So, the other day, me and Kalmia were chatting. Beside the counter of the Community Centre. About the Wellness Almanac. And wellness things.
I’d just been to the physio, the previous day.
My husband’s benefits expire when the ski season ends, so I decided to make a last ditch (literally down to the wire) effort at addressing a chronically neglected underlying physical condition – knee pain when running and a recent feeling of pain in my ass. (If she couldn’t help, perhaps she could at least tell me who is responsible for it. Maybe save said husband for being blamed.)
So I went to see Vicki Powell at Tall Poppy Physiotherapy, because, even though she’s intimidatingly fit and confident in real life, when I asked her to be a guestagrammer for the Wellness Almanac, she agreed, and shared her vulnerability as a techno-luddite. So I felt like she was a professional to whom I could confess my general physical illiteracy. (In brief: “I suffered a weird knee pain when running 15 years ago so I just, you know, stopped running.”)
Part of the advice that she gave me reminded me of the time 15 years ago when I went to see a physio. For the same condition. Which I didn’t really follow through with.
One exercise in particular triggered the memory. Oh. Someone told me this already. Oopsie.
But this time, it sank in. It stuck. This time, I’m motivated. This time, I’ve actually been doing the exercises.
Maybe because the drawings are so cute. More likely, because I’m older and wiser. Or more desperate to address it, being slightly more up to speed on the consequences of ignoring things health or maintenance related. (*Adulting.) Maybe because it was explained to me better, so my brain could grasp it, during a one-on-one one hour consultation in her new home-based studio. (Not a shameless plug. Just a suggestion that maybe there are better (and more satisfying and sustainable) operating models for wellness than 15 minute consults and overworked health providers throwing people on machines as they race back and forth and fill in charts.)
It may also be some mix and match combination of all of the above.
But, late-breaking life epiphany! As I shared with Kalmia, one of the compelling things that is different is that I have a relationship with Vicki. Albeit a loose one, it is still a relationship. I know her name, the name of her husband, I know where she went to high school. We’re friends on Facebook. Sometimes we see each other at Mile One Eating House. Mostly by virtue of living in this same small community, and of being part of the Wellness Almanac community, I have a little bit of a relationship outside of our professional/brand new clinical relationship.
I am motivated to invest in my own personal wellness, to do something that is good for me, because I have a relationship with someone who can help. I feel a bit accountable. I feel a bit inspired. I feel interconnected.
“Relationships are the key to wellness!” I enthused to Kalmia.
And she nodded. And did not call the police. Despite my over-exuberance for this sudden and poorly articulated realisation.
In 2014, writer and psychologist Susan Pinker accumulated a mass of evidence that proves this. Her resulting book, “The Village Effect: How Face to Face Contact Makes Us Healthier and Happier,” basically revealed that health outcomes are better for people who have people – ie a solid community, a network of relationships, regular face to face contact.
Or, as the Boston Globe wrote, “Living as our ancestors did, steeped in face-to-face contact and physical proximity, is the key to health, while loneliness is less an exalted existential state than a public health risk.”
(PS Whenever I see “ancestors”, I think “uncolonized indigenous people!!! This wisdom is probably still alive and well within indigenous communities where people have begun healing journeys to recover and reclaim their ways back from the impacts of colonization.)
My friend who works in pastoral care says a huge part of what he does in his job is counsel lonely people.
Counsel lonely people!
Nothing’s changed since the Beatles sang it. People are still desperately lonely. People right here. Among us.
But this makes perfect sense to me. I think we isolate and alienate ourselves as a form of self protection. And then it becomes habit. And we don’t know how to break out of it.
At least, that’s what I learned growing up from the people around me.
It’s scary to feel vulnerable, to feel misunderstood, to manage conflict or friction, to have to compromise. I know people who chose, instead, to limit interactions, (or control and manage them), to ones that are so frictionless as to be almost meaningless.
I think that isolation takes a health toll – on our physical health, mental and psychological health, spiritual health.
Because we are tribal creatures. We’re not pack animals. We need our by ourselves time, but we are not investing in relationships, with this understanding that our wellness might be at stake.
Understanding that, the time you take to be in a group, to go for a bike ride with a group of people instead of by yourself, or to go dancing with friends, or to play cards or a board game, instead of sitting next to each other on the couch on your screens, or to stand on a street corner and chat with people instead of racing off to your next chore/meeting/to do list item – (all of these being things that reflect the culture of Pemberton, not of me, but that I have learned from this place), or to talk with another sleep-deprived mama at the playground even if it’s really hard to make small talk with a complete stranger and brings up all your high school STUFF – those things might save your life. They really might.
So I thought, man, we need to write a manifesto!
Normally, a manifesto is a way to discharge my anger or indignation.
Not this time.
This would be more a celebration. A realization. A revelation.
Wellness is about relationships.
People motivate people.
People heal people.
People encourage, hold accountable.
Not strangers, though. Not dispassionate strangers.
People who are willing to take things beyond transaction or interaction, and actually relate.
Wellness, and these relationships and conversations, should also be free and accessible.
We need a place to incubate this.
That’s kind of what we were talking about, when we were talking about wellness, and relationships and the Wellness Almanac. That it’s been nice to have this place.
To knit together some of the fabric for the net we’ll later jump into.
What would your manifesto say? Would you help to craft it?