Thanks to all of you who sent good wishes both here and by e-mail. It worked: my survival now appears inevitable.
Two days ago I left the house on non-medical business (lunch with a friend) for the first time in a month, and was amazed to see that, while I was suffering my attack of shingles, fall had arrived in Vermont–the time of year when the drive to the post office is so beautiful it hurts.
Between the pain and the pain meds, my memories of the last few weeks are hazy, but I do know I could not have survived without my Kindle. In the days before the diagnosis, when the pain at night would keep me pacing, trying to hold out for another hour before waking up my spouse to take me to the ER, I slogged through a big chunk of the Journals of Thomas Merton. I was unable to follow a plot or a line of argument, but Merton\’s oscillations from self-doubt to elation fit the rhythms of my mind as it was brought to focus, over and over, on the physical pain.
After Merton, when my brain started to clear a bit, there was a Trollope novel. I don\’t know what I\’m going to do when I run out of Trollope novels–I\’m almost through his entire oeuvre. Perhaps I should start saving them for emergencies. Finally I read a hugely entertaining biography of the six Mitford sisters (Love in a Cold Climate, by Nancy Mitford, is one of my favorite novels). Compared to what their mother had to endure, having shingles seemed a piece of cake.
Thanks to my beloved Kindle I could, in the middle of the night, my breath sour and my hair unwashed, press a few keys and have a book come winging to me out of the ether, as precious and consoling as a percocet.
But the shingles wasn\’t all bad, and in fact it worked a small miracle: I lost ten pounds in two weeks, literally without lifting a finger (I didn\’t have the strength to lift a finger). As someone who can go whole decades without losing her appetite, when it went away and stayed away I was filled with curiosity. Why wasn\’t I hungry? Why was I, a lifetime member of the clean-plate club, now pushing away most of my dinner untouched? Why did nothing–not a ripe tomato still warm from the sun, or an apple from my tree, or a slice of home-made bread–hold the slightest appeal?
Then a couple of days ago, as I was sprinkling blueberries on a small dish of yoghurt—drearily thinking protein, antioxidants, acidophilus–I suddenly noticed a wet sensation in my mouth. I was salivating!
Since that moment I\’ve been thinking about food a lot, and wondering how I might recapture that elegant standoffishness towards meals that I enjoyed so briefly. How can I hang on to that viral windfall, those vanished pounds? I have no idea, but I suspect it will require lifting a finger or two every once in a while.