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. 🥒🥕🍇🍠🍆🥦🍓🍉 🙏🏼


Throw that axe

Who would have thought axe throwing would be so badass? Well, probably quite a few folks who’ve been doing it a lot longer than me. It’s not just the badass-ness of the sport that is so intoxicating, the act of throwing just feels good.
While in my hometown of Chicago, I was able to hit a Cubs game and the annual Lung Run, which I’ve run every year since we lost my grandmother to lung cancer. My weekend would have been complete had I done nothing else, but a friend suggested we try axe throwing.
“Sure, why not,” I said, totally game.
Not only could axe throwing be a useful skill in a zombie apocalypse or in a SHTF situation, but I was curious how well I would do. It was for these reasons, I found myself at an axe throwing bar around 10pm on Saturday night taking a lesson from twenty-something year-old Ashley at Bad Axe Throwing on the north side of Chicago.
The place was set up like batting cages but a little closer together. You don’t need that much room to throw axes, just a high (or protected) ceiling, strong flooring, and some fencing that will hold. The back wall had a couple of wooden planks with bullseyes drawn on them.
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After we signed a few waivers, Coach Ashley gave us a quick lesson.
“Hold it straight above your head, keep your wrists straight, and release so it rotates once and then hits,” she said.
She released the axe and the blade landed on the board with a resounding, whack! My friends and I nodded and exchanged glances. We were impressed. There’s a satisfaction in hearing the axe land right into the wood and stick.
Although it’s a little fuzzy, as all history seems to be, axe throwing was used in war mostly as far back as the vikings, Celts, and other cold climate hooligans. They actually go way back to the Neolithic period.
In general, warriors didn’t throw them, unless they were urgently trying to kill someone before that someone killed them and wanted to avoid hand-to-hand or axe-to-axe fighting, but axe-making and usage in combat was in full swing thousands of years ago.
Even with that violent and bloody history of the axe, I still wanted a piece of the action.
It did not disappoint. There was a feeling of toughness, self sufficiency, primitive strength, and badass-ness that went into the motion.
And when you hit a bullseye, boom!
There was a feeling that came over you, like being in what psychologists call flow or the zone, but you feel — no, you know — it’s going to hit as soon as you let it go.
When it didn’t it, or when it was dumb luck, it was a different feeling. But, that right there, that knowing in flow or presence, was so worth the time and money.
In Chicago, we paid $20 an hour plus tax and we tipped our coach, which came out to around $28 per person.
For an hour or so, I was completely present learning, throwing, watching my friends, celebrating, and throwing some more. I worked up a nice sweat too. Not only was it fun to learn a new “sport,” but the repetition and physical exertion made any anxiety or stress I might had been carrying melt away.
Almost anyone can do it. It’s about technique, not strength or athleticism. Way more interesting than darts, and blows any other target games away. Take a seat, skeet ball.
Axe throwing – highly recommended. Go do it. Pick up that axe and let it fly. You’ll know what I mean when you hit the bullseye.

An Ode to Montana

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Montana is an incredibly beautiful, not to mention enormous, state. From east to west it’s about the equivalent of driving from Chicago to New Jersey. Crazy big.

About a decade ago, I had the opportunity to do some backpacking inside Glacier National Park. It was one of the most memorable backpacking trips, from seeing a massive and somehow majestic moose standing only a few meters away to crossing a waist-high, ice-cold mountain river hoisting my camera and the rest of my pack above my head in an attempt to keep it dry. We also came across a mama bear with her two nine-month-old cubs. Luckily, no mauling ensued.

When I arrived in Bozeman earlier this month, the little airport felt welcoming and cozy. It was built like a mountain lodge with raised wooden beams supporting a roof that takes on an average of seventy-two inches of snow each year. Outside, the Montana that I recalled entering many years ago, with it’s clean air, grand mountains nestled on an eternal horizon, and impossibly large clouds somehow not blocking the warm sun that fell on my face, greeted me kindly. Although many years ago, I had landed in Kalispell almost three hundred miles away, this was the same big sky country. It felt like an embrace from an old friend.

We stayed at a newly built dwelling called the Sage Lodge in Pray, MT. They were still putting the finishing touches on the rooms. When we checked in, we were missing oddities like lightbulbs and the sliding screen door handle. Strange, but the staff were mostly friendly and you couldn’t beat the location, which was almost on top of the Yellowstone River and a thirty-five minute drive straight across the Wyoming boarder into Yellowstone National Park.

Since taking on the minimalist way of life, there wasn’t much packed in my suitcase. It was light as a feather. Two t-shirts, an athletic long sleeve pullover, a SmartWool shirt, hiking pants, jeans, socks, hiking shoes, sandals, pjs, undergarments, a hat, sunglasses, and a toiletry bag. (Minimalism aside, I was glad the lodge we stayed in had laundry because by the third day, I needed them all cleaned.)

I’ve heard fishing is good for the mind, body, and soul, and we were in the best fly fishing spot in the world, so I figured why not. And it did not disappoint. On the Yellowstone River, there are rules about which fish you can keep, which you must release, and others you must keep or kill. According to the law, we released all our catches.

Every time I’d get a bite, I’d “set” my pole, which basically means pull it up as hard and fast as you can, and hope there’s a fish on the other end of it. I missed most times, but managed to net two beautiful rainbow trout. The experience of pulling them in, feeling their weight on the other side of the pole, and then guiding them gently into the net was invigorating. I’d wet my hands, hold them for a quick picture, and then they went back into the water hopefully a little wiser for the wear.

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We also spent a day in Yellowstone. Did a six-mile hike out and back to the Imperial Geyser, saw a few bison, a bighorn sheep, and watched good ole Ole Faithful do its thing too. Impressive.

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When the four days were over, I was sad to leave Montana. There is a rugged wildness, a real wilderness, about the state. And yet, I felt safe and supported by the mountains, the rivers and streams, the vast earth. Maybe it was just nice to get out of the city and see the stars. Whatever it was, I want to go back.

People say Montana winters are a “dry cold,” which I guess is supposed to be less cold somehow. I don’t know about that, but I might go back this winter just to test out the theory. I’m thinking snowshoeing or cross country skiing. Anything to get outside, even in the freezing temperatures, to be with those mountains and rivers, and under that big sky again.


Less stuff, more meaning

motorcycle on narrow road

It’s been almost six months and yes, I’ve lost a little steam, but no, I haven’t given up.

I’ve continued to whittle down my wardrobe to just five button-down shirts, two jackets, three pairs of jeans, four Smartwool shirts, and a handful of t-shirts. I went from almost a dozen pairs of Chuck Taylors down to three. I’ve still got a lot of work to do on my socks. I don’t know why, but I just can’t bring myself to go there, as if I might – or they might – run out on me.

I haven’t bought anything new since – no strike that. I haven’t bought any new clothing or shoes or socks or undergarments or hats or things to wear since January. But I did buy a new bike.

In my attempt to cut down on gasoline consumption coupled with my desire to ride a motorbike, after much debating, I finally purchased a little Honda Ruckus. However, I did sell all of of my other so called transportations possessions, with the exception of my little GTI, before I bought it, including two road long boards, a beautiful Specialized road bike, a skateboard, and did I mention all those shoes?

With the purchase of the scooter came a few other possessions, mainly a helmet, faux leather jacket and gloves, all for safety. Because my closet was cleaner and more austere than ever, it was easy to find a spot for each. The helmet looks badass on the shelf where once upon a time too many pairs of mom-jeans sat folded and unused.

On the whole, I feel good about the new possessions because every time I get on that bike, I smile. I feel alive and happy. I have fun. Most people who ride a motorbike will tell you there is something wonderfully therapeutic about the experience. It’s inexplainable but palpable and real. One day we might want to swap Xanax or Zoloft or Prozac or Percocet for a an hour or just thirty minutes on a bike to see the results. Imagine the possibilities.

But back to the acquisition of the bike. It’s made my commute so much more fun and in some ways meaningful. It’s a strange paradox. By getting rid of so much clutter, so many other possessions, I had space to think and feel and figure out that I truly wanted a bike. Then take the action to go get one.

I wanted to reduce my petrol consumption and usage and increase fun and meaningful life experiences. Now, I get to do all of it while doing something that was once mundane, like commuting to and from work. My commute is mundane no more. It’s an adventure.

As the summer progresses, I’ll continue to reduce my possessions as promised in my New Years resolution. Those socks – at least thirty or forty pairs – need a little thinning out to start with. And while I’m doing that, who knows what other epiphanies or grand adventures await.