I’ve been sick.
It’s not serious—nothing that requires hospitalization or specialists or expensive drugs that my insurance won’t cover.
In fact, my doctor diagnosed me with seasonal allergies and, after much pleading on my behalf, also prescribed an antibiotic in case it was something else. By that time, it had been 15 days of general malaise—stuffed nostrils every time I tried to sleep, a shallow, constant cough, a foggy head with slow, dull mental processes, the overwhelming feeling that I wasn’t any better than the day before, and maybe I was even worse.
(It should go without saying that I’m throwing myself a pity-party here. But the thing is: I’m not normally sick. I took a sick half-day last year when I had an infected tooth, and before that, my last day off from teaching was in the fall of 2015. Many people have it much worse; I know that. I can only compare this year’s Paula, who has felt not great for roughly half the calendar year, to every other year of Paula, who has rarely suffered a sniffle. The result is not pretty.)
Now, 22 days later, either the antibiotic did the trick, or the Claritin performed its magic, or whatever was going on has slowly worked its way through my body—but I’m feeling, today, better.
Two nights ago I slept without nasal spray on my bedside table. I didn’t cough so hard I woke up all the humans and pets in my house. Yesterday, I cleared the kitchen counter of the DayQuil, NyQuil, nasal spray, cough drops and the little plastic cups still holding the dregs of orangish medicine.
And right now, I’m finally, finally, sitting down again to write.
It’s been hard, in this sea of self-pity and Gilmore Girls streaming and 9:30 am naps, not to think there’s something deeper at work here. Maybe my life isn’t making me happy. Maybe I’m not spending my time on the right things. Maybe I’m trying to do too much, all at once and my body has put her foot down: No, Paula. Just no.
Maybe this time I should listen.
I know what to do to dig myself out of the too-many-things, because I’ve done it before. Make a list. Prioritize. Set goals and stick to them. Cross one thing off, then another, and don’t look back.
But the trick will be: how do I not find myself right back here in a month, with a dozen new commitments and calendar obligations, my personal goals pushed further down the list?
A friend recently recommended to me You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero. I’m aware of the book cover—I can call up the title font in my mind right now—and aware of the book itself in the vague, fuzzy way I’ve been aware of the entire self-help genre my entire life. Excuse me for thinking that the self-help genre was for other people, that I was already helping myself just fine, thanks. Excuse me for thinking I had nothing new to learn in this area.
I decided to listen to the audiobook, and now whenever I get into my car for a fifteen-minute drive across town, the wisdom comes in these short bursts of affirmations, surprising me each time. What am I listening to? And then: Oh, right.
I have felt nothing at all like a badass for months, maybe for longer. If there is a badass muscle in my body, it has gone dormant, atrophying in the face of this stupid illness, not to mention the endless and probably futile tasks associated with a job I’ve been doing for what suddenly seems to be a very long time, the constant acquiescence to things I really don’t want to do.
I haven’t yet looked at myself in the mirror and proclaimed my badassery.
But it’s going to happen.
It has to.
Paula Treick DeBoard