3 Things I Learned from Having the Flu

(An alternative title for this post could be “the week the germs came to stay.”)

Last week, I had the flu. Or a virus. The doctor—who was unfortunately named Kevorkian—was vague. “Could be the flu. It could be a virus,” he said, shrugging. I was too late for Tamiflu, he explained, so he wrote me prescriptions for cough medicine and a decongestant, and recommended I take it easy for the next 10 days, the amount of time I would likely need to start feeling like myself. “No stress,” he said as a parting gift. Right….

By the time I stumbled into the walk-in clinic to see him, I had been sick for three days, having turned coughing into an Olympic sport. My voice was gone, I had a fever, and I alternated between shivering and freezing. I was tired, and generally unhappy by the state of my health. Being sick is no fun.

In my I-feel-awful condition, I was reminded of a commercial I had seen on television. In it, a woman opens a door, and sticks her head through the doorway to speak with someone. She’s sick, with red-rimmed eyes and a runny nose. “Amanda?” she says. “I’m going to have to take tomorrow off.” The camera pulls back to show you Amanda; she’s a toddler playing in her bedroom, not a boss from work behind a big desk, as you had thought. The commercial goes on to promote a cold medicine, something to help busy parents who cannot get sick get better fast. The next shot is of the mom and Amanda, skipping down the stairs together, all smiles and giggles.

I wanted one of those miracle medical solutions last week, but Dr. Kevorkian didn’t have a prescription for that. His advice was to take it easy, drink fluids, get lots of sleep, and let my body heal. No bounding down the stairs, like Amanda’s mom; the flu kept me out of the office for most of the week.


The train to good health… A get well soon picture my son made for me

My husband—who definitely won the #1 parenting award last week—took care of the kids and me, replenishing my tea, buying more juice, making dinner and school lunches, and keeping the kids away from me (though, to be fair, it was daughter who brought these germs into our house, so I should have been staying away from her a lot sooner). He, truly, was my equivalent to Amanda’s mom’s magic medicine.

In between my coughing and shivering, I did manage to learn three new things, or, at least, three observations became clear:

1. It’s okay to do nothing. The hardest part about having the flu, for me, was being unproductive. Lying on the couch, sleeping, barely watching television (those “Real Housewives” shows are awful!), or perhaps reading a book was all I could rally to do. The go-go-get-‘em part of me, the part that manages my to do list, was conflicted. I have so much to accomplish! It seemed wrong to not try to cross one or two (or three) things off the list. Only focus on getting better? It seemed… not enough. My body thought otherwise, and I realized it’s—sometimes—okay to do nothing, to put aside to do lists, to spend time not focusing on accomplishments but on yourself.

2. Being healthy truly is most important. I knew this one before the flu; being sick reinforced it. Being sick is no fun; it really gets in the way of living.

3. Don’t make sick days fun. I learned this one when the virus/flu (in a much milder form) reached my son. Since I still wasn’t feeling 100%, I let him stay in his pajamas all day and watch a movie of his choice (no negotiating with his sister). The next day, he protested his return to school, calling for more On Demand television and pajamas. I had made his sick day enjoyable, and he wanted another. Next time: no television and I’ll make him clean the bathroom.

And because the flu doesn’t like to be alone, the rest of my family, in one way or another, also spent last week sick. (And, we all got flu shots!) We’re ground zero for coughing and sniffling. At least, we’re in this together.

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