05 March, 2010

idle ill

I woke up at 4 this morning, flailed about in the dark trying to find my cup, took a drink of water and thought, "Hm.  I'm going to have a cold tomorrow." And guess what? I hab a cold.
I always enjoy bouts of mild illness. Bring on headaches and runny noses - to me, it's worth it.  During my elementary years, sick days meant a blessed reprieve from the agony of school - but any kid knows this. I always, always watched Honey I Shrunk the Kids, ate meals on trays decorated with flowers in little bud vases and, all in all, had a keen time.  And even as a homeschooler (my sainted mother schooled me from sixth grade on through high school and I adored nearly every minute of it - the minute I did not enjoy being the one in which we dissected a silkworm), waking with a stuffed-up head still had its perks.  I looked forward to getting my wisdom teeth yanked out in December - envisioning days of contented slumber, Jamba Juice and DVD rentals.  (To be honest, it really wasn't very fun.  I barfed a lot. But after that I had a swell time.)
Imagine my delight this morning when I came upon a chapter in How to Be Idle entitled, "On Being Ill."  How perfect is that?  Possibly even more suitable than reading Death in the Clouds during a plane flight the other day. 
It turns out, I am not the only adult who appreciates a good cold now and then.   I remembered reading somewhere that C.S. Lewis enjoyed, "to be always convalescent from some small illness and always seated in a window that overlooked the sea, there to read... eight hours of each happy day."

And I bet wearing a dressing gown as magnificent as this one couldn't have been unpleasant either
Or Jerome K. Jerome, in "On Being Idle", upon being "ordered to Buxton for a month":

"I pictured to myself a glorious time--a four weeks' dolce far niente with a dash of illness in it. Not too much illness, but just illness enough--just sufficient to give it the flavor of suffering and make it poetical. I should get up late, sip chocolate, and have my breakfast in slippers and a dressing-gown. I should lie out in the garden in a hammock and read sentimental novels with a melancholy ending, until the books should fall from my listless hand, and I should recline there, dreamily gazing into the deep blue of the firmament, watching the fleecy clouds floating like white-sailed ships across its depths, and listening to the joyous song of the birds and the low rustling of the trees. Or, on becoming too weak to go out of doors, I should sit propped up with pillows at the open window of the ground-floor front, and look wasted and interesting, so that all the pretty girls would sigh as they passed by."

Maybe minus the pretty girls for me personally, but precisely the right idea. 

Although, in How to Be Idle, Tom Hodgkinson brings up a good point which I myself have often sadly shaken my head over: "What happened, I wonder, to the doctors of the turn of the century, who used to recommend long periods of inactivity on the South Coast for minor ailments?  These days doctors just sell you pills, but there used to be a wonderful medical prescription known as the "rest cure' - in other words the only way we can cure this is for you to do as little as possible for as long as possible."

People are always going abroad or having rest cures or "convalescing" when they're sick or worn out in Agatha Christie books.   I've always envied the girls of Ballet Shoes, who, when afflicted with whooping cough, whatever that is, get to leave London and stay in a lovely cottage "in the middle of a common in Kent." And how Petrova gets to blow her influenza nose in Mr. Simpson's new, clean handkerchief with "beautiful initials embroidered on it." 
People really knew how to be ill back then.

I am constantly appalled by ads for cold medicine or Claritin where, in the first scene, a person is miserably blowing their nose and, in the next, happily off to work or riding their bike or something equally ghastly, smiling so hard my face hurts in sympathy.   While chatting with a friend after Christmas, I tried my best not to look horrified as she told me about a bought of sickness she just powered through - only staying home on Christmas day, and then trotting off to work the next day.  What fun is that?  None! That's gross.  Miserable.  Unimaginably wretched.  I mean, I would hate having her job to being with - but having to work a mostly unpleasant job while sick?  Ugh.  Gives me the shivers.  That poor, poor girl.
It's very sad, the way people are guilted into working or doing things when they're unwell.  I mean, if you don't give your body some time to recoup, it stands to reason that your cold or flu or whatever will take longer to go away. I am a firm believer in staying home and sleeping.  Plus, if you stay at home, your germs stay at home with you.  No one else has to suffer.  Unless, of course, they too are pining for a few days of restful loafing.  Then feel free to hack all over people.

I will never understand "working through it".  But, let us toast - with toast, the traditional fare of the unwell - the hard workers who labor on, come headache or high fever.  Please, idle ailing ones, lift your slice. Slaving, sniffling hordes, we do not envy you, but we salute you.


  1. But you feel so miserable when you're sick!

  2. Yeah, but isn't it worse when you have to do something while sick? I just like to stay in my room and watch movies. And, if I 'm feeling really awful I can cry in private. Can't do that at work.