A Cold Again, Naturally

Well, I’m sick again.

When I say “sick,” I mean I have a cold. When I say “again,” I mean this is the second cold I’ve had since January, and it’s only March. Last year, I had at least four colds, each one a mucous-powered force of nature that arrived in a flurry of coughing and wheezing and went on to overstay its welcome.

I know what you’re thinking: It can’t be that bad, it’s only a cold. And you’re right. It isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it is a pain. On the continuum of colds, the one I have now is somewhere between “My head feels like a balloon but not in a good way” and “Dear God, I can’t breathe or form coherent thoughts.” This is a problem because my profession relies on me being able to think in complete sentences. Cold medicine helps a bit, but it also makes me more spacey than usual.

To be fair, my job is probably the reason I’ve been getting sick so often. Most days, I run into hundreds of students and colleagues, many of whom are carrying their own little sicknesses. Since last year, I’ve attempted everything I can think of to avoid communicable viruses. Every time I walk past a sink, I wash my hands. I avoid touching my face as much as possible, and I clean my cellphone and computer keyboard every morning and afternoon. I’ve tried positive thinking. I’ve even considered adding a statement to my course syllabus implementing an “address me from across the room until we establish you’re harboring no pathogens” policy.

Still, I keep coming down with these stupid colds.

This isn’t an attempt to gain sympathy. Yes, I understand everyone gets colds, and sure, I know all about the “man flu,” where a man has a cold but claims he has the flu, moaning, challenging God, and rolling around on the floor covered in wads of tissue. That’s not what I’m doing, or at least I don’t think so. Only my wife can say for sure. 

The reason I mention this is to share a few helpful observations. When I was younger, a cold was something that came and went with little fanfare. Now that I’m older, living with it gives me time to reflect and analyze. Psychologists may have largely rejected the seven stages of grief, but I’ll go on record as saying my colds have ten distinct phases:

Stage One: That’s an odd little tickle in my throat.

Stage Two: Didn’t I blow my nose ten minutes ago?

Stage Three: I’m hot. Now I’m cold. No, wait. I was wrong. I’m somehow hot and cold at the same time.

Stage Four: My muscles ache like I pedaled a bicycle to the moon.

Stage Five: I’m trapped in my bed.

Stage Six: Turns out walking isn’t the problem. Getting up off the floor is the problem.

Stage Seven: I wonder if I could pay someone to tie my shoes?

Stage Eight: Finally, I can breathe again.

Stage Nine: Never mind. I just coughed myself out of bed.

Stage Ten: Recovery.

In case you’re wondering, my current cold is in Stage Four, which means I have another three or four days of hacking, draining, and cold medicine-induced flakiness to endure. Every time I’m in this stage, I tell myself I’ll appreciate feeling good again when it finally happens.

That’s never been true so far, though, and if I’m honest, I doubt it ever will be.