I am now a card-carrying member of an elite club. It is a challenge to get in. It has strict and physically challenging rules that you must follow in order to join. It is expensive and the initiation rites are as torturous as a fraternity rush. In the end though, It is totally worth the torture and even makes you feel thinner. Katie Couric is in it and she has made this club famous. It is not an exaggeration to say that this club prevents cancer. I am proud to say that I am in the colonoscopy club.
And since I ignore most topics until they apply to me, I feel like my eyes have been opened. I wish I were more interested in immigration laws, but I am not. Birth control was a meaningless term to me, used by older, more popular girls, until I needed it. The same was true for college searches until my kids were searching for one; pregnancy, until I was pregnant; short-term memory loss until I couldn't remember; and hot flashes, until I was having one.
Nora Ephron wrote a book called I Feel Bad About My Neck and I loved most of the book except for the feeling bad about her neck part, because the truth is that, although I do feel bad about my many failing body parts, my neck isn't yet one of them and until it does fall apart, I don't care.
One topic that I have ignored up until this very week is the colonoscopy. In my 30s and 40s, I couldn't tell you the difference between a colonoscopy and a colostomy (those of you that are my age know that there is a huge difference).
I cannot tell you the number of unsavory yet irresistible conversations I have had this week about this amazing cancer-preventing procedure. I am in it, so now I am into it!
If you are 40 years old or younger, you can stop wasting your time reading this and navigate to TMZ.com to read what the latest Kardashian is up to.
But, if you are my age and are approaching this captivating, car-accident-and-I-can't-look-away experience, please read Dave Barry's column on the matter. If you want to know the absolute truth -- what it is actually like -- this article is close to the bible. Honestly, everything, everything he jokes about, happens. The only thing is, it's much, much more humorous and entertaining to read about than to actually live through.
How does this pertain to your iceberg of wellness?
Having gone through it myself recently, I can tell you that as much of a pain and, I admit it, excitement (by my own very low standards for excitement) the past 36 hours have been, there is value.
That value is called detox.
When people talk of doing a three-day cleanse or a colon cleanse, the idea is to totally rest your digestive tract. If you think about it, your digestive system is always working to process what we have eaten and drank. The liver and gall bladder are constantly having to process anything that is an additive or alcoholic. So, when we rest our organs, they get to replenish. The liver is the only organ in our body that can actually grow itself back, so when we do a cleanse, the liver, our main detoxifying organ, heals. When the liver rests and therefore heals, we feel better! Our skin looks better, we sleep better, we have more energy and our minds are sharper.
One of the minor benefits of having a surgical procedure scheduled for the next day is that you don't go and stand in front of the open refrigerator door at midnight with the urge to snack. If it's after midnight, you do not have one more.
You just follow doctor's orders, like it or not. You grit your teeth and resist, no drama, no shadow-self binges, no sneaking Oreo cookies.
Most of my conversations this week have ended with colonoscopees saying that they felt terrific afterwards. Thinner. Clean.
In previous posts, I have quoted the book, Will Power; Rediscovering The Greatest Human Strength. The authors John Tierny and Roy F. Baumeister speak of will power as one of the two most elusive character strengths. The first strength is intelligence. The other trait equated with a more satisfying life is will power. It is one of the traits strongly associated with positive outcomes in life, which means that using your self-control is the surest way to a happier life.
Science has not figured out a way to raise our IQ (yet), but they have discovered a way to almost always prevent colon cancer and also researchers have discovered many ways to improve our self-control.
Will power is a muscle. So just like with muscles, our will power becomes fatigued from overuse. The good news is that just like a regular exerciser, our will power can also be strengthened over the long term through the mental exercise of discipline.
Just like in fitness, strengthening your will power muscle takes dogged perseverance and the ability to just do it even when and especially when we don't want to. Having a doctor instruct you not to eat for 24 hours is one way to reawaken that perserverance muscle. You have to stay focused on one strong minute after the other. Because he told you to.
Establishing healthy patterns of behavior when you are feeling stressed and depleted is the catch. Future benefits, or not having a polyps turn into something more, a thousand years from now seem trivial compared to immediate pleasure.
I think of temptation as suffering mixed with desire. C.S. Lewis said "Suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character and character produces hope." And hope is a beautiful thing.
Dr. Phil says "you don't have to like it, you just have to do it." And when you commit to that, it does get easier. I think it helps to imagine thoughts that pass through your mind as just neurotransmitters locking onto receptor sights.
They will pass by as easily as they arrive, unbidden and random. You just grit your teeth and maybe ask for help and simply accumulate one more day, then one more day and so on. My old friend used to say "bored again at night and born again the next morning." And that's true.
If I could think of a sexy name for it, I would be tempted to develop a post-colonoscopy cleanse program, where people who have already toughed out the initial 24 hours, which is the roughest part of the regime, can continue the detoxing by following it up with a few more days of rest for the GI tract. Maybe it could be called Blue-Haired Print Cleanse.
Anyway, I now know more than enough about a topic I didn't know existed a decade ago. Age is funny that way.
In spite of it being an age-related procedure, in a way I feel righteous. I am proud that I made it through the day. I was stronger than I thought, even when I met my friend at Starbucks and watched her with my boyfriend, caffeine, and when I watched my co-worker eat a swirl ice cream cone with sprinkles from Mr. Frosty's (a swirl! with rainbow sprinkles!). And even at dinner, with my frenemy, who ordered lobster risotto while I looked at my watch and waved down the waitress for the check. Then I went to bed and it was like crossing a finish line. The monkeys in my mind were oddly silent, perhaps they were bored into quietness.