Sunday, August 23, 2009

My Quest to Health the World

The older gentleman went out of his way to move his groceries up so I had room to start loading the belt with mine. He thoughtfully put the divider up and pushed it forward to give me even more room. Then he looked at me and smiled.

“Thank you,” I said with a smile back and began loading my stuff. As I was doing this, I watched him and his wife put their groceries in bags. Plastic bags. He picked up his packaged steaks and other beef items (there were four) and placed them into the plastic bag on the metal frame. When it was full, he picked up the bag and put it inside another plastic bag. I took a quiet deep breath. “I’m sure he has no idea,” I thought. Nice guy. (I had heard him try to drum up small talk with the cashier, giving her sympathy for how busy it was at the store today.) “He has no idea what negative effects he has on his health, the environment, and the welfare of animals. He has no clue.”

I am not perfect, of course, and I have no right to judge anyone else. I am not right and he is not wrong. I am not good and he is not bad. In fact, I am no different from him. Yes, I brought my own canvas bags and bought mostly organic produce and no meat. But, I also didn’t bring enough canvas bags and so I needed to use a plastic bag. I drove to the store instead of biking and I’m sure I did many other things on my simple trip to the grocery store that some people would consider terrible, though I’m not really sure what they are.

But that’s my point. Several years ago, I had no idea that using plastic bags was harmful to the environment. I’m sure I double bagged. I didn’t even think about it. Nor did I think about buying chicken that was factory farmed and treated inhumanely. I used products harmful to the environment in my home and on my self and my babies. I’ve learned a lot since then and there has been new information brought to the public attention since then. But that doesn’t mean everyone reads it. I would venture to say that most people don’t. I do, but that’s because I have a passion for health.

When I first became “enlightened” on living a truly healthy lifestyle, I also became slightly depressed. I had gone to a conference where a holistic doctor spoke of how he cured cancers and got diabetics off their insulin. He named a number of other diseases and conditions all cured through proper diet and lifestyle changes. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. I was like a fruit perfectly ready to be picked. I came home from that conference ready to cure the world of its disease, or at least those who I cared about most.

I thought, at that time, that I had the secret weapon against all ills. I thought—here I have the answer, and when I tell people all their health problems will fade away. We will all live to ripe old age feeling fine up until the very end. They will be so happy. It will be like they hit the lottery and all of a sudden, they had no more debt.

But I was wrong. People didn’t want my secret weapon. They didn’t buy it. Or, maybe they believed it but it didn’t pertain to them, or it was just too much of a change that they’d rather depend on quick fixes, even though they never really fixed. Over and over again, I’d tell people my secret, and over and over, they’d shake their heads. I felt as though now I had this treasure that I couldn’t share, as if I won the lottery, but I could only spend it on myself and alone. That’s when the depression set in. I couldn’t change the world if it didn’t want to be changed.

I’m not one to be depressed for long. I knew I had to make a move in one direction or another. One could be to trudge on, continuing with my quest to heal the world. Another could be to isolate myself, becoming a hermit happily doing the things I believe in with no one to challenge me. Or, I could remain in the social world and get cynical and bitter, telling everyone else to suffer for being so ignorant and stubborn. I considered all of those.

For a long while, I felt very alone. I couldn’t relate to the people I once related to. I couldn’t accept that they made choices that were unhealthy. Even friends I was fond of for a long time seemed different to me. I started to avoid social situations where my new values would be challenged—barbeques, amusement parks, even children’s birthday parties. Worse, my husband wasn’t on board with my new found health choices. Our debates would turn to arguments, which would lead to more feelings of loneliness. I became a self imposed outcast.

And then I found others. I found a group of people dedicated to living healthy. I joined them and a whole new world opened up to me. That’s when I began my quest to heal the world. I’m starting small and I’m learning a lot.

I’m learning that I can be a model and set examples, but I can’t force people to change. In fact, I’m learning, the more I keep quiet and live the way I believe, the more people listen to me. I walk the talk. And if I’m quiet enough, I notice the changes. Usually they are small and with my own family, they are slow and gradual, but as I look back and remember what it used to be like, I see how much has changed for the better.

People do want to be healthy, but they want to do it on their own terms and within their own time frame. Often it means being healthy in one area, but not so much in another. I have to remember that it took me a long time to get to where I am and I wasn’t so thrilled to give up some of my comforts. I still have some. I have to accept that and not judge people. And I have to remember that my definition of being healthy is not my neighbors’ definition. In fact, within my peer group of other healthy people, we often disagree about what is good and not good. So do the “experts.” We each have our own path. I also have to keep in mind that although this path may result in a long, healthy life, that doesn’t guarantee that I am not hit by lightening or some other random tragedy. With this in mind, I try to make sure I enjoy myself and not live so strictly as to deny pleasure for the sake of a few extra months of life.

Lately, I try to avoid looking at others groceries when they load them on the belt at the supermarket. I look at the people and smile and then bide my time scanning the magazine rack until it’s my turn to check out. I feel much better this way. I do however, load my groceries quickly so that they might get a chance to see what I’m buying—maybe they’ll notice and take note subconsciously. Probably not, but it’s worth a try.

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