In the first stage of a cold, you receive the typical “announcement” that it is coming: a bit of a scratchy throat, an instance or two of needing to blow your nose, maybe even a bit of lethargy.
Oh yes, there’s definitely an enemy setting up camp somewhere in the recesses of your head.
However, you deny it. You rationalize with yourself. Those symptoms could happen on any other day and mean nothing. You remind yourself that many other days you feel lethargic, or mellow. Mellow, yeah, that’s it. You’re mellow today, and a day off of work would be delightful.
Instead of denying the inevitable, you should be running to the pharmacy and stocking up on daytime cold and flu meds, nighttime cough suppressants, throat lozenges, pain relievers, headache remedies, and massive quantities of tissues. While you’re at it, buy cases of ginger ale or sprite and plenty of orange juice for the Vitamin C. At least you’ll think you’re fighting this battle responsibly.
Don’t waste time about getting those supplies in. Then crawl into bed to savor whatever hours of sleep you can get, for the second stage of your head cold will set in tomorrow.
With. A. Vengeance.
You will be miserable. You will enter an unprecedented state of suffering.
You, and everyone else around you, will marvel at the copious amount of fluid that comes out of your head.
Sneezing, sniffling, coughing.
One blow of the nose annihilates a tissue, so you’d better use two at a time.
Your eyes flow rivers of tears for no reason at all.
A sneeze is ready to explode at a moment’s notice, but takes its good old time, just to irk you. Your face is held in that pre-sneeze grimace, and this trickery annoys the heck out of you (and makes you look darn silly too.)
There is no end to the amount of mucous coming out of your nostrils. How can this be? And where is it all coming from? This is often when you wave the white surrender flag and simply stuff a tissue up each nostril. You let them hang there because you’re simply too exhausted to do anything else.
And then the coughing starts. Whatever fluids can’t come out of your face want to run down the back of your throat. You cough to stop them from choking you, but those nasty clumps in the back of your throat are ready to fight.
You cough. They cling. You cough again, harder. They kick and scream. You give a decisive honkish bark, and you pee yourself. You’ve won the skirmish, this time. You go clean yourself up.
The battle is fierce: blow, cough, sneeze, honk, pee, blow, cough, pee.
The battle continues for days and nights. As you well know, there is no rest for the weary at nighttime. There is only the possibility of some symptomatic relief from those over the counter medications.
Possible, but not likely. The minute you start feeling some tiny bit of relief, somebody in your home will gripe that you’re snoring is intolerable and you should do something about it.
Waking up in the third stage of a head cold can be a bit confusing at first. You don’t really feel any better, you’re still exhausted from the battle, you’re famished and possibly dehydrated, and yet there is the evidence—you haven’t blown your nose for a good while.
And it’s not running, either.
Then, when you do think a good honk is in order, you’re oddly satisfied with that immense glunker of snot that comes forth. You even pat yourself on the back; Now we’re getting somewhere. We’re gonna beat this sucker.
Yes, it seems as if the tide has turned. Perhaps you are on the mend. Maybe life is about to return to its pre-war status and all will be well.
It’s likely your feelings of jubilation at routing your enemy will cause you to celebrate a little too much. That is, in spite of the weakened state of your body, you’ll probably go into a frenzy and overwork it, trying to catch up on all you let slide over the past several days.
That would not be wise, for stage three of a head cold is a delicate and often traitorous situation. At any moment that enemy can revert to stage two combat and then where are you? Then you’re looking at a visit to the doc and the pharmacy, and after a disheartening expenditure of big bucks you’re back in the trenches of misery.
Eventually you progress to the fourth and final stage of a head cold. This is a tricky one for sure. You think you’re over it, and your outward symptoms may agree with you.
However, there’s one little private of the enemy forces that hasn’t left yet. He’s stayed encamped somewhere back in one of the rear sinuses of your head. In the most inopportune moment, like when you’re having dinner out at a posh restaurant with your employer, or when you’re giving a speech to a large group of people, or actually when you’re out and about in any public place, that sneaky enemy suddenly rappels down the back of your throat and dangles into the top of your windpipe.
Suddenly seized with maniacal coughing, you are fighting for your breath and for your life. Those around you are shocked and frightened; they don’t know whether to perform the Heimlich maneuver on you or to call 911.
Your face turns beat red as you struggle for air, and tears freely flow down your face. You sweat profusely.
Usually a friend will calmly suggest you take a sip of water, but you know that will just add to the choking.
At some point you will eventually yack up that tiny little killer mucous thread in your throat, and you know you have survived. Oh yes, you’ve completely humiliated yourself with your frantic behavior (and peed yourself again), but it’s over for now.
You decide to stay in for the next few days, just in case there’s still more of the enemy holding out.
And while you’re honkered down, you may as well make your shopping lists. Supplies ought to be restocked for next time.
You pray in earnest that there won’t be a next time, but, well … ‘tis the season.
When I’m sick those words of Revelation 21:4 comfort me: “[God] will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
No more suffering, no more sickness.