23 March 2013

Of clouds and silver linings

I've resisted writing about feeling ill, other than briefly mentioning it as a reason for not writing.
Partly this is because me being ill just isn't interesting. More important, it seems criminally self indulgent to whinge about something which is, in objective terms, trivial – a purely temporary state of inconvenience, from which my path is inevitably upward – when there are so many people for whom it is not.
On the other hand, as time and a half goes by and the result is that I write nothing at all for weeks on end, it begins to seem slightly ridiculous to keep on tiptoeing around the elephant in my room. So, I was pleased today to find my mind running a train of thought which offered a way of turning the elephant into a jumping off point for something positive.
I have always been grateful for my unusually strong constitution and resilient immune system; but I have taken it for granted, too. When flu hit, I always planned on bouncing back to normal (or something close to it) within two or three days at the very most. After three weeks of virus driven fugue from which I can remember only short flashes, followed by another three weeks of extremely slow recovery which is still far from complete, that has changed. And that change is the silver lining.
I know an elderly man, Mr O, who takes twenty minutes to walk the hundred metres to his nearest bus stop. I have, in the past, been full of admiration for his grit, determination and unceasingly indomitable cheerfulness as he insists on catching three buses to the venue where his chosen sport is played, and three buses home again (a total travel time of nearly five hours, including sections which he must walk, for the round trip), sometimes several times in a week. But, while admiring him, I have never put myself in his shoes.
Now, as I carefully husband depleted energy reserves, my usual six or seven kilometres per hour cut to something more like two or three, I find myself thinking what it must be like to do have this as a permanent state. I am fortunate to be able to dismiss my crawl down the road as something which will be gone in a month or so; what would it be like if I had to see it as the future? I see Mr O in a new light; as well as admiring him (which is an easy and cheap response), then thinking of something else, I find myself understanding, at least a little, what it really is that I am admiring.
And then there is Andy, who can't walk anywhere at all, pinned down by emphysema which makes my cough seem an embarrassing affectation.
I have never been one of those who scoff at CFS/ME sufferers, dismissing their condition as “yuppy flu”. But nor, to be honest, have I thought more than briefly about what it is that they endure for years on end – even in a couple of people I knew well, and one close friend. Now, as I sit or lie still for a day recovering from three or four in which I perhaps overexerted myself. I think of how it would be if every day were like this one.
By the time summer begins, I shall be back to my usual active, busy, rock hopping, mind buzzing, distance eating lifestyle; this very small grey cloud dispersed and left behind. I very much hope that i won't have forgotten its silver lining: a replacement of gratitude for my good fortune by genuine understanding of how very fortunate it really is.


Julie Heyward said...

When your ever-present faithful companion in ambulatory endeavors (the bus) begins to hint at leaving without you, we are concerned!

You take care. (I am thinking dark thoughts about the unfaithful and fickle bus ... after all these years!)

Geoff said...

I work as a volunteer with people (think Stephen Hawkins) and am unable to walk nowadays due to polio taking me on at the age of eighteen months 72 years ago.

I am humbled by D's way of dealing with his MS; hoisted on and off the toilet to "crap", someone to wipe him clean, to feed him. His spirit, so light, so positive.

I brush aside my disability easily; somersault in the wheelchair, break a leg, ambulanced to a hospital where I am eager to escape due to their inadequacy and indifference – if you can hear a violin in the back ground then that is in your imagination.

Why am I writing this? Well, I too was laid low, sideways and it seems inside out and upside down with an evil viral invader and became weak of spirit and much of a whinger. It started seven weeks ago and seemed to have finished about a week ago but each day, once or twice or more I still get the "odd symptom". Luckier than some, though, who have had it for eight or more weeks and S who arrived at Intensive Care.

I am not one of those who feel better because " there is always someone worse off than you". It makes me angry that some people think that way.