I have a confession to make. Today was a holiday, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. That means no mail, banks closed, and the like. It is also the one day I have no assigned income-generating activity, and so is usually designated as catch up day for all that cannot be done on other days. Today was cold; I confess I succumbed to the temptation to sleep late and to spend most of the day doing things that really did not have to be done, or just lounging around. I ate “treats” which are not healthy for me. I absolutely did not hurry to do anything.
Now, I am confused. On the one hand, I might be congratulated for a bit of self-nurture. On the other hand, is it self-nurture to eat unhealthily, avoid activity, and postpone activities, which will mean subsequent time crunches on already crowded other days? Would it not be more nurturing to provide for myself a clear, pleasant environment, healthy food, a reduced time crunch, healthy exercise, and a feeling of achievement at whatever I did manage to accomplish? I’m not sure I have an answer.
Former President Obama, in an interview with David Letterman, observed that people in this present moment in time seem to be living in different realities. (I paraphrase, but the meaning is the same.) Technology, he explains, can now give us, through selective algorithms built into the Internet through which we interact, information which confirms what we already think or “know”. It is not complete information; it is selected specifically for us by algorithms. Hence, any given set of people can have access to diametrically different sets of information, or “facts”. We believe in what we already think and what is reinforced for us. Others believe in what they already “know” and what is reinforced by what they read. There is no consistent set of facts, only sets of opinions “proven” to be “facts” by the feedback given by the algorithms. Reality is essentially an agreement of perception; what is real is what we all agree is real, or what we all agree to perceive. For example, we all perceive a certain energy configuration to be a tree. However, that could be an alien spy structure. That it isn’t is because we all agree it isn’t, to the extent that the idea seems insane or ridiculous. If we no longer have a set of agreed upon facts, but only many sets of alternative facts, we then have no basis for conversation.
Perhaps that is one reason for my confusion. There is no set, agreed upon definition for what constitutes self-nurture. There is a definite agreed upon notion that we all need self-nurture, but no common idea of what constitutes that. It has been said that many women have difficulty with self-nurture (probably so) because they are trained to fill the needs of others first. Yet, the result of not doing that is often the state of being either physically or emotionally isolated. I have seen this happen for women who expect to be pampered. (True for men, too. Providing for a family but neglecting to interact with them on a giving and receiving human level can eventually isolate a man.)
Another area in which the varied facts to which people adhere creates massive confusion is the collection of ideas around diet. Diets come and go. Each proponent of a healthy diet has his or her own idea of what works best. From proponents of meat (which, as its apologists explain, electrically gives up its nutrition first) to vegans (for whom meat-eating is anathema), from chefs who share recipes of beautiful, organic meals to those who aver that raw food is the only way to eat, from those who promote cheese, yogurt, butter and kefir to those who are sure that dairy must be avoided, from traditional nutritionists who tout the benefits of whole grains to those who warn that we poison our bodies with grains, from hospitals who feed patients with glucose water, to current warnings that any sugar is the basis for most of our illnesses – the list goes on and on. Currently, consuming only a very few fruits and vegetables seems to not generate disagreement; I am waiting to see when that, to, will inspire differences.
Perhaps the answer is in balance. That is an easy answer for a difficult task in a chaotic world filled with different sets of facts. I am guessing that we need to listen to those who radically disagree with us – listen without judging. Balance requires a center, or rudder, to keep one oriented and upright. Our own bodies might provide such a center, if we can create the habit of listening to them. The image of a surfer riding a heavy surf comes to mind. An open mind, a quick awareness of detail and perception, a centered balance, the capacity to “hear” one’s body are all wonderful, and I still have no complete answers. Perhaps one day we will all understand. In the meantime, may we all stay awake, forgive ourselves and others, and keep trying to learn and understand.