Nine years ago, I was completing the final rite of passage under my education degree: student teaching. I had easy students at an easy school in the suburbs and still the whole art of teaching managed to stress the bjeebees out of me.
I wanted every lesson to be magical, like my Cold War role play that culminated in the “U.S. President” threatening to nuke the USSR. She was standing face to face with Krushchev, finger waggingi, raging about their communist economy. All the sudden she stopped in her tracks and looked up at me in the front of the room. “OH! I totally get the Cold War!” she exclaimed. We stopped and talked about it as a class.
But not every day was like that. (Duh) They can’t be. There aren’t enough hours in the day nor fairy dust in a teacher’s pocket to make that happen.
On one of those days when I couldn’t handle the fact that I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, I went into the office of my cooperative teacher, Ms. Jones to beg for help. I wanted her to rescue me from the stress and prospect of failure. I wanted her to tell me what to do and how to do it and maybe even do it for me that day. I just couldn’t do it. There were tears in my eyes.
Ms. Jones didn’t really look at me. My cooler-than-school, thirty-year-old mentor pointed at her computer and, in that bold alto voice of hers, said:
“There’s nothing in the world like having a good bra, Jessica!”
She was shopping for bras? I needed a lifeline, not a bra.
“What?!?” I gasped.
“Seriously. Treat yourself. A good bra makes all the difference.”
A good bra? Who cares about having a good bra? My five-year-old bra from Walmart was just fine, thank you.
“If you need to, show them a movie today. I have lots of good ones.”
That was all the help I got.
And I’ve spent the last nine years resenting her for it. I may, on some level, have even blamed my exit from the classroom on the lack of help I thought she gave me.
But I think I finally get it. I only wish it hadn’t taken this long.
What Ms. Jones was really saying was, “You don’t have to be perfect, Jessica. One day showing a video isn’t going to destroy the future of your students. What you really need to do today is take care of yourself.”
I’ve ordered two extra nursing bras, a second pumping bra, and a nursing camisole since I gave birth. All at about forty bucks a pop. It’s wonderful. A good nursing bra does make all the difference and I’m convinced you shouldn’t even bother pumping without a pumping bra. Why would you do that to yourself?
That, of course, is not the moral of the story. After nine years, I finally bought nice bras for me. I’ve purchased nice bras before for other reasons, but not for the simple purpose of making my life easier.
Anyone who knows me knows I find far too much pleasure in helping others to even really enjoy taking care of myself. I get deep satisfaction from living a life of purpose and service. It’s not all unselfish, for sure. I’m intensely ambitious. Last year I got an award for my service to my job. Their opening description of me went something like: “If there is something Jessica believes in, it’s work.”
When I was hospitalized two weeks ago in the midst of that frightful Addisonian Crisis, it was because my body was falling apart from undue physical stress it couldn’t adapt to because of the Addison’s. Now, while that was more an issue with how my illness was being treated at the time, the terror of watching my body and mind fall to pieces in front of me was something I will never forget.
I have to take care of myself. I should’ve started when I was a student teacher. There’s only so long you can pull twelve or fourteen hour work days. Pregnancy slowed me down. It forced me to trust and delegate. Giving birth slowed me down even more.
Often I have to eat before I feel Aria. Often I have to listen to Aria cry while I clean off wounds in my downstairs or eat a snack or take my medicine or even shower for the sheer need and pleasure of relaxing and being clean.
Last night we had guests. I thought they were bringing dinner and we hadn’t prepared anything. Everyone talked for hours. In the middle, I got up and cooked some Q’orn mushroom-based “chicken” nuggets and sweet potatoe fries. I fed myself and then my guests. I had to. I was feeling lightheaded and had to eat.
My body is forcing me to take care of me, but it should never have had to. As a woman and a mother and a human being I should take care of myself. Especially if helping others is important to me. I can’t exactly take care of my daughter if I end up in the emergency room again. But it shouldn’t even be about that extreme and, hopefully at this point, remote risk. I should take care of me because I am worth taking care of.
It’s hard to even type that, oddly enough.
So to Ms. Jones, you can finally rest easy. I’ve bought myself a proper bra. I’m taking care of me.
Only then, I think, can I truly take care of this little one: