Of Colds and Cantankerousness

No one likes having a cold. If one is immuno-suppressant, a cold can turn into something really nasty depressingly quickly, so one makes one’s misery plain to keep others at bay. In any case, a cold seems to justify being just a teeny-weeny bit cantankerous, doesn’t it? I myself take full advantage of the privilege thus afforded. I gloomily admit I am too tired to do what I ought and try not to think of all that is mounting up on the to-do list. Bro Dyfrig BFdeB’s share of a mid-morning biscuit is reduced in size from a companionable half to a mean morsel no bigger than a thumbnail. Meals are ‘simplified’ to dullness. The Divine Office is muttered in private. Bed-time comes early.

The trouble is, the world goes on as it always has; and while one weeps for the sufferings of those affected by the earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia or the acutely painful Senate hearing in the U.S.A., one’s overwhelming desire is to avoid trouble, confrontation, anything that detracts from concentration on one’s own woe. With a cold one’s whole existence shrinks to present pain and exhaustion and poor, poor me. Which may possibly be why most of us get colds, at least occasionally. It is only when one has plumbed the depths of one’s own preoccupation with self that one can recognize how easy it is to pass from being a kind, generous person, genuinely interested in others, to a selfish, crotchety so-and-so that no one (apart from God and the dog) wishes to spend time with.

Let’s pause there for a moment. The two exceptions I mention, God and the dog, are worth thinking about. What do they see in us when we are at our least attractive that makes them brave our churlishness and irritability? Clearly, they accept us as we are. I think they must see something we tend to overlook, both in ourselves and in other people: the mystery of grace, our being ‘immortal diamond’, someone infinitely loveable. That is humbling in the best sense — and something to remember when we have a cold.*

*My own cold seems to be getting better so I should be able to have my delayed chemotherapy on Thursday, 4 October, D.V..


19 thoughts on “Of Colds and Cantankerousness”

  1. A wonderful article – and so true. Just out of interest, I find elderflower and peppermint tea very soothing when I get a cold. I do hope you feel better soon. Colds are wretched things.

      • You carry on with great humour, at least in your writing which most of us probably couldn’t muster in your circumstances! Bless you Sr Catherine.

      • I would rather have a broken leg then a cold.Fighting for breath is the most terrifying during the affliction.There is still no cure for the common cold after all these centuries of medical practice, however, I have the comfort of the dog and my string instrument collection and God hangs around .Fortuitously since I now live in a warm climate in the south west US the colds are few and far between.Get well soon.I will offer a prayer for you this morning when I play my penny whistle at mass.

        • I’m not sure I’d go as far as that (preferring a broken leg to a cold), but I’m with you on the fighting for breath business. I often think breathlessness is the worst part of my own illness. I will pray for you, too!

  2. I love how you take this journey with us. It is so easy to forget the human side of nuns and sisters! You have a gift of being able to cut to the core of issues with wit and humor. I am praying for you and your sisters.

  3. I am also on immunosuppressants and know exactly what you mean but don’t have a dog and live alone. At least my grumpiness is just between me and God but I often long for the sympathy of a loving animal or a long-suffering friend. However, God is eternally patient with me and I am very grateful for that.

  4. The only good thing about getting a cold is it forces the mind and the body to stop. To rest. To take a reprieve from the world. Not being God we humans can only shoulder so much sadness and work. A cold can give permission to just drop out and be crotchety. That being said colds are horrible, nasty, drippy things best tolerated by having chicken soup and dog by our side. Feel better soon Dear Sister!

  5. Dear Sister Catherine, I wish you well particularly as your chemo is imminent. Both our Lord and our canine companions give us unconditional love and forgive us our behaviour towards them. They do so because they want our love and nourishment – the Lord wants our devotion, prayers and dedication to Him and others; our dogs want all that plus food instead of prayer.
    May the Lord bless and care for you. Peace and love be with you xx.

  6. Praying for and with you. You are a bright light in our world. I do hope your cold is diminished at least to the point where you can get the chemo over with. Always in my heart and in my prayers!

  7. I hope you are feeling better. I get colds every year and am waiting for this year’s one to reveal itself. When it does I shall re read this post!

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