Being ill with the flu is like living with a noxious varmint you cannot seem to eradicate: you endure the bad behaviors until it becomes restless or bored and leaves. Being ill right before Christmas feels like a whole posse of varmints has moved right in.
It crept up on me for a few hours and then took hold of me as I winding up facilitation of the last addictions treatment group of my work day. The sudden rawness of my throat was a less-than-gentle reminder that I was not in full command of my life. I listened to my clients as well as I could amid surges of heat and flashes of cold, offered them encouragement as a cough gathered in my larynx, and finally bade them safety and good cheer as I closed the door behind them. It was the dusty dryness, I assured myself, or the alternating blasts of hot, then air conditioned air the building startled us with all day long. But I had my doubts.
By the time I got home I was ready to surrender to a heating pad along with three blankets. I am a person who doesn’t adore for sleep, but bed looked like a haven. By nine o’clock that night it was official: the flu had arrived–or an equally vile relative. So much for work; so much for Christmas preparations. Both likely losses elicited a groan from deep within-there was so much to get done! It was a long and wakeful night.
Here I will skip over the damaging details of the next few days. Everyone knows what it is to desperately want to sleep but find it ever-elusive, to try to stop coughing only to be seized with a spasm that lasts longer than your will to survive it. Or to long for sustenance and then find food the last thing you care to discuss much less lay eyes on. The fact is, I dozed and dreamed through the days and nights. I watched too much HGTV through sore eyelids. Between coughing spells I perused magazine pictures, unable to make sense of the complex paragraphs under them. And I stopped worrying about missing work or Christmas. Instead, I drifted though fevers and breath-stealing coughs, aching nights and eventless days. The rain that loves Oregon drummed my mind and spirit into a trance I was loath to leave.
Until I counted only one more day until Christmas Eve Day. I had put up with the flu for nine somnanbulent days. I wanted it gone. I had taken medications, rested, been patient. Now it was time for prayer. I closed my eyes to the gentle hum of the vaporizer and the reassuring symphony of rain and said a prayer. It wasn’t fancy. I called on God to simply heal me, as I needed to be up by Christmas. I had three adult children with two partners and four grandchildren planning to be here for a Christmas Eve taco dinner. A spouse who needed relief from my persistent calls for cold wash cloths and tea. The tree he had decorated was cheerfully waiting to be appreciated by more than just one person. And I longed to sing carols. So I lay there and waited until I knew I had been heard. How? You might ask. But I demur; that’s another story altogether. What matters in this one is that I happily and at long last sailed into a silken sleep after my one (albeit lengthy) plea to Divine Love.
You know what happened the next day. I got out of bed, looked in the mirror and saw the white, drawn face of someone I thought I knew. I looked chastened, humbled. I felt as though my balance had been restored. My brain was on regular alert status. My legs didn’t tremble. It felt like I was getting better every minute that ticked by. In fact, I knew I was recovering because I was actually aware of time. It was only a few short hours before the family would arrive so I got dressed in real clothes and swapped Chapstick for lip gloss.
I had a blue mask from the doctor’s office at the ready for anyone who wanted it, but no one did. My fever had abated so the house was safer than some places. I ate an entire taco and tasted every bite as we talked and laughed at the long antique oak table. All twelve chairs were taken. Later, we sang carols as best we could, my small voice sounding more basso than alto. I gazed around the rooms and at the glowing Douglas Fir tree all dressed up for the occasion. The varmints were gone; my angels had definitely arrived.