The only time I ever attempted to play chess, I was being taught by a second grader. It was my freshman year at the University of CO at Boulder and I volunteered at a grade school just off campus. It was a progressive charter school, the teachers names were Penny and Polly - there was a lot of free play. I distinctly remember little blonde haired Jake patiently trying to tell my the rules of chess. I even resorted to pulling out the "instructions" from the game box - after many attempts, we switched games.
But like most non chess players, I get the gist. It requires patience, and mapping out a plan, but I have also seen it in the movies, that one wrong move, after hours of play, and the other players eyes light up, they take their time and then hop hop hop they jump all over you and yell check mate.
That's a bit how I have felt over the past few weeks. Phoenix was a huge leap and bound of improvements. I was patient, and I was a patient. I stuck to a monotonous day, breakfast, lunch, doctor, home, dinner, bed. I didn't see some of my friends there, I just didn't have any room for any other energy than the task at hand. When I returned to Milwaukee, I was rewarded with many good days. I ran into a friend of mine and she couldn't believe how good I looked. She couldn't pin point it, your eyes are brighter, your skin looks great, just overall whatever they did to you its a noticeable difference. And that 's how I felt - just lighter. One of my favorite days was taking my niece to the grocery store - so simple. But its what I always thought it would be like having a niece or nephew, just chilling. She came over, we played, got in the car, she helped me grab all the items, checked out, it felt more like a scene from Mary Poppins - were the birds singing to us - felt like it.
So after being back, a few bad days slipped in here and there - that's okay, to be expected. Then the cold that was circulating made it to me, again - did I really think I would go all winter without a cold? I managed to deal with it, with only a daily dose of Pulmacort, as a preventative measure for my reactive airway disease - but I didn't need to be breathing in and out of the nebulizer - progress. I was being patient, of course I was hosting my virus longer than others, but I was managing.
This past Friday night I felt good enough to head to my alma mater high school to watch my friend's first grade daughter perform in the half time show. I felt like yelling "I'm on top of the world" you can't imagine how great it feels to effortlessly do daily tasks. I observed the students all decked out in their pajamas - something we would have thought of 20 years ago. I crammed into the bleacher seats, and despite it being hot, it didn't make me feel faint - nothing a t-shirt and water couldn't calm. And after, Steph and I headed out for a drink. I was winning this game of chess. I haven't had any alcohol in at least 6 months, but oh that Sierra Nevada sounded so good. I haven't drank hard alcohol in years, wine often left me feeling congested, and beer with the yeast never seemed that good of an idea. But I was stronger now...
Hop, hop, hop - check mate. When I woke up the next morning with hives all around my neck like an ugly red turtleneck. They were inflamed, itched, my cough was back and its like I fell down the rabbit hole. One wrong move, that blissful beer - and five days later I am still paying for it. The rash has come and gone, the cold simmered up, the fatigue increased. Much like chess its been a mental game trying to stay positive - its like they say, the higher you go the further you fall. So that's the good news, I am not used to feeling so good, so this tumble seems magnified. I know its not, but its overwhelming, to map out and plan every move so carefully gets exhausting, on an occasion I want to forget about it and just go with the moment. Not analyze every decision of every day like I am playing Bobby Fischer - but it seems as soon as I the opponent against this myriad of symptoms take a break, all the time, all the planning, in one second can come crashing down.
So, its off to a new board. Start where I am at - rashy, uncomfortable, dealing with acute illnesses on top of the chronic, and a new adjusted plan. My original one was to go back to Phoenix in February, but I got that glimpse of not exactly my "previous" self, but close enough, that waiting here all January seems like I am just wasting time, that I cant' bear to waste. So, Jan 10th, I am off again, and despite knowing that I am going to be homesick, I am tired of watching on the sidelines, and hoping that more treatments, more time, my well self will stick around a bit longer.
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