“Take me to the hospital.” This was said by me on day one of my long-awaited vacation in 2000. As a Personal Assistant, I ran a one-person office in New York City for Oscar winner Olympia Dukakis. On the surface, this may seem like a job dripping with glamour and red carpets and it actually was – 15% of the time. The remaining 85% was plain hard work and very long hours. The world of entertainment did not leave much space for time off.
In 2000, I was determined to plan a week-long family vacation for me. Radical idea, right? I was great at planning trips for Olympia but not so for myself. Other years, I just didn’t take a vacation – like so many assistants – because I was always looking for “a good time.” My lesson was that there is never a perfect time to take time off. I deeply regret not figuring this out much sooner.
For two weeks prior to leaving, I worked longer than usual hours preparing for my absence. We had a four-hour drive to Virginia. The truth is that I felt sick when I stepped into the car, but I willed myself to not give in to how weak I was. As each hour went by, I felt myself feeling worse and worse, hotter and hotter. By the time we arrived at our destination, I had no choice but to say to my husband, “Take me to the hospital.” He and my son did not question me. My own pale reflection in the mirror frightened me.
In the emergency room, they determined that I had a fever of 103.5 and pneumonia in both my lungs, aka double pneumonia. If you have never had pneumonia, it feels like no other illness. It is kind of like an anvil sitting on your chest. I will never forget what the doctor said to me. “You had better take it easier. A person does not catch pneumonia. You develop pneumonia from running on empty. And once you have it, your lungs are compromised forever.” Oh.
My vacation was spent inside our room at the hotel watching television while my family was out having fun without me. Guilty mom syndrome? You bet. I hope you cannot relate to this story, but I fear you can.
Tell the truth. Are you exhausted? Do you wake up in the morning and dread starting work? Do you desperately need a vacation? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are not alone. Far from it.
Courtesy of Bonnie Low-Kramen