Sunday, December 23, 2012

Clear Thinking

A salt water cleanse sounded like a good idea at the time, after a weekend of gluttony and the subsequent stomach ache of shame and regret. My dear, sweet, well-intentioned sister-in-law gave us a bag of "Real Salt" and a testimonial regarding her own salt water cleanse experience after a delicious yet heavy Thanksgiving. She had been pleased with the results, and her telling of the three hours it took to achieve them made it seem worth a try, if only for the story-telling material it would provide.

Here's the story...

Elizabeth gave it a shot, but never made it past the first sip of warm brine. She gagged even as it touched her lips, and she was smart enough to heed her body's natural warning. She poured the nasty elixir down the sink and swore off the salt water cleanse forever.

I am stubborn, dumb, and inclined to push forward in spite of all warnings. My younger brothers and I have always lived (and sometimes nearly died) by an unwritten code that has a lot to do with the potential for a story outweighing the risks. Without the code, I would not have such great memories of time shared with Jared before he died.

So I added more salt than is reasonable to a quart of warm water, mixed it well, and drank it. I say drank it, but it was more of a gagging, wincing, and forcing action. I felt my skin shrinking and my heart panicking at the rush of sodium. My cells cried out in protest as I sucked in enough salt to kill a bison, and then kill anything that ate the bison's carcass.

After drinking it I remembered back to the night before Hannah, our second child, came into the world. We were going to induce labor the following morning, making it a sure thing that Elizabeth would soon be giving birth. As we lay in bed, she began to panic at the realization that she was going to be screaming, crying, pushing, and hurting in fewer than twelve hours. There was no way out of the pregnancy without pain. Her fears were not unfounded; Caleb, our first child, had been stuck for hours on his way out, and the pain Elizabeth had experienced was unreal. I had never seen any measure of physical pain that even came close, and she was about to do it again, by choice.

A similar panic set in after I drank that quart of brine. I had willfully ingested something that was only coming out of me with a great sound and fury, and quite possibly some pain. The thought of the inevitable began to frighten me. Why had I done this? The reward (Hannah) far outweighed the sacrifice that Elizabeth made, but the same could not be said about my cleanse. I didn't really need to purge my system; my body is so regular it could be used to synchronize the Atomic Clock should it ever need winding. There was little to be gained, if anything at all. But I suffer from a worry about things I cannot see, and since my internal organs are permanently hidden from my view, I worry about them a lot. I imagine heart disease, cancers, blood disorders, kidney stones, and a clogged digestive system to be festering inside of me. One day I will drop dead of something I could have prevented had I been able to peer inside my body and been warned. This propelled me forward into salty madness.

It wasn't until the salt was inside me that I realized just how ironic it was to swallow something that could potentially kill me in order to prevent me from dying. Ironic and stupid.

In the midst of this panic the cleanse began to take effect. Now as much as I would love to put into words and specifics the initial reactions that my body had to drinking a quart of the Great Salt Lake, I will keep the details light. It is enough to say that I spent the better part of the next ninety minutes sat upon the throne that has been mankind's perch throughout the ages. My bowels were in spastic rebellion, angry with me for not respecting their near perfect record. I was angry right back; this was not part of the deal. I accepted that there would be a period of discharge and discomfort, but that would soon be followed by a peaceful, empty calm. I would feel lighter, cleaner, healthier. Why then, did I feel as though a steel cable studded with diamond barbs has been pulled through my digestive tract? Raw, tender, exhausted are not feelings of peace.

I felt like Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon 2, sat upon the toilet with my legs asleep and and a bomb beneath me, and I was also one more sit-down dance away from blood clots (something else that I tend to worry about at a constant clip). And the thirst, oh my the thirst! My lips were puckered and burning, my tongue shriveled, and my throat rasping for moisture.

After a long while at this, I felt a calming within my bowels. Daring to leave the bathroom, I made my way to the kitchen. I was thirsty, hungry, and exhausted. I filled a tall glass with ice water and sucked it down in a few large swallows, then filled it again, draining it one more time. A cold, restoring sensation filled my belly. I was going to be okay, but I needed to eat. Thinking that dry toast wouldn't do me any harm, I popped two pieces of bread into the toaster.

"Uh-oh..." I said aloud in response to an audible and forceful rumbling in my stomach. I ran across the living room and into the bathroom, not sure yet whether I should kneel or sit.

I didn't have to debate the issue for long. A powerful torrent of cold salt water rushed from my throat and into the toilet. My eyes widened in amazement as over and over again, staggering amounts of clear, cold, salty water gushed up from within my stomach and out my mouth. My first conscious thought was the realization that projectile vomiting was real, and not just something invented for late night comedy sketch shows and terrible movies. My second thought was more of a wonder really, at how clear the cold and salty water surging from within me actually was. I could have poured it into a glass and served it to a friend (or perhaps an enemy). They would not have known until tasting the salt that it was not fit for consumption. This was followed by a regret that I hadn't set up a video camera to catch the sensational display. This would never happen again, and I had no physical evidence that it actually had.

My final thought, which accompanied the final barrage of stomach water, was this; this is loud, this is violent, this is painful; this is going to make a great story.

I hope it has.

Footnote: Elizabeth later told me (laughing) that not a split second after my loud and terrible retching had ended, the toaster popped up with a happy click, as if to signal an end to my suffering.