Tag Archives: wellness

Intention vs Commitment

First off, let me briefly apologize for the interlude between the last post and this one. Once again, I had a short bout with some stomach issues that have now been resolved. If you want to know the details, read the next paragraph. For those who are either uninterested in medical stuff or grossed out by what goes into (or comes out of) our bodies, just skip to paragraph three.

I went into the hospital with abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting the middle of last week. The ER took a CT Scan of my abdomen and spotted what’s called a small bowel obstruction, which was caused by an adhesion caused by scar tissue from a previous abdominal surgery. While I can’t pretend to understand that particulars, what all that medical jargon means, basically, is that when the surgeons went into my abdomen to remove my appendix back in 2009, they accidentally made a small nick in the outside wall of my intestinal tract. Over time, scar tissue formed there, making the outer wall of the bowels unstable. Then, the outer wall can collapse on itself and “adhere” to itself, which is where the name “adhesion” comes from. This can happen for a variety of reasons, and sometimes for no discernible reason at all. Once an adhesion forms, it blocks off the intestinal tract, causing an obstruction. And, apparently, once it happens in a spot once, it has a significantly higher chance of reoccurring there in the future.

So, while I was not happy to have to spend three nights in the hospital again, I ended up learning something that went a long way toward explaining what was happening to me in late October and early November of 2012, and perhaps even starting as far back as two years ago. I have had quite a few abdominal issues similar to the ones described in the above paragraph that went unexplained. The doctor told me that many of those could have been this same problem exactly, but that unless they take the CT Scan at the exact right time it is very difficult to spot the adhesion, and in fact, often when the scan is taken without contrast, it cannot be seen at all unless the doctor already knows where to look and is looking for it specifically. I asked the radiologist later about it and he said, “It is like spotting one colored line in the midst of many slightly different colored lines. You often can’t see it unless you already know it is there.”

While all that really confirms, on one hand, is that I have indeed had at least a few unexplained hospitalizations that now have a clearer cause. But, on the other hand, I recognized something else that is very useful to me.

You see, while I was living both in parents house and on my own this past fall, I maintained my vegan diet, but I often ate more processed foods and my grain/gluten consumption went way up. This was, in recent history, when my digestive issues began. Then, even more recently, from the end of my hospital stay in December, I have been back on a diet more like what I used to eat in the past, including dairy and even some meat. I didn’t particularly want to eat those things, but I had the riot act read to me by two different dieticians in the hospital because I had lost so much weight so quickly. They wanted me to bulk up and told me I really ought to consider meat and dairy again for at least a short period of time until I gained the weight back, and then just to monitor things more closely once I switched back to a vegan diet.

I also realized that I have a tendency to not eat when I get sick. That seems sort of obvious to many of you, but I often forget about it because I usually feel like I’m eating enough, even when I’m not.

Also, my exercise makes a significant difference in my appetite and in my total calorie intake. It also affects my weight directly: muscle is much heavier than fat. So when I started to get sick, I not only started to eat less, but I also stopped working out, which caused the muscle to atrophe and turn into fat, which caused me to lose weight twofold. Not a good combination.

So, as of tomorrow, I’m back on my vegan diet. That’s really what this post is about. It’s an accountability post. I just tend to be more successful in any enterprise when I tell other people what I am planning on doing. Even if I never know who or where you are as you’re reading this, I know that someone out there has read what I wrote and they will know, and what in my head would have just been an intention becomes a commitment.

I have just enough life experience to understand the difference.

While an intention is nebulous, passive, and unrealized, a commitment is structured, active, and firmly put into place – it is binding, and does not yield to varying future circumstances.

In short, an intention is something you’d like to do, a commitment is something you are doing. It is intention enacted.

So, what does that mean for me from tomorrow on? It means returning to more involvement in my food, cooking more often, and preparing ahead mentally when shopping so that I have the things I need to create dishes for myself that I enjoy. I know that if I don’t really like something, I usually won’t take the time to cook it. Instead, I will often just snack or eat something easy or quick, and it is usually something processed, with all sorts of chemicals and preservatives. It is much less healthy than planning ahead and making at least a general menu for myself so that I cook and have leftovers to eat later. I end up getting more calories and also eating better quality foods that are easier for my body to digest.

At this point, I believe that it was at least partly my vegan diet (and my generally less stressful life) that caused such a marked decrease in stomach discomfort and a lack of any complications in my GI tract that required a doctors intervention. This was something I already knew, but that I briefly discarded in the face of pressure and change. That is something I will have to think about.

Thanks for reading, and I apologize for the lapse between posts again.

Peace to you,

-Nathan

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Where I’m At, Now

I could give you all a lot of garbage reasons for why it has been (and this is ridiculous) I don’t know how long since I’ve posted. Some of those reasons might even sound rational. Hospital this, infection that, moving in, moving out, busy with work, blah, blah fucking blah.

The truth is that after finally moving into a new place, I realized quickly that it wasn’t working for me. Not enough space, nowhere to truly cook for myself, and a generally unhygienic atmosphere. I felt more unhealthy there than I have since the beginning of my wellness quest, and I have had to look at WHY I have felt that way.

Here’s what happened – I let my routine lapse. I tried to create a new one at my new place and failed. But I took just a little too long to ask for help. I left myself open (so to speak) to illness, and sure enough, illness came.

I’m not saying that I can always control my disease. Cystic Fibrosis isn’t always logical and I can’t always control when and how I do or don’t get sick. But one thing I know for sure – the chances of me getting sick are significantly increased when I don’t follow my routine: meds, exercise, diet, meditation, and writing. All of those things have helped me on a daily basis work toward optimal wellness, and I was all too quick to “modify” or “alter” or even to completely eliminate some of those elements because I was feeling well and doing well.

So it is time for a re-frame. I could kick myself while I’m down. Or I can remind myself how far I have come and how well I have done, and get myself back into gear.

So here’s where I’m at, now: I’ve moved back in with my parents till I can find a place of my own that supports my wellness goals. I am restarting my one-post-a-day rule for myself, here on The Wellness Quest. I am recommitting to stick to a plant-based, vegan diet. No “cheating”. And I am recommitting to exercising daily, including my Tai-Chi practice, cardio, and strength-building exercises. Finally, I am re-establishing my daily meditation practice, at least ten minutes a day.

Those were the things that got me here. They are the things that will continue to move me ahead. I have confidence that I can create the routine I know I need while allowing myself some new freedom at the same time.

We all have to learn to adapt. The realization for me was that I was not adapting, I was regressing. So it isn’t back to the drawing board. It’s back on the horse. (sorry for the mixed metaphors. But this isn’t a literary blog, so who gives a damn, right?)

Thank you all for staying with me. And I thank you all for your encouragement and support even when I disappeared from the blog-o-sphere for some unconscionable time period I haven’t even wanted to quantify.

Peace to you, as you move through your day. May you find your freedom within the routine, and beauty, within the mundane.

-Nathan

No Excuses

Ok so no excuses. I have been majorly lax the last week about posting on my blog. I feel guilty about it because I had time to post but kept putting it off until I ended up NOT having time. And yeah, this last week was a bit crazy for me because I was sick and still trying to keep up with things, but it looks like all of that is resolved and rather than getting into it, I think I’m going to stick to a couple things that have been rolling around in my mind lately.

First of all, I need a system. One of the things that worked so well for me when I lived at my Aunt and Uncle’s house was that I had a really set, established routine from which I hardly ever deviated. However, with my newfound freedom and independence coupled with living on my own for the first time in a long while, I have found that some of that routine has deteriorated.

Besides that, I have made several commitments and either double-booked myself or ended up just completely forgetting about them. Either way, I’ve made my own life more difficult by not having a system set up to track the commitments I have each day, and by not having set space blocked off for things like writing my blog, working on my pieces for FeelGoodNow, doing my meds, exercising, etc.

Fortunately, I’ve still be keeping up with a majority of these things really well despite the fact that I’ve been doing it haphazardly.

I used to use the google calendar, but then I started using Microsoft Outlook for my emails and so that calendar fell by the wayside. Now, my Outlook keeps freezing up and not working so I’ve switched back to gmail  online, which means I might as well revive that old google calendar which (I believe) is still synched with my iPhone.

But it isn’t just a matter of creating a system. It’s the underlying problem that I often say to myself, “oh, I’ll remember to do that”. I may even jot down a note. But then I see the note or remember that thing I was going to do and just tell myself, well, I’m busy right now, I can put that off till later. And then later becomes much later. And soon enough weeks have gone by and I haven’t gotten back to someone or I’ve fallen behind in my work or, as was the case this last week, I neglect one of the critical parts of my wellness quest – this blog.

There’s no one watching over my shoulder anymore to make sure I’m doing what I need to do. It all comes down to commitment. How committed am I to this quest for optimal wellness? What sort of system can I come up with or create that will work for me and support me in maintaining the goals I have already achieved?

I have something in the works, and you’ll see more about this tomorrow, most likely, as I am still working it out in my head.

But what it comes down to, as usual for me, is balance. I need to balance the amount of time I spend on any one activity with other activities of different types so that I have all the resources in my day to promote and improve my physical, mental and spiritual health – my total wellness – in a holistic way.

Thank you all for being patient with me, and thank you for the concerned comments and emails I received from all my regular readers.

This blog is about me being honest with you and with myself. I could use the fact that I was ill and had to see the doctor several times last week as an excuse and you guys would totally buy it. But that just isn’t the way it works. I totally had time and I definitely had the material to post. I just often wasn’t near my computer, or just put it off until late at night when I had no energy and said to myself “I’ll do it tomorrow morning” and then forgot or just decided I had better things to do.

But I was reminded today by a chance occurrence how important it is for me to make and keep my commitments. Not just for the other people involved, but for me. Because the more often I meet deadlines on time, get things done when I say I will, and am true to my word, the more I trust myself, and the more others will trust me and the more they will be able to feel that they can rely on me.

It has been a long time, I think, since anyone close to me has felt able to really rely on me to do what I say I am going to do. But that is changing.

But I have to continue to take active steps in order to make it happen in this new environment.

Thank you all for reading,

Peace to you,

-Nathan

Sometimes It Really IS “Mind Over Matter”

Me warm-up sparring with Will before my test

So I just returned from a great Karate class. Despite the fact that I haven’t slept much in the last few days, my throat was hurting, I have been coughing quite a bit more than I had been, and my head was pounding before I left, I wanted to go to class anyway. I just love the mixture of mental focus and physical exertion. I’m a little sad that I didn’t find martial arts till this late in life (after watching some of the 14 year old black belts trounce some of the guys my age) because it seems to be so useful for me in allowing me to remember that what I focus on expands.

Tonight I was able to actively practice what is called “state management”. I was aware of my physical and mental state and was able to use my mental focus to overcome the fact that I was working with limited resources physically. And by the time class had ended, I felt better than I had before, as usual.

It never ceases to amaze me that I can walk in feeling like I need a nap and leave feeling relaxed and happy. I guess the exercise = endorphin release actually works when your brain is actually producing the endorphins to release!

Anyway, I’m just going to say that I’m proud of myself for working through the physical difficulty and starting to learn some of the material for my next rank.

And yeah, there were a few times where I needed to just step outside for some air. Knowing that that was ok, and

Me, Throwing a Rear Hand Straight Punch. This is the hardest technique for me, but the photographer made me look like a pro.

recognizing when those times crop up is part of actively managing my state. It is that old concept of listening to my body and trying to follow its instructions. It knows what I need better than I do.

That doesn’t mean I don’t push myself. It took effort just to drive to class tonight. But again, once I bring my mental focus to bear, I can get through it, even if it is hard, even if it hurts. The point is for it to hurt just enough for me to improve but not enough to actually be injurious. That’s one of the other reasons I love this class. Everyone in it are so committed to keeping each other safe while still pushing each other to the next level. We all have to step out of our comfort zones sometimes or else we don’t learn.

And that’s all for me for tonight.

Hope you enjoy the pictures of me testing for my first belt!

Peace to you,

-Nathan

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

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

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