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12/22/00 My Fantasy World
12/02/00 Merengue!
11/19/00 Laundry in Public
11/09/00 The Fly
09/20/00 Land of the Jogger
07/30/00 Noisy Neighbors
07/14/00 Bulk-Shopping Madness
06/23/00 My Backpack

My Cold World

I got so excited this past rain that I convinced some friends to play with me in the downpour.

"C'mon. How long has it been since you just played?"

We danced in the mud, splashed, and drank acid rain. Someone joked about how we were going to catch pneumonia. I was already sick at the time, but the rain was coming down in sheets and we were having such a grand time...

I write you now with pneumonia.

This is my first time, so I'm kind of excited. I avoided pneumonia for the first three decades of my life, but it looks like I've finally grown dumb enough to catch it (it was just a matter of time).

The infection moved in like a fussy houseguest with no intention of leaving, and although we didn't get along at first, it has come to grow on me. Mostly, it's just a whooping cough and this stuffy feeling in my brain like I've been crying for three years. The strange part is that I've begun to take pleasure in it, and at the risk of promoting an outbreak, I would like to take a moment to endorse the merits of sickness.


People spend so much time fighting colds. We come armed with Echinacea and Golden Seal, vitamin C, Nyquil, Dayquil, and Late-Afternoon-Early-Evening-quil. If we're not trying to "get on our feet," then we're "bouncing back" or trying to "feel ourselves again." I was raised to not feel myself at all, but the point is that if we simply let go of the struggle, the common cold can bring a gift of transcendence.

Perhaps it's different for a sensible person, but my normal state isn't such that I'm eager to return to it. I've come to see illness as an altered state of mind that I don't have to pay for. But even if you're a person who likes to wake up in the morning, my suggestion is this: the next time you get a cold, lean into it because you just might enjoy it.

A cold forces us to see the world with new perspective. It permeates not only our body but our weltanschauung ("world view" for the less pretentious). Under proper viral circumstances, we don't give a damn about the trifles that run -- and ruin -- our daily lives.

So I'm 5 minutes late to my appointment. Sue me. I put the milk in the cupboard after breakfast this morning? Bummer. Guess I'll take a swig from my Robitussin and move on.

Here's an e.g.: Today, when I was in the doctor's office being diagnosed as an idiot, the boorish nurse asked me if I had been taking the medicine prescribed for me. I told her that I had been taking it off and on, mostly off.

The nurse regarded me with those I'll-never-be-a-doctor-and-hate-you-for-it eyes and said, "Well, that's like never taking it at all."

Under healthy circumstances, this would have been a declaration of war. I would have vowed to have boor for lunch. But I didn't feel that way today. Instead, I was composed and strangely present, in sync with the ticking of the clock on the wall. I heard what she had said. I didn't like it. But I did not picture her in pain.

"Yes," I said quizzically. "It is quite like that indeed. Like having not taken them at all. Had I to do it over again, I wouldn't have bought them in the first place..."

The nurse squeezed her eyes into a beady glare and smiled. "No. You shouldn't have."

At that moment, the real doctor walked in and excused Nurse Ratched from her charge. She smirked at me as she left the room, despising her pawnhood on the chessboard of life. I returned her smile but was not contemptuous about it. Really. I was genuinely pleased that she was leaving the room.

The doctor listened to my lungs and asked me with a chuckle if I had been playing in the rain. I told him that I had. He had a better sense of humor about these things because he drives a BMW. He prescribed some antibiotics and a lot of rest. Sleep?? I love to sleep. This gets better all the time. The doctor and I discussed how much I love to sleep. It turns out that he prefers the Sealy mattress to my Ortho Spinalpedic, but he is not a connoisseur. So it goes.

I can't remember anything I've just shared, further testimony for pneumonia. It may have been funny; it may have been like must of my fluff. The important thing is that I'm having a great time because I'm nestled smugly in my cold world, swimming in my sweet syrup of indifference.

The doctor said that my pneumonia will get worse if I don't take the antibiotics; and although I may follow his instructions, I must admit that I'm tempted to find out about pleurisy...


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