The last hour of my 54th Birthday kicked me in the stomach. Not to be overly dramatic, but if you've ever had your gut suddenly crushed by an unknown pathogen, you know what I'm talking about. For the following 36 hours, I locked myself in an empty bedroom, hoping to spare my family.
In a fevered delirium, I talked to myself about all kinds of shit (pun intended). "What if I die from this?" "I better text everyone a final message." "Screw it. They know I love them." "Who is responsible for this, and how can I make them pay?" "Hey God, I get why you created mosquitos, but why stomach viruses?" "If I survive this, I'm going to... oh who cares?"
My daughter and husband kept a distant vigil, bringing me crushed ice and ginger ale. My husband stood over me, concern in his eyes, "Are you ok? You need to eat something." "You've got to be kidding," was all I could muster.
I'm a healthy, middle-aged woman - living in the time of COVID no less - but it still blows me away that something so microscopic can knock an entire person into next week. As I resurfaced, I realized I had not turned on lights in the room since I entered. The TV remained cold, and even though I hadn't charged my phone for three days, it still had a full battery. Time stood still, and everyone and everything went right along without me.
That realization gave me peace. Life moves on, even without our participation. Despite my absence, my family went about their business, the new puppy didn't destroy the house, and while everyone came and checked and probably worried a little, they knew I would be alright. They love me, but they went right on living. It was humbling.
Brief but beastly minor illnesses are affirming in a more critical way, especially today. More people than ever are sick on this planet with lengthy, painful, and potentially fatal diseases. From cancer to COVID, people are dealing with more significant challenges than a silly stomach bug. Getting waylayed temporarily is a weird kind of blessing. When it's over, we can brush ourselves off and move toward recovery, yet so many cannot. When these things happen to me, I think about those who cannot leave their illness behind after a few short days. And that's even more humbling than the thought of the world going on without me personally. We all matter. We all deserve to get well.