On days when I feel really sick, I have a routine that’s evolved since the elementary school days. Whilst it began with tummy aches, trips to the Nurse’s office (again, Cory?) and sad Disney classics like A Little Princess, it’s only changed slightly as I approach the stage of adulthood where whiny calls to Mom are rarely appropriate.
First, I resort to pathetic eating habits. All I desire are Campbell’s Chicken Noodle and classic Saltines; in Australia, I have to settle for generic brand Instant Noodles and my favourite sea salt crackers from Aldi. Anything soft and bland will do, including but not limited to toast, rice crackers, plain pasta noodles begging for accompaniment. Last night, Rupert asked who had eaten all the bread. Then he said I get a pass “because I’m sick.” I also take the excuse need to drink fluids to an extreme, and skull tea and apple juice by the jug full. Watch your OJ, Rup.
Second, I pull out the photographs. While some might call it wallowing, I’d like to think of it as savouring: taking in old prints, re-reading handwritten letters from Gramz and fingering the mini Polaroids that I’m now unspeakably grateful for having taken on my last long trip home. Sometimes I’ll even go to lengths like pulling down my photo album from home or sifting through drawers with the second-choice pics that didn’t make it into my collage frame. I’m so lucky to have these kind of mementos. Second thought in my mind: my kids will be fascinated by these relics of the paper sort!
Next up, it’s the Daily Dose box! I suppose this is what it was intended for: for me to uncover gradually and take in small nuggets of love, tokens of memory and nostalgia shared with confidants back home. It works: I’ll often find mystery quotes, dirty jokes or entirely inappropriate memories of college stories that should have stayed in college (cough Bayan cough). Never has a single card failed to make me smile at the least, if not laugh out loud or get a lump in the back of my throat. I am so fortunate and could never thank Kirb and my fam enough for assembling it.
This week since arriving home from Hong Kong, I have watched an entire season of silly telenovela-style dramedy (yep, “Jane the Virgin” Season 4) on Netflix as well as no less than one hand's worth of escapist comedic and action-packed films. How to Lose a Guy was a guaranteed feel-good chick flick (full of anti-dating advice that Lord knows I need, too) and Bridget Jones’ Baby was predictably cringe-worthy and heart-warming. Edge of Tomorrow was expectedly thrill-inducing and had Rup and I on the edge of the couch… which was as far out my front door as I had been all weekend. Finally, Evan Almighty was a brain-reducing chuckler that had surprisingly redeeming jokes — and was at least a spectacle to look at because of so many animals! CGI wasn’t half bad.
Between pathetic ebbs and flows of lethargy, discomfort, restlessness and fatigue, I managed ample naps and early bedtimes. I read my latest book club selection: Calypso by David Sedaris, and stuck with it for the duration of time my bath would stay hot and/or eyelids could endure. When I didn’t have the energy to hold up my iPad mini, I gazed longingly at Jamie from "Outlander" as I began my second tv binge and first new show in a while (thanks again, Netflix). Finally, I got the absolute most minimal-effort tasks out of the way so I could call it a productive sick-iday: ran and switched four loads of laundry, unpacked and folded and hung everything I owned, and paid a few online bills with just a few taps. Oh how I wished my secretly domesticated animal friends could have flown in my window to help me with these a la Cinderella. Way too cold to have those windows open, though!
This takes me to the best sick-day gift I’ve ever received and my number one caretaker: Rupert. You’ve all heard about him. Online-sourced flatmate turned couch-cushion confidant, he is truly the only man who’s ever loved me (relatives not included). Yesterday, not only did he leave me out three packs of throat lozenges and leftovers from the weekend… he bought me an ELECTRIC BLANKET. Game-changer! It plugs in on both sides of my bed and has separate controllers for the body and the feet area. Did I mention that last week, when I was homesick over Independence Day? Rupert brought home a slow-cooker from K-mart and dressed like a lumberjack to be on theme for the holiday. Swoon.
Other sources of comfort: friends, costumes, and double scoops
Last but not least and, as much as I hate to admit, outreach from friends and co-workers near and far on social media has been a source of comfort. Last week marked a true career highlight when I received my first regional award at work, and I was both humbled and overwhelmed by the amount of love and congrats I received in response. In the lowest points of loneliness that tend to follow homesickness (and sicky lows), it was touching to hear from old co-workers and childhood friends that I haven’t spoken to in a while. I’m thankful to all the realms of family I have around the world these days.
At least once or twice a year, Mother Nature and the Universe tend to conspire, knock me on my ass and laugh as if to say we warned you to slow down, girl! They’re laughing with affection only, I know. A debilitating head cold, tickling cough and all sorts of aches and pains tend to accompany this sabotage, like an intervention coming at me from all sides. I know it’s a sign and symptom of too much exertion, not enough sleep, too much hosting & boasting, not enough me-time nor self-care. After six months of visitors and sixty days of traveling (from Sydney to LA to SF to AZ to Sydney to Melbourne to Hamilton to Hong Kong to Macau and back) — what did I expect?
If I’m reflecting honestly on the past week of true holiday hangover, I can also admit that whether “homesick” or “real sick” — was also likely a blessing in disguise. Taking five true days off, in uncharacteristic isolation spent nesting in my recent cave of cozy, gave me the space to reflect on recent events and mourn my Grandma Sioux. Gramz, as we all know her. Being in Hong Kong when I received the news, I pushed on through my work trip and even ascended the unrivalled lookout known as Victoria Peak — feeling as if it were the truest honour I could bestow on her in that circumstance. I couldn’t take in the reality of her departure until I was home, alone but also with my family virtually and in spirit.
Reflecting back on the week since we lost Gramz, I know that what I am is heartsick. From this, I won’t recover swiftly — if ever. The little things above, however? The pictures, the text messages, the teary Facetimes with family and the colorful letters that Gramz held in her skilled fingers only months ago have gone a long way in helping me to celebrate her here in Sydney. My best friend in the world and one of the few who spent quality time with Gramz too sent me this simple yet symbolic, gold candle. Its relentless flame reminds me every minute I burn it of the energy that Gramz instilled in us, her fiery spirit and burning love for her grandkids, and the legacy that I’m so lucky to carry in me. Burn, baby, burn.
As my best friend in Sydney reminded me — and as I hold onto when the heartsick homesick sick-day drags on — Gramz was the first to point out that moving abroad will make me a better broad. Thanks to everyone who’s been there for me from afar.
Abroad down under
My trip to Victoria Peak (left) and the 4 of us donning classic Vickie Sue sass (right)