This past week our family was so sick we couldn’t see straight.

It was a 72-hour marathon of toilets and buckets and bowls, and the laundry running round the clock on repeat. One by one I watched each kid succumb until it was finally my turn. Pete was the last man standing, until he wasn’t.

It was brutal.

We were shaken, and when my boys could finally straggle their way back to school, they looked relieved to be leaving behind the scene of the crime.

I was left with a still-sick husband, what felt like a hundred more loads of laundry to go, and the desperate urge to text my mother-in-law, begging her to get on the next flight out and rescue me from being a grown up.

Some days it’s hard to scrape yourself up off the floor.

On days like that it’s almost shocking when someone offers to help.

Because on days like that you’re so undone you don’t recognize yourself in the mirror.

The competent version of yourself got lost around 5am three days back, and you aren’t sure how to take the next step forward. You just keep spraying down the counters and moving cups of water from one place to another.

You forget to brush your hair.

You’re still too nervous to brush your teeth.

You look at the wreckage of your house and it’s all too much and instead you sit down on the carpet and stare into space. Around you the world seems to keep pace with the news and the headlines and the deadlines, but in your four walls time has crawled to a standstill, and when the lady from the rental agency knocks at the door for your annual inspection, you stare at her in confusion because you forgot that everything outside your house hadn’t stopped to take pity on what’s happening inside.

You need to buck up, you tell yourself.

You need to get it back together.

You need to clean the upstairs bathroom floor. Again.

And you need to check your messages.

I’m in the minivan — with all its discarded innards spilling in a confused chaos of shame out of the car and into the parking lot of my daughter’s preschool — when I get the message.

A friend, a fellow mama and writer, is throwing stew in the crock pot at 9 am and wants to know if I’d like her to drop half of it off for dinner at 6pm?

I don’t even hesitate.

I pick up the phone to reply, “No thanks, we’re fine.”

And then I remember this.

Won’t you keep reading with me over here at (in)courage. Because I was surprised by my own answer to someone’s generous offer of stew.

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