Comfort food and Western medicine are killing us.

I know a lady whose adult daughter has Crohn’s disease. She has done well with it for several years, but it has flared up again. She is recently divorced and has moved back in with her parents.

Her mom wondered if she should buy her a Blizzard from Dairy Queen after she found out the test results weren’t good. Uh. No. As another person said – what health condition would that be good for?

But it isn’t physical health she is trying to treat. She is hoping to soothe with food. We do this a lot. We soften the blows of life with ice cream and cake and brownies.

These are celebration foods. Perhaps what we are trying to do is “turn that frown upside down”. Perhaps by eating the same foods we eat at parties we are trying to trick our brains into thinking that everything is fine. We aren’t in the middle of a bad situation. We are at a party!

But junk food never fixes anything. Good food will fix quite a bit. Exercise will always help.

I’m not sure how we got to the point that we treat the symptom rather than addressing the cause. I’m not sure how we have become reactive rather than proactive. I’m not sure how we have become so passive about our health and our lives.

I know that I’m not playing that game anymore. Sometimes I think I want to go back to school to learn how to be a nutritionist, or a life coach, or anything that helps people prevent their own suffering. But then I think I can’t save the world. It seems like such a logical thing – eat well and exercise and you’ll do fine (barring accidents). Eat terribly and be a couch potato, and you’ll suffer. But that is the way of things. I don’t think we’ve always been this way, but we sure are now. Our medical institutions don’t help either. Coughing? Take a pill. Diabetes? Take a pill. There is no education on how to get well.

Doctors who made a pledge to “do no harm” aren’t doing any good either.

Where does the change start? I think it has to start with us. We have to take control of our own health and lives. We have to essentially homeschool ourselves on our health and wellbeing. The more we expect others to do for us, the more passive we are. And the more passive we are, the more we will fall behind.

Kindergarten 8-14-13

Today was another hard day in kindergarten. Three girls told me they missed their Mom. I suspect some boys miss their Mom too, but they didn’t say so. This is the earliest in the school year that I’ve been there to tutor. Usually by the time that I clear all the paperwork to get in, it is several months in and they are more used to the idea of school.

One little girl was crying quietly to herself when I came in. She was sitting in the middle of the other students on the rainbow rug. This isn’t her first time in school. She is repeating kindergarten, with the same teacher. I’ve worked with her before and this was new for me to see her cry. Sometimes this is a momentary thing. But when I came in after the second child I’d tutored, she was still sobbing.

I held my hand out to her and she came up to me and stood by my side. I patted her back. It wasn’t enough. I went to my knees and asked her what was wrong. That is when she told me that she missed her Mom. I said that her Mom was missing her too, and asked if she wanted a hug. She nodded yes. We hugged, and it soothed her a little.

Sometimes we can’t get hugs from the people we need hugs from, so God sends a substitute.

Another child came up. She is a good helper and very bright. She knew what the problem was. I asked her – “What do you do when you miss your Mom?” It has been so long since I was five that I’ve forgotten. I figured I could get some great advice here that would help out.

She said that she misses her Mom but just does her work anyway. This wasn’t quite what I was looking for, but it is something. Sometimes the best cure for sadness is to just work right through it.

Of course, sometimes the cure is to sit on the rainbow rug and just cry it out.

When bullies become adults.

Most of us, when we think about the term bully, think about a schoolyard. We think about some large, brutish kid, generally a guy, stealing lunch money and pushing kids around on the playground. But sometimes bullies grow up – in age, but not in attitude. Nobody has managed to intervene and teach him how to behave like a human being. His actions get him the results he wants, so he continues.

A bully is even worse when he grows up because he is harder to manage. If he has children then the disease spreads. He either bullies his children and wife or he teaches his children that bullying people is normal. They either learn to be victims or tyrants.

Now, it is important to say that women can be bullies too. Women can be abusive and manipulative and mean. But I have to pick a pronoun to use here, because saying “him or her” is tedious, so I’m going with the default male bully. Sadly, males are more likely to be bullies, but this post isn’t about gender so much as behavior and repercussions.

A bully will treat others that they are lesser than him because he needs this version of reality to prop himself up. A bully at the heart of it all is a weird combination of a narcissist with low self esteem. This seems contradictory. But if someone has a healthy sense of self esteem then he doesn’t have to keep shoring it up. A narcissist spends all his time thinking about his needs and how things affect him. He doesn’t care about what other people need or think unless it directly will affect him.

A narcissistic boss will get angry if an employee calls in when she is in the hospital because this means the project that she was working on won’t be finished on time. He doesn’t care that it means that she is suffering and that it has made things difficult at home with taking care of her children. It is all about him.

Bullies are narcissists sometimes. Sometimes they are also simply sadists. Either way, they don’t care about other people. Other people are simply a means to an end. It is all about their needs, and if other people get hurt, that doesn’t matter.

A bully who becomes a father will teach his children that they are lesser than him so that he can maintain a sense of control. He will try to show how important he is by making them dependent on him.

If he really wanted to show how awesome he was as a father, he’d teach them to be able to take care of themselves. The sign of a good parent is one who is able to teach his child how to be successful and happy and self sufficient. If your adult child has to move back in with you after her divorce, you haven’t done a great job. If your adult child has to constantly ask you for advice or money, then you haven’t taught her anything about what it means to be an adult.

Baby birds need to fly. If they don’t learn how to fly, how to leave the nest and go out on their own, then there is a problem. The same is true with humans, but somehow we forget that. Prolonged childhood is becoming normal. Some adult children (the term itself is a sign) don’t have the emotional, mental, or financial resources to live independently until they are in their 30s. How much of this is because of bad parenting? And how much of that is because of parents who they themselves aren’t mature? But I digress.

Imagine how terrified a bully is when he discovers his wife is very sick. He won’t have her around to push around or prop up his ego. It will all be about him. Her sickness becomes his burden. Her sickness means it isn’t all about him. She gets terminally ill, and he is no longer the center of attention. He either has to learn how to become a caregiver (not a natural role for a bully) or he becomes even more “helpless”. He will become passive-aggressive and “forget” to take his medicine. He will expect her to do all the cooking while he acts like a king during family gatherings.

He isn’t fooling anybody. Well, he is. He is fooling himself. He hasn’t figured out that the way to look important is to not feel the need to push other people around. It is to be self-sufficient.

Some people will be bullies all the way up to their death.

It is a sad way to die. It is even more sad to live this way.

Perhaps what bullies need is love. Perhaps they need to have people stand up to them and tell them what they are doing is wrong, too. But bullying is a desire for attention and a need for a good sense of self-esteem. Perhaps they need to be taught new ways to feel good about themselves other than knocking other people down. Perhaps they need to be taught that how their actions affect other people.

Perhaps the root of it all is that the bully was himself bullied, and just doesn’t know any better.

One of the strangest stories I’ve heard recently is from a man who was abusive to his sons who still tries to push them around through guilt and a mis-applied sense of service to him. He told me a story about how a current neighbor had a dog that he left outside all the time, regardless of the weather. He felt so sad for that dog, whining in the cold and the rain. Sometimes he would speak through the fence to the dog to try to comfort it.

Yet he didn’t see the connection between that dog and his children.

He didn’t see how his constantly talking down to them, belittling them, and beating them was abusive. He didn’t leave them outside in the cold or the rain, but he didn’t provide any warmth or comfort inside the house either.

There is a lot more to taking care of children than just providing for their physical needs. You can make sure they have food and a place to live, but if you neglect their emotional and mental needs, you are abusing them. You may not ever hit them, but if you don’t hug them either you are still abusing them.