I'm certainly not the only one who used to note the irony of cartons of cigarettes stacked semi-furtively behind the check-out counter at drugstores. So bravo to CVS for ditching the tobacco.
But does CVS's big move mean that it has recognized it's role in health promotion? That's way too much to expect. After all, a drugstore is just that: a store that sells "drugs"....and we all know that the word drug carries multiple meanings.
Health care advocates have attempted to lecture CVS about what they should eliminate next. How about getting rid of junk food? Sports drinks? Toxic cosmetics? This hectoring seems hopelessly naive to me. Even stores that claim to be solely about health are mostly full of products that have not a whit to do with healing. They are, after all, stores; bent on selling products.
The concepts of "health" and "store" don't blend together very easily and the reason is simple. True healing has very little to do with products that are saleable.
First, let me make a disclaimer. When I speak about healing, I'm not talking about serious illness or injury which requires medications, devices, surgery or therapies. I'm talking about the kind of daily healing we appear to seek out at CVS and other such places. In other words, the continuing attempt to be "more well" that prompts us to buy vitamins, minerals, herbs, potions, and other paraphernalia that are the stock in trade of today's super-pharmacies and wellness stores. This ongoing quest comes from a persistent sense that something is not right. And indeed, it isn't.
The failure of products to work only increases our frustration and anxiety. I strongly believe that this is because the road to healing lies in a completely different direction: removal from the toxic influences of the situations that are making us unwell and anxious.
Modern life--at least as we live it in America---creates a constant background level of toxic exposure and little opportunity for escape. Layer on the inevitable stresses of living and we have fertile ground for depression, anxiety and illness. Can you find a way to disconnect for a while? Can you learn to keep some of the negative influences at bay when you return to your normal schedule? Let's be honest: it's really difficult.
Recently, after a particularly stressful year in my life, I was able to retreat to a place that I love very much. When I want to feel healed, I need to be in warmth and sun. I need to be surrounded by color. I also need to do lots of physical activity and to eat sparingly, but well. I very much need to stop listening to the news and stop watching TV. I need to get rid of the background noise that comes from the constant chatter of my sattelite radio and CNN. I need to answer no phone calls except those from close family. I need to go to sleep the moment I get tired and wake up when it gets light. I need to read alot of books and let my mind travel to places created on the page.
I am also mindful of the fact that such escapes are not possible for many people. Even for me, having returned from my healing place feeling very much rejuvenated, I was immediately confronted by an internet connection that quit (requiring hours on the phone with a support line) and a car whose starter died in the parking lot where I'd stopped to get coffee. Three hours later, I'm still here waiting for a tow. The bathroom in the Starbucks where I've been marooned for hours has unaccountably stopped working and I've had to use the men's room: pretty grungy. There is a continual buzz and distracting chatter around me and I've killed time by climbing back on the web (once my connection got fixed), something I've largely avoided for days now. It's 11:30 am and I've already been frazzled and upset in ten different ways. And I haven't even gone back to work yet!
But hope springs eternal. Each of us needs to discover the small things, the small moments that allow us to get out from under. These things are not contained in pills and are unlikely to be found in the aisles of a store. I don't know what they are for you. I only know that they are made from a combination of unhooking from the modern world and reconnecting with the age-old world. Whether that be the touch of the sun, the feel of your muscles working, religious moments, the consumption of foods that are as old as the earth, a period of blank time that allows you mind to go where it wants without being diverted...we need to find these places and go to them whenever we can.
Health can't be produced or sold. It remains worth pursuing. But when you grab onto it for just a moment, you see just how difficult it is to sustain in today's world.