As we get closer to Midsummer, my mind is on exercise and health. The past year, I’ve been on a quest to improve the state of my health, which has included eating well, moving my body, and taking care of my brain. My short-term goal was to maybe drop a couple pounds and have a little more energy to chase after little Miss Sunshine. The long-term goal is to be a spry old lady that has nearly all her faculties and dies of being old. This is my 65-year plan. I figure that a century should be enough to knit up most of my yarn.
Midsummer is the time when Baruch Arête holds our annual backyard games. We’re at a city park this year and I’m super excited about having more room and a nice shady walking trail. During the Games, we will compete against each other in contests of speed, agility, strength, creativity, and intellect. In challenging others, we challenge ourselves to do better, be stronger, try harder, and push the limits of what we can do. This is the same principle that drives Olympic athletes and it is a thoroughly Greek thing to do, so that’s kind of the vibe I’m going for.
In certain pockets of our subculture, we tend to glorify suffering and infirmity as though the only wisdom worth anything has come from that. While others were “suffering to learn,” I decided long ago that I want to learn how not to suffer. I want to be healthy, happy, and the best Sunweaver I can be by testing the limits of what I can do and seeing if I can do just a little more. My guiding principle has always been:
Do what you can do; no more, no less.
In other words, those who have some kind of difficulty, be it mental or physical, have the capacity to work within their ability toward better well-being. What “well-being” means is not going to be the same for everyone. For one friend of mine, it means lowering BMI in preparation for her gender-reassignment surgery. For another, it means being gentle on herself while she recovers from surgery on a herniated disk. Another friend is walking to shed some unwanted pounds. Yet another friend just got a diabetes diagnosis and has to rethink pretty much everything around how she eats. Sophia and Isildae have been doing Couch to 5k. Difficulty is a part of this, to be sure. There are stones in the path and hardships to overcome, but suffering is optional.
Remember Simba and Rafiki?
Kinda like that, but with more walking and less regicide.
This is all part-and-parcel to my relationship with Apollo and the kind of priestess I am. While many focus on his role as an oracular god, he is also an athlete and a physician who shows us the right path to well-being. I’m no doctor, but I know that appropriate exercise and eating a balanced diet is good for you. The benefits of walking are many and well-documented and we all know that vegetables are better for you than Doritos. Apollo shows us what should be obvious (but often isn’t): move your body in appropriate ways and eat what’s good for your activity level and your particular physiology. Eating right goes hand-in-hand with exercise as a part of any path to health and well-being. Hippocrates said, “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.” You know Hippocrates, right? He’s the one who wrote the Hippocratic Oath. You know, the one that opens with:
I swear by Apollo, the healer, Asclepius, Hygieia, and Panacea, and I take to witness all the gods, all the goddesses, to keep according to my ability and my judgment, the following Oath and agreement…
Most modern doctors don’t swear by Apollo these days, but every single one has learned his or her trade from generations of physicians who have built upon the work of Hippocrates. Apollo’s influence was there at the beginning of modern medicine and continues to be there today. Last time I visited my doctor was for Miss Sunshine’s well-baby checkup and he noticed my fitbit, a present from Sophia and Rose. He’s got one, too, and mentioned that he wished he could give one to every single one of his patients. Apollo himself might have said the same thing. Of course, I don’t know that Apollo isn’t speaking through my doctor. I do know He’s there with me, illuminating what I need to understand.
So, I’m walking, dancing, hopping, wiggling, climbing stairs, pulling a toddler in her wagon, and mowing the yard for Apollo. As my step count goes up, I’m honoring Him, praising Him, and thanking Him for my good health. Every day that I feel well and full of good energy, I know that He has helped me achieve that. And, because it’s not all about me, part of my job as His priestess is to be supportive of others’ unique paths to well-being. I want my community to be happy and well, too, so I do what I can to encourage others and cheer them on. Hosting the Games is an important part of that and I look forward to this year’s contests.
I’ll leave you with a prayer and the soundtrack to this article:
Hail, Apollo, the Athlete,
He whose sun-bronzed skin stretches taut over well-carved muscles,
Whose glutes and calves are like marble,
Whose abdominals hold him straight and tall,
Whose tendons are as strong and supple as spider’s silk,
I dedicate this [exercise] to you, Apollo,
That with your guidance, I may be strong and flexible in body and mind.
May I be filled with your light, purified,
And may I shine your love in happiness and good health