I was too sick to lift my head and see what time it was. I could tell from my children’s energy levels it was probably after 5 PM but before 8 PM. I couldn’t hear any crying– just laughter and a coupla bars of Gangnam Style. I could picture Jeff dancing with the children– probably hurting his sore back– and knew that everyone was OK. Him, them, me.
It was dark in my room, but I could feel it spinning. I’ve never been this sick in my life. I tried to remember what it was like to have the chicken pox and miss seven days of Ms. Hunter’s kindergarten class. I know I felt awful that week in 1978, but this was worse. Now I have a fully formed prefrontal cortex and can truly know how awful I feel. Every muscle pulsed with ache and the nausea was a billion times worse than the worst day in pregnancy. At least during my first trimester I could eat vanilla ice cream with mac and cheese. Friday night I had nothing.
At 8:15 PM I was able to sit up and squint at the clock. I could still hear the kids. Jeff half-heartedly told them to keep their voices down because Mommy’s sick and sleeping. I was glad they were loud– their giggles were my lullaby. It was a way to stay connected and distracted from my body’s revolt.
What a privilege, I thought to myself. As I heaved and sweated and prayed for sleep, I could feel how privileged I was. I could totally let go and be sick as a dying dog. It was OK; my kids were having what sounded like a magical night with their Daddy. I didn’t have to get up or work the night shift or nurse a baby or feed the chickens. I could take those long hours to collapse into an unproductive heap of physical distress and simply lay there.
What a privilege.
When I was single, I’d dread my annual bout of the stomach flu for all the obvious reasons. But also, it was so lonely to lay in my bed, writhing in pain, all alone. I’d listen to the sounds of the Ohio on-ramp alone in my condo thinking I could die here and no one would find me for days. While I am sure that the maintenance man or one of my bosses might have come looking for me eventually, it wasn’t the same as having three warm bodies disturbing my sleep patterns all evening long. When I lived alone, I never let my shoulders fully relax; my body never made a full indent into my bed and pillow because I couldn’t possibly just surrender to illness. A full exhale and collapse into bed is the privilege of someone who’s safe and held closely by people who love her. A night to fall apart physically is possible for someone who knows that under her roof are people who love her and will come looking for her in the morning. Probably before 6 AM.
What a privilege.