The Bitch and the Fool
The test said negative. Holding it closely to my eyes, by a window with the winter sun shining, I looked intently to see if perhaps the pink line was so faint that I hadn't registered its presence. It wasn't there.
I knew though, that K, my 6 year old, had it. The fever was so high. He was crying weakly from his headache.
I did everything I was NOT supposed to do to prevent transmission. I held him. Kissed him all over. Buried my face into his cheeks, as I have always done. Gently rubbed a cooling salve to the back of his neck and bottoms of his feet. To physically distance when a young child is vulnerable and sick was unthinkable to me. Touch is a form of medicine, as well as presence. I will cross that bridge if I get sick, I told myself. Mama is here, I said. I am with you. You rest and get better, Pumpkin.
Given that I normally work from a desktop, I pulled out my very old notebook, the one with the loud fan and always needed to stay plugged in to retain any charge, and made a makeshift temporary workspace in his room. I would be able to hear his breathing, and he mine. He would hear me type as I work, because I knew he needed to know I was there when his eyes were closed, when he was drifting in and out of feverish slumber. The precaution I did take was to increase my supplements and herbal infusions. If I do contract the virus, at least I would have a well-resourced, hydrated body.
It was the third test that displayed the pink line. By then, his fever had broke, his appetite returned. He got better gradually, then suddenly. 72 hours later, he was jumping on his bed, playing don't-touch-the-lava between cushions on the living room floor, hunting for sticks in our yard, modifying his Legos with car model paint, leaving his crumpled socks all over. He stayed home from school for the prescribed amount of days, and then some.
I felt a slight descent into menses-land. My lower back was mildly achy, I had a light tension headache. One thing that perplexed me was how much of an effort it was to read. I rummaged through the back of my desk drawer and pulled out the reading glasses that my opthamologist had been nagging me to wear. I must just be aging, I told myself.
I awoke the next day, feeling I had somehow been hit by a slow-moving tractor the night before. Every surface, nook and cranny, every convex and concave part was throbbing. My eyeballs felt oily and hot, eyelids heavy and achy. It was hard to read on my phone; and I had to adjust the light-levels on the screen as it had now seemed too harsh. I used the bathroom, and my flow had started. Let's hope it's just a harder-than-usual period, I told myself, though I knew it wasn't that. I knew not to bother taking a test too soon. I increased my medicinal mushrooms. I attempted to work, but the body pain was accelerating and intensifying, the chills electrifying through my torso, and cognitively, it became harder and harder to think. I texted my partner, M. I am not feeling well, and am feeling worse by the minute. Can you work from home for the rest of the day?
I stayed in our bedroom for 5 days, the door opening only when M brought me congee, broth, and soup, with great devotion.
The pain was no longer likened to a bump with slow-moving tractor, and had now felt like I was the unlucky target of three consecutive Greyhounds moving at high speed. I wore 4 layers of clothing, and still shivered under my duvet and an extra alpaca-wool blanket.
I wondered to myself when the Turkeytail would kick in.
I tuned in, and only heard silence.
I oscillated between keeping my eyes shut and staring at the wall vacantly. That first day was a game of waiting and fighting. I dreaded sitting on the toilet because the seat was cool and any dip in temperature against my skin was excruciating. How my pee felt boiling hot. How much I disliked washing my hands, because I was too impatient to wait for the water to warm up. Similarly, when I returned to the bed, the sheets had cooled and it felt like it would take an eternity for my body to reheat the linen.
Hoping it would be better by the second day, which was what I told myself to get through the first day, I was only met with more pain and more chills. They were relentless.
At some point towards the end of the second day, the hour unknown to me because in the pain, I lost my usual coherence, my perception of control, I found myself in a trance or maybe a dream.
On my side, curled in the fetal position, I met a being, who I knew was the virus.
Teach me, I submitted.
And half seriously, half jokingly, I called her a bitch.
She laughed and said yes why I waited so long to surrender, and that I could indeed call her Bitch, if she can call me Fool.
We both laughed, though I was still in agony.
And in her kindness, she brought me to see more pain, the real pain, the pain that I carried, the pain that I had thought I had worked on. None were new to me, but she showed me new layers, layers that I had overlooked, or maybe up until then I wasn't yet ready to be reacquainted with them.
The mother-daughter wound.
The mother-guilt when L had shifted his role as Baby into Oldest.
My relationship with Waiting and False Projections, as in Love comes to those who Wait, or If I Wait, I will be Fed.
My fear of trust and rest, and how productivity continues to be a lie I've told myself to avoid rest.
How I was using other people's definition to replace my own definition of rest.
How play was something I had put off.
How play was something that was conditional for me.
How I wasn't even sure how to define play.
How sometimes I don't like myself.
How I was already doing more than enough.
And I cried. And the more I cried, the more the pain softened.
The more the pain softened, the more I cried from relief.
How this pain was a portal for honesty.
How this pain was a portal for accountability.
How this pain was a portal for relating with and learning from.
How this pain was a liminal space that asked me how I wanted to re-emerge.
How this pain was a portal for rest and reset.
How this pain was a portal for the unconditional me.
I am not saying that all pain is always this.
I am not saying that pain will always lead us to these places of profound learning and metamorphosis.
I am not saying that covid is always a spiritual experience.
I am not saying that pain always has lessons for us.
I am not saying that I agree with the cliche of 'everything happens for a reason', that can so easily be misused and abused.
I simply am sharing my experience. I am inviting you to sit with me as I share it. I gladly embrace the honour of being a Fool, as she calls me.
With a contribution of $8 USD (or your preferred amount), you can keep UNSEEN on Substack thriving and evolving. If UNSEEN's message and general body of work have helped you in any way, please consider donating.
What a beautiful discovery. We are always learning, refining our edges, and being called to discover pleasure and play in the midst of it all. Loved this Mimi. Thank you! 🙏🏽