Stuck in a Moment?

"Rock, Hard Place" Road Sign with dramatic clouds and sky.I’m feeling that prickly sensation of mild sunburn on my forehead and the backs of my legs. After two weeks out of the water and away from Baja, it’s good to be home. I wasn’t so sure that I’d be feeling this way though. I wasn’t sure I was going to want to come home.

I’ve not only been MIA from this blog for a while, but I’ve been feeling MIA from life a fair bit too. I’ve been struggling, depressed and lonely. I’ve been fighting with the realities of my lifestyle.

I’m pretty sure I can hear you thinking where do I get off feeling this way? Believe me, I’ve been told many times and am usually very aware that I have every reason to be content, that I live a life most people would give a few fingers for. My ex, in his eloquence, is fond of saying I’ve “got it dicked.” And I usually can convince myself that’s true and find a reason to be content, if not outright happy. But there’s something missing and so much of what is obvious from the outside looking in just masks the difficult realities of my lifestyle. To compound the problem, I feel a tremendous amount of guilt any time I feel dissatisfied. Feeling guilty about how I’m feeling does nothing to help the situation.

When I find myself in this place, I do my best not to wallow or let it drag me down into a pit of self-pity. What I do instead is gratefully acknowledge everything I have, eat right, drink less and try to figure out what fundamentally is making me feel like crap so I can fix it. The fix is always one of two things – an attitude adjustment or something external I can change. Typically the former approach is enough to turn things around, but when the depression is the result of too much partying and surfing, and not enough sleep, changing my external circumstances can work wonders. This time though the only cause I could come up with was that I had been living in isolation for eight months and needed to get out. Getting out, however, requires funds, which are in short supply (for now, she optimistically writes), so I turned to my ex who’d been asking me to come help him with a landscaping project on Maui. He’d fly me to Hawaii in exchange for help with his project, some baking and home cooked meals.

The remarkable thing is that as soon as I booked my tickets, I felt better. Instantly. Days before my scheduled departure. I woke up early, enthusiastic for what the day would bring and looking forward to what lay ahead. I thought, “!s that all it takes? Something different to look forward to?”

As the plane took off and banked North in the direction of San Francisco, I felt a elephantine weight lift and my mood shifted skyward with the plane. Less than 24 hours in San Francisco and I started to think, “Maybe I should move to California and get a real job, get involved in some kind of community work…rejoin civilization.” Yeah, I can barely believe it either.

And then, rather than laugh at myself, leave it at that unbelievable thought, and return to my unreal life, I said out loud to three well-connected people, “So if you know anyone who’s looking for someone to house sit, a writer or editor, or anything really, let me know.”

On Maui, I began the process of formulating a plan that would make my new dream come true. I even came up with a way I could have my cake and eat it too. “I’ll get a writing job that only requires that I be in the office periodically.” And there were thoughts of landing a regular house- and animal-sitting gig.

The time on the island went fast. Too fast. I kept thinking up reasons why I should stay longer. “We didn’t accomplish enough on the project.” “I should go to this writing workshop that’s scheduled on the Sunday after I’m supposed leave.” “I didn’t get to have good pizza.” “I really should go see friend X.” But I had responsibilities back home that couldn’t wait and some disturbed weather off the coast of southern Mexico suggested a tropical storm might form sooner rather than later. I kept to the original plan and promised myself I’d return to the City by the Bay this fall or winter.

The flight from Maui to San Francisco, via Portland is not short. I had plenty of time to get caught up on my reading. I’d packed my Kindle in my checked baggage by mistake, so I read the only thing I had handy – Volume 24.3 of The Surfers Journal. And as I read from front to back cover, three quotes in three separate articles resonated with me, revealing a theme that shed light on the source of my dissatisfaction.

It’s easy to feel isolated when you’re no longer part of mainstream life.”

Day after day, no matter how perfect the waves get, there is a feeling of remoteness here, a sense that the rest of the world is moving along, more engaged, more connected, and more interesting.”

I felt a pang of recognition delivered with the pointier end of a stick as I read the last one:

If every day is a holiday, there are no more holidays.”

There they were, hard, sharp, and undeniable on the page – the three main reasons I was feeling down, along with their remedies:

Isolation, remoteness, and monotony versus engaged, connected, and interesting.

I feel, often, like I am on another planet or could be, for all the interaction I have with people. The little bit I have is limited in scope and time. What I’m struggling with, bumping up against, is the need to feel connected, deeply connected, to other members of the human race and to feel engaged in some cause that benefits others. But I’m scared by what that means. Really scared. That ache-in-the-pit-of-your-stomach scared. It’s the changes I’d have to make implied by this realization that scare the living shit out of me. And then I think, “What if this feeling is something that will pass and I end up regretting it for the rest of my life?” After all, we’re talking about walking away from what, for the most part, is a pretty amazing lifestyle. Then I worry that I’m looking in the wrong place for a solution to my dissatisfaction – external conditions. Maybe I just need to “do the work” and everything will turn rosy again. Maybe, just maybe, I’m “stuck in a moment and can’t get out of it.” But the memory of the epiphany I had on that plane tells me that’s just wishful thinking. The prospect of leaving this surfers’ paradise is daunting. But if at the other end I find meaning and fulfillment, the choice seems pretty obvious. Nevertheless, I don’t know. I just don’t know. Do you?

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Guest Blogger for “The Idolbuster”

While attending the San Francisco Writers Conference I had the great pleasure to meet many interesting and motivated writers from the world over. In a blogging workshop at the end of the conference, I met Greg Marcus, a native of Syracuse, NY living in the Bay Area. Greg has an impressive resume that includes such iconic academic institutions as MIT and Stanford and time working in the biotech industry in genome-related research.  More impressive than his PhD from MIT however, is the fact that Greg left the biotech world when, in his words, “I realized that my company, and not my family, was the highest priority in my life.” On his website, The Idolbuster, Greg describes himself as a modern day Abraham who smashes corporate idols to help the chronically overworked find a more fulfilling life.

Having left the rat race to follow my dream to learn to surf, Greg’s story resonated with me. Our conversation turned to my history during which I related my discovery that I was suffering from an illness that was likely the result of the stress of working a 70 hour work week and participating in the scientific rat race. That’s when Greg honored me with a request to write a guest post for his blog about my experience.

Here is the link to that post: http://idolbuster.com/archives/854  Click on over!

Dry Docked

I haven’t been much of a writer these past three weeks.

I keep thinking, “There will be time for writing when you are older. Seize the opportunity now to surf and kiteboard as much as possible while your body is relatively healthy and strong. One day, perhaps sooner than you want to believe, you won’t have the stamina and strength to surf for several hours in one day. Then you’ll have all the time in the world to write.”

Perhaps this is short-sighted and selfish. Perhaps it’s avoidance behavior or a rationalization. Whatever it is, it’s keeping me surfing. Surfing and enjoying life so much (aka partying with friends) that I found myself several days ago so exhausted that my body felt like a lead weight I was lugging around. It took concentrated effort to keep moving and get the things done I needed to get done around the house before I left the country (re-potting of two large plants, organizing and packing my bags).

But I’ll have plenty of opportunity to rest up now. A few days ago I flew North to eastern Canada, to the place I will always call home no matter how long it’s been since I’ve lived there, Vankleek Hill, Ontario. I slept on the plane despite the good reading material I had along with me (The Sun magazine). I slept hard, so hard that I didn’t even hear the attendant come by with immigration forms and dinner. I might have even drooled a little bit. Then that night I took two melatonin pills before bed in part to counteract the tiny bit of coffee ice cream I ate while I re-watched the movie Apocalypto, in part because I wanted to sleep the sleep of the dead. I had a serious sleep deficit that I needed to reverse.

Ice cream and a movie, Thai food before that – some of the small pleasures I don’t get much of in Baja, the things that make leaving my beautiful paradise just a tiny bit less painful.

While leaving induces the pain of separation, emotional pain, the truly painful thing I’m focused on right now is the physical pain of a volcano-like hole on my knee that refuses to heal. It’s been there since January when I sliced the top off my knee coming in with a kite that was inside out and dragged my knee over the top of a rock. I didn’t even feel it, it was such a clean cut. But after I got out of the water, I looked down to see watery blood dripping down my leg. Ever since then the cut has grown into a hole that keeps getting deeper and deeper every time I surf despite taking several measures to protect it. I covered it with a waterproof Band-Aid and then with a tubular piece of neoprene cut from an old wetsuit. It seemed to be working and six weeks or so ago, it looked like a new layer of skin had finally grown over the wound. Then I decided to fore-go the Band-aid I’d worn every other surf session and instead applied a layer of New Skin® liquid bandage over the new scar tissue. But I forgot to put the tube of neoprene on over it. At one point when I popped up, my left knee caught the waxed surface of the board, I felt a sharp pain as the New Skin was ripped from my knee taking the new layer of skin along with it. I was back to square one.

Day 1: Healing begins

What I needed to do was stay out of the water, but I was unwilling to accept that increasingly obvious fact. As a result, this hole has threatened to get infected several times. It gets hot and extremely sensitive to the touch and then I clean it with hydrogen peroxide, coat it with antibacterial ointment, apply a bandage and pray. I’ve hit it square in the middle on tables and chairs, which nearly brings me to tears. Yoga and other activities that involve applying pressure to the knees are done gingerly, carefully, with most of the weight applied to the right knee.

By the time I return to Mexico I will have been out of the water for three weeks straight. For once this is a good thing. By then I pray there will be a layer of new skin in place that is thick enough and tough enough to resist the wear and tear of being dragged across the rough waxy surface of a surf board after soaking for several hours in the water. Because if it isn’t healed by then, I’ll be hard pressed to stay out of the water as the summer surf season ramps up to full speed ahead.

What about you? What is the longest you’ve had hold off doing something you love due to an injury? What’s the gnarliest injury you’ve ever had?

Cathartic Purgation

Cathartic Purgation. This term was first seen in a botanical book describing the effect on a person of eating a specific plant. Curious as to it’s exact meaning, the glossary was sought.

Purgation: The act or process of discharging bodily wastes or foreign substances.
Cathartic: A substance that purifies.

A more literal definition: The act of clearing the bowels and small intestines of all solid matter in an explosive fashion.

With this, it is understood to be an exhausting and invigorating process. It is not until today that the right energy is attained to write about the colon/liver/gallbladder cleanse.

The cleansing period began on Monday. The vegetarian diet was followed as always, but now apple juice was made from Red Delicious apples and about 36 ounces were drunk each day. Along with the Super Colon Cleanse pills mentioned in the previous post. And the usual regimen of good quality USANA vitamins. An attempt was made to eat less overall, eliminate white flour and other refined foods, caffeinated beverages and all dairy.

The attempt was semi successful. The first two days the overall feeling was of tiredness. And sleep was very deep. The Super Colon Cleanse pills meant the bathroom was the most popular room. A sensation that maybe toxins in the system were being released by the special diet and the bentonite clay in the pills.

On the third and fourth day, the feeling changed. There was energy to burn! Clean energy, not like the energy from coffee. A clean, powerful energy and increased flexibility. Yoga was fun and full of grace. Meditation clearer, calm found more quickly.

On the fifth day, it was noticed that the body was tired of the apple juice. Some was forced down anyway. A very light breakfast of one green apple and a fist-sized bowl of whole grain oatmeal. No pills of any type.

The house was cleaned furiously and this kept the mind off the stomach. The metaphor of the clean house for the body was not overlooked.

At 2pm no more food was taken by mouth. And no more drink.

At 6pm the first in a series of four epsom salts drinks was consumed. This is a mixture of epsom salts and apple juice. It tastes quite unpleasant even with the help of the juice. And again at 8pm this nasty concoction was consumed. At 10pm, standing next to the bed, a mixture of olive oil and fresh squeezed grapefruit juice was shaken vigorously before being swallowed quickly. The grapefruit juice does an amazing job of emulsifying the oil and the whole mixture was actually very palatable. Two melatonin tablets were taken to help attain the state of sleep.

Instructions said to lie down in bed flat on the back immediately. That was done. And then the wait. For sleep. Which did not come for well over an hour. And when it did come, it left very quickly. A rude awakening accompanied by a sensation of nausea…and of a stomach very full. Laying on the back is not the natural way to sleep. Tossing and turning began, making the nausea worse.

Somehow real sleep is attained.

Awake and aware of sensations in the intestines. Still nauseated. Wondering if a significant mistake has been made. Many trips to the loo began. Cathartic purgation ensued.

Results. Large balls of hard bile, many small balls and hard yellow gravelly looking pieces of what was said in the literature to be cholesterol. They are presented here for your entertainment.

The large balls were cut in half and at the center of some resided a strange flat white thing. What are these? They could be a parasite from the liver. A liver fluke perhaps. It is decided that a parasite cleanse is necessary and some Paragon is ordered. Paragon = natural herbal parasitide.

Throughout the day more interesting things are observed. More parasites. And much cholesterol that looks like wheat chaff. A feeling of exhaustion from the purgation begins to take hold. Some time is spent resting in the sun. Vitamin D!

Midday some juice is consumed and very slowly over the course of the afternoon food is reintroduced. Only fruits and vegetables and some coconut oil to keep the bile moving. Very small quantities of food. A strange feeling of fullness in the area of the liver starts.

That night, as sleep was attempted, the fullness in the liver turned to slight pain. The next day the source of the pain is realized. More stones have passed! Large ones! Telling us more cleansing is required. We understand now how well the epsom salts have worked to open up and relax ducts so the first stones could pass without pain.

The end result, two days later, is a feeling of overall increased health. Greater understanding of the body and what it needs. A desire to eat healthier and not to consume alcohol.

Taking responsibility for our individual health instead of waiting for disease to take hold is not the typical approach to health taken. Instead of being irresponsible with this one body and then expecting the medical institution to produce a magic bullet and cure. Realizing that the North American diet is killing friends, family and strangers alike. Reducing the quality of life for even more. Processed foods have no life in them. To the contrary they KILL. We are the product of millennia of eating roots, nuts & berries and, on occasion, animal protein. What makes us think we can get away with eating two pounds of animal protein, three pounds of sugar and processed flour every day?

The next step in the series of bodily spring cleaning will be the removal of mercury-containing tooth fillings. Check back here for details!

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A wonderful source of information on the politics of food and healthcare and how you can take responsibility for your health is Dr. Tim O’Shea’s web site The Doctor Within.

Just Desserts

A reward can take many forms. But at the end of a long day of hard work, it is the reward that makes it all worth it. We’re talking about the reward beyond that of a job well done, a clean house, weeded garden or report completed. The reward of a good meal and maybe a nice glass of red wine.

Most things are done for a reward. Whether its exercise, eating right, getting up in the morning, most of us wouldn’t do these things if it wasn’t for the rewards realized.

Today however is different. There will be no happy ending of a good meal and glass of red. In fact there will be no dinner at all. And there’s been no red for almost a week. In fact, it’s starting to feel rather impoverished around here.

The red has been replaced with copious amounts of freshly pressed apple juice. Red Delicious apples washed and cut and put through the juicer. Apples and more apples. At least 55 of them. The juice pours forth, pink at first but quickly turning a disturbing color of brown as it oxidizes. It’s so sweet that it is necessary to combine it with water to reduce the sugar rush and taxation on the system. [Maybe it should be called Barry juice!]

Normal eating has been replaced by meals of freshly juiced vegetables or brown rice and steamed vegetables. All in modest quantities. It is amazing how filling vegetable juice can be. Bokchoy, beets, celery, carrots and a bit more apple for taste.

Special Super Colon Cleansing pills are popped. Too many at first and lessons are learned the hard way. Whoa! Back off those puppies. From four three times a day, like it says on the label, it is necessary to cut back to one and then two pills three times a day. Much better. Less urgency.

For five days a vegan diet and a lot of apple juice. A lot of a lot of apple juice. The malic acid in the apples, which is absent in pasteurized apple juice bought in the store, works its magic. Things start to soften and dissolve.

Stones, Gall Stones.

There has been no diagnosis, however experience and research indicates that we are all a little bit full of stones (among other things). 90% of people have a significant number of gallstones choking up their livers. Making them less than 100% healthy.

It is the job of the liver to make bile, as much as 1.5 liters per day. The liver is full of tubes that deliver the bile to a larger tube known as the common bile duct. The gallbladder is attached to the common bile duct and acts as a storage reservoir. Eating fat or protein triggers the gallbladder to squeeze itself empty after about twenty minutes, and the stored bile finishes its trip down the common bile duct to the intestine.

It is not clear why we get gall stones. The stones, which are actually pretty soft to start out, congest the liver and the gallbladder and make them unable to do their job properly. The result is disease.

Indigestion. Allergies, back pain, arthritis, bowel inflammatory diseases and dreaded cancers.

Possibly heart disease. The word cholesterol originates from the Greek words chole, meaning bile, and stereos meaning solid. So cholesterol is in actuality “solid bile”. Maybe the millions of people taking statin drugs for their elevated cholesterol just need a good liver flushing!

Avoidance of these unpleasant symptoms and disease drives the current activities. Fasting, drinking epsom salts, spending copious amounts of time in the bathroom. The reward will be, it is hoped, good health. And likely more material for this blog. With pictures perhaps. Ah ha! You’re curiosity is stoked, isn’t it?

Now a glass of apple juice & epsom salts for dinner. Yum!

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For more information, the details on how to do a liver/gallbladder cleanse and some vivid graphics, go HERE.
For the best directions on how to do the liver flush and some more vivid photos go HERE.

Fear and Loathing in San José del Cabo

Yesterday it was reported that a doctor’s appointment was had with Doctora Elena Velderrain. Also visited yesterday was the curious but very pleasant Doctor Pedro Velderrain, Elena’s brother. He is an ultrasound specialist and as such works closely with his sister who is an obstetrician and gynecologist. They share patients naturally. She reviews the progress of pregnancies and he takes the developing babies’ photographs. She also does manual breast examinations and he uses ultrasound to determine the nature of any abnormalities she encounters.

The Velderrain family has been very successful. Four out of five children are doctors and the fifth is a chemist. Their father was also a doctor and must have created a very good example for his children because all are reputed to be excellent doctors.

The visit to Dr. Pedro was recommended by his sister at an appointment over a year ago. She reported that ultrasound was just as effective at finding lumps in the breast and much more accessible and economic than a mammogram. She did not mention a more important detail, which is that it is also a lot less tortuous, breasts are not squished pancake fashion in a vice-like machine.

The doctor first took the family history and there was an opportunity to look around his office. There were pictures under the glass of his desk, just like in his sister’s office. Ultrasounds of perfect little faces of sleeping babies (fetuses) waiting until it was time to join the rest of us. The faces appeared serene, as though sleeping, or maybe meditating.

The main reason for appearing, it was reported to the doctor, was that a sister had been diagnosed with breast cancer [and is fortunately cancer free now after a lumpectomy followed by a series of chemo- and then radiation therapy]. My father’s mother died of breast cancer. Therefore there is a higher risk of developing breast cancer.

The hospital gown was put on, open to the front, but this time only shirt and bra had to be removed, significantly less uncomfortable. And onto the table.

The doctor is experienced, 20 years, looking for cancer in the breasts of women, checking the well-being of fetuses. And he is personable much like his sister. Very pleasant. Which puts the patient at ease while he runs his gel-covered wand over the breasts, or in Spanish, pechos.

Also like his sister the good doctor has a television monitor above the table where you see what he sees. Expressing an interest in the details of what we are looking at results in a full explanation.

“The white lines are called Cooper’s ligaments, connective tissue of the breast. That is a fat deposit, these are ducts and this….this is a cyst. Well defined…tiny…less than half a centimeter.” Sensing the tension of the patient “and nothing to worry about.” Of course an explanation of what a cyst is was required. “A duct has collapsed and the body encapsulates the resulting discharge. This is a tiny one. Nothing to worry about. I can show you video of a cyst being aspirated if you like. ”

The cyst seen via ultrasound looking a bit like the eye of a storm.

The video magically appears on the screen. It is explained that the large black oval delineated by white lines at the top of the screen is the cyst. An arched line below some fuzzy tissue is a breast implant. Then, from the right side of the screen a fine line enters the field of vision goes into the oval, the cyst, and before our eyes the cyst shrinks and collapses as the fluid is removed. Almost like magic.

Then the doctor produces an image of an ultrasound of advanced breast cancer. “This was a friend of our family. She knew that there was something wrong with her breasts, but she refused to come in because she was afraid to hear the diagnosis. By the time she came in several years after noticing the lump, this is what I found. Two large masses. She died six months after this image was taken.”

A potent reminder of the importance of regular examinations and that fear is a poor motivator. The same fear resulted in a long delay between the previous mammogram and this current ultrasound. Unacceptable. Of course now that the experience is had there is no more fear. The process is simple and painless.

There is nothing to fear but fear itself.

“Come back if the cyst bothers you and I can aspirate it. And be sure to come back again in six months regardless. Unlike a mammogram, you can have ultrasound regularly because there is no exposure to radiation. Your history means you should do this. And keep eating healthy!”

A file folder was offered and inside were photos, this time of breast tissue, specifically the cyst, and a full description of the findings of his examination (in Spanish). Total cost 900 pesos ($65).

A little research and it was found that “fibrocystic breast changes” (cysts in the breasts) are very common. Between 30 and 60 percent of women have them. This means that up to 60 percent of women have reason to have their breasts examined thoroughly by ultrasound to ensure that they are indeed cysts and not a malignancy. It is not necessary to have them aspirated and many will disappear on their own. Nevertheless, women finding lumps in their breasts should have them examined by ultrasound and may be relieved to discover that it is only a benign cyst. Either way, it is important to conduct regular self examinations and to have regular check ups, particularly if you have a family history of breast cancer. Don’t let fear get in your way.

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For more information about fibrocystic breast changes click here.

For a very cool video on self breast massage that helps reduce breast pain and dissolve cysts click HERE!

Click on this link to support the free mammogram program of
The Breast Cancer Site.