Several weeks ago I was in the midst of one of the harshest upper respiratory infections I have ever experienced–bronchitis-like symptoms that worsened after months of me trying to tell myself “it’s viral anyway” paired with wheezing and burning, wrapped into that asthmatic cough that if not controlled, makes you … sick. I mean, really sick.
Having finally gone to the doctor ready to plead for something, anything, just not to be told, “You merely have to let it play itself out.” Well, the doctor still didn’t think it was bacterial, but sent me home with a boatload of instructions, a couple of prescriptions and a decent amount of sympathy. (I’m not normally a sympathy monger, but it was nice to know she didn’t seem to view me as yet another Petri dish on legs and then push me out once she scrawled her signature.)
I actually crawled back to work after collecting my medicine, because it was bloody cold outside and the office was closer. We’d been under the thumb of a cold snap where temperatures went down to minus 15 or so–not the coldest in the Great Land, but enough to make me feel even more sluggish and slow, icy and longing for home.
Fast forward to the end of the day when my son begged me to make a pit stop at the library to pick up his holds. “But it’s freezing out … I can’t curl my fingers!”
“I have a great idea,” he began, and I knew there was no way out.
“When you get to the library, run into the building as fast as your little legs will take you.” (Where have I heard that before?) “Go to the restroom and run your fingers under warm water, then go sit down. And then,” he said with a dramatic pause, “you can relax there for a few minutes or maybe even get a couple of books for you.”
How could I say no? This child often goes to the library and brings a backpack full of books home for me–and he’s found some treasures. He makes me tea and sets me up on the sofa with DVDs. He draws pictures to cheer me up, leaves sweet little notes around the house. Really, he’s a prince and seriously, was it really that big of a deal to make one quick stop?
It’s as if the library had been expecting me. I didn’t find a ton of books that day–thankfully, as too many at one time can be a bit overwhelming–but did pick out a few that seemed as if they were waiting just for me.
Example: I like cookbooks, though I rarely buy them anymore because they’re a tad on the expensive side and everything seems to be on the Internet anyway. The thing is, that path works better when you know what you’re looking for. And now here I was, wanting just to be home and curl up with a book (and some easy-to-make comfort food wouldn’t hurt), when I saw The Immune System Recovery Plan, touting on its cover, “Identify and cure the causes of illness, personalize your treatment, see immediate results: With 40 recipes.” Hey, curing illness and making food, I liked that!
The book is mainly directed at those suffering from autoimmune diseases, and though I’m often tired, sick and stressed, there are other elements to consider: habitually sleeping poorly and being around children a lot last year often made me vulnerable to picking up the germies these critters tend to carry around with them. Last year had also been a super stressful one for me, and although I made some changes, such as to slow down and work mindfulness into my life, I’d slipped up and lost some control on how I respond to stress. I also think I carried the previous year’s bug into the new one, because even in the summer I was sick and the pattern of feeling better and symptoms soon returning repeated itself over and over.
So I may not be part of the target audience, but the book still seemed to have something to offer for improvement of my circumstances. In particular, the author speaks of inflammation, a problem I’d had in the past pertaining to a previous auto accident-related back injury. I’m sure you can already see that looking into all this isn’t a one-read deal, and not for the faint of heart or lazy. Because I can indeed be very lazy at times, the mindfulness program I hinted at earlier will–I hope–come in nicely as I aim also to improve my ability to focus and perform tasks with greater deliberation and patience.
A side note here: mindfulness isn’t a New Age-y kind of philosophy, and actually, as far as I know, has its roots in the Slow Movement, which itself was actually born in Italy and initially focused on food, later expanding to be applied to many or even all activities of daily life with an underlying aim of improving mental, emotional and physical health. As I wrote in one of my first blog entries here, I personally believe our culture of speed is one of the worst developments we picked up on, and has adversely affected our food, finances, attitudes, health and constructive abilities–and that’s not an exhaustive list, not by a long shot. Don’t get me wrong; elements of life such as high-speed Internet and direct deposit are fantastic and not necessarily destructive. But others, such as microwavable food and the unwillingness to work for something has helped to produce a society of people largely lacking the appreciation of a good meal–which doesn’t only include food that causes fireworks in our mouths and a joyous surprise as how delicious and tender the food is, but also the sharing aspect of it.
Mind you, I’m not unaware of the benefits of doing some things quickly, and another cookbook I was led to contains a guide with “Recipes in 15 Minutes or Less,” “No Cook Recipes” and, for a twist on how to save time while still maintaining a high standard of production, a section with slow cooker recipes. Hungry Girl Clean and Hungry: Easy All Natural Recipes for Healthy Eating in the Real World seems to me like a useful resource for that transitional phase in which one wants to begin looking into all this slow-down business, but also needs to retain a sense of reality regarding the world in which we live. Small changes, a few at a time, create positive habits and the encouragement of progress can also strengthen one’s dedication toward these new goals.
The Secrets of People Who Never Get Sick brought my awareness back to other ways of treating illness, and to be sure, food is included in the book (chicken soup, detoxification, garlic, to name a few secrets). Not unlike the dental practices I researched a few years back, some of today’s health secrets, as I read in Gene Stone’s introduction, actually originated quite a long time ago. Not all are included in the work, the tips of which Stone received from ordinary people who either never get sick or are able to solidly chase away illnesses, unlike many of us who repeatedly nurse these conditions. As within the books discussed above, the author advocates reading about what other people have done to maintain their good health, and working out for ourselves what makes sense for us.
I commented earlier that engaging in the research involved in all these recipes, elimination or introduction of foods, new ways of shopping and so on isn’t for the lazy. I say that in good fun, because I know that it isn’t always laziness that prevents us from really looking into new ideas–sometimes, but not always. It can be overwhelming or intimidating. However, it does come down to a choice that we make, even if we temper or slow it to suit our abilities, needs, and understandings.
This is reflected in the title of Raymond Francis’s Never Be Sick Again: Health Is a Choice, Learn How to Choose It. Not having read the book, I’m not entirely convinced we can choose to defeat such diseases as cancer, though the idea lingers in my mind as a strong possibility. Of course, no one wants cancer, and few wish to die from it. But some do. Why? I am hopeful I will find more answers to this and other questions, but equally hopeful that “give[ing] you the power to control your own health” will nevertheless supply a number of benefits for optimum well being. Here too, nutrition comes into play, including a sentence that included words quite similar to those I’d read in one of the other books: giving your cells the nutrients they need. In other words, going to bed hungry, the author writes, is not a problem for most Americans. But in many cases their bodies are “starved” of proper nutrients.
Since the day I went to the doctor I have been feeling better, but one thing I had to do was seriously. Slow. Down. A few weekend days I spent entirely in bed, and even reading, one of my favorite things to do in all the world, took a sharp nosedive. (It’s now mid February and so far this year I’ve read only two books.) I quit a part-time evening job I had and continued on with only my day employment. Some things simply didn’t get done and others I took on with a one-at-a-time approach. I took the time to perform some “preventative maintenance” (e.g. Neti pot, which can be time consuming and feels really weird), telling myself I don’t want in three weeks again to be feeling the way I did that day at the medical office.
“Getting sick is harder than staying well.”–Raymond Francis
“Pick [a secret] that appeals to your strength.”–Gene Stone
There’s still more to do and it’s a learning process. I probably will end up having to return and check those books out from the library again, or simply buy them, but to examine them deliberately and resist the temptation to allow myself to stick them on a table and forget. I will surely be starting again to cook and freeze food, as I have in the past been in the habit of doing–even, by the way, “frozen fingers” of a different kind. Fortunately, I also already habitually use certain foods (e.g. garlic and onion) or have helpful rituals (e.g. stretching and water when I wake up), but there is always room for improvement and new knowledge, or expansion on that one already possesses.
If the way I feel today is any indicator–a vibrant sort of happy surprise that on a Saturday I’ve been to the cinema, run an errand and now am getting some writing and editing done, instead of moving about the house in a malaise, half-heartedly typing something or engaging in distracted conversation–then I’m looking forward to this. I’m not flipping through books in a frenzied research run, and that’s okay. We’re in for another cold snap, meaning more indoors time, but I’m feeling again like I can enjoy cooking with my young teenage son and the way the house smells, doing things for him without making it larger than it really is, which is a far cry from how I felt even in the days during the back and forth when I felt better. I think it is more real this time, and it’s like a lighter feeling in my mind that elicits the emotion of how good it feels to feel good.
An upcoming blog will discuss the practice of mindfulness and some fun resources for learning more, including an absolutely gorgeous magazine I’ve discovered, and that I think you will also enjoy.