February 6, 2013

Sick Day

How many days do I wish for nothing to do?  With a day like that, I think, I could catch up on my reading.  I could write.  I could pray.  I could do all the things I usually feel too busy to do because I'm doing other things.

I've had a sick day today, and, like every other sick day I've ever had, I find that, try as I might, I can't summon the concentration to do all the things I'd imagined doing if I weren't doing the regular things.  I can't read.  I can't even pray.  My brain feels disconnected.  Once I spent a month on the couch with pneumonia watching reruns until I thought I would go crazy, but Pride and Prejudice was out of the question.  I couldn't do it.

It makes me wonder about a lot of things -- chronic illness or chronic pain, for example, which I suspect are  as burdensome in the way they rob concentration as they are in themselves.  I have thus been spared either, however, so what I can chiefly wonder about is the rhythms of doing and being.

I woke up today, unwell, thinking, "Today I can just be."  Here's how "being" started:  I swept and washed a floor.  I baked a cake.  Later I did some laundry.  Two runs to school and back.  Dishes.  General tidying.  In other words, plenty of doing.

I don't even consider myself much of a doer.  I have friends and family who can't get enough of doing.  A day laying on the couch, reading a book, would be torture for them.  Not so for me.  (As proof, let me present as evidence that I read the last Harry Potter book, cover to cover, in a single sitting.)  This doesn't make me someone who knows how to be.

I did take a nap today.  I generally associate naps with a vague sense of guilt.  I have friends who nap from time to time -- or regularly -- and I'm apt to say, "Good for you!"  But not for me.

I live, in spite of myself, as if my doing keeps the world spinning.  Maybe it just keeps my world spinning.

I'm left with the uneasy feeling that I still think that what I do is more important than it is.  Not that I'm more important than I am.  Quite the contrary.  What I say is that I'm of value in my being not my doing.  But that's not how I behave.  I act as if what I do is what makes me important.

I wonder what it would look like to make a list of all the things I -- or you -- do that we think the world cannot live without.  How does that feel?  When I had pneumonia and I couldn't cook, because I was wearing oxygen, and I could hardly get off the couch for a while, because it was moving around or breathing comfortably, not both, I felt somehow not like myself.  I was watching what I thought of as my life happening all around me, and I was not an active participant.

That suggests to me that what I think of as my life and what my life actually is are not the same.  My life went right along on that couch next to the oxygen machine.  It persisted on the inside, even while my outsides were pretty useless.

Someday I am likely to grow either sick or old and be less able or unable to do much of what I do now.  If I'm going to face myself then, I might want to face myself now.  Who am I apart from what I do?  Who are you?

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