Monday, October 11, 2010

Self Care

Most of us who sit in front of a computer all day spend at least a few minutes browsing the headlines on some of the more popular websites (Yahoo, CNN, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, or even some entertainment blogs). Today, I was doing just that when I got a brash reminder of who we have become as a collective culture. We are (for the most part) the people who drag ourselves into work everyday no matter what is going on. Health issues, family crisis, family event be damned. If drama doesn’t have the good sense to occur on a weekend, then it will have to wait in line behind a myriad of conference calls, e-mails, meetings and presentations. Otherwise, there would never be a need to remind people to do basic self care.

I’ll explain. I logged on to Yahoo today to check one of my personal e-mail accounts (and to clean out the daily smattering of spam). While on the home page, I browsed the Today section. After a quick scan, I saw headlines about the death of a “controversial” Miss USA titleholder, cooking with coffee, and a fine imposed on Terrell Owens for tweeting too close to a game. Then I came across “Signs You’re Too Ill for Work.” I clicked on the link thinking I would find a warning to keep your germs to yourself and some common cold prevention tips. Wash your hands, stay away from co-workers who are hacking up a lung without covering their mouths, don’t touch door handles, etc.

Instead I found, stay home if you (i) have a fever over 100 degrees; (ii) are a sneezing, runny-nosed mess (and it’s not allergies); (iii) are vomiting or experiencing diarrhea; (iv) just got a prescription for antibiotics (because it takes 24 hours for them to kick in); or (v) can’t sit, stand, walk or twist. The article ends with a reminder that “taking a day to heal doesn’t make you a slacker! Schlepping to work when you’re truly ill may seem heroic, but resting a day or two can speed your recovery and save you (and your co-workers) lost time in the long run.”

It made me wonder what type of society we live in where we need that sort of reminder. Then I sit back and think of where I was a couple of years ago. Sick…really sick and suffering from a seemingly unending lupus flare. I went to work almost every day. I exposed my co-workers to a withering, hair losing shell of a person all for the sake of being a team player (read: law firm martyr). More importantly, I didn’t give my body the respect it needed to cope. As a result, I got worse and worse until I was bed ridden for a couple of weeks and eventually in a hospital infusion unit. All of that, as you know, didn’t make me a hero or keep me employed in this struggling economy. The new me, the one I have been focusing on for the past year, has a different level of respect for self. The body I have might not be perfect. Admittedly, it is far from it…but it gets me where I need to go and even when it’s in pain, its still ticking and moving me forward through this crazy life. I owe it to my body and to the God that gave it to me to respect it and take care of it when it is breaking down. It took me what seemed like forever to know that taking a day to heal doesn’t make me a slacker. Yet, today, I was glaring at words that reminded me to rest when I am sick. My brain was screaming “DUH!” I guess I finally learned the lesson: This isn’t elementary school. Life is a marathon and perfect attendance isn’t going to get me anything that matters at the end of my life. In fact, all it might do is decrease the distance to the finish line. In the race of life, who really wants to finish quickly when you have the choice of finishing well? Know better? Do better.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Finding your Passion

There is a new show on MTV called World of Jenks. It is a short documentary style series that follows a young filmmaker (Andrew Jenks) as he spends time with people from all walks of life. So far, he has spent time with a homeless teen, a rapper, a UFC fighter, a teen suffering from Autism and an animal rescuer. He takes a lesson from each person and moves on. At the close of last night's episode, Jenks, who narrates the show, explained that though her work was dangerous, the animal rescuer was following her passion. He went on to explain that the root of the word "passion" comes from the Latin word meaning "suffer." It surprised me and then made me think about all of the inspirational quotes that encourage us to follow our passion.

If there is no passion in your life, then have you really lived? Find your passion, whatever it may be. Become it, and let it become you and you will find great things happen FOR you, TO you and BECAUSE of you.
-- T. Alan Armstrong

Nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion.
-- Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

"There is no end. There is no beginning. There is only the passion of life.”
-- Federico Fellini

If you replace passion with suffering in those quotes, they somehow lose their appeal. No one truly wants to suffer. Yet, the quotes don't lose their meaning. Isn't it true that if there is no suffering in our lives, we haven't really lived or accomplished anything? Of course, if given the chance, we would all wish the suffering of the world away but aren't we often greater people for having faced and overcome the suffering that pops up in our lives? Would I be as passionate about helping victims of domestic violence/sexual assault if I had not once been there myself? Or would I have developed a passion for writing if suffering didn't give me a need to vent? Would I care about lobbying for greater health care coverage in the U.S. if I wasn't sick and battling with insurance companies? Simply put, no, not at all.

Finding and exploring your passion may not always be a pleasant process and it may not lead you into glorious work for which you are well paid, but it will teach you many life lessons. At the end of your life, when you remember what you were passionate about, chances are you won't reflect on the suffering. Instead (if you are lucky) you will speak poetically about fulfillment and passion and the meaning it gave to your life. You will encourage others to follow their passion as you did.
Perhaps sharing that lesson is the point of this life. We are distracted and worried by many things but maybe the gut punch in your life (whatever it may be) will lead you to your purpose. Embrace it but don't dwell on it. Figure out the lesson and where it should lead you. Maybe it will lead to a change in the world. Maybe it will just lead to a change in you. Either way, the world is better for it.