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October 22, 2012
Life on Planet Kathy
The Blessing of Being Sick
by Kathryn H. Kidd

I got a good sleep last night, and the angels sang.

Let me tell you, sleep is something you don’t appreciate until you can’t get it. I’ve just spent about ten sleepless days, having been afflicted with a cold and a sinus infection that showed up right on top of each other.

Most people who get colds just get colds. This doesn’t happen on Planet Kathy. No, I have to make a production out of everything. I can have coughing fits that literally last for hours. I subsist on cans of soup and boxes of saltine crackers and Pepsis. And of course, the cold never goes away.

When I felt the first twinges of sickness, I pulled out the Airborne and the Zicam and started taking them religiously. Usually that helps. This time, it didn’t do a thing. The bacteria and the viruses (and I had some of each) just laughed scornfully. This was not a good sign.

A friend had loaded up our house with Kleenex “Cool Touch,” which makes your nose feel nice and cold and happy every time you use it. I immersed myself in those Kleenexes, but my nose did not even thank me for being so good to it. When we had a cooking class at our house one night, two people ventured over to my quarantined area of the family room to observe that my nose was so red I looked like Santa Claus.

The lack of sleep was the worst part. I wear a mask when I sleep, so I have to breathe through my nose. In the seven years I’ve been wearing the mask, it has stood up to every ailment. This time, there was nothing I could do to breathe. As soon as I reclined, breathing was impossible.

Between the inability to breathe and the marathon coughing fits, Fluffy banished himself to another bedroom. I sat in a chair one night for three hours, trying in vain to fall asleep sitting up. Nothing worked. The next night I only sat in the chair for an hour and a half and called it a good night.

When NyQuil and nose drops and bags (yes, that’s plural) of cough drops didn’t work, I finally called in the big guns and sent Fluffy out to get some Vicks VapoRub. We slathered it on the soles of my feet and put two socks on each foot before Fluffy outfitted me in my nightly leggings. Eureka! I finally got through a night without banishing Fluffy to another room. Vicks VapoRub is expensive, but it’s worth its weight in gold for people who cough at night.

I called in sick at the temple and slept for three hours straight. Then I slept the whole night (last night) through — thanks again to the Vicks VapoRub treatment. For the first time in a long time, I think I might live. The timing on this couldn’t be better, because Fluffy and I are scheduled to be secret shoppers in a hotel room tonight, and it’s hard to escape to another room when somebody is coughing if you’re staying in a hotel.

As annoying as it is to get sick from time to time, the best part of being sick is remembering how good it feels to be not-sick. Sleeping through the night is a luxury, but it happens so often that you forget to be grateful for it until you haven’t had it for a while.

The same thing is true of all the little blessings around us. We just assume the heat (or the air-conditioning) will turn on as needed, that the lights will illuminate the room at the flip of a switch, that the car will start when you turn the key in the ignition, that the refrigerator has kept your food cold and safe, and that the toilet will flush on demand and wash all your cares away. It’s only when those things don’t happen that we realize how much we depend on them, and how much easier they make our existence.

I, for one, am glad for colds that remind me how wonderful it is to sleep without a care, for a period of joblessness to remind me how glorious work can be, and for all the other annoyances we have that keep us from having a perfect existence. It’s the imperfections that point out to us how good we normally have it, and that make us grateful for the wonderful lives we are normally allowed to live.

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