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November 2010


November 17, 2010 15:40

A fever burns inside me and it’s a curious and disorienting thing.

It’s been a decade since I’ve had a fever. It’s been two decades since it has lasted more than forty-eight hours. It’s been, well, never, that one has continued on, waxing and waning with ibuprofen doses, for ten days.

Welcome to a new, hellish world.

This is an antagonist I can’t fight. Being strong-willed or tenacious means nothing here. Nothing. I can’t work through a fever. Instead it sends me right to bed. And now, every day it continues I lose something. A missed violin lesson. Writing time. Practice time. Errand time. As the fever burns through me it burns my stockpile as well, my precious reserves of motivation, stick-to-it-ive-ness, this desire to enrich my already crowded life with artistic pursuits, interests that stimulate my mind, my spirit.

Whoosh. Up in flames.

I’ve exercised five days a week, without fail, for most of my life. At first I felt frantic about my inertia. Tried, even, to exercise through this. Then I gave up.

Giving up feels better than I thought it would.

I have not picked up the violin since the fever first hit. I have not wanted to. In my dulled state, I ask myself just when was the last time I really did want to pick up the violin. When did I last hunger to make music from it? The more I pondered the question, the more it frightened me.

What if I’m done?

What if the thing that propelled me beyond my time constraints, beyond my energy levels, beyond the fact that I’m not a musician at heart—has stopped flowing? What if the fountain has all dried up?

Time for a break, you say? I’ll buy that. But. My greatest fear: what if a break feels good, the way giving up on exercise did? What if it turns into a longer and longer break? What if the desire to return to the violin never comes back?

And meanwhile the fever burns on. It burns my appetite, my muscle tone, my good spirits, my life plans, my diversions.

The efforts of the past eight years, first spent writing novels, then adding in playing the violin, have been significant, a true achievement for me. I see the months of efforts scrolling past me in my mind now, like an old-fashioned newsreel. So much effort.

And it’s another one of those horrible questions. Did any of it matter? Did it make one whit of difference? Eight years later, can I point to any tangible success and say there, that is mine, that’s what I did in that time?

Is it the fever or is it aging that’s making me ponder choices made, their efficacy? Which persona  was “right,” in the end? The fighting, dare-to-dreamer, or the complacent one, the mother who’s had to get up each day and run a household, raise a difficult child, keep her feet on the ground and head out of the clouds? Who’s to know? But here they are now, side by side on the bed, inert with fever, equally laid low, both in body and spirit.

The fevers will end eventually. I have been assured by the doctor that this is simply a bad case of the flu, that even fevers lasting double-digit days are “normal.” The fevers, the cough and chest congestion, will end and I will lie there, fallow and spent, for a while longer, absorbing the damage, awaiting the repair, the return of energy.

But I’m afraid something has changed in me. Broken me. And now I don’t know what comes next, in the aftermath of this fire. Giving up, of late, has felt good. Maybe I give up on the violin. Why keep trying if the feeling is gone? Five years has given me little to show, in the end. And writing: starting up on a new novel after number four is complete? Really, I can’t fathom it right now. Why not just give it all up? Maybe I even drop this effort here, diligently writing thoughtful little blogs for the community here. It’s been five years without my missing a month. Devotion, or compulsion? I think every blogger who makes a regular effort eventually reaches a point where they ask themselves, “Why am I doing this? Am I spinning my wheels or is this taking me somewhere?”

I’ve always told myself my writing practice, like my violin practice, is about the journey, not the destination. And I’ve believed that. But what happens, on that journey, when the fog obscures you, or you get lost in the desert?

What happens when the fever burns itself out, and you with it?

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