Where have I been lately? Lying in bed, half asleep, trying to bat away the mild hallucinations of trees turning into armies of pale orange ladybugs. Or diving into my computer for hours, doing simple-minded tasks (like filing my sent emails) to keep my mind off my body. Or watching anything stupid, funny and made for those of limited attention span. Mostly, I’ve been waiting: at doctor’s offices or pharmacies, for the antibiotic to start working, for the steroids to stop working me up, and generally to just get well.
We all have our Achilles heel. Mine just happens to be chronic sinus infections (yes, I do neti pots, eucalyptus oil capsules, hot baths with peppermint flavoring, over-the-counter decongestants and whatnot, herbal supplements, spicy food, and the forgoing of dairy or wheat on occasion). On one hand, it’s not the worst Achilles heel to be rocking in the last decade or so. My previous Achilles heel of chronic migraines for 30 years were harder to herd into a quiet, dark place so I could function. At least, with a sinus infection, I can still be largely functional, punctuated by bouts of sitting in my bed watching Wayne’s World and kitten videos.
While this last sinus journey was long (close to four weeks, flared into being from too much work, air travel, and probably hugging too many people with colds), I had many moments of gratitude for all my non-Achilles-heel parts (of my body and my life), and bursts of admiration for the courage of so many dealing with much harder things. You’ve probably heard this old phrase, attributed to both T. H. Thompson and John Watson:
Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.
Some people are living with aggressive and unpredictable illnesses, such as Parkinson’s, M.S., cancer, head trauma, or depression. Some face the daily encounter of deep loss and grief, or overwhelming anxiety, or debilitating self-doubt. Some struggle constantly with not having enough: money for healthy food and reliable shelter, time for homecoming, peace for joy, rest for renewal. Some yearn with all their being for a companion, a child, a parent, or friend. Some feel lost and alone when trying to find their true work or community or purpose.
Whoever we are, whatever we luck into or choose or create or fight for with all our might, we each have our vulnerabilities, some part of our bodies or psyches, work or home life, that goes out of whack easily and makes us want to yell out, “On, no! Not this again!” Yet it’s precisely because our Achilles heel that we learn (and often re-learn, a million times in a lifetime) how to crack our hearts open, which is also exactly the way — to paraphrase Leonard Cohen — the light gets in.