Almost every day since the coronavirus outbreak, I have felt sick in some way. My throat has been itchy and warm, or the inside of my nose fiery and blue. Sometimes my brain pulsates, my sinuses explode with a fluorescent sneeze, or my stomach twists like a rag being wrung.
When I was sick last December, I would wake up from a nap and feel my lungs aching. Normally my organs work without my thinking about them, freeing my mind to wander here and there, dream of this, worry about that. My body was telling me, “Pay attention to me. Remember me.”
We think of sickness as a sub-optimal state, but when we are attending to our bodies, we are no longer taking long strange journeys with our minds. When we are quiet in bed, all the pretenses fall away, leaving something simple and precious.
When world leaders and movie stars and princes get infected by this virus, I feel a tenderness toward humanity. These once intimidating highflyers suddenly seem like people who could be in my backyard for a grill-out, chatting with me about the kids and this crazy world and what happens when you die.
When we are healthy, the subtle sensations in the body mostly go unnoticed. The relative stillness and self-sufficiency of the body seem to tell us to go – do – strive.
Sickness can be an opening to the soul. When I am ill, I am no longer the person I want people to see, but the person I was before I knew my name. Being sick temporarily breaks down the constructions that separate me from everyone and everything.
Maybe that’s why it feels like coming home.