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Off-Topic: Finding the Flu’s Silver Lining (No, really)

cloud silver liningThe flu has few redeeming qualities. It is a nasty and indiscriminate predator with a habit of lingering long after it has exacted its due from the unwilling host. I recently had the acute displeasure of being caught in the tenacious clutches of this viral beast. I have also watched helplessly as many a friend succumbed to a similar fate, sinking into a temporary oblivion that only time and patience can overcome.

From a distance, one might think that a few days laid up in bed would not be such a bad thing. I will admit to having frequently pined for a respite of uninterrupted rest and guilt-free reading time. The fever-induced couch coma that I received in answer to my silent prayer is testament to the wisdom of the cliche advice that we should be careful about what we wish for. There was nothing relaxing or comfortable about my week-long engagement with this year’s influenza.

To begin with, though I remained in a mostly horizontal position for the duration, I cannot recall – despite having ingested copious amounts of over-the-counter remedies – a single moment of true restfulness. The flu simply isn’t designed to deliver that kind of experience. It is much more vindictive than the kinder, gentler Victorian illnesses that called for fainting couches and trips to the seaside.

In general, the flu has evolved to render its victim so far past the point of caring that all but the most essential functions of life become optional. Showering, for instance, becomes a luxury that is easily passed up in favor of another twelve hours immobile on the sofa. Eating, once a much-anticipated activity of the day, becomes an arduous chore that is tackled without pleasure or the slightest hint of enthusiasm. Driving children to school becomes an insurmountable task that is best delegated to a healthier party, someone who will not get lost on the way.

In short, having the flu is akin to being forcibly removed from your life for however long it takes you to recover.

Though I risk the weak but fiercely justified wrath of anyone still pinned under the iron fist of this vicious affliction, I have to say that I think there is a silver lining to the flu. Having emerged on the other side, so to speak, I find that my flu-induced absence has made me appreciate the small pleasures of my life with fresh fervor.

It’s kind of like returning from a trip. Though a vacation has little in common with having the flu (unless it’s absolutely the most abysmal trip ever), there appears to be a strong similarity between coming home and recovering from an illness. Both transitions make the riches of our lives evident because they have been temporarily stolen away.

In the same way that our homes feel cozier and more welcoming after a time away, our lives feel sweeter and more full of good fortune when we finally feel well again. Things we once took for granted (like being able to taste our food, go for a walk, and get a good night’s sleep) are suddenly seen for the miracles they are. Though it renders us helpless, hopeless, and all kinds of miserable while it runs its course, the flu ultimately reminds us just how wonderful life is.

This isn’t to say that I wish the flu on anyone, but if it does come calling I hope you will take some comfort in knowing that the world will seem a brighter, friendlier place once you’re on the mend. Be well.



This piece originally appeared on and prior to that was published as part of my column series in my local paper, The Ipswich Chronicle.
Photo Credit: Broo_am (Andy B) via Compfight cc


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  1. Well said, Jamie. And having survived a serious illness some 20 years ago, I can say that you do go to another place when ill and the return to normal life is all the sweeter having been there.

    • Thank you, Judith.
      I suppose each trial we face – large or small – helps us to look at life from a different perspective. That doesn’t make the trials any less painful, but it does – hopefully – give them some purpose outside of making us miserable. 

  2. Sometimes our bodies remind us that we’re firing on too many cylinders, and rest and recuperation for rejuvenation is in order. Hope you’re fully in the pink again:) Cheers! Kaarina

    • Just about there, Kaarina.

      You’re right. We let our big brains keep pushing us farther and farther, faster and faster, when we should really be listening to our wise bodies and slowing the heck down. :)

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