I have shingles.
You can see what I look like here.
Shingles (tagline: This Time It’s War) is the sequel to the popular virus Chicken Pox. It turns out that after you thought you’d defeated the Chicken Pox in childhood, your body failed to blow it out the airlock. It crept into the ganglion of your spine, where it stayed, hiding, waiting, until (woken by an unknown force) it bursts back out of your skin and clamps down on your head and bleeds acid all over your face, eyes and nerves.
It looks bad, feels a lot worse, and can cause blindness. RA. (It hurts too much to RA louder than that). I’ve had two eye check-ups (including one from an eye doctor who feigned horror when he saw me and jumped back going “AAAHHH!”), and I think I’m clear on that front – but even without the cornea damage, the pain is bad enough.
The strangest effect has been on my brain. It’s attacking the nerves on the right side of my face and eye – which is controlled by the left side of my brain – and that’s how I feel: like my rational brain is in lock-down.
At its height, at the end of last week, I could answer basic Yes and No questions, but anything more taxing sent me into a panic. I couldn’t process simple tasks, or retain any information – even before they gave me drugs.
Anyway, the real reason for my post is not to whine about my bad luck. I’m now half Canadian, so my British whining is starting to be tempered by irritatingly cheery optimism.
Sometime in the middle of all this, I got a sudden hunger for downloading and watching beautiful old films. I’m shut down here in my darkened basement, and even with painkillers it hurts to read the screen for more than a few minutes even with painkillers, but it turns out that watching slow black and white movies is the only time I’m pain-free.
They’re all films that I’ve been meaning to watch for years – that I really should have seen already – but have never given myself time to. Tokyo Story, Ugetsu Monogatari, 8½, I Vitelloni, La Regle du Jeu, Rashomon, L’Atalante, L’Avventura.
It’s like a festival of all the best films *ever*, but with an invisible usherette sticking hot knives into your head in the interval.
And since my left brain is out to lunch, it’s not getting in the way with all its irrelevant analysis, so they’re washing over and through me. All these stories and relationships and exquisite black and white compositions.
They’re *exactly* what I need to see right now – my head is exploding with ideas and excitement about making films again. I’ve been feeling like I haven’t felt since university – like my brain is switching on and I’m shifting up a gear. I don’t regret that I hadn’t seen them earlier – right-brain/left-brain weirdness aside, I’m experiencing them at a much richer level that I would have a decade ago.
And the thing is: given all the things that are going on in my life, I probably never would have made the time to watch them, had I not been Aponed by the Shingles.
In one of Amy’s books, there’s an old Chinese story that I like, about a farmer:
– first his horse runs away, and his neighbours say “What Bad Luck!” – and he says, “We’ll see”
– then the horse returns, accompanied by a wild horse, and his neighbours say “What Good Luck!” – and he says, “We’ll see”
– then his son tries to ride the wild horse and breaks his leg, and the neighbours say “What Bad Luck!” – and he says, “We’ll see”
– then the army come through the village to take young men to fight a war, but they leave his son because his leg is broken, and the neighbours say “What Good Luck!” and he says, “We’ll see”.
But FUCK, it hurts.