All things considered, there are a lot of good things about feeling bad.
I don’t mean a life-wrecking tragedy, or an arrow in your foot. I’m thinking more about your garden-variety stomach flu, such as I am experiencing this week. While I am wishing to speed it on its way, I nevertheless can see some advantages in it.
First off, no one expects you to do much of anything. If you’re at work, you get to go home. If you’re off work, no one at home expects you to do laundry, mow the lawn or even pick up that little mountain of Kleenex accumulating by the side of the bed.
Secondly, you don’t have to worry too much about how you look. If you’re sick in bed, it’s considered permissible to skip shaving (beard or legs), wear the same T-shirt and pajama bottoms three days in a row or to not carefully coif your coif.
In fact, the worse you look, the better it is. Some folks will always be a little suspicious of your claims to invalid status. If you look great, that’s hardly an argument for you Doing Not A Darn Thing. If I don’t hear (or see in your expression) the phrase, “Jim, you look awful!” then I’m not doing it right.
When you are ill in a minor way as I am, that’s also a time for ethical and spiritual reflection. Your priorities change. You do not long to visit your favorite restaurant; you want to be close to the bathroom. You aren’t hot to see the latest Hollywood blockbuster; you’re probably up at 3 a.m. watching old movies on AMC or reruns of “Sopranos” on Netflix.
If you’re in a dicey romantic situation wherein you are constantly worried about “Does he/she really love me?” or “What did he/she mean by that,” all your concerns just fade away. Your main obsession now turns into your desire for Saltines and another 12 to 16 hours of sleep.
Money, prestige, greed, lust, gluttony all take a very back seat to trying to remember that long-ago (about three days) time when you felt – by comparison – great. Capital! Marrrrvelous!
You are tempted to bargain with your germs. “If you guys just leave me be,” you think, “I promise to exercise more, eat more fiber, use those antiseptic wipes at the entrance to the supermarket.”
But wait, there’s more! When sick, whatever little tasks you do perform are protected by the force-field of “My Brain is Foggy.” Put the dishwashing liquid in the washing machine? “My brain is foggy.” Forgot everything you were told in the last 10 minutes? “My brain is foggy.” Can’t remember your spouse’s name? Well, no, there’s no amount of flu that will excuse that …
And, of course, your calendar is affected, too. If you otherwise would have had to attend that opera performance, visit that annoying relative or attend some mind-numbing event, you’ve got the perfect way out.
Of course, like most visiting guests, the thrill wears off after a few days or a week, and you’re actually glad to no longer have those excuses. But once you are hail and hearty again, the work starts to pile up on your desk again, the necessity of flossing reasserts itself and you resume your place in the World of Accountability.
Which is where a grown-up like me belongs. Tomorrow. Or maybe the day after …
Jim Tortolano is craving soda crackers instead of Cheez-Its; fruit juice instead of soda.