Today I got sick. I am travelling, far from home, and it's the kind of sickness that racks through your body, ransacking you for all you've got. Just 6 hours prior, before falling asleep, I was busy and preoccupied making plans, sorting logistics, typing messages here and there and all together being very effective and in control and busy. Right. Meanwhile, the real site of the action was all buzzing and alive. Things were kicking off, just as I lay my head down to fall asleep.
We think we are in control, but we are not. As the waves of nausea started to crash on me, like the tide reaching the shore, my whole perspective shifts instantly. I am talking with and conversing with my bacteria: what do you want? What did I do wrong? They are not happy. "We" are not happy. Suddenly there is an us. I am no longer Phoebe, a coherent and collected whole, delivering and doing and coordinating and Being The Boss. It's a we, and it always has been, and I'm just slow to the party.
Violent vomiting and purging ensue. Get It Out. My body feels hijacked, the teams of bacteria are at war, and I'm just the container, the host, the incubator. Guys? Can you tell me what's going on? What's the plan? It's full blown warfare and we are In It Together, the bacteria and me, and they are far better equipped than the 'me' of the 'us' to know what to do. Ok, we will empty ourselves of it all. Ok, I won't eat until we're done. Ok, please sip slowly. Together we're cooking up quite a storm, but I am definitely copilot, I am cc'ed in but I'm no longer allowed to pretend I'm in control.
Surrender. What does it feel to surrender to your own bacteria? To let them have their way with you? To let go, for a second, of this whole human thing of "knowing what to do", "having it together". How does one prioritise sending out invitations to this very important event, or editing that very important document, when you're suddenly split open, and you're not even a "me" anymore?
If it sounds like I'm losing coherence, it's because I am. My stomach churns and I receive news of a spasm, I may need to be sick again soon.
I sip a tiny amount of Pepsi, and pause. Do we like this? I feel worried about what new participants I have unknowingly invited to the party, disrupting a careful, intricate, webbed and fragile ecology of beings that are actually "me". Is this whole "me" thing actually one big joke? There's me at the front, the Front of House, thinking that I run the show. Meanwhile the beautiful complex interdependencies and mosaic, symbiotic tanglings, the relationships which are friendly, abrasive, competitive, mutual, spread out in time, in space, and constantly changing... The microscopic crew, who are working hard behind the scenes, giggle at my hubris.
Or maybe, I'm simply serving them? They let me believe what I believe, so I serve the whole and play my role. "Let her believe what she wants to believe". These guys are small, wise and difficult, and they know how to get what they want.
24 hours later, and I'm allowed to rest. The pain, the alternate reality of swimming in nausea and movement and sickness starts to subside.
The relief is sacred.
Like the waves that crashed on my shores at the beginning of it all, it's as if the tide is receding. Gently, washing out. I feel a pang of longing, of missing, where did they go? -- as everything resets to "normal" I know the bacterial allies and the majority of my team starts to fade and vanish in the background, as if they were never there. I'm back to feeling "me". The battle is over. But then who I am grateful to? Why am I left feeling held, ushered, bolstered, but some Others, the most intimate Others, who make up a Me.