I'm writing this from my sickbed, like John Keats in his final days. I’m not penning brilliant poems as I breathe my final precious gasps of air, but I am laid up in bed with a cold, struggling over my third blog entry ever.
In college, I thought Keats's death at age 24 was romantic. My roommate thought he was pathetic. "He died a virgin," Tanya would say. "What kind of a person dies a virgin?" Steadfast, suffused with the over-the-top energy of a 21-year-old English major, I wrote a 23-page paper on "Ode to a Nightingale" for my Romantic Poetry class. I memorized the poem in the process, and became practiced at reciting it from memory with a Boston accent. Tanya was entertained, but still preferred the profligate, promiscuous Lord Byron, who was described by Lady Caroline Lamb as “mad, bad, and dangerous to know.” Keats was “dangerous to know” for other reasons – he died of tuberculosis, the highly contagious "it" disease of his time.
All I have is a common cold that annoys me and consumes my bank account (I'm self-employed and have no sick-time). I am armed to overkill with Nyquil, Vitamin C, Airborne, cough drops (with Zinc and Echinacea), and the advice of friends (“Go home,” said one. “Drink fluids. Pee.”) I’m not mad or bad, and am only slightly dangerous to know.
Still, I think I have earned the right to feel sorry for myself. My pets have been tolerant and supportive, but their patience is wearing thin. The dog, deprived of our daily hour-long walks, stands and stares at me, ears pricked up, wagging her tail wistfully. The cats engage in passionate battles at the foot of my bed. My apartment looks like a crazy neighbor stalked through it with a leafblower.
Even when healthy I tend towards the melancholy, and have struggled with bouts of clinical depression that have diminished as I’ve gotten older. I’m also a cancer survivor. Both illnesses have been treated – cured, I hope -- but a few days laid up with a common cold brings me back to days spent in bed, too sad or too weak and tired to get up and do my thing.
But this is different. This is just a cold. Between paragraphs I’ve gotten up, showered, eaten breakfast, and taken the dog on a half-hour walk. The cold is abating. And I am comforted and energized by my tentative return to my routines.
By Monday I will be back in the saddle.