Tracking my efforts to beat Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), aka CFIDS, aka CFS

Tracking my efforts to beat Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), aka CFIDS, aka CFS

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Changing how I enjoy nature

Continuing with my quasi philosophical exploration of happiness with ME/CFS, I've been discussing the issue with members of various message boards.  To that end, several people have recommended that I try to "enjoy nature," or variations on that theme.  Instinctively, I wanted to dismiss these suggestions on the assumption that one must be healthy and energetic to enjoy nature.  At least, that seems to be the only way I know how to relate to nature.  But people kept suggesting "nature" as a path to happiness, over and over - people who were obviously sick like me.   So I was forced reexamine my assumptions.

This afternoon, I experienced a small moment of realization.

This may seem obvious to others, but it wasn't to me: there are many different ways to commune with nature.  For 35 years, the only way I've known how to relate to nature is as a sort of 'conqueror' - for lack of a better term - by demonstrating some sort of mastery over it.  Most of my experiences with nature involved participation in various sports.  I harnessed waves on a surfboard.  I negotiated mountainsides on a snowboard, and I jogged through wooded areas.  On camping trips I chopped, I gathered, I built, and I kindled -- all very active ways to engage nature.  So ingrained was this way of thinking that I hadn't even considered other ways to enjoy nature.

I realize now that there's nothing stopping me from experiencing nature, for instance, as Monet did - as a palette of colors.   Or as Ansel Adams.  Or John Muir.  Or Emerson.  Or Thoreau. Or even Darwin.  Or countless others who made careers and reputations simply from the way in which they enjoyed nature...passively.  As observers.

The point is, my old manner of connecting with nature was a young man's manner.  I probably would have outgrown it in the next decade anyway.  As we grow order, our relationship with nature matures.  There's nothing preventing me from maturing now, a few years ahead of schedule.  So that's what I intend to do.  Who's path I'll follow, I'm not exactly sure yet, but I'll make sure I personalize it and make it my own.


  1. Yay! Yes, that's the way to do it! I, like many others (one could pretty much say almost all) with ME, was also an active outdoorsperson - horseback riding, skiing, hiking, camping, and turned away from my suburban upbringing to raise sheep, goats, and other livestock, and garden organically.
    That very active life is a far cry from what I can actively DO now. Even camping when my youngest does all the work (she's 17 & with mild CFS), is hard - I'm exhausted by the time I get there!
    But we live on a mountain in the Blue Ridge, about an hour west of DC. I spend many short periods of time out of bed & sitting in a swinging chair on our screened in porch, just watching... and have seen the red foxes running at full tilt down around the house, the deer amble by (and every June watch with great anticipation for the fawns to be born), the squirrels play, the leaves change, more gorgeous sunsets than anyone else I know, the trees thrash in the wind or bend under the snow.... its in the details that you will find the happiness you seek.
    Right now, what passes as our front yard is currently carpeted in blooming purple & white violets, and the redbud trees are still blooming in their wonderful pinkness. Every day, the leaves are just a little bigger on the trees, and soon the lilac by the porch will be inundating my senses with a heady perfume. And the phoebe's are nesting under the eaves.
    Most people don't have the time to really see all that happens around us, to notice the daily changes. They walk around and see green or brown or snow white as they rush, but fail to see the glory in the sparkle of sun on a snowflake, to appreciate the work and finesse of a spider's web.
    I hope & pray you never become as ill as I am, stuck at home constantly, in bed most of the time. But if you cultivate a sense of wonder & appreciation of the natural world now, you will find that yes, it is possible to be happy while chronically ill.
    Best of luck to you!

    1. Ash, this comments comes a little late, but I continue to appreciate your perspective and insight. Thank you so much.

  2. Ah yes. This is something I had to learn early on. I've only ever discussed this with Danny but when I was bedridden in 09, I couldn't stand to be "in" my bed any longer, I was getting dangerously depressed. So every morning my parents took me outside before work and I laid outside on a blanket all day until they came home and brought me back in. I learned to appreciate things I hadn't before, the trees, leaves, the clouds - how they moved and formed, the sun, bugs. It wasn't easy, lying in one spot all day is never easy, but I learned as you said, a way to appreciate nature as I never had before. Things I do now (low energy)

    #1. Sitting on a rocking chair on the front porch...typically with ipod playing through speakers.
    #2. Sitting outside with my dogs next to me.
    #3. Taking up photography - wow, who knew when you slowed down what you could find. I.E. - Have you ever seen one of these spiders? All my years in florida, I never had, not until I sat down next to that flower looking through my camera lens.
    #4. (my favorite)Playing guitar on the front porch. There is just something about strumming a guitar outside, with the wind blowing, and the birds chirping, very inspiring for songwriting.

    1. I'm totally content now with a front porch, big lazy dog, and a guitar.

      I was very much into outdoorsy stuff too: kayaking, hiking, canoeing, sailing, knee-boarding, etc.