I spent last week at the beach with my family, searching for a little “closer to fine”. I found it.
It’s possible I have a unique viewpoint when it comes to the interplay between traditional and alternative medicine. Having been raised by parents fully devoted to these often opposing camps, I was raised at each end of the spectrum:
(1) My Mother once took me to a vascular surgeon because she thought my cervical spine was too “pointy”. I’m pretty certain she carries strep kits in her purse, just in case.
(2) My sister and I CARRIED our Father, against his will, to the ER, as he suffered from pneumonia so severe, his O2 saturation was below 80 (he was straight-up blue). The conversation went something like this:
Jenny: Lori, I need you to get up to Lafayette. Dad is blue-ish. And he smells like…herbs?
Me: I think he has pneumonia, and I can only assume he’s using natural remedies.
Jenny: He won’t go to the ER and you’re the ICU nurse, so I need your help convincing him.
Me: LOOK, these are HIS beliefs. If he wants to die covered in herbs, probably causing him to crave Italian food, that’s his prerogative.
Me: I’m on my way.
While I did not fully appreciate the benefits of being raised by polar opposites at the time, it did give me a rather open mind when it comes to healthcare virtues. When it comes to my own health, I do consider their opinions (on occasion, while drinking heavily, and trying to earn favor with the Universe). [Insert my best friend Amie quoting the Old Testament and telling me in a southern accent about the heat in hell. In fact, just sprinkle that around this entire post, because she may have a point.]
When discussing my motley care plans with friends, I try to take into account that we all have different “hippy-dippy barometers”. My radar goes off somewhere around “anything I have to ingest” and “anything I find overtly embarrassing”. Basically, I’m not drinking essential oils while getting a “cleanse”, if you know what I mean. But I do sleep with a grounding sheet around my neck right after I put in my very expensive glaucoma eye drops.
I had a fun discussion with a friend yesterday about how we each cross our personal bridges between the sterile doctor’s office to the spiritual advisors lounge (and vice-versa), and how do we comfortably go back and forth? What would inspire my Mother to try probiotics (pre-mainstream, as there was a time when those innocuous pills were voodoo), and what would force my Dad to get his blood sugar checked? (Kidding…he’ll never do anything that CONVENTIONAL!)
We came up with two main entry points to these bridges:
(1) You have come to the end of yourself, which honestly, is the basis for so many ethos choices. God, Jesus, Buddha, counseling, situational-based alcoholism, joining a murderous gang, binge-watching “Odd Mom Out”…we all hit walls where we SEE and FEEL the limits to our humanity. That’s not to say all humans willingly admit they have “ends”, or are willing to leave their comfort zones and visit a sweat lodge (or just a family practice physician, depending on which side of the bridge you call home)…but despite our delusions of grandeur, we are extremely limited animals. Oh sure, we have dominion over the entire earth, but what are we doing with this power? Eating ourselves to death. Brilliant.
(2) The extent to which you feel connected to the earth/nature. When I consider the differences between traditional medicine and alternative medicine, the separations seem to be man-made interventions vs. interventions based-in-nature. This bell curve ranges from my Mother, who would live INSIDE a doctor’s office if they’d rent her space, to my Father, who is trying to reverse his carbon footprint and spends his free time growing his own food and speaking to groups about energy consumption.
*At this point in our day, I feel it’s germane to point out my parents are married, just not to EACH OTHER. Obviously. But they are hilariously good friends, holding conversations I can only define as “slightly schizophrenic, yet highly respectful”.
Mom: So I heard you’re giving a sermon at the UU on the evils of the overuse of antibiotics? THAT must be interesting!
Dad: The girls told me you finally earned that complimentary toaster after your 1 bayillionth mole removal. Congrats!
So why do I bring this topic up? Because with my keen powers of observation (so keen; ask my husband who caught me leaving the house today in a cream sweater covered in spaghetti stains), I’ve noticed many folks BELIEVE you must STAY ON ONE SIDE OF THE BRIDGE.
“Thou shalt not cross the bridge without rejecting all beliefs from the side you have left behind!”
Why? Why can’t we just comfortably walk back and forth across the bridge, without feeling our collective communities are somehow punching a ticket of disapproval and disdain? Again, I found 2 main entry points to the bridge:
(1) We live in a world where some choices are absolute. It’s difficult to be both Christian and Jewish. You’d be hard-pressed to find a citizen who is a pro-democracy-Communist. You can only vote for ONE President. And up until recently, you had to choose between being a boy or a girl. Now you can live on the middle of that bridge, which, if you follow American media, you’ll discover is mostly about public bathrooms. Lifelong psychological issues be damned: America needs you decide WHERE YOU PEE. We’re living in crisis times with refugees abandoned around the world and immigrants hiding in churches while our schools beg for funding…so guess what Elected Officials?! I DO NOT CARE ABOUT TRANSGENDER BATHROOM HABITS!! LOOK AROUND! There are parents at my school PARKING in the carpool lane during DROP OFF TIMES and WALKING AWAY from their cars! (Insert my indignant shock and dismay. Repeat. You think I’m kidding? That carpool line is mayhem and madness you’all.)
This “either/or” dynamic has created some internal need to decide if we made a choice, the other must be the enemy. If a blue aragonite stone enhances your ability to feel empathy, there is no way you’d take chemo if you had cancer. Hilarious jump in logic? Not really. After all, we live in a culture that demonizes other countries as barbaric while we condone chicken processing plants. Ever been to one? Better yet…have you ever SMELLED one?
Simply put, by our cultural standards, you cannot LIVE in the middle of the healthcare bridge. You either light the odd hempy-incense or you buy the Yankee candle.
“Thou shalt NOT be both hippy and preppy. YOU MUST CHOOSE.” -American marketing teams.
(My apologies to the incense makers, but I’ve very sensitive to smell, and those things all smell funky to me. Don’t take offense…I won’t light Yankee candles either. SO MUCH SMELL. Remember when we were OK with just smelling…air?)
(2) Finally, I’ve found there seems to be some confusion between finding healing energy in the earth and some idea that doing so is anti-God.
“Thou shalt receive all healing in a hospital of man’s making, but allowing a Shaman to analyze your energy field is the work of the devil. HOWEVER, thouest may partake of the waters at Lourdes. That is Jesus’ magic water. Drink on.”
SO, if God made the earth, and I’m on this earth, and my entire earthly existence is spent interacting with some part of the earth…how am I still separate from it? And if God made man, and gave man the gifts to create modern healthcare, how can it be evil?
I believe both are GOOD/OK/WORTH TRYING, which is why I’ll leave a spiritual advisor’s office and drive over to my glaucoma specialist, and then go out for a nice lunch of healthy veggies. And then eat a cheeseburger for dinner. And maybe some pie. NO ONE finds pie controversial! Praise the Lord! And Mother Earth! After some pie, I’m going to step out the beach and make a mandala. Maybe you’ll run around a rosary. Either way, both are meditative spiritual practices using a physical object to aid you while focusing. You didn’t see that coming, did you? I just intersected Catholicism with an ancient Hindu practice. Why is this distinction important? BECAUSE IT’S ALL THE SAME BRIDGE.
Both sides of the bridge take you to the same place, my friends. We’re all on the same bridge, and despite what our limited earthly eyes show us, we’re probably traveling in the same direction.
Wisdom Comes Suddenly.
In these mangrove trees on the edge of a beach I may never see again, I made my first mandala. It spiraled out with shells and driftwood, and said so much to me in a short span of time. Then I walked away, leaving it to nature, showcasing my lack of control over the future and the people I love. I left this story for God to finish. Amen.