I have sought out options. Always there, sometimes they are hard to see and have to be sought with resolve.
Because as a nurse for thirty years, I saw the need.
Because before that, I loved and was amazed by my own body. The cartwheels it did gleefully, easily, creating a cartwheel perimeter in my backyard. The four dives — swan, half twist, jack knife, and back dive — my body perfected for the pure joy of it during its eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth summers. My left foot suddenly dragging in its eleventh year. The mystery of it. My mother and I going from doctor to doctor like door-to-door salesmen only in reverse, not looking to sell, but rather buy something, a diagnosis, asking what and why and for three years there were no answers. I opted to keep practicing my dives.
Because I was essentially a healthy kid with all fingers and toes and strong and free-range and tumbleweed and hearty. Still I was taken down — not completely — but a big fat notch by polio. In this way I found out things happen that change options. And sometimes the seeking has to be more determined.
Because I was aware so early on of bullying whether a result of brotherly aggression, anti-semitism, or for being a girl. Also the lives of other kids, poor, Mexican, Black or nerd-ish, decades before it was cool to be nerd. The risks to their well-being they faced for being who they were.
Because Vietnam and napalm and American soldiers with PTSD leading to homelessness and heroin.
Because American urban poverty. The former cotton pickers of the South and people from the hollers of Appalachia I met and tried to serve as a Vista Volunteer in Chicago. The little girls with their heads choppily bare from their mother’s approach to treating head lice. Old-lady style head scarves to cover the chopped shortness. The huge rat that resided in their kitchen cupboard, whose only other occupant was a single box of some kind of corn flakes for partial hunger alleviation. The large, lumpy, stained mattress without sheets where the baby slept while I visited. The father who lost his job for drunkeness and ended up in jail, while the mother succumbed to overwhelm and was sent to an insane asylum. The girls and their younger siblings to an orphanage.
Because farm workers striking for better working conditions and freedom from pesticides. I opted to not eat grapes for several years.
Because working as a nurse at San Francisco General, one of my patients, only a few years older than I, also had polio that affected one leg. She sat out her life in a wheelchair, obese with self-pity and complaint, waiting impatiently for someone else to fix her.
Because faced with diabetes and aging, I contemplate all possible avenues that will increase health rather than take a pill with side effects. There ARE always options.
The other morning listening to Krista Tippett interview the wonderful poet Naomi Shihab Nye, I saw a context. I saw listening to On Being as part of my health program. Taking in the positive. Listening to On Being instead of the titillatingly bad news of this summer.
For instance. Shihab Nye was teaching poetry in Japan when she received a note from one of her students which explained Yutori. Yutori means something like living with spaciousness. Shihab Nye described it this way — When you leave early enough to get somewhere so that you have time to get there, so when you get there you have time to look around. Or like after reading a poem, you can hold it or let it hold you without having to explain it, paraphrase it right away. Spend more time actually being IN the experience.
Her description reminded me why I like to go alone to a museum or a movie. So I can hold it, be held by it as long as I need and want to, so I don’t have to explain or paraphrase right away. Other people find their joy in immediately discussing an observed painting or movie, so maybe that is their way to health.
We are definitely not all the same. It’s so important to know one’s own body’s and heart’s needs, so we can attune our mind, so we can care for ourselves and love this life despite its difficulties. Because… joy and suffering in endless variation. Because… there ARE options.
Because using Yutori, we can allow enough spaciousness to mindfully choose our best option. And first, last, and along the way, there is always the option of a change in attitude. Which… can change everything.