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A Fragile Balance

Welcome to My Green Vermont - A Blog by Eulalia Benejam Cobb.
By Eulalia Benejam Cobb

Yesterday two friends and a baby Belgian Sheepdog came to visit.  We sat outside drinking wine and periodically fishing the puppy out of the pond into which she kept falling.  She\’d forget it was there because she was fixated on getting Bisou to chase her.

Bisou was not her usual dashing self–she\’s on antibiotics for Lyme–and after giving the puppy a few good runs she had had enough.  This made the puppy go stand under a chair and make mad barking sallies at Bisou, with no effect other than making Bisou growl in an annoyed way I\’d never heard before.  When our ears started ringing, the puppy\’s owner, who used to be Wolfie\’s herding teacher, suggested that I bring Wolfie out.

He emerged from the house, and instantly peace descended:  no more barking from the puppy, no more growling from Bisou.  We could hear each other talk. 

\”Do you see what Wolfie\’s doing?\” the puppy\’s owner said.  Whenever the little Belgian went near Bisou, Wolfie would silently get between them.  He did this over and over, so discreetly I\’d never have noticed it.  He didn\’t look angry or annoyed– just focused on ensuring that there was peace in the herd.  Good boy, Wolfie.

Me, I loved every minute of the puppy hullabaloo, and the talk about dogs while evening fell.  Today, on the other hand, will be a day of perfect silence.  I could, and probably should, go to the farmers market.  I definitely should go to the nursery to buy the eggplant and pepper transplants that will replace the peas in one of the garden beds.  Everything I know about growing vegetables in this latitude tells me I should do this right away.

But if I really listen, something else tells me that a day of perfect silence is what I must have.  I think the something else is the voice of my mitochondria, who are trying their best to keep me going while under siege from CFS.  Their voice is so thin and feeble that I ignored it for years.  Often I still ignore it–because I really want to go somewhere or see someone or do a bit of weeding.  But the next day as I lie in the misery of a relapse, prey to a restless, paralyzing discomfort that I can only compare to a combination of flu and severe jet lag, the whine of the mitochondria comes faintly through:  \”we told you so, we told you so.\”

So my days are spent trying to keep a precarious balance between too much and too little.  One dropperful too much–say, going to the supermarket and seeing friends on the same day–brings on a relapse.  Too little mental stimulation and human interaction, and I plunge into boredom, sadness, depression.  The need to maintain such a delicate balance sounds farfetched even to me, but I have to act as if I believed it, because it\’s the only way I can keep myself at my optimum level.

The trick of course is to find pleasure in the quiet times.  I often think of our hilltop house as a kind of unisex Trappist monastery, with certain allowances such as not having to get up in the middle of the night to pray.  Some days–not always–the silence feels just right, and then I can hear the voice of my mitochondria like a distant bell:  \”we\’re doing fine, we\’re doing fine.\”

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