I had the flu. It was a minor illness: headache, backache, aches in between those aches, and a fever.

I had the flu. It was a minor illness: headache, backache, aches in between those aches, and a fever.

The fever was a little bit exciting, but not so much that my family flew in to gather around my sickbed. For one thing, my sickbed was mere minutes from my family's houses; had time truly been critical, they could have traveled faster by trebuchet.

More importantly, though, nobody was concerned. Certainly I wasn't. A scant 48 hours after I collapsed on the couch, both the aches and the fever departed and I arose, carried my pillow back upstairs, and returned to what the television ads call my active lifestyle.

That's when I ran into trouble. Surely picking up all these dog toys from the living room floor wasn't something I did regularly. I was far too exhausted to bend down even once, let alone once for every one of our dog's 6,000 toys. And this business of the bedrooms being an entire flight of stairs away from the rest of the house -- what nitwit architect came up with that bright idea?

To ponder the question, I sat down. I sat down a lot in the days after I recovered from the flu. I pretended to be making lists or mulling my options or trying to remember the words to something -- Desiderata, say. Then I stopped pretending anything and just sat. Sitting was pretty much all I wanted to do, preferably with my eyes closed. At least in that position I felt capable of action, in a minute, when I was ready.

But I was never ready, and that was intolerable. I'm a notorious taskmaster. I make a to-do list every morning. For years, my alarm buzzed before dawn so I could run for an hour and 10 minutes and still be at work by 7:30.

Post-flu, I was in no mood to coddle myself. So what if I was too tired to pour my own coffee? Who cared if pulling a pair of wet jeans from the washer required the energy of breech childbirth? Keep moving, I told myself sternly. Pretend you feel fine and you'll be fine.

I'd taken a day off from running during the 48 hours I was sick. Not the first day, because by the time I noticed my symptoms -- sleepy, grumpy, sneezy, pretty much every dwarf but Doc -- I'd already run.

On the second day, though, running was not even a hypothetical activity. Regular respiration was challenging enough. But I wasn't too sick to feel guilty, so I was glad to be symptom-free on day three. Back to running, I thought briskly, and reported to the treadmill.

Half a mile in, I saw my choices: I could keep running and die, or I could slow to a walk and maybe avoid being an ironic headline. ("Woman succumbs to active lifestyle.") That I covered 5 miles at a rate most turtles would deride as plodding is testimony to my delusion that a temperature of 98.6 means a person is her normal self.

I was not my normal self. Not that day, or the next or the one after that. For nearly two weeks, my biggest daily accomplishment was making a to-do list, a list that always expired unfinished.

This malaise continued for days. "It won't last," I told myself, but it lasted. "It will go away soon," I said, but it didn't go. So I drew the conclusion any intelligent person draws; I decided this wasn't flu. It was something else, undoubtedly fatal.

So much for health, I said, thinking sadly of the happy days before I woke up with a headache. It's downhill from now on. I need to burn those college diaries before the kids go through my things.

This, then, is today's message: To shake off the flu once and for all, a person must come to believe, deeply and genuinely, she never will.

I came to believe it. Life as I knew it -- kaplooey. Gone just like that, I thought. I considered seeing the doctor, but my doctor is 12 years old and wears striped shirts with a gator on the pocket. OK, he isn't really a preteen; he just plays one in his office. Still, why go when it's so clearly hopeless? I may as well spend my last hours at home, where it's comfortable and there's no co-pay.

The next morning, I woke up feeling as frisky as a new lamb. I cleaned the house. I ran errands, singing "but I didn't shoot no deputy" with Bob Marley. I bought groceries. I ate most of them. I rest my case.

Write to Margo Bartlett at margo.bartlett@gmail.com.