Thursday, November 6, 2008

I am of the nature to have ill health

Last night I went to bed discouraged, thinking I might have pneumonia; this bounce up from the flu and then back down could indicate that. This morning, another new day, a beautiful day, looks like the last day of Indian Summer. We seem to cherish these days more than spring, because we know it is not June that is coming, but winter.

I knew I was somewhat better this morning as I looked over the paper and found myself having little thoughts and ideas. A certain liveliness of mind. When I am sick, I go flat, uninspired, not caring to stir myself to do much of anything. This state can be mistaken for “depression,” that analytic term we have learned to use to describe our lack of joy and engagement with life.

This flatness of spirit is what I personally dislike most about being sick. It occurs to me, though, that it is the natural and right response of the body/mind, turning all its resources toward healing, trying to put you on the couch where you belong. This is one reason I don’t like medications that manage symptoms enough to enable us to keep plugging along, going to work and the grocery store, foggily spreading the virus, not letting it stop us. Come on folks, I want to say when I see the commercials for miraculous cold medications (which often contain stimulants), let it slow you down. It's okay to slow down.

It is interesting to think about how sickness shines a spotlight on our attachment to our preferences—the way we ourselves like to be, the way we think things are supposed to be. We like to function at our peak, however modest that might be. We like some things, many things actually, to stay the same. We want to go on doing things the way we’ve gotten used to doing them, having every bit of capacity we once had. So it is not really separate from the issues of aging.

I think our impatience with illness also goes to the way we flinch from recognizing our vulnerability. It is curious how The Five Remembrances pushes that mud pie in our faces: “I am of the nature to have ill health; there is no way to escape ill health.” What, no way? I won't accept that!

I recall fondly the time I presented the chant to a study group, and was met by a long moment of dead silence. Then Marianne expressed what others were thinking. She said fervently into the silence “I hate that.”

It does take some getting used to.
note: The text of The Five Remembrances is given in my November 5, 2008 post.

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