Sunday, April 22, 2012


Latest posting for the Health Activist Writing Month Challenge WEGO

PROMPT #23: Health Activist Choice Day 23! Write about whatever you like. 

Yesterday my sister told me on the phone that she had snapped at someone, and the voice that came out of her mouth was our mom’s. We were both a bit horrified, and then we hatched a therapeutic plan. Both of my sisters and I will spend a week together this summer at the cottage where we summered as kids. We’re going to stage a three-way ventfest, each of us expressively saying aloud the things Mom used to say either to us or about us. The theory is that by saying all of those things out loud we’ll get them out of us and we’ll get beyond them. We might even end up laughing.

Anticipating the freedom we could feel, I began thinking about freedom. In that case, it would be freedom from—freedom from being held back by childhood messages, freedom from holding things inside. But it would also be freedom to—freedom to speak the truth, freedom to be US. 

Freedom from, or freedom to—how do You usually think of freedom? At a recent conference on Elder Abuse, Dr. Bill Thomas (founder of The Eden Alternative) introduced a powerful fundamental distinction between Upside Risk, and Downside Risk. Downside risk is familiar to many caregivers of loved ones. Examples include encouraging a loved one not to get out of the wheelchair for fear of falling, or severely limiting the number of visitors for fear of tiring the “patient”. Downside risk means living a narrow life of limitation due to fear. Unfortunately it also limits self-expression, growth, and joie de vivre, joy of life. 

Upside risk would be deciding it’s worth it to try walking three times a day for the chance of gaining strength and balance. You see the difference? Upside risk looks at the possibilities for better living. It’s what makes life juicy.

It seems acceptable nowadays to awfulize, to discuss ad nauseum the troubles in the world and in the lives of those we know. How much more life serving for us to accept what is, while choosing to focus on what could be? To begin each day saying, “What could I do today to be happier? What would make me stronger in some way? What will make me feel more alive?” and then act on the answer that presents itself. 


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