Join the Club

Like many other people, I decided to enter an office lottery pool last week when the jackpot was at its record high. The person who spearheaded the group reported in an e-mail today that twenty people had entered, and we won a collective $19. In a flurry of e-mails, someone wrote, “Let’s make a ‘club’ and we’ll do this every week. Who’s in?” Once the word club was mentioned, I cringed. Ugh. I hate joining things.

I don't want to belong to any club that accepts people like me as a member. -Groucho Marx

I think it goes back to my college days when I joined a sorority, hoping to find a place where I didn’t feel like my usual misfit self. I was happy to be accepted, but soon learned it wasn’t for me. I had to wear my sorority shirt on a certain day each week. I had to go to parties at the frat houses every Wednesday or I’d be fined. I decided to quit, but this was no easy process.  I had to appear before the Board and make my case for leaving the sisterhood. I couldn’t even quit on my own.

Today, after work, I went to the local health food store. On the first Monday of the month, they offer 20% off of all supplements. The place was swamped with people, all looking for the perfect “natural” pill to take away their ailments. Or should I say “our” ailments?

I’ve written in other posts about my adventures in alternative medicine–trying to find some new ways to deal with my chronic pain. I guess I should be happy that the doctor I’m seeing is taking a holistic approach, but I feel like I’ve been thrown into this new world that seems quite foreign. I’ve never eaten that badly, but I’m a One-a-Day vitamin kind of girl, and I like my processed, easy-to-prepare foods. In addition to the various vitamins and supplements I’ve been prescribed, I’ve also been advised to follow a gluten-free, “Paleo Diet.” I’ve been experimenting with this way of eating since late January, but mostly with half-hearted attempts.  I do what I usually do: buy a few books, read them, and don’t fully do what they say. I decided that yesterday, being the first of the month and always a good time to start a new goal, I’d follow the eating plan in earnest. Well, I’ve made it almost two days. I’m hungry. I’m crabby. And I miss my carbs. But now, somehow, I’m part of some free-range chicken/organic produce/supplement-popping club.

Can I quit? Sure. Will I quit? I don’t know.

As I write this, I realize I belong to a very large club whether I want to or not. I’m part of the human club.

In her book Self-Compassion, Kristin Neff notes, “When we’re in touch with our common humanity, we remember that feelings of inadequacy and disappointment are shared by all. This is what distinguishes self-compassion from self-pity. Whereas self-pity says, ‘poor me,’ self-compassion remembers that everyone suffers, and it offers comfort because everyone is human.”

Even though my pain may be different than your pain, we have much in common.  As humans, we have imperfect bodies. Bodies that have aches and pains. Bodies that get old. Bodies that are impermanent (that’s Zen-speak for die).

Now there’s a cheery thought…