THE BLOG
12/19/2011 01:51 pm ET Updated Feb 18, 2012

5 Things I Learned From Being Sick

For the last four days, I've been down for the count. A horrible stomach virus swept through our household, claiming first my daughter, then my husband and myself (simultaneously) and then, finally, pulling my son down with us.

Unlike my daughter and my husband, who suffered a shorter, more violent episode of said bug (and yes, I'll spare you the gory details), mine was of a more protracted nature. No vomiting. No extended stays in the bathroom. Instead, intense stomach cramps, chills and a low-grade fever. And an overwhelming sense of fatigue every time I stood up or tried to do anything other than drink Seven Up.

It doesn't help that I saw Contagion last weekend -- which is enough to make you think that every time you cough, you're about to turn blue and start frothing at the mouth. (Other than that, I'd love to look like Gwyneth Paltrow, thank you very much.)

But I'm slowly emerging from the death throes of this thing. And as I do so, I realize that I learned a few things from this most recent brush with mortality:

1. Your kids are more independent than you realize. I wrote a post not long ago in which I vowed that in this school year, I would do less for my kids. That resolution was partly driven by my own desire to be less of a control freak (hey, good luck with that!) and partly by the feeling that as they rounded the corner to 8 and 11 respectively, my children ought to be taking more responsibility for themselves. And boy, lemme tell ya, there' s nothing like having not one, but two (!) parents incapacitated to demonstrate what your kids are truly capable of. One day, my daughter (8) made lunch for my son (soon-to-be 11) and volunteered -- without being asked -- to sew a badge onto his football jersey. Meanwhile, my son, who's favorite catchphrase of the moment is "CBB" (which stands for "Can't be bothered") was suddenly jumping up to toast his own bread, take his own asthma medicine, get himself to football practice and back and -- miraculously! -- put himself to bed without listening to the iPod or reading a book. (I really must do this more often...)

2. Old movies really do rock. I wrote a post around this time last year when I was similarly afflicted by some hideous bug entitled "Five Comfort Activities When You're Sick." Right up there on that list was watching old movies. And you know what? It's still there. This year, we cracked open some Sherlock Holmes. As we'd already made our way through all of the early versions of the series starring Basil Rathbone, we began to plumb the depths of the 1980s series starring Jeremy Brett and David Burke. Bliss!

3. Cars seem less of a luxury when you're ill. Those of you who've been reading this blog for a while will know that I am fairly fervently anti-car, for health, environmental and aesthetic reasons. Nonetheless, I would be lying if I didn't tell you that I miss driving when I'm ill. Because when you're sick, there's something really nice about being able to jump in the car in your PJs and zip down to the local corner store to pick up some Saltines (or rich tea biscuits, depending on the continent) and be back at your perch on the couch in five minutes flat. Because, seriously. Having to walk to the corner store when you're under the weather? CBB, man. CBB.

4. The homeless are deserving of our sympathies. There was a point, early on in this illness, when I was required to spend about six hours outside when I really wasn't up to it. My daughter had a dress rehearsal for a play, followed immediately by a dance recital, and there was simply no way that I couldn't accompany her. So during the two-hour rehearsal, I took myself down into the basement of a local theatre, lay down on a sofa in my gigantic ski parka, clutched my smart phone to my chest, and took a two-hour nap. Throughout the ensuing two hours, workers would periodically shuffle through the room and ask me to switch sofas or gently prod me in one direction or the other so that they could clean up or rearrange chairs. And I realized -- in my half-awake, feverish state -- that this is what it feels like to be homeless. And I felt -- quite sincerely -- a newfound sympathy for their plight.

5. I do too much. Period. Remember last week's Yuletide post about my not-so-relaxed downhill slalom course into the holidays? Nothing like a stomach virus to force you to drop everything and sleep. Overnight, I began missing deadlines, canceling meetings and turning off the answering machine to avoid the sound of the telephone. And you know what? It felt great. There's a lesson in here, folks. For me, definitely. And for some of you as well, I suspect.

Happy holidays. Be happy. Be healthy. Be relaxed.