Okay – who *does* have time to be sick, anyway? Not many people I know, that’s for sure. But for busy Moms hoping to enjoy summer vacation with their families while simultaneously tackling a “to-do” list the length of a pro-NBA player’s arm, now, sweet Baby Jesus, is not the time to be sick. Perhaps, like me, you’ve been struck with a pesky illness during these hot summer days, and wonder how to take care of yourself amidst the loads of laundry and bickering siblings and phone calls that need returning.
Don’t be a martyr
At some point, I thought not telling people I was ill would make me holier – you know – the whole “suffering in silence” thing. Instead of becoming sanctified, however, I was driving people crazy by expecting them to know exactly why I wasn’t able to accomplish all the things. I’ve found that, when I humbly and honestly communicate that I’m just not feeling well, people are generally very understanding (especially if I call them on the phone and they hear how terrible I sound). My advice? Tell your family. Tell others in your circle who need to know. Likely, people will offer to help you until you’re feeling better, and they might even pray for you!
Separating needs from wants
When you’re sick, the difference between needs and wants is suddenly crystal clear: I don’t really need to go through the 22 boxes marked “to go through” that have been sitting in the garage for months. And I don’t need to get all the kids ready to drive to the $1 movie an hour away. What I do need, however, is to accomplish the basics – food, clothing, shelter – and conjure some way for the children to play nicely while I rest. Period. Tomorrow, if I’m feeling better, I will reevaluate. For now, I need to rest.
So, what can we do when we’re under the weather?
Depending on your illness, you might be able to do quite a bit while you convalesce. Or perhaps not. Take an honest inventory. Personally, I still can’t speak well or sing well because of the cough. So, singing at last week’s church event was out. I can, however, snuggle with my kids (just not too closely). I can write for a while. I can put a load of wash in the machine. I can spread jelly on a piece of bread and run the dishwasher. I can rest. And I can pray. More on that in a bit. Bottom line? Focus on the things that you are able to do and don’t fret the things you aren’t. You’re a human being, not a robot. Perhaps it’s time to postpone or delegate certain tasks until you’re feeling better.
Call in the reinforcements
I’m not sick enough for my husband to take a sick day. Nor am I at the level of calling my mother-in-law to fly in from the desert to save us (she did that once, bless her). My parents live a little over three hours away, but they have busy retired-people schedules. I’m not gonna call them, either.
Maybe you don’t have family around the corner. Maybe your local friends are pregnant or have young children, or a compromised immune system and you don’t want them to catch whatever evil virus you’ve got. But maybe, just maybe, you have a special kindred spirit friend who doesn’t care if you or all your next-of-kin are on your death beds; she will come fix you soup and fold your laundry and mop your kitchen floor and read your children stories while you sleep. Okay. So, I don’t have anyone like that nearby, either, but a girl can dream, right?
Personally, I long for the day when Catholic parishes have secure, online databases within which congregants can perform searches, like: “Help! I have young children and I can’t get out of bed;” or, another favorite: “My husband’s at work and the toilet is overflowing again.” The database matches you up with a fellow parishioner based on your need, you make a call or send an email with your request, and someone comes rushing to your aid. With popsicles for the children. I’ve heard the LDS church does a really good job with this. C’mon, Catholics. Let’s get with the program.
My point is, if you have reinforcements to call upon, CALL UPON THEM. Do not be afraid to ask for help. God intended us to live in community – to help each other out. You are giving your friends and family members an opportunity to practice the corporal act of mercy, and practicing a bit of humility by admitting you need help. Win-win.
Perhaps, like me, you have a hard time being still, even when you’re sick, especially with that crazy to-do list I mentioned earlier looming overhead. That list, my friend, will still be there when you’re feeling better. But right now, you have been given a gift from God – permission, as it were, by the nature of your current limitations, to be still. Offer up your aches and pains and annoyances as a prayer for those who really need it! Maybe it’s your husband, who’s pulling double-duty with the children once he gets home from work. Maybe it’s for the poor, suffering souls in Purgatory or those being persecuted for their faith in the Middle East. And maybe it’s for your neighbor next door who’s going through some unknown crisis. Whatever it is, don’t waste your suffering by complaining. Give it to God, and let Him work through your pain and annoyances.
Everything is grace
When I get sick, my knee-jerk reaction is to whine and kvetch and lament. I have things to do, people!! Soon enough, though, my friend St. Therese of Lisieux reminds me that everything is grace. Everything. There must be a reason I need to slow down for this period of my life. And my Heavenly Father loves me so very much that He knows that this is the best place for me to be at this very moment. That makes it a bit easier to tolerate. And a bit easier to pray.
What do you do to pass the time when you’re feeling ill? If you’re sick now, I pray you will be healed very soon. If you’re not, I hope you’ll thank God for your good health and pray for those of us stuck on the couch today.
Copyright 2015 Heather Renshaw
Photo courtesy of Heather Renshaw. All rights reserved.