Sunday, February 20, 2005

On Being Ill

Our family hunkered down today, spending most of our waking hours in the living room, watching T.V. Not our usual active weekend day.

During the past 5 days, each of us has succumbed to a nasty stomach virus, going down one after the other for about 24 hours, followed by a slow, appetite-deprived, weary recovery. Eli was the first. As The Mom, it was my job to stay up in the night with him (I was able to be home with him the next day, so I let Bruce sleep so he could work the next day). Eli was home from school 2 days. Then I got it. Then Bruce and finally Robbie.

We're all exhausted now. And out of it. It's been 5 days since I've worked on college teaching at all. Luckily I was able to get freelancing done, but I'm way behind in everything else.

Being sick and being around sick people, though, has its odd rewards. Before I was a mom, I always dreaded the time when I'd have to sit up with a vomiting child. I really didn't think I could do it, and now I know I can. There's something satisfying in knowing you can do something you didn't think you could do. Robbie and I even have a system worked out. I come and sit with him between episodes in the bathroom, and we talk about various random topics. "Come out here and keep me company," he says from the hall near the bathroom where he'll camp with a pillow and blanket.

And then when I was sick, I remember feeling relieved (now I didn't have to go on wondering "OK, am I going to catch this or not?") and competent ("I can handle it.") The next day, it was somewhat freeing just to say "I'm not going to meet with students today. They can meet together without me."

I lounged around in dirty hair and pajamas all that next day, looking out at the (rare) sunny February day, alternately dozing and listening to hours of NPR, watching the two TV shows I tape each week, moving slowly, talking to the kitty, not thinking much.

There's something alluring about invalidism, or at least at some level. The idea that nobody will be expecting anything from you while you're ill (quite a relief to a mom who's been on sick-kid duty). The chance NOT to think or plan or judge or devise an assignment, or write anything that makes sense. Today, I was thinking about how much work it will be to get back to reality, to reconnect myself to everything I've had to leave behind this week of illness. I felt the tug of invalidism. Maybe I'll just stay sick.

I think that once my energy and appetite fully return, I will once again be ready to go back, to step back into the world of thinking and walking and doing. The sojourn here in the sickroom will come to an end.

Oh, and did I tell you it was also my birthday this weekend, in the midst of all that? Saturday morning, I made the decision to postpone the actual celebration until next week. By then we'll all be well.

No comments: