When It Rains, It Pours

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These words have never rung truer to me than in the month of July 2017. I listen the song, “Praise you in this storm,” by Casting Crowns. In the past, I’ve listened to this song and most of the time, it brings tears to my eyes. I begin to reminisce on all of the “storms” I’ve been through, those I’ve lost, and the times that my heart has been torn, and can’t help but to feel emotional at the thought that God has never let my side through it all.

What I realized this month was that, yes, I’ve been through some tragic events in my life. But, I’ve never been through a real “storm.” I defined a storm, on my drive home today, as a series of negative unexpected events that occur within a short period of time. Granted, none of the events can compare to losing a loved one or being impacted by illness. But, these events were, nonetheless, unexpected, and took me by surprise. For the first time, the song rang true to me. This was a storm. Instead of crying, I was praising God. Instead of worrying, I was expressing gratitude. I’ve come to realize the temporary nature of this life and material possessions. I am grateful that my soul is sealed and that I’ve been counted worthy of salvation. I am to be a child of God, a redeemed and sanctified new creation. Believing this truth has set me free from the chains of valuing happiness in terms of money, superficial friendships, or simply when things are “going my way.” I am saved, sanctified, and redeemed, whether or not I am unemployed, abused, rich or poor. I am loved regardless of whether I am suffering or happy.

Last month, I was going through something absolutely terrible and frightening. I was experiencing sleep paralysis on a daily basis. Sleep paralysis is when the brain awakens, but the body is still asleep, and paralyzed. Because the conscious and unconscious are not as separated as when one is fully awake, sleep paralysis sufferers will experience dreams in a state of being awake. These dreams are usually terrifying. I have done enough research to know that these dreams are NEVER pleasant. If you search the web, you can find articles and documentaries with visions ranging from an old hag to little girls. My dreams always included a dark figure on top of my body. Some people stick with the limited medical and scientific explanation. However, there is such little information regarding paralysis, why it happens, and why the dreams are always so unpleasant. I, myself, have experienced dreaming while awake during sleep deprived eras of my life *cough cough finals week.* When someone does not get sufficient sleep for an extended period of time, they may begin to dream while awake. This is usually not so dramatic. You may think you see a bug when there isn’t really a bug. But, this very common. There’s a reason that we need to sleep. However, thinking that you see a bug or mixing up colors is nowhere as terrifying as seeing dark figures coming into your room and hovering over your paralyzed body. Science can’t explain the horrors. I believe that these attacks, as many nightmares, can be spiritual. I believe that the forces of evil can prey on those who are not sober and vigilant. This is why the bible warns us to be both of these things. Someone without sufficient sleep can exhibit similar symptoms as a drunk individual. Car accidents are caused by exhaustion just as often or more than those that occur as a result of drunk driving. Just like “players” prey on women with low-self esteem, and con-artists prey on the weak, so does Satan and his demons prey on those who are not appropriately armed. Not guarding your physical well-being could lead to attacks just as much as not guarding your spiritual well being. But, my reason for not guarding my physical well being, I believed, was justified. I working nights teaching English as a Second Language to make ends meet. I was not getting paid through the summer for my teaching job last year, but, that never stopped the bills from coming in. I was still responsible for: rent, cable, internet, electric, renters insurance, phone, and car insurance. On a part time job, I was not going to make ends meet. So, I was working a split shift. Because of the vast time difference working with students abroad, I was working early morning and late nights, relying mainly on naps to get by. It was during these naps that the paralysis/attacks occurred.

Two medical doctors attributed the diagnosis of these dreams to PTSD, specifically after a sexual abuse incident that occurred when I was 18. For years, I told no one because I was ashamed. Today, I know I was in no way responsible for this and the only person responsible for rape is a rapist. This was no one else’s fault but the abuser. Any events that led me to be in that place at that time were unfortunate, but not my fault or the fault of anyone involved. But, our society loves victim-blaming, hence, the label of “at fault” followed me and others for years. Without going into too much detail, the other person accused of being at fault was point the finger simply for driving me to the location to where it happened. I was blamed for not screaming, although I was terrified and threatened. Nobody ever blamed the person who committed the crime. So, there was solitude that came with being invalidated and then there was silence that came with the shame.

Along with that diagnosis, I will share another more physical and less stigmatized diagnosis. I am not a period shamer. Fifty percent of the population menstruates so please get over it. I have a condition called menorrhagia. It is characterized by unusually heavy amounts of bleeding during menstruation. I’ve had this for a few years. I’ve learned to share this with employers, as it could be classified as a disability, tell friends and family so they are aware I’m not dying. It can be a sight for sore eyes to witness passing out after turning extremely pale. I’m not anemic, naturally. That is, my body produces sufficient red blood cells on it’s own. But, because of the loss of menstrual blood, I am characterized as anemic when I’m menstruating. The blood count can drop dangerously. This can create symptoms like: bags under eyes, nausea, sensitivity to light, need for sleep, excessive tiredness, etc.

On a weekly basis, I was training for my job for this upcoming school year. This became my third responsibility after working and school. Yet, this was a training program, so four hours a week was not a heavy burden to bear. I was fired before my contract even started because the employers were not willing to take on an employee that had this disability. I was asked to sign a contract in March stating that I would work at this school for the next school year. Salary requirements were outlined and signed by the school principal. I purchased, with my own money:

  1. A background check
  2. TB skin test (about $150), which caused uncomfortable itching
  3. School supplies and classroom decor
  4. Uniform

I also quit my job at the last school where I was working and relocated to an apartment near the school. I liquidated my savings in order to pay for the apartment and very basic decor (a couch and a bed). I now have 95 cents in my savings account. Today, my account is overdrawn after paying car insurance, and I have not had lunch or dinner. It’s 7pm. All this because the school no longer found me worthy as an employee after discovering this disability and simply because they did not like the bags under my eyes. None of this was based on work performance, because work had not even started. We simply arrived to the trainings to take notes and explore computer software. Makeup, I figured, was not essential. PTSD and menorrhagia cost me nearly $10,000, emptied my bank account, left me unemployed, and nearly homeless. Not to mention, I could have been looking for another job since March. I was taken out of circulation for nearly six months.

Yet, this termination was a blessing in disguise. A living arrangement was settled where I could financially help my grandparents, while living in the efficiency in my parent’s house, a space far bigger than my apartment. I can also live with all my pets simultaneously and not worry about having to take “turns.” I now have my own parking space, my own entrance, and pay less than half the price as I was paying in the apartment. This leaves room for travel and saving money. I’ve also been freed from the burden of being a teacher. I respect those who stay in the profession, but it was not for me. This is why I’m graduating with a Master’s in Higher Education Administration. I thought that maybe I could continue being a teacher throughout the course of my master’s degree so that I could have a more flexible school schedule.

I work best in a setting that allows me to think and evaluate from the comfort of my own office. I like a mix of working with others and then retreating to the office and self-reflecting. Teaching never gave me the opportunity to process, which I so desperately needed with the repeated exposure to excessive yelling and misbehavior. I seldom had the opportunity to think of different strategies when a student did not understand the strategy recommended in the teaching manual. It’s a job that requires improvisation on a constant level. I can improvise when needed, but relying on improvisation to do your job effectively a daily basis simply just doesn’t aid to my well being. So, I am beyond grateful to God, who in His infinite wisdom, saved me from more long-term repercussions. Sure, right now it may feel like I’m paying a high price. I lost all of my money and struggling is an understatement. But, the struggle is temporary. I will gain meaningful employment soon. When I move out of my new little and more affordable apartment, I will be able to purchase a home in California, like I dreamed, rather than the one-bedroom apartment that was eating up my teacher’s paycheck. This misfortune was temporary. It would have been much worse if I had proceeded with the plans I had in mind. I would have been miserable at work, living a paycheck to paycheck life and saving no money for the future.

Today, I was involved in a car accident. The entire front of my car has been smushed in. My tires were effected. The breaks on my car are not working properly. I don’t even have enough money for a snack right now. At the moment, I’m unemployed, hungry, and broke. But, God is still good. God is still God and I am not. A bad day in the Lord is worth more than a life of fortune in the world. He is my God and I will not curse Him in this storm, I will praise Him eternally, on heaven’s shore. This suffering is temporary and the wicked will not surpass me. I’m filled with glee and filled with the Spirit, so much that physical hunger does not even effect me today. I trust in His love, in His promises, and I am truly happy. This is truly love. This is truly joy.

I’m Not Bubbly, I’m Still Great

IMG_7343I’m not bubbly. That doesn’t mean I’m not cheerful, happy, optimistic, or kind. It does not mean that I am rude, inconsiderate, or mean. In fact, I’m often complemented on my kindness and empathy towards others. I simply outgrew a lot of the characteristics I held as a child. I stopped seeing the world through a child-like lens at a point in my life. I don’t mean to suggest that bubbly people are childish. They simply have an ability to see things the way that children see them. Being bubbly is a great characteristic. Being around such people makes me feel as though I can shelve my problems and treat myself. Bubbly people remind me that I need to take care of myself. Their smile is contagious. Their presence in this world is vital.

But, the presence of people like me in this world is also vital. I am approachable. My smile may not be as contagious, but my presence is calming. I may not be the one who pops a bottle of champagne to numb the pain, but I will talk it through with you at any hour of the day. Your burdens don’t weigh heavy on me. The need for people like me is just as important. A just balance in this world is a beautiful thing.

When we continue to pretend to be someone we are not, to wear masks, and convince ourselves that we are different, we lose sight of the beauty we already possess. We live our lives being punished just for being ourselves. This was my story. As a classroom teacher, I pretended to be a different person on a daily basis. Living a lie drained me of every ounce of energy I had. Every day,  the weight of the world became heavier and heavier.

For the entirety of my career, I’ve been punished for being who I am. For not singing enough, for not smiling enough, for not crafting enough. I’ve never been thanked for listening more, being more perceptive, being more organized, or being more on task than most other teachers. My second grade class knew fifth grade level vocabulary words. But, the world of education doesn’t value that. They value fake smiles and coloring sheets. They don’t value student behavior. They value the extra curricular that a teacher can take on.

I gave myself permission to admit what I’m not and value what I am. There is nothing wrong with me. There is nothing wrong with my work performance. I’m just not what our education system looks for in a teacher. I am, however, what many other people look for. I’m hardworking, dedicated, and focused. I’m serious, understanding, patient, yet quick to finish tasks. I like to do, not to lead. I like to tuck children into bed, kiss them goodnight, make them sandwiches, watch TV, read them books, and listen to their ideas. I don’t like to give them worksheets, grade their papers, or monitor the volume of their voice. I love teaching children about God, His promises, and help them find joy in the person God made them to be. I don’t like teaching them reading, math, science, and social studies. I like to interpret their behavior and help them find meaningful alternatives to poor choices. I don’t like moving their name up and down on a clip chart.

I can’t think of anything more exhausting than faking “passion” for so long. I hate being a classroom teacher. That’s okay! There’s many other things I love. I love administrative tasks. I love counseling. I love helping. I love hard work. I love writing. I love music. I love children! There’s nothing wrong with me. I’m just not a bubbly person.