Let me start by saying: I shouldn’t have the flu, OK, this is not how this is supposed to work. I got the flu shot. I always get the flu shot. “Oh yeah, sorry, it turns out that this year’s flu shot doesn’t really work that well …” Not cool, vaccination people. Maybe if I had some idea that there was at least the potential I could have had the flu, I wouldn’t have written off those first two or three days as feeling just a little “under the weather.” No, I had to wait until I had a 103-degree fever, curled up in the fetal position on my couch, too achy and sore to even go to the bathroom before I went to see a doctor. And then the doctor was like, “Dude, what the hell is wrong with you? It’s the flu, you idiot. Everybody has it. What are you trying to do, get everyone in my office sick? Jesus, next time just give me a call and I’ll have the pharmacy send you some Tamiflu.”
And yeah, the flu sucks. Everything hurts. My appetite is gone. Aside from the time I had meningitis when I was in the eighth grade, I can’t remember ever being in such physical discomfort. But having said all of that, I try to look on the bright side. And so there’s got to be a little positivity to everything, even the flu, right?
1. I don’t have to do anything
Amidst the near-constant head throbbing, sending jolts of visceral, electric pain coursing through my nervous system, there’s an inability to do much anything besides rocking myself back and forth while whimpering softly. Usually I have so much more going on. I’m a writer, I’m a full-time grad student, I’m training for another race. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been able to spend multiple days on the couch not doing anything.
I’m not saying it’s worth being sick for, but I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t something liberating about sitting here in my pajamas wrapped in a blanket knowing that even if I wanted to get something done, I’m physically not able to do so. It’s out of my hands. The only thing I’m good for right now is drinking orange juice and watching Netflix. When am I ever going to get another opportunity to do that?
2. Everyone feels bad for me
Again, I don’t want people to think I’m fishing for sympathy or anything, but it’s really nice to know that when I’m sick, people are worried about me. My mom offered to take care of my dog so I don’t have to take him out for his walks. I keep getting texts and calls from various family members asking if I’m OK. “Cough, cough,” I answer, totally aware of how awful I must sound on the phone, “Oh you know, I’m just hanging in there.”
My pregnant wife comes home from work and all of the sudden she’s serving me a bowl of hot chicken soup. The delivery guy who dropped of my meds kind of recoiled a little when I answered the door. “Whoa,” he said, “take care of yourself man.” Like I said, I’d much rather be healthy, but since I am really sick, it’s nice to know that I have everyone’s sympathy.
3. I finally got to try Tamiflu
Remember when Swine Flu first popped up, and all of the sudden there was this mad rush to stock up on Tamiflu? I never even heard of Tamiflu before, but apparently it was the only thing standing in the way of inevitable societal collapse. I rushed to the doctor’s office to demand a prescription, but he had some bad news. “Sorry Rob,” he told me, “it looks like there’s not enough Tamiflu to go around. The government’s rationing what little we have left for the weak and elderly.”
I was so pissed. Not only could this miracle drug save me from potential Swine Flu, but its scarcity only increased my impossible desire to have it. And now I’m finally sick, and I finally have my Tamiflu. And I guess it’s OK. But yeah, I don’t know, now that it’s so widely available, I have to admit that it lost a lot of its allure. It hasn’t kicked in just yet, but it’s a five-day treatment, so I guess I have to be patient.
4. I’ll have something to talk about for years
I used to get so annoyed when anyone would start talking about being sick. There was really nothing I could add to the conversation. But now I’ll always have this flu experience to throw in other people’s faces. “You know I had the flu last year, and let me tell you something …” I can already hear myself weaseling myself to the center of any sick-related chitchat.
If any of my friends or family members get colds or strep throat in the near future, I’ll shake my head dismissively as they complain about their minor symptoms. “You think that’s bad? Did I ever tell you about the time I had the flu?” Man, it’s going to be so awesome to have the final say.
5. I’ve learned a lesson about my mortality
I’m not trying to brag, but I’m in great shape. And even though I know that I’m going to have to die eventually, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a day that went by where I didn’t look at myself in the mirror and say to myself, “Do you really think that’s true? Look at you Rob, you’re in the best shape of your life here. If anything, you’re getting stronger and more healthy every day.” Again, it’s all very silly, I know. But when you feel constantly healthy like I do, healthy and full of boundless life energy, it’s not hard for the idea of mortality to feel like an impossible fiction.
But now I have the flu, and I totally get it. One day I’ll grow so old that the way I’m feeling right now is going to be how I’ll feel every single day. And that’ll be if I’m healthy. Yes, now I know what it’s like to be humbled by my body’s own frailty. How foolish I was to entertain the possibility that I’d ride out another flu season disease-free. Sure, the flu is temporary, and I should be back on my feet in no time, but just as my body is failing me right now, so shall it inevitably succumb to the hands of father time.