Tag Archives: Writing

A Morning Pledge…to Myself

Well, it is only 9:15am on a Saturday but I woke up this morning at 7am and have been trying to either sleep more or figure out something to do that would be relaxing. I tried watching a show on Netflix, but it was making me more anxious. I tried surfing the internet for some research for my novel but I couldn’t focus. I tried reading, tried just laying down…

So since I couldn’t find anything to do to help me relax, I figured it must not be time for that yet. I guess right now it is time for me to get some writing done. I normally don’t get started till the afternoon, but since I’m up early and my brain is hyperactive, I suppose it makes sense for me to do my writing in the morning today.

That will also give me more time to work. The last couple days I had to quit before I was really ready to do so because I had other things I needed to do. Today, however, I really only have one other errand to do, and the rest of the day I am free to work.

I have also been working on getting myself back in shape so that my exercise becomes easier. At the moment it is tough for me to get on the treadmill. I’m not starting completely from scratch this time the way I did with Wellness Quest 1.0, but I am coming out of almost two months of illness where I was unable to exercise, so there’s been some muscle atrophy.

I get tired more easily, and I have had to really push myself just to do my Tai Chi every day. But that’s where I started before, and I quickly got up to speed. So I imagine that I will be able to achieve the same or even better results this time around.

Results, as always, are the product of a very simple equation. They are equal to the effort exerted divided by the time invested. In other words, if you don’t put in a whole lot of effort but you spend a whole lot of time on something, you’ll get some results. If you put a lot of effort in but don’t spend a lot of time, you’ll get some results too. But to get optimum results, it requires a significant effort and significant time expenditure.

That is the main reason why my wellness quest has stalled in the past. Because I have either stopped putting in the effort or I haven’t made the time. And so, I stopped getting the results I wanted.

It almost sounds too simple, but I’m sure everyone reading this knows that making a significant effort and spending a significant amount of time on anything is easier said than done.

Usually I write this blog in the afternoon or at night so I can reflect on my day. However, since I am writing this early in the morning, today I get to make a commitment to myself. Today, I pledge to do my meds twice. I pledge to go through my Tai Chi routine at least twice. I pledge to get my errands done, and I pledge to write at least five pages for my novel.

That probably doesn’t sound like a lot, and really, compared to what I was doing daily back in September, it isn’t. But I have to start somewhere, and right now, this is enough for me.

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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,

-Nathan

Storytelling

I guess part of me has always liked to tell stories. As a kid, I was usually the one interrupting my sister, or even my mom or dad at the dinner table in order to tell my side of the tale. I did this in class, too, resulting in a frequent comment on report cards: “very bright, but talks too much in class” or the similar but more succinct, “intelligent but disruptive”.

Once I learned to read, I realized I loved hearing the stories of others, true or not, as much as I liked to tell my own.

When I was a child, my dad traveled a lot for work. But sometimes he would take me, or both me and my sister along with him to Medford, Ashland, Ocean Beaches, Sunriver, Roseburg, John Day….All around the state, really. And he always made sure he stopped someplace fun for us. But as we drove, he often started a game we called “progressive story”. One of us would start telling a story, and leave off with a big, suggestive, “and” to signal the next person it was their turn to take over.

For example, “There once was a king who lived in an enormous castle. But he was a very, very short king, and the castle felt like a veiled insult. So he decided, after having been king for several years, that he was going to build a very small castle that would be more sensible, AND……”

At that point, the next person would take over and the story would meander all over the place, as none of us ever knew where the other people were planning to take the story. This game was where I learned that a story, no matter how far off its original trajectory, can always be brought back in line. I often had an agenda for our progressive stories, and so no matter where my dad or sister tried to take the story, I would be constantly attempting to force it back to where I wanted it to go.

It was, although perhaps unknowingly on my dad’s part, one of the formative experiences of my childhood. That, and spending hours with my sister in strange hospital waiting rooms while my dad was in surgery, helping the surgeon test out some of the new surgical equipment he was selling.

Before that, when my sister and I were too young to go on trips with him, he used to record himself on tape reading us stories or, more often than not, making them up. Off the top of his head, most of the time, they were usually based on the two detective siblings who were always solving mysteries: Jenny and Ethan. They were vaguely disguised versions of my sister and I. Although if I remember correctly, Jenny was older than Ethan, and she (just like real life) had much more common sense, while Ethan seemed to be able to remember everything that happened and find clues everywhere (less like real life, but at least somewhat accurate).

Obviously, my dad was good at being a dad. He still is, in fact.

But this post isn’t about that.

It is about stories, about narrative.

You see, I am in the process of writing my first novel. It is based on my own life story, sometimes very closely, other times quite loosely. Names, dates, places…they are all going to be altered at least a bit. Some things will be left out. Other things may be embellished. But the bulk of the story will be based on actual occurrence.

I’m writing it in the first person. And it is very, very personal.

I thought, perhaps, that the telling of my own story would be difficult. That with all the *excuse my language* shit I’ve done and all the shit I’ve put others through…well, it would be easy to be ashamed of myself. Ashamed of my story. To see it as worthless.

But the more I have thought about it, the more I see how my story might benefit others. Not just those who might be struggling with addiction. Also anyone with CF or with any sort of chronic illness. Anyone who wants to be a writer. Anyone who feels different. Anyone who has been picked on or made fun of, or generally mistreated by others. My story could help raise awareness for CF and for the dangers of opiate medications. It could also help people see the disease of addiction for what it is and what it isn’t. For addiction is truly a disease of the body and the mind. But it is not a moral failing, a weakness, or a selfish quest toward self destruction. Most addicts don’t want to keep using. Once we know we are truly addicted and we try once or twice to quit without success, most of us begin scheming, trying to figure out some way, any way, for us to get out of the hole we have dug for ourselves. We try doctors, psychiatrists, therapy, rehab, and sometimes we go to jail or to mental institutions.

Either way, we want out.

Often times, it is just very hard to see how that might be possible.

For those with a story like mine who feel caught in the cycle of disease and pain and addiction, my story just might give them some hope that recovery, health, and life is possible. That the cycle can be broken under the right circumstances.

That they can break free, and regain the humanity that is so quickly lost in the living death of addiction.

I thought writing my story would be incredibly difficult. Instead, because I have a purpose now in writing it – because I can see that it will benefit others – because I believe that my story is interesting and meaningful, and offers a new look at some of the issues faced by my generation – because of all these things, my story has been no more difficult for me to write than this blog.

Of course, I pay more attention to grammar, word choice, paragraph breaks, transitions, flow, and style. It will, after all, be my first book.

But I still write what I need to write, and thus far I am enjoying it.

The only thing I think I need to do is to schedule a particular time in the day to work on my book. Like say, 2-3 hours every day in the morning. Plus once  a week I will need a longer stretch so I can finish the chapter I am working on and then go back and edit it.

That long day for Chapter One is going to be today.

But because I have no idea how long it will take me and because I have errands that I need to do at some point, I may end up having to stop, then come back to things. I have been endeavoring not to write a night, to keep my “work” separate from my play and to leave me time to relax so that I can get to sleep at a decent time.

But perhaps one or two nights a week it wouldn’t hurt to do some work on my book. Sometimes I think better at night anyway.

I started a Kickstarter project for my book to help me get it published once I have finished it. I will post a link here once it is fully set up so that you all can take a look, and consider making a donation if you’d like. No pressure of course. The book will be written no matter what. I just could use the Kickstarter funds to hire an agent to help me get the book published once it is finished.

Now back to the grindstone 🙂

Thanks for reading everyone, and Peace to you,

-Nathan

The Reality of Change

This story came to me today. Make of it what you will. I think what is wonderful about writing is that we can all make our own interpretation. And, in fact, all reality, in my opinion, centers around the way one interprets that reality. Of course, some things are unchangeable fact. But even those facts can be viewed a thousand, billion ways.

Just so you all know, this story is entirely fictional. I say again, make of it what you will.

Acacia tree in Makhtesh Gadol, Negev Desert, I...

Acacia tree in Makhtesh Gadol, Negev Desert, Israel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

There once was a tribe of people who lived near an oasis in the center of an arid desert. This tribe had a traditional initiation ceremony. When boys of the tribe turned twelve years old, they were cast out into the desert several miles from the oasis. They were told simply, “if you make it back alive, you become men”.

Slowly, over the years, the tribe became filled with old men. These men, these ancient greybeards who had survived this test of manhood, looked around them, and saw that for the past two or three generations, every single boy who had attempted the challenge had died or been so severely crippled that he was of no use to the tribe and, thus, cast back into the desert.

In a circle, these old men sat, and they were four in number.

One harrumphed. He cleared his throat and raised his hand in the traditional signal that he was about to speak. When he spoke, his tongue was swollen in his nearly toothless mouth. His long beard wagged. He said to the others, “where are the young men who used to bring me water from the wadi? And where are the young men who used to trim my beard?”

The others spoke in unison: “They have gone, they have gone, and our beards grow long and we are thirsty.”

Another man spoke and said, “where are the young men, proud and fierce, who used to defend our tribe?”

In unison, the others spoke: “they have gone, they have gone, and we are unprotected.”

A third man looked around the circle and said, “where are the young men who used to stalk the gazelle to bring us tender meat?”

Again the others answered in once voice: “they have gone, they have gone, and we are hungry.”

The first man who had spoken was the eldest. All eyes turned to him, and one of the others asked him beseechingly, “Wise Father, what are we to do?”

The elder considered, and when he spoke, all within the circle listened carefully:

“I have had a vision,” he declared. “I saw a pride of lions who forced their young out into the world. I saw those young cubs become adults, and become caretakers, hunters, and protectors. I saw those adults put their young ones out into the world. But the world itself had changed. Where once there was water to drink, now, there was none. Where once, there was food to eat, there was none. Where once the groves of Acacias provided shade, shelter, and protection, there was dry earth.”

“The adult lions had become old. They had not noticed that the earth itself had changed. They only noticed that their cubs stopped returning. They only noticed that their manes’ were unkempt, and that they were attacked by rival prides, and that they were hungry and thirsty.”

“These old lions, with their rheumy eyes, could not see the change all around them. They put their faith in tradition, and by it they were betrayed.”

One of the other men in the circle stood. He clapped his hands. He said in a troubled tone, “Old Father, I see that your vision, this pride of lions, refers to our tribe. We old men sit hungry, thirsty, and unkempt while the desert dances around us, drawing ever closer. But why, after hundreds of years, has our tradition suddenly failed us? Why has the earth changed? Why, instead of returning as men, are our boys no longer returning at all?”

There was silence for many minutes. Every man in the circle rocked back and forth, eyes closed in contemplation. But the eldest, after a time, raised his hands above his head made the gathering gesture.

All eyes opened and to him all the circle’s attention once again returned.

“I have seen the change,” he said. “I have seen the change, but I have not discerned its source.”

“I do not speak to you of why. The change has made itself known. It has occurred. There is no time or place in which it has not already become manifest. Therefore, to question it has no use.”

“Instead let us draw our attention to what we must do. The question occurs to me: can we stop or reverse the earth’s changing? The answer makes itself plain: we cannot. It follows, therefore, that we must change with the earth, or the desert will swallow us up, and we will be no more.”

“And thought my heart is sad, I believe that indeed we cannot change with the earth enough to return our tribe to balance.”

“And thus, we are meant to be swallowed up.”

Rinse, Repeat

Repeat sign (music).

Repeat sign (music)

Tonight’s entry is about repetition. I’m sure many of you have noticed that the themes of my blog posts seem to repeat again and again. Sometimes, you might even read something I’ve written and think, “wow, that sounds really similar to what he wrote a few days ago,” or “that is what he was talking about last month…”

I try to link you back to similar posts if they have really congruent themes. But I can’t always remember which post was which (even though I have them all saved on my hard drive, they are organized by date, not by title or content). Sometimes, although I know I have written about a similar idea in the past, I am not certain exactly how I approached it. I try not to have the repetition get boring, because if that happened, let’s face it – a lot of you might stop reading.

In fact, oddly enough, now that I have a couple of months of this quest under my belt, there are quite a few people whose absence I have noted. I think my writing was more interesting to some people when I was closer to the meltdown.

Not that I count myself “safe” or “cured” by any means. I know that I still have a long way to go. But I also can see that I have made quite a bit of progress and that I am really not on the brink of imminent disaster. Which does, in a way, make my story a bit less gripping.

(fortunately I have learned my lesson about creating chaos in my life for writing material…)

When I first began writing at the beginning of June, I had no idea what this blog would become. For that matter, I had no idea what I would become. Now that the direction has stabilized and much of the easy, new material that my wellness quest has provided has been used, I often find myself returning to things I have previously addressed. But I don’t think that repetition is always bad or boring. I think that there are still enough major changes in my life that I am capable of finding things to write about every day. That said, I think that the time is fast approaching when my life might stabilize to the point that me writing every day (and focusing entirely on my wellness quest) would seem tedious.

So this is what I am proposing: I will continue to write every day. I will continue to place the majority of my emphasis on my personal quest for optimal wellness. However, a couple days a week I will use one of my daily posts to discuss wellness in general, or someone else’s story, or a book I have read or am reading. I will use my creativity, and branch out into topics I have thus far omitted because they might not fit directly with the theme of my wellness quest. This will provide me with more varied material, and allow me to exercise my creative ability. It will give you a wider variety of things to read about. I believe it will also give you a better insight into who I am, what goes on in my head, and what my wellness quest is truly like.

I also think it will help me avoid my tendency to elaborate, exaggerate, or embellish when actual events don’t seem “interesting enough”. This blog is all about transparency, integrity, and honesty. So if I am trying to “punch things up” in order to give you something fun to read, I am really going contrary to my purpose.

Please leave a comment or go to the Connect page and get in touch with me to let me know what you think about this idea.

Thank you all for reading, for putting up with the repetition, and for your continued support.

Goodnight, and peace to you,

-Nathan

Creative Process, Progress

A Picture of One of My Bookshelves

I’ve been thinking a lot today about what I should write. I usually just start writing and see where it goes. But I’ve been realizing more and more that the sort of “freewriting” with which I produced many of the previous posts on my blog is not going to be sustainable long term. I have found myself repeating myself and writing posts that seem to just be a conglomeration of random ideas that don’t really fit together.

Even now, I am struggling, because I would really like to make my posts more interesting. The problem with that is that part of the whole point of my blog and of this wellness quest is honesty. I don’t want to embellish and fictionalize my life to make it more interesting for you. But writing boring and useless fluff is not an option for me.

I think that what I am going to have to do is plan my posts ahead of time, something which I (as you can see by my train of thought) have not done for this post. So for tonight, I think I’ll just give you a window into my creative process today.

You see, although this blog is my primary writing project at the moment, it is not the single, solitary outlet for my creative energy. I think I have spent 50+ hours on this blog in the past six weeks. But I have also spent somewhere around 10 hours working on a creative project which I actually started back during my sophomore year of college.

It began as a long poem (as in 20+ pages) with three “parts”. I had the dialogue, which was in rhyming iambic tetrameter (eight syllables to each line). Here is a sample:

“Imagine spending eternity here

Can you feel the oppression of the air?

If even air it can be called

Smelling more of sulfur than of stars”

I also have the narration, which is in verse, and roughly Iambic, but has no set meter and no set rhyme. Finally, I also have the “Meta-Narrative”. Now, I don’t want to get too deep explaining this concept, but what meta-narrative means in this context is a story or text that refers to itself. So that is like me writing right now about the way I am typing this post. Saying that I am watching my fingers blur across the keyboard. It can also be when a character in a story starts acting as if he knows he is a character in a story.

Example: “Kevin thought for a minute and then decided he was not going to drive his car off the cliff. Why? Because he realized that the people reading this story would think it absurd for him, as the main character, to die in the first sentence of the story.”

See how that works? Anytime the narrative or text becomes overtly (or even at times covertly) self-referential, you could classify it as “meta-narrative” or “meta-textual” (and no, that’s not “metro-sexual”).

Here’s a sample of the meta-narrative:

“Conversing with metapoetics, one must

Keep his wristwatch handy, or hours will slip

Under rugs and doormats to be found by the next one

To pick up the carpet and bang out the dust.”

 

So it was a dramatic narrative poem with three parts, and when I wrote it in college I was intending it to be read and performed as if it were a play. Of course, I never really finished it, and the older I got and the better I became at writing, the more I realized that what I had written was probably not “of publishable merit”, and that trying to make it something performable was just not realistic.

However, I really liked the storyline, and I have always wanted to go back to it and re-write it in a straight up narrative form. So that’s what I began doing a month ago. Now, I have had to make up a whole lot of things for this new version. The three main “characters” in the original version had no names. They were loosely titled “man”, “phantom”, and “fog”. Everything was pretty conceptual. I have had to really bring it down to earth and find a setting for it as well as finding a whole host of new characters to fit into the plot.

The reason this creative project was on my mind today was that I was working on an outline, planning out the entire plot, today. And I realized that in the past I have never really been able to plan ahead for what I am writing. It has always just seemed easier to just write and see what happens. Unfortunately, although that approach works well for poetry and even for short fiction, for a novel, it is impossible to just write and hope you figure things out. Frankly, every serious attempt I have made at novel writing has been an utter failure until now, in part because I did not take the time to try and plan things out.

So today I began what I hope will be the outline of my first novel, and I am looking forward to writing it. The original poetic version of this project was, as I said, lofty, conceptual, intellectual, and very, very pretentious. It also didn’t have much to do with my actual experience. This new, narrative version will really be much more of an embodiment of myself.

Just like with this blog, I am beginning to understand that in order to write something that other people want to read, I need to really put something of me into it. If I don’t, then what I write is flat, and seems contrived. But when I really write myself onto the page, when I am honest, things turn out much better.

So, I am saying this now because I know if I say it here, to you, on my blog, I can’t get out of it: By the end of Fall (November) of this year (2012), I will have at least a rough draft of this novel written, and ready for editing.

Whew. That’s a bold statement, I know. But so many times I have begun projects only to drop them because I did not commit myself. It’s a little bit like going off a jump on your skis or snowboard: if you hesitate, you’re going to end up losing momentum and most likely missing your landing. If you fully commit, you’ll fly far, fast, and land smoothly. And that is my hope for both this project and for my life.

Send me emails or comments of Facebook me if you are interested in reading chapters and sections for me as I finish them. I think it could be fun to get your input.

Thanks for reading, and peace to you,

-Nathan

Oh and by the way – I just read the Wikipedia article on meta-narrative and they explained it in a somewhat easier to understand way: a meta-narrative is a story about another story. Or, as I explained it, a story or text that refers to itself.

Experimental Data

You know what I’ve been thinking about a lot today? I’ve been thinking about the experimental nature of this journey I’m on. I know I talked about it in those terms quite a bit the first few posts I wrote. But after that, I haven’t really returned to that idea at all. But today, I was struck by just how much experimenting I have been doing. It hasn’t just been me either. Actually, both Richard and Kate (my aunt and uncle who are supporting me through this journey and with whom I am living – just in case you’re a new reader) have been making doing some experimenting of their own. This whole experience is, in fact, one big experiment. None of us knew how it would play out when my aunt and uncle came to me when I was in the hospital and proposed this plan to me.

By the time I had decided I wanted to try it and went ahead and moved in, I know that I had a little hope that things would work out. But I also had more than a little doubt; quite a lot of me was worried that this wellness quest would turn out to be a complete disaster.

But instead, I would honestly say that so far a majority of this experiment has been an unequivocal success. Whether you began reading along with me at the very beginning or you just started a few days ago, I’m sure it is evident how much I have taken to this new life I am living.

I was quite apprehensive at the beginning. I couldn’t imagine how I could stay healthy on a gluten-free, vegan diet. I thought I had to have animal protein. I thought lots of whole-wheat products were good for me. Ok, so I sort of knew that milk and dairy products were difficult for me to digest, but I loved them and didn’t want to give them up. That doesn’t sound like someone who would willingly “go vegan”. But I can tell you (and you’ve probably seen from my posts) that I am absolutely loving this new diet I am on. Besides the diet there is my exercise program, my meditation practice, my writing (as in this blog, and some other creative writing), my hygiene (yes, I had to include that), and my medications.

I thought I would make a quick list of all these aspects of my wellness quest and give you an update on how I’m doing and whether the changes I have made have seemed to have an effect or not, or if it is too soon to tell.

Here is my “experimental data” thus far:

Diet: switched from “eating-whatever-the-hell-I-wanted diet” to vegan/gluten-free diet March 27th, 2012

Effects: I have gone from having significant stomach discomfort almost every day to having almost none. I think I have had a couple of hours on perhaps three separate occasions when I have felt discomfort in my digestive system. But, fortunately, it has usual just been gas. (I know you might not like to talk about bodily functions, but let’s be honest, we all have them. If you don’t want to read about them, tough. I won’t get into a whole lot of detail, though, so don’t worry.) Besides the lack of stomach discomfort, I have noticed that my weight is stable, and I am not gaining fat (I did use to have some, even though I was thin). I have also felt like my energy level throughout the day is more stable – instead of having this “burst” of energy followed by a “crash”, I feel awake and alert through much of the day and I attribute some of this to the fact that I no longer load up my diet with refined sugars and other foods with a high glycemic-index level, which means my blood sugar no is no longer spiking really high after a meal then dropping really low. All in all, it is clear that this diet benefits my health. I also believe it is making a contribution, however small, to the health of the planet. And at this point in my life, that has become important to me.

Plans to Change or Modify: None. I like this diet. Although the gluten-free aspect makes life inconvenient at times, I would rather wait to eat or not eat out, and avoid eating gluten than eat it and have it trigger health issues. I no longer feel the need to consume animal flesh. I have seen through this experiment that it is not necessary for me to do so in order to remain healthy. In fact, I have found that it is healthier to not put animal protein into my system, because that puts stress on my body. For that reason, I have no plans to change this.

Exercise: went from hardly exercising at all and having no routine to walking/running a mile then doing 30-40min of Tai Chi in the morning then doing strength training (weights/bowflex/situps etc) in the afternoon for 30-45min

Effects: I have seen a marked improvement in my strength, balance, flexibility, stamina and breathing. One easily measured thing is the amount of weight I lift in my bicep curls. I began with five pounds in each hand. Then I moved to 7.5lbs. Then to 10lbs. And now I have had to move to the bowflex because we don’t have any handweights bigger than 10lbs! That may not seem like much, but it is a huge change for me. I also went from walking half a mile at a slow pace to running a mile in under 10 minutes. Again big change for me. And my Tai Chi routine was so difficult when I started it that I could hardly get through it a single time. Now I go through all 24 movements at least 4 times every morning, and sometimes more later in the day.

Plans to Change or Modify: My only plan to modify this is that I have noticed that my knees have been sore and stiff and that it seems to be related to the increased running. So I plan to slow down a bit and go back to walking one-third of a mile and running the rest of it, and working back up to running the entire thing, until I am able to increase it to multiple miles. I need to be careful of my joints, because they have had problems before and I don’t want to cause problems again, but I also am noticing such positive effects that I have no desire to cut out my cardio entirely. Moderation and progressive increase seems to be the key.

Meditation: from zero meditation to spending at least 20 minutes a day in meditation on my own and an hour on Monday mornings meditation with a group.

Effects: the most pronounced effects I have seen from this have been my ability to deal with stress and to stay calm under pressure. I feel like my meditation practice is helping me to see the world and myself from a new perspective, and that it is providing me with spiritual connection to the universe that I haven’t had in over a decade. It is pretty amazing, because 20 minutes a day is really not much at all but it has made a big difference in my patience, my compassion for others, and my compassion for myself.

Plans to Change or Modify: no plans to change, although I may modify the method I use. That depends on how I feel once I have been doing it longer and once I “iron out the kinks” in my practice. Practice makes perfect, as they say.

 

Writing: I have gone from writing sporadically and often poorly to writing at least every night, usually for about an hour, and usually around 1500 words. Just like I am doing right now. In addition to that I am working on two creative projects, a novel and a collection of poems. The novel is in its early stages and the collection of poems is mostly done, just needs editing.

Effects: I have found that allowing myself to express what is on my mind in this blog every day and staying disciplined to write every single evening is giving me a whole new insight on myself and my ability to apply myself and my creative drive. And I think my writing is improving because of it.

Plans to Change or Modify: No specific plans, except that I think I am going to start making a list of possible topics for this blog, and that my topics will slowly begin to shift from being very focused on my personal life to having more relevance for my readers. I couldn’t entirely eliminate myself and my experience from the blog and I wouldn’t want to even if I could. Part of what I truly love about this blog is that I get to talk to you intimately, like it is just you and I sitting together and talking after a long day. The one thing I really want to do is to figure out how to prompt more responses from you, my readers. So if you have any ideas, please post them in my comments or email them.

 

Hygiene: Uh, yeah…before I moved in to my aunt and uncle’s place and began this quest, I was showering maybe once every two weeks, I brushed my teeth about as often, hardly washed my hands, did laundry maybe once a month…basically couldn’t care less about my appearance and taking care of the “outside” of my body. Now I shower every other day, I brush and floss my teeth every day (although at times only once), and I wash my hands all the time, and do laundry and clean my area of the house once a week at least.

Effects: I hardly think I have to tell you how much of a difference this makes in my self-esteem. When I was choosing not to care how I looked, I was also, in effect, choosing not to care how I felt about myself. Because at the point when I entered Legacy Emmanuel Hospital in an ambulance from Hooper Detox Center, I had not had a haircut in months, I had not shaved in at least as long, my hands and feet were filthy, I had acne all over my face, back, and chest…I was a mess. And I felt worthless and hopeless. Now I maintain positive hygiene habits and I feel good about myself, and, frankly, I am happy with my appearance for the first time in a couple years. Yes, I look good, and I know it J

Plans to Change or Modify: No plans to change these things, except to get contact lenses so I don’t need to wear my glasses all the time. Only slightly related to hygiene, but it didn’t fit anywhere else, haha!

 

Medication: I almost never doing my inhaled meds or taking my enzymes and anti-biotics while abusing prescription (and non-prescription) pain medications. (And yes, this means I was injecting heroin and other similar drugs.) Now, I take all my medications as prescribed every day, and I do all my breathing treatments diligently three times a day. I only have one medication with any abuse potential, and my aunt and uncle dispense it to me and keep it locked in a safe the rest of the time so that I don’t even have to worry about it.

Effects: First of all, I feel a lot better. My lungs are better, I’m not in constant pain, I sleep pretty well and usually go to bed around the same time each night and wake up around the same time each morning. I cough much less often. I am not abusing any drugs and I feel so much better being sober. I think clearer and I make better decisions. My lung function actually improved a few percentage points from one doctor’s appointment to the next (which I don’t think has happened in at least 5 years). All in all, this aspect of my experiment seems to be making the most difference, with diet coming in a close second.

Plans to Change or Modify: Well, at some point I am going to want to be off the one medication with “abuse potential”, called subutex. It is also difficult to find prescribers for it. Plus, I know that ultimately my health will be better served once I don’t have to take any medication that changes my brain chemistry directly. However, the subutex has been doing a great job at managing any physical pain I’ve been having, as well as eliminating cravings for opiates, which is its primary purpose. So although  at some point I will need to wean myself off this drug, for now, it is doing its job without hindering my progress.

 

Wow. Ok. So thanks for reading through all that. I just felt led to do a detailed sort of cost-benefit analysis of this experimental process I have undertaken.

I would love to hear your thoughts on my process and to hear about your own process.

You may not have embarked on an intentional wellness quest like I have. But life, in and of itself, is an experiment. We choose things, experience the consequences of our choices, and then either make the same choice again or make a different choice depending on the previous outcome. It may not seem as methodical as that when we are living it, but on a fundamental level our lives are nothing more than a multitude of miniature experiments involving many small decisions within each minute of each hour of each day.

It comes down to intention. I am intentionally spending time and energy focusing on my own process. I don’t think it matters how you do it, but I challenge you to spend some time and energy focused on your own process this week, and to think about what it would mean to make optimal wellness one of your primary goals in life.

After all, what should be more important to us than the health and well being of our minds, bodies and spirits?

Peace to you, and goodnight,

-Nathan