Monday, January 07, 2019

“Life is really simple, but men insist on making it complicated.” — Confucius

--> This is dedicated to Dr. Dean Ornish. Your research, books and work have been my road map and helped me to answer my questions about health. Hopefully, I have interrupted it correctly.

I am concerned. I think the medicine that isn’t prescribed enough is healthy relationshipslove, connection and kindness; compassion for ourselves and others. We have seen a shift of marriages, relationship, communities toward more single parents, more kids having to grow and play the missing parent’s part.  We have seen suicide rates increasing. We have seen integrity at an all-time low and lying considered acceptable behaviour and just something you have to do. What is causing us to think our truth is too much? We might not get the love we want if we tell our truth.  Gaslighting, which happens when we lie to one another –(whether you are aware you are doing it or not )– is undermining our mental and physical health. It is an act of taking advantage of others, for some people is just what you do to get what you want. We have seen an increase in chronic disease and we look to diet, exercise and call life “stress” without defining all behaviours that are causing the “stress”. It is more than just not sleeping enough.  We can kill our loved ones, coworkers, friends with our behaviour. We can undermine our own health with an unwillingness to connect in healthy ways, an unwillingness to love in the best way possible.

I am going to suggest that we love ourselves and one another back to health. If we begin to accept one another and come from a place of abundance we will find that there is something way better than what we have ever known by living a life of love, acceptance and encouragement as a solution to our health issues and dis-ease.

The past couple of weeks, thoughts of my high school boyfriend have started to come up. For decades I have not thought about him nor our relationship. I don’t miss him, that’s not what is coming up, but there is a lesson I think I missed 20+ years ago and now is the time to understand it.  I was very lucky to have an amazing high school boyfriend. Even in our teens, he understood love. He was mature enough to give it. Without a doubt I know he loved me. He showed up. He was a hard worker and worked after school, and made time to take me on great dates. We had great conversations about life, he shared his love of architecture with me and I learned so much from him. We dated for 3 years. And I ended it because I didn’t know how to grow in a relationship. If I had experienced good examples of good relationships; if I had adults around me that understood how special it is when two people love one another, if I had understood what respecting it looks like and acts like, it would have been really helpful. I would have - more than likely - avoided some really terrible, hard lessons.  I understand now why the thoughts of that relationship are coming up right now. There is a lesson here. An acknowledgement about the complexity we have made relationships. It doesn’t need to be this way. It can be super simple, once we get down to the truth and choose to love more and better

I started looking for what is at the root of chronic disease over a decade ago when my son was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor. I had watched my grandmother die of a stroke, my grandfather had Parkinson’s, and eventually, my dad started to have strokes.  I had blown all the other stuff off as bad lifestyle choices they could have controlled until my son got sick. A 7-year-old does not make “bad lifestyle choices.” My kids had organic diets, lots of fresh vegetables from our garden. 

Upon his initial diagnosis, by instinct, I knew what I had to do to help my son get him through.  You can read about that here:

In summary love, compassion, encouragement  - which helped to activate his vagus nerve -  along with good medical care is why I think he is doing so well today. 10 years later. I did encourage him to receive all of those things, along with I encouraged him to give. Typically, it was to give away some of the toys someone had sent when he was in a place of feeling like he had more than enough.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary compassion is the sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it.  We all have experienced emotional pain or some form of suffering at some point. Dr. James Doty, MD mentions in a Washington Post article, “It has been stated many times that survival is of the fittest, but when one reads Darwin closely this is not the case. Rather, the more accurate statement, coined by Dacher Keltner, PhD and other leading social scientists, is “the survival of the kindest.”

Compassion is how the genes protect themselves and make sure they made it into the next generation. Compassion is an important part of allowing our species to be so great in number. Compassion is what allows us, as a species, to survive in times of struggle.

When we experience compassion, our vagus nerve is activated. A well-reacting vagus nerve is a good ticket for our health. It calms us, it slows the heart rate and it strengthens our immune system. Research is suggesting that compassion might be able to slow the aging process by lowering inflammation in the body. Inflammation is thought to be the precursor to many of our chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, etc. 

Compassion and empathy are innate within the human chemical makeup --  but some conditioned beliefs of communities and/or family culture drive many to mistrust and even at times have disdain for emotions like compassion, empathy and optimism. We all would be better off to embrace love, empathy, healthy optimism and compassion.

When some of my friends are single and dating I tell them, “I am holding space until love arrives.” Typically when I do this and they are ready,  my friends find their life partner, they find love within months. This morning I was talking to one of those friends who are in the process of planning the next steps with a woman that he is in awe of sharing the love with. “I never thought I would find this amazing love at my age,” he said to me over the phone this morning. I am so happy and I love, love, love that my friends are finding health and happiness, no matter what time of life it is. What is holding loving space for someone? I will cover that later.

“Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty.” 
― Brené BrownThe Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

To be continued…….

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Love Triangle

My childhood best friend did not like that my parents hadn't given me a middle name at birth. By the age of seven (or some time close to that), she rectified the situation and bequeathed me "Rachel Priscilla". I disliked it so much. But once again, in my 30’s, a boyfriend (now ex-boyfriend) did the same thing. Who even thinks of the name Priscilla these days? Weird.

Within the last couple of years I have learned that my 10th great grandmother, Priscilla Mullins Alden, came over on the Mayflower. Perhaps because random people have been trying to give me her name for decades now; I feel a natural attraction to her story. And also, she came over on the Mayflower. How cool is that?

As I dug through old family records and searched the Alden family website, I found her story reveals something I think has been passed down through the women in my family. She is famously known for what she said to the man who would become her husband, my (10th) great grandfather, “John--why dost thou not ask for thyself?”
When Priscilla was 17 years old, she and her family boarded the Mayflower. They arrived at Plymouth in December 1620. Priscilla was the second daughter and fourth child of William Mullins and Alice Atwood Mullins.  Her parents and her brother, Joseph, died during the first winter in Plymouth, leaving her the only remaining member of her family in the New World.

Priscilla chose her husband; being one of the few single young women, she had choices and she clearly was not a damsel in distress -- even though she had lost part of her family that had made the journey with her.  

As I drove across the state for work this past week, I found myself reflecting on her story and why she would choose John Alden and not Captain Miles Standish. At that pinnacle moment, as the story goes, John had been sent by the Captain to propose to Priscilla for him.  Their love triangle was one that fascinated another great-grandchild of Priscilla and John’s, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, so much he wrote their love story in his poem The Courtship of Miles Standish.  Her decision, John over Miles, made her  (and John) the great grandparent(s) to two U.S. Presidents; if that puts any perspective as to the consequences of choices.

John Alden was hired for the Mayflower to serve as the Cooper. He was not a pilgrim. He shows exceptional people skills in somehow maintaining his friendship with Miles Standish, despite what had to be an uncomfortable situation, even if briefly. The two of them settled what is now Duxbury, not to far from the landing site.  

Though life is funny sometimes. If I understand correctly, John and Priscilla’s 4th child married Miles 2nd child (Miles did go on to marry someone else) eventually making them all family anyway.

I admire my (10th) great-grandmother for not settling for someone who didn't have the time to propose himself. She was able to see that as it was, and have foresight enough to know that wasn't what she wanted. She spoke up, and wasn’t afraid to speak her mind at that moment. Now, I don't mind if anyone jokingly calls me Rachel Priscilla. 

About John Alden

For my family that is curious about the lineage, I think it is (John+Priscilla>Joseph Alden + Mary Simmons>John Alden+Hannah White>Thomas Wood + Hannah Alden>Lemuel Wood + Rebecca Tupper, etc) but if you have the Mayflower Society paper work that supersedes this in accuracy.