This was both a great weekend and an awful weekend for me. On the great side, we had a blast at a parade-watching party in New Orleans on Friday night, though we didn’t get home till 2:30 in the morning. Saturday was also great, in that we had a few friends over for a birthday dinner for Your Working Boy (Julie and the kids gave me a book with all of Doré’s illustrations of the Commedia, and a translation of the Commedia that uses William Blake’s illustrations, which I had never seen and which are terrific).

But Sunday morning, I woke up steamrollered by mono, again. I lasted about 20 minutes in church, then came home and went back to bed. Slept for eight hours. If I didn’t have so much writing to do today on another project, I would go back to bed right now.

It’s hard to express how frustrating this is to me — and how ironic. Dante, prayer, and therapy restored me to health — or, I should say, God worked through them to restore me. I was healthy for an entire year. But it was the insane schedule I had to put in to write the Dante book — from nothing to completed book in three months, while doing my day job too — that stressed my immune system out so much that right after Christmas, I fell back into illness.

What’s so aggravating about it this time is that the stressors that brought me down the first time (family tensions, and a struggle within myself) are not in play here. I think that my immune system simply had not had time to rebuild itself sufficiently, and to make it strong enough to withstand the intense stress of the October-to-December writing marathon. If I could, I would go somewhere quiet, unplug from the Internet, and rest and read for three months. But I don’t have that luxury. I’m a professional writer, and a dad. Somehow, I’m going to have to get better while continuing to work.

Last night, I was reading about how some paleo-diet people are fighting immune system weakness and disorder through diet, including consuming bone broths. I think it’s time for me to try a radical change in diet. There are lots of different anti-inflammatory diets. Do any of you readers have experience with them? Which ones are better? Without question I have to cut out refined sugars and gluten. Sad to say, I’m also going to cut out coffee (my precioussssss!), and replace it with tea. No alcohol. No Coke Zero or diet Coke. But what else should I do? Ideas?

My priest, whose flexibility and creativity I appreciate greatly, says this will be my Lenten asceticism. And it will be profoundly ascetic for sure, at least for me, given my habits and tastes. But I can’t go on like this.

I regained my health once I began practicing the discipline of praying meditatively for an hour a day, and once reading Dante and seeing a therapist unmasked hidden conflicts within me and helped me to resolve them. I found inner peace, and good health. I wrongly figured that resolving the inner conflicts that stressed me out so much that it made me sick and depressed would effect a permanent healing. What I now see is that outer stressors — like taking on a book project that, for reasons outside of my control had to be put on a rocket sled of a production schedule — that I used to be able to handle can put me back into a health crisis. Live and learn. The Dante book is out this spring, and once that foofarah dies down, I need to figure out a work schedule that is sustainable.

To be clear, I really do thrive on writing, and crave the stimulation I get from doing so. Nobody makes me work so hard at this. I wasn’t forced to write the Dante book so quickly, but I wanted to do it for competitive reasons (more on which later). The truth is that I have a weakened immune system (this, a genetic inheritance), one that has left me with a body that simply can’t work at that relentless pace.

Changing my diet has to be part of the solution. Any advice you care to give me, please put it in the comboxes. Thanks!

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