The Signs in the Body (Center, Part 7)

The Signs in the Body (Center, Part 7)

My bones started to creak.

This seemed weird for a very healthy lady in her thirties.

Or—it seems weird now. When it started, I wasn’t paying attention. We humans log so many bits of data in the course of a day; they don’t always nicely and promptly arrange themselves into patterns for us.

Yes, I was tired, and then more tired, and more, but I thought it was the waning sunlight and life with little boys.

My neck was killing me, and I was getting headaches, but I thought I was just sitting the wrong way at my desk.

My knees ached when I sat in one position too long, but I thought I wasn’t drinking enough water. When I did yoga, my spine and hips made knuckle-cracking noises, and I thought Huh, that’s new, but I didn’t dwell on it.

I wasn’t connecting any dots. At best, I was half-consciously collecting dots, but I continued to blame them on various things I should’ve been doing differently.

Then I couldn’t get through the day without a nap. Then two. Then the creaking started. Even now, as I sit writing this to you, if I lean an inch to the left, I can hear my shoulder joint go errrr like a haunted house door.


It was October, and I had just written (in this very series) about words that repeatedly come to mind—how they may be clues from the center of us. Around that time, the word I was beginning to notice everywhere was healing. As if it were something I needed—like when you’re in the market for a new car, and you start noticing cars. That word healing popped from headlines, books, YouTube videos. That’s weird, I thought. Why am I noticing this word? I’m not sick. 

As November approached, I cheerfully resolved to try National Novel Writing Month for the first time—a month-long deep dive into my novel-in-progress. I paused blogging, went silent on social media, committed to 8 hours’ sleep every night.

And in all that silence and space, which I’d meant to use on writing, but was primarily using for sleeping, I began to get this dark feeling that something was really wrong.

So, finally—doctor visit. Lab order for blood work.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

It sounds like a bluegrass song, right? I lost my heart to a mountain girl / Lord, I can’t ever leave her / [something something] burning desire… / Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever… Except actually it’s a tick-borne illness that can… kill you, apparently? Or cause gangrene; or kidney and heart damage; or (because this isn’t weird enough yet) a lifelong allergy to meat (?!). I had to stop reading the Center for Disease Control website because I was getting dizzy. I’d had symptoms since the summer and wrote them all off.

Well, what can you do? I started the prescribed antibiotics, tried not to freak out, and rested up as best I could. December 1 rolled around, and I compared NaNoWriMo notes with a writer friend. “I think you won,” I said. “You wrote 50,000 words. I did a handful of writing exercises and got an obscure disease.”


I’m starting to feel better now: fewer creaks, more energy. I’m not 100% yet, but things will be fine, I’m pretty sure, and anyway, being sick can remind you of important stuff. For example, as my joints clicked and ached, some old song lyrics kept running through my head:

I got mortgages on homes
I got stiffness in my bones
Ain’t no beauty queens in this locality…

and I realized I hadn’t listened to “Fat Bottomed Girls” in forever, so I put it on, and once again, it lit me up with perfect joy. Like, bananas-flambé levels of sweet joy-on-fire. Fat bottomed girls, you make the rockin’ world go round.

Also, I pretty much had doctor’s orders to spend more time on the couch, so I finally got to read Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto.

Also, my mom got me a very fluffy bathrobe to cozy up in, which prompted my older son to hug me often and say, “I like you all the time, but when you’re wearing this bathrobe, I like you more.”

Also… Can I be honest? I am cracking jokes because I am still freaked out. And I am really tempted to wrap this up with some flip remark like Well, I’m glad we caught my bluegrass illness before the gangrene set in! But instead I’ll say this, because it strikes me—as it has throughout this Center series—

in silence and space
we notice things
that may save our lives.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, for example, often announces itself with an obvious inflamed rash all over your body, but I never got a rash. I don’t remember having a fever; I don’t even remember a tick bite. But in all the quiet ways my body knew how to speak, it was speaking.

The things we most need to notice
don’t always shout
and put up gold signs
and tweet their importance.

The signs in the body. The signs in the spirit. Vital things about our relationships, and our vocations, and the things our souls need, and the next thing we are being asked to do. The things best detected in quiet.


I write this at a quiet moment, and maybe you are in a quiet moment, too:

a cloudy Monday afternoon, the last of the year;
2018 on its last legs;
the lull between a holiday of jingling bells and a holiday of ball-drops.

Can I entice you to leave

the dishes,
the news feed,
the Netflix,
the inbox,

and be quiet for a bit?

Possibly your body is saying go to the doctor, but possibly something else. The body tells you all kinds of things. That heavy feeling when you walk through that particular door. That tiny alarm when you see her. That flicker of curiosity when you heard about it. That restlessness that says

please let’s go outside
or we need to make something
or we need to walk and stretch more
or it is the time for quiet
or I cannot be quiet anymore.

Maybe there are some dots to collect.

(And then you can go and put on “Fat Bottomed Girls.”)

Cheers & love & happy new year,



More in this series:



2 Replies to “The Signs in the Body (Center, Part 7)”

  1. June, Wow. I am SO happy you are on the road to recovery. And you are so right about the words/messages we get if we are paying attention. Lovely thoughtful blog. xo

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