Growing up, there was always something magical about a sick day.
My mom was never the kind of mother to bring soda into the house, but when we were sick, all bets were off. She’d head straight to the store and buy a 6-pack of 7-UP, and we’d happily sip it— although slowly, and only once all the bubbles had fizzled out. (The trick to curing an upset stomach, apparently.)
We’d drag all of our bedding into the living room and watch movie after movie. I still remember watching Lady and the Tramp from the pullout couch in our old house as I sat covered in calamine lotion and chicken pox.
Coincidentally, the only poem I ever memorized was the poem by Shel Silverstein about faking sick to stay home from school.
“I have the measles and the mumps, lumps, and something about purple bumps” (or at least I used to have it memorized).
But there’s something really great about sick days.
Or at least there used to be.
Since we’ve all grown up, being sick has become increasingly inconvenient.
A sick day means time off without the umbrella drink. It means falling behind on emails and deadlines stacking to impossible heights.
It means that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach as you remember all of the people who you are totally letting down.
Gone are the days of 7-UP and movie marathons, and enter the days of working from bed, and feeling guilty for being out of the office.
I’ve researched this first-hand recently because I got sick this weekend. Really sick.
It was the kind of sick that creeps up on you slowly—menacingly. I went to my friend Heather’s wedding on Saturday with a scratchy, sore throat. I knew that sickness was lurking right around the corner, waiting for all of the celebration and sparklers to be extinguished before it made its move.
And then it did.
Sunday morning I woke up absolutely miserable—knowing without a shadow of a doubt that I was definitely, most assuredly, sick.
It got worse as the days went on and I spent the better half of a week in bed, surrounded by tissues and falling asleep to the same movie over and over again.
And as I finally came to grips with the fact that this wasn’t going away, I had a choice to make.
I could either feel guilty about the things that I was missing, OR I could resign myself to being sick and actually take the rest my body needed.
I could frantically answer emails from my tissue covered cave, or I could sleep and watch movies and maybe even drink some 7-UP.
And so that’s what I did.
I blazed through seasons of TV shows that I’d never had time for, and took naps that lasted until the sun went down. I padded back and forth from the bathroom to my bedroom, only escaping my pillowy haven for more tissues, more tissues, more tissues. I watched as emails stacked up and did nothing to stop it—not having the energy to respond to more than a few.
And to be honest, it was terrible, and kind of amazing.
Because even though I was sick, I was actually present those days, and there’s something wonderful about that.
Being sick was not fun, it never is. But it’s made so much worse when we feel like we should be somewhere else.
We do that to ourselves, I’m realizing. We tell ourselves that we should be somewhere else—totally ruining the moment of life we were actually standing in.
If you’re stuck in the office on a sunny summer day, you’re not going to make the day better by wishing you were elsewhere. And it’s true the other way as well. If you’ve broken free from the office for a day on the slopes, you might as well enjoy it, instead of checking your email frantically on the ski lifts up.
We get to be one place at a time in our lives and too often we miss it wishing we were (or feeling guilty because we’re not) somewhere else.
“Be in your life,” my friend Betsy says.
But these days I’m practicing being present. I’m practicing having my mind and my body and my soul all in one place, and taking each moment for all that it has to offer—for better or for worse.
And so for the past three days, I’ve been in bed.
I’ve cycled through the same chick flicks countless times and eaten bowl after bowl of Panera tomato soup.
I’ve been sniffly and hazy, with a pale face and matted hair. And I’ve changed into increasingly embarrassing PJ pants at random intervals throughout the day.
And it’s been glorious in it’s own stuffy-nosed, cold medicine-tasting kind of way.
Because this was my life this week, and I was in it.
And I’m going to do the same tomorrow, and the day after too.
How do you stay present in your everyday?