The Dangerous New Status Symbol
The body is an amazing thing. Just like a car, our check engine light comes on when things are not right. Instead of a nagging little light, the human check engine light can appear in the form of a headache, heartburn, indigestion, insomnia, ect. It shows up in many ways, but so often we ignore it. We say we’ll take care of it tomorrow (and then we don’t) or we push through the pain. It’s more likely that we will take our car into the shop to have a mechanic take a look at it before we call up our own doctor’s office to schedule an appointment.
I recently read an article that said exhaustion is the new status symbol. I couldn’t agree more. The “no pain, no gain” attitude is found everywhere in our Western culture. From how we work to how we workout, the mentality that in order to be successful we must be chronically exhausted can not only isolates us from friends and family, it can also send us into an early grave. We ignore our check engine light. We are invincible. We push through until it is too late.
This past weekend my uncle passed away from a massive heart attack. He was in his mid-fifties and had just finished a karate class. He had a history of high blood pressure. He worked out to help control his condition. He did not want to take medication. He was an amazing, smart and loving human being. I am still coming to grips with the reality that I will never hear his infectious laughter ever again nor will I ever again get to share apple pie with him on Christmas morning. As I work through my emotions I keep coming back to the fact that a precious life might have been saved had attention been paid toward that small and seemingly insignificant check engine light.
Honoring your check engine light is not the western way. In many ways our culture values tired and exhausted over taking time to care of ourselves. Health professionals advise us to listen to our body but so often our body’s messages our drowned out by our cultural values of doing more and producing more. The phrase ”listen to your body” is great and can be a good place to start but it doesn’t imply action. I think it is time to change the phrase to “honor your body’s signal”. The word ‘honor’ implies that some type of action must be taken where as simply listening to your body seems passive and stagnant.
So with the weekend upon us and the beginning of fall this past week, it is time to take a little closer look at your own check engine light. What little signals have you been ignoring? Where in your life has your body been begging for you to slow down? The holidays are looming right around the corner and with it all the parties, obligations and busy-ness. This cool guy, the Dalai Lama, said it best when asked what surprised him the most about humanity:
“Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”