Reading the Signs

ant-manA few weeks ago when I was assaulted by my breakfast apple, I shared my own personal belief that there are signs and messages from Spirit everywhere, and that I’m working to grow my practice of noticing them.

Part of this decision stems from the ways I am naturally someone who watches and contemplates and studies life’s energies. After all, if you use a muscle instinctively, you might as well consciously grow its strength and stamina.

Part of my ongoing process stems from a corollary belief to “there are signs everywhere” about the progressive nature of ignored signs: Spirit may first speak to you in a whisper, but if you ignore that whisper, it’ll be followed by a shout —  and then perhaps a brick to the head. (Here’s two formulations of a quote where Oprah has shared a similar sense of trajectory: it’s highly possible her statements helped me see this pattern more clearly for myself.)

But sometimes there are days when the whispers come through loud and clear.

This morning at the coffee machine, I found myself in a conversation about a co-worker’s whose been out sick — turns out she’s having a gallbladder attack, and she’s currently resisting her doctor’s advice to have the organ removed because “the stones are too big to be treated any other way.”

And of the three colleagues discussing this situation with me, two of them have had their gallbladders removed, and the third served as closest geographical relative/convalescence site for her niece who goes to college up here in Boston and needed to have her gallbladder removed mid-academic-term.

By the end of the conversation, I was very clear on one point. Whatever else may remain in consideration for detoxing next steps, I am certainly going to be doing a gallbladder/liver cleanse in the next few weeks!

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It may be my imagining, but I do think some of the signs life brings me these days are clearer than they used to be. Or I’m gaining practice in listening for them, or something.

As I understand it, that’s one of the purposes of detoxing one’s physical and energetic system — to clear the channel for receiving and listening to spirit’s guidance (or one’s inner wisdom, whichever phraseology more closely resonates with your understanding of the world). I’d like to think that the clarity of today’s message about giving some loving attention to my gallbladder is a result of the detoxing I’ve been doing during the HCG journey.

Some messages remain less easily scrutable. Or, at least, they carry a bit more annoyance here in the physical plane, even if the spiritual meaning is pretty clear.

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With the turn to warmer weather, we’re having a bit of an ant invasion in the house. Since I turn to Professor Google in so many other circumstances, I figured I’d do the same here:

From shamanicjourney.com:

Each ant does his bit to ensure the survival of the whole community, no matter what role it has in society. Activities include gathering and hunting. They work hard, are patient and co-operative. An ant is able to carry a leaf, a crumb or a dead ant for miles – just to get back home to the anthill, requiring a load of stamina and patience. . . . As well as being extremely hard working they possess an extraordinary ability to work as a team – the power of their medicine – to build their homes, to feed and protect all members of their colony. There may be a social order in ant colonies, but all ants honour and respect each other and work toward their common goal – the good of the community. Worker ants are great architects and can show us how to construct our dreams into reality. They are also very persistent and can teach this skill as well.

From spirit-animals.com:

Encountering an ant you should consider that all good things come with time, and effort. Work with diligence, with conviction, and work with others in order to forge your dreams and turn them into reality. Despite their tiny size these little spirits are immensely strong, great strength of will and accomplishment can come even in the smallest of packages.

Alternatively it may be time to consider your own role, concentrate on your specialties and make sure you are making the most of your natural gifts. However, remain aware that nothing can be accomplished without the unity of the whole. Think about how your own contributions in your career, your family, and day to day life fit into the larger picture. No matter how small your task, or your contribution, it is still essential.

Message received, lovely ants. Now, please get off my kitchen counter and into the beautiful outdoors. Kthxbai!

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Image credit: http://culture.pagannewswirecollective.com/2013/06/super-heroes-totem-animals-and-pagans/

Keep Calm and Make Informed Choices

Journeying, Not Arriving

One of the commitments I made to myself when I started planning to do the HCG protocol was that I was not going to treat my HCG detox as a completion point. My teachers and coaches have been raising my awareness to the idea that detoxing can best be considered as a lifelong practice. Obviously, there may be times — like when one does HCG, for example — when you choose a stronger detox movement than others. But the trick is that once that strong movement has been completed, not to treat it too much as an arrival point.

In other words: no need to tell myself “I’ve done this HCG thing, so now I’m all detoxed and don’t need to do anything else for a while.

But the question of what to do next is very present with me right now. Many, many possibilities.

Keep Calm and Make Informed ChoicesIn addition to being nearly complete with my HCG shots, I’m almost near-completion with my first month of Blessed Herbs. That’s something you can do for 2-3 months at a time, so I’m considering that possibility. The company also makes an “Internal Cleansing Kit” that you do alongside the colon cleanse to help a whole other bunch of organs — liver, gall bladder, lungs, lymphatic system. I found one of these kits when I was unpacking over the weekend,* so I’m wondering if that’d be worth doing for the next month.

Or maybe, rather than sliding directly from one regimented program into another, it’ll feel better for me to spend some time taking advantage of the smaller, more “ad hoc” detox methodologies available to me. Epsom soaks, foot baths, castor oil packs, skin brushing, back to oil pulling (now that oils will soon be allowed to me again).

I could even do some research and find myself a colon hydrotherapist, acupuncturist, and/or massage place up here. Down in Philly, I had my go-to places for these services: after 13 months up north, it’s high time I started assembling those resources for myself again. (And hey, after my experiences in March, I might even look for someplace with an infrared sauna!)

Luckily, there’s no deadline by which I have to figure this next step out. If I have a new plan ready for the end of my shots, that’s cool. If I don’t, I can certainly follow the “ad hoc” approach while I’m deciding what my next detox phase will look like — even if that “next phase” turns out simply to be a longer commitment to the “ad hoc” approach.

But I know this much for sure: my HCG finish line is just and only that. The end of my time on HCG. Not the end of my detox journey.

* Another example of best intentions going astray.

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Image credit: http://theincompetentyouthworker.wordpress.com/2014/01/03/why-i-fell-out-of-love-with-two-ways-to-live-pt-4/

Breadcrumbs 2

640px-BreadThis may become a recurring feature for days when I have a backlog of small thoughts and no big theme to pursue. I gotta admit, though, that I’m not even sure I have a collection of small thoughts to pursue.

Nevertheless, after “dropping the blogging ball” at the end of last week*, I’m strangely invested in the idea of getting a post in tonight. So: breadcrumbs it is.**

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Last time I did a “breadcrumbs” post, I talked about the immense desire to use lip balm during the winter months. Unexpectedly enough, that longing has only been increasing the last week or so as the seasons have shifted. I have no idea why my lips are feeling more chapped in the spring than they were in the winter. Is it the way that spring and winter keep handing off the meteorological baton on a 48-hour cycle? Have I been cooking more meals with cayenne or ginger?

Whatever the cause, my poor lips are hurting. Even if I do end up obeying the advice about being very slow to add fats and oils back when I’m transitioning to my next-phase eating regimen next week, I can promise you that I’ll be having my own one-woman festival of appreciation for (and liberal use of!) Burt’s Bees Lip Balm starting Thursday.

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Day 2 of Five by Five successfully completed, with a couple categories achieving the “more than 5” benchmark. Let’s see how long I can keep the streak alive!

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Six more days of shots, eight more days of way-strict eating regime. Counting down

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Among the many restrictions of the HCG protocol is a suggestion not to take most over-the-counter medicines: especially painkillers. No ibuprofen, no naproxen, nothing in the family of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-imflammatory drugs).

I’ve been lucky enough not to need anything during my HCG experience. At least, not till now — unfortunately that’s changing. I’d hoped the strange side benefit of getting old and having less frequent periods might be that I’d have one of those two-month cycles and completely miss facing the challenge of menstrual cramps sans painkillers. Alas, ’tis not to be.

Guess I’m in for a few days of playing mind over matter.

* Since I started up again this spring, had I ever missed two nights in a row before this past Friday-Saturday combo? Corollary question: why do I think of two nights off as such this huge lapse?

** Damn, I miss bread.

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Image credit: http://thehungergames.wikia.com/wiki/Bread

receiving

Not Just Ridding, but Receiving

It was a full day of bodywork sessions — colon hydrotherapy, oxygen chamber, magnesium wrap, the “heart bed,” and some sauna time. As we were going over today’s schedule last night, my coach said we had a choice about what to do during the day’s first session: the sauna or a raindrop kinesi session.

A card pull on the question pointed me towards the sauna, and as I shared that result with my coach, I told her how the result didn’t surprise me at all. “I love the raindrop and it was great to get one last weekend. But the tone of last weekend was more about taking in care and getting off to a good start with the HCG, while this weekend is more like I’m in it now, so let’s get this shit out!

And there is some of that tone on things. After all, that quite literally is what a colonic is for, as well as the footbaths (which have been uber-yucky in a great way) and the sauna.

receivingBut midday today I started contemplating how in parallel to the “get this shit out!” movement, this weekend is still — just like last one — deeply about the process of taking in care and nurturance.

The signs have interwoven throughout the sessions. Yesterday, I was part of a castor oil sandwich, and the first observation the practitioner made at the end of the session was how much of the oil I had absorbed into me. That theme continued through today’s sessions with the magnesium aloe mix from the wrap, and even with all the water my body absorbed during the colonic session. So at a very obvious, physiological level, my system is still drinking in lots of nutrients.

And that’s also functioning on an energetic level, with the numerous gestures of care and caretaking that I am experiencing. Everything from Mr. Mezzo’s generosity in giving me rides to the airport, to letting one of the center staff members help rinse and dry my feet after one of these uber-yucky footbaths.

Now I’ve written a little bit before about how I see the HCG journey as one about taking in nurturance. But the reality is that a lot of my focus in these first few weeks of the process has been about the discipline of the movement and about the notion of toxicity leaving my system.

This weekend’s juxtapositions have me thinking a little more deeply about how clearing out the toxicity isn’t about purifying my “dirtied” being. It’s a means of allowing more space for good nutrients (literally and metaphorically) to come into my system, and to nurture the authentic flowering of my true nature.

(Full disclosure: seeing the value of that true nature is still a place where I feel my limitations, but I will leave that exploration for another night. Right now: bedtime.)

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Image credit: http://tinybuddha.com/blog/the-art-of-receiving/

stick figure planting a flag on a mountaintop

Claiming the Choosing

So the guidance I’m getting is to try and push on for the full six week experience of HCG, and to meet the places of fear and programming that are arising right now, rather than to flee from them. After all, it’s precisely this old programming, these areas of emotional and energetic residue, that I’m trying to detox during this journey.

That holds a lot of truth for me, so I’ll be trying for the six weeks.

stick figure planting a flag on a mountaintopI am aware, as I make this proclamation, that I am watching myself very carefully to distinct between a tone of full maturity in choosing this path, versus the child-tone of “I’m going the full six weeks because they told me to.”

It’s delicate and nuanced ground, because I absolutely want to honor and acknowledge the fact that I am receiving guidance in this. I mean, that’s why I’m working with these folks, because I have trust for them — their wisdom, their care, their listening, their compassion, their hearts. So it feels disrespectful not to acknowledge the part of this process that is about receiving care, nurturance, support — and yes, even advice — from the people down here at the center.

But there’s also a world of difference between putting a parental projection on the center and actively, maturely choosing to follow their advice.

In the first scenario, I’ve created a positionality where, if this next phase of the HCG journey gets tougher*, then I could possibly turn towards blaming the center for that difficulty. Directing anger and resentment towards them for “making me suffer” like this. Taking a source of nurturance and pushing it so hard through my internal filters around the assumption of non-nurturance that I mangle it through a sausage-grinder.

Needless to say, that isn’t a scenario I want to enact and experience.

Instead, I’m trying to hang onto the one inside me that is actively choosing this journey. The mature one that can reassure the anxiety fragments but hold the vision and momentum for moving forward. Yes, it’s scary, and I/we can get help and support in the fear — but we’re going forward because it’s well past time to claim the energetic space to live full-out and on-mission.

I’ve got her on board, for sure. The strength and ease of my access to this inner explorer is a little more on-and-off than I’d prefer, but even if she’s a little more background some moments than others, at least she’s present.

And so on we go…

* Which I do kinda feel is possible (likely?) considering the pieces I’m beginning to hit around body size, attractiveness, and the cultural patterns around reducing women to the place of sexual object.

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Image credit: http://jarredh.wordpress.com/2010/04/12/time-to-change-my-goal/

justice scales

Leaving on a Jet Plane

So I’m heading back down to the detox center tomorrow morning for a mid-HCG check-in. I’ll have a chance to do some physical care & detox methods that either aren’t available to me at home (oxygen chamber, magnesium wrap), or that I just plain haven’t been taking the time to do (the perennially popular foot bath).

justice scalesWe’ll also consult to determine whether I’ll stay on HCG for a 4-week or a 6-week course.

Either length of time is customary for an HCG experience, so at that level, it’s a free choice. I started out assuming that I’d go the full six weeks, but now I’m not sure what I want.

Reasons to go the distance. If I set myself a task, I might as well go full out. The desire to feel as if I fully committed to the process rather than doing it half-assed. The mathematical expectation that staying longer on HCG will give my body more of a chance to burn off more old toxins. The worry that folks will be disappointed in me if I “chicken out early.”

Reasons to stop at four weeks. Part of me is getting tired of the dietary restrictions. HCG comes packaged in vials that contain four weeks’ dose and it expires, so if I go six full weeks, I’ll be letting a half a vial “go to waste,” when instead I could take a couple months off and then do four more weeks later. I’m already feeling a little weird in a smaller body, so the idea of pausing and acclimating before proceeding feels kind of tempting.

I’ll be curious to see how this all shakes out. What my advisors will hear and recommend to me, whether I’ll hear a clearer piece of guidance within myself. If nothing else, I’m glad I heard the question clearly within myself, so even if I stay with the original pan of six weeks, I’ll be doing it from a place of conscious choice and awake-ness.

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Image credit: http://robertjustinronald.edublogs.org/2013/05/17/chapter-5/justice-scales/

apple corer and slicer

When Apples Attack

Obviously, I took last night off from blogging — choir rehearsal may make this a common practice on Wednesday night.  The effect last night was exacerbated by rehearsal being part of a trifecta that included staying late at work (barely enough time to have dinner and get to rehearsal), and an early-morning training today (so my post-rehearsal routine needed to be a pretty direct trajectory to bedtime).

And I’ll admit I haven’t been entirely sure what else to write about my HCG journey these past couple days. Things have been kind of in a decent routine, actually. Didn’t feel like much to say.

But then there are days where the routine gets a little shaken up.

apple corer and slicerSo here’s what my mornings have looked like. After rolling out of bed and having that sleepy-eyed date with the scale, I’ve set myself up with my daily packet of Blessed Herbs. Now, the usual instructions are to mix the packet with some apple juice, but apple and other fruit juices are verboten on the HCG protocol, so I’ve been putting half an apple, some water, and the Blessed Herbs packet into the Vitamix to make my own mini-detoxifying breakfast “smoothie.” Then I’ve bagged up the other 4 apple slices from the corer and taken them to the office for a mid-morning snack.

All in all, a pretty elegant and effective way to start the days.

Until this morning when this happened:

broken apple corer embedded in appleI don’t know what it was about this particular organic pink lady apple, but the corer wasn’t moving smoothly through it. Clearly, it was not going gentle into this good night, but still I figured it was going to come down to the laws of physics: edge and metal sure to win against soft, fruity organic matter.

Obviously, I miscalculated.

So we’re out one snazzy red corer and I have a cut on the side of both thumbs. (It wasn’t exactly like I had my hands at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel, but that’s a close enough description to give you a sense of the injuries.) I know I shouldn’t complain overmuch — the cuts aren’t really that big, and I’ll keep them cleaned and bandaged to make sure they heal okay.

Still, right now they honestly do hurt. And you’re encouraged to stay away from all unessential medications while on HCG, so I’m testing my endurance to see if I can gut through this without taking any aspirin.

And I am so curious about what sort of message there may be for me in this event. I know: it’s a little precious to be always looking for messages in things, and it’s not like I’m expecting all of life’s messages to me to be something hugely portentous or anything. But I’m at a stage in my consciousness work that whenever something really unexpected occurs, I do tend to give it a bit of a closer look to see if that surprising moment is here to show me an internal belief, or an external pattern…. or (in this case) something else I can’t quite put a finger on.

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Image credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_corer

Data Points

The doctor’s office that prescribed my HCG gave me a booklet to help me track all kinds of things. Portions of food, my water intake, supplements, ketosis level — and, yes, a daily weigh-in.

I’ll admit, I toyed with the notion of skipping that last piece. Ultimately I decided I wanted to respect the protocol in every possible detail. Including weigh-ins: even if I have all kinds of associations between morning weigh-ins and the evils of the diet industry, I’m willing to take on this task in the context of tracking my weight as one among a set of data points.

02.scale_So I dragged the scale out of the basement* and threw it into the bathroom, where it and I have been having a daily, emotionally-guarded, one-on-one.

As I expected, this detox process has meant that my numbers on the scale have been going down, a little bit each day. And, as uncomfortable as it is to admit, there’s been part of me enjoying that trajectory. I spent so many years being brainwashed around the value of skinny** that I know there’s part of me that can still fall into that old model of thinking.

Aside from that, there’s been some concrete benefits. Some of my slacks had started getting a bit tight in the past few months, and even though I would have been 100% willing and unashamed to buy a larger size if need be, I can’t deny that I’m glad not to have to spend the money and to instead be feeling more physically comfortable in my current wardrobe.

I was having a similar issue with my wedding rings feeling a tiny bit tight and uncomfortable, and it’s especially nice for those to be back to fitting better.

Anyhow, today, I had my morning date with the scale and the numbers were exactly the same as they were yesterday.

This is entirely unsurprising. All the information about HCG — even from a weight-loss perspective — talks about the inevitability that some days your weight will “plateau” instead of being lower than the day before. I kinda think the diet guides make a really big deal out of this possibility just so someone doing HCG for the purpose of weight loss won’t freak out when this occurs.

But it was fascinating to witness myself when this moment occurred. In an instant, I could recall all the old tricks I would have used, back in the obsessive-dieting days, to make the scale move in a good direction. Maybe I should weigh myself starkers, or try again after another trip to the toilet.

Or maybe not.

For all that I was able to recall the ways a “plateau day” would have thrown the old diet-obsessed Sherri for a loop, perhaps the most surprising thing about this morning was really how little emotional charge today’s date with the scale held for me. I saw the numbers, saw all the possibilities for being negatively impacted emotionally, and just felt fine.

Almost like my weight is just another data point for me.

* And why did I even still have a scale? For the always-important job of checking to make sure my luggage is under the airplane weight limit.

** Oh who am I kidding? From a cultural messages standpoint, I’m still being brainwashed about the value of skinny. We all are.

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Image credit: http://simplykierste.com/2013/01/fit-friday-with-erica-the-scale-friend-or-foe.html (And yes, this was a very deliberate choice…)

Taking this Show On the Road

wheelsWell, the wheels kinda fell off the cart today. I had all sorts of ambitions — laundry, unpacking, Coursera, neatening up & getting organized, Epsom bath, and lots of precooking for the week ahead. And some of that got accomplished, but not nearly as much as I’d hoped.

After however-many days of self-neglect, I did decide to put the Epsom bath first on the priority list, and the bath segued into a nap — which is part of why my schedule got so off-course. After all of that, I did manage some unpacking and it will be easy-peasy to do a load of laundry tonight. So: partial success.

What concerns me most is that I haven’t done any cooking with all the food and spices I bought yesterday.

The challenge of taking the HCG regimen through the work week was greatly aided by all the food I’d been able to prepare with my coaches over the weekend. It only made sense to set myself similarly up for success during the coming week with a similar cooking spree, but I have completely dropped the ball.

And the funny thing is that this week, pre-cooking and pre-planning are even more important than they were last week. Because this week, I’m heading out of the familiar spaces of home and office.

I have two different AM networking/training events during the work week, and then Mr. Mezzo and I have concert tickets for Saturday night. Of course, there’s going to be “forbidden” food and drink at all these locales: I’m sure both networking breakfast buffets are going to be all about the bagels and Danishes currently off my list of allowables, and I think the concert venue is one of those “two drink minimum” kinds of places.*

So it would very much behoove me to make some preparations to help me get through these events. Instead, I’m having to look at the question of why, knowing this, I let my lazy child run the show and create a circumstance where I’ve stressed myself out in this fashion.

At least there’s a little more time left in the evening, so I guess I’m going to go do at least some cooking, so I can partially dig myself out of this hole.

* For the record, the tickets were bought many months ago, before I knew I’d be making the commitment to the HCG program. I’m not that much of a masochist.

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Image credit: https://theplastichippo.wordpress.com/2010/09/20/preparing-for-oblivion/

Breadcrumbs

I know there’s a certain irony to titling a post “breadcrumbs” when I’m in the midst of this no-carbs diet. But nevertheless, it seemed like the most fitting title for a collection of small observations: none of them significant enough to warrant a full post, but still pieces of the HCG experience I want to document.

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lane bryant starry nightI’m wondering if the hormone is making me a little bit more susceptible to the cold than I used to be. All this winter, I’ve been sleeping in my pajama pants and a tank top, because it gets too hot under the covers in my long-sleeved pajama top.

Unexpectedly, since I returned from the detox center, I’ve needed to keep the long-sleeved pajama top on if I didn’t want to be too cold to sleep. Go figure.

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This protocol does require a certain comfort level with medical-type tasks & procedures. Or at least, if you don’t have that comfort level going into things, the experience might just lead you to be more blasé about such things than you were before.

In addition to the almost-daily hormone shots, there’s a weekly B-12 shot. (I say “almost” daily because you do take one day off a week from the HCG. Of course, for me, my “day off” coincides with B-12 day, so my life is in an easy one-shot-a-day pattern.) Now, the needle size of the syringe is very small, so there’s little in the way of discomfort. Nonetheless, doing the injections has certainly been an acquired skill for me.

I’ve never been needle-phobic: I had so many inoculations as a kid when we moved to S. America that there was no choice but to get used to them. But all those inoculations left me in a place where I was used to needles but I didn’t much like them. So it’s been an interesting progression, having my mild dislike of injections segue into a real matter-of-fact attitude around them.

And then there’s the morning “pee-stick” to track whether your body is still in ketosis or not.

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Even with everything I’ve been looking at around my food cravings and my emotional hunger, I wonder if the thing that is most strongly going to tempt me to stray from the program is my desire for lip balm. I haven’t found a single one that doesn’t contain some sort of oil, and going through this last phase of winter without being able to tend to my poor dry lips ain’t no picnic.

Come on, spring!

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Between sautéing everything in lemon juice and eating lots of fresh citrus for my after-dinner treats, I have become aware of exactly how excruciatingly painful fresh lemon or grapefruit juice can be on the nail-bed and cuticle wounds of a chronic, hard-core nail-biter. (Raising hand.)

This has not yet inspired me to stop said habit, but I remain eternally hopeful.

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(If there’s any topic here that warrants further exploration in its own post, on another day, this would be it.)

I’ve been really noticing some of my limitations around self-care.

In addition to the more “hard-core” detox movements I have going on with the HCG and the Blessed Herbs packet I’m taking every morning, my coaches at the center encouraged me to layer in some other varieties of detoxing that would be gentler, and would help care for my system while these two more demanding processes were underway.

Foot baths, Epsom baths, castor packs, kinesi — all kinds of options, and I haven’t done any of them. Even today, with a whole day off from work, I was so busy with house-cleaning and grocery shopping and the dump run that I didn’t do any of these things to care for myself. Too many other “more important” things that I “ought” to prioritize higher than soaking in the bathtub “like a lazy person.”

At least I’ve managed to keep the sleep levels decent.

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Image credit: http://www.sonsiliving.com/blog/cathys-shopping-cart-cart-13-new-years-eve-favorites