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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Calling in Sick 23 Times in One Week

I don't feel like writing anything, except that I just sent a blogfriend an email in which I contemplated changing my tagline to

Snot in My Head and Time on My Hands -- it's a bad combination

So I thought, grrrrrl, you better write something, get those mucousy thoughts OUT before they set up some kind of infection in there.

You know about the peepee troubles. Status quo there. Over the weekend I got a cold/virusy/sinusy thing. Which, on a positive note, distracted me considerably from the peepee troubles. (Ohlord, don't you HATE to go to a blog and read, "*sigh* Well, I'm sick again . . . ?" I KNOW. It's OK if you head for the hills, I promise some day soon I'll stop reporting from the infirmary. And I'm not talking about y'all who have serious illnesses; you know I come and check on you and pray for you all the time; I'm talking about whiners. But no whiners come here, so what am I talking about? I'm sick, give me a break, wouldja?)

Being sick, and being mostly self-employed, presents challenges that those of you employed in other ways may never have considered. If you just can't drag your butt in to work, you probably call one person. The receptionist, let's say. You put on your best sick voice -- I'm not saying you're lying, not at all, but you know you do -- you make your voice match the illness you're claiming. You might even add sound effects -- the strategically placed gag or flush -- eh? You know you do.

At the agency where I supervise interns, I call the receptionist. And I call my interns, individually. Not fun, but not too difficult. The difficulty comes in calling clients in my private practice. I've made over 20 individual "sick-out" calls this week. I HATE DOING THAT. Clients react in different ways:

Compassion. They respond with some variation of "Oh, I'm so sorry to hear that. Well, you take care, I hope you feel better soon. I'll see you next week." Very nice.

Abandonment issues. Some variation of "This reminds me so much of when my mother was too drunk to come and see me play Clara in 'The Nutcracker!'" Um, oh no, I'm sorry, I'm really not drunk, it's just *achoo* *gag* *flush*

Anger. "Well, it must be nice to just decide you don't have to work if you don't feel like it!" Well, it sort of is, except that I have to make dozens of calls instead of one, and I DON'T GET PAID!!!!

I'll-get-my-session-anyway. If I reach the voicemail, I'm good. If I get the actual client of this variety, fuggedaboutit. It's at least a 20-minute call. That I can't really bill for. I mean, I called him. To cancel. And I'm gonna make him pay for that? It goes something like this, "Oh, well, OK, I hope you feel better, because what I really wanted to talk about was ..." and BOOM, we're off, I can't get another word, cough, sneeze, gag or flush in edgewise.

When I worked in the corporate world, I often went to work sick. I did PR and marketing writing. I could hide in my cubicle with my cough drops, my tea, my lotiony tissues. I could think a little bit, and write a little bit, make a pathetic-sounding phone call or two.

When I became a therapist, some 16 years ago, I decided that I won't go to work sick. Here's my rationale: I'm there for YOU, the client. And I simply can't be there for you, in the way that you deserve, in the way that you're paying for, if I'm distracted by me. Sure, I can sit upright in a chair. I can medicate myself until my head is fuzzy. Or I can suck a cough drop, or keep a tissue to my face. I can absolutely sit there and let you talk for 50 minutes, and look at my watch at the appointed time, and take your check and usher you out the door. But I can't be available to you. I am in the habit of praying silently as I sit down with each client, that I will be "emptied of me." Make me an instrument of your peace... Only when I am empty of me can I be available enough to contain you, or whatever you need me to contain for you in that hour. Only when I am empty of me can I be available as a channel of Holy Spirit, to listen to you, and at the same time listen for Spirit to lead me in responding to you. If this sounds bizarre to you, well, OK. And if it sounds sacred to you, well, it is to me, too.

If you're sitting on my couch talking about whatever you're talking about, and I'm thinking, "ohdeargod, how much longer? . . . I'm gonna . . . no . . . I'm gonna snee . . . no . . . cheez whiz, if I sneeze now, wonder if it'll be green . . . wonder if I need antibiotics . . . I should say something here . . . but I swear if I say two more words, that's gonna launch a coughing fit . . . got 3 more clients . . . 4 more cough drops . . . wish I felt like making some chicken soup . . . mmm chicken soup . . . lotsa garlic . . . ohdamn my throat . . . my ears are starting to hurt, too . . . I really need to blow . . . can I wait ten minutes . . . it's so disgusting . . . but I really need to blow now . . . " but I say, every once in a while, "Oh, I see; tell me more about that," you might not suspect that anything's amiss.

You might never know. But I will. And I'm not taking your money for that. I'd rather have you disappointed in me than me disappointed in me. I promise you'll get your money's worth. As soon as I'm well.

37 heads are better than one . . .

Blogger WILLIAM said...

I will now use one the "Client reactions to you calling out sick" for when I do not see a post. I will probably go with the abandoment reaction. Or maybe the "I will get my post anyway" repsonse.

Hope you feel better soon. Damn I went with compassion.

Blogger Susie said...

Aw, william, your mama was drunk when you danced "Clara"? This does explain so much . . . ;)

Ooh, you strike a chord. I have taken the "I will get my post anyway," approach, emailing a favorite blogfriend to get my fix, "Where are you?!!!"

Blogger Bucky Four-Eyes said...

You forgot the rest of the email, Susie, where you demanded pictures of me in a chicken costume eating popsicles.

I'm sorry, but that's demeaning.

I do not eat popsicles.

Blogger Susie said...

bucky, damn, I'm busted! The banana worked just fine, though :)

Blogger August95 said...

Good idea not to go in... they will all get sick and call to cancel next week.

Have your hot tea at home and feel better soon. Hugs to you Susie.

Blogger LadyBug said...

I love you, Susie. And I hope you're feeling better soon. Coughing/sneezing fits combined with pee-pee troubles are just (literal) accidents waiting to happen.

Maybe pick up some Depends next time you make a run to the store for cough drops and lotiony tissues? ;)

. . .

On a serious note, it does sound sacred to me. And it makes me respect you even more than I already did. God bless you, Susie Fairchild.

Blogger dashababy said...

Bless you! I hope you feel better soon.
I remember shortly after I had surgery, a lady called me to come in and do her hair because she was going to Mexico or something, she begged so finally I gave in. I got outta bed, put my overalls on and had my mom drive me to the salon so I could do this ladys' hair. Of course I was totally medicated on Vicodin but she didn't care. Some people!! Agh! They just don't care if you are sick, plain and simple.

For being sick, this was/is a great post.

Blogger dashababy said...

Oh, and Happy Birthday waaaay late to you and August95!
Today was "catch up on Susie" day for me.
Yer killin' me with the "European" thing. OMG.
Seriously, I hope you feel better.

Blogger Karen said...

Oh, but my mama wouldn't even let me take ballet lessons. I'm sure I could have danced "Clara" if only she'd been more supportive of my innate talent...

(Not true. Just thought I'd put in a plug for my personal favourite kind of whiner, the COMPETITIVE whiner.)

You see, I have a really awful cough today, too, so I can empathize with you. ;-)

Susie, I truly hope you feel better soon. Oh, and I want you to know it sounded sacred to me, not bizarre.

Anonymous Sharkey said...

Well it must be nice to just decide you don't have to blog if you don't feel like it!

Hey wait--I do that all the time. Hope you're feeling better soon.

Blogger Jim said...

I hope you get better - but not in a "I can't call out one more day so I might as well go in" kind of way. I mean in a Bring on the Sloe Gin Fizzes! kind of way.

And for those who won't let you go and insist on talking? Just keep coughing.

Blogger Candace said...

Should I be spraying Lysol or something? It seems like a lot of my friends in the computer have bugs of some sort.

Blogger OldHorsetailSnake said...

Honesty is the best policy, and you're the nonpareil.

Blogger Ern said...

And THAT, my dear, is why you are successful at what you do. If I lived near you, I would definitely have to come to you for my mental health.

Anonymous lawbrat said...

I hope you feel better. Being sick like that is not fun. I'm sorry that all your clients didnt react with compasion. Here's some chicken soup.

When I first read sacred, I thought it said scared. I was confused. I agree that it IS sacred, and that makes you an even better therapist.

Blogger Andrea said...

I think Misfit is right...something is getting passed around the blogworld. I'm getting over a bug too (hope I didn't pass it to you...ah-CHOO! oops...sorry about that!).

And I now officially wish you were my therapist, even though I love my current one, EXCEPT...that would probably make it less practical to be a real life friend, and I guess I'd rather choose that, if I could ;)

Blogger Susie said...

august95, ain't that the truth? I'd much prefer that sickies stay home than go out into the work/shopping/church world.

ladybug, you do paint a purty picture, with your (my) Depends an' all :)

dashababymama, thank you; I can imagine the hairstyle you came up with (or should have) for that lady ;)

karen, I'm quite sure my cough is waaaaay worse than yours (a new genre: competitive illness whining!). Oh dear, you, too, have struck a chord. I suspect that I am liable to be a competitive whiner, except I just think it, I don't say it, "I could have [won that Academy Award, written that book, avoided that mental illness, etc.], IF ONLY . . . heeheeee
Thank you, Karen :)

sharkey, thank you; I actually used to sometimes feel like I HAD to blog. I'm mostly over that, because it's supposed to be FUN, not WORK, for heaven's sake. And I got so tired of calling all you people, putting on my sick voice . . .

jim, thank you, and the uncontrollable coughing on the phone might just work :)

misfit, yes, by all means, spray us all. I had a blogfriend call me over the weekend, the first time we had spoken by phone, and both of us had to say, "I don't really sound like this," because of our colds! That's just wrong.

hoss, you callin' me one of them little round chocolate things with the tiny white balls on it? Thanks, you're mighty sweet, too :)

aw, ern, thanks for that. I'd be calling you for doctorin', too.

lawbrat, thanks for the soup. I think it's helping. I read "scared" when I reread it too! Maybe we don't see "sacred" often enough.

andrea, I hope you're all better soon. Yea, we call that a "dual relationship," and it is to be avoided when at all possible. I have had new friends whom I've had that very conversation with, saying, "I'd rather be your friend," when they asked if I could "see" them. And I've certainly had clients that I almost wished weren't my clients because they were such lovely people I could easily have been friends with them.

Blogger MrsDoF said...

I'm so sorry you are feeling poorly.
Calling off so often is really bad for the sore throat.

When he was a teenager, Oldest Son had a job which specified that if he was going to miss, he had to find his own replacement. This was not possible, seeing that he was resting in a heap on the bathroom floor, too afraid to get far away from the stool, what with the mess at both ends of his digestive system.
I called his place of employment and said he would not be in, probably for two days, he was that sick.
The manager had the nerve to say that I, the mother who was already busy with a mop in the hallway, should do the calling and find someone to fill in.

I told him that was not going to happen, and if he pushed too hard, the son would no longer be coming in to work there at all, seeing that the car was in my name and might be unavailable.
The place closed a month later; too many broken labor regulations and a poor quality product.
Son went on to work behind the scenes at the airport, much more interesting.

Anonymous kalki said...

You are a fabulous therapist - I can tell. And I loved william's comment! Feel better...

Blogger Squirl said...

Susie, I love the way you treat your job. It should be a sacred thing. What you say fits very well in Eastern philosophies, too. You are the flute and the universe (God) plays its melodies through you. Your clients are very lucky. But I'd rather have you as a friend and sister. :-)

I've always gone into work when sick, but I'm trying not to anymore. I can do part of it from home anyway. I got it at work but I don't need to pass it on. People are looking at me funny at work as my voice still sounds bad, but, really, I'm feeling a lot better. I hope you are, too. I think you're about a day or two behind me on this horrible virus.

And if I get any more brainy ideas about your peepee situation I'll let you know. ;-)

Blogger Redhead Mommy said...

i'm right there with you....cough, sniff, achoo

Blogger JessicaRabbit said...

Well I have to say I think its great you dont go to work when your sick, when I was bartending I would NEVER go in if I was sick because no matter how much I wash my hands, or put them in the sanitzer water the fact remains that I am touching peoples cups, straws, food and I have cooties.

And I have to say, from the patient aspect, when I was having my huge OCD germ phobia/panic issues, if I had gone into my therpaists office and she was all sneezing and sick? I prolly would of burst right through the door like a cartoon character trying to escape.

See? Its good for you to stay home, you could give us germ phobes a nervous breakdown HAH. :)

I hope you, your running nose, and your pee pee feel better soon.

Blogger Dy said...

I've known a therapist or two that I wish had your attitude about their work.

Get better soon!

PS - I was gonna do a song, but when I got to the Hotel California in the comments I realized it was hopeless and gave up.

Blogger Greenthumb said...

It may not seem like it now, but it will pass, mine did. FINALLY!!!

Sleep and lot's of it.

Feel better Sista'!


Word Verification: whooe (whoo-eeee)

Blogger mrtl said...

You should print this one out and give it to your patients.

Blogger Von Krankipantzen said...

Oh jeeeeez! Poor you. Feel better soon!

Blogger Susie said...

mrsDoF, ________ just fill in that blank with the names I might like to call a boss like that. I've had them, mostly when I was young like your son. It's too early for me to start using language like that ;)

aw, kalki, that's nice. But for all you know, I'm not EVEN a therapist. I could be a dog groomer. Well, you've seen my dog, so maybe not that . . . Just kidding. I do sometimes think about that, though, of how we in blogworld could totally create identities of we wanted to. But thank you for saying such a kind thing. I have moments of greatness, it's true; and moments of WWIT?!!!!

squirl, that is beautiful, thank you for that.

redheadmommy, Bless you! Here, have some of the soup that lawbrat made...

JR, you're right about the germ thing. I don't have any of those folks right now. But in general, I think we in this country are too cavalier about spreading our germs around. There are actually people out in public in assless chaps . . . it's not right.

dy, thank you for all of that. And yea, William, that's what he does, he just goes around spreading hopelessness ;)

greenie, welcome back, bro. I'm glad you're doing better. Thanks for the love.

mrtl, uhoh, I must be carefully, I'm thinking like you. Not the WHOLE thing, but I did wonder about sharing selected passages :0

kranki, thank you, love. I notice slight improvement this morning, I believe.

Blogger Susie said...

mrtl, that's careFUL. I guess it wouldn't hurt to BE carefully, as well...

Blogger Bucky Four-Eyes said...

I'll have you know I santize my ass - for your protection - every day before the chaps go on.

Blogger Nilbo said...

In fact, that's a good idea for the first session with any patient - sort of "Here's how this works." If I'm the client, I'd feel reassured and even more confident in my new therapist - and in the value that I am getting. And it does give you something to refer back to when that day comes that you do have to cancel.

Feel better, Susie ...

Blogger Susie said...

Now, now bucky, I didn't name any names... But now that you've brought up the topic, do you put one of those paper strips across your ass, "Sanitized for your protection"? You know, to reassure the masses?

hi, nilbo! You know, that's one of those "policy" things that's in the back of my mind, but I haven't done it. But you're right, it would be good to put that right out there from day one. Same with bad weather (inclement? inclimate? I never know); some people will risk their lives to get to the appointment. If schools close, I close; I call everyone, and some are thankful and some are pissed.

Blogger Circus Kelli said...

Oh, I'm so sorry to hear that. Well, you take care, I hope you feel better soon. ;)

Blogger Effie said...

Feel better soon Susie--that sounds pretty rough--have yourself a nice hot bath with eucalyptus oil then put on your warmest flannel pjs and cuddle up under an afghan and watch chick flicks...Jif (if he knows what's good for him) will bring home chicken soup, or make some for you tonight and LG will say something to make you smile--all will be well with the world.

Hugs and prayers that you're feelin' better!

Blogger Effie said...

oh yeah--I forgot--because you're sick you can have as many hot toddies you can handle! (I can only handle one)

Blogger Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Hope you’re up and around by now, Susie! Sitting here at my desk with rain falling steadily all day invites me to go back to bed.

I agree: it is in everyone’s best interest for you not to practice therapy when you are ill. Unfortunately, I used to try—until a client came in who always had her appointment after she worked in the Tyson chicken processing plant. The smell she brought with her was…indescribable. (I always had to lock my dog, Muffin, in another room because Muffin was drawn to all of the chicken blood this woman had on her clothes). She came one afternoon when I was ill—and I had to run from the room within minutes of her arrival to upchuck. So I agree: it is in everyone’s best interest for me not to practice therapy when I am ill.

Blogger eclectic said...

Hope you're on the mend! But inn the event you have an inclination to call in sick next week, too, I could send you some stomach flu. I'm generous like that.

Blogger Susie said...

ck, thank you, sweetie. It's nice to see you.

effie, hot toddies. I haven't tried that. Thanks for the suggestion.

ssnick, I love to (try to) nap when it's raining. Sometimes when I've been taking a medication that didn't agree with me, I have warned clients, "If I turn green and run out of the room, it's nothing you said..."

eclectic, oh, no. I'll come see about you. Sorry you have flu to share.


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