A Paradox

I don’t quite know what to think. This past week has been quite an adventure. Yesterday, I woke up unable to move my legs. When I was finally able to get out of bed, I immediately fell back down. When I was finally able to walk or, realistically, waddle, I was unable to carry my purse.

My health is the worst it’s been in over a year.

I don’t know why and I don’t know what to do about it. But I do know that this is not okay. Something is very wrong.

And yet, I’ve found myself astonishing calm all week. I’ve worried, I’ve had moments of panic. But I’ve also felt quite content.

I’ve had some truly wonderful moments. Moments squeezed between naps and shivering under piles of blankets.

I went out for dinner with my family, ate and laughed, and actually felt pretty normal.

I was sensitive. I was weak. I was tired. But I wasn’t overly aware of it. I was having fun.

I taught multiple lessons today, and felt incredibly proud of my students.

At some points their voices were just too loud. At some points I couldn’t control my shivering.

But I made it through each lesson, feeling relatively fine.

It wasn’t until I was travelling home, until the students left, until I was alone, that the waves swept over me and I collapsed on the couch, spending hours doing nothing but a cost-benefit analysis of the act of standing and getting myself a glass of water.

It makes me wonder.

Why is it that I can distract myself in front of an audience, but in private or in front of very close family I collapse?

Of course, I sometimes collapse in public too. Today, I was walking so slowly that it was obvious to everyone who saw me. Today, I could not hold my head upright in a cafe and had to slouch in my seat, resting against the wall behind me.

But I still managed to laugh and smile, and to periodically perk myself up.

It was a vast improvement over how I had been just an hour before, alone, drifting in and out of consciousness on my couch. A vast improvement over how I was, 3 hours later, fighting to sit upright.

But why?

Shouldn’t it be harder, more fatiguing, to be out and about with so much stimulus, having to focus for extended periods of time?

Is it just that I feel more comfortable in my own space, more able to let my guard down?

Am I working harder to put on a show when I’m in public?

Is it the prospect of an end, the opportunity to rest and recover, that allows me to unlock the last dregs of my resources?

Could I feel better all the time, if only I was properly distracted or put in enough effort?

Try as I might, I cannot come up with a satisfactory answer to any of these questions.

All I know with certainty is that I feel as though I am trying just as hard whether I’m alone or not.

I certainly am more likely to lie down if there is no one around to see me, but there is never a time that I wish to feel weak, to struggle for breath, to feel intense pain. It is never acceptable. I do everything I can to avoid it.

And yet, I seem to be more successful in this effort during my limited social escapades.

This afternoon I had the wonderful opportunity to meet a group of friends, some of whom I hadn’t spoken to in years.

We sat at a table in a cafe and chatted for a while, we laughed together, and we shared snippets of our lives.

We were carefree. Just a group of young adults meeting up on a Sunday afternoon.

Except that, upon close examination, we weren’t. Over the past few years since we had last all been together, each of us has had our lives altered in ways that we are still attempting to understand. We have all experienced grief in some manner or other. We have all changed. We are all still changing.

And we talked about some of it. Other parts, we didn’t.

But still, we were all smiling, laughing, and, I believe, genuinely enjoying ourselves.

It wasn’t that we were distracted. It wasn’t that we forgot.

It was so much more simple.

We were a group of friends, enjoying each other’s company. Enjoying the day.

And maybe that’s all there is to it.

I may be struggling. I may even be falling apart.

But that doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy myself.

That doesn’t mean that I can’t still feel good.

Maybe I’ve just had a good week. Maybe some nice things have happened.

I have felt terrible, without a doubt.

I have felt confused, overwhelmed, distracted, and strange.

But I have also felt happy. Genuinely happy.

And that's kind of incredible.