Jessie Raymond: Head cold shakes up life at home
Finally, after seven months of stay-at-home monotony, something exciting happened.
I caught a cold.
It’s not much, but I welcomed the change of pace.
To be fair, my life was not all that action-packed even before COVID. I wasn’t jetting off to exotic locales — although I did go to Texas in 2019, and compared to Vermont, that felt in many ways like traveling to a distant planet.
But my physical world has gotten smaller. Plus I work from home now, so I only have reason to leave the property once or twice a week in search of food.
The biggest pleasure that has been denied to me, really, is the overwhelming sense of comfort I used to feel whenever I came home.
I mean, I’m already here.
Although it feels like I’m plodding through an endless series of identical days, for me those days are pleasant, if uneventful. But the dull consistency of this new routine makes even the slightest disruption stand out. Every change is a special occasion.
When we had the first frost, for instance, I baked a cake. When my neighbor’s trash can blew into our yard, I put on a nice outfit — and real shoes instead of barn boots — to drag it back across the road. When I spotted a barred owl in the woods one morning, I called everyone I knew.
While these could all be signs that even a homebody like me is spending too much time at home, my point is that it’s no wonder a head cold stood out.
I pride myself on never getting sick, not more than once every couple of years. And that’s in the Normal Times, when I leave the house every day and interact with other humans.
So at first, I was a little indignant, or “iddigdet,” as I announced at the height of my nasal congestion. How could I catch a cold? I only see five people on a regular basis, not counting the UPS man (who was, by the way, thrilled to hear about the owl).
Then again, of those five people, all family members, two are adorable but sometimes-germy grandchildren I like to hug a lot. A cold was all but inevitable.
And yes, it was just a cold: runny nose, sneezing, fatigue. No fever, no cough, nothing to go COVID-crazy about. But in 2020, the slightest overt symptom of illness raises eyebrows (and face coverings).
I knew I’d have to forgo my one trip to town for the week. If I went to the store and so much as sniffled, I’d face, at best, glares from other customers and, at worst, a haz-mat team bursting from the staff room, squirting me with sanitizer-filled Super-Soakers and driving me out the door with six-foot poles, yelling, “Unclean!”
So I stayed home, clutching a box of tissues. I tried going about my normal day, and I felt terrible. Then I tried lying down. I still felt terrible, plus my sinuses immediately clogged up.
I was not having fun.
This surprises me every time I get sick. I picture myself snuggling up under a blanket and luxuriating in doing nothing. But there’s no “luxuriating” when you don’t feel well.
I resented having to blow my nose every three minutes. And I hated the malaise that made tasks like folding laundry and getting the mail feel like Spartan race events.
I even took a day off from work, although driving by my house, you’d never know. The only difference was instead of feeling tired in front of the computer, I felt tired on the couch.
Over the next few days, the cold ran its course. Soon I was able to face putting away the clean dishes without acting like it involved hoisting the dishwasher up over my head.
I was happy for a return to my previous boring life, or what we now refer to as “the new normal.” But in a certain way, I was grateful for the cold.
Why? Because it’s 2020. The U.S. as a whole is not controlling the pandemic. We’re looking at an election like no other. Many people are suffering. There is social upheaval we haven’t seen in generations. I have never felt more fear or anxiety about the future of my country.
On January 1, 2021, I’m going to look back on the wildest year I’ve ever lived through. And if the biggest news in my personal life was that I caught a cold, I’ll be OK with that.
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