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APPRECIATE WAKE UP CALLS – THEY ARE SECOND CHANCES

by riley harrison

 That which does not kill me makes me stronger

Nietzche

Last week, being prepared for a very grim prognosis, I overcame procrastination, fear and denial and visited my doctor. My worst fears were unfounded and I kiddingly told my doctor that now I have to find something else to worry about. It was a major wakeup call.  A vast feeling of relief swept over me but I  was constantly bugged by a very nagging question: why isn’t  health my top priority. No amount of rationalization about necessary comprise was satisfactory; I knew better. So I began to wonder would it be possible for me to crank it up a notch and live a healthier existence without burdensome sacrifice and deprivation. I knew that I didn’t have the discipline (or desire)  to eat rabbit food (lettuce) and brussel sprouts 3 times a time for the rest of my life. My immediate concerns were that I had put on ten lbs. during my last vacation and really hadn’t gotten serious about losing the weight and my blood pressure had crept up to 137. If I was really serious about weight loss and lower blood pressure, a few things would have to change immediately. I needed accountability; I started counting calories and weighing in daily. I made a commitment to lose ten lbs via a healthy diet (low fat and lots of veggies and fruits) and lower my blood pressure to 127 in 6 weeks .  I suspected caffeine played a major role in my high blood pressure. I decided to restrict myself to  1-1 ½  cups of coffee in the morning and another cup around  2:00 and to replace diet sodas with water. After one week, my blood pressure dropped to 112. That’s a level I can live with (no pun intended).

The remaining large piece of the puzzle was identifying and handling stress/anger more effectively. The other day I was exiting a parking ramp. It took 14 minutes because only one (very slow) parking attendant was on duty. I was in the ramp for 1 hour and 1 minute but was charged for two hours. I don’t handle these situations well.  I remember a friend of mine who was travelling across the country and had stopped to purchase a ½ pint of milk for lunch. Forty five minutes later he discovered that the milk was sour. He turned around, went back and demanded a refund. Kathy thinks that these types of situations require one to balance cost (time, money, energy and angst) vs. the desired outcome. She calls it the hassle factor. No matter how “righteous” the cause, some battles just don’t need to be fought. These types of situations are hard for me to accept and let go. Engaging in conversations concerning contentious issues in which no minds will be altered and no opinions swayed (politics and religion come to mind)  is fertile ground for exploration. These futile discussions often become much too heated and upsetting.

I plan to create my own support consisting of like-minded people to offset and balance the influence of friends who could really give a rip about healthy living (a sharp chest pain will solve that problem nicely).  Books written by Dean Ornish (healthy living) and Jon Cabat Zinn (meditation and stress reduction) will be my written guides.

That’s basically the plan but I will continue to do ongoing tweaking and experimentation.   Reduction in caffeine intake created a big gap. I plan to supplement my coffee intake with green tea. I’ve signed up for a yoga class at the YMCA (new experience for me).

I know I can’t white-knuckle myself to success with sheer willpower. I’m not into martyrdom and deprivation but I think that this is a reasonable plan which will work. The benefits are obvious. That’s the beauty of a wake-up call. Wish me luck.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Julie | A Clear Sign March 2, 2012 at 10:32 pm

Good luck, Riley!

All of those things sound doable. I also hate to tell you this but I agree with Kathy. I also have been known to take that sour milk or rotten meat, put it in my fridge sealed up, and take it back the next time I was planning to be at the store anyway…usually a week later, by which time it was REALLY disgusting. I have never known anyone to even look like they doubt me (nor do they open it).
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riley harrison March 3, 2012 at 12:58 am

Hi Julie,
Oh I know Kathy’s right on this one, but it’s in my DNA to do battle over issues that others would consider (and probably rightly so) inconsequential. Kathy calls me a loose cannon with way too much time on my hands -LOL. She is too busy for this type of nonsense. I will say I got over it quicker than I used to.
Riley
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Evan March 2, 2012 at 10:40 pm

Congratulations Riley.

One part of the hassle factor is the emotions. How good will it feel to get that new bottle of milk? This can make it worth doing!

Great that you are creating support too – this makes a huge difference I think.

I think Nietzsche was being grandiose (he was in pain a lot of his adult life – so the need to rise above was quite visceral for him. Your high blood pressure hasn’t killed you (yet) but it hasn’t made you stronger. I’d prefer to say that our response to threats can make us stronger and lead a better life.
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riley harrison March 3, 2012 at 12:44 am

Hi Evan
Well Nietzsche certainly wasn’t the gregarious, positive thinking kind of person but I think there is wisdom in that statement. I know I’ve had some rough knocks (haven’t we all) that’s tempered me into a stronger more resilient person. How have you been?
Riley
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Evan March 3, 2012 at 6:41 am

Overall I’ve been pretty good. The last couple of weeks have been looking after my mum and dad because my dad was in hospital for a week and the last week has been getting things sorted at home. So busy and messy and challenging. But we are gradually getting things sorted out.
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sean crawford March 3, 2012 at 3:38 am

Hi Riley,
For people, in a small way I role model off of nurses who are firm but without any upset emotional component.

I’m still chuckling over running into a round friend of mine and seeing him straight like a stick. “What happened?,” I asked. “I lost weight,” he replied. “I’m glad you weren’t sick. How?” And he said, “I cut out the beer.”

Alas, I have nothing so simple to cut out. I already take my oodles of coffee without sugar. I suppose I could merely cut my portions in half. Rita Mae Brown calls it the half ass diet because you lose half your ass.

I know a good way to count calories is to a) get a kitchen scale, and then b) get the book on calories at the diabetic office, as the book is very easy, with a life and death clarity.

I think I’d be a stronger Kung Fu master, if I killed Nietzsche.

So long, have a good life!
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riley harrison March 3, 2012 at 4:05 am

Hey Sean,
I just want to live as healthy as possible without extracting all the joy out of living. I’m little conflicted over coffee. As I understand it, it’s a great hedge against Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s.
Diet pop is just a bad habit; no real sacrifice for me. We will see how all this plays out.
Riley
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riley harrison March 3, 2012 at 12:40 pm

Sean – here is a quote by N which you might like better -”We have left land and taken to our ship! We have burned our bridges-more, we have burned our land behind us! Now little ship, take care! The ocean lies all around you; true, it is not always roaring, and sometimes it lies there as if it were silken and golden, and a gentle favorable dream. But there will be times when you will know that it is infinite and that there is nothing more terrible than infinity…”. What do you think?
Riley
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sean crawford March 4, 2012 at 5:34 am

Well, what I think is: If infinity is scarier than a storm, then maybe (besides death) infinity symbolizes being all alone. Responsible for my own beliefs, without society or my family to help me– indeed, it is hard to turn my back on my family and say, “Your beliefs are wrong.” Easier, sometimes, to lose a cult or subculture than to … finally let go, and say it is OK to make my own way, without them ever agreeing.

With infinity I get the opposite of agoraphobic: there is nothing to grab ahold of, and no social validation, no fellow rebels… I read once that CEOs don’t want more reports and more data– what they want is to bounce their thoughts off of another senior executive.

You might smile to hear a Dorothy Parker verse I like to recite to myself:
And sweet’s the air,
with curly smoke,
from all my burning bridges.
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Preciouss March 5, 2012 at 1:10 am

Hi Riley! Congratulations to your post here! I enjoyed reading it and I hope you can continue to inspire more people too…
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riley harrison March 6, 2012 at 12:53 am

Thanks Preciouss
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Lori Gosselin March 5, 2012 at 3:22 pm

Hi Riley,
That was a relief! I haven’t had wake-up calls but enough people close to me have and I’ve been listening in on theirs! I believe it’s good to take small steps when making changes – doable, sustainable ones. I’ve been reading a Green Juicing guide recently and the idea of green juicing intrigues me. I’m thinking of starting, as the author suggests, with one a week. Slow and sure.
I know what you mean by knowing what to do but not being able to take the measures to do them. All in time – one step at a time. :-)
Lori
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riley harrison March 6, 2012 at 1:03 am

Hi Lori,
Well the good news is that my research shows that I should be drinking at least glass of port a day. And also a little chocolate should be eaten daily. Thanks for your concern and hope all is well.
Riley
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Lori Gosselin March 6, 2012 at 2:17 am

I’m on my way to bed and had to check my email and now, come here. Port AND chocolate Riley?!?! We’re talking the good dark chocolate, right? Well then, life is good!
:-)
Lori
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Bill Dorman March 6, 2012 at 12:12 am

Well, if you don’t have your health you don’t have much, do you? Sounds like you are on the front end of this however and can easily get it under control. Go ahead and YouTube the yoga class and post it, ok? I did a body flow class that incorporated yoga and it was not a pretty sight, but it did help me……:).

I drink a fair amount of coffee and my blood pressure for my last reading did creep over 130 for the first time; maybe that’s something to be moderated. I might give it a try and see how it works out.

Good luck sir.
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riley harrison March 6, 2012 at 1:15 am

Hi Bill,
I don’t know much about yoga; I have this fear of getting a foot stuck behind my head and not being able to unwind. If that happens you won’t see it on YouTube LOL. I seem to remember that you run marathons so you much be in pretty good shape. Take care.
Riley
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Rose37 March 6, 2012 at 12:29 pm

Hi Riley…You never fail to impress us always…Your post here is awesome and I want to congratulate you…Well Good luck!
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jennifer November 8, 2012 at 6:36 am

Dr Jon Cabat Zinn developed the MSBR i.e Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, and this program is really helpful. It coordinates yoga and meditation together. This can help to cure most of the diseases caused. The main problem today is with exercising and lack of physical activity. We should be working more on this.
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riley harrison November 8, 2012 at 11:32 am

Hi Jennifer,
Big fan of Dr Zinn and MSBR! I meditate daily listening to Dr. Zinn. Also spend an hour daily at the gym – don’t want no heart attack lol.
Riley

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