In Sickness and In Health

Let’s take a moment to talk about health. As we graciously say, “to a healthy and happy new year,” implying that happiness and health are interconnected. Be well. Be best. Let’s talk about what it means when we are not well. Let’s talk about the difficulty of operating in this society when sick. 

I have been consumed with health problems recently and am amazed at how it alters my life, my notions of time and space. How we operate in a fast pace in the healthy lane and then we are struck with illness, we can enter a whole new world. 

I used to take mental health days, days where I called in sick because to deal with the world was just too much and I needed to catch my breath. Since working part-time, these days are almost obsolete. There is a different pacing now, one that I can manage and therefore I can hold things together much better. Still with everything going on in this world taking time outs are necessary.

Virginia Woolf asked why illness is not included as one of the great themes of literature, taking its place with love, jealousy, ambition. When one is sick, priorities change, needs change, time changes. It is when we are sick that we appreciate time with our family, or being able to slow down, or in other words, give fuck all to work and the superficial demands that people have of us. It is when we are sick that we evaluate what really matters because we have to miss out on those things. 

little red elves riding a log

It is the holidays. Christmas is ten days away. We don’t have a tree and I overexerted myself wrapping three presents yesterday. I have this image of what I want our house to look like, with garlands and a tree, and Christmas music and we’re playing pinochle or some shit because that’s what healthy happy families do at the holidays. I’ll be happy if we get the tree in time. 

I have friends who have more serious health problems than I do. They work and run errands and are prodigiously busy. I am amazed at the stamina it takes to appear healthy, to work, to make people happy. I can’t do it. Sometimes, I feel badly that I’m asleep and missing out on Olivia-time. We played card games last night, and I loved that. A moment to connect before I went back to bed. 

I do not remember those 14 days when I had the flu. I don’t remember how we got Olivia home from school, I don’t remember if I ate, or what Patrick and Olivia did most of the time. I was in my own private hellscape. I know that I weaved between my waking and dream world. I know that my chest rattled like pins and then I had a chest xray. Then I needed more medicine. I came out of that sickness with so many medical bills. (And truly was happy that I was unemployed at this time, because I only had to think about getting better, not what work I was missing.)

Yes, that’s also a big thing about health right now. Health is a prized destination, because anything else costs too damn much. If you are healthy, oh the things that you don’t have to pay for. If you are not, and I’m thinking that most of us have some sort of maintenance medicines of some kind, good luck. I cleared my first visit with my specialist, calling them to make sure they took our insurance. Now I have a $500 bill for my 30 minutes, and with my fatigue, I now have to make phone calls. Sweet. And until I figure out this thyroid mess, I am going to be seeing doctors. Going to hospitals. Taking medicines. God forbid I need surgery.  

Patrick works to make all websites accessible, which makes me think of how the world has been created with a very specific person in mind. This person is white, straight, male and about 30 years old. And because of this, women can die from specific medications. It wasn’t until I watched John Olivier that I learned that symptoms for a heart attack in women are different than the ones we are told to watch out for

Needless to say, people who are other than our “universal” male will have a hard time navigating society and the public structures we have in place. And while ramps have been installed and bathrooms have been updated, the internet’s public space hasn’t been addressed. Unless of course, one fights for it. Patrick talks about how you can be temporarily disabled, like a broken arm, or you could be a parent, holding a child, or you could be disabled and have no arm. However, our design is geared to those who have use of two arms. The thinking being most people have use of both arms. But then there is the time you don’t and you realize how awful it must be for those that don’t all the time. The benefit of designing for those who don’t have use of their arms is that we solve problems we didn’t even realize existed. 

Recently I used the dictation feature to write poems. It’s a cool feature that I specifically used because of fatigue. My arms were so tired they couldn’t keep up with my mind. I wouldn’t have been able to write poems without it.

Our capitalistic society favors the able-bodied because the able-bodied can serve capitalism. At the same time, it takes able-bodied folks and wears them down. And when you are worn down and can’t participate, you realize how much of a machine it is. How it will stop for no one. How you are not special at all.

But you are.

We all deserve to be healthy and happy and to live a good life. With the darkness at our backs, it’s difficult to feel the warmth of our fires. Wednesday I have to swallow a radioactive iodine pill and then get my neck scanned 24 hours later. So I mean this sincerely, have a healthy and happy holiday season. 

Much love,