Monday, October 26, 2009

On Being Plagued

"Considering how common illness is, how tremendous the spiritual change that it brings… …it becomes strange indeed that illness has not taken its place with love and battle and jealousy among the prime themes of literature.”

- Essay, “On Being Ill” by Virginia Woolf (1926)

I haven’t worked since last Monday. I feel like I’m at an AA meeting, admitting an alcohol addiction. One of the days without work was my fault, since I took off to spend time with a friend visiting from out of town, but Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, I woke up at my favorite time, 05:25AM, but no calls came. Now it’s Monday again, and still no phone call.

How to best utilize my time? I’m under the weather, so I’m feeling uninspired to do anything at all, even to post on my blog. Illness seems to suck the life out of creativity, just as it zaps energy. I’ve been fighting whatever this is on and off since last Wednesday (I’m sure it’s no coincidence that last Monday was spent subbing a bunch of runny-nosed second graders). When I feel well, I’m productive mentally and physically, but when I’m not, then I’m not good for much. Last night, with my throat and stomach bothering me, I tossed and turned - only intermittently succumbing to sleep. Although I need to work, I was glad that I didn’t have to trudge to some job, somewhere in my weary state. I’m currently making a mental list of what I want to accomplish today, which will include purchasing more medicine.

Calling in sick as a Daily Substitute seems ludicrous. If I’m the second line of defense when a teacher calls in sick, what happens when I can’t show up? There are other subs in the pool, but what if they’re sick too? Swine flu became a part of our consciousness shortly after I began subbing. Each time I worked for a teacher who was not doing professional development, the students would immediately ask if their teacher had swine flu. My response has always been, “I hope not, since I’m touching all the germy items in the classroom,” and “Let’s not start rumors.” As far as I know, I’ve never subbed for anyone with swine flu, and I’m sure I’d know because I’d be called for a longer period than a day or two. But I’ve subbed in plenty of schools that have had cases of swine flu among staff and students.

Swine flu had changed how Cambridge schools operate. Hand sanitizer is in abundant supply in every classroom and even in the cafeteria. The younger children line up to wash their hands before snack and lunch. In my daughter’s classroom, the handshake with the teacher at the end of the day has been replaced with a fist bump. Untold memos and e-mails have been sent to parents regarding prevention. It seems that the added precautions must be working because there have been no large amounts of infected people in any Cambridge school, like there have been in other places, so far. Knock on wood. This is good, because the vaccines are taking a long time to reach Massachusetts.

As a college student, I learned about the Bubonic Plague/Black Death of the Middle Ages and the 1918 Influenza Pandemic (Which began as a small flu in 1917). I also read, The Plague by Albert Camus. At the time, those studies felt incomprehensible, as if we could be immune from such chaos and death in our modern world. I often think of my readings on the subject as I hear the debate swoop through the media and everyday conversation. People’s resistance to immunizations and talk of government conspiracies, as well as transferring of misinformation about how vaccinations are made, plague me. The legacy of the American mistrust of the British government (and thus, any government) does not always serve us well, especially when it comes to healthcare. I choose to have faith that the American government and scientists want what’s best for us (Not to die) and are handling it in the most efficient way possible. And my family is on the wait list for the H1N1 vaccine.

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