I was sick for a week. This was back at the beginning of February.
The first day: I stayed in bed and bowed out of a dear friend's housewarming gathering and a half-formed plan activism plan I had.
The second day: I stayed in bed and didn't attend arts residency student workshops--a part of my nonprofit work that I really love.
The third day: I stayed in bed again, missed a kindergarten tour, and asked a few people to cover for me for work-related things I didn't go to.
The fourth day: I stayed in bed yet again--though I did work from my laptop all day--and I rescheduled an evening theatre-related plan I had been looking forward to.
The fifth day: I finally felt better. Not totally great, but definitely well enough to do my day. That night, I collapsed into bed.
The sixth day: I thought I was well, but after a full-on mama-daughter day, I was so tired I thought I would drop.
The seventh day: All better. Finally.
And then, at the dinner table, I said to my husband, "Ten years ago, I would have powered through. I never would have canceled that much, missed out on that much, rested that much. No way." He knew me ten years ago. He agreed.
This past seven days, he's had his turn. Sick as a dog with a rotten virus and strep to go with it. And he, too, has canceled, covered, and missed out so he could rest.
Part of it has to be about getting older, right? Twenty years ago, I pulled all-nighters in college at least once a week. That would mess me up for a solid month if I did it now. Same thing with being sick. A certain degree of powering through just isn't physically possible anymore.
And also, back in the non-mothering days, I could power through and then collapse on the couch eating Jello and watching 80s sitcoms and no one would ask me for shit. That was a different time, yes? You can't just take time off from mothering. Your partner can help you out, but there's a certain amount of mothering that you're just going to be doing if you're not in the hospital or out of town. You might be in bed most of the day, and you're still gonna get your ass up to pack the school bag while partner-and-daughter brush teeth, or you're gonna do special dinner because you promised to do special dinner, or you're gonna spend the afternoon playing Uno and Crazy Eights because it's your time with your kid and besides your partner has twelve work meetings s/he can't get out of. So you can't push yourself to the point of total collapse in the outside world anymore. Because you've got class snacks to pack before you go to bed.
And then there's this: I don't WANT to push my body that way anymore if I don't have to. My body has carried me through some seriously good and seriously bad times, and I'd like to give it a little more respect than I used to. Those were the days of the horrible strep throat after tech weeks, the acute-bronchitis-that-lives-on-as-chronic-bronchitis after my freshman first semester, the full-on shut down somewhere in my Chicago years. I'm sorry, body. I didn't know what the hell I was doing.
I'm writing this today because a lot of people have the flu-virus-crud-strep-crap right now. 'Tis the season, and also there's some intense stress in the world wearing us all down. In case you need to hear it: It's okay for you to cancel important things you really wanted or needed to do. It's okay for you to need your partner to do the entire morning routine with the kids six days in a row. It's okay for you to rest when you're sick.
There are exceptions: a show, a sick kid, emergencies with loved ones. Those are my exceptions. Yours may be different. But everything can't be an exception. By definition.