The Gifts of the Common Cold

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Hot tea has been an especially important part of my life the past few days…

This week, I’ve been reminded of the gifts of the common cold. I apparently caught this cold just at the end of a six-day visit to Puerto Rico (so there goes any sympathy you might have had for me right there ;-)), and it’s hung around for a few days now. This common cold is a moderate one: more frequent and longer naps than usual, plenty of nasal decongestant, some throat lozenges, and lots of tissues in waste baskets; but no cough syrup, tea-and-toast meals throughout the day, or being laid out in bed for hours upon hours at a time.  Enough discomfort to disrupt my sleep and alter my routine, but not enough to keep me awake all night or keep me from observing the hidden blessings that reside beyond the annoying sinus pressure, runny sore nose, and dry throat.

The most obvious gift, of course, is that having a cold makes me appreciate being healthy. Like most people (I imagine), I tell myself when I’m sick to remember this so that I can be thankful when I’m healthy again. Over time, all those reminders while being sick have helped me remember now and then to appreciate being healthy when I actually am. But I could definitely be better at it — daily thanks for good health is probably beyond my capacity for virtue, but weekly reminders to be thankful for good health might be something I could manage.

Other gifts I’ve observed are a bit more subtle. One is having blanket permission to slow down. Normally, slowing down requires an effort on my part which is hard to sustain, plus it makes me feel old every once in a while. Moving fast with a common cold just doesn’t feel very good, whereas moving slowly actually makes me feel a bit better.

This applies even more to my mind, which has a tendency to race around for much of the day and night despite more serious attention recently to doing daily meditation. Having a cold makes it OK, and to some extent necessary, for my mind to slow down and take it easy more of the time.

I’m also finding it easier to appreciate the simpler things — the variety of tea flavors, or the difference between a scratchy facial tissue and a really scratchy one. (I don’t have any of those really soft ones in the house.) It’s also much easier to appreciate those things that I normally take for granted, such as doing cardio or strength exercise (I’m been sticking to yoga and stretching for now) or having an appetite. Or drinking red wine — I had a glass a couple of nights ago, and I won’t do that again; it didn’t taste that good, and I didn’t feel all that great afterwards, the exact opposite of what we want a wine-drinking experience to be.

As this particular cold appears to be entering the low-voice, sniffly latter stages, I find myself wondering: does a common cold give us common gifts or uncommon ones? My mind is still too foggy to think this one through, so for now I’ll content myself with capturing the silver linings from this cold before the clouds entirely lift from my sinuses. Who knows — maybe if I accept the gifts from this cold and take its lessons to heart, it will be that much longer before the next cold arrives with its lessons to re-learn — or so I can dream as I lapse (and sometimes it takes a common cold to turn lapsing into a desirable act) into the reverie of one more nap…

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