I consider myself good at many different things. Misanthropy, for example. Or eating – I’m really good at that. Pushing my way into a crowded subway car. Being hopeful that H&M pants will fit. Champion nail biting. Being hyperbolic. Or even knowing when to stop making lists of things I’m good at.
But sometimes you have to admit to yourself that you’re just no good at something. I happen to be no good at many things. This past week, I realized a new thing I’m no good at: being sick.
It started late it in the week with a sore throat. It felt like someone had lit a fire in my throat, tried putting it out with a soccer cleat, then doused it in hot sauce. (There’s the hyperbole I mentioned). It was the kind of sore throat that makes your ears itch and pop. It choked me in the middle of the night with spindly, phantom fingers, and then proceeded to ooze its way out of my nose. And here I am today, feeling much better but keeping away from decent society for another day or so.
Of course, I don’t know anyone who enjoys being sick. But I do know people who are good at it: they rarely complain, they soldier on, they keep their chin up, they continue as if nothing is wrong, blah blah blah, skip through the tulips I hate you.
Not me. I am a complainer, and not even a particularly remorseful one. I will complain that the coughing hurts. I will complain when my nose gets chapped. I will complain when I have to stand to get another tissue. I sigh loudly after sneezing, rolling my eyes. This guy, I might joke. Just die already! I wrap a shawl around myself and shuffle about. I sip tea and think aloud, If only I could actually taste this cup of tea.
In short, I’m a loud, contagious a-hole.
Once, when I had food poisoning, I sat on the bathroom floor at work, trying to suppress the sound of the vomit so no one would kick the door in and try to rescue me. Another time, also at work, I fainted, and was just fast enough to climb under my desk the minute I got woozy. Only the most astute passerby might have noticed my legs sticking out from under my desk like the Wicked Witch of the East.
I very rarely get sick. You might think this is a good thing. Rather, I would posit the opposite: it makes me less well adapted to those times when I’m actually sick. A trifling cold for someone else might be a 4-day excursion into hell for me (and anyone around me). I don’t do helpless, and I think my complaining is an assertion that yes, I want very much to be alive. Rage, rage against the dying of the light, says my plagiaristic brain. Being sick, if I’m being truthful, scares me. I’m embarrassed by overt need and reliance, and being sick shakes my stubborn independence to its core.
So what to do? This is where you come in, dear reader. I would love to hear how you do illness – how you might maintain calm amid the sniffles. Please help a gal out. So that next time – and there will be a next time – I might master the art of being graciously sick.