I finished my weekly drives to/from Columbus last week, just in time for my body to rebel against the amount of driving I've been doing this semester; my lower body started to spasm out around midnight on Thursday halfway through my 3-hour drive to Illinois. Unknotting a clenched hip joint on the freeway while driving with a cramping leg in freezing rain distracted me from the realization that I was losing my voice; fortunately, I'd already delivered Thursday's department seminar earlier that afternoon.
The next few days alternated between time with family (my brother Jason came from San Francisco to get his Filipino passport and celebrate Mom's upcoming birthday), doing what schoolwork I could while coughing and chugging warm mugs of honeyed apple cider vingar, and drifting in and out of trippy semi-feverish dreams while sleeping double my usual amount. I recovered enough speaking ability to teach my last class on Monday and deliver a hoarse 10-minute pitch at a business competition, then lost my voice completely Monday night and spent most of Tuesday in bed with Trippy Fever Dreams and Cultural Theory Literature (which are sometimes hard to tell apart). My voice isn't back yet, so I'm doing massive bowls of noodle soup for (1) feeling better-ness and (2) Mom's birthday.
I'm learning how to take care of myself in times like this, prioritizing rest and breathing space, patiently coaxing short paragraphs of cogent thinking from my mind, rubbing my stiffening hands out in hot baths before they lapse into full-blown RSI, cancelling meetings and dropping things without guilt. I can see myself not as an expendable resource to blow through in a heat of screaming, shrieking metal, but as person who is... for lack of a better phrase, worth it. I am to steward and nurture my own potential for service. Do fewer things with greater love.
I revised my "about" page for some upcoming teaching engagements, archiving the old version on github. I noticed with a smile how much I've changed over the past few years -- and how much I haven't. The last paragraph is a good example. It used to read:
copious amountsof free time, I cook ridiculous things in huge let’s-feed-an-army quantities, play music (I’ve done everything from jazz piano to madrigal recorder troupes to junkyard percussion, but my current project is teaching myself to arrange fingerstyle guitar pieces), read anything I can get my hands on, try to pick up other languages (right now: German) and chill with my awesome family and friends all over the globe (go internet and postal service!) I also collect quirky technical textbooks. It is rumored that I am occasionally unconscious. However, I have yet to witness this, despite having stayed up multiple nights in attempts to record the phenomenon.
The new version has a nearly-identical list of shiny things, but the voice has changed.
I see the world as full of wonder. I’m a geek at heart, no matter what I do: reproducing ethnic street food in my kitchen, playing music (anything from jazz cello quartets to madrigal recorder troupes to fingerstyle guitar to classical piano), pursuing my lifelong quest to be a polyglot (German, Mandarin, and ASL), collecting quirky technical textbooks, choreographing dances set in libraries and based on Calvin & Hobbes, drawing comic books about my research. When I wander through strange cities in the middle of the night or watch in awe as my flight lifts quietly into the clouds at the beginning of yet another adventure, I pray for the blessings I’ve already received so much of: an ever-widening sense of wonder, an increasingly boundless universe, and good companions to explore and transform it with.
I haven't the slightest idea how I'm going to make it to Saturday; the work I need to do to wrap up the semester would send Healthy Mel into a frantic mess of sleepless anxiety and Trying Harderness. (I am working on my habit of Fixing Things All By Myself By Working More; there are definite limits to it.)
But I'm not Healthy Mel. I'm voiceless, coughing, sick, and Definitely Tired Mel. And I'm surprised at how chill this version of Mel is. I have good preparation, data, notes, and well-developed thoughts on all the topics I am writing about, and the number of pages I need to write is actually quite low -- less than 10 pages a day. My hands can handle that typing if the thoughts typed are deliberate beforehand. And my thoughts become deliberate when I am still, or moving softly through the world while breathing. And I'm doing that. Remarkably, against all odds. I'm doing that -- without my Ritalin, without needing to spend hours running or dancing or otherwise physically exhausting myself, and it feels... natural. Still new, but somehow right -- like breathing felt three years ago when Diana first unlocked the scar tissue running through my ribcage and I took a full inhalation for the first time in 21 years. ("Wait, your ribs expand when you inhale? Oh. That design makes much more sense.")
And I rejoice in this, and turn gently back towards my work -- a book by Theodore M. Porter ("Trust in Numbers: The Pursuit of Objectivity in Science and Public Life"), a mug of apple cider vinegar with honey, and a bowl of red cabbage scrambled with local eggs. A lot of things are rough right now, I won't deny that. There's plenty of grappling yet to be done. But I also can't deny that there's a quiet sort of happiness, a constant being-heldness, in my life as well. And the one makes it possible to live the other.