About 15 years ago, I went through a divorce. And while it wasn’t particularly acrimonious, it was nevertheless stressful since I’d spent my entire adult life (from 19 to 34) with my ex-wife. And we had a beautiful son together whom I worried about and did my best to protect and nurture.
As I was going through the upheaval of the divorce, I was laid off. It was very difficult to motivate myself to carry out some of the most basic rituals of self care. Central to that effort, for me, has always been eating healthfully and exercising. I swear there were times that it was all I could do to get myself to the gym. I sometimes didn’t want to do anything that required any effort, let alone put my when I was already zapped of the little bit of energy I could muster to get through my workday.
But somehow I knew, even though I’d never really considered myself even remotely spiritual, let alone religious, that there was a critical reserve of energy somewhere deep in my soul. I felt a visceral gnawing at my gut that said giving up was too easy and that there was a connection between my health and my most closely held values. And I was determined to find and illuminate that connection.
I started by looking for simple, inexpensive, healthy pleasures that my son (then 7, now an Amador grad and Las Positas College student) and I could share. I moved to Fremont for about 18 months and we would stop in Niles Canyon during trips back and forth to Pleasanton, where his mom still lived, to skip stones in the creek or buy fruit from roadside vendors.
Reading also kept me busy. I re-read two books from a new perspective. They were Steven Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” and M. Scott Peck’s “The Road Less Traveled.” Both are classics in self-help and personal management and are value-driven, results-producing guidebooks. They each helped me to stand up, dust myself off and start making my life what it was meant to be. Part of that was a re-commitment to what was truly important in my life. That included setting an example for my son of the importance of health for mind, body and spirit.
While I don’t recommend divorce and getting laid off as the most pleasant combination of catalysts for improved physical and mental health, in my case, they were critical to my maturation process. So I honor each in that regard. And, to this day, I credit that time in my life with redirecting me toward a much more fulfilling and healthful lifestyle.
But it’s nice if you can learn the lessons without the personal trauma that sometimes goes along with them.
A couple of weeks ago, through an inspirational literature group, I met an uncommonly self-aware woman of 23 named Alexandra who has drafted what she refers to as her “Twelve Rules to Live By.”
- Don't be guided by fear.
- Seek not to be loved, but loving.
- Pick a spiritual path.
- Read great writers.
- Listen to music.
- Release the past.
- Surround yourself with people who can teach you.
- Give away what you don’t need.
- Maintain integrity.
- Be vegetarian.
- Forgive in every situation.
- Be of service.
It’s never too late, or, apparently, too early, to start attending to all the aspects of your health.