Malaise

It’s rather incredible how quickly one can be overcome with sickness. I woke up Tuesday morning feeling vital, optimistic for a week of plans and progress. By nightfall I was shivering, sniffling, and trying desperately to sleep. Wednesday I spent roughly eighteen hours sleeping off a fever. Since the fever broke I’ve finished off two boxes of tissues and am setting record pace through a third.

And frankly, decimation of paper products is about all I have to show for four days’ time. Though my facilities, for the most part, returned not long after leaving, I went on as if they’d bid Adieu. Doing nothing is, of course, a favored pastime of mine.

The trouble with pastimes is they’re not pasttimes; they’re merely how you pass time. Or, in my case, how time passes you. And pass it has: three weeks, to the very day, since leaving the wonderful hospitality of Upton and returning, triumphantly, to Pawling. Save a slightly-expanded vocabulary and three or four rabbit trails, I can’t really say I’m much closer to answering The Questions than I was in Boston.

Which Questions?

Well…

What are you going to study? Where are you looking? Are there programs like that? How common are they? What do you want to do with the degree? Well sure, but be more specific? What’s the point? What’s your purpose?

State your purpose.

Frankly, I’m glad I got sick. No, not because I’m a masochist (though that’s debatable), but because whenever I get sick, I fall in love with being healthy. I dream of being able to do simple things — drink cold water, taste my food, walk without aching — and rejoice when those facilities return.

Sickness never lets you forget that you’re sick. It’s on every plate, in every cup, between every step, on every tissue, pervading every cough, echoing after every sneeze. It never ceases to surprise you with the vastness of its hold on you. And you think, “if I get through this, i’m going to make sure it never happens again.” Vitamins. Exercise. Scarves.

Look, it’s a cold.

And it took a cold, a sickness, a period of being unable to do anything productive, for me to realize that I’ve been sick and unproductive for much longer than the purview of any bacteria or virus. I realized I’ve taken the capacity for productivity, for living fully and rewardingly, quite for granted since being back. Something I was afraid might happen, but swore not to allow.

Something that getting sick helped me to catch before catching something truly lethal.

I wish I’d gotten to go to homecoming. There are some really awesome people that I’ve sucked at staying in touch with over the last year or two, and for all I know, this weekend was the last chance to rebuild those bonds before they broke.

So it goes.

But I’m looking forward to the week ahead: a chance to make good on the promises I made to myself and others, to charge from this infirmity’s gates with a focus and drive that had been fading. The Questions are coming, and I’m just thankful to have one more week to answer them.

~

A former me may have ended the blog there. He may even have tried to end on some series of short, pithy declarations. He would not, however, have continued writing here. He wouldn’t have said that this sounds way too much like another empty promise built on the back of providential epiphany. And he wouldn’t have committed to making this part one of three.

But I will. This was to let you know I’ve been sick, that I know I’ve been sick. Physically, sure, but the malaise I refer to in the title is more rudimentary, of the spirit. This weekend, I’ll address that sickness more specifically. And then, more usefully, I’ll establish the plan for a cure.

15 Days, Day 4

This is part of a writing exercise dictated by this list. It may benefit you to read it if you seek to know me (or merely someone) better; it may benefit me in the selfsame way. And if knowledge of others is your goal, seek out Anna, whose list prompted mine, and Kimi, whom Anna credits for said list.

Day 4
One passion in your life?

Quite a ways into writing this, I suddenly decided I really love autumn, and that I would finish my brief thoughts and go ahead and write about that. I liked what I’d written, and thought maybe others would too (since, after all, if you’re reading this it’s because you want insight into who I am) so I’d post it below my thoughts on autumn, and that’d be that. But then, as I continued to work out my thoughts on passion and its role in my life, I realized that what I was writing was more important than any pontifications about cool air and colored leaves and pumpkin pie could be. So a passion in my life is New England autumn. The rest follows:

Part of the reason that I had to call it (temporary) quits on this 15-day task was a seeming inability to respond to this question. As one who tends to be over-passionate in all things, nailing down a specific passion has proved fairly difficult for me. I feel a bit like a fruit-of-the-month club member who’s trying to answer the question in a more precise way than “fruit;” or at least figure out how to talk about “fruit” in an interesting and unique way. (No, I’m not passionate about fruit).

At any given time, my passion may be gaming, or cinema, or theatre, or photography, or writing, or vampires (no, but seriously), or politics, or…well, you get the point. And I don’t mean to list hobbies, or general areas of interest; I go through seasons of extraordinary obsession, ravaging the flavor of the month in a way that cannot possibly interest most people. For example, I went through a pretty strong Kingdom Hearts phase a few months back, which led to buying a game, reading about lore, catching up on news, following a half-dozen tumblogs, changing my twitter avatar, etc. In the moment, I was frighteningly fanboyish about it.

And then one day, all of a sudden, it was something else, and I unfollowed the blogs and changed my picture and stopped playing the game halfway through. It was as simple as that. The passion which had driven me for three or four weeks just up and vanished. But it’ll be back, I’m sure, because this is the fourth (or was it fifth?) time that that passion has taken me by storm.

There are few constants (true constants) in my life which can be talked about in a non-abstract way. I’ve pretty much been a writer since I was 9 years old, but I don’t get off on sentence diagrams or crave sonnets or revel in bookstores and cafes quite as much as I’ve always felt I was supposed to. In fact, I’ve spent precious little time in libraries since junior high, and am only now (in post-graduation haze) rediscovering a love for what got me writing in the first place.

Alternatively there’s the Jesus route, but while I’ve been quite a theologian for the past few years my actual faith and knowledge of scripture has floundered (again, things are changing). I don’t have a there-and-back testimony; there’s no before and after. I’ve called myself a Christian ever since I had self-awareness (or at least ever since Mr. Sauder handed me a New Testament and told me that going up to the altar every single time there was a call for rededication was just plain unnecessary), and though there have been crises of faithfulness there has never been a true crisis of faith. God has not so much saved me as He is saving me, and though sometimes I forget to tremble with fear I am still working out my salvation.

Here’s the thing: I’m bad at my passions. I love Christ but go long stretches without serious prayer or devotional. I love gaming but haven’t gamed in weeks. I love writing but struggle with actually, well, writing. I love theatre but I have no plans on seeing a play anytime soon. If this 15 Day Challenge is useful, perhaps it’s because of epiphanies like this: seeing that I don’t embrace life (or facets of it) with the fervor that I ought to, that others do. I have impetus to change, to define myself more fully, to be a more consistent and faithful believer, writer, gamer, photographer, human being.

So that’s not bad at all, is it?