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.




It’s about time for me to write again. What has been holding me back? Earlier this summer I had a major setback. Recurrence, relapse, a Herxheimer reaction, whatever, it sucked. For once, I, the relentless optimist, had nothing. My therapist called it an existential crisis. Of course he is right. I had bet the farm that I’d be well by the end of September. Rookie mistake. Instead, I’m learning to play the waiting game. The list of things that are on hold is not long: work, travel, working out, love and health. In short, a life. At what point do you move forward, Lyme disease be damned? I haven’t figured that out yet. Instead, I read books with titles like “The Anatomy of Hope: How People Prevail in the Face of Illness”, or “In the Kingdom of the Sick: A Social History of Chronic Illness in America.” It’s a phase. At some point, and soon, I’ll be back to my relentlessly optimistic self and be entirely confident in regaining my health.

I will have to step out of my comfort zone and try again soon. Earlier this summer, I went back to work, travelled, and started to work out. Maybe that’s why this particular setback bothered me so much. Because I have already learned to manage my life while sick (when I feel well, clean the house, grocery shop, cook first, everything else second), the trick to reentering my life will be what and how much to add. Work is first. I feel useless. It’s one thing to not work by choice. To be denied work is another thing entirely. Finding work that is flexible and not too taxing mentally or physically is the goal. HAHAHAHAHA! It’s probably easier to win the lottery. Which, by the way, was won by someone in our neighborhood, because the winning ticket was sold at a 7-11 less than a mile away where I buy my tickets (DAMN IT!), but I digress. So, work first. Health, or more accurately, self-care, is second on the list. My mistake last time was twofold: doing too much and  shirking on self-care. Third, travel. Because travel. I owe many friends a visit, and I want to go watch some tennis somewhere exotic. Not Monaco. I can’t afford it unless I win the lottery.

The last thing on my list is love. I’ve been thinking about love recently. Over the past year and a half, I’ve found my circle tightening. I tell my dad and Katie I love them more often. I tell friends what I like about them. One thing I’m not doing, however, and that is looking for romantic love. It takes way too much energy, all that shaving and primping and doing stuff together. This is one area where ‘wait’ is a no brainer. It’s not that I don’t want love in my life, it’s that I have nothing to give. This waiting until I’m “well” or “dead” is not set in stone. If someone comes along I hope that I’ve had a shower and those dark pits under my eyes aren’t too bad and I’m not wearing anything stained or holey. I hope I’m not in one of my “I hate people” moods. My dad found love again at the full, ripe age of 87. He mourned hard after my mom died for almost four years. Love smacked him in the face, and he has a new bounce in his step and a smile on his face. Not that I want to wait that long. I hope I recognize love if it comes up and smacks me in the face. Until then, I am reasonably content with the waiting game.