Saturday, April 19, 2008

Benefits of pneumonia

I hate pneumonia -- hate it! (I caught the flu, and while in a weakened state, got pneumonia.) You feel tired all the time, you can't do much, and once in a while you hear a gurgling sound in your chest when you take a deep breath -- a frightening experience. That said, I have seen some benefits.

Am I talking Romans 8:28?

Yes I am, but I'll tell you something. I have seen this verse (God works things out for our good, where "our" refers to people who love him, etc.) at work in my life, and I'm confident that he will continue to do so. Where I lack faith is: when something hits those I love, I'm not so sure what God is doing to them. I have to believe what this verse says, though I never tell the suffering person, "God is working all things out for good." I believe that my role is to rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15) -- and to pray with and for them.

Some Benefits

  1. It forces me to slow down and decide.
    You know that I don't much like this "slowing down" business -- as I wrote elsewhere, I've been in a rush since I was a kid. But if I try moving my body around with any speed at all, it complains -- with coughing or an out-of-breath feeling. Fortunately, my brain has not slowed down quite as much, so this means I have more "think time" per unit of physical activity. I have more time to decide what's important.

    And why is that good? Well, the other night I decided to do the dishes. This is not heroic; I do it quite often. But in my current state, I knew that doing the dishes meant I wouldn't be able to do something else -- like read something (I've rediscovered some books on my shelf -- The Mind's I, for example, or Postman's Technopoly), write something, watch (part of) a DVD. So, given that Carol would have done them without complaint (she knows how sick I am), why did I do the dishes?

    Because it was good for me to do them. It's not that I needed to stack up husband-points (though that never hurts), but it was, and is, good for me to intentionally set aside something I want to do, in order to serve her. (NOT that the dishes were her job and I'm doing her a favor -- rather, if I hadn't do them, she would have done 'em. Dishwashing is not her favorite activity.)

  2. It reminds me that I'm going to die someday.
    Yalom writes quite a bit about death anxiety, denial of death, and denial of death anxiety in his 1980 book Existential Psychotherapy, pointing out that when we forget about death (or deny it), weird stuff happens. It's good to reflect occasionally on the limitations of our time on this earth, and possibly to make adjustments.

  3. It limits my activities.
    I can't go shopping or do home repairs or maintenance that involve any level of physical exertion (and it doesn't take much to qualify as "exertion" in my present state), so I'm limited to what I can do in the house. Together with #1 & #2 above, it means I might take time to write to an old friend, to encourage someone by email or something, whereas before I might have gone off to do some other thing.
Well, much as I would enjoy continuing this, I am going to stop here to do some dishes.

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