hard to swallow

My goodness but I made myself ill last week. I got on a plane on Wednesday sort-of-knowing that I was coming down with something nasty, and when I got to my destination I could neither swallow nor hear. My ears popped about twelve hours later, at which point EVERYTHING BECAME VERY LOUD; then I got on another plane to come home and the same thing happened again.

But my throat stayed raw and horrible for days and days. Talking hurt, breathing hurt and swallowing my own saliva felt like choking down a small roll of rusty barbwire. Every. Damn. Time. I do not think I am particularly wimpy, despite my brothers’ longstanding characterization of me as such; I have had broken ankle bones and ribs and gotten back on the fool horses that gave them to me, and I gave birth to my two babies without any epidurals. Beat that, boyos! But I trudged up to the Emergency Room on Saturday and described my throat pain, unironically, as “severe.” The doctors were very nice but it was viral, which I sort of knew. Nothing to be done. I went home and went to bed.

By Saturday night I was having fever dreams of striking originality. There was a sort of architectural quality to them. It was rather like watching a freight train pass, with its cars made of large pale pastel blocks of light. I tried to harness these dreams and was given various insights, among which was the in-retrospect-blindingly-obvious fact that working myself into exhaustion and subsequent viral pharyngitis is self-defeating behaviour on a number of levels. I set to changing my priorities, which felt like a physical process of lifting giant perspex concentric circles and clicking them back into place in a different order. When I got it right it was deeply satisfying, like solving a puzzle, and I finally went to sleep.

I was somewhat better the next morning and have been feeling profoundly happy ever since. Still sick enough to cancel riding, but well enough to take great pleasure in seeing friends and going to a little movie and hanging with my best girls. Tonight I threw Claire and Jules in the bath, and made dinner for them with strawberries for dessert, and walked Claire through piano practice while Julia sang along, and brushed their teeth and read them the Dragons pop-up book and put them to bed. A perfectly ordinary evening shot through with pure golden joy.

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