I was sick for most of the holidays. In the space of a week, I had two visits to hospital, three visits to the GP, four lots of blood tests and four prescription medications. I am slowly on the mend. Turns out I had two different viruses and reactive arthritis. It was, by turns, messy, miserable and excruciating. Enough said.

A home-bound holiday was enforced on everyone, with less sun and more screen time than intended. I must acknowledge my wonderful family here – a partner who parented intensively and nursed surprisingly patiently; a brother who entertained and cooked meals; parents who chauffeured me to medical appointments; and other family members who phoned and texted daily to offer support and raise morale. Since I was too sick to read – almost unknown in these parts – I am also grateful for Netflix for Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.

It brought back a lot of emotions from my past experience with chronic pain – fear of interacting with my children (the way they bounce, bump and rock the fragile body in the sick bed), despair that pain and incapacity might be ongoing, and guilt at being outside of family life. It wasn’t pleasant to experience this vulnerability again – not only physical weakness, but the intense emotional burden of being unable to care for others. The other stark reminder was how slowly time passes when you are in pain. Day and (sleepless) night, you remain firmly rooted in your physical self for every excruciating minute.

Although she writes for a different context – single parenthood (and I ache for single parents struggling with illness) – one of my favourite bloggers Andie Fox (of bluemilk) writes this about the precarious structures of home life:

I am apprehensive about remembering just how exhausted and vulnerable I was. I can describe it no better than this: When you are a single parent, the home you build sits atop stilts and if the structure gets more than the smallest of shakes it begins to wobble in such a way as to pick up its own rocking momentum. A dangerously gyroscopic effect. In this way, even relatively moderate upsets can lead to a collapse in the entire thing.

And her balm? Poetry. So, here, an extract from Unmatching Legs Ode by Sharon Olds on her arthritic legs:

I don’t know why I am fairly cheerful
about my unmatching legs.
… I have always
liked my legs, the double stem
which lifts the big odd flower of me up
and up. It’s as if I fell in love
with them, when they and I began
to learn to walk together. The two of them were
best friends, who could press against each other
and feel the love, at the top of the stalks …
I’m sad they will rot. I wish our bodies
could leave us when they are done with us –
leave our spirits here, and walk away.

One thought on “Vulnerability

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