Sometimes You’re the Hammer, Sometimes You’re the Anvil

tubes and machines and ventilators

I hear my husband Vic’s favorite words when he felt pounded by life. “Sometimes you’re the hammer. Sometimes you’re the anvil.” This week I was the anvil being hammered by viral bronchitis, but I’m not alone and know others going through much harder times. I have friends and sons encouraging and supporting me. I don’t have Covid  and my life is not in obvious danger.

My local son Anthony spent a long early morning sitting near me in the hospital room while I was tested and questioned and checked over. Then there were tests to open the airways. After three hours, Anthony drove me home, stopping to get my new prescriptions. I felt blasted tired the rest of the day, so forgive me if you find errors.

Anthony waiting

My mantra in these times is, “I’m not in Gaza or Ukraine.” I have friends with terrible disgnoses and some don’t make it through. I came away with you’ll be OK, but it might take a few weeks or a month. Hydrate and be grateful for a coming recovery and warmer weather. Be grateful for a warm house and ingredients for soup and a dog who doesn’t need lots of exercise in cold weather.

This is the first time I’ve been seriously sick through the pandemic.  I always wear a mask, so who knows how I got this viral infection? All I can do is accept the lessons with gratitude.

Breathing in the meds to open the airways

With thanks to my local son Anthony who took care of me on this journey, and thanks to my North Carolina son and his dear friend Nurse Jody who pushed me to go to the ER before I got sicker. I thank Schuyler Hospital, my local small hospital, for getting me in and out as fast as possible with kindness.

It may take time to recover but I hope to learn something from this beyond facing how impatient I get when my plans are interrupted and how I resist asking for help. Or how afraid I get when I think I’ll lose more hearing. For now, I hope the cough quiets so I can get a good night’s sleep.

I hope to write something more enticing when I feel better, but it will have to wait.

Sending love, good health and peace to all.

  1. Dear Elaine, I’m so sorry to hear that you haven’t been in good health this past week, perhaps longer. It sounds like David and Judy’s advice about getting yourself to hospital double quick for a check-up was the right call. Thank goodness Anthony lives so close by and that you have many encouraging and supportive friends.

    Ah, a warm house in winter, homemade soup and Disco, your beloved soul companion are surely the best home comforts, ever. Often in these times I tell myself and others to slow down, sleep as much as needed and keep life as simple as possible. Nature can still be enjoyed very much in all Her glory from indoors, looking out.

    Well, these are some of the things I’m doing this week too, alongside resting, as I navigate a fork in the road of my own health. Hopefully I’ll know more next week following a neck scan. I’m sure there’s a poem or haiku already stirring below! Sending much love and light across the oceans and oaks between us, Deborah.

    • Dear Deborah,

      I’m sorry you’re spending time with doctor’s, too. I often think of people who are ill and have no medical care which is most of the world, so I’m grateful for my small local hospital and a community of friends and helpers. I didn’t get to the hospital quickly and don’t know if would have made a difference. Viral bronchitis usually clears without medical intervention, but not this time. I resist hospitals, maybe because they remind me of two hard years with Vic.

      Out my windows, we have thick clouds and freezing rain, so it’s a good day to stay in and stay warm. Disco agrees. Let me know when you know the results of the scan. The body gives us plenty to write about, but I’m at a loss for words until my fevered brain clarifies. I look forward to your new poems and enjoy the older ones. Meanwhile, I send love, prayers, and healing light across the oak tops and ocean.

      • It’s a few days later now and I’m wondering how you’re doing Elaine? Are you still having to take those awful anti-biotics and are they working? This weekend we’ve had sunny skies here in the UK and the temperature climbed to a heady 11 degrees, so yesterday we hiked through woodland. Such joy after nearly two weeks of freezing weather.

        I’m feeling so much better in myself now. January’s been a strange and difficult month for many of us, the world I want to write. Thinking of you every day and sending you much love!

        • My regular medical provider is someone I fully trust, and she said to stop taking that drug immediately when I called her office after the weekend. So I stopped, but the antibiotic has a long half-life so it takes a while to clear it from my system. I hope my energy returns in a few days. An EKG in her office on Monday afternoon was normal and my lungs are almost clear. I have a written report from the weekend ER doctor who prescribed this drug even though it shouldn’t have been given for a viral infection. We’re so vulnerable when we’re ill. Since I rarely take prescription drugs, I didn’t know. I was grateful to see my regular provider and get clear support and direction from her. I’m a little blurry headed still and just want to sleep. Fortunately, friends bring soups and I eat small amounts despite little appetite.

          I’m glad you’re feeling better. Yes, it’s been a strange time for the whole world with a sense of precariousness–and yet I feel a sense of safety in my home and my sons will arrive soon. I’m thinking of you, too, when I’m not sleeping. Disco is remarkably patient with the situation.

      • I’m better, Deborah, but have some healing time ahead. My regular doctor told me to stop taking the antibiotic immediately, so I did. I’ll see her tomorrow. It’s the usual antibiotic prescribed for viral bronchitis, but my body tends to react strongly to prescription drugs–and so she did. I’m glad I’m done with that medicine, but I’ll be glad to see my usual doctor tomorrow and avoid the emergency room. Thanks for asking. I’ll let you know when I know. My body is still not right, but I’m good at sleeping in this weather (freezing rain and dark skies). Sending love and hope for sunshine.

  2. Wishing you a speedy and full recovery, Elaine. Your positive attitude is sure to help — it helped me feel more encouraged to know you are facing your challenges with courage and positivity.

    All blessings to you,

    • Thank you, Laz. I hope you are well in every way. It helps to have a community of supportive friends and my sons. And I’m hearing from people I haven’t been in contact with for a while–like you. Good health and blessings to you.

  3. It’s so hard to decide when to go to the hospital. I’m glad you were persuaded to go. You must have been struggling for breath. Thank you Anthony, David and Nurse Jody. Take care and don’t hesitate to call on friends who love you,

    • Yes, I was struggling to get a deep breath, but it never felt like an emergency or that I couldn’t breathe at all. I’ve slept well throughout which seems the most important thing. Still, we forget the importance of our breath until it’s compromised in a way that no breathing exercises help. I’m grateful for my family and friends. Steve asked me to give him a shopping list, so I realize I haven’t done that. Love to you and your grandkids. May they stay well in this challenging weather and may you and Michael be well, too.

  4. Oh, Elaine, so, so sorry to learn you are ailing! So good, however, that David’s friend Nurse Jody urged you to go to Schuyler Hospital ER and Anthony took you there and is assisting. Feel better, old friend, and post more news as you recover. Best wishes for a quick recovery!

    • It’s so, so sweet to hear from you, Jeanne. Your note makes me feel connected to dear loving ones from the past. I remember spending time with you when David was a small boy. You were his auntie and told the best stories about his three-year-old wit. May we meet again before too long.

  5. Dear Elaine,
    So heartwarming to receive your current unpleasant experience that is witnessed with so much empathy and gratitude.
    My deep wishes for you:
    May you continue to be kind to yourself
    May you be safe from inner and outer harm,
    May you live with ease.

    • I’m not the only one, dear Patricia, and it could be much much worse. I constantly remind myself of that and try to accept a lesson in patience. My body insists on a pause and I have no choice. Thank you for your blessing.

  6. Wishing you the quickest recovery possible.

  7. Oh, no, Elaine! No need to write something more enticing later; just concentrate on getting better. I too get impatient when my plans are interrupted and I resist asking for help. Now I am grateful for the angels of mercy who helped you, as they should have. And I am struck by how Vic’s words minister to you in hard times–as they do in easier times too.

    Your name is on my prayer card for Wednesday. I will happily pray for you more days until you are fully recovered. Love, good health, and peace to you, Elaine. Sending hugs ((( ))) too! P.S. Please don’t be in a hurry to reply here. Your health is way more important. 😀

    • Writing is my pleasure, but I’m too muddle headed now, so I’ll wait. Of course, I miss Vic like crazy when I’m sick (or all the time) because he was so good at being a nurse. Both my sons are excellent helpers, too. I have no idea how long this will take, but the most important thing I can do is sleep, sleep, and sleep. I need to eat more, too, but I’ve had no interest in food which is highly unusual for me. I’m steaming some vegetables now. May you have warm days and sunshine. Sending love.

  8. Dear Elaine, There’s no doubt the anvil takes a terrible beating, but then it’s made of very sturdy stuff. As are you, my friend, as you’ve proven so many times. May you experience a rapid return of the strength and stamina of your beloved butterflies whose bodies are among the most fragile on earth, yet survive buffeting winds over thousands of miles during their annual migrations. Sending you love and healing wishes. Jeanie

    • I hope when I recover from this I haven’t lost more hearing. I have little left to lose. I think thought of myself as strong and having stamina, but this is a new test of my ability to rest. I talked to my doctor’s office this morning and they kindly told me how impatient I am and this will take a while. Meanwhile, we have thick clouds and cold rain, so not the most healing weather. It’s nice to think of Monarchs, but I haven’t found recent reports about how they’re doing in Mexico. (They sail on those winds and cluster in trees when the winds are too much.) Right now I need to master sailing. Sending love and thanks for the encouraging words. Sending warmth and love to you in Mexico.

  9. I’m sorry to hear that you have caught a cold, Elaine. I’ve heard from many people that colds seem to be spreading more easily lately. For example, my wife Regina told me that 44 of her colleagues at school have been sick recently! It’s possible that wearing masks could be contributing to the spread of illness. Even though you wore a mask, you still got sick. I believe wearing masks can weaken our immune systems and make us more susceptible to bacteria and viruses. However, I hope you feel better soon. Take care of yourself.
    PS: The title reminded me of a traditional song sung by Simon & Garfunkel.

    • Hi Aladin,
      Thanks for your healing wishes. I think Vic learned those words from his Italian grandfather when he was a kid. This virus will take a week or so (if I’m lucky) and I can’t figure out where I got it other than on the plane when I returned from my son’s home, but that was late November. I’m not going anywhere for a while except to the kitchen to make more ginger tea, so I won’t wrestle with the mask issue now. I wasn’t sick once during the pandemic (wearing a mask when I went out), so now I’m sick with a virus that’e not COVID or RSV. My pup Disco likes our new routine. Eat well and sleep. She keeps me company.

  10. I had the same crazy bronchitis, I waited to go to the doctor because I was stubborn and thought it was just a cough. When I finally went it was because I could hardly swallow and was afraid it was strep. It was not strep but bronchitis, I left with a inhaler, something equal to Claritin and a cough gel that I’m not sure really helped at all. I came home slathered my chest with Vicks, went to bed and drank plenty of water. It took several days but I began coughing less and finally wanted to get out of bed and do something. ( I made banana bread or applesauce bread or both but to accomplish that was my ticket to know the road to wellness was right around the corner)

    • I didn’t get a cough or sore throat. Mostly fatigue and tight shallow breath, and with me, any illness messes with my damaged balance from Meniere’s Disease. I didn’t know viral bronchitis was so fierce, but now I know. I haven’t been to a place to buy Vicks but the next friend who asks what I need, I’ll tell them Vicks. I lost my appetite (rare for me) and it’s still not back, but it’s not good for bone health to lose more weight, so I’m eating. It’s oatmeal and yogurt this morning and a friend is bringing soup later. I’m wed to the inhaler.

  11. Hi, Elaine. We have become friends via our mutual friend Radiance, who was a very special friend from when I lived in Philadelphia many years ago. After feeling connected with you via fb posts, I finally read your “Leaning Into Love” book recently. Wow! Your many gifts of spirituality, vulnerability, honesty, kindness and compassion really touched me. I also greatly appreciated your admitting the character “flaws” that show up in us, despite all the pressures to hide them. I have recommended your book to others.
    I made it until October 2023 before getting my first case of Covid, and was fortunate to have a very mild case. I just turned 70 years old on Christmas Eve. And I am happy to say that I am 10 years out from my only major medical adventure of breast cancer. That was more intense than I ever could have imagined, but time and healthy living has softened the memory of it.
    May we both suck all the juice we can out of the remainder of our lives, and go through the release of our bodies well when it is time. Much love and gratitude to you❣️ Happy and fulfilling new year!

    • Hi Jill, I miss Radiance and that’s where I contacted you. Thank you for positive words about ‘Leaning into Love’ and thanks for recommending the book to others. I know it’s helped many grieving people. Vic and I had a forty year history of honest feelings, so we could get away with painful truths and feelings and work through it.

      I haven’t had Covid and didn’t test positive for it or RSV at the ER. They also didn’t find any monsters growing in my lungs on x-ray. I’m 78 and things begin to go haywire, so I shouldn’t be surprised–but I am. We’re all living on borrowed vitality. I’m glad you got through breast cancer and you’re OK now. I’ve accompanied a few friends through that treatment and it’s so, so intense. I’ve admired your kindness and wisdom with our friend Radiance, so thank you. She didn’t delete her account, but she’s not active there. I liked being one of her support people, so hope she returns and all is well with her. Sending peace and love.

  12. Healing and rest and a lot of liquids, my friend. May you feel better every day.

    A lot of liquids is also what I need to tend to.

    • I’m drinking lots of water and also taking iodine as suggested by my favorite health care provider. I just started iodine, so hope it begins to soothe the belly. Thanks for your comment. I sleep a lot because I have no choice. Fortunately this is good sleeping weather. I hope it’s good healing weather, too.

  13. Elaine I’m so sorry to hear of this – only now. I really hope you’re well as n the road to full recovery. Thank heavens for Anthony and Jody. What’s happening in the world also depletes our immune systems. Take good care of your precious self.

    • Thank you, Susan. This is a long haul recovery it seems which is new to me. I start to feel less stomach pain and then it’s time for another antibiotic. I’m not used to these strong medicines, but I’ll be done with this prescription in a few days.

  14. I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve been so unwell Elaine – it must be so frustrating for you as such an active person. Thank goodness your son’s and friends persuaded you to go to hospital – I hate hospitals too but sometimes it just makes sense. It sounds like you’ve had the right treatment now, so taking good care and nurturing yourself is the most important thing. In no time you’ll be back out in the woods taking the walks that you love.

    I had covid at the start of the pandemic and that has left me with a lung condition…rest, good food and doing breathing exercises helped me recover and now I’m in a really good place. You might be interested in the 4-7-8 breathing technique (google will show more info) which, once you feel more able to breath deeply, is a great work out to keep the lungs healthy as well as being extremely meditative. Sending you love and light for a full recovery.

    • Thank you, Lin. I’m grateful I only had to spend half a day in the hospital since I have friends who’ve been in the hospital for many days this winter. The stress of our world may be catching up with us. I know the 4-7-8 breathing exercises and a few others. It all helps if I stay calm when my heart pounds in the middle of the night. This is the hardest side-effect of the medication–and my loss of appetite. I convince myself to eat which is a new experience for me. Since I haven’t taken antibiotics before or at least not that I can remember, I’m not used to these belly symptoms, but it’s supposedly common and normal. I haven’t had Covid and hope your lungs heal. My breathing feels normal now, but the medicines are the difficulty. May we all heal, including Deborah, and be back on the trails and need less sleep. Sending love.

  15. Hello dear Elaine,

    I’d noticed that you seemed to be off-radar for a while.
    I’m grateful that you were able to get help when it was needed, and I hope you continue to recover well.

    Take care,


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