Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Ridin' The Razors Edge

As far as weeks go, last week was overwhelmingly stressful. This Monday I woke up feeling like a crackhead who hadn't slept. Being the extreme creature of habit I am, this means I buried my nose in writing my book all day, and ignored the totality of my responsibilities. It's just so much easier to bypass reality if I'm not actively thinking about it! By the time I checked off every excuse in the book it was 2AM, and I still had to do the dishes, pack my husbands lunch, take the dogs out, brush my teeth and straighten up the house. I also hadn't showered, juiced in 3 days, or done yoga for 5. Sigh. Where did all my progress go?

I finally drag my sorry self off the sofa to do the dishes, but I'm feeling so terrible at this point I couldn't even stand up. Like "had to sit on the floor so I didn't pass out" can't stand up. As I sat on the kitchen floor feeling like the walls of sickness were closing back in on me, panic kicked in. An overwhelming need to not go backwards in life consumed me. Whatever resolve my stress-induced lazy behavior excused away, I re-discovered. With a start I suddenly realized discipline, formerly the bane of my existence, had become my saving grace!

After downing a bunch of vitamins and immune-boosters, and sleeping for 9 solid hours, I woke up this morning with the fire of panic hot under my bottom. It wasn't until I walked the dogs, did yoga and juiced that I took a breath, and realized I felt much better today. Phew! Crisis diverted. But it didn't take long for me to realize how little room for error my new-found health brings along with it. Just a few hits of stress, coupled with a lapse in either my desire or ability to adhere to the stringent regiment, and I'm down for the count. Logically, it seems horribly unrealistic and like I am destined for failure. After all, I'm hardly the girl known for her strict adherence to anything. Then I recalled the point in time when I was so fatigued I had to lay down for an hour between taking a shower and putting lotion on my body. Leaving the house was a pipe dream. Let alone cooking, cleaning, walking my dog, or standing in the kitchen for two hours to juice copious amounts of vegetables into a rather small amount of juice. Somehow I got from there to...the girl who went to Las Vegas for a family reunion last month. The reminder was all I needed to keep going.

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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Grateful For Today

I just found out a girl I went to high-school with passed away from a horrendous battle with leukemia. She wasn't someone I reconnected with in recent years, so I had absolutely no idea what her life turned out like. To say I am taking this news hard is an understatement. All I can picture when I think of her is the wild, boy-crazy party girl we all were, back in the day. When things were simple, the blemishes of life's trials not visible to the naked eye, nothing but a future to sail off into. Did anyone get what we thought we would? I know my friend sure didn't. And while I've spent the better part of nine years sick, almost died a couple of times, and devoted far too much energy to stewing in epic amounts of bitterness and anger at the unfairness of it all, finding out my friend lost her life put my experience in blaring perspective.

It could have been any of us, how were we to know? This journey called life, it's no joke. No guarantees, nothing promised. As much as the human animal is capable of screwing up their own life, nobody is immune to randomly inflicted hardship. Some get it much worse than others, without any explanation or reason or culpability of their own. When I was a little girl my dad used to tell me all the time how unfair life was. I suppose he was trying to prepare me, although even his father's all-knowing wisdom didn't have any idea what was in store for the future. 

Learning about my friend's painful and untimely death shook me deep inside. I stewed and shook my fist at the sky as I paced and asked questions there are no answers to. Why her? Why not me? Why almost me, but I got another chance? Why didn't she? Trying to find peace in this situation is difficult. Pinpointing the fork in the road, when everything started to go so terribly off course, is darn near impossible. Funny memories, usually blurred by the effects of too much beer, keep popping into my head. I remember her smile, her laugh, the way she lit up a room. To think that light has been extinguished is heartbreaking. From the swirls of sorrow whirling around my deep reflection, I am finding gratitude for simple things I'd long ago forgotten to be grateful for. While I may not run a Fortune 500 company or live in a mansion, through the eyes of so many, I have so much. It's time my eyes saw it too.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Through The Gauntlet

No form of acceptance, positive thinking, self pep-talks or mind over matter triumphs all problems. For as much as those things are critical to surviving the ups and downs of any person's life, so is recognizing when the breaking point is about to snap. Sometimes life is just hard, a situation difficult, reality bites or everything so screwed up it's impossible to keep going. That can be the hardest what is is to accept of all. About a year after I got sick I recklessly flew past that breaking point on roller skates like a bat out of hell. Eight years later I now realize I simply didn't know what else to do. I only related to the world in one way, and that way was broken. Instead of believing I could find another way, I broke too. Finding compassion for that girl who had so much loss, devastation, heartache and grief ahead of her is hard. I really wanna reach back in time and smack her silly. I want to scream at the top of my lungs to get it together, take the horrible illness nobody knew what to do with seriously and believe my body when it gave out, not blame my mind for not being strong enough. And I want to take her into my arms and let her cry on my shoulder, and pat her head with the soothing promise that everything won't be perfect, but I will survive. 

I can't do any of those things, though, because she is me, and I wouldn't be me if I hadn't gone through everything she went through. So as I sit here at another crossroads in my life, one where the way I have survived and related to the world is breaking once again, one would think I could draw from the mistakes of the past to keep me strong. Make better choices this time around. And for heavens sake not be so damn indulgent of every fleeting ping of panic, desperation or fear. One would think. 

Tonight I cried like a baby. I decided the sky was falling, world coming to an end and Armageddon descending upon us. After about fifteen minutes of freaking my dogs out I got a grip. I realized something has to change, and that something, once again, has to be me. This is one situation I can't solve by thinking about it tomorrow or focusing on what's good. I most certainly don't know all the answers, or how to dig myself out of the hole life finds me cowering in at this exact moment. But I do know chances are at the end of the day, if the past is any indication, I will be okay.

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Monday, November 18, 2013

Evolution Of The Stay-cation

My husband gets a fair amount of vacation time. Not as much as schoolteachers, say, but four weeks is far more than most in corporate America are blessed with. Sadly this year we haven't had a penny to spare for travel, so save for a few whirlwind road-trips to L.A. to see my family, we've "stay-cationed," not vacationed. It's been a telling experience, to say the least. The first week he took off in January sucked. We both got a horrible, terrible, no good, very bad flu and spent nine whole days hacking up a lung and watching Law & Order re-runs. Yeah, it sucked. 

The second week he took in April was dedicated to getting our taxes done. That one was pretty bad, too. See, I was supposed to have done something throughout the year to keep our paperwork organized, not wait until early April to start on twelve months of record keeping. Realistically, my basic level of functioning at that time was so low I was barely getting the bills paid and dogs fed on a regular basis. Anything tax or accounting related was as high on my priority list as climbing Mt. Everest. Not very. My husband got a little pissed at how disorganized I was, and how much work his vacation actually turned out to be. So that's how the second week of vacation went. The third week he took in September was a bit better. Of course at this point he was so overwrought, exhausted, short-fused and disillusioned, the dear man pretty much just slept. Which he needed. 

But at this point we are both getting a little irritated. Okay, fine, irately pissed off is more accurate. There's nothing like down time to stimulate a little reflection on life. When did we become so broken? When did life go so wrong? How do we get out of this eternal deficit circumstances keep sucking us into? The questions whirled around and around, but there weren't any answers to be had. Luckily by now I'd discovered both juicing and my favorite new mantra, What Is Is. And thank God I had, because somehow, someway, I found the strength to stop asking those questions, quit dwelling on what I don't have, how wrong everything went and bad everything sucks. The ability to accept and move forward, shedding all expectations of fairness, entitlement, and absolute understanding, became mine. This past week was his final week of vacation for the year. There was still some of life's junk to clear up, but we laughed a lot, too. We had fun hanging out, being silly, taking the dogs to the park, cooking together. Just being. Which is all I ever wanted to do in the first place. It just took us eleven months to get here.

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Stupid Habits

One would think I entirely discarded my resolve, to stop reacting to every little problem with epic magnitude. They might even say I forgot each inch of progress I've made over the last few months. It's what I would say, were I able to observe my behavior objectively, and free of the entanglement of the first-person experience. Because no matter what cliche phrases, to pep myself out of misery, my lips mumbled, none of it mattered more than the despair radiating from my heart. The certain knowledge in my head promised me my mere existence was nothing more than a giant mistake and responsible for not only my own misery, but the heartache and opportunity lost of everyone else I know, too. Imagine the size of that ego!

After flipping out on myself, getting into a big fight with my husband, feeling so guilty about the whole thing I wailed and cried with the fervor of La Llarona, and ultimately realizing all this drama was completely self-indulgent and pointless, but still finding myself unable to stop, here I sit. Sheesh. What a wild road I didn't need to go down! Of course now I am faced with the daunting task of getting back on the wagon. All those theatrics are behind me and can't be changed. My three-day tantrum is now in the past, and I must accept it as truth and move forward. I made abundant choices in the moment to backslide. Taking responsibility for my actions as exactly that, a conscious choice, no matter how gripped with fervor I was in the moment, is mandatory. Because if I am ever to relinquish the servitude of living sick I must believe, with every beat of my heart, I am not a victim. 

The surprising result of all this bellyaching isn't very surprising at all. Everything I was all freaked out about turned out the same way it would have, had I ignored the impulses of such destructive and well-indulged behavior, and enjoyed the goodness present in the last three days. Had I squashed the stirring to pitch a fit, I wouldn't be pulling myself out of a deficit, because I never would have slid down the rabbit hole in the first place! Basically the only thing my hysterics achieved were to make things worse. So the next time a flood of fear or anger or anxiety or despair smacks me repetitively, because undoubtedly it will, I hope I can remember three simple rules. 1. No matter what is going wrong in my life, or how I react to it, time still passes, and I have to live out that time. I may not be able to change what is happening to me, but I choose my reaction. That reaction determines if it sucks, or if it is pleasant. 2. Given past performance, the chances I will survive my current tribulation is 100%. 3. So why on earth would I want to make an already hard life any harder than it already is?

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Rebel Inside

Right as I feel like I am beginning to get a handle on my life, a distracting old friend decides to come visit. She doesn't show her pesky face nearly as much as she used to, but no sooner do I start to feel the peace of progress moving my life forward, before I am staring my inner rebel square in the eye. A restlessness stirs within me. The need to not be "perfect" becomes overwhelmingly compelling. It isn't long before the compulsion to break rules, especially those of my own design, consumes me. 

I've been really good for a while now, mindful of my bad habits and the havoc they wreak. Quite frankly I am basking in the afterglow of a fundamental shift in the way I look at the world. I feel freedom in ways I haven't felt in years, if ever. My ability to accept my given circumstances, and seek ways to change what doesn't work by changing me, not my unchangeable circumstances, is revolutionizing the quality of my life. Until tonight.

We danced a lively little tango this evening, my inner rebel and me. I didn't wanna cook dinner, like really didn't want to, by the time I got home from class after 9pm. Hunger overrode my whim, however, and the salmon was delicious. But I absolutely didn't want to do the dishes, pack my husband's lunch, pack his bag for the gym, or straighten up the dirty clothes in the bedroom that hadn't made it into the hamper yet. Telling myself he doesn't want to get up at 4am every morning and work 12 hours a day gave me the motivation I needed to get it done, though. However, at this point, the rebel inside dug her heels into the ground and demanded I give her some attention. So here I sit at 3:30 in the morning, actually tired, but unable to stop Miss Rebel's wakeful hold on my need to break a rule! Laughing at myself, because after a lifetime of wild behavior, staying up until the sun comes up is hardly cause for an eyebrow raise. Then I look over, and my dog is staring at me with impatience, trying to get me to go to bed. It's pretty sad when even the dog knows what I should be doing right now. 

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Learning To Walk Again

Summer is finally over and I am starting to walk my dogs again. Except they forgot how to walk, at least with manners. Has it really been that long, since I wasn't so absorbed with myself and my own problems, that such regression was able to occur? Porkie exuberantly gallops as she yanks against the leash like a bucking bronco. Yorkie thinks we can stop for 30 second intervals every 50 steps so he can sniff and pee, and still keep our target heart rate in the cardio range. It's not their fault, though. The only one I have to blame is myself. If blaming did any good. Reality doesn't change if I blame, though, so I've kinda stopped doing it. I can go all Opus Dei on myself, like the albino in The Da Vinci Code, and it still won't change the fact that when I walk my dogs tomorrow Porkie will gallop against the leash and Yorkie will lag behind.

It's been two and a half months since I declared myself utterly unable to keep living life like I was. I quieted everything down and decided to focus on improving things before they totally blew apart. Wow has it been a lot of work. My life was a chaotic mess, all of my attention focused on how terrible I felt all the time, and exacerbated by massive stress flares whenever something went wrong. Usually something which could have been prevented, had I only been on top of things. Which I wasn't, because I was obsessed with feeling awful. So two and a half months ago I started slowly attacking the tangled ball of yarn which had become my life. Because of a shift in both my mindset and nutrition I wasn't knocked on my fanny three days, or even two weeks, later. This means I didn't go off running to lick the wounds of sickness all by myself in the corner while everything got messy all over again. Not to say it's been a perfect journey down a smooth road, or I haven't had profound moments of regression, but last Friday I completed the last duty which had fallen to my dereliction. 

The absolute last thing I thought I would be doing at the age of thirty-seven is learning how to wake up to an alarm, go to bed before the sun comes up, keep a house clean or count on myself to be organized enough to not be late everywhere I go. The other side of the coin reminds me there was a time when I didn't think I would be able to do any of those, ever again. I feel like a woman climbing up a cliff of ice, with only those sharp picks to aid me in the ascent of a lifetime. The more I focus on progress, not pain, the higher I can throw my arm in the sky, embed the metal anchor in the frozen sheet before me, and pull myself up out of the abyss.

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Friday, November 1, 2013

Bad Food Begets Bad Food

Ahhhh Halloween. I suppose I could just say Snickers, Reese's Pieces, Butterfinger, Hershey's, Kit Kat, or Twix to convey the same meaning. It's all the same poor quality, trans-fat laden crap bursting with refined sugar and negative nutritional value. Did that stop me from eating my way through far more than my fair share? Noooooo. But as I gobbled up all this chocolate I started feeling really bad. It's been a while since I had more than a few squares of not-very-sweet dark chocolate at a time. In fact, since I started juicing a few months back, my diet has improved exponentially. I don't think I realized it until I sat feeling like a sausage about to burst from its casing as I continued to shove chocolate down my throat. I mean I couldn't stop. It was pathetic, the more I ate the more I wanted and the worse I felt, so the more I wanted so the more I ate! 

As intense food cravings consumed me I realized something else was going on here. Something that explained the horrible relationship I've had with food for most of my life. It would be remiss to not state that I am currently a health conspiracy theorist through and through. I blame the modern American lifestyle for a significant amount of the health problems plaguing our society. Nobody cooks their own food anymore. Who on earth has the time? Its all microwaved from a frozen box and full of genetically modified fake chemicals. Once I stripped all that crap away from my diet my health improved a lot. No, it didn't cure Fibromyalgia, but along with a gazillion other lifestyle improvements, helped lessen the symptoms to enough of a degree that I kept at it. Sitting in my post-Halloween chocolate coma made me realize what a endless trap the American supermarket truly is.

See eating all those refined carbs and fake sugars may feel like food on the tongue, but the body has no idea what to do with these foreign substances. They aren't natural, and haven't been around long enough for the human body to adapt to them. So what happens when I eat a Snickers bar or three? Well I've certainly consumed enough fat and calories to satiate a gorilla, but my body doesn't register as having eaten anything, because it doesn't recognize what I just ate as food. My stomach does the best it can to digest the toxic dumb I just swallowed, but it doesn't send a message to my brain that I have received either nutrition or satiation. No, all it does is tell my brain it needs food! So I eat more chocolate, but my stomach never tells my brain to stop wanting more because my stomach doesn't believe I have given it what it needs. And I haven't. What a trap! Last night I realized my only way out of this ridiculous spiral was to discipline myself against those chocolate longings and eat something real. And amazingly enough, after a dinner consisting of lentils and quinoa, my stomach finally told my brain to stop insisting I am hungry and I threw out the rest of the Halloween candy. Ahhh, blessed gift of nutritional satiation.

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