Karen Lincoln Michel

Michel: Dwelling in wellness

Seek balance within yourself

My uncle Gordon Thunder is a wise Ho-Chunk elder who, over the years, has shared some of his wisdom with me. One of his teachings resonated with me so much that I incorporated it into my daily practice more than 15 years ago. It relates to well-being, and he expressed it more eloquently than I can convey in a few sentences. He talked to my husband and me about how our home represents our soul, and that we should nurture it because it shelters us. He encouraged us to seek balance within ourselves before we step outside the door each day so that the positive energy will be there when we return. Through his words, he gave us a foundation to create a healthy and sacred atmosphere in which to dwell.

Striving for balance is an important part of my morning routine. So when I read this month’s feature story on wellness, starting on page 68, it felt good to know I was following some of the suggested practices for improving well-being. Much of my routine focuses on meditation and prayer, and occasionally yoga. The feature story points out that the definition of wellness has evolved from focusing primarily on physical health and fitness programs to a holistic approach toward improving health, safety, connection, achievement and resiliency.

In a way, the topic of wellness has a connection to the cover story on children who are transgender, nonbinary and gender expansive/nonconforming, also known as TNG. Senior contributing writer Maggie Ginsberg introduces us to some local TNG youths in “The Person They Were Meant to Be,” which begins on page 52. About 9,000 Wisconsin children self-identify as TNG and, according to public health data, are at a higher risk for suicide and depression. A survey of more than 6,000 TNG participants nationwide found that some TNG K-12 students experienced harassment, physical assault and sexual violence. With the potential for encountering such enormous challenges, families with TNG kids understand the importance of striving for balance in their lives. The story also includes a list of more than a dozen resources and groups that provide support and education for local TNG youth and families. It’s important that such assistance is available.

My uncle’s message to my husband and me included much more than I shared. It was about placing God at the center of our life together, being grateful for what we have and treating our home as a living entity. Those words are part of my definition of wellness.


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