I Wish I Were Sick

Seriously? Nobody wishes they were sick. Well, maybe when you were a kid, and you just didn’t want to do something such as go to school. But now we’re all adults, and we don’t have to go to school if we don’t want to. So what’s going on here? 

As I was waking up this morning, I moved around in bed to see if the vertigo was acting up. Yep. How about brain activity: present or absent? Present but minimal. Energy? Ha. Lost track of that months ago. Should I call the doctor? Ha. I could say something like, “I don’t want to go to school today.” And she’d say: “Get dressed and get out of here.” 

Seriously. What is this? Is this what it feels like in the months leading up to a diagnosis of something serious? Or is this what it feels like to have one of those chronic things that never gets a name? If it’s the former, OK, great. At some point, I’ll get a diagnosis, and the amazing American medical machine will gear up to poke me and prod me and take images of me and schedule one appointment after another and rack up amazing bills, and maybe it will all work and I’ll get cured or at least get better. 

But: if this is a chronic thing that never gets a name, then what? I could spend my own money trekking around town to various people with various titles (some they’ve bestowed on themselves) who want to sell me various products or procedures or tests that will give me ambiguous results but fail to give my condition a name or a cure. Or maybe they’ll give it a name, but not a cure, but I’ll convince myself I’m just enough better to justify spending yet more money on their tests, products, or procedures. Or maybe I’ll just settle in for the long haul. 

Long Haul? Isn’t that one of the names given to people who caught Covid and failed to fully recover? Yes, Covid Long Haulers. Am I one? I don’t think so. I caught Covid in early August, got Paxlovid, and recovered quickly. Did I recover fully? Yeah, I think so. I don’t remember feeling like this, but we were traveling at the time. When we got home, I was tired from traveling, as usual. I didn’t have vertigo then. I’m not sure what it would feel like to have a fully functioning brain because I’m a bit scattered in the best of times, but I think I felt OK. I was still taking walks back then, so I had some amount of energy. 

But then there was that Covid booster in mid-October. I’d had a bit of vertigo before that, but only as I was going to bed. It wasn’t interfering with anything. Then, the day after the booster, I was sicker than I can describe with the most intense vertigo ever. Better the next day, and the next. Then I saw a PT and got worse (yes, worse). ER, Rx for nausea, and it’s been on again/off again since. I had 48 gleeful symptom-free hours following a massage, but then it’s been on again/off again since. My walking stick is by the door for days like today when I don’t even want to walk to the elevator without it. 

A friend with ME/CFS loaned me “The Invisible Kingdom: Reimagining Chronic Illness” by Meghan O’Rourke. Am I just trying on the experience of chronic illness which she so articulately describes? Oh, please, no. If so, I don’t want this role! Let me out of here! I’ve had other experiences that have taken months and months to right themselves (broken leg, broken foot). But they were so definitive: See this fracture here on this X-ray? We’re going to fix it! And yes, eventually, I was fixed. 

Today, I’m wondering if this was how my father felt in the months before he was diagnosed with a form of chronic leukemia. Was there just a malaise that slowly settled over his life? Was there a pain that couldn’t be attributed to anything in particular? Was his brain less clever than it had always been? I wasn’t home then, so I don’t know what the prelude was like. But today I wonder.

I have a previously scheduled appointment with my primary care doc in two weeks. I’ll find out if the lung nodules that appeared in my ER X-ray have resolved. I’ll tell her that the physical therapist who specializes in vertigo has told me he has no new ideas to resolve my persistent vertigo. I’ll tell her that when my brain is working so hard to figure out where I am in space, it can’t seem to do anything else I want it to do. And I’ll tell her that I don’t want to be chronically ill. What ideas will she have for me? Anything useful, or just a shrug?

Flu Shots, the Senate, and Sikhs

Flu Shots

We got flu shots, yes we did. And what a chore it was. I could have signed up for them at the end of October at our retirement home, but I still trapped in a lengthy siege of vertigo. I just didn’t want to risk another reaction to another shot. But once I started feeling better, I discovered that it’s no easy trick to get flu shots this year.

Our medical center that is across the street is not offering them. I suspect the reason is the labor shortage. They usually bring in people just to give shots to everyone who shows up for an appointment. Others can just drop in and get a shot. This year, they refer everyone to “their local drugstore.” 

I started calling our local drug store before we went to Canada for a short trip. I never got to speak to an actual human, nor did I get to a phone tree to choose “how to schedule a flu shot.” Last Monday, we were at a different pharmacy, so I walked up to the counter and asked about flu shots. Not on weekdays, the man said; I’m the only one working. 

Then we hit the jackpot. We’d gone to COSTCO for some things, and hubby saw a sign that said “Flu Shots Today!” Great. We went to the pharmacy, filled out some forms, and were told to come back at 2:00. We did some shopping and returned at 2:00. We were directed to some chairs. We sat. We waited. Others showed up. They sat. They waited. A person in a pharmacy uniform came and asked our names. She left. We waited. She returned, and asked about our insurance cards; she photocopied them; she left. We waited. At some point, she emerged from a different door and called someone’s name. Progress!

Eventually, we got our shots, but we were glad we hadn’t put frozen food in our cart before we returned to the pharmacy. 

The Senate

Hooray for Raphael Warnock, and thanks to Hershel Walker for a gracious concession. (Yo Kari Lake, that’s how it’s done.) But not so fast, Dems, your 51-49 Senate is no more. Krysten Sinema is now an Independent. Seems right, somehow, because she never aligned clearly with the Ds. 

I Want to be a Sikh

We learned this week that our favorite doctor, whose parents immigrated from India, is a Sikh. He took some time to give us a lot of background on the role of Sikhs in Indian history and culture and talk about Sikhs in the West. He came alive when he was talking about all of this. He’s always upbeat, but this was special. 

He doesn’t wear a turban and explained that in the West, many Sikhs felt they weren’t needed, both in order to blend in a bit, but also because the turban held military significance in India that was irrelevant here. We learned that Sikhs were from Punjab, a rich agricultural region, hence the many farmers in his family history. We saw pictures of his children attending a recent wedding with their grandmother in India. Weddings are a vey big deal, but, he said, Sikhs will celebrate almost anything. 

We really enjoyed seeing this doctor, who we’ve seen for many years, light up as he took the opportunity to share what he loves about his Sikh heritage. He no longer observes the details of the religion, though he shared positive aspects of it (women are equal? – though they don’t show up online in descriptions of Sikhism). 

I wish we had to time to delve into the cultural history of all of our doctors. We’ve had docs and other providers from Lebanon, Iran, India, Seattle(!), Fort Peck Indian Reservation, Nigeria, Russia, and all over the US. 

Whose Lives Matter?

While walking past a bus stop yesterday, I saw a person with a red T-shirt and a jacket. The jacket covered some of the letters of the message on the shirt, but I could read … Lives Matter. The first word was not “Black,” so I paused and asked about the missing word. Turned out to be “Deplorable.” I smiled, because I really liked the sentiment, but I also smiled because the person was a middling aged and middling sized black man who was also wearing a MAGA hat. 

We chatted briefly, agreeing that “Deplorable” is a wretched word for a huge section of our voting population. His words: “It’s so disrespectful.” Yes, I said, and we wished each other a good day and parted company. 

If you heard Hillary refer to the small “basket of deplorables” back in 2016, you will know that she was referring to a small group of people who were engineering Trump’s campaign. She was trying to convey that millions of his supporters were being duped, that they were being seriously misled. I happen to believe that she was right about that.

But I also believe that neither the Republicans nor the Democrats have paid sufficient attention to our struggling working class. Thus when the Republicans seized the opportunity to push the narrative that Hillary considered all of Trump’s followers to be deplorable, it was too easy for millions to believe it. 

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about my fear that the word “deplorable” could bring about the end of the Enlightenment. Since then, one thing has led to another, and here we are facing an election that could actually bring about the end of the Enlightenment. What’s odd is that I would wear a T-shirt proclaiming, “Deplorable Lives Matter” today. I am that concerned about the disrespect that is heaped on people who are not on board with the furthest reaches of the progressive Democrats. 

I’m a centrist who believes in incremental reform based on what we’ve learned from past reforms. I’m not on board with the extreme left or the extreme right. Millions of people are like me, but we don’t control the media. So we struggle to be heard. To progressives, I’m deplorable. To the extreme right, I’m unprincipled, never mind the fact that the far right has no principles at all today. 

I no longer consider myself a Democrat. Yet I want the Dems to hold the House and win a couple more Senate seats, and I want moderate Dems to be in the majority of their caucuses, and I want the progressives to rethink everything. And I desperately want the Dems to find a way to win over the deplorables who think the Dems disrespect them all. 

I urge you to read any and all things written by Ruy Teixeira on his substack: The Liberal Patriot

If you can’t spend an entire weekend reading his articles, read at least this one: The Democrats’ Common Sense Problem.

Contemplating Spring

Camping in the Rain! Yes!

Over the years, we have backpacked, car-camped in vans, car-camped with tents – we have a lot of experience. But we met our match this week with a new tent that is designed to snuggle up to an SUV. A year ago, we had a small camper van that worked fine for me, but it just couldn’t handle the backroads that my husband loves to travel. He will follow a gravel road with huge potholes and muddy ruts to the end of the earth. Evan better if there is snow ahead. So we traded this year for a Subaru designed with him in mind. 

But it’s hard to carry much gear and still sleep in the car, so we bought this special tent that is supposed to fit around the rear end of an SUV. And maybe it would have, but we absolutely could not fit the center pole into its little pockets no matter what we tried. And without the center pole, the two sides of the tent would not stand up. So we never really got to the part about snugging it up around the rear of our vehicle. 

After about two hours of NOT YELLING! at each other, the smarter one of us said, calmly, “I’d like to toss this tent into the back of the car and go sleep in our own beds tonight.” “Brilliant,” said I, and home we went. We have another tent, a small two-person tent (having given away a perfectly good 4-person tent when we bought the van that we have now traded for the Subaru), so the next morning we headed out with the little tent. We set it up in a flash, then set off to visit friends for the afternoon. It rained while we were visiting, but when we got back to our tent, we did our nightly rituals and crawled in while the rain took a break.

We had purchased new sleeping mats with the SUV tent, and they were great. I kept my socks on, used a sleeping bag liner, and was warm and comfy. Unlike many nights camping out, I actually slept some – when I wasn’t listening to some serious rain hitting our rain fly. All seemed well, until we woke up in the morning and discovered that while the rain fly did its job, the sides and floor of our tent seemed to have no resistance at all to the rain. Mats wet. Sleeping bags wet. Ugh. Never mind. We smiled at each other and said, “I’m having fun!”  And we were. 

So now, if we can ever get the SUV tent back into the bag it came in, we will return it and think about our options. I actually found the receipt for it today! How often does that happen when a purchase doesn’t work out. Check back for camping updates later this spring.

Green!

One benefit of giving up on our tent and returning home is that we got to view spring unfolding twice along our drive. The shades of green as shrubs and trees work their springtime magic are glorious. Absolutely not monochromatic. I’m grateful that I can see colors. 

When we lived in Skagit County, my weekly travels along Highway 20 gave me the opportunity to see native plants come alive in their orderly sequence each year, Indian plum, red flowering current, red elderberry, salmonberry, dogwood. Many of them were visible on this trip to Island County, while the early greens of the emerging shrub and tree leaves provided the background. 

Our view from our apartment is of buildings, so a periodic drive through the countryside is essential for my mental health. I need to “touch grass” as the saying goes today.