I am not at all sure what Samuel Butler was thinking when he said being ill was ‘one of the greatest pleasures of life’. What a strange thing to say. I have been what my father used to call ‘sick as a dog’ all week and I can see absolutely no pleasure in it whatsoever . . .
(And, before I go any further, what kind of odd expression is ‘sick as a dog’ anyway? Why do we always blame the dog? (dog tired . . . dog in the manger . . . dog’s breakfast . . . go to the dogs . . . ) Although I have also lately heard the expression ‘sick as a parrot’ too. Not sure what to make of that one either. )
As you can probably tell, I am a mite grumpy. I don’t like being unwell and I have felt absolutely miserable for over a week now (nothing life threatening—just some flavour of miscellaneous virus that happens to be doing the rounds . . . along with a cough . . . and a runny nose . . . and a monster headache . . . ) and at time of writing I am showing very little sign of improvement.
(I don’t get sick very often but when I do I go all in. I know they say things usually get worse before they get better but hey—give a girl a break—please! I am well and truly over it. Well, no. I’m not over it, as in ‘I’m feeling better’. I’m over it, as in ‘I’m fed up’. Perhaps I should have said that to begin with. Oh dear God I’m rambling . . . )
Anyway, I think the thing that bothers me most (apart from the actual feeling like crap part of course) is that there is very little I can actually do about it. I can take a tablet for my headache, and another to stop my nose running, and I can keep up the fluids, and rest when I can . . . blah, blah, blah (we all know the drill) . . . . but in the end I really just have to wait it out. My body will heal itself when it is good and ready and not before.
You know, it’s so easy to sink into the mire when you feel dreadful (nobody likes me, everybody hates me, think I’ll go and eat worms . . . ) and I find I have to constantly pull myself up and remind myself—’It is only the flu, Sal! You will get over it. This too shall pass . . . ‘
And perhaps, in a round about sort of way, that is what Samuel Butler was getting at. Perhaps he meant that by being ill (but not too ill) one might be forced to remember what a pleasure it was when one felt well . . .