Sunday, November 28, 2010

Homesick


I was not a healthy child. My earliest memories include the indescribable pain of chronic ear infections and the occasional high fever that required being wrapped in alcohol soaked towels to bring my body temperature down to safe levels.  At a time when most children’s identities were being formed by the sensations and interactions of the outside world, my world often began and ended in the small dark isolated setting of the sick room, a simple place connected to activities and realities beyond only by a window and a door and a very keen almost catlike sense of hearing.

Perhaps this is how I began to accept that in more ways than one, I was different and set apart, because these were often my actual physical circumstances. People were shadowy visitors, coming and going as distant voices and footsteps in the hallway, interrupting my retreat with concerns and comforts, and vanishing. My position in relation to the world was one of inability to participate, albeit it temporary and involuntary. The far greater realities for me were the comings and goings inside my mind, the ebb and flow of pain and strength in my own body.  At a very early age, I knew my own mind and the workings of my body inside and out, I knew that the one provided extraordinary possibiilties, while the other would likely continue to frustrate and fail me, and I knew that my most intense experiences seemed to happen when other people weren’t around.

This past week I’ve been away from home. I started my travels with a bad headcold that got worse every day.  The sickly child I once was has fortunately managed to grow up into a much healthier adult, but I still get at least one bad upper respiratory infection a year, which, if left unresolved, can evolve into something worse, like pneumonia, a risky business for someone with asthma. At the first signs of a cold, I do everything I can to keep it brief. But this time, I was on the road, with changes in routine and surroundings, and fatigued from months of hard work and not taking the best care of myself. In addition, because I wanted to be a participant and not an invalid, I behaved as if I weren’t sick, staying up late, socializing, overindulging in food and drink. The result was I got sicker by the day until I finally had to admit defeat and spend a whole day in an unfamiliar bed, with the familiar companions of a closed door, a dimly lit window, and the bedcovers pulled up over my head to muffle the sounds of my unstoppable head-and-chest-splitting cough.

I wrote recently about how certain scents can bring back entire landscapes of memory in vivid detail, even allowing you to relive the original with intense immediacy. Being sick has this same effect on me. Suddenly I found myself no longer a rational capable middle aged woman being cared for by her boyfriend’s lovely welcoming sympathetic and solicitous family, but a 5 year old girl, curled into a ball crying because all the fun was happening beyond the confines of my sickroom while I was so thoughtless and selfish as to be unpleasantly ill and need taking care of. I felt that same strange blend of isolation, self-pity, guilt, frustration, longing, vulnerability, embarrassment and resentment, and a strong desire to at least be in my own home while reduced to this state. Then I stopped resisting, sank into my misery, and found the same door of imagination opening for me, in response to my door to the world of social interaction being closed. All boundaries of time and space dissolved and in that safe interior place, I was home.

Unfortunately this little crisis of collapse occurred on the morning of Brian’s big opening at Salon Indigo, and I am not a five year old free of responsibilities, so after several hours of fully and unapologetically occupying my mental and physical cocoon, I had to become a self-sufficient adult again, and rally my strength long enough to attend. Exiting my sickroom I felt like Lazarus emerging from the tomb. I was unsteady on my feet, and had almost forgotten how to look people in the eye and speak to them without the protection of a blanket over my face. The very air felt like a personal attack in my defenseless state. I remembered all the times as a child when the fever broke, the bedrest was no longer necessary, and it was time to return to the outside world. And for a moment I felt that same mixture of relief and regret.  

The happy ending is that the reception was a success, and my headcold has loosened its grip on my mind and body. I slept through the night last night without being awakened by coughing. I woke up at sunrise with words beginning to gather themselves in my mind for a new post, one sure sign that I have conquered a challenging experience, the desire and ability to write about it. And I thought of all the writers I’ve read whose childhood memories and memoirs have contained stories of illness, and how those experiences helped to define them as observers and interpreters of life. So, perhaps being a sickly child isn’t such a bad thing, and perhaps as an adult, a forced “time out” is occasionally necessary, a silent agreement between body and mind to re-create those conditions in which the only matters that require attention and action are those of the imagination.

Tomorrow, we begin our travels back north, and in a case of irony all too typical of my strange temperament, now that I am finally healthy enough to appreciate them, I am sure I will miss this place and the wonderful people I've met, and wish I could have stayed longer! December already has a few topics lined up to explore in this blog, which I intended to resume after my return home, but this topic said “me first!” and I had no choice but to listen.  

Best wishes to all.

24 comments:

  1. Gabriella - I am happy your are back on your feet. That you were taken back in your sickness this week to when you were a child must have been very special for you if not to painful.
    Take care,

    ~robert

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  2. Thanks for this honest and open post Gabriella and i send you all my love and best wishes.
    I wish you and Brian a good and most of all safe trip home.

    Sweet greetz, hugs and kisses!

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  3. Gabriella, thank you for this eloquent, beautiful, wise post.

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  4. Glad you are feeling better. Again a great post. Even today when I am sick I feel like I am missing on things but now I have learned that I better let my body rest and agree with what is asking which is usually a bit of rest.

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  5. Robert - thank you for your kind words - and the link you provided in your other message. My journey back in time was not too painful, no. Some things may be familiar, but many others have changed since then - for the better!

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  6. Thank you Monica! Your good wishes always mean so much to me - and carry great influence with the universe, so I trust we will have a safe good journey home tomorrow! Sending my love to you.

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  7. Many thanks William! It seems you know a thing or too about eloquence, so from you I will resist the urge to disparage, and graciously accept such high praise! Have a great week.

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  8. Luis - thanks for the sympathetic response. It is indeed hard to feel you are "missing out" but I suppose when you are older you understand that however bad you feel at the moment, tomorrow will be another day, and bring new opportunities, so best to rest when you need it!

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  9. I can feel totaly related to all you have written . For many reasons , even the coincidence of have got very sick this week too.
    but my childhood have many similar storys .

    Gabriella ... this is what you write when you are traveling ? hahahh!!
    nooo... you're absolut not an intence person :D
    Get totaly beter and back home . Bring Brian and return to the routine of creativity .
    hugs

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  10. CAIO - sorry to hear you have been sick too! I'm not surprised to hear you have similar childhood stories - many writers and artists have these stories - I think we need to be forcefully separated from society to develop our creative spirits, and endure a lot of hardship to become strong survivors!

    I wasn't going to write anything at all while on my travels, but then the words started to form in my head today and I had to give them release! Didn't someone once say "write what you know." Well, this week what I knew wasn't fun and good times and touring, but coughing and headache and lying in bed feeling sorry for myself! The only way to master it and put it in its place was to write it down.

    I'm getting better now. Brian and I have so much ahead of us in December back home!

    Hey - did you know I have a BOOK?????

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  11. Come on, Gabriella, get well soon.
    You see, most of us this time are sick..
    As soon as you step into your own home
    this will be a thing of the past!

    Yes, as always a very beautiful post.
    Hugs from Greece.

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  12. I pass my childhood going two or three times for month to be hospitalized because my bronchitis. And few year ago my crisis re-start and every change of season i have a relapse.

    We, that pass moments like that in our childhood, develped some specials ways to keep our mind working, because our bodies couldn´t be active. And it keeps happening, but now we are more aware about it.

    Sensible post, Gabriella.
    Hope you`re ok now. Take care yourself.
    Warm hugs.

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  13. LAURA - I am not completely back yet - we still have some traveling to do today and tomorrow before I am home. I see there are a lot of posts I need to read and comment on! Thanks for coming by to say hello!

    MONIKA - Thanks for the hug, my dear! I am already feeling much better today! While I was at the peak of my athletic training for marathons the past few years, I think I got spoiled with my good health! I forgot what it is like to have a long messy headcold that forces you to stay in bed! But of course, you are right, everyone is sick this time of year! Have a lovely week.

    CRISSANT - I am so sorry to hear that you suffer with bronchitis! You are a powerful observer in your art, and it is interesting to know that you also developed your strength of mind through times of isolation and illness as a child! Thank you for your kind words, and you take care of yourself too! Hugs to you.

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  14. Hi G/TT - sometimes our bodies just say stop. They have held us together for as long as we forced them to for work and such; that as soon as the senses of 'holiday/rest/relax" appears, they say that's it - downing tools and giving up for a bit. I'm convinced it happens that way I hope your recovery is full and swift and that you begin again to see the fullness of the world around you - and enjoy it! Travel safe.

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  15. Hi Gabriella,
    I missed this post because my daughter is visiting and I've been a bad blogger...yikes!
    I'm sure you're feeling better by now. I hate being sick ....i guess we all do...lol.
    Take care of yourself this month. xo

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  16. FIONA - Yes, I think you're right, that our bodies can only go so long and then stage a rebellion to demand time off! I'm feeling a lot better now, still have a lingering cough, but nothing as bad as last week! I'm traveling back to my native NYC next week, which always recharges my physical, spiritual and creative batteries, so all is well! Many thanks for your kind comments. Stay well!

    MANON - I think we are all going to be bad Bloggers this time of year, what with holiday obligations and visits and headcolds! I am indeed better now, and will do my best to balance all the things I need to do and all the rest time I need to demand for myself! Stay well, you.

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  17. Glad you're feeling better! There's nothing like being sick to reduce a capable adult to a child again; I still want my mom when I'm ill!

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  18. Welcome Back Gabriella!! and i only want to say one thing after reading all those lines that are indeed like a journey not only for you but for those who read them, thanks for such sincerity, that is priceless.
    Have a good and wonderful weekend and receive my best regards !!

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  19. TB - I'm glad to be feeling better too! Funny you mention mom...I called my mother when I was sick, and she immediately knew by my voice that something more than a headcold was wrong, and immediately said "you sound sad too - is everything okay? Do you need to talk?" Mothers!

    ALBERTO - Thanks for the welcome back! I'm glad you appreciate my sincerity. It does seem to be in rare supply sometimes, both in the free giving and in the sympathetic receipt! You have a great weekend too!

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  20. Thank you, Nightwish, for stopping by! I am happy you liked this post.

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  21. Hi Gabriella beautifully told your story, thank you

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  22. Greetings Lovelies! Thank you for following the link from Denise's blog to mine! I am glad you enjoyed the story behind the image. Denise has done me a great honor adding her beautiful touch to my photograph. Have a great weekend!

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