The teacher’s schedule is admirable in many ways. The school day is technically over at 3:45 p.m., at least by our union contract. I don’t know many teachers who make it out of the building on the dot every day. I seldom do, but I’m not a veteran yet.
We get nice breaks around the end-of-the-year holidays, a week for spring break, and, of course, summer vacation.
One way a teacher’s schedule is unenviable: There are no errands done during the day. I have a half-hour for lunch, during which I conduct all personal business including my lone bathroom break of the day.
So, the perceived rapture of spring break is blunted by the backlog of doctor appointments and tasks delayed during the session.
My spring break highlight was a trip to the McFarland Clinic in Ames to get cortisone shots in both of my arthritic knees. My previous shots had worn off and I moved powered by grunts and groans for the last month before the break.
My doctor’s needle hit the spot and my knees are now tolerable for walking. Make no mistake, I am not taking long strides down the hallway unassisted. I’m still using a walker. It just doesn’t hurt as bad.
The steroid treatment comes with its risks. The biggest, I think, is that eventually, it will stop working.
That will be a truly sad day because I will either need surgery or a wheelchair.
I’m not a good candidate for surgery. I live with diabetes, and I am morbidly obese. I also have high blood pressure and probably a few other problems I’ve forgotten.
I know physical therapy and exercise are potential remedies, but that will have to wait until summer break.
The limitations to my mobility come with their own form of existential dread. There are a lot of open-ended worries. If my legs fail, how will I take care of myself? My parents are elderly and, really, they’ve done enough.
Likewise, most of my close friends either have families of their own to tend to or are older than me.
I never married and have no prospects, let alone desire.
This kind of thinking makes a toxic mix with my longstanding anxiety. I started an ambitious — and larger than I thought it was — spring cleaning project in my apartment.
Part of it involved me getting on the floor to stack some books on a shelf.
The worst pain I get from my knees is when I put my full body weight on my knees to stand up. Even with fresh cortisone shots, the struggle to get off the floor left my joints screaming in agony.
I bought an Apple Watch a year or so ago. I hated to set aside my lovely Drake University watch, a graduation present. However, the Apple Watch has a feature that senses if you’ve fallen and calls 911 if you don’t tell it to stop.
I recall the “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!” commercials from my youth. We laughed at those then. Now I know the true terror.
I got up, of course. This column was typed from my easy chair.
The spring-cleaning project was completed, albeit with an overly generous assist from a dear friend.
The frustration and self-loathing that builds up inside me when I can’t do something on my own is something I need to work on in behavioral therapy. I don’t like the overused phrase “new normal.” I am reminded of the line from a Bruce Cockburn song: “The trouble with normal is it always gets worse.”
However, limited mobility is, for now, my new normal.
I need to be thinking about ways to change my life to fit that rather than being peeved that things are not the way they used to be.
To quote another song, this one by Fleetwood Mac, “Yesterday’s gone. Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow.”
Middle school teacher Daniel P. Finney is a Marion County Express columnist.
Daniel P. Finney wrote for newspapers for 27 years before being laid off in 2020. He teaches middle school English now. He writes columns and podcasts for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating $10 a month to help him cover the expenses of this site. Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311. Zelle: email@example.com. Venmo: @newsmanone. PayPal: paypal.me/paragraphstacker.