I think it’s time for me to watch Last of the Mohicans again. I remember seeing this in the theater when it first came out. Big screen, surround sound, Daniel Day Lewis in a loin-cloth in the Midwestern frontier of O-HI-O. I saw it several times, actually. I was mesmerized not by Daniel Day-Lewis, interestingly enough, but by the stories of the women awakening to freedom, each woman her own freedom. Cora, a dark-haired British woman, to a life on the frontier without her British fiancée (whom she loved but with whom she could not enter into the confines of 18th-century marriage); her fair-haired sister, to a choice of freedom in the here-after, alongside her gentle-souled love just murdered by a Huron warrior.
I can already hear my husband with his knowing and accepting smile: No projections there…none. Which, of course, is true. I was so enamored by the movie that I checked the Fenimore Cooper classic book out of my local library, so to enjoy the story in more ‘slow-motion’ and appreciation. I’ll save you the trouble here: Cooper’s literature classic does not tell the story of these women coming into their own freedom. Not even close.
Driving to the gym this morning, however, I heard the voice of one of the women in the film in my head. Cora’s voice: “I would rather make the gravest of mistakes than surrender my own judgment.” Even writing it out, I sit straighter, feel taller, and sense a groundedness in my body I’ve come to cherish in these recent days.
Soon I will be walking off the plane in Portland, Oregon, to visit my parents in their new life there, their new apartment home. I am curious about how they will react when they see me. I suppose I should simply prepare myself with detachment and as few expectations as I can muster. That’s the best practice with me and my folks these days. I do best with them when I don’t need anything from them, emotionally or spiritually. I’ve long not needed anything from them in most other categories—economic, intellectual, etc.—determined as I have been for my own independence, right out of college. But this time, I admit I am curious for internal and external reasons.
Internal reasons: I am the happiest I have ever been in my body. Ever. I finally feel like I have a healthy relationship with food for the first time in my life. I have learned how to nourish myself, and to discern—really discern—what my body prefers in increasingly subtle-body sensate ways. I’ve landed in a CrossFit community that circles up each day, several times a day, to invite movement and health, challenge and safety. Adult recess, I often call it. I get to play on the jungle gym and we sometimes play games. I hear encouragement to ‘just get better,’ and the freedom to define what that means for me, that day. My life has a rhythm to it that I love, and I can be present in my body in ways I’ve never known how.
If I were to guess, based upon past experiences: My father’s eyes will widen and he will be emphatic in a breathy-body-voice sort of way about how I look when he gives me a hug hello. He will be surprised and affirming in a loud sort of way, both touching my previous needs for his approval and my felt-sensibility that who and how I was before was somehow lacking. He clearly prefers the skinny, the trim, the … whatever.
My mother will give me a hug and murmur her own version of whatever he does. We’ll have the familiar love-hate dance we’ve shared forever about our body-type. I inherited my mother’s body-type and shape, which is both a beautiful way to feel connected with her AND a difficult challenge. She’s hated her body for as long as I can remember, naming deficiencies often. As a young girl growing up, I never could deflect those judgments, ingesting and internalizing them instead. Now I’m the happiest I’ve ever been, in a body shape that perhaps at one time would have been like her own…but is, no longer…but still is, in type or shape.
External reasons: The curiosity arises because so much of what I knew, what we know about nutrition and medical care of human beings, is evolving and changing within those populations that are allowing the change. What we were ‘sold and told’ in the 1950’s-1970’s is simply wrong, which has led to the rise (some say epidemic) of obesity, heart disease, cancer, and more. The medical care in the United States is some of the most challenging in the world, largely because of the bed-fellow relationship of medical-research science, government-funding, capitalism and its consumerist markets, global corporations, and ‘managed-care’ or insurance-impacting practices of care, diagnosis, and compensations. It is overwhelmingly difficult to get uncomplicated information and to make health-care decisions that you feel you can trust, as an ordinary human being living life and love at the grass-roots level of ‘what I know.’
All of this undergirds and instigates curiosity about a now-familiar contemporary dynamic that touches me and my life at multiple levels—with my family of origin, in my marriage, in my work-world. Much of what my father, the internist and ‘must be right’ man knew and stewarded was wrong. The father figure was simply wrong, even if good intentioned and working with what medical and governmental science-institutions said at the time. He was wrong, through no fault of his own. I can count on my fingers the number of times in my 50 years of life I’ve heard my father say, without resistance or humor, “Yep, I was really wrong about that.” He doesn’t know who he is unless he is explaining something to someone (man-splaining, we call it now) or offering medical expertise in family, school, or doctor’s office settings.
Living some “nutrition-re-education” practices and choices in these last 14 months or so, I now have a lived-trajectory of what I know about my body, what nourishes my body, what makes my body feel good and most active, strong, and healthy. I had my annual physical yesterday, celebrating within myself this new place I’ve found within me and within a supportive community. Except we spent a good chunk of time discussing how my cholesterol levels had jumped about 25 points, within range but on the higher end of ‘the latest standards.’ My doctor, whom I do appreciate for many reasons, encouraged me to consider two different kinds of diets—Mediterranean or South-Beach. She wasn’t listening to me and what I know about my body now. The food-freedom I have. What I am finding in my own experience. As a matter of fact, she didn't even ask much about it.
So…I have two books to read this weekend—one, a more science-heavy expression of ‘medical-science-research’ on how Fat and Cholesterol Don’t Cause Heart Attacks: And Statins Are Not the Solution. (Columbus Publishers Ltd 2016) and the other, a more-popularist expression text, The Cholesterol Myth: Why Lowering Your Cholesterol Won’t Prevent Heart Disease—and the Statin-Free Plan that Will (Fair Winds Press, 2012).
The challenges here are multi-faceted for me. I no longer trust my father’s medical expertise in areas of nutrition, women’s health, and overall health-wholeness. That is such a huge statement, I can hardly withstand the dissonance inside for how I used to live in my family’s sense of identity and giftedness. Not only are ‘the brothers’ a focal point of authority and significance, my father is the recognized medical authority about most everything. Except in the instances of what I know now, he was simply wrong. Secondly, I can see more how my own doctor works within basic tropes of ‘established medical knowledge’ that, at least for nutrition and health-wholeness, no longer suffice. I know something else or differently in my own body. She did not know how to ask about what I clearly knew and we spent most of our time in a supposition of 'what she knew,' which was not relevant to me or what I know now. Finally, reading these books then offers me invitation to learn more in my cognitive and intellectual awareness things that I don’t know how to articulate yet. I do not and will not presume to challenge my father’s (or my husband’s) clear convictions rooted in (what I would call out-dated) medical science…AND…I want to ingest deeply what this strand of argument/discourse has to offer what I know in my own body. The trick, of course, will be not to ‘bite the hook’ of intellectual debate with either of them. This reading is for me, for me and my body alone.
So it's time to watch the movie again: “I would rather make the gravest of mistakes than surrender my own judgment.” ~ Cora Munro, Last of the Mohicans.
[For those who desire critical-assessment in the larger literature/science world of ‘information-curation,’ assessing the validity/legitimation of information: Columbus Publishing, Ltd is an independent publisher, in the UK, with motto “because the world is not flat; specializes in ‘books that challenge’… Fair Winds Press is also an independent press located in Beverly, Massachusetts, originally part of the Rockport Publishing Group, now owned by Quarto, which has a global market in health and fitness publishing. Most medical-establishment, university-research-discourse authors and leaders would hold these publishing sources with high suspicion and skepticism. "Independent publishing" tends to be disregarded as not-peer-reviewed, so not rigorous in contributing to objective human knowledge.]
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