Last week, I dreamt of getting ahead on my grading. I dreamt of Spring Break coming. I dreamt of sleeping a little extra on the weekend. I dreamt of the conference I am going to next week and did a bunch of mental organizing to begin to get ready. And then what I didn’t imagine happening happened:
What happened instead is I got sick. I came down with a sinus infection that left me feeling like an anvil had replaced my brain. The last sinus infection I had had a few years ago felt, instead, like an athlete wearing cleats was standing on my face. Because I didn’t immediately recognize the anvil symptom, having remembered only cleats in my face, it took me five days to realize I needed medicine. I thought I only had a cold. Needless to say, recovery has been slow. Instead of catching up on my grading, I’m falling behind. Instead of sleeping, I’m coughing and caught in that weird place you go when you try to sleep but you’re sick and on meds — that place of anxiety and strangeness that isn’t everyday life but also isn’t really a dream world.
I didn’t just fall behind in grading. I fell behind in my blogging. I fell behind in my house-cleaning. I simply fell behind. I’m still behind.
What I have mostly found myself doing this unexpected time, and it’s been over a year since I’ve not felt well, is letting myself just be sick. I’ve made two pots of homemade soup. I bought extra tissues. I canceled classes. And when I let myself feel guilty and tried to go back early this past Tuesday, I regressed and missed two more work days here at the end of the week. So then I went back to letting myself not feel well.
During this time of going through life with an anvil in my head, oddly enough, I have mostly been thinking about the imagination. How powerful it is! Time and again, it saves us. It helps us understand. It helps us to be understood. When the Tele-doctor asks over the phone, “What are your symptoms?” I can say, “There’s an anvil in my head.” And we both understand what I mean, and he knows I need antibiotics. I have been thinking about how imagination allows a sick person to imagine feeling better. To imagine sun on a cloudy day. To imagine a less insane world. To recall the woods and a peaceful retreat I had over winter break while right now living only yards off of busy Bell Road. This type of imagining, at least for me, gives way to hope. When I hope, I can feel better. When I hope, I can heal. When I hope, I can dream again and again fantasize about getting ahead on my grading.
This time of not feeling well has unexpectedly given me the gift of reflection. It slowed me down smack dab in the middle of a galloping semester so I could have some moments of quiet and gratitude. Rather than concentrating on how behind I am, I am, instead, dwelling in gratitude. It’s seems a strange place to be with an anvil in my head, but here I am.