Peace with Honor and the common cold

Having battled at least one cold or bout of the flu virtually every year that I’ve been on this planet, I’ve decided to seek Peace with Honor. That’s right. I’m waving a big white Bounty towel and seeing if I can negotiate more favorable terms of surrender.

I might as well surrender because I’ve never won a battle against the common cold. Pretty much it’s seven to10 days of feeling lousy, no matter what you do or don’t do. You can relieve a few of the symptoms, but there’s no defeating the cold.

It’s 1:49 a.m. as I sit here writing. Why?

Because the cold I’ve got said, “Hey, wake up or I’m gonna strangle you in your own phlegm, buddy.” My response: “Yes SIR!” followed by jumping out of bed, into a steaming hot shower.

The shower is where my ability to breathe gets restored, through a symphony of snorting, sneezing, coughing and farmer blows. It’s not pretty.

This afternoon at Trimble Hot Springs, when my cold suggested, “I think another hour or two of soaking is called for,” having already been there two hours, I complied without argument. Soaking did feel good, even if my toes and fingers are now permanently pruned.

For years I’ve battled colds and flus with over-the-counter remedies, egged on by decongestant commercials that promised, if I swilled enough NyQuil, not only could I operate heavy equipment with abandon, but go to work and share my disease with all my co-workers as well.

Why is that? If everybody stayed home when they got sick, wouldn’t the spread of colds and flus screech to a halt like Rommel running out of gas?

The enemy has demanded I stay home and quit carpet-bombing Hanoi with Dristan. I might as well, since I work at home anyway. If lying in bed and watching god-awful daytime TV isn’t enough to make you want to go back to work, it’s proof to any reasonable human being alive that you’re sick. Daytime TV is awful. Utterly awful. No sadistic boss or backstabbing coworker is worse than hours upon end of “The Young and the Restless” or “Days of our Lives.”

Westerners talk about “conquering” Mt. Everest, whereas all Tenzig Norgay and the locals ever talked about was establishing peace, love and understanding. I’ve decided to take that tactic in dealing with General Rhinovirus, since I have about as much chance of defeating him as I do of summiting Mount Everest.

So when Rhino says “Sleep,” I climb under the covers. When he says “Another hot shower,” I jump in for my seventh shower in a day. “A little less Vitamin C, please, you’re annoying my stomach,” and I immediately reduce the dosage. The most usual command is “Turn off that damn alarm clock and roll over.” I comply immediately with that one.

If Rhino wants me to write stories or read books at 1:57 a.m. and crash at 6:59 a.m. as neighbors begin slamming doors and warming up cars and dragging trash cans out to the street, I’m going along with His game plan.

Yesterday, when Rhino said, “Hot soup,” we had hot soup. When he said “Chocolate croissant and more distilled water for the ultrasonic humidifier” off went the bathrobe, on went the pants and out the door we went. He had to settle for a ginger snap, however, since he waited until too late in the day.

Rhino’s demands aren’t onerous. I have to salute, give him the “Yes Sir / No Sir” routine, and attend “Who’s the Virus” re-education classes, but as long as I go along, he quits torturing me.

In return for full compliance with the terms of the surrender, I’m allowed to breathe. To me, this seems like a fair enough trade-off.

Now I live on His schedule. I get to wander out at 3 a.m. and see stars I’ve never seen before. My cat thinks I’ve flipped my lid and is now sleeping instead of carousing all night, in a weird reversal of roles. But I tell myself, “It’s all good.”

I decided on my “Peace with Honor” strategy in a moment of sheer brilliance. “Why?” I asked myself, “Do I have to make myself miserable about the fact that I have a cold and can’t sleep at 2 a.m. Can’t I just lie in bed and read a book or get up and play chess on the computer, instead of being miserable, insisting on doing the shut-eye, lie-in-bed thing? I can sleep later.”

It no longer seems worth fighting over. So now, if a nap at 10 a.m. is ordered, I comply. Fortunately, as a writer, my clients really don’t care if I do my work at 4 p.m. or 2 a.m.

Realizing now, some 45 years late, that “Resistance is INDEED futile” is incredibly freeing. After all, if I can’t fight and win my bi-annual battle against the common cold, in what other area of my life should I consider laying down my arms and surrendering? What about traffic? No amount of screaming at other drivers through the windshield or switching lanes gets me home more than 30 seconds faster. Money and finances, well, they’ve always come and gone as they pleased, rather than as I might have wished them to. Maybe I should just try and negotiate a court-appointed visitation schedule instead of forever trying for permanent custody.

Perhaps colds, the flu, and even traffic are here to remind us that we’re not really Masters of our own I know, that sounds so damn anti-American. Here we are, the world’s remaining nuk-lar superpower, with the best brightest scientists in the world, pharmaceutical companies the size of Merck. Advertising has led us to believe that with flu shots and enough Dayquil and Nyquil and Eveningquil and Morningquil and Afternoonquil we can, indeed, control our own destiny. Then we find out we’ve been lied to. There were no viruses of mass something-er-other, and there is, yet, no cure for the common cold.

Perhaps surrendering to the common cold is the first step on a long spiritual path of turning over “those things I cannot change” to a higher power. Based on my revelation, I may form a 12-step support group. “Hi, my name is Wade, and I’ve achoo@! got a cold.”

But not for me, I’ve laid down my arms. Better a Peace with Honor than a conflict that goes on forever, infects innocent friends and coworkers, and destroys needless forests, chopped down to make paper towels

– Wade Nelson





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