I recognized the symptoms because it happened last week with John Carreyrou’s Bad Blood, so in addition to the chores and load of laundry, I walked two miles and practiced my solo piece before allowing myself to return to this riveting novel.
From Kerry Egan’s On Living:
When someone tells you the story of their suffering, they are probably still suffering in some way. No one else gets to decide what that suffering means, or if it has any meaning at all. And we sure as hell don’t get to tell someone that God never gives anybody more than they can handle or that God has a plan. We do not get to cut off someone’s suffering at the pass by telling them it has some greater purpose. Only they get to decide if that’s true. All we can do is sit and listen to them tell their stories, if they want to tell them. And if they don’t, we can sit with them in silence.
The weekend has arrived, and, boy, do I need it. I am going to follow my cat’s example: a warm blanket, a few naps, and maybe a few episodes of Westworld, Season 2. (Yes, I’m behind.)
By 8:40 a.m., I had completed the morning chores, including a load of laundry. Before a walk and music practice, I granted myself a little reading break. Two hours later, I’m wondering where the morning went and whether I still have enough time to walk and practice before work.
It’s not that I’m never sick, but I have been pretty fortunate. Sure, five years ago, I spent much of the late summer and early fall battling an upper respiratory infection, and, yes, I’ve had a couple of colds since then, but mostly it seems that I am able to vanquish the occasional illness quickly.
On Friday, November 9, though, I succumbed to a clinging, cold-like bug. Fever, chills, and fatigue nearly caused me to miss a play on Saturday night. (Afterward, we mused that it was, in fact, quite missable, something we’ve said about only one other play in eight years.) Coughing and exhaustion forced me to call out of work on Thursday, November 15, but apart from post-nasal drip and a lingering cough, I felt much better on Thanksgiving. On Black Friday, however, I awoke to “stomach flu” and an impressive fever. (It may have been the guacamole; no one else had any.) When that subsided twenty-four hours later, I needed to focus on post-holiday travel and the blizzard. Given how physically weak I was, my husband and I decided that I would drive my youngest back to university and remain overnight, and he would stay home to keep up with the snow clearing — which would have been great decisions, had my daughter and I discovered the leak in the new air mattress before 2 a.m. Monday. Heh, heh, heh. “Boy, will I sleep well tonight!” I announced when I returned home. Nope. Another night of broken sleep.
So… I spent the remainder of this past week catnapping and getting to bed early to put the kibosh on a lingering, low-level fatigue. It’s my fervent hope that one or two more nights will do the trick. It has, after all, been more than three weeks; I’d like to be done now, please.
The gloomy weather doesn’t do much to improve my energy level, either. The photo above was taken on a family walk Thanksgiving morning. I’m certain it has looked like that nearly every day since.
■ Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth (Sarah Smarsh; 2018. Non-fiction.)
It would be unwise for me to claim I know how much growing up in a poor family shaped my words. My mother’s strong vocabulary, itself learned alone from books, probably has more to do with my language than any college degree I got. We can’t really know what made us who we are. We can come to understand, though, what the world says we are.
In the United States, the shaming of the poor is a unique form of bigotry in that it’s not necessarily about who or what you are — your skin color, the gender you’re attracted to, having a womb. Rather, it’s about what your actions have failed to accomplish — financial success within capitalism — and the related implications about your worth in a supposed meritocracy.
■ Advice for Future Corpses (and Those Who Love Them): A Practical Perspective on Death and Dying (Sallie Tisdale; 2018. Non-fiction.)
Most people aren’t wrestling with dread so much as trying to ignore a chronic background anxiety. But Becker would say this is just repression. He believed that we succeed so well at repressing the fear of death that we may deny the fear even exists — yet its energy remains, driving us on to create a network of belief and relationship in which our short, fragile lives will have meaning. We call these networks by various names: philosophy, but also psychology, science, culture, religion, and art. Repressed, anxious but refusing to experience the anxiety completely, humans create civilization.
Grief is a disruption. The sound of a footstep on the porch evokes the old world, the other life, and it is only the mail carrier and the new life rushes back. My mother has been gone from my life for more than thirty years, but I hear her voice sometimes when I talk, and I see her in the mirror now and then — sidelong, unexpected glances. There she is. And I think, I should call mom and tell her about that. Grief recurs and spins, a Möbius strip of memory going on and on in a loop. You are in denial about the death. You just keep remembering that it happened.
Try not to say: You shouldn’t dwell on the past. Grief is a story that must be told, over and over. Very few people know how to listen to a grieving person without in some way trying to shut down or control the strong emotion.