Blog RSS feed

The Full Yield Blog

Not weather permitting

September 04, 2011 | Tags: Exercise , Featured , Food , Fruit , Health , Vegetables | Post comment

Not weather permitting

Very often when I’m out for a run I find myself having a passing exchange with someone else out moving around and, every time, it catches me up short:

Me: Beautiful day!
Them: Yeah—we deserve it!
We do? Why?
If anything, people could argue that it’s Irene we deserve, given the impact humans have on the earth and the climate.
But it’s neither we deserve, for while our activities, the earth’s environment, and the weather are inextricably linked, they are linked in so many multifaceted ways, in local and global geographies, in small and big groups, that whatever the weather, we’re not uniquely deserving of it.  It is outside of ourselves altogether.
What I find strange and sad about these exchanges is how symbolic they are of our consumer-driven culture: everything, every message delivered to us both by companies with goods and services to sell and more insidiously by doctors treating us and coaches coaching us, takes us outside of ourselves and away from creating and nurturing a caring relationship with ourselves, which is the true basis for health.
Giving out stickers and lollipops at school and the doctor’s office for doing work that is its own reward and getting care which is itself a gift (to ourselves, from another), takes us outside of ourselves.  It makes us pay more attention to the stuff than to our engagement in learning and in taking and receiving care.  
Shaming the patients who are “non-compliant” with recommendations that on paper seem reasonable to those who wrote them but don’t square with the messiness and neediness of real life reinforces for patients that their selves are inadequate for the job of life. 
We tend to take care of those we love and value.  My observation of our culture over the years and through the interactions I had with my patients years ago and the coaching I do now is that many or even most people hold themselves at a distance and engage in many activities to numb themselves rather than acknowledging that they have a self at all.  
This makes sense: if our culture isn’t teaching people to care for themselves, their physical bodies and also their thoughts and feelings and full-on life experience, if we’re not empowering people to value having a self and to being in charge of that self, then in fact it really isn’t safe to relate to ourselves, own our fears, and attend to our ailments because it’s simply too scary-- we don’t feel we can do anything, really, on our own behalf that will work, and between the physician and the coach who keep telling us to go do things we just can’t do and the consumer world telling us we’re not okay without X product and Y service, we don’t believe anyone else can do anything about our selves either.  
No wonder we’re so hungry for external rewards—stickers, lollipops, luxury goods and services, a sunny day: we’ve been enculturated to live at the surface of ourselves rather than to live fully in and with ourselves.
If we want to improve health, our starting place has to be helping people--from birth onward and at every opportunity--to make a conscious and intentional and caring relationship with themselves regardless of inevitable and perpetually changing external circumstances.  
As we celebrate Labor Day and memorialize this last weekend of summer, my wish for all of us is that no matter the weather, no matter where we are, who we’re with, what we’re doing and eating, and even whether our choices are health-supporting or health-depleting, we’re choosing consciously on our own behalf because what we DO deserve is to acknowledge and care for our unique and precious selves for as long as we’re here.