Maybe it was while I waited for the urgent care doctor who would tell me I have the highly contagious, infamous flu, or maybe it was between feverish blurs underneath three blankets in bed when I scrolled through my Instagram on Wednesday and liked these lines of writing advice by author Janet Fitch: “If somebody’s afraid of spiders, you put them in a room full of spiders.” I’ve been scared of this season’s crazy flu for my kids, and I’ve been scared of missing any of the tight work deadlines set for last week and the next few, and then–figuratively–I brought home the spiders; the enemy crawled into my house, and all I could do was abandon dates and time.
Fitch’s advice is to remind us that writers create beloved characters and then have to do awful things to them in order to see what they’re made of, to thicken the plot, to produce indirect characterization, and so on. In Allende’s In The Midst of Winter, one character who dedicates his life to avoiding anxiety is in a few chapters later forced to help dispose of a stranger’s dead body. The way the flu has been knocking people off their feet, hospitalizing them, and even killing them this year, makes me feel(fear) like having kids diagnosed with the flu is like signing their death warrant. And our story has been the same for months; my kids can’t catch a break this winter. They are constantly sick, each cough in bed sounding like the creaking floors in the hallway, each sneeze causing whiplash reactions, each stomach ache interrogated, and we are so weary.
So, if I’m this exasperated character in this story, I admit I handled the spiders in the most predictable way: I’ve walked around the house wearing a surgical mask. Quarantined myself to the bedroom, putting an invisible fortified line from this threshold to the rest of the house. I’ve wiped and sprayed everything a million times. Sprayed Lysol everywhere. Used Hibiclens to wash my hands. Washed all towels. Cancelled all plans (well, I couldn’t even move until Friday). When the kids were away at school, its own cesspool, I opened the doors to the cold wind and tried to air out the house. I begged the sunlight to kill the germs. I’ve abstained from hugging and most of my mommy comforts. As a result, I’ve let them get drunk on TV.
Yesterday was the first day I felt more like myself, so what do I do? Wash all flu-ish things, pick up the house before getting too winded, get everyone drinking elderberry syrup, order the kids new pajamas online, throw away toothbrushes, and buy On Guard and other DoTerra oils. I got Kal to get some homeopathic fortification including turnips (a Persian remedy favorite). My kids have had so many colds and setbacks this winter, I just couldn’t stomach the idea of even one more sickness. Somehow, I feel if I have enough might, I can keep my flu away from the kids.
But this is all exhausting.
And probably futile.
And probably not enough to thwart fate or little Billy’s innocent cough at school that could get them sick anyway. Last week, Layla’s class only had 8 students left in it.
It’s been pouring rain all morning here, that type where if you run to your car without an umbrella, your shirt will be stuck to you. I want rain to do what it does in books–ceremoniously commiserate with the day, nestle us in for reflection, wash away the sins, offer a rebirth–all of it. I’m thinking today is the day I can inch back to normal. Step out from under the fear and just say I’ll handle whatever comes. If they get sick (again), they get sick. We’ll deal. Just let it go. Man, do I want to be that person.
I’m pretty sure, though, that I’ll be rubbing feet with essential oils and stuffing mouths with Sambucus gummies as this winter season is fraying my ends, steering this girl to some hippie roots. For now, while immune systems are weak and winter is still here, this working mom would really, truly prefer the less cool lens: to write the spiders and not live them. I’d really like to focus more on that.