Maybe I should say lessons contemplated. I'm approaching a birthday, always an occasion for meditation. One of the recurring thoughts is that new lessons keep popping up in our lives and the ones that matter are usually surprises. In well over seventy years, I see that I cannot control much about my fairly simple life and that the only preparation for the sudden shocks is patience and belief in the powers of my aging body that, I'm seeing clearly, are not the same powers that body has always enjoyed.
Those are the generalities. Generalities are like melting ice cubes (here now, gone very shortly) without specifics. Specifically, of course, I'm thinking of the current bout with ehrliciosis, a mean little bacteria I never heard of until early this week, that came to try to live in my blood having hitched a ride on a common tick. I have always been a very healthy person and take my good health and stamina for granted. Lesson: no one should take good health for granted, yet we can't avoid doing so. I've done the right things in terms of diet, exercise, good sleep and hygiene habits. That's been enough. Ehrliciosis doesn't give a damn. The bug just found a good supply of blood to invade. The good news is that ehrliciosis has a proven enemy, doxycycline, an antibiotic that I'm told will kill it all off in a total of ten days -- i.e., sometime next week. Happily the hospitalists at our local hospital arrived at a cause for my unhappy symptoms quickly and send off blood samples for identification immediately. Hurray! War won!
Not so fast. More lessons on the boards. As bodies are supposed to do, mine reacted with high fever that sapped my physical strength like a wet rag being wrung limp. I watched my body unable to simply get up off the floor despite what should be normal effort. I watched my generally lucid mind compulsively "write" the history of Alexander the Great, Roxanna and Beucephalus in those long night hours when I passed between sleep and wake. Actually I know little about Alexander and haven't a clue why that history obsessed me so suddenly. I watched the hospital staff unwittingly -- although it is what they do -- infantilize me for the sake of my own safety. I had little strength so they did not allow me to get out of bed without someone at my side, they feared I'd fall in the six feet from bed to bathroom and even added a brilliant yellow plastic bracelet marked RISK. I came to distrust my own sense of balance standing on my two familiar, dependable feet.
Being an analyzer of situations and watcher of my own reactions, I saw that many other people my age with little experience of hospitals could find this the first step of a downward spiral of dependence and loss of self-confidence. The nurses were more than happy to set up visits by visiting nurses to continue my dependency. Living alone is a danger signal in their minds. I understand but I reject the premise. I'm not ready for the med-alert button. I'll go on taking my chances.
Another lesson, not the last, but enough for present considerations: follow up doctor's appointments litter my calendar for the next month. Ehrliciosis did some possibly lasting damage to internal systems like the liver (perhaps that wasn't the bug but the bombardment of a whole armamentarium of antibiotics and auxiliary drugs poured into me in a very short time). There are consequences of this episode. There are always consequences!
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