18 May 2011

Being with discomfort

"Did you take anything for that?" my husband asks me a few days ago during the height of what I am now calling "The Plague." The "that" he's referring to is me practically hacking up a lung every twenty minutes or so.

"No [coughs]," I reply in a deep scratchy voice through a stuffed up head and chest. "I'm waiting until I go to bed for the night [coughs] to take any cold meds [sneezes and blows nose twice] so I can at least breathe a little better while I sleep. [coughs] During the day I'm just trying to let [sneezes] this thing make its way [coughs] through my system."

He looks at me as if I have lost my mind.


A few hours after this conversation I still cannot breathe. I'm huddled in my nest of blankets on the living room couch and still hacking away. Our elderly cat is enjoying the warmth I'm emitting as a result of my fever. She lays snoozing on top of me, opening her eyes each time I cough to regard me with a baleful glare as if to say, "You're disturbing my nap. Hush."

Like my husband, I'm sure the cat would love it if I would just take the cold medication.


Unlike those folks who medicate themselves day and night in an attempt to squelch every symptom of an illness, I prefer to simply be still and quiet and let whatever upper respiratory yuck (because that's usually what I get) just run it's course.The cold meds aren't going to make it go away any more quickly. If anything, I sometimes think squelching the symptoms slows the progress of a virus through your system forcing it to linger.

Better to just let it do its thing and get it over with.

Yep, that's my strategy.

It hits me as I'm laying there trapped under the cat and coughing yet again: In spite of feeling wretched, I am actually good at sitting with physical discomfort.

I am good at just being quiet for days on end and being still and sitting with the discomfort. At waiting it out and letting it run its course.

How weird is that?

In the next moment it hits me that, sadly, I do not possess the same skill when it comes to my mental and emotional life. While I might be good at sitting with physical discomfort, experiencing psychic discomfort of any kind...yikes!

Nope. Not good at all at being quiet and being still when it comes to sitting with difficult emotions or thoughts.

Like most people, I want to squelch the symptoms of discomfort in the realms of the mental and the emotional - numb them with things like food, movies, televsion, my computer, solitaire, anything fun and pleasant that will distract from the discomfort.

How sad is that?

And especially now when I have just given notice at my job, with no new job in the wings and my future plans uncertain. I'm making the leap into parenthood (hopefully, if our adoption ever goes through) and potentially into a writing career.

Yep, there's definitely going to be some psychic discomfort heading my way.

Maybe I should replicate my nest of blankets from my days with The Plague? Think that would help?

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