I have lived my life by the bell for as long as I can remember. First… grade school, middle school, and high school. Then, junior college and university. Then, as a mommy with school-aged kids. And finally, as a teacher.
Every bell has one single purpose…to alert us that something is about to happen. Bells on bikes, on phones, on sleighs, on doors, on cats. Bells wake us up, and tell us when to sleep. They warn us of danger, and peal during celebrations. They ring with delight, and toll for mourning. All days begin and end with bells
Except today. Today is bell-less.
I officially began my unplanned, way-too-soon “retirement” today. OY, that word. When I think of it (which I did not often do before now), visions of travel, grandchildren, and croquet came into my mind. High waist pantsuits. Perms. Kleenex in the sleeve of my cardigan. Lap blankets. These are the free-association words that appear when I hear the word “retirement.” I mean…don’t you?
Multiple Sclerosis has altered this word for me. It is a beast of a disease, that is on its own bell schedule. The difficulty comes from it not sharing this schedule with anyone. It continually sends mixed, confusing bells to my brain, allowing little wiggle room for reaction or adjustment. I wake up when I’m suppose to be sleeping, and am exhausted when I should be wide awake. I make plans to be a life-participant, but often have to back out at the last moment. I seldom have time to respond to the M.S. bells, and sometimes do not hear them at all. But just because I do not hear them, does not mean that I do not feel their effects. I try daily to stay one step ahead of those bells, just like I would encourage my students to do (“To be early is to be on time….”), but even the best preparation cannot make me totally ready for what is about to happen.
Even though I cannot control the bells to which my body is responding, this does not mean I am “RETIRED.” Man, I am far from that! M.S. has had a huge effect on my life-plans, but I am learning to modify my schedule according to my new bell norm. For now, the bells I hear may sound a bit different than the bells I am use to. But, the positive of all of this is…
I am still listening.