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Archive for March, 2012

“One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast….a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.”
― Edward Abbey

Have you ever noticed that busyness and frenzied activity are contagious? You walk into work, intent on going about your business in a relaxed and calm way, only to find that by 10am, your shoulders are up around your ears, and there is a sense of Hurry Up or Something Very Bad Will Happen, and you are scurrying around like a squirrel desperate to stash the last of the acorns before the winter storm hits. Then you stuff down your lunch, grab two minutes on Twitter to scroll through around 300 tweets, and scramble back to your work in a buttcheek-clenched march, spend the afternoon getting faster and faster, your colleagues scurrying to do the same, all of you winding each other up. Hit the traffic, make the dinner, hurry, hurry, hurry, onto the next thing, multitask while bathing the kid, read the story, hurry, hurry, hurry, read the story as fast as we canandnothere’snottimetoreadtwochapterstonightit’saschoolnighthurryupand (sharp inhale) gotosleepquickDaddy&Ihavetowatchthemovietogetitbackinthemailtomorrow.

Does it sound familiar?

Since when did the very act of living become such a dire emergency?

In the mindfulness stress management workbook I am reading (among my foot-high reading pile), this week’s task was walking meditation. Righto. We live on 20 acres, I can do this. Easy. Get it out of the way before I spend time studying and then go grocery shopping and figure out what we’re having for dinner. So off I walked, deliberately making myself go very     v e r y      s  l  o  w… and listening to the prerecorded MP3 from the book’s accompanying CD.

It was maddening.

I noticed my multitasking brain kick in. “Why aren’t you walking fast? You could actually get some exercise. Come on! This is a WASTE OF TIME….hurry UP.”

“I’m bored.”

“Why are you doing this, it’s pointless.”

But I stuck with it, making each step as if in slow motion, concentrating on feeling the soles of my feet inside my shoes make contact with the grass. Feeling the air on my face. Noticing the cardinals in the woods. And eventually, the slavedriving voices stopped, and my mind kind of let go of the struggle to keep up with *everything* going on in the world. I thought of all the people who make an artform out of having and/or doing  The Next Big Thing, and having to have a Pulse On What’s Going On, and made a deliberate decision to step out of that and not participate. A gentle but firm refusal to hurry up, and make a conscious effort to actually be slow. It felt like an exquisitely Naughty thing to do, this act of rebellion (which when you think about it is a pretty sad indictment on the state of our society.) And it made me smile. I now know why so many people the world over value T’ai Chi.

So, Chicken Littles…the sky is not falling. The sky is up there, as it always has been, if we take the time to notice. There’s very little in life that is a true emergency (even in my nursing job). Time to turn off the lights & siren.

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I am an unabashed perfectionist. I struggle, particularly with anything health related, to find the absolute Right Answer, fearing that A Doctor will reprimand me if I get it wrong. I have a recurrent mental vision of a male doctor in a white coat shaking his head, and saying “Well, you should have known better. If you’d followed conventional wisdom, this would not have happened. This is all your fault. You were wrong. See what happens when you challenge authority? You’re only a nurse. You’re Not Qualified.” With the immense amount of information available on the internet, much of which contradicts itself, many of us are left with a sense of swimming alone at sea trying to swim our way to some kind of reasonable shore, where our weight is stable and we feel our best. It can be completely overwhelming, especially if we are trying to avoid the use of pharmaceutical intervention if possible, and are yet to find a physician who understands this and is willing to help us navigate.

About six weeks ago, I started a Paleo diet. I started in stages, first eliminating all grains. Three weeks later I moved on to removing dairy and all sugar that was not in fruit, and all legumes including peanut butter. I bought dark chocolate with minimal sugar (which to me is basically tarted up, unsweetened cooking chocolate), I use coconut milk in my tea, and I’ve given up my beloved cheese. I have been making myself eat fish for the first time in my life, something I don’t particularly enjoy all that much. Then I aimed for  9 cups of non-starchy vegetables and fruits per day, based on the recommendations of Dr Terry Wahls about “minding your mitochondria.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLjgBLwH3Wc The evidence seemed to make sense, and the websites were compelling, with all sorts of before and after pictures of incredible transformation. Truthfully, though, I don’t feel a lot different, other than some digestive issues I’ve had for years actually becoming markedly worse, along with a marked increase in anxiety levels and an occasional return of The Black Dog. For a while, I did feel perhaps more clearheaded, and sort of stronger (but that may have been from the increase in my yoga practice, not my diet.) There has been no bolt-from-above, oh-my-god-this-is-IT! moment. Just a month of feeling like I’ve been tying myself into a pretzel shape, pleading with the Universe to tell me if I got it right this time, and perhaps my butt getting a little bit smaller (which in truth may just be wishful thinking)…and I am not really overweight to begin with. I just wanted to return to the size I was 20 years ago (you can stop laughing now).

I’m willing to bet that a sizable proportion of us, mostly women (though increasingly men) drive ourselves nuts every single day over what we do or do not put in our mouths. The fear of becoming fat to me is frankly terrifying. It’s one reason (among many) why I thought twice about having another child. It conjures up intense fears of rejection and marginalization from society, and it makes me fear judgement and reprimand from authority figures. In short, the survival alarm bells start ringing in my head. This fear is intensifying for many of us, judging from the increase in eating disorders in the past few years. The mantra of fat = unhealthy, skinny = healthy is slathered liberally throughout all the medical literature and dictates from health authority figures. You can spend an incredible amount of time poring over information about diet related stuff on the internet, going further and further down the rabbit hole, twisting yourself in knots in the process. If you look hard enough, you can find all sorts of reasons why eating something is “good” and reasons why it is “bad”. For those of us predisposed to anxiety, this is a recipe for disaster: a prescription for profound stress, unhappiness and ultimately depression.

So where to from here? I will return to my everything in moderation diet. I’m not going back to eating lots of carbohydrates (the evidence for that is actually pretty compelling), and I don’t miss bread or pasta that much, so I can’t see bringing them back that often. But I am going back to eating some pizza occasionally. And I may eat a small bowl of oatmeal here and there. And I’ll continue to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, some legumes occasionally, and allow myself some dessert occasionally. Mindfulness practitioners say that our moods are disturbed when we get attached to a particular outcome that doesn’t eventuate. So, I’m giving up the attachment to looking like a lean, muscular Na’vi (who wants to be blue, anyway?) I am as I am, take it or leave it. None of us are perfect. I’m going to eat mostly “right” 80% of the time, do my yoga every day, go walking, and call it good.

For the sake of my sanity, I’m ditching the Church of Holy Nutritionism, and lightening the F up.

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