What a completely ridiculous dilemma. Seriously. I am 57 years old. I remember how to ride a bike, how to build a fire, how to change a diaper. Now that I teach fifth grade, I remember how to do long division and how to play “Rock, paper, scissors”. I remember my age, my birth date, my social security number.
Most of the time, I remember the password that I set up two years ago to get into my bank account.
What I seem to have totally forgotten, though, is how to be sick.
Oh, before you get all huffy on me here, I know I’m not really sick. But, see, that’s the damn problem! If you have a fever of 106 and a confirmed diagnosis of pneumonia, you’re all set. You get to lie in bed and moan for a few days. You are under no legal obligation to lift one single finger. In fact, you are actively discouraged from doing so.
If you are really sick, you take a day off, and all of your coworkers scramble to cover you. And you feel: No. Guilt.
Because you are honestly, truly, Marcus-Welby-Said-So Sick.
I’m not that kind of sick, though. I just feel really crappy. And my throat hurts. And I keep coughing. And as long as I don’t move too fast or talk to loudly or breathe too deeply, I am sort of almost OK.
But I’m still sick.
And I don’t really seem to remember how to just be sick, you know?
When I was a little kid, being sick with a croupy cough and achy bones meant that you got to sleep really late. You got to stay in bed after everyone else got up and ate breakfast and brushed their teeth and put on their coats and walked the two miles to school.
You got to curl up on the couch in your PJs, with a pillow behind your back and a whole box of nice clean tissues at your side. You got to eat pastina with butter, or saltines with peanut butter and jelly. Your mom made you pots of Vicks vaporub to inhale. You got to lie there like a big fat slug while the day slowly unfurled around you.
When I was a kid, we were allowed to wallow. And it was awesome.
Now that I am a responsible adult, thought, things have surely changed.
I stayed home sick yesterday. My chest hurt, my voice was raspy, every cough made me feel as if I was inhaling shards of glass. I had the chills. My eyeballs burned and my tonsils ached and my spleen felt kinda funny.
So I called in sick from school. I slept late, if 6:30 is late. Then I got up, checked my email, read my students’ online essays and wrote comments, walked the dogs, did two loads of laundry, created a math lesson, vaccuumed the house, made some soup, swept the front steps, put away Halloween decorations and made a nice dinner.
At no point did I curl up like a shrimp and refuse to move. At no time did I demand a bowl of Maltex. I didn’t sleep or drop tissues on the floor or eat a pile of candy. I didn’t call the doctor or mix up a secret remedy or even make myself some nice buttery pastina in honor of my Nana.
I just went through a nice normal day, acting as if I didn’t feel even a little bit sick. Trying to act as if all was well. It really actually wasn’t.
And so tonight I am sitting here on my couch, wearing my fuzzy PJ’s. My head hurts and my throat hurts and when I talk, I sound a whole lot like the neighborhood bullfrog. I have taken tomorrow off.
I plan to stay in my jammies, watch really bad TV, eat some Maltex and maybe some canned soup, and do absolutely nothing remotely productive.
I need to remember how to be sick! I need to remember how to let my poor old body just heal itself and get better. I need to remember that I just teach fifth grade; I don’t hold the secret code to world peace. I need to remember that if I don’t show up, all will actually still be well.
Wish me luck! I’m off to boil me up some pastina.