Soul Coughing

I'm tired from being sick, a little tired of being sick, but kind of okay that my body has forced me into a bit of a stupor. Two days this week I have spent on our living room couch, largely confined to soul coughing, reading Anne Lamott, napping, reading The New Yorker, thinking, sniffling, blowing my nose, reading The Sun Magazine, listening to a bit of music (but not much because my ears are stuffed and muffle the nuance of most anything), reading Laurie Halse Anderson, napping a bit, and then reading Donald Hall. I've mostly stayed off my phone and been on the computer only to write and read a few good articles. These have been my days. Well, all that and the usual amount of existential panic. I get that whether or not I'm sick.

This panic (which a more reasoned observer would likely call anxiety) stems in part from the fact that I'll soon quit my job and need another job. I can't think of much I want to do for a job. This apathy could be the sick and tired talking or me just being so burned out by the job I have, but it is a feeling and way of thinking that I have had for longer than this illness, longer than this calendar year, longer than my daughters have been alive, longer than I have been married. It doesn't help to have so enjoyed these days of being sick on the couch, to have savored them more than most any other days this year. I've read an absolute ton, done some writing, and had some ideas become maybe a pixel or two clearer. I still live with my usual panicked anxiety, but if I could live like this, even with the terrible, wet cough, I think I'd be happy.

There are jobs to which I will apply, even some teaching jobs to which I might send applications out of desperation. My hope is that one leads to something more interesting and something more interesting after that. Maybe I'll trip into some connection with writing. It could happen.

This sickness started over a week ago and continues. I stopped taking medicine for it. Rest seems the only cure. I'll get better. That or I'll die. Those are the two choices. It will take some time to figure out which way things turn out this time. To quell my existential panic about these things I remember that I've always gotten better and that evetually we all die. It will all happen.

For now I'm going out for a slow walk. Winter, like this cold, is hanging on longer than it should. The sky is too blue for the cold, and yet there it is. I'll pull on a hat and my fleece. The dog will get excited and whinny. Yes, I'll tell her, let's go together. She won't care where we are headed, whether spring has truly arrived, the quality of my wet cough, or jobs. She feels not the least bit of existential anxiety. Not ever.

Home I'll return to the couch. She will stand next to it, lick my hand or feet, and wag her tail. I'll pet her neck and scratch her behind. She will go lie on her blanket, I'll read more. Or maybe I'll stare out the window, perhaps into the future. When it's all too much, when the soul coughing wracks my chest and will, I'll lie me down to sleep and pray for something my soul to keep.

Energy & Momentum

My wife said, "I have no energy to do anything and I've felt like this for a long time." Yeah, I know that feeling. I have no energy to respond to email, to search for a different job, to clean the bathroom, to change out of pajamas and a ratty old hoodie. I don't feel like doing any of that. When my wife talked about having no energy I was sitting on the couch reading a book that is good but not pulling me along, one for which I don't have much energy to finish. All of which had me thinking of writing this down. For that I have plenty of energy.

Earlier we had talked about what I'll do for my next job. I did a lot of shrugging because I just don't know. I'll need to find a way to pay bills, but she was right in suggesting I seem to be waiting for some miracle, a $150,000 job for her or a million-dollar windfall out of the blue. I imagined money raining down from our ceiling, enough to buy healthcare, pay the bills, and set aside to get us through. Through the shower of bills I saw myself at the desk typing.

A writing career isn't made on wishes but maybe starts there. Earlier, I took down a notebook and found the entry from one year ago. It was about all I had to do before we went out of town later that day and how I had taken a pair of pants out of my bag to make way for a books and a notebook. At the end there I wrote of feeling like I was on the right track for a change. I had begun to really dig into writing.

I'm farther along that track now. Nowhere near any kind of destination but picking up speed. I'm picturing a long train of pages, cars overflowing with pens, tankers of ink, box cars full of typewriters, laptops, and reams of reams of paper. The train rumbles through the dark early morning. The crossing signal has dropped across the road blocking half four lanes of traffic each way. The people in those cars stare, wondering how long they will have to wait, worried about getting to jobs for which they have no energy. I jump out of my car, run along the tracks, grab hold of a ladder and pull. My feet leave the ground and I wonder if I can pull myself up and where where this train is headed. In the distance behind me, I hear the signal bells clanging. Up ahead the train's horn blows loud and low. I hang from the ladder listening to the rhythmic clack of the wheels and it sounds just like my fingers on the keys writing word after word after word.