Relationships are what life is about. I realize how vital it is to bring up the children of the world to feel loved. If you feel loved you care for yourself and others, because you see yourself in others. I know people who gave up the convenience of smoking indoors after one of their cats died of lung cancer and others were having breathing problems. I have shared before that she advises people to smoke outdoors. “Doug and I now smoke in the yard. We’re not killing our cats anymore; we hope you’re not killing yours.” So it’s okay to kill yourself—just protect your cats.
There are many ways we can re-parent each other and help others to feel loved. As a doctor, I always gave the self-destructive people return visits until they realized I cared about them, and then I saw them start to take care of themselves. So keep loving the unlovable and you will make a difference in their lives.
I was thinking about insurance companies today after talking to someone who works for one, and who is also taking a health course at The Graduate Institute in Bethany. What if insurance companies rewarded us for being healthy and taking care of ourselves instead of paying for health problems that arise because we haven’t been taking care of ourselves? Years ago, The United Illuminating Company (UI), an Orange, Connecticut-based regional electric distribution company established in 1899, built a shed outside of their building so employees could go there to smoke. I wrote to them and suggested that they use the money to offer their employees free smoking cessation therapy instead of a building in which they could continue to be self-destructive. In taking that action, the company would be saying, “UI loves its employees.” Sending that message might get those employees to start loving themselves enough to quit smoking.
The following question was sent to me through my website (www.berniesiegelmd.com). I encourage all of you to contact me through the website with any question, and I will answer you personally. Please be assured that I protect everyone who sends me a question with complete anonymity, removing all personal identification, including names, locations, and anything else that could identify you if a question and my answer is shared with my website readers in the Q&A with Bernie column. Here is a question I felt needed to be highlighted all by itself because I have received the same question from so many people over the years. It is what I would call a “universal question” because of its long-standing interest among my readers:
“I feel awful when I look in the mirror—what can I do?
Many responses come to mind, the first from a veterinarian who was tormented about her upcoming mastectomy. She said she couldn’t sleep until she remembered all the animals she operated on, amputating various parts. “They wake up and lick their owner’s face. They know they are here to love and be loved, and to teach us a few things.” She had no trouble sleeping after that.
A young woman with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) said, “I didn’t want to die hating my body. I was a bowl of Jell-O in a wheelchair. So I sat naked in front of the mirror and started loving myself a small piece at a time—my knee, my smile, and so on.” Ultimately she learned to love all of her body, and cured herself of her disease through the “love of self.” When your body knows you love yourself and your life, amazing things can happen.
The last response I will share is from a young woman who, due to a genetic defect, is a dwarf. She learned to love herself and her life, which led her to writing an inspiring book showing how a disability can become an ability. She teaches her readers about what life is really about, and what is truly meaningful. The title of her book is Nothing Short of Joy. In the same way, someone I know with cerebral palsy wrote a book entitled The Bird with a Broken Wing. These two extraordinary people are my teachers.
Another solution that my inner child needs to share is this: If you don’t like what you see in the mirror, and are afraid of failing to love yourself and your body, you can take all the mirrors down or cover them up and save on therapy costs and time.
Something I did with our kids was to give them health days every semester. These were days they could just say, “Dad I’m taking a health day.” That meant they were not going to school and did not need an excuse or illness as a reason. I felt this showed them that they didn’t need to come into the kitchen acting sick to meet their needs. I suggest you all do that for yourselves and your families.
To lighten things up a bit, I was thinking of the time I leaned back in my chair and just looked around the room. My head rested upon our cat Rusty who was balanced on the headrest. Around me, sleeping and keeping me company, I could feel the love and desire to be with me of our many pets. All are rescued, and besides Rusty, we now have cats named Simon, Princess, and Hope. Until recently, we also had dogs named Furphy, Buddy, and Sex. They all did, and some still do, take up my time and our bed space, but also give me an excuse to walk and take time to meditate about life. They are great teachers about forgiveness and love and good role models for living in the moment. And there was nothing that matched asking my wife, “Honey, where do you think I can find Hope and Sex?” So, I am looking for another dog to adopt with a meaningful name—unless one of you reading this is inspired to do the same and beats me to the local shelter!
Peace, Love & Healing,
Bernie Siegel, MD
“If the only prayer you ever say is ‘Thank You’ that would suffice.”
~ Meister Eckhart (1260-1328)
German theologian, philosopher and mystic