(I would attribute that quotation, except that it turns out it's not really clear who said it. It's often attributed to Plato or to Philo of Alexandria, but they didn't actually say it. Anyway.)
One of the things that's really sunk in for me this year is the extent to which this quote is true. Some of it is that I'm more aware, as department head, of when and why people are taking personal days off. And sure, some folks have really good things going on, but even good things can be stressful in a way. And some people are dealing with some real crap.
Here's some of what's going on in the English department right now:
- Colleague A's mother is in the hospital. She's always been a slight woman, but she's down to under 80 pounds now -- the result of some virus, they think.
- Colleague B is pregnant -- yay! It's still early days, so I'm the only one at school who knows, and I'm sworn to secrecy. It's all going well, and she's thrilled, but she's exhausted every afternoon and feeling nauseated much of the time but is trying to keep all of this under wraps.
- Colleague C is getting married this summer, which is wonderful. She's also been dealing with significant cancerous cells and has had more than one cervical operation in the last year and a half. Oh, and her beloved dog has cancer.
- Colleague D has had a return of serious colitis, was taking medication that made her terribly dizzy, and was off on Friday for a colonoscopy.
- Colleague E has had some mysterious health concerns and has lost 20 pounds in two months. It's not clear how much of this is some unknown physical ailment and how much of it is the fact that she is in unrequited love with an FGS colleague in another department, a heart-sickness that she is very much wearing on her sleeve, much to everyone's discomfort.
Plus, there's me: Remember when D's shoulder dislocated last summer? Well, it's beein going in and out of joint all year, causing her an enormous amount of pain and seriously limited mobility. The good news is that she's going in on Wednesday for shoulder reconstruction surgery! There was a cancellation in the surgery schedule, and so her surgery is a month earlier than it would have been otherwise. But of course the good news of her imminent surgery also means that she'll be in an arm immobilizer for 4-6 weeks and then in serious physical therapy for months after that. She was apologizing to me (needlessly) that she won't be able to do anything around the house for quite some time, but of course the truth is that this has already been the case because her pain was increasing throughout the year. It's all rather exhausting, but the promise of her having a shoulder that actually works well is definitely the bright light at the end of that tunnel.
Back to the quotation: I tend to fall far too easily into the trap of comparing my insides to everyone else's outsides, assuming that while my life is falling apart, everyone else's life is fabulous. I need to remember the insight I've learned this year, which is that most people's lives are falling apart in some way or the other most of the time. And by "falling apart," I don't mean that we're not all hanging in there, just that things aren't going quite as we'd hoped or planned.