I dream that I am teaching again, have two classes: a grade 9 Math first thing in the morning and a senior History last period. I am late, so someone else has to start the Math class, and when I do arrive, I am unprepared and uncertain that I can proceed. Last class is more club-like than a classroom and I struggle to be heard until another teacher comes to help. Nothing is working and I have to admit that it is all beyond me.
One of the functions of dreams is to aid in processing prevalent life issues. Since illness struck in 2014, I have not been able to work: a situation that haunts me relentlessly. I truly believed that teaching was my life’s calling.
I go over and over in my head, how I could make it work. Teaching only one or two classes is a solution I always land on, but the dream reminds me that I would have no control over my schedule, nor what I taught. Having two classes at either end of the school day would solve nothing in terms of managing energy. As the dream reminds me, I could be asked to teach anything (and have) whether it’s in my area of expertise, or not. (Math and History are definitely not what an English/French teacher would choose.)
The crucial message in the dream, though, is that I would arrive late and unprepared – two things I’d never do when I was well. Mornings, I am reminded, are my worst time of day now, as battling the fatigue and lethargy in my body is a constant challenge. Even at the end of my teaching days, I would fall asleep at the wheel on the way to work – part of why I conceded to go off in the first place. That has not changed, in fact; I no longer drive.
I also would not have the energy to prepare for classes that I once had. In the past, I would spend hours each day putting together lessons for the days ahead, trying to be organized enough to handle any situation that might present itself. I just don’t have the stamina necessary to do that right now, as the dream gently points out.
Before I was diagnosed with ME/CFS, I struggled each day with being able to get enough air to project to a classroom. Standing and sitting became a struggle. I would sweat, and the harder I tried to pull myself together, I felt on the verge of passing out. I now know this is characteristic of the disease, and as much as I’d like to think I could overcome the other challenges of teaching, the reality is, my body is just not capable.
Disability is so much more than just a physical challenge. It is about loss of livelihood. It is about losing a sense of self, purpose, and conceding to a path no one would choose for themselves. It is mentally coming to terms with the fact that how you once defined yourself is no longer relevant, and that going back is not an option, no matter how much your soul yearns for it.
At the end of the dream, I surrender to the fact that I have a long way to go before I can teach again. Maybe, I’ll never get there.
Maybe, hopefully, in the letting go, I will find renewed purpose.