Category Archives: personal health

Defrost for freedom

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[Written a few months ago, but certainly still relevant…]

Let It Go; A phrase as misunderstood and as misused as Be In the Moment.

Its December 26th, we can now say that Christmas has passed (unless you have gatherings continuing for the next week) and the calendar woefully reminds us that yet another year is over. Gone. Kaput. Though am not much for resolutions – let’ s be honest, they are just one more way we get in our own way – it seems like the notion of ‘Let It Go’ might be something to think about.

Recently I found myself talking to a friend who struggles with anxiety, encouraging her to let it go. Yes, its hard to do, but it is such an important step in our mental and emotional health as human beings — and in particular, as women. Just the whole hormonal rollercoaster of adolescence alone seems to make us hold on to things people have said or done ‘to us’.

Its simple concept, that can seem impossible – it can take an hour/day/month/years to achieve. And even then, every once in awhile whatever it was that you let go tries to sneak back into your consciousness. Almost as if ‘it’ is challenging your mental toughness, your ability to stand strong.

My strategy is to continue to take a step back from those situations that make me want to react negatively, or are hurtful, and ask ‘what about this situation is within my control?’. The answer is always the same – the only things I can control are my actions & words. Therefore, the best i can do is to check myself ‘what am I responsible for in this situation?’ ‘what words/actions did I choose?’ ‘ Is there a way to correct my actions/words/role in this situation?’.

The beauty of this plan is that (I believe) it can apply to many areas of life. Struggling with past relationships/situations? “What about _______ is within my control?” If its in the past — none of it is currently within your control, is it? You can acknowledge the memory, talk about it if needed, but at the end of it all you cannot go back and change your actions or role.

“What about my childhood was within my control?”

(In my opinion) Well, as children we are generally not in control – we trust the adults around us to make appropriate decisions for us. And sometimes the adults don’t always make (what we feel) are the right choices – they are human after all. Do you control the choices your parents made when raising you? Most likely the choices made had less to do with how your parents felt about you – and more to do with how they were raised (what they know) and what was going on in their own lives at the time.

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Good Grief!

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Thinking back over this past year there have been many lessons learned through the process of grieving. It is a strange thing, grief.  Most days I have not consciously felt that I was grieving, and then one day it reaches out to gently remind me that the heaviness is still there.  Or my massage therapist comments on how incredibly messed up my muscles are and then reminds me that we sometime store our grief in our bodies.   Am thankful that it seems to be less and less raw, less palpable, over time it has moved from being a smack upside the head to a somewhat gentle nudge that (still) stops me in my tracks.

There are now two distinct phases in life: The time when mom was with us, and the time after mom died.   I think we all try not to categorize life according to death but in our minds we inevitably, yet silently, think ‘oh right that was just after/before mom died…’.  From what I understand that frame of reference will stand forever.

I thought I would share a list of things that have surprised me about grief.

  1. How inexplicably tired you feel when grieving, particularly in the first few months. You try so hard not to think about the loss, but you somehow cannot stop. And then when you do stop you feel numb, and guilty for not thinking about it.
  1. How it pretty much takes up all available real estate in your mind.   Seriously.   In my experience I feel that I lost about two months of conscious thought – can’t remember much from the funeral onwards. After the two month mark the haze began to lift.
  1. The numbness.   It is a weird sensation – you know you should be feeling something at any given moment but you are just numb.   Child’s birthday party? Happy, right? Nope. Dance recital, happy times? Nope. You try really hard but it just does not register on the emotion meter.
  1. Exaggerated emotional experiences. Oi. Someone made the mistake of reminding me of the tumultuous end of a relationship. BIG mistake. Anger like I have never felt before – about two months worth. On the upside, it gave me something else to do beside be numb and sad. Was thankful that I was feeling something.
  1. People have very different reactions to your grief.   Some seem to assume that once the funeral is over and you have returned to ‘life’ that all is well, grieving is done. NOT.   And then there are those who have never experienced loss and just look at you with this pitiful look (and then my own reaction in my head, OMG I used to do that to people too..).   In that awkward moment you want to get mad at that person – but I think its important to remember that in a few months you will realize that they really did mean well, they just didn’t know what to say.
  1. It sneaks up on you. As time passes you begin to feel more and more normal, and then something/someone reminds you of the person you lost. And you implode. Perhaps a small implosion, perhaps large. For me the big implosions happen in places where mom made the biggest contributions, or with people who meant a lot to her. Mind you it also happens when I watch the Food Network – it was something we did together when she was in the nursing home and long-term care.   Depends on the day and the moment.
  1. Not everybody will know that you lost someone close to you and at some point they will ask you ‘How is your mom/loved one doing?’.   My estimation is that this will happen more than once over the years to come, and to most people who have experienced loss.   The first time it happens you are completely shocked, and the only thing you can say is ‘It’s ok, you didn’t know’ and mean it. Again, it is not on purpose or personal.
  1. At some point I realized that I compartmentalize it.   I live about four hours away from my parents home, so it is easy to separate myself from the grief. But, when I go home to visit there it is, awaiting my arrival with wide-open arms. Compartmentalizing isn’t always bad – it can actually be a good tool to cope with the grief and get on with living life.   I think the key is to remember where you put your grief so you can prepare yourself for it and face it, and to also revisit it once in awhile.
  1. Facing it is good. Hard, but good in the long run. Facing the loss and the pain is important – and perhaps it helps you to feel the parallel of the fullness and joy of life a little easier. Reaching out to friends or a counselor can facilitate the release of it all when needed – and sometimes when you least expect it. Letting loved ones in your life know that you are hurting – really important (and hard to do sometimes).
  1. The big lesson in grief (for me) sounds so trite. Live each day as if it were your last. Live with appreciation for the people who love you and whom you love. Have gratitude for all the good in life, in the world.   Will your life then have no pain, no sadness or struggle? No. But you will be better prepared to deal with it when it comes your way.

When grief gives me a nudge I will let it stop me in my tracks for a moment – because that moment probably is accompanied by a memory.

Remembering is healing.

Grief can be good.

Remembering is good.

 

Gettin’ Sweaty & Breathin’ Heavy 5

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Oh, hello blog…its been awhile, eh?  Found this post from September and thought it was due to be posted. Better late than never!

The first 10K was scheduled for Monday, September 2nd. Training was going well – finally reached a 9K run about two weeks previous to the race. Picked up my race kit on thursday. On friday, off to the ER we go! Yep. Darn allergies. Suffice it to say that an asthmatic reaction of sort has waylaid my training for a brief period of time.

Drat.

Perhaps I spent a bit too much time inhaling those fumes from the bonfire.  *sigh*

As so many have said to me, and so many have said to the running population – it’s not about how fast you run.   It’s about putting one foot in front of the other and participating.  So that is exactly what I did – participated.

Maybe I needed to be slowed down a bit – to stop and enjoy the beautiful sunshine on that cool morning.

In the last GSBH post, the focus was compassion for those that have betrayed or hurt us.    Today it’s about turning the focus towards ourselves, yes, inward – completely, selfishly, and wholly.  Compassion for self.

As I move through the healing process I am reminded that my body, in its entirety, cannot be rushed through the healing process.   Over time my lungs will relax, bronchial tissues will resume their homeostatic state, and being physically active will become easier.  At this point in the process I am eager to get moving again!   This morning I went for an easy run/walk and my lungs have been rebelling ever since — thankfully not in a tightened, wheezy kind of way but in a hacking cough, congested kind of way.  It’s a bit of a trade-off I guess.

Again, its one step at a time.  Today a short, easy run/walk.  Tomorrow maybe a quick walk. Eventually back to my usual morning run.  *sigh*   Be patient with yourself, I say to myself.   Have compassion for yourself and allow your body to do what it needs to do, assist when/where needed.   And by have compassion I mean – don’t beat yourself up for not being active right now, don’t lose patience with the process of healing, and find other ways to keep active in the mean time.

On the positive side of all of this there is the realization that my body image and overall outlook was much more positive when I was in a training mode of sorts.    Damn those body image issues!!   Again,  am learning to be compassionate with myself.  When it comes to body image I am my own worst enemy – today I will remind myself that I am not feeling 100% and that is ok,  I will remind myself that although I feel large and lazy I am actually down a few pounds from where I was in June.  And if I need to flex my quads and poke them with my finger to remind myself how much stronger my legs are since beginning running, then I’ll do it…poke..poke.

One step at a time.

So, yes, I will be a little selfish and take care of myself as I move through this healing process.

Compassion for self is good.

Gettin’ Sweaty & Breathin’ Heavy 2013 (2)

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155680_566834896670105_1464338912_nThere seems to be something to this whole running business.  Over the past month I have managed to run 3x a week (every other day) and have progressed from 4.3 K to almost 7K.

And the scary thing is  — running feels good.  In my first post I mentioned the reasons why I am doing this running challenge and I have to say that I feel like it is actually helping.

Maybe its a control thing.

Though I cannot control the process of grief  –  I can control whether or not I drag myself out the door for a run.    I can also attempt to change how I am feeling into something positive through running (hello endorphin kick!).

Though I cannot control the actions of others – I can control my actions and how I choose to let go of the resentment.  When I run it feels like all of these emotions are my fuel – turning them into positive energy to be burned off and rinsed away.

We have all thought it and said it before, Life can be hard.   Somedays it is all we can do to put one foot in front of the other.  Running seems to be a good way to put this into physical practice on a regular basis – and what I know for sure is that anything you practice regularly becomes habit.  And this is a habit that can make the difference between giving up and  persevering through any situation.

Recommendations:

Good shoes do not have to be expensive – but do have a physiotherapist have a look at them to make sure that the fit and support is good.  This goes a long way in preventing injuries over time.

Ladies buy  yourself a skort.  Love it!

Buy a running hat –  Mine isn’t fancy but its a source of inspiration and keeps me thinking forward while covering my sweaty, dirty hair.

Runkeeper App – LOVE  THIS APP!   Keeping track of distance, pace, time, even heart rate (if you have a monitor) can be very motivating.  It also will email you when you achieve a new goal.

Races – A friend and I have signed up for the two races this fall.   Right now these keep me motivated to get moving because I really don’t want to be crawling over the finish line whether I am in last place or not!

Gettin’ Sweaty & Breathin’ Heavy 2013

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When this blog began I had signed up for my first one month hot yoga challenge. The experience of yoga on a regular basis in addition to the experience of the hot room proved to be a physical challenge and provided some inspiration for this blog as well.  In the end it also fostered some unnecessary injuries and issues with heat stroke — so I do continue to do yoga but in a slightly different setting.

What I feel like after I've completed a run.

What I feel like post-run.

MY 2013 CHALLENGE IS…..drumroll please….  

Running 2 (yes 2) 10k races (September and October).

Holy.

Crap.

Some have asked, “What/who are you running from?”

That answer is more complex than I initially thought.

I am running from heart disease and diabetes (both were my mom’s arch nemeses).

I am committing to run to change my commitment karma, if you will.  Out with the one-sided relationships with people who cannot commit to the basic concepts of a relationship: Communication, Friendship and Honesty.   Bring on the healthy commitment karma!

I am running to get through the grief.  Running in the hope of somehow recreating my mother’s strength and perseverance, and honouring her spirit.

And  I am running to flush out the disappointment and frustrations of past relationships for good, and forever.  Maybe I can somehow cultivate compassion through running.

Finally, and equally as important as the rest, I am running because the post-run high is pretty freakin’ fabulous.

Mom lived with Diabetes for 20+ years and persevered through those last 2 years of life with a multitude of issues  and challenges (as a result of long-term diabetes), so therefore there is no reason why I couldn’t  move my butt 3-4 times a week. And by all means I can get out there on race day and give it my best.  And for what its worth – mom had diabetes, heart disease and cancer (x2) and my dad has had cancer (x1)- the odds are stacked against me and I need to keep movin’!

There are no illusions of grandeur, as there is virtually no chance of my placing in the top ten of any age group – I just want to get out there and do my best.  With any luck I will not be the last person to straggle across the finish line.

Have I ever run anything in my life? Not since about grade 5. Though I was a decent runner at that time — it was more than a few decades ago.

I want to prove to myself that I can do anything I put my mind to.   To show everyone (and myself) who is afraid of being 45, divorced, with no children, that it is going to be ok.  In fact, its pretty damn liberating at the best of times!  That at 45 yrs of age one doesn’t need to give in to what society deems as  OLD, and that to feel young one doesn’t need to pretend they are in their 20’s either. Doing new things challenges us to do and think differently, we interact with different groups of people, and in this case, we do a bit of good as well.

There.

It’s official.

I’ve made this commitment ‘public’.

Oi. Vay.

ichoose…

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[Am taking a deep breath and posting this one…it feels tremendously personal.  I have chosen to take a leap and go with it.]

My mothers’ recent health crises has, as said in previous posts, sent me spinning.

Whirling.

Tumbling.

Into an unknown that has hit us all. Hard.

My mother’s strength, perseverance, positivity, and creativity, are an inspiration.  Listening to Sarah Kay in a recent TED lecture I was moved to consider my perspective through this new life challenge.  Her words are illuminating and encouraging.

Reading Ken Robinson’s The Element inspiration is found not only in his philosophy, but in the stories he tells of  achievements against all odds or expectations.  His words have reminded me of the notion that life is a series of choices that are presented to us, with each choice there must be an acceptance of consequence and a certain commitment to fulfilling that choice.  When we follow our passion [when we are in our element], we fulfill that choice  with authenticity, in turn the process is joyful and time is fleeting.   We are then true to ourselves.   In a society focused on immediate success void of failure, it is sometimes very difficult to make those authentic choices.  I propose a new app for that.

ichoose…

‘ichoose’ is an app that takes into consideration our values, beliefs, and priorities for us.  It considers our personal histories and happenings which are woven within this crazy life.   Simply tap the ichoose app!  [wouldn’t it be great if all decision-making was so simple?]

And so, Today ichoose…

  • gratitude.
  • to seek [and remember] laughter being shared with my mother and family, for it is truly the best medicine.
  • to be thankful for family that, despite physical or emotional distance, comes together in their own way to support one another and our parents.
  • to appreciate and respect the amazing gift that is the human body with all of its systems keeping things in homeostatic check, so that we can move through life and pursue our dreams.
  • to find ways to combine all that I know, and all that I do not know, to craft ways to encourage others [and remind myself] to learn to love and appreciate moving their bodies in an attempt to prevent any possible chance of their experiencing diabetes.
  • to craft ways to encourage youth to give their health the attention it deserves.
  •  to write my way through all of this.
  • authenticity.
[if this was an app it would need accompaniment…such as Yo-Yo Ma playing the cello, Adele singing anything at all [she is brilliant], or this amazing contrast of classical music and breaking].
What would you choose?   What music might be your accompaniment?

Dear Mr/Ms Webster and Oxford…

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As children/teens we have all experienced those moments when a friend, parent or sibling was dramatically concerned about their weight or cursed themselves for having that delicious piece of chocolate cake, pecan pie, ice cream, cookie..etc.    And how many of us in our adult lives have been been completely annoyed by the thin and perfectly fit men and women in commercials, videos, films?

And today I rant.

I rant because I am tired, T – I – R – E – D of feeling that I am committing some mortal sin because I eat, and I enjoy it.

And the subsequent feeling that in my lowest moments I am not ‘allowed’ by some societal judge/s to indulge or gain a bit of weight because I perhaps am self medicating with too much chocolate/candy/steak (not at the same time though, that would just be uncouth!).

[Calling all authors of Webster’s and Oxford’s dictionaries! Now hear this!]  I say we throw the word D I E T out of the dictionary…  It is an evil word.

DIET is no longer a word, nor a slang!   Let’s replace that nasty word with eating for health, healthy eating, and consumption of fuel that sustains my brain function, heart, and allows my body to create the chemical reactions it needs to maintain my best health.  And yes, sometimes that includes cookies!!!!

[Keyword – sometimes.]

And another word to be thrown out – D E P R I V A T I O N – why are we so convinced that deprivation is the key to our weight loss/happiness/confidence?   Again, let us be honest with ourselves.   How many of us have ever been successful at completely eliminating something we enjoy from our menus?

At the end of the day it all comes down to feeling at home in our own skin, this shell we inhabit for the span of our lives.  If we allow ourselves (women and men) to give in to the subjugation of the overly processed, airbrushed, commercialization of the male and female form we will never truly BE happy WITHIN ourselves.   Each of us in inherently unique physically, mentally, and emotionally – BE with YOUR individuality.  CELEBRATE what makes YOU unique.  Our children, nieces/nephews, grandchildren, students, look to the adults in their lives to see that it is possible to be happy with ones individuality – and when we give in to what we believe others want to see in us we are no longer staying true to our individuality.   And we wonder why our children have difficulty BE-ing happy with themselves.

To BE happy with ourselves means having the courage to indulge in self-reflection, being honest about what we see physically and emotionally.

It is my belief that we are able to look inwards when we get our bodies moving in ways that bring us JOY.  Walking, running, playing, cycling, gardening, dancing, skating, skiing…whatever the form of movement, it brings us physiological  and emotional joy.  When we feel this joy we make healthier choices and decisions.    We are able to indulge ourselves and enjoy the moment in its fullness — and then move on rather than dwell in the guilt of it.

Disclaimer:  This author has struggled with this for at least the past 30 years of life.  None of us is going to get it right each and every single day, but every morning we can get up and try our hardest to do our best to BE happy with our SELVES.  Allow yourself the indulgence of imperfection.