Progress

My heart pounded in my throat, and my lungs burned desperate for oxygen. Sweat trickled down the back of my neck. Legs were heavy, knees throbbed, and back ached.

I might actually die, I thought. How long had I been doing this? Forty minutes?

My watch showed 6:33. I’d been running for six f*cking minutes.

That’s how my first run in over three months started.

A mile into it, however, my body remembered, my heart rate regulated. Although it hit 197 and that felt a tad high, I paid little mind to such insignificant details. I was running. 

And running is f*cking amazing. 🏃‍♀️❤️🙌🏼

Best three miles of my forties. Antarctica shmantarctica.

While on the epic jaunt, I came across a massive construction project that spanned the better part of half a mile. It must have started while I was hurt.

New buildings and structures littered the once serene view. The wild grass, brush, and vast greenery (or brownery in the summertime) were gone.

The foothills were blotted out and NASA’s folded dome that I had come to think of as almost home when returning from a long run was indistinct.

What once was the only standing structure in my view had become an impotent and dusty half nickel squeezed out by the shiny titanic-sized scaffolding.

In the photo (above), I can’t tell if when the construction is completed, I’ll lose NASA’s dome altogether.

But this is what progress is: change.

I’m grateful for the progress my body and soul have made in the past few months going from not being able to walk to being in a stupid boot to running.

These new buildings represented someone else’s progress, I guess. Maybe this is how I know I’ve moved into a new chapter of my life. I resent someone else’s progress. 👵🏼

Especially, when progress destroyed the view and eliminated the oxygen-creating trees and plants along the running trail. They better install green rooftops on those massive steel dinosaurs, or I’ll write a letter. 😀

Onward. But first, I need a nap.


Learn the lesson

The last six weeks have been frustrating, insightful, educational, and inspiring – a rollercoaster of highs and lows. I went from a skeptic feeling deprived of my favorite – and socially acceptable – foods to a grateful member of the plant-based family.

Besides my leg, my body has never felt better. I no longer have mid-afternoon lulls. I thought it was “natural” to have a 2pm tired spell, but it’s not. Or at least it’s not for me. I have a lot of energy throughout the day. Cuts and scrapes heal quickly and my clumsy spell is over.

My leg pain is still a bit of mystery, but I’ve learned a lot. Last week, I meditated daily and asked for guidance on healing. I asked to see old or existing patterns in my thinking where I could be subconsciously causing myself pain or a perceived injury.

As I mentioned in my blog post last week, the documentary HEAL resonated with me. I put into action all the tactics they outlined. The work helped, but didn’t fully heal me – at least not in the last week or so. Tick tock, let’s go, self. ⏰ 😇

But I’m continuing down that path and feel good about it. I reread The Purpose-Driven Life. It offered an interesting take on life from a Christian perspective. I took away the lessons that resonated with me, like “you were made for a mission” and left anything that didn’t on the page.

I also went to a reiki healer, named Bella, who, without knowing a thing about my journey or me personally, said, “your brain is telling me you are severely anemic.”

She went on to tell me that because of the lack of iron in my blood, there are kind of like varicose veins being created on the inside of my left leg. (Left leg!) She said it wasn’t a clot or anything dangerous, just that it causes pain. And damn is she right about that. She said a high quality iron supplement, which I need to take every day for the next three to six months without skipping or forgetting, will fix it.

She also said she saw calcification above and below my knee, which is where I feel throbbing. I was blown away at her accuracy and the confidence in which she delivered her messages.

So it looks like this journey has gone full circle. When I embarked on this plant-based experiment, I talked about being anemic even after eating meat for a few years. Seems I’m still working on that.

Bella said my body needs more iron than most. So a low iron reading on a “normal” western medicine blood test is anemic for me. I should look to be on the high side or slightly above normal.

As far as the calcification above and below my knee, she recommended essential oils, which I’ll take a look into. Lots more to learn.

I f*cking love this about life. When you go search for something, it reveals itself. It might not be on my time schedule, which was yesterday, but it will happen. And I am grateful for that. 🙏🏼

Three years ago, I traveled to Everest Base Camp to heal my hip. Hmmmm, sound familiar, does it? I had a very similar problem with pain moving up and down my left side and settling into my hip. In Nepal, I hardly felt the pain. It seemingly went on vacation too.

In 2013, when I was training for the Chicago Marathon, I injured my left foot weeks before the race. It was the same deal – I had to pull back training and missed my longest run. I finished the race, just like in Antarctica, but not without a lot of pain, just like in Antarctica.

So what the eff is going on? Every three years am I going to have to deal with this shizzle?

Seems I’ve got a nasty pattern on my hands – mind, body, heart, soul – that I need to solve for or I’ll be doing this again in a couple of years.

Pema Chodron said, “Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.”

Maybe it’s simply iron. Maybe. But maybe it’s something else. Or maybe it’s both.

If I can identify whatever is going on with me and conquer the “injury pattern” – do what I was supposed to do or learn what I was supposed to learn in 2013 and then again in 2016, I can solve this and stay healthy.

I’m on a journey to learn the lesson. This stops in 2019. More to come. ❤️


Heal

I’m out of the boot – hooray! 🎉

Last week, I watched HEAL on Netflix. It reminded me that I have the power to fix myself, especially in a situation where my leg muscles should have healed months ago.

The tightness and burning and throbbing – like my leg is vibrating on a different frequency than the rest of my body – indicated that maybe this, like so many other afflictions, could be a spiritual issue.

From the documentary, I took the following nine key tactics of healing and took a look at how I can put them to use in my own life.

  1. Radically changing your diet
  2. Taking control of your health
  3. Following your intuition
  4. Using herbs and supplements
  5. Releasing suppressed emotions
  6. Increasing positive emotions
  7. Embracing social support
  8. Deepening your spiritual connection
  9. Have a strong reason for living

The good news is I can’t help but to do number two, that’s the benefit of being a little bit of a control freak. I try to do number three – that’s where most of my harebrained ideas come from.

And, if you’ve followed my journey, you know I started number one five weeks ago by going completely plant-based.

In fact, the whole foods, plant-based diet has been instrumental in changing my life. After five weeks, I have more energy. My thoughts are more focused. Scratches and cuts heal incredibly quickly. My skin has finally cleared up.

I haven’t looked into herbs and supplements but will. I just need to figure out a good place to start. 🤔

This past week, I did an exercise for number five – releasing suppressed emotions – and that was fabulous. Hard, but so good.

I’m working on number six and seven. I’ve stopped watching the news and try to surround myself with positive people.

My friends and family are the best when it comes to sending me love and healing energy. I am blessed.

I’ve meditated and prayed every day since seeing the documentary. I love connecting with God. Oddly, I seem to find reasons not to do it often, same with my yoga practice. It’s like my brain wants to keep my hands (and itself) busy with idle tasks, which I unknowingly comply with.

But when I do sit down and meditate or invest the time in a yoga class, it’s heavenly. Right now, I don’t think about whether or not I have the choice to do it. It’s simple. If I want to heal, I just do it.

Number nine. This one I struggled with, which is saying something. I love life, it’s not that I don’t. I just can’t say I have a strong reason for living.

I love my family, friends, and partner immensely. I love the earth, nature, animals, and life’s wonderful conveniences like clean hot and cold water, lights that turn on with the flip a switch, and the espresso machine.

A strong reason for living feels like something a lot bigger than animals or the espresso machine; like a purpose.

When I was a child, my purpose was to grow up and move out of the house. After I moved out of the house, my purpose was to get a degree. After I did that, it was to land a good job. After I did that, it was to land a better job that paid more money. Then, a better one, and so on. Maybe these were just goals. (I love goals.)

The truth is I can’t say I’ve ever had a bigger purpose in mind other than to survive my childhood, not become a complete basket case as I process the trauma in adulthood, contribute to the better good of society, and give of myself at both work and in relationships.

All considered, I’ve been mildly successful. I probably have something deep down, I just need to find a way to bring it to the surface so I look to that as I begin to heal.

So, while I finish up the last scheduled week of eating a plant-based diet, I’m going to find and implement a few different exercises in helping me find my purpose.

A long, long, long time ago, I read The Purpose-Driven Life. Maybe I’ll check that out again.

One more week to go. 🥒🥕🍇🍠🍆🥦🍓🍉 🙏🏼


Eat plants, rest, get healthy

As of late, the concept of rest, you know that thing we should all be doing but don’t have time for, has come up in both my reading and yoga practice.

Books like Peak Performance by Stulberg and Magness and Deena Kastor’s Let Your Mind Run stress the importance of rest, and sometimes that means total and complete rest for the body or hurting body part.

And last week, in a yin yoga class, which is basically all resting poses (my favorite kind of yoga), the yogi talked about the importance of rest and how we need to give our bodies permission to rest so it doesn’t have to get hurt to get the rest it needs.

I found that concept fascinating. My body might be staying hurt so I slow down and take care of myself.🤯

As ever willing to get healed, I took it upon myself to find a way to fully rest my achilles. After a little research, I discovered there’s a boot will take most of the stress off of the achilles to completely rest the tendon.

So I did it. That’s right, I ordered an actual ortho-boot from amazon and strapped it on. The boot is about as stylish as a grandpa in his sweatpants.

Upon seeing the boot, onlookers either offer sympathetic eyes in a kind of bummer-about-your-foot way, or avoid eye contact altogether and snicker while passing.

I’ve come to believe the boot is my penance for the times I put my dog in the cone of shame. It’s looks stupid and makes me feel stupid. Karma.

So what’s happened over the five days I’ve worn the boot? Quite a bit actually. Healing has happened. Instead of waking up in the mornings with a painful achilles and sometimes painful fascia, I wake up feeling like a might have a healthy, albeit a little weak, ankle.

But not everything is all roses and unicorns. When in (and out of) the boot, the back of my leg from mid-calf to mid-hammy burns with tightness. The back of my knee often aches and sometimes various muscles along the back of my leg spasm at random. Mild spasms, but spasm nevertheless.

These are newer developments. Less achilles pain, but more back of the leg tightness, enough to burn and throb, plus the spasms.

To help with these new symptoms, I’ve introduced several leg stretches in the morning, afternoon, and evening. In the morning, before I put on the boot, I start with a runner’s calf stretch for three minutes.

After the boot is assembled and strapped on, I prop it up on the kitchen table and lean in for a total back of the leg stretch. I stand there for the duration of a song or two, enough for the tightness and throbbing to stop.

Then, I switch to an inner leg stretch, moving from the table to a chair because I am not flexible at all, and sit there with my boot stretched out wide for two to three minutes, consciously breathing through all of it.

Overall, I can say that my body is still working through the trauma of the injury or whatever it is trying to work out of my system. I feel like the plant-based diet has been helping the healing, but has not healed my injury.

I had my doubts, but after four weeks on a plant-based diet, I’ve found the food to be delicious. I’ve fallen into a comfortable routine with my favorite breakfast and dinner foods. Fresh berries, granola or oatmeal, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit for breakfast. Bean, legumes, rice, and a variety of raw and cooked veggies for dinner.

It’s a little scary to say out loud, but I’m not sure I can go back.

When I first started this little experiment, I followed several plant-based and vegan accounts on social media. I avoided PETA and a few others that were too graphic in nature. I wanted recipes not a loss of appetite.

Still, what I didn’t expect were the simple unintended consequences of seeing vegan messaging in between the recipes. As an example, how weird it is that humans drink cow’s utter milk considering we’re not, you know, baby cows. And how pigs are sweet and as smart as dogs.

Baby anything is cute so I get the marketing spin, but the science is what really got me. The amount of hormones and puss in dairy – milk, cream, cheese (oh god not the cheese!), ice cream, and yogurt are all incredibly overwhelming and disgusting to boot.

The fact that red and processed meats have been labeled by the World Health Organization as Group One carcinogens, like tobacco or plutonium, is mind boggling. That’s like having a cigarette or two at the ballpark. Again 🤯.

I can’t go back and pretend I didn’t learn these things. These facts are part of my reality now, as distasteful and inconvenient as they might seem. I prefer the truth anyway.

Two more weeks to go. 🌽🍇🍏🥬🍉🥕🥒🍑


Beware of the sprinkles

Three weeks in, and I don’t hate this plant-based diet as much as I did the first weekend.

Not only am I eating healthier, I’m also learning a lot about food and food ingredients. Looking up ingredients like “confectioner’s glaze” (not vegan) or “casein” (also not vegan) is mind blowing.🤯

Just when I thought gelatin was the grossest thing that could come out of the torture and mutilation of animals, I learned about sprinkles.

That’s right, sprinkles, the seemingly harmless, colorful candy topping that kids love on desserts like donuts, cookies, cakes, and more are made from animals. And not your every day pig or cow or chicken, most commercial sprinkles are actually made from bugs. 🤢

But all is not lost. This link includes five vegan options, so you can still enjoy the rainbow on top of your plant-based cupcake.

Yes, learning lots. Another area where I’ve started to really enjoy all the new information coming out of this plant-based diet is the unending line-up of new and delicious recipes.

I absolutely loved this thirty-minute cuban beans and rice recipe. Topped it off with half an avocado, fresh cilantro, and several diced grape tomatoes, and wow.

Even with all of the positives I’m experiencing like more energy, better concentration, and my jeans are fitting just a little bit better, everything isn’t perfect. There are still two areas where I have yet to see any real improvement.

First, my skin is still not quite right. This local skin expert says soy is overall not as good for us as we might think or in my case hope. It’s just a real shame so many restaurants insist on putting soy and more specifically tofu in just about everything that is labeled vegan. 👎

The articles talks about switching out soy beans for peas or other types of beans. I’ve been doing that when possible, but sometimes the baked tofu and broccoli is the only vegan option besides the build-your-own-salad at work. Can’t a woman get a hot meal without all the tofu? First world problems, I guess.

Second area is my achilles. It is still aching in the morning and sometimes sore in the evening. Running isn’t even a blip on the proverbial summer radar. 😔

It’s so depressing. All I’d like to do is have a day where I can do an hour walk or hike and not feel like my foot is dangling off the base of my leg when I’m done. That would offer just a little bit of encouragement, but it was not to be. In fact, I’ve stopped trying to go for walks like that weeks ago when I started this diet plan.

It’s not just my achilles. My left hammy is still, acutely throbbing every now and then, like half cramping and half sore. It happens completely out of the blue – so friggin annoying.

Okay, enough complaining. I’ve made it half-way through this experiment, but am completely discouraged.

My confidence that the plant-based diet will fix my achilles is zero. But I’m not quitting. I said six weeks, so I’m doing six weeks. Three more to go.

🥦🍇🍉🥒🥕🌽🌶🍆🍒🍠


Plant-based week two

The second week of plant-based eating has been better than the first. I’ve been less clumsy, had slightly more energy, dealt with a different kind of breakout, and experienced completely guilt-free eating, which I never thought about going into to this little experiment.

First, less clumsiness – thank God! I didn’t think I could take another week like last. I consider no bloodshed a win. Nevertheless, I still suffered a nasty scrape and bruise from the corner of our hallway table along with a retailer’s door slamming into me, which resulted in a not-so-pretty blue and yellow splotch on my arm.

In general, I try to not to hold on to events like these for too long and chalk them up to me burning negative karma. I’ll take a cut or bruise over something more serious any day.

The scratches, cuts, and scrapes that I mentioned last week have all healed incredibly fast. This is surprising. The stubborn blisters on the back of my heels obtained in early May, which had been lingering for weeks, also healed completely last week.

I’ve had about the same energy level, maybe a little more during the afternoon when I usually felt like taking a nap under my desk at work (George Costanza-style), but instead would get an americano from the espresso bar. I didn’t really need either as of late.

As far as my skin, I still have had little breakouts, but different from before. These little white bastards pop up on my neck too, and they’re painful. My sister told me she breaks out from tofu, so that’s something for me to keep an eye on.

Vegan meals from restaurants usually have tofu in them so it’s hard to avoid it if I want a hot meal. I could ask to hold the tofu  but then the meal would be a few measly veggies in some sauce.

Overall, I’m enjoying the food more and more. I’ve found I’m not hungry between meals like I was on the Whole30 or when counting calories. Oddly enough, I also seem to be gravitating toward healthier options when given the choice.

Part of this is simply because the healthier option sounds tastier, but the other part is I’m also making sure I’m getting enough iron and protein in my meals.

As an example, I had the choice of eating vegetarian refried beans on a tortilla with all the fixings of a taco or making a southwestern salad instead, skipping the tortillas and replacing the refried beans with whole black beans, and I chose the latter.

Not only did I feel the salad would taste better, but the black beans had a little more iron than the refried. No brainer. And the salad was delicious and incredibly satisfying all for 460 calories.

One of the side effects of plant-based eating is the lack of guilt when praying over food. I used to have to thank God and the poor animal that gave its life or gave of itself resulting in milk, butter, yogurt, etc. so I might be nourished. There were feelings of guilt in those prayers. Not any longer! It’s a different type of prayer and feeling nowadays. What a completely unexpected, but welcomed, side effect.

My mood is lighter too. I’ve been a little happier in general even though these have been some of the toughest and trying months at work. Hooray for good mental health powered by plants.

Unfortunately, my achilles is only a little better, but not close to healed. I was hoping for better results by week two. I’ve heard of people coming off of all their diabetes, asthma, anxiety, etc. meds in two weeks on a plant-based diet so maybe I was expecting a similar result with my leg and achilles fully healing. Not even close.

Granted, over the past week, the tendons in my ankle on up along the knee and into the back of the hip all hurt quite a bit less. Yesterday, I took a couple 2-mile walks. One after lunch and the other after dinner. They took their toll in the way of stiffness this morning, but after a calf stretch, it felt a little bit better.

I continue to roll out both legs at night and the injured side continues to be lumpy and painful. I’m trying to stay optimistic.

Four more weeks to go. 🥬🥕🍓🍏🍒🌽🍍🍑🥔🙏🏼