Oh my God. I just went through what might have been the worst several days of my entire life. Really. I don’t know if that says more about the sheer misery of H1N1, or the relative comfort and safety of my life. If having the flu, even a really bad flu, is the worst thing that you’ve ever experienced, consider yourself lucky. That being said, it was so, so, so, so, so, so bad. Part of the power of the flu is its ability to relegate you, non-negotiably, to a prone position. So, you lie there – wherever there happens to be, whatever surface available is usually the case: a bed, a couch, a bathroom floor in the middle of the night, the landing on the stairs because, god, are there always this many?
you lie there and you think about little else than how completely hideous you feel. You smell your own breath. It smells, mysteriously, like pumpkins. You can actually feel sweat rolling over your ribs. Tiny off-tempo-staccato pops from within your lungs ring in your ears, which are, themselves, ringing, or is that a car alarm? No, your ears are ringing. Besides there are no car alarms, because there are no cars, because, as far as you’re concerned, the world has ceased to exist outside of your front door. Your bones feel like there are bees in them, your toes are numb. Why are your toes numb? Why does your neck hurt? You do not have meningitis. You have the flu. Can you get meningitis as a complication of the flu? Could you be the first? Maybe it’s common? You need to roll over, finish going upstairs. You roll over and your exposed calves pull away from the floor with dull, sweaty adhesion. There is dog hair, a clump of dust, and the imprint of floorboards on your leg. You swoon, stand. You are surprised to see the blue sky out the window. The cat asleep on the porch railing. The perfectly healthy cat. Jealousy and scorn sour your fever-sick heart. Then you see a car drive by. A person walking their dog. The leaves have changed color even more. Red: Maple, Yellow: Poplar, Orange and Yellow and Red: Oak, Green: the slowly dying Hemlocks that change color only when their needles are about to fall, the solid wall of arborvitae that hides a backyard like an open field across the road. It’s all still there.
There is not a single cloud.
Instead of going upstairs, you turn around and stumble back to bed. Thankful to close your eyes to the image of the world without you.
The first week in November has historically been, for me, somewhat awful. I just realized that it was during the first week of November that my old dog, Bootsie, tried to kill one of my other dogs – literally, I had to pry the smaller dog from his jaws; Bootsie bit through my finger. Earlier that week, he bit the man I was married to. And the increase in growling at small children? Unacceptable. I had him put down. I sat with him on the floor and said goodbye, laid down beside him and, after realizing that he could kill me if he became nervous and aggressively-aroused by the sounds and smell of other animals in the vet’s office, sat up. The vet likes to give animals heavy sedation immediately prior to lethally injecting them. She gave Bootsie the sedative shot and told me she be back in just a minute, that it needed just a little bit of time to calm him. When she return, Bootsie was not calmed. He was incredibly distracted by the sound of a cat yowling somewhere in the animal hospital.
He wanted to eat the cat.
Or at least chase it.
No, he definitely wanted to eat it.
Or at least kill it.
The vet gave him another shot. Left, Came back. Standing less surely now, but not willing to lie down. Another 1/2 a dose. Finally, he lay down. I hugged him, now that he was fully sedated. And it was sad. Really, though a very sick puppy from an out-lying county shelter had three very good years of life with us. He was a mix between a fighting dog and a hunting dog. No animal is ever free from it’s genetic parameters, our physiological predispositions. As he matured, the amount of time required between growl and bite and attack became little more than a blur. I had to write a check for a man’s pants down on the sidewalk. Bootsie tore a big hole in them after he got out the back door. Bootsie tried to bite our most excellent mailman, Dan, in the crotch. Dan had known Bootsie since he was a sick puppy.
Next year, during the first week in November, I’m just gonna hide. I have to do some date checking, but I am fairly certain that I have dealt with or done some really heart-wrenching things during this week, in multiple years.
In the meantime, I didn’t draw much of anything this week. I didn’t make much of anything this week. Except for a horrible pumpkin smell. I didn’t even get any great ideas this week. Some ideas, but not great ones.
So, time to get back on track. And to learn what I can from the knowledge that when I’m sick I’m useless.
My mother saved me. My children liked it that I stayed in one place. At first. Then they didn’t like it so much, because, apparently, milk poured by their grandmother tastes different than milk poured by their mother. The mother that lifts boats onto chicken castles could not get out of bed. Her efforts at conversation (‘hey, sweetie…howya doin’…i love you so much…how was school…sweetie, could talk a little less loud?…thanks sweetie…i love you so much…wha?…oh, i think gigi is still…somewhere…mmoooommm???…see, sweetie…she’s out back…oh…okay’ The child has already left the room) reassured that their mother is filled with love for them and is also the most boring sick person ever.
No, sick is bad. I will be considering some very exciting positive changes for good health. I really don’t want this to turn into a quitting-smoking blog, but it might have to for awhile. I have pneumonia. My lungs hurt. People who get lung-sick from smoking probably feel similar to this, if not much, much, much worse. Yeah, no thanks. I don’t think I’d sign up for that. But, if I keep smoking, I kinda am signing up, aren’t I?
Jeez, it’s turning into a quitting smoking blog already. Note to Self: writing about smoking makes you want to smoke. Dang. Here are some random emails to myself sent on day two or three of the H1stN1st Week of November, 2009.
show details Nov 4 (4 days ago)
I have the f-l-u. I haven’t drawn in two days. I haven’t been out of bed in two days, other than moaning excursions to bathroom, yelping as my fevered skin touched the cold toilet seat.
The children were frustrated by my illness, my moaning. I was a toy that wasn’t working right. They whined, they threatened, they refused. In the end, they watched a lot of TV.
I woke tangled in blankets, my bones on fire. Even breathing seemed an effort. Outside, the sun was shining, the trees were on fire. People were walking dogs. Cars were driving by. The world seems so odd and separate when viewed through a fevered lens.
My mother saved me, again. She felt my forehead and the back of her hand was a cool, dry blessing. I am thirty-three years old, but I still need my mom when I’m sick.
The last time I had the flu, Leo was two and 1/2 and Olive was an infant. I had to lay down in the main hall, unable to go an inch forward. The children’s father went to work. My mother drove up from Georgia.
I declare November 4th “Geeg Day.”
I feel only slightly less hideous than I did. But, death does not feel quite as imminent as it did just hours ago. Remarkable, how the human body manages to drag itself back to health.
show details Nov 6 (3 days ago)
Are all I’m left with. Shaky legs. Burning lungs. Sickly sweet coughing.
I will never make fun of a pandemic again.
My fever has broken. I don’t even know how to get back to what I was doing.
show details Nov 6 (3 days ago)
Mothballs in Charleston.
If all else fails, draw leaves and seeds.
Sorry for any unintended redundancy about dog walking. The thing is, this is sort of an art-process blog. One of my mediums is drawing, but I have lots of others. I am as interested in the experience of making “art” as I am in the finished product – often more so.
Some people seem to get it with ease, how to just sync their life with their artistic endeavor. I think, I know, that for most people it is super hard to figure how art fits, where creativity comes from, why it even matters?
I needed to try to figure out my answers to some of those questions. That’s why I’m drawing every day for a year. It’s a convenient medium. Portable, unobtrusive, fast. Still, I’m a few drawings behind due to the flu. But, well…I didn’t want to brag, but sometimes I draw way more than one picture a day. Sometimes I draw two or three. (yeah, I know, ‘way more’ doesn’t usually mean 2-3.)
So, I guess what I’m saying is use it when you have it, look for it when it’s gone, see it when you find it. And don’t ever think about wasted time. It’s an insult, to time and to ourselves. The only time that is wasted is time that is not learned from. Even if we only learned a little. A detail. A falling leaf against a clear blue sky. A leaf that will never ever fall again. The world is too full of these tiny, amazing things to risk missing them ’cause you’ve got your head in your hands, worrying about wasted time.
I’m still not all the way better. But, my heart is still working and my brain isn’t fever-sick. No bees emerged from my bones.