Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Incredible Laziness of Being Sick

What began as a tickle in the back of my throat has finally evolved into a full nose blowing cold. And, because I do not believe in suffering alone, I have kindly shared my ailment with my husband.

Isn’t that nice of me?

In the marriage vows, we’re asked if we take each other in sickness and health – but nowhere does anyone ask “even if you are both sick at the same time?”

I am an only child. Brett is a youngest child. So, it goes without saying (although I am going to anyway) that we were both pampered and a little spoiled growing up. In the past, we’ve had a great many disagreements over this very fact. This stems from both of us being used to someone else taking care of us.

I remember the first time I realized this was going to be a problem. We were newly married and in our first apartment.

One morning, I noticed there were crumbs on the counter by the toaster. Since I hadn’t made toast, I assumed the crumbs were from Brett and figured he would clean up his mess. The next day the crumbs were still there. And the next day.

Finally, I asked Brett to clean up “his” mess. He looked totally surprised. Turns out, he had been waiting for me to clean it up, since he didn’t remember making any toast, and figured I would clean up my own mess.

And there we were – stuck. Who was going to clean up the mess? Whoever did would be volunteering to clean up anonymous messes in the future for the WHOLE of our married life. Who would cave first?

Well, I caved and cleaned up not-my-mess. Why? Because as stubborn as I am, I knew when anyone visited our apartment and saw a mess they would automatically think of me as a horrible housekeeper – just because I was the “wife.”

Why doesn’t anyone blame the husband? I mean, he has the same two arms I do. And he makes two times the mess I do. But invariably it happens that any household dirt and mess is blamed on the wife’s bad housekeeping.

Over the years, I have become used to – although never happy about – living with a slob. I love, love, love my husband. He has a great many endearing and wonderful qualities. But he is not a neat freak.

Oh, he’s a neat freak about certain things – his things. His guns, his books, his records…stuff like that. We’re talking about clothes, cleaning, and consuming.

Now, I’m going to sound like a typical wife, a stereotypical wife, but in this case, the stereotype IS the reality. My otherwise wonderful husband leaves all his dirty clothes in piles on the bedroom floor; he manages to share half his food with his clothes and the carpet; and he wouldn’t know how to load the dishwasher, the dryer, or what a toilet brush was if it bit him on the nose.

Like I said – normal.

Over the years, we’ve developed (like every other couple) our own way of coping with the situation. We’ve both learned and grown and changed several of our habits.

But all that goes out the window when we both get sick. Because, when we both get sick, we suffer not only our own ailment, but a case of extreme selfishness.

This comes from both of us having the same sickness desires. When we are sick, we both want to lay on the couch, watch TV, and have someone wait on us.

But - when we are both sick - that is impossible for several reasons. First, we only have one good couch. Our other couch is broken and the only other thing to sit on is a chair. Now, you show me a sick person who is comfortable sitting on a chair!

Second, we have different “watching materials” for when we are sick. I like to watch romantic comedies; Brett wants to watch World War II documentaries. Then, of course, we have to decide who will dole out the medicine and make tea and soup. Who, indeed?

This morning I woke up – after a very wonderful Saturday – coughing, sneezing, and with a very sore throat. I turned over, looked at Brett, and saw he was suffering, too. Eventually, I managed to pull myself out of bed. I knew we were in no shape to go to church – not that anyone would want what we have, anyway.

I immediately figured that if I did the laundry, started the dishwasher, and fed the rabbits, I could sack out on the couch and get in a couple of Murder, She Wrote episodes (courtesy of Netflix). After I’d gotten everything started, I grabbed a pillow and headed to the couch. And there he was – The Selfish Lump I Married. Already comfy on our one couch.

Well! Well! So, he snuck in when I was busy cleaning up all the anonymous messes. I knew this day would come! I shouldn’t have caved all those years ago. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have cared about the laundry, dishes, and rabbits – I would have been the one going straight to the couch. I would have been the one snuggled up watching TV.

When I’m sick, I get very temperamental. And, for some reason, when I looked at my poor, sick husband, I did not feel the least bit maternal or nurturing. I was sick, too. I was much sicker than he was. So, I did it. Something I would NEVER do normally.

I kicked him off the couch.

Actually, he left the couch of his own volition. But only after I gave him a five minute lecture on why a good husband gives his wife the couch, especially after he’s sat by and let her do all the chores – which he could have – but didn’t – help her with. I became judge, jury, and executioner. So, I guess, in essence, I gave him the chair.

Eventually, he wandered back upstairs and went to sleep. I, on the other hand, felt a little guilty (but not all that much) and watch four episodes of MSW, three episodes of Quantum Leap, and one episode of the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Then, I took a two hour nap.

I’d finally had enough of “me” time, even though I am still disgustingly sick. I washed and bagged all the rabbits’ salad, ran the dishwasher, washed and folded clothes, and then went in to check on my husband.

He was out like a light, slightly snoring. Standing there watching the man I love (most of the time) snoring and sniffling, I sensed that maternal, nurturing feeling spring back up inside me.

I shook him gently awake to see how he was doing. He told me he was planning to go to work tonight. I was touched – he’s very sick, and he’s still going to work to help provide for us. It’s one of the many ways he shows his love for me.

Love is a funny thing. It causes us to have higher expectations of the one we love. It can also make us mad when they don’t meet those expectations. But it also helps us to forgive and forget and facilitates peace back into our hearts.

So, I guess the next time we’re both sick, maybe I’ll let him have the couch. Maybe he’ll even consider giving me the couch.

If not, that’s okay; I have the power (apparently) to give him the chair.

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