Balance

Writing, for me, is like sketching life’s dance. It captures the fleeting moments and gives them a melody that might otherwise be lost in memory’s shuffle. Sometimes my pen knows where it’s going, other times, it’s a leap of faith, letting the story find its own rhythm.

With the Lifestyle Lab now in action, the power of sharing our transformative tales has never been clearer. It’s one thing to live a ‘eureka’ moment, another to digest and narrate it, weaving our wisdom into something that lasts, enriching ourselves and those around us.

Today’s essay is a snapshot of where I am, a tapestry spun from the balance of knowing and not-knowing, seeking peace amid the noise, and staying true to the whispers of my own voice. It’s about finding steadiness, whether sifting through conflicting health data or simply savoring the quiet of everyday life.

By opening up about my journey, I hope to illuminate the patterns that make up my quest for balance — not just isolated incidents, but parts of a symphony, harmonizing silently, nudging me towards greater insight and connection. Here’s to the shared rhythm that dances in all of us.

The data dilemma: a comedy of errors

As the self-appointed guardian of my own well-being, I’ve dabbled in the art of listening to my body’s murmurs — mostly to avoid the impending doom of it ever having to shout at me. 

Picture this: armed with the optimism of a kid in a toy store, I ventured into the world of high-tech health screenings, only to be met with the medical equivalent of a puzzle missing half its pieces.

Ah, the joys of modern health adventures. Mine kicked off with a lipid panel containing news about my LDL cholesterol levels that was like a cold bucket of water dumped on my head. (And not the kind that feels therapeutic after a hot sauna!) There I was, about to indulge in another spoonful of MCT oil  (healthy fats, am I right?), when Function Health served me a curveball: my LDL levels were cause for concern. 

Now, this kind of news might lead one immediately down the path to medication — unfortunately, statins being the usual prescription. But, serendipitously, I was absorbed in Grain Brain by Dr. David Perlmutter at the time. This book presented a narrative that cast LDL in a different light, underscoring its role as a hero of brain health, not simply as a villain and risk marker for heart disease — which latter, it turns out, is very questionable itself. LDL has been written off wholesale, when in fact (like most things in life) it’s more nuanced. According to Jack Wolfson in his book The Paleo Cardiologist, there’s a type of LDL that’s large and fluffy and that floats around the body “as nature intended, not causing harm.” In the lipid panel, all the LDL gets lumped together in the same category, even though not all of it causes harm to the heart. 

This new perspective prompted me to seek a broader understanding of my health. I consulted with my functional medicine ally, Dr. Harry Mcllroy, from the Bio Reset Center, who recommended getting a more holistic view of my condition.

I turned to Prenuvo for a comprehensive whole-body MRI and to Cleerly for a heart screening.

The results? 

Heart exam: 0% accumulated plaque. Check. 

What a relief! And, equally as important as getting this good news was the insight that came along with it. This bout with “heart data”  taught me that wisdom often lies in the nuances. If I’d stayed in the tunnel vision of only looking at my lipid panel, I would have been on the short road to medication. Probably for the rest of my life. Yet, here I am, defying expectations: a 51-year-old man with 0% accumulated plaque. This experience underscores a valuable lesson: health cannot be distilled into a single metric.

MRI exam: Not so clear. 

A cryptic mix of “indeterminate,” “moderate concern,” and my personal favorite, “Please consult a wizard for further interpretation.” Suddenly, I found myself in a complex medical mystery plot, where I was both the detective and the victim.

This bewildering foray into the land of too-much-information taught me a valuable lesson: sometimes, ignorance is bliss. Just kidding. I’m grateful I expanded my input beyond the lipid panel, or I might have ended up on medication I didn’t need. 

But it also highlighted the importance of having a guide through the data jungle, lest you find yourself wildly misinterpreting your full health-scape.

In the midst of this data-driven drama, I stumbled upon an unexpected exercise in stress management, which could very well qualify for the emotional gymnastics category, should it ever become an Olympic sport. 

With my wife out and unreachable until I returned home, I found myself walking and wallowing in a “what-if” wonderment. In awe of how fast an unexpected data moment can spin into an end-of-life inner conversation. 

What if I have cancer? What if this is the end for me? What if I have to leave my family?

Later that evening, I shared the psychological boon of this mental gymnastics with my wife. This experience marked a departure from my usual strategy of waiting for the dust to settle before sounding any alarms. Instead, I found myself opening up about my concerns in real-time, turning a moment of personal uncertainty into an opportunity for connection. 

It turns out that sharing our worries, even when they’re wrapped in medical jargon and uncertainty, can be its own kind of closeness — not the typical romantic evening, perhaps, but a new way to strengthen our bond. It highlighted for me that we can be psychologically alone even when we’re with someone else if we keep our worries bottled up. Or, we can choose to be vulnerable, and therefore not alone. Having tried life both ways, I have to say I prefer the latter. 

I’m happy to report that once I had the guidance of the professionals to walk me through the MRI results, those pesky points of “indeterminate” data were able to be defined. And they were innocuous. Nothing to warrant concern or further follow-up. I was left with relief, and also with a new insight about the trade-offs of diving deep into high-tech medical assessments.

The experience helped me see data in a new light: as stimulation. As inputs that have the power to rev up my system and send me into overwhelm. That new perspective got me thinking about all the other forms of input, of stimuli, that we encounter on a daily basis that lead to sensory overload.

A sensorily expensive world: through amber-tinted glasses

There’s something about the glow of blue light that transforms my neighborhood into a scene straight out of a sci-fi movie—sans the cool soundtrack. My solution? Amber-tinted glasses. (I have a pair from Sleep ZM and a pair from Swanwick and I like them both.) With them, I’m the star of my own calm, sepia-toned world, where every evening stroll is a step back in time. Without them? I’m a bag of raw sympathetic-nervous-system responses who has a really hard time getting to sleep.

This nightly ritual of an amber-colored walk has become my own personal rebellion against the onslaught of sensory stimuli. From the incessant buzz of electronics to the visual cacophony of a 24/7 digital world, I’ve become a sensory minimalist, curating my exposure like a fine art collection. And let me tell you, the difference is night and day—or should I say, amber and blue.

Some of the protocols that are currently serving me well in addition to my amber glasses…

  • watching the sunrise and sunset and allowing all the different wavelengths and hues to enter my eyes
  • dimming the lights in our house in the evening
  • lighting candles — bonus: dinner by candlelight feels relaxing
  • in the evening I try to unplug from my phone, but if I do need to check messages, my screen is in black and white mode for a much lower dose of blue light

In our new home (currently undergoing renovations), we’re installing two different sets of lights and switches: blue lights for daytime and amber lights for night.

These practices help me adjust my lenses — both literally and metaphorically—to filter the sensory overload coming from the external world. Yet, there’s another source of overstimulation — one that’s easy to overlook — that shapes my reality just as profoundly. It has to do with my inner landscape.

Expansion and contraction: a linguistic gymnastics

The way we talk to ourselves can either set us up for a stress marathon or a leisurely walk in the park. I used to be a champion at the former, mentally preparing for a decathlon of “must-dos,” “should-haves,” and “have tos.” 

Then I discovered the magic of “I get to,” and suddenly, my to-do list felt like a VIP list to the world’s coolest party (where, admittedly, the main event is still just doing laundry and cleaning dishes).

This shift in language puts me in the frame of mind of gratitude. It’s hard to access gratitude if I’m in “have to.” But once I shift my language, it’s easy to step into a space of appreciation. 

I find that the way I relate to tasks — even mundane ones — sets the tone for how I feel about life in a bigger way. Am I fulfilled or stressed? Well, the answer depends a lot less on what I’m doing, and a lot more on how I’m talking to myself about what I’m doing.  

Navigating parenthood added more twists and turns to this linguistic labyrinth. My son, the accidental philosopher, often challenges me with existential queries like, “Papa, why did you put my milk there?” (This question usually follows on the heels of him accidentally spilling his milk.) If I were to insist on the world of literality, we might end up in a debate over dairy logistics. 

If, instead, I shift sideways into the world of emotionality, I am wise enough to respond with curiosity to the cascade of feelings my son is experiencing: disappointment, frustration, embarrassment, worry over my reaction… just to name a few. It turns out milk spills are less about Newtonian physics and more about the art of emotional alchemy. And my son’s questions are my cue that it’s time to reconnect.

Changing my language and my context is a reminder for me that I have a choice. Rather than getting attached to life as a set of static nouns, I have the opportunity to see situations as dynamic. 

I’m grateful to the poetry of David Whyte for his insights around this dynamism, particularly the way he reveals life as a conversation. In his framing — which feels true to me — we’re continually having a conversation with the world. The conversation shows up in our internal thoughts and experiences, and also in our interactions with other people and the world at large. This means the outer circumstances I’m facing are an opportunity to explore my own internal themes. 

Instead of taking the world so literally, I can see external events as signposts, pointing me back toward whatever conversation is most alive for me in the moment. 

Balance

As I reflect on this tapestry of experiences, from the labyrinth of health data to the quiet rebellion against sensory excess, and the intimate dance of language and relationships, I find myself standing at the crossroads of introspection and revelation. Each step, each misstep (I have lots of these), and every moment of clarity has been a guidepost, steering me towards an understanding that at the core of it all is balance.

Balance is not just a concept to me; it’s the living, breathing essence that permeates every facet of my existence. It’s a practice. 

Balance is in the laughter that bubbles up during a tense conversation (less tense when nonviolent communication is used), in the peace that descends when the blue light of modern life is filtered through amber lenses, and in the joy of simple moments spent questioning the placement of a milk glass. (Thank you, son.)

These are not merely isolated vignettes but chapters of a larger story, a narrative that weaves together the threads of my life into a coherent whole, or at least what feels like a “work-in-progress” whole… 

This journey of balance is ongoing, a perpetual motion of leaning into discomfort, embracing the unknown, and finding serenity amidst chaos. It’s a reminder that life, in all its complexity and simplicity, is a series of moments that demand our presence, our awareness, and our willingness to engage deeply with ourselves and with each other.

And so, as I lay down my pen, I realize that what began as an exploration of my personal dilemmas has blossomed into a profound understanding of my place in this world. The act of writing, of translating my inner world into words, has not only connected me to my essence but also to the shared human experience of seeking balance. 

In sharing my story, I hope to have illuminated the path for others navigating their own journeys, reminding us all that in the dance of life, balance is the music we make together.

I’d love to hear what this stirred in you. Hit reply and let me know your biggest insight or takeaway… 

And if you’re interested in finding your own balance when it comes to health, wealth, and wisdom, we’re currently accepting folks for the waitlist for the Fall 2024 cohort of the Lifestyle Lab. Let me know if you want to be added to the invite list. 

In curiosity and camaraderie,

Gino

Founder | Curator of Poetry of Impact