The Office Cold

The Guideposts editor-in-chief shares how he gained perseverance from an office cold.

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I almost skipped my blog today. I woke up with a cold and all of you, especially this time of year, know what that’s like.

It’s the dreaded office cold, that annual bug that burns its way through a staff. Those who contract it first are the lucky ones—they get the misery over with. The rest of us cower behind our desks, avoid contact with the infirm and wash our hands so frequently that the skin begins to slough off.

That’s me, gobbling vitamins and thinking seriously about wearing a surgical mask as the coughers and sneezers close in. I’m like one of those noblemen in Boccaccio’s Decameron, hunkered down waiting for the Plague to strike.

When the cold finally hits it is almost a relief. I want to stagger back to bed and disappear under the covers for a few days. No need to write a blog. They’ll understand. 

That’s when my mother’s voice pipes up. “There’s nothing wrong with me,” she’d always insist, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Mom could be standing there with an arrow through her head and she’d still insist she was in perfect health. It went beyond denial. It was almost delusional. While others groaned and moped, she kept going. Her favorite action to take when she felt something coming on was to scrub and wax the kitchen floor. I’m not kidding. 

Was my mother crazy? Maybe not. She was a child of the Great Depression, a time much like today when people faced tremendous fear and uncertainty. Deprivation was everywhere and with so much going to pieces around her, I think she felt it was irresponsible to get sick let alone give in to it. It’s not a health regimen I’d recommend yet for Mom it worked. She could endure the physical wretchedness of a cold or flu but to think of herself as a sick person was more than she could bear. She’d rather pretend she wasn’t.  

I’m not quite up to that but in the end I decided I should write this blog. I thought of all the times my mother was obviously under the weather—obvious to everyone but her—and she still managed to get me to hockey practice and rehearsals of my garage band. I’m not going to be a kamikaze about my cold. I know how to take care of myself, more or less.

I’m grateful, though, for the example my mother set. I’ve written before about her incredible faith, a kind of daily faith she wore like a second skin. She drew on that faith when she didn’t feel well, especially toward the end when there was no denial powerful enough to change things.

And maybe that’s the lesson I can learn from catching the annual office cold. A certain amount of stubbornness in the face of sickness is a virtue. It helps us dig down into our faith and keep going when the sniffles hit. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going back to bed. 

Edward Grinnan is Editor-in-Chief and Vice President of GUIDEPOSTS Publications.

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