jeanine fritz

Maestro, please cue the tiny violins.


As you may know, Dear Reader, I've had a weapons-grade, mutant cold for a solid month now. The editor here suggested the castaway Kleenex scattered in a blast pattern around my desk should be used to create chemical weapons, and my friends have stopped greeting me with Xs and Os in favor of poking me with a stick.

Perhaps you lick the same doorknobs I lick and you've been ill for what seems like your entire adult life as well. If so, you know how awesome it's been -- the sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, stuffy head, fever, hacking, dribbling, pooping, barfing, eye-crossing, skin-drying, loogie-making, so-you-never-rest illness is the sort of thing people can bond over, like a tour of duty. (Tour of Doody?) I'd high five you, My Fellow Infirm, but we can't see out of our red, runny eyes and would probably end up high-fiving each other in the face.

Over the weekend, in the midst of this magic, I got a new symptom. And the timing was interesting, because I'd just started making jokes about how it was time to either call the Make a Wish Foundation or an exorcist.

The new symptom was one of those rad, rare signals your body gives that could mean nothing and could mean you're close to death: maybe this is Ebola, or maybe it's a paper cut, like when you find a new spot on the inside of your elbow -- is this an adorable new freckle or my melanoma-shaped death warrant?

Like a normal human, I noted the symptom and its implications and then had a beer and watched more football. (GO 'NINERS!) When I was back at work, licking staplers again, it occurred to me to call a doctor. I then spent the next two days telling myself not to worry because I had Taken Action. I was the very picture of Keeping Calm and Carrying On.


But when I got to the doctor, I was informed there were several more actions that needed to be taken. I burst into tears right there in the waiting room and began wailing, "But I've been so sick for like a hundred years and I've been worrying about this new thing for, like, THREE WHOLE DAYS and I thought we were gonna get this settled right here, right now and AM I GOING TO DIE?!?!" Some tiny part of me realized I was acting like a 3-year-old and an asshole, and that part of me cringed while the rest of me wept at increasing levels until being corralled into a waiting room with a closed door, where I proceeded to hyperventilate.

The doctor discussed the plan of action, allayed my fears, and handed me a tissue to wipe the mascara off my neck before letting me know I could stay and gather myself if I wanted to.

Of course, I didn't stay. As my friend, Lisa, says, "If I did that every time I cried, I'd be a year behind schedule."

It's been a few days, the plan of action is in motion and I'm not going to die. I've had a wakeup call, sure, not really about my health but about how deeply entrenched the denial of my own mortality is. Acknowledging the finite nature of life might lead to perspective changes, greater wisdom and dishing unconditional love out all over the place.

But I promise you this, Friendoes, I will never stop licking doorknobs. Never.