I’m a runner.
I don’t run fast, but I run often. Four or five days each week, hitting the pavement for two to four miles at a time. I do it for my health – both physical and mental.
There’s something about the pounding of feet against pavement, and all that matters in one foot after another that allows the stresses and problems of life up enough space to settle like a snow globe.
It wouldn’t do me any good whatsoever, physically or otherwise, if I decided to run only when I needed to “feel” healthy. If I chose to lace up my shoes in the same way some would swipe their credit card: an attempt to acquire something to satisfy a need. Quick and easy.
We use the same language though, for the pursuit of health and the pursuit of a new car or pair of shoes.
We’re trying to “get” something.
Get a new car.
Get some new shoes.
We’re wired by culture to consume rather than create, to passively take things in rather than intentionally choose them – whether it’s cars, shoes or our own health.
I went to counseling for the first time four years ago this month.
Shortly after my daughter was born, I found myself struggling to cope with being a new parent
and “how do I reconcile the dreams still yet inside of me and also give myself and my all to the raising of this child?”
and “heaven help me if I strap my child with the baggage I refuse to deal with.”
and just life, generally
so, I went to counseling.
(Actually, it was more like my husband and friends strongly suggested I try counseling. I went begrudgingly, but it’s one of the best decisions I ever made. Listen to your people – often they love you more than you love yourself.)
I went to counseling with the same intention people have when they randomly buy kale or drop sign up for a couch-to-5K: I went to “get healthy.”
I laced up my sneakers and began to pound my way through my memories, my growing up experiences, the griefs that had formed me, the fears that haunted me, the shame that kept me bound up in knots.
I dug around in places I’d packed down too tightly and dusted out corners of my life long since forgotten with my counselor.
It was good. Really good.
And I thought, like the good consumer I am, that I had acquired health.
I “got healthy,” with the help of a licensed family therapist and put my mental and emotional health on the shelf as though it were an ornamental status symbol – like fine china sitting admired behind glass.
I’m learning, though, that health is not some commodity we acquire and moving forward possess, it’s a constant process of choosing to be in a way of wholeness.
I know this to be true about the physical. My body is healthy not because of my occasional choices or because I bought kale from Whole Foods one time, four years ago. My body is healthy because of the small, boring, every day choices I make
to go to sleep at a reasonable time,
to eat vegetables,
to limit the chemicals and toxins I expose myself to,
to drink more water,
and so on.
But for some reason, I have a disconnect with some of these other areas.
I went to counseling once, so I should be good – right?
I pack my schedule so full that my only time for reflection and contemplation is in the shower in the morning (maybe) and then I wonder why my emotional health is wavering.
I bow to the great cultural force of workaholism and plow through my weeks without even a thought toward taking a day off, and then I wonder why I feel drained and distant from God and my husband and every other friend I have.
My “health” is on the shelf though, behind the glass protected from scratching and chipping.
Set to be admired,
but also collecting dust.