The Lesson at the End of Stomach Flu


Stomach flu is nasty.  A nasty experience to have or watch (or smell) and nasty to write about.  And who wants to read about vomiting and diarrhea?  Even the look of the typed letters makes me feel a bit…queasy.  All those harsh consonants: the un-pretty, un-lyrical sound of the words that represent the sounds.  Ugh.

So…why this blog?  When I started to think about the topic of stomach flu I couldn’t make up my mind whether navigating such unpleasant territory–even for the purpose of reaching the “pot” of relief at the end of the rainbow—was worth it.  Not that I ever planned to write about the actual bodily fluids (let us say, ahem, the protagonist in the hospital drama of gastroenteritis?). 

No.  This blog is more about the…well…spiritual experience stomach flu can be (once it’s over, that is).

Let’s put this story in context.  Once upon a time a person is sitting at the dinner table eating with friends and family.  She’s really hungry and eats really fast, though she knows that eating fast is bad for dieting and bad for digestion and bad for dinner parties in general.  Then, about thirty minutes later, pain struck.  Indigestion?  Maybe, at first.  On that famous nurse’s 10 point subjective scale for “ouchies”, maybe we’ve reached 3 out of 10?  

Fast forward a couple of hours.  The party is now over, the guests are gone; Pepto and Tums sprawled on the counter, peppermint tea cooling on the coffee table.  If childbirth pain was a 10+, then this pain has become a… 5.  Survivable, of course.   And we women are tough, right?

Fast forward again.  The pain has become a profound experience of sorts: an intense there-ness that simplifies existence.  Who cares about work, appointments, chores, pets, cleanliness, etc.?  There is nothing left but this horrible intense agony that doubles the woman over.  Can’t sob, can’t breathe, can’t move or walk.  Can’t keep water down.  Can’t stop shaking.  And the fear: Is this food poisoning?  Death by microbe?  A new Plague?  Pancreatitis again? (had that several years ago, and it felt like childbirth in the wrong parts of the body).

Breathe through the pain (ha).  And call Kaiser Nurse for advice.  To ER or not to ER—that is the question!

Let us skip to the pertinent part of this very ordinary story.   After twenty-four hours in the hospital during which time this woman (ME) stopped working, stopped worrying about minutia, stopped paying bills or not paying bills, stopped driving, stopped exercising, stopped writing and reading, stopped being an active adult.  I became a child again, in fact, with my child sleeping in a chair at the side of the hospital bed.  Morphine—wow.  IV fluids to stay alive and no fluids through the mouth for a day (that’s nothing compared to no water for five days with Pancreatitis).  Yucky taste that could only be expunged in a vat of toothpaste.

Then…NO STOMACH PAIN.  Finally. 

Every muscle in my back hurt, of course.  I had to rest for four days to get my equilibrium back, to eat normal meals, to not feel like a victim of a car accident.  Four days of revisiting the experience of being a, well, teenager-like person on summer vacation (sorry, son).  If you’re a parent you know what I mean.  Four days of lying around the sofa and lawn chairs watching other people do STUFF: the caretaking and homemaking and pet-feeding, etc.  No computers or even cell phones (not adolescent-like here).  Just: “Stop the world, I want to get off.”

Not exactly a vacation by anyone’s definition.  But these four days did shift my perspective.  Sharpened my senses.  Honed my insight into what matters, and how small moments conspire to create a rhythm that may not suit.  I felt so very peaceful.  Centered.  Grateful.  Happy.  Wise and childlike.  Practically a freakin’ guru, if you’ll excuse the adolescent-ism.

This blog is about Mindfulness, then.  About revisiting a high number on the pain scale (8? 9? 10?) and a close brush with one’s own physical frailties and limitations.  And then becoming free of it all: frailties, limitations, and everything else.  The baby with the bathwater…

For just four days.  It was enough, though, to carry me the rest of the summer.

Anyone out there know what I mean?

Posted in

A Priori Press, DBA