|water spout gargoyle, Italy|
After a couple of weeks of enduring various bouts of illness, including bronchitis caused by a virus that kept moving from one part of the body to another (lungs, sinus, throat) I am noticing the absence of sickness as a most subtle joy. This feeling is physical, emotional and mental. It arises as a softness and ease in navigating the world.
When I'm sick, I often resign myself to feeling tired and miserable forever. This attitude, while admittedly negative and fairly depressing, has the positive effect of eliminating the anxiety that comes with wondering when and if I will ever feel good again.
I've been lucky in my life so far -- my various chronic conditions have very mild or absent symptoms, and it's only when I'm struck down by a bacterial infection, headache or virus that I get to experience what many people know intimately on a daily basis. I'm reminded, in this tender presence of the absence of illness, of the Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh's description of the return of health as "the feeling of not having a headache." When we are suffering, we forget what the absence of suffering feels like. It's so subtle...and so sweet. I'm planning to enjoy it until it changes once again into something challenging. The memory of illness acts as a reminder to have empathy for everyone who struggles with ill health, while knowing that at some point I will once again join this noble company of suffering myself.