If We Don’t Have Our Health
By Z Zoccolante
Nothing makes you appreciate your health like getting sick. I remember being a kid and relishing in the last day of sickness – when you’re not feeling totally better, but good enough that you can enjoy watching TV all day and not going to school. And if you’re lucky, having your mom make you food and bring you water and Gatorade.
As an adult, being sick doesn’t come with the same lazy relaxation. As an adult, you got stuff to do that doesn’t get done unless you do it. There are only so many sick days at work and if you don’t work you don’t get paid. None of this ever crossed my mind while I was home sick from school lamenting catching up on homework while eating soup and watching reruns of Saved by the Bell.
This past week I got sick, the kind that starts off with your throat being sore and then you wake up the next morning and feel like you got run over by a truck in your sleep and some tiny gremlins launched missiles into the sides of your throat in warlike fashion.
Of course, we turn to Google for our first medical advice. Google is a terrifying world when it comes to this. Sore throat searches soon lead you to images you’d wish you’d never seen and a nagging little itch at the back of your brain that makes you feel like you might have some unknown disease and could, in fact, be dying. Google is like a rabbit hole of nightmares.
I slink onto the couch in the living room and feel sorry for myself and half wonder if I should haul my run over slug like chilled body to the doctors, but what are they going to tell me? Yep, Ms., you’re in fact sick and you didn’t need me to tell you that and let it run its course. I click on the TV and think about all the work I ought to be doing. Nope, I ought to be watching this teeny bob soap opera.
One of my roommates comes home and finds me looking deathly. She tells me about how she doesn’t like the yoga class at her gym and how annoying it is because they only have that one teacher. She wants a workout. Meanwhile, I want a hot bath and someone to run their hands through my hair and maybe read me a story or two while I’m in a warm, peaceful delirium.
Then she says that she wants a work break and wants to be with friends and how about we binge watch Twin Peaks.
YES. So. Much. Yes.
And she makes me hot water with honey and lemon and later she makes matzo ball soup and cornbread muffins and brings them to me on the couch. This is delightful because I was wondering if I had enough energy to even feed myself today. And as she’s in the kitchen I take my eyes off the TV and watch her busily back and forth from counter to stove to oven, mixing silverware in bowls. And my heart fills with incredible gratitude for her taking care of me, making sure I have hot water cups and food, checking in as to how I’m feeling, wiping things down so my germs don’t spread, and being the voice of reason against Google’s black hole, ha.
As all things transition, sickness passes through the phases. I’m reminded of how we can become complacent and stagnate with important things in our lives – relationships, friendships, our jobs, goals and dreams. Sometimes it takes things to be ripped from us, to have the world shift slightly underneath our feet to wake us up again.
It’s easy to take our health for granted when we have it. But it’s those moments in-between, like when I’m walking home from the store with milk the other morning and I watch the sky through the trees and for no reason at all I think of a relative who had a painful cancer and passed on. I think about suffering and how we all try to find meaning to it in order to place it within the story of our life, like a book on a shelf, where everything must have a place or else chaos ensues.
I watch the light dance between the branches as the morning wakes up, and in this moment I am healthy and filled with appreciation for the way my body moves along the sidewalk without pain or fear.
A week later I’d be lying like a slug on the couch, but in that moment and in all the other moments between the pain, sickness, heartbreak, or worries of life there’s so much bliss, if I can just let it in.
And the pain points serve to remind us to appreciate, to love, to be thankful and grateful, because things can be taken. Life is unpredictable to a certain degree.
But in this life we have choice, and we can create. And I believe in a God who can make the best of any of our pain points.