Last week and this week I proceeded with my annual exams and checkups (except for dentist – maybe I’ll do that in March)…
I was late for most of these checkups. 2019 was wonderful in many ways, I did lose 10 pounds (and then put it back on in the first month of 2020). However, I found it difficult to do some of these basic health checks. I felt an enormous amount of guilt about this. Should something appear on my mammography, it would some how be my fault since I was 7 months late to my screening. This, of course, is ludicrous – but it is how we psychologize illness (or metaphorize it).
One of my major anxieties with all these checkups is that I am constantly getting my blood pressure checked. High blood pressure, among a few other manageable things, run in my family, so I am waiting for the moment when estrogen no longer protects me and my hot bloodedness becomes pathology.
I mentioned to my shrink that I was more concerned about the possibility of high blood pressure. That somehow the discovery of my super high blood pressure would intervene in my regularly scheduled mammography because I would surely be whisked away to have open heart surgery. He suggested I read illness as metaphor / which I have never read. I have not read any of Sontag’s writings. So I dragged the kids this week to Barnes and Nobel on 14th street and union square. They got two diary of a whimpy kid books, which I have many issues with, but at least they are reading, and I got an onion paper book from the Library of America. I have to say this paper is very difficult to read when I first wake in the morning with sleep in my eye, and probably some degenerative eye issue that only appears int he morning.
Anyway so I read Illness as Metaphor, and then I went on to read Against Interpretation (which is super short). Whenever I think of an illness with a metaphor I think about syphilis and I do enjoy making syphilis jokes. A feel a lot of STIs have names that sound like sea monsters from the odyssey: scylla and charybdis. In college I was visiting some friends in Paris, one friend and I stayed in a hostel. I did not let any portion of my body touch the sheets (because I am a germaphobe). She mocked me and got – scabies (and not from touching another human just from the sheets – it was a chaste if debauched trip). My mother commented, “don’t only people in Dickens novels get scabies??”
It was an enjoyable read, rambling and random, with fantastic quotes, and breadth. Madness is the new romantic disease. True! But there are others such as addiction. In addition to illnesses there are conditions – these days -that you manage (chronic illness). There are pre-conditions (like pre-diabetic). There is the instrumentation of life.
“Against Interpretation” opens with a fantastic quote by Oscar Wilde – “It is only shallow people that do not judge by appearances. The mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.” But all this instrumentation and monitoring in the foreshadow of illness is the mystery of the invisible.
The metaphors of illness, especially, cancer, has not changed all that much. I would be interested in reading these days about metaphors of disability, of cronic illness, or pregnancy, of queerness and gender.
As I was writing this I j had this vision of sitting in paris with a beer (in the afternoon), and I hate to say it – a cigarette. I never was a smoker, but in my youth I did have the occasional cigarrette in Paris (and on hyde park boulevard).
Maybe I should do that today. What I have is an attempt to kickbox, a code review, some coffees, some jamming, some reading group, some biz meeting. It all seems exciting and busy althoughI am filled with ennui. I wonder which metaphorical illness this activity sets me up for, or which metaphorical illness my resistance sets me up for -its probably psychological.