I was going to post a brief announcement: “Due to the unfortunate event of contracting an ordinary virus, this week will be post-free.” But it’s Friday now and I can about sit up to my computer desk again without feeling like a bashed flower that should have been tossed out days ago. I should have paid better attention to the initial impulse to duck and cover my head, but I had to lose my fight. I had to be oddly entranced by illness so that I could let go.
Day 1: A ticklish spot in the middle of my chest becomes a sudden, dry cough. Annoying. It is threatening to undermine my walk with my sister and her two dogs. I did find the scone and tea we had earlier less than delectable. I did feel a bit lackluster before I even met with her. A fine, chilled mist descends as we walk and talk; it sinks into my jacket, maybe my skin. I carry on as if all is usual.
Day 2: The tickle that evoked the harmless cough the day before is now a cough that has taken up residence. First thought: that virus before the holidays has come back to haunt me. Well, I’ll show it. I stay indoors, mostly, as it is raining. I continue to do work around the apartment. Talk to family. Work on this year’s writing plans as well as others. A flash of heat stuns me. It trails a peculiar siege of coldness that I try to banish with a heavier fleece. I decide a good night’s sleep will make all the difference.
Day 3: Except that before I even see dawn’s light the little heat waves have become hellish blasts while my own polar vortex alternates. Even with my fleece, sweatpants, three blankets. Do I seat to death or freeze to death? Sleep is a beautiful dream I cannot find. My joints lock and groan. My chest is heavy. There is not one spot on my wonderful bed that welcomes and soothes me.
Upon awakening, I know what this germ is but I will not say it aloud. I huddle on the couch with a stack of magazines (untouched), a big box of tissues for the thunderous cough. At hand are a glass of water plus a mug of tea. I take some medicine found in the cabinet. Crackers appeal less than I had hoped. I flip through daytime television channels, telling myself it is like a bargain rate vacation, a good reason to not write, clean, take my usual power walk, or think. It doesn’t make me happier to look at it that way. Except I can skip the gym tomorrow. May as well try to relax–although my diaphragm muscles are gripped by spasms with each series of coughs. I note that even my toes and fingers hurt now.
My husband seems afraid to come near me later. He makes robust chicken soup which I try to eat though an appetite is not what I would describe as having. I immediately regret it.
Day 4: For two days the inside of my brain has been on fire. And then it instantly freezes. My bones are rods of pain. It is then the beautiful and terrible image of a cobra comes to me. I float and sweat and shiver and sway right along with the coppery snake with hooded head, and I follow it back and forth, back and forth so the dizziness that ensues is enough to transport me right out of my skin. I grasp the blanket, then cover my head. And finally surrender. Food is not my friend, but then, neither is a deep breath or someone’s shadow passing over me. I would like to vanish.
Alright, call it what it is: the flu. It is that viral cobra: it has hypnotized me, and it has struck. But I plan to outlive its attack, despite its seeming otherworldly powers. (And I do know flu can kill, which chills me further.) But how? When?
Day 5: I stand up from the disarrayed bed. My legs feel rather like they have been replaced with pipe cleaners, weak and wobbly but stiff. My skin hurts. I slowly make my way to the bathroom. And decide I need to shower. Once in the shower, I realize my mistake. Who needs to be clean? Who needs this strange elemental water on tenderized flesh? I am desperate to get out and manage to do so, the room starting to spin. I find motion sickness medicine and pop a pill in between coughing spells. My stomach lurches.
Then to the couch. It makes me feel less ill to be there. Seems safer. I feel less alone hearng passersby and besides, I can yell for help if needed. (This odd behavior arises from way back when I communicated via open window to firemen responding to 911 calls for heart issues. Not being on floor level, I had to let them in the window.)
I call a daughter and put in an order for orange jello, orange popsicles, a drink mix with vitamin C and electrolytes, more tea. I see her deliver it and back out.
The couch feels a little like a boat until the medicine kicks in. I feel if I can stay on the sofa I will miraculously be okay sooner. Just have to watch a few hours of soothing “House Hunters” shows and everything will be better. I sleep. Awaken saturated in perspiration. My fever has finally broken! But my heart jumps and stumbles. I sit up, wait until it settles. I find myself talking to it, telling it to be at ease, that it is/I am strong enough, will soon be better. I need you, valiant heart, to help me now.
My heart recalibrates. I start to feel a tiny surge of energy after a couple of hours so wander to the kitchen. See unwashed dishes. I decide there are too many, even pots on the stove, crumbs on the counter. So I clean. It’s amazing how much I believe I can accomplish. I disinfect, stack the dishwasher, throw out some things my husband forgot to notice. I take paper towels and spray bottle to the bathroom and work away until all is sparkly clean. I must be cured already. I am only a little winded as I cough hard.
But in the next few minutes I am made useless by exhaustion. I fumble my way back to the couch and wrap myself up once more. I am not even close to being much better. I doze. And don’t anyone bother me with food again. Popsicles and tea, yes. Soup and crackers still despise me.
Day 6: It’s like being on a scary roller coaster ride: up and down, chilled and sweaty, excited for each break in the misery, wanting to get the heck off, just get well. It is getting a little depressing. My body is defined by myriad points of aching. I have lain down so much it is hard to move well, much less stand up. I am barely powered. I give in to the numbing impact of television, watch a Gary Cooper movie, a bonus. I want to hear classical music but now find its intricacies more ..noisey.
My husband is nice from a distance. I rarely get this ill. He might be next. I pray to be granted just one walk around the block by week-end or I may completely lose my mind doing nothing but being sick and resting. I start writing this post in my head rather than be lured back to entertainment wastelands–how can folks watch daytime t.v. of their own free will? I try to imagine gaining strength and going on.
And of my oldest daughter and only son, who have been in my mind every hour of every day for weeks. For I just have this damned flu, while they have witnessed their father, my first husband, quickly sicken, then die. Have just been to his funeral. I am awash with sorrow for them, for him, again. That night I dream too much, no sweet stories. Memories of old sad things, fears of new things. I wake up angry and hurt. How frail we are, and we know it but not until we are able to, or until we must.
Nothing is working right spiritually, either, or so it seems. So I pray. And pray more. Let light return to my vision, to soul and flesh. May I wake up and be a better, more reasonable and whole being.
Day 7: This has to be it. I have been trying to rid myself of the venom of this flu-monster for about a week now. I am still coughing, have little appetite and every bone and muscle feels lightly shredded. It has been a bumpy week with visits to murky places. Humbling. This virus is a mighty thing. I’ve had to trust my body to respond as needed, to do right battle. And I have to trust my soul in the same way.
Sickness takes us to a netherworld. It can cleanse us in some deeper way even as it wreaks havoc. But this flu has not been unbearable. I didn’t end up in an ambulance as many may. My heart has been better than during other illnesses. And I learned again to not fight once the body asserts its need of surrender. Still, there are other ways to access aid besides rest. It’s vital for me to get to a greater life source, to draw on wellsprings that sustain. In this case, as usual, God. And the portals of words.
So I decided to sit down to the computer although I admit, I’m dragging. A week without writing has been far too long. I have to tell you, the sentences have come uneasily at times. There is more, an upwelling of thoughts and emotions. But not tonight. I can be patient, afterall. Now I’m ready for a beautiful, heroic symphony. May it help transform this dreary visage of illness into one that reflects well being.