Grown-Up Sick Day
”The calamity of the morning began with the shattering disillusion that sick days as an adult do not mean Gatorade slushies and pillow forts.”
8-Years Old Again
It’s funny the things that sneak up on you and, in a moment, launch you back into childhood. TV Shows, Poptarts, silly pop-songs. Running into an old teacher who doesn’t know your married name any more than you want to call her by her first. Calling your mom to ask how to best get out a stain. And then there’s the one that recently kicked me in the teeth and swiftly back in time – being sick.
And I don’t mean allergies or indigestion sick; I mean cold chills, 101-temperature, can hardly open and close drawers because I have zero strength sick. Flu sick. I woke early one morning last week right in this boat. Too weak to want to drive myself to the walk-in clinic and too strong to admit I needed to. But finally I sent what felt like a harmless text to my mom, the aches and deep cough squelching all my adult pride. My simple inquiry of, “What meds are best to take for flu-like symptoms?” was instantly countered with a phone call, repeated “I’m sorry’s” in the most pitiful mom voice, and a not-so-subtle demand that I go get it checked out. In a moment, I was eight years old again.
Let me put in perspective how much I wanted this reply. One that confirmed I cannot ride out every affliction with a strong will and hot tea. One that confirmed I am cancelling all my meetings for today and that I do need wise counsel and others’ help far more than I like to believe. An Rx for the body and pride, indeed.
So the calamity of the morning began with the shattering disillusion that sick days as an adult do not mean Gatorade slushies and pillow forts. It means driving your own shivering self to the doctor; picking up your own prescription and praying you see no one you know at Walgreens in your smudgy glasses and hoodie with no bra; debating how long you can try to reply to emails without permanently infecting the keys on your laptop. It means over-paying for an antibiotic that your insurance doesn’t cover because you have two huge projects for work the following days and a team of people depending on you to execute them.
Step On the Scale
The first clinic I went to (because who has time or patience for doctor’s offices or hospitals) I won’t name, but it’s the network in which my primary care doctor is a part. A different location of this network, yes, but my name and charts manifested instantly in their system all the same.
“Yes, Dr. ______ is my GP. I just need a flu test today.”
Then the receptionists do that side-eyed, telepathic look. “Baby, we can’t do that here since your doctor isn’t in this office.”
“But I’m in the same network, my information is right there.”
“Yea (long pause), I’m sorry you’ll have to get it where your doctor is.” Her eyebrows rise. “But we do have a request in here for updated lab work if you want to do that today!” Quite the consolation prize.
Needless to say, I passed on the lab work and grumbled my now sick, cold, and pissed-off self to a generic walk-in clinic down the road, one not affiliated with my five-star, oh-so accommodating network. And there I am once again, sitting in a waiting room, eating a grape jolly rancher because why not and it feels nice on my throat. Like a reflex my legs come up in the chair, crisscrossed and curled to my chest because grown-ups aren’t supposed to get sick. The only difference is as a kid, you can’t wait to get measured and weighed and see how much you’ve grown, how much stronger you are even though today you feel weak. Not for me. Not today. This was the last straw.
“Ma’am, do we really need to do all this for a flu test.”
“It’s just protocol, sweetie.” I’m almost 30 years old. Aren’t I at least a little too old for a sweetie? She gestures to the scale. “Just step right up here for me.”
Nothing kicks a girl when you’re down more than, step up on the scale. I closed my eyes the whole time. Didn’t have the strength or wherewithal to handle that three-digit defeat after the morning I’d had.
Broccoli & GF Noodles
A couple hours and antibiotics later, I made it home, praising Jesus for helping me operate a motor vehicle safely. Driving with chills and a fever, 100% more dangerous than texting and driving. After this perilous and exasperating excursion, I was going nowhere but the couch. But as I snuggled in under my favorite fuzzy blanket with a gloriously sparkly Sprite Zero in toe, another reality of grown-up sick days set in. Healthy food is as satisfying when you’re sick as sandpaper is on sunburn.
My friends always give me grief about my self-handicapped pantry, but if it’s not there I won’t eat it, right? That’s the most valiant strategy to stick to that latest diet, isn’t it? Well let me tell you how good I felt about that fail-proof plan when all I wanted was soup and mac n’ cheese and some chocolate gelato and the closest my fridge had to offer was sesame broccoli and gluten free black bean noodles. Kids would have had all those glorious items already in reach, an arsenal of silky, creamy, life-giving foods from which we grown women abstain with sorrowful pride.
The lessons in humility and gratitude continued as my sister and oldest girl friend insisted on bringing smoothies and soups. They threw the ball with my dog and helped me clean up my kitchen. They even stayed (sitting far across the room from me) and watched silly old movies we’d seen hundreds of times.
But by God’s grace and His not so subtle prompt for me to slow down, what felt like a 72-hour day of wasted time turned to a short season of rest, however uncomfortable. A reminder and resurrection of some great, simple pleasures that somewhere along the way, life had matured out of me. I hit a hard roadblock on the go-go-go, hustle and crush it path I so easily fall into and that the world so fiercely champions, and I sat still. I sat sick, weak, dependent, and grateful for others who showed up to love me in such beautifully childlike ways.
I pray that all of us can be reminded to press pause more often and remember those little things that brought simple joy in our early years. I hope it no longer takes a sick day or a life-changing loss for me to cherish the small blessings and truths that growing up and pressing forward so often leave in the day-to-day dust. Curl up for a movie today. Make some cookies from scratch. Eat some soup, not because you need it to feel better, but because something about it reminds you, you’re already so much better than the world lets you to remember.