A few weeks ago an acquaintance asked me if I took vacations. I thought about it; there was a rash of traveling in June and when I bought the house it was cheaper for me to paint it than to hire painters. There are long afternoons with poets that are somewhere between work and not work. I feel as if it is (fun) work, but I don’t get paid for it. There is a ton of guilt and self-loathing when I take an afternoon off for no apparent reason other than that I can’t get myself to finish X, Y, or Z. Being freelance is like that yicky feeling I used to get in college that I had a ton of freedom but also a ton of work, and I wasn’t getting enough of the latter done as I sipped coffee with my best friend on the streets of [small Midwestern town].
But yesterday I called in sick. I wasn’t sick, but my cat was. I had a vet appointment at 4, and lots of time in between my morning and the appointment to think about the fact that this might be the end. She isn’t eating, she is 16, and she’s taken to hiding under things. I know. I thought about my cubicle days. Sometimes I would call in sick for a mental health day (my mother used to let me have mental health days every once in a while when I was in high school). And so I told myself that I was calling in sick.
That was the crucial step. It released me from any feeling of guilt. I wasn’t failing to do my work, I was taking the day off. And so I lay on the couch all afternoon (with the cat) and read Bad Mother. There are many things I loved and didn’t love about the book, but it was fun to read and interesting, and I was mentally engaged. My main complaint is that when you’re famous you don’t have to worry about arc, you can just publish your book as essays. Unlike the rest of us.
The vet appointment came and went, we got some medicine for the wretched kitty, and the vet confirmed that she was in the late stages of kidney disease. I went to bed early. And today I am at my
desk dining-room table, still worried about Ms. Kitty, but feeling settled enough to work.