I’ve been working on the question of why do we think sickness is wrong for several months now. In fact, I am devoting this blog to helping me share the answer. Sickness may be nasty, icky, and painful, but ultimately wrongness comes from a value judgment we make about the sickness. Increasingly it seems that our world is finding ways to hide sickness in the same way it hides death. I think that culturally this is happening because we are more and more disconnected from the natural world. In nature, things die. Predators kill prey. Sometimes the prey is only injured and may get away–only to die slowly. Trees fall due to storms. Plants die in fires started by lightening.
In the natural world everything has a use and a purpose. Rotting corpses offer nutrients to the earth which offers back nutrients to other animals when the plants grow. These herbivores often serve as nutrients for carnivores and scavengers. There is a cycle and the cycle isn’t pretty. It’s messy and nasty. We don’t like to look at it, so we don’t. Increasingly we have allowed our squeamishness to disconnect us from the natural world.
The idea that this comes from our disconnect from nature is not my own. It’s reflected in every blogger who blogs about sustainable farming and real food. You can find many of them at the Food Renegade, especially on Fight Back Friday or at Real Food Media Networks. I have found the same information coming from the people at Slow Money, though they talk about this from a financial perspective. I have found it again when I was reading the Great Turning by David Korten.
I find it amazing how people from so many different fields are standing up and pointing out that we are disconnected from the natural world. As we experience this, we experience it as a disconnect from our roots and our personal core. Only by finding our way to a relationship with the natural world do we begin to experience what is real and make the choices the we need to make for a quality life–not just a life filled with quantities.
Sometimes I think that we it is our fear of dying that keeps so afraid to acknowledge illness. Nina Planck talks about Gina Mallet in her book Real Food: What to Eat and Why. Mallet has a wonderful quote:
Mallet writes, “a new philosophy emerged, based on the notion that death could be delayed, perhaps even cheated if a person monitored every single piece of food she ate.”
I believe that in today’s world we also think that if we just eat right and exercise right not only can we delay or perhaps cheat death we can also delay or cheat sickness. Death is inevitable. Sickness to a degree is also inevitable. If our body is balanced there will be days when it doesn’t function at 100 percent. Therefore those days that it is not could be considered a day of sickness. Why do we so fear it?
Lately, as I ponder what health and sickness mean I’ve been moving back to the foundations of the Westin A Price Foundation for eating. I think slow, local and organic seems best for me.
I don’t think that this will keep well all the time but I think this sort of diet will help my body should I actually become sick. As someone who tends to low energy I find that eating the fats they recommend and the taking the cod liver oil, I find myself much more energetic and needing to move a lot more. I love the feel of NEEDING to work because my body needs to move rather than working out because I have to.
Check out the Weston A Price Foundation
I was reading a biography about Scott Fischer, the owner of Mountain Madness who was one of the climbers who died on Mt. Everest in the storm made famous both by the IMAX film crew who climbed and by the book Into Thin Air by John Krakauer. What I find interesting is that what Scott found in nature and the out doors many people who have dis-ease find in their own inner-space.
Why is Fischer lauded for being a heroic mountain climber but those with dis-ease who find these same areas are treated as if they should never have become sick in the first place.
Everyone needs to find those places and to recognize them for what they are. I am left with uncertainty that Fischer understood what he found in the open spaces beneath the sky, alone on the mountain, but I understood he felt joy. In the same way many with chronic dis-ease climb their own internal mountains finding the same satisfaction in joy, though there is little outward appearance of accomplishment.
Why is it only the external trappings of success that we applaud?
As a child I heard the phrase “Don’t wish your life away,” when I was wishing for something that would only come in the future.
How many times do we hear people tell us that they wish this hadn’t happened to us. While the sentiment is there and certainly such words are offered with utmost compassion, there are times when their wishes would almost take away the life we have lived.
I wonder about those words and wonder if these other people are wishing away the lives of their good friends? Illness is part of life. It is hard. It is messy. Certainly no one wishes it on anyone else, but for some people are sick and they do get sick. This burden is their life now. While it would be nice for them and everyone to have an easy life, everyone has burdens. Don’t wish away someone’s very life.
As I have gone in search of the what health means to many people I have come across many different ways of thinking. I was reintroduced to the Westin A Price Foundation and the concepts of eating locally.
Recently, I saw a post on Real Food is Soul Food over at a new favorite blog of mine. I was caught by this opening:
Real Food is old and traditional. It’s sustainably grown, organic, and local. And it nourishes the soul as well as the body.
That’s because finding, cooking, and eating Real Food is a craft. I once heard that cooking was the only art form that uses all five senses. It engages the whole person…
It’s beautifully said and I think there are some wonderful ideas put forth in this post. I urge everyone to go over and read and think about it. If you don’t eat real food, consider why. Also if the idea that cooking real food is a craft, consider why you don’t think you are able to do it. What stops you?
When I was in Indiana’s Amish country, one place had a sort of working museum of Amish life. There we walked through a typical Amish home. In the living room, close to the wood stove that heated the main part of the house, there was a sick bed or fainting couch. This couch didn’t just sit there when people were sick and then moved away when all were well, the couch itself waited their, made up as a bed for anyone who might become sick. There was an acknowledgment of the fact that sickness happens. Just as we have a medicine cabinet in case of illness, so too was there a time when sick beds, close to a source of heat, were prepared for the event of an illness.
We hide our medicines in medicine cabinets. Often we don’t even know exactly what we have. When that happens we just run to our pharmacy and get more medication or call the doctor. In either case, it is easy to wait for the illness rather than being prepared. Our preparations are more along the lines of a flu shot which should help us avoid the illness altogether.
The sight of the fainting couch or sick bed in the living room reminded me that we don’t acknowledge sickness much. It’s a shadow that we don’t like to see. We like to think that perfect health will keep out all sickness. However, perfect health is about balance and we cannot have health without some level of sickness. How do we know what wellness is if we never have sickness?
I’m not saying to be really healthy we must also spend a great deal of time really sick. However, we must acknowledge that most everyone gets at least a little sick. The more we acknowledge that and allow ourselves to rest by a heat source with no heroics involved in how much we can keep pushing ourselves while sick, the healthier our bodies will feel. Sickness is not necessarily the lack of health. Lack of health happens when we fail to acknowledge our sickness and continue to act as if we are well. Sickness is often our body’s way of signaling that something in our life needs to change or pause for awhile.
The last couple of weeks my husband and I visited the Midwest and spent some time with relatives. One of the wonderful things we did was just spend time traveling from place to place. We knew that in a few days we needed to get from Milwaukee to Southern Ohio. However we had four or five days. There were a number of things he wanted to see but none of them HAD to be seen.
I wanted to visit The Wren’s Nest which is run by a friend I met online. So we headed up to Michigan and then down through Northern Indiana. We got to visit Indiana Amish country. We wandered down through that state and ended up arriving in Ohio via Kentucky.
I saw some wonderful sights and enjoyed the drive. The landscape of Michigan and Indiana is very different from that of Washington state. There was a relaxation and ease of knowing that we didn’t have to be anywhere at any particular time. While we ended up not having as much time in Shipshewana as we might have liked (arriving at about 3 PM in the afternoon) that really didn’t matter. We got the taste and flavor and moved on.
It occurred to me as I drove through those towns that this is something so many of us never take time to see, yet how lovely. No one ever has it on their list to drive around randomly through the United States, or if they do it becomes a project that must be done. Our inclination is to fill up the driving time with sights or to set up a schedule that precludes just meandering along the roads.
Next time we take a vacation, I’ll have to pack in plenty of time to just wander.
I loss my elderly cat the other night. In this process I have posted old photos of her on my cat blog. She was a bit plump for much of her life. The vet I took her to for a geriatric evaluation a few years ago commented on it. However she said not to worry too much for with an old cat, a sign that she could be fat was a sign of health.
In the past months, as her kidneys began to fail in earnest I noticed that she was loosing weight. This week, the week she died, I could feel every little bony knob that existed. There was almost no fat left on her at all. She was wasting away before she died. She was beyond thin. She was emaciated. While at the end she would have looked much like an anorexic, it has been over a year since she was at all plump.
I consider that I look back at those photos and think how much more beautiful and healthy she looked when she was plump. I have to ask myself why do I spend so much time and effort trying to look emaciated, thinking it is beautiful? If the ability to keep weight on is a sign of health in our pets, then why is it horrible if we keep an extra ten pounds? I am not advocating gross obesity, but perhaps we can consider being a weight that feels good on our frame without the reference to the fashion statements.
Recently I was surrounded by people who were all very excited about this one weight loss method. It’s one of those that requires that you eat a very strict diet, eating the foods sold by this particular company. Claims were made that most people lost an average of four to seven pounds a week if you were a woman.
There were other health claims that sounded good. I’ve tried a lot of diets. Those that work for me are those that I can stay on for a long period. Those diets usually have a further health benefit than just weight loss. Weight loss is nice, but it’s superficial. Health, for me is far more motivating.
I tried the diet. I felt awful the first two days. I was practically vomiting and I had headaches that were an 8 out of 10 on a pain scale of one to ten. I could hardly eat. I pushed myself through this thinking it was a detox. However no one else had such strong reactions. Everyone was telling me that it was sugar and hormonal, except that for months prior I had been loosing weight slowly on South Beach and had had white sugar only twice in the last three months. Additionally, because I tend to be somewhat intolerant of gluten I had had white flour only twice as well (cake in two occasions in celebration of my birthday). Mostly I had rice for carbs and one serving of fruit a day. Everything else was protein and vegetable matter. It was unlikely that everyone else was eating less sugar than I was.
After a week I was still sick so I moved off the diet. What I found interesting was that I had questions about the healthiness of the diet and continue to do so. Further I know that a quick weight loss diet isn’t the best thing for anyone but at the same time I was seduced by the idea that I could loose this weight FAST. In fact, upon going off the diet, I immediately gained back two of the pounds that I had lost–although I was still eating very little because I continued to be sick for nearly a week after stopping the diet.
I also had a woman in my yoga class come up and ask me about the diet because she was struggling to loose weight and thought this might be a good way to do it. This despite my sickness and many recommendations against such a strategy by our yoga teacher. I found it interesting that we all hope and grasp for that magic bullet to loose weight.
Anyone can fall for it. I think we all need to try those things we feel we need to try, but when all is said and done, if you don’t feel great during the time you are eating the food, it’s not right for you. I’m not sure there is any diet or lifestyle change that is worth it if you don’t feel good on it.