Once a week, I get to spend time with a wonderful therapist named Giselle.
I love going to see her, partly because she makes the pain in my body go away, and partly because she is such an amazing person. She has this wonderful combination of positive, enthusiastic energy, while still being incredibly relaxed and laid back.
Each time I go to see her, she is slowly changing my view of health and wellness.
The other day, I was sharing with her how my personal definition of “wellness” leads me to see myself as an unhealthy person, even though I know I have so much to enjoy and be thankful for. The physical limitations I have are not very great, compared to what many people have to live with.
But Giselle told me something that changes everything.
She asked me to imagine a person with some physical challenges, but chooses to faces those difficulties with acceptance and a positive attitude, and surrounding themselves with great relationships and a rich, wonderful life in spite of the pain.
Then she asked me to think of a person without any physical limitations, seeming to be in excellent health, but miserable in every other way, suffering through a horrible job, loss of relationships, so unhappy that one day, this person commits suicide.
Then she asked me, “Who is the ‘healthier’ person?”
Maybe physical health isn’t quite as important as I’ve thought.
This idea of health simmered in my mind for a few days. Could I consider myself “healthy”, even if I was never able to overcome my physical limitations? Could I let go of the labels I’ve claimed for my life?
In the meantime, we traveled to BC for Ben’s grad, and the speaker at the graduation ceremony was just incredible.
He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease about five years ago, and he had the most amazing attitude I’ve ever seen in someone dealing with physical difficulties.
He talked about the choices he had to make, and decisions regarding how he wanted to live his life despite his diagnosis. And he shared that the most important thing he had learned was this:
“Illness starts with ‘i’, but wellness starts with ‘we’.”
He asked us all to close our eyes, and think about “I”.
Then he asked us to think about “you”.
Finally, he asked us to visualize “we”.
I started out with a picture of myself in my mind, but I ended up thinking about the people beside me, all of us together on that bench. The emotions that come up when I visualized “we” instead of “I” are dramatically different.
I was reminded of Giselle and her definition of health.
And then I remembered how someone once said to me, “If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.”
I do not agree with that.
I once read Corrie Ten Boom’s story, and she shared how her mother, unable to get out of bed, would spend her days writing encouraging letters to people. She wasn’t wasting away, useless and depressed. She was doing what she could, which was actually quite a bit.
photo © 2010 William Arthur Fine Stationery , Flickr
If you haven’t got your health, you’ve still got a whole lot of something. You just need to be willing to give it to others, rather than sitting around feeling sorry for yourself, and thinking about “I, I, I.”
That idea goes far beyond health issues. I think every person out there could gain from “we” instead of “me”.
No matter what my personal challenges might be, there are still countless reasons to be thankful and joyful. There are countless ways to reach out to the people around me.
During our struggle with infertility, I spent years feeling depressed and frustrated because my situation wasn’t changing. I could spend hours praying for myself, begging God to do something new in my life.
All that time, and it turns out that “something new” could have been getting up and doing something useful for another person.
I’ve spent far too much time thinking about “me” instead of “we”!
What is your definition of health or wellness?