Tag Archives: Wellness Quest 2.0

Purpose and Produce

Sitting at the Starbucks at the intersection of Taylor’s Ferry Road and Terwilliger Blvd, sipping an Americano, and listening to some peaceful yet upbeat music on iTunes… this is generally one of the best atmospheres for writing, at least, it is for me.

However, it is already 2pm, and I am meeting a friend for coffee at 5:30 on the other side of the river. So I need to be productive here. Often, in this type of setting, I like to take my time. I can write leisurely, taking care that every word is just right, stopping to surf the web, read a book for a bit, or grab a bite to eat… Not today. Today it is time to produce.

Produce. An interesting word in the English language. In its noun form, it means fruit and vegetables, or the result of any type of production (although it is rarely used in this context). As a verb it means to create, to unveil, or, as in film production, to be marginally involved in the creation of a film (aka you contribute money up front and therefore you get a small say in how the film is made plus a share of the box office take and DVD royalties etc). In music, the producer is the person who assists recording artists in creating their albums – they help with the small details: suggesting different arrangement, instrumentation, even lyrical changes. They also help with the big picture, the order of songs on the album, the mix, often working with the recording studio and the record company to keep the project on time, etc.

So yeah, the word produce has a wide variety of uses.

And at the moment, I am wishing there was such a thing as a producer for books. There are publishers, publicists (or PR specialists), advertisers, editors, literary agents, and writers themselves. But producers…someone who contributes funding and helps move the project along, perhaps reading chapters as the writer finishes them and making comments… I know it would be nice for me to have such a person.

Of course, if I had money, I could probably hire someone to do this. But the fact is that I would be silly to do so. To spend money that I could use elsewhere to hire someone to be my boss? I think most people would agree that would be a really dumb idea.

But some of you out there might be secretly agreeing with me when I say that despite its inherent idiocy, having a literary producer still sounds like an attractive idea. Probably those who are even partially agreeing with the previous statement are fellow writers or creative types (perhaps musicians struggling to fit songwriting into a busy schedule, etc) who find it difficult to be productive and self-directed.

I am fortunate that right now I am technically not employed. Who would every have thought I’d say that? I am self-employed by my own sole proprietorship called The Wellness Quest. But that is a non-profit business, and collects no money and pays me nothing. However, it takes up a significant bulk of my time during the day, and it is necessary – it may not pay me in dollars, but it pays me in wellness and health, a much more valuable commodity in my life. Because without wellness, I can’t work anyplace else anyway!

However, other than that, my only job is to help my parents out around the house, occasionally assisting my mom with something for her business or volunteering at the Union Gospel Mission to help my dad out.

It is my parents’ generosity and support that is helping make my wellness quest possible. And part of my Wellness Quest 2.0 is writing my book.

One of the most important parts of Wellness Quest 1.0 was beginning and writing this blog. While I still place a high level of importance on daily posts here for WQ2, the majority of my creative effort is being spent on writing my own semi-autobiographical novel.

To that effect, I have opened a Kickstarter account – it is still in the verification process, but once accepted (and I’m reasonably positive Kickstarter will accept it) it will hopefully help pay for my book to be published once I finish it.

This may be dangerous, but I am committed to finish my novel in six months. Yeah, I said it. Six months.

But I’m planning on having a first draft within three months. That probably seems like no time at all to some of you.

But the great thing about this novel is I already know almost exactly what is going to go into it. It is also mostly chronological, so I don’t have to skip around a whole lot (though there will be some movement back and forth through time to make a point). Plus I have the free time to write at this point in my life, and I have put this off for too long. My original goal was to have published my first novel by 25 and my first collection of poetry by 30. So I’m a bit behind on the novel. But I am going to have a draft by April when I turn 27, and it will certainly be published before I turn 28.

Wow. Ok. I know, it seems ambitious. But I think I have been too passive. I haven’t set goals. I have just tried to “see how things work out” with my writing in the past. Guess what? That doesn’t work for me. I don’t produce anything.

But I am committed to produce this time. Nothing short of an act of god will stop me from finishing this novel. My hope is that the produce of this project will not only be an interesting story for people to read, but also possibly provide a small measure of hope to those who struggle with genetic illness, addiction, or just what to do with their lives.

That purpose helps drive me, even though I don’t have a literary producer. That purpose keeps me getting up in the morning. It keeps me taking the time to write. It keeps me leaving the house and going to coffee shops when I really need to focus. In short – it is this purpose that is likely to create the produce.

I think perhaps this might be a law of the universe: that purpose produces, and without purpose, production cannot take place.

And with that thought, I will leave you for today.

Peace and produce to you all,


Perhaps That Was Too Brash?


First, off, I want to apologize for the bluntness of my previous post. I don’t often do this. But I didn’t think through the fact that the information I was sharing hadn’t actually been disseminated throughout my close friends and family yet, and that it might be not only shocking, but that it might feel like a betrayal to read something so important online rather than hear it from my own lips.



I guess the fact remains that I am braver in print than I am in person. I’m often willing to admit a lot of things here in my blog that are difficult for me to talk about in person, especially with family. You see, for them, it isn’t just an academic exercise, and I can’t pretend it to be. They care about me, and their emotions justifiably get entangled and so when I post something on my blog that is controversial or shows me in what they perceive to be a negative light or whatnot, it is easy for some people closest to me to take things personally.



I just want to apologize because I didn’t take that into consideration with my last post. I was attempting to be honest about my experience and I knew that if I just ignored the “green” elephant in the room I would end up just never talking about it in my posts.



But I am serious about wanting my blog to be an accurate and honest reflection of my experience. Of course, it will always be my experience, which means it may not always coincide with the experience of others, even when the same events are involved. I think there is some universal moral truth, but for the most part, I think that what is true often gets muddled in the eye of the beholder. I know that my perception of what other people say and do is always, ALWAYS colored by my prior experience of those people, of their actions, their relationship to me, the time of day, how I’m feeling, and a host of other things, up to and including things like the weather.



But I want to do my best to describe my experience accurately, and to tell the truth as best I can as I have experienced it. I am, of course, always open to comments. But if your experience and mine don’t match, there’s no need to get angry. We just have to find the commonalities in our mutual experiences – they are always there.



Anyway, I may have erred in posting about the medical marijuana issue so quickly after my return home from the hospital. It just seemed important, and I knew that if I made it OK to skirt around it, I might never actually post about it, and that would have felt like lying to all of you.



So, that’s the first part of my apology.



The second part is that I think I made the assumption that those who were reading my blog at this point either already knew about the medical marijuana or were a part of my generation who are more used to such things. But in my haste to be honest, I hurt some people’s feelings, and I think, gave them the wrong idea entirely about my desire to use/not use substances as a medication.



So to finish, I’d like to make a couple things abundantly clear:



First – I am NOT using marijuana recreationally. Not at all. I am not looking for a “high”, or to “get fucked up”, or whatever you want to call it. I don’t want to completely numb myself out, the way I used to while using opiates. I want a legitimate medical option to treat the chronic (but intermittent) joint pain and headaches caused by my CF while also helping to treat my anxiety/panic attacks and improving my appetite while decreasing my nausea. I obtained my medical card for exactly this condition and these symptoms. And I want to re-iterate something here: my pulmonologist, (I won’t name him here cause if I were him, I wouldn’t want these words online attached to my name if I was a physician) who actually recommended medical marijuana use to me as a viable option and signed all the paperwork allowing me to get the card, told me very clearly, “Nathan, I would rather have you smoke two whole joints a couple times a day, every single day, than to continue to do what you’ve been doing, constantly going on and off narcotics and taking anxiety meds that are also dependence forming. I think that possibly medical marijuana could be a really helpful option for you. I have had several patients in similar circumstances to yours who have tried it and who had a lot of good things to say.”



Now, this doctor is no yahoo. He’s in his sixties, he has numerous accolades, and published papers. He has practiced privately at the Oregon Clinic and publicly in the Providence Medical Group hospital system for years. And he has known me for years, and knows my history and my health condition intimately. He has shown me a lot of compassion over the last couple years. I haven’t been the best patient. So I was actually pretty shocked at his thought process when it came to cannabis.



Anyway, I have had the paperwork done and the medical card in my wallet since early November 2012. I tried it out a couple times back then, but it was very difficult to find a correct strain and dosage, and it cost money, and I was already getting sick, and didn’t want to make it worse, so I didn’t try it systematically the way I am doing this time. I also didn’t have any oversight or supervision.



This time, since I am still living with my parents, I’ve asked them to speak up right away if they find my behavior to be weird or if I seem “stoned”. Because I don’t want a medication with side effects that will make me unable to function. Opiates do that to me. So, to a certain extent, do benzodiazepines. But in correct dosage and when I use the proper strains for the proper effect, it seems possible that cannabis may provide some occasional relief with a lower side effect profile and no chance of physical dependence.



And yes, I’m aware psychological dependence is a real thing. I know what it is like to be addicted to something psychologically, to the point that I’ve done stupid things. That is why I am making sure to be open about what my experience with cannabis as a medicine is/was/will be. I also want to point out that this is one small part of my new Wellness Quest 2.0. But it is by NO means the focus.



I got some criticism last night which I felt was perhaps invalid, but regardless, it deserves mentioning. A close family member told me that in reading my last blog post he/she felt like I was just trying to find another substance to be addicted to and that nothing had changed and that I wasn’t going to follow through on any of my commitments because all I cared about was myself and getting drugs.


A couple of photos to illustrate my options:

Medicine Drug Pills on Plate

Medicine Drug Pills on Plate (Photo credit: epSos.de)

English: Organic cannabis Indica purchased fro...

English: Organic cannabis Indica purchased from a Medical Cannabis dispensary per California Proposition 215/Amendment #420/ Health and Safety code 11362.5 and 11362.7 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)











This?                                                                          Or This?

I can see how his/her opinion could be lead there, especially after the difficulty of the past couple months. I won’t make excuses, but it did feel like going back several steps. Taking narcotics (legitimately or not) messes with my motivation and with my brain and my ability to examine reality in a dispassionate way. Combine that with being sick and dealing with pain, anxiety and lack of sleep…It has been disappointing. November through January have shown me that I wasn’t perhaps as strong as I thought I was.



They have also shown me that even when I do everything in my power to maintain my health, it is still possible for me to get sick. That means I have to push myself, work myself back to “full strength”, in a timely manner, and that I must be extremely diligent about my CF treatments to make sure that when I DO get sick (because it is, in fact, a “when”, not an “if”) it doesn’t get as bad and if I keep up with it and monitor it, there’s a good chance I get get to any infection before it gets out of control and, for lack of a better phrase: “nip it in the bud”.



But still, after having reach such peak condition for myself near the end of September, it has been very disappointing to me to realize that even when I am in the absolute peak condition possible for my body, it can still betray me.



But I am trying to come to grips with that.



So please, if you can, take the cannabis factor into account as one single option. There are many others, including treatment that doesn’t include anything for pain or for my mental health issues. I have to talk to a professional about my mental health, because these last couple months have been painful, and the last five years have been devastating, and if I’m honest with myself I need a psychiatrist, sure, but I also really need a therapist who will just work with me on how to move past this history I have with drugs and help me understand my reaction to cannabis and advise me professionally as to whether or not it is possible for me to use any substance for pain/anxiety relief without becoming dependent.



But one thing is sure. For all of you out there questioning my decision here, I want you to know that I question it as much as you do. Even as I have gone about attempting to try it, I am constantly questioning: “is this the right thing? is this working? is this giving me a feeling I want, or is it just making me feel sluggish or out of it? is this going to make me want to use other drugs? how do I feel, right now, and why do I feel like I need to modify or change how I am feeling mentally/physically at the moment?” And those are just a few questions running through my head that I thought I’d share with you.



While I am pretty certain that while in and of itself, cannabis is not harmful to me, I am not yet certain about whether it can be used as a viable medical option for me.



Just like I wasn’t sure about Tai Chi at first, or about my diet affecting my health, or about many of the suggestions made by my aunt and uncle at the start of Wellness Quest 1.0. While I am making up some of the new experiments myself this time, the idea is the same: to promote Optimum Wellness – mind, body, and spirit, while using an absolute minimum of unnatural substances in my body.



One other option I want to mention right now as it may actually be more promising than the cannabis idea is the option of bio-feedback. A physical therapist came to visit me in the hospital this last time and gave me a huge packet of information on how pain works (not a revelation to me, but still, nice of her). If I enroll in a a two part workshop that helps education patients with chronic illnesses about pain and how to deal with it it sans pharmaceuticals, I will be able to make an appointment at their specialty rehab/physical therapy/pain management clinic where they have true bio-feedback machines.



Bio-feedback is simply a way of giving you a way of visually seeing the way your brain waves are reacting to stimulus and giving you the opportunity to learn to modulate them to do all kinds of things. Once really trained in biofeedback, a user should be able to calm his/her heartbeat, quiet pain throughout the body, focus and engage more effectively, and stop a panic attack in its tracks. It is being used experimentally to treat chronic pain, ADHD, Anxiety disorders, and even being used for athletes, to train them how to get their brain into that state we would call “The Zone” where the body and mind function as one unit. Because studies show that if an athlete can practice “The Zone” in a lab or even at home in bed, it is the same experience to his/her brain as experiencing “The Zone” in an actual competitive situation.



So needless to say, I am pretty excited to try this out. I know it will take quite a bit of work on my part, but if I can truly learn to train my brain, it should greatly enrich my life and allow me to take advantage of opportunities that have been out of my reach for a long time.



Thanks for reading this long post.



I don’t often refer to previous posts, nor do I usually offer apologies or disclaimers. But my blog isn’t about being inconsiderate or just writing whatever the hell I want. I can’t claim journalistic license. I simply didn’t think about the consequences of what I was writing – I didn’t consider how others might feel or react to an issue that could easily seem huge, when to me, it seems a piddly little thing. Perhaps that is denial on my part, or minimization. But I know that the less energy I put into it, the less I’ll be disappointed if it doesn’t work, and frankly I am skeptical. So I just haven’t given it a lot of attention aside from some research and some conversations with “experts”.






If you have questions about this or the bio-feedback idea, email or leave me a comment.



But unless there is an important event or change, I probably won’t write another post about this for a while. As I said before, this is one small part of my revised quest for optimal wellness, and it may not even work out in the long run. I am just happy to be writing again, and grateful to be home and to have a vehicle and to have a supportive family and doctors who continue to encourage me to do what is best for my health.



Peace to you all,








Big Man Up Down He Sorry

Ok, so the title of this post is cryptic unless you’re a Terry Pratchet fan (I’m a die hard). It’s from his newest book, called “Snuff”. A brief summary: the infamous Commander Samuel Vimes, also now Duke of Ankh (after marrying Lady Sybil Ramkin, a badass, dragon breeding, all around supportive wife who also makes sure Sam’s consumption of bacon sandwiches is severely limited) and also Hero of Koom Valley, Friend of the Low King and the Diamond King of Trolls, suspicious but tolerant of just about every other race in Discworld, including but not limited to Golems, Wizards, Gnomes, Nac Mac Feagles aka the Wee Free Men, Vampires (cautiously), and Werewolves. He has the reputation of being incorruptible  and once arrested the city’s inscrutable and unassailable leader Patrician Lord Ventinari for treason. In short, his reputation with the people (at least those who follow the law) is unassailable. His reputation with his wife’s circle of “nobs” is a little strained, although she generally supports his denial of the titles and respect that come with her family’s wealth and status. After all, she’d always been a bit eccentric herself. “Nobby” people have that right. So this book, “Snuff” is about a trip Vimes and his wife and their six year old son, young Sam take to her family’s country estate. The first vacation he has taken, possibly ever.

But somehow, crime, slavery, and the question once again appears – what is the difference between a person and an animal?

Goblins, the most dejected and undervalued race on Discworld feature heavily. Vimes, who has always despised them, as most of humanity, finds himself face to face with a goblin girl who can play the harp like an angel, and whose name is “Tears of the Mushroom”. The goblin language is so complex that for a human to learn it would be impossible unless raised by goblins. And fortunately on the Ramkin estate, there is just such a woman, whose mother was raised in goblin cave till humans kidnapped her and beat the goblin out of her by force. But she taught her daughter. And her daughter has begun to try to help the goblins see that the world’s opinion of them, in fact, their own opinion of themselves, is not fact. Even the goblins believe that in the past the must have done something very, very bad (who knows what it was) and thus deserve the suffering and derision the are dealt.

But Vimes, helped by the Summoning Dark (an ancient substition which, according to Pratchet is the opposite of a superstition. in other words, a substition exists whether you believe in it or not) and a whole host of deeply interesting characters, tracks down the murderer of a goblin girl, destroys a ring of slavers carting goblins off to tobacco plantations for hard labor against their will, and single handedly changes some of the stigma against a long maligned and misunderstood race of people, who are, indeed, not animals at all.

Ok. Sorry for the book review. The title of the post comes from a hilarious satirization of Chinese martial art names translated into English. You see, during the course of his investigation, the local authorities (namely one Chief Constable Feeney, a youth of barely 18 who has never handled much more than pigs) are prevailed upon to arrest Vimes. And to his surprise, Feeney knocks him cold in one single hit to the chest. He calls the move “Big Man Up Down He Very Sorry”.

It not only struck me as funny, but also got me thinking about what happens when we underestimate our opponents, or worse, when we don’t recognize them as opponents at all.

Now, outside of my martial arts classes, I don’t do much fighting, and hope never to have to. But the battle within myself is something that I believe I will fight till I die.

My own mind can be my enemy. There is a part of me that, like the Summoning Dark within Vimes, which plays on his rage against those who would harm others and constantly incites him to violence…there is part of the Summoning Dark inside me too. Inside us all, I think.

What is important is to remember that there is also what Pratchet calls the Watching Dark. When Vimes nearly succumbs to the Summoning Dark’s influence and is standing over a helpless enemy with a sword raised, ready to deal his own justice, it is the Watching Dark that pulls him back from the edge. And it is the Watching dark that tempers the Summoning Dark inside him in the future.

I won’t generalize, because in this case it might offend one or two of you. But I know that there is a part, maybe even a large part that is evil. It is darkness personified. It is the Summoning Dark, that actually calls itself out, it needs no invitation. When I let it take over, I become something that is not me.

I become devious and manipulative. I become selfish. I become angry, even furious. I am defensive, and violently so. I might not lash out with fists, but my words become targeted barbs that dig deep into even the hardest heart.

But that is not who I am. I am Nathan Howells. And this second iteration of my Wellness Quest is partially about me learning to temper that darkness within me, to turn it aside to produce, to create. Because despite it’s possible destructiveness, the Summoning Dark does not just want to destroy. It does indeed want justice and creation. It just wants its own way, all the time.

If I can learn to control that force within me and to turn it to positive use, I believe I will succeed in places I have often failed miserably.

Hope you enjoyed this, and apologize about all the Terry Pratchet references.

The analogy seemed to fit, so I went with it.

Peace to you all,


Wellness Quest 2

I was home, now back in the hospital and have been more out of it than you could believe  But I got some inspiration from my Dad and a Doctor here at Providence decided to shake off the fumes of the last couple months, regroup, and go at again.

I don’t know where that will leave me tomorrow, but I was sure how it would leave me yesterday – still in that cycle of broken dreams and empty rooms where I’ve lived the last sad years.

So now, Begin Wellness Quest 2.0. Not much will be changing except that my posts may feel like the recycle a bit as I slowly find my feet again.

Thank you so much for all the continued support of my family and friends – Even when I couldn’t be there for you, you were there for me, with the grace I aim to return the favor.

So I wanted this post to be a description of who I want to be. I’m going to look past all the obstacles, and focus on the goal, as were – the solution rather than the problem.

First, logistically (because I can see that all else disappears when I take opiate drugs, even if it is supervised in the hospital). This will have to be unwavering, through pain and struggle and, and I must be, overall, doubtless in my certainty.

Second – Also a foundation piece: I want to be honest in every single word that passes my lips, no matter the point, no matter the ears of the recipient, not harsh, undiluted, I’m gonna be brash and in your face. Because I believe each person’s walk on this earth is different, and that we each walk and make our own truth as we live it. But despite that. Blatant falsehood is wrong. No matter the reason, it has returned to me over and over again in the past few months that when I lie in order to put off the consequences of my actions, the just keep adding up till I have to serve the time  anyway. What good reason is there to lie when the people I love don’t lie to me?

Third – The overcoming of obstacles. I feel best when I am put in a situation that I am told I cannot overcome and yet I succeed. Whether the challenge is physical, mental, emotional or spiritual – I will be looking for ways to create and overcome new obstacles and bolster my foundation in other places.

Fourth – I will stop placing artificial obsticles in the way of meaninful employment, and. most importantly, stop putting limitations on my career as a writer. I realize when people ask me now about what I’m working on they get a cross between a volunteer and that’ maybe nice but well, he’s not going anywhere with his life, or even worse just a guy who’s too old to be living with his parents and freeloading. I want to effectively be doing the things that i need to do to be healthy while still being social and finding meaningful employment.

There will be more additions to this and to the other pages soon, I promise. I’m back to the post-a-day schedule.

Thanks again to all my readers who have continued to support me despite my absence the last few months!

Peace to you,