Thursday, December 3, 2015

la joie de la maladie

With a change of diet - both physical and mental - I have been fortunate in my health in the last year. Working at a grocery store kept my muscles toned and my sleep sound. Five weeks ago I took a position at a large financial institution as an administrative assistant, work I am more than capable of doing and for twice the pay as before. Good for my family, good for me. Unfortunately, my new environment, cubed and closer quarters, allows for easy transfer of sneezes and the germs they transport. I heard the woman in the cubicle next to me sneezing and hacking the other day, and earlier this week I woke to find myself among the living dead.

I spent Tuesday resting and went back to work yesterday. However, this morning I woke to find my illness had boomeranged on me. I slept until noon, dreams of choking on bile and of losing a great competition, push ups or some such, against a muscle-bound Viking. I fought the decision as the crowd of dirty, toothless locals jeered and cheered. I woke trying to make my case against the tide. 

The truth is I both love and hate being sick. The hating is easy, especially if you've read Kafka. The sinking feeling in your stomach as you bow out of the day's race, worthlessness on you like a wolf, while wife and child trudge on. I have learned to allow the guilt to wash over me, cleansing me of ego, the enthusiasm of self that we are told is healthy, stripping me down to something to mull over with a whole day of resting that lies ahead. 

But I also love being sick. I love the way sickness forces us to slow the body and the mind, Soma and Myalo. These two athletes inside us, each in love with itself, constantly attempting to best the other and prove superior worth, find the world slowing its pace as it rushes past. Legs abdicate their mission, momentum in increasing mutiny. Shame before helplessness. The two slow to a stop, and they find themselves helpless together and so sit and take up rock-scissors-paper, maybe Go Fish. You feel knocked out of orbit, and with this new position comes a new perspective. You leave the stage and sit in the audience. For me, I begin to see how silly the play itself is, how unimaginatively repetitive the scenes are. I look around expecting to see geniuses around me, Seers, prophets, or soothsayers. Instead, I find only real things. Empty rooms full of angles and lines I can contemplate at length. I cock my head and enjoy new slants. Walk from room to room in perfect silence and stillness. Be your own ghost haunting your home after everything is gone. Recognize you as one of your own memories. For me it is therapeutic, for others I could imagine depressing. And with nothing to distract you, soon you begin to hear all the clatter from within, a din of voices both known and foreign, proclamations of your success, accusations of your failure. Entering the bathroom, the light hits the supporting beam and casts a Caligari darkness across the floor. Amidst the humming of the refrigerator in the other room, it is beautiful and ominous. I think of things that always wait. Stairs in the night. I think of our shadows, the ones inside ready to pounce at the first sign of weakness, and how they seem to have more patience than anything we create. I walk forward toward it. In half umbra I am out of space and time, offline in a way that says I was once an unsettled monk, an aesthetic ascetic, possibly the ruler of the universe (I remember being brought to tears when I first read of him, a brother, a mirror, an ideal), a Nowhere Man in the hills of someone's book or head never to be approached nor understood, his job being only to be. And with that so am I, resigned to run the moral calculations that support a smiling life. Between the sink and the toilet, I allow myself, some strange subroutine of happiness.

1 comment:

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