Liberty, Justice and the Pursuit of "Health"—The Other “H,” An Unalienable Right!

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Yesterday was a gorgeous day in Orlando. I got up at ten after six and took a one-hour walk with the dog, gently embraced by the clear blue skies with a few rare pinkish clouds as the sun climbed lazily up the horizon. The dog would rather run, but I am not as motivated so fast walking was just as good in my opinion. As we greeted a few deer, large crane, squirrel, and other critters in our neighborhood, I had a chance to clear my mind and reflect on this great holiday. Had our forefathers been able to foresee the plight the health of both ours and our children’s generation, I suspect Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and the rest of the committee may have revised the Declaration of Independence to state that unalienable rights to include Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness and “health.” While happiness may mean different things to different people, and we all define happiness and contentment differently based on our culture, background, family and relationships, and the realities of our lives, I am fairly confident that without “health” for ourselves and that of our loved ones, very few of us could truly be “happy.”

How could our forefathers have predicted that the strong, independent, creative, democratic, innovative, and resourceful nation that thrived over the years is also one where the unfortunate result of perhaps too much technology, industry, capitalism, and excess access to food and calories has resulted in a nation struggling with health and challenges with allocating resources for healthcare for its citizens. I am certain in the current world, we are all lured to focus our energy on our over-productive lives and that of our children’s (sports, education, and other activities) and far less energy thinking about what we will eat or plan for our families for the next meal. As I often say, divorce rate would be much less if meat simply defrosted itself. I can’t tell you how often I use that as an example of how my own stress level daily fluctuates depending if I remember to call Dave (who works from home) before 2pm from either the operating room or the clinic, in the middle of patient care, to ask him to defrost some particular white paper package which contains either fish, chicken, or pork. Since our move to Orlando and staring my new job, our new routine is that I defrost before leaving for work but he must remember to put the defrosted protein back into the fridge so it does not go bad by the time I get home to cook it.

Tonight we are blessed to go to our friends for dinner, so one less meal for me to fuss about. I have found that it’s been very helpful to share the cooking with dear friends, since if we eat with another family one night at their house, and one night at our house, each of us has just decreased our dinner preparation by one night that week! As we celebrate this wonderful holiday, I hope we can all remember the other “H.” Often I believe we talk about health and may even think about health as some difficult to obtain, scientifically and very specifically defined “state” that for so many reasons and even excuses, we simply cannot attain, but we do secretly admire those around us who seem so thin and must not have to work for a living since they appear to work out all the time and therefore look so wonderful! Being healthy simply can’t and should not be defined by anyone else other than ourselves. Certainly physicians can provide general guidelines and interpretation of specific markers that can suggest whether we are within the defined norms of “health,” for example, our good and “bad” cholesterol numbers, blood pressure, weight, belly circumference, absence of harmful habits like cigarette smoking, and/or excessive alcohol consumption. However, being healthy is definitely not simply taking the right combinations of medications to make our “numbers” fall within normal range for those “markers” of being healthy. I am certain that those who simply take medications to achieve the right looking numbers, but without healthy diet and adequate exercise, well, may succumb to illnesses and issues related to poor health much more likely than those who do make the time, effort, sacrifice, and embrace the notion of being “healthy” as an unalienable right.

Even though I am of Buddhist faith and believe in reincarnation, I know that this life, today, and every moment, I am here to exercise my right to avoiding suffering and helping those around me avoid suffering. Buddhism defines life as suffering, and our human nature results in our suffering. But we can consciously and thoughtfully try to respect and care for our bodies, as hard as that is in this current world. My shopping trip today involved mostly fresh fruits, vegetables, salmon, chicken, Boston pork butt (Dave is making pulled pork this weekend for company using his amazing Traeger grill!), but I also gave in and bought 1 4-pack of pudding cups, one package of “Turtle” candies, and a package of double chocolate Milano cookies. I know I am still a great mom because I did spend most of my time in the periphery of the store selecting fresh fruits and vegetables. The hour walk this morning helped me feel better about my decision to try and be as healthy as I can be, while enjoying company and great food tonight. We have to encourage ourselves and each other to view “health” and being “healthy” as not an option, but a goal that we can work towards in any way, big or small, as many days as we can, so that we feel better physically and mentally, and need as little medications or other “interventions” as possible. If we can do this, then our children and their children may have a chance to view being “healthy” and pursue health as an unalienable right.


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