“This, too, will pass.”
~Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth
A couple of weeks ago, Herb and I returned from an always-wonderful visit with our Bay Area grandchildren, topped off with an overnight stay in a lighthouse to celebrate anniversary #43 and fulfill one of my little travel dreams.
We’d only been home a day or two when a cough began to rear its ugly head, seemingly out of nowhere. I figured it was my usual Achilles’ heel of bronchitis and asthma. But this cough was different, deep and guttural, like a strange beast that was attacking me rather than coming from my airways.
After ruling out Covid and pneumonia, my doctor did a nasal swab – one of those Q-tip up-to-the-eyeball-and-brain sorts that I’ve managed to avoid since they were first used at the beginning of the pandemic. The test ruled out a dozen or so viruses except one: RSV. Respiratory Syncytial Virus, a new strain that rides into town on a fast horse and points its lance at very young children and people over 65. And although I never think of myself in the latter category – feeling rather young at heart – I am in fact in that target age group.
I found it a bit ironic that after two-and-a-half years of successfully dodging Covid, navigating protocols, vaccines and masks in large public places and even traveling internationally, this new virus on the block had quickly tracked me down. And in an unusual twist of my deepest desires, I found myself quite relieved that I wasn’t traveling right now.
RSV is not for the faint of heart, especially because there is very little you can do except ride it out. I was still treating the bronchitis as well – an infection on top of the virus. The anti-coughing meds my doctor prescribed made me feel zombie-like, as if I were sleepwalking through my days. I made endless cups of Manuka honey, lemon and ginger mixed together in boiling water like a tea. At one point, Herb had to go out of town on a short business trip, and I holed up with a large pot of soup and a myriad of thoughts that swirled around my ever-spinning mind.
I thought a lot about being sick when traveling and reminded myself why I always pack a small pharmacy in my carry-on wherever we’re headed. I thought about getting bronchitis in Antarctica and the lovely physician on the Seabourn Quest whose helpful care kept me from missing a single moment there. The cold, dry Antarctic air was notorious for respiratory issues, she had told me, remarking that at least half the passengers and crew were being treated on the voyage. The baristas at the ship’s Seabourn Square coffee bar had even prepared a special honey-lemon-ginger drink concoction for such situations, keeping a bowl of freshly peeled and sliced ginger perched on the counter like a condiment. The fresh ginger, I’m convinced, is the secret ingredient.
I thought about people I knew or had read about who had been struck by Covid’s wrath while they were traveling, forcing them to quarantine in hotel rooms or cruise ship cabins, quashing their vacations in the blink of an eye. It’s a sobering thought, but no matter how much we plan or how positive we may be, things happen that are far beyond our control. The best we can do is accept our fate and know that, as the oh-so wise Eckhart Tolle says,
“…this, too, will pass…When detached, you gain a higher vantage point from which to view the events in your life instead of being trapped inside them.”
About two weeks after RSV first appeared, I began to feel like my old self again. The zombie had left the building. My cough – although continuing to linger – had become manageable in a post-sickness sort of way. When Herb returned from his business trip, I joked that I felt as if I’d missed most of November. In a way, I guess I had.
On Herb’s first night home, he picked up take-out for dinner at our local shopping center. The nights are dark much earlier now, with daylight savings time turned back once again, and he happened to reach the parking lot just as the sun was setting. Along with our dinner, Herb returned with a gorgeous photo of a wildly orange-red sky dancing over the cars and treetops .
“I needed to see that,” I told him. I’d hardly been out of the house for two weeks, my days and nights blurring together like an out-of-focus picture. The thought of watching a magnificent sunset set my heart racing, and I reminded myself that like Eckhart Tolle’s words of patience, the best medicine is often found just outside our door.