Backwards Symphonies

“It’s been a long week — I bet you’re ready to decompose.”

I stared at my husband, blinking through the mental fog of too-many-jobs-not-enough-sleep.

“I’m not ready for the compost pile yet,” I replied, trying to figure out what his latest malapropism was meant to be.

“Or whatever the term is,” he added.

My brain finally catches up. “Decompress,” I answered.

What an incredibly long week.  I can’t remember the last time I had one like this, and in my over-busy world that’s saying something.

Wednesday last week I had a pneumonia vaccination, which left my arm so sore I couldn’t take off my jogbra without assistance, nor even get my hand up to head level until the weekend.  Moreover, I can hardly eat due to canker sores.  My doctor says am supposed to be eating more (often) because I lost weight due to previous canker sores. (I’m not on a slimming diet, I am undernourished.)  He also says that not getting enough sleep can make a person more prone to canker sores.

I had a horrible night’s sleep on Sunday. Monday there were inservice training and staff meetings in the mornings and afternoons.  Tuesday was more of the same crappy five hours of sleep and training and meetings, with adjunct prof training in the evening.  I remember my doctor’s admonishments to get in more nutrition throughout the day, but most of the time I haven’t been in places where I could get or consume such.  You would think I would be able to get to sleep early or sleep better, but no. Wednesday had yet more training and meetings, and just when I was getting tired of those, I went home to finish my syllabi and prepare for my first classes, only to realise that the crushing feeling that had been piling up all day was a developing migraine with heavy tinnitus and an ear ache and arthralgia.

Were the students not returning for the first day of school, and were I not doing my first-ever college teaching (solo, not GTA), I would have just called in sick.  Oh, did I really, really want to soak in a hot bath and then hide in bed for the next 24 hours.  But I had to get most of my syllabus finished, and find the information I needed to present the next evening.  I added in some necessary chunks of information, and then repeatedly shuffled the same pieces of paper around, until finally I realised that I didn’t have have two neurons to rub together, and that my eyeballs just plain ached.  I gave up, set upon my chair the stuff for job #2 that I had to take with me to work on during the job #1 half-hour lunch break, and crashed in bed.

Whereupon I spent the next couple hours tossing and turning because my ear hurt and my joints hurt and the noise in my head was driving me nuts and my arm was still tender and I was alternately hot and then cold and hot again.  Finally I slid sideways into fitful sleep until a cat awoke me at 3:30 to complain about the lack of kibble.  I was heartless and scooped the cat off the bed. Three hours later I had to get up, after yet another too-short night’s sleep.  Crap.

And then things got worse.

Long day at job #1, where we have new students who don’t know the system, and staff who are equally confused because there are new staff who also don’t know the system, and the returning staff are confused because there have been a number of changes in the system, and more changes keep happening throughout the day, without a good system to disseminate that information.  We hope in vain that the next day when the rest of the students return will be better, but realise that won’t happen.

When I get home I make a feeble attempt at feeding the kids, one of whom got soaked biking to the first day of college classes, and the other who is recovering from oral surgery (both of us are eating soft foods).  They are otherwise in good cheer, and I work feverishly to finish my syllabus and find the pages for the first handout. This drives me nutz, because I normally have stuff ready a week ahead of time, especially when I’m teaching a class for the first time. I’m stressed to the gills, but I have to pull it off.

I dash off to the college, stopping by the department office (in building A) to see if the roster is in my mailbox; it’s not, but the department head is there and she tells me where to find it on the Web site. Then I need to get the handouts to the copy center (in building B), only to find that in yet-another-ADHD-moment I left the syllabus on the printer at the house.  (I do this so damn often.  I began to wonder if I need a medication dosage adjustment, and then realised that what I really need is just more sleep.) Thankfully I have my laptop and flashdrive, so I can go over to the library and copy the file from my laptop to the flashdrive and the onto a library computer and then to use their printer to print it, and then make a return trip to the copy center. It is now 15 minutes before class starts at the other end of campus.

Someday I want a job with my own office so I don’t have to go through all this hassle.

Of course, I also find that key control (in building C) closed before I got on campus, so I have to drive across campus and find a second parking spot (by building D), then wait around my classroom door waiting for security to let me in.  I am not feeling as professional as I want to be at this point, and the fact that I am throwing together an impromptu PowerPoint at the last minute doesn’t help.  But once we get started, things manage to go along fairly well.  I hope.  Heaven knows what the students thought; I’d read that snacks weren’t allowed in the lab, and they said that they’d been eating and drinking in there for semesters — I told them I would check; maybe it was new policy.  (Heck, I want to have a hot drink!)  They want a break halfway through, and I forgot to do that too, in my exhausted concerns over not forgetting things or running over time.

When I get back home, I can’t sleep right away because my mind is a-whirl with details, and with the over-extended momentum of being beyond tired.  I post some files for the students on the class access page, and finally crash.

And then it’s Friday all too soon, and I drag myself from bed because I would not abandon my coworkers (in job #1) to the guaranteed chaos that this day will be.  By the end of the day, the students were no worse than expected (cussing? check. meltdown? check. arguments between students? check.)  But the scheduling SNAFUs with the busses and the parent pick-up times and I don’t even have a place to keep my purse and briefcase except in the teacher’s closet and the kids’ injuries requiring the nurse’s attention and the ongoing lack of solid schedules for the staff and individual schedules for the students and the confusion over what some of the new classes were supposed to be doing and the IEP meeting that pulled teachers away for a couple of periods and getting all the students to establish new computer passwords and teaching them how to operate their lockers and the lack of student editions of a set of textbooks but multiple copies of teacher editions … OMG.

There are no commas in that last sentence because our day did not come equipped with the luxury of commas, just a surfeit of exclamation points.

Some day I want a job with my own desk so I don’t have to deal with some of this.

You don’t even want to know what the house looks like.  The yard is just as bad.  I have no energy to take care of either.  Hubby says the water bill is $15 more than usual, and wonders if a toilet is running.  Any more, I can’t tell half the time because that noise is too similar to my tinnitus, and thus drowned out by it.  I need to add “fix toilet” to the eternal list of repairs I have to do.

Tonight I have plans to go to bed earlier and then sleep in.  My housekeeping and weeding and toilet repairs await, as does preparing for teaching the other class on Monday night.  Soon I shall have a hot bath, put on my jammies, and compose myself for sleep.

Or, maybe I will just “decompose”, like the old joke about how dead Beethoven wrote his symphonies backwards.


  1. greg said,

    18 August 2008 at 11:44

    wow what a week! Have you tried to drink ensure to add to your diet? As a quad when I can’t eat I drink ensure and it seems to help. Goodluck!

  2. Barbara said,

    17 August 2008 at 11:10

    In my family we found that increased salt intake promotes canker sores and the opposite seems make them heal faster. My hubby has a mantra that reminds me of the father-of-the-bride in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” – everything is cured by Windex. Hubby repeatedly tells the rest of us to “drink more water”. I’m starting to believe him. Hope you feel better soon.

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