Age and Aspiration
Alzheimer's on Television

Listening to Our Bodies

category_bug_journal2.gif We don't give our bodies enough credit for what they do. Think about it. Cut your hand? Clean it up, put a Band-aid on it and in a few days it's fine. Bang your knee and raise a purple bruise? Okay, it hurts for awhile, but with no effort from us, it heals itself.

And so it is with this flu or whatever bug I've had since Sunday. For the first time since then, today (Wednesday), I felt well enough to shower in the morning. I'm not recovered yet; my head is fuzzy still, aches and pains stab at me from odd places and I'm tired, very tired. But the fever is down and I am discernibly on the mend.

Isn't that amazing? I haven't done anything for the past several days except sleep and even that was at my body's, not my, insistence; when I tried to read or watch television, after a few minutes I fell asleep again. Our bodies know.

When I was thinking, in my flu fog, how wise my body is if I will just pay attention, I realized that our culture disagrees. Every magazine, website, television channel is filled with advertising for little pills. If the pill doesn't cure the problem, it covers the symptoms so we can work, work, work and forget that left to its own devices, the body takes care of many of our ailments.

But our culture thwarts that natural remedy; the only reason I can let my body do its job is that I'm am retired. When I was still working, we were expected to show up no matter how sick we were. This demonstrated our dedication to the company and also how tough we were. (You gotta be tough to be competitive and other tales from the corporate workplace.)

Of course, this also meant that we were all sick all the time. At least half the employees at my company were 30-somethings with infants and toddlers. To my dismay, they were encouraged to bring these children to work (that's a topic Crabby Old Lady could take on, but not today), these children with their runny noses, coughs and sneezes passing their little kid germs throughout our offices.

And when it wasn't the kiddies, it was their parents who came to work with the hacks, coughs and sneezes their kids had passed on to them. I had some kind of low-level infection for the entire three years I worked there. It was no surprise that it cleared up for good within a month of leaving that job.

Perhaps my mild surprise this time at how well my body is doing its job relates to all those years going to work through illnesses either because there was no paid sick leave or that to stay home was to be suspected of slacking off, of weakness.

That macho, tough-it-out requirement has been around for a long time. Back in the 1970s, the host of a morning TV show where I worked was widely praised for showing up to do the live program when she had an intestinal flu and (What a trouper! The show must go on! Etc. Etc.) kept a bucket just off-camera to puke in during commercial breaks.

From then on, it was pretty difficult for the rest of us to call in sick.

Well, you can tell I'm not recovered yet. Obviously, I've gotten off track from the short, little “aren't our bodies wonderful” point I started with. My head's still fuzzy and my body is telling me to go back to bed. Now that I can, I'm listening.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: China – Why Return?


Ronni--Glad that you're starting to perk up a bit; but, applaud your wisdom at giving your body a chance to do its healing magic. Plants and animals have a genetic will to live brought on by natural selection, no doubt.

In my working life, I strongly discouraged anyone's coming to work while ill. I requested that no bugs be shared. Invariably, if I, myself, decided to work at home while ill, I paid for it. I would discover errors in the work after recovering from the bug.

A pox on those who think they are so important that no one can or should live without them for a few days. That's right up there with folks who lick their fingers to separate pieces of paper and express amazement that I don't wish to allow them to hand those papers to me!

Good for you for listening and good for our bodies for being the healing machines they are. Without medicines. With fluids and rest and millions of years that have developed just the right response to so many illnesses.

I hope that you feel better soon. Enjoy the rest....I'm with you on the macho push through even though really sick ethos in our work culture. I don't buy into it. Take care of yourself while the body does its natural healing.

I am amazed that you are still writing your post while going through a nasty bug episode. I am sure I wouldn't even boot up, much less write.

Take good care of yourself and keep on resting. Responsible people tend to rush it when they start feeling better and I would bet you are that type. Give yourself all the time you need. Mother Nature knows best.

Ronni, everything you said is so right on re people coming to work sick. One of the main reasons I look forward to retiring from my job is to get my health back!

And think of this: All those people who work in food service and the medical field, such as the aides in the nursing homes or hospitals, even some nurses, have no sick days and must show up even if they are sick or they risk losing their job. So the rest of us suffer as well.

Glad you feel better Ronni and aren't rushing your recovery. I agree the attitude about showing up at work no matter what is wrong. Many, especially low wage workers have no paid sick leave. I went to work sick too and did they think we produced quality work while we were suffering and sick, and making everyone else ill as well? Ridiculous.

Yes, the body is eager to cure itself and it's a damned shame younger people think they must master their bodies rather than live in them with respect and attention. It's also a shame that so many people get older and have the time, as you write, to pay attention but by then are so inculcated with those TV ads for the little pills that they think they must depend on them instead of trusting the body as you are doing. I hope many people read your post and consider your wisdom and apply it to their own lives.

Ronni, I wanted to thank you for your "mindful eating" blogs earlier. My doc told me she would give me one more chance to lower my cholesterol and lose 15 pounds in 15 weeks, which made me resolve to finally change my eating habits. I never did well with "following a diet," but this is working! And I still can enjoy great food!

Ronni, I'm awestruck you are writing your blog (and so well). I tend to get brain fog when I'm under the weather. I hope you are feeling better soon. I wanted to add my two cents. I was pretty insulted to discover recently my boss thinks that coming to work while sick is indicative of "a good work ethic." This after all five in her department working till 10 p.m. and most weekends. Not because we are workaholics. But because it's a down economy, we're lucky the company is still afloat, though barely, and we just want to work hard to get the job done. Then, when one of us does get sick, and we all have, we think it's just fine to stay home that day. We're talking about (for me) 5 sick days over 4 years. That's no so bad. But our boss aspires for an epitaph that says "He NEVER took a sick day his entire life."

It has been such a change over the years. If you watch the old sitcoms from the 50's and 60's, kids stayed home in bed when they had a cold. I remember that. Now kids go to school sick because daycare won't take a sick kid, and parents can't afford to lose a job to stay home with a sick kid. If everyone just took a couple of days to get over their illness, it would be done in that couple of days rather than dragging on for weeks (or maybe years, apparently for you!, or being spread throughout a workplace or school or to the public. We just don't value people much any more, only their productivity.

I strongly believe and practice "listening to my body" -- a view ingrained in me by my mother. I also have ignored my body's messages sometimes and lived to regret doing so.

I was single until my late 20's and childless until my early 30's. My views changed considerably on numerous topics I held as a single and/or childless person from those when my status changed. I never worked in an office where an employee's children would be allowed to be present during working hours, but I can certainly envision situations, especially in today's work situation, where that might be allowed -- and situations when a parental employee would need to do so. Probably would be the mother, though more fathers do perceive a shared responsibility -- not just male vs female parenting roles.

Yes, you're right! We adults do get exposed to more catching germs with children in the environment -- so???

In my current work situation with individuals who are already health impaired I do avoid exposing them. In other work settings with healthy adults I can sympathize with why some people might choose to come to work -- especially, if they knew the bulk of their work would simply pile up with no one else doing it, and knowing they'd have to do it all (no overtime) in their already overloaded work day.

There is a limit, though, and your show's host clearly must have been paranoiac that a replacement (even for one show) might outshine, or even replace them. I think that's what happens on Broadway with some stars fearful of an understudy.

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