I've been battling an odd illness. It began with a sore throat and a sore mouth at the onset of the weekend, and then it erupted into a mouthful of ulcers, swollen gums, a swollen and blistered tongue, and a blistered roof of my mouth by Sunday. It's as if I burned my mouth while swallowing a too-hot bite, except that my entire mouth is affected instead of a localized area.
According to the doctor -- the doctor who looked in my mouth and immediately grimaced and apologized -- it seems to be a virus, most likely the hand, foot, and mouth syndrome that I picked up from some carrier-child. As an added perk, it comes with swollen glands and a fever and it lasts for one to two weeks.
Since it hurts to swallow, talk, close my mouth, or open my mouth, I mostly mope around the house with a dopey look where my mouth hangs partially open and my face is contorted into an expression of wretchedness.
Of course, there also was the time that I ventured into Wal-Mart wearing this exact expression and ran into two people I knew. I waffled. What's worse? To explain my appearance and directly admit that I'm suffering from a highly-contagious mouth ulcer epidemic, or to pretend that all is well while I awkwardly slur words and attempt not to cry as I swallow my own saliva?
I navigated one conversation each way. Both were awkward.
Right now I'm pretty much viewing my mouth as a toxic orifice of misery. In the process, I'm learning some things about suffering:
1) I prefer not to do so.
2) It's possible to make your suffering worse. For example, the other night I watched four back-to-back episodes of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives on the Food Network. It's my masochistic response to the fact that I've been on a liquid diet for the past five days. Do you know what they showcase on this program? Sausages and mile-high sandwiches and all-types-of-hot-and-spicy-foods-that-must-be-chewed. As I watched the host emphatically take monstrous bites, I alternated between wincing and salivating -- partially torture, partially living vicariously.
3) I've learned that there are some body parts that affect the well-being of your entire body when they're sick. Apparently the mouth is one of them. It's hard for anything else to feel good when something -- even something so small -- is out of whack.
4) Given this, I'm reminded of a deeper lesson about the tongue -- not the physical body part, but what we say with our tongues:
We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he
says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.... All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
If my physical tongue can bring such pain to my entire body, surely the words from my tongue could cause pain to others or myself if the wrong words are unleashed. I want my tongue to speak life and hope, not death and harm.
I also want to have the ability to legitimately articulate my words again, of course.
5) I've determined that I will eat my own body weight in chips and salsa once I'm well. If anybody wants to take me out for a fabulous meal, I'm so there.
Do you know what would make me feel better? (Besides from a powerful numbing agent?) Your vote. You can vote daily by clicking the icon above. I'll make me smile -- on the inside, at least, since I can't actually shape my lips into a real one.