“Be like water; water has form, yet is has no form. It is the softest element on earth, yet it penetrates the hardest rock.” Bruce Lee
Inside I was a desert. Arid. Dehydrated. Dangerously so.
You’ve heard the mom’s rule to drink at least eight cups a day, although that’s not based on any hard science. The Institute of Medicine, a scientific research organization, says women should drink at least 11.4 cups of water a day. For men, it’s higher: 15.6 cups per day. But, according to the CDC, 43 percent of Americans drink less than four cups per day. That includes about seven percent who drink none. I’ve heard that as many as 75 percent of Americans walk around dehydrated and don’t even know it.
Dehyration is bad news, especially if you are sick, as I had been for weeks. Wiped out by a nasty virus, I ran between teeth-chattering chills and sauna-like sweating. I was too weak or too lazy to sit up to drink. All I wanted was to curl up and sleep. Big mistake. When I couldn’t shake a high fever and difficulty breathing, my doctor sent me to a local hospital ER. There doctors ran a slew of tests, one of which indicated what they said were ridiculously high lactic acid levels, an indication of severe dehydration.
I have a love affair with water. As a kid I couldn’t walk by a water fountain without commandeering the flow for minutes at a time. Today I keep waitstaff hopping to our table to refill my water glass during meals out. On a normal day I drink six or seven 22-ounce bottles.
How could I let myself get in such a state?
Water is so simple, so innocuous that we forget its significance, yet it’s elegance is nearly unmatched. Bruce Lee noticed water is formless until we give it form: we pour water into a cup and it takes the shape of the cup. But when we pour it onto the counter it flows unbiden toward the edge and we have a mess on the floor. It glides submissively over and around stones and, with time, actually reshapes them in an incredibly subtle show of power. Put enough water together and its force is unimagineable. Think of the tsunami that hit the Pacific coast of Japan in 2011 following an 8.9 magnitude earthquake.
An average bathtub holds 40 gallons of water. That’s about 330 pounds. A cubic yard of water, 3 feet by 3 feet, weighs nearly 1,700 pounds. Imagine 1,700 pounds coming at you at just a few miles per hour. That’s like a small car hitting you. That’s why even a small wave at the ocean can knock us on our butts.
Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it. – Lau Tzu
Water is everywhere, except, well, California. We drink coffee and carbonated beverages and Gatorade or we pay for expensive designer waters. The smartest people I see carry reusable water bottles with them and drink often. But we largely forget about water until we are in dire need.
I have only one kidney and drinking fluids, especially water, is essential to keep it functioning normally. It’s a disconnect that when my survival depends on staying hydrated I would nearly stop drinking altogether because it was inconvenient. In the hospital they gave me three intravenous bags of saline to balance my hydration and reduce the lactic acid level in my bloodstream.
Now that I’m back home recovering I’m playing catch up, under watchful reminders of Elin to drink. I’m trying to get back to the six-bottle level. I’m annoyed because I’m peeing every 10 minutes, but I know this is a necessary consequence of being so dehydrated. After this last episode, I won’t allow myself to become so depleted again.
Cross the meadow and the stream and listen as the peaceful water brings peace upon your soul. – Maximillian Degenerez