So. I met The Girl at the airport on her return from Israel on Christmas Eve. She was not too much delayed, despite all the freezing fog, and we got straight on the road to my dad's. The journey to Darkest Hampshire felt very long (but I think it was only a couple of hours), and on arrival I had a bit of a funny turn, thanks to all the pressure on my painful joints, collapsing on the sofa for the rest of the afternoon. My Dad and his lovely partner were very nice about it all, though, and gave us cups of tea and lovely food. When I had perked up a bit, we went to Midnight Mass at a local church. This turned out to be a very odd combination of high church and evangelical, meaning that we got all the ritual and a long, dull sermon, and it finally finished at about 12.45am. This is too late for any midnight service to end. Hmph. I think The Girl enjoyed bits of it, although she's never keen on services with too much "Jesus stuff", and that's kind of central at Christmas. I left feeling all cheery and redeemed, though. :D
Christmas Day was much fun. The dad and the lovely partner put on a marvellous spread, and The Girl enjoyed her first Christmas, especially the old tube maps I got her (one is from 1913 - I am very impressive), as well as the Bill Bailey DVD and linguistics book and other cool stuff. I slept through most of the day - kept having to go back to bed. My slightly weakened state prompted some long, tortuous conversations about work and the future, the conclusions to which I shall outline in a moment. I missed all the good TV, including Narnia and Doctor Who, getting up just in time for some more food. Then we went to bed properly and did some more sleeping.
Yesterday being Boxing Day, we left early to get to the sister and the brother-in-law's place. The mother and her silent-but-nice partner joined us there a bit later. More conversations about my slightly weakened state. More food. Everyone liked the presents we had got them. I was given the new Killers CD and some other impressive stuff. My mother intended to give us Habitat vouchers too, but they got lost somewhere. She thinks she may have thrown them out. This is typical mother and rather amusing. We said not to worry, but she is determined to replace them. We had a lot of conversations that started off being about me and changed to being about her within about five seconds. The Girl hasn't really seen this first hand before, and was apparently wondering why I didn't tell my mother that I was in the middle of saying something. I explained how I have learned that this takes more energy than it's worth. Then the brother-in-law's sister arrived with her utterly beautiful baby girl. I have never enjoyed holding a baby before. I wouldn't give her to anyone else for quite a while. She is completely amazing, and so good. I don't want one, though. No no. Nope. (The Girl was so pleased that she said "I may never see this again" and took pictures of me with baby. Hmm...)
So. It's been a long three days. I'm fairly sure that I'm quite rapidly deteriorating rather than improving. There is a lot of pain, not enough energy to get up stairs or do car journeys or finish dinners, I am barely sleeping at night, and the muscles in various bits of me (including, irritatingly, my hands) have almost given up altogether. This, put together with various short-but-pointed bits of advice from doctors and other good people, including family and The Girl, who can see what things are like for me at the moment, has led to the following conclusion: I think I'm giving up my job. It seems like an utterly ridiculous thing to do, being such a fantastic job, and given how much I love teaching, but it's fucking well killing me at the moment. When I got this job in the summer, and realised how great the conditions were, and what my classes would involve, and indeed when I saw my first payslip, I expressly told The Girl never to let me leave it. However, it's clear that I'm looking at a timescale of at least a year until I'm properly better, maybe more. If I go back to work, even doing the four days a week that they've suggested, there will be no energy left to do anything else, including to take care of myself. This will not only affect The Girl (who is already looking after me a lot more than she should be), but my quality of life. And if get worse, which is entirely likely given how hard I work when I'm teaching (usually 50 to 60 fairly intense hours a week), then I could set back my recovery and end up being sick for years. I don't like that idea. Not one bit. Being sick for months is quite long enough already.
I am extremely sad about this, and am feeling more than a bit guilty, despite being happy about the decision I've made (if that makes any sense at all). It is indeed an excellent job, and I'm letting them down by leaving now. But - and here's my other big reason for leaving - I am already letting them down as it is. My students are not being taught properly (some classes are not being taught at all), and I don't think they will be while I'm off sick. If I give proper notice and finish officially, the college will have to find someone to replace me, probably as quickly as possible. This is so much better for them, and for the students, than me phoning in every day and saying I'm having another day (or week, or month) off. There will be a lot more continuity and decent teaching for my classes. I will miss my students so much, which is the most painful thing about all this - but it really is the best thing for them, and for me.
The next question that arises is: what do I do with myself now? This is where I could do with any advice that anyone has. First of all, I have no idea if I can get statutory sick pay if I don't have an employer. Which, given that I'll be signed off for a while yet, would be a useful thing to know. I'm going to see the Citizens Advice Bureau people as soon as they're open again, but anyone who knows anything about this, do feel free to comment or e-mail me. When I'm feeling a bit better, though, I plan to look for part-time work - either tutoring from home, or sessional teaching (which isn't too badly paid), or something else for two or three days a week, or a combination of all three. That will depend on how a) much better I start feeling, b) how quickly that happens, c) how quickly I get physiotherapy etc, and d) what the M.E. specialist says. Money will be extremely tight for a while, but we have savings, and The Girl (who is the most amazing person in all the world yes she is) is completely behind me with this and willing to help wherever she can. My father is also happy to give me a bit of money for a while - which, again, I'd rather not accept, but needs must, and he is very sweet to offer. So I think we'll survive. I could also do with advice on what to do with myself while I'm signed off work, given that it could be for a while, and that I'm not allowed to do part-time work meanwhile. (I currently plan to learn a bit of Hebrew, carry on with sign language and read up on theology.)
Oh, and my final problem is how to persuade my manager - who really likes me and also won't really want to be inconvenienced by having to find a new teacher - that I really do want to leave.
I hope everyone had good Christmases/seasonal breaks.
Cross-posted, and all that, because advice is good.