Truth Is

Truth is this post takes grit to write.  Truth is I am courageous enough today to be transparent. Truth is this is me. Truth is I trust that this will open a conversation for someone else.  Truth is I am in the middle of a battle that I never thought I would armoring up for.

This is the battle that you might see on the evening news and conjure up some of your own thoughts and ideas about the people the news refers to.  The opioid crisis that our country is under is not just the addicts on the streets willing to do anything for their fix.

The crisis included people like me.

For over four years I have had a slew of health related issues that have brought me to where I am at today. I have had knee surgery, two episodes of herniated discs in my lower back, a major foot reconstruction, a revision to the foot surgery and three hip surgeries.  Unknowingly each specialist prescribed me pain medication following each procedure, and now here I sit with a dependency and tolerance that puts me right in the statistics of the crisis.

I am not one that takes medication easily or irresponsibly. What I have come to know is that these chemical can take over the receptors in the brain within a matter of weeks.  Although my surgical pain is lessening, my brain has developed the capacity to send pain signals to other parts of the body in the hopes that I take the drug.  And no matter how much my cognitive brain knows that this is occurring, the symptoms of withdrawal trump any ability of the mind.

Flu-like pain.  Runny nose.  Anxiety.  Shaking.  Glassy eyes. Pale skin. Panic. More pain.  Horrific pain.

I take the medication and within thirty minutes hell is over.  At least for awhile. And the cycles begins again.

You see, I am not the picture of a drug abuser, or an addict.  Instead I am a middle-aged woman doing everything in her power to maintain her life; work, passion, relationships, motherhood and daily living. I am mindful and aware. I meditate daily and journal often.  I eat super clean and walk everyday. I connect with God on deep levels and I trust in my path.  I strive to embody light each and everyday.  I am a person of service. And I am also in battle.

Truth is 4 out of 5 opioid addictions are people just like me.  People who just want to go about their life and unfortunately life shows up in painful ways.

Truth is I am ready to win the battle and climb the mountain that is ahead of me.  Truth is I will come out the other side of this.

Truth.  I choose to speak it.

 

 

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Their Stories

The incredibly special individuals with brain injuries that I am so fortunate to share Yoga with just completed a month-long project with Unmasking Brain Injury.  This process required them to dig deep into the emotions related to their brain injury and express themselves through art.  I have never asked to know the details of their injury because I want to see them NOW, however, part of this project was to go there–to describe how they came to be in the rehab setting that they are in. What I learned about each one will be carried deep in my soul.

I watched as they went into their inner self to go to a place many have not ventured in a long time, if ever.  The sacredness of the moment when tears were shed was something I will hold dear forever.  To witness the grief, anger and deep loss be transmuted into a beautiful expression of their voice was remarkable.  I am so honored to be part of their lives.

As I laid out all of the masks on my living room floor, I felt both a heaviness for the people and the stories that were displayed.  And yet, I was also so deeply touched that most were able to express that despite life changing effects of their event, they have found gratitude somehow within the tragedy.

I say over and over that they really are the teachers.

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Look Dad, Look

I believe that we all have the capacity to be in tune and be aware.  Sometimes this comes in a simple knowing that something in our life needs to change, thinking of someone and bumping into them a few hours later, or having vivid dreams. It is our consciousness speaking to us and it is powerful when we listen.

My dad had been sick for a couple of months and I knew his life was near ending.  For the last few weeks I was aware that he was slipping away.  Each night before I went to bed I would speak to him–soul to soul–and assure him that it was okay to go.

Yesterday was the death anniversary of my former husband and father of my children.  Each year I take my kids out for dinner to honor him for being their father and sharing the creation of our little tribe.  Last night, I fell into a deep sleep where I slipped into a dream where I was watching a home movie of my first wedding to my kids father. In the video, my stepmom was looking to my dad and saying “Larry, Larry, look!…Larry look”.  He was not visible in the dream.

I woke with a startle and a deep, deep knowing that he was going to die today. I spoke out loud, “my dad is going to die today”.

A few hours ago, I got the call that he was gone. The knowing that I so strongly had gives me great peace that we were connected in his final moments. He was there, but not there–much like my life with him.

I am glad that I had the closure I needed years ago and have come to peace with what was.  Because of that I can recall with a fond heart so many things; the camping trips and snowmobile runs, just going into the post office and smelling the environment can still remind me of him coming home from work smelling like an office with lots of paper, the afternoons of lying around eating doritos out of the bag while playing Uno, learning how to lay beans in the rows each spring and having the big responsibility of covering up them up with soil, catching fish early in the morning while everyone else was sleeping and feeling such pride that we were the only ones who could usually catch a fish,  watching him create stain glass, hours and hours of ping-pong tournaments, summer putt putt golf, afternoon movies, shoe shopping, the smell of burgers he grilled to perfection, fried chicken after church, standing on his back learning to balance, my first solo snowmobile run, the new blue banana seat bicycle and the day my brother got caught convincing me that eating grasshoppers was okay.   All good memories.

I know for sure that he is in awe of what is in front him now.  Now I am the one saying, “look dad, look”.

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My Label 

When I am asked what I do for a living, I usually hesitate.  I can’t stand labels that may be who I am–yoga teacher, Silver doTERRA leader, pilates instructor, Wellness Coach and more.  Yes, those labels validate my education and my hard work and I get that, but I want to be seen as just as I am. Just me.  Not defined by my title at work, but instead the difference that I make in the world. 
So, in my own effort to diminish a sense of separation from those who love yoga but do not teach it, or those who may not be a certain rank, or those who love wellness but choose to practice it and not teach it, I have declared my own label. (since it seems our world likes labels). 

The Pinõn Pine

This morning I was staring at the pinõn pine tree in my front yard thinking about my dad who planted the little seedling 46 years ago. It is amazingly comforting that as he is closing in on the final days of his physical life, his hands once held this tree’s trunk. Although we are not close, it is as easy as touching the trunk and knowing he is nearby.

Death is a such a strange process.  It can come so quick for some and for others it seems the process is grueling in length. As I have watched from several states away his recent months, I have been thinking not just of him and his life, but the life of my children’s dad who died just four years ago this month.  While my father and I are not close, I now have the ability to relate to my children’s experience as they sat and watched their dad in his final days.  It is not really the commonality that one might wish for, however, I feel an even deeper appreciation for their feelings.

It is comforting to trust in my love for trees and the morning time of refection and realization that this amazing pine is a symbol of not just the totality of life, but that it is also a place that I can go to recall times with my dad, let my hands touch the bark knowing that his hands once did as well.  I can look at the pine tree and be reminded of his long life that had its own rough spots, growth periods, blossoms and seasons of shedding.

I know that I have the ability to see the good of his life and allow this tree to remind me of the beauty we shared, and for that I am so grateful.

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I Am Okay

Personal development has been a hobby of mine for the last 15 years.  What has come from this hobby has been truly amazing and I am grateful for the wake up.  Over the last decade and a half, I have dug deep into healthy living, meditation, yoga, spirituality, soul-searching and the gut wrenching-digging-out-the-crap-of-old-beliefs-and-stories.  I can say with honesty that I have also struggled to maintain my momentum without finding myself overly critical.  Self-loathing and microscopic analysis of all that I need to “work on” can be consuming for a habit-forming personality type like myself.  In contrast, there has been plenty of times when I have also neatly stacked all the self-help, goddess inspiring, soul inspiring books and walked away to take a breather.

I am in the midst of another cycle where I am looking at my stuff and balancing it with the confidence and self-assurance that I am really okay.  In fact, I am beyond okay.  I am an empowered and magnificently flawed human that is willing to grow.

And like all growing spurts, there is usually some pain. The deep aches that wake you in the middle night.  The stretching of the mind, body and soul to embark on a new way of seeing the world, and specifically myself in the world.

While I balance what needs to be examined; work patterns, where I put my energy, habits that don’t serve my greatest good, words that hurt, etc., with the understanding what I hold my faith in–and that is, ALL experiences are opportunities to grow.

ALL.

This includes the sticky experiences that are challenging and the opposing joy filled experiences that are exhilarating.  I believe in the deepest of my very essence that every experience is a lesson. I also hold confidence that embedded in each ‘lesson’ is the calling to fall back into your faith.  Lay softy down in the knowing that all is well.  I do this my consciously handing over to God what is showing up with a trusting that in the end, I will be okay.  In truth, I am far better than okay and whatever is showing up in my life, is temporary and God has my back.

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For as long as I can remember I have been totally creeped out at the thought of cemeteries and my body being buried.  My family has a generational tradition of placing flowers on family member’s gravestones each Memorial Day.  As a little kid, I would dread it but knew that the donut at the end of the planting would make it worth it.

It isn’t that I am opposed to death because I am not.  I am completely okay with the process of death and find it to be a beautiful experience.  It is the burying part.  I have been very vocal that when I die I want my ashes to be spread in my favorite hiking spots and not my body buried.  My opinion about burying a body has been voiced over and over, and I realize now almost to the point of sounded far too harsh for those who do choose this.

Again, I have found that it is those strongly voiced opinions, and perhaps even judgments, that come back in a strong ah-ha teachable moment.

Across the street from one of my facilities is a century old cemetery.  It is beautiful and expansive with rolling hills and old, old trees. Each week I have a break in my day when the clients each lunch and I have about an hour to myself.  Leading up to my recent hip surgery I had a commitment to walk twice a day to prepare my mind, body and spirit.

During these silent walks where the peace is palpable, I have witnessed the tender care of an elderly spouse tending to his beloved’s grave.   have watched burials and the sacred ceremony.  I have seen wind chimes and toys left for the babies who have been taken too soon.  I have spent time in the section reserved only for priests.  I have discovered graves from 1895. I have stored hundreds of names in my mind.  I have even stumbled upon my grandparents!

I have come to absolutely love my time in the cemetery and I have had a complete shift in my opinion regarding what happens to my body when I die.  I have not changed my post-death wishes entirely, but I have decided that the sacred act of burying my ashes with a memorial headstone is exactly what my soul wants when the time comes.

The symbol of a life well lived and place for my loved ones to come honor.

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This Is

All month long we had been learning about how to use our senses to bring about awareness. By exploring what we see, hear, smell, touch and taste in THIS moment we are no longer longing for the past or future.  To complete our month long lesson, I wanted desperately to give the gift of nature to my clients, who rarely get to witness the beauty of nature.

There really are no words to describe the contentment that I felt when all the logistics came together and I was able to successfully coordinate transportation and staff support to take groups of people with brain injuries to the lake for outdoor yoga.

The picture says it all.

This is what I am supposed to do, and I am doing it.

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Simple

Just a few years ago I was an exercise addict.  I pushed my body far beyond what it should have been pushed.  I tracked every morsel that passed across my lips and I spent so much time worrying about my steps or my carbs.  I basically was a prisoner of my own doing held hostage to food and movement.

And then I got hurt.

That was the greatest thing that could have happened to me.  I did not realize this at the time, but I have come to know that when I broke free from all the consuming of data, I began to live again.

I began to live in the moments of pleasure and joy.  I took in life in a way that had nothing to do with ‘how many’ of anything. Food became my friend again.  I started to walk each day again for happiness and to get grounded, not how fast and how far I could go.  I began to appreciate again.

I am currently sitting on a gorgeous adobe patio in the south part of Taos, off the busy hustle of galleries and restaurants, reflecting on just how much getting hurt has influenced my life for the better. My list could be endless of appreciation.

  • Gardens are where joy begins
  • Time away is one of the best ways to refuel
  • Often what I teach is what I need to learn myself
  • Sometimes falling apart is where the greatest rebuilding happens
  • Honoring my body has been my greatest gift this last 18 months
  • Love heals
  • Faith over fear returns a bazillion times over
  • The smallest of gestures add up to tremendous abundance
  • Generosity from others reminds me that karma exists

Rather than wait to get injured I say to anyone willing to listen to breathe, eat, rest and mostly enjoy. At the end of your life is it really going to matter that you walked 17,000 steps every single day or that you ate more protein than carbs?

To me, it is really that simple.

Should Be

This should be a time of celebrating and all that goes with a birthday but instead it is a week of sadness and guilt. These feelings lurk in the shadows and rarely make themselves known, but in the last six months they have creeped out of the dark spaces more and more.

The sadness is the recognition that although she ages biologically each year, she remains the same.  The developmental abilities of a young woman continue despite the ticking off of another year.  I am not celebrating a future of what this twenty-third year might offer her;  final years of college, a new apartment, a boyfriend, career opportunities or fun travel adventures with friends.  Instead, I am simply acknowledging another year of the same things we have celebrated since she was eight years old; coloring books, TV shows, puppies and horses.

The simplicity of this stings the very core of my heart at times.  One might think that after all these years, I would be over it.  Actually it is just the opposite.  I am finding with each passing year I am feeling more and more sad. I am suffocated at times with the burden of it all and the idea of celebrating makes me want to flee and hide.

In the darkest moments, I ask myself  “what exactly am I celebrating”?  The answers spill out of my truth, and they are not pretty.  What is to celebrate, really? The last twenty years fighting for what is right for her? Longing for a relationship that isn’t based on which color crayon she used in today’s masterpiece? Wishing I had a break from her, and then feeling riddled with guilt?  Being anguished by rage at her father for walking out and leaving me to do it all, and then allowing himself to self-destruct to the point of death, leaving me with no hope of support? Acknowledging the drowning of fear about what the future will be?  The resentment that surfaces when I see how she has effected my intimate relationships?

The guilt I feel with this sadness and the strangling of shame when I even think those thoughts buries me.

I recall times when she was younger when I had more opportunities to share the experiences of raising with child with a disability with other parents and I would be aghast at some of their raw and real feelings.  Perhaps all along I have been wearing a smoke screen that I am now attempting to painfully take off. I judged them for the very things I am now feeling. I did not just have critical thoughts, I judged them greatly.  I told myself I was such a better person and parent for not having those thoughts.

And here we are.

I am now facing those judgments eye to eye as I grapple with the exact feelings that they so courageously revealed; the yearning for a different experience, searching for answers that would offer them a life of their own to live, the emotional exhaustion and the imploring of an easier and more fulfilling relationship with their child and the rest of the family.

I am looking right into the eyes of those judgments as I am now feeling the same desperate feelings and the guilt that washes over me is stifling.  I am questioning my intentions and my persona for the last two decades.  I am asking myself if I have been denying these raw feelings all along.  I wonder if the pain that I feel in my physical body is a result of carrying and stuffing all of these heavy emotions around.

I hold hope that like all cycles of grief, I will come closer to peace and return to the gratitude that has guided me all along as her mom.