Vulnerability: A Lesson Learned From Sickness

Sickness causes vulnerability

Sickness left me feeling vulnerable.


It was my first day back to work after being home sick for two days.

Being home sick is unfamiliar territory for me. The last time I can recall needing two days off for sickness was in the 4th or 5th grade when I had the flu.

On Thursday night my fever was gone and my stomach, while quaking, had not erupted for a few hours. Therefore, I prepared my lessons with the expectation that I would go to work the next day.

Friday morning came. I left my house, a bit unsteadily, and hoped for the best.

While I was uncertain about my health, I felt the call of responsibility. There was a lot going on at school that I needed to handle.

I found a seat on the mostly empty bus and sighed with relief. One part of my journey was done. And I had survived. The day would be okay.

Or so I told myself.

Then someone sat next to me.

Not quite newsworthy information – I know.

However, his body odor made me gag momentarily.

I counseled myself, “It’s going to be okay. It’s going to be okay.”

My journey continued.

Suddenly, the bus hit pothole after pothole after pothole. Were the potholes there last week, I wondered? After all, I had taken this journey each of the last few school years. Is it possible that I had not noticed the numerous potholes?

Well, I certainly did today. My belly quaked and threatened.

My heart raced and sweat formed on my forehead.

I was scared.

I took deep breaths, prayed for strength, and strove for calm.

Somehow, my stomach held, and I made it to the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

Once at the terminal, I made my way to the subway. While walking to the terminal, I resolved to avoid people. If it not had been the Friday before a holiday, this game of Frogger would have had a less than zero percent chance of working.

I walked carefully. All the while I was examining my surroundings like an undercover agent on security detail.

I made it to the subway. And then I continued on to school. Somehow I made it through the school day despite multiple trips to the bathroom, an inner ear issue that caused reverberation and echoing and two panic attacks.

When I reached home Friday afternoon, I collapsed on the sofa. My feelings swirled among joy, exhaustion, and relief.

As I sat there on the sofa, I thought about my day.

The sense of concern and worry I felt about my body was profound

I thanked G-d that this was a one day occurrence and with G-d’s help, I would be better soon.

But I wondered…

What about those people who live a life of infirmity? How do they cope with travel when each step is part of an unpredictable obstacle course? How do they live day by day with such uncertainty?

The overwhelming sense of vulnerability that I felt one day is a constant for them.

I simply can’t imagine it.

I hope this day will help me retain a message I’ve been told many times – appreciate your health.


11 thoughts on “Vulnerability: A Lesson Learned From Sickness

  1. When I was younger I never thought twice about being sick. It came and it went, but now there have been a moment or two where it felt different to me.

    That vulnerable thing you mention, I think I get it and I don’t want to.

  2. It’s interesting that your writing was about vulnerability. I’ve been struggling with anxiety attacks this month. Some so severe I couldn’t leave the house to go into our backyard.
    That apprehension and uncertainty you describe is something I feel every day. Some days it’s easier to cope with than others. I’m impressed you braved it. I’m even more impressed you survived it. 🙂

  3. Kudos to you for making it through the day!! I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have! Hope you are feeling better now!

  4. I hope you’re better, Larry. Stomach things are the worst. If you haven’t been home sick since grade school, you have kept a very good track record.

    I had a similar realization recently as well. My husband switched jobs and due to my forgetfulness, our new health insurance through my job will not be starting up until June 1. I thought we could make it a month as an uninsured family, but this past Monday, my husband took ill with kidney stones. Really, the bottom line was not so bad, but it made me think of people who had no jobs or insurance. I wonder what they must do when such a crisis comes up.

  5. Sounds like a rough day. Sickness can take us down to that place where we become grateful even for something as simple as a clean bathroom. I don’t normally get sick either so when I do, it totally messes with me.
    Hope you’re feeling better!

  6. This is going to sound really dumb, but I’ve never been sick in the big city before. I don’t have any idea of how you managed with all those people and the public transportation! Poor baby.

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