People. I’ve been sick. Sicker than I can ever remember being. Influenza A. The Flu. Did you know that it’s SO much worse than just a bad cold? I did not. Now I do. Today is Day 6 and I am only now beginning to understand that I will, in fact, be “myself” again—and that’s with the help of lots of remedies, east and west. And I’m actually not exaggerating.
The scariest thing about this week has been that I’ve actually felt my life force waning. As days went on, I could sense that this is something that kills people. I looked it up and I was right. I didn’t know that before. But I could feel it. My chi was dwindling; dying into only a tiny little flame. And it wasn’t just physical, but affected all of what we in Yoga call the Kosha, or sheaths: the layers of physical, energetic, mental, emotional (and beyond). Energetically I’ve had only enough life force to whisper. Emotionally, I’ve felt resentful that our rare, much needed Spring Break adventures were thwarted, then brittle, and then just plain sad. Mucky and heavy like clay. On the night of Day 4, a full Niagra Falls of tears came heaving through, as though a dam had been lifted. My sister hugged me, gave me sleeping pills, took my older son Lucca (Corey was dealing with the younger one, Elias—also sick with this hellacious bug), and sent me to bed. Mentally—and this came as a surprise to me—I could not, with each passing day, remember my own life before this. My healthy, vibrant life. “Who’s life was that? Why did I work so hard from morning until night? And how does one play? And why? What was the meaning again?” It got kind of scary. (All this, with an illness that I rationally knew would end. I have several loved ones who are sicker than I, and am almost embarrassed to write as I ponder how unthinkably far they’ve been pushed.)
Even though my eyes are only just now beginning to be able to focus on a screen, and my brain is just beginning to work well enough to string thoughts together, I can sense today that I’ve turned the corner back to health. It seems so apt that this is happening today on this Easter Day, this day of re-rising. From here, I want to share a few things with you about my journey into the dark world of sickness.
For today, I just want to share two things:
1. Healthy Creatures are Social Creatures. One of the byproducts of this bug has been that of course I’m keeping my distance from everyone around me. I’ve isolated myself. It’s only been a week, and I can sense that it’s part of why I have felt like a leaf cut from the vine, beginning to shrivel, and wondering if it’s job now is to return to the earth. This is not news to me, that we are social creatures, but now I get to live an example of it. I heard my sons running around with glee (Elias turned the corner before me) and because I could not engage with them, I felt alien to their spark for life. I heard Corey cooking them breakfast and then walking them down to the beach, and wondered how I was able to do any of that a few weeks ago. I felt other. I felt useless. I withdrew more. It’s a spiral. There are many studies and books about our need for each other—one I recommend to clients all the time is A General Theory of Love, all about our limbic systems and how we are literally wired for connection. And I’m not talking about personality here—you can be more introverted, you can like more privacy than the next person—but you’re still a social creature. The extent to which you cut yourself off from your own baseline need for connection with others will equal the extent to which you move towards death and away from life.
2. We Need Touch. Again, not news to me, and again, there are many studies about this, but now I get to experience it for myself with a deeper perspective. I’ve watched Corey tickle and snuggle the boys and longed to touch them but could not. In the knowledge that I could not, as I headed back upstairs to bed, a part of me felt like it was dying. I imagined the feeling of rubbing Lucca’s back while he leans into me, or of kissing the smooth of Elias’s pudgy cheek, and the turning away from it was just as painful as my bloody throat—a throat which caused the doctor to wince and prescribe me Codeine. The pain of physical disconnection was on a less visible plane but no less real. Today, now that my skin doesn’t hurt all over, Corey risked closeness and gave me a little backrub and I was shocked to feel the immediate response from my cells, as though they were rising up to meet his hands. Life force! Growing! It’s still in there! It was palpable and wonderful. A smile spread across my stubborn brow. Cracking that insidious darkness that had set in. I still can’t hug my kids—there are twenty-four more hours until we know that I’m no longer contagious—but I know I will hug them soon, and I can feel that fire of chi grow in the delight of such knowledge. Again, you might be anywhere on the spectrum of more physical to more private, but you’re still human and don’t fool yourself about that. The extent to which you cut yourself off from the kinds and amounts of physical touch that feel good to your body and soul will equal the extent to which you move towards death and away from life.
We will all die one day. I do not suggest that we resist that transition when it is our time. But may we live fully in the meantime. My experiment with life force this week offers me a different and clear perspective. A different way of seeing what I already knew but often take for granted, as do we all. I implore you to go find your people and touch your people. Put down your screen and do it right now. Even if it’s awkward at first, because you’ve been out of practice. And do it even more tomorrow. And keep it up.
Namasté and see you soon.