I feel averse to using the term wellness in my work… There are so many things often signified by this word that I want nothing do with… like dieting or the extreme (anything). Things like drinking tons of water, jumping on the latest bandwagon or following the latest guru whether it’s doing yoga 3x/day, or any other version of “zen” or “well” on offer. Most of these bandwagons vilify some substance or activity and glorify another. For me, it just doesn’t work.
I am not zen, even when I define myself as well. Even when I attempt zen things, like yoga and mindfulness and deep breathing, (and like them, do them regularly, and find value in them) I am not zen (or even close to it.) Maybe I need to practice more? Or maybe, I need to understand that my way of being is more attached to doing and thinking and feeling… verbs. Those are more me.
So rather than focusing on limiting my thoughts or my activities, ascribing to one bandwagon or guru, or depriving myself of things— I focus on pacing.
I know I am well when I can pace my thoughts, allow them to be at a comfortable canter, not a sprint. I am well when I can move my body comfortably- not so vigorously as to strain anything nor as slowly as when I’m seized with pain and inflammation. When I am flexible enough to question my beliefs and my initial assumptions. When I can lean into hard stuff. I am well when I can explicitly express myself even when what I am expressing is difficult to say or write.
I am well when I can double-over in laughter. When I’m not so caught up in the seriousness of life, that I can find humour, surprise, and connection. When my body is not so fragile that to laugh would feel like daggers.
I am well when I am building, making, creating, writing, exploring, walking. I have had many times where my body is not well enough to do any of the things. I am forced to watch life from the sidelines. When I am able, then I want to do. I am unwell when I am unable to do- when I am in too much pain, or at certain times- anguish- to participate. I am grateful for the days when I crawl into bed tired. Muscles fatigued from use. A satisfied smile on my face. Being exhausted is preferable to being disabled by illness, of any kind, for me. And that is a very ableist thing to say. It is a privilege to have times of mobility and strength.
I am well when I can disagree with folks who hold different opinions than my own. It means I’m feeling confident enough in my beliefs to share them, and open enough to hear another take on things.
I want to build a community to promote seeking wellness. Just not any of the other trappings that tend to go along with that term. The one’s that should all over the place. The one's that are narrow and exclusive. The one’s that make it appear natural and easy. That glorify the results without talking about the effort of making changes of mind or activity. It’s fine if folks want to do the traditionally “zen-like” “wellness” things… Like drink green tea. I can buy you a green tea. Just don’t bring me a green tea instead of my Americano, thank you very much! It’s totally cool with me if your path to wellness is totally foreign to me. Or if you find these things easier to incorporate into your life than I have found them. As long as we can chat about it and you don’t judge me for what works for me, or more importantly what doesn't work for me. I won’t judge you or your process either.
I have found my wellness through some interesting things: West Coast Swing Dancing, planning the precise order of rides and shows at Disney, swagging in the Outback, writing 4 extra parts to a murder mystery game and then retyping and formatting all the player manuals so they were identical…
I want to bring people together who care about wellness but approach it in vastly different, and maybe even, contradictory ways. I want to find what we have in common. I want to build bridges so that people feel supported on their path across providers.
I want to shed light on the forgotten paths to healing. Connection. Activity that doesn’t make you sweat, but feels invigorating for the body and mind. Flexible thinking. Acceptance. And so many others.
So despite feeling a bit uncomfortable about using the term “wellness,” I’ve thoroughly consulted the thesaurus, and feel like I’m stuck with it. For me, wellness is most easily defined as pacing. What does it look like for you?