Knocked Out

Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli

In "Knocked Out", Erika shares some lessons learned (along with bing-watching recommendations) from a recent bout of illness
I got sick last week in a way that I haven’t been sick in years.

It crept up slowly: starting with a minor cold and cough during Thanksgiving (just after breaking my toe by gracefully tripping into the coffee table, no less)—the kind you ignore other than to maybe catch a few lazy hours on the couch—which I did courtesy of a Rocky marathon, thank you very much.

But after about four days of coughing and sniffling, ka-POW! I got K.O.’d. Knocked. Out. Flat. I was doing my best to ignore my ever-steadily-increasing cough as three of my NYC colleagues flew into town, and we prepared for a busy week presenting and exhibiting at a local conference. I laughed off my still-more-aggressively-increasing cough as we led an opening session for about 100 participants. I dismissed my cough-plus-why-do-I-feel-so-weird-and-shivery as I talked to friends, partners, colleagues, and clients who stopped by our booth to say hello. I shrugged off my co-workers’ ever-loving suggestions that perhaps I might consider leaving early to get some rest?

When finally, I waved the white flag of surrender. I left the conference, made a bee-line to an immediate care, and heard them talk to me about possible diagnoses including an upper respiratory infection, sinus infection, and, delightfully, whooping cough. I loaded up on meds and ran for the couch, where I proceeded to stay for the next three days straight.

Three days!

This is very unlike me.

Typically, I slough my way through sickness, doing my best to ignore the symptoms and carry on about my business. But this time the universe had other plans. My sinuses hurt so bad I could hardly keep my eyes open, and my cough left my voice weak and shaky. I didn’t have the energy to do much more than flip channels on the remote control. (But I can tell you EVERYTHING about the past few seasons of Castle.)

Now a week later, I’m mostly better. Still sniffly. Still ultra tired. But upright!

Coming out into the world again feels disorienting, compounded by the fact that I had plans to travel to New York today for my monthly work visit. I just feel like a general sense of, “Whoa, hang on. What?”

It’s fascinating to me what disruptions to our regular routines do to us (or, at least, to me). I’m definitely a creature of habit, and I’m also, as it turns out, very unappreciative of my normal level of health and energy. It was stunning to me not to be able to do anything last week—care for the kids, play with the kids, put the kids to bed, get the kids ready for school, cook dinner, get the mail, look at my computer, talk on the phone, talk at all, get in the car to go anywhere… Every single moment of my normal day seemed an impossible feat.

So when I woke Saturday and the fog of sickness started to lift, and in the few days since then when things have gotten steadily clearer, I have felt so grateful.  So grateful to sleep through the night without coughing. So grateful to putter about with the kids. So grateful to be moving about with the world again.

Because I am still a bit delicate, I am moving through the world in a slower and more mindful pace than normal, which makes me feel like I am paying attention to everything. And also, since I went from Thanksgiving to Conference to Flat-On-The-Couch Sick to Prepare to Travel, I have been forced to let go of some things that just weren’t going to get tended to, that just weren’t going to get done. And surprisingly, especially since we are hurtling straight toward Christmas, I don’t feel stressed about it. I’m really just focusing on one breath, one task, one opportunity to be amidst the living, at a time.

So for that, I owe my sickness gratitude, too: gratitude for re-setting my pace, for reminding me to pay attention, and for showing me that the universe, from time to time, will toss us an unexpected left hook that knocks us off our feet if it thinks we aren’t taking good enough care of ourselves.

How can you be grateful for the left hook?

Share your stories below or tweet me @ErikaPetrelli1


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"Knocked Out", The Leadership Program, Inc. 2015

Erika Petrelli

By Erika Petrelli

Erika Petrelli is the Senior Vice President of Leadership Development (and self-declared Minister of Mischief) for The Leadership Program, a New York City-based organization. With a Masters degree in Secondary Education, Erika has been in the field of teaching and training for decades, and has been with The Leadership Program since 1999. There she has the opportunity to nurture the individual leadership spirit in both students and adults across the country, through training, coaching, keynotes, and writing. The legacy Erika strives daily to create is to be the runway upon which others take flight. If you enjoy these blogs, you should check out her interactive journal, On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary, now available for sale on Amazon. While her work takes her all around the country, Erika calls Indiana home.