I have had a sudden shift in my thinking, after reflecting, reading, and discussing this important issue. I used to go along with the “recovered” notion, that there’s this big “recovery” thing in the sky, the Ideal World, Ideal Self, that is perhaps perfectly free of “ED thoughts and behaviors.” I now see things differently. I feel that we are again striving for perfection when we know the perfect human doesn’t and shouldn’t exist.
We once strove for perfect thinness, and then found out we could continue to lose weight, on an on, and that ideal could lead to death, but never perfect thinness. What now? Perfect wellness? The perfect pinnacle of health? That’s a tall order, don’t you think?
I have recently been reintroduced to the Buddhist concept of “practice.” I think that’s a terrific way to look at our mission, our path in life. What does practice mean? Here’s an example:
I once played trumpet, and got good at it through practice. This meant a lot of diligent hard work. It mean working daily and striving to improve. It meant getting into a “routine,” which was the word we used in music school. Our instructor taught us to make a habit of spending the first 45 minutes of our daily practice doing this “routine.” The routine wasn’t boring, hardly. We did it daily and worked at each exercise, one after the other till we were done. It was so ingrained into us that we thought of it as automatically as brushing our teeth each day. You just did it. Then, we’d spend another couple of hours working hard at other trumpet practice, perhaps working on the musical literature of trumpet.
I can’t say I enjoyed it 100% of the time, but mostly, I did. I noticed I kept getting better. If at any point any of us reached a plateau or dead end, we’d consult other trumpet players to see what they advised, or at lesson time, consulted our instructor.
Life skills must be practiced. One such skill is kindness. You can’t do kindness in a vacuum. You must continuously use this skill and in your own way, radiate goodness. Are we ever perfectly kind? To think that there’s an actual end to the learning process might not serve us well.
You may graduate from high school or college, but is this the end of learning? You have reached a milestone in your life for sure, which we hope is recognized and celebrated. But life goes on, and we are continuously bombarded with new challenges.
We are not stable creatures. I celebrate this. I celebrate that our bodies change and continuously present challenges for us. While we are children, we grow taller. Then, we don’t get any taller but continue to grow and change. Even late in adulthood, our bodies and lives continue in metamorphosis.
Menopause, for me, is a new challenge. I don’t want to sound “pollyana,” but I’m kinda enjoying the challenge. I like that I can experiment to find out new solutions to live in my changing body. Some of this new life isn’t comfortable at all. They say the majority of women experience “symptoms” of menopause.
Whoa! Hold on there! If there are “symptoms” of menopause, then that’s a misnomer, is it not? Yet I hear this term regularly. I think we can agree that menopause isn’t a disease. We suffer from these menopause-related difficulties, yet we aren’t ill. We are growing and changing and our bodies are telling us something. Some experience these things far worse than others, which is mostly due to individual differences that science says (as of now) it cannot explain.
To me, wellness is a practice. This means adjusting how I live to my changing body. If I suddenly feel very very hot while I am sitting here writing, I can choose how to deal with it. I can call a doctor, saying, “Help, help, I can’t cope!” I’m awfully glad I’m not doing that, though.
I celebrate choice. I celebrate that I am not looking to medical authority to solve my problems. I celebrate independence and freedom. This means researching my options. This means extensive experimentation. I enjoy this, though. Each time I find something that doesn’t work, I find another thing that might work better. I often feel like an explorer or traveler. In fact, we all are.
If wellness is considered practice, and not some ideal, we know we are working toward it. While we may rid ourselves completely of “behaviors,” we must still adjust the way we live our lives. We are continuously surprised or shocked or devastated or delighted by life’s events. I’d be bored if life didn’t have these unexpected turns.
We must be in process of radical action, never passive acceptance, meanwhile knowing we pause to rest and replenish. We must remain true to ourselves, always listening to our bodies, because they are wise. That, to me, is the practice of wellness. How can “full recovery” even exist or have meaning in this context? Why even worry about it? I sure don’t!
Knowing that believing in this ideal is a false hope, a pinnacle that doesn’t even exist, I feel liberated from constant pressure and self-doubt. I welcome new challenges instead of dreading them. I haven’t lowered my standards. No way. I feel as though I am becoming more real. I enjoy that new real, that person that is uniquely me.