Giving must equal receiving.
For me, being healthy is a process which began, ironically, when I was told in 1988 that I was HIV+.
Many of the fears that nearly paralyzed me at that time came to pass, including toxic levels of medication, lymphoma, and the death of my first partner and many friends. But out of those experiences also came an urgent need to learn, or invent, ways that I could become and remain physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy.
I group these practices into three categories: mindfulness, balance, and connection.
I try to stay mindful, or simply notice, what is happening in my life. I have found this to be essential both to understand how I sometimes get in my own way, and to stay grounded in the present (having spent far too much time in both the past and the future!).
When I succeed at this deceptively simple practice, everything is easier: eating well, working out, getting rest. If I begin to complicate things, I use nature as a touchstone, going into my back yard with its tropical plants, driving to the beach, or playing with the dogs.
Few things can bring me back to the present like throwing a ball for my Labrador, whose happy demeanor and single-minded focus is frequently the perfect antidote for worry or excessive self-involvement.
Balance is harder to maintain, but I give it a high priority. I am privileged to work as a psychotherapist with gay men, but the demands of a private practice, group work, and numerous community boards can be consuming. I have been close to burnout on several occasions, and have had to make my own health a priority by maintaining clear boundaries between professional time and home life.
A mentor once reminded me that “giving must equal receiving,” and I realized that I often give too much (that persistent feeling of never being good enough) and that I have trouble receiving, whether its support or praise. With practice, I’ve found that maintaining balance becomes easier and healthier.
The third theme that keeps me healthy is staying connected at a variety of levels, including my loving partner, family and friends.
These relationships are the source of inspiration and support that keep me moving forward. In recent years I’ve become more aware of a personal need to broaden these connections to include both my inner self, from which I draw on creativity, and a larger sense of community. I believe that building community holds tremendous healing power. Every day I interact with gay men who struggle with isolation and alienation.
The lack of role models for non-sexual gay friendship is a common complaint here in south Florida. Many blame the transient nature of this area, but I think there is a hunger among gay men everywhere to better connect with each other.
I believe that maintaining strong interpersonal connections is the key not only for my health and happiness, but that building communities that support and enrich our lives will keep us all stronger and healthier.
-- David Fawcett
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