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The Danger of Feeling Healthy

Posted Jul 17 2012 12:26pm

Photo by Julien Haler, Flickr

A week ago, I moved with my daughter from my house in South Austin to an apartment in North Austin. I didn’t have any help, so I had to organize and execute the entire move myself. This task required that I maintain focus, clarity of mind, and significant physical energy for two solid weeks, so that I could address all the necessary logistical details and the enormous amount of packing, throwing out, organizing, and unpacking needed.

As someone living with MS for fifteen years and all too aware of the tenuous nature of my health, I was anxious about my body’s ability to cooperate with this ambitious project. Now, happily settled in my new place, I feel deeply grateful to the powers that be for keeping me strong enough to make my move a seamless success.

Now while most people without chronic illness may not think twice about their ability to execute a move, for me it is nothing short of a miracle.

In fact – and here’s where it gets interesting – I was so impressed with my own level of health during the past few weeks that I’ve noticed myself making some choices I normally would not. For example, since I was suddenly so convinced of my health, surely I could take just a little lick of my daughter’s ice cream, and of course I could have a few more strawberries, and instead of meditating today, I’ll just go to the pool instead. Hey, I’ve been feeling great for two weeks, and look at all I’ve accomplished too! It’s time to celebrate! Where’s the sugar?

Um…no.

Of course, every small victory should be celebrated. Every moment and every day of feeling healthy is such a precious, sacred gift, and I hope my experience living with chronic illness will always remind me how truly grateful to be for the gift of health.

But there’s a thin line between being grateful and full-on denial. Denial provokes one (in this case me) to act stupid and reckless, ignoring what I know to be the healthiest possible way to treat my body for its optimal functioning. Even worse, it provoked me to abandon what my illness has taught me is the most important thing in my life, which is cultivating my ability to be centered, stable, deeply connected to that which is greater than myself, and inspired and committed to fulfilling my life’s purpose.

It’s a slippery slope when we start trading daily meditation practice (or whatever it is that you’re committed to doing) for sunning at the pool and eating just a few more strawberries…

For some people, being diagnosed with MS or another chronic illness is a terrible event. We are in charge of assigning meaning to the events in our lives, or not. For me, the meaning of MS in my life is a wake-up call, cold and bitter as it may sometimes be, to not waste a single second dilly-dallying. It is a call to live the adventure of my life, to discover what my unique gift is to share with the world and to share it with passion and fearlessness.

This is an ongoing journey requiring discipline and commitment. Some days, I fail. Some days I feel healthy and get amnesia for that fire under my ass called MS to keep moving, keep stretching, keep reaching toward my goals.

It’s wonderful to feel healthy. Feeling healthy should be embraced. In fact, let me take a moment to just say “Halle-freakin’-lujah! to feeling healthy!” But it’s dangerous to allow that feeling to act as provocation to abandon healthy habits and life goals. And on the other hand, it’s equally dangerous to identify too strongly as “someone who is sick.”

It’s a thin line. One that – as usual – requires us to walk it with grace, divine guidance, and some serious cahones.

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