I’ve been living in the Land of the Sick—and I’m ready to move. To begin with, I’m sick with some kind of non-Covid throat infection, and this despite the fact that I wear masks, social distance, and disinfect. How did these bugs sneak by my PPE to my tonsils? Then, my brother and elderly mother have spent time this month in the hospital. My daughter-in-law just video-chatted and said their whole family is sick with fever and nausea and waiting on Covid test results.
Looking for a reprieve from ill health, I turned on the TV…
and the screen lit up with people in hospitals on ventilators. I walked to the kitchen to make a cup of tea (for my throat) but couldn’t miss my kitchen counter covered with thermometers, throat lozenges, and ibuprofen. A sticky pad listed the health clinic and doctor’s phone number. The scenery in the Land of the Sick is not so great.
There are other lands to live in and plenty of examples of people who, in dire times, discovered them. Novelist Robert Louis Stevenson, who wrote Treasure Island, spent much of his youth in bed sick with bronchial infections. That didn’t stop him from letting his mind jump a ship bound for exotic, ocean beaches full of nefarious pirates. Teddy Roosevelt too, was a bed-ridden, sickly youth, yet he spent hours with his toy soldiers dreaming of great deeds and military conquests. Being physically trapped in their beds didn’t prevent these young men from roaming far and wide in their minds.
Another woman I knew told me about her own journey out of the Land of the Sick.
“Koontz and his stories, they saved me,” said Pam. “I got through my cancer treatments and came out the other side, amazingly still sane.”
Pam was just a young woman when she found out she had breast cancer and needed both surgery and chemo. It was a nightmare. She was frightened and became obsessed with thoughts of death. Then someone gave her a Dean Koontz mystery/horror novel. Pam told me reading Koontz book she was transported from her hospital room to an alleyway in southern California where some telepathic dog was tracking a killer.
“I wrote Dean Koontz a long letter thanking him for all that he did for me,” Pam told me excitedly, “and guess what? He answered me back!”
Other lands are far more pleasant than the Land of the Sick. There’s the Land of Music, the Land of Adventure, the Land of Building. My father was a trucker in norther Indiana hauling trailer homes across the country. He spent long hours in the cab of his truck with little else to do but watch the ribbon of highway stretching ahead of him. Dad trucked in a time before podcasts and other entertainments were available. His only diversion was the radio—when he could get reception. But it was on these lengthy, boring trips to Florida or Massachusetts that dad would design and build a large addition he planned for our house. He told my mother he had the blueprint in his mind.
This past week I took a hiatus from the Land of the Sick to binge-watch Netflix.
There I saw a great mini-series, The Queen’s Gambit, about a young woman who became a chess master.
In order for Beth Harmon to visualize her chess moves she had to leave the Land of Anxiety and Fear. No one can concentrate if they’re locked in some awful headspace, but sometimes leaving is harder than we think. Beth Harmon took drugs–not an option for me, unless of course you count Ibuprofen.
Today, my throat still hurts, but I’m no longer contagious. I think I’ll take a drive down the road, not far, just to the place where there’s a little rise. I’ll park the car and sip my water bottle and and watch the traffic in the valley below. Maybe I’ll see a car with an out-of-state license plate, maybe Oregon. Then I’ll think about that wonderful time we flew kites on the Oregon coast—and escape the Land of the Sick for a while.