Goodbye sick days

My husband has the best immune system. He gets a cold and it clears up in a few days. Even when I am a dripping pile of mucus and germs he mostly avoids getting sick. I hope my son gets this from him. Me? Every cold I have ever had has turned into a sinus infection and lasted several weeks, followed by a week of coughing and sometimes voice loss. This is extremely inconvenient, but especially now as a new mom.

When I was younger, I used to pride myself on being functional while sick. I would push myself to do everything I normally did while healthy. This definitely did not help the healing process.

If I could go back in time and talk to myself in the past I would say something like this:

Dear past me,

What is wrong with you? Why are you going to school today? You are clearly dying and need to lie down. No, don’t come closer! I am going to hand you a box of tissues and you will take them and back away to a safe distance.

Okay, that’s better. Okay, now you are going to take a sick day. No, don’t argue. You will lie on the couch, watch daytime TV and eat soup. You know why? Because you will never get to have a real sick day again.

When you are a kid, you lie on the couch, and snooze or read all day. When you are hungry, you get your mom or dad to make you some soup. You don’t have any responsibilities, or cares. You are allowed to feel terrible and to take that time to heal. You do not appreciate any of this.

When you are a university student, you will be sad that you have to cook for yourself when you are sick. No one makes you soup, and no one cleans up your pile of gross tissues when they overflow your garbage. You have to adult. You have to put on clothing, go to the store and buy your own medicine. Sure you can lie around and watch TV but you can only hide from the dishes or class deadlines for so long before you have to go back to adulting.

When you get a teaching job, you will have to plan your sick days. Preferrably non-consecutively and not more than two in a row. Also, not near important events such as the winter concert or exams. You will have to set out a day plan for a stranger to do with your students. It will take you way too much time. You will have to write out very specific directions, which no one will follow. By the time you are finished, you will wish you just went to work. But you only get to lie on the couch for an hour before you have to get up and walk the dog. You love your dog, but she doesn’t understand your pain, so you get up and walk her around the block.

When you have a baby, you will have to say goodbye to the sick day as you know it. You can’t explain to your five month old how you feel. You constantly worry about passing on the cold to him, because he will pass it back to you. This will go on forever. But you have to touch him because he is a baby and depends on you to do everything for him. So you feed him, change him, play with him and attempt to sing to him (though it sounds more like croaking when you are sick). You breastfeed him, while attempting not to drip any snot on his lovely face. He is constantly and obsessively trying to stick his hand in your mouth. You still have to entertain him but you can’t take him out to see other people in case you also infect a poor helpless baby, so he gets bored and fussy. Babies don’t understand the joy of lying on the couch and watching daytime TV. You still have to cook and take care of the dog. Only now you can’t load up on cough medicine because you are breastfeeding. You can’t lie on the couch because you have to both adult and mom. You miss your sick days.

So, past me, please take those sick days and really enjoy them. Don’t change out of your PJs, don’t do any work and just heal. Right now you don’t want to take a break or let the sickness win, but taking a day off does not make you any less tough. You may heal faster. At the very least you will stop getting dirty looks from other people when you sneeze in public. So please, please sick day like you mean it! You will miss them when they are gone.

Sincerely,

Future you

Photo credit: ePublicist via Visualhunt / CC BY-ND

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