my least favorite things to do is to have to tell Human Resources, I’m going to be off work…again.

Today I have been filled with anxiety. For three weeks I have been in a post op. haze. My mind has been pleasantly idle. My body has been too tired to make it through the day without a nap. The scary part about overcoming obstacles, I have found, is wondering if one will still be able to function at such a high level, without the stimulus of added pressure. When I go back to work tomorrow, without the constant gnashing of teeth pain in my back, what will that be like?

I remember when I returned from maternity leave, work was so refreshing. Something about transitioning to motherhood had cleansed me and made me so much more creative. I remember sitting in my office reviewing my previous year’s annual report thinking…

Why did I manage that program like that? Doing x instead of y would make way more sense. This is going to be so much more efficient!

Prior to surgery when my back was so messed up, I felt a constant pressure to prove myself and over-perform so no one could tell me, “Maybe you shouldn’t be working anymore.”

This over-performing reached it’s peak this past Spring. My former boss, the Associate Dean of Career Development moved on to a new opportunity. I was already working in two roles. One of which I was an office of one 20+ hours a week with a case load too big to discuss. In the other office I was the Assistant Director 20+ hours a week serving the entire student population. When my boss departed, I began filling in the voids of his absence. No one really asked me to do this– it was something that needed to be done. Our seniors deserved the support in their final semester. After getting home late night after night…my husband started to really frown upon my long hours. I do think he thought I was choosing work over family. Yet, in my mind I felt I was supporting my family, because my job was one of the few things left in my life that I could still do– even in excruciating pain.

On April 16th, while I lie very still in my hospital bed it was announced to the college that I had been promoted. What a victory!There I was in my most vulnerable state, lying lifeless on a hospital bed reaching one of my biggest career achievements to date. On April 18th, my new boss and family attended another huge achievement– I was honored as one of the county’s most influential professionals under 40 (Forty under 40). I remember being in the hospital wondering how could I have went from being cursed these past three years to all of the sudden being fortunate?

I realized that week that people were noticing the work I was doing. Most importantly, I think people were noticing the work, my mission and the outcomes of my work before they were ever noticing that I was living in a state of constant pain. That was beautiful and sad to me all at once.

Preparing for work tomorrow, I’m not so much worried about my intellectual labor as I am worried about things like:

  • How am I going to look professional without wearing heals? All of my trousers are too long to wear with flat shoes. I am definitely not buying new work clothes again (considering I had to for maternity and postpartum).
  • How will I pack my lunch under 5lbs?
  • Can I carry a lunch and my purse?
  • Maybe I will just go out to eat everyday for a while for convenience…but can I afford that?
  • I wonder if I can get a parking pass to park closer to the entrance? But what if my colleagues wonder why the young person is parking closer to the entrance?
  • How will sitting at a desk, in a back brace feel?
  • What if I need to access files in cabinet that is low?
  • How am I going to move into my office, and consolidate my other TWO offices when I can’t lift ANYTHING?

Looking at this list you are probably laughing. My husband thinks I’m worried about the tasks of my actual job and I’m really just worried about what I’m going to wear. HAH!

This week my husband is also arranging for me to show hired help how to clean our house. Did I mention, I still haven’t picked up my son?! This is the second time this year that my Spring landscaping has been completely neglected. I haven’t cooked an actual dinner for my husband in months. At first, my optimism and gratitude were driving me to fearlessly move forward. But three weeks of not being able to have much physical contact with my son has taken it’s toll. Then there’s the dishes piled up in the sink, the unorganized walk-in closet filled with odds and ends, Rhett’s bassinet that is holding my clothes so I don’t have to bend– all of these reminders that I suck at being a wife and Mom right now.

For anyone reading this and thinking that I am being shallow. I do apologize. I do realize things could be so much worse. I remind my husband of that everyday. This is temporary. I’m going to get better. We’re going to be like we used to be. We’re going to be able to dance, to hug, to work together to go boating, to take vacations, to enjoy dinners and nights out and I’m going to be a good Mom again.

When my husband and I chose to start a relationship, we were idiots. Or at least I was. I was in the best physical shape of my life. I was actually what Gary would call, “ripped.” I even beat him at arm wrestling once. In those days I never imagined that I would be the one to suddenly physically deteriorate. I thought for sure our relationship would one day, when we were very old, require me to look after him (he is four years older than me). How stupid!

Each day is a gift. You never what the next day will hold. I kiss my baby goodnight every night and say a prayer for he and many other people. I think to myself, “If this were my last day with my husband or son, how would I feel about that?” While some might think that this is a morbid thought exercise, I think it is a very important one. Six years ago, on May 2nd I almost died.

I’m talking my blood pressure was 50/23 when I arrived at the hospital almost died.

Maybe someday you will read about that story…

My life has never been the same since that day, and I think it is extremely important to remember that nothing is guaranteed to us.

Today my seniors graduated, and I watched from a live-stream on Youtube. Tomorrow I will return to a student-less campus, to re-envision the future of an office that I will now be leading.

Meanwhile, I can’t even lead my household. Life is odd like that.

Well, my husband just came inside and it is time for us to plan the rest of our evening and how we are going to feed Rhett and get him to bed, without my arms. That’s it for now.

Thanks for reading.


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