Summer is here and with it comes my renewed sense of who I am. I know I am cyclic; I think who I am follows a certain strange circadian rhythm. (Incidentally, I just discovered through a quick Wikipedia accidental search that I might be the lucky owner of a circadian rhythm sleep disorder.) No, it’s more than simply a circadian rhythm; my body follows a seasonal rhythm as well. I frequently look back through my blog posts to see what I was thinking about in previous years and previous months. Sometimes the blog posts from the same weeks in different years are surprisingly similar. With the exception of last summer, which I believe to be the darkest night of my soul, summer is usually a time of growth, joy, freedom, and redefinition for me. I am most likely to start a diet, an exercise program, or some new venture in the summer. I grow restless and get a sense of wanderlust when the weather gets hot. This summer has been no exception.
I began eating Paleo/Primal in January of this year, so my diet had already changed considerably. I haven’t once looked at paleo/primal as “a diet,” so it’s been much easier to continually eat this way. Also, I have noticed that I am intolerant of most of the food I was shoveling into my face as a vegan. I can’t eat corn (serious diarrhea). I can’t eat wheat (bloating, hives, mouth reaction). I can’t eat soy (serious hot flashes). And I can’t eat much dairy (tired muscles and achy joints). The dairy, though, is typically the cheat. I can’t get enough Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey. It’s almost paleo/primal, right? Right?! I find that if I stick to eating whole, clean foods like meats and fishes, coconuts, nuts, eggs, vegetables, fruits, fermented ciders, and sparingly using raw honey and maple syrup, I feel so much better.
The side benefit of eating this way, for me, is never having to count calories, always having lots of energy, always having food options that appeal to me, and feeling full with very few low-blood-sugar moments. When I was vegan, I felt good, but never amazing, because I always felt just a little tired. I couldn’t easily go out to eat with friends, unless I wanted to be a total pain or my friends were also vegetarian or vegan. I found myself counting calories, because many processed vegan foods can get really caloric really fast. I counted calories, too, because I could never get full. No worries about feeling full with paleo/primal eating. I can eat breakfast and not be hungry again until dinner. When I was vegan, my blood sugar would drop at least twice a day to the point where I was really grumpy and lightheaded. Also, as a vegan I always missed eating meat. I haven’t, not one time since I’ve been paleo, found myself fantasizing about a black bean burger or a slab of tofu, though they are both enjoyable. Frequently, when I was vegan, I would desire ribs or a burger or a salmon steak.
Basically, I feel like I’ve moved into a new life and life more abundantly. I’m still not cool with factory farming, and I never will be. I try to get all local, grass-fed meat and eggs and wild-caught fish, paying close attention to the ways the animals are raised, harvested, and slaughtered. This is the consolation I make for taking another life, which I still feel is sacred. This facet is the most difficult for me about paleo/primal, but I feel so much better I don’t ever want to look back. And, from my fattest point three years ago (256.4 pounds) I have lost 46 pounds total, but just from this January, I have lost 30 of those pounds. My pants size has dropped three sizes, and I bought my first pair of Calvin Klein shorts at Marshall’s when I was in Florida. I can run, bike, and swim with much more ease and speed. It’s really refreshing and beautiful.
I have set two new goals for myself: run a trail marathon by the time I am 40 (July of 2014), and complete a triathlon of some length by the time I am 39 (July 2013). Summer affords me the time and light to get in a lot of exercise, which may be why my mood gets so much better. Every morning I get up at 5:30 or 6 and either run to the pool and swim a couple of miles, or ride my bike 20-ish miles. This summer I decided to do two-a-days, which include ab exercises or kettle bell workouts in the afternoons. I find myself doing circuits, hoping to add in other body-weight exercises. I’m a big fan of minimal equipment. Today, as I sit here writing this, my abs are still on fire from the medicine ball workout I did on Monday, but I’ve read enough to know that you’re abs can take some punishment. Every day punishment, so I plan to carry-on this afternoon before joining the summer solstice bike ride that leaves from Pita Pit this afternoon. I also play disc golf, because I can and because it’s fun.
I sound like a total meat-head who can only talk about diet and exercise, but I consider those to be two of four basic building blocks of my life. Diet. Exercise. Spirituality. Intellect.
Another basic building block is my faith. Summer gives me time and inspiration to devote to spending intentional time with God. As I did with Lent, I am utilizing Common Prayer to facilitate my morning worship and prayer time. I take great comfort in the ritual of liturgy and prayer, and I find I can connect more completely, more fully with God, when I structure my prayer as a call and response with the refrain, “Lord, hear my prayer.” In my prayers, then, I can be as specific or as general with my words as I want to be, and the words, “Lord, hear my prayer,” feel as if they reassure me that God can hear my thoughts about that topic without my having to verbalize them. There are many things I pray, that I am not sure I would know how, or feel comfortable, verbalizing, even just to God, who I have been told already knows my thoughts.
As a child, I couldn’t see the value of prayer if God is unchangeable and if God already knows my thoughts. What’s the point? Now it seems to me that the point is much like speaking to a psychologist, and sometimes I can think/speak through my own problems or think/speak my own joys much like I would to a friend. Sometimes simply doing that makes it feel as if God is answering, and maybe that is the answer. Maybe we aren’t really changing God’s mind, but our own. Maybe we aren’t hearing a tangible answer from God, but we are instead somehow coming around to an answer. Perhaps this is how many people make decisions where God’s will looks a lot like their own will. I’m not sure. I’m just knocking around some skepticism/cynicism. Sometimes as Christians, I think we like to have things both ways: God is unmoveable, but we can move God through prayer, and we want God to be constant, but we want God to save someone’s life or change an outcome. In fact, we sometimes beg. It’s interesting is all I’m saying. I haven’t lost my faith, I just have lots of questions.
I have also added into my quiet time the discipline of reading through the book of James each day. Once I feel as if I have most of its truths committed to my soul, I will choose another book, though there aren’t many short enough to read in their entirety each day. I may have to read a few chapters each day or something. I started with James because of its practicality and because it seems to be an outlier about some pretty heavy theological concepts, like faith and works, speech, and prayer. I like James for his candor and for his perspective. He’s not Paul, and I love that about him.
I think when I am grounded in my faith, my relationships get better. I lump family, friends, and my love into this building block of spirituality. It all rolls together for me. When I am fully centered and fully contemplative of God, my faith, the Church, the way I deal with people is much more grace-filled, much more holy, much more compassionate. I can’t give love that I am not allowing myself to take from God. When I center in God, pursue God, my relationships fall in line and become more fulfilling, more of a blessing, and less like work. Summer is a time to nurture those relationships.
Finally, feeding my intellect is something that I have to do to feel like all is right with the world. Sometimes I feel like I go into a nine-month-long hibernation during the school year. I get up. I teach. I come home. I plan. I grade. I go to bed. If I am lucky, I add in some exercise or socialization. But, during the summer, I get to do whatever I want, whenever I want, and I even have time to read. I read a lot during the summer. It’s my goal to read at least two books each week: one fiction and one nonfiction. So far, I am on schedule. I love learning new things, and my favorite way to do it is by reading, especially since it’s become real again.
So, yeah. Summer. Love.