Mary Beth Writes

 Last night I read on the sofa for a couple hours. Then I came upstairs, brushed my teeth, and went to bed to read some more. Honest, that’s it. That’s mostly what I did yesterday. A few chores and errands. A lot of reading.

Then while turning one more page - my foot started to hurt! One moment nothing; next moment a big twitchy thing flared along the side of one foot. I rubbed it and tried to stretch the muscles but that made it worse, so I took ibuprofen and went to sleep. I woke this morning and although it hurts less, it still hurts.

I’m not too worried. This isn’t the first time in my life one nerve has decided to go haywire all by itself. It will settle down soon enough. If it doesn’t, I’ll deal.

However, the plans I had for today which were not that big to begin with, changed. I will read and write and take more ibuprofen and soak my foot because the small maladies of life respond so well to time and warm water.

When my kids were little we sent them to Waldorf School. You may have heard of them as a loci of anti-vaxxers. Yeah, I remember that being discussed, but it wasn’t even close to a predominant theme in the life of the school. (Yes, our kids were vaccinated.) But the school DID ask fascinating questions about the connections between health, sickness, and learning. Such as, do kids or people just get sick randomly? Or is sickness a necessary and relevant part of human life? What happens when we get sick?

The answer is that we don’t know, but sickness often changes us. When something hurts, we favor it. When we feel punky, we slow down. When we get a big tummy ache, we think about what we consumed earlier. Such as Len drank too many Margaritas once in his life and has not had one since. 

Some Waldorf teachers suggested we watch as our kids struggled with some aspect of their development. Learning to share, learning to read or to add 2-digit numbers. Continually learning to negotiate how to be an individual in a bigger community.

And then, those same teachers would say, observe what happens when that kid gets sick and then after they get well again. So, three kids and a zillion colds later – as a parent I began to see it. Each sickness was a hiatus to slow down, regroup, come through a little stronger and with another personal or educational skill. It wasn’t a formula, it wasn’t tit for tat; but I could see in them the evolution of what they were learning and who they were becoming as they came through all those times of being ill.

My writing mentor was Nancy Eberle. I met her in 1986 when she was healthy, but within two years she would pass away from a recurrence of cancer. I remember her writing about being sick in an essay that was never published, so what I am remembering is a rough draft from 1987. This is what she more or less said. “When you first get sick you get mad because you are losing your day and your schedule and your list of things you want or need to do. But then, slowly, you realize you are still having a life, just a different one than you had tidily planned and expected. Maybe you live more in your imagination. Maybe you listen to music with your eyes closed or feel the sun on your napping body. There’s still so much going on when you are not out in the world fulfilling responsibilities and having adventures.”

Yep, being sick is icky, inconvenient, and often a disappointment to oneself and to others. It’s missed pay, lost possibilities, canned soup, enduring fever and pain. It’s putting up with whatever we have to do to get better. 

It’s also wondering what you are learning this time.

I’ve been trying to write all week, but nothing worked, so I spent a lot of time irritated at myself and distracted by the internet. One sore paw and three hours later, here is an actual thought.  

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Comments

Leonard's picture

I'm sorry it hurts. I remember Nancy Eberle, too.

Hmmmmmmm. Did u write this just for me?? Slowing down. Never heard of such a thing. My tummy ache didn’t come from margaritas, it was eating an entire box of peanut butter cups ( it was our band fund raiser). Yep. Haven’t really care for them since. Lens comment. Toe truck. Oh Len !! Ha
Mary Beth's picture

That toe truck line is so old...

Slowing down...is my remedy to all that ails. And my body lets me know when it is time to slow down. Quietly, sitting and knitting restores the body and soul. A la Len, it's been wine for me. The memory alone scared me straight :). I do love a Margarita, though! Be well. Patricia/Fl
Mary Beth's picture

I like this quote: "Drive slow and enjoy the scenery - drive fast and join the scenery." Douglas Horton

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