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A good fight

July 25, 2010

So much pain; so much grief. It’s everywhere.

I’m still listening to this lecture on insulin resistance. It’s a long lecture and I have lots of notes to take. One of the things that I like about it is that he often relates the scientific studies that he quotes to hunter-gatherer societies. Now granted we can only really guess, or educated guess, what these societies were like, I still like it. Partly because it makes me nostalgic for a way of life I’ve never known, but mostly because it’s rational. If our species have been doing something for thousands of years, and it worked for us, then I am going to go with that, especially if it feels good too.

It got me thinking about stress. About stress and life and how, a few months ago when I was on a sailing trip, I was less stressed than I’d been in years. Quite possibly since I’d been out sailing last. Out at sea, completely cut off from civilisation. Phones don’t work. Computers don’t have interwebs to connect to (not that one guy on the trip didn’t try every five minutes to find a wi-fi signal… in the middle of the Pacific). You throw dinner together with what you have on hand (I insisted on cooking– I don’t trust these men with their man meals). And you hope that you don’t run out of tea before you get back. But all of these things are a combination of planning and chance; rootedness and openness.

Life slows down a bit. For long periods of time you gaze out at the horizon. Every now and then another vessel comes into sight and you get to play mariner and try to figure out the vector of its course. And then often times you realise that it’s a MASSIVE ship bringing freight boxes all the way from China and how unnaturally big it must be for you to be able to see it so clearly when it’s actually two miles away. It gets closer and is the size of a ten story building. Big things scare me. But that’s another story.

And the constant motion is so reassuring. It’s the safety in chaos. The one thing that never happens with silence or peace of static perfection because installed in it is always this seed of fear that it could and will break. But not the sea. The sea is always unpredictable. The waves keep you rolling, and the weather keeps you on your toes. So do engines, by the way, especially ones that break when you’re navigating your way into a tight cove to grab a mooring for the night. They keep you on your toes so that you have to make snap decisions (carry on and do it under sail) that could mean life or death, or at least hypothermia. And we slept. With the waves lapping the hull. With the sound of halyards tinking on masts. With the winds picking up, and the birds and the trees on the shore. In constant movement.

There comes a point, with this movement, where it gets a little overwhelming. I feel it in my liver, this fear, that it’s all just too much. It grabs on to something, anything, for dear life, and clings to it until I convince it to let go, which it does. But then the constant influx of movement is once again too much and it grabs and holds again. Release, grab, hold, relax, release. Classic liver qi stagnation. But then, along the way, there’s always a point at which I get bigger. I get bigger and I also get smaller, and all of a sudden I am a part of the change. And the smallness is both change and constant; it keeps pace like a metronome. Inhale, exhale. Lub-dub. But more than keep pace, it also watches. And then it’s all just a matter of action and breath. I don’t know any other way to describe it than that. Act and breathe. And everything else falls into place.

I wake up at 4am. The night is still dark. I crawl up onto the deck and breathe in the smells. Seaweed and salt and old boats and grasses on the shore of the island. I sit there and, since I’m alone, I start to talk to my dad. I tell him that I find it funny that I don’t want to be away from this. That for so many years I didn’t want to be like him, and was convinced that I wasn’t like him, but when he died that changed. When he died my anger went away and was replaced with a grief that was deep like the ocean, and all of a sudden I didn’t need to not be like him anymore. I want to live like this. I want to throw out almost everything that I own and have the things that I need to deal with be broken engines and halyards being set free by idiots who want wifi signals and places to hang their shorts to dry. Not standing in line at the DMV (which reminds me, I still need to do that) or dealing with parking tickets or school administrations or any of the stuff that is stressful in a baseline exhausting way.  And then I say that I understand why he wanted to spend so much time out here. And why he clung to it, as a small rebellion. And the black turns to grey, and the grey turns to yellow, and I pad below deck to make coffee for the crew.

Stress. City stress. Waiting in hours of traffic to get to somewhere 8 miles away. Waiting in lines to get pieces of paper to take to other places to get stamped and put in the mail to get little certificates that say you are allowed to own a car, or drive a car, or operate heavy machinery. I can’t help but grit my teeth at the imposed order. I can’t help but tense my shoulders in response to the inhumanity of it all. But then, when you look at how we treat other animals in different species, how can we be expected to treat each other with any shred of respect either? When a life can be snuffed out without so much as a thought of the amount of energy it took to create. Or the cycle of life that it is a part of. When we consume our way through lives and resources to feed this great big hunger hole, why on earth would we want to slow down and breathe in the smog and watch the pretty sunsets that result without at least quantifying it in some way (oh but it makes me feel better, to be able to label it and put it away again, out of harms reach): beautiful, pretty, nice, cool, awesome, rad. Shhh.

So much pain. So much pain that we run as fast as we can to get away from it all.

It’s not going anywhere.

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 25, 2010 08:23


    Beautiful, this.

    Hold steady on the ketones… I don’t always low-carb because I seem to need them to write more than a few paragraphs. My cognition changes away from analytical clarity when I’m in ketosis, but there are ways that its mental states are deeper and broader there too, in my experience.

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