It started Friday, and I could feel it creeping up on me like some venomous snake intent on finding a victim. It was stealthy, sneaky, insidious. It bit me on Saturday, the morning of my belated Valentine’s celebration with my beloved. Every inch of my skin ached, yet I went through with the couple’s massage. Every organ felt out of alignment, but we had a romantic dinner. Ultimately, all I wanted to do was sleep, so we left the hotel I had saved up to pay for and drove back home at 4:00 in the morning because I wanted my own bed, my own pillow, and to raid the stash of medication in my hall closet.
Most of Sunday I slept. I graded a few papers and then realized that my students would be suffering the consequences of my discomfort, so I gave up. Most of Monday I slept, then called in to work to let them know there was no way I could make the drive to work, let alone conduct a coherent class. And today, after this brief bit of baring my soul, I will sleep more. My ears are plugged as though someone forced a plunger into my ear canals and stretched the membrane of my eardrum too tight. I cough and bits of gunk rattle around in my chest, inflicting interior pain that feels like smalls spikes being driven into my lungs. My sinuses throb to the point that simple movement makes it feel as if my head could be used as an IED in Iraq. In short, I am miserable, and I hate being this unproductive.
I have work to do! I have papers to grade, classes to prepare for, stories that need to be written and revised, responsibilities to people and organizations that will be unmet today, and all of that is making me exceedingly crabby. Illness is for the birds, no bird flu pun intended here.
My husband likes to think metaphorically about illness. He takes the Depak Chopra approach that the illness reflects an emotional state. I wonder what kind of metaphor there is for my head being too full of snot and my chest being too full of mucus? I’m sure I could wax philosophical about “congestion of the breathing” – that I am somehow having the very breath of life suffocated out of me by my own or someone else’s actions. I’d have an easy time coming up with a long list of irritants that would fit the criteria – such as ex-spouses and their various related issues, or too much work and not enough writing. I could run down the recent events in my life and show how they have led to my stress and compromised immune system. Of course, hindsight doesn’t help to alleviate the issues in the present. Simply identifying the problems won’t help me to overcome the sneezing, itchy, watering eyes and the hacking cough that convulses my body every few minutes.
But it does do one thing for me: it verifies that my long-range goals are on the right track. It confirms that the changes I’ll be making over the next three to six months are changes that I need, and that will get my life pointed back in the right direction. It doesn’t take a mystic to know that my life drifted off course a bit, and that corrections needed to be made. So, now, lest I jinx it, I will simply say that, despite my current state of discomfort, my future dawns in promising fashion and I can return to the path that I know I was meant for: writing. It’s what I’ve wanted for nearly my entire life; it’s where I feel most at home; and it is what will help me to avoid this type of illness (the literal and the metaphorical) in years to come.
For now, I’m returning to my orange juice, my zinc supplements, my antibiotics, and my soft place on the sofa to feel miserable and grouchy. I’ll sit and think mean thoughts about people I don’t like, and come up with new ways to work them into books. Then I’ll make some chicken soup, take a nap, and pray that I wake up with a far better attitude.