Reaching for Stability Inside

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The sign at my new favorite coffee shop

 

In Boise I was surrounded by people who were more introspective than myself. I loved listening to them talk about their beliefs, convictions, rituals and practices. I grew up in the church. I believe in God with all of my being but I don’t practice my beliefs that much. I mean I pray. In the evenings I thank God for my loving husband, family, and friends. I then talk to him about what’s going on with me, like I would a friend. That is as far as I have gone in the past twenty years.

I am a Christian but I have been disillusioned with Christians lately and I think that has made me resistant to the rituals surrounding my faith, like going to church and listening to preaching. It’s been absent in my life for a long time. I think that I have been missing it without realizing how much.

Lately I have adopted some new spiritual practices that I have been finding comfort in and I believe have strengthened my belief in a loving God. I am protecting those parts of myself that I had given away to other goals. I have realized a need to pray deeper and to experience more calm and stability that a spiritual practice can provide. The interesting part is that most of the ways I am practicing, while also give glory to God, don’t come from the church or the bible. These are things anyone can do, and they could possibly help anyone feel more stable and grounded in these tenuous times.

I first learned about mindfulness from the book “Living Buddha, Living Christ” by Thich Nhat Hanh. The book was an interesting read because there are so many similarities between the Christian belief and Buddhism.  I recommend it to anyone because it is a good read and not too touchy feely. It is interesting. Of course, the western world is embracing mindfulness by the droves now. I have been submersing myself in it while doing yoga and meditating. I have been listening to my breath and trying not to think of anything else for at least thirty minutes a day. I have never been one to be mindful before. I am known for doing several things at once. I enjoy multitasking for the most part because my mind moves that fast naturally. I didn’t say it thought great things, just that I think fast. It is my gift. However, even cheetahs rest sometimes.

There are so many articles on the health benefits of meditation that I won’t talk about them here; They claim everything short of growing a new brain. I can only tell you what it does for me. It helps me to slow my body down. The connection between my body and my emotions is strong. So if I can calm my breath down. It moves throughout my body. Taking deep breaths involves using all of my thoughts and it really does translate to all my limbs. Seriously, try it for like three minutes. I know that I didn’t believe it, but it really does calm me down.

It also calms my mind because I focus on just my breath, and ignore everything else. If a new thought comes I just ignore it. I don’t think of nothing because that would drive me crazy. I haven’t gotten that good yet. I have just been concentrating on my breath, and this thing they talk about where you breathe through your limbs. I know, it sounds hanky right? It really works though. You take an inbreath and picture it going to your arm (I know that isn’t how biology works, but just picture it.) Then when you breath out, you imagine that arm relaxing. If you do that for your entire body. I promise you, you will be goo. Complete and utter blissful goo where ever you are. Sometimes I do it before bed, after I pray and I am telling you it is so relaxing I just fall asleep.

There are meditations on a free ap called insight timer. All of them are good but look for the ones that are described as a body scan to walk you through what I am talking about.

The other practice I am adding to my life is to use affirmations every morning. I’ve found it is really helping me with my life because I have been so down lately. I don’t know how it will work during my dark days because I haven’t had any since adopting this practice, but so far it is helping me to be more focused. Affirmations or Intentions can be anything but I have been using three so far.

  1. I will honor God with how I care for my body because it is the temple of the Holy Spirit. — That one is from 1 Corinthians 6:19. I like it because it motivates me to take care of my body and my mind. It reminds me that taking care of me is important enough to make a priority. I, like most women, usually put myself last on the list of to do’s for the day.
  2. I will have the courage and tenacity to create art — I have been doing this so I will be fierce in my writing. I think any kind of art takes courage because it is hard to put your ideas out there. I need to have more tenacity and not get discouraged when I get something wrong. So, this intention is important to me, to get me to the computer.
  3. I will strive to love actively and deeply — This one I believe is the most important because I want to constantly show the people I love how I feel. I want to fill my heart with love always and I cling to that right now, because there is so much hate out there. I will not let it infect me. I want to love even those who want to harm me and those I hold dear. The last part is the hardest. Even though I try to be loving, it is difficult not to harden my heart to the people who want to hurt people I care about. Because I know nothing gets accomplished by my heart going to the dark side, I decided I needed a daily reminder to keep my eye on my soul. I will have the courage to love deeply and I encourage everyone to use that one right now. If everyone woke up and put love first, boy wouldn’t this be a better world.

These are a couple of ways I am trying to keep my mind, body, and soul this year. I encourage anyone to try to find something that grounds you, if you haven’t found it already. I’ve learned that I can’t control politics, religion, or other humans, but I can control how I react to all that. So, these small things, setting myself on a path every morning, are helping me stay the course. I need to be reminded every day to live my life fully, mindfully, and with love. This is how I am going to ground myself and keep my head.

 

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.

We all need maintenance

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My Momma: The glue in our family

There are so many incredible women in my life. Beautiful, remarkable, talented, and really genuinely care about the people in their lives. It amazes me the lengths they will go through to take care of the people in their lives, but then totally neglect their own health and their needs. It is so difficult to believe after all this time the guilt and shame built into our roles as a woman, and especially as mothers. I am not a mother, but a daughter, sister, and friend to many. I watch from the outside, which can be more telling than inside sometimes. I watch these monoliths of strength hold up their families in ways that would make super glue want to patent them. They spend most of their days devoted to keeping their families safe, well fed, educated, and well adjusted. The culture of sacrifice pervades incessantly, to the point their always standing, always the last to eat at dinner time, and even feel guilty when they are sick. I thought that was an old way of thinking, but it is so prevalent they even make Nyquil commercials about it.

I get it. I really do, society says that if you spend any time on yourself that you are selfish. It isn’t men either, we do this to ourselves. Our moms, grandmas, and great grandmas gave so much of themselves. We feel this urge to be productive, useful, and loving at all times. It is not just a current expectation it is a sociological imperative. My grandma had surgery to remove cancer on her nose in the morning, and much to my dismay, that afternoon was making my Grandpa a sandwich.  My Mom still can’t take a day off and all of the kids are grown and moved out of the house. My sister in law who is the best mom I have ever seen, felt guilty last week because she was so sick she couldn’t make breakfast. She has a very competent husband, my strapping brother, who makes a very delicious breakfast. I know, I have eaten his biscuits and gravy and they are better than my own momma’s (Please don’t tell her.) My nephew is probably better taken care of than any child in the world, and that is not Okie exaggeration.

I am not making a case for neglecting of children or any other responsibilities. I am trying to impress upon my sisters, mothers, and friends to stop putting your needs last and please breakup with the guilt monster.

“Heart disease is the leading cause of death for African American and white women in the United States. Among Hispanic women, heart disease and cancer cause roughly the same number of deaths each year. For American Indian or Alaska Native and Asian or Pacific Islander women, heart disease is second only to cancer.” –That’s from the CDC website

I believe that there is just too much. We have too much in our lives anymore. We need an exhaust vent. I am not a parent but I need my alone time. I need to do things that make me feel autonomous. My hubby and I are eerily close, but we both need time off. He will play video games all day if he wants. He doesn’t need to be productive. He understands the need to vent the steam, and doesn’t feel guilty about it.

Everyone works now, and I am a feminist so I am loving that, but with women still shouldering most of the household responsibilities it means most of those women are over worked and stressed. Why is there guilt when a day off is needed? Why do we feel like we have to explain our time? I wish my Mom was more indulgent. It is not selfish, its maintenance.

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I’ve begun to really rely on my yoga maintenance. It makes my mind calm down. My muscles relax and my heart be more kind to my loved ones.

Even inanimate objects require maintenance. Cars need their oil changed. Houses need gutters cleaned and filters changed. Don’t we deserve better than inanimate objects? Please, if you are reading this, find something you love doing that is all yours and take time out to do it. Even if it is super small like twenty minutes a day, please make sure it is yours and that you feel amazing after you do it. Maintain your sanity, and in turn your heart and soul. I have been doing yoga, and I love a nice long bath. My sister likes the hard core stuff like rowing machines. Art is fun, meditation, journaling, or reading, even just sitting down with a trashy magazine is good. Women, mommas especially, need restorative time to themselves or even time with friends. Please if you feel guilty call me. I will tell you it is okay. If you need permission, I will tell you how much you deserve to indulge. It’s not selfish. It is maintenance.

To Sleep to Lose

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This is what I look like when I go to bed. Really. Make up and jewelry, really.

Sleep deprivation is not something to be messed with. I am living proof that your health can seriously suffer if you don’t get enough sleep. I can’t be the only sleep apnea patient that feels that they are a walking sleep study that proves the need for sleep. Sleep apnea is a disorder where you stop breathing in your sleep. According to my sleep doc, I stop at least sixty times an hour by the time I got treatment for it. I believe I had sleep apnea years before. There are so many ways that not getting good enough sleep affected my life.

Since my teenage years I have been less than graceful. I fall more times than a normal person will in their entire life, in one year. My brother Matthew likes to say that our family always knew it was winter because as soon as it frosted over they would hear, “Thud, thud, thud, thud, thud, swoosh, SWAK!” That would be me sliding into our front door. I am also known to my parents as the one who ran into the back of a parked pickup truck, while running across the street. That one hurt a lot because I got clothes lined on the plywood sticking out the back. I broke open my chin, bled all over my shirt and then got a nice big lump on my noggin.

In high school I was known as the girl who fell a lot in band practice. I learned not to wear a skirt because as soon as I had to turn and rush down a couple yard lines it would end up over my head. In college, I was the one who fell in a dress, in the middle of class pictures. At the non-profit I used to volunteer at I became known as the girl who could fly. This was after an incident involving two lovely dogs scurrying out in front of me, their toggle still attached to the ground. I got some serious air that time. I felt as if I understood the beginning stages of the Greatest American Hero.

Luckily it was shortly after my swan song, AKA the day I flew, that I met Dr. Baxter who sent me for the sleep study. It was a miracle. For a couple of years I have been waking up crying because of excruciating headaches. Come to find out, my rock hard neck muscles were because of my gasping for air.

After deploying the CPAP, which is the breathing machine I use at night, I haven’t tripped once unless I deprive myself of sleep on purpose. The headaches have gone away. Also, I believe that this is the only reason that I have been able to lose the weight.

Sunday night, husband and I decided to stay up late to watch the Veronica Mars movies. We had been mainlining episodes for a week and a half. Only people who have done this can understand but we were so excited to see this movie. When we finished the end of the series it was midnight. We decided, okay, let’s go ahead and watch it. It was two-ish when it was done, then we stayed up and giggled until three thirty-ish. It was one of those delightful nights when you laugh about stuff so funny, but you try to explain it to someone else and they look at you stupefied. It was amazing.

The next day…I was dragging butt. Not getting enough sleep left me with only a half a mind all day. Normally I am a multi tasking wiz, but that day I could barely accomplish one thing at a time. I fell down the stairs, and ate everything in sight. Okay so maybe that sounds like an excuse, but I promise you it was so much easier to eat better when I slept well.

I guess I am getting to the point where I am noticing things that hurt my ability to be my best self. I know that sounds corny but if I am more clumsy when I haven’t slept then imagine how impaired I am in other areas. I feel like I am coming out of a cloud. Lack of sleep can cause so many problems, more serious health problems than my clumsiness. I have read about links to heart disease and deteriorating the brain. I hope that I have gotten my CPAP in time. I am going to try to not stay up late like that again if I can help it. This is one more tool I hope to use to lose more weight. I really believe without my machine I couldn’t have lost the weight I have.  This is getting added to the do list. Get good sleep.