Dear Pope Francis,
Hope you are doing well. Truth is, I’m not. I think all that overwhelm I wrote about yesterday led to my coming down with, well, the plague. OK. Not quite that bad, but it sure feels like it.
When you’re sick, Pope Francis, do you go through an entire inner monologue about why you’re sick, why you can’t be sick, why you should just tough it out and get on with your day? Well, I do, and it often makes being sick even worse.
I tried to capture this in the following poem. It might need some edits, but I think it gives a good sense of what goes on between my mind, body and spirit when I’m sick and worry about what people will think of me for being sick.
When I’m Sick
by Kevin Aschenbrenner
On days like this
when I’m sick as sick can be
I don’t want to go into work.
But my mind says yes, we must
And my body says, no, we can’t.
Yes, we must insists my mind
No, we just can’t, pleads my body
As I lie in bed, fatigued and shining like spilled olive oil on a pale wood floor
my spirit stirs, coughs politely and calmly asks
what are we fighting for?
Dear mind, it says, what’s behind all this?
Body clearly can’t
make it to the bedroom floor
let alone to the shower, the closet, the door, downstairs, the kitchen, the garage, the car, the highway, traffic, the desk, 9, 10 hours at the desk, the car, traffic, garage, upstairs, and to bed again
You know that. You’ve got your electro magnetic finger on the pulse of the body. You are the body.
Well, no, says the mind. That would be the brain. I’m the mind.
Sigh, says spirit. Here we go again.
When will you remember that body, brain and mind are one, you silly goose.
What goes on in you, mind, goes on in the body.
What you do, mind, is reflected in the body.
And what’s good for the body, right now, is to stay home from work, rest,
and if you want,
read one of those fantasy novels you like.
Yes, says mind, I know that.
But when I think about not going into work today,
I just get riled up.
(Oh, and don’t think I didn’t catch that comment about my fantasy novels. I’ve got memory on my side, in case you’d forgotten.)
I start thinking about letting people down,
About Brian from accounting who, just last week, came in with walking pneumonia and a mask to finish the quarterly taxes,
And Mary from IT who broke her leg on the weekend, but was back on Monday, on crutches, making her rounds to fix broken computers
And what about Sid, who is the first in each day, the last out, and travels more and has more meetings than any of us put together? He’s a zombie most days, but he’s there!
All these people push themselves, for work. That makes them good people. Good company people.
OK, says spirit. Anything else?
Well, says mind, then I worry that taking one day will make me fall behind, that my clients will get upset, that they’ll all leave me
And then all of us, body, mind and spirit, will be left homeless. No food. Nothing to keep us all together.
From just one sick day, eh? Wow, says spirit, we are very important and our actions have such profound consequences.
Yes! Yes! We are! They do! I mean, just one sick day could ruin, well, everything!
So, says spirit, summing up, if you let body stay home sick you risk not being a good company person, plus complete destitution. Am I getting this right?
Yes, says mind. See? See? This is why I freak out.
Oh…says mind…one more thing.
Yes? says spirit.
Well…what will people think of us, especially me, if I don’t make body go into work. We’ll be seen as weak. People will think we’re not pulling our weight. People will start to think we’re expendable. That they could get someone better, more resilient, robust. Who wouldn’t get sick, or who would work while sick.
Body says, could you keep it down? I’m trying to rest here. All this negative energy isn’t helping me heal!
Aha, says spirit. Did you see that, mind? What you do affects the body.
Now, says spirit, let me ask a few things.
Does everyone admire Sid for working himself to death, or only management?
Well, says mind, maybe only management. The rest of us think he’s nuts, or at least cruising for a massive coronary by 35.
OK, says spirit. And Mary, did most people think she was smart to come in only a day after breaking her leg?
Well, no, says mind. We thought she might be risking further damage.
Alright, says spirit. And did people really, really love it when Brian spent the day wheezing and coughing all around the office?
Actually, says mind, we all worried we’d catch it.
So, says spirit, these may be good company people, but they’re falling down a bit on taking care of themselves — and even others?
Yes, says mind, I think so.
And, final question, says spirit. At the end of the day, would you rather we look good in front of people who may not care at all about us, or would you rather take care of body so we can greet the challenges of tomorrow, and thereafter in good health.
Mind sighs, and says, the latter, I guess. But..
No buts, says spirit. Buts get you into trouble.
Now before we let body get some rest, let’s meditate a bit.
Oh, no, says mind, I hate meditating. I’ve got nothing to do!
Yes. That’s the point, says spirit. That’s the point.
Your sneezy, feverish, nauseous friend,