Lately I’ve been slipping a bit with my exercise and health practices, and even writing this blog. It reminded me of When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, a book by American Buddhist nun Pema Chodron. I can’t recommend it because I’ve never read it; it’s sitting in a box in storage. At one point I may have even owned two copies. But the title speaks to me now after a mostly pretty shitty day and last few weeks. Even within the Tibetan Shambhala community, things fall apart. As with many religious, business, and entertainment leaders with unchecked power, last year their figurehead was accused of and apologized for sexual misconduct. It went on a while, but he’s still there.
However, reports suggest that Chodron as a senior leader and teacher may have enabled or ignored it. She even told a woman reporting abuse years ago that she didn’t believe her. So she’s not perfect, and she has resigned in protest but maybe also as an act of contrition although she wasn’t the abusive male with all the power. Point is, life doesn’t always or even often go the way we want it to. Defecation passes. We’re all humans here, right? Certainly there are more important things than fitness goals, but like the saying goes, “At least you have your health.” Well, what if you don’t, despite your best efforts? I guess you do your best.
In my case, I have been suffering from fatigue, way more than usual (which is plenty), and other things like feeling weak a lot and nearly fainting once enough to go see a doctor the other day. I had fired the last one due to really not doing much for me or believing my symptoms were real. This new guy happens to be a cyclist and at least his office has an email portal so my questions won’t disappear into a black hole. He poked and prodded, listened and examined, then said he couldn’t find anything wrong with me. He must not have looked very hard, because there’s plenty. Have you seen my mph average on Strava lately? Not good. I asked if overtraining was a possibility, even at my slow speeds and few hills; “Just take it easy, but keep biking and exercising, or you’ll gain weight,” he said, and then promptly punted the ball and referred me to a specialist. Doctors often think they’re so smart, and most are… up until they’re not, and out of their depth.
I couldn’t see the specialist because heavy rains were forecast today, and I wasn’t going to bike until after the storm, but then my car wouldn’t start so I had to go get a battery instead. There went $180 flying out of my wallet; at least the auto parts guy installed it for free. I then rushed over to my appointment just in case the doc was still there, but the dude had left — I joked he’d gone golfing, and the office staff didn’t admit it, nor did they deny it, either. Ever notice how weather people almost always forecast golf ball sized hail? Sometimes tennis or dimes, but usually golf. What’s up with that? Are all weather people golfers? Texas does get some ferocious thunderstorms, though, and we got a doozy tonight.
I know I’ve been griping about doctors in this post, but sometimes they’re just great. While I was at the clinic, I asked about maybe checking in with my dermatologist, who’s been doing her residency. I’ve had to see her at least twice a year due to being in Texas where the sun is brutally hot amd inforgiving of white cyclists’ skin. She’s a lovely, slight Asian woman who’s always been professional while scanning my epidermis for issues. But she’s graduating and leaving, so I was sad about that.
Then I asked why my appointment with a different provider, my foot guy, had been rescheduled. Turns out, HE HAD JUST RECENTLY DIED. That’s an excused absence. But seriously, he was a super nice, young, energetic, and jovial African American doctor. He sure knew his stuff, too. It wasn’t COVID, but he was pretty overweight, and many Black people in America do tend to have a lot of extra health challenges white people don’t. I haven’t processed that yet, but dead? I just saw him six weeks ago, and now he’s gone forever. Damn! That news sure put my problems in perspective. Death comes as the end and could be at any moment, but we are in denial.
So I got another appointment with another specialist the week after next. Meanwhile, the fired guy had an emergency opening next week, so I took it. I doubt he’ll do much beyond order more labs or refer me to someone else, but I’m not yet needing to go to to a hospital, I’m just being bounced around like a ping-pong ball. (Which is about the same size as a golf ball, and it wouldn’t hurt as much if a bunch of them fell out of the sky.) My issues could have a simple cause and solution, or they could be serious and more complicated. I know it’s not nothing. But so far these guys are too lazy, don’t care, too busy, or aren’t smart enough to figure it out. If and when they do, the treatment is often worse than the disease. Time to go back to my acupuncturist, who’s really sweet and gentle for the most part. Once the pointy bits go in, there are no side effects, just a very deep nap.
As for what I’ve missed in my fitness practices, I haven’t entered a number of meals in My Fitness Pal. I have notes for most of them but probably not the mental energy to go back and input them. I have another appointment with my nutritionist next week, and she doesn’t even really care if I use MFP. Another lazy health care professional; but at least she’s free and I get to practice my Spanish with her. I can be charming sometimes, and I make her laugh. Unfortunately, she’s a runner, not a cyclist, so she may as well be a Martian, and dating was never on the table anyway. Well, MFP has kept me honest and at a recent weigh-in I was actually down .4 pounds. That was surprising due to the slacking off of the measuring food and a fair bit of stress eating I’ve been doing. Nobody’s perfect, and the journey is long. I plan to lose all my weight when I die. All at once, too! Not anytime soon though if I have anything to do with it.
Also, due to this malaise, I have been skipping my 15 minutes of upper body resistance bands every other day this week. I also usually write this blog three times a week, but when it came time for writing Wednesday night’s post, I just said to myself, “I can’t even.” So I didn’t. Instill journalled, though. It’s hard to maintain habits in normal times, whatever that means, but the last I checked, it’s still a pandemic. Stress-FULL still with all these maskholes running around. I am keeping up with everything else I do to try to suck a little less. Moving residences hasn’t been great for my stress levels, either. What’s a dude to do except just keep: pedaling, walking, yoga-ing, writing, reading, and fluting? As well as job-hunting, cooking, eating, seeing the occasional friend, doing errands and chores, trying to relax with a little television, and hopefully getting some sleep and naps (definitely de riguer in my advancing age)?
Anyway, I’m feeling pretty un-Buddhist about this whole situation. To deal with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Chodron and her ilk tell people to do meditation, which studies say helps your brain in various ways. (“If I only had a brain,” the Scarecrow sang….) For one year a while ago, I tried adding on a half an hour after my daily yoga practice. But I usually fell asleep or got pissed off. So I quit doing it. Last year, I began using my Insight Meditation Timer to do five minutes of a guided session. It’s so short a time I haven’t noticed much benefit. But it’s good to know when to let go of things that aren’t working. Sometimes it’s hard to quit when something is helping or may be a benefit if you do it long enough. And very hard when you like it, you don’t want to stop, and your doctor dude says keep going.
Another book I haven’t read by another Buddhist, Jon Kabat-Zinn, is called Full Catastrophe Living. I did skim it and the gist is you’re either in a catastrophe, or you’re about to be in one. That’s the nature of human life on this Planet Earth, he writes. His answer? Meditate. Of course. Sit there quietly, breathe, maybe focus on a candle or word (mantra), and try not to get wrapped up in your thoughts. Stop the cycle of craving and aversion and eventually you’ll get enlightened. Then you’ll escape the wheel of karma and not be reincarnated but instead unite with the universal consciousness. Or something like that. Sounds good, but it’s hard. That’s why so few people can walk on water.
After the bad news at the clinic, I rushed to the bike shop to pick up Sophie the Fairdale. The mechanic had broken her rear brake during a routine cable replacement. But as I arrived the dude was leaving and couldn’t retrieve her. I’ll have to return tomorrow. I wasn’t upset, given the bad news I’d just had about my doctor. He had to order a more expensive part and maybe even pay for it, which I felt sorry about though it was his error. I just told him he was super strong and didn’t know his super powers. Sometimes, I’m able to maintain my equanimity. Maybe all the yoga does help with patience. It’s the most important, but also the dullest, of virtues, some wise guy (or gal) once said.
I went home, tried to read, write, and do some chores, but finally succumbed to a long nap with the rain pounding down. No hail, which is how my grandmother used to exaggeratedly pronounce “hell,” as in “Oh, hail!”. The storm moved on. I finally got out on my back-up bike Sonnie, the GT Arette. Then I got a flat tire. Fortunately it was near the end so I just walked a short bit. Maybe the universe is trying to tell me something, like tp do less. Of course most of what I do is so I can improve my health, particularly by trying to stop being a fathlete and lose weight. Short of illness, surgery, or death, it’s not looking likely that’ll happen to the extent I’d like in this lifetime with this body.
Socrates said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” I say the examined life ain’t no piece of cake. Somewhere in there ought to be fun, laughter, love, romance even, and happiness. I don’t think I’m getting enough of those things. All the activities are a lot of work. Even the TV shows I watch are generally dark, like the excellent True Detective, which came out on HBO a few years ago. Often happiness involves other people, but with COVID pandemic seeing people has been restricted for many, and certainly we single folks living alone, like this dude. I do enjoy my solitude, that’s for sure, but too much of it isn’t good.
The opposite can also be a challenge. It was Albert Camus who wrote, “Hell is other people.” But of course he was a notoriously grouchy existentialist. People can be good. Like the neighbor who gave me a jump start and the landlord who loaned me battery cables. Maybe I should read Chodron’s book already. Another time I’ll write about The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin which I found at a little library box and actually am reading. Hopefully you have a happier day than I did. Any day with a bike ride at least has some happy to it, right? Right!
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