What a Miracle is my Body

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This is me after a seven block walk. I sweat profusely.

So much of my life is built around distracting from my endometriosis pain right now. I watch TV or listen to music while reading. If I engage my mind enough then I can ignore the pain. It is only partially successful.

I realized, as I walked to the library, that distraction is how I’ve always gotten through exercise. I don’t like to sweat. It is uncomfortable, although I am working on that distaste. Exercise has always caused pain in my ankles and I’ve never been good at it. Today, I walked in the heat as fast as I could manage to the beat of my Lady Gaga Pandora channel. I used the beat of Pitbull’s Shake Senora to move faster and faster. By the time I made it to the library I was dripping with sweat and my pants were sticking to me. If there were such a thing as tiny men, they could have slid down my cleavage like a slip and slide.

This is in total contrast to my yoga experience. Every move in yoga has to be thoughtfully carried out. For one, my balance, as it stands, is horrible. Some of the poses require me to be on one foot or one knee. I have trouble with standing on two feet or balancing on both knees. I am learning and practicing over and over, but seriously have to concentrate. I have to feel every part of my body and muscles I didn’t know existed. Normally when exercising, I would try to ignore pain in my muscles or work through it, using the adage “no pain, no gain” or more likely I’d give up. With Yoga, if there is pain—I am doing something wrong. Not only do I have to concentrate on my muscles, hand and foot placement, and balance, but then there is the breathing. Yoga just isn’t the same without the breathing. The deep breathing brings in a sense of calm that I have never experienced with other exercise.

It amazes me the contrast. I love the difference. I believe that is why I love yoga. I love how I can totally immerse myself in the activity. I breathe in and out slowly and deeply. I free my mind of anything that doesn’t have to do with the pose at hand. When it is really good and I have focused enough towards the end of the practice I am more aware of what my body is doing than I have ever been.  By focusing intensely on what I am doing and making sure it feels good.  There is gain with no pain. Don’t get me wrong I feel strain on my muscles but I don’t feel pain.

I have always ignored my body because I have been told no pain no gain.  I wasn’t very good at sports because of my bad ankles, and I was never the type of body I wanted. I got told repeatedly by society, my family, and even “friends” I was the wrong body type. When I repeatedly fail at something, I tend to forget about trying it again. I have hated my body because of what it could not do. It could not be good at aerobics, softball, or volleyball. Even worse, It could not be skinny. Don’t get me wrong, it was thin at one time, just not the thin that was popular in my youth. It was curvy thin. I hated it. I wanted to be the woman who could wear pleated pants and poufy shirts a’ la Different World. I wanted to be Lisa Bonet.

I surely didn’t want to be me, with my curves and very strong muscled legs. I wanted to be like a reed in the wind. Then I became known for my curves and then abused because of them, and then I wanted to be a bulldozer, not a human.  So more and more I retreated into this body, and wore it like a coat, a covering for my soul but not something that affected my soul.  IF I could distance myself from my body then I would not be responsible for it or how it made other people think about me. I thought I’d focus on what I was good at, reading.

Recently, I have distanced myself so far from my body because it seemed mean to me: the pain my body brings me, the interruption to my day, and pushback of my goals. My body has been a bitch for quite a long time. (While some of that has been caused by me ignoring her, most of it hasn’t. Endometriosis can’t be exercised away. It can only be burned away or excised by a doctor). Trust me it wasn’t hard to get mad at my body.

Yoga has helped me to forgive her. Yoga has helped me see that this body people made fun of, that wasn’t good at sports, had weak ankles and poor balance – even she could be loved. At first yoga was another distraction from the pain but as I got into it, and as I started awakening the understanding of my bodies minutiae it started easing the pain. I started to realize that just like any love I had to actively participate in the caring for the object of my affection in order for it to thrive. Those balance issues are still there, but it works my ankles and they are getting stronger. I am so aware of my body, I can tell when I am going to start sweating. I feel the heat from within and I welcome it. For the first time in my life I welcome the sweat. What’s more is that the first time I did it, I was really bad at it, but the more I practiced –miraculously- I got better. For the first time in my life I got better at exercise. Each pose takes time to master, but when success comes I am overwhelmed with gratitude for my body.

It is only recently through yoga and my families help have I been able to figure out a way to celebrate what my body is capable of. I am super stretchy, more than the average bear. My body likes yoga, it craves it. I am a good swimmer. I am a good dancer, with a natural rhythm. My legs are super strong. I ride bicycles with ease. I am double jointed in my fingers, I do a mean downward dog, and I am working my way up to hour long yoga sessions. I am resilient. I fail at these poses but keep trying.  I am able to heal pretty easily if I take care of my body. I am finally able to see what a miracle is my body.

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Oh, and I can give good cuddles. Look at him smile. That’s some good cuddling.

 

 

You Can Take the Girl out of Oklahoma…

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This was how Oklahoma welcomed me. 

 

About a month ago I went to visit my family in my native state of Oklahoma. I was inspired by my family to move more and to enjoy the simpler things that I sometimes ignore. My family is extraordinary and every time I am around them it is as if I have been given new life. Sometimes it reaffirms who I am. Being away from my home state for so long sometimes allows me to forget what I have inherited and how deep those Okie roots run: the laid back sense of humor, master story telling, and the vein of gumption that runs through all of us.

It’s that tenacity and live wire like energy that is contagious. Inspiration to move and accomplish the physical is everywhere.

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Going to the grocery store with Mom is like an aerobics work out. I was still getting out of the car and she had a cart inside already. 

In the mornings Mom and I would do our perspective exercises. She does a video by Gilad, a very handsome, bulging, swarthy man. She’s done various videos of his for years. I don’t enjoy the aerobic videos so I went over to the corner and played my Pandora music channel and did yoga. This concurrent clashing music didn’t even bother us. At one point we discussed how this could be a metaphor for our relationship.  I said it is funny how we clearly like different things but still hang out because we love each other so much.

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We are so proud of my beautiful, smart, strong sis.

I was encouraged to walk by my sister Katie because she walks everywhere. We trekked all over the OSU campus before I had to take my shoes off and sit until someone brought the car to me. My feet were done but she was still going. I feel after 40 you shouldn’t have to suck it up.

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Yep, we even fed a horse! These people live super special lives.

My brother and his wife have a handsome five year old son named Caleb and he inspired everyone to get physical. Katie and I even risked and failed at cartwheels. That family spends most evenings outside in the sun after dinner riding bikes or watching Caleb ride his big wheels up and down the driveway. I got to ride bikes, slide down slides, fight imaginary wolves and run through the park. Caleb and I even had a session of yoga together. That was so fun. There are these children’s yoga videos on YouTube, and he loves them. A fifteen minute video story of going to an amusement park with a Hispanic penguin had me sweating!

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First time on a bike in years, can you tell?

 

While some of these attempts didn’t work out so well (one slide left me with a swollen and bruised thumb, another with two skinned knees, the cartwheel left me with a slightly sprained ankle, and I also got kicked in the head more than once while rough housing,) the fun that I had was more than worth it. I will never forget this trip because I learned I miss being playful. It is absolutely the best exercise. I miss that idea that my body is here so I might as well see what it can do. Seeing what my body is capable of is an activity I have neglected and it is actually fun. My new fitness goals are: being able to perform a cartwheel, AND get enough arm strength to walk only on my hands while someone holds my feet by the time I go back to Oklahoma. We tried it this time. While I could hold my brothers legs while he walked the living room, I couldn’t quite walk on my hands. I will though mark my words. I am doing planks every day.  If I can walk on my hands then maybe there is even a handstand in my future! Now that is exciting! Won’t my nephew be so proud of Aunt Danielle?

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I felt like this was the appropriate image for a mic drop…

Back Baby Steppin’

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This is me socializing in the park. Even my lunch dates require exercise now!

There so many exciting things are happening in my life right now. I am volunteering at the library, getting to know new people, writing more and exercising more. I have not had an episode of pain in two weeks. I am delighted. My husband is relaxed and I am making very small progress on all areas of my life. I am cooking, walking, and stretching a lot more. I am in the zone.

Something that is helping me besides being pain free for two weeks is this new deal I have with myself. If I do not write at least an hour a day, then I have to forgo my modem and give it to my husband to take with him to work. Without the router I have no internet and no TV because we have no cable. So I have nothing to research with while writing or entertain me while I clean. This is an even bigger motivator to jump start myself than the writing I am already doing. Once I get writing I get more excited about the writing. So this is just a jump start to get the fingers moving! It has worked. This week I have written every day.

I have also met my pedometer goal every day and done yoga three times. I even tried to do a yoga video called Power Yoga with Rodney Yee. Rodney Yee is a yoga instructor born in my native state of Oklahoma. (I just found that out!) He is a very handsome man who apparently only owns pants. These pants are made of spandex and are usually neon colors. I like his calm voice and dulcet tones, but I think I want to branch out. I think that I need something called Half Power because I had a lot of trouble doing those yoga moves so quickly. Downward dog –Upward dog — Downward dog –Upward dog —  Downward dog –Upward dog — Downward dog –Upward dog — Downward dog –Upward dog…sweaty sweaty sweaty sweaty but I was done when he got to Half-moon pose and fell over because my knee didn’t like it very much.  So I stopped but was proud of myself for attempting and making it about half way through. It’s been a long time since I even put in an exercise DVD. Actually I think last time I put a video in it was a VHS tape.

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Lynne my library lunch date!

I am also cooking more so my husband and I are eating fresh vegetables and fruits. I got back into making smoothies and eggs with veggies for breakfast. Leftovers for lunch and for dinner I am cooking fresh salads, veggie filled pastas and I make delicious veggie tacos.  I am not saying I haven’t had weird pizza roll dinners once or twice but I have been making great strides to getting my healthy habits back.

It feels like I am just bragging in this post but I feel as if I must after what I have been through lately. I am now looking forward to progressing but more importantly, the most encouraging development is coming back to the program feels inevitable. If I have to put my exercise plan on hold for a month because of pain and there be no doubt I will get back to it when I feel better, then that means I am officially a person who works out. It am not a poser. I am the real deal.

 

I’ve learned my lesson????

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A picture from the longest walk I’ve taken so far. I hope I rebound quickly so I can get back to this length.

I have been very angry. The kind of angry that just has to burn itself out because it has no release valve. I know that God is teaching me something I don’t fully understand, and I can’t promise it won’t be the last time I have to learn it. Over and over again I am reminded that I have no control over certain aspects of my life. I have no control over my uterus and ovaries and their near constant assault on my life.  I have no control over my doctors and their ability to relate to how much pain I am in, and very little control in what steps they will offer to relieve this pain. I have no control over how my loved ones react to my inability to accomplish my responsibilities. Worst I have no control over when the pain comes so plans are almost near impossible. I’ve been stewing on these things because I’ve not only been plagued by the normal endometriosis and adenomyosis pain but I got sick with pneumonia for a while. When I was in pain and also sick, I had time to soak in my anger and sadness. I didn’t have a lot of brain power to tell myself how lucky I am or figure out a way to make myself feel better about my predicament.

Sadly, my anger lasted a lot longer than the sickness. I get a little unreasonable when I am stuck in 700 square feet for more than a month. The only place I could go was the doctor’s office, and of course that was dreary. Also, coming out of one of these episodes feels like recovering after an ugly storm hits. Luckily I survived but now I have to rebuild. Working in a creative field takes a certain frame of mind, and the intermittent pain interrupts the process because I can’t think. So when the storm clears I have to get back my mojo so to speak. Not only that, but I have to go back and reread what I previously wrote and think about how to continue from there. The really messed up part is just when I am ramping up to start writing again, then I get another tornado of pain.

It is a mad rush to get up to speed and then try to make progress in all areas of my life. I have been trying to lose weight for years and that is another problem. I have been doing yoga and walking, but after this episode I had to start all over. I was up to three miles three times a week and three yoga sessions. After the episode I had to start all over and was having trouble doing the seven blocks to the library and the twenty scant minutes of yoga. It is like my body resets back to slack ass mode as a default.  My lungs get smaller, my legs get weaker, and I lose all the stretch I have gained in my yoga practice.

I am thinking about how often this happens to me and it still grates on me.  I know I am lucky. I have a great life other than this: a loving, fantastic and sexy husband, a deeply close lovable family, and friends that would give their ovaries if it meant I’d have no more pain. Bitching about this part of my life doesn’t feel right somehow. I feel guilty for being so upset, but a friend set me straight.

It’s okay to mourn not just for the loss of progress, but the lost time in my life. I miss out on time with all those people I love, and joy and discoveries while I am in so much pain. It isn’t just the progress I am making on my goals to be regretted; I am missing valuable experiences and moments. Time I won’t get back. I wish that I could just bounce back from these episodes as resilient as my fellow Oklahomans do after their storms. A high expectation but I still wish I could be stronger. What I wish is not really relevant because I still have to figure out a way to move on.

Unfortunately that means that I need to allow myself to just be upset so that I can move on. If I don’t just realize that I am going to have these feelings and not feel guilty about it then I can deal with the feelings and move on. This is my reality for now… Mourning it is okay. Feeling shitty about how my body has rebelled on me is natural and inevitable. For now I will have to just realize this is my life now. I will be going through this over and over again until I get help. I need to go with it and realize that rebelling against my feelings is just a waste of more time, and beating myself up about my feelings only gives me another reason to feel bad.

Part of what I am learning the more I go through this process in culmination with more and more yoga is how to be more kind to myself. Regretting that I am not stronger or what I have or haven’t done is not only a waste of time, it is mean. I am literally being mean to myself. It is like self-torture akin to pushing your own cuticles back but more insidious. I am as strong as I need to be to live and to get back up after being down and out for a month and that is a feat in itself. As a woman I was taught to be durable, as an American – resilient, and as an Okie – never to complain but sometimes those three things together make life harder than it is. Sometimes misery needs to be vented and recovery time taken. Rather than over and over pointing out what I can’t do or what qualities I like, perhaps it would be best to acknowledge how hard things truly are and that surviving is enough. My husband says, “Hey, you bled for a month and didn’t die-that’s extraordinary.”

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Seeing the quirkiness of Philly is always motivating to move more.

The Ocean is Worth It

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We were right there in the sea! 

Have you ever gotten off the wagon? It’s not easy getting back on. Hubby and I went to Cozumel, Mexico for our honeymoon. While there we enjoyed the snorkeling. It was the most beautiful, serene, exiting time of my life. If you have never been, what you do is basically float with your head in the water and have a tube in which you breathe into the open air. The minute I put my mask into the water, I was in another world. A world with no sound, beautiful shades of muted blue and sand, and exotic fish I would have never had the chance to see: It was akin, in reverence, to walking on the moon. Had I the capability to talk I would probably have gasped audibly but I had no medium to express my awe.

We floated all the way out to the buoy before we came up out of the water and then swam slowly back. When we both popped up near the ladder to go back up to our hotel my husband said, “I think we were made for this!”

I giggled and said, “Two chubby people floating in the ocean, who would have thought!” The only downfall from this blissful foray into the ocean was climbing out of the water onto dry land.

I had the flippers still on, and I had to climb up this steel ladder, much like a ladder out of one of those above ground pools. Except, this ladder is halfway in the ocean and covered with slime.  It took several attempts to get up the three steps to finally reach the platform. My legs were a particular form of Jello that made it gut wrenchingly hard to get out of the water at all. My feet kept sliding off and I would plop down into the ocean time and time again. I would then have to collect my breath and then lift myself out of the ocean again and again.

The platform was half out of the ocean. The waves hit the large cement platform most of the time, so it too was covered in slime, but this didn’t stop me from laying down like a beached whale to catch my breath from the physical exertion of pulling myself out of the ocean.

That is how getting back on the wagon feels. The exertion of overcoming the doubt in my belly, the stiffness in my muscles and the weakness in my pallet can sometimes leave me beached on my bed with doubts of my success. I came back from vacation and was sick so my eating habits were atrocious and I didn’t exercise for two weeks because I was extremely sick.

Last week I was getting back to my yoga, walking and veggies. Before my fall off the wagon I had only been vegetarian for about two months. Grocery buying and recipes weren’t cemented in my mind so I again had to reacquaint myself with what to buy and how to cook it. I only walked a mile that first day, and I was up to three miles before. So my one mile left me aching and sore like someone had beaten me with a baseball bat. I was a whining wimp.

I was disheartened but Brad pointed out that I was just getting over being sick and having my “Aunt Irma.” These assurances made me feel better, but I also realized that I had gotten back on the wagon almost like it was second nature. I didn’t think about it as if it were a choice. I just did it. I never stopped doing yoga except when I was sick, and even then I did it once. After I got better, I got the right groceries, and I started walking. Done. No hemming or hawing. I didn’t have to think about whether or not I was going to exercise or eat right. I just did it.

I guess I am just gonna have to remind my body that this is the way life is now. I am a healthy person, who does healthy things. That is who I am now. I climb up the ladder. I will probably be climbing that ladder my whole life, but more time in the ocean is worth it.

Indelicate Information

Bathroom

Something has come to my attention about exercise and it is indelicate but I believe I should talk about it, if only because I have never read anyone else talking about it. There is something they leave out of all the exercise pr…the poops…literally.  No one says that when they try to get you into exercising. I read Self, Shape, Health and Women’s Health. I don’t recall ever reading in any of those magazines how to deal with getting the shits on the track, or almost pooping your pants while jumping in aerobics class.

The other day I had an appointment with my Edward Jones representative. To get to the appointment, I took the wrong bus, and ended up five or so blocks out of the way. I had to run to the appointment and showed up to the fancy Pyramid Club my hair flat and listless. After my appointment, it started raining. I was walking home and had to immediately duck into Starbucks because nature wasn’t just calling; it was screaming. Then I had to buy something. I couldn’t just leave after bombing their bathroom.

After that I went to the Reading Terminal Market, it was brimming with people, the different stores are amazing and they even had a singer that day. I decided to get lunch. It was super busy but I finally got a table across from some really nice ladies: Chris and Kate. They were lovely and told me all the great stores in the market and sent me to the best bakery. Kate was interested in creative writing and I have my Bachelor’s degree in that. I had the greatest time talking about stuff with her. Then I started to sweat again. I almost asked her for her phone number to be friends but had to cut it short…again I had to go to the bathroom. I was worried I wouldn’t find one but luckily the Market has a great bathroom, which is good because I spent about a half hour in there. As soon as I was done, I went to the butcher and the baker and then I had to run home for another round.

When I got home my door woman, Eula, asked me if it was still raining. Frustrated, I pointed at my hair and said, “No, that’s sweat.”

About this time, I had walked over eight thousand steps, and I had carried my luggage with the groceries home. When I got into the apartment I threw everything down on the floor, including my coat. I was so exhausted after that, I put my groceries away but left everything else and took a bath. When my husband got home he thought I had evaporated in thin air. He finally found me in the bathtub.

This day is an example of what happens whenever I walk long distances. I am told that my bowels will get used to the exercise. I really can’t wait. I hope it happens soon.

I like some of the good aspects of walking so much. My feet actually feel better at night because the nerve pain is decidedly less. That fact alone is amazing. I also have been having less fibromyalgia pain. These things are blessings and I guess that outweighs the fact that most of the time when I am out walking, I desperately search for a bathroom.

 

Getting back to Zen

I have a new life and need a new way of living it. I know I need a new tactic on how to approach life. I need to learn what I can handle and what I can’t, and what life is going to be like for me now. I expected life to be different since I have no job, and I am focusing on my health and my writing, but I didn’t have any idea what that would mean. I used to sit at my job and day dream about the time when my husband would be working and give me this opportunity. I thought of the recipes I’d make. I thought about the yoga I would do, and the time I would spend writing and editing my book. I didn’t think about the unpacking, laundry, or the finding my way around a new city. These have been the challenges. While I have powered through obstacles, I have also been a bit whiny about it.

This week I fulfilled one of those day dreams.  I painted a secretary desk white that I had bought on Craigslist. I only had one day to finish it, because my apartment is small and I had furniture coming the next day. I painted two coats and a coat of wax all in the eight hours my husband worked. Two things made this possible, the chalk paint, which dries very quickly, and I think I get into a trance some times. I focused and didn’t stop until a little after Brad got home. It was a beautiful piece of furniture when I got done, but the minute I put down the waxing cloth, I knew I had made a mistake. My back was instantly on fire. I had to lie on the floor until bed time and then had trouble falling asleep because of the pain. The next morning it felt better but my shoulder wouldn’t move and it was asleep. My husband massaged my shoulder but when the feeling came back, the feeling was of serious pain. The entire day I was on pain pills. It still hurt on the pain pills but at least I cared less. I was useless about two or three days. I am just now coming out of it.

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This is what it looked like before I painted it.

I have realized that a lot of my problem stems from not pacing myself.  I have read about being mindful before. I need to induce that awareness now. I need to realize everyday what my body can’t go through and what it can’t. I also need to figure it out before it is too late and I am relegated to the couch for three days. On those days I feel like the worst wife in the world. I know my husband doesn’t think so but I know there are other people who can relate to this. I have to pull my own weight in this relationship or I feel useless and feeble. I need to realize that my body won’t do the things I want it to yet. I can walk two to three miles but not seven. I can do one coat a day but not two and a waxing. It isn’t that I can’t do it really, it is I shouldn’t. I need to pay attention to when my body is wearing down. I have always been taught to push through the pain. No pain no gain, right? I don’t think that is always the truth. I think there is only so much I can do in one day in order to be able to do stuff the next day.

I am new to all this physical activity. I have to be able to walk before I can run, pun intended. I want to one day be someone who can walk seven or eight miles without having to take the day off the next day. I am again day dreaming. Day dreaming leads to accomplishing. I know that is true because I have lived it. I day dreamed of a day when my husband had a good job in an exciting city and I had time to write.  We got here, and now we are going to get better. We can only get better. With patience and pacing, I am going to slowly work my way into physical fitness and domestic bliss.

The after
The after

In an effort to listen to my body more, I am getting back into my yoga practice. I am meditating and trying to listen to my breath and how it feels in my body. Not only will this help me to listen to my body but it will also help me slow down and pace myself. Perhaps it will help me eat in moderation. Any other suggestions on how I can pay better attention to how my body feels and what it can take I would appreciate.