What pneumonia taught me

Being sick in the summer can be truly awful. But my recent bout with pneumonia (the walking variety) this summer was oddly…not awful? It was, instead, very instructive.

Back up to the beginning of this year, when my husband walked in on me in the middle of a very bizarre practice – oil pulling. I usually manage to do this in the wee hours of the morning, when nobody is around, but he happened to have insomnia that morning….

After I finally finished, we had a long talk about what the heck it is I really do between 4am and 6am.

I’ve always claimed that I relish this time because it’s “me” time: it’s when I’m not “Mom, Mama, Mommy, Honey, Darling,” just me.

But this conversation made me realize that what I spend most of that time doing is a series of practices that build my immune system: I work out (yup, at 4am, because believe me, it is NOT happening with any consistency at any other time…it’s just not); I do yoga; I meditate; I drink apple cider vinegar; I do oil pulling; in the winter I add some extra supplements. I also mindfully cook and eat breakfast and savor my one cup of coffee for the day and read for all of maybe 10 minutes before anyone else gets up.

And woe to anyone who disturbs this routine.

“So which of all these things really work?” he wanted to know.

“Um. I’m not sure.”

“Maybe most of them are a waste of time, and you could just sleep a little more?” Please note: I actually get 7-8 hours a night. I do NOT recommend trying this routine on less than that.

So this summer, I thought, “What the heck? Let’s test this theory. I’ll try cutting down on this extravaganza of practices.” And I confess that I pretty much threw out the lot of them.

And then I went a step further and really tempted the Universe: Ann Arbor – the beautiful city I call home – hosts a massive event known as Art Fair every July. The novelty of this event wore off quickly, especially when I had to drive and park downtown for work – on-street parking can’t be found, and lots and structures double their prices.

The fair is great for the local economy, so my usual way of dealing with it is scheduling vacation or working from home during this time. This year, that didn’t work out, and when my daughter came down with walking pneumonia, I wistfully said, “I wouldn’t mind being sick this week – not THAT sick, you know, but just a lick of what she’s got. Enough to keep me home from work.”

WHAM! If there’s one thing I’ve learned in recent years, it’s that you just don’t ask things like that. Because the Universe delivers, in spades.

The one thing I could do, in between those crazy fever dreams, was think, and being a health coach, my mind immediately went to one of my favorite coaching questions, “Why is this happening for me – what lesson can I take from this experience?” as opposed to, “Why is this happening to me?”

And here, in no particular order, are the things pneumonia taught me:

  1. I was reminded that I am a lousy patient: I go crazy when I can’t be productive, so I will admit to downing a fair amount of Tylenol and Advil – just enough to get through the bare essentials of work – but I am more firmly than ever convinced that not taking those medications and letting the fever run its course would have been a wiser move, and I’m glad I stayed away from conventional cold and cough remedies. Wow, am I sick of hot water with lemon and honey, though….
  2. Antibiotics, when appropriately prescribed, are truly a miracle. A good doctor’s Rx is second only to what my kids prescribed: time on the couch with a One Direction movie one night (cut me some slack – I’m better at being a patient mom than a docile patient) and The Return of the King another night (Viggo Mortensen and Bernard Hill are a whole different category of medicine).
  3. Those same kids are absolutely brutal culinary critics: my poor husband struggled valiantly to put 3 meals a day on the table, and all he got was criticism and complaints. a) Welcome to my life. b) Your first mistake was to actually try too hard; in my world, summer = it’s every man for himself for breakfast and lunch. c) Your next misstep was to offer to make something else when they don’t like something: that’s not an option when Bad Cop’s in the kitchen.
  4. If you’re doing something that’s working to improve your health, don’t question it. And for God’s sake, don’t stop doing it.
  5. Don’t mess with the Universe. Just don’t.


  1. Gosh, Liza. I love catching up with you via reading your blog. I’m so sorry you were sick, but so enjoy reading your take on it. Thanks for making me giggle; I always enjoy your insight.

  2. You only truly appreciate the things you do when you can’t do them. The universe has a way of answering requests!!!

Add A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.