Be Happy


Zürich, Switzerland – January 2010

I make a lap around the old city, dropping by the Cabaret Voltaire, and then I return to the hotel for a long sleep. When I wake up, I venture out to the Kunsthaus. The rich canvasses of Chagall and Macke mesmerize my fever-dazed brain. I linger until my head spins. The Swiss National Museum will have to wait until tomorrow. Short, brief outings from my hotel room are all I can manage. The worst flu of my life hasn’t totally loosened its grip. Bird flu, H1N1, pandemic, whatever. No vaccines for me, thanks. And no regrets. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  Almost two weeks in bed and it looked like I wouldn’t be able to take this trip. Be strong, I told myself when I got on the plane. You can do it.


I lift one leaden leg after the other and climb the treacherous staircase to the top of Grossmunster church. There’s a mountain to climb not far from the city. A lake to walk around. My head spins and I grip the railing to steady myself.  Be happy, I tell myself when anger rises up at my weakness. At least you’re here. I stare out over the rooftops. The Alps and the lake are obscured by a lavender haze. I’ve seen all there is to see.

Back at the hotel, I sink into the obscenely comfortable bed. A bag of Toblerone chocolates and a cup of tea at my side.


14 thoughts on “Be Happy

    • I absolutely loathe going to the doctor and need to be dragged there kicking and screaming. After I ate that whole bag of Toblerone I totally felt better. 😀

  1. Your photos convey the dissociative aura of an illness.

    I’m pro-flu shots, pneumo vax, etc. They are my “security detail” on my journey thru the danger zones. Though I seem to often get ill when traveling. Airplanes?

    Recently, I got sick and believe the feverish virus was picked up at a hospital, awaiting the birth of a grandchild. Hospitals are germ warehouses.

    You did the right thing: weakened the symptoms with walking and then smothered them in chocolate. 🙂

    • Your situation warrants special care for “regular” illnesses. People I know who get the flu shot usually end up getting sick anyway. I’ve been seeing a lot of articles lately about drug-resistent bugs in hospitals. Very scary. Air travel definitely weakens the body, too. It takes me a couple of days to feel good after a long flight.

  2. Reminds me of my only trip to Vienna, on which I came down with food poisoning my first night there. I forced myself out of bed to see some Klimt, and I tried to make it to St. Stephen’s but ended up lying on a bench outside until I realized I had to take the subway back to my room. If only I had thought to pick up some Toblerone on my way…I might have been able to keep that down!

  3. There are few things in life that feel more isolating I find than catching ill while traveling and removed from our larger support systems and the comforts of our own homes. Having said that, being sick while traveling consistently provides me an almost melancholic sense of calm, slowness, and connection that makes the moment in a new place that much more resonant … like sanding off the edges of our finger tips to feel more. Maybe that’s just my owns lens, but I somehow felt that same with your post and especially your closing landscape. Happiness in a moment of just being still ….

    • Hi Dale- I think you got what I was trying to convey. This trip is more vivid in my memory than some of the others, most likely because of that haze of illness.

  4. The photos and words reflect the place you were at that moment, they feel sad and depressing, yet the place is beautiful.

    I really like this line …”Be happy, I tell myself when anger rises up at my weakness.”, we all have been there, I know I have.

    Now I want chocolate and Tea, I will have to check what I have.

    • It’s funny how often the photos we take reflect our particular mood at the time. The camera is a window to the psyche. Hope you’ve found treasure in your cupboards. Have a lovely day/evening, Doris. 🙂

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