My Mid-Life Crisis—My Awakening—My Self

One month or so before my 40th birthday, right on time—for once not procrastinating, I was hurled head-first and with great tenacity into my impending mid-life crisis. Although transitions of identity, whenever they may come, can be liberating, fulfilling, and even joyfully amusing, mine definitely started as a crisis before it became an awakening!

After six years of pouring blood, sweat, and yes even tears into Nourished Health Center, the integrative health center I founded, I lost the lease on our building and had to close it. This meant I also lost the lease on Nourished Health Cooking School. At the same time, I lost the lease on where I was living. Hence the hurling and not a gentle choosing of my mid-life crisis, as all of a sudden I had zero roots, no sustenance, and a feeling of a ripping away of my life-purpose and community.

 

No, I didn’t buy a red sports car and I didn’t start sexually stalking boys half my age.

My version of a mid-life crisis? I took off to the back-country of Alaska to live without technology, electricity, or running water and to experience minimal human contact. I found adventure internally while immersing myself in the most heart-breakingly beautiful, wild, rugged landscape I could find—alone in myself in Alaska.

I took a volunteer position with Alaska State Parks. They don’t have enough funding to hire enough rangers, but with a world seeking refuge from industrialization and a drive to return to wildness, state parks are often overburdened. With my newly minted Advanced Wilderness CPR/1st Aid card, I took a position with no supervision and the minimal expectation that I would provide a presence, conduct some trail maintenance, and provide emergency medical attention to stranded hikers and campers who are occasionally known to be mauled by bears, to die of hypothermia, to get lost, to fall off cliffs, and to succumb to whatever other wilderness catastrophes we fear await us, but rarely ever actually materialize.

For this “presence,” I received a food stipend that I would cash in every two weeks or so when I hiked into “civilization” and I received sole access to a minimalist ranger station on the Kenai Peninsula amidst old-growth rainforest, with no electricity or running water. I checked into town by radio twice a day, to assure the state I was still alive as I scoured the mountains daily for stranded or endangered hikers and provided a “presence”—a presence to Alaska adventure-seekers when I hadn’t even taken the time to be present with myself for so very long.

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I read a lot of books. No, I mean, I read a lot of fiction (of the antique, paper-version) and eventually found pure contentedness in simply staring into nature for hours at a time and doing absolutely nothing.

But at the beginning I feared I would go crazy—like really, really “batshit” crazy. I went from working 80-hour weeks with no break in sight, tied to my computer and phone to a not so gentle complete dissolution of access to all technology and human interaction with my companionship changing to come from an abundance of eagles (more on the Kenai peninsula than all of the lower 48), families of black bears, sure-footed mountain goats, raving Steller jays, screaming ravens, and bedazzling puffins. Oh and in companionship with myself.

In doing so, I learned that I’m really hard to get to know, that I easily laugh at my own jokes and foibles, that I squabble out loud with myself a lot when there is nobody else to talk to, that I can’t sing but I like to, and that I am very competitive, even when playing Scrabble against myself. But every day I went a little nuts, for those first several weeks, wondering if this was a really horrendous idea, stranding myself away from everyone and everything, and well, let’s be honest, mostly from my fear of being away from technology and my business.

I slept. Boy, did I sleep. I heard it was hard to sleep much in the summer in Alaska with so much daylight, but I had no problem at all. 10 hours… 12 hours… It was as though with every sleep I washed more and more of my previous life away and surrendered blissfully (no, more like kicking and screaming) to my mid-life crisis. To quiet. To solitude. To myself. And to being okay with being.

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During my initial craziness, I clung to a need for productivity. I made lists (on paper with a pen) of what trail improvements needed to be made, of how Alaska State Parks could increase revenue, of how… of what… of why… of more. I sought constant action. Constant movement. Constant purpose. Must not stop doing. Must not stop working. Must not stop. Stillness, when not sleeping exorbitant amounts, was my nemesis. And eventually I became movement itself, within myself, until finally I became being. And I became stillness. And I became joy. I even became love—for everything, for everyone, and finally even for myself. But woah nelly…that took a while and I did not go gently to that place of ease, but once it finally came I surrendered completely to it.

That is, until again, I was pushed (again, kicking and screaming), back to civilization, back to Colorado as Alaska State Parks’ minimal funding for a minimal stipend ran out. And now here I am back in Colorado (on technology), but more importantly, differently, back in myself in Colorado. I am already growing wary of the constant barrage of technology and of human communication and fighting to keep a hold on myself, on my peace.

And it seems everywhere I turn, I am being asked: “What are you doing now?” “What is your plan?” “What about your business and your classes?” The eagles, the ravens, the mountain goats, the Sitka spruce trees, and the mountain hemlocks were much gentler, unassuming companions. I find myself regularly having to close my eyes to reconnect to them and to myself, to not worry, and to know that it (the answers) will come—to allow myself my continuing crisis—my awakening—my self. I don’t need Alaska for that. Alaska was a gateway and it was perfect, but an awakening, a finding of myself of ourselves can come anywhere, at any time, and without a hurling and a ripping away of all we know and hold dear, but it’s not easy and we do not go gently to that place of ease.

Friends, family, and lovers may not understand when we excommunicate ourselves from them to venture into our own beings and away from their expectations and entanglements. It is a messy, ugly process that will win you plenty of frustration and anger, but in the end will hopefully also win you yourself.

Industrialization, civilization, our education system, capitalism, and our family units have all hammered into us that what is “out there” is more important than what is “in here” and that productivity, hardship, and struggle is critical to happiness—a happiness often predicated on the collection of “stuff”.  That our worth is somehow defined by struggle and pain, competition, and what others think of us. We risk being completely consumed by this current of thinking that assaults us until we are a shell of ourselves and we forget what is actually important and why we are actually here. We stop caring about our path and only seek the end of our journey. We resent ourselves for this and that hostility transforms into our hatred of everything and everyone disguised as our judgmentalism and low self-esteem.

Okay, so what is next you still ask? I still find myself called to the realm of health, though with more of a recognition of the interconnection that is between the healing of our core being to the healing of our environments, our rainforests, our oceans, and all bioregions.  I am coming more and more to recognize that the persistence of disease states has so much more to do with the persistence of industrialization and of a loss of self, of our identity, and our soul place than merely as a result of inflammatory foods, pesticides, GMOs, and inflammatory cytokines, although certainly these play a hefty role too.  I am expanding my awareness around the interplay of disease states, autoimmunity, and our energy meridians; the interconnection of all life and all energy; and the effect of our emotional, psychological, and spiritual well-being on our health generally and more specifically on our digestion and our immune system. My practice is an extension of myself and as my mid-life crisis has become a mid-life awakening, so too will NourishedHealth.com change, awaken, and transform. I am still focused on the ways we choose to nourish ourselves, though I have a recognition now that nourishment goes far beyond food and nutrition.

How about you? Have you had a life crisis/awakening? I would love to hear about it. Please share in the comments below as I think we can all benefit from learning from each other’s transitions and transformations. As we awaken (calmly or kicking and screaming), so too does our world.

Nourished Health Center closed on July 1

Nourished Health Center, the integrative health center I was the Founding Director of, closed on July 1–our 6 year anniversary. My private practice, cooking classes, and workshops will continue, but in new locations. The reason we closed I explained back in June via this Facebook post if you missed it:

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Most of the Nourished Health Center practitioners are continuing with their private practices, but are all in new locations.

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Nhwcenter.org is no longer available online and will simply redirect you to this page. If you would like the contact info for any of our practitioners and can’t find their info, please post below or send a request via the contact page and I will send it on to you.

I have so loved being of service to our community and look forward to transitioning my personal practice outside of Nourished Health Center. Thanks!

Katie Bauer, Founding Director of Nourished Health Center

What am I up to now?

I Ate Wheat on Saturday!

Oops!

OopsSome of you that I hang out with on Facebook have already heard…. I ate gluten on Saturday! No, I didn’t get cross-contaminated, I straight-up ate wheat!

By choice? No.

By my own flagrant stupidity. Yes.

I’m one of those annoying people to eat out with that asks the servers a gazillion questions and after they answer, I ask the same questions (possibly reworded). People who live the carefree life of eating whatever they want tend to not so enjoy eating out with me! Let me tell you… It makes for some awkward first dates!

There is a restaurant in Denver where I eat fairly often and have never been cross-contaminated, never had the server roll eyes at me, never been given the confused look for asking about types of ingredients or cooking processes and never received exasperated sighs of frustration as my order more resembles an algebra problem than a meal—“Can I have x without y, except for when z is present? Please?”

So as is usual, we ordered food, informing our waiter that we are severely gluten sensitive and confirmed that she wrote down our gluten status on the ticket. She however, forgot to type-in “gluten free” when she entered our ticket into the system for the chefs.

Continue reading “I Ate Wheat on Saturday!”

Smiling Through Gritted Teeth Through Family Stress Until It’s Better

I was supposed to be a cowgirl

My parents divorced when I was four and I was raised by my mom. Although my mom took me to visit my dad a lot growing-up, he still got to be the cool parent that wasn’t there for the real stuff—my first heartache, the first friend to commit suicide, my first and only broken arm, my first wrestling match with addiction and all my other firsts.

My dad is a cowboy. A true Montana mountain man. He is hardened. He drinks too much.  He doesn’t share his emotions. He is so far right-wing that we actually agree on those things that make me very far to the left. He is always there for those who ask for his help. We disagree. I disappoint him. He disappoints me. He watches Fox “News” (constantly). We drive each other absolutely crazy. We don’t understand one another. He is my dad.

Continue reading “Smiling Through Gritted Teeth Through Family Stress Until It’s Better”

Want Cake? Got Sugar Cravings? Listen to this…

Photo by Pierre Vignau: http://flic.kr/p/6gdkHU
Photo by Pierre Vignau: http://flic.kr/p/6gdkHU

Want cake?

We all get cravings for certain foods and sometimes those foods are not the healthiest choices for us.

“My name is Katie and I am a sugar addict. I’ve been clean for 6 hours.”

Sound familiar? I know that I’m not alone.

Once I break the sugar addiction and clean it out of my system, I’m fine. The cravings no longer strangle me with their incessant need and persistent control of my life. I stop dreaming about eating dessert. I stop thinking non-stop about getting my next sugar fix.

But it’s the getting it out of my system that’s the hardest part. Every. Time.

Continue reading "Want Cake? Got Sugar Cravings? Listen to this…"

Make Habits Not Resolutions

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”  
–Ralph Waldo Emerson  
 

Drum roll please…  According to a study conducted by the University of Scranton and published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology this Make habits not resolutionsmonth, the Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions for 2014 are:

  1. Lose weight
  2. Get organized
  3. Spend less, save more
  4. Enjoy life to the fullest
  5. Stay fit and healthy
  6. Learn something exciting
  7. Quit smoking
  8. Help others in their dreams
  9. Fall in love
  10. Spend more time with family

How about you? Did you make resolutions this year? Well if you did, according to the same research, you are not alone, as about 45% of North Americans make New Year’s resolutions! Unfortunately, only about 8% keep or achieve them!!!! Yikes, that’s kind-of depressing, huh?

For you 45%ers, read on for tips on how you can actually succeed, regardless of what your New Year’s Resolutions are this year, because repeating the same resolution year-in and year-out begins to feel like Groundhog’s Day after a while, but without the charming enclave of Punxsutawney.

Continue reading “Make Habits Not Resolutions”

Declare Your Independence Today

independence dayWhat is Independence Day to you?

So here is where I’m supposed to exalt at our independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain. Okay not really. I should probably exalt at our day off from work, our opportunity to blow stuff up or watch it be blown-up (aka fireworks) or use this as an opportunity to talk politics, gun laws, equality, aliens or the like. But I’m not going to do that either.

Independence Day is commemorating a time when a piece of paper, a formal declaration of a decision spread through the fiber of a people. Towns rallied around that piece of paper (literally), it was used to justify an end to slavery and later that piece of paper was emulated to create momentum around women’s suffrage and the independence of countless peoples. Pretty cool for a piece of paper that declared a decision, right?

Continue reading “Declare Your Independence Today”

The Two Most Common Misconceptions about Digestive Health that Keep You Sick and Tired

Ther interconnected bodyIn the video below I share the two most common misconceptions I see in my practice around digestive health; however, these two misconceptions are true for most any health condition. Sometimes when what you are doing isn’t working and your health condition and symptoms are persisting, you need to start over and re-evaluate your strategy.

Western medicine has taught us to compartmentalize our body and our symptoms–drawing correspondence between specific symptoms to specific organs. But we are not just a conglomeration of parts, we are an interdependent system that all works in unison and together. It is not possible to separate how our body works into pieces because each supposed piece works in combination with the whole.

Henry Miller said “Our own physical body possesses a wisdom which we who inhabit the body lack.  We give it orders which make no sense. “ Sometimes stillness and listening to our body is what is needed. Our symptoms are a clue to the dis-ease in our body. Medicating our symptoms does not answer our body’s call.

What is your body trying to tell you? Are you paying attention to your symptoms or to your health—your being—your whole system of life?

Want to learn more about keeping your digestion happy? Sign up for our free Digestive Health Video Training Series.

Choose Health

We can only be held accountable for what we know, but refusing to know is no excuse. And knowing without acting is inexcusable.

I’ve had food intolerances my whole life. If I had tested for them in my teen years, I would have saved myself loads of adolescent angst and embarrassment from having a “pizza face”—a face chocked full of acne that continued into my adult years until I uncovered their cause. If I had been tested for them as a child, I would have saved myself a lifetime of night terrors and horrendous sleep that destroyed my adrenals and affected my hormones. And then there are the headaches, mood swings, thyroid issues and more. I could go on and on about the load of symptoms I suffered from numerous food intolerances throughout my life, but here’s the thing… I didn’t know I had food intolerances and I couldn’t know. MDs don’t test for food intolerances. I’m not to blame for the extreme levels of inflammation in my body that manifested as different food intolerances growing up and into my adult years. How could I know? I couldn’t.

I’m absolved from unchecked food intolerances, but not from my unhealthy CHOICES—that period of my life in which I rarely slept and instead popped caffeine pills like an addict on crack and drank Coca Cola by the bucket loads, while living on fast or no food. Unfortunately, this isn’t unusual, especially for law students, medical students, grad students and competitive collegiate policy debaters. It seems that the more brain cells we need, the less we use. Beyond stupid, was my staying up all night in nutrition school, researching and writing about adrenal fatigue while I promoted it in my own body.

I have to wonder, what would my life be like now if I had taken care of myself then? If I had eaten correctly (within my means of knowledge of what that was), drank more water and slept; who would I be now and how would my body and brain be different at 70? I’ll never know the extent of the long-term damage I caused from my poor CHOICES.

We all know better about many health-related things, yet we do them anyway. Why? Comfort. Habit. Self-hatred or what? Do you think your body will appreciate your martyrdom when you are 80? Or even 50?

I can tell my clients how to improve their lifestyles, how to change their diets to be healthier, what their bodies are missing and what metabolic issues are showing up for their own bodies, but it is up to them to act on that information. Knowing you have a blood sugar issue while choosing to live the same lifestyle of refined carbohydrates, skipped meals and sugary foods may create short-term bliss but in the long-term will destroy your body, your energy and your future. Giving in to food cravings your body has an intolerance to may not seem like a big deal at the time, but the result of the accompanying inflammation can be devastating and wreak long-term havoc on your tissues.

We can all improve our health. We can all have more energy, better sleep, more vitality and stronger bodies but we have to CHOOSE that. We have to get past the metabolic causes of our poor food cravings and then have the initiative and the hope to care about our bodies. It’s easy, especially for women, to care about everyone around us, except for ourselves. But to not care is doing yourself and everyone you care about a disservice. You can’t fully create the change you want to in the world and be there for your family and friends, if you don’t take care of your own health first. Choose health and choose it now, because what you choose now affects your future self and everyone and thing you care about.

Get more tips for improving your health by reducing inflamation by checking out our free Anti-Inflammatory Video Training Series.