Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Happily swerving out of control

For the longest time, for as long as I can remember, whenever I became anxious or stressed about something, I always asked myself the following question:  “What’s the worst that can happen?”  I’m not sure if I learned this worst case scenario question from my parents or if it’s common knowledge that I picked up growing up?  But even as an adult, I still ask myself the question regularly.  I’m nervous for a presentation or meeting.  What’s the worst that can happen?  My mind could go blank and I could totally embarrass myself.  People listening may not buy into what I’m saying and think that I am an idiot.  For every single thing that makes us nervous, anxious or scares us there are almost an unlimited number of answers to the question.  And arguably the absolute worst thing that could possibly happen in any given circumstance is that it could kill me.  Arguably, the absolute worst case scenario anytime is that I could die.

If like me you also believe this to be true, that the absolute worst thing that could happen in any situation is that you could die, then the absolute worst thing that could happen is also the ONLY thing that is 100% certain to eventually happen.  Think about that for a minute.  The worst case scenario at any given time is the only thing that is certain in our life.  That in itself should wake us up…  

I have been thinking about death a lot lately.  If death is the only thing that is 100% certain, shouldn’t we be spending more time getting ready for it compared to all of the “what ifs” that we spend so much time trying to prepare for just in case they happen?  Most of our time is spent preparing for an unpromised future, getting an education, moving up the corporate ladder, accumulating stuff, exercising and eating the right foods (or thinking that we should exercise and eat the right foods), saving money for retirement, all considered to be short term suffering for long term gain. We spend so much time working towards our “goals” like we’re told to since apparently these“goals” are of the upmost importance so we comply because we’ve been brainwashed.  We have been conditioned to believe that we are in control and that salvation is in the future as long as we keep working at it and never give up.  What we are actually doing is spending all of our time and energy preparing for what our ego would LIKE to happen.  But eventually we all realize that things don’t always go like we had planned and envisioned.  And whenever that happens we suffer.

Like it or not death is a certainty.  It’s part of the deal.  It’s also as natural as being born.  Whatever you are doing at any time during any day, someone has died doing that exact same thing.  Even if I do every single thing right, with the best intentions, working so very hard towards reaching my “goals”, all it takes is for one of my cells to go sideways or a split second in the wrong place at the wrong time and it’s all done in an instant.  When I was younger I was terrified of death.  My young child mind was afraid of the physical pain that I would need to endure for everything to end in the absolute worst case scenario.  Another big part of my fear was the unknown aspect of the after-life, the rest of it was that I felt like death was such a taboo subject that made everyone, including myself, very uncomfortable and because of that it must be something extremely bad.  I’m not really afraid to die anymore.  I’m not ready to go yet, I like it here, but I’m not afraid of passing when my time comes.  It feels safe for some reason now.

I believe that regular contemplation of our mortality actually helps us live a better and happier life.  I find myself more and more appreciating the impermanence of certain moments of peace and love in my life.  I think to myself “if I live long enough, someday I will remember and miss the experience of this very moment”.  And when I do I just pause a little longer to really take it in.  This is such a simple thing that makes such a big difference.  It’s the difference between true happiness and temporary pleasure.  For so very long I lived at a very fast pace, always worried that I didn’t have enough time, trying to check off as many things off of my bucket list.  But now I am beginning to realize that life isn’t a race, that the best that life has to offer is in the mundane, day to day moments like laughing from the bottom of your heart during a family discussion about nothing really on a Tuesday night after supper sitting at home at the kitchen table.  That’s the good stuff right there.  And too often we don’t take the time to appreciate it as it should.  We just brush it off because we think that happiness is in the big stuff, the bucket list content.

Most of us, including myself, just don’t get it.  We just don’t get that this is all temporary, that life on the physical plane is really but a fleeting illusion, that our time here is so very brief, that our interactions with the energies in this world are but a very short-term project, that all of this is impermanent.  We’re all dying.  Some faster than others.  I am beginning to understand that freedom is just a matter of letting go.  Letting go of expectations.  Letting go of thinking that we need to do something big before our number comes up.  Letting go of control.  The irony in this is that we were never in control to begin with.  Control is a myth, an illusion that our mind believes to be true.  If we’re honest with ourselves, deep-down in our gut we know that we’re not the ones in control and that really scares us.  Society likes the fact that we are unconsciously afraid because it ensures that we keep looking outside ourselves for salvation and security.  Being afraid makes us ideal consumers.  Being afraid also makes us controllable.  Society thrives under fear.  That’s why wars and serious diseases are so profitable.

The greatest lesson in Type 1 gaming is in relinquishing control.  Type 1 Diabetes is really a constant reminder that life isn’t under control and death is always lingering.  Every single time insulin is injected, the gamer’s life is saved.  And this is on your mind 24-7.  Resisting it consumes you.  They tell us that Type 1 Diabetes can be controlled with insulin but I don’t think that control is the best term to use.  To me being in control of my car means driving safely in my lane.  The blood sugar control that synthetic insulin gives Type 1 gamers is closer to my car swerving all over the place, crossing the yellow line, on the shoulder just barely avoiding crashing into the ditch and that’s on a good day.

I know that Type 1 Diabetes came into my life to teach me to let go of control.  The day that Adele was diagnosed, I vowed to be the perfect pseudo-pancreas for as long as she was in my care.  I vowed to control Type 1 Diabetes perfectly.  Letting go of this has been so very difficult for me, especially now that Adele is maturing into adulthood.  It feels like it’s slowly killing me.  But I need to surrender to it.  I need to surrender through my own healing.  On the most basic level, living is really but a continuous series of suffering trauma and healing from it.  Our only purpose is to heal.  Everything else falls into place from there.  Of that I am now sure.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

I have been turning right

Every Wednesday night, I drive into the small strip mall parking lot on Ruffin Street in Dieppe.  Once in the parking area, on my left is the Crossfit gym, on my right is Shanti Yogi.  Every Wednesday night I have to choose which way I turn.  I always turn right.

I have never been a Crossfit gym member, but I did do a few Crossfit classes 10-15 years ago when the whole thing was starting as cross training for cycling.  The Crossfit motto is “Forging Elite Fitness”.  And I am convinced that Crossfit definitely works if heightened fitness is your goal.  Once you think you’re fit and strong enough, the next step is entering a Crossfit competition to test yourself against others.  Not long ago I would certainly have been all over Crossfit with its “No Pain No Gain” culture, but today I know that I will never do Crossfit again. 
At the beginning of each yoga class, the instructor asks us to scan our entire body from head to toe to notice how it feels.  Are certain areas tense?  Are other areas sore or aching?  Does our body feel restless?  Is our breathing smooth or laboured?  At the end of the class, the instructor asks us the same question.  And every single time, no matter how I felt as I stepped onto my yoga mat at the beginning of class, I always feel better afterwards.  I always feel more grounded.  I always feel more at peace.  Strangely I always feel better without even trying really since for me yoga is really just a practice of taking the time to slow down my mind and body, sitting down with what is, feeling it, embracing it instead of wanting things to be different and wanting to feel better.  Yoga is in no way a competition.  There is no comparison with others.  Yoga is simply acknowledging our true selves through mindful movement and breathing.  Yoga is based on our truth, authenticity and wholeness.  And all of these things breed healing, wellness and health.

Most people confuse fitness and health.  They look at the very lean athlete and automatically think of him/her as the ultimate picture of health.  But in reality fitness and health are actually two different things and even quite often exclusive.  Peak fitness can’t be maintained for very long whereas health can.  I am not even close to being as fit as I was 2-3 years ago but even with the lingering post-concussion syndrome I have never felt healthier.  Even when the symptoms come, like when I try to rush, to do something fast, even if the feeling in my head is one of disconnection with the outside world, I can’t help but notice how much more connected I feel to my inside, to my body, to my true self, to my soul.  I still can’t do what I used to before hitting my head but I’ve come to the point now where I don’t really mind anymore.  I am now realizing that maybe what I was doing isn’t what I am meant to do anymore.

Scrolling through pictures from the last Fat Bike race I can appreciate the amazing photos and the smiles on the riders’ faces, but for some reason, for the first time in as long as I can remember I don’t miss being part of those races.  That drive that I used to feel is dissolving.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy riding my bike.  I am still completely madly in love with riding.  It’s just that I don’t feel the need to go faster than I did yesterday.  I don’t feel the need to go faster than anyone else.  I don’t need to set a goal for the upcoming year.  I am simply content every single time that I hop on the saddle and turn the pedals riding at whatever speed I feel like at that moment.  I remember feeling this way when I first learned how to ride a bike, but then gradually I began to compare myself and become obsessed with improvement, results and number to tell me that I was successful at playing the bike game.  Riding my bike and focusing on the numbers had become my favorite vulnerability avoidance strategy.  I had turned left.  My riding had become my Crossfit.  Now, like every Wednesday night, I always turn right. My riding has become my yoga.

It’s hard to explain how much my concussion has changed me.  The past few years have been the most difficult in my life but I am now beginning to see how these struggles have molded a new me.  Or maybe they simply chiseled away at the parts of me that were never real, the outer shell that I had created to try to protect myself?   Even if it sounds cliché, in so many ways I feel like a new and better person.  Strangely I have noticed so much stress melt away since ending my “just for fun” bike racing career.  Even if bike racing has given me so very much in terms of life experiences and friendship, I am starting to question the whole competitive nature of sport that society has created.  Even friendly competition breeds separation and right now I feel like the universe needs more connection rather than separation.

Now don’t take this the wrong way.  I am in no way bashing Crossfit, bike racing or other competitive sports as a complete waste of time.  Maybe it’s an age thing but I don’t feel attracted to the challenges that competition provides anymore?  I am at a point in my life where I am beginning to question what society has been telling me that I should strive for.  Everyone is looking for the secret to “success”, but what does that even mean?  What does being successful look like?  Is it in our exterior accomplishments and accolades?  Is it being a champion, the best at what we decide to do?  What about the homeless guy living on the street?  Is he successful because he’s managed to not die even if society really would like him to?  Competitive sports are only important because society has decided to give them such importance.  Hockey is important and cool in Canada because we decided that it was (which was certainly influenced by the fact that we were also good at it).  Cycling is popular and important in France because the people who live there have decided that it was.  When human animals decided to live in communities it was to help each other.  Times were tough and they all benefitted by working together.  These communities were based on connection and not on competition.  But when we take a look at our communities today, this connection has been mostly lost, replaced by separation, by competition, me against you.  Is our power pyramid society structure really serving us or making us miserable?  

My blog posts get written over many weeks as a bunch of thoughts jotted down as ideas as they pop into my head.  Since I began writing this post, I have since started to notice that I have been physically feeling better and better.  Initially I thought that it was just my normal post-concussion syndrome recovery pace but then it hit me that this sudden improvement in many ways coincided with a change in my diet last month.  I have cut pretty much all food with added sugar and have reduced my carbs.  I have been reading about low-carb / high fat diets promoting neurogenesis, the birth of new brain cells, something that would seem important when recovering from a concussion so I decided to give it a try.  Now I’d say that my diet is only at about 60-65% Paleo.  I have completely cut carbs at breakfast and have reduced carbs at lunch and supper.  I am still not on a true Paleo diet.  I also fast for 14-15 hours once per week.  Even with these minor changes I am blown away by how much better I feel.  The brain fog seems to have lifted and my focus and energy are so much better.  I’m curious and very excited to continue to experiment with this low-carb / high fat diet in regards to my recovery.  And the counterintuitive thing is that I am pretty much going against all dietary advice that I received since my concussion.  Like yoga, this is in no way a competition but rather my own journey to health and wellness.  I’m curious to continue to learn where this journey will take me…