Wednesday, 12 January 2022

A year in review: Health and wellbeing, part one

This memorial contains almost a month’s worth of parts – though not all of ‘em are about my health! – and the post you’re reading is the nineteenth in the series. 

On 4 January – the day before moving into the new house – I did a consultation at the local Botany GP as I’d wanted to get my blood pressure checked and at this time the doctor – at an unaccustomed practice – confirmed what I suspected: that I could quit taking the blood-pressure medication I’d been on for years. We also discussed quitting the reflux medication I still took. So, I was now down to three tablets each morning instead of five. 

The day before the appointment I’d made one for my psychiatrist. As prescribed I took my anti-psychotic that night and slept well though upon waking had an accelerated heart rate for a short time and as a result was briefly out of breath. 

I ascribed this event to the stress associated with moving house but I was down to less than 102kg, with weight loss progressing steadily – a smidgin every day – along with a food regimen that had me, as applied also last year, scrupulously avoiding most sources of carbohydrates. I’d found a low-carb bread to buy and low-carb snacks – not all supermarkets stock them, so you may have to shop around if you want to follow suit – and was having protein, fruit, vegetables, and dairy. 

Because I was often hungry I relished food more and ate simple fare with appetite. Whereas before I’d scoff down half-a-dozen Tim Tams at a time now I savoured a piece of low-carb bread with taramosalata on it. I hoed into a piece of low-carb bread with 25g of goat’s cheese and, on top of that, a couple of slices of bacon and a fried egg. I wolfed down a fillet of salmon with a side of baby spinach and, on top of it, a dollop of creamy mayonnaise. I scarfed a delicious low-carb snack as I watched the news in the evening. 

The photo below shows me on 10 January in a pair of size 38 pants and a shirt bought just the previous year at Myer’s website. Here I’m in the studio with all the packing boxes full of photos and books I’d not yet found a place for. I’d had a haircut that week and had trimmed my beard with my new Philips shaver, tidying myself up to a degree that might make me seem respectable (my friends know me better than that!). 

The glasses are more than a decade old and still viable, though I wore a newer – and more powerful – pair when I renewed my driver’s license. That body might look large but it’s a step-change away from where I’d been three months earlier when, at over 120kg, I verged on needing size-44 trousers. 

In mid-January weight loss slowed to a crawl before resuming at a modest rate. Around this time my friend Ming commented on my ears and in the mirror a day or so later I scoped them out and – yes – I could see little triangles where before the ears’d been outmanoeuvred by a chubby face; as the latter got smaller the former became more prominent. 

Noticeable on 16 January was a sense of dread deriving from acclimatisation to my new environment. In 10 days I’d gone past the novelty threshold deriving from my relocation. All of a sudden I’d embarked on my psychological career of trying to avoid ancient pain. It was like being caught behind a car turning right; all the other cars edging ahead in the left lane of existence and me stuck, immovable, behind a red, late-model Mazda SUV with a “Baby on board” sign in the window. I had places to be! In the past I would’ve used wine to combat the feeling of helplessness that comes with a loathing of the world and its contents – pettiness, backbiting, mean-spiritedness, selfishness, ignorance, and the appalling conduct of many – but now that I’d ditched the grog I had to find something else – something within. 

I didn’t always do this but daily weight loss formed an emotional uptick each morning when I saw on the scale’s digital readout the number showing how much I’d given away. As time went on this source of solace became (as we’ll see later in this post) less reliable, so I had to go deeper. I’ve no personal God and, like so many these days, am more of an iconoclast – always busy pulling down statues – so the clicking of the cooling roof, the hum of the computer’s ventilation fan, the muffled thunder of a car accelerating in the distance, the pulse and echoes made by the growl of a plane flying overhead, the wind howling softly but insistently through the gaps formed by the window frames – each sensory input sustained me and, at least temporarily, helped me to feel complete. 

Encouraged, I’d tap on the keyboard and traces of meaning’d appear, though I was uncertain what I’d find inside at the next instant, the instant after that, and on and on in an endless trek across mental distances beyond the reassuring glow put out at the campfire of consciousness. Even at the borders of my gaze where darkness filters vision with its black plush – a texture as familiar as the wash of my heartbeat – I searched for meaning while chewing, swallowing, breathing in, breathing out, moving my fingers in a coordinated manner and striking each key in turn to form symbols that catch my eyes and make some sort of sense. 

Or even if they failed to do so. Maybe I’d been mistaken! Without meaning what is life but a mechanism? What is time without a record to later find and study? A word? A cross? A march? I ventured guesses before signification struck up its tympany at the interface of flesh and plastic. The creamy electric glare of the screen constituted my comrade as I forced sounds, feeling the skin of my fingers engage with the black keys of the eery white embedded symbols, like talismans. Fast and slow, I was male and female, yin and yang, dark and light. Black and white. Green and orange. Blue and yellow. A kaleidoscope trembled at the energy of synaptic tendrils that, fluid with barely present shots of electricity, flailed like winnowing arms in my elastic-sided brain thick with present imagining and with clues to a future of happiness. 

I saw ancient civilisations, gone before their acme, replaced by barbarian hordes intent on plunder. One by one cities fell, conquered by an armed war band or a mounted host of thousands, a retinue of slaves and wives and the emperor’s trailing catafalque drawn by sixteen white horses riding forever across grasses under hills. By a willow bending to the river where petals drift on an eddying current like memories coming out of darkness. Like enormous mountains ranked one next to the other, standing under snow and cloud, thunder and lightning, wind and rain. A tempest tossing the water up and down and throwing it against the riders in their saddles, against the sodden wretches staggering under hideous loads, against the children dragging their steps over the wet loam. Farmers planting a crop wait and watch while the sun, sliding out from behind a peak, mesmerises butterflies come to sit and drink the nectar of Viking gods that with open mouths imbibe the frail wisdom of ash and elm, their mother and father. 

I stop writing for a bit, go downstairs and watch some American sitcom that, a decade ago, escaped its creative confines, numbing pricking cephalic circuits in a bland videotronic daze, but pabulum won’t be enough; eventually I’ll lope back upstairs and get ready for bed. I take my wafer and invite the dark in, readying my mortality for the dramatic stereoscopic displays that, as I surrender to sleep in a hypnogogic daze, promise little more than a faint memory, and reflect that, in the morning, a protoplasmic God will graze with his eminence the curtains of a billion rooms like mine.

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