Life is a Research Opportunity

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here. I’m sorry. For all my good intentions I’ve been a total slug when it comes to writing here. I could sit here and tell you that I’ve been sick – which is true, but not really helpful. What I’m going to do is illustrate how to use your life as a research opportunity while whining… I mean telling you about recent experience with the local plague.

This year’s local plague (or creeping crud, or whatever you call it) is pretty bad. For me it started with a sore throat a week and a half ago. The kind of sore that woke me up in the middle of the night, had me taking my own temperature before rolling Sweetie out of bed to peer at the back of my throat with a flashlight looking for white spots. The nurse at the care line said I had to wait at least 12 hours before coming in for a culture though or the strep test wouldn’t work. Oh joy. She counseled gargling with salt water and a night time cold medicine to help me sleep. By morning the sore throat was gone, replaced with a minor cough.

So what does all this have to do with writing? Well, I took notes. No seriously, I pulled out a notebook and wrote about what it felt like to have that kind of pain and be told that it’s too soon to know. I wrote about how I reacted to the news that it could just be dry air (oh yeah, that’s another thing the nurse said). I wrote about the feelings of relief an annoyance that accompanied waking up with my throat feeling fine, but a cough instead. These will be useful when I have to have a character get sick in the middle of the night only to wake up and find out it’s nothing. Or any other time a character has a medical scare that turns out to be nothing, I just need to adjust the emotions to the severity of the situation.

Back to my story, the cough came and went for the next couple of days. As in came for ten minutes of wondering if I would ever be able to breath again followed by several hours of wondering if I’d just imagined it. Other than being a little tired (and who isn’t these days) I didn’t have any other ill effects, so I was going to work through all this, thinking that it must have just been a tickle or something in the air. I’d get up in the morning thinking I was fine and nearly collapse on the way into the building only to feel fine again once the coughing ended.

My notes on this section are all about the self justification I was doing. Explaining to myself that I couldn’t use up my sick days because of an intermittent cough. It wasn’t bad enough to stay home. What would the students do without me. Yeah, and now as I hear that same cough coming out of classrooms as I walk by I’m taking notes on how guilty I feel for sharing my germs. The interesting thing here is the rationalization. I know that I shouldn’t go to work when I’m sick. Yet I am so tied into the “work ethic” that I ignored all the warnings about going to work sick because I didn’t want to be weak or miss my job (or let someone else do it better than I do). This will play into characterization in any situation where the characters are trying to decide between two courses of action that are called for by different societal rules. Will they follow the “go to work” where you do what you are supposed to regardless of what you want or how it will affect you. Or do they follow the “stay home” rule where you worry about the health of other first and their own work second?

Then came the final assault. I woke up on Friday and rushed to the bathroom. Without going into detail, let’s just say this trip ensured that I wouldn’t be going to work that day. Once finished I headed for my computer and did all the necessary things to let my team know that I would be missing and for the supervisor to find me a sub. Then, to the annoyance of my cats, I went back to bed. This scene repeated several times throughout the day. By mid-afternoon I knew that I would have to find a sub for my Saturday freelance job. That is a fun process when all you want to do is sleep. I managed to do that and head back to bed. I woke about 7pm too tired to really do anything and having slept too much to sleep any more. I wandered out to the living room and announced that I was “tired of sleeping”. Sweetie was a dear and made me jello and found me an anime to watch. He even took care of the cats all day (much to their surprise and confusion – that’s my job).

Notes here are pretty minimal. I already know what it’s like to be sick. It feels like crap and I turn into a whiny baby. I do have to say that having a loving spouse to coddle you when you are sick is wonderful, but again not news.

Saturday dawned with familiar sounds coming from the bathroom – but this time it wasn’t me. While I was just beginning to convince my stomach that food and water are good things, my Sweetie was beginning his own cycle with the plague. We ended up cuddling on the couch watching more anime and arguing over how we were going to replace the soda and orange juice (a combination we both find comforting). We did what any self-respecting American adults would do in that situation – we called mom. Now properly supplied we were able to cuddle out the storm.

Notes from this section were about the interdependence of need when sick. All was well in our house when it was just me laying around being a whiny baby. When it was both of us we were almost brought to tears. If we hadn’t had someone else to call on, it might have been one of the cats writing this post. Not that I think the soda and OJ were really the cure. The point is what are your characters going to do when they are all brought low by the abuse you heap on them? What if mom hadn’t come through? Would I have braved the icy world out there to acquire the needed supplies? We’ll never know now, but my characters just might have to face something like that.

Thank you for your indulgence. I hope that you have learned something, or at least gotten some amusement from hearing about my misery. I truly hope this is the end of it and I will be back to writing about writing on a regular basis.

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