I had a cold for most of June. I did at home COVID tests and was relieved at the results. I pounded glasses of Emergen-C and gallons of peppermint tea. I went through two boxes of tissues. I finally felt better by the end of the second week, only to have the symptoms worsen a few days later: congestion that kept me up at night, non-stop sneezing, post-nasal drip out the wazoo. I thought I might have developed allergies, but Zyrtec didn’t do anything.
I had a trip scheduled for the end of June—a friend’s bachelorette party and vacation with my partner. I had it all planned out: work until my Friday night flight while also doing one week of #1000wordsofsummer. I made it through two days before I realized my stubbornness. A younger version of me would’ve stuck it out in the name of consistency, but I remembered my resolution at the end of last year to “account for the rhythms of your life with compassion, not punishment.”
I took a few sick days and went to urgent care. The doctor peeked in my nose and informed me it wasn’t allergies or any kind of infection at all. I had nasal polyps, benign growths in my nose that can become inflamed and cause all the same symptoms as a cold. Nasal spray became my best friend. I took industrial grade Sudafed before my flights and chewed gum (even though it irritates my TMJ) to avoid sinus problems when the pressure changed. I practically packed a pharmacy with me in my carry-on. I abandoned my plan to participate in #1000wordsofsummer. I scheduled a follow-up doctor’s appointment for when I returned.
I struggled with my usual anxiety around worthiness and productivity whenever I’m sick (this in itself is a sickness, I know). But I felt weirdly proud of myself for not wallowing as long in indecision, resolving instead to adjust my plans, to put my own health and rest first without guilt.
Because sometimes life shoves some polyps up your nose. You might not even know it’s polyps, unless you stop and get it checked out. Maintaining consistency has its limits if you aren’t focusing on the most important things, especially when things are constantly changing.
It took a few days for the medication to kick in, but it helped immensely. A group of us celebrated my friend’s impending nuptials in Santa Fe surrounded by the desert and mountains and art, devouring dried seaweed and green chiles and watermelon, and at night, fending off huge moths. E and I loved being tourists in Seattle, seeing high school friends, and exploring the immensity of Olympic National Park. We watched so many sunsets and slurped briny oysters.
As we walked near Lake Crescent, my friend pointed out what looked like semi-hollowed tree trunks, but were in fact nursery trees for the whole forest. We touched clumps of dry moss and learned that the moisture would be highest in the fall. It was cool in the shade of ancient Douglas firs, the tops of which we had to crane our necks to see. I thought of Jenny Odell’s writing in Saving Time about ecological timescales, how freeing it can be to have a less human-centric view of time. The trail was fittingly named, “Moments in Time.”
Odell’s book contains a chapter on leisure, wherein she cites the writing of German philosopher Josef Pieper. “Pieper’s leisure was a state of mind and not a place, product, or service” she writes, but “time, space, and circumstance.” It exists for its own sake. Many definitions of rest overlap with Pieper’s definitions of leisure, as both require “the kind of emptiness in which you remember the fact of your own aliveness.”
This is why it’s possible to be on vacation but not truly feel relaxed, or on the flip side, you can experience leisure while engaging in everyday activities. In my case, it took a doctor’s visit and some changes in scenery to put me into the right mindset to truly rest. But it also required my own acceptance and decision to embrace different types of rest. To acknowledge my own limitations and connect with others. What is a good vacation if not a change in perspective?
Listen to your body. Return to rest the way you can also return to your work. Remember the fact of your own aliveness.
Programming note: I’m traveling to the Sewanee Writers’ Conference these next few weeks, so I’ll be back in your inboxes in mid-August!
- Some submission opportunities: (1) My friend, Bianca Ng, is looking for submissions from queer BIPOC artists for one of The Seventh Wave’s community anthologies with the theme, “On Tending.” Submit to TSW’s community anthologies by July 27. (2) Submit to The Sewanee Review’s sixth annual fiction, poetry, and nonfiction contest by July 31.
- A useful guide from Erika Dreifus about how to avoid submission fees when sending work to literary journals, contests, and presses.
- Kara Cutruzzula on creating over waiting: “You must create, and focus on what you can control. Regardless of your industry, regardless of the gatekeepers, regardless of your own chatty inner monologue. ”
- Check out BOMB Magazine’s summer roundup of fellowships and residencies.
- An essential essay from Jennifer Baker about the erasure of Black authors and editors in the publishing industry: “It is deflating to have the same conversations over and over and then not see the impact of the emotional labor.”
Recent reads & other media
E and I watched Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny in a surprisingly empty theater, but had a good time—especially when it goes a little Magic Treehouse and *spoiler alert* they meet Archimedes (??). I rewatched Raiders of the Lost Ark with my sister, since she’d never seen it. Joy Ride was so much fun, balancing raunchiness with a surprising amount of tenderness in both family and friendship. My friend and I saw it at Alamo Drafthouse and she could not finish her pizza while Stephanie Hsu unveiled a rather ~devilish~ tattoo.
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~ meme myself and i ~
The non-glamorous version of Nicole Kidman’s AMC ad. Kids at the pool. When you’re showing your friend a movie and they guess the plot twist in ten minutes. Dog plays the piano in their dreams. So many engagements these days. Everyone’s trauma is valid.