I've been reading "illness narratives." I love a good illness narrative. It makes me feel less alone. Less girl-in-bubble.
This piece in The New Yorker by Meghan O'Rourke sums up the experience of having a "but you don't look sick," "invisible" illness. It bites. It bites like Cleopatras's asp, but it doesn't kill you. All I have to say to that old saw, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" is I will kick you in the pants.
If you have a chronic illness, you're fatiguing to those around you. They just want you to Get Well Soon. If you don't, you're being problematic; you're breaking the rules of greeting card etiquette.
There are no cards that say, "It's So Totally Not All In Your Head And There Are New fMRIs That Prove It." Or, "Love The Moonscape Of Your Gnarled Vertebrae, Hon." Or, "You're Managing The Symptoms of Your Body Gone Kaplooey, Keep It Up." Or, "Have You Laughed At Yourself Today? Look In The Mirror, The Muscle Spasms Have Caused You To Grimace." Perhaps I should design a letterpress line of them? Please tell me I should. In my family we call my disease, "The Overlord."
On my Best Days I am 80% a Real Girl. I walk the dog. I don't want to gouge out my eyes. I don't want to wander like a Desert Father, or sit like a Yogi on a pole in the Ganges, I want to volunteer at my kids' school library. I want to make mini-muffins.
I know that it won't be for long. Autoimmune illness is -- as they say of biological systems -- punctuated equilibrium. There is always another flare. Always. Like Persephone, I guess, I have the ill luck of having to spend some time in the underworld.
So that's why I am working on not just a letterpress line of chronic illness cards (thank you for convincing me to do it) but also -- Willy Wonka-esque -- on developing a snack food called Chronic Illness Bites.
I'm thinking chocolatey, I'm thinking salty. I'm thinking the kind of bon bons that won't make too much of a mess if you eat them in bed under the covers while weeping and trying to keep it together by watching funny things on your iPad, like Charlie Chaplin do his dance with the dinner rolls, or Gene Kelly Singin' In The Rain.