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I got an education from the flu bug

May 18, 2017 - By Clair McFarland

I handle flu like a character in a Jane Austen novel, except without the encouraging idea that if I survive I'll get to go to the ball.

I caught that flu that's been going around.

It's strange: the way illness suspends life and all its stimuli. Catching flu is like plunging into an unlit train tunnel.

And no, I don't think that this town needs to read about every ailment I meet. I do, however, think that I ought to write about every ailment that teaches me something. So, here's where the flu from the horrible abyss gets to live on in print because it sort of taught me things.

Let me back up.

Last week, I was a tornado of the Mommy variety. There was so much to do! I buzzed between the children and the garden and the chores in bouts of manic but unfocused severity.

It seemed like every time I tried to do something, I was interrupted by another thing. With each interruption, I redoubled my energy upon the new task, only to watch my focus dwindle with the effort - until I was surrounded by nothing but unfinished tasks and fussy children.

And those were the only things I could see.

Yes. Where there could have been a happy child I saw a ketchup addict; where there could have been a painting adventure I saw a ruined kitchen; and where there could have been a world in bloom I saw an unworkable mud pit.

So what did I do? Did I slow down and enjoy things? No! I slugged back some hot water (knowing that I was too flustered to enjoy the taste of tea) and I unleashed my health and energy on what I saw as a lacking household.

But then I got sick.

I don't want to belabor this - especially since so many of you are fighting worse illnesses than my simple little flu virus - so I'll be brief.

I do not handle the flu well. Rather, I handle it like a character in a Jane Austen novel, except without the encouraging idea that if I survive I'll get to go to the ball.

I was sick for two days. The first day was filled with miracles in reverse digestion, and the second was veiled by fever and delirium.

And so I slipped into the darkness of ache and fatigue - where the mental confusion is so overwhelming that the onion doesn't even realize that she smells like a housewife. Er, something.

While I was pining under the weight of my enormous fever, what I did not realize was that the world - my household - was going on without me. The children were surviving under The Husband's not-manic measures of care, the house was holding together, and the garden was just... springing. All on its own.

At the end of Day Two I was just full enough of clear soda to stand on two feet without cursing gravity. I wobbled my way to the living room, where the children were playing a game.

It's funny: when I'm not around the children for a while, they grow less needy - and more compatible. It's as if I could just leave out four sets of boxing gloves and two boxes of Cheerios for them and, you know, hide under my bed all day with a flashlight and a book. But I digress.

After admiring my sweet little boys for a while, I swiveled toward the front door for a breath of fresh air.

And I was out of the tunnel.

In just those two days of darkness, everything had changed! The peonies had forged green explosions where meagre red shoots once stood. The aspen trees had gone from peeping to quaking. And the crab apple blossoms, windswept, were winding downward like silken rain. Light, fragrance, and warmth washed over me.

I, the onion, stood in the middle of spring with nothing to do but enjoy it.

But that was not all. No awakening from misery is without little vestiges of pain, and amidst my fatigue and the shock of the open air, I felt one pain which was extremely welcome - that most lucid, most existence-affirming of all aches: hunger.

It seems twisted to celebrate the flu, but why not?

Why not celebrate something that reintroduces a person to her surroundings, and makes even hunger welcome?

And I learned that, even when I can't manage the things and people around me, I can still enjoy them.

But that's enough writing for now, because The Husband is under a blanket, weathering a horrible fever, and he might need some clear soda or some reassurance that he's human.

I feel badly for the poor fella, but, I'm also excited for him! Because I wonder... what will he get to see when he wakes up?

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