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.