Thursday, October 2, 2014

Healthy Love

I am a self-professed broken record when it comes to health (oh, you haven't noticed?) I expound on the wonders of vegetation and the horrors of the processed. I speechify about the side effects of medications, and how if diet and exercise can rectify a medical condition, dear Lord, do the diet and exercise. Smoking? Are you kidding me? 

A usual argument is an anecdote about "someone" who ate right and exercised had a heart attack and died walking the dog. Or that "someone" puffed a pack a day and lived until 112. 

Your argument is invalid. I've got Rambam on my side. 

Another reason for taking care of yourself: Chances are, a human being is loved, at least by one person. Or at least by a dog or cat. If someone cares about you, isn't one obligated to do the whole tedious "eat your broccoli" thing for his/her sake?
That's what Tim McEowan realized when he had his heart attack ("In a Small Bag, She Packed All Our Hopes"). His original policy had been hedonism, which led to the aforementioned crisis. While his girlfriend remained calm and resolute in packing an overnight bag while waiting for the paramedics, he had been initially annoyed that she wouldn't "free" him, let him die in peace.
But what Sarah did in packing that bag for me, the quiet hope her act spoke to — that was the reason I listened to my doctors, took my medication and even quit smoking. As much as her intention was affirming and positive, it also exposed my own selfishness, the pettiness of giving up on life just because sometimes life is hard. It embarrassed me the way being caught in a lie is embarrassing. Love doesn’t afford us the luxury of caring, or not caring, only about ourselves.
How love reveals itself is sometimes a slow process, the gradual accretion of all the seemingly mundane acts of kindness, sacrifice, mindfulness and even bad behavior two people share. Sarah’s act was an instance of what love looks like, stripped of all the usual bells and whistles. To have the opportunity to witness that, regardless of the circumstances, left me feeling like a fortunate man.
It also made me want to match the level of commitment she so clearly demonstrated. Sarah had raised the bar for me in a way I could not ignore.
Human beings are wired for love and connection (Brené Brown). Parents, spouses, children, dear friends. If we don't have those, we get, at least, a goldfish. But love is a two-way street; if an unhealthy lifestyle has "imminent demise" plastered all over it, does one really love?
One thing I am sure of is how badly I have misused the phrase “I love you” over the years. I have used it as an emotional lever and said it as something expected of me. I even have said it because I needed to hear it echoed back. These days, though, the weight of those words is something new. I understand that phrase anew, just as I now have a fresh appreciation of the phrase “near-death experience.”
I had lost the connection between saying “I love you” and meaning it when I started to allow the fear of loss in my life to overwhelm me. I would adopt a scientific remove to insulate myself from life’s uncertainties, particularly uncertainties surrounding love. As a result I became emotionally stunted, less likely to engage with people I cared about. I was smart enough to see how things had to end, but I was not smart enough to know how to live with that truth.
Love means doing hard stuff, like quitting daily donuts and taking up salads. Love means trying as hard as one can to build a future with another. If the kale and jumping jacks didn't do it, well, one did one's best, and can't outsmart everything. But there was hishtadlus, no?
The inevitable heartbreak built into lifelong commitments is that one of you is likely going to watch the other die. The idea of a Sarah-size hole in my existence used to be more than I could manage. But when Sarah faced that possibility, she didn’t blink. She had every opportunity to back away from her commitment but instead decided to stay, to deal with the uncertainties and potential sorrow common to any relationship of real value.
Back to Brené Brown: It a huge gamble to love others, because we don't have the control to keep them safe. Losing them is a possibility. But is living without love a viable alternative? We must accept the presence of uncertainty along with love, yes. 

But in the meantime, step away from the fries.  


Anonymous said...

Thank you. I really needed to read some of your points today. Thank you for helping me not to fail.

Princess Lea said...

Thank you for the encouragement!