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A few weeks ago I woke up strapped to a tilt-a-whirl in my head. It hurtled me back and forth, spinning around for good measure until, like anyone who’s been on a roller coaster for one too many rides, I threw up. 

I kept throwing up for the next few days until we went to urgent care and then get sent to the ER to learn that no one knew exactly what was wrong. A visit and a call to the GP yielded diagnoses of virus-filled ear and then a game of dialing-for-diagnosticians. All of it has added up to several weeks of sporadic absence from life.

This morning, like several other mornings in the last four weeks, I woke up thinking it might be over. By the time I stood up and walked down the hall, someone had put a seashell to my ear, and I could hear waves pounding in the distance. The waves and ringing will get closer during the day — the medication they gave to combat vertigo is of questionable value – and all of it has made me question my go-to philosophy of handling healthcare issues.

Our parents didn’t really do sick days. My dad was a pediatrician, so proving you were sick enough to stay home from school practically required coughing up a lung in your hand. As a teacher (before Covid enforced staying home with symptoms) that practice translated into plastering on my game face no matter what the rest of my body was telling me.

A few weeks ago, however, my game face, unable to ignore the turbulence, felt too much a Picasso, and it was an abrupt reminder that you can’t willpower your way through every setback. Sometimes you have to step back and accept the bad so you can get a game plan for your road back to life or school.