On Tuesday, I was sitting in my living room, ready to head off to the gym for an hour on the elliptical. Since I hadn’t eaten for awhile, I plucked a power bar from the cupboard. “Better have something to wash it down with, Bruce.” I picked a Diet Coke. The beginning of oops.
Firmly positioned on my steed at Wellington Fitness, I flung my arms and legs into space. Hmm. I didn’t feel as strong as I usually did. In fact, I was exhausted after the hour. Then it was 20 minutes of yoga … but something was amiss. Why was I so tired?
On the drive home, the nausea hit. Mild but irritating. And it stayed with me for the rest of the day. That evening, I went to a meditation group in London. At one point, the leader talked about a possible benefit of meditation: a decrease in reactivity. Since I’ve learned that others often find it helpful for me to talk about what’s happening in the present moment, I spoke up. “I’m feeling exhausted and nauseous, probably because I drank a Diet Coke just before exercising. My recent retreat was helpful in dealing with stuff like this. Although I had a burst of telling myself I was stupid, that self-condemnation passed quickly. I felt into my body and into my feelings (sadness) and after awhile I was left with just the physical pain, not endless thoughts about what it meant.” It was a contribution, and I was pleased.
The pain got worse overnight. Hardly any sleep till 3:00 am, when I started consuming Tums and Gas-X. Not to mention a laxative. I also placed a barf bucket close to my bed. Proliferating thoughts returned. “It’s the flu. I’ll be out of commission for the next two weeks. Tomorrow’s my birthday and I need to cancel all the cool things I’ve planned. What a horrible way to spend my special day!” I phoned my hairstylist’s answering machine right then and cancelled my 10:00 am appointment. “And I’d better cancel my volunteer time this afternoon with the Grade 6’s. And my dinner with my friend (I’ll call her Mary).”
And then I fell asleep. I was awake at 6:30 and feeling some better. I looked at those earlier thoughts, and within a minute of two, decided that they no longer applied. I phoned my hairstylist and left another message that I was coming.
The vague nausea continued throughout the day. “Surely a reaction to Diet Coke wouldn’t last this long! I must have the flu.” Blah, blah, blah. Despite what my body felt like and what my mind was churning out, I saw the opportunity. “It’s easy, Bruce, to be happy when your life is rolling along smoothly. How cool would it be to enjoy your birthday while this pain does its thing?”
Here’s what happened:
1. My hairsylist (I’ll call her Jessica) counted down with me to 10:00 am (my time of birth, according to mom). At the dot of 10, I rose from the chair as Jessica squealed “Happy Birthday!” We hugged, and all was right with the world.
2. At about 1:15, the Grade 6 kids sang “Happy Birthday” to me. I tried to convince them that I was 45 but those young ones are just too smart. For the rest of the afternoon, I had some fun conversations with 11-year-olds. Yay for volunteering!
3. Mary and I had a fine time at Boston Pizza. My meal was ginger ale, chicken noodle soup and a garden salad with a non-creamy dressing. Just what I needed. And so was our talk. Mary has been having a tough time lately and I think she heard me when I suggested she feel her pain deeply but not to linger on it, then to stand tall and continue moving her life towards happiness.
I’m happy. This morning I woke up to energy and a calm stomach. No flu. I went back on the elliptical (without a Diet Coke appetizer). I lived my birthday. And I’m committed to doing good in the world no matter what my body is telling me.