About a month ago we all got the flu. Except for Gabriel, and the baby and Nora had really mild versions, thank god.
But J and I got hit hard. He came home from work one day complaining about body aches and fever, and I was like, "Ok, you probably have a mild to moderate cold and are being a little dramatic..." Then, BAM, the next day I realized, "My thighs hurt. Why do my thighs hurt? Was I doing squats that I don't remember?" Half an hour later I was on the couch under a wool blanket with my husband, and the chills. Pain everywhere.
We were each sick for about four days. We'd all gotten the flu shot, and while it didn't keep us from getting the dreaded disease, maybe it shortened the stint.
It was pretty awful without being downright terrible because we allowed ourselves to sit around and watch television all day. We also had to keep our children alive, but television all day is great no matter what.
What was worse, at least for me, was the aftermath. Once I felt mostly better, we had a mountain of laundry and a million other things to do. And while I was decidedly over the worst of it, my energy level had taken a nosedive. I felt like I couldn't get it back.
I spent the beginning of Adriana's life telling people that going from two to three children was much easier than going to one to two, and I meant it. I was tired and scatterbrained but also amazed at how well this adorable little infant fit into our already established schedule.
But once the winter hit it got tougher. The children - and dogs - were inside nearly all the time and our cozy home sometimes seemed like a cozy prison.
The kids have been taking swimming classes at the Y on Thursday afternoons and the therapy pool area, where classes are held, sauna-like in its warmth, has been a sweet refuge from the icy cold. The other day Nora asked if we could live there. This unforgiving season has been particularly unforgiving here in recent years.
Anyway, tough. But manageable. Until I got the flu, and all of a sudden it wasn't. I cried for the first time in so long, telling J that I had no idea what was wrong, except that getting sick had done me in. How was I ever going to get our family back into a schedule? There were so many snow days! And what the hell was happening with my career? To cope, I ate a lot of sugary things, which was not a good coping method. I felt like hair always looked weird.
When I was little and my family would return from vacation, we'd all have that odd feeling of being sad a fun trip was over but excited to be back home and just not sure how to adjust. My mom would say we were having "re-entry" problems. It was a useful way to describe a transient, mild sense of depression ignited by a sudden change in affairs.
I feel like the term applies in a lot of instances where life deals you a sudden shift, including this recent bout of illness. I do realize we are lucky to even have "re-entry" problems; that things have been great, or we've been on a wonderful trip...and then an illness hits or we come back home and it's hard to motivate.
To me, being unmotivated is one of the worst feelings. I imagine that that feeling, for an extended time, is what being truly depressed is like.
Extremely unmotivated is exactly how I felt after getting the flu. Feeling that bad seemed exponentially out of whack with the actual event, which shouldn't have been that big of a deal. But I understand how it happened: my body took a hit, and then I felt like I couldn't get my energy level back to normal, and then I felt like I couldn't take care of my family and then I didn't want to do anything at all, like especially load and unload the dishwasher. Again.
And I definitely didn't want to scale the snow piles and brace myself against the frigid temps to put my kids in the car, even to escape to tropical paradise at the Y.
Happily, this feeling has been lifting lately. I know part of it is simple healing. Maybe it shouldn't take like a month and a half to get over being sick, but sometimes when you're a mother and already run down, it does. Another part of it has been changing my surroundings a little, like buying bright flowers for the house and instead of listening to podcasts about, for instance, the heroin problem in middle America when I'm driving to pick up Gabriel from school, listening to upbeat music.
Then, after a couple weeks of cursing the state of Connecticut and it's weather patterns, I started to get excited about things again. I decided that prolonging the misery was not the best bet. J and the kids went for a long trek in the snowshoes they got for Christmas and I thought that perhaps the winter wasn't only hellish, just mostly.
We started researching new cars, having decided that this three-across-the-back-of-the-Outback was a neat experiment and is now over. Tomorrow we are going to look at a minivan. Maybe Sunday we'll go swimming. Next week my parents are coming to visit. Maybe we'll get them together with all the local family and have pizza. And one night they'll babysit and J and I will go out and drink an amazing bottle of wine.
So we march on. Now that I'm older I realize that sometimes it feels better to own a situation than to try and extrapolate the wisdom from it. Just admit things, and advance.
January and February have been rough. The flu floored me. I'm now the kind of person who wants a minivan.
These are the truths of the winter of 2015. I feel strong and giddy admitting them out loud, as they sparkle and glimmer against the dirty snow.