I read The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, by Elisabeth Tova Bailey, as a member of the From Left to Write book club. I was given a free copy as part of the book club. This post was inspired by the book.
(I am writing this post on my husbands laptop, as mine has crashed. His laptop has a possessive/quote key that works about 25% of the time. As he is a professional writer I do not know how he can stand this, but there it is. I write this to let people know that my grammar and editing are much better than it would appear. Thank you.)
I first heard of this book when I caught part of an interview with Bailey about her book on NPR. Having chronic illness myself, I was immediately attracted to it. This must be a book I would read. I really wanted our book club to read it too, because I felt that it would provide some insight into the world, my world of a chronically ill, chronically in pain person, and so I set about measures to bring the book into my club, and here we all are.
Due to a many years undiagnosed illness, Bailey spent a good deal of her time bedridden, and had a lot of time to observe and find many parallels between her pet snail and herself. Although I am not entirely bedridden, I do feel my best in bed, and spend as much time as I can there. After spending a few hours of shopping with my son and my friend today, I went straight to bed, got up when I heard my little boy pounding on my door, and through sleepiness, fog and pain, put together a Lego fire truck and threw in some laundry. After about an hour of that, I went back to bed for another hour an a half and it is here I will stay for the rest of the evening and through the night. I live on pain killers to keep me upright and then pay the price for being upright. I could definitely relate.
I am going to withdraw from the world; nothing that happens there is any concern of mine. And the snail went into his house and puttied up the entrance. – Hans Christian Andersen, The Snail and the Rosebush, 1861
How powerful is this quote to the chronically ill person! The feeling to pull away from the world, to protect themselves from becoming sicker by visiting friends, going to a party, even going to a mall. And I know many people who have done just that, because living in LIFE hurts us too much, physically and mentally, and why would we want to cause ourselves more pain when we can live on our laptops, read books or watch television in bed?
But I have a four-and-a-half-year-old little boy who is active and thank God very healthy and I must step into the world with him. I must take him places; zoos, museums, on play-dates. And so I do and pay the consequences later. But it is a labor of love, and we work as a team, him pulling me into the world and me doing as best as I can to see that he lives a normal as life as possible, doing the best I can to be SUPER MOM, despite my many limitations.
As Bailey often speaks of in her book, she feels deserted by many of her friends and family. As most people cannot grasp the concept of chronic illness, they do not know what to say, or what even to do with us. So many times we must say NO to weddings, baby showers or cook-outs and then…they just stop inviting us. Some of our friends and families outright just do not GET IT. They may think we are lying or exaggerating our illness. How could you be this sick for this long? You do not look sick. You are too young to be this sick. When are you going to get better?
And for most of us the answer is, we ARENT, this is how we will live for the rest of our lives, and yes, it is not such a very nice life, and yes, I do sometimes wonder why I keep living it, suffering from my illnesses and the consequences of them such as poverty and the slow wasting away of my body.
But as I said, I have my son and a sick husband who needs me as well, and so I MUST go on living it.
As a Elisabeth Tova Bailey writes in her journal:
Lots to do at whatever pace I can go. I must remember the snail, always remember the snail.