This past week, I got sick. A stomach bug. My daughter’s boyfriend caught it and brought it home, thinking it was food poisoning. Three days later, Katie came down with a particularly virulent case. I washed everything like crazy, but it wasn’t enough. Friday morning I woke with a queasy, hard knot in my stomach. Having an acute illness on top of a chronic illness seems a cruel twist of fate. I haven’t been sick since I got sick with Lyme, which, even as I type, sounds like a stupid thing to say, but it’s true. Anyway, at some point in between throwing up and wishing I would die, I remind myself that every adult on the planet has gone through this. Clinton, Trump, hell, probably Jesus himself, have all lain on the floor, sweaty and gasping for breath after emptying the contents of their stomach. This always makes me feel better. Another thought came into my mind: why me? I’ve been wondering that since I got bitten by a tick. A cliched metaphor crept into my thoughts. I feel like the universe is a cat and I am a mouse. Every once in a while, said cat notices me and bats me around for a bit. She grows bored (yes, she. All cats, for whatever reason, seem female to me.) and leaves me to recover, so she can come back another time.
Anyone who knows me knows I’m not religious. I hesitate to even call myself spiritual. If I believe in anything, it is the random chaos of the universe. There is no reason that explains why me, or why this. It’s no one’s will, or fated in the stars or any such thing. Lyme has tested my beliefs in ways I never would have guessed. Instead of finding answers, I’ve found more questions. And before I get judged on my beliefs, let me point out that I have tried, more than once to understand what this thing called “faith” is. When I was twelve I tried, praying every night and reading the Bible. Nothing, not one smidgen of connection. I became Catholic when I married my ex. I dragged Katie to church for years, to give her a foundation that allowed her to choose. Katie calls me a born-again Atheist. I’m back in my comfort zone, a place most people would be extremely uncomfortable in, because what I am sure of is that I know nothing.
I have had hours to think about this. Hours where I wish I could pray the Lyme away, where I had never gotten bitten by a stupid fucking tick.Hours to dismantle my vague and uninformed idea of karma, because that doesn’t explain anything, either. Where then, do I find the strength to get through this latest round? The truth is, I don’t know. Maybe it’s my nature. Maybe I learned from my parents. That’s another thing. I’ve thought about my mother often. I wish I could talk to her, hear her voice when I need a lift. I was reminded sharply, by Katie, that I am now the mom. Even a 29-year-old wants her mom when she’s barfing and pooping all at the same time. I didn’t do much—wiped her face with a cool washcloth, rubbed her back and told her it would be alright. I am the one who comforts, not the one who needs comfort. Who do all of us old ladies turn to when our mothers are gone? Each other? Ourselves? I think my mom gave me the tools to look inward and gather my own strength. She was the strongest woman I’ve ever known. Not too long ago Katie told me the same thing. I was shocked at first. I don’t think enduring is strong, but maybe that is the definition of strength. You do what you can and play the cards you’ve been dealt. There’s nothing heroic about it. The mouse isn’t being heroic, the mouse is trying to survive.