Blessings of Being Sick

This is not what I ordered…

So how have you started off this new year?

Did you review last year and evaluate how things went, so you could make good progress this year?

Did you set lofty goals/resolutions indicating all the ways that you were going to change your life and therefore be happier?

Did you start off slowly and let yourself rest more and focus more on hibernating rather than hyper-acting?

Did you do some spiritual practice to get rest and renewal, time for meditation, connecting deeply with your intentions for living your best life?

Did you create a master plan so you can be more organized and productive with your time and energy?

One mentor of mine suggested as part of the year’s review process, to note all the wins and triumphs, even if very small; and then to list all of the obstacles or disappointments of the last year and to put a heart next to each one as a way of having compassion for one’s struggle (which is a huge component of any success that we have).

Did you vow to make changes in difficult mindset issues that always come up and get in your way?

Did you prioritize what is most important to you and resolve to focus primarily on those things?…

And NOW… How are you doing with all of that, a month or so into this new year?

Have you given up?

Are you feeling inspired?

Are you already exhausted?

Are you doing the same things you always do?

Are you being super critical with how hard it is to make and sustain meaningful changes?

Are you offering more compassion to yourself and those around you, as you work hard and still encounter frustrations?

Are you pleased with how much you’ve been able to sustain your resolutions?

I continue to be curious about how people enter the new year – with hopes, dreams, buckling down, intentions or resolutions, lists; and how they manage whatever feelings come up related to their experiences. I am interested in what works, or doesn’t work. What helps us to move forward or causes us to stall out.

I paid particular attention this year to my own New Year’s entry. My main intention was to do it with love and a little bit of grace. I had high hopes for a year of business filled with progress and growth. And getting my projects to actually come about.

I ended up however being super focused on planning holidays, gatherings and milestone parties for family members. I had a lovely experience of being able to hug and hold a cousin of mine, just a few weeks before she died from cancer – and tell her face-to-face, in person what she meant to me. I have been able to travel and spend time with faraway family members. I was a part of several significant celebrations.

All the while I was neglecting my online work or at least putting it aside and not really doing any work on it (that’s partly why you haven’t heard for me in all of January). The energy and ideas I had to hit the ground running at the start of the year, actually got pushed to the back burner. I was able to be trusting that I would get to it all eventually and I had the thought that in the new year I would be better – more focused, more productive.

Ultimately I got sick in the middle of January and was pretty ill for the last half of the month. I got slammed, could hardly breathe, had a void of energy or anything resembling life as I wanted it. I had to miss several days of work (which I think I’ve done only a couple of times in my nearly 30 years of being a therapist).

It hurt to breathe; it hurt to cough; my body ached from head to toe. It hurt to BE.

I put gobs of Vicks vapor rub on; tried to breathe in warm steam; sucked on lozenges 24-7. I slept 20 out of 24 hours in a day. One day I thought I could work but I really couldn’t pay attention and I had this terrible underbelly feeling of ‘I don’t really care’. My clients told me to go home – wanting to be safe from whatever I had I’m sure, but also caring about my well-being.

I went from chills (and feeling so raw and vulnerable) to fiery night sweats. I thought it might be pneumonia. My doctor said no, my lungs were clear, but my asthma had gotten totally flared up, and I suffered relapse after relapse.

I had no appetite, no strength, no will to carry on. I felt like a puddle of liquid and that could only move myself from one spot to another, drop by drop, with a teeny spoon.

I wanted to be connecting with my people, encouraging a meaningful start to the new year, providing compassionate and mindful attention and support to those who count on me. But I had nuthin’. No thoughts; no expression of anything I could muster; no energy to communicate in any way.

I tried to at least be mindful of my experience – simply note or name my experience. That required a huge effort. I had no energy in my batteries to just observe. Mostly I did not care…

Then, I miraculously started to feel better and I was flooded with what felt like blessings of being sick.

Let me explain…

  • Knowing clearly what my limits were and being able to articulate them.
  • Sleeping with abandon – not trying to do just one more thing before I went to bed.
  • Easily saying no to people without feeling guilty or that I had let them down.
  • So acutely aware of my body and energy that I could pinpoint the moment I turned the corner and started to feel better.
  • Hearing peoples’ urgings to take care of myself because they cared about my well-being, and was grateful for how I had encouraged them before to take care of themselves.
  • Being so present in each moment that I was not distracted by anything else going on. No worries about the future, no regrets or sorrows about the past, no negative dialogue about myself.
  • Losing six pounds of sweat and shivers without even trying.
  • Having clear boundaries that were not offensive or capitulating to others.
  • Being ok with not taking care of anyone else.
  • Feeling very uncritical of myself.
  • Feeling fully what it felt like to be helpless, lifeless, a puddle, and then living through that.
  • Feeling deep acceptance about the state of my world, knowing I couldn’t rush things along, or try to force fix things in any way.
  • Feeling complete liberation and full of life, as I began to feel better. And such gratitude and appreciation for coming through the depths of it.

I wanted to imprint these experiences on my body and soul, so I wouldn’t forget what it felt like to be so present and so clear even about an uncomfortable time.

I feel as if these blessings of being sick have been integrated and internalized and now are a part of me, creating templates to rely upon when the next struggle – physical or emotional- finds me and alters my path.

How have you been? What helps to make your way a little gentler? What blessings have you experienced in the midst of illness or set back? I’d love to hear from you…

If you or someone you love is struggling to notice the blessings of life and hardship, please contact me for a therapy appointment.

For more ideas on how to bring more calm and less worry into your life, click here for a free email course on Mindfulness.

Listening with Heart
Cindi Rivera, MFT
Marriage, Family Therapist
[email protected]
(510) 482-4445


  1. Kennedy Golden on February 7, 2019 at 12:41 pm

    WOW! First, so glad you are feeling WAY better. Second, appreciating your words, your acknowledgement that at some point our desires and hopes all need to take a back seat to paying attention to ourselves and what we need to heal. I believe I have been in both places, and am deeply touched to read your words. They are important. They demonstrate that when we have to give in to whatever physical issue may stop us in our tracks, by paying attention to the debilitation, and then to the return to “our” world, each of us actually CAN get through what for a while seems unsurvivable. Thank you for paying attention and then for sharing your experience. Welcome back! Here’s to a year ahead filled with all you wish for, now that your body has allowed you to move forward.

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