New Year’s reflection: 2014 Edition

shed-snake-skin2

Yep, I know I’m grossly tardy this year.  Good news is, the fit didn’t hit the shan, and therefore this post is possible.  My gut feeling is optimistic for next year, too, but who knows after that, since (to use the worn-out and shameless cliche) the times they are a-changin’.  The bad news is, I didn’t think this year was going to be all that wonderful, given its beginning: Lainey, my beloved massage therapy instructor and dear friend whom I loved, passed away very suddenly at way too young an age on January 12th.  So with a deep breath and a heavy heart, I looked straight ahead anyway.

Unlike 2013, this year doesn’t really have its own narrative-style storyline.  Instead, it can be summed up into themes, which intertwine like tangled branches of huge haunting trees in the forests of Disney movies.  Since this year probably holds the record for the least amount of blog posts, part of me feels I’m in slight debt to whomever may be reading or following, in terms of an explanation of my relative absence this year as compared to other more blog-productive years.  So, I look back on the PubMed-indexed review that was my 2014.

Shedding.  The most prominent–and powerful–theme for me this last year was the concept of shedding.  Shedding pain and stress from my past was a major task I took on throughout the year.  Learning to let go and transcend.  Not forgetting, but forgiving.  Not letting past hurts intrude on my present and hold me back from shaping my future into something beautiful.  Shedding societal obligations to fit into preconceived “labels”, primarily involving political or religious definitions, or demographic profiles.

There is a butt-ton personal of freedom and liberation gained from doing this.  When you begin to neutralize events from your past, they no longer own you.  You’re no longer prisoner to something you can’t do anything about anyway.  The past is the past, and it can’t be changed, but the present is the present, and it can be changed.  And when you boldly declare that the past doesn’t rule you, you begin to free yourself from the pain it caused.

Additionally, when you begin to live true to yourself and not how some advertising firm thinks you should behave, you seize the power to be you.  You also relinquish attempts to control or coerce others, and the frustration/depression that come(s) with the inevitable failure to be able to do so.  You live and let live, without judgment or condemnation.  As a result, you feel lighter and more carefree.  I highly recommend shedding, in both aforementioned senses of the word.  I also highly recommend doing this with the gentle guidance of a dang good counselor/therapist, to help you over the speedbumps and concrete walls that you will no doubt encounter.

Evolution.  With the successful commencement of the above, a sort of spiritual metamorphosis begins to take place.  I realized that I’m only responsible for myself, and that I have more control over my thoughts and emotions than I thought.

With my burgeoning live-and-let-live modus operandi, I felt that I could actually celebrate many of the differences between myself and others, entertain concepts I’d never before considered, revel in the diversity the world has to offer, and rejoice in the richness that diversity can bring to my life, all while reshaping and revising my own worldview into something more enlightened, comfortable, and concrete than it previously was.

Fear and judgment began to melt away, as did the accompanying stress-effect.  To me, a person’s worth became all about conduct of character; after that, I’m blind to sex, race, religion, geography, occupation, political affiliation, tax bracket, etc, other than to learn more about that which is different than mine, or to compare more specific notes with those with similarities to mine.

Office growth/expansion/maturity.  The above mostly applies to the inside, on a deep, personal core level; however, the evolutionary transformations that happen on the inside are so fundamental that they cannot help but manifest on the outside.  So, these changes were visible on a more pragmatic, professional level, too.

My partner threw himself whole-hog into the world of Asian medicine, branching out into the far-reaches of the realm.  It wasn’t enough to only learn Traditional Chinese Medicine, but he has now embarked on a voyage into Japanese and Taoist medicine systems as well.  Traditional needled acupuncture wasn’t sufficient; he learned the art of moxibustion (2 ways), as well as electroacupuncture.  Since the electroacupuncture machine also does light therapy (bonus: the light can be tinted different colors for different needs or goals!), he dove head-first into that, too, as well as alpha-stimulation of the brainstem.

As for me, my side of the practice underwent a more gradual and subtle transformation, one that remains ongoing.  I dove head-and-feet-first into the universe that is Pubmed.gov, researching the published scientific literature on practically every area of medical study, from the physiology to the pathology, from the biochemical pathways/mechanisms to the therapeutic potential of various phytonutrients demonstrated to manipulate those specific pathways/mechanisms.

My eyes grew wide and my brain grew hungry.  The more I fed, the more I desired.  Scientific gluttony, probably.  I began to save the PDF files of free full texts to my harddrive and right around New Year’s Day, I had accumulated about 150,000 studies.  Yes, I will have to get an additional harddrive.  I have additional projects in progress that I can’t discuss much, but I have the feeling that they’ll be worth the (long) wait.

The Healthcare Expo we were planning at this time last year was a minor success.  We attended and looked good.  The media upheld their end of the bargain by promoting it, and there was a respectable showing by the community.  Our station-produced TV commercial looked quite decent, and it did air well; people did see it.  My scheduled 15 minutes of fame onstage was shortened to 10 with little notice.  It turns out that I didn’t even need that much; I was finished in about 7.  Bonus: my audience was 3-4 times the number of people that attended other 10-minute sponsored speeches.

When clicking on this project’s “total button”, however, the results were mediocre.  The TV commercial ran about 17 times and produced a handful of phone calls from people whose first question right off the bat was insurance coverage.  These types of people generally do not make successful patients.

In fact, not a single long-term patient resulted from that project.  We’re undecided if we’ll do it again this year.  It does take time for the word to get out fully, and it people do have to see you a few times before they’ll decide to partake.  So, who knows?

One of the real winners this year, however, was continuing education classes!  I attended several, consisting of 2 functional medicine modules and the annual Integrative Medicine for Mental Health seminar, along with a local (dys-)”functional” medicine group meeting (which is really more of an infomercial), and of course, my required annual 4-hour “don’t have sex with your patients or unduly piss anyone off, and here are all the new rules and regs that they didn’t notify you about but you can still get in trouble for not following” that I must take because too many of my license-mates lack electrical activity above the shoulders.

Another real winner for the year is the “growed-up-ness” that our office’s general feel began to take.  A vital signs station appeared in the hallway.  My partner got his electroacupuncture/color-light-therapy machine and added to his library of amazing Asian medicine textbooks.  My own library grew as well.

Our front desk person attended a phlebotomy (blood-drawing) course and was discovered to have natural talent.  In December, we installed electronic medical records (EMR) management software for the first time.  And as of January 1 of 2015, my base rates increased by about 20% across the board, the first increase in 4 years.

Dopamine!  All this evolving and shedding and researching led to a condition that is basically the opposite of depression: a dopamine surplus.  Yes, it’s everybody’s Holy Grail and no, the antidepressant meds don’t produce it well (they result in more of an apathetic state, where you’re not depressed because you simply don’t care as much about that which would otherwise depress you).  But I digress.

Everything they say about excess dopamine is true: higher energy levels, a lower need for sleep, deeply-felt passion about a variety of subjects, high levels of ambition/focus/drive, and an intense interest in the entire world that produces an unparalleled feeling of richness and fulfillment.  Yee-haw!

Tooth pain.  Yes, where there is a yang, somewhere there is a yin.  If my Dopamine Party above was a yang high point, then my low point yin would be the dental pain that surfaced around mid-April.  Always on the lower right, likely coinciding with my cluster of silently-abscessed teeth.

Intermittent and incidental at first, but becoming more frequent and more intense with time, such that by July, I was packing huge bottles of over-the-counter NSAID pain relievers in my luggage when I went out of town for even a weekend.  By September, a standard dose of these NSAIDs was 6 at a time (4 of one kind and 2 of another), and it was not uncommon to have to take 3 of these “standard doses” in one day.

By early winter, my partner’s Asian medicine training had led him to customizable protocols for evasive, difficult, and egnimatic health conditions, such as cancer, Lyme disease, and–as luck would have it–dental abscesses.

He promptly ordered some remedies for me, tested them against my body’s electrical signature on his testing machine, figured out which ones(s) would be effective for me, and I began taking them as directed.

I went from taking a record 25 NSAID pills in a 24-hour period (I was actually risking liver toxicity and a trip to the hospital but alas, the pain was not budging) on the day before embarking on this journey to taking only *4* NSAIDs the next day and within a couple days after that, I was NSAID-free for the first time since freaking April.  And, about a month later (still on these remedies), I haven’t had to take a single NSAID since.  Nothing sort of a miracle.

Now, truth be told, I will have to get these teeth dealt with, hopefully by way of correctly-done root canals and crowns and whatnot.  Several are fractured, and with the abscessed ones, even the most powerful herbal remedies will only buy you time; dental bacteria are good at hiding and persisting.  But I needed to stop damaging my organs with NSAIDs and start healing those tissues so that the inevitable mercury-removal involved with some of those upcoming dental procedures will be safe and effective.

Travel.  I’m fortunate to say that this year has also seen many geographical miles.  Within a week’s time, I covered I-10 between New Orleans and El Paso, even taking a side-jaunt up to Las Cruces, which I loved to pieces.

A second time in Grand Isle and Baton Rouge with newfound family members with whom loving relationships were formed last year, was heartwarming.  Del Rio saw us twice, once being over my birthday weekend, during which we went about an hour further in successful search of a ghost town.

Local haunts include Gruene, Leakey, Boerne, etc.  Seminars brought me to Denver (right on the pedestrian mall!) and Fort Lauderdale (a golf resort on the beach!) this year, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed, and other family events brought me to Minneapolis twice.  I’m starting to fly so often that I think I’ll actually cross over to the Dark Side and get a Kindle.

Friends.  Although I can hardly say that this year ranks among my most social (I was actually sort of a work-obsessed hermit, a trend I don’t think will change any time soon), I did make some new friends at MeetUp-related meetings, and there is much promise in a few of those new bonds.

I also got to see old friends, a colleague and a former teacher who visited here, and a childhood classmate whom I visited several times while up north.  I also made a few Facebook friends from a Pagan group, many of whom are quite cool.

Reading.  Speaking of reading, my hands-down, rock-on, go-to author this year has been Harlan Coben.  I started reading his books in early spring and never put them down.  By last month, I think I had read nearly every book he has written, with the exceptions of those that just came out, and an elusive book I have not yet seen at Half Price.

Other New Horizons.  I’m branching out, and so is my partner.  Early this year, I decided I like sushi and started eating it fairly often.  My partner tried it and as expected, didn’t like it; he also tried red wine, with the same result.  But the important part is, he tried.  He did try a cocktail I had ordered and did end up liking that one, even after I had told him that its base was rum.  I sought out Greek/Mediterranean food and found a neat Middle-Eastern Mediterranean place that we both love and now frequent…frequently.

I also discovered the joys of tahini and hummus.

I colored my hair a bit darker for the winter, or at least, that’s my cover story; the truth is that I forgot to request the highlighted T-section.

And Steve Martini is a new potential author of interest; I just finished my first book “The Jury” and it was decent.

Oh, and I started watching X-Files!  Also saw the movie “Lucy”, which I really liked.

And I got to see Southern New Mexico, Colorado, New Orleans, and the Trans-Pecos region of Texas, which were new for me.

New Year’s Resolutions:

1.  Keep shedding old junk, keep putting the past in the past
2.  Attend 2 functional medicine classes plus the annual conference this year
3.  CCN exam?…maybe after the classes/conferences are done
4.  Complete lots of office projects (too many to list)
5.  Dabble in organ meats?
6.  Make serious headway on dental issues
7.  Get stronger, more active (I know, I say that every year; it’s a process)
8.  Accumulate more research, and begin to review and learn
9.  Investigate diplomates/fellowships in internal medicine…maybe
10. Cultivate a longer fuse
11. Continue to grow professionally in terms of headspace and boundaries
12. Continue to make progress on our SHTF plan

I know that’s kind of weak (other years’ resolutions lists have been stronger), but that’s what’s pressing this year.

What do I realistically see ahead for 2015?

– More research
– More progress on office projects
– Dental work
– Murphy aging, Vanessa getting cuddlier
– Elderly relatives declining
– Closer relationship with my father
– Continuing therapy
– Meeting more colleagues
– Practice growth, likely with often-accompanying growing pains (but hopefully minimal on the pain part)
– A slight bumpy time while our front desk lady is out on leave for a few months
– Conference trips to Southern California and Chicago, both of which are new places for me
– Branching out professionally into other testing, supplement formulas, etc
– Getting into “Walking Dead”?  Or “Alias”?

Soundtrack for 2014 (no particular order):

1.  “Destiny on the Lawn” – Seaside Stars
2.  “I’m Sure of It” – Blanche
3.  “Misa Gringa” – Tarantella
4.  “Twister” – 16 Horsepower
5.  “To See the Fires” – Court & Spark
6.  “Didn’t Know I was Looking For Love” – Everything But the Girl
7.  “Ghost Riders in the Sky” – Ghoultown
…And a whole bunch of others; I may siphon this section off into its own–more complete–post.

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