Sick nasty: On being ill

Urban Dictionary (check it out if you haven’t yet visited it) obliges with this definition of “sick nasty”:  “This word is to be used when no other word can be used to describe the cool factor, greatness, or overwhelming emotion of something. However, the something is neither sick, nor nasty. The combination of the words sick and nasty provide a higher connotation of coolness then even the words tight or wicked can provide. It is kind of ghetto.”

Since I’m going for the literal rather than the metaphoric, I’ll bypass the ghetto, and the slang meanings of “ill,” too, and head straight for “body in misery.”  (It’s worth considering what connection coolness has with physical sickness, because when you’re in it, it’s distinctly not cool at all.)

Food poisoning can leave you half alive, no longer trusting your organs and bones.  My wife and I had been out of state to attend our niece’s high school graduation, and bad food choices dropped me into my own private third level of hell (that’s for the gluttons, which seems appropriate).  I won’t gross you out with gastrointestinal details: enough to say that the aftermath left me with aching joints, residual fever and chills, a nasty headache, and no desire ever to eat again.  To add insult to injury, we’d scheduled medical check-ups back home the next day.  Sometimes you feel rotten enough that a doctor is the last person you want to see.  And on top of that, he insisted it was time I had another digital rectal exam, part of the follow-through since my prostate surgery.  Necessary, maybe, but oh so evil.

OK, enough self-pity.  You get the idea.  This is a blog, after all, that’s supposed to provide plenty of buck (see the 5/18/12 entry).  No time to slack off now.

What illness can offer, besides a physical cleansing and rebalancing (we get sick when something’s out of whack, off kilter, messed up), is clarity, humility and gratitude.  At least that’s what I often get (when the worst of the symptoms have subsided), if I’m lucky.

Clarity first.  Flat on your back, you’ve got time to reflect.  If you’re not unconscious or delirious, reasonably free of pain, and cable is unavailable, you’re thrown back on yourself.  Time to make friends with the body, to coax it back to health if you can.  This marvelous machine of flesh now sits in the garage, lies in drydock, has gone off-line.  Time to adjust the timing belt, scrape off the barnacles, repair the hull, and reboot.  You get all kinds of ideas, some of which might even be useful.  You get to watch your thoughts spin like a Tibetan prayer wheel, only more gooey.  And through and above and below and within it all, you realize there are limits.  You get reacquainted with the fact that you will die.  Your time here is limited.  You can’t have it all, do it all, own it all.  You get your turn, and then it’s the next person’s.  What you do with your life is your gift to yourself.

And yes — I can get didactic and preachy, kinda.  Bear with me.

The humility part is good.  You have to rely on others.  When your body’s in meltdown, somebody else has to bring the drugs and the drinks, or you don’t get them.  You can’t get up without the world playing spin the bottle with your brain, or chills racking you, or legs turning to water.  That backrub to ease the crying vertebrae, the cool washcloth so welcome on hot skin, the light turned off because it hurts your eyes, the curtains drawn for the same reason, the soup that’s the only thing you can keep down — all of these are gifts that either others give you, or you don’t get them.  They’re out of your control.  Your minute-to-minute life is discomfort, interrupted by the kindness of someone caring for you.

Which brings you to gratitude.  You certainly have time for it. If you have to be sick, at least there’s some good that comes of it — later, if not right away.  As you start to feel better, you recall how you took so much for granted.  You resolve to try to do better.  Maybe the first stirrings of belief in immortality begin here, with recovery from illness.  You’re aren’t dying after all.  This too shall pass.  You rise again.  You will live to enjoy life again.

/|\ /|\ /|\

prayer wheel

%d bloggers like this: