This weekend, I got a stomach bug. I will not go into any great detail, as I prefer not to offend the tender sensibilities of those I offended with last week’s horrifying mold photo, and if you suspect I’m going to find endless (and endlessly lame) excuses to link to it from future posts, you are correct.
But the stomach bug. Not the worst I ever got, but bad enough. What struck me, early on, was that old familiar sense of abandoning myself to the fates — that what-the-hell, here-we-go, whoop-dee-do resignation as I accepted the fact that I’d be flat-out miserable for the next 8 to 24 hours. And I was. Again: no great detail.
But here’s the kicker: I knew that I wouldn’t be miserable forever. I regarded this stroke of bad luck as finite, and in a flash, I recognized spasmodic abominable gastrointestinal distress as the perfect metaphor for life’s periodic grips of pain. They sneak up and slam us flat and maybe render us useless (or weak and dehydrated and headachy, with that awful, scraping burn at the back of the throat), but we know from that first stab in the gut that they won’t last forever. Maybe they’ll ease off, dupe us into thinking they’ve left, and then come back a few hours later with a fresh dump of agony. But then that’s over, too, and we awake in the morning with a clear head and an irrational swell of optimism. Life is good, right? Fantastic. Primo. Except when it ain’t.
Everything’s finite. Everything cycles in and out. Good and bad, clean health and illness, joys and sorrows: they all come and go, obeying some unfathomable but relentless clock that won’t let us live with anything for long, whether it’s a welcome anything or an unwelcome anything. Stomach bugs seize us and leave (sometimes at our children’s athletic events, no great detail), but so do bouts of wonder. So often we’re clenched by blessings — embraced by a child, caressed by a lover — in moments that feel eternal but end all too soon.
This weekend’s virus didn’t quite feel eternal, although certain moments in certain places hold a certain accursed fixedness in my imagination, and here’s where I really want to explain to that woman in the UAlbany restroom Saturday morning that I really wasn’t drunk. No great detail. But even in the most abysmal throes, I kept reminding myself that I’d feel better eventually, whether “eventually” meant later that day or, as it turned out, Annie’s bottom-dollar-betting tomorrow.
I’m sure I’ll get hit with another stomach bug someday. And when I do, I’m sure it will involve 8 to 24 hours of flat-out misery. But right now, typing these words, all is well. My kids are happy and accounted for; my bills are paid; my house is warm; my stomach is at peace, even downright euphoric with relief, and so am I. It’s just a moment. It will pass. But for now it’s a gift, and I’ll take it.