Cabin Fever? More like Cancer Fever AMIRIGHT, guys? Anyone? Is This Thing On?
It’s been a cold, icy week for those of us who call Nashville home. Due to something called the “SnowDome” we didn’t get the 3 – 10 inches of called-for-snow, but instead got gifted with a bunch of thick ice that shut our fair city down for 3 days (sidenote: SnowDome would make an excellent sequel to the cinematic sensation that was Bio-Dome, and would introduce a whole new generation to Pauly Shore).
My favorite part of this week’s icy forecast has been social media posts. Ok, that’s a lie. No one’s favorite part of any week should be social media reading. But it has been interesting to read people’s responses to not being able to leave the house for three whole days. Cries and laments of “cabin fever” echoed from my digital friends. At first I tended to agree, but then I got super self-righteous and wanted to yell, “ITS ONLY BEEN THREE DAYS. YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT CABIN FEVER IS.”
Since this cancer journey started last fall, I have spent the majority of my time in our house. With my weakened immune system a veritable playground for potential diseases, we took the stern medical advice of avoiding the outside world as much as possible seriously, and tucked me away. Occasionally during chemo breaks, when I had a tinge of energy, I would allow myself the luxury of grocery shopping, but only at random times when stores were sure to be unpopulated. I have quite literally made my mark on my favorite spot on our couch and have worn paths through our house where I walk, usually by myself, because Allison was going to work and contributing to the common good of our society like an actual person while I just sat at home like a tired, weak bump on a log.
Cabin fever – ahem – cancer fever – set in fast and furious. The last 5 months have been nothing but feeling stuck inside by myself. How have I lasted? A few ways I tried to survive:
* I made routines for myself, almost like fake appointments that I had to keep. Ex: “Oh gosh, I have to get off twitter because I have a book meeting at 11 am”. But then I couldn’t even read said book because chemo fried my ability to concentrate – a dark side effect that no one fully explains until you experience it.
* I have watched all of HGTV. Literally all of it. There is not an episode I haven’t seen or a show I haven’t critiqued. And mostly I have determined that I would be a hell of a host on any one of their programs. ESPECIALLY since I don’t know how to do anything around the house (which I maintain would make an even more entertaining show).
* I have tidied our house. Each day is an adventure of hoping something isn’t in it’s spot so I will have the chance to put it away and kill a few minutes of time. I put off washing dishes until later in the day to be sure I have something productive to do.
* I have become adamant that Brooklyn 99 is the best comedy on TV, besting New Girl and Parks & Rec and all the rest.
* I have become familiar with the rhythms of my neighbors, but in a non creepy way. Oh it’s 11:15 on a Tuesday? Ms Janice is bringing in her trash cans right on cue.
But mostly, I spent a lot of time wishing and dreaming that I could fast forward to a time in my life where I wasn’t trapped on the inside watching everyone else live amazing stories on the outside. I’ve been impatient as I have waited for my body heal. And I almost missed out on what it means to wait – to be still – and to learn from the silence. I claimed my discontent was merely cabin fever. When I finally stopped being restless and started engaging this season, I began to see God’s hand at work. It’s not a hand that is holding me back, but a hand that is comforting me and healing me.
I am starting to learn that these days are a time to learn rest, to become familiar with the still small voice that has been trying to speak to me for so long, to let myself feel some deep and tough emotions that I have hidden from by staying busy and productive. These “stuck-at-home” days are forcing me to face myself, which would make most of us antsy and ready to get back out there. And it’s been hard, but it’s good. It’s no coincidence that Scripture is full of stories of people pulling away from the noise of the world to experience God in powerful ways. It’s no coincidence that stories through Scripture speak of God at work come from hospital beds and prison cells.
We have just entered the season of Lent – a season that leads us to a shared meal, to a betrayal, to the cross, and to a triumphant, grace-filled morning. It’s a time set aside for us to be intentional about quiet and going without so our hearts are prepared for the significance of Easter. I love that these ice days have forced us to slow down significantly and my prayer is that we can take full advantage of not just forced stillness, but that we can use these moments to create rhythms for ourselves – rhythms to actually stop, to listen, to hear, to pause. Whether it’s a couple of winter weather days when we’re cut off from the “rest of the world” or an intentional time that you set for yourself, these “off” days can be something of value. Don’t rush or wish away the hours like I’ve tried. Fortunately (and some days unfortunately) I am still stuck learning how to heal. Inside. By myself. One of my prayers for this season is that we can become people who are able to take advantage of these moments rather than run from them, that our cabin fever would become an invaluable opportunity to engage in the quiet rhythms of grace.
Unrelated, if anyone wants to share their Netflix password, that would greatly help with my avoidance of all things deep all the time. Thanks and amen.