Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Stage 3

My journey through any illness can be broken down into three stages.

Stage 1: Repeat after me. I am not getting sick. I am not getting sick. I am not ...

If you don't give a virus any attention, I figure, it'll get discouraged and wander off. Think of it as that creepy guy at the party who's hanging around the edge of your conversation, just waiting for an opening. If you acknowledge him, you may not be able to shake him the rest of the night. You'll be stuck nodding politely as he enthuses about his comic book collection, while that cute guy you've been trailing all evening goes off with the hussy in the low-cut dress.

So instead, you find something of great interest on the other side of the room. You suddenly remember you promised the hostess you'd help out in the kitchen. You drink your wine (a little faster), laugh at your friends' jokes (a little louder), and generally try to look like you're far too busy to be interrupted.

Of course, hangers-on don't become hangers-on by picking up on subtle social cues. Which brings us to ...

Stage 2: Respectfully disagree.

It used to drive me crazy that my husband would, upon his first sniffle, take to his bed like a ground squirrel at the first sign of winter. I viewed his immediate and unconditional surrender as a sign of weakness, at best. At worst it seemed to indicate a propensity to shirk responsibility that did not bode well for the rest of our lives together. Not that I judge.

I, on the other hand, had Important Work to do. "If the universe didn't intend for us to power through a few shivers and body aches, why did she give us Dayquil?" I would ask my husband, with all the moral superiority I could muster. (Which admittedly wasn't a lot, since I was usually recovering from a dizzy spell induced by some strenuous activity such as walking from the bed to the shower or bending over to pull on panty hose.)

But those factsheets weren't going to edit themselves! Does poor grammar take the day off, just because you have a little fever? When you are the only thing standing between helpless citizens and a brochure full of comma splices, do you lie around resting and drinking tea? No, sir. You get up and do your job, mister.

My husband, fully recovered after another 24-hour marathon sleep fest, would just shake his head. Because he knew sooner or later, I would arrive at ...

Stage 3: Surrender.

It used to take a long time to get here. In my twenties, it wasn't uncommon for me to spend days on end getting up, going to work, feeling awful, infecting others, fainting on the subway, and developing nasty secondary infections before I would finally admit that maybe a day of rest wasn't such a bad idea.

When I took one, I was pleased to discover that a day of rest is in fact a fantastic idea. Yes, there's something humbling about admitting that the number of tasks you, and you alone, can complete is much smaller than you ever imagined. That those tasks will wait. And that you are, for the most part, a small cog in a much larger wheel that keeps right on turning, with or without you. But the freedom? Priceless.

When I became a parent, I had to learn this lesson all over again. In no other role are we as essential or irreplaceable than as mommy or daddy. And yes: should my children need an automobile lifted off their tiny bodies or to be rescued from a burning building, no mere number on the thermometer will keep me from springing into action.

But letting daddy take them to school, even if he won't do my daughter's ponytail just right? Allowing them an extra hour of TV in order to allow myself an extra hour of rest? Canned soup for dinner three nights in a row? Totally do-able. Better yet, I've realized that taking a day or two off won't turn me into that lazy shirker I so irrationally fear becoming.

Today, I'm in Stage 3 of my latest bug. I've cancelled all of my appointments, dropped the kids off at school, and made a date with HBO.

With a little rest, I'll be back to saving the world from comma splices in no time.


  1. Glad you made it! ~Carolyn

  2. Jill,

    You regale me with your wit and insights! It is said that humor is hereditary - you catch it from your kids! They certainly provide rich material. And your realization in this posting is one I did not come to until much later in life - like now! Working as a contractor and thus being paid by the hour, resisting (and trying to ignore) germs was a way of life.

    Keep up the good work - we both enjoy it!