I decided to adopt a more Mediterranean diet today. While this is a construct in itself, it includes the consumption of chicken, turkey, and fish. This post attempts to address the reasoning behind it by facing up to some fears and challenging my own “black and white” reactions. As you will read, there are various schools of thought that talk about how horrible animal products are for us and how they will most certainly kill us. While this may be true, or not, I have my own reasons.
With my best Ohio friend recovering, as best he can, from a major brain bleed less the ability to move without assistance or to make and hold some short-term memories, I am faced with a lot of the same emotions I had after my heart attack. First, I’m goddamn lucky. Second, I’m not invincible and all of this will someday end, probably not without some major personal challenges.
“Life is a sexually transmitted disease that ends in death,” my doctor.
Looking back over 2017 has me smiling today, however. I’m consciously aware that I am taking a luxury in looking ahead to what 2018 might hold as far as interests go. One of my main goals is to pull off a 7-day wilderness walk. Complete with hiking shoes, backpacks, shit shovels, gravity showers and more dehydrated foodstuffs with my best friend Doug from Portland Oregon. This is going to require a deviation from my running goals taking me back into the weight room which has given me the he-be-gee-bees since 2015… for absolutely no other reason than fear. My cardiologist imposed zero restrictions regarding food or activity. Sure there are definite guidelines the likes of which you can find at the AHA website. It was me, however, who chose to react out of fear and jump into a few pretty radical changes over a slow calculated course of time during the past two-plus years.
Sitting here at lunch today has me thinking about the nature of fear. Well, my fear. The dark places I have visited over the course of two years that have on more than one occasion just knocked all the wind out of me until I couldn’t move for the paralysis it caused. Yet it’s our own built-in fires that provide the strength we need to simply change our minds and our directions. Maybe that and more than a little help from the people who love us really.
It’s fear that first brought me to the conclusion that Dr Esselstyne and Dr Ornish were the right plans for me. Even though I hybridized them by adopting meditation, running and a plant-based lifestyle. I still sought out things that I enjoyed including the occasional lighter cheese and mushroom pizza from Dante’s, which I love, in Clintonville. Or a small serving of onion rings from Bare Burger. Or kettle chips at home with Eddie. While my cholesterol dropped to 93, I still have some work to do concerning various food cravings. But that’s life I think. It’s not going to be perfect and even if it were, there are absolutely no guarantees.
2017 taught me to face specific fears. I spent a good deal of energy working on myself, at length, and doing all sorts of things that used to “scare the Hell out of me” this year. Tattoos, camping, hiking, being alone in the middle of nowhere in the pitch black, running a 20-mile race, showering outdoors, hanging out in our birthday suits with other campers around a campfire talking well into the morning hours telling stories, letting down some of my very high and overly professional walls, taking time to just be myself and enjoy the things that make me who I am. Big freak or not, I’m here and I’ve had a damn fun year. You see, facing fear is the only resolution I signed up for on January 1st this year.
So today I saw my Dr. and got a second opinion which supported my cardiologist’s recommendation back in 2016. That whey protein, lean chicken, turkey, and fish are perfectly fine choices for a person with Cardiac Artery Disease (CAD) to have on his plate. Most importantly, regardless of doom and gloom warnings in my head thanks to the gifts from my heart attack of anxiety and depression, it’s how I want to fucking live my life again. No regrets. No fear. Full of intimacy, risks, challenges, camaraderie, family, and laughter. 2017 marks the year I started to take some of that back for myself.
While yes, life is a “one day at a time” kind of experience, I am taking a little bit of moment today to face an older but recent reaction to fear and challenge one of my own decisions. Now Esselstyne followers will probably say I signed my own death warrant but I am choosing to acknowledge yet let those ideas go. I want to accomplish something more, however. I want to hit my grave knowing that I loved myself enough to shout into the night sky and let the world know I am here.
To the day where I am no longer here. I was here and had a full life because it was the only thing I have discovered that makes anything worthwhile about breathing. It’s the everything part of what is around us and how we let all of that energy into our hearts and minds and then share back out into the world that counts.