At first it acted like a cold. A minor cold, at that. I did all the right and responsible things: extra rest, lots of herb tea, salt water gargles and neti pot nasal rinses (as disgusting as that is). It seemed to be working, assuring me that I was as virtuous and in charge of my own health as I like to think.

Until last Monday night, when it hit me like a runaway train. Fever, body aches, rattling chest, screaming sore throat (except the last thing I wanted to do was scream). And an energy level somewhere below that of an estivating newt. 

At least when I have a fever, I allow that I am actually sick. Otherwise, I suspect myself of malingering, of giving in to that weak part of my nature that would pretty much always be happy to find an excuse to lie down. I am not, as you may be able to discern, great at cutting myself slack.

But slack I was, laid low for three long days before I could even emerge from my sweaty cocoon of bedsheets and begin to feel something like a human being. Gradually I began walking on my hind legs again, eating solid food, wearing civilian clothes.

Thank God the really awful part is behind me. Now, however, I am frustrated and flummoxed by my inability to bounce back. I can get through the work day, but once I get home I need to be scraped off the couch just to go to bed. The slowest and most unambitious walk with the dog or round of gentle yoga poops me out for a good hour. I go to bed by 9PM and take naps whenever the chance arises.

But there are silver linings to this pathetic little cloud. My husband has coddled me, bringing me cups of tea and bowls of yogurt (of course he still won’t touch anything I touch without using a Kleenex, and he has sequestered himself in the guest room, but I can hardly blame him for that). My good buddy made me a small ocean of chicken soup studded with potatoes and leeks, my favorite. And, perhaps even better than all of that, I have been writing again.

Not that I ever stopped, entirely. Writing remains my obsession, but my daily writing practice, once so carefully established, has suffered in the unrelenting onslaught of upheavals that have beset our lives since last fall: catastrophic fires, death and serious disease among family members, an accident that put my beloved husband in a wheelchair for six weeks over the holidays. To say nothing of events in the larger world, over which we shall for now draw a polite curtain (who needs that bilge?).

While I still feel as weak as a half-drowned kitten, there is something about this particular phase of this particular virus that lends itself to focused work at the keyboard. I’ve cleaned up drafts of two of my short stories and submitted them to writing contests. I’ve begun work on an essay, ostensibly about adverbs but not really. And I have queried more agents with my novel The  Moon Ran After Her, a fictionalized account of the women in my first, late, husband’s extended family who survived the Armenian Genocide. In so doing, I’ve gone through the entire novel one more time, trimming out 13 or 14 pages, cleaning up the detritus, tightening the pacing.

It’s satisfying, this breaking through the crust of distraction and returning to work. It reminds me that I actually do this. Whether an agent jumps on my MS or a magazine picks up my short story is not within my control, but sending work out into the world, work I feel good about, is within my purview.

I expect my energy level will return to normal, gradually over the next week or two. What I intend to keep from this experience is the ability to plunk myself in a chair for a good chunk of time and absorb myself in whatever narrative unspools from my fingers. I had forgotten what pleasure it is.

How about you? What unexpected gifts have you discovered in times when you felt lousy? Please comment and share!


  1. So sorry you have not been feeling well, but I’m glad you are bouncing back and able to get some writing and editing done. I have only been sick once this year, but I was unable to do anything during that time except lie in bed in the dark. Lasted about a week, but when you do begin to feel better, it’s like an awakening, isn’t it?

  2. I will keep my fingers crossed and send positive energy your way for your writing endeavors. So glad that you are writing again. I (selfishly) need you to get better so that I can read your blog posts. I think you are a teacher? Sooo easy to pick up germs from kids handing you things all day! When I taught, the rule before a marathon was for the kids to put any papers on my desk, rather than hand them directly to me! 🙂

    • I used to be a teacher, back in the day. Now I’m the campus supervisor at a middle school, which is somewhere between assistant principal and crossing guard. I pretty much treat the students like disease vectors (in a kind, loving way of course) but as I handle discipline, there are a lot of tears and nose juice that get shed in my office. I’ve succeeded in keeping cooties at bay, until now. This is a doozy: just had a relapse last night, so keep the good vibes coming and big thanks for saying nice things about my writing 🙂

  3. Wow Jan. You did All of that when you were sick? I never cease to be amazed by your productive energy – whatever the internal reality may have been for you, and it certainly sounded dire. I too was “hors de combat” last week with one of those things that tends to illicit very little sympathy unless one is talking to a fellow sufferer – a pinched nerve in my shoulder radiating down the arm to my fingers (the arm bit at least makes it sound a little more interesting!) I tried everything from multiple visits to the chiropractor, massage therapy, hot and cold packs, and of course DRUGS. The latter only made my skin itchy and did not seem to attack any of the relevant regions – just made me incapable of even thinking, far less reading or writing. So I was reduced to the only remaining palliative —T.V. Out of 300 and something channels I managed to find one that was not either mind-numbing (yes I had enough mind left to be numbed by the general inanity of current TV shows) or depressing or both. At this point the Fifth Cavalry arrived in the form of Sir David Attenborough and the BBC (channel 162) who as it happened was doing a whole series on Prey and Predators which took us from the Antarctic to the Amazon and places in between, from the killing habits of Leopards (pretty straightforward) to those of Lizards (quite fascinating) from Monday to Friday! Thank you Sir David!

    • Well, it turned out to be pneumonia! But I’ve turned the corner and am feeling much better.

      • Ok, glad to hear – it’s absolutely awful. Had it, sadly many times, and I know the extreme fatigue and complete “wiped-outness” that come with it. Very scary stuff – glad you’ve gotten hold of it. I know all too well how deep it can settle in 🤢

Comments are closed.