There's this story about an old Chinese farmer who had only one horse. One day, his horse ran away. His neighbours said, “I'm so sorry. This is such bad news. You must be so upset.” The man just said, “We'll see.” A few days later, his horse came back with twenty wild horses following. The man and his son corralled all 21 horses. His neighbours said, “Congratulations! This is such good news. You must be so happy!” The man just said, “We'll see.” One of the wild horses kicked the man's only son, breaking both his legs. His neighbours said, “I'm so sorry. This is such bad news. You must be so upset.” The man just said, “We'll see.” The country went to war, and every able-bodied young man was drafted to fight. The war was terrible and killed every young man, but the farmer's son was spared, since his broken legs prevented him from being drafted. His neighbours said, “Congratulations! This is such good news. You must be so happy!” The man just said, “We'll see.”
And that story is often in the back of my mind as I travel through the ups and downs of life. It tempers the shitty things that happen. And it does also blunt the highs with a certain caution, or perhaps a fear that the joy will crumble. Equanimity is a new word I learnt yesterday. “Mental or emotional stability especially under tension or strain” says the internet. Acceptance of what is, and also its transience. It was the main insight I glimpsed the edge of, when i once decided to try sitting on my bum for 4 days at a silent meditation retreat. (That was hard).
Except its pretty difficult to apply equanimity to some things that are a really deep and shitty shade of shit. Like child abuse and chronic pain and all those words that end with 'cide'. Any good that comes out of that, is small and precious and as defiant as hell. But i reckon it probably is there.
And many many small things are really really fantastic and wonderful. Like existence on this incredible, diverse, verdant planet in the first place. The sun that rises every morning and lights up the clouds on the mountain, and having fresh eggs from our wild chooks for breakfast. Its just that a lot of us don't have time to notice these things in the rush of this busy culture we've some how found ourselves signed up to.
And that is the gift of glandular fever. The slow time. Extended naps in the sunshine. Slow walks and sits in the bush. Cloud and mountain gazing. (Especially when my house mate is off having adventures and I get to sleep in his super sunny room. Ps. You really should have more adventures Dan).
I often I feel a pang of something like: “Ahgr, another wasted 4 months. I could be going places and doing things. I'll forget all my degree by the time I get around to being able to use it, and I'll lose all my fitness and I'm missing out adventures and fun and mountain climbing and body surfing and also making money to afford solar panels and other things..... Like, you know, to do with being 33 and single and ticking clocks all that.” The uncertainty is hard. And the spectre of long term chronic fatigue. I can be caught in a cloud of grumpiness.
But none of those worries make recovery from glandular fever any faster. Probably all that really helps is time. And learning to let go of wanting to be productive and contribute to my house and the world and tick all things off my 'to do' list. Even pushing myself to use this opportunity to get through my 'to read' list, when actually I should be sleeping, not forcing my eyes over text.
Like letting go of cornflour and water so it runs through your hands instead of hardening when you squeeze it.
Somebody told me that when I first had glandj.
Other things that help are house mates who usually bring home the veggies, milk and eggs and cook food, even if I only had the energy to grunt at them last week (sorry guys). Being ahead on the dishes tally so I don't feel too guilty about not doing the dishes! (I might need to let go of that too I guess) Having enough cash from my summer job to not worry about employment and finances yet. Advice from generous naturopaths in the community like Thea. Having a safe, solid and often beautifully sunny house. Having an expansive empty paddock out the back with views of the mountain and the birds and clouds in the sky. The lack of symptoms other than fatigue. A basic meditation practice, and restorative yoga. Having bought a new bed just before I crashed. (Wow my old bed was crap, I never realised until I got a new one). Having an electric kettle and water from the tap and a hot water bottle to fill. Living in a time of e-readers, podcasts, and electric bikes, once I'm well enough to ride again. (A disabled parking permit and an electric wheelchair would probably help more at the moment – I wonder if I could get a kit to convert a tip shop wheelchair to electric?...But apparently you've gotta be disabled for 6 months before you can get a disabled parking permit! I shouldn't be down for that long).
Living in the time of facebook, freezers and friends who bring around home made stew. Having to turn down about 10 offers of stew because there isn't enough room in the freezer. Some from people I don't even know that well. Having parents who would be reliably the first to help if they weren't away interstate (well, just mum is away and dad said I probably wouldn't want to eat what he cooked but he would if I needed). Friends who actually applaud you for asking for help. (I knew you would love it Millie). Its not easy, because it is so easy to feel unworthy. Its not like living on weetbix was going to kill me, right. And there are so many more needy people than me. But home made stew actually kicks weetbixes arse by about 10 million points. If the weetbixes and the home made stews played footie you'd actually start barracking for the weetbixes coz youd feel so sorry for them. So thank you friends and stew makers : )
So glandular fever is kind of crap, but its a pretty mild version of crap, that has lots of flowers growing in it too. And one day I'll be better and ill walk up the mountain again and do lots of things and also I'll stubbornly try, against the current of this culture we live in, to hold onto the main lesson of not being too busy. Of the beauty of slow and of time given to watch the clouds on the mountain.