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10 weeks ago today, I woke up in excruiating pain. I had to call Dennis home from work because I couldn’t walk, talk, think or cope with anything other than managing (or not managing) the pain. I was utterly terrified as I had never experienced anything like it.

The abbreviated story is that I was diagnosed with a rare case of shingles that had settled in my L5 nerve and travelled the entire length of my sciatic nerve to the very end of my big toe. I had several terrible adverse drug reacions, could not eat or sleep at all, and spent a lot time crying. It was the most trying thing I have even been through. Dennis and my boys were heroic in their efforts to keep the house clean, laundry going, meals eaten and the schedule pretty much normal while I was completely checked out.

Western medicine had very little to offer me. I turned to a dear friend who has vast herbal medicine knowledge and I began to feel genuine healing taking place from the moment she pointed in me in the right direction and lovingly prepared healing herbal remedies for me. I received a referral from another friend to a gentle and wise accupuncture and traditional chinese medicine practioner. After about 2 weeks, I could see very slow and incremental progess every day. I literally improved by tiny, baby steps at a time. I have had very few setbacks.

I am elated to being feeling better, but I am completely humbled. I feel quieter and more subdued than my normal self. I feel way more introspective. I have also developed a great deal of empathy. If you live with pain – I am sorry. If you’ve been through harrowing medical conditions – I am sorry. If you are challenged by something chronic and debilitating – I am sorry. If you manage symptoms and fatigue on a daily basis – I am truly sorry. I did not know what it was like. I don’t know that you can without having experienced it. Maybe you can. But I didn’t.

I guess, intellectually I knew a medical crisis can strike anyone, at any time, but having it happen has left me a little shell-shocked and off-kilter. I also got slapped in the face by what got me into the predicament in the first place. Stress and a compromised immune system are implicated in Shingles showing up in your life. That ugly package was plunked down in my lap and clearly stated, ‘What are you going to do about it?’

I am going to take it as a wake up call.

Although I am not entirely sure what all the pieces of the puzzle are, I know that I have been tiptoeing and side-stepping some issues in my diet, and my total lack of stress management tools. I have been making some small, slow and systematic changes over the last two years that have resulted in really positive results, but this is a clear signal to up the ante in the health and wellness game.

Do you remember my word? I promised myself to dig deep and shed some light on things in my life, my home, my finances and other areas. Not once did my health make the list of those things. Funny how that works.

Here I am. Squinting at the light pointing directly into my eyes.

How To Save The Day

Ocassionally, I feel the day slipping away from me. I feel flaky and unfocused with a thousand things to get done. My thoughts feel like random bits of confetti blown about the place. On a random morning last week, I found myself still in my pajamas and planted firmly in front of Part 3 of ‘The Jody Arias Story’ folding laundry at my kitchen island. The mint green display numbers on my stove read 10:23 and I began to panic.

I know how quickly the clock could read 5:23, with dinner looming and places to be. I could get stuck in a vortex of nonsense and distractions and half-completed tasts. Sure, Sean is here with me, but he is easily occupied by the next Warriors book or Quidditch Through The Ages.

Through some personal work and observation, I have learned how to handle this dilemna. I know how to redeem a day and what to do when I see the little Cessna, that is my life, taking a nosedive. Last year, my word was ‘Create’. Some of the things I created were habits, lists and routines. I needed to muster the willpower to bank right and set my course on things that would reset my flight plan.

I grabbed my handy bullet journal and did what I call a ‘brain dump’. All the ‘shoulds’ that were swirling around my head were suddenly inscribed in solid, black Pilot V5 marker on the page. Among the tasks were 3 phone calls and 2 emails, a trip to the library and the bank and a large stack of forms (I pray there are no forms in the afterlife). There were appointments to be scheduled, insurance issues to be handled and returns to be packed up and shipped to Amazon (do you always have a stack of those?!?!). Once they were all there in black and white, I felt better.

Then, I decided how much I actually wanted to watch the conclusion of the Jody Arias Story, and I decided that it was ‘a lot’. So I made a conscious decision to make another cup of coffee and watch the last 22 minutes. I don’t remember who taught me what to do with distrations. Brenee Brown? Elizabeth Gilbert? The concept is when you find yourself being pulled by a distraction, you need to decide whether to disengage or fully immerse in order to complete it and move on. I drank my coffee and watched my show and felt much better – except for the fact that people like Jody Arias exist.  Sean opted for reading ‘Quidditch Through The Ages’. Surprise.

Then, it was time to truly move on. I have a list of what makes for a ‘great day’ – FOR ME. Remember, I do me, you do you. I learned these through hard work the previous year. I know that there are the things, that if they get done, at the end of the day, equate to feelings of accomplishment, fulfillment and ‘good day’ status.

One of my lists is a ‘do or die habits’ list. ~Make the bed ~Reboot the laundry ~Scoop the cat box ~ Empty the kitchen sink ~Know what’s for dinner. These habits save my life on a daily basis. Your list may be very different – but that’s what it’s all about.

I have another list that works for me too. The things are more personal, but help me reset. One thing on the list is drinking a large tumbler of water. Staying hydrated is a huge challenge for me and can put a dent in my productivity. From ‘good days’ of the past I have gleaned other activities that will help to keep balance and feel like the day was ‘well-spent’.

The point of lists and habits is to take decision-making out of the equation. I’ve made a deal with myself to simply follow the program I have set. By noon, I was killing it! Sean and I ate some lunch, cleaned up the kitchen, and engaged in a handful of things that were on HIS list. I checked off a gazillion boxes on my ‘to-do’ list.

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Pick it up. Rinse it off. Try again. Save the day.

New Year’s Weight Loss Resolution

Nope. Kidding. Won’t do it.

I did not and will not make a New Year’s Resolution to lose weight.

I am old enough and wise enough to know that it is not the answer for me. That’s right – I think there are different stokes for different folks and I have to do me – the deal is you can do you.

Do not think for one minute that I am not interested in my health. I am very interested in my health and recognize there is a corelation between weight and health. Sort of. But I picked different numbers than the ones on the scale to work with.

I am looking to make a dent in my blood pressure and cholestrol this year. I lowered both significantly last year. I would like to work on lowering my resting heart rate after I did some research on that, too. I am interested in ticking off the boxes that confirm that I have developed a solid and consistent routine of exercising – my goal is everday. I love tracking the number of miles that I walk. I am interested in increasing the number of servings of fruits and veggies that I eat and the percentage of my diet that is plant-based. I do have a resolution to eat cleaner.

About three years ago, I firmly unraveled the idea of my exercise routine needing to result in weight loss. I anchored my daily goals to a better mood, more endorphins, more oxygen to my body and brain, 30-60 minutes of time that I am not engaged with other diversions or responsibilities, and developing strength and stamina. If I lost weight, well then, so be it. And I did. I have lost 30 lbs. over the last 2 years. Slow, very slow. But forward and forward is good.

I pull the scale out infrequently. I limit myself to intervals that work for me. As someone who at points in my life did it everyday and did some VERY dysfunctional and dangerous things to adjust the numbers I saw under my feet, I made the decision that those particular numbers would take a very tiny place on my list of what will define success and good health. They can be an indicator of direction, but not much more. They will have to take their place at the bottom of the list.

I don’t believe I can take great care of my body when I spend any time hating it. I am going to try to be nice to it in every way I can.  See the source image


My Word

I began to think about picking a theme word for 2018 during the Christmas craziness. I was looking for something dreamy and ethereal. I was hoping for a word that was inspiring and majestic. I brainstormed while I colored sacred, geometric patterns. I mulled over the alphabet as I folded my laundry and threw random words out there as I drove countless miles shuttling my kids around. I listened to Tedtalks and inspirational music.

I have certain topics and issues in my life that have been pulling on my proverbial sleeves. Things like squaring away more appropriate life insurance choices and updating our will. Items that come in the mail have been vexing me – a statement that comes from Dennis’ retirement fund every quarter that I don’t fully understand, the PSE&G bill that I can never discern, and references to forms I am supposed to be submitting in regards to Ethan’s guardianship. There are several things that are hanging around my head, bugging me like little gnats. A foggy puddle of forms, topics, goals, issues, numbers, budgets, etc…..things that I don’t really have a grasp on. I don’t like it.

I have a bunch of amorphous goals and dreams that have not been organized into neat rows with boxes next to them waiting to be checked off. They are not defined and recorded. I don’t have action points for these goals and dreams that would tell me I am in the right road or even using the right map.

I cannot possibly reach a destination that remains undefined.

I don’t want to allow the GPS of my life to continue to re-calculate because I have gone off in too many directions for it to pick up the ‘quickest route’.

Slowly, from the corner of my eye I saw something sauntering around like an aloof housecat. When I would turn my head, it would be gone. I got a feeling, but not a word. The feeling lead me down a path, beckoning me with words like ‘focus’ and ‘understand’. The scene that continually came to mind during this process was one of opening a closet, pulling out all of the contents, sorting the items, understanding their purpose, assessing it’s relevance and putting back only what is vital to completely the clearly defined tasks I have in front of me.

I did not expect a verb. But a verb is what I was given.

It mean to ‘brighten with light’ and ‘to make lucid and clear’.

It means to ‘enlighten, as with knowledge’. ‘Spell out’, ‘clear up’ and ‘define’ are all related to it.

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This is going to be good. Someone hand me a flashlight.

Thank you, Susannah!

What’s So Great About The New Year?

Only everything!

If you don’t like New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, you are doing it all wrong. I concede that you don’t have to do it my way – but mark the event in SOME WAY! If you like it quiet, I guess that’s ok, but I’ll be here singing Karaoke.

In the days preceeding the epic event (I still haven’t convinced you?), I enjoy reviewing last year – who says Facebook is a waste of time? I like dreaming about the next year, making lists, goals, and yes, a dreaded ‘resolution’ or five. For the past three years, I have been using the lovely Susannah Conway’s Unravel Your Year workbook. It is totally cool to spend the last days of the year or the first few days of the next working on it. I think you will thank me – or at least thank Susannah. I would not have known about this book without this smart chick. I think she can help you too – check out her blog.

Sure, you can pick a random time in March or some other time during the year to look back on the year, think about some things you’d like to add to your life or accomplish, write a mission statement – reset, reboot and restart, but are you going to? I’ve made it a habit to do it this time of year. It just seems to make the most sense and I feel like I have the wind at my back.

Get a new notebook.
Dream about what your life would look like if you were in charge! Ha! Wait. You are.
Make a few goals about learning to play a song on the guitar or ‘Kondo-ing‘ your whole house, or lowering your blood pressure or completing a writing class or reading a few books on astrology. Whatever. You pick.

Clearly, this is just my humble opinion – but try it – you might like it. My other advice is to PARTY. If you’re idea of party is way more subdued than mine and my friends, that’s ok too. I’ll heart your Instagram photos of you under your electric blanket with your cats!

Just remeber – I’ll be here singing karaoke. ~ See you in 2018.

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