Why is that? I can blame it on my childhood (and do, to some extent), but I also know that I have sometimes said I was ill to get out of an engagement or to avoid a deadline, and I know that I have suspected others of doing the same. I try not to tell an outright lie, but say something like this: “Hi, Person I Don’t Actually Care About, this is Kim. I am sorry to cancel our lunch date but I think I might be coming down with something.” ‘Think’, ‘might’ and ‘something’ mean that if, God forbid, I run into this person the next day I can say, “Whatever it was, I think it passed, thank goodness.” When people call me to say they can’t meet a deadline or can’t come to a meeting because they are ill, my first instinct is not always sympathy.
Mostly I am guilty of pushing myself even when I was ill. Many years ago I managed to go from bronchitis to pneumonia by refusing to cancel anything. Then I was sick for weeks instead of just days. I told a friend that I had been punished by getting pneumonia. “No” she rightly observed. “Pneumonia was a warning that you need to take better care of yourself.”
This week I have had to admit to having a cold. I lost my voice, so could not conduct a training that had been scheduled for months. I was too exhausted to finish a project I had promised, and I kept myself and my partner awake a good part of several nights coughing.
In a commons based society, we would still get colds. Colds cannot really be blamed on capitalism. But if I were to model the way a person living in a commons based society would relate to illness, I would live my life differently, as follows:
- I would not overschedule
- I would get plenty of sleep
- When I got sick, I would tell people right away, and I wouldn’t be embarrassed to be sick
- I would never say I was sick when I was not
- I would never suspect people of not being sick when they say they were
- I would encourage people to take time off, by setting an example