A wise man ought to realize that health is his most valuable possession.
– Hippocrates, ancient Greek physician
Last fall I went through several months of working weeknights and weekends. As stress wore my body down, my sciatica returned, my back started aching, the thumb of my left hand, which is my writing hand, began hurting, and I wondered if arthritis had kicked in. My mother had suffered from arthritis, but I was hoping it was from years of packing oranges in the winter and picking grapes in the summer, and that it was not genetic. I kept telling myself that I needed to make an appointment with my acupuncturist. But then I also told myself that I didn’t have time to go because there was too much to do, which is an irrational excuse.
Fast forward to January. One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to take better care of myself. I’ll admit that it took a hard bike seat, the return of my sciatica and back pain, and another stressful time at work to make good on that promise to myself. So I made an appointment with my acupuncturist, Portia Lee, at Traditional Ways Healing Center (6931 Stockton Avenue, El Cerrito, CA 94530, 510.799.8788). My appointment this past week happened to be on the day that I had pulled an all-nighter to fix a botched project by a contracted writer that was due to our client on a tight deadline. I told Portia that I was going through a period of stress in my work, but things were supposed to change.
Much of my recent stress was in not knowing if my contracted writers would turn in well-written white papers, as I believe in standing by quality work and wouldn’t dream of submitting an inferior product to a client. The workload had gotten to the point where I had to outsource anything that came in because I couldn’t do it myself. I knew that my writing was capable and dependable, but once a project was out of my hands, I worried about what the contractor would turn in to me. Would it require simple redlining or a major overhaul? Does that qualify me to be a control freak? Then I’m guilty.
Portia listened patiently to my babble as she felt my pulse and asked me to point out where my aches and pains were across my body. I was on my stomach first and then my back, for two long periods of having needles at various points redirecting the flow of my energy. I focused on trying to relax my muscles with the help of a heat lamp and a CD of instrumental music. After the second batch of needles were removed, I was expecting her to say, okay, we’re done, go ahead and get dressed, and I’ll meet you at the front desk.
Instead, Portia sat down beside the table on which I was still reclined. She told me how concerned she was about my health, how my comment about being in a temporary state of stress every time I came in was in fact my permanent state of being. David has always given me a hard time about this, as well, for years. I knew it at some level, but ignored it. I thought I couldn’t allow myself to recognize it because there was too much to do. I have been able to suffer through these periods and feel none the worse, or so it seemed. In the last few years, I have felt myself slowing down, have admitted it to myself finally. And I promised myself months ago that I would not pull another all-nighter again. But I did. And it will take perhaps a week or more to recover, to get back to the balance I was trying so hard to achieve since the holidays.
Portia went on to say how companies have a way of squeezing so much energy out of us, and at great cost. But once we leave, we are left with having to pick up the pieces of broken health, so to speak. Once we are gone, the company doesn’t care. (One may argue that the company may not care even when you are there!) So we have to take care of ourselves in the here and now, but just as important, for the future.
I was deeply touched by Portia’s genuine concern. I could see it in her face and hear it in her voice and feel it in the room. I promised to be better to myself. I had already planned on coming in more regularly to keep my balance. I thanked her. And as I said goodnight – two hours later, darkness already descended outside – to her, her sweet daughter, and her big but gentle dog, I felt such warmth and lightness. I felt such gratitude to have someone really care about my health. As I drove home, I told myself to be good to myself. As someone once said: “Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.”