Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How To Be Sick

How To Be Sick
by Scott Bradley

I've been sick for about a month now. Nothing particularly dramatic (I hope) — possibly a well-entrenched intestinal parasite, along with other minor ailments — but very debilitating nonetheless. I have done little more than water the garden for a few weeks now. The cures haven't worked. It could be something more serious. I may have to make a run to the border where I can better afford the tests that the local doc says are the next step. Okay, no more about that. I just needed to set the stage.

I was with a group of 'spiritually-minded' people the other day and as we each shared what had been happening with us over the past month, I shared the above, and then said I was learning how to be sick. I could feel the disquiet. This is not the way we are supposed to speak of these things, which of course was one reason why I did so.

Since I am sick, it strikes me as important to learn how best to be sick. My answer is my own; no doubt there are lots of good strategies for dealing with sickness. Conventional wisdom would have us dwell on getting better. And this, of course, is what I want to do — get better. Still, I am presently sick.

If you've been reading these posts for awhile, you may be able to guess how I have concluded how to be sick. Or perhaps I flatter myself, believing you to be that involved.

Acceptance is surely a fundamental aspect of a healthy response to sickness. Trust me, there is not enough cheese in Wisconsin to go with my whine. Acceptance is the cure for whine. I am sick. I accept that. I go along with this reality. I 'lodge' in it. I do not fight what befalls me. I am thankful. I am free. Yes, 'free and unfettered wandering' is not a flight from circumstances, but through and beyond them.

Confucius describes the way to freedom as a journey which begins by passing through what is most familiar. It is not a great leap-frogging to some other realm. The way to the mountain's summit, he tells us, starts at the bottom. Being what is happening, we are free to be even more.

Acceptance is not resignation. It does not rob one of active and pro-active living. Accepting that I am sick does not mean I do not seek to be well. It grounds the attempted journey into wellness in the positive. From positive to positive. From yes to yes. It need not be a battle of good against evil. Success or failure, sickness or health, cured or not — acceptance affirms them all. It's okay to be sick, if that's what you are. Being sick is as much a natural part life as being well. And so also, is the impulse to live and be well.

[Note: Scott has gotten better since writing this post over one month ago.]

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Hi Scott. I found your post because Google sends me an email when "How To Be Sick" shows up in a possible search since I've written a book by that name. It's called "How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and their Caregivers.

    What struck me about your post is that the major theme of the book is learning to accept illness as one of the many seemingly difficult things that can happen in this life, and then learning how to live well and be content despite it.

    I thought you'd enjoy this little Internet connection between us!

    Toni Bernhard

  3. This not fighting the reality of sicknes probably frees up a lot of energy that can then be used for healing


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