Four rules (by Billy Coffey)

cal ripken

image courtesy of

I’m usually good for one awful, please-God-kill-me bout of sickness per year, but the last time I actually threw up was Christmas Eve 1995. I am of the opinion that there is no worse feeling in this life than when…that…happens. I’ve heard people say they’re not feeling well and wished they would just go ahead and do it, as if the after would be worth the during. They lie. Throwing up helps no one.

I remember that last time because of the irony involved. Christmas has always been my favorite time of year—of joyful blessing and peace on earth and Hosanna in the Highest—and yet there I was in the bathroom with my head against the porcelain god saying “This can’t be happening this can’tbe happening thiscan’tbehappen—”

And then it did.

Just so you know, it was horrible. Merry Christmas to me.

That was the day I vowed to never throw up again. I didn’t know exactly how much of a say I had in that, but I thought I’d give it a shot. It’s been tough a few times. I’ve had flu and strep and colds and infections and viruses. I’ve had moments of thiscan’tbehappen—. But I am proud to say that as of today, my streak is unbroken.

I’m proud of that. I’m the Cal Ripken of not puking.

Just in case you’re interested, I’ll tell you how such an impressive feat is accomplished. It certainly isn’t something as mundane as a proper diet (my breakfast this morning? Deer jerky, a bowl of Frankenberry, and coffee). No, I’ve kept my streak through more esoteric measures.

Not puking is a mental thing. A mindset. But it’s also following a few commonsense steps when things go from good to uh-oh.

Like step one: pay attention. Be mindful of that little flutter in your gut. Stop what you’re doing and take stock. It may be a fluke, yes. But it may be something more, also. I’m convinced the vast majority of puking happens when people fail to heed the warning signs and only act when it’s too late.

If it isn’t a fluke and it really may be something more, then it’s on to step two: breathe. Nice, deep, even breaths into and then out the nose. Never through the mouth. I cannot emphasize this point enough. The last thing you want to be doing at that moment is opening your mouth.

Once your breathing is under control, you can move to your thoughts. That’s step three. The mind is an amazing creation, and whatever goes on in there affects the rest of you. Start thinking about peaceful things—mountains and flowers people laughing. Don’t think about oceans, though—too wavy. And for the love of all that is holy and good, don’t think about what might happen. That will ruin everything.

If you’re at step three and still feeling like the wave is building and the end is nigh, it’s time for step four: pray. Pray hard. Steps one through three have failed me through the years, but step four never has. God has always been my Pepto-Bismol.

I say all this because I was sick last week. Not please-God-kill-me sick, but more like you’d-better-slow-down sick. And even though things didn’t progress into a downward spiral of almost-yarking, I decided to follow the above guidelines anyway.

And you know what? It worked.

I’m thinking now of expanding those four rules and including them on the days I feel fine, too. No use to waste them when I’m sick.

I’m going to pay attention more. And when things start going from good to uh-oh, I’m going to stop and breathe.

I’m going to keep the good in my thoughts and not dwell on the bad.

And I’m going to pray. More and always.

To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at his blog What I Learned Today and follow him on twitter at @BillyCoffey

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22 Responses to “Four rules (by Billy Coffey)”

  1. Michael September 20, 2010 at 6:53 am #

    Not opening our mouths and breathing through our noses really applies to so much. Billy, I really enjoyed this. You are up there with Ripken and Gehrig.
    .-= Michael´s last blog ..We Treat Them Like Lepers =-.

  2. Kelly Langner Sauer September 20, 2010 at 8:52 am #

    Yeah, that. *grin* I thought I was onto something, though my standoff isn’t as long as yours. And I did have to figure some morning sickness into the thing. And food poisoning. Because when it has to go, it just seriously has to go.

    Fun post, Billy!
    .-= Kelly Langner Sauer´s last blog ..3 • from here and there- “joy” =-.

  3. Kristi Fornshell September 20, 2010 at 8:55 am #

    I threw up in 1950…you of course were not yet born.
    I did not like it. I swore I would never do it again.

    All went well until surgery for a ruptured appendix in 1998.
    Post surgery I hurled about 8 feet.
    It was epic.

    I renewed my vow never to have a repeat performance.
    So far ,so good.

    Thank your for sharing your strategy. I shall employ it if ever necessary.
    .-= Kristi Fornshell´s last blog ..1953 THE BESTEST SUMMER EVER =-.

  4. Eric September 20, 2010 at 9:03 am #

    I did wonder it that Twitter diatribe was going to make it into a blog post. With both of you involved, I’m not surprised. (and a wonderful life lesson at the end to boot!)

  5. A Simple Country Girl September 20, 2010 at 9:10 am #


    I am rather confused. How can one just make a vow like that? I hurl with ferocity, velocity, and sometimes even electricity. I mean, when that damp feeling hits the back of my neck and my arm hairs stand on-end, you all better run for cover. There ain’t no amount of deep nostril breathing that will keep yesterday’s fodder within when it has a projectile path in mind. I do believe the Puke Monster has a mind of its very own.

    Those 4 rules are nifty, but this is a gross-post. And my husband thinks it’s bad if I mention “manure” in my writing.

    One more thing, cause there is always “one more thing” with me, sometimes we have to puke. Horses can’t. They simply cannot. If they have to because they ingested some toxins (moldy hay or poisonous weeds), they colic, and a lot of them die. Sometimes we do have to get the nasty-bad deer jerky/cereal combo meal out… 😉

    I’m going to go rinse my mouth. Had to do it last week after visiting here too.

    .-= A Simple Country Girl´s last blog ..Values- Votes- Voices &amp God =-.

  6. S. Etole September 20, 2010 at 9:37 am #

    It’s a toss up between you and country girl today … so thankful I’ve haven’t eaten yet this morning!

  7. Joanne Sher September 20, 2010 at 9:50 am #

    If this isn’t “country boy’, I dunno what is – love the spiritual lesson but I’m LOLing at the rest.
    .-= Joanne Sher´s last blog ..Thoughts- Monday Manna =-.

  8. Dayle September 20, 2010 at 11:27 am #

    Love it. I’m thinking of sticking these instructions on the refrigerator.
    .-= Dayle´s last blog ..Simple Pleasures My New 999 Sandals =-.

  9. Lynn September 20, 2010 at 11:45 am #

    Billy, am I glad I found you on Twitter! 🙂 You are so down-to-earth it is refreshing. Even this last post is .. well, maybe not refreshing .. lol … but it is real.
    Thank you for reminding us to be real and not take ourselves too seriously.

    .-= Lynn´s last blog ..Twitter is taking over my life! =-.

  10. Marni September 20, 2010 at 12:47 pm #

    How are you people going YEARS without hurling? I wish I had your tenacity. Pregnancy did me in on almost a daily basis. And as if the youngest child didn’t make me puke enough, she brings home every stinkin’ virus that goes through her school, and generously shares it with me. Sigh.

    Billy, you post reminds me of a great Seinfeld episode. Remember the black and white cookie?

  11. Kathleen September 20, 2010 at 12:57 pm #

    I agree completely with the life metaphor/four rules, however, when the toxins need to come out, there’s a reason. Let ‘er rip. Just get ‘er done. Feed the fish, whatever. I always ALWAYS feel better afterwards and am thankful I’m NOT a horse….

  12. Maureen September 20, 2010 at 1:57 pm #

    Thank you for sharing.
    .-= Maureen´s last blog ..Monday Muse- Nebraskas Poet Laureate =-.

    • katdish September 20, 2010 at 4:08 pm #


  13. Robin Arnold September 20, 2010 at 3:34 pm #

    Katdish gets all the cool posts doesn’t she?

    My dad always adds “drink lots of water,” or, “soak your feet,” to all advice for avoiding illness.
    .-= Robin Arnold´s last blog ..Best blog resources =-.

    • katdish September 20, 2010 at 3:40 pm #

      Yesh, she does. Mostly because I’ll email him and say stuff like, “Hey, where’s that vomit post you promised me?”

  14. katdish September 20, 2010 at 4:07 pm #

    I’m going to go with the majority opinion here. For me, I felt TONS better after I threw up, even though it was pretty violent and painful while it was happening. Sometimes you gotta get the poison out. It gets out eventually one way or another. Okay, I should stop now…

    • A Simple Country Girl September 20, 2010 at 4:49 pm #

      i’ll continue just a chunk for ya…it really hurts when if it happens to singe nostril hairs en route to getting out. then you gotta rinse mouth and nose.

      hoping you didn’t have that bit o’ fun with your festival.
      .-= A Simple Country Girl´s last blog ..Values- Votes- Voices &amp God =-.

  15. bman September 20, 2010 at 4:37 pm #

    Being sick sucks. Big time. Thank you for the tips on becoming so awesome at not puking like you are! Ha!
    .-= bman´s last blog ..The Big Red Tractor =-.

  16. Jennifer September 20, 2010 at 9:27 pm #

    Well, now, I must admit, I was not expecting vomit to be the topic of discussion today! I can relate, Billy; my husband and I had just flown home to see our family for Christmas. I was almost eight months pregnant, and the first night home, I got food poisoning. My husband visited his family the next day, opening presents, while I stayed on my parents’ couch puking my guts out. What a horrible Christmas. Unfortunately, I’ve thrown up since then, too.

    Anyway, I think I’ll focus on the end of your post. Great tips for having better days!
    .-= Jennifer´s last blog ..If I Were to Write BabyLand General =-.

  17. Michelle DeRusha September 22, 2010 at 10:36 am #

    Wow, we have something in common, Billy. The last time I threw up was in ’95, too — Valentine’s Day. Pity, the chocolate. I fight it tooth and nail. I have a bit of a phobia. Which is why, so ironically, I’ve been blessed with a barfer. My youngest. He once threw up at the scent of my morning breath. No lie. That hurt. So I am getting better. I still don’t love it…I still fight it…but at least I can mother a barfer. And that’s something, yes?


  1. Four rules : Billy Coffey - September 20, 2010

    […] simple four-step process that I’ve detailed in great specificity over at katdish’s site. Since flu season is fast approaching, I think it would be wise for you to head on over there so I […]

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