As much as I like sweaters and boots, there are three things heralded by the arrival of fall that I don’t enjoy, and those are:
and weight gain.
I should say ‘candy’ because it’s alliterative and probably more honest, but I do enjoy candy and of course that’s my problem. There happens to be a bag of rainbow-colored candy in my otherwise empty fruit bowl right now.
I’m also fighting a cold. Since I live in Southern California, the weather is glorious, as it usually is in October, and I can’t complain about that. It seems to add some extra poignancy to be bundled on the couch, seeing the cloudless blue sky and infinitely preferring to be outdoors.
As far as I know, I’ve had a cold at least once every year of my life. Since there are supposed to be roughly 200 varieties of the common cold, I should be immune to them all in roughly 150 years, which will be fantastic. Until then, it’s become a predictable part of our lives to the extent that we just bought cold medicine in bulk at Costco. Two weeks before I got sick.
Given its predictability, we can plan around it to an extent.
To me, one of the worst things about getting sick is the week afterward. You’re still feeling low and your place is full of dirty laundry and empty of groceries. Dragging around feeling like it will never end, taking out the trash in the rain. Why do people like fall again??
This is why I become vigilant this time of year. I don’t generally believe in “stocking up” but I do check our quantities of a few things.
Pet food. Mucinex. Canned soup. Also my special jar of Super Bio Veg, aka “bouillon cubes” due to its striking taste of mushrooms and garlic.
The best thing about living in the 21st century is grocery delivery through an app. Last winter, I got sick while my husband was out of town, and I was able to order all the soup, juice, and cough drops I could ever want straight to my front door. The only issue with this is that only a portion of a store’s inventory is available online, and you can’t always get what you want.
[insert appropriate guitar lick]
Along with predictable inventory issues, we can predict that our households will probably be out of commission for at least a week every fall and winter. Think back a few years. I’ve known families with little kids in which the whole lot of them seem to be down three weeks a month. They basically put up an alert on social media saying DON’T COME OVER.
What does this mean? What can we do?
We have to take advantage of the time we have available when we are feeling relatively energetic and vertical. That’s what we can do.
Here is an exercise. Join me over here on the couch, if you will, and lie down. That’s it. Close your eyes. Now take a deep sigh and open your eyes and look around the room. If you see anything that annoys you or makes you feel glum, pop up and take care of it. I can tell you from down here, as soon as you get your first cold of the year, you’re going to be spending a lot of time looking at it, and you’re certainly not going to enjoy it any more when you’re ill than you do today.
In my case, the objectionable item happens to be my P90X DVDs, taunting me by reminding me how far I am from peak energy level right now.
For others, depending on where their couch is, it might be a pile of laundry, or a bunch of donation bags that haven’t gone out, or a stain on the carpet, or a desk covered in papers. Who knows. I don’t but I bet you do.
I have a lot of sympathy for Sick Me because her days are difficult and boring. From a distance it can seem cozy. Oh yeah, it will be great, I’ll just catch up on reading and have some naps. In reality, I can never concentrate on a book when I’m ill, and I seem to have a lot of legendary nightmares. Attacked by crocodiles that have hatched in the living room, hair full of spiders, all that good stuff.
If only our sick time could be a happy kind of downtime, a sweet staycation full of dancing around the living room and picnics on the lawn.
It can be very difficult for us to imagine Future Self and use that image as motivation to make our future lives easier. Yeah, sure, like I’m really going to “save money” for that crazy old bat. Who does she think she is? Well, me I guess. Future Me is me.
I think, though, that most of us can call up an image of being down with the flu or a pernicious case of the common cold. We can remember the last time, what we did that week (cough cough), and how it felt. We can use this image for a little extra boost of inspiration. Negative inspiration, yes, but many of us do better with a pushing-away image than we do with a pulling-toward.
Please, Past Self, save me from having to do three weeks of laundry while getting over the flu! You’re my only hope.
The truth is that I’m not really all that sick. Not compared to previous iterations. Sick enough to need two two-hour naps a day, sick enough that it’s a struggle to bring my dog downstairs in the elevator for a potty break. Sick enough that I need to lie down for a while if I’ve been vertical for ten minutes. But, no respiratory symptoms, no cough, no fever. I’m hearing that whatever is going around seems to cause laryngitis, and I certainly don’t have that. I can feel my immune system doing its job. Moral: zinc works.
The point of my story is that most of the work we do, we do for our own selves. We’re always trying to give ourselves a soft landing. A little extra for Future Self. Let’s all take a moment to show compassion for Future Sick Self and prepare a little while we’re up.
Here’s my wish that this year, you make it through unscathed.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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