Finishing the Medicine

Wednesday

It is sunny outside. The November sun is vivid and bright, but not very warm. With luck, it will reach the upper forties today and when I go outside in the afternoon, I will be able to stand and let the warmth soak into my blue corduroy shirt I am wearing.

I have been sick for a little more than a week. Bronchitis, the doctor told me. Actually, what he said was “That’s a pretty damned bad case of bronchitis you have there,”. And it was. I had a death rattle in my breathing, particularly at night when I laid down. In fact, laying down was the worst, because it all settled and I would go into crazy, lung splitting, coughs that left me sore, as well as sleepless.

I don’t rush to the doctor with every sneeze and sniffle. In fact, most of the people who love me have told me I wait a little too long. I give my body a few days to beat back whatever ails me. As long as I am holding my own, I don’t bother. I just plow through. But at a certain point it’s clear my body is losing the battle, and so it’s off to the doc’s I go.

And after four nights of decreasing sleep each night, it was time.

My regular doctor wasn’t in place that day. No matter. My body is not a temple of exotic illness. No, this was a run of the mill something that I just couldn’t beat back. Any old doc would do.

The Doctor I got was a delight. He looked like the re-incarnation of Vincent Price. Cavernous cheekbones. Angular face. A shock of dark gray hair, all unruly on his head. Deep set eyes. And the voice! Ah the voice, deep and precise, that odd mix of perfection and humor that was the realm of Vincent Price, The fact that he cussed a little when he told me what I had made it even better. If illnesses have a highlight, this was it, the turning point.

He proscribed an antibiotic careful to choose one that likes working in the lungs and plays well with the other medications I take. Large blue capsues, bright blue, as if the color could kill the germs inside, or bright blue, as if I might misplace them on the way from the bottle to my mouth. Twice a day.

Until they were gone.

That’s the key, evidently. Until they are gone. I started feeling better two or three days into the medication. Now, a week into it, I am feeling much better. Perhaps not quite well, but much better. At this point, the medication itself is more painful than the desease.

That is because antibiotics and I have a love hate relationship. They work remarkably well on me. Perhaps that is because I don’t take them that often and my germs are a sucker for their effect. Or perhaps it’s just chemistry. I don’t care. They work beautifully. A few days in and my symptoms are generally gone.

And in those last few days, I generally feel like crap. You see, antibiotics and my stomach don’t get along. Mix antibiotics and the chemistry set of my tummy and you get aliens, gorwling, roaring beasties that leave me feeling like I am on a sea cruise in the middle of a hurricane. They mess with my head too. I feel sluggish. Dull. Thick headed. Not at all myself. In it’s own way, it’s as bad as being sick.

But, I take them until they are gone.

I don’t want to. I feel better after a few days. I want to toss them aside and move on. But, no the doctors tell us. Do that, and you are leaving enough of the nasties inside alive that they may rally and make a comeback.

I recall a story in the bible, where God told Joshua to kill everyone in a particular town. And when Joshua didn’t, God was pretty mad at him. It wasn’t JUST that Joshua disobeyed. It was that God knew that to leave any alive in that particular place was to assure that Joshua would get to fight that particular battle again and again and again.

So I am on the last days of medicine. I feel bad. But I’ll feel better in the long run, and for the long run.

It’s the same with a lot of things. I remember, after my divorce, being in counseling. I was a year into it. I felt better. I was over the hump. I wanted to stop. But a long talk with my counselor convinced me to stay. Why? Because evidently only 10% of the people who go to counseling see it through. They get better, but not well. And better is good enough.

But better leaves things unresolved, not really dealt with. And so they rise again.

I see it in business too. Clients hire me to fix something. We make it better, and it’s “good enough”, but not complete, and they let me go, and never finish what needs to be done. And so many of them slowly fall back to the habits that caused the problem in the first place.

Finishing is hard. Our natural inclination is, when we’ve largely conquered something, is to look beyond, to the next challenge, rather than do that last 10% that makes all the difference in the long run. We think we’re making progress.

But in the long haul? Not finishing the medicine leaves us open for relapse. No matter where in life we are.

So I will finish the medicine. I don’t like going backwards.

Be well. Travel wisely,

Tom

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