Everyday Grace

thoughts and inspiration on emotional health by colleen p. arnold

5 Things a Cold Can Teach You About Life

So I was feeling quite cocky about my superior immune system last week when both boys

This isn't me. But it's how I feel.

came down with a cold and I seemed to escape it. Boy, I must be in excellent health! That neti pot really works – how clever am I to use it faithfully! Then, yesterday, it all came tumbling down and I got the fever, chills, and horrible cough with chest pain. When Nyquil failed me and I lay awake and feverish last night, I realized there are several life lessons we get hammered with when felled by a virus. You can credit this post to my fever.

1. We are not in control. Oh sure, there are many things we can control, and we do have a lot of power over how our life turns out. But the BIG stuff, like which lifetime smokers get cancer and which don’t, which of your kids will have a passionate temperament and which will be mellow,  and when a virus will hit your lungs with the power of a thousand razor blades – we don’t have any control over that. The only thing we can do is remember the Serenity Prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference,” and do our best to roll with the waves.

2. Always carry a handkerchief. This is a two-part lesson: be prepared and be conscious. I used to always carry paper tissues, but after I had a son who, like me, is allergic to air, we probably filled our own landfill with used Kleenex. I switched to soft cotton handkerchiefs and have never looked back. Softer on the delicate nose, easy to wash and much less messy, I am taking care of my nose and the earth at the same time. This is the sort of tightrope we always have to walk – how to reconcile our needs with the earth’s diminishing resources. Also, you never know when your nose will run or you’ll need to mop up a spill. It’s best to be prepared.

3. Never forget that your perception is only that. This one came to me last night as I lay freezing under the down comforter, despite my sweatshirts and the hot-pack I had wrapped around my feet. I could not believe how cold I was. I begged my husband not to turn down the heat as we usually do at night. I was bone-cold, but no one else was. The house wasn’t cold at all, but something was happening inside of me to make it seem that way. Check your perceptions. Stack the down comforters on yourself if you need to, but remember that not everyone else is experiencing the same thing. Alcoholics Anonymous, those creators of pithy sayings, use the acronym FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real.

4. The world will go on. I use this often with my clients who absolutely can’t take time for themselves because they have so much to do and so many people relying on them. Being responsible is great. But I ask them, “What if you were hospitalized with pneumonia? What would happen?” Usually they recognize that others would step in to do their job, step in to feed the children (maybe not the healthiest meals that you would cook for them, but still. The kids aren’t going to starve) and maybe even a few events would get postponed. I feel terribly guilty cancelling a whole days’ worth of client sessions, but I’ve never actually had anything horrible happen because I did. I have, however, had clients look at me very concerned, and help themselves liberally to the hand sanitizer, because I was clearly sick and still working.

5.  This too shall pass. How long will my chest feel like it’s on fire? Not that long. How long will babies wake up and feed every 3 hours? Not that long. I know it seems like forever when you’re in the moment. I remember someone saying of a child’s early years, “The years fly by, but some of the days last an eternity.”  I do not do sick well. I am a 9 on the Enneagram, and we like to be comfortable. Being sick is definitely not comfortable. Patience is key. Faith is key. Things always change – change is really the only constant in life. Things get better, then they get worse, then they get better again. See Number 1 and do your best to roll with the waves.


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4 thoughts on “5 Things a Cold Can Teach You About Life

  1. Hi – Loved this post. I had an accident 2/14/2010, and I am sill recovering from it. The injuries worsened as time went on, even tho I went to many drs…concussion, damage to cervical spine de for vertigo by May ad then horrible repetitive vertigo by november. Finally got correct dr and correct tx, now much better…but took a long time, boy it was an awakening. I have had injuries before, but this slowed down my biz building and it has been humbling.

  2. Colleen,

    I love it! Particularly the piece about accepting that much of what comes at us is out of our control. In fact, I agree so strongly about that idea that one of my blog drafts is a post on what is out of our control. 🙂 What a lovely choice, to take a difficult experience and turn it into a reflection. Thanks for sharing, and I hope you feel much better soon!


  3. Pingback: Mid-Week Balance: 1 February 2012

  4. Dear Colleen,
    Thanks for this post. You draw so many good life lessons from this nasty cold. “This too shall pass,” was one of the comforting things my mother used to say. It’s so true. I also like “The world will go on.” It’s something I need to pay attention to.
    Thanks for your thoughts.

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