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Western medicine thinks I have IBS. Eastern medicine thinks my eternal fire is cool and needs to be reheated. Whatever the issue is, I’ve been spending a lot of time hanging out with a reasonably attractive GI doctor who I like to pretend hasn’t performed a sigmoidoscopy on me, and a doll-sized acupuncturist who communicates with my body in adept and eerily truth-finding ways.

The acupuncturist and I giggle together at moments like when I talk about existential panic that wakes me up at night and she responds with, “It’s fun! This is a puzzle we get to figure out,” and then realizes how that comes across. Dr. GI and I share a cold room where we each wish the other understood what we were communicating better.

Dr. GI and I had a conversation that went like this:

Me: “I’ve gained 5 pounds since this all began. Which seems weird considering everything has been coming out of my body at an alarming rate. Do you think there’s a correlation – like my intestines are inflamed?”

Doc: “Have you tried counting calories? If you’re gaining weight, there’s nothing wrong with you.”

The acupuncturist and I had a similar conversation.

Me: “I’ve gained 5 pounds since this all began. Which seems weird considering everything has been coming out of my body at an alarming rate. Do you think there’s a correlation – like my intestines are inflamed?”

Her: “I think it’s all related. The dreams, the panic, the physical symptoms – it’s probably due to subconscious and generational stress. Which we’re going to figure out how to get rid of.” When she communes with my body, she murmurs faster than I’ve ever heard a human speak, almost a tranced chant until she looks me in the eye and asked questions like, “What happened at conception that would have colored your life with a sense of pointlessness?” and “What happened at birth that made you feel abandoned and disdainful toward those who don’t like you?” and “What happened at age 2 that made you feel guilty?” and “Whose abandonment are you holding onto for them at age 32?”I tend to stare at her blankly, and she says, “First response/best response” like it’s a poem.

It’s akin to therapy at the speed of light, making me want to ask my parents questions I always assumed I never needed to know answers to, like “Tell me your innermost feelings at the time of my conception so I can perhaps understand why my insides are falling out.”

To appease Dr. GI – or perhaps to spite him – I’ve downloaded MyFitnessPal in order to track my exercise and count calories. Writing down what I’ve eaten is a familiar task, one I carried with me for the better part of my twenties in small notebooks tucked in my purse. I can tell you what I ate on this day in 2007, 2008, and 2009. I’m recording it all now again because I want to be able to go back to the doctor and say “See? I’m not a calorie munching maniac. Now please tell me why I’m gaining weight and how it relates to my intestines.” There’s another piece of me that is worried he’s right.

MyFitnessPal has instructed me to eat 1260 calories a day (more if I exercise) in order to lose the five pounds. The obsessive feeling is familiar. I stare at food like it’s a number, not a taste or an experience. The ” if I can’t figure out how to count calories then I don’t want to bother eating it” feeling while I’m out to brunch is familiar too.

The acupuncturist gives me herbs I can’t pronounce with specific instructions: four scoops, three times a day, an hour after meals or medicine – mixed in warm water. Soak for 30 minutes, boil for 45. Eat more cinnamon. Eat four apples a day.

I’m not sure who is right. All I know is my physical existence feels like it’s been reduced to numbers. On a scale. In a scoop. Minutes of exercise. Glasses of water. Words per minute.

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I’ve hemmed and hawed for a duet of years on if I want to remain a vegetarian (feel free to read about the why I’ve been on the fence here). And after considerable thought, conversation, licking pieces of turkey (okay one. I licked ONE piece of turkey), and drooling over the idea of sashimi (I really do want to try it before my end of days), I have to say this: I’m recommitting to vegetarianism for me. 

I don’t love what we’re doing to the environment because of eating meat. I don’t believe I could kill my own food unless forced to or unless living/working on a personal farm for years. I think adding to the meat-eaters adds to the problem, and while vegetarianism isn’t a solution, it’s a step in the right direction. And I’ve met a few vegetarians this year that are so resolute in their convictions without being overbearing – who believe what they are doing is the better choice even though they miss meat to a degree – and they’ve inspired me to believe in something.

I also don’t care what you do so long as you do it thoughtfully. I will watch you eat re-legalized foie gras with glee and ask how it tastes because yes, I crave the experience. I will probably at some point eat meat again if only to experience certain things for a few years because I am intensely curious about most things, including the tastes and textures that define our world.

It feels good to decide this.

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It’s Not a Choice

While walking with my friend Kristin she mentioned that she had cut all meat, dairy and sugar out of her diet a few months prior.

“And?” I asked.

“Girl, it was not easy,” she replied. “There are all these people out there who say ‘Oh, I could never do that. I love cheese too much.’ And I want to tell them ‘You think I don’t love cheese? And flank steak?’ The truth is, it’s not so much about not wanting those things. I want them. But they’re not good for me, and I feel so much better without it. So it just becomes not an option.”

Her comments reminded me of what I want to think when people say, “I could never wake up early and swim,” or “I could never run every day.” My answer is quite similar. It’s not that I want to do those things. In fact, I often joke in my head that if given the choice, I wouldn’t do them. But it’s never been a choice. It has just been what is.

To everyone who is cutting something out, or incorporating something in – go forth and conquer!

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Last night, I was mentioning to my friend Aron that I had posted a photo of my feet on this here running blog. He looked down at my toes and said, “Aw, your feet are so cute!”

“It was the bottom of my feet…” I trailed off.

He picked up my foot and flipped it up toward him. “Well, the tops of your feet are so cute!” he cooed.

And that’s when a photo popped up in my inbox, sent straight from my mom. Good Babinski reflex for a little girl less than one day old. Clearly, she’d noticed my most recent posts.

“You know,” I said to Aron and turning the phone toward him, “there was indeed a time where the bottoms of my feet were adorable, too.”

unnamed

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The Bottom

Of a runner’s foot, that is.

Share yours?

 

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A friend of mine astutely noted a golden ticket to being crowned Mayor of Oakland. “Promise to get rid of the Canadian Geese at Lake Merritt.”

 

Oakland may be divided on several issues: gentrification, what to do with the Sears building, and which Farmer’s Market is the best – but the geese are common ground. Except for my friend Simone, no one has ever said, “I really do think they’re nice.”  Oaklanders (and our visitors) tend to agree: the geese cause somewhat of an issue.

True, most people are concerned about the goose-poop that a gaggle of 2000 geese create. Or about the noise. But mostly the poop.

But me? My only complaint is the geese scare the bejesus out of me. They’re about 1/3 my size, so approaching a flock of 30 of them loitering in the grass and strewn about the running path means I’m out-powered by quite a bit. My only consolation is the geese haven’t figured this out…yet.

Last week while jogging around the lake, I found myself literally surrounded by geese on all sides. Like a football player running through tires, I hiked up my legs and did a prance of sorts, praying that day wouldn’t be The Day The Geese Discovered They Had The Power. A few necks snapped at me as I cavorted through, but I reached a goose-free space safe.

This morning however, I tried a new approach. Upon spying a mass amount of feathered unfriends (but certainly not enemies) ahead of me, I made a bold, un-thought-out decision: I bent arms and lifted them to my shoulders, as though I were a T-rex attempting to impersonate Frankenstein, reprised by leg-hiking prance, and started hooting like an owl might if it ate too much pizza for dinner without a lactaid.

And it worked.

The geese parted, and the two middle aged women watching me from the other side of the goose-gauntlet cheered.

 

 

 

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After working a 12-hour on-my-feet wedding crew shift yesterday, I went home and sunk into my bathtub with a glass of wine. Several minutes of soaking later (enough so the bubbles died down) I brought myself to read my text messages, one of which was from my running buddy Alexis.

Think I’d rather skip a trail run tomorrow and do yoga instead. Any interest in going to Kimber’s class with me? 

I’ve been verifiably curious about Kimber since her book, Full, managed to revamp my entire way of thinking. Plus, a friend of mine had once told me she sang during class (which he assumed I wouldn’t like. And granted, nine months ago, that may have been true). But I love singing, especially group singing (it’s a family thing. You should have seen my mom’s birthday party this year. Over an hour of appetizers and belting out standards with a ukelele player).

So I agreed to go.

The first thing that happened was I wondered what to wear. The only yoga-like pants I own are known for being see-through in the  back. Which is fine. I’d wear black underwear and suck it up. However, while standing in my apartment I looked in the mirror and noticed that the tight pants hugged every crevice of my body. Every single one. Even the contours between my legs. 

You have to be kidding me. Not only was I going to half-moon it to the world, I was also going to camel toe it too? What, was I going to somehow become the world’s next humiliating meme?

Alexis assured me this was normal as I tugged my T-shirt down.

Upon entering the yoga room, I was struck by one feature I’m not sure I’ve seen in any exercise room: there were no mirrors. No mirrors means that it’d be hard for me to see if I was doing positions correctly – if my hips were flat, if my hands didn’t look ridiculous, if a hair was out of place….hmmm. Maybe this whole no mirror thing was going to actually be helpful.

I flattened my yoga-sitting-device as Kimber played something that was a mixture of a keytar and an instrument you’d expect a yogic elephant to be proficient at. She crooned consonants and syllables I didn’t understand, pausing to say “let’s all sing a chorus of Amazing Grace.”

The room filled with notes. Bass. Tenor. Alto. Soprano. As it came to an end, I felt scared shitless – I was about to do something I am verifiably bad at, without a mirror, in front of strangers, and in the presence of someone I have great respect for.

However, with the idea of Amazing Grace in my mind: that we are sometimes lost and other times found, that we fear and are relieved, I had the hope that this was going to go well.

The class began with talking. I like listening – the idea of lectures gets me giddy – and joy resonated from her speech. Mindfulness. Compassion. Kindness for yourself. All the idea of her book, the ideas that have been floating around in my head, came forth like a Sunday sermon of sorts – a very different Sunday sermon than I grew up with.

Yoga itself is not easy for me. Despite actually having okay balance and being sort of flexible, my body has never enjoyed contorting itself into any yoga-infused pose. However, never were we told we were doing something wrong. Encouraged to move our bodies one way or another, sure. Yet never “not that way…this way.”

All the while, Kimber gently directing and gently cheering, more forcefully suggesting we exist right in the moment we were in and bask in, as Mary Oliver calls it, our “wild and precious life.”

Having a consistent reminder to let go of my self criticism, to not judge myself, to notice my thoughts without getting entangled with them, was powerful. Sure, I was not good at yoga. But I was me at yoga.

As a class, we each took a partner to practice “wheel pose” with. My partner, Kit, had me hold her ankles and attempt to push myself into the pose. Scared, I wasn’t able to fully straighten my arms.

“You’re so close,” she told me. “I think you can do it if you let go of your fear.”

I watched her from above, seeing her practiced body lift into an arch that reminded me of childhood and strength, and wanted that feeling not just from without but within.

We practiced wheel pose separately for a spell, and I felt myself go from bent arms to straight ones, a smile on my face and arched through my back. I used to just lean back with my hands and catch myself in this exact pose, when I fancied becoming a gymnast. Funny how the challenge of being able to do it now made me so much more grateful to have the power to bend. I didn’t take it for granted.

Back down on the ground, in the resting pose, Kimber picked up her elephant’s keytar, singing us into the present.

 

 

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