To overstate the obvious, I’ve been AWOL for a while. December’s Christmas party mayhem, as usual, ate my life. At the start of the month, out of sheer curiosity, I began keeping a tally of how many people we’d helped to celebrate company parties, but ultimately abandoned the effort when I realized it was making me feel even more overwhelmed than I already was.
When the New Year arrived, which felt like approximately a week-and-a-half after the old one had bombed in on us, it found me feeling as though I’d given blood and they took it all. As usual. It should have come as no surprise when I got rollicking, roiling, wildly sick. The daughter in L. A. came down with the same gastroenteritis at the very same time – who knew that the telephone was such an effective transmitter of disease? – so I at least had someone with whom to commiserate. When either of us was able to talk.
In a conversation with my sister (a brilliantly kind family doc) recently, she said I’d probably had Norovirus, given the fact that it’s hung on for so long. Some of the urgent symptoms have relented, but others have not. At three weeks in, I’m still sneaking up on the idea of solid food. The daughter said it best:
“I can’t imagine that I’ll actually sit down to a meal ever again.”
I’ll admit that it’s always a surprise when I get sick. I’m fortunate to enjoy good health and fairly decent fitness most every day. Being interrupted by sickness feels like an insult. How could this happen to me?
And I didn’t do myself any favors. I stayed home sick for exactly one day because on that day, I had no choice whatsoever in the matter. The next day dawned with a false sense of suddenly feeling better, so I went to work. For 11 hours. The day after that, mercifully a day off, I was right back where I’d started. Still, come Monday, which was supposed to have been a day off, I hauled my sorry self to work and stayed there. Each day, I’d make several dashes to the bathroom.
I was the most compulsive hand-washer you’ve ever seen.
When I got home, I’d have to go to bed for a couple of hours before I could even contemplate getting up to feed the animals, refill my water glass, then go back to bed and sleep for 12 hours before doing it all over again.
You’ve heard that the human body can go X number of days without food, but cannot survive without water? Every word is true. For three weeks, I survived on water. Cold water, warm water, hot water with ginger and honey and lemon. Water. Anything else – ginger ale, broth soup, tea, coffee (oh God, especially coffee) – was instantly rejected. Often violently. I lost 15 pounds, but water saved me. I’ll never take it for granted again.
The moral of the story is that it is time for limits. Time to set some, time to stretch others.
In the end, absence from cooking and writing and even normal living gave me a much-needed perspective. Some facts became clear.
The job needs to stop eating my life. I believe that if the month of December hadn’t so utterly depleted me, I might not have been as sick as I was for as long as I was in January. It’s both a blessing and a curse that I am the only one in the kitchen who does what I do. I’ve been the squeaky wheel asking for help and support for too long; if none is forthcoming in anything other than in intermittent ways, there are things that won’t be getting done. I have no more thanklessly long days, nights, weeks, or months in me.
The blog needs to refocus. Or focus. It has been wandering without one for several months because, beyond the confines of work, I have been without one myself. I’ve put all my creative force into something which has drained me dry and kept asking for more. Well, as a friend is fond of saying,
“Fuck that shit.”
I’ve recently reset my hours at work to go in earlier in the morning and leave earlier in the afternoon. That gives me guaranteed daylight time, regardless of the time of year, to have a long walk with the dogs. It’s a tossup as to which of us needs it more. I’m an early riser, and with set dog- and me-walking time later in the day, I can take that first cup of coffee back to bed and write when the day is brand new and my thinking is clearest. And by the time I get to the kitchen, it’s with the people I both most and least like being there with. It all works out in the end.
And where to go with that? I’ve grown dissatisfied with the scattergun approach to blog posts. Here a salad, there a soup, everywhere a something-or-other. It may sound contradictory, but it’s difficult for me to think creatively without a structure. A direction, if you will.
As I was lying in bed one afternoon, beginning to think about actually eating food, the vision of a boiled potato came to me. Tenderly split open, steaming, with just a sprinkle of salt. I knew I couldn’t eat it yet, but the mere fact that I could imagine it gave me a quiet sigh of optimism. A corner had been turned.
A couple of days later, again back in bed before animal-feeding time, I realized that the potato looked lonely. Carrots. I always have them on hand for the bunny. She’s a genial soul, and I’m sure would share if asked. To boil together some yellow potatoes and bright chunks of carrot surely would taste as lovely as it looked. Any why turn my back on my old friend ginger just because I was feeling a bit steadier on my feet? Add a couple of slices to the pot, and the resulting stock would likely make a restorative tisane.
Suddenly I fell further back into the pillows. My jaw dropped open. I realized that I was daydreaming not just of a meal, but rather thinking down a road. It had a name: ROOT VEGETABLES. Now, that may not ring your bells as it did mine, but suddenly I had my direction. My structure.
Categories. I would restructure the blog under broad categories, each post being a small slice thereof. Full of information and recipes, hopefully new and useful to all of us. And most of all, interesting. To all of us.
From illness into health, chaos to – or at least moving in the direction of – order.
Will all these optimistic and early – very early, given that it’s all of mid-February – harbingers of good times to come have yet another blanket or two of snow to look forward to? Probably. But they’ll be there. Waiting. Ready to begin growing again. With all of us.