Lap-band surgery: A New Look at Life

Heath Bravery

I have a longtime friend who has struggled forever with her weight. As hard as she tries, she just can’t seem to get the weight off.

She has tried every diet known to man. She goes to the gym every day or two. She takes dance lessons almost as frequently. She definitely is a woman who keeps moving.

New Barriatric Beginnings

This friend–we’ll call her Janet–has decided to get lap-band surgery.
It sounds pretty drastic. She described the procedure to me. She originally spoke to a gastroenterologist and found that she needed to really take a look at her lifestyle. So began her journey.

I can’t remember exactly what happens to the stomach, but after the surgery, it only has the capacity to hold about a quarter the amount of food that it held before the surgery.

This, of course, requires a major shift in eating habits. Not only will she have to eat a lot less but she’ll have to eat much more frequently. She will also have to eliminate some things she consumes now, like carbonated drinks.

Because her body won’t be getting as many nutrients, she will have to be disciplined about taking vitamins and supplements.

If she doesn’t take the supplements, she will experience serious side effects. One of these will be texture changes to her hair. It could either fall out or take on a wiry, straw-like texture.

A certain percentage of people who get lap-band surgery gain the weight back and this is very bad news. But enough others keep the weight off, and this percentage is what my friend envisions herself being part of.

She is going to have this surgery within the month.
She has two sons. One just wants her to be happy and he is neutral about the procedure.

The other son is angry that she’s getting the surgery. He is convinced that if she ate the right way–like he does –that she could take the weight off naturally.

He’s not angry about the surgery itself. He’s just disgusted that she, in his opinion, lacks the discipline and self-control to lose the weight simply by making better eating choices.

This bothers my friend but she has come to the point of letting his opinion go.

It’s my body, she says. He’s a 23-year-old kid who has never had a weight issue and has no clue what it’s like to be my age and unable to get the weight off regardless of how active or healthy I am.

I personally am mixed. There’s a lot involved in this procedure. It seems a bit risky. I’m afraid she’ll gain the weight back. I’m afraid of complications to her digestive tract and organs.

Also, I know the surgery won’t solve all of her problems. She will have to have a second surgery that will remove all of the excess hanging skin.
But on the other hand, I’m thrilled for her. I’m glad she can afford it and I’m glad her husband is supportive. I’m glad they can also afford the subsequent skin-removal surgery.

So overall I’m happy for her that she has a way out of the weight-loss treadmill that she has been on.

Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach, California. Surf city.
It blows my mind to think that I first moved here 35 years ago. 35 years! How can that be possible?

I had just come from a childhood spent in the South Pacific. This was my introduction to a new life in the United States.

I moved to Huntington Beach and got a job at a pie shop. Worked for a year and then launched into my college years.

This week I am in Huntington Beach and today I took a drive down to Huntington Beach pier and saw the development along Pacific Coast Highway and the downtown Huntington Beach area.

The very cool thing is that Huntington Beach pier itself has not changed much. I moved away from Huntington Beach 15 years ago, and there has been a lot of commercialization and growth and development in the city but the pier itself has not changed that much.

Ruby’s Diner is still at the very end and fisherman still cast-off from the top of the pier and you can still look out and see swarms of surfers waiting for waves.

In the last 15 years since I’ve been gone there have been hotels and shopping and entertainment complexes that have been built along Pacific Coast Highway very close to downtown Huntington Beach.

They look very clean and new and modern. They are all beautiful and have their own particular character.

They do look a lot different than the old laid-back somewhat ramshackle stores and cafés that used to line Main Street going down towards Huntington Beach pier.

The Sugar Shack Café is unbelievably still on Main Street sandwiched between much newer places.
Downtown Huntington Beach reminds me of what Cocoa Beach looks like now on the Atlantic coast of Florida.

I imagine that Cocoa Beach 15 years ago or 20 years ago looked similar to what downtown Huntington Beach looked like. Cocoa Beach Is all built up with restaurants and shops that sell surfboards and longboards and bikinis and such.

But I bet if I could go back 15 or 20 years probably none of those stores were there and instead they were the same funky little ramshackle low key beach stores and cafés I remember from old Huntington Beach.

My aunt drove me around some other areas of Huntington Beach to show me some of the new construction and new developments.

There are some gigantic apartment complexes that have gone in along Beach Blvd. Those are pretty amazing because they are so very big. I don’t know what the occupancy capacity is but it looks like those complexes must hold hundreds of tenants.

My aunt told me that a 1000 square-foot apartment is going for $2000/month in one of the apartment complexes we saw. The complex is right on Huntington Beach and looks out over traffic. It’s not like you pay $2000 and get a fantastic oceanfront view.

We went up to the old Huntington Center location at the intersection of Beach Boulevard and Edinger. Now what’s there is a whole new entertainment/dining shopping complex called Bella Terra.
It’s actually gorgeous. The colors and the architecture and the building designs are really spectacular. They remind me of South Coast Plaza in Newport Beach.

I personally think that the new lock is a huge improvement over Huntington Center. When I left 15 years ago Huntington Center was starting to look tired and boring and blah. Not a place that felt like fun to go to to shop or to spend the day or to hang out at a café.
Even though probably the local residents mourn them, if I lived here I would actually be pretty excited about the new Bella Terra complex.

It really is an interesting experience to come back to a city where I used to live and see some of the really significant changes. Of course there are also things that haven’t changed at all. And that’s kind of cool to see too.
It doesn’t make me want to move back, though. If I ever move someplace away from where I live now, it wouldn’t be back to Huntington Beach.

Four People: Dynamics of Conversation and Connection

This week I am with a group of four older people. They are all related to me in one form or another. The youngest is 67 and the oldest is 83.

As I think about the subject of my last blog being on being present, I have thought about being present with the four people I’m interacting with this week.

Sometimes when I sit with them I just listen and observe. I am being present in the moment and present to the experience of conversation with four very different people.

The dynamics of the conversation and the relationships I find fascinating, quite apart from the concept of being present with each one of them. Although I guess the concepts overlap.

I am deliberately trying to be present with each one as they are speaking. Part of being present involves thinking about where each person is coming from with their own particular histories and life events.

They are all such different people and have been shaped by such different events. Two of them have lost spouses to divorce. Two of them have lost spouses to death. And yet all of them found new relationships and new lives when they married each other.

The marriages were both second marriages and took place in the second house of each of the four people’s lives. The youngest was 52 when he remarried. The oldest was 62 when she remarried.

They all have children from their first spouses. These children are in various forms of relationship with their parents today.

As I have listened to each one of these four people over the last few days, I have become aware of some of their personal insecurities and regrets.
One of them still deals with guilt and regret over choices he made in the first half of his life. I can see that impacting his life even now.

This particular person has found great joy in the second half of his life. He considers himself greatly blessed.

And yet at the same time I sense a fairly profound sadness in him for opportunities lost and mistakes made. He is estranged from three of his four children. He also has had professional disappointments. And this causes him sadness as well.

He doesn’t say it but what I pick up is a sense of a life that was somewhat wasted. Or the sense of a life that succumbed to unfortunate events that were beyond his control.

I really don’t know if he could have changed any of the things that happened in his life—things that are disappointments to him. Still, I see those events as causing him sadness and regret now.

He is a fairly intense person and in our conversations he himself has realized that he still has some unresolved anger. This has come out of our conversations about a current situation that doesn’t even involve him but involves someone that he cares about.

Another of the four has had major hurts caused by the husband who left her with three small children. And yet she displays great strength, and today is a woman of courage. I see her as this and it fills me with inspiration and hope.

It also shows me that I can rise above my current dramas and see how a vision for the future. I can act from that position rather than out of current fatigue or the feeling of wanting to give up instead of fight.
A third of the four people is not super in touch with his feelings and yet he contributed deep insight into the importance of children’s feelings and memories. He has given me much to think about and is an inspiration also to fight for a future vision.

The fourth person is mostly quiet. I know that she has insecurities that keep her from speaking up with confidence. She has her own demons that she has fought over the years.
Being present with these four people this week has been a gift and an education and an inspiration.

Being Present: It’s an Art

Learning to be present with others

There is a theme that seems to be running through my readings and my exposures these days. That theme could be summed up simply as being present.

I’m involved in series of seminars that focus on being present–being present to my current experience.

Being present simply means having all of your senses focused on what you are experiencing in the very moment. It means paying attention to how your body is feeling, not just in general, but very specifically.

What is going on with the skin? What’s going on with the heart rate? Is there tightness in the chest? Is there peace in the stomach? Is it stressed, or is it in knots?

Being present also involves paying attention to your emotional and mental state. Are you distracted? Is your mind racing? Is it empty? Is it at peace?
Being present in the very moment to the current experience is something that requires awareness and attention.

This is not something that is typical for the average person. But when the average person is able to remove himself or herself from the chaos of life and focus on the present moment, it’s really a liberating experience.

Not only is it liberating but it is also empowering.

The empowerment comes in the awareness that you have removed all extraneous thoughts and distractions and you are fully present to what’s actually going on. This gives you the ability to be single-minded in how you process the current experience and how you go forward.

So, I’m attending the seminars and I’m also reading a book. The book happens to be on the subject of abandonment and how to heal from it.
The first chapter talks about a coping strategy called mindfulness.

Mindfulness is essentially being present. The book talks about mindfulness being where are you completely focus yourself on what you are experiencing in that moment.

Just like the seminars talk about being present, being mindful also has you paying attention to the sounds that are around you, the things that you see, and how your body is feeling. All of the same things that are part of mindfulness are also a part of being present.

I have a book of devotional centering readings that I read every morning. These are faith-based and centered on the person’s relationship with Christ. Each of the devotionals talks about being present with Christ. They don’t so much talk about focusing on sights and sounds and feelings in the body as much as being present to your relationship with Christ–deliberately choosing to rest in that relationship and let go of anxiety.

The focus there is on choosing to trust and giving up worry. Actually not even so much giving up worry as choosing to trust. In the choosing to trust and in the trusting, there is left no room for worry. So you are not trying to stop worrying; you are focusing on  trusting and in so doing pushing worry out.

It’s very interesting to me: all of these things that I’m reading and participating in that are separate from each other are all linked by a similar message or theme–the theme of being present.