The Guts to Write with Kate Scarlata and Me
I gave up coffee (again) this week. Well, not coffee--espresso. Coffee doesn’t thrill me: it’s so thin and…biting. But espresso. Oh, my heart. It’s got this incredible mouth feel. It’s rich. Best of all, it gets me high. Just minutes after I’ve thrown back (I mean sipped) my daily double shot from Jake’s Coffee Bar in Santa Cruz (go there!) I am happy. I am having creative thoughts. I am thinking of people I want to call. I love the world. The on switch to Anne gets kicked into high gear. The thing is, I can only do this once a day. If I try it in the afternoon, I want to crawl out of my skin and cannot focus on anything, never mind the task in front of me. So this morning time is precious. High and alone with my podcasts, my camera (I mean my phone), and my thoughts, I get to walk along West Cliff and feel like an arrow shot out of a cannon.
I need to move when I am like this. If I run into anyone I know while I’m walking, I don’t stop. I don’t want contact as much as I want movement. I’m not hungry. I’m running on the thrill of the high.
As you can imagine, this doesn’t end well. As Milton Friedman said, There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Essentially what I’ve done is I’ve run into the firehouse of myself and set off all the alarms. My heart pounds; my breath is shallow; I’m quick to react, quick to laugh but also quick to get angry. Essentially I have set myself on fire, and while it may be a thrill to walk around in flames, my nervous system gets exhausted and, after years of this abuse, it’s wearing thin, like a bathmat that doesn’t do much more than take up space because it’s down to threads.
Many people can drink espresso and it’s no big deal, but clearly I’m not one of those people. I had some blood work done recently to check if my thyroid is working properly, and my doctor told me my thyroid was essentially okay, but one thing he did notice was that my cortisol levels were elevated. It’s hard to sleep when cortisol is sweeping through your system, alerting you of tigers in the jungle. It’s hard to think clearly. It’s hard to relate to people on a soul level. And, lord oh lord, it’s hard to write.
To sleep a whole night though?! To not grind my teeth like I want to wear them down to the gums?! Is there such a life?
I am a writing coach because I figured out how to get myself to write a book. If I can write a book, anyone can. It’s not that I’m a writer: that wasn’t what let me write a book--it was that I decided I was going to do it and then I did. I’m a writing coach because I saw my mother die before she finished her book, and I’ll throw myself over the cliff of impossible again and again to prevent that from happening to 1. me and 2. you.
Because who wants to die wishing they had done something they damn well could have done? Writing a book is not rocket science. It’s stringing a bunch of words together and getting them into print. I mean, come on. Self-publishing is a game changer.
We treat writing like it’s so precious, like you have to have special gifts or a special kind of notebook, but the truth is, just as we can all poop, we can write. Even if you don’t have hands you can peck at the computer with your face. We are bodies having the experience of being in the world and both pooping and writing are ways of processing these experiences. Processing is an important part of being alive! Both pooping and writing are forms of prayer: Thank you for this day. This is what I made of it.
It’s all just shit in the very best sense of the word. I don’t mean shit as in a bad thing—I mean, it’s what comes out. You are not a better person for having taken an epic turd just as you are not a better person for having written a book. You were, however, living the full experience of being a person, of processing your thoughts and ideas and insights. You took the time to show the world you noticed it, and things and people thrive on attention. Your writing will make the world a better place. Why? Because you showed up. Things exist because we are there to see them.
(I’m not sure how you pooping makes the world a better place, but if I wanted to, I’m sure I could come up with good arguments, it’s just not what I want this whole post to be about, know what I mean?)
If your body is all jacked up because of caffeine, because of sugar, because of food allergies or intolerances it’s really hard to focus. You’re like a camera with a blurry lens. It’s hard to even know what you really feel or think when your guts are telling you something is wrong. And this is why, yet again, I’ve given up coffee. Only this time I have also give up iced tea. You see, the other times I gave up coffee, I had a caffeine affair with Peet’s iced tea which is essentially rocket fuel in a plastic cup.
This past year I have cleaned up my diet. I lost twelve pounds without even trying. I feel good. I haven’t pooped my pants in MONTHS! I am still not always steady in my head—I still get lightheaded and find it hard to focus and so I’m working on adding protein to my diet, more healthy fats. I’m a work in progress, me and this gut and this nervous system of mine.
My goal is feel calm inside, to eat and drink for energy and not for a quick high. I have a second book I’m getting ready to write, and I’m gathering my strength, gathering my team of people I’ll need to call on for support and encouragement.
I blogged about Kate Scarlata, the insanely creative and bright Boston-based nutritionist (in 2016 she was voted best dietician by Boston Magazine!) at the beginning of this year, and now, as the year rapidly heads to its conclusion, I’m talking about her again.
Kate specializes in digestive health issues such as IBS, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, mast cell activation syndrome, and SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). In other words, she knows her shit.
Last week I had a brilliant idea: I wrote to Kate and asked if she would teach a writing/health workshop with me called The Guts to Write. I thought it would amazing to get someone who really understands gut health to help people like me get in good physical/mental shape so they can show up in the world as themselves as possible, and--because I’m part of all this--so they can write in ways that make them feel most themselves.
And guess what?? Kate said YES!!
I’m on it.