Other than to take The Dog for an abbreviated stroll, I haven’t left The House since Sunday. Each evening, after sleeping much of the day in an attempt to fight off This Bug, I’ve managed to make it downstairs and eat a bite or two. But I’ve spent the better part of each day in or close to bed … except when waves of nausea forced me to move elsewhere.
“Surely it’s better this morning?” I thought. And it was … until I tried to get up. Then it wasn’t. I’m not sure what I’ll do about the meeting at 1:30 today, the one that’s “vitally important” because of some special technological issues that await us trainers and presenters on Tuesday.
It’s obvious that my body is telling me something – something important. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten sick the week before teacher planning days started. The closest I can remember is twenty years ago or so, when we’d taken an impromptu trip to the beach and, after playing in the water, taken a peaceful nap on the beach without reapplying sunscreen quite everywhere. I remember waking up from that nap to realize the tops of my feet were severely sunburned. That made for an uncomfortable drive home and a painful first few days, but by the time students arrived that year, all was well.
Will that happen again this year? Will I be able to say that all is well when students arrive in a week and a half? Will I have found peace with what seems to be the current path, another year of in but not of?
Never try to answer difficult questions or make permanent decisions when you’re sick! All it will do is wear you out, make you sicker, drain your energy even more.
A friend emailed me earlier to ask if I’d had any chicken soup. No, I haven’t – I love chicken soup when I’m sick, but there wasn’t any in the house and when I’m sick, the canned, sodium-filled kind isn’t what my body needs. Had I had any virtual chicken soup, she asked? Yes, plenty of that! Calls and texts and Google+ messages from friends; a chance to rest (which it seems I needed much more than I’d realized); the occasional Google+ conversation when I was awake and alert enough to participate. Lots and lots of virtual chicken soup.
When you’re sick, when your body is working on healing itself, it seems to know what it needs. Mine has been very clear: it needs rest, it needs me to lie down, it doesn’t need much food, and it definitely doesn’t want me to go up and down the stairs. Factory-model systems train us not to listen to our bodies: “You can go to the bathroom between classes,” says Ms. X, and I’ve said it too. “You should have gone to bed earlier,” says Mr. Y, “because you know when you have to be at school.” Ms. X is often furious at “those parents” who “let those kids stay home for every little thing. Don’t they realize those kids need to be in school?” Ms. X, in turn, drags herself to school when she’s “just a little bit sick” – and I’ve done this, too – because it’s “so much easier than writing sub plans.”
What does it say about factory-school thinking when attendance is more important than health? When Ms. X, herself a military spouse, gets annoyed at A and B for “missing too many days” when a parent returns from an eighteen-month deployment? When, years ago, my student C, in the hospital for an operation, got exactly one concerned phone call (from me) and exactly two threatening notices about unexcused absences, even though his mom had called the school and sent the paperwork?
My body seems to have some strong feelings about factory-thinking! Will I really be able to work in, but around those structures for a few more months? Money is obviously necessary, and I don’t see an immediate alternative. But money can’t be more important than health or life, and neither can the calls of a sick system to “do it for the children” or “just smile and close your door,” to “just think how close you are to retirement” or “try to grin and bear it just one more year.”
When you’re sick, what happens to things like one more year or for the children or you really ought to or even you’d better? They fade into insignificance compared with your immediate need – to sleep, to breathe, to keep this sip of water down. Maybe the timing of this illness is itself a gift, a form of virtual chicken soup that can nourish me even if I can’t quite manage the real thing. And joyful community will still be there for all of us as we recover.
What other lessons can you take away from a bout with the summer flu?