Painful (yet insightful) teacher

May 26, 2022

Quick editors note: The weekly “Pam to Paper” post is where I share with you what has been on my heart and mind during the past week (where I quite literally put Pam to paper). Oftentimes, these posts will have some reference and applicability to investments and markets. That is, after all, why most of you are here and an essential element of my life and vocation. However, there will be weeks when I focus on other things. This is one of those weeks

“You have shingles.” Certainly a phrase I never expected to hear at age 43. Yikes! I had (wrongfully) always thought this was an illness I would watch out for in my later years and a vaccine I would dutifully get when available at age 50. And yet, earlier this week in an urgent care treatment room, this was the diagnosis presented to me.

For days, I had been doing what most of us do when our body tries to give us a warning sign. I was busy dismissing symptoms as a series of bug bites and muscle soreness from Saturday’s gardening work, telling myself I didn’t have time to get treatment and that it would just go away on its own. But finally, when the pain seemed unbearable and far too unusual, I decided it was time to consult a professional.

After rattling off everything my extensive google searching had told me it could be to both the admitting nurse and doctor, the doctor (after about 15 seconds) calmly told me it was shingles. At my age and given my health history (ie: no known indications of immune system weakness or compromise), she said it had likely be brought on by..(wait for it) – stress!

As I drove from the urgent care to the pharmacy, I couldn’t help but reflect on that all-too-common word – stress. I think it’s fair to say that we all face some level of stress on a daily basis (and to be technical, here is the Webster’s definition: a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances).

I’ve always prided myself on combatting the demands of my personal and professional life with a zealot-like approach to stress mitigation. I call it my “daily six pack” – (1) 8 hours of sleep, (2) 150 oz of water, (3) morning journaling/gratitude practice, (4) eating predominantly whole foods/plants (5) half hour of reading, and (6) at least 30 minutes (preferably 90) of exercise. And yet, here I was dealing with my body’s natural reaction to the demands and pressures I’d placed on it. If I had a metaphorical stress container, I had finally overfilled it after years (maybe decades) of managing to keep it below the edge.

While I could certainly do without the pain and inconvenience this is causing me, I’m choosing to be grateful it happened. Shingles is a painful – and insightful – teacher. I’m hoping these five lessons learned will help me moving forward – and perhaps they can help you too

1.) Health is your #1 job – When we think of our jobs in life, we usually think outward – the company we serve, our job title, or the roles we play for others (ie: parent, child, spouse, etc). This has been a great reminder that our primary role should be the diligent steward of our own mental and physical health. When the pain was at its highest this past week, it was challenging to fulfill any of the other roles in my life. That’s unacceptable as my clients, my business, my family, and my friends are too important for anything less than 100%. Without health, everything thing is harder. This has always been a focus of mine but this was a reminder I cannot let it waiver as I age

2.) Listen to your body – and react – I knew something was off. And yet, I talked myself out of it. I told myself it would pass. I assured my mind it was normal. I turned my attention elsewhere and hoped it would just go away. Thankfully, I relented when I did as the diagnosis and treatment gets worse as time goes on with this virus. Our bodies will get our attention eventually. The sooner we listen and react – the better

3.) Value every day – the day I received this diagnosis was also the day of the tragic events in Texas. Just like that, my slight health speedbump was put into jarring perspective. Life is fragile. It can change just like that. Every day matters. When your day goes off track, do something to bring it back into perspective. Don’t waste a single one. Joy and happiness are always a choice

4.) Gratitude first (and always) – I do a daily gratitude practice and I’ll admit – sometimes it seems perfunctory. I’m rushing thru my list of things I appreciate, so I can go workout and start my day, or get back to my to-do list, or rush off to work or turn on the news to see what markets are doing, etc, etc. This reminded me to reprioritize that time and to use it as a way to slow my mind and lower any worry/stress at the start and end of each day. Our mind impacts our health and I need to treat it as well as I can

5.) Protect your peace – This phrase was spoken during a Peloton ride this week (I know, I should be resting – but I also find movement healing). Simple to say, harder to do. I take this to mean that we all have to continuously set (and defend) boundaries and carefully allocate our time. Time is the only resource we can’t get back. I’ll be reevaluating my “peace” in coming months and exploring further ways to protect it

Life is hard and sometimes, we need to do things to make it a bit easier on ourselves. Hopefully these lessons help you do just that.

Until next week, stay well and stay healthy,


Leave a note

  1. Don Bechtel says:


    I’m so sorry that you’re having to deal with shingles.
    I hope your pain level is bearable. I appreciate your admonitions this week.

  2. Dale Guenther says:

    What a story! Get better. Soon!

  3. Nicole Best says:

    Stress indeed. Your words are so impactful. Thank you for sharing. After the week I had, which I guess is really just another leg in what has been a challenging 6 month marathon, you said exactly what I need to hear. Wishing you all the best gal pal.

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