F I N D I N G Y O U R N O R T H S T A R is just as much about losing it. and the path you must follow to reclaim it, where with every step - an intake of breath and its release - you will find that you are moving... moving the shadows to clear the pathways, your rhythm and your focus, to push away distractions and to make way for clarity and light to fill spaces long lost and forgotten and desperate for air... [read more...]Read More
My ten year old son has been asking for a mask made by Huck DelSignore for a long time now. Like most kids, he has a great imagination. Unlike many grown-ups who have altogether lost or tend not to use them, kids use their imaginations to problem solve, to cope and to dream. Their imaginations are still very much attached, useful appendages to their psyche, not unlike a compass guiding an inner voice. It makes me wonder why as adults we ever lose touch with it.
Huck DelSignore is one grown up who could enlighten me on this subject as she is still very much in-touch with her imagination, a perfect example of how our imaginations and inner voices need not be restricted to childhood alone. It’s hard not to love her creations for all their weird and beautiful ways. It’s no wonder my son is drawn to their playful, beguiling forms.
Huck has a gift for creating ethereal, other-worldly creatures that, on the surface, are big-eyed and magically anthropomorphic but beyond the googly eyes and beneath rainbows of fur and crocheted fluff is the stuff of magical dæmons, replete with the surprising and most welcomed ability to conjure dormant imagery from the recesses of our minds. My mind always finds its way to His Dark Materials, the unforgettable fantasy trilogy by Philip Pullman.
In her Airstream studio in Housatonic, MA, Huck and I shared a cup of tea and talked about her childhood. Huck has always been an adventurer, probably a result of Nurture as much as Nature. Crohn’s Disease interrupted her teenage years and made staying in school and going to college impossible. Undeterred by the restraints of a conventional education and numerous operations to her intestines, Huck made a path of her own, ironically, by following her gut.
Huck is now a mother of three girls, and one more, a little boy, is on the way. Over the years following her high school surgeries, she has learned to manage her Crohn's Disease and balance it alongside Pregnancy and Motherhood. Healing for Huck required a lot of physical and emotional growth.
Post-surgery stretches extended beyond her body, past the tense scars - the emotional kinds, too. In time, she learned much more about self-care. She learned to mimic the diet of early eaters, because her digestive abilities were like a baby's; to eat the right things for her, like winter squash, rice, chicken, apple sauce and yogurt; to eat frequently; to listen to the early signs of discomfort as signals to detour around flare-ups; and to employ deep relaxation techniques instead of responding in fear that she was going to become terribly sick again and that nobody would be able to help her until it was full-blown.
Another key element to Huck’s healing is that she discovered something new, something that would keep her away from the gastroenterologist for years: Medicinal Marijuana. For Huck, it has been a profoundly effective choice in her journey to wellness and a method she readily prefers over “truly fu*#~d up pharmaceuticals”.
Huck's path to wellness began along her youthful journey across America. Hitch-hiking from one Alternative scene to the next, Huck was living in the moment, observing and learning all the way. Just one look at her worn and frayed travel journals and it’s enough to know that her imagination and inner voice were thriving right alongside her, neither buried nor covered up with “should do’s” and convention.
Huck did not fall upon the linear line that money and a certain set of social expectations often pave. She didn’t drink from the cup of Mainstream America and she never once sipped the proverbial corporate Kool-Aid, and for that, she remains authentic. It’s as though her imagination was never severed or, at the very least, was permitted room to roam and grow. There was never a chance that it might be lobbed off in the name of Corporate Productivity and Profit.
For Huck, there was no corporate challenge to her inner dæmon. She never expected herself to conform and therefore remained a free spirit. It comes as no surprise then that she is able to create magnificent ‘appendages’ for others. In so doing, she inadvertently manages to help them discover long lost dæmons buried deep inside. But being a "therapist" isn't at all why Huck crochets. Some sort of catharsis just happens naturally when people come in contact with her art and it isn't at all contrived. Now, that’s Interactive Art.
“As an artist, one of the most gratifying experiences is witnessing how people bring my artwork to life. People are eager to let their wild sides shine.”
When a Brooklyn photographer visited her studio with a few collaborators, they were overcome by her masks and propelled toward a moment of pure release, freedom, and let their imaginations run wild, beautiful and untethered, like the vines and overgrowth that filled the ruin where they played.
As one of Huck’s masks joins to a psyche, it liberates it from a world of “should do’s” and other conventions that keep us striving to be in the same box with others where we can feel “safe.” It’s nothing new, but the truth about human nature is that while we may crave “the box” that is Conformity and feeling a part of the mainstream, we are never truly safe, nor satisfied in any one box.
Masks perform many roles and allow us to transition in and out of those “life boxes,” moments of time populated by different people, different roles, different expectations and different outcomes. Masks can hold us back just as easily as they propel us forward. They enable us to express ourselves just as much as they help others open up to us. We all wear masks every day of our lives, but not the kind Huck makes...
Huck’s masks are deliberately playful, temporary expressions. They are the anti-thesis of the myriad invisible masks we wear throughout a life time - the ones we put on [and keep on] for our parents, for our teachers, for our siblings, friends, bosses and colleagues, lovers and spouses. Our invisible masks are at once both simple and complex, outward-inward methods of behavior, people-pleasing or displeasing measures that don't always reveal Authenticity. Huck’s masks reveal who we are when captured in a fleeting, spirited, pure moment, something that is as natural as child’s play but is not so fluid and natural for adults, whose years of wearing countless invisible masks has worn down the playful strokes turning them to self-conscious smudges.
Masks aren't at all bad. They serve a purpose. Stemming from insecurity just as much as good manners, masks inform us and protect us, from ourselves and from others. “Don’t say that in front of him,” “you better not act like that when she is around,” “Go easy on him…” or conversely, when the mask comes off “enough already, say what you want you to say,” “this is who I am. Like me or don’t like me”... and so on. Why as grownups are we surprised then when conflict erupts or does not erupt when we expect it to as we reveal ourselves?
If you put the wrong mask on one day, take it off, or don’t bother to wear one at all…who cares? During the course of a life time we all outgrow our masks as we discover that they no longer work and serve no purpose. While this process is as truthful, honest and liberating as it gets, ridding ourselves of masks, like shedding skin, is often uncomfortable, itchy and painful as both an ending and a beginning take shape.
Dropping one mask for another is at the very least, a truth-revealing pursuit, where, at long last, we un-do some patterns we've built up that no longer serve a Good purpose. In shedding unwanted layers and unraveling outdated patterns of behavior, we shift our brains, our perspectives and our hearts... and while we’re at it, we are gifted more room to breathe, and what could be healthier and more joyful than having more room to breathe and to breathe deeply?
As we trade Convention for Liberation, we get closer to a deeper understanding of ourselves so that when we do find ourselves in that proverbial box, stuck and unable to breathe – [and we will find ourselves there, because we are human] – we are capable of extracting ourselves. Struggling to breathe, want of fresh air, high anxiety are all part of being “boxed in” and they are present in our lives for any number of reasons…because we are not truly being ourselves; or we are not yet aware of our true selves; or we are not being seen as we truly are.
Ohlala, it’s all so beautifully Existential…but ohlala’s aside, if we don’t allow others to see our true selves, and allow others to look at us for who we are - beautifully broken and perfectly cracked - then it follows that we are not being truthful with ourselves…and sometimes that gets pretty twisted and boring…a clear signal that it’s time for change...and a new mask, the kind Huck makes.
We are all blissfully unaware of some of the masks we wear yet painfully aware of others. How many masks do you wear? For whom do you wear them, and why? Next time you come in contact with someone, anyone, anywhere – at home, at work, in a grocery store, hiking in a forest, making love, or just passing on the street – play this game and ask yourself: “Am I wearing a mask right now?” Have some fun answering these questions and then call Huck and have a new mask made, one that’s all your own. You might just love the outward expression of your inner dæmon and the freedom it brings. Sometimes, you just have to lose yourself to be yourself. Go on, Good Girl, Be You!
Huck’s masks have been featured in British Vogue and can be found at Mass MOCA. To learn more about Huck visit her website Huck and Stuff.
Something extraordinary happened this summer. I have been slow to find words to describe the sequence of events that taught me that the things we fear most in life have the power to bring us great joy and peace. What if the scariest thing in your life – the thing you feared most – turned out to be the most peaceful, beautiful thing you never imagined possible?
Never would I have imagined that my dog’s passing could deliver such peace and gratitude. Don’t get me wrong… I miss my beloved Congo every day. I cry on walks without her. I go to bed saying her name, and I dream of hugging her in my sleep where I experience the very real delight of having her in my arms again. How could I not? We had nearly fourteen wonderfully bonded years together, always side by side.
Congo had been sick for a long time. It was painful to watch her slow deterioration, but she held on, and on. We never thought she would make it past the winter. It was a brutal winter with one storm after another. I remember waking before dawn one morning to shovel a path through two feet of snow in negative 10˚F so that I could carry her out to pee before she had an accident and carry her back in before she froze.
As the sun came up and cast shadows over the stillness, the purity and the white, I remember looking out at the silence and soaking it all up…the paths I had cut…my breath playing on the air…bare trees in half shadow and light. I remember saying to myself: this is EXACTLY where I want to be. There is NOTHING I would rather be doing.
Congo held on through the spring and into the summer. I began to panic -seriously panic - when I realized that our summer holiday was booked and I would not be present for my dog’s passing. For more than thirteen years I had been living and breathing with her. Not being there for her last breath was an incredibly painful pill to swallow. This was not the way it was supposed to end. This was not “The Plan” I had in mind and yet, and yet…there is never a plan.
Congo spent the summer as she always did - with my brother John and his partner, JP, at their home in Virginia, a place she knew well and loved, having spent six summers there with her two sons, Trouble and Noir. Her final weeks were spent taking part in happy, relaxed moments together with all "her boys" and adoring friends. I am deeply moved by John and JP’s deep commitment and love for her, and for me. They lovingly picked up where I left off and helped us through this difficult time. I have written about it in a separate blog post [here].
Man’s love for his dog is boundless. It is as complex as it is pure and simple. For me and Congo, and for countless others, there is always a bit of magic wrapped up in it, too.
Shortly after my husband and I married, we sold our townhouse in London. Together with Congo, we moved to our home in the South of France, for the proverbial year [or two] in Provence. It wasn’t long before Congo and I both fell pregnant. Unbeknownst to either my dog or me [or my husband], our village of Cotignac has a reputation for making ladies – and Queens - fall pregnant, and this is where the “magic” comes in to play, as ancient village lore threaded its way through our lives.
The story of Notre Dame de Grace in Cotignac began in 1519 on August 10th and 11th when the Virgin Mary appeared to Jean de La Baume and asked him to build a chapel there. Et voila! The townspeople agreed and the chapel was built. Over a century later, on October 27, 1637 the good Brother Fiacre had a revelation that The Queen, Anne d’Autriche, wife of Louis XIII, needed to make three novenas to the Virgin in order for a son to be delivered to them – the first of those three was sent up to our village’s Notre-Dame de Graces en Provence. The queen then prayed with Brother Fiacre from November 8th until December 5th. Exactly nine months later, Louis XIV was born on September 5, 1638 and Notre-Dame de Graces en Provence is now, and not surprisingly, a noted pilgrimage.
Key dates from the story of our village chapel overlap with my own and Congo’s. I find myself compelled by the coinciding dates and how they provide some “glue” to the age-old mystery of Love and Loss. There is comfort to be found in context and connection, especially when confronted with loss.
It is possible [but not proven] that Congo fell pregnant on October 27th, 2002 - 365 years after Brother Fiacre's revelation and 66 days before she gave birth to nine puppies on January 3, 2003.
Congo had been deteriorating for over a year yet she held on through a crushing winter and spring in Massachusetts and eventually died in the state of Virginia [!] on August 11th, 484 years to the day the Virgin first appeared in Cotignac and as it happens, the same week that our baby daughter died there eleven years earlier, on August 15th – the day of the Virgin’s Assumption in to Heaven.
August is definitely my month for angels in France. Our home there is a quiet place of peace and reflection for me. As much as I resisted leaving my dog in her final days, it seems oddly fitting that I was in France when I received the news of Congo’s passing under the bright light of a super moon.
I wrote to my friends back home in America letting them know that Congo had left us on a moonbeam. The following day my son and I rode our bikes up to the chapel of Notre Dame to light candles in remembrance and gratitude for the sweet life she shared with us. When we sat down and looked up at the painting of the Virgin lit by votive candles below, I gasped…there was the Virgin floating on a moon beam. This made me happy, deeply so, as though it confirmed all my thoughts of my dog going to heaven on a moonbeam.
We continued to sit there in the silence staring up at the painting and feeling the peace in the chapel. Moments later, I asked my son if he saw what I saw in the shadows of the painting, just above the left tip of the moonbeam. I admit it’s a little like “fifty shades of black” and maybe it’s just the way the shadows fall when viewed from the left pew…but there in the black background that surrounds the Madonna, peeks the little face of a black dog on the tip of the moonbeam. We both saw it and returned a week later to see if it was still there. It is.
Coincidence, synchronicity, chance or imagination – people label things differently. For me, I am not looking for a label, especially when one is not needed. The stars were aligned and the dates fell as they did and we saw what we saw in that peaceful chapel. No matter what it’s called – scientific or spiritual - I took huge comfort in knowing that my beloved dog and all the good in her was mysteriously aligned with an ancient story belonging to our village’s Virgin; and of all places to die, she ended her days in the state of Virginia. It made losing her and letting her go, somehow easier, softer, and I worried less. It allowed me to think less about Loss and more about Love.
Her death didn't have to be an ending. As I carry this love, I am grateful for the lingering sense that Congo has continued on, moving toward something new, something ‘higher,’ just there at the tip of a moonbeam. In the end, what I feared most did not break me. It re-shaped my ability to accept Loss and not fear and resent it. As I hold on to the many happy years Congo and I shared, always side by side, I am filled with Gratitude and Love and I know that this is a very, very precious gift indeed.
Writing did not come naturally to me. It took years and loads of practice before I was any good at it. I lacked a key ingredient - the confidence to express myself, to let my words go and allow them to find their own way. Ironically, I would never be writing for myself were it not for some things I learned from work, not from school or my personal life. For the purposes of this blog hop, I’d like to share a few lessons I learned from some very clever bosses on a corporate playing field where writing is anything but personal.
I first started writing straight out of college at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston where among other things I compiled the quarterly newsletter. I was technically skilled at formulaic writing but had ZERO knowledge of composing “a bigger picture.” In fact, it was the first time I had ever heard the expression as it was regularly summoned by the incoming media-savvy museum director, Anne Hawley. While she was all about “The Big Picture,” my editors were the incredibly brainy curators who taught me the micro. This was the first glimmer showing me that Writing is as much about the macro as it is about the micro.
All writers know that you can’t write unless you know what you are writing about. I learned this for myself when my career shifted from museum work to corporate public relations at Giorgio Armani in Boston. It was here I learned that in order to write well, you can’t sit around and expect words to come. You’ve got to get up and get out there to find them.
I was expected to work five days at PR and an additional sixth day – every Saturday - on the selling floor assisting the sales staff. I resented the six day work week. It was agonizing. As a young twenty-something I was unable to grasp the importance of being in-sync with my colleagues and in touch with the business I was writing about and promoting. It took some time and significant growing pains for me to realize that my boss, Donna Montgomery, was doing me a huge favor, showing me that I was part of a bigger picture, that it was not about me. It was time to ditch my twenty-something ego and learn my place and my role in the business of public relations. THE BEST writing practice, whether PR or private, is to get out of the office and get in touch with the story and all its parts… the client, the product, and the trends. No PR Princess in an Ivory Tower will ever be good at writing unless she keeps up and gets out of her own way.
When I moved from Boston to work for Giorgio Armani in L.A., I did a proverbial “Linda Blair,” turned my head around in a complete circle, and threw up everything. Blaaaaghghgh. Once again, I ditched the ego and learned how to do things in a new way, a West Coast way. That was daunting, but I confess, it was thrilling. My boss in LA, Wanda McDaniel, was a gifted writer, but she was a brilliant strategist, too. She made certain that every word she chose supported the message she needed to convey. Every time I sat on the other side of her desk and scribbled down her messages to Mr. Armani, A-List celebs, and Hollywood’s Power Elite, I was learning the true meaning of crafting a message.
Sadly, Grief was my next boss-Teacher. After my daughter died, I stopped writing. My light had gone out. I could not articulate my struggle. For years, I had no voice and I mourned for its return so that I could express both the agony and the beauty I held inside. I eventually found "safety" in writing when I went back to work but beneath it all, I knew that if I truly wanted to write in order to express myself, I would need to jump beyond the corporate to the personal. To do this, I not only had to regain my confidence but I had to find it in the first place. It was a slow process but my voice did eventually return to me, and it was different. I was different, both had been forever changed in an instant and over the years. I like this voice better. It’s not always so frightened to say something wrong.
What am I working on/writing?
The process of writing every day is not at all new to me. I’ve been non-stop-writing for the past thirty years. What IS new to me is the JOY of writing for myself. I am working on keeping that joy flame going for as long as possible. Writing Good Girl Go stories offers me a chance to do just that.
2) How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre?
What strikes me is that my subject matter is very similar to so many others. I guess I am not so very unique after all, but that doesn’t bother me one bit. I love that so many people out there are interested in health and wellness and are trying to improve lives, their own and others. I love that we are not trying to be perfect, that we are accepting of our flaws and searching for and finding ways to nourish our mind, body and spirit. We can all learn from one another and partake in a movement that can better ourselves and indeed, our world.
3) Why do I write what I do?
After banging out press releases, business proposals, fundraising pitches, press strategies, brochures, advertising jingles, anything in the name of corporate communications, I no longer wanted to spend my time writing about things that were not meaningful to me. I now write about things that have inspired me to grow in ways I might not have otherwise. It took a long time for me to gain the courage to open up and write in this way. Another part of me wanted to write about the experience of losing my first child at birth but I did not want to focus on the sadness and trauma of it all. I wanted to focus on the other side of it, the part that is the Deep Peace and Fulfillment that eventually comes from Grief, the part that makes us Grateful to be alive and appreciative of what we do have in our lives and not hooked on what we have lost. At some point, we all get knocked for six. I like to write about what happens after we work through it. It makes being human, wonderful after all.
4) How does my writing process work?
I write all the time, but mostly in my head when I am dog walking, driving, preparing a meal. Only when I am ready to write do I sit down and type. Then it’s just flow and edits, flow and edits. Time flies for me when I write. It’s pure joy as I pull thoughts and words together. The act of writing brings me to where I really want to be, a place where I am connected to my thoughts inwardly while expressing them outwardly. I am grateful to be here, finally, after all these years.
Participating in this blog hop has opened up a new dialogue for me and brought to my attention many fine and intelligent women who are sharing their words, their wisdom, and their humor. I am grateful to Laurie Luh at Mimosa Lotus for bringing me into the loop and am thrilled to introduce two very inspirational fellow blog hoppers - Katherine Miller of Kosmic-Kitchen and Keryn Means of Walking On Travels . Like Laurie, they also know some inspiring ways to make your life awesome and healthy...
This is Part 1 of a two-part story. Before I can write about my next inspiring Good Girl – fitness instructor and health coach, Laura Collins Downing - I first need to explain why it took years to find my way to her. I’ve written about my fibromyalgia in previous blog entries but I haven’t really explained what I needed to work through and how I worked through it. Eventually, after three years, the pain is under control but there was A LOT of trial and error before I learned what works best for me.
What is fibromyalgia? The definition below pretty much sums it up, though in my mind, it neglects to include the drama, misery, sorrow and despair that go hand in hand with fibromyalgia. Plus, it doesn't say anything about its relationship to chronic inflammation. Prolonged inflammation can lead to all sorts of health problems including cancer so it’s important to get things under control before they spin too far out of control.
Fibromyalgia: a common syndrome in which a person has long-term, body-wide pain and tenderness in the joints, muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues. Fibromyalgia has also been linked to fatigue, sleep problems, headaches, depression, and anxiety * [* add: “all at once”].
‘Tenderness’ – that’s putting it mildly. My pain was so debilitating I could not go a day without a nap. I would wake every morning with one thought and one thought only: when can I get back into bed? How sad is that not to want to embrace each and every day of your life? I could no longer enjoy life’s pleasures – something as straight forward as preparing a nice meal for my family was overwhelming. I could barely unload the dishwasher let alone stand at the chopping board or stove for very long. Reaching up or bending down in the kitchen was torture. In short, I was miserable. Pain prevented me from doing everything I loved to do. My only joy – and I clung to it like a piece of wood in the ocean – was walking my dogs.
The good news is that fibromyalgia doesn't have to be a crippling disease. In this brief video Dr. Jeffrey M. Thompson of Mayo Clinic explains how you can take charge and reduce your pain and live a happier, more fulfilling life. His advice is spot on:
1) Reduce Stress - relax, breath, meditate, have fun
2) Get enough sleep
3) Don’t drink - alcohol interrupts your sleep
4) Cut out caffeine and nicotine
5) Exercise - find the right routine for you
6) Pace yourself - “Don’t over-do. Don’t under-do”
7) Eat Healthy Foods
But that’s just a short list – it’s far more complicated. Everyone is different, so it’s important that you follow your gut to figure out what works best for you. Here are some tips of my own that might be useful to you:
Be patient with yourself. This is not a quick fix. Ask loved ones and colleagues to be patient with you, too. You are not making this up. Your pain is real and it will take time for your mind.body.spirit to heal. When the healing eventually hits, you will be happier than ever before [I promise].
Take on one challenge at a time. Work through one item on the above list before you move to the next. Surrender and Accept that these are challenges – they are not easy and they are not fun, but it will become more fun as each success makes you happier, more positive, stronger and more confident. Eventually, you will want "the total package" for yourself.
Read up and visualize what each action means to you. Prepare yourself with ways to change your behavior and always remember that change is good and will translate to less pain and a better life.
Don’t set yourself up for failure, disappointment and self-judgment. You already feel rotten enough, so make sure every challenge you choose to tackle is one that you are ready to embrace. That way, you are sure to succeed.
Be realistic. Changing your life is the hardest work you will ever do, but it is also the most rewarding. We are hard-wired to resist change so it really helps to have a meaningful mantra to call upon when the going gets tough.
Pain made me incredibly grumpy because, well, it hurt... but also because I could not enjoy anything in life. I could not join in bike rides with my son and husband; take fitness classes with my friends; prepare gorgeous meals; garden; host dinner parties; paint landscapes and absorb the beauty that is to be found in the normal, benign every day. Pain was cutting off all my life lines and this is the mantra I created for my journey to wellness, happiness, and love:
because I love, and love deeply,
I will love myself enough to change and to heal
so that I can love more completely.
With my mantra in hand, I attacked my condition from every angle – for a complete mind, body, spirit overhaul. Here’s a summary of the past 3+ years of my life, and how I approached each challenge on the Doctor's list. I took BABY STEPS and I did not - could not - rush through this...
Reduce Stress: relax, breath, meditate, have fun
When I first embarked on my journey to wellness, I could not meditate. Not knowing an OM from an onion, I chose the closest thing to navel gazing calm and stillness that I knew – reading. Instead of taking a nap, I would read. I was resting but I was not sleeping and I was not in bed but in our sunny living room. That was my first baby step. I was doing something that I love and it was relaxing and while I was at it, I was learning how to change my life around. Doesn't sound so bad, right?
It was during this phase that I devoured the profoundly inspiring Raising Lazarus, the Science of Healing the Soul by Blair Justice and J. Pitman McGehee. [I will definitely write about this book soon]. In short, the book uses Science and Spirituality to prove that we all have the power to rejig our brains. No pill popping required. Just dedication and focus.
Get enough sleep
Well, this one had my name all over it, so I made sure to do it well. I set up some “rules” to safeguard my sleep… I do not watch t.v. dramas ever – the commercials, noise, violence and freaky plastic surgery jobs on actors are all deeply unsettling and would leave me twitching the whole night through. I do enjoy BBC period dramas but even Downton Abbey got me all worked up and weepy and pining for England that I was pretty much limited to BBC World News. I've gobbled down every book in The Game of Thrones series and couldn't wait to watch it. No matter how much I love the books and adore Peter Dinklage, who I first saw on the Nikos Stage at Williamstown Theatre Festival, it was not the right choice for a good night’s sleep. I had to remain content with my own movie, the one I had made in my head as I read each book back-to-back.
Don’t drink: alcohol interrupts your sleep
OK, OK I confess this one was NOT at the top of my list. It was at the bottom, just above giving up caffeine. But here’s what I did to cut back on alcohol. I first lobbed off BEER as part of going Gluten Free. Oh, how I miss a proper pint and a packet of crisps, but I don’t miss the pain and cramping those wheat-y bubbles bring.
White wine, champagne and rose´ were already off the list as part of natural selection – after living in the south of France for years, too much of a good thing is…well, not a good thing.
That left me with red wine, but it had to be a New World vintage with an aroma I found to be less “mildew-y” than Old World and the sulfates somehow less sickening [please don’t ask me about the science behind that, but I will investigate it and write about it one day]. Red Wine eventually got the chop as part of total sugar detox and was later kept to a bare minimum as part of a low-glycemic diet. Wine leads to a sugar spike at some inconvenient point in the wee hours and disrupts sleep. Honestly, I would do anything for a good night’s sleep.
Now, it’s just down to sugar-free-gluten-free-carb-free QUALITY TEQUILLA - on the rocks, or sometimes with fresh squeezed lemon and club soda. If it's party-mode I need to bring my own to a party because it's not usually served.
One key lesson I needed to learn and incorporate into my life is that barring total abstinence, MODERATION is the key to alcohol consumption. I now drink 0-2 portions a week and it feels just right. If there is a special occasion or a super fun dinner party or a dance floor to trance on, then I allow myself a glorious release, but I follow every big night with a detox for at least a full 7 days afterward. It’s an equation that works for me now, but I am feeling so good that I am thinking about giving up alcohol for good. [post script: lesson learned since writing this. After de-toxing for one month at the start of the year, I continued to maintain a very low to zero alcohol intake for another two months so it was a VERY bad, and dangerous, idea when after three months detoxing I thought I could have a 'glorious release' big party night out. Guess what, my system can no longer tolerate what it used to. I know, big duhhh, but more on that in a future post that I will link here].
Cut out caffeine and nicotine
My husband and I quit smoking together, years ago, leaving the much dreaded caffeine detox last on my list. I have written about the misery of it in Good Girl GoGoGo Facebook posts and in my Daily Smalls section and in a blog post. It wasn’t easy, but I am very glad I did it. Eliminating caffeine leads to a good night’s rest, effective pain management over the long term, and a more balanced Acid:Alkaline ratio.
Exercise: find the right routine for you and don’t rush it
It’s really hard to exercise when it causes so much pain. For me, one work out could set me back for weeks. The posture of Grief had really taken its toll on me and I was not aligned and injured easily. It was critical that I start off ‘nice and easy.’ I had a wonderful and caring pilates teacher [Karen Lee] who brought my body back to life from the inside out. After two years on her machines and in her care for two private sessions every week, I finally had a core to engage and the confidence to move into more challenging work outs with Bridget Ford-Hughes. After three years, I did my first Boot Camp with Laura Collins Downing [my next story covers the joys of Boot Camp – yes, JOYS, something I never expected].
Pace Yourself: “Don’t over-do. Don’t under-do”
This is really important. Be kind to yourself. Keep striving and don’t give up, but don’t expect too much. I ran into trouble on my “good days” – there was no pain to stop me from doing anything and everything, so I tended to over-do it. I have since learned that “good days” are just that - “good days” and not “days to cram everything in.”
Eat Healthy Foods
This is more complicated than it appears and requires some dedication to figure out what dietary choices are right for you. For me, it first translated to Gluten Free but I soon discovered that so many Gluten Free products are loaded with Sugar so I knocked them out completely. My diet then morphed into a Complete Sugar Detox [no fruit, sugar, carbs, booze or lentils for 8 weeks. I will write about this in my next blog]. I now happily maintain a low-glycemic-low-carb-gluten-free diet, with only occasional fruit, grains, and lentils. Basically, I eat protein and greens – TONS of GREENS - but let me reassure you, I eat well, very well. Everything is delicious and I am never-ever hungry or craving.
Keep your eye on the prize! Life for me is so different now. I don’t feel as though I am missing out on one single thing and that’s because Pain is no longer cutting me off from living my life. All of these changes, difficult though they were to make, have made me happy again, and that’s a fact.
I hope this article helps you or someone you love confront and tackle the pain of fibromyalgia or other chronic pain condition. Perhaps it will inspire you to find ways to relieve your own pain or to help another who is in pain. Don't ever give up trying - it really is possible for Brightness and Gratitude to take Pain’s place.
Yesterday was Day 30. I did it. I cut caffeine out of my life for 30 days. Now that I am still living and breathing at Day 31 [imagine that!?], you might be wondering if I've had a cup of coffee yet...but before I answer that, I've got to get this off my chest - the thought of a 30 Day Caffeine Detox was once a complete nightmare for me, but now it's a dream come true...yes, folks, I did my Linda Blair and turned my head around.
Before my 30 day split with Java, I would awaken every night, same time, same breathless panicked state with ridiculous "omg. what the heck is going wrong now" thoughts in my head. I would meditate them away, put my legs up on the headboard and never-ever punch my pillow, but I got pretty fed up meditating with the monks with my legs in the air at 4am. Something had to change. There was no way I was going to pop pills for obvious reasons, but I won't side-track. I HAD to figure out another path to my zzzzz's ... taking out caffeine and adding breathing and meditation was the chosen course of action. And guess what, it worked. [duuhhh, but I am a bit slow to enlightenment]
Immediately - no joke - I slept through the night, from.day.one. So the answer to the question - have I had a cup of Joe on Day 31? No. I won't be going back to caffeine any time soon but I might just pop over to Dotties for an occasional decaf and I'll just have to figure out what to do in France when I get there.
But here's something that goes even deeper than Deep Sleep...a good night's rest is an effective aid in pain management. For those of you who suffer from the chronic pain of fibromyalgia like I do, Sleep - as in good, uninterrupted sleep - is a POWERFUL antidote to pain. It's free. It's painless and it has no negative side-effects, just positive results. So, what's not to love about getting a good night's sleep? I'll tell you what's not to love: the process of detoxing from caffeine. Like it or not, it is a necessary part of making your way to a peaceful night's rest. Ickbleck. Giving up caffeine was nothing short of dreadful, but the nice guy in the produce section at Guido's was spot on: after Day 21, life was remarkably brighter and so was I. At Day 31, things are totally rosy and I am no longer jones-ing for java. Spring awakening, or what?!
So folks, this is my recommendation - If you do not sleep well, then do your best to find a way to give yourself the gift of Sleep, Glorious Z's, DeepREMs, and Bliss in Your Dreams. With every good night's rest, you will wake with the peace of mind and gratitude it brings. For me, cutting out caffeine was painful, but the pleasure of sustained good sleep is beyond measure. Agony and Ecstasy, indeed.
It’s so easy to look at a beautiful young woman, particularly a fashion model in her twenties and think – “wow, she’s really got it all going on” -- but for former fashion model, Amy Huebner, her strength and beauty just weren't enough to make a beautiful woman a healthy one, too.
Like many women in their twenties, Amy’s diet was the “Protest-Poverty-and-Pasta Diet” prevalent among college students and young professionals, who in protest choose not to eat meat but out of poverty are not able to find affordable, healthy substitutes and end up boiling pasta or suffering innumerable blind dates…a girl’s gotta’ eat, right? Wrong. It’s no way to live... and for Amy it was a sure way to die.
Amy’s diet was alarmingly unbalanced that despite eating whatever she could afford, she was still malnourished and starving…but how did things go so wrong for her? And how did she make herself well again?
Answers to those questions paint a picture of how Amy was able to change her life around by learning how to make healthy choices and literally, saving her own life.
First, she needed to work through to the diagnosis that she was suffering from an extreme candida overgrowth, the result of a diet high in carbohydrates and sugars, birth control pills and stress, lots of stress. From there, Amy needed to learn effective self-care and how to rid her system of toxic candida while simultaneously nourishing her mind, body, and spirit. Hers is an inspiring story of strength and courage even in her weakest moments, a story that holds something for all of us, but particularly so for parents and their 20-something daughters.
What is candida? Candida is a naturally occurring fungus, yeast that lives in our mouth and intestines. When balanced, it aids in digestion and nutrient absorption but when overproduced, it breaks down the wall of the intestine and penetrates the bloodstream, releasing toxic byproducts and causing leaky gut.
The symptoms of candida overgrowth include skin and nail fungal infections; chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia; bloating, constipation, diarrhea; autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Ulcerative Colitis, Lupus, Psoriasis, Scleroderma, Multiple Sclerosis; difficulty concentrating, poor memory, lack of focus, ADD, ADHD and brain fog; irritability, mood swings, depression and anxiety; vaginal and urinary tract infections; severe seasonal allergies; and strong cravings for sugar and refined carbohydrates.
Conquering candida takes nothing less than Herculean effort and requires constant discipline sticking to a strict no-carbohydrate and no-sugar diet. Sugar is what feeds the yeast so it is critical to eliminate it and not to slip even while undergoing the dreadful die-off stage as the body detoxes from the endotoxins released from dying yeast.
As soon as she was diagnosed, Amy immediately jumped into the new diet but soon discovered that rushing it wasn't the best way to go about it. She suffered prolonged die-off for months but could have avoided it had she eased into her new yeast-busting diet. Otherwise, she worked closely with her doctor who recommended she cut out all carbs and sugars and begin taking an immune support supplement.
She then added anti-fungal supplements and foods. Amy’s deep commitment to her own healing required discipline and patience. There were no short-cuts or quick-fixes. It was nearly 2 years before she first began to feel well again and 7 years until she was "feeling pretty awesome." Her healing also had a price: ALL of her money went into buying the right food and supplements, but in Amy’s mind, the cost of regaining her health was priceless.
For those of us never destined to hit the runway or grace the pages of a magazine, it’s odd to think of a gorgeous fashion model not being anything but healthy. For Amy “taking a good hard look at herself” was her first step towards wellness. She knew that her time as a model and nanny in NYC – long days, low pay, high rent, late nights, poor diet – needed to end in order for a healthier chapter in her life to begin.
Amy needed to find a place of comfort and meaning and grounding. The next step on her path to wellness was a phone call to a former high school boyfriend, Dana who was a social worker and advocate for the homeless in Arizona. Before she knew it, she was on a plane to Phoenix and Dana was waiting there for her. They’ve been together ever since. Being in an affirming, loving relationship has been a key piece to Amy’s recovery but there is so much more to her story…
While Amy’s heart could find comfort with Dana, she still needed to regain her physical and emotional strength and to do that, she needed to go back to her roots…back to a healthy childhood; back to loving parents and family; and back to her hometown to reconnect with her former self - a strong young woman who was grounded and blessed with beauty, innate physical strength and grace.
It was only through Discipline [with a capital D] that Amy could reconnect with her former self. For Amy, Discipline is just a part of her DNA - she is naturally a hard worker and not afraid of pushing herself to excel.
As a child, she faithfully and joyfully practiced gymnastics every.single.day after school in her basement. As a teenager, she watched White Squall only once and knew - without doubt - that she needed to do a semester at sea. As a college student, she worked to help her parents pay for her education while cleverly enrolling part-time at NYU and Hunter College yet attending full-time continuously for 3 years [folks, that means no summer vacations]. It was a grueling work load but with the support and encouragement of her parents, Amy made it through and was not later burdened with crippling school loans. Smart girl, our Amy. Hard worker, too.
But that blessing – her discipline and ability to achieve – was also a curse. During her years biting The Big Apple, Amy had pushed herself too hard. It was time she learned something new…
Amy enrolled in The Institute for Integrative Nutrition, the world’s largest school of nutrition whose mission is to play a crucial role in improving health and happiness, and through that process, create a ripple effect that transforms the world. She was deeply inspired by the school’s founder, Josh Rosenthal [also a Berkshire native] who taught her that each and every one of us is a catalyst for change.
The course was the perfect complement to Amy’s journey to wellness. Having already changed her diet and her life, and attended to her spirit and heart, she had to nourish her mind, too.
The Institute for Integrative Nutrition was an eye-opener for Amy, who upon completing the course [and attending the historical last live session] knew that all she wanted to do in life was to take Josh Rosenthal’s advice and do her best to make the world a better place. Just like the time she watched White Squall and knew she needed a semester at sea, Amy knew exactly what she needed to do with her life... she needed to create something that was healthy and good and to build awareness about healthy choices while she was at it. Luckily for Amy, Dana wanted exactly the same thing, too.
This is another point in Amy’s life when being in a strong and loving relationship with Dana is so deeply intertwined with her own healing. Together in 2010, they created Shire City Herbal’s Fire Cider. It was a concoction that developed over many years beginning with a jar of honey, chopped onion and garlic soaking on Dana’s German grandmother’s window sill.
Fire Cider evolved over many years and pays homage to Dana’s German Uncle Otto, who took spoonfuls of freshly grated horseradish during allergy season while haying down on the horse farm. The recipe also tips its hat to a wise family doctor from Becket, MA, who suggested that Dana eat raw LOCAL honey mixed with apple cider to help with his allergies…forever adorable, Dana admits he’s a “more is more” kind a guy so he added some treats of his own and soon Grandma, Uncle Otto, the good family doctor and Dana’s life lessons were all mixed together in one bottle of pure and awesome good.
Nothing short of a Super Hero, Fire Cider is based on a traditional New England cure-all but it’s spiced up with all sorts of kick-ass healthy, organic ingredients – apple cider vinegar, [local] honey, oranges, lemons, onions, horseradish root, ginger root, habanero pepper, garlic, and turmeric. All things combine to bring about a synergistic blend of immune-boosting, health enhancing, pathogen-fighting roots and fruits…Super Hero indeed: Fire Cider powers are mighty.
What's so good about it? Fire Cider can act as a daily preventative to colds and flus or can be taken at the onset. It can be taken as an expectorant to break up congestion and to ward off respiratory ailments. It’s also a digestive aid for heartburn, gas and bloating as well as for sluggish digestion and candida overgrowth. Several of its ingredients support cardiovascular circulation, warm the body and have anti-inflammatory properties – I don’t go a day without it in winter as it helps to keep my fibromyalgia in check.
As with all good things, Fire Cider makes no promises that it is the cure-all to end all. It is merely a healthy choice to be used as part of a healthy diet. Go on, try a shot and feel the tingly goodness on your taste buds, in your salivary glands and right down your throat to your tummy where it really gets to work.
You are what you eat. Not what you wear. Amy is still a beautiful woman, but she is now a healthy one, too. She’s a practicing Health Coach and has her own blog - The Candida Diaries. Together with her husband and brother, she runs Shire City Herbals and makes a wholesome and organic product called Fire Cider. The company’s mission is to make a quality organic product for the good of all, and they are committed to the effort needed to educate and build awareness of healthy choices for healthier communities and for a healthier world.
Josh Rosenthal was right – the ripple effect can change the world – and I am grateful for people like Amy Huebner who seek out and listen to wise teachers and have the strength and courage to commit to the challenges of running a business that helps our Berkshire community and others like it become healthier and happier places for all. Ripple indeed.
A lot can happen in a split second. One moment Life is a straight line and then, BAMMO! It’s not.
What happens in the crash of a moment shapes us for who we are to become later in life. Oftentimes, it changes us so profoundly, that we learn to look at our losses and setbacks as blessings.
Such was the case for my dear friend Annette Dale Kramek, who at the age of thirty, was blind-sided by a brain tumor, something way beyond her control and certainly not a consequence of uninformed choices. A graduate of Public Health and Nutrition, Annette was living a balanced, mindful life. A poster girl for the quintessential West Coast LA Lifestyle, she was enjoying her fit body and all-around sun-shiny good health; running, biking, and watching her surfer boyfriend ride the waves; and LOVING her work as a ski-wear designer. Life was good…
Except for the fact that a brain tumor got in the way of her dreams. Annette took it head on and came to grips with her health: it was a beast she needed to learn about and tame, and tame fast. But getting an accurate diagnosis was anything but a fast process. When severe symptoms presented themselves, Annette visited over 40 health care professionals before her tumor was detected.
At an age when most young women are dreaming about careers, sex, weddings, and babies Annette courageously redirected her life and underwent life-changing brain surgery. It could have resulted in stroke, loss of speech and the need for a permanent gastrointestinal tube but ‘luckily’ for Annette, only her face, throat and digestive tract were temporarily paralyzed. She could not talk or eat for months but the real life change is what happened inside her to enlighten and ignite her spirit.
During her recovery period, she moved in with her mother who cared for her, unconditionally. It was on one day when her mother was driving her from one place to another that Annette discovered a Transcendental Meditation Center right down the road from her. Back in 1993, the center was one of a very small number nation-wide. Annette saw that as a very good sign and did not hesitate to begin her sessions. After only one session, movement returned to her face. In four years Annette only missed one session.
For those of you who don’t already know, Transcendental Meditation is not a religion, philosophy, or lifestyle. It is a simple, natural practice that takes 20 minutes twice daily. Annette complemented her daily TM with four yoga classes a week.
Annette learned early on in life that finding her way to a clear understanding of her condition was - and always will be - the first step towards wellness. Over time and with increasing awareness, the “right way” to treat her body was a natural practice for her. Through regular yoga and Transcendental Meditation, Annette acquired a hard-earned road map to living a balanced life.
Twenty years later, Annette is designing her own line of yoga wear. Her studio is based in Pittsfield, MA where she designs and manufactures yoga practice and lifestyle clothes for leading yoga retreats and wellness spas. Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health,Jivamukti, Canyon Ranch, Cranwell Resort and Spa , Mii Amo Resort Spa, and Club Med [and a sweet local favorite - Dottie's Coffee Lounge] are among her clients. Profoundly influenced by the teachings she learned through the practice of yoga, she named her clothing line Ancient Language, calling upon Sanskrit, the ancient language of the Gods …and studious yoginis.
The word “Yoga” is derived from the Sanskrit 'Yujir Yogey' which means to join, to yoke, to put together and to restore - to restore what is lost. Most of us have lost our balance at some point along the way and Yoga primarily seeks to restore that balance. For Annette long after her brain surgery, yoga and meditation continue to be her road map and the signposts are written in Sanskrit.
DO WHAT YOU LOVE and the rest will follow… The practicalities of owning and running her yoga wear company physically challenge Annette every day. Like many small business owners, she readily accepts the challenges as a natural part of doing what she loves. While Ancient Language is growing exponentially, Annette’s dream is not to have a HUGE company that distances her from the design process she loves. Nor does she want to be alienated from her clients, instructors and customers who wear her clothes and provide inspiration.
To Annette, it’s still very personal and she wants to keep it that way. Ancient Language is a natural extension of her thoughts and feelings and beliefs which she is able to express and share through her designs and relationships. She truly enjoys being in touch with every part of her business and doesn't want to lose that in the wake of a growing company. Yet, she recognizes that striking a balance between her company’s growth and her personal involvement is not always a straight line.
The amount of work required to run her company leads to exhaustion and debilitating pain, an on-going condition she is currently deciphering, not unlike the way she went about discovering her brain tumor. When the scales shift, Annette calls upon the teachings learned in her thirties. She admits that to achieve greater wellness, she still needs to carve out more time for yoga and meditation, and to dial back the hours at work.
Surrender. Annette needed to learn new ways to communicate her vision before she could completely “let go,” but this was a particular challenge to her because the brain surgery severed one of her vocal cords. The act of talking exhausts Annette and her remaining vocal cords are often over-worked and strained so that her words come out muted. Annette has adjusted to this injury and speaks articulately, but not without effort, so she rests when she needs to rest.
After a recent yoga class while the two of us were dripping in the steam bath, she laughs as she tells me, “You wouldn't believe how LOUD I used to be! You could hear my laugh a mile away.” And that made me smile and think of the vibrant young woman whose life changed overnight at the age of 30.
Annette is still vibrant to this day and her light shines through her work. I had the pleasure of spending time with her in her design studio. It was a quiet, snowy afternoon and we were selecting spring colors and prints. Apart from being fun and providing an imaginary trip to warmer climes, it showed me just how efficient Annette is with her time and how she maximizes it to make room for the creative process, which she clearly loves. Annette is joyful at work. There is no doubt her work brings her joy.
In order to protect and maintain that joy, Annette practices a constant system of checks and balances. If she works too much, she cuts back. It is this agility to live each day as it comes that allows Annette to be very present and aware of the joys as well as the strains placed on her health. By applying the life-long skills she learned through yoga and Transcendental Meditation, she is able to balance her life with her work, all the while practicing and sharing her deep love for yoga and its teachings.
Later when Annette and I are together at Kripalu, her face lights up when she sees the girls in the shop. She greets them as good friends – it’s clear that staying in touch, literally, with her clients is an important key to her happiness. Beaming, Annette told me “I love this part!”
And I know it’s true.
My baby daughter Olivia died. Stillborn on the day she was to be born. For years, I walked around as though carrying a heavily weighted sandwich board over my shoulders advertising “I’m the mother whose perfect baby just died” on the front of it and “I’m the mother whose perfect baby just died” on the back of it …a silent, endless cry as Grief’s mantle followed me wherever I was headed and whenever I looked back. For years, this is how I defined myself. but not any more...
I am now able to look back to the hot, hot summer in the South of France in 2003 when it was 110 degrees every. single. day. I understand my body struggled to sustain the pregnancy. I don’t hate God and I don’t blame the doctors. If anything, I blame myself for not knowing my baby was in trouble. Any parent whose child has died will fill a lifetime with futile wishes for something – the one thing – they could have done to save their child’s life.
Grief has many layers and anger is one ofthem. I learned to let go of my anger. And as I let it go, every new breath opened me up and allowed forgiveness in. I am forever straightening out and up from the posture of grief. My throat is relaxing, my words are coming out. My shoulders are no longer rounded in front of me, surrounding my heart, covering it. My lungs are no longer compressed. I can breathe again and so I feed every inch of my body and soul – and all the cracks in between – long starved of joy and light and laughter.
I watch my son grow and I do not fear for his life every minute of mine. I am no longer closer to the dead, slowly dying for my daughter. I am alive and I am living for my son. and for me. It has taken a long time for me to get here -to a place of strength - but I have respected Grief as Life’s hardest taskmaster and followed its unpredictable, painful course. I did not avoid it or sugarcoat it. I allowed it to poison me and make me pure.
I have been through Grief’s cycle and emerged from the depths of despair. Chewed up and spat out, I finally found ‘happiness’ again and for me, it was like none that I had ever known before because I had to work so, so very hard to find it… and I treasure it and I keep it safe. I am blessed and I am thankful. I know now what I did not know before – my limits, my boundaries, and what things pull me off-center. I am grounded and I am alive again. Grief has deepened me and is one of the greatest teachers of all. I believe that through Grief what is lost in Death will be returned to us in higher ways. This is Olivia’s Gift. and I carry it with me wherever I go, like a compass.
My close friends know that I had been sick for many years and struggled to find the reason for my constant sorrow and never-ending physical pain. Unraveling my symptoms was complicated: it could have been a million things, and I didn't know where to start...so I just had to start some where. It was a slow and agonizing process as I began to pick things apart. There were no start and finish lines and the check list was long, with each tick-box scarier than the last – Depression? Allergies? Adrenal? Thyroid? Neurological? Pre-Menopausal? Auto-immune - Lyme or Lupus? Cancer? You get the idea.
Self-Care isn't a fad or a trend. It's foreverrrr. It takes a long time to work through it all.
It wasn’t until 2016 that I emerged from disease to wellness, from darkness to light. I had been suffering from constant, un-diagnosed pain that was eventually "lumped" under the label of Fibromyalgia, and it was anyone's guess where to begin in terms of "the right" protocol to follow. I had to figure out what worked best for me.
My condition was possibly triggered by a mysterious virus and extreme fever for which I was hospitalized in 2009, just prior to the Swine Flu pandemic reported in April 2009. It is possible that the mysterious virus combined with my genetic profile and pre-existing viral exposure to bring me to my knees.
Two years later in 2011 I received the diagnosis that I had an under-active thyroid and began treatment with Armour Thyroid.
I discovered later that this diagnosis was only scratching the surface, but still, it was a starting point so I embraced it as one stepping stone of many. The diagnosis allowed me to progress to the next step, to move beyond the prior diagnosis that my condition was a “mental” thing, most likely post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD] that was causing my depression, physical pain and brain fog. It was a huge relief to receive a diagnosis that allowed the dialogue of healing to open up beyond the limited view that all I needed was an anti-depressant pill.
There was no way I was going to pop pills and wish my symptoms away. No matter what Science had to say about the benefits, I wanted to work through each and every one of my symptoms in order to understand my overall condition, how it all "fit" together, and how to work through to The Cause.
I wasn't looking for a Quick-Fix and I sure didn't get one. I cleared the decks to allow time [nearly 2 years before I started to see real results] for new life practices and the process of trial and elimination that would allow me to arrive at the source of my anxiety, sleepless nights, depression, inflammation, weight gain and debilitating pain. As I write this, I am still tracking my symptoms, behavior and stress levels as well as shifts in weather and will continue to do so for the rest of my life as part of effective self-care.
In a way, I am a bit like a farmer tending his crops - you can watch and learn and figure out the best practice of prevention but no matter what, no year is ever the same: there are many unknowns and variables. Part of healing is being able to surrender and trust the process of healing, to embrace the good days and to allow for the bad ones.
I readily acknowledged that there was a vicious cycle going on inside me, but I never believed that the “most likely” sequence was the correct sequential order of things. I accepted that trauma was part of the problem, in so much as it could have weakened me and my immune system, but it didn’t sit right that trauma was “The Cause” because I had processed the grief over losing my first child at birth; I had worked through it all – the rage and despair; I had surrendered and was blessed to find serenity; and I had accepted the great sadness as though it were a gift, a key to a deeper level of compassion that I had not previously known.
...and so my journey towards a diagnosis began with the question: If I've truly processed my grief and accepted my loss, why then am I still so sad and why does everything in my body hurt so much? The short answer: the sequence had, in fact, been wrong… the 2011 diagnosis of previously undetected hypothyroidism was earth-shattering for me, in a good way - it gave me "the cause" [or one possible cause] as well as the momentum to move forward with the relief that my baby was not to blame, nor I.
Knowing that hypothyroidism was causing my troubles, there was no one to blame. I finally had a starting line. and I could live with that. And I could begin to heal and with that, change my life for the better and revive my spirit….and so I did.
Change is GOOD. Taking Armour Thyroid daily was a huge help in boosting my energy and abilities, but simply popping a pill and hoping things would "just go away" wasn't enough. I needed to change.
I needed to reinterpret my life and the way I approached my health. For every symptom I suffered, I had to find another way to make it better and for that, I had to change everything: my diet, my exercise routine and my stress levels. I stopped working and cleared the decks so I could focus on regaining my health. I slowed down to enjoy my life and subsequently stumbled upon a greater sense of purpose and confidence, gratitude and ease.
I stopped drinking except on special occasions. I embraced a new fully organic, low-glycemic, anti-inflammatory, gluten-free diet. Now food not only tastes good, it IS Good. Soon I slept through the night and gradually my symptoms disappeared as a result of the changes I had made. My health was so much improved that despite occasional flare ups of fibromyalgia, I am able to enjoy regular pilates, gentle yoga, dog walking and snowshoeing without suffering for it.
An additional and essential key to my recovery is that I could never have made all these changes to my life were it not for the many enlightened women and men who guided me...
Over the years following the traumatic loss of my child at birth, I've encountered many wise women and men whose love and wisdom and ability to share their stories helped me find my own. My healing is wrapped up in the love and guidance I received from them – This blog is dedicated to those fine spirits whose signposts have marked my journey from the beginning until now, where I am full of gratitude for the life that has been restored to me.
Sometimes, you just have to slow down and read the signposts to move forward on the right track…and then it’s all there right before your very eyes: Go on, Good Girl, Go!
I love writing. I especially love writing letters. I love searching for and finding an understanding of another person, where once there was none. I love looking at life from all angles, at the three sides of every coin...
but I am not so brave when it comes to sharing personal stuff I've written, especially with people I don't know...a simple facebook post can give me anxiety for days...did I open up too much? were my words misconstrued? Creating this blog is a BIG, HUGE, COLOSSAL leap for me. and a meaningful one, too. It's time for me to move on and "just get over it"...so from here on, I would like to be able to write to strangers as though they were my friends. I would like to create a dialogue within the ether about life's lessons, starting with my friends and seeing where their leads will take me. I would like love and courage and creativity to lead the way.
For years I have been writing. I've banged out press releases, business proposals, fundraising and press strategies, brochures and advertising jingles, you name it ... basically I wrote anything in the name of corporate communications. and absolutely none of it was personal. It was all about building a story, keeping a message focused, meaningful, and above all relevant within a broader context. but the story was never mine.
It takes time to craft and nuance a "corporate voice," all in the name of consistent branding, but how do you tell a former corporate fashion PR girl, that she has no voice of her own? that she's been an "oid" for too long [ie, robotic, "Armani-oid," "fashion-oid"]. This blog is an exercise, a self-dare for a writer to shed her layers of corporate tongue twisters and move away from the cautious, and closer to the honest. In this blog, my challenge will be to let go of pitching stories and move toward finding stories and in order to do that, I will need to push myself beyond my comfort zone...will the principles of writing I learned on the corporate playing field be enough for me to build a new story, a story of my own? on vera...let's see.
In that sense this blog is about me, but just because my persona is shifting from the corporate to the personal doesn't mean "it's all about me"...it's really MORE about the amazing people in my life and how they teach me and guide me along the way.
Some times, you have to slow down in order to go.go.go...