“Old age isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative.” ~Maurice Chevalier.
There is a term used to describe people who are not mainstream, we say they choose to live an alternative lifestyle. I have always loved that thought, never wanting to be ordinary, to be just like everyone else. Perhaps it comes from growing up white in a country like Jamaica; no matter how much I would have wanted to blend in, I would always be different. But the word alternative suggests we are given a choice.
My father could be quite a challenge to my mother when he was alive. If she was trying to think of what to prepare for dinner, she would make a suggestion to him, which would not seem to appeal. So she would think again, and again, eventually coming up with the most complicated option. And of course, that is the one he would choose and she would be stuck with having to make it! She had given him alternatives.
There is a Funeral home in Hollywood that has the word ‘Alternative’ in its name, and I have always thought, that’s what I want, the alternative! In some places one of the choices (after traditional burial with an expensive casket, or cremation) is to be buried in a simple biodegradable box which is buried in a designated area and a tree planted above it. Even in death you can contribute to the beautification and reforestation of our plundered planet.
Many years ago I was in what I considered to be an impossible situation. I felt trapped, unhappy, hopeless. A good friend reminded me that I had a choice. I thought I had none. She reminded me that choosing to do nothing, to remain in the situation, was my choice. And although that may sound strange, seeing my inactivity as something of my own making empowered me. I began to see that I did have choices, and even though I stayed in the situation for a while longer, I began to imagine the alternatives.
We often get stuck in situations of our own making, and convince ourselves that we have no choice. Viktor Frankl wrote that the last of human’s freedoms is the freedom of choice “…to choose one’s attitude…” and he wrote this from his experience in a Nazi concentration camp. There are times when we neglect to even entertain the thought of an alternative, convincing ourselves that only one solution is the right one. We get so committed to one way of thinking that we are devastated if we are forced to confront a different reality. We see failure as some defect in our own makeup, instead of seeing it as an opportunity for reevaluation, for changing our way of thinking. People who are faced with sudden illness or injury have to instantly face a new way of being in the world, having to come to terms with their alternate reality if they are to cope and grow.
Alternative medicine, once thought to be little more than superstition and witchcraft, has become mainstream. So many people in the US seek help from practitioners of alternative medicine that the National Institute of Health has a department dedicated to Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The term complementary indicates the merging of the concepts of Western medicine with the alternative. This could also be described as “If you can’t beat them, join them.” A more recent term used is Integrative Medicine, which not only uses the best of both, but sees the individual as much more than a set of complex working parts, but an integrated whole. Integrative Medicine pays attention to the mind-body-spirit, seeing each as inseparable from the other. Dis-ease in any area of your life can result in illness, and unless you address the whole, you cannot change the patterns and heal.
When we go to a healthcare practitioner, we are often given one choice: follow this advice, take these pills, and you will be fine. But are we given an alternative? Is this the only option? How many times are we given full information about a plan of treatment, with the risks and benefits and alternatives? Do we ask? Or are we so relieved to have a name for our symptoms, and a piece of paper to present to a pharmacy that we go on our way without questioning? Do you have a relationship with your physician? The bonus that nurse practitioners bring to a practice is the art of listening, of hearing what you have to say, and sometimes what is left unsaid.
This Friday morning I encourage you to think of the alternatives! Do you have choices to make? What are the alternatives? When it comes to your health, I am not advising against following the doctor’s orders, but have you explored all of your options? Are you taking charge of your own body, and thinking about the whole, making sure you are well in all parts of your mind-body-spirit. Have you thought about your food choices, are you exercising, are you restoring your soul? Are you changing the way you see the stressors in life, seeing them as opportunities instead of obstacles?
Have a wonderful weekend, Family!