Friday, August 12, 2011

There's nothing like the Stomach Flu to really put things in perspective

OK: so you're strong and healthy. You can run at a pretty fast clip and cycle for six hours without breaking down. Your swimming is coming along, too, so that you can keep up with everyone in your lane. You're feeling on top of the world, in other words. And then it happens: the stomach flu. 

I think the last time I was this sick, I was old enough to be placed under my mother's care and given the day off from school. Those were the days of recess and fruit-roll ups and crayon boxes with their smell of sticky wax. Though it was no fun to be sick, I loved those days when it was just my mom and I-- and I could do the things I was never allowed to do on normal days: wear my pajamas past seven am, watch movies in broad daylight, eat whatever food I wanted (and could keep down.) And to have my mom make it, especially for me. 

Illness is a lot less fun when you're an adult... and when you're an athlete. Lately, I've been impressed with my return to the sport despite my sad spring season of injury. I was feeling strong-- and independent-- sort of like the archetypal runner you see on those motivational posters all alone, scaling some rocky cliff against a lit background of twilight sky. 

This illness was something of a reality check. No running for me: I was on all fours, if mobile at all. And food-- or fluids-- forget it.  It was all my humanity, in other words, bare for me to see. It's funny: so often we (or, I) get caught up in writing or running or work and I forget how precious and special existence is. All it took to lay me low was a virus, a creature so small I'll never own and instrument that would allow me to see it. 

And so, now that I'm able to walk, drink water, and enjoy a saltine cracker, I want to try and remember that every moment is a gift. It doesn't matter how far or fast; the gift is the ability to try.  And for now, the gift is smaller still but no less precious: I'm me again. Happily, healthfully, me.

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