by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist
You know when you’re playing Wii Golf and you hit the ball way to hard? That was the noise I heard in my ear whenever I blew my nose.
I didn’t have the flu, a sinus infection, an ear infection or bronchitis. I didn’t have the fever to warrant antibiotics and I didn’t have enough symptoms to make even a trip to the ER worth it. I knew they’d say, “yup, your ears are stuffed up”. I knew that the treatment would be a combination of Mucinex and Benadryl and Motrin for pain and rest. Lots of fluids.
This stupid virus was interfering with my life! I had plans! Big plans! I was spending over an hour every day on the treadmill. I was writing 1000 words a day in addition to leading the fastest growing writers’ group on Facebook. I was marketing my new release. I was homeschooling 5 children. I couldn’t afford to be sick.
And for a moment or two there, I thought I had let myself down. I can’t meet my goals if I’m sick.
It’s hard to go from Super Mom mode to snothead. It’s hard to decide that you just don’t have the energy to write today. It’s hard to realize that the Benadryl is making it way too difficult to do anything but watch The Lego Movie for the millionth time. It’s also easy to slip into self pity when you’re confident that the amount of stuff that’s come out of your nose is way more than the volume your nasal cavity can hold.
I should have taken the opportunity to be kind to myself. I should have said this: Just rest. Just close your eyes. Just think about something else. Don’t think about the things that are not getting done. Don’t think that your book will not be marketed properly because you coughed up three lungs today. Don’t worry about it.
I should have fought against the self condemnation in the same way that antibiotics would have fought off an infection. If someone around me couldn’t fulfill their obligation to me because they were sick, wouldn’t I have grace for them? Why don’t I have grace for myself?
I know why. Or at least I know partly why. I know that my mother never reduced my workload when I was sick. I was taught to tough it out. I was taught to shut up and get over it because there was work to do. I was taught that sickness was for the weak. All I’m doing this for is attention. If I had been working harder, I would have never been sick.
I need to change my thinking. I need to learn to love myself.
- Be realistic about what you can and can’t do. Pushing myself mentally or physically when I am sick is rarely a good idea. I need to stop comparing the productivity an on fire good day to a wiped out sick day and just enjoy the extra sleep.
- Take cues from your body and your family. If any of us is physically down, then a change must be made. As the mom, I need to figure it out. I’d be the first one in my family to send them to bed if they’re sick, I need to be just as bossy with myself.
- Stick to a schedule, a survival life schedule. This means eating regularly, sleeping regularly, spending the minimal amounts of time doing the basics. Even one load of laundry a day, when you are sick, will keep the mountain from growing in the laundry room.
- Get back to the basics. Enough sleep, water, right food etc. I have a mental list of what Survival Life looks like. This means the most basic of hygiene, the simplest of meals, the past of least resistance in everything I do. When I’m sick, I need to just default to this setting and live with it.
- Lower your expectations. When I am sick, I need to just set the bar on the floor and try to step over it. I also need to not beat myself up for this, listen to negative thinking or feel the least bit guilty.
- Celebrate what you can do. Get the whole family cheering when you can take a shower without passing out or eat a simple meal without losing it.
- Don’t compare yourself to others. This is great advice for all of life, but when you’re already weak, it’s even more of a bad idea to look beside you. Someone will have it better than you: their kids vomit in the toilet instead of the bed. But then, someone will have it worse: it’s not the flu, it’s Lyme disease! This division of mind will never be productive if you are trying to recover. Just don’t do it.
- Ask for help. Delegate responsibilities. Ask to move the deadline. There is grace in this season. Regardless of how humiliating it feels at times to ask for help, you need it. Don’t be afraid to ask kids, in-laws, neighbors, or anyone within reach to ease your life just a bit while you’re down.
- Say no. This should be a no-brainer, but somehow we believe that we have to say yes, even when we don’t have the strength. While you’re sick, make sure that you have steadfast boundaries with those around you.
- Think positive thoughts. Generally speaking, most minor illnesses go away in time. Keep it in perspective. You can catch up on reading, you can buy a new coloring book, you can finally get the rest you need.