Thursday, September 1, 2011

Do you KNOW how sick I am? (cough.)

A disclaimer before I even start this: Millions of people have to deal each day with serious illness and genuine, chronic, unrelenting pain. I am thankful daily that members of my family and I are in relatively good health. Sure, there's that pesky knee problem. But beyond that, I have so very much for which I'm grateful.

About this cold, though ...

I didn't feel particularly great last week, and on Tuesday morning, everything came to a head. Burning throat, watery eyes, nose that needed to be blown every 30 seconds, and fever. I attempted to slog through my morning routine and ended up pulling a chair into the bathroom because I couldn't bear to stand to do my hair.

By 1 p.m., chilling and having gone through a box of Kleenex, I visited the walk-in clinic. The diagnosis: Sinus infection and infection in both ears. Severe sinus infections, the doctor tells me, can mimic the flu. She gives me a prescription for an antibiotic, and I head home to lie under the covers, not able to sleep because of the constant nose-blowing, but too wiped out to be upright.

And so it goes: Day three.

I am a bad, bad patient. Like most people I know, I'm busy. I burn the candle at both ends, which probably led to my being run down, which no doubt led to the state I'm in. And like most busy people, I assume I'm going to be able to do all the things I have to do without being inconvenienced by constant nose-blowing and cough-drop-eating.

So what happens? I work through the pain. I don't sleep enough. And I assume everything is going to be OK.

But here's the weird thing: As I grow older, I don't seem to have the same recuperative powers I once had. There was a time when a straight five hours' sleep and a hearty meal would have had me on my feet again. Now, eating is the last thing I feel like doing. Walking down the stairs to start laundry requires major effort. Reading makes my eye muscles hurt.

So what to do while I wait for this all to go away?

I whine. I call family members and say, "You would not believe how sick I am," then cough for effect. Last night, as Kevin lay reading in bed, I flopped down next to him and asked, "Do you realize I am really sick? Do you realize this is not normal?"

"You have a bad cold," he answered. "You're also the most impatient person I've ever known in my life. You can't make this go away just because you want it to. For God's sake, just lie down and rest."

So what am I doing? Laundry. Working on a story. Shopping for my nephew's birthday gift. Blogging.

I come from a long line of tough people. No doubt it's the southern-Italian peasant stock. My dad was active, really active, until well into his 80s. When I was growing up, my sister, a nurse -- and my mother figure after our mom died -- would purposely under-react to medical maladies because our mom, I've been told, had been a little excitable about illness. So I got a lot of, "Are you bleeding? No? Well, then, take a baby aspirin and lie down. You'll be fine."

So maybe I don't allow myself to recuperate adequately because I fail to accept that there's something wrong with me; I am, after all, the Queen of Denial. If I were to allow myself to be deeply psychological, I'll admit it's probably due to this: I feel that if I keep busy enough, nothing bad can happen to me or the people I love.

Tomorrow night marks the start of a three-day holiday weekend; maybe I'll really try to kick this thing. I'll hole up in bed with my stack of unread library books and a "Pawn Stars" marathon and get some good rest.

Then again, the house needs to be cleaned.

And I have some writing to do.

And the flowers in the front yard aren't looking the best.

Damn those southern-Italian peasants. I just can't help it.

But, by the way ... do you know how sick I am?


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