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The Crack In The Teacup

Here’s what I did today:

1. Woke up, had coffee and breakfast.

2. Blogged about Wallace Stevens.

3. Had a mono crash, went back to bed, slept from 10:30 till 1:30.

4. Woke up, began preparing dinner so it would all be ready when we got back from vespers.

5. Had another mono crash about 10 minutes ago. As I type this, I’m trying to fight the headache and the sense of fatigue so I can make it to vespers.

I tell you this simply because this, my third experience with mono (the Epstein-Barr virus), is now in its seventh month, and has in some ways been the worst of them all. I’m much better off than I was the first four months of it, and in previous bouts, but it’s still enough to keep me off my stride. These acute episodes in which I feel that I have to sleep right now because my head hurts and I’m tired and my mind is somewhat foggy are generally not predictable. Usually they only happen once a day, but sometimes they come on me twice in a day. It makes it hard to plan things, and it makes things very hard for my wife, as she never knows for sure when she can count on me to do something with the kids, or not. She knows it’s not my fault, but still, I feel guilty for being so pathetic.

Worse, I can’t do much of anything to help my parents with chores around their place. This stuff makes me acutely sensitive to heat. I got the official diagnosis last summer when I nearly collapsed after mowing the grass. Just being out in the heat for too long is about the only predictor I can rely on. You can imagine how useless that makes me in the summer — and summer is very long in south Louisiana. I’ve spent far more time inside this summer than I do in the fall and winter.

The one good thing that has come out of this is that it has taught me to be more empathetic to my dad in his situation. He’s going to be 79 this year, and has been struggling in the last decade with the physical inevitabilities of getting old. He has always been a man of action, far more than I have been — a low bar to clear, granted, given what a cerebrally-oriented sluggard I am, but still, he’s a man who defines himself by what he is able to do. That his aging body will not cooperate with his will has been a very hard thing for him to deal with. I’ve thought in the past that it would be like me gradually losing the ability to write — say, through progressive arthritis — because I have never been a physically active person. But as this drags on, and I’m starting to feel ever more useless, I’m beginning to feel more empathy with his predicament.

And yet, today, in all this heat, he was outside working with a friend and a tractor. He can do more than I can! I am so unbelievably grateful that I have a job that I can do from home; if I had to keep office hours, or do any kind of real physical labor, I’d be sunk.

All of this is to say simply this: if you have your health, please take care of it! Don’t take it for granted. I used to wonder why it was that old people talked about their aches and pains all the time. Now I get it. You don’t realize how much depends on being in good health until you aren’t.


about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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