“No, not today. But thank you for the offer.”
Incredibly grateful for friends who haven’t given up on me, I am in month 17 of long days of protracted illness. The majority of the 12,200 plus hours I’ve spent guessing whether my biology will cooperate, allowing me a short outing, attendance to a neighborhood gathering, or strength enough to get to the doctor and back.
Going out, into public, takes guts when you are sick.
Despite well-wishers’ assurance that there is nothing to be ashamed of, I cannot help but replay the several public disasters I’ve experienced, forcing the world at large a glimpse of my messy infirmity. “It happens.” “It’s no big deal.” “Good for you for trying.”
On a good day, I’m crumpling onto public benches three times in two blocks, holding up others’ progress as I take several minutes to navigate my cramped body in and out of vehicles, tightening my death grip on the shopping cart at the pharmacy counter. I’m inconveniencing almost everyone I know and plenty of folks I don’t.
Staying in, I’m mortified when visitors see the disarray of my home, unfinished laundry, unwashed dishes, the pile of necessities and diversions radiating from my ‘chair’, where waking hours spool by. Somehow, with all the time in the world to myself, I cannot even keep myself or my home clean.
Trying to reconcile myself to the situation, my limitations and diagnoses, I’m moved to consider my oneness with others in similar circumstances. And I realize whether introduced to isolation for a relatively short time during a physical or emotional crisis or weakening during the long march into old age, we self-exile when we feel (and actually are) vulnerable.