I got slammed with something last week – the doctor called it an “influenza-like virus,” though it felt an awful lot like the real thing. It was a whole cocktail of symptoms: fever, chills, aches, sore throat, cough, congestion. It started on a Sunday and went on for the rest of the week, and because of it I missed four days of school in a row.
That is the first time I have ever missed that much school. I didn’t even miss that much when I had an ectopic pregnancy; I didn’t miss that much when I had a miscarriage. It felt like The Week that Wasn’t, a huge black hole in my lesson plans and a complete cessation of my normal routine. Trust me, this virus was nasty. (Is nasty: I still have the cough and some of the congestion.)
But everything in life is a learning experience, isn’t it? As painful as it was to suffer through this lost week, I did gain some useful insights from it.
Here they are.
1. It is easier to be a sick mom now than it was when the kids were younger. I wouldn’t say it was easy, just easier. Last Sunday afternoon, when this thing hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks, Scott was at an event at work and I was home alone with the kids. I gave them two things — the remote to the TV and permission to watch any mom-sanctioned show they wanted — then burrowed under the covers in my room and tried very hard to get warm. I spent most of the afternoon under layers of quilts, shivering to the sound of “Wild Kratts” from the living room, and the kids for the most part left me alone. This scenario could not have happened when they were babies, or even toddlers. It does get easier, this parenting thing.
2. I do a lot in my life as a mom. Because I was essentially non-operational for the first two days, Scott had to do all the things I usually do in the afternoon/evening: pick up the kids, see them through homework, stay on top of the notes from school, pack lunchboxes for the next day, make dinner, find the clean laundry for the next morning. That first night I lay in bed feeling guilty for being sick and dumping all these things on his lap. And then I thought, “But wait! I do those things all the time.” And I suddenly realized that I’m actually kind of a badass. It was a good thing to discover.
3. Morning TV shows vary widely in quality. I never watch them because I’m always at work, but last week, I did. I learned, somewhat to my surprise, that I can’t handle Good Morning, America; it’s too flashy and has too many graphics. I was much happier with the more sedate CBS This Morning. (I’m the world’s youngest old fogey.)
4. Makeup helps one’s mood. I didn’t wear lipstick for three days straight, not even to go out in public to the doctor’s office. By Day Four I decided that I was tired of looking like death warmed over and put on some makeup, even though I was just hanging around the house. And you know what? I actually did feel better. Maybe that just means I’m a slave to society’s standards of beauty, but whatever. It worked, and that’s all I cared about.
5. “All About Eve” is every bit as good as I remember. Nothing like witty one-liners and sparkling repartee to clear your head.
6. “Enchanted April” is even better than I remember. I first saw this movie when it was in the theatres, which was back when I was in college. I enjoyed it then, but I can relate to it more now. If you haven’t seen it, it’s about four English women in the 1920s who answer an ad to rent a dreamy Italian castle on the coast. All sorts of renewal and rebirth ensues.
The movie has many scenes of the main characters sitting in deck chairs in the sun or lying in the grass of an Italian meadow or on the rocks along the coast, just dreaming. Though that sounds like boring cinema, it was riveting. I want me some of that, I thought, some of that silence and solitude and just lying there and doing nothing.
And then I realized – odd though it sounds – that my illness was, in a way, exactly that. It was a forced chance to do nothing. I spent many hours last week just lying around, staring at the walls, not even with the stereo on, just being. Once the worst of the symptoms had passed, it was undeniably renewing.
And it made me think about how I can work more of that downtime into my non-sick life. I made a little resolution to work more “being time” into my routine – more time where I am just daydreaming, not on my phone or on Facebook, but just letting my thoughts wander. (It would be more fun to do it in an Italian castle, admittedly, but I’ll take what I can get.)
Overall, for a lost week, I guess I gained a few useful insights. Now the trick is to remember them not just in sickness, but in health.