Motion Is the Lotion for What Ails You
By Richard P. Holm, MD
People are drawn to sail in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) for different reasons. Some go there to prove to themselves, or to someone else, that they have the moxie, sailing knowledge and finesse to sail on the ocean. Others go to find excitement, beauty, peace, or just to escape the cold of a northern winter. When I started traveling down from South Dakota in the late ‘80s, I did so for a number of those purposes. This year, I went for different reasons.
More than two years ago, I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and six months ago the cancer had spread to one spot in the liver. After another four months of chemo, the cancer surgeon cut out that spot with the outside chance he might “get it all.” My 40 years of practicing internal medicine told me I had better do my favorite things while I can. This time, I went sailing for the love of family and friends and for the sense of eternity that the sea provides. I also went to heal. I hoped that the warmth, salty sea, nurturing nature of wind, fun of the islands and spiritual connectedness would provide a mending milieu for me.
I was feeling pretty frail in the weeks leading up to the trip but realized anew an oft quoted wisdom: “Motion of the ocean is lotion” for curing what ails you. During the two-week-time on our sailboat, I was always moving: clambering to tighten some line, drop a sail, lower the dinghy, or maneuver the boat to anchor. I was moving even as I sat there. For two weeks every vertebra, joint, ligament and muscle danced with a shifting, rocking, repositioning boat. I didn’t realize the extent of the motion until I sat still for an hour in the airport on the way home. After this short period of immobility, when rising to buy a final island chicken roti, I noticed that I was “old man” stiff again. The rigidity had magically been gone for two weeks! Boat living was a healing potion, a lotion of motion, which provided a potent remedy and recuperation for this guy in need of generous portions of both.
I believe embracing motion and change is important as we grow older, keeping us from prematurely aging, from congealing. Author Gail Godwin says a willingness to change helps us from turning into our “final (frozen) selves” too early.
Motion is the lotion.
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