Step by step

How is health achieved? One step at a time. You just have to get out there and do it.

You have to be active about your health. It’s not something you can find in a pill. The simplest thing you can do is to go for a walk. There’s no special equipment to buy, no gym membership required.

Sometimes I come up with every excuse possible for why I can’t go on a walk. I’ll tell myself I don’t have enough time. I’ll get lost. I’ll be too far from the house when I want to pee. I’d rather make art. I want to sleep in.

I don’t like exercising. But I do like that I have exercised. I like how I feel in my body after I’ve moved it in a purposeful manner. But I think more importantly I like how I feel in my head for having made a commitment to myself, to my body, to my future, and having gone through with going on a walk.

Some mornings I don’t have a lot of a lot of time to go for a walk but I realize that even 10 minutes is better than nothing. Even five minutes is better than nothing. And then I resolve to get ready earlier to go out earlier the next day. And I forgive myself if I don’t. And then I try again.

Taking care of your body is like putting money in your bank account. It is worth every step. It pays you back double in a stronger body and lower stress levels.

My work schedule has changed so that we go in 30 minutes later and therefore leave 30 minutes later. Rather than lamenting getting out of work at six, I have chosen to celebrate going into work at 9:30 because that gives me 30 minutes in the morning I didn’t have before to go for a walk.

I could have used that time to make art. I’ve chosen to walk instead because it’s important. I know people who say that they don’t have time to eat well or exercise. They don’t get that if they don’t do both of these things they won’t have any time to do anything because their life will be a lot shorter and a lot less worthwhile. Who cares if you live a long time but your body is feeble because you didn’t take care of it? The years of your life are important, but the life in your years is important too.

We only have one life.
We only have one body.
It is your choice how you use them.

walk

(This picture was taken by me on my walk this morning. I recited all of this into a dictation app on my phone so I could encourage you.)

New tools

You aren’t crazy, and you aren’t broken. Everything that you’re feeling is normal. The problem is that you’ve spent so much of your life running away from your feelings and using the wrong tools to handle them. This is part of living in this society. You were taught this. It is time to learn something else. It is time to get a new set of tools and learn how to use them.

Maybe you have used the tool of yelling at other people and blaming them for your problems. Perhaps you use the tool of drinking yourself to oblivion or working so hard that you don’t have time to think about what’s going on. One day you might finally realize that these tools don’t fix the problem. These tools may even make it worse by allowing it to grow and fester.

But first you have to relearn what the problem is in order to fix it.

Anxiety and anger and depression are not diseases. They are symptoms of unresolved trauma. They are a sign that something is broken and needs to be healed. Treating them is using a tool on the wrong part. They are what is broken. They are a sign that something is broken.

A lot of us have a hard time admitting that we have suffered from trauma or grief. But trauma and grief take many forms. Any loss can result in grief. Moving to a new town, leaving your old job, or going through divorce can result in grief. Grief doesn’t have to be the death of someone close to you. It can also be the end of something, some event or time in your life. Transitioning from high school to college or college to the adult world can result in grief. It is any change that we are not prepared for.

Trauma does not have to be as big as a car accident or being assaulted. Trauma can be any invasion of your personal space and safety that makes you feel threatened.

Just being aware of instances of trauma or violation in your life is the beginning of healing. You can’t fix it if you don’t know it is broken.

Heartburn cure

I had bad heartburn and talked to my nutritionist. He told me that the problem is that our stomachs produce LESS acid as we get older, not more. The solution is to add more acid instead of take antacids.

The dosage is determined by taking a tablespoonful of apple cider vinegar (The brand to use is Bragg’s, with “the mother”) after a meal. Simply take it straight. Wait. If you feel burning in your stomach, stop there. You don’t need more acid added to your diet.

If not, take two spoonfuls of it at the next meal. Wait and see how your stomach feels. There will be a burning sensation in your throat – that is normal. This is acetic acid, after all. You want to see if you feel burning in your stomach, and this takes a little time to reveal itself.

If there is no burning, repeat the test by taking three spoonfuls at the next meal. You can take up to four spoonfuls.

When you feel the burn, then your dosage is one less than that. So afterwards, take that number of spoonfuls in a glass of water (you can add a spoonful of honey), after each meal.

Also, while out and about, you can take a supplement called betaine hydrochloride instead. It is much easier than toting around a glass bottle of vinegar.

Now, this does not mean that you can “eat like a kid again” like the heartburn medicine ads tell you. It is like trying to keep a house intact by setting it on fire and then dousing it with water. It is better to not set it on fire in the first place. Your body is your first and best home. It is important to treat it well, because you can’t buy another house when this one falls apart.

It is insane to think of hot dogs and funnel cakes as “food”. Avoid fried and greasy foods not because they give you heartburn, but because they are unhealthy and will kill you. Eat fresh, colorful foods – more vegetables than meat.

Thoughts about taking care of a marriage.

I’ve realized that building up a marriage is a lot like building up your immune system. If I’m not getting enough sleep or eating well, my immune system gets low, and I’ll catch any cold. If I take care of myself, then I don’t get sick.

Showing love and care for your spouse builds up your marriage immune system too. Showing attention, saying thank you, being thoughtful -they all build up the “bank”. That way, when there is a bad day, everything doesn’t come crashing down.

If you make deposits into your marriage bank, then when something big happens, your spouse can draw on that and come out fine. If the bank is empty, your marriage is in danger.

All the things you did when you were dating are all the things you should do when you are married. The number of years married makes no difference. Perhaps that is part of the “seven year itch”. You are used to each other, and you start to take each other for granted. So you slide a little, and then you discover that you just don’t care about each other as much. You don’t care, because you don’t “take care”. You have to tend a marriage, like you tend a garden. If you don’t work on it, it gets overgrown and ugly.

Just like a bank, you have to make “deposits” – make special breakfasts for each other, give cards for no special reason, come to visit at work, do an extra chore – it doesn’t have to be things. In fact, you are probably better off if you don’t buy things. You want to show them that you are thinking about them.

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.

The hot air balloon.

Say you have a hot air balloon but it has some holes in it. You have two choices if you want to keep it aloft. Patch the holes or put more hot air into it. If you don’t, you’ll crash into trees, or even the ground.

It is hard to patch the holes while you are in motion. It is easier to do that on the ground. You can’t fly it and do it yourself. A professional might have to be hired. That is dangerous work.

So this is your life. The holes are the places where your energy leaks out. Frustrations, hurts, old injuries to your psyche. You can’t patch them on your own unless you are safely on the ground. You can’t keep on doing your daily routine like work and family. You need a safe place without any distractions. If you are going to keep on going you have to hire professional, like a counselor or a therapist. You want someone who is done this before.

Adding hot air is doing all the stuff that builds you up. It includes resting, spending time with friends, eating healthy food, getting exercise, being creative. All these things and plenty more make your spirit stronger. You have to make sure to do them regularly – not just when you feel your balloon going low. They are preventive medicine.

Even if you don’t have a hole in your balloon, the balloon starts to sink over time because the air gets cooler. You can’t wait until you notice that the balloon is sinking to add air. You have to do it before that because it takes a while for the air to start to do its job.

Real medicine

I knew a lady who was cold. It was early in the morning and she was shivering. She asked her daughter to get her a hot cup of coffee. She hadn’t slept well all night. We have been in a camping event so there wasn’t any central heat. She hadn’t brought enough blankets either. I looked at how she was sitting – all hunched over, hugging her arms to herself. This was a physical coldness and it didn’t need to be fixed by putting something into her, especially a stimulant. That would make her feel worse with her lack of sleep.

Her hair was thinning a little so I offered her a knit cap. We lose most of our heat through our heads. She put the cap on and within 10 minutes she was visibly warmer. She relaxed her shoulders and rested her arms on the table instead of hugging herself. She was a lot more comfortable. It was a simple fix that didn’t require coffee.

I had a coworker who had a headache one day and he asked for a Tylenol. I gave him one. Two days later he said he had another headache. He asked for another Tylenol. I didn’t give him one this time. He was young and needed to learn how to take care of himself. By that I mean more than just buying his own supplies instead of expecting other people to supply his needs.

More importantly, he needed to learn how to take care of himself by fixing the cause and not the symptom. The symptom just points to the cause. I told him to go drink water. If he didn’t feel better after 20 minutes (which is about the same time that a Tylenol would take) then I would give him a Tylenol. He went over to the water fountain had a sip. I said “No, keep drinking until I tell you to stop.” He needed to have 16 ounces of water, not a sip. I watched him drink and counted off the time and then told him to stop.

I forgot about keeping time on purpose. An hour later I pointed out to him that he hadn’t asked for a Tylenol again. His headache was gone.

Likewise, we have a guy who is studying to be a doctor who is there every day at the library. He’s a doctor in another country, but America won’t take his credentials. He has to take the exam here to be licensed here. He’s been studying every day and he’s not been taking care of himself. It is starting to show.

His hair isn’t brushed, his clothes are rumpled, and he now is saying that he can’t sleep and he has a headache. He asked me for a Tylenol. Rather than give him that kind of medicine, I gave him real medicine. Whether he takes it or not is up to him.

Real medicine is to suggest he take time off, go eat healthy food (all he eats is meat and rice), go exercise, and spend time with his wife. He says that he can’t leave his studies. He doesn’t get that if he doesn’t take care of himself, then it doesn’t matter what he studies – it won’t go in.

We’ve talked about preventative medicine before and he blows me off. He’ll make a fine western doctor if he passes. They treat the symptoms and not the cause too.

I tell him about friends of mine who are now off their diabetes medicine because they eat healthy food, exercise, and have lost weight. He thinks I’m lying. He says it isn’t possible.

He even brings his food to the library. Somehow they have an understanding in the department he studies in. He’s got a little crock-pot that he plugs in to heat up his food. He doesn’t even have to cook it. He gets it from his in-laws. When I say he needs to take time away from his studies and go outside the library for lunch, he says he can’t eat anywhere else because he has to eat food that is halal because he’s Muslim. I point out that you can eat vegetarian food and be perfectly safe. He wrinkles his nose at me.

It is hard to watch people drown.

Sure, I could give him a Tylenol. But that is aiding and abetting.

I’d be like the doctor who gave my Dad a prescription for cough medicine, knowing that he smoked two packs of cigarettes a day. Of course he coughed. Cough medicine isn’t the right medicine. Real medicine would be to refuse to treat him until he stopped smoking. Real medicine would be to direct him to smoking-cessation programs. Real medicine would be to help him learn better ways to deal with stress than smoking.

Real medicine involves hard work, not a pill. Real medicine involves being mindful and disciplined. It features daily exercise, no stimulants, no refined sugar, and lots of vegetables. It includes focusing on breathing. It includes learning to speak up for yourself. It includes being creative. It includes making time to rest. It includes working towards your dreams. It isn’t easy.

Becoming conscious is a lot like becoming sober.