I’m sure glad my friend Eileen isn’t asked to give many eulogies, because they’d all sound like this: “It’s a bummer he’s gone, but he had it coming to him.”
I don’t discuss my health with her anymore because, according to my New Age friend, everything is my fault: from the irregular periods to the brain growth to my bipolar disorder. Suffering is punishment for my not being a stronger person, a woman who can master her thoughts, control her emotions, and direct every cell in her being toward health.
I once asked Eileen how she could explain the five year old boy who died of Leukemia.
“He may have made a contract with God before he was born,” she replied. “Or maybe he drank bad water.”
Jesus says I have to love Eileen, so I haven’t deleted her number from my cell phone. But I can and do have a major problem with her philosophy. Because, to my ears, it sounds incredibly judgmental and lacking in compassion.
Like Eileen I believe in the mind-body connection, which is why I expected yoga, prayer, and meditation to heal me of my depression. I figured that if relaxation exercises and mindfulness can combat and prevent heart disease and diabetes, as studies indicate, that breath work and meditation should surely correct the distortions in my brain electrochemistry. Self-loathing and suicidal idealizations would disappear under my yoga mat if I said “Om” often enough.
When that didn’t happen I was forced to hand over my stuck-up and unfair assumptions on matters of health: if you took care of yourself, you stayed well. I was thrown off my pedestal, onto a ground of rubble, where I began to empathize with others who, from no fault of their own, contracted diseases and sickness.
I’d give a much better eulogy today than I would have in the years before my breakdown. Suffering and illness have humbled me. When I hear people like Eileen throw out black-and-white explanations and solutions to a myriad of problems surrounding different types of illness, I realize that you can afford to be arrogant when you’ve got your health. But that doesn’t mean you should be.