Monthly Archives: September 2012

Dealing with the Unexpected

Sometimes things don’t go the way we expect them to go. This morning I woke up believing that the weekend gig that I had landed helping demo food products at the Japan festival at Uwajimaya had fallen through.

I went to Tai Chi from 9-10am and got home and finished editing my next piece for FeelGoodNow. I was literally in the middle of getting ready to take a nap when my friend (who had helped set me up with this job) called me and said, hey, how come you aren’t there?

It was just a misunderstanding, but I thought he had told me that someone would call me if they needed me, when in fact he told me that I should just show up unless someone called and told me not to.

I told my friend I probably wouldn’t make it today and he said not to worry, just show up tomorrow.

My dad and mom were downtown at a giant event that the mission hosts every year called Operation Overcoat where they distribute thousands of warm jackets and other winter clothing to those in need and also serve them a big meal. I was planning to go down and help but then Sheena, the supervisor for the company whose products I was supposed to be demo-ing called me and told me she didn’t care if I showed up late but that they really needed me. So I swiftly got dressed, and literally ran out the door and rode my scooter to Beaverton.

I spent from about 11:45am to 6pm serving Teriyaki flavored Nori (which is dried seaweed, for the uninitiated) and talking with customers. I got a half-hour break for lunch, and that was really all I needed. But with the enormous festival going on, there were hundreds of people there, live music, tons of booths selling all manner of Japanese food, drink and merchandise… it was a big party. I actually enjoyed myself for the most part, although I’m going to wear more comfortable, less dressy clothes tomorrow since I felt overdressed and my feet hurt from my shoes.

Anyway, the point of this entry is that sometimes things don’t work out the way we expect. And I am learning to roll with that, despite when it is hard, and especially when it goes against my normal inclination I’ve had for the past five years.

I want to find some more meaningful work that truly helps others, sure. But I have a bit of that with my writing job at FeelGoodNow and with this blog.

So for now, getting a “day job”, even if it is just at a grocery store, is fine with me.

I’ll do what it takes to be well, and part of my wellness means a certain level of financial stability and independence – something I really haven’t had for years.

I look forward to working tomorrow, and perhaps to developing an ongoing relationship with this store and this company that might turn into something bigger. The reality is that you never know what next, and the only way to find out is to just move on.

Peace to you this night,

-Nathan

Results

I don’t have a whole lot to say tonight except that I’ve got that burn throughout my body going that lets me know I’ve done a good job today. I had my test for my first belt in my Karate class tonight. Besides that I did one of my harder workouts today, and was also busy for most of the day writing and running around. I clocked in at 28 miles on my scooter today. Since most places are between 4 and 10 miles away from me, that’s quite a bit. It means at least two round trips.

By the way, I passed my test, so I am now an advanced White Belt. It is the lowest rank for adults, so it is nothing to be too impressed with. But I am proud of the achievement and what it means in my life.

It means that not only am I continuing to maintain my health, I am still improving it. I believe that if I continue to work at it I can continue to move up the ranks. That is not something I ever would have believed about myself a mere six months ago.

I was asked to explain how results are achieved tonight during my test. I answered what I had been taught and what I know to be true in my life: results = focus (or attention) over time. The reality is that NO ONE becomes a black belt in a day, no matter how much attention or focus the put on their goal. All real, desirable results take time. How much time, however, is really up to me. The more attention, the more focus I place on my wellness and my health, the greater the results and the shorter period of time it takes to achieve them.

Those who have been reading along should be nodding their heads here. Look at where I was in May. It has only been a few months, really. And I’ve gone from the lowest point of addiction and illness to the healthiest I have been in both mind and body in potentially my entire life.

A lesson I learned intuitively as a child now has significant meaning in my everyday life: results are equal to attention or focus over a period of time. And there are no shortcuts.

Peace to you,

-Nathan Howells

Finding New Ways to do the Same Thing – Differently!

I’ve been thinking about an answer to a question I haven’t really broached yet on this blog. The question is, how do I maintain my diet when eating with others who don’t share my particular desire for plant-based eating.

Several times in the past few weeks I have had to make do with more processed foods than I usually like. I’ve made good use of the hot/cold food prepared food bar at Whole Foods. I’ve taken to carrying around some sort of snack or lunch item so that if I’m with someone who wants to get fast food I don’t have to eat it.

I’ve been having to keep my water bottle filled and on me at all times, despite the fact that it takes up space and I don’t have a lot of “trunk” space in my scooter.

And yeah, a few times I’ve “cheated”. Although usually it has been accidental. See my Checking in After some Changes post for more details.

Sure enough, I had a bit of an upset stomach the next day. Although that has been getting hard to track because I’ve had an infection flare up in my digestive tract that has been messing with me. It should be taken care of in the next week, but it still has made it tough for me to figure out what it is about my recent eating that has been problematic.

Although intuitively I know it is because my routine has been all shot to hell.

I’ve kept the elements that are absolutely necessary, but I haven’t been able to work out as often as I like or the way I like.

The other question I’ve asked myself since I’ve had the option several times (family members you can continue reading if you like, but if you’d rather not know about certain “sensitive” parts of my life, skip the next paragraph – this is an honest blog, so I’m going to be honest despite the reality that you all might not like the truth) to spend the night at someone else’s house, how to do that and still keep up my wellness goals. The one time I’ve done so, I made sure to do my meds before I left the house, I left early in the morning and came straight home to do my meds and to continue what I knew I needed to do. And of course, I packed things I knew I would need if I decided to spend the night out. But what I realize is that I can’t do it very often because it is pretty labor intensive.

Either way, with my increased social life, medical appointments, errands, setting up my new place, and generally just trying to get things done, I’ve been busy.

And frankly, I’ve enjoyed it. I think the biggest thing is to find a better way to get my exercise back on track. Just a couple times a week isn’t enough for me, and with no treadmill, I’ve essentially dropped the cardio. I need to start running again and I think I’ll start today (slowly) by running down to the Tigard library so I can get a library card there.

Overall, things are going well. I’m pretty happy. And I’m noticing that the key to sustaining this is making sure I give myself time to rest. So for the next couple hours I’m not working, I’m “offline”, and I’ll just be reading/playing a game/resting or just laying on my bed listening to music or playing guitar.

I need the decompression space, like I talked about in a previous post.

Thanks for reading and peace to you,

-Nathan

Let’s Get that Feedback Loop Running

Today I’m not going to talk about myself. Crazy right? I just have a question for my readers. Because I’m feeling like I could really do a lot more to involve you guys. You have been an integral part of my Wellness Quest, and one of the reasons I am where I am as far as my total physical, mental, and spiritual health.

In short, this blog has been part of what has kept me going through the motions on days where I honestly just wanted to give up.

So my question is this: what would you all like to see more of? To a certain extent I won’t ever get away from writing about my own personal story. But sometimes I have many options to choose from as far as significant events in my life. Sometimes I don’t really have any.

I wrote a while ago that I might start including book reviews or research based posts that speak to the efficacy of my approach to wellness and why it has been worthwhile for me.

So are those things that you all might like to see?

In addition, what can I do to make it easier for you all to engage with me? I love it when people make comments on my blog, but they are so often hidden at the bottom of the page so no one else reads them but me, and I would really like to develop a community where all of you can engage with each other as well as with me. I have my Wellness Quest page on Facebook and you can follow me @TheWellnessQues on Twitter. But I am also considering opening an account or even starting and hosting my own Wellness forum to talk about these issues. Would that be something that you guys would be able to access and interact with?

Really, I’m open to suggestions at this point. I’ve hit the 100 post point. I have people who read and comment. But I want more. I want to help other people who are in the place I was when I started this blog. I want to provide information, provide encouragement, and support in the same way you all have provided that for me over the past three and a half months.

This is where you give me feedback.

Facebook, Twitter, Email, or just leave a comment. Whatever. As Nike likes to say, “Just do it!”

Thanks so much for all of your support. Lets figure out how to make this a true community that supports the wellness of everyone involved, regardless of what stage they are at in their personal journey.

Peace to you, and thanks in advance for the feedback,

-Nathan

Checking in After some Changes

So I’m sorry. I didn’t write yesterday. After promising all of you I would be posting daily again. But the moving process ended up being a lot more stressful than I imagined, and afterwards I ended up going out with a friend for a celebratory “yay, you got your own place” dinner at Tapaplaya in East Portland (since I forgot to bring/buy any flatware of silverware and couldn’t really cook in yet).

Anyway, long story short, when I got home I was so tired I didn’t have the energy to do anything but just crash, listen to some soothing music, and read a bit before going to bed.

This morning, I got up, ready to send edits to for my most recent piece for FeelGoodNow to my editor, but realized I had neglected to ask my landlady what the wireless network was named and furthermore, what the password was. I called her and asked, but she couldn’t figure it out over the phone so I just figured, oh well, I’ll deal with this later. Besides, I was hungry, and wanted some coffee (forgot to bring that with me too even though I have a little coffee maker in my new place), so I just hopped on my scooter and rode to the nearest Starbucks to do some work. I’ve been here since about 11am, gotten a lot done, and had a couple cups of coffee as well as a hummus plate (the only real vegan option here at Starbucks) and I thought I ought to just check in with all of you about how yesterday went.

So this is really last night’s post, just written the next afternoon.

I think I posted something on Facebook about the moving process being a bit overwhelming to me. Possibly because on Saturday we had an enormous party at our house for over a hundred people and I was so focused on helping with that and hadn’t really thought through how I was going to move things or the logistical hassle of it.

So I was forced to improvise on Sunday morning after getting the keys from my landlady. I just made several trips, took only the essentials, and I still have some clothes in boxes because I don’t have anything that has drawers in which to put them. I have a mobile closet with all the things I can hang up. So that’s good. But the rest of my clothes will remain in boxes until I get to a Goodwill or the UGM thrift store in order to purchase a cheap, small chest of drawers, and possibly a little table to put a couple other appliances on in my little kitchen area. The bathroom is covered, and my bed needs a new mattress (the current one is like sleeping on a pile of rocks) but other than that, I’m pretty much set up.

Most importantly I’ve got a bed, a desk for my laptop, a chair, and a bookshelf.

No plates or bowls. But hey, you gotta think about your priorities right?

That was a joke in case you didn’t catch it.

A brief check in with you all before I go:

Exercise – I’m going to have to find a new way to exercise since I no longer have a treadmill or any weights to use. Pushups, Situps, Tai Chi, and martial arts practice as well actually running outside will have to suffice.

Diet – I’ve had to “cheat” a bit lately and since I’ve been struggling with an infection in my digestive tract set off by the antibiotics I was taking to treat a minor infection in my lungs (I know, seriously, right?), I’ve had to be more careful about what I eat, and instead I’ve ended up being less careful. At the party on Saturday I bit into a sandwich that looked like it was just Portobello mushroom and red pepper but actually had goat cheese on it. I looked at it, weighed the options, swallowed, and ate the rest (they were small – I ate the whole thing in two bites). Last night when out with my friend I did well, declining all the meat options offered me, except that I did  taste her crawfish fritters. Couldn’t pass up a small taste. But otherwise my dinner was red beans and rice, a blackened Cajun tofu po’boy sandwich and some amazing braised asparagus. Today I’ve had a power bar, some hummus, and two cups of coffee. Besides the fact that the whole time I lived with my parents I drank quite a bit of soda, something I hadn’t been doing before. I’m going to do the best I can to maintain my diet and to revert to drinking more water, juices without added sugar, and the occasional fizzy (but non-caffeinated) drink. I’m also going to switch mostly back from coffee to tea which I enjoy more anyway. Besides, I usually don’t need the added energy from the caffeine unless I am not getting enough sleep. (Bringing me to the next topic)

Sleep – My sleep cycle has suffered because I have been staying up later and getting up at the same time (6:30-7:00am) so I’ve been getting six or less hours of sleep a night and after a couple weeks it seems to finally be taking its toll. I woke up today at my normal time and really didn’t want to get out of bed. It has been a while since that has happened. In the past few months I’ve woken up rested and ready to go for the most part. So I’ll be endeavoring to both go to bed by midnight and to wake up around 8am (because there actually is no good reason for me to be getting up so early – I have plenty of hours in my day) so that I get the standard eight hours, if I can. The only issue is that it seems as if my body has really gotten on schedule with the 7am wake up time so it may take work to change its mind.

Last but not least, Meds: I’ve been keeping on schedule and on track with all my inhaled meds. I still occasionally forget my enzymes, but all the other antibiotics have been taken on time and in general I think I’m handling them all well.

Thanks for tuning in, and thank you to everyone who sent me thoughtful and encouraging messages about my move. It truly feels like a turning point in my life. I don’t have a lot of space, but it is my own space, and I’m not living with a bunch of addicts the way I have in the past so I feel a lot safer in my home. The housemates (besides my landlady) who I only met and learned about upon move in are both very nice, clean, professional people I think will be supportive in my wellness goals, in that they mostly just won’t be around. I think during the day I will mostly have the space to myself and I only share the bathroom and hallway with one other guy who is very nice and very clean. So I am encouraged and looking forward to getting to know people better and possibly even having a barbeque in the backyard (I’ll have to look up how to prepare Tofu for grilling!).

Peace to you and yours, and thanks again for reading,

-Nathan

Big Steps and a Dose of Gratitude

I had a pretty full day today. To that end, tonight’s post will be on the shorter side. It’s only nine o’clock and I’m ready to get into bed, turn on some quiet music, and possibly read, but I may not even have the energy for that! Imagine, me, not having the energy to read… To those of you who know me, that may seem rather surprising.

But I woke this morning at six am, got up, did my meds, worked out briefly, ate a protein bar and had a rare cup of coffee. Then I showered, got ready, and went downtown for a meeting at 10am. Immediately after that my mom met me at Laughing Planet Café in the Ecotrust building where she had to take an 11am phone meeting. I had lunch –as in I quickly scarfed down my usual “Che Guevara Bowl” – then wrote up my notes from my meeting and spent the next hour working on my next piece for FeelGoodNow. I called my editor to quickly let her know how the meeting went, and then when my mom was off her call, it was off to Umpqua Bank where it was time for me to open my first bank account since 2009.

I closed my account with Wells Fargo bank while in poor standing with the help of my parents because I had spent all my money on drugs. Not to mention a lot of their money. In short, it wasn’t a pleasant experience.

Since then, I have lived on handouts from relatives, food stamps, gift cards, and the odd twenty dollars given to me by any one of my relatives nice enough to allow me to have a bit of discretionary spending money. The problem is that up until now, I really couldn’t be trusted to have my own account or, really, have my own money under my control.

So it was a pretty big step for me to sit in a bank, sign the forms, and walk away with an account in my name that actually has a little money in it. Plus, my mother generously paid for the cashier’s check which will pay my first month’s pro-rated rent, the last month’s rent, and the security deposit for my new place.

So I walked away with a lot of reassurance that my family are standing behind me as I go through this process. Despite that this is a lot of change in a short period of time, I have confidence in myself. I truly am a different person than I was a year, hell, even six months ago. My priorities in life are different. My habits are different. My lifestyle is radically different.

And I am healthy. Healthier than I have been in over a decade. I think that speaks for itself.

And I am going into this new living situation, new working situation, new life situation without undue expectations. There are no “magic bullets” in life. You have to work for things. However, when I don’t fight against the universe but I work with it, I find my results to be a lot more satisfactory.

The last thing I want to say tonight is something I haven’t said before that I probably should have.

I want to acknowledge all of you. Every single one of you who has read my blog as I have been walking this path toward wellness has at times picked me up and carried me. Those who haven’t actually physically been present in my life have been supporting my path through their prayers, positive energy, and shared belief in me that I can do this. So thank you all. You have been my strength sometimes when I couldn’t find it within myself. You have been the handhold I have needed to boost myself to the next level. Whether it was a hug you gave me, or a kind word left in the comment section, or a “like” on my blog or on my Facebook page or a mention on Twitter…no matter what it was, I want you all to know I have noticed and that I know I could not have gotten here without this blog, and without all of you.

I extend my sincere thanks, and send my positive energy your way, sending peace to you and yours,

-Nathan

Practicing the State you Want to Cultivate

I haven’t been able to decide what I want to write about today. I seem to have a lot of excess energy that even my normal workout plus quite a bit of research/writing work for my next piece for FeelGoodNow has not been able to quell.

But I made sure I got to bed at a somewhat reasonable hour last night (around 1:00am) and didn’t get up till 7:30 so I got what for me is a full night of sleep.

That got me thinking about people’s energy and sleep needs in general. I know that studies have shown that 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep is what is “natural” or “necessary” for most human beings to function at their optimum level. In fact, studies have shown that most people, when forced to sleep only two hours less than the 8 hour quota (6 hours per night) for a week began to function in a manner comparable with someone who has a blood alcohol level of .10! That is above the legal limit for driving. So that study made me wonder, am I walking around half-drunk because I am sleep deprived every day?

But I looked up some other facts and learned that the “normal” 8 hour sleep quota doesn’t apply to everyone. In fact, that is just an average. There are many people who can’t function normally unless the get more like 10 hours of sleep a night. On the flipside, there are people, like myself, who can function on 6 hours a night without feeling any really difference. In fact, when I “sleep-in” and sleep for 8 or 9 hours without interruption (which hardly ever happens) I wake up feeling sluggish, groggy, and it can sometimes take me half the day to wake up.

Today I was up and going immediately and I only had a single cup of coffee, for no real reason except that it was there. I didn’t need the caffeine, clearly. I’m literally sitting here typing at more than 100 words-per-minute and at the same time I’m tapping my foot and jiggling my knee along to the beat of the music to which I’m listening while also going back and forth to my phone to make calls and text.

Obviously, I didn’t need any extra energy boost today. I even have my music selection set on my “chill out” playlist that I use when I’m relaxing or often at bedtime.

I think in the past having this kind of restlessness, this excess energy, was one of the things that drove me to use or to engage in self-destructive behavior in general.

I felt like I NEEDED to quiet that noise inside my head. That I needed to calm the nerves in my body that seemed to be over-firing. But the longer I have been on this Wellness Quest, the more I am realizing that this energy is a part of me. And the most important thing is how I choose to channel it.

And today, I’m choosing what I believe most supports my goal of optimal wellness: I am channeling this energy into doing a lot of the little clerical things that I just haven’t been able to get done over the past week or so. Calling this person back, making appointments, doing laundry – what my mother calls “playing catch-up”.

And when I reach the point where I run out of things to do, I will find other things I can do.

My martial arts instructor said something to me on Tuesday night that just reinforced some of the ideas I’ve already had and talked about on this blog. He told me, “the state you are in is the state you are practicing. If are ‘bored’ then you are practicing the state of being bored. If you are ‘calm’ or ‘focused’ then you are practicing the state of being calm or focused. You make the choice which states you want to learn and practice those.”

My meditation practice has, regrettably, slipped down to a few times a week rather than every day the way it was before, but partially because my routine has changed so much, and keeps changing from day to day.

And I think the reality is that although a few parts of my routine will remain the same every day (namely my meds and my exercise), my schedule will be changing so often in the next few weeks that I probably won’t have a truly regular routine again for a while.

This is a good test for me. Can I put what I have learned while living with my aunt and uncle into practice while actually trying to live a life rather than stuck in a cocoon of safe and unchanging wellness practices?

I believe that I can. If I didn’t truly believe that, if I didn’t see myself making good choices on a daily basis, I would see my upcoming move and the reality that necessitates as a burden and possibly even as something that might produce a significant amount of anxiety for me.

Instead, I feel like it is the next step forward. I don’t feel overly optimistic, just confident that I can use this opportunity to truly move into a life that is “a part of” rather than “apart from”.

I look forward to sharing these new revelations with you as they come.

Thanks for reading and for following my journey as it has transformed itself, and transformed me.

Peace to you,

-Nathan