It is another world, illness, and ever so often one needs to enter it. Just for the contrast. Just to remember. I have suspicions about the origins of this cold, the one that has just about run its viral course. But no doubts about the experience. It saps core energies. It drains the solar plexus. One becomes less and, for me, remembers one is less anyway. Getting up in the morning, standing, beginning the bathroom day…where is it, the normal life force? And maybe it was never so normal. Strain and effort predominate. Things are slightly woozy. Alertness, whatever one can muster, will make all the difference. The margin is slim, very slim. But it is anyway, and over time it will get slimmer, so enjoy the preview.
I’m always convinced of the psychogenic roots of my illnesses. I get cold when I am emotionally worn down. Or so I believe. Who really knows? What is more certain is the psychological similarity of illness and emotional states. What about getting cold in the meteorological sense? Whose fault is that? The fact is that conditions inner and outer meld. Pleasantly or unpleasantly. Take my iPod. No, don’t take it. I want it, that is the point. In fact, I treasure it, that is the real point. If there is a point, and that is the other point that there often isn’t. Anyway.
If the rainfall for this part of California could be, let us say, annualized…well, precipitation totals would beat the UK, rival the American Northwest, and so on. For a good five months of the year, any year, in most of California it does not rain at all. So rainfall is squeezed into seven months. At the moment the squeeze is on, with forecasts looking at more than a week of downpours. And that’s what they are, huge meteorological dumps, clouds liquefying at a rate that stupefies. Yesterday, with one of these tropical-style deluges under way, inbound raindrops hit the planter-box by my front door with the force of small ballistic missiles…and splatter by splatter, managed to knock a fair amount of mud onto my wheelchair ramp. A reminder not to not look so puzzled next time you stand at the edge of the Grand Canyon, half doubting that the sliver of water a mile below could really have carved such a vastness. Anyway.
Things were mending. My cold was petering out. Jane had spent the night, her cold still very much in force, and after some days apart and some misunderstandings, we were sharing a pleasant morning. She was writing her sermon. I was heading out the door to work off spilkes on my exercycle. And the skies were fearsome. Which has become routine over the last week or so. So, no big deal, I had the essentials, feet held up in the air while I blasted down the wheelchair ramp, iPod on my lap. A dash through the monsoon, then under the sheltering carport roof, Jane right behind. Something was dragging. Probably one of my seatbelts. Really should use those things, cinch myself into the chair when I go dashing about. Can’t be bothered.
I leaned over to pick up the dragging belt, puzzled and impatient…for nothing was dangling on the left or the right. Here, Jane said, handing me the iPod. I had been dragging the thing on its headset line…down the plywood wheelchair ramp, into the monsoon, crossing the driveway, over and through puddles. It was on, the iPod. It was playing poetry from some collection I must have had for 10 years. All I could think of, particularly as I began to fiddle with the controls, was my dying father, how his sightless eyes darted back and forth for hours under final instructions from his brain tumor. Thus the final moments of my iPod.
Stupid. How could I be so stupid? This muttered aloud as Jane snapped my bike shoes into the machine. One foot sliding quite nicely into place, the other almost as quickly. Very well, I was now ready for the hour-long neuromuscular assault on my systems, cardiovascular and otherwise. Jane paused, looked pensive. You’re not stupid, she said…and it upsets me when you say that. Goodbye kiss. And there I was, left with whatever this was.
And whatever it was, or is, gets to the heart of things healed and broken in my life. By now, it’s a reflex, getting angry at myself for losing control of things like the iPod. Automatic, stimulus-response, on the level of Pavlov’s dogs. I know better. Intellectually…such a reflexive habit of self blame derives from my childhood experience…life out of control, parents about to divorce, family exploding despite my 12-year-old’s interventions, everything intensified by living neighborless at the end of a desert road. Too much, and too much for years, and the best way to feel not so panicked…I can do something, control this, nudge the father this way, coax the mother that way…. Unless I fail, in which case, it’s my fault and still a possibility for correction. A madness. Now a deeply ingrained, reflexive one. How could anyone be so stupid?
Jane loves me, this sinking in as I ramped up from the ‘1’ setting on the exercycle, preparing to shift to that quadriplegic high spot, the formidable muscle-draining ‘2.’ Jane loves me. It’s a battle to hang onto this knowledge at times. And it’s no substitute, one might say, for going easy on myself. But with the rain pounding, and an hour of hard leg pushing ahead, I had to say one thing. Jane loves me, and it’s a start.