Our dog Nyssa has become a Frisbee aficionado.
It used to be that she would race into the park, excited to visit with her canine pals. When we get to the park now, she jumps out of the car and barks at us until her Frisbee comes out as well.
When we first introduced the disc, she would just chase it down like a tennis ball, often scooping it up after it had already hit the ground. But as she has gotten older and a little more coordinated, she is jumping, twisting, and catching it on the fly. It is spectacular and so much fun to watch…
…which is why it’s really hard to remember that we should be throwing her grounders.
Nyssa’s breeding makes her prone to hip issues later in life. Apparently these issues can take root when a pup is young, if their activity exceeds the stability of their developing hipbones.
You’d think it would be easy to wait ’til she’s a year old to begin Frisbee tricks. But one accidentally high toss, one bounding, twisting, glorious leap, and we were all hooked.
And this is the problem with prevention.
Prevention means that we will eat healthfully, get enough sleep, not drink too much or smoke too much, and forgo the sugary snacks… starting when we are (or were) perfectly healthy.
It means that we will somehow remember to drink our teas rich in flavones and forgo the moccachino, supplement with turmeric and medicinal mushrooms and seaweeds, eat our probiotic foods, take a walk, and not leap after Frisbees until we’re one year old.
And that’s hard! Most of us, like Nyssa, can’t comprehend that something that is so very easy to do today may actually be setting us up for a problem down the road.
What should you give up in order to preserve your health for a future that isn’t guaranteed?
Life could become quite dull and contracted if we are always looking out only for our physical wellbeing. Forget skiing or horseback riding, don’t go anywhere near hang gliding, and, heck, even crossing the street becomes questionable.
The path to pure prevention is difficult at best, soul-smothering at worst, and perhaps, in reality, just plain silly.
But we don’t come from a society that teaches us much about knowing our selves while finding the middle way. So we bumble along, doing whatever we please, until our body says NO.
At first it says no quietly — we may feel bloated after dinner or have a slight ache in our knee after a run. If, at this point, we tune in and listen, the correction is usually manageable: some herbal bitters before a meal, running on a dirt track instead of the pavement.
But most of us don’t listen; we don’t know how. We have been told to power-through, have a stiff upper-lip, get a backbone.
So the problems begin to multiply exponentially until suddenly we no longer know where they began or how to ease them. For as long as we can, we hold onto the belief that whatever is happening will pass because we are “too young”, or there’s “no family history,” or “not eating gluten is just a fad.”
We play this game until the pendulum swings hard the other way and we become sure our troubles won’t pass, and out beyond our control, so we commit to a lifetime of medication because, we believe, there is nothing else we can do.
Like most things in life, I think the answer lies in the middle ground, that area of turf that the pendulum swings through quickly as it takes us from Superman to Super-Sick with no self-conception in between.
What if we could learn to listen to our body’s first grumblings, the little squeaks and groans that are too quiet for our doctor to hear but are completely audible to an ear listening within? What if we tended our flus from the first muscle ache or scratchy throat, our GERD from the first bloat, our fatigue from the first day that it was just so hard to get out of bed?
This is one of the things I work on with my clients: knowing how they feel in their skin so they know if they feel off. And it’s pretty easy:
- When you wake up in the morning, lay in bed and take a few deep breaths, then take inventory. How do you feel (remember that feeling happens in your body, so check in with your physical self, not just with your brain).
- Before each meal, do the same thing – take a few deep breaths and ask yourself how you feel. Then check in again after you eat and notice if anything has changed (and if it has, look at what you ate!).
- And finally, as you lie in bed in the evening, check-in once more. Maybe say a “thank you” to all your hard-working parts.
I can’t buy one hundred percent into prevention. Nyssa will get an occasional high toss in remaining months before her first birthday, and I will gleefully join my Dad in taking my niece and nephews for Friday night ice cream all summer long.
The middle road lies in a slightly different place for each of us, depending on our needs, aches, and constitution. The trick is finding yours and walking it.