Health & morality in the time of corona (exercise is good, except when it isn’t…)

Lucy is sitting on the sofa in the garden, with Viola on her lap. Viola age 1 is smiling at the camera, wearing a very fetching green linen pinafore.

My mother, a devout Catholic, used to say health is the new morality. I am not religious but I think that’s true. We applaud and idolise health as though it is attainable for everyone, as though it is a moral triumph, as though it is something we control.

Fresh air is good, eating fresh food is good, and most of all exercise is good.
We internalise this deeply. But right now a great many of these rules suddenly don’t apply – going out for long walks, going to the gym, is now not good…. staying in is good.

Humans can be inflexible – when we believe something to be “a good thing”, it is hard to reverse that.

I’ve lived mostly in the house, and mostly in bed, for years now. I learnt the hard way it’s the only way to stop my condition deteriorating. And over the past 22 years I’ve seen what a struggle it can be for people to understand and accept that. I struggled to accept it too. Back when I could still use my legs and looked “normal” every conversation seemed to include a recommendation to exercise. I did of course try it –
it was in fact gentle exercise that led me to lose the use of my right leg. (Not something I want to debate I’m afraid.)

This feels incorrect, on a deep level – because exercise is good. Always good. Except when it is not.

Years ago I was forced to accept that though society applauded me for going out, for exercising, doing these things could be the worst thing possible for me. It was a struggle – it still is. The way I live is associated with laziness, moral turpitude. I’m a living challenge to the rules, and that is uncomfortable.

Right now we all have to make a similar adjustment. We are more likely to be healthy if we don’t go out. The cognitive dissonance is challenging.

Lucy Catchpole

Also posted on instagram, 31st March 2020

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