God and the common cold

I have a cold.

I have a snorting, hacking, eye-weeping, sore-throat, pounding-head, hard to sleep kind of a cold, despite all the herbal and chemical remedies in the world. I got it in Hawaii (which just seems wrong) and it’s now reached the pinnacle of disgusting awfulness. I’ve lost five days of writing time because my thoughts have to struggle their way through damp cotton wool to reach the surface.

When my kids were young, sending them to school with so much as a sniffle would bring a phone call from the office firmly requesting that you come and fetch this object of contagion, and not bring it back until it stopped blowing its nose in, oh, about six weeks. (This method was enthusiastically supported by the teachers, whose class sizes became almost manageable for a few weeks at the height of the season.)

Now, I understand, at least in some enlightened private schools, kids with colds are not only permitted, but encouraged to show up.

Seems they’ve realized that colds have a purpose, and anyway there’s only 140 of them to develop immunity to.

I’ve suspected for years that stamping out the common cold might be a short-sighted goal, because I’m a theologian (of the recovering variety, but that too may be appropriate here.) Theologically speaking, God doesn’t tend to dump stuff on us without a purpose. This theory rams into a wall of common sense when one confronts some of the truly despicable behavior humans are capable of, but since my brain is too filled with cotton wool to deal with complex thoughts, I’m not even going to try on that one.

But in general, leaving aside the human ability to self-mutilate, life is a machine that functions well as it is. You can call this Mother Nature, evolutionary inevitability, or God, as you prefer.

God gave us colds, because the machinery of our bodies needs them. Without the yearly challenge to the immune system, the body doesn’t know what to do when it’s faced with a more demanding disease. Just like they’re beginning to find that allergies and asthma are linked to too sterile a childhood, and that even peanut allergies can be tackled straight on.

So it comforts me, to know that I am currently being blessed by God and/or the demands of millions of years of evolutionary design, and working my way through a cold.

Now if you’ll pardon me, I have to go cough up a lung.

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  1. Chris on March 27, 2009 at 6:13 am

    Horrible – get well soon! Hope the flight back from Hawaii wasn’t TOO unbearable with all the symptons, nothing worse than take offs and landings. Oh, apart from that bit in the middle… I have to catch an early flight to Madrid tomorrow, with the back end of a ten-day migraine still lurking. My sympathies…!

  2. strawberry curls on March 27, 2009 at 6:36 am

    I love that you have given me a whole new perspective on the misery of a cold. At least you haven’t lost your sense of humor, which would be truly tragic, there just isn’t enough laughter these days. Thank you for giving me a smile, a chuckle and a good laugh this morning. –Alice

  3. Staci on March 27, 2009 at 6:38 am

    Sorry to hear that you are feeling under the weather.
    Get Well Soon!

  4. Canzonett on March 27, 2009 at 6:39 am

    Coughing and sneezing in unison.
    Makes me wonder if St Paul did or did not have a cold while writing about the relation of flesh and spirit …

    Get well soon!

  5. Laidee Marjorie on March 27, 2009 at 7:23 am

    Ah. This brings back memories of my days as part of a repertory theatre company. When a play was about to open there was before the opening the horror known as Tech Week. This was the time that all the careful work done in the rehearsal room with the actors was thrown out the window while sets, costumes, props, lights and sound were added. The long hours were tedious, frustrating and prone to flare ups of tempers all around while all the elements workd to interlace into seamlessness on stage.

    With every one of these tech weeks, no matter the season or the weather, the artistic director of the company, a man already stretched to his limits, would get a cold. Not just a cold, but similar to you, Laurie, one filled with hacking coughs, watery eyes and an endless stream of used tissues. It never failed. If he was sick, it was tech week. My theory, not to get too touchy-feely here, is that his body was responding to the stress in a way that forced to him slow down, take it easy, not overreach. A sort of mental ‘wheat from the chaff’ process.

    While sometimes a cold is just a cold (Freud, anyone?), it may also be that the body is trying to tell you something about dealing with all those outside forces when overwhelming, both good and not so good.

    In the meantime, Laurie, guzunheit and heal quickly. You have a lot on your plate in the next month…Two months…Year!


  6. Tangential1 on March 27, 2009 at 7:33 am

    Wow, you are way more optimistic about a cold than I am. I usually end up interspersing cursing with my coughing… and then drown my misery in NyQuil and tea. And I almost always stay at home when I’m not feeling well…less from concern for my fellow employees and more because my temper shortens when I’m sick and I’m afraid of committing homicide in the workplace 😉

    Feel better soon!

  7. Kerry on March 27, 2009 at 10:18 am

    While it is true that contracting a cold will ramp up your immune system and help it deal with more serious challenges, please don’t forget that it can also open you wide up for falling prey to those very challenges. Take care of yourself, and watch out for those secondary infections (speaketh the woman who has gone from cold to pneumonia and sinus infection to bronchitis, one right after the other!).

    And in case anyone was wondering, the latest research suggests that vitamin C does nothing to prevent colds but can, in at least some people, shorten their duration and severity somewhat. Just saying . . .

  8. classics_fiend on March 27, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    So sorry to hear about the cold. . .and during the short break you get too, what timing!

    Hope you get better soon!

  9. Sara on March 27, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    I work in a preschool/kindergarten environment. I’m pretty much sick from August to June.

    There are several tissue brands with lotion in them- they are lovely, as noses tend to get worn out quickly while enduring the cold.

    There is a great Bill Cosby quote, I believe, relating small children with colds to ‘glazed donuts.’ Apt. Very, very apt.

    But everyone keeps telling me that after a year, two, three….27….I’ll build up my immunity.

    Take care. Wash your hands. A lot.

  10. Jessara on March 27, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    Poor Laurie. I just realized that since retiring two years ago from a workplace where Every Single Person Except Me had school-age children, I have had a total of two colds. I used to get four every year. Incredible as it seems, I don’t miss them, nor do I feel less blessed. After much research, I found that Delsym every twelve hours is the only thing on the market that stops coughs. I keep a prophylactic bottle of it, and a supply of Day/Nyquil too, just in case. Maybe I’m onto something here. Or maybe I’m just asking for trouble.

  11. Elizabeth on March 28, 2009 at 6:46 am

    Poor Laurie. I currently work in a place where (like Jessara) Every Single Person Except Me has school age children and also has been sick in the last two weeks. I’m waiting my turn because I know it’s coming (even if the colds pass me by, I’m allergic to the building I work in, so I’m sniffly and miserable mid-April through October.)

    Feel better soon, and may it comfort you to know that I finished Justice Hall for the first time yesterday, then chafed all night because I left my copy of The Game at work…and yesterday, I told my colleague the adult librarian that she Had Better Order Locked Rooms for me BEFORE she left for the day yesterday…and that if The Language of Bees wasn’t in processing as soon as it was available, no more cookies for her.

  12. Lizanne on March 28, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    Hoping you are better soon. 🙂

  13. Leanne on March 28, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    First, I hope you feel better soon.

    Second, as a mother who has been caring for a very sick toddler all week and bouncing back from the same flu, I find my misery loving some company here!

    Third, I absolutely agree with your view on colds. Our immune systems require training. I grew up with a dozen daycare children living in my home and drooling on all my things, and by middle school I was never sick. I became a teacher and was one of the few new teachers to not be sick her entire first year. And even my husband got twice as sick as I did with this last flu, caught from our daughter (I thank the antibodies I got from nursing her, though).

    And finally, is it easier to recover from a cold or theology?

  14. Laraine on March 28, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    Laurie, may the cold be nearly gone even as I write . . . but if it isn’t, don’t take it lightly–get thee to your herbalist/acupuncturist and/or your MD. I’ve seen quite a bit of this one in the university clinic and in my private practice, and it isn’t one to mess with. I relate both to your view of the immune system (don’t stamp out the common cold, or a lot of other symptoms that tell us important things!!) and theology.
    Hang in there, eat your pears and cabbage (not together, though) and hot toddy.

  15. Meredith T. on March 28, 2009 at 10:47 pm

    Oh, feel better soon. In the division of unlikely remedies, once I lived in England in a dreadful Bayswater bedsitter. The char lady recommended for a cold “hot Scotch and Beecham’s powder.” I’m not sure the Beecham’s did anything but I certainly went to sleep as though stunned. take care of yourself//Meredith

  16. Jessica on March 30, 2009 at 11:31 am

    Ugh, a cold….sending prayers your way for a speedy recovery. Also to Kerry, what misery, I can’t imagine! Reminds me of when I first found out I was pregnant with my daughter–morning sickness and a cold on top of that; I was miserable.

    Unlike others here with seasonal allergies, I have them year round. Every morning I wake up to a sneeze-fest that lasts until at least an hour after I take my Zyrtec and Sudafed. God Bless the people who made those two medicines; I can finally breathe because of them!

  17. Merrily on March 30, 2009 at 11:49 am

    I’m late in getting to this news, the bright side of which is, perhaps you are better now! I personally think that any time spent on a plane is guaranteed to bring on and/or exacerbate a cold, meaning (to follow on with your line of thinking) that the miserable discomfort we experience on today’s planes is also An Instrument of God. Hmmmm….

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