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Daily Bread (Week 4 Day 5)

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It is a fragile balance, the likes of which I expressed in the soup.  A cortisone shot helped my knee and my potassium is back in the normal range based on a blood test this week.  My blood pressure is also now OK I think, based on the only vaguely accurate home tester we have.  But now my shoulder aches.  I injured it in a fall a couple of years ago, and I suspect the naproxen was easing that pain too.  Oh, and I have back pain as well.  Yes, I think it is OK to whine a bit. I am looking for a new normal, a better way of being, and of course the transition is difficult.  Things get out of balance, and I need to give my body (and my spirit) some time to adjust.  I survived a church luncheon this week while staying on program, but have been seriously fantasizing about a slice of Italian salami, a comfort food of mine since childhood.  Just one, to hold in my mouth and suck all the flavor out.  I don’t even have to swallow it.  So far, the fantasy is enough.

There is a difference between a fantasy and a dream.  A fantasy can be satisfying even if it stays in the imagination.  A dream is something we want to make real.  More peace, more justice, fewer murdered children, those are the dreams I want to realize.

There is also a difference between a desire and a want.  We’ll reflect on that more later maybe, but my quick thought is the difference is time frame, with desires being short term and immediate, whereas wanting is more longterm.

Don’t look any of those words up.  I am making up my own definitions as I go along. No worries if you have a different understanding.

L’Chaim

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Daily Bread (Week 4)

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This is a medically supervised program, which is a good thing because although I feel just fine, my lab results last week indicated my potassium level is now a bit high.  Balance is everything, right?  Potassium, one of the body’s electrolytes is problematic if it either too high or too low.  Medications can affect the level, and I am have been taking two that can cause the retention of potassium.   One is for blood pressure and the other is naproxen, which I take for knee pain.  Add that to a severely restricted calorie intake, one which contains the amount of potassium a non-medicated body needs, trouble was on its way “right here in river city.”  When I got the lab results, I did some research and stopped taking the naproxen.  I had already scheduled a cortisone shot for my knee (today) so what was a little pain for a few days if it could get my potassium level back down to the normal range?  Pain, however, can increase blood pressure, so when that was checked last night, it was way higher than my normal.  When one thing is out of balance, everything else is affected, something that is just true about life.   I’ll be checking my blood pressure more frequently and we are redoing the potassium blood test, but it was upsetting. Here I am trying to get healthier and some things are getting worse!  Is this justice?  Is this fair?

I know the answer to those questions, and the answer is, of course, “no.”

I am grateful for the doctors and the support of our weekly group, and I am trying to keep focused on the moon, not the nagging little fingers of stress at the ups and downs of this process.  If you don’t understand the moon/finger references, there is an old Buddhist story that I thought of today.  The teacher stood very still and pointed at the moon, but all of his students focused on the tip of his pointing finger.

 

Keep your gaze on the moon.

No matter the distractions

No matter how low the valleys

Or how high the mountains

We must climb

Bend your mind

Your heart your spirit

Toward the golden guide

That rises in the night

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L’Chaim!

(My stats for last week: down 4.4 pounds (total to date +12.1), drank 7 gallons of water, and exercised for 390 minutes – mainly swimming)

Daily Bread (Week 3 Day 5)

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Bread

Bread is made

From simple things

Flour, water, yeast,

A dash of salt.

Not so simple

Is the work involved

Mixing, kneading,

Forming into loaves

Adding patience

In good measure

A warm beginning

Then a trial by fire

Creating a strong crust

To keep from getting stale.

 

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I wonder at myself sometimes.  Choosing “Daily Bread” as a blogging title seems a rather strange choice at a time when I am not eating bread. Bread will also doubtless stay on the list of foods that I won’t ever eat daily, if at all.  “Give us our daily bread,” the prophet Jesus prayed, but he must have been talking about more than the bread that can feed the hungry.  He broke the bread and called us to a path that just might sustain our lives.  I don’t believe in transubstantiation, but I do believe in transformation.

Mix it up

Pound it on the table

Put it in a bowl to rise

Bake it in the oven

Create a miracle

Knowing

Miracles take work.

Daily Bread (Week 3)

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I woke up a little weepy this morning.  Change is hard, and knowing that those rocks we are trying to push uphill just want to roll back down over us, makes it all a little harder.  Little victories are the clue, placing small wedges under the rocks, keeping a steady pace, and taking the time to rest.  Good shoes for the journey can help too.  Traveling companions make the journey less lonely, and a friend can help you with your shoe laces.

Speaking of laces, we had another good group meeting last night, and the connections are deepening as the sharing becomes more personal.  We went around the room talking about our successes this last week and why we are doing this.  I was moved by many of the stories.  They resonated with many of my own struggles.  Personal stories always do that.  Empathy shimmers around a room and we are moved to laughter or tears.  The stories are all different as each individual is unique, but in broad strokes the pictures being painted are all the same.  This is even truer when a group has gathered around a common issue.

When it was my turn, I had a moment of befuddlement.  I had already shared in my head and also right here in my earlier post.  Writing is like that sometimes.  The words flow out and then they are gone into a deeper part of my being.

We also talked about goals, and the need to be specific about changing behaviors in order to reach a goal.  Deciding to “lose weight” doesn’t work as well as deciding to exercise “x” hours per week, or deciding how many calories to have tomorrow.  The calorie decisions are being made for me in this program, as long as I follow it.  The other stuff is up to me, as always and of course, with more than a little help from my friends.

The idea reminded me of the churches who say they want to “grow,” but are unwilling to change in order to meet that goal.  Change is hard, no matter the issue.  We need to acknowledge what we will lose as well as what we will gain.  Churches may need to give up some familiar practices (music, liturgy, gossip, and exclusive habits of all sorts) in order to welcome the seekers who will help reenergize them in fulfilling their mission. I am giving up the pleasure I have found in eating (and over-eating) delicious high calorie foods in order to live longer and better.  L’Chaim!

 

(My stats for last week: down 2.8 pounds, drank 7 gallons of water, and exercised for 375 minutes – mainly swimming)

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Daily Bread (Week 2 Day 3)

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Our homework assignment this week is to make a list of why we are doing this rather draconian program.  It isn’t just for fun; that’s for sure, although in a weird way, I am starting to enjoy some of it.  I feel stronger and I can swim longer and faster.  I am not hungry at all.  They say it is like drip irrigation, if you take the calories in slowly (every 2.5 hours) you need less and you burn fat not muscle.  It is also sort of nice not to have to think about food.  “What’s for dinner?”  “Where should we eat tonight?”  “Should we have a salad or vegetables with the meal?”  Anne still has all those decisions to make, and they are lonely decisions without me participating.   In some ways it is a relief knowing exactly what I am going to consume each and every day for the next several months.  It frees my mind to think about other things, like “why” I am doing this.

So here is my list of “whys,” at least for now.  The most important ones are:

Improve my health.  I have a whole raft of health issues that, if not all caused by my weight, certainly haven’t been helped by it.  One big one is my knees, which both need replacement and I need to lose weight in order to safely to have the surgery.  Bum knees limit my mobility and what I can do.  The other is the lipodermatosclerosis I have in both legs.  It involves hardening of the skin, swelling and lumps, and is very painful.   The pain combined with the spacey side effects of the gabapentin I have needed to take for the pain, is the reason I needed to retire from active ministry.  Being unable to stand for very long is also a limiting condition.   I just want to feel better physically and being in pain affects everything including the mind and spirit in addition to the body.

Live longer. This is part of health, but needs to be listed separately I think.  Our 3 adult children are all well established, but I’d like more time with them and with my dear wife, Anne.  If grandchildren become a possibility I’d love the chance to play with them. I want to see more sunrises and sunsets, and have more time to spend with those I love.

Secondary “Why’s.”

  1. I want to be able to participate in marches, rallies, and other acts of resistance in order to bring more love and justice into the world.  I have been an activist my entire life.  It is hard to need to stay home when other folks are “hitting the streets.”.
  2. I want to be able to stop focusing so much on my own issues and limitations.  This requires focusing on myself for awhile.  In the ministry we call this “self-care.” If you ignore your own needs you simply can’t be effective in helping others.  Part of it is role modeling.  Mind/body/spirit are all one in my theology, and I have been ignoring the body part of self-care for too many  years.
  3. I’d like to be able to travel to places that require more physical stamina than I currently have.

Relatively Trivial “Why’s.”

  1. I am tired of having to ask for a seat belt extender on airplanes.  I don’t want to pray that a friendly and skinny person sits next to me.
  2. Packing will be easier with smaller clothes.
  3. I don’t want to worry about breaking chairs. 

That’s enough for now.  Maybe later I will list things about this program that are really hard, but right now I am focusing on having a positive attitude.

May we all learn to love ourselves and each other.  And again, L’Chaim, to life!

Daily Bread (Week 2)

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There is something very sweet and inspiring about a relatively diverse group of people bonding over their engagement with a common issue.  It happens all kinds of groups (i.e. cancer and grief support groups, non-profit boards, committees, and 12 step programs of all sorts).  I should not have been at all surprised that it is happening in my weight management group, even if the personal sharing has been somewhat limited given last night was only our 3rd meeting.  I was a bit surprised, however, at how quickly the mutual rapport is developing.  Maybe it is partly because we have all committed to journeying together for at least 82 weeks.  That commitment is probably a key factor as well as is having a common mission.  We want/need the group to jell well so we can all be successful.  We are rapidly becoming a “We” and not merely a collection of individuals.

This is a spiritual exercise, coming to a deep realization that we are connected, that we are not alone, in our struggles or in our triumphs.  In Unitarian Universalism, this is our seven principle. “We covenant to affirm and promote respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.”

This connection is what many people are seeking when they join a religious community.  Commitment to a common mission is what makes for a successful group and a successful church.

Success can be defined partly as transformation, both individual and collective, a transformation that goes much deeper that what the scale says or how gorgeous a church building is.  It is what is inside that matters.

(My stats for last week – down 5 pounds, drank 6 1/2 gallons of water and exercised for a total of 365 minutes, mainly swimming.)

Rock on, rock on.

Broken Chairs and Carrot Sticks (Week 1 Day 4)

 

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Last night I broke a chair.  It was a recliner we have had for around for ten years or so, but I have been using it a lot more since September. Because of my leg condition, I have needed to elevate my legs for several hours a day.  This got me into watching TV again, something I had not done much at all in quite a few years, but that is another story.

Anyway, when I tried to get up last night, the chair wobbled and pretty much broke.  Leaning on one of the arms while I also used my cane to get up, not to mention my weight, was too much ongoing stress for it.  I felt terrible and this morning I got mad at Anne when she mentioned that some of our other chairs are also weak.  She did not mean anything by her comment, but it hurt my sensitive feelings.  I knew this journey would be emotional.

It helped when she reminded me that the chair had been moved twice and dropped once in the driveway by the movers.  It was a weak and damaged chair!  The evidence is in the glued together leg.   It needed more gentle treatment than I have been able to give it.  This morning, Anne sort of fixed it, and we moved its twin into the TV room and put the sad chair in the living room where it won’t get as much use.   Whew.  I had never broken a real chair before (cheap camp/beach chairs don’t count), but I have certainly worried about doing so and always try to score the sturdier seats if there is a choice.  Maybe I won’t have to worry about that as much in the future.

On a weirder note.  I have been really craving carrot sticks all week.  I thought I would be craving all the yummy things I have loved to eat, but no.  Carrot sticks.  I don’t even like them much and have always considered carrots as merely convenient spoons for dip, or something to throw in a stew for color.  This must be the behavior modification part of the program working.  After months of not eating real food, carrots will be wonderful – and jicama, snap peas, and cucumbers too.  Don’t they all sound really delish?

When I can eat real food again, I just might binge on raw carrots.

You can tell that I have quite a bit of empathy for the old broken down chair.  We all have our broken places.

 

 

 

 

Daily Bread (Week 1 Day 2)

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I got through day 1 just fine: an off and on headache and some mild nausea.  The water was the biggest challenge.  I drank almost the recommended gallon of water, but going to the bathroom constantly was not fun.  I swam for 40 minutes.  I wasn’t all that grumpy with Anne, which has been one of my fears.  I remember how horrible I was when quitting smoking and did not want to repeat that behavior.  OK, I was grumpy this morning when she was stressing about something before I had my 2 cups of black coffee.  Then again, I am always grumpy before my coffee.  She may not agree about my relative grumpiness.

Any change involves feelings of loss and of grief.  It is part of why change is so hard.  Part of what I need to keep telling myself that what is changing is my lifestyle – not the essence of who I am.  (And please tell that to the congregants who can freak out with any minor change to their liturgy. )

Two poems from years past about being a large woman:

Taking Up Space (2004)

I am a large woman

And I need some space.

The world is not big enough

Sometimes.

Sharp elbows jutting, jabbing

The smaller people

Push by with impatience.

Their looks of disgust

Try to cut me down to size.

I don’t feel crowded

By other fat people,

Even in a small space.

Our round bodies bump

Pleasantly together

With a jiggling, Jello-pudding ease.

Comfortable.

Earth mother goddess,

Welcoming, warm, and wise.

Ah.

Funny how someone so big

Can feel so invisible.

Yes, EXTRA large

Is way too small.

Really.

I don’t want to feel small

Simply because I am

What someone else thinks is

Way too big.

I am a large woman

And I need some space.

I want to grow larger still

Spirit filling my body  – and more

Flowing out, around.

Free.

Divine spirit,

Larger than all imagination,

Teach us how to bump more gently

Into one another.

May our spirits flow

Around the sharp edges,

Around the rude elbows

That jab us apart.

We are large souls

And we need some space

To be

Together.

 

A Larger Ministry (2014)

I am a large woman

It is a good thing.

As a minister

My shoulders must be wide

When people need them

To absorb their tears.

My arms must open up

To create a safe space

To hold the fearful

Close to my body

In a strong embrace.

If I could only be

Even larger

My giant heart

Might beat a rhythm

Loud enough

Just loud enough

To teach this hurting world

The joy of the dance.

 

No matter what size we are in body, may our spirits be as large as the infinite universe.

 

 

My Daily Bread (Week 1)

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“Give us this day our daily bread” – or chemically engineered meal substitutes – by Nestle no less.   Even back in the 60’s we knew that Nestle was one of those evil corporations whose products and activities did particularly heinous damage to indigenous populations around the world.  We can only do what we can do, however.  If these products can help me regain some better health, then they are what I will ingest for the next 4+ months, even if it means I have to purchase them from an evil corporation.

The picture above is what I will have today, which includes a GALLON of water.  Calories total 1200 calories and if I space the 7 servings out throughout the day, hunger will be kept at bay – or so they say, anyway.  I did order seven of the pre-mixed juice packs, thinking that for the first week anyway, it would be nice to not have to mix up a powdered ‘shake’ first thing in the morning.  It tasted fine this morning, kind of like a strawberry Yoohoo, but the waste appalled me and I plan to go with the powdered stuff from here on out.

Class was good last night, although it felt rushed.  We did have time for a quick go around with introductions, and it was nice to get a sense of the folks I will be on this journey with for almost the next 2 years.

I am excited to start this, and although some panic set in yesterday afternoon, today I am ready to be calm and methodical about it.  I have had the two 2 cups of black coffee that are allowed, and am now working on guzzling the prescribed water.  L’Chaim! (To Life!)

L’Chaim From Fiddler on the Roof

 

 

Carry That Weight (Week 0)

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We had the first session and ordered the meal replacements which we will get next week.  We had a tasting, kind of like a cocktail party, sipping samples of the shakes, munching on small bites of the bars.  The facilitator went over the ground rules, getting input from the group.  She did not call it a covenant, but that is what it was.  One of the rules (promises) was to avoid politics and religion and to keep the group focused on why we were there.  I understand the need to avoid controversy – and religion as well as politics can be controversial.  It might be tough for me, however, as my faith rests in the very core of my being, and I expect it will be part of what will help me get through this.  We will see, but then the facilitator said not to behave this week like it was the “last supper” which is a religious reference if I have ever heard one.  I chuckled to myself  about it.  Her point was not to overdo it this week and gain weight, making the loss more of an uphill climb.  It makes sense, but the person who wrote down my starting weight subtracted a 100 pounds from what the scale said.  When I saw her mistake, I said, “Maybe I am done with the program already!”  Humor is going to be very important, but then, it always is.