Eat your vegetables. Exercise every day. Say your prayers. Have fun. Be Kind. Don’t eat so much sugar. Remember your friends. Don’t forget to floss. Go to meetings. Oh yes, be grateful.
For those of us that have a not-so-nice and-maybe-a-bit-too-big seam of OCD this part of our user manual can be oppressive. The inner voice that demands we be good can get hold of the responsibility to take care of ourselves with such vengeance that we have a hard time measuring up to our intentions. We might end up in a place where we don’t like ourselves so much. That might not be good for us!
Kathleen has been teaching me for the past few years about health coaching and the importance of keeping our values at the center of things. What does our heart want? For many of us that question may be more difficult to answer than we realize. She is showing me the real importance of mining that question – especially in the presence of another. First it puts us in relationship. If you’re an introvert like me, that is not a particularly easy space to explore – especially where suspending judgment and being honest is really called for. I like to go inside my head, make up my mind and then go show off. This works for some things I guess. But maybe not so well for discovering our own most cherished wishes. I find that when I talk about deep things with others I get deeper. I find when I talk about deep things with myself I get lost.
I used to swim for exercise. I was a competitive swimmer in school and I love the water. The beach is one of my favorite places. I have some pretty natural instincts when I get in the water and can get in touch with my inner fish. But I’ve found that a pretty lonely form of exercise and for me a bit boring. Many years ago I switched my regular exercise to a racquet sport. It’s more social and competition is a piece that can give me energy. The mutual obligation to meet on the court at the agreed upon time can overcome the inner voice that says, with a convincing tone, “It’s cold out there, you really better stay under the covers.”
A few years ago I began to develop enough arthritis in a knee that I couldn’t continue to play. Through the magic of an HCG program I’ve lost a fair amount of weight. Surprise – my knee is better. So I’ve gotten back to the courts. Wow. I really like it. Because I think it might be better on my knee, I’ve added another racquet game to my routine and it has caused me to go from being a moderately good advanced player of one game to a rank beginner of the new one. My new game is characterized by mis-hits, poor timing, lopsided scores not in my favor, feeling really clumsy. Guess what? I’ve discovered myself in relationships exploring values – like the value of humility vs humiliation, or angry impatience vs accepting patience, or anger at self vs seeing the place I might do it better, or too much concentration, or the very low value of comparing myself to others. This is becoming a spiritual practice – a game of the soul, the craftsmanship of creating a good sport!
I’m not perfect at this. As I reflect on the value of getting back to swatting at little balls in a small room I realize how fortunate I am to be doing this with some really good sports. They are patient with me, offer me with praise when I make a good shot, and celebrate with me when we get out of breath. They laugh with me when I do something silly. They are honest in their feedback. They are generous with their advice – but not overly generous. We laugh. We sweat together. I’m not saying winning isn’t important but I do think that the fun of being together has become as important as the cardiovascular workout. I’m guessing this is better for my heart than swimming laps.
I’ve been out of town for a couple of weeks and just sent an e-mail to the crowd asking when we get to chase little balls around a small white room again. David wrote back and said we are having a sunrise service Monday morning. Amen.