Doing the unimaginable: resting
Heinousitis, week three.
And heading right into four.
And, according to everyone else who’s had this tenacious plague, the end’s not in sight. You go around the corner, or so you think, and rather than light at the end of the tunnel, there’s just another corner.
At least the micro-bugs in my system are having fun with this. They’re playing “Let’s Make a Deal” with my symptoms. The little nasties traded in the sinusitis for a secondary bacterial lung infection (on top of the bronchitis) and “mild persistent asthma with acute exacerbation,” as my darling doc phrased it. In real people language, this means that besides the chronic “custard cough,” (so labeled by a similarly infected friend) I explode into convulsive coughing fits, gasping for air, gagging, weeping and… how do I put this delicately… ummm… ladies over 50: You know what happens when you cough, sneeze or laugh too hard.
I know, TMI, but we’re all friends in this space, right?
The coughing convulsions are so impressive that my boss (the same guy who grumbled “Life’s tough” years ago while I was typing up a city council report on deadline with a 103-degree fever and a — unbeknownst to me — leaking appendix) told me to stay home for the rest of the week. “Stay away” were his exact words, but coming from Charley, that’s tender compassion. I’ll take it.
So, armed with bigger, badder meds, the super-glue in my lungs is starting to dry up, and rather than launching into mowing the lawn or vacuuming the whole house the nanosecond I feel a bit better, I’m doing something novel: resting.
It’s so painful.
“Resting” defies everything I believe about myself, which includes the notion that other people aren’t nearly as tough as I am, and are, frankly, what our so-called president says he can grab at will because of his celebrity status. Example: In my 40s, everyone told me that running on pavement will blow out my knees.
“Run on the track,” they said.
“Run only on grass,” they said.
“Pish posh,” I snorted in response, “That’s just for babies.”
And then one random day, running along on pavement, I felt a pop in my foot, followed by searing pain, and then limped, slowly, all the way home. Just like that, my running days were over, unless I’d be willing to have reconstructive surgery on my foot. While I may be tougher than the average bear, when it comes to needles, I’m the biggest weenie on earth. My pain tolerance is negative 15. Needle-less to say (Ha! I’m such a pro!), I’ve really, truly learned to love walking.
(That’s a total lie. I even dream about running, and in that dream, I warn myself that I’m not supposed to run anymore, and reply to myself that it just feels so good, I can’t stop, and then wake up just before some tendon or joint blows up, like when you wake up just before the plummeting elevator you’re stuck in hits the ground.)
Pertinent side note — I was right! Running on pavement did not blow out my knee, it blew out my foot.
It took leaning over the bed to open a window to blow out my knee and land me in a brace for two months.
All that said, my heinositis relapse has forced me to temporarily retire my Tough Girl self-image. Last weekend, there seemed to be a glimmer of recovery, so I attempted some normal activities. And I’m not talking about repaving the driveway or painting the living room here. I gulped down all my meds so I could attend a wedding without choking on myself, and landed on the recliner all the next day, weak as a newborn kitten. The following day, I rallied to go out for breakfast with some friends and the results were equally disappointing: immediate relapse.
Let’s unpack that: Twice, for a couple hours over the span of two days, I sat quietly in a chair, eating and chatting a little. Two days later, I’m coughing up a lung and heading back to the doc.
OK, I get it. I must rest.
I admitted this defeat to my daughter, who informed me that I don’t know how to rest.
“Resting is when you lie on the couch all day and binge-watch something on Netflix.”
Do… nothing? At all?
My concept of “resting” is working from my computer at home rather than the office, with some breaks to do laundry, clean up the kitchen, rearrange my drawers and go clean my horse’s stall.
However, heinositis Part Two has drummed it through my thick skull that “resting” means remaining horizontal and doing nothing more strenuous than sipping tea and pointing the remote at the television. Truth be told, I wasn’t completely successful at this, because I’m constitutionally incapable of doing nothing at all, but I did much better. I must pride myself on incremental improvement rather than insisting on perfection.
Even as it pertains to resting, in my mind, there are only two grades: A+ and F.
I’ve been forced to make friends with “C+”.
I did stay home and coughed only with my cats. I remained as horizontal as much as I could stand, and binge-watched “The Magicians” on Syfy. I avoided MSNBC entirely because screaming at the TV every time that orange shitgibbon appears on the screen triggers coughing convulsions.
I did not wash a dish or wipe a counter or pick up a sock.
I did sit down on Friday morning to write this column, however, because columnists are like postal carriers: Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night nor lungs filled with custard stays these columnists from the swift completion of their appointed 40 inches of column space.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go point the remote at the TV and see if Quentin decides to release Alice’s horrifying super ghost from the enchanted tattoo pocket on his spine.
And cough some more.