Wednesday, May 25, 2011


When I looked up "reclamation" in the dictionary, it gave me three definitions:

1. the conversion of desert, marsh, or other waste land into land suitable for cultivation
2. the recovery of useful substances from waste products
3. the act of reclaiming or state of being reclaimed

I believe all three are extremely relevant to the journey us canaries must make.  For a majority of us with either celiac disease or a severe gluten intolerance, overcoming the years (and in many cases, decades) of damage to our digestive systems is our biggest challenge.  Of course, negotiating a new way of eating and adopting a different lifestyle are difficult, but they are just the means to an end.

And thus, definition number 1

The root cause behind most of our pain and suffering was the fact that our digestive systems simply could not serve their purpose.  Gluten was ravaging our intestines, destroying their ability to absorb nutrients from anything we would eat or drink, and driving our bodies and minds into a state of perpetual undernourishment.  This manifests itself differently from person to person.  Some actually look like they're starving, others become obese, and some, like me, alternate between the two ends of the spectrum, making diagnosis all the more difficult.  But when we finally begin to figure it out and we take that first crucial step of eliminating gluten from our diets, the pieces start to fall into place.  And we begin to reclaim our bodies. 

Like a forest razed in a wildfire, everything seems lost in the aftermath.  But in that end, there can be a new beginning.  And just as a forest will grow back again given the right conditions, we must do the same for our bodies, providing the proper nutrition to help ourselves recover.  Now what constitutes "proper"?  That's a tricky question.  Think about growing a tree from a seedling.  Would you provide the same amount of fertilizer or water you would give a full-grown tree?  Turning a "waste land into land suitable for cultivation" is no small feat, and will require great amounts of strength, patience, compassion, and faith.  It will also make you listen, but with more than your ears.  This is the part of healing that my mom would refer to as "the darkness before the sun rises."

Starting from this place that even I can't refer to as "square one," it will be easy to become overwhelmed and frustrated as your body adjusts.  There will be times where you feel like you're at war with your own body as you struggle to make it well.  There are times you will feel defeated with no energy left to give.  But in the face of these setbacks and crises, remember why you are doing it in the first place - to feel better and more complete.  To be better and more complete. 

Here's where definition number 2 can kick in -
recovering something "useful" from something that feels like a "waste." 

Eliminating gluten and all those comfort foods from your diet does not have to be a loss. Starting over and having to clean out your fridge and pantry does not have to be an inconvenience. Eating does not have to involve fear.  Instead, you can find the opportunity to heal in eating gluten-free.  You can recognize the  fortune of addressing the problem and implementing a solution.  And you can revel in the the knowledge that you can provide your body with food to give it health and vitality. 

All my life, I hadn't really paid attention to what I was putting in my mouth.   Food was just food, and my diet was mainly governed by cravings and convenience.  But when I was ultimately forced to look at what that food was doing to me, making me sick, miserable, and not very pleasant to be around, I finally opened my eyes to the real culprit:  myself.  And it wasn't that I was intentionally making myself sick - I had just been neglecting my own body, even when it was crying out for help.  And learning that lesson, without the aid of doctors or diagnostic tests, was beyond words. 

Just as I have the power to make myself ill, I can wield the same power to make myself  prosper.  The same power is in you.

Even if takes a little bit of extra time or costs a few more dollars to adhere my diet, I know I can never afford to minimize the importance of my health ever again. Our responsibility is to learn from our bodies and adapt to their ever-changing needs, not the other way around.  "Useful" would be an understatement.

And last but not least, definition number 3:
"The act of reclaiming or the state of being reclaimed."  

Embrace this journey and all that makes it uniquely yours.  You are reclaiming yourself and the right you have to a fulfilling life.  And when confronted with adversity and ordeals to test both your body and your spirit, remember that that is part of your journey as well.  It happens because it must.  It happens because you are ready to learn.  And when you begin to grasp all that it is that makes this path special for you, then look around you for those who are also in pursuit of happiness and wholeness, sharing this path less traveled.  Reach out to them.  One person alone can help a tree to grow, but many of us together can rebuild a forest.

 The warmth and beauty of the sunrise is made all the more sweet
by the cold night that precedes.  The two are likes sides of a coin,
and we must learn from both to remain in balance. 
Knowing darkness is necessary to understand its absence.

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