The Territory

Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli

Speaking of weather, we saw three signs of spring this weekend. Not scientific signs, mind you; merely Things Erika Has Decided Means Spring Must Be On The Horizon: first, a gaggle of robins landed in our backyard, pecking about for food. Then, a beautiful sunset blanketed the sky. Finally, we spotted a ladybug crawling up the wall in our bathroom. Oh! And Dylan found a spider in our basement—that’s four! To top it off, we had a break from the frigid winter weather, with temps on Sunday topping out in the mid-fifties. Isn’t it amazing how days like that, after weeks and months of cold, can literally make you feel like you’ve emerged from some kind of shell? Oh Thank You, the world seems to collectively say.

Of course, that’s all over now—Winter laughed at Spring’s attempt to give us all a break and declared its rightful place back in our lives with icy roads and a bitter chill to welcome the week. The sky is predictably gray. I can’t find a single insect in my house. Yes, Winter. We know. It’s only February. As Dylan, would say, Fiine-Uh.

Also, our fish died. Which means, as Dylan rightly pointed out, “But now we don’t have any fish!”

I’ve spent the past four nights waking with my feverish daughter; remembering once again what it’s like to have a newborn. I was sitting across from her on the couch yesterday at 4:30 am as she tried to sleep, gulping in big raspy breaths desperate to find air outside of the congestion that has trapped her chest and throat, listening to her intermittent gibberish, thinking, ‘But wait! Just a few days ago you were Peter Pan!’

Dylan has had no trouble sleeping, in spite of an infection in his leg that got diagnosed with the scary label of MRSA, and which has had me spending the better part of a week randomly squirting people in our house with disinfectant.

My beloved step-dad, whom I love as fiercely as any daughter ever loved a father, is in Pittsburgh right now, putting his brother to rest. (Connors Family, I am just so sorry—my heart hurts for the dark days you are in.)

Yesterday was “Dress Like a Superhero” day in Dylan’s preschool so I made sure he rocked an awesome Batman outfit… but when I picked him up at the end of the day, he ran up to me and said “Mommy, can we go back home and get my cape and bring it back?” and then burst into tears as he threw himself into my arms.  I had forgotten his cape??  How could I have forgotten his cape?


Life changes as fast as you can make plans for it, doesn’t it?


A middle-of-the-night phone call, a number on the thermometer, a changing forecast. A Super Hero day without a cape.  Whoosh. In a moment, what we thought was going to happen gets replaced with what actually does.

I know that every time I have my day or my to-do list just perfectly planned out, something steps right in the middle of it and laughs and laughs as it breaks that perfect plan all to pieces. Every time I think, “Oh, I’ll just tend to that later,” that later dissipates in the wind. That’s the way life goes.

Which is why “someday…” and “when…” are so dangerous.  Someday I’ll… Someday we’ll…  When things settle down…   Because, who knows what someday or when will actually look like? Maybe it will be spring or maybe it will be winter. Maybe you’ll be sick or maybe you’ll be the star of the show. Maybe you’ll have to say goodbye.

So we can make all the plans we want, but in the end it’s not the plans that matter. As someone once said “The map is the not the territory.” The map—the plans—are simply guideposts. But the territory itself, ah! That’s where the unexpected twists and turns come in.   That’s the meatiest meat of life.  So I can fret about my disrupted work schedule or I can enjoy some undisrupted and unexpected time with my daughter.   I can kick myself about forgetting Dylan’s cape, or I can send him to school today dressed like Spiderman… because, you know, what the heck.  This territory, this life–it’s right in front of me, right now.   I might as well put down the map and take a look around.

Where can you put down the map and just embrace the territory? 


Interested in having Erika’s blog come directly to your e-mail each Tuesday? Have comments to share?  E-mail her at   Find all her previous blog posts at



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.