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Not in a long time have I so effectively wasted time. You’d think being grounded for a week with the flu—the coughing kind, not the other—would open about ninety-six hours of time to catch up on sedentary tasks like reading the accumulating journals at your couch-side, sending a few cards out to cheer others, cleaning up the hard drive on your laptop…you know, things that require little physical effort.

Instead, I accomplished nothing. And this is what I discovered…

  1. Time passes quickly doing nothing. Before you know it, it’s time to retrace your steps from the couch back to the bedroom.
  2. The world continues without you. You are vaguely aware that “breaking news” spins on.
  3. There is time to ponder the meaning of life, death, career, and retirement, but you could care less about any of these. More salient is whether your fleece throw is adequately swaddled around your feet and your neck. Chills are your companion and the fleece helps quell.
  4. An ice bag attains new significance. Whereas previously used for muscle sprains, it now becomes an essential accomplice in numbing the unbelievable headache that accompanies the first few days of this respiratory flu. This headache is a visitor you’d rather not have allowed in the door.
  5. The few people in your shrunken life become very important:

They are your lifeline to meals delivered to your couch (although this is not a new role for my husband, my widowed family members remind me that I should never take this meals-on-no-wheels service for granted).

They deliver a decaf Frappuccino just when your limp cellular structures need the little bit of caffeine it can afford. For a few minutes, your eyes see things that only seconds before were a gray blur. You become aware of your daughter and granddaughter standing across the room, hands over their noses and mouths, while they issue muffled sounds of caring about your state of being. Meanwhile, you wonder if they’re also wondering about your state of mind.

They deliver human voice contact by a well-timed phone call. How can I thank a person close to me who’s facing much more serious health concerns than I for her phone call of concern? Or they deliver funny words by email that remind you humor is not dead, even if your sense of humor is barely functioning during your body’s serious shut-down mode.

my quiet comforting view

Okay, I’d gotten the flu shot. When the flu news reached my city, I’d behaved myself—no large crowds, no over scheduling…all the usual self-care activities that older folks know to do. I could not have done much more.

But that’s my point. Despite my good actions, I got the flu. The energy-depleting, coughing, chilling, headache and other achy kind, that grounded me for a week. And I got nothing accomplished. I couldn’t even formulate a cohesive thought. I effectively wasted a block of time.

In a way, it was a lovely respite from the world. I may take my time for reentry.