Sunday, May 28, 2006
Anatomy of a 24 Hour Bug
As I write this, I’m recovering from a 24-hour virus. I’m almost myself again, except that when I bend over, my head throbs like a newborn’s fontanel.
Anyway, it’s amazing how 24 hours drags out when you’re bedfast. There was one movement I could make, however, that did not nauseate me--pressing the remote control button. So to distract myself from obsessively monitoring my symptoms, I watched (or listened to) more TV in the last 24 hours than I do in a week.
First of all, it didn’t take long to occur to me that TV has been rightfully called “The Boob Tube” for both literal and figurative reasons. I’ll skip the literal and comment on the figurative.
Early on, I thought it was safe to roll around in self-pity while I was rolling around in twisted sheets. But I was wrong. As always, my Constant Companion sat patiently beside me. But just because He’s patient doesn’t mean He’s silent.
Here’s what I mean. It was a beautiful Memorial Day weekend. Too bad I was stuck inside, re-breathing my own germs, with only the TV for company. Alone in my dark room, I grumbled and whined to myself as I flipped through the channels.
I landed on Tim Russert interviewing Marlo Thomas. They talked about St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, where the cures for various cancers have reached 90%. Marlo told how children who have spent several years in that hospital have returned as doctors or nurses to give back to the institution and care for patients in a truly empathetic way.
I stopped grumbling and prayed for hospitalized children and their parents.
I watched the hours pass with one hand on the remote and one eye on the bucket.
Next I stopped on “Laguna Beach,” a reality series in which the lives of wealthy, blonde, California teenagers are chronicled. In my Midwestern opinion, these kids are portrayed as social and spiritual messes, but I didn’t really dislike them any more than I do a tantrum-throwing two year old. After all, it’s the tantrum that’s unlovable, not the kid. These kids are products of their culture, and I have faith that by the time they reach adulthood, they will look around at the bigger world and outgrow some of their nonsense. Then I began to think about my not perfect but pretty good teenagers. They need help, too. I prayed for teenagers everywhere because love for them bubbles up in me, whether they are rich or poor, materialistically or spiritually.
By this morning, I was on my feet and pushing the vacuum around. Ahhhh, routine! The chores that normally feel like the proverbial ball and chain felt like an opportunity. But wait! Hadn’t I just been frustrated recently about our house’s many fixer-up details? Didn’t unfinished projects and postponed spring cleaning drive me nuts just the other day? Forty-eight hours ago, didn’t I grit my teeth for having to sweep carpet that needs to be replaced? I did; I did, but now the vacuum marks on the same carpet were making me happy. How do you explain that?
I turned off the sweeper and saw that Paris and Nicole were somewhere in the South. They were smirking at the host family, and I shook my head in disapproval (I know; we’re supposed to laugh at their superficiality, and I suspect the trait is played up for us), but then I remembered that I had recently been guilty of the same attitude. Thankfully, my attitudes are not televised, but I felt as ugly as Paris and Nicole were acting, and that’s after I’d had my refreshing “the plague is over” shower. I prayed for forgiveness for judging and berating others. Also for Paris and Nicole. Do you think anyone ever prays for them?
Finally, by noon, I felt pretty normal, and my family and I sat down to lunch. My seventeen year-old son began the blessing, “God, thank you that Mom is feeling better. Thank you that we could afford this food . . . .”
I felt a lump swell in my throat that was not from a virus, but from gratitude—for the good health which I enjoy most of my days, for being able to afford and provide food, for the availability of food, for my home, for the capability to do chores and take care of my family and myself, for my precious son, and even for the bug which became a teachable moment for me. But most of all, I was moved by the sweetness of the Constant Companion, who cares enough to strip away distractions, show you new things, remind you of old lessons, and never leave your side, even when you’re ugly and diseased. His constancy and faithfulness are soothing salves for the wounded and sick; His joy is their strength.