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My Health Log: Page Two


Previous pages: Page #1 (newcomers, read this FIRST!)


Monday, October 21st, 2003. As this Blog is becoming quite large and unwieldy, I'm going to have to start putting it in classic form; that is, I have archived it. Click on the links above to read the adventure from the beginning. As I add to the story I'll put each archive at the top of the page.

I think I've finally gotten it through my thick skull that the major source of my stress is my expectations.  And I should know better, being a half-assed Buddhist, that expectations naturally lead to disappointment. 

I wrote in Karmic Palmistry about expectations.  I said that ALL expectations are unrealistic, because we have no responsibility -- either moral, legal or karmic -- to meet anybody's expectations of us.  This is just another tool of manipulating our behavior.

Nevertheless, I fell into the trap of expecting the people around me to understand my worldview, my values and my needs -- and to respond accordingly.  When they did not, that is to say, when my needs and feelings were ignored, I'd get upset.  Where I made my mistake was expecting those who professed to care about me to understand or care about my values, needs, etc even AFTER I carefully explained them.  You see, I thought it was simply a lack of understanding, not caring.  Now I know better, and I remember again that the world is a cold, narcissist place and that you have to look out for yourself.

But ...

Today I got an e-mail from a reader that gave me quite a perk.  The message was warm, friendly and loving.  Sometimes, the Universe is kind.

The World is a cold place, but the Human Soul is warm.

Winter is just around the corner.  Brrrrr.....

The Snowman

Wallace Stevens

One must have a mind of winter 
To regard the frost and the boughs 
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow; 

And have been cold a long time 
To behold the junipers shagged with ice, 
The spruces rough in the distant glitter
 
Of the January sun; and not to think 
Of any misery in the sound of the wind, 
In the sound of a few leaves, 

Which is the sound of the land 
Full of the same wind 
That is blowing in the same bare place
 
For the listener, who listens in the snow, 
And, nothing himself, beholds 
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is. 

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Saturday, October 25th, 2003.  Some performances are terrific -- audience and entertainer just seem to click; there's great energy and eye contact, a relaxed, cooperative attitude.

And then there's the opposite.  Performer's Purgatory.

What do you do when five minutes into your show you realize that most of your audience is SCARED TO DEATH of you?  That what should be a fun, exhilarating time for everyone has turned into a brain-searing visit from SATAN HIMSELF?

Welcome to performing a mind-reading act in the Southeast.  It doesn't happen often, but it happens occasionally.  I could give you details, but it would be too traumatic, but imagine asking someone to come up to help and they cringe away saying, "No -- get away from me."

Sheesh.  How can you do a mind-reading show without volunteers?  You can't stand up there and READ YOUR OWN MIND.

I managed to turn it around about halfway through, but it was definitely a struggle.  Afterward I was exhausted and bewildered.  This IS the 21st century, isn't it?

But I didn't dive into an all-you-can-eat buffet for comfort.  Nope.  I read Green Lantern comic books instead, which depicts a fantasy world wherein supernormal powers are accepted and applauded.

I'm about THIS close to moving to a place where people have some common sense, like ehm, er .... Mars, perhaps?

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November 1st, 2003.  My mother was a heavy smoker all her life, and for the past twenty years or so, her continued existence was a medical miracle. 

The miracle is over.

Mom went into the hospital on Halloween with pneumonia and I spoke with her. She was in good spirits and expected to move into a private room today. But this morning the doctor called us and told us to get to the hospital NOW. She had been moved to CCU and wasn’t expected to live long. She lost consciousness and passed away peacefully at around 1:30 today. Me, my brother Paul and my son Jonathan were with her and she knew she was loved until the very end. Even though she was sick for a long time, she always enjoyed life,

The pic to the left is my Mom in her prime, and the unbearably adorable little chap is me, aged two years.

Considering all the truly horrible ways she could have died (COP, emphysema, lung cancer, which they suspected she had) this peaceful end was a blessing. I held her as she breathed her last, said a brief eulogy for her at bedside and told her goodbye. She was truly a magnificent, beautiful and ornery woman, whose sense of humor and stubbornness impressed everyone who knew her.

I know it's not trendy to believe in the afterlife, but I've always been old-fashioned.  I truly believe she's in a better place, young and completely healed, and glad to be free of that tired, old body.

Wish her well on her way. God, I’m going to miss the old girl, but I’m relieved her suffering is over.


November 2nd, 2003.  A beautiful November day, and the landscape looks like it's on fire.  I imagine my mother walking among the trees, enjoying her new life in spirit. 

We talked with her doctor today, and it was most probably lung cancer that ended her.  A localized area eroded her esophagus through the lung, and the lung just let go and she bled to death through her GI system.  Damned tobacco companies, I wish I could ruin them.  If you smoke, QUIT.

I don't have much to say (we're dealing with all the minutia of laying my mother's remains  to rest) so I thought I would post the following wonderful poem by Tony Hoagland that I think captures much of the spirit of my mother:

REASONS TO SURVIVE NOVEMBER

November like a train wreck—
as if a locomotive made of cold
had hurtled out of Canada
and crashed into a million trees,
flaming the leaves, setting the woods on fire.

The sky is a thick, cold gauze—
but there’s a soup special at the Waffle House downtown,
and the Jack Parsons show is up at the museum,
full of luminous red barns.

—Or maybe I’ll visit beautiful Donna,
the kickboxing queen from Santa Fe,
and roll around in her foldout bed.

I know there are some people out there
who think I am supposed to end up
 in a room by myself

with a gun and a bottle full of hate,
a locked door and my slack mouth open
like a disconnected phone.

But I hate those people back
from the core of my donkey soul
and the hatred makes me strong
and my survival is their failure,

and my happiness would kill them
so I shove joy like a knife
into my own heart over and over

and I force myself toward pleasure,
and I love this November life
where I run like a train
deeper and deeper

into the land of my enemies.
 

Copyright 2003 by Tony Hoagland. From What Narcissism Means to Me. All rights reserved.

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November 5th, 2003.  All I can say is that there's a hell of a lot of paperwork in taking care of a deceased person ... I long for the old days when all you had to do was put the body on a funeral pyre, dance around naked waving a spear, and feast afterward.

She was cremated yesterday (though the actual funeral will be Friday)  and we saw her just before the ceremony.  She had a sort of characteristic, smart-alec  smile on her face, like she knew something we didn't. 

I suspect that she does.

It's raining today, which is nice and calming.  Unlike a lot of people, I like rainy days, and so did Mom.  Perhaps she put in a request.


November 7th, 2003.  In a private ceremony surrounded by family, I said a few words and my brother, son and I committed my mother's cremains to her final resting place.  She died as she lived, under her own terms.  Now it's time to move on.


November 9th, 2003.  Going to Arizona for a week, back Monday the 17th.  You folks stay out of trouble. With winter at our throats again, I'll leave you with a poem that cracked me up in high school:

Ancient Music
by Ezra Pound

Sing goddamn, damn. Sing goddamn!
Sing goddamn, damn. Sing goddamn!

Winter is i-cumin in,
Lhude sing goddamn!
Raineth drop and staineth slop
And how the wind doth ram
Sing goddamn!

Skiddth bus and sloppeth us,
An ague hath my ham
Freezeth river, turneth liver,
Damn you, sing goddamn.
Goddamn, goddamn, tis why I am goddamn,
So gainst the winter's balm.

Sing goddamn, sing goddamn, DAMN!


November 18th, 2003.  Back from Arizona, where from all accounts I did some amazing shows.  I don't recommend going on a whirlwind tour the day after burying your mother, though.   It does strange things to one's head.  I felt like a spectator in my own body.

In my youth, I studied two very interesting forms of Asian martial arts, Chinese Wu-Shu (kung fu) and a Burmese form of kung fu called Bando.  Lately, I've begun practicing the moves and forms again to prepare myself for entering training with a school.  I want to be in some semblance of shape so I don't get my ass kicked too badly.  Actually, I've found that most of the skills have stayed with me over the years.  I may be old and fat but there's still a warrior in there somewhere.

All I know is that I need to get on with my reduction plan.  I've been stuck at 260 pounds for a month and a half now, and it's time to increase the burn.  I know I've been through some hellish times, but enough is enough.

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August 03, 2003 273 PoundsNovember 20th, 2003.  LADIES AND GENTLEMEN...

I have broken the plateau.

This morning when I stepped on the scale it reported 258 pounds!

This calls for a picture.  The one of the far left is me today, the one on the right is me at 273 pounds, about a month or so into this project.

 The belt is on its last notch, and I'll get myself a new one for Christmas.  The jeans are getting saggy too; I may have to retool my wardrobe soon.


November 21st, 2003.  Grief is an assassin.

It hides around corners, in the dark shadows of your guts.

It sneaks up on you when your back is turned, when your guard is down, when you're tired and weak.

You go about your day, your work , your life; you think, "This isn't so bad, I'm going to make it through this," and then the Assassin cuts you with His rusty razor.  And he cuts deep, with a surgeon's precise touch.

On one side of His pearl-handled razor is etched the word "Memories."  On the other side, the word "Regrets."

His scream is the scream of train whistles, of dogs howling in the night, of babies crying at four in the morning, of the wind biting through the bones of ancient people who know they're living their last winter.

Grief is an assassin.


December 15th, 2003.  Grief is also a coward, by the way -- it never attacks you when you're in full combat mode, ready to defend yourself.  it always gets you when you're tired, weak, and helpless.  The bastard.

But other than that, happy holidays.  My performing season is over and I was on the road a lot, hence the long delay in posting. 

Since some of the readers of my adventures have told me that my approach to reduction bears similarities to the famous pop psychologist's Dr. Phil McGraw's, the famous drawling good-ol'boy psychologist whom Oprah made famous, I  decided to break down and read Dr.  Phil's  Ultimate Weight Loss Solution.

Hmm.

The Philster and I are definitely on the same page when it comes to the Body Mass Index.  He says that it's misleading and fails to take into consideration your body type.  According to web sites devoted to calculating your BMI, I should weigh around 187 pounds.  At that weight, I would be a shriveled corpse, folks.  I have large bones and am well-muscled under the sixty pounds or so of excess flab I'm currently carrying.  According to my doctor, and Dr. Phil's revised chart, my ideal weight is between 197 - 205 pounds.

Dr. Phil has also spent much time analyzing the connection between the spiritual/emotional state and the physical manifestations of overeating.  He's developed "Seven Keys" to help the reader stay on track in reprogramming him or herself to overcome the negative mindsets that contribute to overeating.  He also has contempt for diet fads, quick fixes, and easy solutions.  I'm in whole-hearted agreement here.

I guess where we part company is that Dr. Phil buys into and advocates the Winners and Losers attitude so prevalent among motivational speakers.  He even uses the terms, and quite frequently.  "Winners," he says, do this "... and losers, do that." 

  • I HATE this.  I've always hated this arrogant assumption, so popular among motivational speakers like Dennis Whately, that people can be arbitrarily divided into two categories based on behavioral standards.  WHO  is ANYBODY to determine who is a winner or a loser in life, based on money, power, job position, weight, or anything?  By some people's standards, I suppose I'm a loser because I do not work a nine-to-five job.  But by other people's standards, I'm a hero because I do not work a nine-to-five job and I BEAT THE SYSTEM.

Weight loss isn't a battle to win or lose; it isn't a goal at which we achieve or fail .  You cannot BECOME anything.  It's like a violent person trying to become non-violent.  The very idea is ridiculous, if you think about it.  However, a violent person can put an end to his or her violent behavior.  Therefore, in the journey of weight reduction, we don't see weight as an enemy, but as an ally whose time has passed; not as an opponent but as a security measure we no longer need.  We let it go gently, without violence or hostility. 

There is no winning or losing here.  We put an end to the behaviors, habits, wounds, hurts, reactions, and fears that caused us to retreat from the world and leave it at that.  Our bodies will respond to this loving and brave act by healing on its own.

I recommend Dr. Phil's book, by the way.  Other than the Motivational slant and the deep-south aphorisms (which get old, and I'm from here), there are some great procedures found within.  But it's still a close second to my Bible, Lean and Mean by Shaevitz!

Hypocritical diet tip of the month:

Though this Blog is not about dieting, I occasionally sneak in one of my favorite low calorie food tricks.  Previously, I regaled you with my low cal counterfeit Egg McMuffin and the wonders of Spaghetti Squash (see the first Archive).  Here's a recipe for a low calorie Bleu Cheese dressing.

  • The problem with store-bought Fat-Free Bleu Cheese Dressing is that it isn't very satisfying, because it doesn't have any cheese in it and the flavor isn't quite right.  But I figured out that if you add some cottage cheese it simulates Bleu Cheese chunks (it even absorbs some of the flavor from the dressing) and then put a couple of drops of lemon juice to zing it up a bit.   It tastes pretty good this way.

December 18th, 2003.  Arggh, what is it with these bugs?  I have something going on in my lower abdominal region that feel like I'm trying to digest a live raccoon.  I'm going to lie around a while and try to set it free, so that it can roam freely in the woods as G-d intended and leave my poor bowels alone ...

***

I don't think anyone realizes how difficult is it to confront a life-long weight issue.  Oh, a lot of people have contended with five, ten or even twenty pounds that crept up on them when they weren't looking, but carrying a lot of weight -- fifty pounds or so -- most of your life is a different matter.  It affects every aspect of your life; it separates you from the rest of the world.  There are things you can't do, activities you can't enjoy to the fullest.  People judge you, sometimes you have to settle for inferior job positions.  All of these things, of course, become emotional triggers, which feed the monster (see blog entries for August 9th - 10th) and the notorious vicious cycle spins away.

Then  there's the anger.  Man, do you get mad at yourself!  WHY can't you stop with the onion rings?  You know what your doing.  Or do you?

 Wrapped in a warm blanket of carbs, lost in the sensual pleasers of taste and texture sensation, the furthest thing from your mind is what you're doing to your body.  I think that at such times, you aren't really in your body at all.  Is obsessive overeating an out-of-body experience?

Actually, during those times of comfort eating, it's like you drift away into a magical world of no-consequences. There's no connection between cause and effect.  You don't equate a large order of fries with half a pound of body fat.  If there were such a connection, you would put the cheeseburger down and say, "No more."

  • Is there, perhaps, a just a dash of the desire for freedom from accountability to toss into the emotional underpinning of obsessive eating? 

Hmm ... I must consider that one deeply.

***

And once again let me remind you that the first part of this journal is archived HERE.  This archive records the beginning of this project and the development of the approaches that are working amazingly well for me and for several people who are actually applying them to their own emotional recovery. 

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December 22nd, 2003.  About 2 1/2 months ago, I'm pretty sure that I saw God.

I was standing in my back yard, filling the bird feeders.  Late September, the leaves had turned and fallen, the wind was cold.  At one point, I felt that I was watched.  I turned around, slowly, because I sensed that the eyes upon me were not human eyes.  Not three feet from me, standing perfectly still,  was a yearling doe.

And so we faced each other, eye to eye, me watching her, her watching me, a moment of perfect trust.  I couldn't move, couldn't think.  Couldn't breath.  My eyes were candles, dripping hot wax down my cheeks in twin molten rivulets.  God!  If I blinked, the spell would break and she would run away!  The doe looked at me with no fear at all; she knew I meant her no harm.  I've never been a person who could harm animals.  I feed the birds and the squirrels, adopt stray cats, pet the neighbor's dog.  It was then I realized that the doe had no reason to fear me, because she was no ordinary doe at all.

This doe was God Herself.

She had come to tell me that everything is all right.

Things come and they go.  People come into your life and they pass away.  There is chaos in the world.  Loneliness.  Fear.  It's easy to despair.  But somehow, you have to find an axis within yourself, cling to it and hold on, and let the world turn around it.

That day, that doe became my axis.  Whenever it seems that the world's insanity is about to get the better of me, I think about her clear brown eyes and know peace.

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December 30th, 2003.  And I hope everyone had a relatively stress-free and happy holiday season.  Mine was spent with the families, and I had a death-match with my nephews and niece ... I lost, but swore I'd return for a rematch.

I've returned to an old strategy I used to swear by to help with between-meal hunger pangs.  I got out my crock pot and stocked up on frozen vegetables.  You know, those large bags of Veg-All that are ridiculously inexpensive.  Armed with a few bags of veggies, some beef stock, canned tomatoes, chopped onions, a few potatoes and beans, I  tooled up my most potent weapon in the fight against between-meal snicker-snacking:

  • The bottomless veggie-soup pot.

In a study I read in some health magazine, the two foods with the highest "satiety index" -- which means the most satisfying to the appetite  -- were potatoes and tomato soup.  Personally, I love soup in any form.  A large bowl of hot soup, especially during the cold months, along with a piece of bread, and I call it fine.

You don't have to be a culinary genius to prepare this delight.  A crock pot, a bag of frozen veggies, a few miscellaneous cans, a jar of Orrington Farms beef stock powder -- it doesn't get much simpler than this.  When you feel the urge to eat between meals and you don't have the time (or don't want to take the time) to prepare a healthy snack, why, there it is!  Have a bowl or two.

To replenish your supply, toss in more ingredients before you go to bed, set the crock pot to "Low," and the next day you have a fresh batch.

If you work for a living, there are these nifty devices, called Thermos jugs, that hold your soup and keep them nice and hot.

Some other tips:

  • I use V8 vegetable juice for flavoring, both in my soups and chili.
  • You can add stew beef if you're a fan of such.
  • Sometimes I make a variation that's high in cabbage.  It's based on the famous "cabbage soup diet" recipe, which of course was a ridiculous plan, but the soup was delicious.  Basically, instead of the mixed veggies, your mixture consists of cabbage, chopped celery, onions, and red beans.  WARNING: You will have alarming gas afterward.
  • Don't go crazy on the potatoes and beans; these are high-carb foods.  Use just enough to provide texture.
  • In my opinion, the more onions, the better.  Dried, chopped onions work if you don't want to do it yourself.
  • If you're sodium sensitive, you have to adjust the recipe.  Beef stock is extremely high in salt.  But being aware of your diet is a vital part of taking care of yourself.

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