C what I mean?

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This post is brought to you by the LETTER C as in codeine, which stops the hacking long enough for me to talk and to sleep a bit and which wraps my world in a warm, fuzzy of blanket of calm.
C also stands for Christmas, the day on which my robot battery pack failed. After nearly two weeks of scrambling to shop, clean, keep up with everyday stuff, shop, attend holiday concerts and events, wrap, stress, shop, cook and stress some more, I gave in on the 25th.
C also stands for clammy sweating and chills. I faked it through the 23rd and 24th. I went roller skating on aching legs and ignored the creeping malaise. I pushed one of those ridiculous wonky carts through IKEA, past all those inviting couches and beds, whose siren songs had an almost irresistible pull. I sang Christmas carols at a candle light service on the 24th in spite of a raw throat and watery eyes. I skipped sleep one night to scrub my guest bathroom clean.
On the 25th we hosted dinner. So I downed some NyQuil, used some nasal spray and throat spray, put on extra makeup and a big smile and carried on.

“Are you sick?” one of my relatives asked post-dinner, when we were sipping tea and munching on home-baked cookies.

“Me? Oh, no… allergies, I think.”

Denial. Why the denial? There’s a family history.

By the 26th I was flat on my back. No more faking or denying. I missed two holiday parties. I missed an opportunity to go ice skating and sledding and to get together with friends over coffee.

C also stands for common sense, which is in short supply around here. I finally realized that practicing medicine without a license never ends well.  So I went to my awesome doctor, the one who treated me two years ago after I mixed the NyQuil/Benadryl/nasal spray/throat spray denial cocktail — along with real cocktails and outdoor swimming — on a trip to Las Vegas. I didn’t come home with a hangover. I came home with pneumonia in my left lung. My doctor is a swell guy, and he spared me a lecture this time around because this time I came in before I started coughing up blood. He just gave me the much-needed pills and cough medicine. He also gave me a copy of my chest X-ray on CD.

The good new is that my X-ray is clear. No scary dark spots. Just a bacterial infection of the respiratory system. That does not begin with C.

Cheers.

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Ah, sleep

Photo by Domenico Salvagnin via Creative Commons

I’m doing something different. I’m getting sleep. Real, glorious, soak-the-pillow-with-drool kind of sleep.

It’s been amazing.

I’ve never been a champion sleeper.

One of my earliest memories is of awakening in my dimly lit bedroom to the sound of  a squalling monster. I recall slipping out of my bed and padding over to its cage on the other side of the room. Inside was a smallish, red-faced beast with curled fingers and toes, leaking profusely.

My next memory is of my mother rushing in, flipping on the light switch and actually touching the creature, which, as it turns out, was my little brother. I recall sitting on my father’s lap in the living room as he explained babies and crying to me. The late news flickered on the TV screen and cast a blue glow around the room.

As a teenager, I went through a sleepwalking phase. I was known to walk from my bedroom down to the kitchen, turn on all the lights on the first floor, then open the side door leading to the driveway and garage. I’d lean out and look for someone or something. That’s when I would wake up.

As a young woman out in the world, anyone who slept next to me complained that I tossed and turned, sometimes shouted, sat up and carried on one-way conversations, and then *gasp* snored my way through the rest of the night.

I guess I’ve settled down in my middle years. If I snore, I get a poke in the shoulder to turn over. No more reports of conversations or late-night wandering.

Most of the time I’m adrift, seeking the distant shore of unconsciousness.

But this past week, thanks to the wonders of NyQuil, I slept the blessed slumber of the very young and the achieved the stillness of the dead.

Speaking of dead, I’ve been advised and warned for more than a year now that my sleep deprivation habits are going to kill me. I didn’t really believe it until I tried to lose 20 pounds. No matter how much time and effort I put in at the gym, no matter how much I dieted, I was not losing a pound or shedding an inch anywhere.

I kept reading studies and hearing reports about belly fat and lack of sleep and mortality.

I thought back to a friend of mine who died of cancer early this year.  I recall her telling me that as a single mother, she never got more than five hours of sleep a night. She did this for two decades. I wondered if she ever kicked that habit, or, if the damage had been done.

I’ll never know but the memory scared me.

So, a respiratory infection, followed by a three-week cough, followed by the common cold felled me like an old oak in a light breeze. I realized the most important thing was to get some sleep to get better. Night after night I just went to bed and slept until my body woke me.

It was amazing.

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