|Perhaps more than anything, chronic illness robs you of time. You don't usually lose solid days or weeks, but those days and weeks get a lot shorter. Of course there are spells where time drags – usually at night, usually during the last twenty minutes of the period between doses of painkiller. But the shape of time is different; irregular, kind of vague at the edges. You find yourself with a lot of time on your hands, but only to watch it slip through your fingers.|
Sleep becomes ravenous. It eats into your day, then takes random bites out of the middle. Often there are hours that pass where it is nibbling, non-committal, and even then there's nothing you can do but lie there, fading in and fading out. And even without sleep, you can do so little. Time flies whether or not your having fun.
Handicrafts are a symptom of incapacitating chronic illness. When time is so short, one is compelled to use it productively. So having no more useful purpose, you make crap. You sew, you make cards, you paint objects, you make all kinds of nonsense. I string beads sometimes; that is completely and utterly banal. Okay, so I choose which beads go nice with which others, in what order, but that's a three second creative process followed by, I don't know, hours if I make enough mistakes and drop them all once or twice (which I generally do). It's not about passing the time, but marking it. Giving these hours some small significance against all the other hours where nothing happens.
Meanwhile, you become an unfaithful friend. Perhaps not quite unfaithful. Only the amount you care weighs heavily against amount you have contact with people. And you don't even always know it, because the shape of time is misleading. You think you only spoke to them last week when in fact a month has passed. And because do you more thinking and caring that you do writing or phoning, you imagine you have been in contact when you haven't at all. My oldest friend sent a letter in June to my address in Whitby, five months after I'd moved out. But I was sure I'd written. I'm sure I'd told her all about the move, the flood, everything. I hadn't. My oldest friend.
So you resign yourself to a shorter life. Less time. Less stuff in it. And you think, disasters not withstanding, at least you lose the time gradually. At least you get a good number of goodnight kisses. At least you get to watch events unfurl over a good long period of time, rather than missing half of it completely. And at least you know the score. You know it's all very precious. And when you have a little time, a little useful time, a day when you do something, a day distinguished in some small way - such days make you feel like you have more than your fair share.