Break Glass


The house fire in 2001 occurred in the middle of the night, and even though it was May in Toledo, it was still relatively cold and rainy. After we got our cars pulled away from the house, we sheltered in our minivan while the fire department was putting out the blaze. One of my most vivid memories of that episode was a family member handing me a silver emergency blanket from the first-aid kit we had in the minivan. Even though I was shivering from cold and wet (I was only wearing shorts and a t-shirt when I first noticed the fire), I resisted the blanket at first, until I was reminded that, you know, this was an emergency, and so I huddled under the blanket until we were able to drive to the family business and get our bearings back there. The silver casing on that blanket flaked off all over my body, though, and I kept having to brush the flakes off for hours until we all got to a hotel and were able to shower.

More recently, when I was awake for the middle-of-the-night start of the Toledo water crisis of 2014, I quickly became aware of just how beneficial it was that Mom kept disposable cups and plates on hand at the house. As much as I don’t like using that stuff, there is a time for it, and especially as the algae blooms never got any better during my last few years living in Ohio, keeping paper plates and plastic cups on hand felt very prudent. Even after moving to Colorado, and then to Wisconsin, I just feel like it’s a good idea to keep those items on hand, in the event that there’s another long-term water problem wherever I’m living.

A couple of weeks ago, when I first got so sick, I basically spent six or seven days feeling barely functional. I was doing as little as possible, and what little I tried to do almost always didn’t turn out how I thought it would. I hadn’t felt so awful since my childhood bouts of pneumonia, and there was more than one time when I felt like I was on the verge on having to call an ambulance for myself. I had no appetite for a few days, but I still forced myself to eat. As I started getting a little better, I started cooking for myself again, but even that usually took a tremendous amount of effort, and I didn’t feel strong enough to wash dishes afterward, even after grabbing a long nap (or just plain falling asleep for the night) on my bed.

As my sink started getting full of dirty dishes, I couldn’t help feeling like I was messing up, even as I was still fighting this horrible illness. There came a point where I couldn’t help busting out my stash of paper plates and plastic cups, but I did so with a sinking feeling in my stomach. Even though I recognized that I was undergoing some extreme difficulties, and that resting up was probably one of the best things I could do for my recovery, I still couldn’t help feeling guilty for using that stuff. It felt like I was back in that minivan in 2001 again, insisting that there wasn’t a “real” emergency going on, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary.

I’ve been getting more and more of my energy back this past week, and I’ve been washing dishes more regularly. The problem I’m facing now is that I fell behind on campus work while I was so sick, and I’m still working to catch up with that. (The fact that I’m still dealing with sinus issues and random body aches isn’t helping matters any.) I can’t deny that I’ve looked at my disposables in the kitchen and wondered if maybe I should keep using them for a few more days, and even though I’m still sick, I can’t help feeling bad for wanting to take “the easy way out” when it comes to that stuff. That’s probably a very unhealthy attitude to take, but it’s difficult to know what to do when I’ve been having to deal with so many major life events all at once. Part of me still wonders if being out of bed at all right now is doing me more harm than good.

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