It’s 2020, a time when social obligations, material possessions, personal status and so many other concerns are at the forefront of what we’ve been taught to value in Western culture. We have an ingrained belief that money can fix and reverse all problems because the goal of having the nearly unattainable idea of success trumps all. A success that looks like the now antiquated version of the American Dream including owning a home, cars, assets, having a substantial 401k, taking brag-worthy vacations, etc. Capitalism has taught us to create lives where we work so hard and tirelessly that we often ignore our most valuable currency of all, our health.
Right now, in such an uncertain time it feels like much of what’s going on is out of our control, however one thing that we can control is how we invest in our own wellness. What if we looked at our wellness like we do an investment or a savings account? Where what we put in grows interest and will pay off in the long run. Right now we are being stripped away of all the things that we associate with who we are as individuals and are reduced to being just well, human. Humanizing in this way is terrifying because it reminds us of the lack of power we have over our own destiny.
For so long “woo-woo” culture and New Age theories have been looked down upon by people who practice “real medicine” because we’ve normalized accepting diagnoses without question and believe that taking a simple pill will be a quick fix to whatever ailment we have. When in reality, what these band aids may be masking are bigger issues that dig much deeper into our psyche and when unsolved often manifest themselves into long-term chronic illnesses.
What if the world collectively experiencing a pandemic of this scope is causing us to migrate back to our roots, literally? Slowing down, checking in, and being ultra conscious of our role as global citizens and how we play (and pay) into the Earth as a whole.
What if we treated our physical and overall well being as importantly all of the time as we do during a pandemic? What if we learn to value time with ourselves, time with people we love and prioritize taking immune boosters to help our system work and be its best consistently? I think what a lot of us are learning amidst this time of panic is that there’s nothing woo-woo about valuing our health and our trifecta of balanced well being: mind, body and spirit.
I went on a walk yesterday evening in my predominantly white middle class suburban neighborhood and noticed something really interesting, I saw entire families going out on walks together, and an elderly couple joyfully strolling with their dog during a break in the heavy Spring showers. What if this virus is really just causing us all to slow down in order to prioritize things that really are important?
I do understand the harsh realities of being unemployed for the next couple weeks (I filed for unemployment today), or what getting the illness can actually mean to a lot of us, especially those with compromised immune systems or without full coverage health insurance. But also, maybe this is an overall lesson, maybe it’s a time to go inward and listen to our bodies on a truly fundamental level. Listen to ourselves when we’re tired, thirsty, hungry or hurting. “Trust your gut” may hold some water after all. If we do voice our need to rest, we deserve to be given the space and financial support by our employers, peers, and communities and even people we love to take that rest. Maybe it means it’s time for us to become more connected with the ways in which our food is produced and where it comes from. We might rethink how we conduct ourselves when we travel in crowded spaces and live in highly populated areas, that we’re not the only ones in a hurry or dealing with something, we’re all dealing with something. This virus is an equalizer and a reminder that we are in fact never alone regardless of our socioeconomic status, where we live, we are human. Our humanness makes us one in the same, not our language or where we’re from. Our ability to contract a virus, an infection, or a disease and utilize the magic of our bodies in order to heal themselves and believe that we are equipped to handle things and that we’re also not alone if we do have to deal with it.
What we aren’t talking about enough in this situation is our mental health and wellbeing. I’ve seen first hand when my family experienced our own pandemic three years ago when my mom was in the hospital in the ICU fighting a rare chronic lung disease that your mindset can help to mend your body. I’m not saying that thinking positive thoughts is going to keep us from contracting an illness, but I’ve seen the power it has in fighting it. I’ve seen what serious illness can do, I’ve seen death, I’ve seen someone I love die and in the debilitatingly harsh stages of dying. I almost watched my mom die, walking in to see her in a hospital room after doctors had installed an ecmo machine (life support), my vision blurred and I felt my stomach get queasy seeing her yellow lifeless body laying on the bed clinging onto the strength of her fighting soul that wouldn’t let her leave this world just yet. Death is a peaceful reckoning and a full surrender to our creator. And I can’t say that I’m that afraid of death itself, I’m more afraid of what it leaves in its tracks. I think in Western culture we have a bizarre unmatched fear of death because we are terrified of the unknown and more importantly, the relationships we have with ourselves on a soul level.
I’ve witnessed the miraculous healing of my mom’s body and how her soul chose to rebound itself to a body that had failed her for so long and make it anew. After her double lung transplant nearly three years ago I’ve learned to believe that there’s nothing our bodies can’t do if our spirits stay strong. All this to say, I think that our biggest tools during this time are our compassion and empathy. We often think we’re the only one’s who’ve experienced or are experiencing certain types of trauma when in reality we’re all collectively experiencing this exact thing in this moment and whatever we’re feeling or going through is valid.
What if those of us who have the ability to take these weeks or months off from work, school, etc. can provide for families who don’t have a safety net and are forced to work even if they shouldn’t be? What if the bigger lesson in all of this is how to redistribute our resources in a more fair and just way and investing in other’s health is just as important as investing in our own.
“In a land of healing miracles, neighbors must not suffer and die unattended.”
Reminder that you are never alone and we will get through this.
Suggested reading and watching during social isolation:
“Heal” on Netflix
“Lockdown” by Fr. Richard Hendrick, OFM
“The Body Keeps Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma” by Bessel van der Kolk M.D.
“At Home in the World: Stories and Essential Teachings from a Monk’s Life” by Thich Nhat Hanh
“Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear” by Elizabeth Gilbert
“Everything Is Figureoutable” by Marie Forleo
“The Five Minute Journal” Gratitude Journal by Intelligent Change