Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Swerving off the path

I only read Oprah books on Airplanes and then once I get over the novelty, I start to wonder why even then. I think it’s only to lament that my neurosis is not the flavor-of-the-week kind. The most recent book I bought on the way to San Francisco was about a woman who couldn’t find herself - other than on the top of the best sellers list. The tale of her journey in which she gives up her antidepressants in favor of a three month carb coma of pasta carbonara is beneficial to me only in regards to the caloric expense of flinging the book and then chasing it down to fling it again. I actually bought it after seeing the author on Oprah whom I was watching as a means to pass time while my toenail polish dried. I can now see that my initial impression may have been a result of huffing top coat.

My trip to San Francisco for a two-day stint in a communication seminar was a handy way to answer the question ‘How many days does it take to unravel a personal trainer?’ Take it easy Will Shortz, This isn’t a riddle. Given that I traveled without my emergency bomb shelter supplies – the very thing I’d tsk tsk a client for not packing – it was clear I was in trouble. It means I was dependent on my hunter gatherer skills on a very tight schedule. I landed Friday night, and had my butt planted in a chair designed by the same man responsible for refining the technique of water boarding, by Saturday morning at 9 a.m. With two thirty minute breaks until dinner, I needed to track down protein prepared with limited amounts of antibiotics, hormones and preservatives, that weren’t wrapped in, served over or in a committed relationship with wheat, excess carbs or sugar. I’d have greater success heading for the alley, cornering a sewer rat and eating it sashimi-style whole, hold the rice.

Given the health implications of all the wheaty, carby stuff and the likelihood that consuming it would make me fall asleep or leave me wandering through a food fog unable to focus on the seminar I paid for, I elected to ‘fat fast’ on creamy cups of coffee. Yes, half and half is not a great source of nutrition but a few doses in fairly small amounts won’t hit me with a lot of chemicals and the neutral impact of fat on my blood sugar will allow me to stay awake. Plus, the caffeine is an appetite suppressant.

In short, I threw my adrenals under the bus. It’s not a good plan and it’s a lot like answering the question, ‘So, where would you like that paper cut?’ Somewhere out there Dr. Carlston dropped what he was doing and exclaimed, ‘Krikey, someone’s adrenals are in trouble!’ I picture him rescuing abused adrenals and bottle feeding them back to health like baby birds. He’d be really excited about it, too and he’d reach that level of animated concern that would make injured adrenals feel safe. It’s important to note that if I could reach his natural level of enthusiasm, I wouldn’t need the coffee. I can hear Dr. Carlston replying, ‘but without the coffee, Heather, you could probably reach that level of enthusiasm naturally.’ He’d say it with an exclamation point. And damn you get out of my head. There’s my exclamation point.

At the seminar, there were eyebrows raised at my second cup of coffee and some inquiry into whether or not I was going to eat anything. These inquiries were made by fragile women smugly nibbling performance bars that they thoughtfully packed as bomb shelter supplies. In my head I played a coldhearted game of ‘which cancers will that cause,’ before answering ‘I’m fine.’ Everyone knows that’s a blatant cry for help. The answer in my head went something like, ‘no worries. Without protein, my body will happily snack on my biceps. Thanks for asking.’ I smiled a little broader mainly because, in a communication course, I feared clairvoyance. It’s no surprise to me that I was attending a class about communication considering how clear it was that my internal conversation was far richer than anything I was willing to let fly.

During the real meal break in the evening, I was consumed by a singular mission of refueling. I ordered fish stuffed with fish and wrapped in fish with a side of fish. Stuffed to the gills with protein, I salvaged my nutrition at least a little. It didn’t stop me from meandering into every convenience store on the walk to Reza’s where I was staying so that I could pretend to buy snacks. The marketing implies that food can be found in such places and that was blatantly untrue. I bought nothing though trying to remember what a Pringle tasted like was food for thought. I remained alert however as I approached Reza’s neighborhood. To say he lived at the gates of hell would be to imply that hell was the kind of gated community in which the influential feared joy riders casing the neighborhood and breaking into cars. Nope, hell has no gates and its contents leaked to Reza’s doorstep.

The next day I spent in recovery, entrenched in pjs catching up on e-mail. I abandoned the second cup of coffee and replaced it with a handful of chocolate truffles I bought at Godiva when I went out to forage the first cup. It was mildly celebratory since I was no longer trapped on a hard chair after two days of abuse and mildly reactive to two days of bad nutrition. What it became, however, is the answer to the question, ‘how do you give yourself a splitting headache in two easy steps?’ (By the way, it runs in the family. When I told my Dad about the truffles he told me that the last time he ate chocolate he fell off his porch. It’s something to look forward to in my sixties.)

With debauchery behind me, I started my day with a 5:15 wake-up call for the 6:00 a.m. CrossFit San Francisco class. I arrived, filled out my paperwork and answered that ‘yes’, I have some experience with this CrossFit stuff. Anyone with a background in Martial Arts will tell you never enter somebody else’s Dojo with a swagger. I didn’t make loud noises, stare down the locals or exaggerate my warm-ups with standing back flips or a six pack of muscle ups. Partly because I can’t do either. When the coach who was helping me determine the appropriate weight for six sets of ten back squats said, “Your one-rep-max is over 200 pounds? That’s heavy,” I replied in an ‘I suppose so’ kind of way. I was there as a student not as a stop on my victory tour.

Ah, back to all that's good and pure! After an exhilarating return to reality, I swung by Starbuck's for a cup of coffee.