Well we're fourteen months into the Frederick Douglass Circle project and from what I understand -- although the project was supposed to be done this November -- there are still fourteen months to go! Meanwhile, the entire sidewalk in front of our building has been dug up -- steps, trees, and yes... grass.
I was sick this weekend. I don't want to get into the details, but let's just say that there was a period of intermittent "fireworks" followed by a day and a half of low-grade misery. I was dead tired, my head ached, my body ached, I couldn't eat. At the end of the second day I managed to drag myself out of the apartment and take the dog to the bathroom, but that was only because it was dark and I didn't want Beth to go into the park alone. I threw the tennis ball a couple times for Mia, which in my weakened state caused my shoulder to be sore!
My sickness lasted only a few days beginning to end, and during that time there was not really anything that I felt like doing. I didn't think about work, I didn't read or write email, I didn't work on homework, … I probably could have gone through the motions of doing those things, but the pain I was in would have been way too big of a distraction. For me this was only temporary, but imagine if one day you got sick and the pain never went away.
It was six years ago this month that my wife Beth got sick. She contracted a virus that made her ill and gave her a very high fever for two weeks. The trauma of this illness screwed with her central nervous system and gave her the condition of fibromyalgia (more info). Her fibromyalgia will never go away, although it may possibly get better with time. It makes Beth's bones sore, her joints stiff, her muscles throb, sometimes to the point of being bedridden. It causes her to become fatigued much sooner than she normally would and requires her recovery from activity to be much longer than it normally would, usually a day or more. It causes sleeplessness which can sometimes be treated with medication, which can sometimes cause nightmares. Beth has endured these pains every day during the last part of 1999, all of 2000, all of 2001, all of 2002, all of 2003, all of 2004, and so far all of 2005… six years.
I thought about Beth all weekend. Every time that I whined about my headache or my backache. Every time that I struggled to walk across the room. Every time that I thought, 'I should be…' helping with the dishes, gathering the laundry, reading for class, feeding/walking the dog, paying the bills… and then pardoned myself with '…but I'm too sick.' When I'm feeling bad, I can't imagine having the strength and determination to get off my butt and do any of those things, but Beth does so much more.
I can't begin to say what a tragedy it is that Beth is sick. She is a brilliant social worker, one of the few people I know who really distinguished themselves in graduate school... and in her case it was a prestigious, competitive, top-two-schools-for-social-work-in-the-country graduate school, the Columbia University School of Social Work. The fact that she is unable to share her gift with the world – to live her calling – is heartbreaking. It’s heartbreaking every single day. But she chooses not to dwell on it. She works as much as she can and makes a difference to the people she works with. She volunteers her time at every opportunity, often with full awareness that doing so will put her “out of commission” for a day or more.
Getting a sore shoulder from throwing a tennis ball allowed me to temporarily get a very small taste of fibromyalgia. As much as I hate being sick, I'm grateful for an occasional taste. The fact that Beth’s attitude can sometimes cause me to forget about fibromyalgia tells you everything you need to know about her character.