I think I have the plague. I woke up the other day at three a.m. with the worst sore throat I’ve ever had except for the one time I had strep throat. Not only that but my head was pounding. Yes, yes, I know, what else is new. But I mean POUNDING, much worse than my usual headache. I lay there in bed, wondering was scourge was now taking over my body. Strep, I decided. It’s the only thing that made sense.

So I got dressed, got my coffee, and sat motionless on the couch. “You’re not going to work, are you?” Bill asked. Um, yeah. That’s what I do. That’s what I was raised to do. If you have a job you go to work. NO MATTER WHAT. The saddest example of this I can offer is the day my dad got a call from Germany at around 7:00 a.m. It was his sister, calling to tell my dad that their mom had passed away. I don’t recall what his initial reaction was; I may not have been in the kitchen where our one and only phone was located. I do know that promptly at 7:30 that morning my dad went to work. He just found out his mom was dead and he went to work. What I remember even more clearly is at the end of a long day of carpentry, my dad came home with extremely red eyes. My mom, always the empathetic one, yelled, “Hans! What’s the matter with you?” His response? “I got sawdust in my eyes.” I was just a kid, but I knew two things in that moment: that my dad was saying what he had to say to get my mom to leave him alone, and that he was silently and deeply grieving what he would never be able to give words to. This is how I was raised. You do to work no matter what. A strong work ethic to the 100th power.

And so, because I was raised to work through even the worst of times, I went to school. I sought out the nurse who sent me to urgent care because obviously you can’t be around students if you have strep. The test was negative—just a virus, they said, take some Cepachol, they said—and I was cleared to go back to work. Only my body didn’t know I was supposed to be working and very politely told me to go home. By the time I pulled into the driveway I was exhausted and dizzy. I slept the bulk of the day. The next day was a snow day, giving me a chance to really relax, sleep, and attempt to rid myself of this plague. But at the one point I felt well enough to go onto my computer to search for desk lamps (it’s an exciting life I lead), I was hit with a wave of nausea that almost knocked me over. I went back to bed. Then came the sneezing, the coughing, the body aches. Oh, and then lightheadedness. Like I said, the plague.

As someone who is already plagued by chronic pain, I feel that the gods of health and wellness should not burden me with a run-of-the-mill virus. It’s just wrong. I think that whenever a little bug comes near anyone with chronic anything, it should just move on. Not that I’m wishing this on anyone else—not for a minute. But something that makes me feel even worse than I feel every day? No. That’s just plain mean. And why (she asks in a whiny voice) does every little thing that afflicts me make my darn headache worse? Another thing I need to speak with those gods about.

Anyway, I’m feeling a bit better. Thanks for asking. My throat is less sore, my head is less poundy, and I have lots of meds to take care of the other annoyances of this plague. So I move ever onward to the next thing I have to do. Then the next and the next. And some beautiful day when chronic pain is no longer part of my life, I will catch another random virus and still whine about it. But I’ll whine a bit less. Maybe.

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