Deserters from the Army of the Upright: On Being Ill

January 11, 2013

Spending the day on the couch

Spending the day on the couch

“Directly the bed is called for, or sunk deep among pillows in one chair, we raise our feet even an inch above the ground on another, we cease to be soldiers in the army of  the upright; we become deserters.  They march to battle.  We float with the sticks on the stream; helter-skelter with the dead leaves on the lawn, irresponsible and disinterested . . .”
— Virginia Woolf, On Being Ill

With winter come sniffles, congestion, coughs, and colds.  I was laid low by such a cold last week.  Recumbent, deserter from the armies of the upright working world.  Hibernating.  Sleep really is healing.  Better now.

The soothing refreshment of hot lemon ginger herbal tea

The soothing refreshment of hot lemon ginger herbal tea

Virginia Woolf’s mother, Julia Stephen, also wrote about illness in Notes from Sick Rooms.  She was known for her tender skills in the sickroom, nursing mostly relatives.  I had to chuckle at this passage:  “Among the number of small evils which haunt illness, the greatest misery which it can cause, though the smallest in size, is crumbs . . . a problem which has tormented many a weary sufferer.”

A word to the wise — don’t eat in bed if you can help it!

8 Responses to “Deserters from the Army of the Upright: On Being Ill”


  1. I had to laugh at the crumbs…it is so true…glad to hear you are better…so much going around it is hard not to catch something. Now the trick is not repeating an illness as I often do…

  2. shoreacres Says:

    So glad to hear you’re better. One of the great advantages of working outdoors, in solitude, is that germ exposure is lessened. I’ll do the grocery store, and tempted fate with “Lincoln” last weekend, but otherwise avoid great heaps of humanity and keep my fingers crossed!

  3. Elisa Says:

    Giggles at crumbs. I like this part of you too 🙂 Ty for sharing it.

  4. Sallyann Says:

    I work on the pills and potions section in work so anyone feeling ill heads straight for me. I completely agree about the danger money. 🙂
    The crumbs made me giggle too. 🙂

  5. shoreacres Says:

    Even though I commented on this post earlier, I can’t remember being so taken with Woolf’s description of being ill. It almost would be worth being sick if I could come up with a passage like that.


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