I’ll Take “Things That Are Totally Awesome” for $1,000

What is the Oprah Winfrey & Eckhart Tolle 10 part web series exploring Tolle’s A New Earth? Correct!

My writing teachers Carrie Link and Deb Shucka turned me on to this gem and I absolutely love it. I know the name Oprah can be polarizing but I really think she’s at her best here. And it’s like having Eckhart over for dinner so he can explain in detail what he meant when he wrote: Suffering has a noble purpose: the evolution of consciousness and the burning up of the ego.

It’s downloadable for free on iTunes. Check it out here, listen to it in the car, fall asleep to it. Grow. Love. Find peace.

The Dread Pirate Sciatica

So yah, I walk with a limp. It’s hot. Sciatica has been coming and going my entire adult life. This particular episode has been going on for a few months.

I honestly believe I’ve had a problem with my lower back and leg forever but it’s not something I could articulate as a child. Imagine me at age eight after performing my solo tap routine to Taco’s Puttin’ On The Ritz, blue glitter top hat and all, “But mommy how else can I describe it to you? I feel disconnected from my right leg, as if it’s dead inside, and I can’t bend over and touch my toes in dance class like the other girls. Something must be wrong!”

Far from a debilitating disease, it barely added up to a bummer I could easily compensate around.

Fast forward to 2000. I’m 21, vegan, exercise like crazy, maintain rock solid abs despite copious alcohol intake, I’m generally happy. I just landed my dream job running crew for Blue Man Group; life is good. Then one day I wake up and I can’t move. Like I can’t get out of bed. My back doesn’t work which means my hips and my legs don’t work. I am broken.

Someone who has never experienced back problems may not fully understand the impact this has on a person. Try this: lay down in your bed as if sleeping then get yourself up to a standing position using only your arms.

It goes something like this: put your weight against the mattress with your shoulders and elbows. Use your hands to pick up your hips and roll them to the left side. Gasp from the pain. Prop your left elbow into the bed with that hand up in the air. Next push your right hand into the propped left hand to get to a seated position. Scream from the pain as you lift yourself off the bed with your hands. Now, unable to straighten your back to standing, walk hunched over with a limp and feel like you’ve aged 50 years over night.

Glorious.

I did what anybody would do. I went to the doctor and learned the word sciatica.

I never got a clear answer to what happened or why, but after a few weeks of pain and some muscle relaxers I was back to normal. One small change from before – I was now a person with a bad back.

The second time my back really went out was about five years later in Canada on a ski trip. Again I was in tip-top shape and again I don’t really know what happened except I slipped a tiny bit on some ice. It wasn’t a severe wrench by any standards but my body was rendered useless by it. I was in considerable pain for days, driving my then-boyfriend up a wall as we drove all around Vancouver looking for natural remedies to no avail.

I didn’t receive any relief until I got back home and saw an acupuncturist on a friend’s suggestion in lower Manhattan. I walked into the office hunched over. The doctor looked up from his desk and in a very thick Chinese accent asked “Sciaticaaa?” He healed me in one shot with a combination of acupuncture, electric stimulation and cupping. I walked out upright for the first time in more than a week and was back to normal in no time.

Unfortunately over time “normal” has worsened. Normal now is my back regularly aches for days surrounding my menstrual cycle, sometimes for up to a week, and I can longer sit comfortably on long car rides or at movies no matter what shape I’m in at the onset. Did I mention I’m only 32? I understand that we degenerate as we get older, but really, I’m only 32!

Acute Attack of the Dread Pirate Sciatica # 3 is ongoing as I write this. In July of this year my sister and I decided to take a leisurely stroll around a pleasant little lake with our dogs. At Hagg Lake in Forest Grove, OR there is only one path to take so we naturally left the map in the car and headed off for our walk with a couple bottles of water and some snacks. We basically paid that map no mind, especially the small type across the top that mentioned it was a 15 mile trek.

My back was already hurting because of PMS and for a while the walk was feeling good as it loosened everything up. We walked for miles. We stopped for snacks. We thought Oh wow, we still have a ways to go.

Somewhere around mile 8, I slipped on some gravel going up a small incline. It was not a big fall. I simply missed my footing, leaned over and landed on my knee. No scrape, no bruise. But something in my back seized and it hasn’t let up since.

I’ve been to a chiropractor, massage therapists, acupuncturists and tarot card readers. I’ve taken Aleve, prescription strength Naproxen, Tylenol with Codeine and Vicodin.

Two and a half months have passed. The pain that was originally centered in my back is now taking over my right leg. Pain originates in my glues, radiates through my hip and down my leg to my shin. It is always at a low hum of around level 4 (out of 10) and then randomly shoots up to 8 or 9 depending on my position.

The only time I feel physically normal is when I’m on Vicodin, which is totally fun if you’re headed out for a night on the dance floor, but clearly not an option for the long term.

I’m at the point where this has gone on so acutely for so long that people are starting to use the word surgery. That’s terrifying. For anyone wondering why I seem to be having a breeze not eating for more than a week already, it’s because not eating for a while is a hell of a lot easier for me than contemplating back surgery.

So here I am wrapping up Day 11. My sciatica plan is threefold: continued acupuncture thanks to the lovely souls at Working Class Acupuncture, a 40-day cleanse to allow my body time and energy to heal itself and inversion therapy. I read a lot of success stories from inversion therapy so I ordered a table online and happily watched my sister assemble it. I’ve been hanging upside down for a few minutes a day in the hopes of decompressing my discs thereby relieving pressure on the nerve.

I would absolutely love to hear from anyone out there who has experienced sciatica and what helped you heal. Thanks for reading!

Change of Tides

There’s a guy I’ve had a crush on for months and every time I see him my body freezes. Unable to move, unable to speak, unable to smile, it’s like my emotions get blocked by impenetrable fire walls and I become physically paralyzed whenever he’s near. Strange experience for a girl who usually makes it abundantly clear to people how she feels about them, good or bad.

Something deeper within is holding me back and forcing me to wait this one out. I have quite the history of rushing into things, all things, any thing. The last time I did that resulted in horrendous consequences. Suffice it to say I’ve learned my lesson.

In turn I’ve bounced to an opposite extreme of self-preservation (imagine that!) because I don’t even know if I’ve ever smiled at this guy. I think I did that one time when he was coming out of his office building and he waved to me. In my heart I’m always beaming at him, on my face I’m generally panicking. I am afraid to like him.

He was a regular at my cart until the day I mustered up the courage to tell him my name. He was very nice about it, told me his and never returned. That was in July.

Logic would like to intervene and point out to me that he’s simply not interested, but I don’t respond well to logic when it comes to matters of the heart. My crush has continued, possibly even grown, regardless. Because there was that time he waved to me and the time he said “Hey, how’s it going?” Not to mention how devastatingly handsome he is. But I digress.

Once I arrived on the far side of Hump Day I started to regain that I-Can-Do-Anything feeling. My courage heightened along with my sense of smell (don’t ask, it’s some weird fasting side effect) and I decided it was finally time to show him how I feel.

As luck would have it, on the fifth day, I saw him walking with some business associates likely on their way to lunch. I didn’t want to interrupt but promised myself if I saw him on his way back I would get out of my cart, approach him on the street and ask him out.

Time passed. The lunch rush came and went. And then there he was on the other side of the street heading back to his office. Was he looking at me or did I make that up? Confidence and determination took over where fear and trepidation has been residing. I threw off my apron, hopped out of my cart and headed toward the intersection.

The light changed against me and, keep in mind, I was walking with a limp (sexy!). He was getting away from me. I crossed to the opposite corner. Is it possible he slowed down? When I finally got to the side he was on it was just him, the others were gone. He was twenty feet away and dangerously close to his building. I called out his name, “_____!”, just as he turned up the entrance stairs. But he didn’t hear me and kept walking. (Or maybe he heard me and kept walking, I’ll choose to stay positive.)

All of a sudden I noticed I was surrounded by about seven of his co-workers awkwardly trying to let me pass and get his attention, but he was already through the door.

I squeaked out a “Sorry, it’s OK”, shook my head and slinked backward away from the stairs. Wondering for an instant why I had done something so ridiculous, worrying I had inadvertently embarrassed him.

Epic failure, right?

Not exactly.  This was Day 5 of a cleanse. I had beaten down the devil that is Hump Day and returned to the realm of uuuuunstoppable. Limping back to my cart I somehow managed not to sink into the stature of the idiot I had just made of myself.

In the name of love I declared I would not be embarrassed by my actions. In fact I had a huge grin on my face as I hobbled up through the door of my trailer and the first thing I thought to myself was: I should just do this cleanse for forty days.

As with everything in life – it doesn’t really matter what the outcome is, it just matters that we try.

A Note About Hump Day

The beginning of a cleanse usually goes something like this:

Day 1 – Your intellectual voice is calm and in control. You say to yourself, “I feel pumped about doing something positive for my body, mind and spirit.” Halfway through the day it’s, “This lemonade is interesting. I can get used to it.” And by nightfall, “OK I can see how this is going to take some effort but I’m in it to win it. Let’s go!”

Day 2 – The spaz in you temporarily takes over as you shout, to anyone who will listen, how totally fucking awesome you are for even attempting such a monumental task. “Wahoo!” you say. “I’m the king of the world! I can do anything! Uuuunstoppable! Yeow! Suck it naysayers, look at me now!”

Then comes Day 3. For anyone out there who is considering a cleanse, you really need to prepare yourself for Day 3. Day 3 is when you collapse. Your head hurts because you haven’t been drinking enough lemonade. You realize you hate the lemonade because it’s completely disgusting and find it impossible to take even one more sip. You argue with your partner or your best friend or the bus driver and feel fully justified because you’ve gone two whole days without food.

In a nutshell, your ego starts talking louder than your resolve. Much louder.

Right then, when you’re at your lowest, something like this will happen: your sister, who never has spare cash, will appear with spare cash and say, “Oh darn, you’re fasting? I wanted to take you to our favorite Thai restaurant on 23rd for dinner.” That bitch!

This will happen to you, I swear. But don’t hate her for this is not your real sister! This is an alien being come down to Earth to knock you off your path. This is your ego slipping in to remind you how much you suck at life and can’t finish anything you commit to. It’s your unconscious self pulling you back to your negative comfort zone. It’s the universe, it’s God, it’s Gaia, it’s anything you want to say it is testing your resolve.

Don’t let that stupid little voice win. Drink some lemonade and move on. Humans have been fasting since the dawn of time. Our bodies are capable of it and that’s all you need to know. What’s waiting for you on the other side is immeasurable growth and knowledge combined to equal freedom. You are strong enough. You can get there because you are enough.

Smoothies Are Out, But I’m Keeping The Juice

It usually takes me about 45 seconds to suck down a 16 ounce smoothie. I hardly even appreciate its flavor as it slides past my taste buds. Considering I own a smoothie cart and have been drinking one every day for years, it makes sense that I no longer pay much attention to them. Sad though since they’re so tasty! (The PSC is open in downtown Portland M-F from 10am-3pm – Ha ha! Just kidding!)

Well the one I had on Saturday took me about 3 hours to consume. And it wasn’t about savoring tastiness, there just wasn’t any room for it. Plus I felt guilty, like I was cheating myself, because that’s exactly what was happening. As my friend Travis put it, it just got in the way. It was a crutch in the way of my freedom.

How funny to think that after just a few days on a new path a fruit smoothie can feel like junk food, but it did. So they’re out. Smoothies are officially cut from the diet plan and I made it through yesterday and today without any issues. That means I am no longer consuming any solid food, only liquids from here on out.

So why exactly am I doing this?

The Physical

To look at me I seem to be an average healthy person and in a lot of ways I am. I’m at an average height and weight for my age. I like to exercise, do a lot of yoga, often commute to work by bike. I eat a decent vegetarian diet, meaning I don’t regularly gorge on junk food and I rarely drink alcohol or caffeine. I also sleep really well and meditate.

And yet, in the past few years I have had a flu that sent me to the emergency room with my throat swelling shut, a DVT blood clot in my calf, occupational allergic asthma that forced me to leave my job and be transferred to a different building, Lyme disease, epidemic keratoconjunctivitis, plantar fasciitis, pneumonia, various other inexplicable allergy attacks and, most recently, over two months of intense sciatica from a bulging disc and pinched nerve.

So I started to wonder, what gives?

I have a million theories: family health history, stress, environmental toxins from six years in New York City, too much soy, general inability to deal with emotions and who knows, maybe I’m just unlucky. I’m working on them all. In the meantime it seemed like a good idea to do a 10-day cleanse. Having completed two true Master Cleanses in the past I knew it to be a good way to release toxins and sort of set the clock back to zero or wipe the slate clean.

Abstaining from eating solid food allows the digestive system to take a few days off. That in turn frees up boat loads of energy for the body to use in healing itself. I’m doing this to allow my body to clear itself out and begin to heal from the inside.

Days 1 and 2 were OK; three was tough. Three was Hump Day (more on that later) but my resolve was strong enough to get me through and by Day 4 I was starting to feel better. The tides turned on Day 5. I woke up feeling fantastic. The sciatic pain was still in full force but my energy and drive were really amped up. It was on that day that I decided to go for it with a full forty days.

I have forever been skeptical of doctors and conventional medicines so I’m excited to take this journey and see what I can accomplish on my own with just the natural, instinctual ability of my body.

The Mental

This kind of process is all about mind over matter. Challenges remind me that I’m alive and capable. I’m the kind of person who thrives on responsibility and I look forward to checking this off as something I’ve accomplished.

The Emotional

This part is much harder for me to pin down. I’m a Pisces, my heart is constantly glowing on my sleeve no matter what emotion happens to be passing through. More often than not the emotions seem stuck and I resort to gloom and doom, always expecting the worst. Obviously it’s not just my astrological sign. It’s a combination of lessons I learned as a kid, mistakes I’ve made and the normal human tendency to be ruled by ego and guilt. It’s a real bummer of a way to live. At least it was for the first three decades.

At the dawn of my first Saturn Return at age 28 (yes, I’m totally into astrology) I started to actually pay attention to all the things that had been in my periphery for years, things I was drawn to but didn’t know why. I began voraciously reading the books on my shelf like The Tao Te Ching and Buddhism Without Beliefs. I joined a philosophy study group, tried to get serious about yoga, attended my first kirtan. I found Pronoia Is The Antidote For Paranoia, an entire book about how the universe is conspiring in our favor to shower us all with blessings, and I actually started to believe it.

Most importantly I confronted the negative roles alcohol and anger played in my life and began a long process of changing my relationship with them. It’s life-changing to wake up one day and realize you’ve spent your whole life being angry and you don’t want to do it anymore. I left a city I didn’t like, a relationship I wasn’t happy in, a job that made me crazy and moved my entire life to the opposite coast.

All of these things have led me to a pretty great time in my life. This present moment is a good one. While I’ve certainly made progress, it’s not enough. I still get really hung up on ideas and expectations of how I should be and everything that’s wrong with me and how I’m running out of time to accomplish the things I hold closest to my heart. What about marriage? What about motherhood? What about writing a novel and opening that bed & breakfast in the woods? These thoughts should be my hopes and dreams but instead they manifest as my worries and anxieties. I’m never going to be enough. I’m never going to wear all the hats I see at the store.

Peace and happiness can be elusive or tangible. We get to choose. This cleanse is the next step on my journey to tangibility.

The Stats

I bought my first scale today. I’ve never owned one as I think they promote paranoia. It’s bad enough I check my iPhone every 4 minutes for an incoming email, I don’t need to be thinking about my weight every day as well. But I am interested to see how big of a change I accomplish with this experience, keeping in mind that much of the initial loss is water weight and much of it will come back after I start eating again. Weight loss is not on my list of motivations for this cleanse but it’s inevitable and I’m sure I’m not the only one who is curious.

My scale is fancy. Somehow it calculates body fat and water percentages through my bare feet. I don’t know how that info will help me, but at the onset I’m within healthy range for my age (according to Weight Watchers who made the scale).

Since I’m already 6 days in I’m taking measurements with all my clothes on and padding them a bit to make up for what I’ve already lost.

So here are the approximate stats for Day 1:

Age – 32

Height – 5′ 6″

Weight – 140 lbs (I weighed in today at 135.6 lbs)

Body fat percentage – 24.3%

Body water percentage – 55.2%

Bust – 35 1/2″

Waist – 28″

Hips – 39″

Thigh – 21 1/2″

Calf – 15″

Bicep – 11″

Wrist – 5 1/2″

Finger – just kidding

I’ll update these at the halfway point and again at the end.