The Alpha Blonde

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This article was written on 10 Mar 2016, and is filled under health.

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Why Sick Days Freak Me Out.

I dread getting sick. I mean, no one gets stoked about catching a cold, but I really dread it. I pull out all of the mental games like, “Oh, I’m just run down.” and “It’s probably just allergies.”

I don’t know how to cope with down time. Between a toddler, two elementary aged kids, a full time job, a full time husband, and never ending piles of laundry, dishes, and diapers—okay, I’m ashamed of the diaper piles, but they happen—sitting still, or even worse—laying back—is something I am not really familiar with anymore

I’m not complaining either. I love that things move because I move them in my life. Kids get to school, clients get emailed back, diapers (sometimes) get moved from the tiny trashcan in the bathroom to the dumpster. A hands-on life is a good one by my estimation.

But then sick happens. It happens and you can see it happening—especially with kids. Cary, my 8 year old, had to stay home last weekend while the rest of us drove to LA Zine Fest because he’d been battling a cough for a week. Coincidentally, while setting up our booth at the festival I started feeling a burning tickle in my throat. By mid-to-late afternoon I was jittery and shaking. I consciously attributed it to too many lattes, or the smoothie I’d had for lunch, while very consciously shoving the image of my son hacking away in his bed the morning before.

And all week I’ve been in the middle of this totally ridiculous I’m-sick-no-I’m-not dance until this afternoon as I started coughing these full, phlegmy sonsabitches, my boss looked at me and said “Go home until you’re well.”

Simple. And it should have happened on Monday. So why didn’t I take a sick day from the first tickle in my throat?

1. Responsibility

I took the strengthsfinder test and one of my top-five strengths is responsibility. Which is cool and all, except it’s way more of a burden than a strength. When I feel a cold coming on I look at the calendar for the next week and say “well, getting sick Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday are out because I have too many deadlines and meetings. I’d better get it all done on Thursday.”

News flash: Colds, the flu, food poisoning—yeah, none of them give a shit about your schedule. What ends up happening is working through it, head in a fog, and not being as good at your job as you should. Will I remember this next cold? Nope.

2. Fear of “the Pile”

This definitely piggy-backs on Responsibility. I know that if I stay in bed watching Doctor Who today, tomorrow I’ll have to crank out a rough draft in one day instead of a comfortable two days. Or more like a half day if you count responding to emails from clients, saying “Oh, crap!” when I realize the ball was dropped on something you’d planned on doing the day before, and running into the hallway to cough because I’m still probably sick. The stack of things that have to get done eventually is enough to keep me from accepting that I’m sick. What’s worse than the pile? Coming back to work to discover that I’d gotten everyone else sick and I’d have to work without them—because usually everyone else is better at taking sick days and taking cake of themselves than I am. They’re good at being conscientious employees.

3.Guilt

Here’s the current sitch: I’m home, I’m in bed. I realize I haven’t changed the sheets in a while and suddenly can’t think of anything except all of the skin cells, country dust, and spilled milk/leaky diapers/who knows what else is all over the bedding.

I try to fight the “gotta do laundry” feeling for at least one more day, and go to the kitchen to make tea. The dishwasher has been clean for two days. As I wait for the water to boil, I catch myself emptying it—I’m home, therefore I must be in motion.

The guilt of laying in my underwear and breathing heavily feels a little too close to my daydreams (sans 1976 Peter Frampton talk-boxing sexy things to me, unfortch) for comfort. If I’m not working on something, everything feels wrong.

4. Fear that I’ll get in trouble/that I’m really not sick enough/that someone will think I’m faking it
This goes back to one of my first jobs. I was working as a receptionist for a company with a very strict absence policy, and once you’d accrued so many tardies and absences you were put on a “step” program, where essentially, every minute you were stuck in traffic, or every migraine that kept you in bed, was phasing you out of your job. It’s fine if you like living in fear every morning on the morning commute, but it left me completely incapable of taking a sick day. Worse yet—it was better to come in sick as a dog and get sent home because then they could see that it wasn’t just a day to play. Coming in with a fever and chills didn’t cost me any godforsaken steps to be added to my file. This fear of not only getting reprimanded for a legitimate sick day (I had migraines almost weekly in my early twenties) but also subject to scrutiny of whether I was really sick enough has stuck with me. Usually, when I look at how I feel through the lense of that particular policy, I discover that I’m definitely not sick enough to stay home. I’m still breathing, after all.

5. Fear that I’m not really necessary after all 
Discovering things went smoothly while I’m down should be comforting, but there’s that tiny nagging voice that says, “Don’t let them realize they can function without you.”

Ouch, right?

I love my job, I adore my kids, and my husband is a real gem. I like that those things are as reliant on my participation as I am on them.

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So here I am, in bed, checking work email in my jammies, running through my checklists to make sure everything is in place just in case I need to stay in bed tomorrow, and writing. When I take a step back (possibly lurching and lunging depending on the combination of cold meds and a hot toddy) and think about it, obviously nothing will fall apart in a day or two. My family won’t discover they’re fine without me and no one at the office is missing me clearing my throat and broadcasting my germs across the workspace.

In about 5 seconds I’ll be forcing myself to close my laptop and just lay here. I’ve realized I’ve written an entire blog in order to justify to myself that it’s okay to rest. Maybe It’s time to revisit that Peter Frampton daydream—hell, if that’s what it takes to rest, I guess I’ll have to take one for the team. I just really hope I don’t get him sick or offer to fold his laundry while I’m at it.

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