“Slowly I Turned” : Health

I’d like it known that I feel lousy today. I’m on the second day of a (usually) three-day migraine. Well, I call it a migraine, but the symptoms are a little idiosyncratic—but that’s beside the point right now. For more than two days now, I’ve been dragging myself around like a half-drowned cat, looking pathetic and accomplishing practically nothing.


And wouldn’t you know, it annoys me. It really annoys me. I resent it when ill health gets in the way of my writing. It doesn’t happen continually, but on enough of a regular basis that I’ve tagged “Health” as one of the hindrances I’d like to shake by the lapels until its teeth rattle. When I was younger, I used to wish that I could be a bodiless intelligence. I always thought life would be so much easier that way; no weak flesh to interfere with my eager curiosity, no chemical impediment to the pursuit of wisdom.


Yes, I do realize (now) that there wouldn’t be much point to curiosity or to wisdom unless I had some physical presence with which to make use of its fruits. I realize that I wouldn’t be myself any longer, because I have been “sown perishable,” as one hindrance-laden wise man once phrased it. That’s part of my identity. We’re funny creatures, we humans, being neither angel nor animal, but something midway between the two. The physical we cannot shake off while we inhabit this earth; the spiritual we cannot ignore if we hope to surpass our current state. We’re stuck, one might say. And yet…


I’m reminded of an incident that happened to me a few years ago. I was still in the process of being diagnosed with a heart arrhythmia, and one episode was severe enough that my then-roommate drove me to the emergency room. While we sat in the waiting area, I voiced the thought that came uppermost to my mind: What bothers me most is that this is taking up my writing time. My roommate looked askance at me, as she so often did, and replied, “Girl, you need to rethink your priorities!” The whole idea of ill health being a hindrance, I realized, was based on the assumption that my life is my own, to order as I please. I gave that up a long, long time ago—but somehow traces of the assumption linger on even today.


Because we are this strange hybrid of heaven and earth, we are at our best not when we try to stamp out one or the other half, but when we blend them correctly. Wisdom, for us, is not something attained apart from the physical, but through constant submission of the physical to the spiritual, and care of the latter for the former. A story is nothing without conflict, and we are nothing without endurance through successive struggles.


Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to lie down with a warm compress in a dark, quiet room.


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