Even My Tonsils Feel Guilty

The Future Mr. Doctor Jones pointed out that I become angry when I am sick. If attitude and stress contribute to healthfulness, then feeling upset about one’s sickness isn’t a great idea. But this time, I can’t help being anxious—tonsillitis has kept me from working for two whole weeks.

I purposely didn’t make much money this summer, reserving most of my time for my dissertation. So my finances weren’t in great condition, and the five doctor visits plus the multiple purchases of drugs, soup, and DVD rentals didn’t help. But the part that makes me want to curse the universe is the fear that after this summer, when my teaching appointment and computer lab staffing job begin, it will be months before I have a whole day to write my dissertation—let alone two weeks.

My parents are probably the people to blame for the guilt and anger I feel when I become ill. My mom never gets sick, which she attributes to washing her hands. (I wash my hands, too, Mom—I swear!) My dad does get sick—with nasty colds and sore throats, aching bones, sprained ankles, and, more seriously, with Parkinson’s Disease—but he’s never stopped working (at least not for an entire day) due to illness. He’s been farming all his life. While some things can be put off, others can’t—such as planting, harvesting, baling hay, and feeding animals.

Unlike farmers, academics have the luxury of taking time off when we’re ill, at least sometimes (in the middle of summer, for instance). No corporate policy dictates that we get sick less than four days per year. So why can’t I congratulate myself on a profession well-chosen, sit back with my ice cream and let the DVDs spin?

Because sometimes, when I am perfectly healthy, I still don’t work like I think I should. Therefore anytime I’m not working, I question my own motives. Sick, or lazy? Legitimately drained, or just lacking inner resources? Unlike my parents, I don’t work every day. And unlike them, I don’t think that a person should have to work every day—I believe in weekends, vacations, and playing hooky. But that’s the belief that makes the grey area that makes the second-guessing that makes the stress that lives in the head that The Future Doctor Jones built.

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