a Natural Rhythm

John McManamy Health Guide
  • When my marriage broke up just before last Thanksgiving, among other things, I had to worry about my health. The reality of the breakup brought on a crushing depression, plus the strain of things falling apart and the uncertainty over the future left me highly stressed and distressed. In addition, more than a week of not sleeping in my own bed induced a state of psychological homelessness.


    A good friend of mine, Paul, who lives in the back country of San Diego threw me a life preserver by way of offering me a room at his place. Moving out of New Jersey was an extreme choice, but I did not hesitate. I returned from Thanksgiving at my mom’s in Connecticut, packed my belongings into boxes for FedEx, and was on a plane to San Diego the first day of December.

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    San Diego’s airport is located right in the city. At night, with the spectacular harbor view and the palm trees and sultry temperature, it was easy to mistake the surrounding terminal buildings for a resort.


    Paul picked me up and we got on Route 8 going east. He drove – and kept on driving. We were gaining in altitude, and the city lights receded into the distance. The air grew colder, the palm tress disappeared, and soon it was totally dark. No suburbs, even. Nothing.


    Bleep! I thought. What have I gotten myself into?


    Forty minutes or so after he picked me up, we pulled up into what would be my new home, out in the middle of nowhere. I would just have to make the best of it.


    No diesel fumes, no traffic, no noise, no condos, malls, industrial parks, bodies buried in the Meadow Lands, concrete and asphalt as far as the eye could see. Not even a convenient toxic waste dump. How was one supposed to survive?


    Just an ethereal quiet punctuated by bird calls, sagebrush-scented air, brilliant cobalt skies by day, dazzling starry nights, gnarly oaks and natural monoliths evocative of Stonehenge, and spectacular views of the grassy valley below, surrounded by four thousand-foot peaks.


    It took me several days to adjust, but by the New Year, I was well on my way to going native. Long walks were now an established part of my routine, and I was making connections with the local community. I also enjoyed the social companionship and intellectual stimulation of my new house mates. I soon found myself in an extremely synergistic high production-recuperation cycle. Once I finished a round of projects, I would take a breather, then, with a clear head – two hours later, twenty hours later – I would get back to work, relaxed and energized.


    I was cycling, but in a good sense. I was cycling to both the natural rhythms of my mountain environment and my own internal clock. I was sleeping with spectacular regularity and waking up with my head firmly attached to the rest of me. I was living and breathing and thinking clearly – things the rest of humanity takes for granted. For me, this was the gift of life.


    Late yesterday afternoon, I sat in out our hilly back yard sipping on a home-made fruit-yogurt smoothie, luxuriating in the sun and watching mountain blue jays flit from the branches of the numerous oaks on the property. I had just gotten off an email Newsletter, and now I was into the breather part of my cycle. No work for the rest of the day. Just this fine Zen moment of quiet appreciation.

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    Early next week, I’m headed back to my old stomping grounds for eight or nine days to see family, catch up with old friends, do four speaking engagements, and get other business done. I have made my travel bookings, and I am scrambling to complete the rest of my arrangements. Starting next week, I will be subjected to ungodly noise and air not fit for Martians. I will be manfully working to adjust to unnatural rhythms, and gazing out into vistas created by lesser minds than God.     


    Don’t get me wrong. I will enjoy the stimulation and the personal validation of my work and recovery. I will enjoy meeting new people and catching up with family and friends. I will even get in a bit of sight-seeing.


    But I will be extremely happy to return to the place I now call home.

Published On: March 17, 2007