By Qin Sun Stubis
(reprinted from The Santa Monica Star)
It’s that time of the year again when our towns and cities are bustling with holiday spirit. Trailing long, carefully drafted shopping lists, we dash around stores and surf the net in search of the perfect gifts, for those carefully packaged boxes, big and small, that will symbolize our love and thoughtfulness for our families and friends on that special day.
I’ll join the holiday mob and enjoy my fair share of holiday madness. But this December, I’ve also added a new, important item to the very top of my list: It’s a special wish that no money can buy, something that most of us have, but have often taken for granted until we lose it one day. And it’s something that I’ll wish for all my family, friends, and readers: Our good health, without which our lives will be compromised, our holiday spirit dimmed, and we cannot be our own selves.
I learned this in a big way this August when I was struck by a long-lasting, mysterious sickness that just wouldn’t go away. It started out as ordinary motion-sickness during a family car trip, soon escalated into vertigo that required ER treatment, and then was diagnosed as a migraine by an ear, nose, and throat doctor, and a vestibular problem by a neurologist.
I became ultra-sensitive to light and sound, and the sensitivity just wouldn’t go away. Sunlight and traffic lights burnt my eyes and made my temples throb. And, when I passed a lawnmower, a dog barking, or an ambulance shrieking, I felt sharp needles piercing my head and ripping me apart.
What was wrong with me?! I’ve gotten sick at times, but I always bounced back within days, if not hours. Whenever I’d become ill, my philosophy was to beat it, which I always did by popping a few pills, prescribing myself a diet of chicken soup (Jewish penicillin), or simply getting a few hours of rest. This time, none of my remedies seemed to work. When the first diagnostic procedures all came back negative, I wasn’t sure if I was more relieved or concerned: Something was wrong with me, but no tangible cause could be found.
I started to wear sunglasses and ear-plugs around the house, and envisioned myself turning into a vampire–all I needed was to develop an urge to bite someone and turn into a nocturnal creature that could only come out during the stealth of the night!
For weeks, I lay quietly in a dark room, contemplating what had gone wrong. I thought about how I was always on the go, busy with projects and chores, completely consumed by life’s excitement. It was always about what I wanted to do and needed to fulfill. I thought little about my health beyond an annual checkup and felt that I would always be fine.
Maybe my body was finally giving me a warning signal. Maybe it wanted me to slow down and think more about myself. After all, I’m not getting any younger and my physical mechanism isn’t built for eternity.
As the Chinese proverb tells us, “A thousand pieces of gold cannot buy one breath of life.” Health is our best asset and the very foundation of a good life. So for this holiday season, I wish for the priceless gift of good health, not just for myself but for all my family, friends, and readers.
To our health! May your holidays be healthy days.
Thanks for reading my column. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Qin Stubis is a regular columnist for The Santa Monica Star. She lives in Bethesda, MD.