Recently I was Sorely Afflicted with the flu, and the reason I know it was the flu is because:

1. I started thinking in Selective Capitalization, which in healthy times I find hilarious but in Dire Times I require to adequately represent my Internal Emotional Landscape.

2. I became intensely aware of just exactly how much skin I have on my body, because all of it ached. SO MUCH SKIN! Is all this skin really necessary?

3. The hot-cold-hot-cold cycle got so out of hand that at one point I realized I was wearing thermal socks, gym shorts, two hoodies and Christmas earrings (because I’m festive).

Needless to say, this whole episode was a real betrayal. Not only did I get the flu vaccine two months ago, but I so rarely get sick that I forget between times how to handle it.

Do I write farewell letters? Not stand up straight and kind of shuffle around going “Nnnnnnggggggggg” so that everyone understands the depths of my suffering?

Slather ChapStick directly onto my nostrils until it is approximately 3/8-inch thick, on account of they’re so chapped from all the blowing that I Google “nose-ectomy” right after applying the ChapStick?

If, like me, you also forget the phases of being sick, I’ve written it all down this time:

Phase I: Uh-Oh

This is when I become aware that something’s Not Quite Right. But I don’t want to jinx myself or be a hypochondriac, so I go to work like the sociopath with no respect for herd immunity or the virus incubation period that I am. (Public service announcement: PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS!! STAY HOME!)

But seriously, I’m probably just tired, right?

That’s definitely a valid reason for why I wore clothing made entirely of sandpaper, though I don’t recall it being sandpaper when I bought it.

Phase II: Aaaaand Now I’m Hot/Cold

Dang it.

Phase III: Welp, I Guess I’ll Go Home

Here’s the problem, though: I know I’m sick, but since I’m not audibly or visibly ill yet, I really need to ham it up as I walk out the door.

Me (in mournful tones, with a soupçon of affected scratchiness, and face as downcast as it will go): Farewell. I must retire to my bed of wretchedness.

Co-workers: See ya, Vincent Price.

Phase IV: But First I Need to Stop at the Store for Cold Medicine

If this isn’t a winter tableau then I don’t know what is: a bunch of mouth breathers standing dead-eyed in front of the TheraFlu, raising their arms to get it off the shelf with such deliberation that it’s obvious they feel like they’re encased in Jell-O.

At least I wasn’t alone in my suffering?

This is also the phase of self-pitying impulse buys: I require fizzy water and pudding, even though I rarely eat it, and a travel magazine and this three-pack of holiday-themed ChapStick.

Phase V: It’s OK if I Just Have a Little Nap Here in the Entryway, as My Bedroom Is Approximately 2.3 Miles Away with an Altitude Gain of 9,874 Feet

Why didn’t I think to keep sweatpants in the entryway? Why, oh why, unfeeling and indifferent universe?? Not that I would have the energy to put them on.

Phase VI: OK, Fine, Alternately Ooze/Seal Crawl to the Bedroom

And then get under the covers in my work outfit, possibly including shoes, and fall asleep for however long it takes to drown myself in drool.

I also like to follow this up with being so disoriented when I awake that I don’t know if the clock is registering A.M. or P.M., I don’t remember what day it is and this may or may not be my house.

Phase VII: And Now It’s Time to Spend Two or Three Days Breathing Through One Nostril or the Other, but not Both at the Same Time, and Intermittently Crying

An incomplete list of things I cried over this go-around with the flu:

The concept of inter-species friendships.

The battlefields that Civil War soldiers endured. (I wasn’t reading or watching anything about the Civil War, I just had a passing thought.)

The Carpool Karaoke episode with Paul McCartney.

The inexorable passage of time.

My beautiful Christmas tree.

Phase VIII: Farewell, Cruel World, the Sun Will Never Shine Again and the Flowers Will Never Bloom and I Will Never Feel Good Again

Things get a little bleak on day three of ending every breath with a phlegm-y rattle, and also no showers because who has the oomph?

Phase IX: But Wait, What’s This? Did I Just Breathe Through Both Nostrils?

And just like that, All’s Right with the World.


Rachel Sauer can be emailed at

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