Reasons for Getting the Flu

I swear I didn't used to get sick this much when I was younger. Maybe it was just because I was younger. Now, the slightest thing seems to trigger the return--and it does seem like a return, the same flu over and over again--of this achiness, sore throat, sinus congestion, dehydration, loss of concentration and general all-round fatigue. Why? Why do I get sick so much now?

This past summer I decided to start keeping a list of the dates when I come down with flu. The last big bout was in late September, so it's been less than six months since I last felt this wretched. I had a brief something or other in late December, but that seems to have gone away fairly quickly. Whatever I have now is looking to hold on for at least a week.

I, of course, am convinced that there has to be a reason. Could it be...

a. It's the eighth week of term. I regularly get sick around the eighth week of term. But I'm only teaching a graduate seminar this term; it's not like I've been around that many students.

b. I just took a trip, as it happens, my first road trip with my puppy, but going somewhere to give a talk regularly brings on the flu. Perhaps it's the stress of performing in front of new people, perhaps it's the relief when the talk goes well, I'm not sure.

c. We went to a party Saturday night where I met lots of new people with lots of new germs. But, really, I've had this flu before; plus, I don't think anyone was sick at the party.

d. There's a tournament on Sunday. Oddly enough, I can't tell you how many tournaments, especially ones at our club, I've missed because I've been sick. This is the first one we've had since early November that I've been qualified to fence (the others were for kids), so of course I'm sick now.

e. I have a paper to write for a conference that I am going to in the middle of March, just over two weeks from now. I'm not panicked (yet) as the paper depends on part of a chapter that I have already in draft, but I really could do with having my head clear now so that I can start organizing my thoughts.

f. We just got our appliances reinstalled and it looks like our kitchen is actually going to be finished within the next month, so some of the stress that we've been living through is easing off. Plus, I didn't have to go to the laundromat to do the washing last week, so I finally got my Sunday afternoon nap.

g. I ate three really big cupcakes with lots of heavy icing last week. Maybe it was the sugar rush that fed the bug and recharged it to take over my body again.

h. I did an especially good yoga practice Monday or Tuesday morning (I can't quite remember when), even working on the splits, which opened up all sorts of things that I've been holding in.

i. It's winter and I've been going outside--a lot?

If only there were a logic to feeling like this, if only there were something that I could do to avoid it. Eat better, get enough rest, don't be under stress? Yeah, right. I drink my orange juice every morning (except this morning, we've run out); having the puppy actually means I go to bed on time now as I need to be able to wake up when she does to take her out; I've been doing my best not to worry about things this term, just loving what is and not thinking about deadlines. I even got my flu shot this year. It's not fair! I don't want to feel like this. It's not like I chose to have the flu. Really, I have work to be doing, students to advise, books to read and review. A conference paper to write. A tournament to fence. A puppy to house train. I can't be sick!

And yet, I am. What is the lesson in this? Take it easy? Accept that getting sick is out of your control? Ah, but that's not what we tell ourselves any more. How many lists have you seen this flu season of "things you can do to prevent the flu"? Right. Wash your hands, don't be around a lot of other people, try not to have had the flu before because, in truth, you never really get over it, it's always there in your system, waiting to strike the moment you let your guard down. Which is all of course code for: "It's really your fault. If you had taken care of yourself, you wouldn't be sick."

Ha. Maybe there isn't a reason that I got sick this past week. Maybe I just did. Maybe it has nothing to do with my work or my puppy or the talk or the party or the tournament or the cupcakes or the weather. Maybe there really isn't a logic behind it. Maybe.

But I still want to know why I'm sick.


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