Where I’ve Been, What’s Up with this Blog, and Other Misc Questions You May Be Asking

Greetings!!! WordPress tells me that it’s been eight months since I’ve posted to this blog. That’s a long time not to write. Maybe you’ve been wondering what I’ve been up to. Maybe you’ve forgotten that I’ve existed. Either way, here’s a quick synopsis of where I’ve been, the new directions my life has taken, and where I see this blog moving.


What I’ve been up to:

Once I got that faculty job in Fall 2014, I stopped writing as frequently on the blog. Why? Blogging for me was always an outlet to figure out my journey with chronic illness. It was a way for me to chronicle how I felt and where I saw myself going. It was a place where I could write down memories I knew I would forget, and a place for me to return to whenever I needed to look at the past and try to ascertain progress. It also served as an amazing way to answer the question of how I got to where I am today. Once I started working that faculty job, things changed for me. Life got a whole lot busier because I was doing a whole lot better. Things were still weird with family, but I had found a good rhythm. Besides, I was working three jobs — teaching, retail, and tutoring — and those took a lot of time and energy.

Then in Fall 2015, I returned to graduate school and moved back to Beaverville. Life was a bit simpler except for the fact that I was trying to cram two semesters into one, including such herculean tasks as reading 60 books in one term, passing comprehensive exams, teaching, and taking three classes. Somehow I survived. And passed all the exams and the classes.

Enter Spring 2016: I was planning to defend my dissertation proposal, which by now was less amorphous than previously. However, life (or the universe) had other plans it seemed. First, my paternal grandmother got diagnosed with late stage ovarian cancer and given only weeks to live. I spent a lot of time on the road and visiting her, particularly because she kept telling people that she used to know me and I was someone special who lived far away but still took the time to come visit her. She passed away in early March which was really rough for me but probably good timing for her.

At the same time as her diagnosis, my new adviser suggested that I take a completely different angle on my dissertation project. He said that it would simply be a reorientation on my existing project. I knew that it would be a completely different project. At first, I was mad, but then I realized that he had identified a very finite, concrete project that I actually understood and knew how to accomplish. Plus I could get more training from him and could finish sooner. So I set aside my first proposal (maybe a second book?) and took on this topic. By now I have a working proposal that I’m planning to defend in the early fall, after I complete several months of research. (It’s a bit out of order, but nothing in this grad program has followed the beaten path, so what’s one more detour?)

Literally a few days before my grandmother passed away, someone new entered my life. The timing, as you could imagine, was not my idea of ideal. However, we started talking online, and he was genuinely supportive of me as I tried to navigate writing an obituary and helping my dad decide whether we were going to have a funeral or a graveside service and cleaning out all my grandmother’s possessions. Shortly after I got back to Beaverville, we had our first in-person conversation. And we’ve been talking (online and on the phone) and taking walks around the neighborhood ever since.

At this point, I’m not really sure what his role in my life will be long-term. I’m still pretty confused about where the Lord is leading me and why He arranged for all these things to happen at the same time. Some of the fellowship I’ve gotten is to just be open to the possibility that this is the Lord’s perfect arrangement even though I know in my head that there are too many things going on all at the same time. In the mean time, I’m praying and trying to just take things one day at a time.

Which brings me to the next point: where this blog is going now. I realized that one way I’ve worked things out in my life before has been to write on this blog. It was a good way to preserve memories without dwelling on them. I’ve been considering it for a while, but I’ve decided that this blog can become a place where I can write about “the boy” (that’s what I’ve decided to call him on the blog), the things that we’ve done, the emotions that I’m feeling, and the crossroads that we’ve come to. Some of the posts will be password protected. At some point, some of those posts may become public; or perhaps, they will only exist for me. Either way, I want a record for myself of how I’m feeling and the situations I’ve run into. Mostly so that I don’t have to hang on to the past and can live in the present. If at some point in the future I need to revisit the past, it will be there. And if life takes yet another turn and I don’t need a written diary any more, I’ll probably disappear again.

Also, dealing with all of these new changes has coincided with some health issues flaring up again. Which, if not anything else, means more scenes playing out in doctor’s offices. So don’t be all that surprised if you see some of those again.

Thanks for tagging along for the ride. Feel free to read selectively. I may post some retroactive posts before this one just to keep things in order (since I am a historian after all.)

See you around,
Abigail Cashelle

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Looking Back

I’ve been doing some serious reflecting as I’m looking toward the future, and I’ve realized that I’ve come a really long way in the last 24 months. Reading through old emails and paging through my planner, I notice that I was juggling so many things and struggling with managing my healthcare all the time. Now it’s something that I only think about sometimes. Sure, some days I’m really exhausted and only feel like lying in bed all day. But still. It’s nothing like the way that things were before. And, I’m so much happier.

I’m so grateful for the opportunities and blessings that medication has brought me. Taking low doses of the muscle relaxant tizanidine has definitely changed my life. I’m also very thankful for the people that God has placed in my life who have been so generous and patient and encouraging throughout this journey. There’s been the doctors, of course, but also several therapists and my boss at my retail job and my boss at my school. I still wish that my family would be more supportive or even more aware of my existence, but I think my expectations are realistically lower.

Just thinking out loud,
Abigail

Working Retail Plus Teaching… and other Random Thoughts

So I just finished reading tons of posts on Ludo Stories: Tales of Triumph and Tragedy after Law School. Then I penned a long letter to Ludo, which I traditionally never do, because his blog has been a big source of inspiration to me, and I like telling people that they have a positive impact on my life. After I hit send on the letter with at least three postscripts (!!), I thought of yet another thing that I wanted to tell him. And I realized that while I could send him yet another comment, it was probably worth actually updating my blog instead. This post is for Ludo and for all my loyal readers who have not abandoned me after two months of silence. Thank you.


As you may recall, I am now a part-time instructor. I teach history at a local university, and I love it! It has been extremely time-consuming and also emotionally fulfilling, so I haven’t had the need or the time to devote to this blog. Anyhow, as I was writing this evening, it suddenly dawned on me why I was so invested in my lecture content today. Allow me to invite you into my classroom:

…the Gilded Age, which spans roughly from 1870 to 1890. This time period is known for its corruption in business and politics, which resulted, among other things, in a very stark wealth inequality. As intellectuals tend to do, many intellectuals debated this social dilemma at the time and came up with several theories about the present social stratification: (1) “Survival of the fittest”. Deserving people are rich. Undeserving people are poor. To help the poor is to fight nature. (2) The rich have a responsibility to help the poor but only in the way that they see fit. This often means providing resources to the poor from a distance. (3) Good people should improve society by launching campaigns to remove vices like drinking to excess and illiteracy in order to providing the opportunity for deserving people to have a chance to rise above their circumstances.

Back to the soapbox: So the thing is that I firmly believe that not working hard and not being educated and not following the rules sets you up for failure (or at least trouble), but I don’t believe that the inverse is true. I see at my retail job good people who are stuck for working minimum wage because they have a criminal record or they don’t have a high school diploma and they feel stuck where they are. And I want (most) of these people to have the opportunity to do better because they’re good people who are my friends (at least at work.) But the rough part for me is that I work very hard, I’m very well educated, and I followed most of the rules. And it’s hard to figure out how I got to the place that I am.

One customer told me the other day that I was lying when I said that I had a degree from the neighboring university because anyone who did would not be working a job like I was. And I was floored. I just laughed at him and said, Good one! because I didn’t know what else to say. But it’s hard sometimes. Because the reality hurts. It really does. And I feel like the lion is roaring and winning all over again. Why can’t I have a job that I can be proud of and post on FB, etc?

There is a reason why I choose this particular point to emphasize to my students. It’s definitely only a part of the Gilded Age, but I think it’s important to understand the assumptions that society makes about certain outcomes and how ingrained they are in our perceptions of the world. These assumptions are not new, but looking at them from a distance can sometimes be a light-bulb moment. As hilarious as Social Darwinism sounds today, an awful lot of the time I find myself sliding into that presumption. And I want my students to pause and think about it. Because life doesn’t always turn out the way you think. And you might wind up on the receiving end of these presumptions.

The thing that I have to remind myself is that I know exactly why I’m working the retail job and I know what’s in it for me. I need to be there because I need the cash but also the somewhat flexible hours. I need the human interaction to keep me from going crazy. I need the opportunity to constantly practice interacting with people and working with panic attacks and facing tough situations with other people. This particular job is a safe space for me to do that and provides a means for me to talk through situations with management so that I can actually improve and become a better person. I’m lucky to have the manager I do who understands this. But every time someone gets promoted over me or a guest tells me that I’m not smart enough or I’m better than this or whatever, I try to remind myself that it makes sense for me right now in this particular moment. And that’s all that matters. But that personal confidence has taken a long time to come to, and it sure would be nice if more people were on board with a broader view of life and the curveballs it throws us. In the mean time, it’s nice to know that I’m not alone. Thanks Ludo!

Abigail

P.S. A followup on my last post: I wound up with over 80% participation in Operation Gratitude!! I mailed a huge box of over 100 letters and felt very accomplished. Definitely a highlight of that semester. (I tried to write at least one letter every day of the challenge and penned at least 20. If you haven’t figured it out already, I like writing letters!)

Honored to be Chosen…

as the Advocate of the Month for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog.

Briefly, succinctly, mesothelioma is an aggressive type of cancer that attacks the lining of the lungs and/or abdomen. It’s primarily a result of exposure to asbestos but can take many, many years to surface.

I wrote a little bit more about Robert and tried to add a whimsical twist to the story. If you know me in real life, you know that I like to tease people that the mere fact that they are tall makes them special. Come to think of it, I think my fascination with Robert and Matthew’s height started it all.

I only have a few memories of life before age 5 — being chased by a goose, my best friend’s family moving to Russia, and Matthew and Robert. Matthew and Robert are memorable because they were tall, so tall in fact that they were the only two people in my whole church who had to duck to fit through a doorway….

Read more: http://www.mesothelioma.com/blog/authors/warrior/advocate-of-the-month-july-2014.htm#ixzz36YvEqxLD

Abigail Cashelle

Stressed Out…

Life has been stressful. I’ve been juggling new work schedules, going to physical therapy, trying to figure out taxes, getting ready to go back to St. Jude’s, etc. Sorry if I’ve been MIA. Life has been taking a priority. I hope to be back soon!!

Best wishes,

Abigail

5000 years old

… I have a million posts in my head, but the truth is that I feel like a 5000 year old man. That doesn’t give me very much time for writing (but a lot of time for thinking and resting.)

I will return at some point, hopefully soon!

Abigail

HAWMC 1: Why I Write

I write because

  • I need space to record all my thoughts & hash them out
  • I need someone other than my bestest friends hearing about all the trials of my life
  • sometimes really beautiful things happen and I want to keep track of them
  • I can look back at my life at a later date and reflect; (I am a historian, after all!)
  • my friends always tease me about having a super interesting memoir; now I can say, I’ve already got that, and seriously, I just want a boring life!!
  • even though my life has a lot of surprises, there are so many things and people that I’m grateful for

Abigail Cashelle

HAWMC 2013

Dear readers,

I finished one of my comprehensive exams. That means that I put away one stack of 25 books (hopefully!!) I’ll find out if I passed by early next week.

The amorphous blob? The defense for that proposal is coming up in a very small number of days. And I do have another exam looming in about two weeks. So all in all, a lot going on here in the school front.

On a different note, the Health Activists Writer’s Month Challenge is coming up in April!!! Believe it or not, April is going to be a crazy, crazy month for me with family stuff, school stuff, medical stuff, … the usual stuff, so I doubt I’ll be blogging every day. BUT I am participating to the best of my ability because ::drumroll:: they’re featuring a prompt of mine!!!

April 22: Day to Day — prompt #1: Write about something ordinary that’s inspiring to you, something simple, perhaps overlooked, that fuels your activism.

Look for it!! Write about it!! Read my post (when I write and post it!!) And just generally have a very good month of April.

Sincerely,
(a slightly giddy) Abigail

Out of Her Lack

I started this post over a month ago… maybe it’s time to finish it and click “publish”?


For they all cast in out of their surplus, but she, out of her lack, has cast in all she had, her whole living. (Mark 12:44)

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about life and illness and relationships and community. A recent post by Adrianne at Wife of a CFS Sufferer got me thinking. I’ve decided that if my life is to have meaning today, then I can’t be waiting for the day when my life is different. Because that day may never come, and in the mean time, I want my time on earth to count. I’m starting to realize though that living with this vision means more than that.

For they all threw in out of their abundance; but she, out of her deep poverty, has put in everything that she had—[even] all she had on which to live. (Mark 12:44)

It’s not simply that this woman acknowledged the fact that she had something and therefore gave the obligatory 10%. She didn’t have almost anything, but she gave all that she had.

I’ve realized that sometimes it’s not about counting my blessings. It’s okay to acknowledge loss, to recognize poverty. But that reckoning leads to giving. Giving to others, giving to God, giving to myself.

After a while, writing about silver linings gets old. Looking on the bright side gets harder and harder. Because the truth in front, the truth that’s staring us down, is that our journey is hard, that so much that others have is missing. But I’ve begun to realize that my response is changing. I’m spending less time counting what I have. But I’m also giving… a lot. Giving time, giving attention, giving love, giving knowledge.

Just some thoughts I’ve been pondering,
Abigail