I woke up in the wee hours of the morning, January 01, 2020, with my first thought being, “Wow, it’s cold in here,” the blankets having receded from being on top of me. Sure, I felt cold, but that wasn’t the main issue I quickly realized. In trying to pull the blanket back over me, recovering just a couple inches from our sleeping poodle cuddling me, I had my second thought, “OK, did someone run over me, using a car?” The signature pain of a fever shot through my nervous system feeling like pine needles trying to move through my blood vessels. I sat there for awhile, trying to go back to sleep.
My third thought came, like a schoolyard taunt, in which my achy body was, for once, the aggressor. “Well, you stupid incompetent fever, I’ve had a lot worse, and I can’t believe you even call yourself a fever.” I had to open my big mouth. Literally. As I did, my throat reminded me what other symptoms had gone along with this virus, when members of my family contracted it. If I had tried to regurgitate a Guinea pig whole, this kind of stretching pain would make more sense. As it was, it took me a second to realize why my throats was so increasingly sore. While poking fun at the fever, I hadn’t even tried to swallow, or do a body check, to assess affected systems.
From there, the thoughts began to flow quite freely. “Should I tell my family that I need to stay home, so I don’t infect anyone on our trip out of town, in a few hours? Did I infect anyone when I did pastoral visitations, yesterday? Gosh, was I kind enough to my sick wife when she had this, to warrant her reciprocating grace in my sickness? I’ve been awake a couple hours… if I tried to write down my thoughts, would I be able to go back to sleep? What kind of medicine should I take to try and sleep? What was that sound? Is that my baby waking up? If I get up with the baby, while being sick, will that warrant enough credit to pass out later today when I’m exhausted?”
My mind keep rolling, like a pair of game dice, trying to find an elusive numeric pair. I was spinning on a merry-go-round, in my mind, waiting for it to stop, but it kept revolving me, and I couldn’t pin down my thoughts. It had long-since ceased being merry, but kept going round. “The world keeps spinning around, like this,” I thought, “and it doesn’t care if it makes you dizzy.” I thought of a line to an old Eminem song, “I don’t know why this world keeps turning, round and round, but I wish it would stop and let me off right now.” I was getting dizzy.
“Dang, I’m spoiled, I thought.” The fact that I can even entertain this level of selfish pity, writing about it in the middle of the night, is proof of my fragile privilege. I just saw a friend who’s in the hospital, relatively young, with a difficult condition, that won’t ever let him walk like I walk. Several of my other friends, who work for big corporations, don’t have the same amount of sick leave as I do, and would have to essentially lose money to allow themselves to heal. Another friend was injured on the job and, not speaking English well, isn’t sure how to fight for Workman’s Comp, and is sinking in medical debt. And here I am pouting and pitying myself for a fever!
As I think about it, it’s acceptable to want to rest, after getting sick, if my lifestyle will allow it. The warm face flush of shame that I initially felt when thinking about my friends has morphed into something else, compassion, finally being something that offered to get me outside of myself.
Praying now, I begin to think, “God, help me to rest and get well, so I can advocate for and struggle with my friends.”
Right as I’m about to go take some fever medicine and attempt to hunt down the elusive unicorn of sleep, another thought pops into my head, “It’s an election year. It’s 2020. And even though I had compassion for my friends, I failed to have compassion for my Christian friends who forget themselves, lose their religion and temper, and cast stones, just as often at each other as the sinful ideologies that each other’s candidate embodies. Why is it so hard to speak truth in love and follow Jesus, in this toxic climate?…”
My mind threatens to keep spinning, ad Infinitum, but I stick my foot into the gravel of the spinning merry-go-round and jump off, saying to Heaven, “Lord Jesus, you got some major work to do on me and the other people who’ve taken your name. But I’ll trust that you can stay up a little later than I can. My throat’s sore, and I’m going to sit the rest of this ride, out. I’ll jump back on, whether I like it or not, in a little bit. But first, let me go find some fever meds.”