A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker


I was sitting there at my desk, minding my own business (well, OK, minding my boss's business), when all of a sudden it hit me.

The headache.  The fever.  The nausea.  The overall general . . . let's see, what is the precise medical term?  Oh, yes: uckiness.  I think that’s it.  Overly generally ucky.

You know the feeling.  One minute you're afraid you'll die.  Then you're afraid you won't.

“I think I'm coming down with the flu,” I told a colleague, who ran away – screaming – as if I was carrying the plague or malaria or an invitation to join a multi-level marketing program.

I toughed it out through the rest of the day, but not because I'm such a loyal, hard-working employee.  I just didn't want to budge from where I was sitting.  I began praying for a massive global land shift that would allow me to fall out of my chair and into my bed.

Also, I was struggling with a philosophical question, one with which sufferers had wrestled for generations: was it “feed a cold and starve a fever,” or “feed a fever and starve cold”?  It hurt my head to think about it.  I wasn't hungry or anything, but I figured I'd eat that bag of M&Ms in my desk if my fever needed feeding -- assuming, of course, that I could figure out a way to get the M&Ms from my desk drawer to my mouth without having to actually move.

Eventually, it was time to go home.  I dragged my aching body down the stairs and out to the parking lot in search of my car (where did I park that thing -- Nova Scotia?), and carefully made my way home, where I collapsed in a pile of moans, groans and acetaminophen.  I went to bed early, fully expecting to call in sick the next day -- and perhaps for the rest of the decade.

But a funny thing happened on my way to the flu.  I awakened the next morning feeling different.  Better.  Darn good, in fact.  For a long moment I just sat there in bed, savoring the feeling of feeling nothing.  No headache.  No fever.  No nausea.  No overall general uckiness.  Just rested.  And refreshed.  And almost anxious to get to work.  Almost.

Now, I'm sure there's a simple medical explanation for what I experienced.  Obviously, I didn't have a full-blown case of the flu, although I got a good enough taste of it -- if you'll pardon the expression -- to be able to sympathize with those who have.  But I did receive renewed appreciation for how wonderful it is to feel . . . well . . . wonderful.

It's one of those things we usually don't appreciate until we don't have it anymore.  I mean, when was the last time you stopped in the middle of the day and said, “Hey, my anterior cruciate ligament feels healthy and strong!”  But if your ACL is damaged, it's about all you think about -- right?  The same is true of bus schedules, automobiles, computers and -- unfortunately -- families.  If everything is running as it should, we don't think much about it.  They're just doing what they're supposed to do.  It isn't until things start falling apart that they become a major focus in our lives.

So I propose a shift in focus.  Let's start appreciating what's right in our lives while it's still right instead of waiting until we have to fix something that's gone wrong.  Enjoy the smooth purring of that car engine.  Cherish hot running water and toilets that flush.  Treasure that spontaneous hug from a healthy, vibrant child (and resist the urge to ask what he’s been up to).

And if you have a hard time coming up with something to appreciate, you can always savor the feeling of feeling nothing.

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— © Joseph Walker

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