Since we last talked, I’ve morphed into a part-time insomniac. I am still sick. I took a “How anxious are you?” quiz (stupid, stupid, stupid) and ranked severe.
In unrelated news, I have sworn off symptom-googling.
This is the first long-term illness that I really remember. It is surprisingly lonely, with a touch of scary. I want normalcy for Christmas. You may pass that along to Saint Nick, since I doubt he reads my blog.
Since round two of antibiotics wreaked havoc on my whole self and didn’t work, the suggestions have filed in — get another checkup and visit four specialists, get a myriad of mineral levels checked, use those unpaid sick days, switch careers. I need help, and I do appreciate the advice and concern. But I just don’t have the energy to investigate why I have no energy.
I’m becoming increasingly bitter about it. There is a slow, sick disdain creeping up in me toward people who have it together — people who can talk and sing and run and work and stay up past 9 PM. It’s eerily tempting to scoff at your Christmas lights and greeting cards. It’s not you; it’s me. I’m turning into a little monster. I want to say, “I hope I’m not the only one,” but actually, I don’t hope this. Please don’t be like this.
In my favorite coffee shop yesterday, armed with two kinds of drugs, lobbying for a third, trying to cure a migraine and take a nap all on my lunch break, I found myself pretty fired up about the fact that I wanted whole milk added to my espresso.
I order small drinks with maximum fat. I said to the espresso man, “Some people buy large drinks with no fat. I don’t understand. Why sell yourself short?” which is short for my philosophy of food, which is, “Why sell yourself short when it comes to fat?” which worked out far better for me when I logged more than no miles.
He concurred, we had a foodie moment, I collapsed in a chair. Then a vibrant young woman bounced in, wearing workout clothing, and ordered a large pumpkin spice latte with skim milk, and I shot espresso man a look of disdain: Give her whole, kid.
What in the name of all that is good and holy is wrong with me.
All I crave is carbs and naps, but what I actually want, stifled under all this heaviness and congestion, is still more than that. I want strength for conversations and cookies and greeting cards. I want optimism for when I wake up again and again and it’s still dark. I want so much to change and heal, for some magical moment to resurrect the feeling part of my soul, the part that was kind and gentle, even when trampled and cold and tired.
Yesterday, I rushed back into my car, fleeing nonfat milk, juggling a latte and drugs and frozen pierogies. I spilled coffee on my pants, misplaced my phone, retraced my steps, found my phone, struggled into the car, took five pills, and settled back into my reclined seat in the rain, and there I was — a sick soulless little monster determined to spend the last ten minutes of her lunch break in deep hibernation.
My siblings are home from college for Christmas. My sister is sick with the flu and told her boyfriend that he might as well continue his voyage home, since she’ll just be on the couch for the next few days. I think that’s been my husband’s life since September. I am uninteresting and monstrous and sick on the couch. (To their credit, both men stand faithfully by while we hack in their faces.)
A dear friend of mine married the love of her life last month. The whole thing from beginning to end was good and fitting and beautiful. The officiant, during the ceremony, asked us if the bride was not, in fact, the very definition of radiant. And she certainly was.
Without any bitterness toward my fabulous friend, though, that moment helped me put into words something I’ve struggled with for a painfully long time: What happens when you stop being radiant?
This might be a characteristic question for one of last year’s brides, but I wouldn’t know — and I think that in all of us who want to do right, there are seasons when we wonder whether we’ll ever stop being (with reference, as always, to You’ve Got Mail) the worst version of ourselves. When your best characteristics stop flowing, and you’re done being brave or kind or responsible; when you receive a card from a student’s parents thanking you for your “sweet and caring” nature and you sort of want to die. When you wake up in the morning, face yourself in the mirror, and go, “Oh, God, that’s not good.”
I guess this is real life in the emotional trenches, and this is where grace kicks in, or pleads that you finally acknowledge it — acknowledge that all the beauty and radiance and health you claimed once was only there in the first place because of grace lived out in the Holy One who spins the universe, needs no ibuprofen, knows all your atoms and dispels your fears.
I don’t have any good answers for this, not really, not fleshed out in real life. Living a quiet and semi-faithful life so far hasn’t let to bursts of radiance, but to bigger and longer trials that threaten to squash dreams and promises and creativity. The Lord and I are working constantly to dredge the bitterness out of my soul. He extends his help, in ways I don’t understand, and I live, beaten and tired but ransomed and trying to savor today’s graces. And I strive to turn savior to connaitre, to know fully what I know sort of —
that although we are cold and ungracious and congested, we are perfectly and permanently loved. Dark and lovely little monsters.