When I went to college, I noticed something strange. It took a little while before it really struck me, but long about this time of year I found an unsettling truth.
It sucked to get sick when I was out on my own.
The first time I was struck down by the (seasonally) ever-present Kenyon Krud at my alma mater, I found myself laid up in my (extra long) single dorm bed, with no solicitous mom or dad to fix me chicken soup, feel my head, change my sheets, bring me butterscotch pudding, tell me "Poor Baby", run out to get me NyQuil, or otherwise support my immune system with the important medicine of parental worry. It sucked. Though each one of my roommates through my time at Kenyon was helpful and considerate when I found myself unable to drag my aching bones to the dining hall, none of them was a mom. They each had classes to attend to. They would bring me soup (of the ramen variety), and lend me books to read and movies to watch through my convalescence, and sometimes even go buy me NyQuil, but ultimately I was on my own.
Or so I thought.
Then, I graduated from college and moved into my first apartment. I lived in a one bedroom apartment with a cat with crazy eyes. I loved it! It was wonderfully freeing to have my own space. Until, of course, I got sick. If I thought it sucked to get sick in college, it was infinitely worse to get sick when living alone. Bonanza, said crazy-eyed cat, was of no help whatsoever. She neither brought me ramen, nor lent me books or movies (as all the ones she showed a preference for were mine, despite what she thought). There was certainly no sending her to the store for cold medicine. I had to haul my weary body out of bed, tissues clutched to my face to hide the horror of my endlessly runny nose, and get my own food, medicine and entertainment. Prior to this point, only people who loved me had ever had to be subjected to my grossness. Now I had to bare my nastiness to the world, because no one could go out into the cold to take care of me. It was the pinnacle of what sucked about being sick.
Or so I thought.
Yesterday, I was struck down by the creeping crud. You know the kind. It's the illness that tiptoes up on you, slowly but surely, so that you don't realize you are getting sick until it's behind you and it hits you across the back of the head with a shovel. I woke up in the middle of the night Monday night with the kind of headache where your hair hurts. I was up in the middle of the night because LO was hungry. There was no telling him I had a headache. There was no asking him to get Mommy some Tylenol. LO wanted to eat and he wanted to eat NOW. So I fed him, and I hoped that after downing some medicine and a few more hours of sleep, I'd be back to normal.
No such luck. I was up again at 5:30 in the morning for LO's regular early breakfast. My hair still hurt. My sinuses were clogged. I felt that I could sleep for a week. Unfortunately, sleep these days comes to me in 2-3 hours spurts, so sleeping for a week at that rate would take me at least until New Year's. And of course, no matter how crappy I felt, LO still needed to eat every couple of hours. It was then that I realized that I have become a real grownup.
This, like my illness, has snuck up on me. I thought I was grownup (although certainly not "real") in college, when I had to rely on friends for help. Then I thought I was a grownup (but still without that qualifier) when I was out on my own, and I had to rely on myself. It wasn't until now, when I discovered that I couldn't hit the pause button on my life to be able to sleep off whatever sinus nastiness was cackling and wielding a shovel at me, that I realized what it means to be a grownup. Someone else's well being is more important than mine. I may need sleep, but LO needs nutrition. Until I need sleep badly enough that I get someone else to supply his nutrition (I actually thought about asking J to stay home today if I wasn't feeling better), I go on the back burner. I'm sure in a couple of days, that will feel profound and freeing in its own way, but yesterday it just felt depressing. I was a real grownup yesterday, and it sucked more than paying bills, going to the DMV, filing taxes, using a hair dryer on cold mornings, or buying my own NyQuil.
I am thankful for two things: 1. LO was a smiley, easy baby for me yesterday. He warmed the room (which felt unnaturally chilly in my fevered state) with his happy faces and silent laughter. As much as I needed sleep, it was lovely to see him looking so cheerful. 2. I am feeling much better today. After J came home last night, I took a three hour nap in the evening. When I woke up, only the roots of my hair hurt. This morning, I'm still not entirely myself, but I feel more like a human being and less like a human being who has just been hit over the head with a shovel.
Now, to focus on all the other grownuppy things (like laundry and cooking) that went undone yesterday while I was being a real grownup.