Columns

2010.10.13 My own brand of misery not really so miserable

on . Posted in Midnight Musings

By COLLEEN LEDDY

I think I may finally be on the upswing, but, suffering with a cold during four of the most exquisitely beautiful days of fall, I’ve been miserable.

“Miserable” is a word that always makes me think of the opening line of Frank McCourt’s book, “Angela’s Ashes.”

“It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.”

No one can compete with McCourt’s miserable; my “miserable” couldn’t stand up to it.

“People everywhere brag and whimper about the woes of their early years, but nothing can compare with the Irish version: the poverty; the shiftless loquacious alcoholic father; the pious defeated mother moaning by the fire; pompous priests; bullying schoolmasters; the English and the terrible things they did to us for eight hundred long years.

“Above all—we were wet.

“Out in the Atlantic Ocean great sheets of rain gathered to drift slowly up the River Shannon and settle forever in Limerick. The rain dampened the city from the Feast of the Circumcision to New Year’s Eve. It created a cacophony of hacking coughs, bronchial rattles, asthmatic wheezes, consumptive croaks. It turned noses into fountains, lungs into bacterial sponges.”

McCourt goes on…363 pages of misery, really well-written misery, but miserable misery nonetheless.

My “miserable” is just a mere little cold, not anywhere near as bad as most other unfortunate things in the world, but the sore throat, burning eyes, fever/chills, aching head, cough, postnasal drip and nose like a faucet (is it called pre-nasal drip?), and achy legs that feel like they can’t hold the rest of my body upright all put me into my own little category of misery.

I left work early on Monday—went home and after eating a late lunch, laid my aching body down on the couch, and put my feet up on a cushion. It was pure ecstasy, indescribably wonderful. It made me wonder if this is why people do drugs like heroin or cocaine. They could save themselves the money and bother just by lying on the couch.

A two-hour nap didn’t impart the restorative effect I’d hoped for, but I perked up enough to proofread copy for this week’s paper and eat another of David’s dandy dinners.

Monday night, still too sick to attend a council meeting or lay out pages at the Observer, but not tired enough for another nap, I looked over my entertainment options: finish reading an article from The New Yorker magazine, “The Next Incarnation: As the Dalai Lama turns seventy-five what is Tibet’s future?” or choose from one of two anything-but-the-mainstream movies David had ordered from Netflix.

I was pretty desperate for reading material when I picked up the magazine. I don’t want to get hooked on a book when I’m so busy with Prime Time and planning for the next big library event: “Picturing New York...in a tiny Midwest town” on Nov. 13. Books are dangerous things in my possession. I lose self-control and little gets done when I’m absorbed in a gripping novel.

So, I opted for a movie and picked the shorter one. I was heartened to see that the coming attractions, which had started playing immediately, were for movies I wouldn’t mind watching. It’s usually a good indication that the movie will be the same sort of film as the coming attractions it’s paired with.

David has a penchant for dark dramas and bizarre, excruciatingly slow-moving foreign films. He often chooses really good movies, but just as often after watching one of his choices, I am apt to think, boy, that was not a good use of my time. The movie I selected, Cheri, based on the book by Colette, was another in the long list of David movies that fell into the “not a good use of my time” category.

Of course, watching the romantic comedies I favor isn’t exactly good use of time either, but I’m a firm believer that laughter is the best medicine…and that misery loves company.

Thanks for listening.

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