Friday, January 14, 2011

Love in the Time of Influenza

I had the flu. Then the hubs had the flu. This wasn’t the “search the cabinets for anything to help you breathe again” flu. This was that other flu. The flu we don’t talk about. You know what I mean. I don’t mean to paint too graphic a picture here but there are some tarot cards that can tell the story.

It seems like it should have been a short story. Its suddenness was like a lightning strike, a Tower fallen, the rug ripped out from under me. Luckily, I was within range of familiar conveniences. In times of stress, they were never more convenient. Dark moments like these are times when we examine our souls. I really hadn’t wanted to examine my soul from the inside out, though.

But after the initial assault, the siege went on. And on. It was 8 of Wands, the rain of fire, the sudden swiftness of burning, even the up-in-the-air feeling of having been launched, wanting to land but afraid to do so from such a height. The fever raged. The battle continued. The topsy-turvy world of war was upon me. Even water would not put out this flame, would not seek its own level but beat its retreat.

I sought comfort in the dark and quiet, hoping the sweet little songbirds would cease their concerts, the dog would not snore, the cats would not breathe so loudly. Light and air and logic and imagination were enemies. I waved a sheet in surrender and prayed for an end, however it may come. As a soldier crawling from the blast, the 4 of Swords, I sought oblivion even if from cold stone or smooth tiles.

I fought despair of the 5 of Cups. This was still Day 1. And yet I continued to work, to answer emails and telephone calls, to offer guidance on complex computer projects. And sprint. And despair some more. No, I said. This was not flu. This was food poisoning, a poorly prepared potato past its prime in search of revenge for its neglect. It would not be flu.

After the long siege of day and night, I rallied at dawn, sure the worst was over. After all, my husband’s birthday weekend was almost upon us and I would not, would not give in and cancel it. I tenderly tried to regain the balance of my strength, to sip both eagerly and cautiously to win back some of what I had lost. Sweet Temperance led me to sip and sip and sip again.
Ah, but cruel warning came! Peace is not merely the lack of open warfare. Dissembling stillness led me astray and I called out for sustenance. My husband responded in his usual generosity and brought me what would ordinarily be healing itself, Sizzling Rice Soup, and perhaps, if I were daring, a little vegetable fried rice. What harm could a little soothing soup do? Yet, like a thief, like the 7 of Swords, in a flash from full bowl to empty was all the time it took for me to find that the battle was not yet won. Even the sight of the veggie rice was too much to be gazed upon. I lost ground and I retreated once more.

Flu, like Death, be not proud. It takes us all, the willing and the unwilling, from time to time. Flu rode in with my husband on a portion of spicy eggplant from that same nearby Chinese restaurant. He felt fine while I turned green over my bland soup. Yet scant hours later, he was struck, with all the force of all the same symptoms, all the same remorse. And we fought fire with water once again, rallied and sank, retreated and wandered restlessly. All the while our dog and cats watched over us in dismay, concern and perhaps portion calculation should the worst occur.
And in our lowest moment, we knew we were defeated. The birthday weekend was off. The trip to the redwoods was postponed. The prime rib and chocolate cake were not to be. We were betrayed by a microbe, stabbed in the back like the 10 of Swords for providing too friendly an environment for its welfare. We made phone calls. We choked out our apologies and gave our best intentions to our comrades to save themselves, to run.

I determined the only cure for the worst of it was never to eat again. Like the 2 of Swords, I drew a thin treaty with the beastly bug, denying defeat as well as victory. My resolve lasted only into the evening of Day 3 and I rummaged for something, anything like real food. I found a bagel and toasted it, throwing caution to the wind. I returned to fuss and coo over my ailing sweetie whose head was bursting in between other bursts. We slept again.

Day 4. The fire retreats and leaves the charred remains, soothed, finally, by the cooling waters. We rise, having let go of earthly cares and woes, mostly woes. My husband has ventured as far as the kitchen and made chicken noodle soup. While this balm may not last for long, it is a breakthrough. Even the thought of food was torture a couple of days ago. We’ve dared to watch a little television, its trumpet blare and fireworks now not too painful to take. There are so many food commercials on television and not a lot of them are appetizing.

I even watched Julie & Julia, a movie about the love of food. It reminded me of the joy our cousin Patti has in her cooking, her love of France, her annual Thanksgiving “Babette’s” Feast where all is made from loving scratch. It also reminded me that love goes through things together, weathers indignities, unpleasantness, inconveniences, disappointments, defeats as well as joys and celebrations. We drink from the same cup and get the same reward, whether it’s the sweetness of the wine or the wretched influenza, in sickness and in health. We share the same cup.

But it will still be a while before that boned duck thing from J&J starts to look tasty. And I’d better go wash that cup again.

All images in this posting are from my Art Postcard Tarot, still available.  See my page called Tarot Decks on this blog for more information. 

Best wishes.

1 comment:

  1. This Christmas flu has been doing the rounds all over the world. Mine started on Christmas Day (in South Africa) and I know two other people who had it around the same time (one in Greece and another in England). It took two weeks for me to recover 100%. Get Well Soon!