Health is a roller coaster, which means that one day you’re on the top of your game; energetic, sassy, quick to discern, and unstoppable. The next day you’re lethargic, uncomprehending, and reactive. And, health isn’t limited to just up and down, there are all the shades of up and all the shades of down and the contours of each. There are curves and loops and slants on the turns of the roller coaster that contain the nuance of your health on any given day.
Your health is one thing you have some influence over.
Your lifelong health is something you can begin to influence at this very moment. Excuse me for a moment while I take a sip of my coffee. It’s my first cup of the day.
Fact is, we’re bombarded with information about how to take care of our bodies, our clothes, our food, what to eat, what to not eat, what to wear, what to not wear, what to do for exercise, how much of it to do, how little is too little, and how much we should sleep. It’s overwhelming all the ways we should be behaving. And, for what? So we can feel good that we are minding, being good, following the expectations.
I recently read a great blogpost, Nourished Kitchen, about cereal and why most box cereal is bad for you and especially bad for your children. I was talking about it and my mother-in-law commented that she was very upset. She thought Cheerios were good for you and helped reduce your cholesterol, just like they say on the box. And to find out that they weren’t, well, she was mad. She’d been led to believe something that wasn’t true. She had let someone else make her decisions for her.
I think we are each doing our best just like she was. It’s just that there are so many things we think are good for us in our society and people are very opinionated about what is best. It’s very hard to track it all. My own thought is that the degree to which we need to focus on our physical, social, emotional, environmental, or spiritual health changes in proportion each day. One day, I need to walk 8 miles, the next day I really need to focus on cleaning out the spare room so I can be in a peaceful environment. One day, I want to eat only fruit and the next day I’m all about oatmeal and a piece of chicken.
And then there’s the “family” or whatever you choose to call your band, pod, coalition, or group, otherwise known as a stepfamily.
Have you ever noticed that sometimes you can sail through the stepfamily events without a hitch. Oh yeah, something might irritate you and other things might make you raise an internal eyebrow. But mostly, you’re able to keep yourself feeling some sort of equilibrium inside. Your blood pressure stays in a normal range and your heart isn’t breaking.
Other times, well, let’s face it, it’s hard. You might do a great job of censoring yourself while the event or interaction is going on and then go home and have a huge fight with your husband. Or, you might go home and crash and sleep for 24 hours. Those are pretty sure signs that the effort to stay in that censorship mode was exhausting. Also, learning to identify that pattern might be worth a lot. It might prevent a lot of disagreements that wouldn’t need to be disagreements.
Health moves and flows and recedes and ebbs. It is no more a constant state than being warm or cold. It fluctuates with the events around and within the busyness of one’s life.
I’ve long thought I could influence my own health. My work is all about helping folks get out of old stuck habits so they have new ways to get to a satisfying and potent life. I practice the same strategies for myself. So, when I recently read Mindsight, by Daniel Siegel, I was thrilled to see that his book so clearly spells out all the physical and physiological evidence for re-engineering your brain by changing what you are doing.
Literally, when you learn to do things in a new way, you are growing new synapses in your brain, new neural pathways for information to travel. It’s as though you can heal your own self by creating a new way of doing something. It’s not about simply creating a new way of thinking. No, it’s more that learning new option means you have a new way of doing and being, otherwise known as new behavior. Learning and life are a process, the intermingling the physical with the mental.
Health is a multi-faceted concept. It’s not about being “good.” It’s about being dynamic, responsive, spontaneous, centered, and upright. It’s about integrity, intensity, and waxing, and waning.
Listen to yourself. Listen for those days when you need to be low-key. Listen for those days when, if you push yourself, it’s as if you pushed yourself over the cliff. Listen for the times when you can step on the gas and really go, because those days are there too, ready to be accessed and enjoyed. Listen and watch for the times when you need lots of armor, there will be those times. Then, keep watch for the times you can lay down the armor and expose yourself. Grow those events and carry less and less armor over time. Give yourself time to go slow and time to inch along. Give yourself time to think and wonder and time to rush ahead. Give yourself a day of salad greens and a day of dark chocolate. Give yourself a day to learn something new.
There is never just one right answer. You have the answers, trust that, even when others would like to make you wrong or tell you what to do.