I could be remembering the past through rose colored glasses, but I believe that my mother was THE BEST MOM IN THE WORLD when it came to taking care of sick children.
When I was sick as a kid, she would set me up in the living room on the couch, with fresh sheets every day (sometimes twice a day). I was allowed to watch TV all day, though she would also provide me with a pile of books and magazines (she was a librarian after all). If my illness didn’t completely kill my appetite, she made my favorite “sick” foods – spaghettio’s with sliced franks or tomato soup with “kellys” (Do not look this up in urban dictionary – in MY family kellys are little slices of bread with butter on them.).
My mom brought me water to keep my hydrated – with straws so I didn’t even have to sit up to take a drink. She would bring me warm wash cloths to wipe my face when I was too dizzy to freshen up in the bathroom. When I was bored with mid-day television she would keep me company if I couldn’t sleep. She struck the perfect balance between leaving me alone in my misery and coddling me.
I realize that not everyone had a mother like this. One friend tells me stories of being shunned to the unfinished basement during illnesses while her germophobe mother would occasionally throw boxes of tissues down the stairs. Perhaps with some dry toast.
I do realize I had it really good.
I wasn’t long into my adulthood when I figured out that my husband was unlikely to provide the same kind of attention to me when I was ill, but he would always help me when I asked and he was excellent at purchasing the foods I liked best when my appetite began to return. He could, if I needed him to, pick up medicine at the pharmacy and take me to the doctor if I was too sick to drive. Did he change my sheets every day without asking? Did he bring me warm wash cloths to freshen up? Did he rub my feet? No, but helped me when I asked for help and that was lovely.
Well, exit husband, and enter a whole new wave of taking care of oneself.
My parent friends are probably laughing at me – because of course the worst thing in the world is not being sick and single, it’s being sick and a parent. Or perhaps being a parent of three sick children at once. But since I’m not a parent, I can’t blog about that.
So finally it happened. Last year I had my first post-divorce illness. That is, my first long bout of being so unwell that I couldn’t go to work or even, gasp, watch movies or read books. There was no one in my house who might remind me to, say, eat, or drink, or shower. Some friends called and offered food, but I wasn’t eating much so I told them to stay away and avoid risking contamination. After a few days I realized that I wasn’t taking very good care of myself. I had been wearing the same clothing for three days. I wasn’t really eating anything. I was sleeping a lot, but not getting any better. And I was MISERABLE.
Something had to change.
So I asked myself, what would Elvine do?
(Elvine is a nickname we use for my mother, who shall remain otherwise anonymous).
Elvine would change my sheets. Elvine would make me shower and put on fresh undies. Elvine would remind me to drink water and make me eat some soup. Did I feel like doing these things? No. But I am a grown woman. I have a job and a mortgage and I should be able to take care of myself when I am sick.
I wrote myself a note and put it on my bathroom mirror. It said:
Take Care of Yourself
1. Shower every day.
2. Drink water.
3. Change your sheets.
4. If you can, get outside for 10 minutes.
5. Accept help if it is offered.
What does this have to do with my April resolution, you ask?
Well, this IS my April resolution. Take Care of Yourself.
I am finishing my thesis, incredibly busy at work, worried about some sick friends, stressing out about my career, and generally distracted and discombobulated in a way that is very unusual for me. And I am making bad choices. I am skipping exercise. I am eating badly (ok, not too badly, but much less well). I am staying up late and getting up early and just not taking care of myself. But that won’t help me finish my thesis. What it might do is make me sick – the moment my defense is over I will collapse in a heap and be down for the duration.
So, I shall write myself another note for my mirror.
This time it will say:
Take Care of Yourself
1. To ease anxiousness, MOVE your body instead of eating or drinking.
2. Focus on one task at a time instead of multi-tasking.
3. Vegetables and Fruits, not Beer and Chocolate
4. Focus on what you can control, not that which you cannot.
Why, when we are stressed out and we need healthy routines the most, are we least able to stick to them? Or is it just me? Anyway, it might not sound like a big resolution. But it is.
Wish me luck!