The winter of my immune system’s discontent

So I’m sick again, sore throat sniffles, probably not COVID but maybe and even if it is, who cares – I feel like death, for the third time since October. Between our three core households, someone’s been sick all fall. I can’t remember if it was like this every fall pre-COVID (it probably was). It definitely wasn’t like this during the restrictions of the pandemic.

Inevitable conclusion: we may have hated the mask mandate and the lockdowns… but they worked.

My kids usually get sick first (schools are disgusting) and as soon as any one of them is coughing or sneezing – they’ve been sick so much this fall – I wear a mask to the grocery store, to Pilates, and I don’t go into the office. These days, I feel self-conscious in a mask. I live in Alberta after all, the anti-masking and anti-vaxing capital of Canada. Odds are most of the people I’m trying to protect from my children’s germs are pegging me as a paranoid freak and thinking unkind things about me. (And how whack is that, friends? The worst thing about the pandemic: it seems to have killed  the capacity for kindness and compassion in so many of us.)

Thing is, I’m resigned to getting sick myself. If my kids are sick, I’m gonna be sick. In most families, children are the patient zero, binging in diseases from their schools. All I’m trying to do is not to pass o this latest gross thing to you and yours just before Christmas. You might get it from elsewhere – I just don’t want you to get it from me.

You’re welcome.

(I know you’re not grateful. Whatever. My capacity for kindness and compassion is also not where it was pre-2020. If someone invents a pill or shot to give me back that, sign me up.)

When I’m sick, wearing a mask in public basically doesn’t arise because since my bout with COVID last spring, when I get sick, I get hammered: I can barely get out of bed, never mind the house. Isolation caused by inability to move is my default setting.

I also start to think that life has no meaning and that if the cold-flu-COVID takes a turn for the worse… well. What does it all matter?

Yes. One of my flu symptoms is existential angst and despair.

I had a pre-Christmas weekend full of fun planned as I felt the first tickle in my throat develop into hacking and needles in my lungs. There was to be a work Christmas lunch, a solstice celebration and a crazy 90s dance party, the YC Queer Writers Christmas party and, most importantly, a family pierogi making assembly line… Throughout the week, during the good moments, when the meds kicked in, I deluded myself that I’d be ok, I’d be fine – surely, a sore throat wouldn’t last all the way until Friday, right? I’d be good to go by Saturday, right? I’d get to do all the things on Sunday, right?

Hope springs eternal until the existential angst sets in and I crawl back under my blankets, sobbing.

If I don’t survive – have a merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Joyous Kwanzaa, Rocking Omisoka and a Happy New Year.

If I make it through – see you in 2023… or next week if I have a really good idea for a post.



Cremation, not embalming, but I think I might live after all (Week 12: Angst and Gratitude)


paying the price for overdoing it on sunday, will I never learn?

(probably not)

BUT I actually… can I tell you? Can you handle this?

I’m enjoying the sick. (Well, except for the sharp pain in my throat and chest.)


Ok. This time, I’m going to rest until I get better.

The only thing I’ll DO today is some tax-related receipt hunting.

(I did it. It was exhausting.)

And now… an evening of stillness and silence.

And… it’s not boring.

Ok, it sort of is.

But in a nice way.



I’m so sick of being sick, I can’t tell you.

I possibly disease her.

Her: I think I’m getting sick. What were your first symptoms? Sniffles and a sore throat?

Jane: No, I started with existential angst, the conviction that nothing in the the world was worth doing, and narcolepsy.

Never really had a runny nose–and the sore throat kind of came after the hacking and coughing.

But all my colds go to my soul and lungs and not my sinuses.




Overheard as I go up the stairs to the bathroom to cough/pee/puke (my stomach’s fine—I’m just coughing so hard, none of the sphincters work when the hacking gets going):

Sean: What the hell are you doing!

Flora: He swung at me!

Sean: That is no reason to attack him with a crochet needle!

Flora: I didn’t attack him! I just pointed it in his direction!

Sean: As he was swinging at you! I get that he’s annoying you, but if you punctured his stomach with that, you could have killed him!

I don’t quite know which “he” Flora was threatening. It doesn’t matter. I decide not to interfere.


But I pull myself together enough—and medicate myself enough—to attend a friend’s event. I try to keep my coughing contained.

Sleep the night through… although there are some rather odd dreams.


The coughing subsides but the existential angst gets pretty intense.

Ender keeps on interrupting his video game playing to give me hugs. Little empath.

I take Cinder to his math midterm. Try to breathe in his stress and anxiety, and, on the out breath, send him my love.

Spend his test trying to clear my chakras. Pretty sure I fail, wail in existential angst instead.

I was going to tell you more about my Wednesday, because I thought it might be instructional. But as I try to put it into words, it just feels self-indulgent.

It ends like this, though—in bed by 6 pm, I’m trying to accept a) that I’m really really sick and b) I just need to rest and everything will be a little better tomorrow and c) I am NOT alone and unsupported and abandoned and my friends aren’t all awful people who don’t give a fuck about me and don’t understand how difficult on the ego and heart EVERYTHING I’m doing right now is (even though it feels like that, because, did I tell you, when I am sick, it’s always in the lungs and soul) and d) cough-hack-wheeze, fucking hell, no more coughing, I CANNOT STAND THIS—and Sean tries to console me, but what can he do? Life is not worth living and I will probably die of this horrible cold anyway and I just want to lie here alone in the dark and feel sorry for myself.

Sean: Text me if there’s anything I can do for you.

Jane: ((moan)).

(You think that’s the end—that’s just the set-up.)

Fading in and out of sleep—cough, hack wheeze—sneeze—fucking hell, I AM NOT DEALING WITH CONGESTED SINUSES ON TOP OF THIS, is it not bad enough that I’m pretty sure what I need to do tomorrow (if I live) is get a job as a barista at Starbucks (they probably won’t hire me, I never did learn how to foam milk properly) or a greeting clerk at Wal-Mart (it wouldn’t be so bad, right, maybe I could try to unionize them, get fired, sue them, and find purpose in life that way)—suddenly, lights, Sean.

Jane: Say that again?

Sean: He’s fine—but it will need a couple of stitches—I’m just going to take him to the Sheldon Chumir.

Cinder, playing with scissors. Cut. Blood. Stitches.

Ok, really, it’s just a little cut, comparatively. But it’s enough, bucket of cold water. Focus. Purpose. Hugs. Sean and Cinder leave, and Ender comes into my bed.


“What where you watching with Daddy, sweetie?”

Big Bang Theory. Season six or nine—I can’t tell, sick, confused. And you know, my brain hurts and my soul is on fire—but OMFG, how awful and sexist and UNKIND is that show? I shudder. But I suffer through two episodes with Ender. Then watch and listen to him fall asleep beside me.

The other two are back in a couple of hours.

Flora: Stitches? What? What did I miss? How?

Cinder’s almost proud.

Sean’s sniffly.


Cough. Hack. Wheeze.


Sean and Cinder leave the house at 6:30 in the morning in an Uber. Cinder’s taking the Greyhound to Kelowna to visit his pack for Spring Break—Sean’s dropping him off at the station. I get up to say goodbye… then fade back into a harsh sleep until Ender needs breakfast.

You bring me soup in the morning, and my mom takes the kids out for lunch, so for most of the day, I lie on the couch and plan my funeral. Cremation or embalment and an open casket?

My grandfather was embalmed. It was a little frightening… it was so clearly not HIM you know. Just a body.

Cremation, I decide.

In the evening, I’m supposed to be at three different places—want to be at all of them—thought I could somehow manage to put in an appearance at two, maybe even all three. But I can’t get off the couch. I could maybe crawl off. And get dressed.

One of the events is a friend’s book launch and let me tell you—Nabokov and I both keep track of who doesn’t celebrate our most special days with us, I know how important being there is.

I can do this. I can get up. Get dressed.

But I can’t drive.




OMG, why is trying to sort this out so hard.

I grasp at straws. He proposes a solution that complicates his life and really ruins his night. But he delivers me to the book store—I deliver congratulations. I think I might pass out in the car on the way home.


Sean’s not quite as sick I was… but well on his way. And working, pushing through, external schedules, no choice.

I feel a pang of guilt. Crawl up the stairs. Read briefly to Ender, cuddle him as he falls asleep.

Think about shiny things, and that I probably will live.

It’s just a cold.


I have a date with Michelle Obama today, just me and 5 or 6,000 other Calgarians.

And I am not missing THAT no matter how sick I am, so I carefully coach my body into a state of suspension, hibernation. I do nothing. I move slowly. I make food. Slowly. I read The Artist’s Way, solace. Around noon I start to feel like I might definitely live—and I make myself go back to the couch and DO NOT START SPRING CLEANING or doing the taxes or writing or anything. Just… rest. Wait for Michelle. Wait for Michelle.



And I’ll tell you why this was so important in some more detail another time (maybe) but for now, I’ll just tell you this: she is an antidote and good medicine.

I will definitely live.


Ugh, I’m not so sure about that. But Sean’s a deflated comatose balloon now, a hacking wet noodle, and he might die, so I guess I better rally myself so our kids have at least one parent.

Also, back before I started dying again, I made plans to go pick up a new bed for Cinder this morning, and so… my dad, his almost-antique truck (we call her “Molly”), a trip down south.

Shiny things.

It’s all good.

Back home.

My dad and I aren’t quite up to lugging the bed pieces up the three flights of stairs to Cinder’s bedroom (I check on Sean—not dead, but definitely not up to being actively vertical), so we unload them by the door and tarp them.

The local bottle picker (no longer homeless—long story, not fully relevant to today’s drama) volunteers to help me when I’m ready to lug them inside, as does my next door neighbour.

I am surrounded by people who support me and do things for me.


Ok. I’m clearly getting better.


I need to not do much and take it slow today, so that I can shake this disease. But it’s hard, because it’s sunny, and the house is a mess, and the sunshine is coming through the Eastern balcony windows in a way that highlights all the dust and fingerprints on the windows.

I give the windows a half-ass wipe. Also clean the bathroom, because furry things are starting to think about growing in its corners.


No more.

I will definitely live.

But I will also definitely rest.

My mind feels sharper—and I feel kinder—and I feel, again, that my existence has a not just benign, but beneficial purpose—but my body feels soft and not just muscle-less but bone-less. Walking up and down the stairs takes effort. Sitting takes effort.

I find a comfortable half-reclined position in my space. I’m going to stay here. Until Ender needs a tortilla or ham bun. Flora went to Safeway yesterday—they can eat buns and chips and bananas today while Sean fades in and out of conscious—in-between editing a video—and I… try very hard to not feel guilty about the fact that I’m NOT on deadline and I can just rest.

So many interesting emotions this week.




PS And that’s what I wore to see Michelle.


The year started with a Monday; so does every week (Week 1: Transitions and Intentions)

Easier than you think, harder than I expected: a week in eleven stanzas (Week 2: Goodness and Selfishness)

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

Do it full out (Week 4: Passions and Outcomes)

The Buddha was a psychopath and other heresies (Week 5: No Cohesion)

A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)

Killing it (Week 7: Exhaustion and Adrenaline)

Tired, petty, tired, unimportant (Week 8: Disappointment and Perseverance)

Professionals do it like this: [insert key scene here] (Week 9: Battle, Fatigue, Reward)

Reading Nabokov, crying, whining, regrouping (Week 10: Tears and Dreams)

Shake the Disease (Week 11: Sickness and Health… well, mostly sickness)


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