Nothing: Just What the Doctor Ordered

To Do Nothing shutterstockHave you ever had one of those chest colds that drags on for two or three weeks? Wheezing, sneezing and coughing up stuff the color of vibrant plant life? It seems to go on forever, and it just won’t go away quickly like it did when we were younger.

I’ve been going through one of those stretches. I’m taking all the home remedies: the neti pot, the salt-water gargle, the ginger tea, the vapor rubs, the steam showers and the zinc tablets. I even wrapped my feet in mentholated booties.

I still can’t kick it.

So I gave in and went to my doctor, who promptly asked if I was getting enough rest. I said I was, and sleeping well enough at night except for the coughing. But that wasn’t what she meant.

“Dwayne,” she said in a voice more than a little perturbed. “I know you. Did you take two or three days off and do nothing but rest?”

“Yes,” I said, rather sheepishly. Because while it’s true I had taken a day off to rest, she had me fair and square on the “do nothing” part. I felt guilty about being home, so I cleaned out the closet, detailed my car and cooked a gourmet Chinese dinner for my wife.

“And I bet you checked emails all day,” she said with an eye roll.

“Only about 80 or 90,” I said under my breath.

With that, my doctor went into preaching mode. “Your body needs to heal,” she said. “You aren’t getting better because you are spending the resources (energy) needed to get better on other things. Your body needs ALL that energy to heal itself as quickly as possible. The older we get the less efficient our bodies are at healing, and we have to help them by resting and preserving energy.”

At some point as a little boy, I was programmed with two beliefs about being sick. The first is that being sick meant you were weak. Second, that if you were sick you had to earn being sick — meaning you had to do something worthy to offset your weakness. For me, making my wife dinner (and cleaning the closet and the car) was a way to show her I was earning my sickness. The sad reality is…I just got sicker. Plus, she didn’t expect me to earn my sickness in the least. She just wants me to get better!

Now on day 12 of my chest cold, I’ve learned my lesson. Perhaps we should all take a page from Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, who said: “I enjoy convalescence. It is the part that makes the illness worthwhile.” He did live to 94, so he must have been onto something when it came to getting over sickness.

So here I am, resting and doing nothing. Well, there’s this little blog, but heck that’s not work. And besides, I need to earn my time of being sick. Oh wait…

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