Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Surprisingly Predictable, Predictably Surprised

I've always been amused by, and felt a slight friendly contempt for, people who are endlessly surprised by the same thing over and over again. My grandmother is like that, so is Caroline, so is one of my coworkers. Grandmother is always shocked and amazed that she can't find a blouse she likes at Macy's, even though we have shopped at Macy's a hundred times and have never found a blouse she likes; Caroline is bewildered and incredulous when she alienates a boyfriend by doing the exact same things that alienated the last five boyfriends; my coworker practically exists in a state of astonishment over the dickheaded perfidy of people who are well-known to us as perfidious dickheads.

I myself am seldom surprised... I keep my expectations so low that the only surprises I get are happy ones — my motto being, "Expect nothing, and most things will exceed expectations." However, there is one area of my life that always takes me by surprise, even though by now, here in my thirty-sixth year of this Vale of Tears, I should be able to predict it: I know for a fact that when I run around a lot out in the night air, don't eat quite enough, work too hard, and miss a few hours of sleep, I invariably come down with a cold of some sort. And yet, each time this happens, I am taken by surprise.

If you have been following along with the last few posts, you will notice that the Musical rehearsals, most of which are at night and nowhere near my home, along with my gym-visits and my diet, sleepless nights either worrying about whether or not I was at fault in an auto accident (which honesty compels me to admit that I now believe I was) or worrying about my behavior and shortcomings in the Musical, and other various and sundry instances detailed here or not, will add up to the exact equation required for me to catch a cold. And yet, when I finally realized this morning that I'd come down with a cold, I felt a rush of indignant perplexity: How could this happen to me?

Yesterday when I was at the gym, I felt inexplicably weak: I could only do 70 rpms at 30 pounds of resistance on the bicycle (I usually do 90 rpms at 50 pounds), and I couldn't get up past 3.5 mph on the treadmill (my standard pace is 4.2). I wrote it off as having pushed myself too hard the day before (though I hadn't, really) and not eating enough for dinner the night before (which was true, I wasn't hungry most of the night and then only had a half-serving of chicken and bok-choy... no appetite, another sure sign that I failed to recognize). Then on the way home to change and shower before my AA meeting, my inner ear started hurting all of a sudden. By the time I arrived at the meeting, the pain had moved down to my throat, and I was aware of post-nasal drip on top of the feeling of tiredness. But I nevertheless stayed up and went out after the meeting, talking and laughing and walking around in the night air. When I did get home, I sat up with my nose in my new Harry Potter book for over an hour instead of going right to sleep as my body demanded.

As usual when I have a cold, I woke up early this morning and couldn't go back to sleep. The post-nasal drip had continued unabated while I slept, so I had a sore throat and chest congestion, with a feeling of muscular and mental lethargy paired with a sort of restlessness that prevents one from relaxing into the lethargy and sleeping or tuning out. So I downloaded my email and read a few more chapters of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (it's quite absorbing, but rather more unhappy than previous installments) before it was time to get up for work. I forced down some juice and whole-grain black bread toast to absorb some of the coffee, ibuprophen, and Robitussin CE I'd been swallowing. And now I'm here at the office, the lethargy mixed with plenty of coffee and water and some fresh air has translated itself into a woozy light-headedness through which I am working just fine, but I am considering going home and going back to sleep.

I guess the reason this cold took me by surprise is because it is too inconvenient for me to have a cold right now, and so my mind simply denied the possibility. I can't miss rehearsals in the last week before the show, I can't miss my service committment or my gym committment, I can't stop doing all the things I'm doing that resulted in my catching a cold. I simply haven't the time to be sick!

Part of me is thinking that I should continue as I am, ignore the cold and let it work itself out; another part of me worries that if I don't shut down everything right now, it will get worse. The rest of me (and my Committee) is trying to find the middle ground between these two extremes.

Well, I'll talk to Caroline and see if I can get her to go to the gym without me today and maybe tomorrow; I've worked out often enough without her when she was feeling poorly or had to work late. If she would do that, it relieves me of the feeling of guilt over skipping a couple of days. Perhaps if my body isn't so busy burning off calories it can concentrate on killing these nasty cold symptoms; also, without the hour at the gym, maybe I can take a short nap before my evening committments. And I can dress more warmly when I go to rehearsals, instead of just showing up in my gym gear, either change into regular clothes or bring a warm-up suit to wear outside.

Oh, the simple adult solution... always the last thing to occur to me. Just like when I'm angry or upset or in some way emotionally and spritiually askew, it never occurs to me to pray and meditate until I've suffered for so long that no other choices remain. And then I feel surprised again at how efficacious something as simple as praying and meditating can be (and I don't even do all that complicated of a P&M, I just run through the Serenity Prayer, an abridged Third Step prayer, a short gratitude list, and then listen quietly until something else happens outside of me or when I feel calm again).

So I guess I'd better be running along to treat my cold as best as I can in the circumstances: don't push myself, drink a lot of juice, stay away from dairy, and take an antihistamine or two. I haven't decided about the gym yet, part of me wants to sweat and get my blood pumping, it will push the cold out faster; another part wants to lay down and just sleep to heal.

Maybe I'll just flip a coin. Chance often makes better decisions than I do.

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