Last Thursday, my IBS was acting up in a way it rarely does. This means I spent most of the night, awake and aware and suffering. Thus, when I got up and sat down at my computer around 7:00 Friday morning to email my colleagues and tell them I was taking a sick day (oh, excuse me, according to our new parent company, it’s an “optional day.” Don’t you just love that? As if we could wake up in the morning and say, “No, I’d rather not have today. Keep it around, though, as I might change my mind and want it some other time”), I was thinking that spending the rest of (what I hoped would be a very short) life in bed would be an excellent idea. As a matter of fact, I was even wondering why Death didn't just open that damned door instead of keeping me standing there staring right at it. By 10:00 a.m., however, I was regretting having had any such thoughts and hoping that Death had been way too busy to be listening to Little Old Me. By that hour, I was contemplating the odd concept of what it means to take a sick day when one telecommutes. I mean, I didn’t exactly feel like doing anything too taxing, but I could certainly get up and check my email at that point.
In the old days, back before I could afford to own a laptop, and telecommuting was a pipe dream, when I had physically to be in the office in order to do any work, I loved days like this when I’d be feeling better before noon and had a good excuse just to lie in bed all day with a stack of books by my side. These days, though, I feel “obligated” to take advantage of the fact I’m no longer sick. Why? After all, it isn’t as though I’m going to get that “optional day” back now that I’ve claimed it.
So what do I do? First of all, I think, “No, your body was obviously telling you that you need to rest. Take it easy. Don’t check your email.” I choose a pile of books to bring to bed with me. I get back in bed and decide I’ll just bring the laptop to bed with me, so I can catch up on everyone else’s blogs. That’s a bad idea. It’s like saying “yes” to that former GQ model you met at your friend’s party when he asks if he can give you a ride home, and then thinking you really shouldn’t have invited him in, because you know absolutely nothing about him, but then, how often do you have a former GQ model drive you home from a party? You might as well take advantage of the fact he’s here.
Yes, after catching up on all my favorite blogs, I did check my email, and then, that’s a stupid thing to do, isn’t it? I mean, if I answer any of my colleagues’ emails to me, they’re going to wonder why I’m doing so when I’m supposed to be sick. How many people do you know who call in sick and then show up at work a couple of hours later, seemingly fine? If I did happen to know anyone who did that, my first thought would be, “Does she have a drinking/drug problem or something?” So, I’ve got emails from colleagues that my fingers are itching to answer, but I’d better not, if I don’t want well-meaning people recommending rehab or something. I stick to answering author emails; they don’t know I’m sick. But I don’t have too many of those today. Oh well, I can easily lie in bed and finish editing that manuscript.
You see, and by the time 2:00 p.m . rolls around, I’ve wasted a perfectly good sick day, because I've been working most of the day. Our number of "optional days" isn't optional. They eventually disappear if one takes too many of them. What if I get the Black Plague in a few months and really need it? I really should have just slept in a little longer this morning and waited to see how I felt before so hastily emailing all my colleagues (I’ve quite obviously forgotten that I’d been knocking on Death’s door long before I sat down to send off that email).
I haven’t had a cold yet this year, but colds can also be problematic when one is a telecommuter. It used to be that I knew when to take a sick day with a cold, because I’d wake up in the morning, and my body would say, “Stay home in fleece sweats all day. Don’t go out.” That was my body’s way of saying, “Call in sick.” Well, now, that sort of a demand from my body pretty much describes how I spend many of my working days: at home in fleece sweats, not leaving the house. When I'm feeling a little down and out and sniffly these days, no matter how hard I listen for its (obviously high-pitched like a dog whistle’s) call to “stay off-line,” I don’t seem to be able to hear it. More often than not, it seems to be saying, “Email won’t hurt. You can bring the laptop to bed with you.”
Barring migraines (when my body then booms in a very loud voice to “Stay in bed in a completely dark room with a cold cloth on your head OR ELSE," something that's never "optional," no matter what the parent company thinks), which I still get on a fairly regular basis, despite everyone telling me they’d lessen as I age, and trips to the doctor and the dentist, I don’t tend to call in sick. I’m not sure, though, that this is the best approach for speeding recovery from whatever ails me. I’m guessing those of you who know much more about the mind-body connection than I would say “no, it isn’t.” However, I look at it this way: so many women I know who are my age are mothers who don’t get to take “sick days” from motherhood, no matter how sick they get. Surely that’s far more-demanding than lying in bed checking emails.
Now, I've changed my mind. I want my optional day back after all. It's still right there where we left it, isn't it? I can just go grab it, right?