Ty Phillips meditates on the importance of mindfulness during challenging times.
Murphy’s law. I don’t know who this fella’ was, but we need to have a little sit down chat.
It’s 4:00 a.m. and I wake up coughing and totally congested with a full blown head cold. This is bad enough in itself. What makes it worse is the little thing that only a full-time parent can understand—no sick days, ever. It seemed like just a few hours ago that I fell asleep. Come to think of it, it was after midnight.
I’m lying on my side trying to breathe through one nostril and I’m pretty sure snot is running down my face and into my beard. I grumble. I know I am not going to fall back to sleep. I get up, walk to the bathroom and my foghorn decibel nose blow wakes everyone else up. They probably could have all fallen back to sleep if it wasn’t followed up with a fit of remarkable gag reflex-induced coughing.
“Daddy, why you coughing?” My three year old’s melodic little voice kisses my ears. On a normal day, I would be smiling and go snuggle with her. Today I just do my best grumpy bear impression,”Mmmmmm, Daddy doesn’t feel good sweetie. Go back to sleep.” I hear her stand up on her bed, “Daddy, I get up?” I snort in a hilarious attempt to try and not be mouth breathing all day and stumble into her bedroom.
Curious George usually holds her over for a while and gives me a few extra minutes to try and regroup and gather myself. I lie down on the couch and close my eyes. Five or 10 minutes will help.
WHACK! “Daddy, you no sleep!” This fairy wand I bought her was a bad idea. I now have a plastic jewel lodged in my forehead. “I’m up, I’m up,” I tell her.
The truth is, when men are sick, we really are babies. I just want silence, the remote, and as much “leave me alone” as I can get. But that isn’t possible for stay at home parents. No matter how sick we are, there are things to be taken care of. Little mouths need feeding, little brains need direction, and idle little hands need to be kept out of trouble. Trying to be mindful during illness is a true test.
But this is what it really boils down to. Being mindful when it’s on our terms—in our directed way—is easy. It’s what we want. It’s directed by our hand and set up just so. The truth is, that’s not really mindfulness. Mindfulness, much like compassion and love, doesn’t mean much of anything if not applied when it really matters. I can be compassionate with my daughter and wife. I love them to bits. Now the guy who just cut in line and seems to be using the hygiene methods of pre-enlightenment Europe … maybe not so much.
As middle class, white Americans, we take a lot for granted. Our mindfulness methods were probably taught to us by Asians who have faced ground wars, invasions, countless deaths at the hand of despots, and even years of jail and torture, yet still remain sound enough to teach us how to be mindful at work and in traffic.
Still scratching my plastic wand war wound, I think about this. Sickness isn’t fun; it doesn’t matter who we are or what we have or have not faced. It can be a test of true character though when things aren’t going our way and we want to sleep instead of dodge Play Doh grenades. Anyway, I hope this Dayquil helps. It’s time to get to work.
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