April 2018

Monday, February 4, 2013

Shades of Grey

At the Pacific Northwest Writers’ Conference last summer, agents and publishers were a-twitter about E.L. James’ erotic novel, Fifty Shades of Grey. Comments and audience giggles had a supercilious tone, as if to say that this novel wasn’t real literature, but also felt boisterous and familiar enough so that I suspected many in the room read the novel with a flashlight in the boiler room so that no one would discover them.

I haven’t read the novel (sorry), but I live in Seattle, so I know about shades of grey. Some days, the sky wears a low grey veil that covers the city and the tree tops. Though there’s a vague glow in the sky that suggests the sun is up there somewhere, there’s no orb.

Other days, there are layers of greys: dark grey clouds with streaks of rain slanting from them, clouds that suggest the drama of a storm and maybe even thunder or lightning, lighter grey puffy clouds that may grow up to be storm clouds; and even higher and lighter greys where the sun’s glow emanates.

These variegated clouds, as opposed to the monotonous grey of living in a cloud, have variety and vibrance that lift this Northwester’s spirits—not as much as a “blue skies and the mountain is out” day, but I still appreciate the variety.

This past week, I’ve been living in my city’s fog and in the fog of the flu, and I’m tired of the flu’s tedium.

Before I had brain surgery a few years ago, I didn’t know that there were shades in illnesses. When I felt sick, I would lie around and moan, “I feel bad,” and my partner Ann would ask for clarification: “Do you need to the hospital or do you need to lie down.” I almost always just needed to lie down.

After brain surgery, however, nurses taught me about shades of pain. When I said, “I have a headache,” someone always made me assign it a number on a scale of one to ten. They never explained the scale, so I made up my own. A 1-3 was just a slight headache, one that I noticed but that didn’t stop me from any activity; a 4-6 was worse, but still not terrible;  a 7 required serious attention, and an 8-10 required intravenous drugs.

It’s been almost six years since I had neurosurgery and three years since radiation, the swine flu, and pneumonia, and now I have the flu. I’ve forgotten my numbers, though, which hardly matters because there are no gradations in my pain—pain which is really is not so bad, to tell you and myself the truth.

With this low level of pain, I could attend part of my graduate school class on Saturday and part of church on Sunday. I could watch the whole Super Bowl, even the power outage, but I think I overdid it, so today is another monotonously grey day.

I am tired of this mind fog. I wouldn’t prefer thunder and lightning in my brain, but they are more exciting. Perhaps that excitement is why I was a brave neurosurgery patient, and I am a wimp with the flu.

I read once that the worst thing for a teenager is boredom. I’m not sure that’s just true for teenagers.

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