A Sick Girl’s Tribute to Her First Love

Current status: Clothed in four layers, a scarf, thick wool socks, lying in front of a space heater on a heating pad set onCarie Sherman high and topped with not one but two down blankets. I still feel cold. (Thanks low grade fever that won’t go away.)

I consider sharing this fact on social media, where my friends are busy sharing pics of skiing, marching, babies, working out, laughing, loving, traveling. Living.

I choose not to post.

I’d hate for them all to feel jealous of my perfect life.

Wait. What?

Anyone who has ever struggled to find meaning and purpose in their life has likely read the advice to return to the things you loved when you were a child, way back before the world decided who you were and what you stood for and how you moved about your day.

Flashback to my 9-year-old self: Surrounded by my worn copy of On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder, six old copies of Reader’s Digest, the current issue of Country Kids magazine, a blanket draped over my head, a flashlight. Sitting behind Dad’s chair on the metal furnace register, burning my butt because I jacked up the heat far above the mandated 68 degrees.

This was my happy space. (Until I was busted for turning up the heat.)

I called my mom this morning to ask her when I stopped being this girl, this girl who put reading above all else. She said sometime around high school, I swapped novels for textbooks and farm kid articles for Teen Beat. “You were go-go-go,” she said. “You still read. Just short stuff.”

“And what about movies?” I asked. She laughed.

“You didn’t have the attention span to watch a sitcom.”

Fair enough.

So from high school through my early thirties I continued to go-go-go, playing and socializing and experiencing and traveling and booze-hounding. This stopped six years ago when I got sick. And now I’m often stuck at home while everyone else goes out to play.

But then, a miracle. My partner and second true love bought me a Kindle. Every book that had ever been written was a single click away. (We did have to change Amazon’s “one click settings” when my habit exceeded my budget.)

When I was healthy, I rarely gave myself the luxury of a reading day. If you saw me in public with a paperback, I was using it as a cover for my coffee addiction while pretending I could go five minutes without checking my phone.

Nowadays I collect books like sweet old ladies hoard cats. And I still feel sorry for myself for missing out. But then I think about 9-year-old Carie, back there in Iowa freezing on the farm in the middle of January.

Little Carie would see my life today for what it really is:

Perfect.

I’d rather not be sick. But I’m ever-so-thankful for the reminder of my first true love.