Friday, February 26, 2010

A healthy dose of illness

I had strep throat this week for the first time in many a year. Although that may sound miserable, it turned out to be, in some respects, a sort of mini vacation (or staycation).  Being sick is certainly no hobby of mine, but with my sweet husband looking after the kids and bringing me chicken soup and herbal tea, I had a rather pleasant time of it, while it lasted. I also enjoyed, in between naps, the luxury of reading in its entirety George MacDonald's Phantastes—a dreamlike book well suited to a slightly fevered brain.

My oddly comfortable illness brought to mind a C.S. Lewis quote I heard  from Alan Jacobs not long ago: "Ideal to be always convalescent from some small illness and always seated in a window that overlooked the sea, there to read [the Italian epic] eight hours of each happy day."

Two failed attempts at reading Dante being my only encounter with Italian epic, I can't say much either for or against Lewis's choice of literature. (I must have taken too much to heart the admonition to "abandon hope, all ye who enter here," since I never did get past the Inferno.) Neither would I call this sort of convalescence my "ideal happiness,"  although a view of the sea might have brought it closer to that. However, I must admit that the extreme introvert in me sympathizes a great deal with Lewis's idea of the good life; I chose to spend much of my childhood and adolescence hidden in my room with my nose in a book. There was a time, I'm sorry to say, when I knew Anne of Green Gables better than most of my own classmates.

Although I have no desire (O.K., not much desire) to return to my life as a junior high recluse, a few days of confinement to my room did provide a not unwelcome excuse for rest and quiet and an opportunity to pray, meditate and, yes, read without interruption. For that I am very thankful. A little down time does help to recharge my batteries, and I confess that I was just the tiniest bit disappointed to have gotten so entirely well so quickly.

Today I'm on my feet once again, coffee in hand, and standing victoriously atop a colorful mountain of freshly washed, dried and folded laundry, while my kids run boisterous laps around the yet-to-be-vacuumed floor. To be restored to health and to my busy daily work is truly a delight—even to an introvert like me. I'm glad to be back. Much as I appreciated the time to myself, I've come to find that here—surrounded by noise and hugs, and amidst the Lego castles and the interrupted thoughts—is a happiness deeper than I think even Lewis could have found in his literary seaside retreat.

With all due respect to that distinguished Oxford don, life is richer—and happier—when passing chianti and spaghetti around a vivacious and crowded table than silently digesting "the Italian epic" in a solitary window seat.

Here's to your good health.


Kjerste said...

I had a sick day recently, too, and it was such a treat, but my favorite thing about being sick is the enthusiasm it gives me to jump back into real life with both feet. I always leave my sick bed feeling inspired to do more and be more.

Happy almost spring!

Kelsey said...

How funny; I was just going through Alan Jacobs' book this afternoon - I've got a cold - looking for the bit about the enjoyment C.S. Lewis had in being ill. What a nice essay this is.

Jessica M. said...

I had to laugh when I read this post. I too have just gotten over a cold and although I loved the excuse to curl up with a hot cup of tea and a good book, I'm very pleased to be back in the trenches with my three little ragamuffins, the dirty dishes and the endless loads of laundry. The truth sets us free to find beauty and joy in the seemingly mundane!

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