When Life Gives you Bananas, Throw Them Away and Buy Lemons – 3 Things Learned from a “Fruitless” Attempt at 2018
Posted: December 29, 2018
Author: Marie Elena
OK before you go hatin’, I actually LOVE bananas. Apparently bananas don’t exactly love me so much…more on that to come!
Also lemons really aren’t worth buying because you can get them for free at just about any Panera Bread.
Ironically enough…my current view…
I know, I know! It’s been a whole YEAR since I’ve written last. No excuses and I promise(ish) not to let it happen again!
I’m back, friends! Yes, I’m alive. No I’m not being held hostage in a foreign country somewhere without internet access and no, I haven’t lost my typing fingers to frostbite (yet) from engaging in one of my usual polar running or hiking extravaganzas.
The truth is, it has been sort of a crazy year and I became distracted from my real goals in life like writing, traveling and reflecting. Life happened, as it does to everyone. It has just especially been my turn this year!
But alas, I realized that it is only IN years like this one, that I could have learned from challenges to strengthen my own character.
Only IN years like this could I learn to see the whole picture of life and only IN years like this could I realize I’m actually more abnormal than I ever even imagined (apparently that IS possible!!!)! Oh indeed my saying has always been “no matter what the struggle is, you’ll have the stories to tell!” And stories ARE what make us interesting and what gives our lives meaning.
At least….in hindsight.
Just a small representation of some of my minor mishaps from 2018 just to remind you that the struggle is REAL!
I knew nothing good could happen from ending 2017, which was essentially the best year of my life. Despite my retaliation and temper tantrums as I helplessly watched the ball drop last December 31st, the new year of 2018 came whether I wanted it to or not.
Last year, on January 1st, 2017, I had known immediately something was different from years prior. I had seen a brilliantly colored red cardinal bird outside my kitchen window that morning when I woke up. I had had a feeling of new beginnings as I watched the bird hop around looking for worms in the brown drabby pale grey dirt covered in a thin layer of January snow. I later discovered our yard actually had grub underneath which ended up killing our entire lawn (costing us like $6,000 this year), which was the ACTUAL reason for his presence! Another blog for another time! See? Even THAT had a story!
Anyway, that morning, I felt deep down that something was different and as though that would be the year I finally lived my dreams, made it to Australia and really started traveling and living the life I wanted. I was right.
This year, on January 1st 2018, there was no cardinal.
But things would still be different…
The year started off OK. I visited my good friend from grad school in Albany, NY the first week of January and I DIDN’T die driving 9 hours in the worst weather conditions of the century in a car with tires which slightly resembled that of Clark Griswold’s non-choloric silicon-based kitchen lubricant-covered sled.
Actual footage while it was still “safe enough” to document!
On a side note, I was in tip top shape from continuing to build up my running mileage! I think I made it all the way up to 16 miles and I felt on top of the world!
But secretly, I WASN’T on top of the world and I didn’t even know it.
Around May of this year, the year seemed to turn. I was all trained and ready to run my first half marathon and I was well on my way to being able to run a full one. Just days before this race, I incidentally discovered that I had asymptomatic dangerously high potassium levels as determined by a routine blood test.
Having been COMPLETELY unaware I had this going on, it pretty much freaked me out, to say the least. With my medical background and numerous nursing friends, I immediately came to the conclusion that I most likely was going to die from an undetected heart arrhythmia and that I had some type of kidney failure or life-shortening adrenal dysfunction as with 99% of other fellow high-potassiumites with my blood level!
But as with most things in my life, I didn’t fit into the “typical” classification and I had NONE of these diagnoses. In fact, from the nearest every doctor could find, I was and still am as healthy as a quinoa salad!
That day, I was sent to the ER and made to drink hoards of medication which basically tasted like pureed chalk mixed with toilet water. After racking up a whopping $10,000 of test costs, spending my first night ever in a hospital, looking like a full-fledged heroin addict from having a constant supply of fresh needles in my arms for 24 hours, and breaking my wheel chair virginity (This was actually super fun. Those things are fast!!), I was released with no conclusions and cleared to run my first marathon just one day after discharge!
Also, hospital food is super tasty, trying to walk to the bathroom while hooked up to an IV is the most impossible feat known to man and getting free slip grip socks and a box of tissues to take home is actually a nice little consolation prize!
Naturally, because it’s me, I did just that. I ran the race on about half of my usual blood supply (trying to be “not too competitive” as the doctors had cautioned). I must be a bad patient because I think I ran something like some kind of record pace for the first 11 miles in freezing rain weather conditions…oops.
And so I began a life of a real-life mystery diagnosis patient, but I’m not getting paid to be on the TV show! But seriously, if you know how I can sign up, can you please let me know?!
Long story medium length, I have been in and out of doctors’ offices all year in the number 2 hospital system in the nation with no real explanation. I am now just on a diuretic every other day with fluctuating potassium without a real known cause! The only general consensus is that the dangerous level was likely linked to too much running and over exertion of my body.
Oh and to make matters worse, because of my over-training and repeated stress on my body, I have also now developed pretty severe hamstring tendonitis, which basically impacts everything I do and DON’T do (sitting is basically death)!
So this year, I had to restructure my entire life and way of thinking and living. I discovered that everything I had ever thought about health, nutrition, exercise and physical and mental perseverance may NOT be true after all (or at least not linearly related). My routine and perceptions of the mind and body connection were altered. I have had to purposely cut my exercising and physical fitness level into a quarter of what it was, basically stop my distance running and cut down on every healthy food known to man (seriously, just look up which foods are high in potassium…I’m literally left with bagged pretzels and air)!
Now, I’m not going to bore you with the remainder of my year, but let’s just say, it hasn’t been a piece of cake either (cue long story about incredibly stressful road trip out west)! Nothing has seemed to go right and anything that COULD potentially have gone wrong, DID! We’ve all had those kinds of years. Here was mine!
But in the midst of all of this, I realized that we NEED years like this. We need them to grow and to appreciate the “good years.” We need them to become well rounded and to learn how to deal with both ups and downs. I have learned valuable lessons through my ordeals and through meeting new people who have helped me to take a different perspective on life. I am more accepting of myself and understanding of just how intertwined the mind and body are.
This year, I have met people who have forced me to be assertive and forceful (if you know me at all, this is NOT an easy feat for me). I’ve also met new friends whom have shown me that life is a result of what I decide it to be and the direct actions I take. I wanted to share with you some of the things I only could have learned through a year like this one.
Hopefully, the only struggle you’ll have to face in learning these things is waiting for my damn blog page to load (yes, I STILL hate Wix)!
So here goes!
You’ve only got ONE body and ONE mind. Take care of both and they will take care of you.
Relaxing coffee break on the beach early this year…because teletherapy!!
I hesitated to make this all one point because there is so much meaning wrapped up in this one. But this has been sort of the common and main theme I have learned from this year and this goes far beyond the potassium debacle! I’ve started to notice a very strong and direct relationship between mental well-being and physical health. I know you’re probably saying “DUH” to this one, but really! When you think about it, if our bodies and minds are under constant stress or are at discontentment, what happens? Aha! Fight or flight kicks in…but chronically! SO chronically that we don’t even notice it any longer because it becomes the norm and our bodies have adapted to being in this constant state.
This is something so under recognized in our modern culture. It is “cool” to be busy and seen as “lazy” if we’re doing nothing. It is expected that we constantly push ourselves to our limits in everything we do. That is what most would simply call “hard work.” But since when does “hard work” equal, quite literally, killing ourselves?? In case you’re still scrunching your nose squinting at my page thinking “Who does this girl think she is telling me I shouldn’t work so hard?”, let me explain how being kind to ourselves actually YIELDS better results and keeps us healthy.
Stress causes release of the body’s stress hormone known as cortisol (this is the fancy word for the “fight or flight” hormone). I am first-handedly guilty of having WAY too much of this and I’ve got the MyChart results to prove it (one of the many little tests I passed this year to rule out adrenal insufficiency). But I had a little…OK a LOT TOO MUCH of a “good thing.”
And by stress, I don’t just mean “stress at work” like you read about in those “how to reduce belly fat” articles or something like that. Stress is hidden in everything we do and it has both mental and physical components.
It happens when we workout too hard for too long (*cough *cough-me). It happens when we have underlying unachieved goals. And most importantly, it happens when we don’t spend enough time doing things that make us happy and when we don’t allow time for ourselves. How are we suppose to carry out our purpose, do our jobs correctly or even be a good family member or friend if we are quite literally starving ourselves of our own needs??
A very good friend of mine and life coach, by the name of Angie, who has really opened my eyes to this this year, put it into perfect terms: “It’s exactly why they tell you to put on your OWN oxygen mask before helping others on a plane.”
Actually, here is a link to Angie’s page. Her blogs really sum up what she taught me this year and how I’m able to reflect the way I am! Check her out if you want to learn more!
In case you still need some convincing of what I’m talking about, here are some examples that I have encountered this year:
1. The obvious-my potassium struggles!
I over-trained and over-exerted my body for so long, that it became the norm and I most likely was having a build up of potassium from the chronic muscle breakdown. To make matters worse (and this was an idea I had upon my own reflection), I was chronically retaining water (yet another self-defense mechanism our bodies partake in under chronic stress of any kind- think sunburns, infections and swelling of just about anything!). With this water retention also came potassium retention, which was not being excreted at a quick enough rate to compensate for my repeated muscle stress and breakdown.
For all my fellow anatomy gurus, what is being inhibited here is the parasympathetic nervous system (aka all bodily functions NOT necessary for either grabbing a stick to beat a bear with or for fleeing the scene of a crime)….and we wonder why there are so many digestive and excretory issues in our culture!!
And PS: My potassium is somehow always the most normal when I return from a fun trip somewhere but the highest when I’m at home trying to “manage it.”
Coincidence? Maybe…maybe not.
2. My stressful road trip out west with my dad and husband (yes, this is a terrible combination for a family vacation)!
Normally, when I travel, I feel like myself again. I naturally enjoy life as I’m FORCED to not “do” and just “be.” I’m forced to enjoy life and appreciate what’s around me. Is it a coincidence that every trip I’ve taken in my adult life has caused me to naturally drop all water retention, something I struggle with daily? Is it a coincidence I naturally lost weight when I traveled solo last year when I pretty much lived off of a diet of dessert, rich foods and beer? Is it a coincidence that I have never come back retaining more water and feeling as bad as I did after this stress-filled family road trip this summer? Oh and PS: I came down with a TERRIBLE cold on that trip.
Coincidence? Maybe…maybe not.
Thank goodness pictures don’t represent the 8 million boxes of Kleenexes I went through! On second thought, I should have brought my free box from the hospital!
3. As if this year wasn’t brutal enough, I now have excessive worry about my own 65-year-old father.
My dad is having chronic back pain which is now causing him to not sleep, lose excessive weight and not even want me to visit because it’s so much energy for him. Is it a coincidence that the company he has worked for for nearly 20 years now is under new management and they are treating him like crap? He is convinced the stress at work is causing the back pain. I’m in agreement, but I worry this stress is causing more than just muscularskeletal issues from “too much sitting” because I know that it can.
Coincidence? Maybe…maybe not.
4. I have a good friend who had a baby this year. She and her husband had been trying to conceive for a long time in the making. When did that baby decide to begin his life? When they were on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation away from stress and away from societal expectations.
Coincidence? Maybe….maybe not.
5. My poor body receives yet one more example. For the past few months, my knee has been sounding like a freaking Velcro snap on one of those shoes we all had before we could tie laces.
It doesn’t hurt, but it threatens to wake up the neighbors every time I walk upstairs to the bathroom! Guess when it flukely went away? When I visited Chicago to see a friend run a marathon and spent the whole weekend filled with good friends and enjoyment! When did it return? Why, a day after coming home, of course!
6. The obvious-Is it any surprise that the obesity epidemic, heart disease, autoimmune disorders, high blood pressure, stroke and the lines at the pharmacy have all increased as our society continues to value to busyness epidemic??
Coincidence? Maybe…maybe not.
I’ve driven this point to the ground. My point is to STOP! If any of this sounds like you, save yourself now and do what makes you happy. Listen to your own body and needs and allow yourself rest and self care. If you don’t, you might end up having to avoid bananas the rest of your life like me! And no one likes a banana-less life. That’s just bananas!
Only YOU have control over your own life…unless there’s a Mexican restaurant nearby..then the inevitable gravitational pull may supersede your car’s “power of inertia” to move towards home.
An example of a decision I made from 2017…because…why NOT?
No really. I swear. Aliens specifically use Mexican restaurants as their experiment to study human behavior and will power.
But just about everything else, we can control! I’ve done a lot of reflecting and I’ve realized that the root of anxiety comes from one’s feelings of being out of control. It’s true! Think about all forms of anxiety that people face (and by the way, I’ve slowly realized that just about EVERYONE has at least SOME form of this). Cue review of “first lesson” of this blog post while shaking head subtly!
But we DO have control. We as humans love to play the card of “I don’t have a choice” because this is an easier answer than “I’m too scared to say or do anything.” Actually, everything that I have ever done that was worthwhile I had allowed myself to believe was unattainable at one point. Well I’m here to tell you that it’s NOT!
You want to start your own business or start traveling more? Do it! What is stopping you? Sure there can be hurtles like money or family or social judgement, but if you want anything bad enough, there is ALWAYS a way. You just have to get creative.
Here is a bit of something I learned this year. Society is governed by predominantly left-brained individuals who are able to make excellent arguments about cause and effect relationships and are experts at convincing you that the risk does not outweigh the potential gain. After all, we need a good left brain to keep us from doing things like running around naked on an airplane when it gets too stuffy in there!
Left-brainers keep order and are wonderful at maintaining a functioning society. They are usually the ones who win the arguments because they apply past experiences to predict future outcomes and are very present in sensing all that is around them in using it to make inferences about the world. Unfortunately along with this can come judgement of what they determine is or is not feasible. After all, seeing is believing and how do you expect someone who bases reality primarily on physical evidence to suddenly rely on unseen intuition?
Now, all my fellow right-brainers, don’t go running out of the room, I will have you know I am the very definition of right-brained. I’ve realized that we right-brainers ARE the ones who start something new because we rely on what is possible rather then what is currently or what has been. We are the business owners, the musicians and the artists of the world and without us, there would BE no entertainment or businesses to even work for! I like to think of us as the superstars who create everything that the left-brainers can carry out efficiently, Let’s be real. I’d last about .5 seconds in a cubicle before turning the walls into a fort!
My goal is to encourage you to think deep down about what you need. Maybe you have a life you desire or fantasize about, but up until now, you’ve deemed these goals unattainable. Just know that they aren’t. I am a living breathing example as I sit here working on a business I single-handedly created with a full time teletherapy job that allows me to do what I love more; travel, help others AND devote more time to Purple Hood Adventures. If you had told me this is where I would be in 2018 back in 2015, I would have probably laughed in your face because I had been conformed and told for so long that neither of those things were “realistic.” Sound familiar??
But reality is what you make it and you don’t need to convince anyone other than yourself.
And the aliens…..
But really. Mexican food IS out of this world.
No one is going to advocate for you except for…well…YOU!
And so I said it. I said “Well…I guess we better hop in the car and drive 7 hours one way to the last standing Don Pablo’s Mexican Cantina in Deptford, New Jersey!” And so we did just that.
Some of you reading this may not actually need this advice and you’re fantastic at just saying NO, in which case, can you like call me daily and remind me how???
But if you’re even REMOTELY like me, you probably need this advice more than a blank chip needs guacamole…God, see? I’m brainwashed! I have no control!
But yes. I mean, but no! Why is saying “no” so difficulty sometimes? Why do we feel guilty about taking what we need or asking for help? I think it’s yet another one of our culture’s expectations that it is everyone’s duty to please everybody else ALL. THE. TIME. But it isn’t. It is just what we tell ourselves!
I only write about this one because this year, I realized that many of my own struggles ACTUALLY deserved blame to no one else other than myself! I seem to love to throw myself through loops to spare anyone else inconvenience. But in doing so repeatedly, I was actually causing a build up of anger, resentment and bitterness.
But why?? Most of the people we do these things for don’t even notice because it’s now expected of us and if we change course suddenly, it’s “What’s Wrong? Why are you being so confrontational?”
You see, I’ve actually dug this grave myself and I’m slowly working to resurface myself. I’ve realized that caring about and being hyper aware of what everyone thinks is actually NOT the norm. In fact, it’s pretty abnormal. I realized that I expect everyone else to go out on a limb and anticipate MY needs like I can theirs. Maybe this is a right brain thing! I’m sorry to burst your bubble (and my own) but human nature is to NOT be aware of these things and to center one’s focus on oneself. If you are one of these thoughtful people, that’s great, but own it and don’t do anything you’re going to resent later!
I’ve faced this issue during everything from asking for help with workload, to sticking up for myself to adult bullies (they really do exist and they’re far worse than the ones we had when we were kids because it’s not socially acceptable to stick your tongue out at them and threaten to tell your mom)!
I have a LONG way to go on this one, but I think I’m headed in the right direction and I wanted to get you thinking about this too if it’s becoming a problem and weighing down your year!
My small success story was on Chirstmas eve this year when I flat out said NO to going over to my in-laws house to open gifts early because it meant that I had to get up early after two consecutive nights in a row of limited sleep (which ironically were also related to me attempting to appease everyone)! It would have meant that I was exhausted yet again on Christmas eve and I would not be able to get in a workout (also yet AGAIN).
Not ONLY did I say no, but I owned it! My husband asked me “what my excuse would be” and for once, my response was “Tell them the truth. I don’t want to and I need to sleep in!” I felt like a proud parent of my inner psyche! Ah, yes. The small wins!
Here is me NOT being tired on Christmas eve this year!!! It was a miracle!
And so 2018 draws to a close. I don’t know what 2019 will bring, but I’m hoping it will be as good as 2017 in the sense of travel, adventure, happiness and good health.
But you know what? I also hope it will be as good as 2018 in the sense of learning and growing, even in the absence of travel.
You see, traveling can quickly bring out the best in us in our most valued outward experiences. But living a tougher year like my 2018 can bring out the best in us in our LEAST valued inward experiences and it is a combination of all of this that makes us complete and leads to well-balanced happy lives.
So may your 2019 be full of happiness, but also challenges. May you never have to say no to a banana, never have to try the IV-in-the-arm-shuffle-to-the-bathroom challenge and you always have plenty of rest on Christmas eve. But if you don’t, I hope you at least get your free lemons at Panera to add to your tea as you blog about your endeavors! Maybe it hasn’t been such a bad year after all!
So listen to your inner voice, your body and those aliens encouraging you to eat more tacos. They probably just want to see you lower your cortisol anyway.
Happy new year, fellow Purple Hood community! See you next year….err..I mean…next month!