Blah Blah Blahg

A little of this, a little of that, and a whole lot of blah blah blah....

Monday, November 15, 2010

Bedtime Story for a Cold, Wet Night

Sometimes, I assume it's easier not to tell friends and family about the health issues I am struggling with. I am reminded of the words of a trusted friend and natural healer: "The journey to becoming well is a long one. It will bend you, but it will not break you." I have changed my entire vocabulary around how I think about my health. I don't use the words "get better," but rather "become well." Multitudes of tests have come back mostly showing normal results and in that is some very good news--I know what I am not dealing with. Additionally, there is a chance my symptoms could improve over time and with treatment. Still, even with my vocabulary change and my personal sighs of relief, I often still go about the process in silence. I tell myself I am much better at being funny, bubbly, and "pleasant" than portraying any signs of physical or emotional distress. If I am not able to be funny and bubbly and I foresee being "unpleasant," it feels easier to go about that in private. The problem is that my outlook is rather biased. I can have 2 days where my energy is low, my pain level is through the roof, and my tremors are non-stop and widespread. I may feel discouraged with not accomplishing everything I'd like to, for not being able to move as fast and flexibly as I'd like to, for having a hard time doing things that should be easy. In that time, I've not only convinced myself it will always be like this, I have (even worse) convinced myself it always is like this and always has been. If the tables were turned, I'd be there with open arms for a dear friend or family member. Why then is it so hard to accept the open arms of my friends and family?
Remember the old saying? "If you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all." I may have taken that to a bit of an extreme. The truth is, my friendships have only ever grown closer when I have opened up to the possibility that I can give AND receive comfort and kindness.
A couple of months ago, I took just such a risk and sat with a woman I greatly admire and am greatly honored to call my Friend. She took two hours out of her evening--away from her children and husband, away from a house full of guests, and away from her own To-do list in the middle of a busy holiday--to sit, listen, laugh, cry and pray with me. I called her again tonight, planning just to go over some quick little detail about a project, but couldn't fight the Truth behind my call (that maybe even I hadn't realized). The Truth was, I needed her Friendship and her comfort, laughter, humor and spirit. After hanging up the phone, even with tears in my eyes, I felt physical relief. I do not need to become well in silence. I can do so with the same intensity, humor, and occasional lack of grace with which I do everything else in my life! And, as I hung up the phone, I also remembered a short story my dear friend shared with me that night two months ago, that I found again in an adapted version here:
...It is the perfect Bedtime Story for a Cold, Wet Night...

Once a man dreamed that he was walking along the beach with G-d. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand: one belonging to him, and the other to G-d.
When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that along the path of his life, there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the lowest and saddest times.
This bothered him and he questioned G-d about it. “G-d, you said that once I decided to follow You, You’d walk with me all the way. But I see that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. How could You leave me when I needed You most?”
G-d replied, “My precious, precious child, I love you and would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering I was carrying you.”
May all my Friends find rest and peaceful slumber tonight. Know that I am immensely grateful for you all--even when I'm not completely honest about my struggles, and especially when I am.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Food for Thought & Thoughts for Food

I am familiar with the popular advice that one should avoid going to sleep angry. I am mindful for that reason of what I do during my nighttime routine. I avoid exposure to media, social networking sites, and conversations which could leave me frustrated or upset. I focus instead on nourishing self care: curling up with a warm cup of herbal tea, a hot buckwheat wrap, and some light, positive reading and relaxing music. I keep the lighting low and electronic use to a minimum.
As I was enjoying my restful routine last night, I revisited a book called Meal By Meal: 365 Daily Meditations For Finding Balance Through Mindful Eating. I had originally looked at this book because I knew that mindless eating was not only affecting my physical health, but was taking away from my enjoyment and experience of food. I read the very first entry in the book, which tells the following story:

Two monks--one young and one elderly--gather food for their daily meal. On their way back to the monastery, a woman falls into the nearby river and struggles against the current. Without hesitation, the eldest monk carries her safely to the shore. The monks continue walking in silence until the young monk can no longer contain his ANGER.
"You carried that woman and broke your monk's vows."
"I left her on the bank," says the old monk, "but I am afraid you are still carrying her on your shoulders."

The idea specifically related to the story in this context was that one should be mindful of anger and other emotions when eating. I thought about how many activities throughout my day I do mindlessly and often completely ignorant of my emotional state. How many times am I doing one thing but thinking about something that happened earlier in the day or something I need to accomplish later? How often am I completely unaware that I am still clenching my jaw and tightening my shoulders at the frustration of having missed the bus or spilled my water bottle inside my purse three hours ago?
Similar to my former bedtime routine, I tend to eat my meals in front of the computer screen, TV screen, and/or cell phone screen. I am embarrassed to say that I often even use the internet on my cell phone when I am out alone at restaurants or cafes. Previously, I always just figured that since I am on my own at home, there is no reason to sit at a table and eat my meals. But why not? Why not set my table for myself as I would for a guest? Why not experience and enjoy my meal instead of just eating it?
And then I imagined what it would be like if this mindful awareness could go beyond eating a meal, or getting ready for bed. What if even in performing the most seemingly menial chores, like washing dishes, doing laundry or de-cluttering my apartment, I could enjoy the moment of the task at hand? And so, I'm off to turn on some of my favorite tunes, light some scented candles, and organize my home a bit. Today's goal: Have a kitchen table cleared off and set for the experience and enjoyment of tonight's dinner!

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Shalom Bayit

Shalom bayit is the Hebrew phrase for "Peace in the Home." Most commonly, it is used to describe the Jewish laws and practices around keeping marital harmony, but when I think about how we create peace within a marriage or relationship, within a family, within friendships and professional relationships, I am reminded that peace around us must evolve from peace within.
I am also reminded of a quote by Robert Fulghum, author of
All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten:

"Peace is not something you wish for; It's something you make, Something you do, Something you are, And something you give away."

As the hours of the past week rolled to a close and Shabbat crept up around the corner, I challenged myself to answer this question: If this act of creating, acting, being and giving Peace was meant to leave me feeling satiated and enveloped in the abundance of all things harmonious, why do I feel so tired and drained?
Most Fridays, I pride myself on going into Shabbat with a sense of accomplishment--that after a week of hustle and bustle, whatever is done is done, whatever is not shall wait. Shabbat is coming and in it, the gift of an Island in Time. A full 25 hours of intentional rest and reflection. This week, I felt rushed and utterly exhausted. I felt lethargic and yet, overwhelmed by that list of All Things Unaccomplished. I canceled my plans for Shabbat and decided to stay at home. However, as I sat in my home through the hours, despite the true intent to be restful and to recuperate, I felt an utter sense of unrest.
I had engaged in a brief conversation about Shalom Bayit with a friend who was seemingly feeling that same sense of unrest in her own home. Without missing a beat, I encouraged her to allow that peace to begin within her before she even needed to consider external factors. Great advice. Now to take a dose of my own healing medicine!
So, as the hours of Shabbat came to a close, I indulged in the feelings of disappointment in not having accomplished everything I wanted to. I allowed myself to wallow in feelings of disappointment in myself. I even gave in to the exhaustion that kept me in bed most of the day. However, I had a clear understanding that this self-indulgent wallowing would be done come Sunday morning.
And it is. It is a new week. I am reveling in the beauty of a soft rain tapping at my windows. I am slowly sipping at my cup of coffee. I am looking at the same piles of tasks yet to be completed around my house, but rather than feeling disappointment, frustration, or anxiety about it, I am opening my hands to the understanding that Shalom Bayit is not created merely through having a tidy home, or through pleasing and appeasing each and every other person outside of ourselves. It is created through having compassion for oneself; the same compassion we extend to those around us. If I can forgive others their shortcomings, if I can accept those things in life which are unpredictable, uncontrollable, or unpleasant, can't I also accept those factors in myself? Can I allow myself to give the best I can in a given moment, even when that is not perfection?
Shalom Bayit is not a means to an end, or a final product. It is a means to daily existence and a process. There will be tasks that go unaccomplished at the end of a day, a week, a month, even a year. There will be clutter and messes and stacks of dirty dishes. There will be lists of things to do but times at which my body's need to rest will inevitably come first. The sun will set and rise again. It will do so whether or not I am "ready" and in this lies the beauty of knowing I can try again.
And try again I will! I will do so with purpose, determination and (hopefully) grace. However, I will also do so with humor, compassion and forgiveness for myself, for Shalom Bayit truly begins within the sanctity of our own Home, of our own Self.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Juicy Details

Oh yes, I did! I made my very own Green Juice at home tonight! I've enjoyed treating my taste-buds and body to the benefits of Green Juice at Fresh Abundance and tried out various bottled varieties. Lately, I've found myself longing to have access to its many benefits on a daily basis. I always feel so refreshed and energized when I drink fresh pressed vegetable and fruit juices, but buying bottled fresh juice, not from concentrate, not full of preservatives and added sugar, etc., is not so refreshing on my wallet. I thought for a while about investing in a juicer, but they are so gosh darn big, not to mention expensive. I already have a blender and a food processor. I decided to check out some recipes for Green Juice on this website. I had some sadly wilting kale at home, as well as a pear moving towards its expiration and some leftover apple slices. I had nothing to lose, so I set up my food processor.

I added:
  • 3 leaves of raw kale, with the thicker parts of the stem removed
  • 1 pear, with peel*, cut into chunks
  • about a small apple's worth of apple slices, with peel*
  • about 2 cups of purified water**
* I wanted to keep the peel on the fruits for the nutrients it contains, but I do think I may have to remove the peel at least from the apples next time...

** I FINALLY bought a filtered water pitcher! I can actually taste the difference in the water as I drink it, not to mention how iffy I feel about tap water given the levels of heavy metals and other toxins in various locations nearby.

So, into the food processor it all went. I pulsed it and ran it on a low setting for a minute or so to begin breaking down the kale and fruits. I had only added one cup of purified water at this point and realized I needed more. I was not quite satisfied
with the consistency and transferred the mixture to my blender.
I have a really low-end blender. It is my third blender in 7 years after breaking the first two (hence it being a cheaper model). It did a decent job on its puree setting incorporating the ingredients. However, I had something a bit thicker than I wanted, complete with a lot of peel chunks from the fruits. I decided to try running it through a sieve to separate the juice.
***Viola! Success!***
...a lovely glass of fresh, homemade Green Juice with leftovers to refridgerate for the morning--and all at well under the market price out there to purchase in a bottle or freshly prepared. I am greatly satisfied with the texture after straining the mixture, and I LOVE that I don't taste the kale, but rather just the delicate sweetness of the pear and apple juices. And I can appreciate that I still got the nutrients of the leafy green in me as well as the potential shock value from anyone who sees me pouring this stuff down the hatch!

om nom nom nom

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

To do: De-clutter, breathe, smile & repeat!

I suppose many people get the urge to clean house in the Springtime--that whole sense of rebirth, renewal and promise for Summer. I happen to feel it most in Autumn. I hereby confess that although I moved into my lovely new place here on the South Hill of Spokane 5 months ago, I have STILL not organized and finished unpacking. In fact, I will further disclose that most of my place is entirely covered with the chaos and clutter of my stuff. I am ready at last to tackle the task at hand and motivated by the desire that comes every year at this time for a cozy, warm place to reside in, a space that is both sacred and nourishing to my entire being.
I also have a sense of the internal clutter that takes place: To-do lists that inevitably seem
never to get accomplished, frustration at my own physical and mental limits, and a propensity toward giving in to the exhaustion that comes with not allowing for a tidy "inner space." In the same way that I long to have an immaculate house, so, too am I aware that my home could be spotless and the "clutter" in my body and mind would still leave me scattered and drained.


The time has come to De-clutter!

I hear my body requesting (rather loudly at times) to be nourished with cleaner, healthier foods. Now that I have re-located, I am in a FREE delivery zone for the produce boxes I have purchased in the past from a local C.S.A., Fresh Abundance. During the warm months, it was easy enough (theoretically) to walk around the corner to the Farmers' Market and pick up fresh produce each week. Now that the Market has closed down for the season and my schedule has picked up, I realize how unlikely it is that I will make the time and trip to purchase local, organic fruits and veggies. In fact, more likely than not I'll either swing the big bucks for some unsatisfying, not-in-season varieties of tasteless produce from the grocer, or just skip the fresh stuff altogether.
Fresh Abundance's produce boxes offer a sizable amount of organic, mostly local, and seasonal fruits and veggies for $35/box, delivered right to your door in many locations around Spokane. Because I am only one person, I don't ever go through one box per week (and rarely even in two). I like the convenience of having delivery as an option (especially since I don't drive), and the added bonus that I am introduced to new items I may
not necessarily have tried on my own. It is exciting to come up with new recipes and new takes on old ones using the fresh ingredients that come right to my door. In addition, Fresh Abundance is making some changes to their business to include more ready-to-eat/ready-to-prepare options for take-out or dining-in. I am excited at the transformation they are undergoing, and especially thrilled for the gluten-free pizzas in their new pizza oven!
I also find myself fighting that sluggish, lethargic feeling, which often comes during season changes (with the addition of other health challenges added to that). The need to intentionally and purposefully get my body moving is ever present. I am excited to get back to the gym and back to a more consistent Yoga practice and routine.

It has been lovely to catch up with some good friends. Walks in the park, warm cups of cocoa, and dinners with wine at home have all brought to my attention just how blessed I am to be surrounded by so many loving and compassionate people. My friends nourish my soul as much as clean eating and active movement nourishes my body.

There are days when my best intentions fail to match up with what actually transpires. However, the other day I found myself feeling grateful for the fact that I missed the bus and chose to walk in the rain! I could have grown frustrated with myself for not moving faster, but what a luxury that I had the time and freedom to take the longer route. It was in this time that I observed the beauty of all the color and texture Autumn brings. It was during my trek that I noticed the gentleness of rain landing softly on my forehead. It was on the sidewalk that I came to appreciate the kindness that people in my neighborhood have toward one anoth
It was later that same day I came to a stop at a local cafe and checked my Facebook account. A friend had just posted a question: "what are you thinking about right now?" I was totally busted and totally aware that my thoughts were a giant, cluttered cycle of negativity and frustration. Instead of allowing that to continue, or even stopping to judge it, I took a deep breath, sipped my tea, and fessed up! I wondered to myself how often I get in these unhelpful thought cycles and don't even notice it. It is during these times that my energy is drained, that I make a mindless food choice which leaves me feeling nauseated and achy, or that I completely miss the beauty of the rain on an Autumn afternoon. So, here is my new To-do list:
1. Look.
2. Listen.

3. Notice.
4. Breathe, Be, Accept.

5. Smile & REPEAT!

And so, I challenge you just as I do myself: What is the status of your own personal clutter? What are you thinking about right now?