Outside My Comfort Zone

I woke up this morning with a crashing headache and a general fatigue and achiness that is familiar from the numerous minor, routine viral infections I’ve had through my life. This is a special year, though. This year, this familiar feelings means that today, my family and I go into isolation in our house, and I go into deeper isolation in my bedroom.

As rooms go, this is one of the best in the house: sunny and large, with green walls and a sunshine-y yellow bedspread. The outdoors isn’t far away — with the window open I can hear the woodpecker that lives in the maples outside, the blue jays that scream their morning messages across the treetops, and the incessant chatter of the house sparrows that live in my neighbour’s hedge and empty my bird feeders before the more exotic, less brown birds even notice I have filled them. The branches of the Norway maple that dominates the front yard fill the window, marking the seasons. They’re almost bare now, their tips punctuated by buds. A small grey squirrel has made it his spring project to eat every bud, but progress is slow and the tree is large.

So far, so comfortable. This is a fine room to be confined to. But already (it has been eight hours) I find myself missing the kitchen. The kitchen is at the opposite corner of the house, if this house can be said to have corners. If you imagine six 2×2 Lego pieces stacked two high and lined up into a three-piece-long rectangle with short edges facing east and west, the master bedroom is the top, east-facing piece and the kitchen is the bottom, west-facing piece. It gets the warm, luxurious afternoon sunlight and opens on to the deck and the back yard.

But more importantly, the kitchen is where the tea kettle is. I like to make tea. It’s important to me to be able to make tea. But now, if I want a cup of tea, I have to ask someone in my family to make it and bring it to me. It’s lovely that I have a family that will bring me hot, sweet tea, but the drinking of it is only part of tea. The tea ceremony doesn’t start with drinking. (And of course, if I lived alone I could freely contaminate the whole place.)

I’m not terribly sick. I’m hardly sick at all, really. If this were an ordinary virus, I would have taken a day off, drank as much tea as I wanted, had a nap, and been making dinner right now. But instead, my husband is making dinner with the 14-year-old and I’m waiting, passively, for it to be delivered.

And that is not comfortable. I don’t like being helped. I don’t like being a bother. I don’t like asking for things. I don’t like other people doing things for me. I don’t like needing people.

I got better at asking for help when I had little kids, but I was using them — using my state as a mother of small children — to permit myself to need help. To give myself the (temporary) status of someone who deserved help, for the good of the children, of course. Now that my children are not small, I want to go back to my previous, invisible state, gliding through life like a slow catamaran, leaving no wake, troubling no-one.

It occurs to me that to give is to be in control — of what is given, how much, how often. To receive is to surrender control and open yourself to the generosity of others. It takes a certain degree of trust. Maybe that’s why I have so much trouble with it.

I know, with my brain, that there is a grace in needing other humans. To be needed is a gift, a form of love and connection which should go both ways. It’s selfish, in a way, to want to always be on the giving side, which is the side with the control and the power.

I need to appreciate that my place in the connectedness of all things is not just a place of giving, but of receiving, too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.