If Robert Frost were still of this world, could I persuade him to rethink his philosophy? Even as the ground is carpeted with evidence that “nothing gold can stay,” I hope this spring morning will light my way through the coming year. This moment of equipoise, when the chartreuse maple flowers that scatter the ground are equal to those still gracing the tree—I hope in darker moments to recall it.
Those moments do come—though they come less often, and I recognize them now for what they are. As above, so below; as within, so without. It’s as easy for people today to mistake their shadows, their trailing rainclouds, for something permanently, metaphysically wrong with them, as it was for people in times past to mistake epilepsy for demonic possession. I have learned, thankfully, to make connections between my physical and emotional states.
I know, if I wake in a seeming panic, to reflect on what I ate the day before. Too much sugar? Too much salt? I know, when I feel my steps grow heavy, that my body still struggles with wheat and dairy, that my system is still in rehabilitation.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, continues to be the holy grail of mental health interventions, but I feel it’s sorely lacking. In the “cognitive triangle,” thoughts evoke feelings that result in behaviors. Where is the body, in that model?
Research is now abundant, and still growing, about the effects of diet on anxiety and depression, the role of probiotics in emotional resilience, the fact that trauma gets stored in all our cells, not just in the brain. But in this market-driven culture, genuine wellness—bodily integrity, emotional stability—turns too little profit. For every news item about, say, the microbiome, there are thousands of ads for, as Michael Pollan put it, “edible foodlike substances.”
This is not to say that everything I feel emotionally is purely a function of my physical state, that I can live unperturbed so long as I avoid x, y, and z foods. For one thing, the picture is a little more complicated; making generally good choices may not, alone, correct for deficits present from birth or some exposure.
For another thing, we’re social beings; attachment is itself biological. Loss is still loss, grief is still grief—and hard as they are, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have no wish to be disaffected, to nod placidly to others as they come and go from my life. All I mean is that a kind of physical resilience helps steady me now, in a way it never did before. On stormy seas, I’m lashed to the mast of my health.