At some point when I was terribly stressed out and anxious about not having time to do this or that, my clever daughter came up with the words of wisdom that I have cherished ever since. Imagine, she said, that you have been kidnapped for one day by extraterrestials. Will the world stop without you? If the answer is no, take a day's break.
During my four years here in Cambridge I haven't taken a day of sickness leave. I did swap a class when I had eye surgery, but I didn't have to cancel anything. I usually get nasty colds on long weekends and get over them by the first working day. Not this time. Last Sunday, just after I had a nice tea and chat with a friend who dropped in on the way to Norwich, I suddenly felt rotten and, recognising the symptoms, drank three gallons of tea with honey and went to bed, putting a roll of kitchen towel on my nightstand. I spent all Monday (bank holiday) in bed, half sleeping. I emailed a student and cancelled a supervision on Tuesday morning. I succumbed one bit at a time. I emailed the people with whom I was supposed to dine on Tuesday evening. I decided to skip the book club, although we were to discuss a book I really wanted to discuss. On Tuesday morning I emailed the admin person for a meeting I was to attend to justify a very important change to our doctoral programme. I told her the meeting would have to consider my written paper. I emailed my secretary to find someone to chair my academic group business meeting. I emailed another secretary to find someone to chair another meeting I was supposed to chair in the afternoon. Everybody got back to me with wishes of soon recovery and assurance that everything would go on smoothly without me. I would have been disappointed if I hadn't been so ill.
I emailed two students with whom I had scheduled supervisions on Wednesday. I also send my apologies to the whole masters group who were reading their creative writing pieces in Wednesday afternoon. I had really been looking forward to it. Some of them send me their work by email.
While I was at it, I cancelled my massage on Wednesday morning. (It turned out that my masseuse was quitting, and I had missed my last session with her). I also cancelled a meeting on Thursday morning and send my apologies to College Council meeting and Academic Staff Meeting. Everyone got back saying not to worry and wishing me to get well soon. Regrettably, I had to cancel a drink with two colleagues after the ASM. I was so much into it that I felt I could cancel everything.
I went to work this morning, even though I still felt like dead meat. Everyone I met in offices, corridors and the dining hall inquired about my precious health. Every meeting had happened without me, and the world is still there.
It is hard to admit that you not irreplaceable.