When I would get sick, my grandmother would drive her tan Buick LeSabre nearly 3 hours to make me cinnamon sugar toast, chamomile tea, take my temperature throughout the day, arrange my blankets, and even play Candyland and gin rummy.
Being sick in my house was a double-edged sword. I usually had a full schedule of activities planned: birthday parties, slumber parties, make-believe adventures. And if I made a peep about feeling sick (or my mom heard a series of sneezes and nose-blows, or she felt a hot forehead, or if I had that wheezy sound in my chest,) it would put a stop to all aforementioned activities.
Being sick was a study in cost-benefit analysis. Was I really sick enough to risk being banned from Jenny Boley’s birthday party? High fever and pounding sinus headache versus jumping on the trampoline and dancing to Salt n Pepa? Tough call.
When I hit high school, and the frenetic pace of school activities and academic pressure began to squeeze my brain inside an ever-tightening vice grip, the “being sick” conundrum became more intense.
And a new cost-benefit analysis ritual began.
I would wait, anxiously, for mom to read the thermometer. Would it be over 100? There was no negotiating with a temperature over 100 – I would be forced to stay home. And of course I would flail and cry and exclaim about all of the school work I would be missing (Little Miss Straight A). No homecoming football game. Maybe even no dance. And after-parties would obviously be out the question. Damn head cold.
But inside, I would be secretly relieved. An entire day! A day with only one rule: to rest. One job: to stay in bed. One worry: to get the temperature down and hydrate. That magical 100 degrees Fahrenheit meant an entire day freed of the expectations; the pressure; the carefully groomed perfectionism. If I were “lucky,” someone would stop by after school with notes and homework. But most of the time, I would simply…
I would lie quietly in bed. I would read. I would chat with my mom. I would pet the dog. I would look out the window. I would curl up by the woodstove.
I would think.
Now, to be clear, I am not a sick-faker. In my entire working life, I have only called in sick a handful of times – and those were 100 degree fever days. I hate missing out – on birthday parties or productive workdays – even just a good girls’ night out. I do.
Lucky for me, I am very rarely sick. Like only once a year. Maybe.
On those rare occasions (like today) when I do find myself at home, feeling miserable, barely able to get out of bed, mouth-breathing in that horror-movie sort of pant, I give myself permission. To stop. And rest.
And once I can cut through that split pea soup brain fog, and I venture out of my down-and-Tempurpedic-cloud-of-a-sleeping-chamber, in sheepskin slippers, I look around me and feel darn lucky.
To have a husband who makes me tea, feeds me ibuprofen, and offers to make homemade Lebanese garlic, lemon, yogurt, chicken and rice soup.
I have a living, breathing stuffed animal who nudges her wet nose under the covers to remind me she’s there.
I have a warm bungalow that shelters me from the snow.
My parents (mother, father, and mother-in-law) are calling to check in. My sister-in-law is sending “get well soon” emoticons.
But, best of all, I have tomorrow to look forward to.
Some people are sick for many months. Some are sick their entire lives. Some really sick people do not see “tomorrow.” But me? I have a wicked-strong immune system. And lots of big plans for the future.
So I wrap my hands around my coffee mug, peer out through our frosty windows, and appreciate this moment. Even if snot is running down my nose.
I imagine I am listening to my white blood cells, who are busy swashbuckling as they fight the bad guys inside me.
In between bouts of hydration, I engage in pure silver lining-think:
I will feel better in a few days. And me? I have the rest of my life to run and play, push myself, be productive, dream dreams, and