January 4, 2012

playing hurt

My dad gave me good advice when I was an elementary school student toying with staying home to nurse a minor cold.

"Laura," he said, "sometimes you have to play hurt."

At the time I found his words slightly annoying. I mean, I just wanted him to give me permission to sit in my PJs eating soup and toast while watching The Little Mermaid for the millionth time. Fractions and vocabulary could wait. I had an illness to fight. Also, I was pretty sure Mr. Bunny, my faithful stuffed animal, also had a serious case of the flu. And he needed me. Who was Dad to tell me our sniffles were anything but life threatening?

The phrase became even more annoying as I grew older, when I really did not want to take a Calculus test while my throat hurt, but I learned a valuable lesson. Sometimes, even if you are not feeling on top of your game, you have to go for it anyway.

Quick disclaimer: I am not suggesting you ignore a severe case of the flu, appendicitis or any life-threatening. (If you have one of those, please stop reading and go see your doctor.) I am not even telling you to leave your sickroom if you have anything contagious or you genuinely feel unwell. Stay home and get better (otherwise your co-workers will hate you).

I remembered his words this week. If you follow me on Twitter, than you undoubtedly know I am nursing a cold. Still as much of a baby as I was at 6, I am constantly convinced I am at death's door. Yesterday, or day three of my cold, I stayed in bed for a few extra minutes staring at the ceiling, contemplating if I should call in sick. It is, after all, a new year, and my PTO bank is full.

But then, remembering all of the things I wanted to do today — and in the future with those precious few days I get a year — I got out of bed, took some medicine and went to work.

Working was harder than usual. I will admit my product was not my best. Even this blog post I am writing could be better. But, I am farther along at my job and my writing than if I had called in sick.

It does not have to be a cold, which I have spent entirely too much time talking about. (I would apologize, but frankly this cold medicine has a mind of its own, and the words keep flowing.) Maybe you are feeling down, because you received your hundredth rejection letter from a literary agent. Maybe your critique partner handed down some tough love in the form of brutal notes. Whatever the reason, at that moment you do not want to do anything.

But you must. If you want to write a book, if you want to earn a paycheck, if you want to make a memory, sometimes you have to play hurt. Take your cold medicine, get some Vitamin-C and get plenty of rest. Then, get back to work. Before long, you will be back on top and glad you pushed through.

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  1. You have a very wise father. Sounds like something he may have heard from his father!