I have spent the last three days in a fog of head cold and cold medication. I went to bed early Thursday evening and — other than brief, hallucinatory moments of “no no I’m sure I’ll feel better once I’ve showered” and “oh goodness if I don’t get to the corner deli for cat food, Nathan and Hildi just might eat each other” — in bed I’ve stayed.
I’m in the realm of recovery-exhaustion now: my chest feels like an aching cavern, my eyes like sandpaper, and my nasal passages hang suspended between states of probably-past-the-worst and y’never-know-’til-the-fat-lady-sings.
Despite all that (or should I say, “because of all that”?), I am also feeling quietly ecstatic this evening.
I don’t get sick very often. Not head cold-sick. (I’ve gone through periods of getting migraine-sick with horrifying frequency, which is another story for another day.) What I have always done — at least as far back as the two days of school I missed in 4th grade right after turning in my Henry David Thoreau Quote Notebook to Mr. Hansen — is to fall sick immediately after the completion of a major project.
The load lifts.
I fall sick.
And the path I come back to no longer resembles the path I left.
The last time I fell sick like this was in September, 2012 — one day after I promised two people (out of only three in the world for whom I would ever make such a promise) that I would not, in fact, end my life on October 7. Suicide had been the only plan — the only coherent thought — I had been able to form for six months. Removing it suddenly as an option…
Well, let’s just say: the lifting of a load sometimes makes space for much heavier-seeming burdens. Perhaps this is why we can cling to petty grievances and trivial annoyances. At least the pain they give is familiar.
Even in dark woods, we know how to brave the night terrors of a well-worn path.
In late September 2012, I got sick for a week. And nothing that has happened in the 2½ years since has been something I could have predicted. Which is not to say that the journey I’ve taken has been in any way unprecedented, or revealed anything especially unusual or significant, on any large scale. Only that it has all been — for me — unforeseeable.
It has all been, for me, quite the adventure.
And largely an unwelcome one.
* * *
Like Carroll’s Alice^, I have lost much along the way: Reason and sense. Words that hold meaning. Stable ground under my feet and predictable dimensions to my flesh.
I have met grins without bodies and bodies without grins.
I have dined with the mad, and I have myself been the madwoman hosting the party.
More than once, the Red Queen called for my beheading — and more than once succeeded. I have held my skull in my hands, the eyes in its sockets meeting my own in a glance that bespoke both love and despair.
(What a curious dream, it seems, Alice and I have each been having. . .)
* * *
What weight lifted this time, right before I caught cold? I’m not sure I can explain yet, even though I understand entirely and some of it is alluded to in recent posts.
Here’s what I can say:
Just over three weeks ago I finished writing a document I have been trying (and failing) to write for almost three years. It has my name typed on it: my own actual, living, breathing name. Three words which no longer feel like a corpse slung across my shoulders.
I have reclaimed my name — and it has reclaimed me in turn.
I woke two nights ago crying from a dream in which I had been somehow responsible for three tiny kittens and an equally tiny fox kit, who all lived with me in a tree-house made out of branches woven like a basket (I’m blaming Nyquil Cold-n-Flu for this part). The dream also included some real people from my waking life — and I cried because they had hurt my feelings.
Such a very normal hurt, on such a very normal scale.
For the first time in over six months, I have not written on this blog in more than a week. I have looked over my list of “ideas for writing” many times — but instead chosen to dream about new projects, new ideas. A poem a day for the upcoming National Poetry Month? Rework some old pieces into new life? or perhaps to submit for publication?
Do I want to start a book, take up fiction, find an artist interested in collaborating?
The burdens of recent years lifted, what sickens me now is just a little head cold. The path I am on no longer resembles the path I once trod. It is still the path of my life — and yet. . .
It is become again a path I choose.
I can’t wait to meet the adventures it will bring.
* * *
I am always curiouser, so I will ask:
♠ Have you ever had a moment that felt like a rebirth, either large or small?
♣ What led you to that moment?
♥ What choice(s) did you make as you moved forward?
^ Since people tend to ask — and since no one has yet guessed correctly — let me clarify: I did not take my pen-name from either Alice in Wonderland or Alice B. Toklas. Who are both fine Alices, and whose name(s) I am proud to evoke. But I am named after an Alice whom I myself named, several long decades ago.
“Curiouser and Curiouser” is part of an ongoing memory project.
Additional installments can be found here.
Images: The Project Gutenberg EBook of Tenniel Illustrations, Nos. 6, 15, 23, 32, & 38.