Teaching

Watching myself lecture in class today, I realized that there’s this emotional energy I get from teaching and from getting a whole class to take a journey with me that i s really amazing. Everyone keeps telling me the same thing. I seem like this quiet, subdued instructor (or kid really) until the second class starts. And then try and interrupt my class. People walk in or out of class? Yup, just fold it straight into the lecture.

I’m finally in my element. And having so much fun. It’s a great feeling to have. And such a long time in coming. So much work led to this point. And it’s finally feeling worthwhile.

Even though I get exhausted and still have to spend long periods of time in bed or just resting, it finally feels like I’m where I’m meant to be. The exciting part is that everyone can tell, too. Students and colleagues tell me all the time that they’re big doubters until the second my class starts. And then there’s no doubt in their mind. This is it. The real Abigail has arrived.

It’s an amazing feeling.

Abigail

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Personality Test: the Sensitive Doer

I have a penchant for taking personality tests. Partly because I’m just curious & I like having external validation. Partly because I’ve noticed that this journey of having a chronic illness has had a significant impact on my personality. I’ve definitely mellowed a lot, but other subtle things have changed as well.

Anyhow, the latest personality test brands me a “sensitive doer“. It says,

Sensitive Doers are gentle, modest and reserved persons. They cope well with everyday life and like their privacy. With their quiet, optimistic nature, they are also good, sought-after listeners and other people feel well in their company.

All in all, this type is the most likeable and friendliest of all personality types. Tolerance and their regard for others distinguish their personality. They are very caring, generous and always willing to help. They are open to and interested in everything that is new or unknown to them. However, if their inner value system or their sense of justice is hurt, Sensitive Doers can suddenly and surprisingly become forceful and assertive.

While I’m not convinced that I’m either a gifted artist or a very good craftsman, it is true that I tend to avoid conflict & politics, preferring team work that capitalizes on people’s strengths. I may be terrified of live animals, but I am good with small children (when it doesn’t interfere with illness!)

Just another day in the life,

Abigail

PFAM: How Has Your Life Changed?

It’s time for another edition of Patients for a Moment‘s blog carnival. This month, Lorna at Life with RA asks: How has your life changed since your diagnosis?

It’s a really hard question for me to answer. I got sick around the same time I came of age. I first started noticing symptoms around my second to last year of high school but didn’t start seeing a physician until the summer between high school and college. It’s a period of life where a lot of things are changing. So, sure, illness changed a lot of what that looked like. But it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what’s different.

I’ve written about ways in which my illness has altered my life and my person before. But Lorna’s question made me reconsider what has stayed the same.

In one of my favorite movies, one of the minor characters explains that archaeology is more than just finding bones. She notes that people of the past left so much of themselves for us to find. While there are always a lot of gaps, she’s fascinated by what is left, by what endures.

That notion resonates in my heart a lot. It’s what remains that matters. That’s the core of who you are. Nothing and no one can take that away.

So here’s a list of things that I’ve noticed have stayed the same for me:

  • Writing letters: I love writing letters. When I was in junior high, I used to consider writing letters my ministry. I wrote to as many as 10 friends a month!! Now I’m part of a postcard swap on Ravelry, I write my friends who are missionaries twice a month, and I still write my grandmother once a month.
  • Quiet observer: I’ve always been the quiet observer. I’ve never been the loud person at the center of the conversation. But I’m taking in all sorts of context clues, so I remember lots of little details later. I can figure out what a person’s favorite color is by looking through pictures on facebook or find out if my cousin is engaged by asking the right people the right questions.
  • Listening: I love listening to other people tell their stories. I always have. In fact, I’m primarily an aural learner. That means it’s really easy for me to become friends with people who are talkers. It matches my love for history. It’s made me a great student, someone who can listen to doctors or friends or whoever. It also means I have a lot of empathy. And I am on the phone a lot!
  • Organized: I have always been extremely organized. I sort through information really easily. I always have numbered lists and I know how information is related to each other. I’m still extremely organized — just about different things than before.
  • Heart for people: I’ve always had a heart for people. When I was younger, it was my imaginary friends in primary school  or the sick children I read about in books. Now I’m the girl writing to the young man injured in the Boston bombing or praying for her doctor’s child.
  • Sickness: I have never been interested in medical care. When I was in high school, I volunteered at a hospital because my parents made it sound like it was mandatory. I found the only place where I could avoid sick people altogether — Employee Health. It was all about making sure people were healthy!! But I’ve always had a huge heart for the afflicted. I’m not really sure why. But it definitely comes in handy now. Here are some of my favorite books from childhood: Curious George Goes to the Hospital by H.A. Ray; Born to Trot by Marguerite Henry (where the main character wants to ride a horse in the races but winds up in a convalescent home for children; my sister was obsessed with horses but Born to Trot was the only book by Henry that I read more than once); The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (where Colin “suffers” from a hunchback & Mary from neglect); The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney (multiple characters in that book get very sick); Hitty: Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field (at least one of the girls Hitty watches over gets sick). And my favorite part about Clara Barton was that she nursed her big brother David for two years until he regained all his strength.
  • Faith in God: My faith in God and His goodness has fluctuated over the years. But it hasn’t fluctuated with my health. I’ve always had the sense that even in the worst of scenarios, He’s providing for me. He may be hiding behind the scenes, but He always shows me that He is there.

Just a few things for me that have stayed the same through sickness and health,
Abigail Cashelle

Me Time

I’ve decided that I need more me time these days. Now that I live back with my family, it’s all about being around lots of people. It’s nice. We’re getting along WAY better than I ever imagined. But, I kept wondering why I got burned out so easily. Then I realized that I had forgotten to carve out me time.

Pupcakes welcomes you!
Pupcake welcomes you!

Interestingly enough, when I was in grad school, I dedicated specific hours to me time and me projects. That’s actually when I learned to quilt (believe it or not.) Me time is not the same as work time, helping others time, being pious time, studying time, hanging out time, or doing good deeds time. It definitely does not include going to the doctor time or being in the hospital/clinic/waiting room again time. It’s about taking care of me and giving myself the opportunity to feed my soul. Being proactive about it really helps my sanity.

So today, after I helped baby sister with calculus and worked a whole bunch and visited a friend and her baby and helped my dad set up a new computer, I snuck away to do some coloring. I’ve wanted to do some for a while.

I’m currently in an adorable animal phase. I’m not really sure why. Especially since live animals scare me. But I am. So I added some new animals to my room decor. Welcome Pupcake. He’s cheery. And I love the added effect of the random buttons I had purchased on the way home from my friend’s place. Extra dimensions!!

Anyone else find me time necessary?

Sincerely,

Abigail

in a better place

So.. I moved out of the Catholic worker house completely. I am back in my apartment living with all my possessions in boxes, hoping that all of it will fit in the two cars that I’ll have to drive back to my hometown in a few weeks after I finish all my doctors’ appointments in this state!!

Moving out of the house was hard. And to be honest, I was really angry with how it went down. I guess I kind of spontaneously stopped living at the house. I’ll admit that it wasn’t logical; it was emotional. Still, after talking to Aaron and Timothy & Grace, I called my housemates and asked to talk about what was up and the fact that things weren’t working out. By the time we actually had a conversation two days later via text, I got a text that said (essentially), We’d love to have you here but since you’re not sleeping here any more, we have other people who want the space asap. You have 24 hours to move all your stuff. It made me mad. I mean, I guess I wasn’t living there any more. But seriously? We can’t talk about anything? It’s all my fault?

So, ummm, in between being very angry and extremely stressed out, I convinced a friend to help me with lifting boxes, and I talked Joseph into driving his van out to move my furniture. It was a stressful 24 hours, and I didn’t think that I’d have everything packed in time. None of those boxes are labeled; or, rather, I should say that they still have the labels from my move into the house and also from whoever used them before (and before that, too, for some of them!) But I didn’t put things back in the same box they came. So if it says “bathroom”, it’s probably either Bibles or dress clothes. Let’s hope I won’t need anything for a few weeks because I do NOT want to unpack and then pack very many boxes!!

I learned a lot of things from living in that house. A lot of things about myself. Some stuff about other people. One lesson I don’t think I’ll forget really easily: if you have a digestive health problem, you probably want to have a semi-private bathroom.* You can share it with other people. It doesn’t have to be a connecting bath. But a bathroom in the kitchen?? Across the entire house?? A nightmare waiting to happen. If people aren’t looking at you weird because “you were just in the bathroom 30 minutes ago”, you’re tripping over all the bikes in the hallway because you’re sleepily making your way to the bathroom in a very dark monster of a house and it’s the second time this night and you thought you had the geography embedded in your head already. You better believe that I’m looking for an apartment with a semi-private bathroom.

I was really, really angry. Especially since all the packing and the stress aggravated the breast inflammation/pain and woke up the costochondritis monster. The last thing I needed. I’ll be paying for it for a very long time. And really upset for not being heard. Do you know what helped? I wrote goodbye cards to every single person that lived in that house. I couldn’t really honestly write “thank you for your hospitality” cards. But I did get to know each of them a little and get to know what they’re each currently struggling with. So I wrote little notes that said I hope that you find peace in ____ and that God brightens the coming months for you. Something to that effect. Everyone got a different card, and I said something a little different to everyone. It gave me the closure I needed without me pretending that the whole experience was just fine and dandy. Because it wasn’t. (Some things like the bathroom situation weren’t exactly their fault. Other things probably were.) But I feel that I found a way to say goodbye and best wishes and to let them know that even though I needed to move out because it was best for me, it didn’t mean that I hated them or wanted them to be miserable. Because I really don’t.

The bottom line is, though, I’m in a better place. I am finished moving (for the moment). I still get to hang out with Timothy & Grace. Plus, I’m currently on a vacation from my real life and visiting a high school friend and her husband. They’ve got an awesome apartment. It’s really quiet. It has a semi-private bathroom that connects to the guest room. They have a piano. And, they live really close to some of my other friends. I’m happy.

Just the news for now from the person whose life never seems to have a dull moment,
Abigail

** Is this true for people who have permanent colostomies? Maybe there is an upside to that situation. Duncan, can you advise?

Thankful

It’s official, folks. I’ve bid goodbye to the ravenous lion. He’s going to have to find another person to feed him. I’ve got a few things left to finish out the term, but otherwise my journey through graduate school is over.

I could go on and on about it, and I might later. But in the mean time, I want to show you something. I decided to write thank you cards to all the people I encountered through the course of my program, people who took the time to help me, to listen to me, to spend with me, and to teach me. The list included classmates, professors, and church folks. It’s a good thing I decided to go card shopping. Because this is what happened:

very thankful
very thankful

I came up with a list of 23 people…. And that doesn’t even include Aaron. (I realized later that I need to go back and add him.)

Being in grad school, I’ve felt profoundly isolated. I’ve spent a lot of time wondering if I had any friends. But, when the rubber hits the road, I have more than I thought I did.

In fact, one of my classmates (who hasn’t even appeared on this blog yet) is hosting a going away party for me this weekend. It’s super sweet. I didn’t realize how many people are going to miss me. It’s kind of cool.

Abigail

A New Favorite Phrase

There have been a lot of changes in the air in Abigail world. It’s been a lot to think about all at the same time, and I keep thinking that I can’t wait until the day when the dust settles and I can actually hear myself think!!

Anyhow, I’ve been talking to my close friends like Grace and Bethany, Alana and Tabitha, and Aaron and Elliot and some readers actually. We’ve talked about just about every aspect of all these changes. I’ve even talked to physicians and former professors and current colleagues. There’s been one recurring phrase: I’ll be praying for you.

That’s been extremely comforting. I love the idea of being covered in the Body. And, I really do feel peace from God to transition out of certain things in my life. It seems that God’s calling for some big changes.

I’m nervous though. It looks like a lot of changes will happen very quickly. I don’t know what the future holds exactly. But, I’m extremely grateful to be held in your prayers. Because if there’s one thing for sure in this world, it’s God.

Abigail Cashelle

Peace the World Cannot Give

I’ve been musing over this phrase: “grant me that peace which the world cannot give.” I’m reminded of it as I pray. I’m sobered by its gravity.

He is the God of peace. He creates peace. He arbitrates peace in our heart.

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27)

Peace I leave with you; My [own] peace I now give and bequeath to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. [Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled.] (John 14:27, amplified)

In particular, I appreciated Wesley’s notes on this verse:

Peace I leave with you – Peace in general; peace with God and with your own consciences. My peace – In particular; that peace which I enjoy, and which I create, I give – At this instant. Not as the world giveth – Unsatisfying unsettled, transient; but filling the soul with constant, even tranquillity. Lord, evermore give us this peace! How serenely may we pass through the most turbulent scenes of life, when all is quiet and harmonious within! Thou hast made peace through the blood of thy cross. May we give all diligence to preserve the inestimable gift inviolate, till it issue in everlasting peace!

Our God gives us peace that He creates, the very peace that He Himself enjoys. It’s not the transient, unsettling peace of the world. But something so majestic, so harmonious, so divine.

Peace,
Abigail

part of a community

I had the opportunity to attend a baby shower for a couple that lives with Aaron. This was my gift:

meet Popcorn the Bear
meet Popcorn the Bear

Having a chronic illness makes it difficult to have friends. I spend SO much time in bed. It’s hard to get out and to get to know people. Even events like a baby shower can be tricky because it’s very rare that I’m actually feeling well enough (and caught up with enough work) to feel up to going.

But I really wanted to make it to this one. Chad and Hannah have been important to me because they’re good friends of Aaron and Timothy & Grace. Chad’s come with Aaron a lot of times to visit me when I got stuck at home for weeks on end. It wasn’t until I sat down to write a card and then later when I stepped into the house that I realized how much these people really mean to me.

I don’t spend all that much time with them. I haven’t seen Hannah a whole lot recently because I haven’t made it to prayers that often and we seem to miss each other a lot. But I realized that these are people that I love because of who they are and not because of what they’ve done or attained. I love Chad and Hannah because of their hearts for God and for man, for their simplicity, for their care for me, and for their peace. Whenever I’m around them, I feel at rest. I feel loved. I feel included. They might be the first people in my life like this.

Popcorn quilt

I made this for their new baby boy. I love the image of Popcorn the bear and his friends. The peace that comes from just being. The beauty in God’s creation. The wonder of friendship. And community.

And sitting in a room full of Hannah’s friends? I realized how many of them I knew. How many of them were excited to see me. How many of them loved my present. How I was one of them, not because of anything I’ve done or accomplished. But just by being there. Amazing.

Hannah & I loved the back, perhaps even better than the front!!
Hannah & I loved the back, perhaps even better than the front!!

My heart is full.
Abigail Cashelle

Crying out to the God of my salvation

This song has been echoing in my heart recently:

Lord, my prayer is not for deeper suffering,
But that from each trial I’d be free.
Let the cup of bitterness be taken;
Yet, Thy will, not mine, dear Lord, must be.
Even now, though trials sore surround me,
Still within my heart there is a peace,
For the love of God outpoured within me
Floods my heart and bids my doubting cease.

Blest assurance! God has fully ordered
Every matter by His sovereign hand;
Every person (though we see so dimly),
Every thing’s according to His plan.
Every trial is but the Father’s answer
To the groaning of the Spirit’s prayer;
May He gain in every tribulation,
Until we Christ’s glory fully share.

My mom sent me a CD a few months ago that has this song on it. I’ve been playing it over and over again in the car on the way to and from doctor’s appointments (since that feels like all I ever do nowadays.) Somehow it comforts my heart.

Abigail