Last month, I came down with a sinus infection and ear infection. I have never had a sinus infection and the last ear infection I had was my first year of teaching thirteen years ago. When I got to the doctor, he said, “Wow you are just getting no air through your nostrils.” I was in a constant cycle of vitamins and medicines and nose blowing, so it didn’t register until that moment that I had lost three senses: smell, taste, and hearing.
To be without three of my five senses was disorienting, to say the least. When I laid down on my left side, I literally couldn’t hear anything. It felt like I was in a wind tunnel of white noise. I couldn’t hear the kids. I couldn’t hear my partner when he came to check on me. It was so strange. I also couldn’t breathe through my nose so I was having to try to gain enough air through my mouth to rest and recover. I was intaking food in order to give my body energy, but I couldn’t taste any of it. I could kind of tell if it was hot or cold, but even that sense was dulled. Of course, I have been sick before, but I can’t recall a time when I have been sick to the point of having so many of my senses dulled.
Not only was it disorienting, but it was also lonely. I was missing interactions with family and friends not hearing them when they asked a question. Instead of the day being about playing and enjoying time off, my days were rooted to the next medicine dosage and the next time I would need a tissue.
There are other times in our lives when our senses are dulled. Seasons of grief. Seasons of caring for newborns and small children. Seasons of transition. Seasons of caring for a loved one who is sick. In the midst of these seasons, you may feel like you can’t see or taste or smell or feel anything. Your senses are dulled because you have been kicked into survival mode, moving from one thing to another like riding a carousel watching the world blur by. In these seasons, it is so important to step off the carousel and ground ourselves in the here and now. As much as we may want this to be over, it’s the being there that teaches us so much.
I found myself disappointed with not being able to bounce back sooner or get better within a day. I felt like I was missing everything and falling behind with every second. It wasn’t until I took time to ground myself in where I was rather than trying to power through the sickness that my mind and body settled into healing.
I can remember taking a bite and being able to taste the food. I exclaimed: “That tastes good!” Even now as I take a deep breath through both nostrils, I am grateful. Just this morning I told our four-year-old son: “I hear you,” with appreciation that he didn’t have to repeat himself three more times.
Sometimes it’s not until we lose something that we are able to appreciate it. Sometimes it’s the seasons where our senses have dulled that lead to seasons of such richness because those experiences are laced with gratitude for the very breath we take.