My brother was the troublemaker. My sister was the smart one. And I was the family’s “fragile flower.” The stories swapped at holiday dinners reinforced our identities, and as we grew up, we were true to them. My brother got into drugs. My sister got into law school, and I became sickly.
Initially I went to Suppers for the company. My diet was so restricted by my ailments that I just wanted to be among people who wouldn’t criticize me for being picky. I also needed to cultivate relationships with people who accepted my chemical sensitivity. I just can’t go places where there’s perfume or air fresheners. They make me violently ill. I practically faint at the smell of newly manufactured plastics, and my brain stops working around most cleaning products.
Fortunately, I found my way to a meeting in the home of someone with similar issues. She too had been her family’s delicate child; she too had to avoid lots of exposures in order to function. But unlike me, my hostess had lots of energy. She powered through her day with a great sense of purpose. There was a therapeutic value to me just spending time with her. I’d found a role model.
One day our group discussion was on self-understanding. My self-understanding was wrapped up in family lore that identified me as the fragile one, and I said so at the meeting. Then my hostess challenged me to get in touch with my “natural reality.” Not knowing what that was, I asked her to define it. “It means that regardless of how you understand yourself, things are as they are. It means looking at what is actually happening, unbiased by how we label it or diagnose it or how experts understand it.” She said that I might actually be a strong person having a normal reaction to some challenge, not a constitutionally frail person.
The thought that I might actually be a strong person put a whole new spin on my life. It meant I had a lot of homework to do – experiments and observations – to uncover the natural reality of my health challenges. It was liberating to work with a group of people who assumed I was a strong person recovering from weakness instead of a fragile flower. The healing friendships, wholesome food, and dedication to helping me uncover my natural reality were uplifting.
In the end, I also needed the help of a doctor to medically unload some toxic minerals I’d been carrying around for most of my life. And slowly, as I did so and ate well and enjoyed therapeutic friendships in Suppers, my energy improved more and more.
I still have a tendency to shrink a little at holiday meals. It’s hard to change the family story. But the sun rises the next day. It shines on a new me, a woman who – in the natural reality – is a strong person who must do a little homework to stay that way.