>”Sometimes I have to just give in and be sick,” I regularly tell people. They squirm in their seats. We don’t like being sick. We especially don’t like surrendering to being sick. This the 21st century, for heavens sake. We should be stronger-smarter-better by now.

Being ill is an invitation to wholeness. When we get attached to being healthy active go-getters we lose the balance that makes for a full life.

We need times of rest and repose, times to watch sunlight move across the room, times to pay attention to our souls. Illness invites us into such times.

Like most people, I don’t enter a period of illness willingly. When I “feel like I’m coming down with something,” I go into defensive mode. I go to bed early. I take extra vitamins and supplements. When it’s obvious I’m getting sick, I turn to stubborn refusal:

But sometimes it does.

As I lighten my schedule, make my apologies and buy my supplies (those three-box packs of tissues are genius), I throw a little internal tantrum. Why now? Can’t it wait until there’s a clear spot on my calendar?

Whether I’m ready or not, illness descends. My to-do list has just one thing on it: to give myself  “what is necessary for life, health, and growth.” (The definition of nourish.)

Part One: Survival and Pablum*

There are times (migraines spring to mind) when the illness is all-consuming. I am not doing anything but existing.  Whatever mental or physical energy I have, I use it to provide myself with the most basic nourishment.

  1. Rest. Sometimes discomfort disrupts sleep, but sick and tired bodies need rest.
  2. Eat and drink what will help. Take a “long view” on this one. Chocolate may appeal to the part of one that’s feeling hard done by, but broth is often a better choice. Ideally, find substances that feed both body and soul.
  3. Medicate responsibly. There’s a sweet spot between resisting medication completely and going overboard.Get professional advice and dose with caution.

Once I’ve lived through the tough part and start feeling some energy, I begin setting the stage for my return to activity. 

Part Two: Introducing Solids

My agenda is still to nourish myself, but now I can broaden my diet. Rather than just surviving, I want to build my strength. Rather than just eating and drinking, I can return to exploring the world with all my senses.

  1. Contemplate beauty. Bring beautiful sights, smells, sounds, textures, tastes and ideas close.
  2. Experience caring. Connect with a friend and experience the wonderful give-and-get of love.
  3. Laugh. Move lymph. Oxygenate organs. Release serotonin and interleukins. Practice here.

I often refer to the “being sick”part of life as incubation because the time of retreat and replenishment results in the creation of something new. Even if I can return to full physical function, I have to integrate the experience of being ill into my life. I am not the same person I would be if the illness had not occurred.

Healing is a natural result of rest and nourishment. When I’ve had enough of both, life calls me forward again into the world.