Category Archives: clean eating

Barefoot In The Grass

Let’s get this straight. There is no such thing as work/life balance.

When I hear the phrase “work/life balance” it elicits shame. I berate myself for intense and difficult spurts of work that leave me depleted, and also for vegging on the couch on a Netflix binge.

There’s a phrase that suits me better: “work life integration.” “Integration” seems more possible than “balance,” and produces a mental image of the scale swinging gently back and forth in easy flow, never tipping too far to one side or another. The swaying gives more grace for imperfection and seems more achievable than the tension of a perfectly balanced scale.imagesI’d had a rough week in my work as a lawyer. Clients were stressed, several cases arrived concurrently at court deadlines, and I was a grouchy document drafting, fire-putter-outer. I knew the scale dance was woefully out of sync.

I reached out to one of my special girlfriends, Dr. J  a wise and unconditionally supportive friend, bemoaning my need for re-calibration. Since she is also a physician she gave me a prescription. “Come to the farm and spend the day. It’s crucial for you to connect with nature.”

Her recommendation seemed underwhelming but then I took inventory. I’d been eating clean food, vigilantly engaging in my spiritual practice and getting 7-8 solid hours of sleep (sometimes falling into bed shortly after getting home from the office), but I was still out of whack. Since that usual list of de-railers was in tact, I decided to follow doctor’s orders.

I love it when God endorses a game plan as he so clearly did on the day I traveled to her farm in rural Iowa. The weather was perfect enough to put the top down on the convertible and I cranked classic rock tunes along the back roads through small Iowa towns and green fields eventually arriving at the farm.

convertible

My friend greeted me with a big hug, a glass of iced green tea, and a cozy rocking chair on the front porch with a front row seat to several hummingbird feeders in the nearby trees. We sat rocking, sipping our tea, watching and listening to an assortment of hummingbirds zipping around us. I remembered when I’d been a little girl and my grandfather had sat for hours watching birds and beckoning me, “Look Josie(his pet name for me), watch this one right here.” I’d thought he was boring, and I’d look at the bird mildly entertained never sitting very long.

That day at the farm, we sat in the quiet open spaces feeling the perfect breeze blow by, occasionally sharing things girlfriends share without interruption or distraction. At the suggestion of Dr. J’s partner “Good Dave” who was giving us girlfriend -bonding space, we strolled past the hens and baby chickens roaming in a vast corner of the farm. The rooster crowed and his voice was clear and strong and it thrilled me to experience the familiar cock-a-doodle-do happening live and in color. Dr. J often gifts me eggs these beauties lay and they taste wonderful and fresh and now I’d met the sources of this generous gift of nourishment.

.chickens

“Take off your shoes,” Dr. J instructed as we reached another area of the farm, “and run your toes all through the grass being mindful and really feeling it,” she instructed.

“The therapeutic benefit of this is tremendous,” she insisted although the skeptic in me doubted. I’ve since found that “earthing” is real, and research shows the body draws electrons from the earth benefitting heart rate, immunity, blood viscosity, the endocrine and nervous systems.

barefoot in the grass

We rocked and talked more, and eventually Good Dave left and brought us back a surprising lunch: bacon cheeseburgers and onion rings. Having my health guru there gave me permission to divert from my usual clean eating without guilt. The junk food was a reminder to not take myself so seriously that I missed the chance to have self- compassion when other areas of my life missed the mark of perfectionism. I felt my stress melting more rapidly then other go-to remedies.

golf cartAfter lunch we ventured out in what I called a “pimped out golf cart” parking next to the river deep in the woods nearby, where we simply watched the river run and listened to the water. My friend urged me to take a turn at the wheel when we got back to the farm and I did, driving all over with a stop to admire the vegetable garden. Ultimately we parked and walked to the farm pond throwing small pieces of bread into the water while groups of fish scurried to the crumbs in hopes of making a score. A bug eyed, green slimy pond frog pushed his head up out of the water striking a pose while I snapped a picture on my phone.

.frog

My trip to the farm had an incredible healing effect on my weary soul, dislodging it from it’s stuck position such that the gentle swaying back and forth of the scales was reinstated. I felt rested and whole for days after, even while dodging the demands of a high stress job. I was born and raised in Iowa and it took me until now to fully appreciate the healing effects of nature.

If only I’d sat and really watched those birds with my grandpa years ago, I might have figured it out sooner.

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Dr. J

photo-1When the Dalai Lama was asked what surprised him most about humanity, he replied: “Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.
Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”-Dalai Lama XIV

One evening I was working late at my law office when the phone rang. A former client, a woman physician, was on the line. She explained that her friend and female colleague, Dr. J, was in the middle of a divorce and wanted to change lawyers. She hooked her into the call, we talked briefly and scheduled an appointment.

When I met with Dr. J we discussed her case and also her medical practice. I was impressed with her professional accomplishments, and her innovative approach to medicine and health. Dr. J and I discovered many commonalities. Even our divorce stories had common threads. She transitioned her case to my office.

About six weeks before trial on the case, I took a long trip to Northern California to vacation and spend time with my good friend Prof. I had taken Dr. J’s file with me to California.

One day during my visit Prof was extremely busy with work, so I had the day to myself. After taking a great yoga class in Napa, I chose to work on Dr. J’s case. Shortly after I started working, a horrible frightening heaviness come over me. I felt like I was suffocating in the dark hotel room so I went out into the fresh California air to breathe. When I went back inside it began to happen all over again. I brushed it off and didn’t mention it to Prof that evening when he picked me up for dinner. I forgot about it when I flew home.

As Dr. J’s trial date approached my paralegal and I began to put the large volumes of documents together, and agreed to work on a Saturday. That day at home in my favorite chair, needing to go to the office, I felt physically paralyzed. I was stuck to the chair like glue. I burst into tears and ultimately got up.

The trial went well. A few weeks later, I called Dr. J to share the judge’s ruling with her. After our discussion, I asked her for an appointment to come to see her professionally.

Dr. J’s intake physical with every patient is two hours long. She sat right across from me as we talked, taking brief notes. I loved her approach. I felt calm, like she had all the time in the world for me. She asked about things in addition to my physical history: nutrition, sleep, stress and spirituality.

I gave myself an A plus in the spirituality department. But I was hardly sleeping. I’d skipped meals and over-exercised my whole life to try to stay trim. I had also been immersed in stress, both personally and professionally, for years until I started my path to healing post-divorce.

In the intake interview, I confided to her the strange experiences I’d had while working on her case.  She sat back in her chair and had a worried look on her face.

“What you are describing is not surprising. Lawyers are some of the unhealthiest people I treat,” she said. “They have so much stress and bad health habits that their bodies are shot. I want to do some blood work, but based on what you have told me if you don’t change your life soon it is only a matter of time before you end up sick, or worse. What you described during the trial preparation was your body trying to get your attention while you were in stress.”

I’d never imagined my physical body was part of the healing equation. The blood work showed some minor reversible irregularities. I began to work with Dr. J in learning to care for myself physically.

“When a pilot charts a plane’s course, if they made only a 1% change in the instrument calibration, the plane would end up way off the mark. You have to start with a 1% change to your health habits. That alone could save your life by preventing disease and further damage to your immune system which is where you are currently headed.”

Dr. J had me take Epsom salts baths before bed to relax and also suggested magnesium tablets for sleep. I removed the television from my bedroom. I began to sleep soundly ultimately not being satisfied with less than eight hours because it made me feel so wonderfully rested to have such quality sleep.

She invited me to lunch at her farm to breathe country air. As we ate our healthy foods she reminded me to go outdoors connecting mindfully with nature more regularly.

We examined my diet and I was embarrassed to admit to skipping meals and having cereal or popcorn for dinner most nights. She took me shopping at a healthy grocery store going up and down each aisle while she showed me how to read labels, and educated me on nutrition, “clean eating,”  and organic cooking.

My refrigerator became a habitat for green leafy things that I had never previously met. I started packing my lunch every day and having a constant supply of nuts, protein powder and fruits at the office. Convincing me that soda pop was poison, I stopped even serving it to clients. I ate throughout the day every few hours and drank lots of water. I began to feel full of energy and clear headed.

Most importantly Dr. J reminded me that my body was God’s temple, and I needed to keep it strong in order to serve Him and to fulfill His mission for my life. She told me something that has fundamentally changed my life’s view. She reminded me that doctors and lawyers are the same: we are healers.

In the book Every Body Matters: Strengthening Your Body to Strengthen Your Soul, author Gary Thomas reminds us “We are not angels, pursuing God without physical covering, and if we try to pretend that we are—living as though the state of our bodies has no effect on the condition of our souls—all the proper doctrine in the world can’t save us from eating away our sensitivity to God’s presence or throwing away years of potential ministry if we wreck our heart’s physical home.”

God had taken people out of my life and he’d moved this amazing doctor in. I had assisted her in her legal journey and she was my guide to honoring my physical body and health. She has since become one of my closest friends.

Isn’t it just like God to know we could help each other and to have us cross paths?

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