This could be the title of every one of my posts!
Andrew and I both had dreams about sharks last night. He didn't remember much about his, except that it was a nightmare. In this dream, he was exploring a coral reef, and it was dark and murky and there were sharks around, somewhere, lurking.
I have had a number of dreams where I am above a coastline, looking over an ocean, which is beautiful. I'm either on a hill overlooking the beach, or in a lovely, airy cafe looking out on the ocean. This was the setting of my dream last night. I was watching two large sharks frolic in the water, and I was trying to show Andrew, but I couldn't catch his attention. (I suppose he was too involved in his own nightmare to enjoy my dream with me!) The sharks looked like they could be dangerous, but they were obviously playing. My recent dreams involving sharks have been about how they seem dangerous, but upon reflection, they are actually a lovely part of God's creation. Or, at least, they aren't really threatening after all, the threat is an illusion.
Another popular location for my dreams is at the gate of our house; either keeping me in, or holding some threat out; or on journey, by foot, along the road that runs in front of our house. It seems like these places are ones of transition, or change. The coastline, the shore, is a metaphor used for many things -- the beginning of the necessary journey we take during our lifetimes; a journey away from our selves, to a far place away from the safe and known, perhaps even to the other side of death. Odysseus lived on an island and that was his home, from where he ventured on a great adventure, then returned, then went on another more private, late-in-life journey before returning home for the last time. (I had the chance to review Homer's epic tale, listening to "Falling Up" by Father Richard Rohr.)
Now I can see that the fasting that I did over Lent this year was important. Turns out, it was a needed first step toward changing my entire attitude toward food. I need to give up certain clinging habits and addictions surrounding food. After fasting, I have become so grateful that I can eat whenever I want, from a great variety of foods! So I am learning to focus on the abundance I have, and not on what I might need to give up. This lesson has taken seven years (and counting) for me to learn, and I'm still working on it!
I stopped drinking coffee and most caffeinated tea, once again, after the end of tax season (so a few weeks ago). I always have this convenient mental trick I play to ease the transition -- "It's only temporary." At some point in the (not-so-distant) future, I can start back enjoying coffee again ... maybe. Though, I must say, drinking coffee would usually give me a stomachache, and I'm not sure it was worth that. Not unless it was really good coffee ...
In response to quitting these supposed trigger beverages, my reflux did a surprising thing: it got worse! Actually, I'm not sure that what I have is reflux. That's the symptom, but what is causing it? Mouth sores (most recently a terrible ulcer on my tongue), runny nose, burning around my lips, a persistent sour taste in my mouth, coughing, and often a sore throat. I don't feel the classic burning sensation of heartburn that much, but these other symptoms have been more noticeable lately. I really feel for people who have ulcers in their mouth and throat, because they are very painful. They make it difficult to talk and eat.
I decided to start eliminating entire food groups that I might have developed a sensitivity to. First on the chopping block was wheat and gluten. My mom decided to eliminate these from her diet, which she did for many years later in life, due to problems she was having. So does this mean I can't eat oatmeal that was processed "in a factory where wheat products are processed"? Dunno. I have been weaning myself from grains, except for breakfast, for a number of years already. I just felt they were superfluous and I usually didn't enjoy them enough to want to eat them except as a convenience item, say the bread to spread peanut butter and jelly on in a sandwich. I don't know, a PB&J with no bread -- a little difficult to concoct. Right now I have rice cakes, though I long for something I can put in the toaster. The gluten-free bread is rather pricey, though.
Next to give up -- possibly dairy, though I may have to make do with just replacing cow's milk. It would be tough to combine a strict no-wheat regimen with no-dairy, though I guess it could be done. Honestly, I found it easier to go without wheat than to totally give up yogurt and cheese, which I enjoy every day.
What I wish is that there were some simple test to determine food allergies and intolerances. But from what I've read and heard from other people, there's not. Often, the conclusive tests are invasive. At this rate, I'll need an endoscopy sometime soon, so maybe they can do some other tests while they are there. I know I tested negative for H. pylori (the ulcer bacteria) around six years ago, the last time I had one. I'm not sure if they tested me for lactose intolerance (which Austin has) or if they could test for celiac disease, which apparently must be done by taking a sample from the small intestine. But I wonder, even if I didn't test positive for that disease, if I could still be intolerant of a certain food group. Wheat/gluten is a challenge because it's included in so many foods, like gravies and broths, and used to bind other foods.
The one group I would really miss would be nuts, which is another food item that gives many people trouble. Nuts!! I have to have my nut fix every day, and often enjoy several types of nuts -- peanuts and peanut butter, almonds, cashews, walnuts. Yum!
Yes, I'm planning to consult with my doctor ... though there's another dilemma. What kind of doctor? ENT? GI? Allergist?? I may go to my primary care doctor, once again Dr. Chavez, and see where he points me. He was the one who sleuthed out reflux in the first place! I was having constriction in my throat (a very alarming symptom) that sent me to the ER a couple of times, where they were looking for a pulmonary embolism. Turns out, my vocal cords were going into spasm because of irritation from acid. TMI, maybe, but if this helps someone else, it's all good. I am officially signing off on the HIPAA release right now.
Let's face it -- all these problems are small potatoes. In general, I am the picture of health! Just to prove that point, I am going to work out today, one of my favorite activities.
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