Healthy Living: My lab on the lake

From my own experience, Powell Lake has an easygoing, friendly culture and is a uniquely Powell River experience. The summer lake lifestyle has contributed to a part of this beautiful town’s identity for generations of families and, also, scores of tourists and recreational users.

The culture of the lake has even generously given the English language a new word to expand its lexicon. The word Zunga describes a rope tied to the perfectly located tree branch to swing off and flip or flop into the lake below. Perhaps, also, it is an informal rite of passage for local teens.

With a friend, and through a series of fortunate events, I have been able to share a cabin which, when we took hold of it, would be best described as a glorified, mostly floating shack with an abundance of charm and, also, well , did I mention it was charming?

The cabin sits on an ingenious collection of huge, almost old-growth-looking logs, rope as thick as my wrist and yards of heavy rusty chains which would make Pirates of the Caribbean character captain Jack Sparrow proud.

At this point in the misadventures on the lake, a handy person was needed to fix most aspects of the floating home. I wanted to be that man. The automatic negative thoughts told me I didn’t have the skills to be that man.

After years of beating down my psyche with irrational thoughts and brain-damaging alcohol, I could summarize the state of my post-addicted brain with the old Groucho Marx joke: “I would not want to belong to a club that would have me as a members.”

It is exactly here in the story where the medication I am currently on, the meditation I do and the conversations I have had with mental-health professionals paid off in real world time. And it is here where things became interesting.

With the YouTube app on my smartphone and determined not to listen to automatic negative thoughts, I collaborated on a continuous list of lake cabin projects. From the logs in the water to the solar panels on the roof, I was tackling projects with mixed success.

A fascinating accidental event happened again and again. Owing to the fact that there were month-long gaps in trips up the lake, I would be critical or complimentary to the work done as if it had been done by someone other than me.

New neural pathways were being created in the circuitry of my brain, owing to a process called synaptic or neuroplasticity. My learning process was accelerated by access to internet instructions and years of rehab, which focused on, partly, self-awareness.

Our access to instant information and guided instructions has changed life in a fundamental and sometimes odd way. I felt like I was the teacher and the student, or the psychologist and the object of study at the same time.

Well, the lake-cabin is sitting a little prouder in the water. I am still observing myself learning and on sunny days there is enough solar power to watch Netflix at night.

In life, sometimes the clouds part and you have to look for the remote control.

Robert Skender is a qathet regional freelance writer and health commentator.