A Sigh Too Deep for Words

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.                          Romans 8:26 (NRSV)

I find it hard to pray when my brain is on fire.

The words do not come, though I try to push them out, birth them with the practiced ease of a thousand, thousand prayers before.

I want to, try to, but I cannot.

It is hard to pray when my brain is on fire, body exhausted; a sure sign that I have overdone it, heaped one too many logs on the fire of stress, once again reminding myself that all is not well with me. Somewhere deep inside me there continues to lurk a disease that will unfailingly find the open door and return triumphant. I come home unable to work one more minute, collapse into bed and the hours pass by. I sleep but not for lack of sleeping, but in response to a body with no more energy for activity; to let the fire burn low, coals in time extinguished, the fuel of the regularity of even the simple things consumed.

I could take the path of self-indulgent pity I suppose, shaking a fist at the sun, the moon, the stars, the heavens, at God that two years of therapy and thousands of pills and hundreds of thousands of steps could still leave me so fragile that one day, one conversation, one act by one person could ricochet in memory and loose pain so long now left behind, give that pain legs, muscle, a will to race into my present and leave the healthier me in the dust.

But I do not want that pity.

The fire in my brain will not consume me. Not this time. No.

For even in the midst of a conflagration of past and present, of memory and actuality, the way forward has a voice, a certainty in the smoke and heat and flame. Instead of being lost, a way forward finds me and I take it and the rightness of it helps to still the building up of anxiety and I can take a breath.

Such battles leave me tired, so tired, yet not defeated. There is a victory to give thanks for even as such a prayer still cannot come, will not come. But some days even if my only words are sighs, they are enough. Such is the promise. Such is all our hope.

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Of Calories, Neurogenesis and Apparently, Sex

So Saturday we are planning our make-up Valentine’s Day, since Piper was down hard with the flu during the actual one. As of this writing we are all healthy and the flu has flown. Recovery is nearly complete. The weather is pleasant. The winter birds are flocking. I have my wildlife lens setup on the camera tested and ready to go. And to boot, I took most of this week off from work to catch up on projects around the house, like repotting Piper’s orchids and giving my home butterfly garden some attention. But since I love my wife much more than I do her dendrobiums and phalaenopsis, today I made chicken piccata with angel hair pasta. Why is this important? Because nothing can adjust the trajectory of the week towards a beautiful weekend of laughter and smooches, then some homemade Italian cooking. Google it. I’ll wait while you blush.

I ended up eating roughly 172 calories of piccata placed upon 200 calories of pasta. And a 2 oz slice of ciabatta with 45 calories worth of Brommel & Brown yogurt spread that tastes amazingly like butter without putting me over my saturated fat limit for the day. And baby carrots which barely caused my calorie count to flinch. And my third glass of water for the day replacing three of my usual four cups of tea with milk and sugar and several glasses of ice tea which I have only taken a liking to in the previous year or so and so actually miss it.

We (by we, I mean me, because my wife takes a much more rational approach about such things) have become crazy health zombies who live and die by the feedback given by “MyFitnessPal.”   I’m barely over 1,500 calories for the day, which means I’ve eaten about as much as that fictional space guy who was stranded on Mars in The Martian, without haven’t to wear a space suit or deal with imminent death every other minute, though I did just upgrade my seven year old computer to Windows 10, if that counts.

So after having walked some 660,000 steps so far in 2016 and not losing any weight I decided to look at the other variable in the equation: calories, or my indiscriminant intake of them.  I marvel at all of the folks busy doing cleanses, downing protein shakes, doing the paelo-diet or the Atkins diet or Weight Watchers or the South Beach diet or the cookie diet or whatever. Hey, if it works for you, rock on!  Ditto for joining a gym. I am a simple guy who is going to try a simple formula. Eat Less + exercise more = happy doctor/wife/me. I am on pace to lose 30 pounds in a year.  Why? Because 180 pounds sounds a lot better than 210. Because it would mean a lot less stress on my knees and back and better cholesterol and a longer life if I am not randomly struck by lightning or eater by an alligator or bitten by some killer mosquito while photographing in the Everglades (note to self: put more cream on those two bites on my ankles from last week’s excursion).

When you have lupus you are always tired. So I thought, screw it, I am going to get healthy and put a little more plus on the balance of plusses and minuses in my daily life.  And I have six pairs of jeans that no longer fit me in my closet that may fit me in a couple of months, so take that LL BEAN free $10 gift card with a jeans purchase email sending person. If I lose weight I have free pants that will fit.

I am also reading this book that says that 70% of our aging after 50 is not necessary. That so much of this later life aging is because of the choices we make or don’t make in our eating and exercising. That every time I tell myself I am north of fifty and now it will be that gradual slide down hill over some cacti and into a pile of rocks while wearing pants with that hidden comfort waistband, that I am lying to myself. That with proper diet and exercise and having some passion and purpose to build meaning in my life that it won’t totally suck until I am sucking my food through a straw and watching Love Boat reruns while wearing white socks with black shoes.

Hang on a second, I need to record the two cups of Cheerios I just ate which pushed me above the daily caloric intake of Matt Damon’s Mark Watney on Mars. (Editor’s note: the audiobook of The Martian is all kinds of awesome. Download it now and listen while you read this, but remember that Matt Damon is in the movie, not reading the audiobook, though I am sure he could have).

And as we are talking health, somewhere on Twitter I learned that sustained aerobic exercise enables the brains of mice to rebuild. You and I and every adult have been losing brain cells for years, so the topic of neurogenesis is very hot right now. Apparently running and other such aerobic activity isn’t the only way to stimulate neurogenesis, either. MentalHealthyDaily.com lists 11 Ways to Grow New Brain Cells. So with lupus and lupus meds and depression and anxiety meds all part of my daily “stuff” and most of these possible contributors to “brain fog” (it’s a thing, google it), I figure more brain cells is something I need to get up to speed on, like, yesterday. Other than several substances currently illegal in my home state of Florida, activities such as running and sex made the list as did restricting caloric intake (I’m holding at two apples a day for snack). Omega-3 rich foods (think fish and about half of the supplement aisle in your average pharmacy). Throw in blueberries, green tea and anti-depressants and it makes for a great topic of conversation for that next party when all people want to do is talk about the election and the odds that they might be moving to Canada soon. Of course, the benefit of all of these new neurons in one’s brain is still a topic of research, but my money is that more is always better when it comes to brain cells.

Well, time to drink another glass of water. Stay healthy, my friends! I’ll check back in around 1,000,000 steps or so to see how you are doing.

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