True Story

You know that feeling you get when you’re in your car heading out of town on a road trip, when all you see before you is freedom and the open road? It’s the way you feel when you’re on the dance floor fully absorbed by your favorite song, twirling and twirling without a care. Like when you’ve just climbed a mountain and you’re on top of the world or you’re rockin’ out at a wicked concert and the band is playing perfectly, the crowd utterly engrossed.

It’s Friday night. I wanted to see Mumford & Sons at the Crystal Ballroom but didn’t get a ticket before they sold out. I hoped to see the cute guy at the dog park (new crush!) but he was a no show. I could have stayed out to celebrate a friend’s birthday all night and instead I drove to Staples to buy a printer. This should come as no surprise seeing as I am quite possibly the world’s most boring person and office supply stores rank high on my list of favorite things. But here’s the kicker: not only was there no let down or regret in my reality, I got that feeling in the car on the way home.

Didn’t even buy a printer. All I ended up with was a paper cutter.

But that feeling, it’s right there. I don’t have to look for it anymore. I don’t have to hope or pine for it. I don’t have to work for it or drink myself into oblivion in search of it. It’s just sitting there ripe for the plucking whenever I want it. I cranked Green Day on the car stereo, rolled the windows down and cruised home at a whopping 40 mph (oh Oregon and your safe drivers!) free as a bird, happy as a clam, and all those fine things in between.

Lingering sciatica pain aside, I feel better than I‘ve ever felt in my life. This cleanse is undoubtedly the coolest thing I’ve ever done and the best gift I could possibly give myself. I love today because I’m officially off the rollercoaster of emotions that usually clouds my days. I’m coasting on a wave of endless possibility and it is completely beautiful.

Much love to you all.

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Past Failures

At some point in every conversation I’ve had about fasting the other person talking says, “I could never do that. I tried and it was awful.” Forty days is an extremely long time, but if I’m inspiring anyone out there to try a shorter master cleanse, please rest assured that you actually can do it and the awfulness goes away quickly. All you need is lemonade and motivation.

I tried and failed many times before I had any success. My first attempt went something like this:

Boyfriend, who suggested cleanse and was simultaneously quitting smoking, in a calm and supportive tone: “I know it’s gross but you just need to keep drinking the lemonade. It’s only day one, we’ve got a long way to go.”

Me in a blind rage: “What the hell do you think I’m doing?!! But it’s disgusting. It’s not gross, it’s disgusting! And I feel like shit! We’re not supposed to make ourselves feel this way. That’s it! I can’t do this. I quit!” Munch munch munch munch munch…

Ten days later, after he succeeded at both fasting and quitting smoking, I consoled myself. Clearly some people’s bodies just aren’t made for this, I thought. I didn’t quit because of my lack of resolve. I quit because my body told me to. (Yah, right.)

My second attempt was a three-day fruit fast. I made it halfway into day two until everyone at work wanted to kill me and I ate a slice of pizza. Attempts three through six lasted about twenty minutes each. Then I succeeded.

I realized after I succeeded that the difference that time was clear motivation to be healthier. Motivation came from having multiple flues, a blood clot, debilitating allergic asthma and Lyme disease right in a row. I was sick non-stop for two years with conditions that seemed to have nothing to do with each other. The last one, Lyme disease, put me over the edge of what I could handle. I’ve complained a lot about how much sciatica has hurt me in this blog but really it’s just pain on my right side. Lyme disease was the same intensity of pain in every joint and muscle in my body, plus a flu, plus severe headaches, plus nausea from the doxycycline. Feeling like that gives you a lot of motivation to do something drastic in order to feel better.

A year after my first successful ten-day master cleanse I tried again and it took me three failures before I committed. Even this time around, I thought about fasting right after I fell.  I bought supplies and thought about it all through August. The lemons rotted and I threw them away. It wasn’t until the middle of September that I started to do it for real.

All I’m saying is it’s normal to feel scared. It’s normal to be overwhelmed by a fear of starvation. It’s normal to have headaches and a hard time with it in the first few days. This isn’t an easy thing to do. And why should it be? The benefits you ultimately receive are worthy of the work you have to put in. The time you succeed is the time you convince yourself to shut up and drink more lemonade.

We Don’t Know What’s Going To Happen

My mother called yesterday. She had read my post about being in pain again and decided it was time to wipe her hands of this experiment. Fully expecting that I was in agreement she announced over the phone, “I knew you were never going to fix anything this way anyway. So you’re ready to eat food again?”

Mothers. All they can see is us in pain. They can’t appreciate the healing as it happens, only once it’s complete and on their terms. Such good protectors they are. (Hi mom!)

You can imagine her surprise as I calmly explained that I have no intention of stopping now. Regardless of the state of my back, hip and leg I have gained more insight than I could have imagined about my diet, ego/emotional health and the resiliency of my own resolve. I’m one for sticking to what I started and fully accomplishing my goals. Mama didn’t raise no quitter. She raised a hard worker who means what she says.

It’s nice to imagine that we know what is going to happen. Well, I should say that’s how I used to think and it caused me a lot of stress. So I guess it’s not that nice. It’s a false comfort blankie we wrap ourselves in when the uncertainty of the world feels scary. Eckhart Tolle speaks a lot about finding comfort in the uncertainty itself instead. That way we can live in the moment of reality and show ourselves how strong and awesome we are. Facing our fears helps us eliminate them. Eliminating our fears gets us to our true potential.

After a ridiculous tangent about her fear that if I don’t heal myself in forty days I’ll decide to quit eating forever, I asked my mom to save her judgment for after the cleanse is finished. “Please give me twelve more days,” I said. “Because much as we’d like, we don’t actually know what is going to happen. Don’t give up on me while I’m still in it.”

Speaking my peace to her really helped me refocus my goal. I think I was wrong to say I wanted to cure my sciatica. What I really want to do is find peace in uncertainty. I want to believe that anything can happen and it’s possible that it could all be good. It’s hard to be an optimist. Pessimists disagree but they’re wrong. I feel equipped to argue both sides because I spent three decades as a fiercely sarcastic pessimist and that’s one of the things that started to shift with my Saturn Return at age twenty-eight. I have worked hard to earn my optimist status and I think I’m almost there.

Yesterday I drove up to Washington to visit a good friend and squirmed in my chair as we talked. I limped around her beautiful yard as I tried to unloosen my hip and back from the twisting and pinching of sitting. Later that evening I went to another friend’s house to watch football and was the weirdo lying on the floor by the coffee table who kept refusing to join everyone else on the couch. Business as usual in the pinched nerve department.

Then I went home and something inexplicable happened. I had a really big poop. Twenty-eight days of no solid food and I had a really big poop. Where the fuck did it come from?!

I know it’s grossly unacceptable for me to force you to imagine me in that position, but I’m gonna do it anyway. There I was processing a bowel movement and this is what went through my head:

You know what would be fucking awesome? If I passed a marble and it turned out that when I was two I had swallowed that marble and my whole life it’s been sitting inside me so close to my nerve and every now and then it gets lodged in a cavity and zing! squeezes that nerve fucker and the pain and the ow! and the everything comes and I hurt but now it’s gone! That’s crazy! Oh but it would be so awesome. I can do this. I can heal myself. Why the fuck not?!

I remembered a note scribbled on a purple Post-It that I found stuck to the first page of the used copy of Tolle’s A New Earth I bought at Powell’s a few weeks back.

Put forth intention. Intend! And so it will be.

In the end I passed no marble. But when I got up and walked out of the bathroom I swear to you the pinch was gone. It took me almost an hour to notice it. I wrote yesterday’s post at my computer, straightened up around the apartment. Slowly it started to dawn on me that I could move more than I’ve been able to and I wasn’t limping in pain. I stretched and swung my body around and didn’t feel a pinch.

In disbelief I got onto my inversion table and it didn’t hurt. I flipped myself over backwards and it didn’t hurt. I shifted my hips without using my hands and started laughing at what felt like a miracle. Almost in tears I got off to call my sister but stopped myself. It was a fluke. This couldn’t really be happening. I needed to test it further before uttering a word to anyone else. Just then I lay down on my bed, no pinch, no piercing pain, and I did the impossible: I rolled over onto my side without using my hands to help me.

It took forever to fall asleep last night because I was overcome with joy and relief and I wanted so desperately to relish those moments of normalcy and a complete absence of pain. In the morning I awoke to a small pinch but one that is drastically reduced from what had become my norm.

There is something still occasionally shooting into my ankle, I have not cured myself, but the pain from my hip is gone. What remains is much less severe than anything I have felt since I fell in July. I’m not one to shout the divine from the rooftops but I’ve certainly been counting my blessings and humming the Ray Man Shabad all day.

I’m ecstatic to report that at the end of the day I’m still feeling better than I have at any point in this injury. Thank you mom for helping me get to the next level.

Proper Alignment

I have another theory 🙂

When I was 21 years old I made a lot of big life decisions. Chopped off all my hair, went vegan, got a tattoo. The other big change was I started doing yoga. Up until then I had remained fit and comfortable in my body through dance and step aerobics, but at that point I decided I wasn’t pursuing a path of “right living” and it was about time I started. All of my philosophies changed as I entered my twenties and discovered I had a very new idea of perfection to chase. At that young age I felt so behind. I had a lot of catching up to do!

I entered my first yoga class with a mat that matched my outfit and a cute water bottle. I was the youngest by at least a decade, huge ego boost! I figured I had this covered and would do just fine. In terms of strength I did fairly well but, like many of us, I struggled with flexibility and quieting my mind. I had a vision in my head of the perfect yoga body and the perfect yoga mentality and I was on a quest to master both.

Fast forward eleven years.

I’m happy to report I’ve made leaps and bounds in the arena of mental clarity and for quite a while I thought I was doing well with the flexibility. Right now however, I’m experiencing a bit of an ‘Aha!’ moment which is causing me to question everything I came to believe about yoga.

I want to be very clear that what I’m talking about is based solely on my own personal experience inside my own personal body. This theory I have is about me, it’s not meant to pose any negative light on yoga as a whole.

As I enter my thirties my philosophies are changing again. The most interesting thing I’m experiencing is an overwhelming desire to go back to the way I was when I was seventeen but with all of the experience and knowledge I have gained since then. When I was seventeen I was focused, confident and physically active. I could do anything. Then I went to college and we all know what happens there. Then I drank my way through my twenties, lost focus, became incredibly depressed and basically lost myself in the process of finding myself. Here I was in this decade that’s supposed to be all about self-exploration and I was losing what I already knew. I stopped trusting my own instincts and started listening to other people’s opinions more than my own. This happened on many levels of my life but here I want to focus on the physical.

I took my various yoga teachers’ lectures on proper physical alignment as gold thus ignoring everything my body had come to learn on its own. I didn’t even know what it meant to listen to your body even though I had been doing that instinctually all my life up to that point. Yoga class was teaching me how to move and stretch in a different way. Seemed like a good thing at time, it felt like growth, but let’s not forget that age 21 was also the first time my back went out. It was the beginning of my sciatica problem and the loss of my core strength.

So what exactly is my theory? Here it is (and this has nothing to do with doctors or experts or professionals, this is just me talking about me):

I believe that proper alignment for my body is the way I moved and stretched before I ever took a yoga class. I believe it to be technically improper and something I naturally compensated for up until the point where I started to forcefully change it. Yes, I know yoga is supposed to be gentle. Regardless of the level of force, I was making it do something it didn’t want to do. As I changed it I sent a system that was happily taking care of itself out of whack and unknowingly set myself on a path that would eventually lead to chronic pain.

Because here’s the thing, I used to take dance class 5 or 6 times a week and do step aerobics in my down time. I was super flexible and yet I couldn’t bend over and reach my toes. I just didn’t worry about it and my back never hurt. I knew how I was comfortable – cross-legged or in a split and never with my legs straight out in front of me – so I never bothered to hang out in positions that made me uncomfortable. It wasn’t until I started worrying about it and set out on a mission to touch my toes and rotate my legs and hips inwards, as instructed in yoga, that my body started hurting. Basically I think my own personal improper alignment is what is necessary for my body to feel good and the quintessential proper body alignment is what pinches my nerve and causes my sciatica.

Over the past decade I have done more and more yoga and in turn my sciatica has gotten exponentially worse. Can you guess what the number one most painful thing for me to do, aside from sitting and driving, is when my back hurts? Downward dog.

Have I ever listened to the hurt? Oh no, I’ve told myself there’s something wrong with me and pushed through the uncomfortable in order to continue towards the goal of the perfect yoga body. Yoga has forever been a struggle, something I made myself do because I believed it was good for me. Part of that is my fault, a big part. But part of that is the way yoga is advertised which is basically that it’s the end all, be all way to balance and perfection. Look at the yogis! Well, guess what? Just like I’m not eating like the Japanese, I’m not practicing yoga like a yogi. I’m going to American classes where I am gently but constantly pushed towards a version of myself that really has nothing to do with me.

I have certainly benefitted in some ways from practicing but ultimately I’m coming to accept the fact that it’s not right for me. Just like I have to approach my diet differently, I have to approach my exercise regiment differently. There will come a moment when my sciatica pain will stop. I have no idea how or when I’m going to get there, but when I arrive the first thing I’m going to do is take a dance class with my friend Amber and remember how good it always felt. My body has known that all along, it’s just taken my brain a while to catch up.

OK This Is Getting Boring

My little cat Roody has eaten turkey all her life. When she was a kitten it’s all she wanted. Beef made her retch. She turned her nose up to fish. It was just turkey, turkey, turkey.

Yesterday I wondered how many turkeys Roody has consumed in her twelve years but I couldn’t realistically fathom it. Today I’m wondering if she ever wakes up, walks over to her food bowl and thinks, “Man! Fucking turkey again?!”

That’s how I feel this morning. Think about it, this lemonade concoction is made of lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. And I’ve been consuming it non-stop for a month. That’s disgusting!

It’s time to rally so I can make it through this last stretch. I can do two more weeks. I can do two more weeks. I can do two more…

Which Comes First, the Bad Mood or the Pain?

Last night I sat on a couch for a few hours while hanging out with friends and then got home and paid dearly for it. I can do it without a problem. In the moment sitting is uncomfortable but not painful. I just shift a lot. It’s afterwards that the pinch hits and sends me into mini seizures of pain.

It’s after I get out of the car or off my bike that I stand completely frozen knowing the slightest movement will send excruciating pain down the length of my body. It’s when I’m lying in bed thinking I’ll go completely insane from just one more day of this and I can’t get comfortable enough to fall asleep.

I sat on a couch like a normal person for two hours and it washed away every inch of physical progress I’ve made.

When I got into bed I sang through my favorite chant, Ray Man Shabad, and as I did that the pain began to dissipate. I kept it up for fifteen minutes until I was able to somewhat relax. The second I stopped chanting though, I started worrying about not having health insurance, how back surgery would bankrupt me, the debt I’ve racked up on my credit card just to pay for the acupuncture, chiropractor and massage… the pain came back immediately. I was literally writhing. Calming down soothed the pain, stressing out brought it back again.

I don’t know what any of this means. I think when I started this cleanse I had a vain hope that I could pray my way back to health. Now on Day 25, feeling just as bad as I did on Day 1, that seems like a totally ludicrous idea.