I almost finished my oatmeal this morning, a real achievement after nearly a week of visiting that other country Susan Sontag warned us about. Having dealt with difficult diagnoses and treatments in her own life, she suggested each person is a citizen of two countries, the country of the well and the country of the ill. A week ago, after consuming what I thought would be a healthy meal; a piece of fish and some vegetables, while my lunch mates ate meatball sandwiches and pizza, I was shocked to learn that I had purchased a passport to the land of the ill. It was a rapid and unexpected trip as I began noticing the new terrain of my insides while driving back from taking my houseguests to the airport.
I hadn’t traveled back and forth across these particular borders for a long time and I found it difficult to translate the signals and symbols of my new physical state. Should I lie down? (that seemed advisable in spite of the fact I had a class to teach that evening). Is there anything I can or should eat? (No food looked or smelled appetizing, though in the land of the well, I usually make sure I eat “something.”
Throughout the coming days, naps seemed one of the only enticing practices, and being propped up on pillows, the only way to read or write. Soup, crackers and toast sustained my life but not my energy. Since I was hoping to return soon to the land of the well, I carefully rationed the amount of physical exertion I engaged in. (No walking the dog or zumba classes for example.) Finally last Saturday, after taking a three-hour nap to prepare, I went to a dance with my husband, which seemed to initiate the beginning of my return to the land of wellbeing.
Friends tried to be supportive by saying I probably needed the rest anyhow, after the past few busy weeks. I avoided responding that if I were going to have more opportunities for rest, I’d rather experience them in the feel-good land of the well, the country I’ve been fortunate enough to live in most days of my life. An increased appreciation for that fact, and the noticing of a Zumba classmate that I’d lost a few pounds are probably the real gifts in this past week’s foray into such foreign territory.