Letting Myself Be Sick


Follicular bronchitis/bronchiolitis, by Pulmonary Pathology (Yale Rosen) on Flickr.

I’ve always pitied my friends who get sick a lot. They must be doing something wrong, I reckoned. Like not eating healthy enough. Not washing their hands well. Or having small children who bring germs home from daycare.

But over the last six months, I’ve been ill quite a bit myself. Nothing serious–some vicious head colds, the occasional fever, and now a new low: bronchitis.

Being sick sucks. It makes me vulnerable, which is not my preferred state. It also makes me feel guilty. My boyfriend caught my recent cold and had to carry it on a plane to Europe with him the next day.

But I’m trying to learn how to give up some control over my life. Control is a great illusion anyway, and being sick is a visceral reminder of that.

I’ve lost close friends to cancer, and a dear coworker is battling it as we speak. Other friends and family have overcome that disease and other terrible physical afflictions I can only imagine. Mine are lightweight troubles in comparison.

Right now I’m reading Joe Abercrombie’s wonderful fantasy series The First Law, much of which involves brutal battle and torture scenes. The way characters respond to pain and hardship defines them.

One of my favorite is Logen, a battle-scarred bandit who winds up nursing a pampered young nobleman grievously wounded in a skirmish. In one scene, Logen tries to reassure the paralyzed, suffering dandy:

“Easy, now, and listen to me. It hurts, yes. Seems like more than you can take, but it isn’t…All you got to do is lie there, and it gets better. You understand? You got the light duty, you lucky bastard.”

Remaining still, so I can heal. Not so easy. But maybe a good lesson.