What a Thing is Not

Sometimes you have to experience what a thing is not before you can truly appreciate it for what it is.

I wound up at the doctor’s office Tuesday night in order to rule out strep (one of the gifts middle schoolers love to give their teachers!). Apart from lethargy and a headache, my primary complaint was a sore throat and very swollen and tender glands in my neck. I knew it was time to go in when I was counting the turns (and subsequent neck pivots) that occurred on my way to work that morning.

The nurse practitioner delivered the welcome news that it was not strep (yippee!) and she inquired about any sinus congestion.

“None!,” I replied confidently, thinking back to only weeks before when the flu made me sound like an MMA fighter after an especially brutal match.

I was sent home with a pack of prednisone to counteract the inflammation along with the usual recommendations.

And four hours later, I was stunned.

That congestion I was sure I didn’t have? I had just become so acclimated to it (and the excessive swelling was holding it in place), that I was completely unaware of the pressure. At least the until the steroids started to take effect.

And once I learned what the absence of congestion was, I could appreciate the obstruction for what it was.

(And appreciate the availability of modern medicine and clinics with late hours!)

We acclimate to where we are.

We adapt to our surroundings until we are larger unaware.

Until it shifts.

And the contrast is uncomfortable.

Even painful.

But the disparity between what was and what is allows us to fully see a thing for what it is.

There is a Korean spa in town that has an amazing wet area. One of my favorite pastimes there is to spend several minutes either in the hot tub or the steam sauna followed by a dip in the arctic plunge pool. Those first few moments in the frigid water are brutal; I have to force myself to continue to breathe. After a minute, my body acclimates and the cold is invigorating. And then eventually, I do step out and enter the warmth of the tub or sauna again, the heat just as uncomfortable as the cold at first. Until it isn’t.

And after an hour of alternating extreme temperatures, my body and mind feel more alive than ever at 70º.

Because sometimes you have to experience what a thing is not before you can truly appreciate it for what it is.

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