Poem – What if AIDS is a WMD?

What if AIDS is
A weapon of mass destruction?
What if it is a created thing,
a biological weapon?
What if it was created
to destroy the world,
one person at a time?

What greater way to
destroy
us than to use one of our
basic impulses
– sex?

But it isn’t done to us.
We do it.
We have control,
right?
It isn’t caused by a gas in the air,
poison in our food.
We know the risk and yet,
and yet.

How else are we destroying ourselves
though impulses
– food?
Certainly.
We are like animals.

Diabetes, heart attacks,
obesity that renders
a person
immobile, incapable,
impotent
in more ways than one,
powerless.

Mindlessly
with our habits, unthinking
we are killing ourselves,
never really alive
in the first place.
If all we do
is have sex
and eat
and nothing more,
we are no better than worms.

With our mindless habits,
we become
food
for them.

Hoarding, overeating, and the pearl.

Hoarding and overeating are the same things. They are both ways of trying to protect yourself from “out there”. More significantly, they are ways of trying to protect yourself from “in here”. Both build up defenses against the outside world by literally creating a wall between you and it. Meanwhile what you are really running away from is something that is irritating you inside.

In hoarding, you believe that you need more stuff to feel safe. You keep four of something, even if you only need two. You’ll pack five pairs of shoes on a three day trip, because you aren’t sure what you might need. You’ll keep twelve outfits that don’t fit that you haven’t worn in years “just in case”. You’ll keep things that are broken or were given to you and you’ve never used because you think you might have a need for them.

This is all a sign that you don’t believe that your needs will be taken care of. You feel that you are all on your own, alone, and it is all up to you to make sure that you are happy. Meanwhile you can’t even find what you need under the pile of stuff you don’t need. You’ve built up a wall, a fortress, between you and the world.

Overeating works the same way. You feel that your needs aren’t being met, so you try to fix them with food. If a little cake is a good thing, a lot must be great, right? That boss didn’t respect you – eat a cookie or twelve. Your wife is always angry at you – have another plate at the buffet. They can’t tell you not to. It is the one thing you can control – what goes into your mouth. And yet it is out of control. You don’t have control at all. You can’t make them stop being angry or randomly changing the rules, but you can eat something. You’ll show them. Instead of speaking up, you shut yourself down by shoving food into your mouth.

This is how children behave. Sadly, sometimes adults are just children in older bodies.

Consider the oyster. A little irritant gets into it. A piece of sand, a bit of shell – something inedible and foreign gets inside. It doesn’t know how to get it out. The oyster’s inner parts are soft and this foreign thing hurts. It puts a protective layer around that irritant to make it smooth. The only problem is that now that irritant is bigger, and presses up against more of the oyster. So it puts another layer around it. And it gets bigger. So it puts another layer around it. And on, and on, and on. Eventually the pearl that has been created is so big there is no way that the oyster could get it out without being cracked open.

We are like that. We build up these walls inside us against perceived injustices and slights, and it gets bigger and bigger and bigger. Instead of getting it out or absorbing it and letting it pass through us, it gets stuck inside us, making the situation worse. Eventually the only way to get it out is to be cracked open.

Sometimes being cracked open is literal – we develop a tumor from our worries, and it has to be removed by surgery. Or sometimes we have a heart attack that slows us down and makes us reassess our priorities. Sometimes everything is stripped away from us in a natural disaster. Or a divorce. Or a house fire. Sometimes our need to control is taken out of our control, and all we have left is ourselves. Then we are faced with the question – what now?

Sometimes what we are most running away from is what we need to sit with. Often the best way to heal is to not run away from our pain but to look at it and process it. Let it pass through. We run away when we drink or smoke or do drugs. But we also run away when we fill all of our time with things and events and noise. A busy life isn’t always a happy life. Silence and emptiness can be frightening at first, but they are very healing.

Exercise exorcises

I don’t exercise to fit into my clothes. I exercise to fit into my body. I exercise to fit inside myself.

My body and brain don’t feel right when I don’t exercise. I feel sluggish and stupid. I feel out of sorts.

I exercise so my joints work without hurting. I exercise so my muscles are strong enough to lift what I need to lift. I exercise so I can sleep well.

I exercise so I don’t get angry all the time, so I can think more clearly, so I can have some space in my head for the thoughts I want to think.

Exercise shakes out all the rusty bits. Exercise stops me from feeling rusty in body, mind, and soul. Things just work better when I move.

Every now and then I’ll take a break. Every now and then I “cheat” and I’ll not walk at lunch, or I’ll sit while checking in the inside book drop. Every now and then I just don’t want to go to the Y. Usually I’ll spend the same week eating sea salt caramel gelato, sour cream and onion potato chips, and drinking Yoo-hoo chocolate drinks.

The only person I’m cheating on is myself. I feel fine for a bit, and then it catches up with me. Then I feel terrible, and I hate being inside my body. I’ve put bad stuff in it and I haven’t done anything to get it out.

Exercise exorcises.

Thoughts on water aerobics and being uncomfortable.

Water aerobics is one of the best forms of exercise for people who are overweight. It is low impact, easy on the joints, and fun. You don’t get overheated. It provides resistance and cardio work at the same time. It can be as easy or as hard as you want to make it depending on how fast you move. If you need to slow down nobody will know because they can’t see your body while you are in the pool.

It is getting from the changing room to the pool that is the problem.

The sad truth is that people who are overweight have a hard time doing water aerobics because of the outfit they have to wear to do it. They often feel uncomfortable because they have to wear a swimsuit. A lot of large people have a problem with their body image. Swimsuits are very revealing and it is hard to find a swimsuit that fits you if you are very large. In all reality, it is hard to find a swimsuit that is modest no matter what size you are. This is just the nature of swim suits.

I’ve seen “modest swimsuits” sold online and they somewhat do the job. The people who buy them seem to be fundamentalist Christians and Muslims. They both believe in not showing a lot of flesh. While the suits certainly do that, they still show of the basic shape of the body, and that is the problem for women who are overweight. They don’t like the basic shape of their body and want to hide it as much as possible.

The thing is though that taking a water aerobics class means that they are going to be improving the shape of their body. It is a conundrum. In order to get healthy they have to wear something skin tight, that shows every curve and fold. It isn’t fair.

Now, some women wear t-shirts and shorts on top of their swimsuits while in the pool. That helps somewhat, but then they stick out. Because they are wearing something different, they are unintentionally calling attention to themselves. That is the last thing they want. They are trying to deflect attention.

But then again, this is all part of self-transformation. If you want to make any change for the good in your life you have to get a little uncomfortable. Just deciding to get a gym membership is uncomfortable. Making time to go exercise is uncomfortable. Sticking with the new routine is uncomfortable.

Sometimes uncomfortable is good. It means you are growing. Comfortable sometimes means complacent.

Studying for life.

Health isn’t like a test you can cram for. It is something that you have to “study” for every day or you will fail.

So many people want to get in shape but they don’t want to do the work. So many people wait until they have a serious diagnosis before they start to take their health seriously. Really, they want to be in shape, but not to get in shape.

It is too easy to blame someone else. Your parents didn’t exercise, so you don’t. Your friends all eat unhealthy food, so you do. This is such a passive way of living. They don’t feel your pain when you can’t walk around the block, or you can’t get out of bed without help. You have to live your life, and by living, I don’t mean just exist.

There needs to be an entire sea-change in the way we think, but until then we have to do it for ourselves.

I have a dream that hospitals and rehab centers will teach people how to be healthy rather than treat their sicknesses. People will learn that health is more than just about diet and exercise.

They will teach people how to care for themselves through food and exercise. People will learn how to cook for themselves and what are healthy choices when they are out at a restaurant. They will learn how to grow their own food. There will be no caffeine or refined sugar, and no tobacco.

They will learn about healthy boundaries. They will learn how to protect themselves and how to respect the boundaries of others.

They will learn how to share their thoughts and how to listen to other’s thoughts. They will learn dialogue versus debate.

They will get in touch with their inner child.

They will explore different ways to express themselves. All arts will be shared and people will be encouraged to pick as many as needed.

They will learn the value of getting enough sleep.

They will get career counseling to find a job that fits their abilities and beliefs.

This movement starts with each one of us, right now. It isn’t a top-down way of thinking. It is a bottom-up. We have to be the change.

Cooking as an empowering act.

I’ve come to see cooking not as a chore but as a truly artistic and creative act. It is so empowering to feed myself.

It is amazing to know that the majority of the prepared foods we have in our refrigerator at home were prepared by me. Hummus. Pesto. Banana bread. My green breakfast drink. Even dessert – all prepared by me. From scratch, and organic as much as possible.

How did we as a society get so far away from this? We all used toprepare our own foods. Large grocery stores are a new phenomenon. Sure, there were greengrocers. They had fruits and vegetables. Then there might also be a local baker. Baking bread takes a long time and is hot work. In some villages in Greece it is common for women to prepare their bread but then take it to the baker to get it cooked. They return later to pick it up.

But we used to all know where our food came from, and what was in it. We used to all know, because we made it ourselves. In some cases we knew because we grew it ourselves too.

In getting away from making our own food, we’ve gotten away from ourselves. We’ve given away a part of ourselves. We are what we eat after all. If we don’t know what we eat, then what are we?

There are so many foods with ingredients in them that we can’t even pronounce. They are more chemical than real. One of my favorite examples is this.

lime1

If you have to tell me it is a real lime, then it isn’t. Real limes don’t need labels.

lime2

Look at all the preservatives. It isn’t hard to buy a real lime and to take the juice out of it. Of course it has preservatives. This is the only way it will last from the production plant to your house. As Michael Pollan says in his book “Food Rules”, eat plants, not food made in plants.

It takes some time, sure. It can be done. I work 40 hours a week, and I had no cooking experience, and I can do it. Take it step by step. Pick one thing you like to eat that is prepared, and learn how to make it. You can get a book from the library, or watch a video on YouTube, or you can ask a friend who knows. Or you can experiment and figure it out on your own. That is fun too.

The more you make for yourself, the healthier and happier you will be.

On quitting smoking.

Many people stop doing something bad or start doing something good for their New Year’s resolution. Why not combine the two? If you are going to stop smoking, I suggest you start walking.

Take the time you were going to use on your smoke break and go for a walk instead. Many people take a 15 minute smoke break. 15 minutes is a great amount of time for a walk – but even 10 or 5 minutes is good.

Walking does for you what smoking does, but better. It is calming. It is a mental break. It takes you away from your problems, both literally and figuratively. But while smoking takes away from your health, walking adds to it.

Walking clears out your head like nothing else.

You can walk anywhere. You don’t have to have a walking path around your workplace. You can go for a walk inside your building. While it is better to go outside and get some fresh air and sunshine, it is important just to walk. Walk up and down some stairs. Walk around the hallways. Get outside and walk around the building. But just walk. If you limit yourself to walking outside, 90% of the time it will be too hot or too cold or too wet. Rarely will it be just right. Savor those days when it is nice outside, but don’t just walk on those days. Walk every day.

You don’t have to walk fast. Just walk. Ambling is fine. A stroll is good.

Think you are too out of shape to walk? All the more reason to walk. Just get going. Do what you can. You’ll get stronger. People don’t walk because they are in shape. They walk to get in shape.

Some people use this as an excuse – “I’ll walk a mile and then I have to walk a mile to get back where I started.” Walk in a circle. Find a path and loop around.

You may be self-conscious at the start when you are walking. That is normal. You are doing something different. You are taking care of yourself. The shame you felt from sneaking away to smoke will be replaced with pride that you are doing something to help yourself. Try to recruit others to go walking with you instead of smoking. That way you have a group. You can cheer each other on.

Realize that every excuse you come up with is your unhealthy self trying to stay that way. Your healthy self is really weak right now and you can’t hear its voice very well. See those excuses as a sign that you have to stick up for your healthy self. Just go ahead and do it. The more you put it off, the longer it will be before you start feeling better. Every little bit you do towards the good will give you energy and momentum to do a little bit more.

Go walk instead of smoking. Your life will thank you for it.