And Another Thing: Under the weather and seeking a silver lining

By: Susan Rushton
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On a July afternoon the summer I was 16, I lay on the couch with a fever of 102. I felt crummy. However, as I gazed at the sun behind the curtains, I also felt relieved. The sun was out, but at last I had an excuse to be inside. That’s how things were in my energetic, athletic family. And in spite of being a member of that family, usually all I wanted was to sit someplace and read a book. Now, finally, I could justify my being inside. Turns out I had viral pneumonia — and recovery took the rest of the summer. Lots and lots of coughing (this is an understatement), lots of bed rest (even when the sun was out! Hah!) and plenty of time to read. Jump to the end of that summer. As I dressed for my last doctor’s appointment, I stood in my bedroom breathing as deeply as I could, straining to make a cough come. Nothing. Zip. Nada. Let joy be unconstrained, I was finally healthy. Drat, mutter and grump. Now I had no excuse to stay inside. As I write this, I’ve had bacterial pneumonia for a week. My fever’s been gone for four days — let joy be unconstrained. By the time you read this, however, I sure hope I’ve stopped coughing. I sure hope that now I can lie down at night and stay quiet and go to sleep, instead of coughing and annoying myself and preventing my husband Don from going to sleep as well. It’s amazing how small the world gets when you’re sick. How narrow your field of vision becomes. You make a path from the bed to the bathroom, the bed to the couch, the couch to the TV where, in spite of 317 channels, there’s nothing on. Don tells me about billboards I’m missing, informing me of the imminent end of the world. I see headlines about the Amgen race, others about the Schwarzeneggers separating. None of this has anything to do with the state of my lungs, so I pay very little attention. Because now I can stay inside whenever I darn well please, I feel different about being sick than I did when I was 16. Then, I’d look for any excuse to be sick. Now, though, because I remember LOVING to be sick, I don’t trust myself. I don’t know how to decide whether I’m sick enough to let my tasks fall by the wayside. As I was a lazy kid, I’m now a lazy adult — like all of us, I’d love it if I didn’t have so much to do. All that laundry, all those dishes, those dirty bathrooms, groceries to get, meals to prepare, columns to write, etc. etc. etc, ad infinitum. But I have to do it. It’s only when I’m sick that I have an excuse not to. That excuse not to — that’s the only bright spot when illness strikes. So now I’m sick. And while I’m always happy not to keep those bathrooms up, always happy to let those dishes sit, I feel weird about it. I don’t trust myself. I know how I feel about being sick, so I’m constantly asking myself: “How sick am I?” And if I can stand and breathe and walk around, I argue with myself — I can’t really be that sick. Even if you can hear my lungs complaining from the next room. In other news: I heard from Christine Ryland about two of her current favorite books. She recommends “Our Mother, Doris Louisa,” by local author Edna Sparkes. It “sounds almost like a Regency Romance that goes right into an ‘Oliver Twist’ story with the birth of her mother and her mother’s siblings. You won’t want to put it down after the first paragraph and will be left wanting more when the book finishes.” She also recommends “Daughter of Fortune” by Isabelle Allende. “What a fabulous read… The book does a wonderful job providing an insight to both Chile and California during the 1840s with itself complex web of history, compassion and the violence of this time period.” What else do you have out there? What are you reading and loving lately? Let me know. Susan Rushton’s column appears every other Sunday in the Auburn Journal. Her e-mail address is