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Wellness + Spirituality=


“Stop asking and questioning why things are as they are

…you know!”…Grandmother Pa’Ris’Ha

My arthritic hip came upon me in a manner different than my father’s general arthritis. Or did it? From age 23 until age 33, my arthritic hip was bothersome but not an impediment to all the activities that consumed me: gardening, walking through the woods, cutting firewood, building a house and working on a seismic crew that walked and walked and walked. Recall that I lived in a 15′ X 15′ root cellar and my life was an outdoor life. That’s the root cellar in the picture up above.

When we pulled on to our  West Virginia property in the summer of 1979, it looked like a jungle.  We lived in a camper trailer because there were no decent structures on the premises.  The farm house that had once stood in front of the root cellar had burned to the ground (some say because the former tenants were angry at the former landlord.) There were more than a dozen junk cars twisted and rusting in a steep ravine and a 40 foot long pile of garbage from all the previous inhabitants–who never had the modern convenience of garbage pick-up. This land needed our tender loving care and my husband and I were committed to it.

My husband is a funny man, relaxed, quietly religious and intelligent, nine years my senior.  In fact he was my 11th grade high school teacher. (OH…that’s another story.) Our first building project was an outhouse. We tore down a rotting outhouse, salvaged what was left of decent lumber, dug a pit and built a sturdy little latrine. Simultaneously–surprise surprise–we discovered that we did not always see eye to eye on how things should be done.  In fact, while he measured and figured, taking his time to get it right, I stood around and fidgeted until I  COULDN’T TAKE IT any longer.  HE was wasting time!  HE was wasting MY time! There MUST be a better way!  OH! That better way was certainly MY way–right? Ha ha!

So began a tug of war that ended in my husband, essentially, conceding the leadership position in many a building project–not all–but many– to me. This was not necessarily because my skills were so pronouncedly greater than his–but because he was willing to concede and keep the peace. God Bless the Man! Patience, it seemed, was not my forte. I was much more talented in defending, convincing, explaining, badgering and cajoling. I also had a knack for picturing or visualizing buildings and projects–a skill he said he lacked. But the man put together a beautiful post and beam barn on his own, so its not as if he was severely handicapped by what he claimed he could not “see.”

No, I simply wanted to do things my way because I thought my way was the best way. I’d listen to my husband if he saw it differently.  But usually, we ended up doing things, as I said…My Way! (Frank Sinatra had nothing on me.)

Yes, I “saw” things the way they “should” be.  I still do.  In my mind’s eye, I easily picture a clean house…  I “see” neat and tidy, a stove without  grime. I don’t like my husband to eat lousy food. (Even though–if I feel like it– I can mess things up , leave the dishes until later, neglect the grime, overeat.)

Doesn’t this sound like ours were the classic Type A versus Type B personality profiles? According to Wikipedia, Type A people are  “ambitious, aggressive, business-like, controlling, highly competitive, impatient, preoccupied with his or her status, time-conscious, and tightly-wound. People with Type A personalities are often high-achieving “workaholics” who multi-task, push themselves with deadlines, and hate both delays and ambivalence…. In contrast, Type B people  are generally patient, relaxed, easy-going, and at times lacking an overriding sense of urgency.”

Look just about anywhere online or off, health professionals finger stress as the single most potent contributor to dis-ease. I was leading an essentially healthy life style, eating homemade bread and home raised eggs and home grown vegetables. But I have found it difficult through my life not to….worry.  Taking charge and giving orders, trying to control things, is one way for a worry-wart, perfectionist to manage the worry. If everyone is falling in line, doing things “right” according to the  plan, then there is less to worry about. But woe be to the perfectionist worry wart who is NOT a charming diplomat. No one wants to listen or go with the program.  And whether they do or they don’t, a perfectionist worry-wart is usually as hard on themselves as they are on others. So stress is a likely outcome.

Indeed, I’m a victim of my own perfectionist tendencies.  It is very hard for me to approve of myself and all I do and don’t do.  It’s hard to live up to my own demands, my own expectations.  And falling short can make me angry at myself….or I can turn outward and blame others.

I had a good deal of other worries in addition to our building projects. There was the “End of the World” problem which I’ve written about in earlier blogs….although I was, in those days, more focused on 2000 rather than 2012.  And then when children came along–they were an entirely different new can of worms.

So now we can go back to original question: Did my arthritis develop in a manner similarly or differently than my fathers?

Well, of course, answers to health questions are rarely black and white.  I think it is clear that the stresses brought on by my father’s job created the arthritic conditions that he manifested. Both of us have very similar character traits in terms of worry, perfectionism and impatience. And if I was injured at an early age in the hip, this was a weak spot that was bound to continue to deteriorate–unless I’d been able to fix it at the very root of the cause. If I had not pushed myself so hard, expected so much, worried less and taken my time….maybe I’d still have the original hip today.   In fact, I don’t have arthritis in any big way any where else in my body, except possibly my lower back.  And wouldn’t you know, that’s where my 87 year old dad has the most painful of his health challenges now today.

Wow! Its’ been thirty years since I first felt that achy left hip…and about twenty since I first began to take it seriously as a health issue.  As must be obvious to you, one of the chief characteristics of my own health program is self-analysis—and taking responsibility for my own healing. It’s definitely a work in progress.  And every time I learn something that works for me, I know it can work for others.

Today I know more than ever that there is a perfect imperfection to be achieved; a balance, a harmony, a stress-free way to accomplish all that calls to be accomplished. Seek and ye shall find! Most likely, you will find the best answers within your own psyche.

And then, as Maya Angelou says: “Turn your wounds into wisdom.”

As a partner in our world’s healing,

Elizabeth Richie/Du’Tsu