Got your mask on?
OK, you may proceed.
Now, when Flu shows up to battle, he doesn't come alone. This is hardly surprising, given Flu's immense street cred. He's powerful, ancient, been all over the world. Heck, he's even well known outside of the Parent-Superhero World. I mean, he's such a famous evildoer, they name epidemics after him. Dude has this super villain thing on lock. It isn't a shock that he has minions. But while you are expecting What-Day-Is-It, Kleenex-Debris, I-Think-My-Fever-Broke-The-Thermometer, even If-You-Drink-The-Last-Gatorade-I-Will-Cut-You, you are in no way ready for Flu to be keeping company with Guilt. But he does. In fact, Flu keeps so much company with Guilt that I think they are common law married at this point.
And I'm not talking about Cowlick Guilt either, this Guilt is a whole other level. What? Cowlick Guilt, you know. Oh, you don't know. OK, well, Cowlick Guilt is like your regular everyday guilt that you have by the sheer virtue of being a human being. It's like a nasty little by-product of being a sentient being capable of complex conscious thought. It's always lurking there at the back, or even front, of your head, ready to pop up and pester you. And you can throw as much water or product or positive self-talk on it as you want, pretending it isn't there, but, given adverse wind conditions or a truly awkward social situation, that cowlick guilt is gonna spring forward in all it's crazy glory. Now, I am Catholic, so I have a head full of Cowlick Guilt, but I'm wiling to bet you have at least one, regardless of creed. Cowlick Guilt is kinda ecumenical that way.
Anywho, Flu Guilt is a lot more powerful than Cowlick Guilt. Of course, Flu Guilt can ratchet up your normal Cowlick Guilt, and he will, but Flu Guilt has some special superpowers that utilize your weakened state and depleted common sense. He starts with a Who-Did-I-Infect-With-This-Death-Plague Gut Punch. How much this affects you relies on a complicated mathematical formula involving how long you wait to isolate yourself after realizing you are sick, how many individuals you are responsible for isolating during a Flu outbreak, and how much of a close-talker you are. Fortunately, I am not much of a close-talker, thanks to being raised in a family that likes its personal space and is said to "hug with their hands in their pockets," but, unfortunately, I am responsible for isolating 7 people during a Flu outbreak, 1 of whom can't talk, and therefore can't tell us she is feeling sick, and 4 of whom would rather experience the Spanish Inquisition than lie still on the couch for 4 days. Oh, and they also like to hug upon meeting new people, so Lord knows how many people they have touched during the Flu incubation period. No shock, I am very affected by this early Flu Guilt attack.
Now, once you isolate and are battling Flu solo in your home, Flu Guilt decides to try a different approach and concentrates on moving into your head. Yep, here come the Head Games; your brain is distracted fighting Fever, so Flu Guilt is gonna sneak up from behind, ruffling up your Cowlick Guilt as he goes, just to be extra mean. You now know and have accepted that you, and your household, are battling highly contagious Flu. Therefore, activities need to be cancelled. This is probably going to be work, a couple friend commitments, that knit-bomb you had planned for Saturday afternoon. This all sucks and, depending on your natural Cowlick Guilt, you are gonna feel like you are letting people down. People are gonna be nice about it for the most part, but you are in a weakened physical and emotional state, you aren't actually going to believe them. I mean, what kind of nonsense would that be?! Actually believe that people are kind and truly want you to feel better and heal?! Hardly! Better give into Paranoia and Low Self-Image, that's a way more realistic idea.
Now, take this battle and multiply it by how many people you are responsible for during this particular Flu Outbreak. That is the level of Head Games you are gonna be playing for the duration of your isolation. Alone. In your house. With nothing to distract you except a periodic search for another tissue box. My particular Flu Guilt Head Games gets multiplied by 7 (yes, you get to take on your partner's cancelling-commitments-guilt too, I think it's in the vows somewhere), which is a LOT of commitments to cancel and feel guilty about. Basically, it's like rolling max damage during a particularly intense D&D marathon in your buddy's basement. Or getting 3 doubles in a row in Monopoly, for those of you less nerdy. Guess that's still pretty nerdy. Whatever. It's a lot of guilt.
It's a total of 3 children missing a total of 5 different days of school to date, Awkward Dad missing 1 day of work, a Webelos Den Meeting, a Daisies Girl Scout Meeting that I was actually supposed to run and it's Cookie Season on top of that. It's going on 7 missed lunch duties at this present moment, a ballet class, a horse-riding lesson, 2 vet appointments, a church small group that I was also actually supposed to run, a ridiculous amount of playdates, a school mass that Super First Grader had a role in, 2 school play practices and a school play meeting that I was supposed to also attend, church on the Sunday that Super Oldest was supposed to hand out donuts and Awkward Dad was supposed to run the Children's Liturgy.
And it was this last one that had me in tears at 7 in the morning, while the rest of my family finally slept a hard-won sleep, the aftermath of Super First Grader's fever hitting 104 and him throwing up his tamiflu into my face. I was the lonely healthy one; stripping beds and cooling foreheads and fetching medicine and favorite stuffed animals and operating on very little sleep and no real food, which is, of course, Flu Guilt's favorite time to come a'calling. I had to text someone to let them know that my fevery husband was in no position to teach children about Jesus, and I was feeling really guilty about it. Could I do it instead? Maybe I could prop Awkward Dad up on the couch and hope that no one threw up in the hour I was gone? No, an hour and a half, given that it had also snowed. I was pacing. I was plotting. I was panicking. And I was feeling really really guilty, which is when the woman I had contacted wrote back the most cheerful text I have ever received that early in the morning, "absolutely no problem! I will take care of all of it." Well, Paranoia set in immediately, and I texted back some incoherent apology, that she cut off. I don't know how you cut someone off in text, but this angel did. And she said, "You have to take care of your own church before you can take care of the larger church. Take care of your people and stay healthy!"
What the what?
I stopped pacing. I stopped plotting. I just stared at her words. I was waiting for an eye roll; one of Paranoia's favorite moves. My eyes didn't move. Paranoia must have sensed this woman's power and crept out the back because he wasn't here anymore. I actually stopped panicking. I read her words again. I actually believed her. She actually meant that. Someone was actually concerned about my family getting better. Not so we could hurry up and get back to our commitments, but so we could feel better. It was unbelievable and yet I believed it; such is the magic of Grace.
Things moved very quickly at that point. Suddenly, I had an ally against Flu Guilt, and Flu Guilt isn't used to fighting more than one person at a time. The isolated attack; that's his move. His only move, as it turns out. He was running scared with just a slight narrowing of my eyes. I thanked this woman for her words and I set the phone down. Then, I smoothed my Guilt Cowlicks back into place, picked up a bottle of Tylenol, and went back to taking care of my church.
My Church has multiple services a day.
Turns out, all I have to do it show up.