These reinforced ideas that healthy people are somehow more successful and spiritually adept while people struggling with illness or disability are unfortunate souls, fill the spaces in our conversations and litter our social environment like gaudy billboards covering a scenic vista. It gets old in a hurry. Just ask anyone who has lived with depression how they feel when the church marquee claims, “Too BLESSED to be depressed.” There’s a lot of social pressure to be healthy, or if you can’t, “fake it while you make it.” In a culture where authenticity has been replaced by “accentuate the positives” how do we approach this metta wish, made with loving kindness, and be real at the same time?

 

By Kellie Schorr

 

May You Be is a 4-week series designed to coincide with the “Metta in May” theme going on through the month of May. Each week looks at one of the statements of the Loving Kindness recitation.

 

May you dwell in safety
May you be happy and healthy
May you be free from affliction
May you live in peace

—-

It starts with a feeling of unbalance and a grotesque rotational tension like a gyroscope losing centrifugal force and wildly rocking to the side as the whole earth seems to have moved off its axis.

Then the pain, a flesh-ripping explosion of agony as the tendons around the center are torn in two like the ripping of a t-shirt. Your vision blinks in and out like an old-school TV that needs to be smacked on the side to work. It will be.

By the time you can see again your whole body has been smacked by the sidewalk, the parking lot, or the kitchen floor—whatever surface you were standing on just five seconds ago. You lie on the ground in a fetal position with your arms hugging your bent legs to your chest. The lava of the pain bubbles down to a warm, constant throb while you chant over and over to helpful people (whose instinct to pick you up is going to actually going to harm you more), “Don’t touch me, don’t touch me, don’t touch me.”

That’s what it’s like when your kneecap dislocates. I know. It’s been happening to me at least once a month for over 40 years. I have hypermobile patellar syndrome, the main symptom of which is recurrent kneecap dislocations. I can stand up and walk tenderly about ten minutes after my knee goes out, although until the inflammation caused by the damage goes down, I usually use a cane for a few days. Many times I can catch the knee on its way out, grab something to hold me up and keep it from a full dislocation.

Sometimes I end up on the filthy floor of public places crying.

There’s a surgical fix that doesn’t have good track record and is only done on people under 30 (I sorta remember 30…). I can take anti-inflammatories to deal with pain. I can do exercises to strengthen the quads and help hold the cap in place, and I can brace it until I feel more stable. The truth is though, it’s a chronic, congenital condition and I will have it the rest of my life. Even though I am able to do most things and live a happy, active life, I experience a touch of dissonance when someone says to me, “May you be healthy.”

May I be healthy?  As my Appalachian grandma would say, “Askin’ ain’t gettin’, honey. Askin’ ain’t. gettin’.”

From Ableist to Authenticity

In Western culture we have a mountain of mixed up ideas about health and spirituality. We see health as a “blessing” or a reward for good dietary behavior, and view sickness as a “curse” or “what happens when you eat like that.” These reinforced ideas that healthy people are somehow more successful and spiritually adept while people struggling with illness or disability are unfortunate souls, fill the spaces in our conversations and litter our social environment like gaudy billboards covering a scenic vista.

It gets old in a hurry. Just ask anyone who has lived with depression how they feel when the church marquee claims, “Too BLESSED to be depressed.” There’s a lot of social pressure to be healthy, or if you can’t, “fake it while you make it.” In a culture where authenticity has been replaced by “accentuate the positives” how do we approach this metta wish, made with loving kindness, and be real at the same time?

Redefine what “healthy” means to you.

To strengthen my wobbly walking legs and control my blood sugar I use exercise and food choices. In the opinion of many people it’s not very impressive when I say, “I walked 2.6 miles today!” To me it’s about as challenging as a 10K.  When I first started, it was more like a marathon.

The definition of “healthy exercise” for me isn’t how high I got my heart rate, or how many calories I burned, or just how sweaty I got—it’s simply, “I got up, dressed, and moved with intention today.”  When I pray metta and say, “May I be healthy” this is what I mean and what I translate other people to desire on my behalf.

In Western culture we have a mountain of mixed up ideas about health and spirituality. We see health as a blessing or a reward for good dietary behavior, and view sickness as a curse, or what happens when you eat like that. ~Kellie… Click To Tweet

Take a physical, mental, and spiritual inventory without filters or delusions of either hope or despair. Where are you in those categories right now?  What is possible, and what isn’t? What does it mean to be “healthy” in this place?  Make that your aspiration and when another prays for you to be healthy, use that for your heart lens. You don’t have be “getting better” or “feeling hopeful.”

It’s really okay if “healthy” means you made it to breakfast.

We are all connected but we are not the same. There is no barometer for what “healthy” can mean that encompasses every person or even one person in every stage of life. What it means to be healthy at 54 is hella easier than what it meant to be healthy at 25. Or maybe age and experience makes us more compassionate with ourselves. Aging? It’s the best. Or, it can be. We are the meaning makers, after all.

Metta practice is an aspiration, a wish, a hope and a prayer. It should be a basket of resource you carry on the path. A path that changes all the time. No matter where you are on in your health journey today, the verdant fields of gold or the soggy squishy mud that fills your shoes and makes it hard to move, accept this as where you are in the moment. Aspire to bring your best to it, whatever that means to you. In that, no matter how sick you are, you can also be well.

May you be happy and healthy.

 

Photo: Pixabay

Editor: Dana Gornall

 

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