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Off the top

A blog dedicated to the Source of everything good.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

On health and well-being

For me, there is a deeply-imbedded correlation between health and a sense of well-being. I suspect this is also true of most everyone else.

When I was a kid, my mother made sure to tell me what I needed to do to stay healthy, as well as what I needed to do to be “good.” I know it’s because she wanted the best for me, but I couldn’t help but sometimes combine the two (along the lines of “cleanliness is next to godliness – just substitute “healthiness” for “cleanliness.”). “Good” people were generally healthy, and “bad” people – well, bad things happened to them. Even bad things happening to good people was still “bad.” Talk of those who were seriously ill was usually hush-hush and mysterious, and the fact that some illnesses were of the mental variety made it that much more ominous.

Some of my earliest memories are of scary doctor’s-office experiences –- being poked at, examined like an exhibit on display, given painful shots. At home, I remember taking disgusting medicine and being treated somewhat leper-like if I had something contagious. I don’t believe this was the intent, but this was what I took from it.

I remember the loneliness of being isolated in my bedroom at the back of the house during a typical childhood illness. I’d contemplate the cheery smiles on the faces of my stuffed pink-and-blue cat and inflatable Dumbo, wondering what they were smiling about and why they seemed to be in a completely different world. I remember feeling entirely separated from the rest of the happy, carefree universe. I remember the smell of Lysol, which I hate to this day. I remember feeling scared when I didn’t feel “normal,” as if the sickness-bogeyman was plotting some dreadful, painful rearrangement of my entire life, of my entire future.

Perhaps the fact that there were some unsettling and confusing events which culminated in a family tragedy also influenced me; I don’t know. Family tragedy or no, though, I don’t think I’m too much different in this than most people. But folks don’t seem to talk about it except to tell great stories of triumph, or to utter platitudes.

I admit that I carry an incongruity, or cognitive dissonance (or whatever) with me: I accept the spiritual falsehood of the idea that goodness and health equate overall well-being, yet I lack the psychological (or emotional) acceptance. Lord, help me!

There are so many things associated with “good” in our culture: cleanliness, neatness, order, comfort, having needs met, being physically and mentally “well.” “Bad” is associated with mess, pain, chaos, discomfort, and feeling or being physically or mentally sick or in pain. And it’s difficult to avoid inculcating this sense in our children. I have tried hard not to pass on such traditions to mine. It helps to have medicine that tastes like a grape lollipop, bubble gum, or Hawaiian punch. But I have also prepared and cheerfully reassured and assisted my kids through their doctor visits, shots, illnesses, and a tonsillectomy – with success, I believe. It’s hard not to subtly undermine these efforts, though, by making a big deal out of avoiding injury/sickness, and by overreacting to ordinary, everyday troubles...

I have more to say on the subject...stay tuned :-)


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