Feeling Sorry for Myself

Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario and Saskatchewan. This week’s is about the things I have discovered from being sick with the stomach flu.

I spent last weekend hoping to get run over by a truck.

It’s not that I actually wanted to be flattened like a pancake; it’s just that for a time, that option seemed preferable to what I was feeling. I was on a speaking trip in Minneapolis when a wicked stomach bug hit me. It is not fun to be sick all by oneself in a hotel room, knowing that the next night you’re supposed to get in front of a crowd of 300 and act energetic. I told the sound guy that if I suddenly started running off of the stage it was likely a good idea to mute that microphone headset.

As I spent the weekend feeling sorry for myself, and much of this week subsisting on applesauce and ginger ale, I discovered some things about being sick.

First, stomach bugs are particularly loathsome. On one sleepless night, which I spent primarily in the bathroom praying that God would have mercy on me and let me regurgitate, it occurred to me how many different words we have for that particular physical feat. If you fall out of a tree and break your arm, what do you tell people? “I broke my arm.” If you’re feeling particularly eloquent, you try, “I fractured my tibia” instead. When it comes to stomach issues, though, our word choices are plentiful and full of emotion. There’s something uniquely awful about being nauseous.

It’s not the throwing up that’s the problem, though. Through two of my pregnancies I had horrible nausea. For one I could vomit every morning like clockwork. Through the other I only ever threw up once. I felt far better during the pregnancy that I could throw up than during the one that I couldn’t. It’s the wanting to but not being able to that’s horrible.

Second, I learned that pharmaceutical companies hate us. While I was in misery in that hotel room, my husband, who is a doctor, recommended I drink some rehydration fluid. Given that this particular product is intended for people who are already nauseous, you would think that the company could come up with a recipe that does not taste like a cheap Kool-aid knockoff mixed with a tablespoon or salt and a pinch of baking soda. If you weren’t feeling sick already, that stuff would be sure to do the trick.

Third, grocery stores have no sympathy for the stomach challenged. After giving up on rehydration fluid, I chose instead the route of soda crackers, applesauce, and ginger ale. Purchasing said products when you are still praying for that wayward truck, though, is quite a challenge, because it involves walking all around a huge store. I wish stores would place all those items in a nice basket and leave it by the Express Checkout for us sickies. It would be an immense public service.

Fourth, I learned that I am dispensable. When the children were small I used to dread getting sick because how would I look after them? If I was out of commission, everything fell apart. Now I’m home from my trip, I’m still sick, yet life is going on around me. One daughter is at work, and the other is doing schoolwork. The meals are still being made. The laundry is still being done. Turns out I’m not so indispensible after all.

But then, maybe that’s what being a mom is all about. You put in the work when they’re young, so that when they grow up, they’ll be there to get that bucket for you, pour you that Ginger Ale, and put that nice, cold cloth on your forehead. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to call my youngest daughter to do exactly that.

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