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"The Muse ultimately makes this call."

I will never suspect. I might have noticed a creeping lethargy, a budding indifference, a blooming I Just Don't Care attitude, but I will not suspect that I might have contracted a bug of any sort. In my mind, one can only properly declare illness for a) a runny nose, b) runny bowels, c) sore throat, d) fever, and/or e) a broken bone; basically the same list of acceptable excuses for missing a day in elementary school. Dizzy disorientation falls well north of any threshold under which I can legally claim myself to be under any weather, since I consider it a part of what passes for my usual countenance. I get confused sometimes, as a normal part of my continuing inquiries. The Muse notices, investigates, then declares me out of the game. "There's a bug going around," she says, and I crumble into bed.

I have never made it a habit to schedule personal downtime.
I expect myself to perform seven days a week. I do remember the Sabbath and keep it holy, in as much as I read the Sunday Times and religiously observe the sacred ritual of not driving The Muse to the lab on that day, but I continue my semi-sacred everyday rituals then, too. I expect myself to write something, since my identity depends upon me writing something daily. I might break this rhythm inadvertently or if I'm sick, as denoted above, but it's been decades since I broke a bone and I can work right through a runny nose or any of the other acceptable symptoms of genuine illness. I can work sick.

Back when I had a real profession, that of Pot Wizard, a pot washer working in the basement bowels of a pretty fine restaurant, my boss explained to me about working sick. Hungover was not sick, but drunk sick, and never a reasonable excuse for any absence from my place before those steaming sinks. One worked through it. His home kitchen, an alcove in a second floor walkup, featured an old Coke machine with every line except one displaying beer caps. The one not displaying beer caps showed Coke caps, and he explained that the Coke line was for breakfast, especially if he'd woken up drunk sick again. In the restaurant biz, several of the staff were likely to wake up drunk sick each morning, so drunk sick could not possibly be justification for missing a day of work. One worked through that.

My mom was a stickler for evidence before accepting that any of her kids were sick, and evidence always seemed hard to come by. Besides, being declared sick earned nobody nothing more than the right to lie on the couch all day watching I Love Lucy and Perry Mason reruns, a fate worse than going to school with a smidge of temperature. I had long before becoming a Pot Wizard learned to work right through some sickness, delivering my newspapers while shivering or filling my balaclava with snot from a runny nose. I needed to have been formally declared a typhoid carrier to credibly shirk my work.

I'm the last one to suspect that I'm ill. I might not feel quite right, but I'll most likely ascribe my state to some attitudinal or motivational deficiency. I might feel punky but never think to blame my state on some anonymous bug. I blame myself instead. I know myself to be a congenital slacker, one continually trolling for a decent excuse to slough off my responsibilities, consequentially, I always first ascribe any punky sensation to me making up excuses again. I won't voluntarily, on my own volition, take the day off, but wrestle with myself instead, and struggle to keep up when I should probably just accept that I'm down that day. Down feels so damned unproductive, a genuine hit to my very identity. I don't really even feel like myself when I'm down. It's little wonder that I struggle to declare myself ill, since when I'm feeling ill, I have no self to declare itself anything at all. The Muse ultimately makes this call. NuthinSpecial about that.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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