Mr T had been bored for quite some time. Every morning was the same. He’d wake up his person with a few quiet mews, nudging him to wake up by head bunting his furry gray face until his person was up. Then he’d wait patiently for his food dish to be filled. The sound of the can opening was accompanied by the sound of the smelly drink his person made every morning. The water bowl would be refreshed. He lapped and sipped, then walked over to his person, seated on a chair staring at something, then he’d do his thing: put two front paws on top of his person’s thighs and mew softly.
Sometimes, he’d apply more claw pressure. His person would follow Mr T out of his bedroom, into the kitchen, around the counter, back past his food bowl, and into the room where whirring sounds often sat next to his kitty litter bathroom. He’d fall down on his side and look up at his person until he began to pet his cheeks, his back, his side, the top of his furry head. Then he’d get up and move to another spot to be pet. Sometimes, there’d suddenly appear a cardboard box large enough for him to fit in, and naturally, he’d jump inside. What else was a cat to do? His round gray face and large yellow eyes pleading his person to pet him once more.
But after that song and dance was over, he’d look outside. He’d sit and wonder if this was all there was. Day in, day out. The clang clang clang of the trains going by below. The sound of cars on the streets, the highway near by. The booming music that sometimes erupted from the TV in the living room. Noises and smells were abundant. Yet, there was something missing.
Why did a cat like Mr T wish there was something more? Did other cats wonder and ponder about life like he did?
Have you ever woke up overwhelmed by everything on your plate, barely able to breathe?
I was seized with anxiety this morning, my torso area tight like a taut rubber band. I cupped my heart with my warm hand while still in bed and left it there, remembering what I had read in that Thich Nhat Hanh book earlier and had even written about in a previous blog entry.
“I embrace you, anxiety, with tenderness,” I said. In a sincere, genuine way.
“I embrace you, fear, with tenderness,” I said. And as I held my heart, my fear, my anxiety like this, the tightness sensation in my chest dissapated. It was like reciting an incantation, a spell.
And what do you know? It worked!
Oftentimes, I read something and it sounds good in theory, but when I try to remember, I forget. This time, I remembered and put it into practice.
And I’m glad I did. Because this is a tool for bliss, for mental health, that I can return to over and over.
The next time I’m seized with anything and feel like I’m about to drown in it, I’ll remember these magical words: “Embrace your X (fear, anger, jealousy, shame, grief) with tenderness.”
This is self-love. This is reparenting your inner hurt child. This is remembering.
Back from the gym. As I was carrying the Ramblers and bag of potatoes for X back from my car to the apartment elevator, I found myself rushing. Thoughts filled with rising anxiety began to flood my brain, one after another. You only have less than half an hour until your next phone appointment. Then you’ve got your clients. And your neighbor coming over for dinner. You’ll need time to prep and clean and cook. And you also have a god kid who you love who has a birthday today. He’s turning 12. Don’t forget to text, call, and/or send an Amazon gift card.
As I quickened my pace, another more nourishing thought came out of the blue and said: Slow down your pace. Just focus on the present moment. The now. Not on all the things you have to do. Slow down your pace. And trust. That that things will naturally unfold the way they’re supposed to. You’ll do what’s needed. You’ll focus your attention on one thing that’s in front of you, piece by piece, part by part. Trust that you will do that.
A recipe for overwhelm to follow today and beyond, the next time you need to feel hope and relief:
Slow down your pace. Instead of rushing, running, can you purposely walk instead?
Notice your breathing. Is it shallow? Is it fast?
Notice what’s happening now. (Ex. You are carrying a heavy box of sparkling water under one arm and a bag of potatoes under the other one and you’ve slowed down your pace and are no longer running, but walking.)
Tell yourself: “Trust.” Trust that everything will work out. Everything is working out.
If still seized with anxiety, panic, fear, worry: Place your warm hand on your heart and say: “I embrace you, anxiety, with tenderness.” Say it like you mean it. Say it a few more times and genuinely feel compassion, empathy and love for yourself, for this emotional state that is simply a visitor passing by like a temporary storm. You don’t need to identify with it. You don’t need to beat yourself up, shame or blame yourself for feeling this transient emotional state.
Notice the Now around you. (Ex. You’re in a parking garage filled with cars. Yellow car. Red car. Your feet are moving slowly as you walk, as each shoe, left, then right, lands on the hard concrete floor. The groceries under your arms feel heavy, yet your arms are marvelously strong. You are a miracle!)
Feel your heart rate come down, your breaths return back to normal rather than shallow breathing, your chest, your torso, your gut expanding ever so slightly. No longer constricted, contracted. Expansion returns once more.
Stop and celebrate and savor everything you want to do on your to-do list today.
Focus on just one thing at a time. Put all your attention into it. You just have this ONE thing. This ONE action before you. Approach it with curiosity, like a scientist or anthropologist.
Showing up when you don’t feel like it is something I’ve struggled with much of my life. I was that kid who after being dropped off at school, walked back home to watch Days of Our Lives, choosing to cut school to watch soap operas.
There’s an inner rebel inside me that wants to do anything but. Yet as an adult, a parent, a person yearning to write, earn money for myself and my family, and stay healthy mentally and physically, I’m learning that “showing up” for yourself is key.
Whether you’re showing up on your own blog because you committed to a 30-day writing challenge to publish every day or show up to work out at the gym, it’s all working that perseverance muscle.
In what areas in life do you find it hard to show up?
To be honest, I spontaneously picked this topic because I almost talked myself out of showing up here today after a 23-day streak. That voice inside me that tries to protect me, my inner child who I call “Mom-So” (for mom and society), often whispers in my ear to “take it easy,” “give up,” or “eat or drink all the things that make me feel bad.” It tells me “it’s okay to spend money”, to “miss the gym because you’re too tired,” that I’m “not enough.” The voice is quick to blame and shame myself and others.
But today I heard that voice and just noticed it. I opened up this page and I began to type. I had no idea what I would write here, but once I allowed myself to simply show up, the words began to flow.
I love this quote from Flannery O’ Connor: “I write to discover what I know.”
Writing depends on trust. Showing up to write is an act of faith. You trust that you’ll manifest something. You trust that what comes out of you will be good enough. And even if it isn’t what you had hoped, you can always go back and edit. Oftentimes, I show up to write, and end up unraveling knots I didn’t even know were long-buried, just begging to be excavated, brought back up the surface to work with again that brings about relief and release.
That often happens when I’m taking long winding slow walks. Some problem or idea would identify itself, especially if I’m listening to sad songs. But by the end of the walk, I’ll have re-imagined the problem, like solving a side of a Rubics Cube, getting closer to the bigger picture of the puzzle to be solved. Whether it’s a relationship issue or a writing issue, showing up on the blank page, or on a dirt path, helps to figure out what I really think, what possibilities can potentially manifest.
You know what?
I’m really glad I showed up.
Because it feels good. Showing up for yourself, each time you do it, you’re rewiring your brain. You’re creating new pathways. Dopamine hits like Pac-Man eating dots.
Even if you don’t feel like it, the trick is that by simply showing up, you begin to feel like doing it. And like now, sometimes you can’t even make yourself stop.
And you know what else? You’re teaching yourself that you are always more than enough. Even if you don’t know what to write, something will appear, the longer you let yourself stay.
Although I personally have yet to use a continuous glucose monitor like Levels*, I am loving this video about how to feed your brain for better mental health and metabolic health, using ketosis and the low-carb ketogenic diet as a tool for better brain health.
I have loved Harvard-trained Dr Georgia Ede‘s work of Metabolic Psychiatry ever since I discovered her videos about how ketosis–via food and/or fasting–can help one to reduce seizures. Back when I used to take bipolar type 2 meds, I was prescribed anti-seizure medication, but when D, my partner, got cancer in 2014, I accidentally discovered that not only did it help with his cancer symptoms (he’s now in remission, but back then, he never got nausea, hair loss, and his oncologist and oncology nurses said: “Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it!”), it also helped my prediabetes and bipolar type 2 symptoms. I was able to completely ramp off all meds and simply use food and fasting as a way to manage my mind. Totally life-changing!
I’m currently working on a memoir about my journey with keto and bipolar and my discovery of its existence and my deep dive application once my partner was diagnosed with cancer (now in remission in 2023, told by his latest oncologist to keep on doing what he’s doing, which is a mostly carnivore keto way of eating). I feel stronger now at 51 than I did in my 20s and 30s as a result of using nutrition and other lifestyle choices such as exercise, meditation, sleep, creativity and mindset/nervous regulation changes I’m still implementing.
Also in 2018, I got to meet Dominic D’Agostino at the Low Carb USA San Francisco conference. I told him how keto had helped my bipolar and he was very interested. We talked about different therapeutic potentials of ketone esters, as there were different kinds at the time in the works.
One of my dreams is to attend the Metabolic Health Summit someday and just absorb all the new information about the connection between ketosis and mental health, whether through eating and/or fasting, as well as how insulin resistance may be connected with so many metabolic and neurological disorders and diseases — whether cancer, bipolar, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, diabetes, PCOS, Alzheimer’s, dementia and more.
*Note: I currently use the Keto-Mojo meter (combined with Heads Up to track my health records, like my HbA1c or inflammation levels) once in a while, but in the beginning in 2014, when my partner had cancer, now in remission, we used the Precision Monitor to measure glucose and ketones and our GKI (Glucose: Ketone Index; GKI under 9 means you’re in ketosis).
Anyhow, there’s a lot to say but for now, I’ll leave you with this recent video with two of my favorite keto, mental and metabolic health people for you to absorb. To learn more about how to feed your brain better so you can feel good, look good, reduce the possibilities of dis-ease, and reduce and/or possibly ramp down from prescription meds. One of the reactions both my partner and I get every time we see doctors and hospital staff now is this incredulity of how we can not be on a whole cocktail of prescription meds at our age (51 and 60).
It’s true what they say: Health is wealth! Feed your brain better and you’ll be on your way.
This morning, I picked up the You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment thin yellow book from Thich Nhat Hanh to read. It was as though I had selected this morning’s reading for my future self last night. In fact, I had, because I was feeling upset at myself for being upset at myself being upset at my kid.
I had happened to open the book to Chapter Four: “Healing Our Wounds and Pain” and to this particular quote I had highlighted from the past in green (when I had taught this section of the book for my students when I taught English at the community college in Alameda, CA):
“Mindfulness is first of all the ability to recognize what is happening in the present moment. It is simple recognition — without judgement or criticism, without suppression or attachment.”
While this is easy at times when I’m meditating or hand-washing a pan in the kitchen sink, it’s difficult to practice when you’re angry–at others and yourself.
Yet this is something I realize I want to practice.
Thich Nhat Hanh says: “You are free of any intention to judge, find fault, reject, or cling, and you maintain that freedom in relation to whatever is happening. When you get angry or depressed, it is the same. You simply recognize what is there–anger, depression, and so forth–without any sense of disapproval or rejection. If you recognize emotion as existing in the moment, you will not feel upset. There is no battle to win or lose–this is Buddhist meditation.”
When you get angry or depressed, it is the same. You simply recognize what is there–anger, depression, and so forth–without any sense of disapproval or rejection. If you recognize emotion as existing in the moment, you will not feel upset.
Wow. That is the key, isn’t it? To “simply recognize what is there [anger, depression, jealousy, desire, shame, fear] without any sense of disapproval or rejection.”
To not identify with your anger, your depression–whatever, and just notice that it’s there. To see your emotional state simply “as existing in the moment.”
A passing cloud overhead. A storm that will dissipate. This part is so hard to remember when you’re in it.
Yet brain scientist, Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor wants us to remember that our emotions are actually pretty short-lived. She came up with the 90-Second Rule:
“When a person has a reaction to something in their environment, there’s a 90-second chemical process that happens; any remaining emotional response is just the person choosing to stay in that emotional loop.”
What to do about your cravings
Thich Nhat Hanh goes on to talk about, in his book, desires we face as humans when stressed and attempting to navigate human suffering and emotional pain: for example, to drink whiskey. To drink it with mindfulness. You say to yourself: “Drinking whiskey, I know that it is whiskey I am drinking.” He recommends this approach and says he’s not “telling you to absolutely stop drinking” but is proposing that “you drink your whiskey mindfully, and I am sure that if you drink this way for a few weeks, you will stop drinking alcohol. Drinking your whiskey mindfully, you will recognize what is taking place in you — in your body, in your liver, in your relationships, in the world, and so on. When your mindfulness becomes strong, you will just stop.”
Okay, that right there is pretty powerful. He’s talking about desires. Cravings. That when you’re stressed, upset about something, you can do it in a mindful present-moment way, thinking about the whole, not just about the part. The part that wants to feel good. Right. Now. But can’t think about the whole future. Your internal organs, your immune system, your metabolic and mental health all impacted. You just want to quench that desire, numb the emotional pain.
Man, I can definitely relate. And I want to practice this for next time I want to drink or spend money eating out eating junk or wanna procrastinate with endless YouTube videos (under the guise of “But I’m learning!”) when under a deadline, feeling pressure and the need to prove. Oh, the ego!
This next part of p. 69 tackles it right on the head:
“You do not have to struggle against a desire. There is no need for a battle within you. Mindfulness is something that embraces and includes things like desire, that recognizes them with great tenderness. Meditation is not about turning yourself into a battlefield where one side fights the other, because the basis of Buddhist meditation is nonduality. The habits of drinking alcohol or getting angry are also you, and therefore you must treat them with great tenderness and nonviolence. The essential point is not to create conflict, a fight, within yourself.”
So the next time that internal critic inside me wants to beat myself up, wants to blame and shame me for caving into a craving, I’m going to practice embracing this feeling, this sensation, with “great tenderness.”
I’m going to remember to put my warm hand on my heart, to speak gently to my hurt inner child who just wants to, in the end, protect me: “Darling, I’m here. For all of it.”
This is how we heal. This is the practice. On our own bodies and minds.
Bliss: What if it came in a pill that lasted for a very long time?
This morning, I felt both ease and bliss just swelling up in my chest as I walked, feeling utmost joy as I listened to the saddest of songs. I asked myself, what conditions helped me to feel this way?
I woke up with a fasting glucose of 99 mg/dL and ketone (BHB) levels of 0.1 mmol/L, which was surprising since I definitely ate a lot more carbs the day before. But I’ve also been introducing more fasts lately: intermittent and a few 24 hour ones. So even though my ketones were low earlier, it’s safe to say that I’m pretty keto-adapted, compared to how I used to be before I learned about the power of ketosis.
I would say these days I am about 80/20 when it comes to eating keto and low-carb, but I always go back to keto because of how it makes me feel. Fasting is also a way to get into ketosis, even if you’re not eating keto 100%.
Regular mostly low-carb, keto-eating, fasting, meditating and consistent exercising (including slow walking), being out in nature, staying away from news and social media, learning, creative writing, especially slow-writing, and surrounding myself with good positive people and accountability (in all the ways) has been helping me.
On my walk today marveling at the beautiful turquoise jewel that is Barton Springs, I was thinking that I feel better now at 51 in mind and body than I did back in my 20s and 30s. We live on the 15th floor of an apartment building we’re currently renting, pausing from the RV life for now, and over the years, even during the pandemic, I have no problem regularly walking up the stairs as opposed to taking a crowded elevator up to our apartment. In fact, I can sprint up 15 floors’ worth of stairs in under 5 minutes!
Then it dawned on me: It wasn’t until my 40s that I started eating better, started learning about the health benefits of fasting, of autophagy, of ketosis, insulin resistance, oxytocin. It’s crazy to think, but it was because of my partner getting cancer that helped us to really reign in on what we were eating and how we had been living. A friend of ours had told us about the keto diet and we dove in headfirst in 2014 and have never looked back. Ketosis via food and fasting helped us to feel better in mind and body.
Although I’m still learning today about mental and metabolic health, I feel grateful that we now know how to use it to feel better!
In fact, speaking of oxytocin and ketosis, I just listened to this oxytocin-inducing podcast episode with these two women doctors who I love and wanna share.
It’s never too late to focus on better health using ketosis as a portal. It’s no surprise that bliss and ease are a natural result.
To even get to the other side of fear, you have to trust. You have to trust that no matter what happens, you’ll be able to handle it. That you’ll be okay. That you’re going to survive. And thrive!
To get to the other side of fear, you have to trust that even if someone is disappointed, even if someone is mad, you’re going to be okay. You are not a bad person. You’re just an imperfect human being with flaws, just trying to do your best.
To get on the other side of fear, you have to love yourself enough to trust that you will be okay. You get to choose, you get to trust. In the end, you’re all you’ve got, so why not choose you?
To get on the other side of fear, you have to forgive –yourself and others for perceived mistakes, to let go of shame and blame, to choose love, compassion, grace instead.
To get on the other side of fear, you have to take the next tiniest action — inform, schedule, set a timer to start (without future-tripping about the outcome), get lost in the sauce of the delicious process, this journey you get to take. Move the needle forward: bit by bit, part by part, brick by brick, word by word, second by second. Just take that next tiny step; like what Lisa Nichols says:
Dr. Tracey Marks has a fantastic video about low motivation and procrastination for those with ADHD. Something I can definitely relate to as someone diagnosed with ADHD. I used to think I was just “lazy”– but it’s a brain problem. Your dopamine pathways are disrupted. ADHD is associated with problems with concentration, focus, attention, impulsivity, distraction, hyperactivity. But it also cause impaired motivation.
It’s also a great video to procrastinate to when you’re feeling despair and have low energy to do The Thing. But it helps to know what’s going on, and that in this big wide world, you’re not alone. Many of us struggle to do The Thing!
Here at Bennu’s, trying to get ready for client work (I do freelance editing, writing, proofreading). It’s taken me a bit. I feel like I’ve dicked around a bunch. But what is wrong with dicking around?
Just who inside me wants to get me in trouble for dicking around? And could dicking around be exactly what I’m trying to move forwards in terms of play and ease? What if I need more dicking around time? Could dicking around be what I need more of? I pictured myself telling my teen that I had already dicked around the other day when we watched back to back episodes of King of the Hill on the couch together when I should’ve been working. That “uh-oh, I’m gonna get in big trouble” voice inside me is hella loud!
What if I can tell it, like Marvyn told me yesterday on our pre-trip consult, I can instead see it as “that annoying friend calling you when you need to write” and you end up writing while listening to their negative chatter.
That annoying friend, he reminded me, is your own inner voice.
That voice that sits on your shoulder like the devil in old timey cartoons that tells you all the negative stuff, or tries to get you to do stuff you know you shouldn’t do. Like for me, procrastinate. Or punishment for playing. For resting. For dicking around. It’s no longer a voice I want to religiously and rigidly follow with rigor. Instead, I’m going to relax, go with the flow like that river Marvyn mentioned, flow around the rock, not identify with said rock, not stop because of this rock, not make the rock into a giant mountain, but instead, go around that rock and keep flowing, keep going. I can do that. My rock can be procrastination. It can be perfectionism. But I will flow instead. Flow right into flow-state, why don’t cha?
Last night was the blue moon. August 30, 2023. The biggest moon of the year. The full moon, I read, is a time of closure. I am wishing closure for one of my friends and the one she once loved. I am wishing closure for the old me who ruminates and procrastinates, who identifies with all my negative traits and tendencies.
What if, instead, I can identify with the warrior inside me? The goddess within? The one who knows just what to do? What if I can move through the day without the drama, mama llama? What if I can identify with my water element, and be like the river, the lake, outside my apartment window, where the full golden moon began to set this morning after I came back from the gym, face aglow with sweat?
Okay, here goes. One small moment at a time. The present moment is all that you have. Here in the present. No past. No future. Just right here. Right now.
My mind is mush. But I’m posting something here just to keep my blogging streak alive. If I press “Publish”, it’ll have been 17 consecutive days in a row since I set out to write and publish here for 30-days for my own DIY Writing Challenge.
I had no plan nor idea of what I was going to say here today. My mind feels like mush, not mushrooms, but just a mish mash of mush. Whatever that means! This means this will just be me typing whatever that comes to mind so I can keep this practice up.
It can be hard to keep a practice up, to be consistent. But I’ve been doing it, bit by bit. Inch by inch. I’m getting old but I am finally beginning to understand. You do things by telling yourself you’ll just do a tiny bit of it. Like SARK says in her writing book I’ve been getting inspired by, she wrote her books just by tricking herself to write 5 seconds to 5 minutes at a time.
To get the dishes sitting unloaded for sometimes days from the dishwasher, I’ve been telling myself, just put away one fork while you wait for the water to heat up for your coffee.
Just one fork. Then it’s just one chopstick. Just one knife. Just one dish. Just one mug. And before you know it? The entire friggin’ dishwasher is unloaded! Then the pile of dishes in the sink begins the game again. While I make my coffee, I tell myself, well, Lily…you put away those dishes. Bra-f*ckin-Vo! Now you can put away just one dirty fork. And if that’s all you do, you did great.
Then in goes that dirty fork into the now finally empty dishwasher, and before you know it? A soiled knife snuck in next to the fork. Then a moldy cup from my teenaged son’s room. Then my cat’s water dish. And by the time I add a tinge of MCT oil and collagen powder into my coffee, I’ve — lo and behold! — loaded the entire dishwasher and actually pressed ‘Start’!
I do this with laundry, with getting back to texts and emails (actually a ton harder than dishes!), with meditation and working out at the gym (“just go for one minute, Lily; you can do that, right?), with writing and work. The latter two are also especially hard. Especially for someone diagnosed with ADHD. I’m still figuring how to make work feel more like play. Feel more curiosity and ease versus dread and a grind. But I am learning these little tricks. These strange habits add up and become routines. Couple that with self-compassion and grace when my energy is super low and I do nothing, and you have a recipe for “How to Human”, right?
Shoooooot…and there you have it. An actual blog post when I didn’t feel like showing up to blog, when my mind felt like absolute mush. I suppose I could’ve had ChatGPT write it for me, but no AI has my voice, my memories, my vulnerabilities, my experiences, my Lily-ness. At least, not yet. But until then, I’ll just show up. Me. Word by word, letter by letter.
Even if this all just reads like complete utter mush.