I am two weeks into a one-month home exchange in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It isn’t a vacation by any means. I am working the entire time via Skype and writing lots. My hubby and I decided to escape June on Vancouver Island this year because it’s my “month from hell” for seasonal allergies. We figured that New Mexico would be just the fix, seeing that it is hot, dry, and mostly desert and free from most things green; of which I am so allergic to. By the end of May, I was counting down the days until I could escape to an allergy-free environment. I was pretty sick already by the time we left and couldn’t wait to be able to breathe easy in our temporary escape.
The first week was absolute bliss. I was moved to tears by how healthy and strong I felt in this different place. I went outside for long hikes- something I can never do in June back home. In fact, I spend the entire month cooped up indoors with the air filters on, drugged up on steroid medication, counting the days until July arrives and I can live somewhat normally again. So you can imagine my elation at being able to be somewhere different, allergy-free, sun on my skin, being free to roam around in the great outdoors. It was so wonderful…until it wasn’t.
After the first week, I started to get itchy eyes. Then came the non-stop sneezing. Then the wheezing and shortness of breath. Then the nasal drip and stuffed up nose. I cried a river of tears at the realization that even in the desert, so far away from the greenery I am allergic to, I could be sick and suffering once again. What a downer. Here I had gone to huge expense and trouble, uprooting both myself and my dear hubby for an entire month, inconveniencing my clients (who are being incredibly gracious- thank you to all of you), just to be sick in another part of North America.
In an attempt to do some research on the subject of allergies in New Mexico, I have spoken with several people I met here and they explained that while this used to be a respite for people suffering from asthma and allergies, it’s not so much anymore. Why? Because people in the desert want the greenery I am trying so desperately to escape and have imported all types of grasses and foliage (like what we have back home) so that they can have a ‘real garden’.
While I totally understand the concept of wanting what we lack, I feel bad for everyone like me who came to this place to regain their health only to find that the environment has been rearranged by humans to reflect ‘greener pastures’ and is therefore not the health Mecca it once was in days gone by.
Now to get to the point of this article and how it relates to therapy…
Many of my clients come to me with stories of what I call “geographical cures”. It goes something like this: “When I was nineteen I moved from Newfoundland to Alberta to get away from my family…”
By the time they grace my door, they are usually in their thirties or forties, confused as to why this “geographical cure” to escape their family-of-origin failed. What they often learn over time is that there is no such thing- no matter how far you move away from your family or a place where the past haunts you; you can’t escape the memories, feelings, or experiences associated with those people or places. In short, you take YOU with you wherever you go.
What most of us who have tried to escape our pasts or families usually end up learning is that there is no escape. We have to find the courage within to face our ‘emotional unfinished business’ squarely in the eye and deal with it, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us feel. As I say to my clients like a mantra: THE ONLY WAY OUT IS THROUGH.
So what have I learned from my attempt at a ‘geographical health cure’? That I need to work more on the internal health of my body and get to the root of how I developed so many allergies in the first place and strengthen my entire system- physical, psychological, and spiritual to build up the natural defences needed in order to become immune to allergens. The same goes for the rest of us when it comes to resisting what in mindfulness circles is called, “the inclination to bolt”…we need to sit with the discomfort, face whatever is staring back at us and deal with it.
May we all find the courage we need to do just that…Ah choo!