Thursday, September 13, 2007
Antibiotics are wonderful things here in the modern world. I’m finally feeling better, finally finally. I was sick so long I started to forget what it felt like to be well. And yesterday when the fever finally lifted like mountain fog, I felt literally like someone different, like a different person. Or I felt like I was returning home after a long time away. I looked at my husband that night and said, “I’ve missed you.” It seemed so long since I’d seen him, looked at him. He laughed at me, of course.
The morning sickness has let up too. This happened sometime during the fever and I didn’t notice because I was too busy being exhausted. It’s funny—I didn’t realize the nausea affected me so much. It took me away from myself. Yesterday, suddenly, I liked sitting on the steps outside while Frances climbed them again and again, and didn’t think of it as tiresome. I liked saying hello to the neighbors as they walked their dogs by the house, and didn’t see them as intrusive. When I put the girl down for her nap, she sat for a long time on my lap and we just rocked, and I wasn’t in a hurry to put her in her crib, to get away. I was present. It almost felt like I was stoned, so lovely was the world.
In Europe, with both her grandmothers with us, I was so relieved not to have to manage her, feed her, change her, put her to sleep, entertain her. My mother or Mitch’s mother would ask, “Do you want me to take her?” and I’d think, “Yes, yes, please take her away, thank goodness.” At some point I actually wondered if maybe I’m just one of those women who doesn’t particularly like mothering young children. This struck me as odd, because I hadn’t thought of myself this way before, but it didn’t worry me much. I just thought, “Well, we’ll have to get a nanny.” But it was the nausea. How funny. And quite suddenly she’s a joy to me again. She had been before, but I’d forgotten.
I can’t imagine how people live their lives with chronic sickness or pain. They must be outside of themselves much of the time. Or maybe it’s that one goes deeply inside the self to try to manage the discomfort, and misses the outside world.
In any case, it’s good to be here. It turns out I like my life quite a bit. I feel warm toward my students this semester and I haven’t even learned their names well yet. Maybe it’s all the crazy estrogen, or maybe I just feel warm toward them. One thing—when I started to feel slightly better I revamped the syllabus and, perhaps in my fevered delirium, I cut several writing assignments and generally made their semester (and therefore mine) much easier. I didn’t see any reason for their workload to be particularly heavy. Why not go gently? I know I’m viewed as a hard, demanding instructor, and I’ve always thought of this approach as necessary for the learning process, but so what if they don’t learn quite as much? It just didn’t seem as important to me. I just want to offer them the things I know, the tools to help them be better writers, and some opportunity to practice, and let them choose how to receive it all. I want to see them more generously as people and not just students. I’m trying to remember they are children. It’s hard, because they don’t look like children. But they’re young, and they’re feeling their way. Why not be gentle?
It’s probably the estrogen.