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When Life’s Spinning Carousel Dulls Your Senses

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I don’t find myself stopping to be thankful for my five senses – taste, touch, smell, hearing, sight – very often, but a recent sickness changed my perspective.

I have never had a sinus infection, and the last ear infection I had was my first year of teaching 13 years ago. When I got to the doctor, he said, “Wow, you are just getting no air through your nostrils.”

I was in a constant cycle of vitamins and medicines and nose blowing, so it didn’t register until that moment that I had lost three senses: smell, taste and hearing.

To be without three of my five senses was disorienting, to say the least.

When I laid down on my left side, I literally couldn’t hear anything. It felt like I was in a wind tunnel of white noise. I couldn’t hear the kids. I couldn’t hear my partner when he came to check on me. It was so strange.

I also couldn’t breathe through my nose, so I had to try to gain enough air through my mouth to rest and recover.

I was taking in food in order to give my body energy, but I couldn’t taste any of it. I could tell if it was hot or cold, but even that sense was dulled.

Of course, I have been sick before, but I can’t recall a time when I have been sick to the point of having so many of my senses dulled.

Not only was it disorienting, but it was also lonely. I was missing interactions with family and friends not hearing them when they asked a question.

Instead of the day being about playing and enjoying time off, my days were rooted to the next medicine dosage and the next time I would need a tissue.

There are other times in our lives when our senses are dulled. Seasons of grief. Seasons of caring for newborns and small children. Seasons of transition. Seasons of caring for a loved one who is sick.

Amid these seasons, you may feel like you can’t see or taste or smell or feel anything.

Your senses are dulled because you have been kicked into survival mode, moving from one thing to another like riding a carousel watching the world blur by.

It is so important to step off the carousel and ground ourselves in the here and now during times like these. As much as we may want this to be over, it’s the being there that teaches us so much.

I found myself disappointed with not being able to bounce back sooner or get better within a day. I felt like I was missing everything and falling behind with every second.

It wasn’t until I took time to ground myself in where I was rather than trying to power through the sickness that my mind and body settled into healing.

I can remember taking a bite and being able to taste the food. I exclaimed, “That tastes good!”

Even now as I take a deep breath through both nostrils, I am grateful.

One morning soon after recovering, I told our 4-year-old son, “I hear you,” with appreciation that he didn’t have to repeat himself three more times.

Sometimes, it’s not until we lose something that we are able to appreciate it.

Sometimes, it’s the seasons where our senses have dulled that lead to seasons of such richness because those experiences are laced with gratitude for the very breath we take.

Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared on Harrelson’s blog. It is used with permission.

Merianna Harrelson

Merianna Harrelson is pastor of Garden of Grace United Church of Christ in Columbia, South Carolina, editor-in-chief of Harrelson Press Publishing, and an EthicsDaily.com / Baptist Center for Ethics board member.