2011-02-25 / Commentary

Forty– something

Freedom and the flu
By Mike Maddock

As I was lying in bed with a 103–degree fever feeling worse than any college football team from South Carolina just after bowl season, a strange feeling came over me. It was a feeling that reared its head between my shivers and bouts of nausea.

The flu hit me like a juiced up linebacker, but it also gave me freedom – the freedom to be a complete load and watch as much worthless television with none of the guilt. Despite the accompanying feeling of impending death, that feeling of freedom was absolutely welcome… at least for a little while.

My symptoms and their offenses made me about as desirable as Mel Gibson after a few beers. Nobody wanted me around. My family hid from me, and my coworkers held up crosses and threatened me with garlic. So I was left alone to stew in my own misery without the obligations of family, work, or anything else. I was free…at least until the medications kicked in.

It’s a high price to pay for a little alone time, but I must admit it was kind of nice that the hardest part of those few days on the mend was finding something decent to watch on TV. Of course, the fever and sprints to the bathroom weren’t much fun, but having only one obligation (me) was a welcome change to the responsibilities of daily life.

How pathetic is that? I mean I actually enjoyed having the flu. Maybe the word enjoy is a tad bit strong, but taking a break from the real world for a few days was something I dreamed about. Who knew all I had to do was catch a really nasty cold to get some peace?

Don’t get me wrong. This life is the life I’ve chosen and love living, but as they say, “Too much of a good thing is still too much.” So I’ll take the relaxation when I can get it, even if I’m hallucinating a little bit.

There are other benefits to brief yet intense illness as well. While I was sick I didn’t think about doing the first sit–up, and I ate s’mores for dinner. The beauty of recovering from the flu is that it doesn’t have the first thing to do with rock hard abs or health food. If a Hershey’s Bar topped with marshmallows surrounded by Graham crackers made be feel better, then that’s what was on the menu.

The flu also gave me the freedom to be a schmuck. Not that I enjoy being a jerk, but sometimes it is fun to be the guy who sends his steak back three times. When I’m ill, my tolerance for incompetence, no matter how slight, goes right out the window. It’s a good time for me to get those letters from the insurance company that say, “Your policy does not allow for coverage of this procedure” and a bad time for those who answer phones at BlueCross BlueShield.

Eventually the flu goes away and so does the freedom that comes with it. Reality and responsibilities return along with the pressure to exercise and eat lean meats and vegetables. But after three or four days of daytime television, those things don’t seem so bad.

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