The Medicine of Subtraction


The older I get, the more I realize that my spirit needs nourishment just as often as my belly does. I’m learning that what helps me recharge from the inside has to be consumed as consistently as nourishing food.  Three of my favorites:   

  1. Relaxed time with old friends, preferably while eating brunch
  2. Cultural goodness (theater, music, art)
  3. Wearing lots of bright lipstick and other fashionista pleasures

This in mind, I decided to take a trip to NYC this weekend in order to indulge in all three.  

It was an amazing time.  Over three delicious brunches, I spent time with besties I’ve loved since I was a teenager.  I saw “The Crucible, which my gorgeous friend Justin is stage-managing, and “An American in Paris,” in which my other beautiful friend Garen is now dancing as the lead, and then watched my stunning friend Sarita in rehearsals for her directorial debut.  (You all are AMAZING and I am such fans of your work!)

I talked wolves with Ann, and read tarot cards for Tavi and ate coconut-milk ramen with some special folks.  I saw some old friends from Peru and made a new friend from Peru (Hi Manu and Mallku and David!!).

Plus, I wore bright pink lipstick and some of my favorite thrifted dresses as I paraded the city streets in impractical shoes.  I smiled a lot.  I felt happy.

As life likes to work out, there were also surprises. My DC girlfriend Francesca told me about a workshop by the Western/Eastern guru Dr. Claudia Welch on healing your hormones to heal your life in NYC.  I knew I had to be there.

It was so great.  I learned from Dr. Claudia that most doctors don’t understand hormonal balance very well.  She also taught us a super-easy way to break it all down through Eastern medicine, and I found her concepts really easy to grasp. I highly recommend that you buy her book, so you can learn, too.

In case you don’t, I’ll summarize here:  We are too busy and have too much stress in our lives.  Most of us are burning out our nourishing, sexy hormones (estrogen + progesterone) by over-taxing our stressy, alarmist hormones (adrenaline + cortisol).   

The problem is that we wear our stress as a badge of honor (Brene Brown has some great work on this).  Our self-esteem is much too tied to our productivity, and as a result, we are burning out our systems.  We are scared to slow down and embarassed to give ourselves a day of doing nothing, even when we really need it.

Dr. Claudia’s prescription for healing is to take time to rest and engage in more pleasure.  She urges more time on the couch watching “Seinfeld” re-runs.  She says that tea time with girlfriends is as necessary for holistic health as whole foods and exercise.

Isn’t that the most delicious prescription?  Claudia calls it the “medicine of subtraction,” and I think it’s brilliant.  

The problem with this is that it’s truly not my way of relating to the world.  I’m so used to taking on more and more that I forget the immense power of less.  I get so seduced by the alluring lie of “just one more thing” that I can work away my free time.  I am still trying to prove myself as the “good” girl, even when no one is noticing anymore.  As a result, I am sacrificing a settled nervous system and all my sexy hormones that make me feel grounded on this Earth.  

This past weekend in NYC helped me  remember how much more I feel like myself when I am feeding my spirit as well as my belly.  It actually gets much easier for me to make happier choices around food and sleep when my insides are settled and content.  

My challenge is to remember how to do this when I get back to DC, when the demands of my life pick back up again.  My plan is to build a little TV-watching time on the couch every day.  (I’m thinking of focusing in on “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Jane the Virgin,” but let me know if you have a good suggestion without too much violence.)  I also am committing to scheduling more leisurely brunches with friends and checking out at least one cultural event a week.

And I’m going to wear more lipstick, because DC, I know you can handle it. We need some extra color on your streets.

As I write this I am nervous that I won’t follow through.  I am nervous that I am being frivolous and that Dr. Claudia doesn’t really know what she is talking about.  I’m afraid I will be left behind from the pack of motivated people doing something with their lives.

But as I type and watch New Jersey from my train seat, I can’t ignore how settled my nervous system feels.  I can’t argue with the pleasure of my spirit and how that opens my heart.  I can practically feel my settled, sexy hormones dancing around the insides of my body.

I know that my life is too short to not do the things I love more often, especially when even a little bit of science backs this up as the healthiest thing I can do.

It took me a weekend away in NYC, all of my lovely friends, and this super-smart doctor to remind me of the power of subtraction.  Now, it’s up to me to show how taking a few things away (stress, overwork, worrying) can multiply what I need (love, creativity and beauty) into a truly magnificent life.