Lessons From My Daughter

When I first became a mother, I dreamed of all the things I would teach my daughter about life. As she has grown, it has become quite apparent that I have learned so much more from her than she may ever learn from me. Patience, sacrifice, love, joy, fun – these words have taken on completely different meanings as my husband and I have had the privilege to raise our eight year old daughter, Rhiannon.

Yesterday, the two of us went to the Children’s Museum in Boston as one of our “staycation” adventures. She was excited because it was just us – no Daddy, no Grandma, no Aunts, no friends. The Museum was stocked with the usual sights – physics-related activities such as Rube Goldberg machines and pulleys, exhibits related to Native American and Japanese history, hands-on fun with bubbles, and numerous other exciting experiences. However, one activity literally towered over everything else. At the center of the museum was a huge, netted playspace where kids could climb a challenging set of uneven, sloped steps – this monstrosity started at the first floor and ended at the very top of the museum – a full three stories. Although it looked slightly intimidating to me, kids as young as four years old climbed up rapidly, looking rather like monkeys climbing a multi-limbed tree. They climbed over and around each other excitedly, calling to their siblings and parents watching below.

I took one look at this thing, and assumed my daughter would have no part of it. You see, she is the most cautious, risk-averse child I have ever met. She avoids all activities that could result in any of the following: a scratched knee, a sprained ankle, a broken fingernail, a cut, a bruise, someone looking at her the wrong way, or her ponytail holder falling out. Although she will be nine years old in three months, she is completely terrified of riding a two-wheeled bike. No amount of cajoling, bribing, or pleading helped. We eventually just gave the bike away to avoid bouts of crying and pouting. She refuses to play any organized sport for fear of injury, although she has a lot of natural talent. She clutches to me when balancing on a six-inch curb. You get my point. So when I gazed upon this gigantic, three-story tower of terror, my assumption was that Rhiannon would look at it longingly then move on to the next, slightly safer activity.

So when she did not budge, I was surprised. She walked around the structure and looked up at it. For a while, she just stood there and contemplated the scene before her. I asked her if she wanted to try it out. She said “maybe.” Then she said “well, I’m wearing a skirt.” So I said “well, you can still climb it if you’re careful.” She poked her head in and hesitantly entered the structure. She started to climb, looked around, then climbed back out. She said the rug on the steps was too slippery.  I told her that it was ok if she didn’t want to climb it. I thought that was the end of it. She climbed in again, then out again, looking for an alternate path that would be easier. She watched as child after child excitedly climbed the stairs. She took a deep breath, crouched down, and tried again.

Ever so slowly, she climbed. At times, she looked positively pained. Kids were passing her left and right because she moved so slowly. Every once in a while, she would look at me and smile – a smile that seemed to say “oh my God, I’m really doing this! I must be crazy!” I admit it – at any moment, I expected her to give up and come back down. I am ashamed that I even suggested it to her – more than once. I just could not imagine that she would actually climb three stories in this thing. She stopped often and moved aside so the faster children could keep moving. As she ascended, I climbed the stairs to keep an eye on her, hoping that she would not suddenly panic or start crying. I was mulling over possible emergency plans and rescue attempts. As I watched her, I shouted words of encouragement. But she was so SLOW. I was getting impatient, checking my phone repeatedly and eventually realizing I was incredibly thirsty. I joked to a nearby parent that I would surely die in this place. I forced myself to take deep breaths and remain calm for her sake. I told myself that I should be encouraging her to continue, but it was so difficult to watch her climbing this structure as if she was in physical pain. She was hesitant at every single turn, and was clearly tempted to climb back down.

But you know what? She just kept going. No matter how hesitant or uncomfortable the process, she kept going UP. She listened to my well-intentioned, yet negative comments confirming that she could go back down at any time – it was ok, really. She was still doing a great job. There was no shame in quitting – I was proud of her for trying. But before I knew it, I was standing on the third floor, watching her navigate the final steps. Suddenly, there she was. There was nowhere left to go. She had done it, she had really done it. Against all odds, my normally fearful child climbed all the way up! I could hardly contain my excitement. I almost expected confetti to rain down upon her head. We exchanged excited screams and I snapped some pictures. Then she started back down.

The descent was much faster and much easier, since gravity worked with her. As she made her way out of the structure, I gave her a huge hug and said I was proud of her. And I was – so incredibly proud. I didn’t care if other parents thought we were a bit strange. She shrugged her shoulders and said it wasn’t a big deal. But I knew better. I knew how proud she was of herself. She knew she had worked through her fears and accomplished something great. No one else in that museum other than the two of us understood the enormity of her accomplishment.

Looking back, I am ashamed that I doubted her. I had relied on past experiences and jumped to the conclusion that she would eventually succumb to fear and give up. She succeeded despite my doubts – an eight year old child, doing this all on her own, overcoming both her fears and mine. No matter how difficult, no matter how slow – she did it anyway. She did it!

How much could I learn from my own daughter, someone almost 30 years my junior? How could I be so negative, so discouraging to my own flesh and blood? Sure, I offered words of encouragement and told her I was there for her, supporting her. But did I really, truly believe in her? I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t.

If I have a hard time believing in my own daughter, how can I believe in myself? How often have I sold myself short, assuming that I could not do something just because I had failed before? What could I be capable of if I dared to dream? To take risks? To believe in myself? The possibilities are endless.

Thank you, Rhiannon, for helping me to see that anything is possible, and that fear is an obstacle only if you allow it to be so. You can succeed despite your closest friends’ and family’s judgements. Even the people who love you the most can be blinded by fear. Sometimes it takes a child to show you that fear can be overcome – no, not just overcome – punched in the throat. An eight year old girl can rule the world from the top of her three-story castle, and can teach her mother to do the same.

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Listen to your Intuition – it just might save your life

Strong words, I know. Nevertheless, I believe them with all my heart. In November 2010, I was diagnosed with gallstones after several weeks of painful attacks. The doctors recommended surgery. After much back and forth argument in my own head, and after talking to anyone who would listen, I decided to decline. I figured I could fix myself. I thought that if I treated with chiropractic, acupuncture, and reiki, as well as improved my eating habits, I could get rid of the gallstones naturally. Deep down, I was not convinced this would work. But my fear of surgery was strong enough that I would try anything. And I had hope.

I did go to my chiropractor (who was the only one who could temporarily stop a gallbladder attack). I also tried acupuncture (including herbs), which did not seem to help. Admittedly, I could not afford to get sufficient acupuncture treatments to see if it really would be effective. I also tried reiki. But again, I could only afford to go sporadically. There is just no way to know if these treatments would have worked, had I been able to attend on a frequent basis. During severe episodes, I tried a mixture of 100% organic, not from concentrate apple juice with organic apple cider vinegar. This did quiet the attacks a bit, but it was impossible to tell if they could actually reduce or eliminate gallstones. And was it realistic to rely on this method long-term?

Given my self-taught knowledge of all things nutrition/health, where I really went wrong was in the failure to change my diet. Yes, I attempted to eat less fat (historically shown to increase attacks), and I attempted to eat healthier in general. Honestly, I could have done better – I could have done MUCH better. Perhaps in my heart of hearts, I knew it would not be enough. Looking back, it is easy to think: I should have done a cleanse, I should have done a juice fast, I should have eaten 100% whole foods, etc. etc. I did not do these things. Instead, I would deal with each attack as it came, praying it would disappear forever. This method did work for awhile. I was blessed with long periods of zero-symptom days. Unfortunately, these times became rarer as time went on.

During my Christmas vacation in 2011, I was plagued with frequent attacks. No, that is not really accurate. I suffered with a moderate to severe gallbladder attack with no end in sight. It was difficult to do anything. I managed to do some shopping, but I certainly did not enjoy it. I was not able to spend the quality time with my daughter I had hoped for. I was really unable to do anything but lie in bed and feel sorry for myself. I had a lot of time to think – a lot of time to reconsider my surgery decision. As much as I felt that surgery may be the only logical solution, the idea still terrified me.

Around this time, I participated in an e-course with the lovely Megan Monique (http://www.meganmonique.com/index.html). The theme of this course was essentially about intuition. How important it was to listen to that little voice inside your head. Part of this course involved several calls with Megan and the other participants. During one call, I voiced my gallbladder problem, as well as my ongoing dilemma. I complained that I just didn’t know what to do. I felt like surgery was my only choice, but I was looking for a “sign.” I really didn’t think I would be satisfied unless an angel materialized before me and yelled “have the damn surgery already!” And then gave me a hug.

Well, what would you know, but one of the participants piped up and said she went through the very same thing – she also doubted whether to have the surgery. Ultimately, she did, and it was the best decision she ever made. She was thrilled with the outcome. She went on and on. Megan then said “well, if you wanted a sign, there you go.” She was absolutely right. It really wouldn’t get much clearer than that.

Deep down, I had known for months that my gallbladder was getting worse, that it was poisoning me. I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was toxic, beyond repair. When I really listened, my body told me loud and clear that I needed the surgery. Even though I was afraid, I knew that it would be ok. The conversation on the phone that night solidified my decision.

On January 27, 2012, I woke up at 6:30 am and my husband drove me to the hospital. I knew what to expect. This would be an oupatient, endoscopic procedure. I would be in the hospital for approximately half a day. I was anxious that morning, but calm and confident in my decision – actually, I was also excited (believe it or not). I knew I was taking the first step to getting my health and my body back.

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a big believer in “signs.” My first sign that I was on the right track was the ABBA music playing in the waiting room that morning. I couldn’t help but smile as “Dancing Queen” played. But the next sign practically gave me chills. A woman waiting for her husband entered the waiting room, and starting talking to the woman who checked me in when I arrived. Right away, they starting talking about how this woman, Maureen, was a Reiki master. I looked at my husband and could not contain my excitement. At my first available opportunity, I said “I’m sorry to bother you, but you’re a Reiki master? I love reiki.” “Yes,” she replied, “would you like me to do some reiki for you before your surgery?” Of course I would!

This lovely woman was my angel. She provided her healing, calming touch while the nurses were hooking up my IV and taking my vital signs. The calm, loving energy emanating from her hands made all the difference in the world. I was waiting for my surgery for almost two hours – for almost two hours I was not sedated at all, yet I was calm. I credit reiki for that. Finally, I was given the happy drugs and wheeled into the operating room.

I woke up slightly confused and coughing heavily due to the effects of the intubation. In my drug-induced state, I was able to ask the nurse if I was ok. She replied that yes, I did just fine. I decided to believe her, since I seemed able to breathe on my own, she seemed very calm, and there was no one else around and no intimidating beeping noises. As soon as I saw my husband, I pumped him for information. It turns out that the surgeon did not go into great detail with him in the waiting room, but he was able to tell me the following: “The surgery went fine, you did very well; but it was a good thing you had the surgery now, because apparently your gallbladder was infected.”

The surgeon later confirmed this to me personally. He said that he had no idea it would be infected. As far as he knew, I just had gallstones. I, however, was not at all surprised. I had known for weeks that something was seriously wrong. I did not know what, exactly, but my body was giving me strong signals that it was time to get this thing out of me. My biggest fear was that a stone would get caught in a duct, or that I would develop pancreatitis. Instead, it was infected. Imagine the worst-case scenario if I did not have the surgery, if I had let this diseased organ fester and grow more toxic. I could have ended up in emergency surgery, I could have developed sepsis, I could have been in the hospital for days or even weeks. And yes, perhaps this is somewhat melodramatic, but not listening to my body could have ultimately resulted in a much more tragic result.

I am now a big believer in intuition. I will never doubt my body again. Even though I had the surgery a mere eleven days ago, I can already feel the difference. I feel better, healthier. My eyes have a little sparkle in them, my skin is rosier. I feel like the poison has left my body. I am eternally grateful for that little voice inside my head that refused to go away, that little voice that, with help from others, finally convinced me to do what I had to do – to conquer my fear and have the surgery.

So where do I go from here? I had told someone a few weeks ago that having this surgery was the first step on my journey back to health. As corny as it sounds, I feel like 2012 is the year I get my health back. Yes, I need to lose weight. But honestly, I feel like I can actually accomplish this now. My gallbladder can no longer hold me back. I will have more energy – I will be able to go to the gym, and go shopping, and cook healthy vegan food. In fact, I do not really have a choice. At least in the first few weeks or months after surgery, I will need to be very careful with what I eat, particularly with fat. My body just cannot process a lot of fat right now. I tend to get nauseated after every meal, even a healthy one. I am being forced to eat healthfully. I consider this a gift.

This is the beginning of the rest of my life. And yes, I got chills as I wrote that.

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Happy New Year!

Well, it is that time of year again – the time for new beginnings, big ideas, promises to finally lose weight, stop smoking, work less (or perhaps more), spend more time with family, read more, write more, meditate, start a yoga practice, etc., etc., etc. Lofty dreams, exciting pursuits, the time to start fresh, change your life, turn it all around. It’s January!!!!

January 1st holds so much promise, so much excitement, but so much pressure. How long will it take to screw it up this time? To break my own promise? To have to admit to myself that I have, yet again, failed to keep another New Year’s resolution? Self-pity then kicks in, and I find myself going right back to old habits, falling back into old, self-defeating patterns. The winter bears on mercilessly, I stop counting calories, I neglect the gym – until December comes again and I look back at another disappointing year.

Like so many people, I have resolved year after year to lose weight. Most of the time, it is just an idea with virtually no concrete steps taken. If I’m lucky, I make the old college try for a couple of months – I watch what I eat (mostly), I get to the gym (sometimes), and I even step on the scale periodically to track my progress. However, in case you haven’t noticed, January is cold here in New England – it is the time of year that can be chock-full of snowstorms, icy roads, bone-chilling temperatures, and worst of all, little sun. It’s the lack of light that ultimately gets me, that crushes my soul and calls me back to bed. I resort to comfort eating, I stop going to the gym, I become a couch potato. Worst of all, I just give up on caring. Soon, summer is knocking on my door and the magazines boast skinny, under-fed, photo-shopped supermodels urging women to lose “those winter pounds” and get “bikini-ready.” UGH. Back to bed with a pint of ice cream I go.

I am the type of person who likes lists and goals and dreams. Despite my past failures, I am annually urged to try again. This year is no different. I am truly looking forward to 2012. It feels like a “big year,” which I know sounds corny. Yet, this is a feeling I absolutely cannot shake. So, I will take advantage of it. So, here is the deal: I do need to lose weight – I actually need to lose a LOT of weight – at least 100 pounds, to be exact. Yes, that is an overwhelming number. When I think about it terms of the ultimate goal, I want to give up before I even start. However, I am thinking about this differently this year. Instead of making my goal “to lose weight,” I am thinking about this process more holistically. I will not lose weight. Instead, I will heal my body.

Some may say this is semantics – that weight loss is still the ultimate goal. Well, yes, that is correct. However, re-framing this goal will hopefully make a difference for me. You see, I have always known HOW to lose weight. I have always known that I need to eat less and move more. The hard part is figuring out WHY I am so overweight in the first place. This is not twenty pounds we are talking about here, people – this is over one HUNDRED pounds. How could I allow myself to get to this point? Like so many people before me have done, I need to submit to the soul-searching, terrifying process that is peeling away the layers to the real me – to bare my soul and pain to the world, to say out loud that THIS IS NOT ME. I need to take the time, as painful as it will undoubtedly be, to face my demons and be willing to experience pain in order to get to the root of the problem.

I am a healthy, vibrant person in a fat suit. I look in the mirror and do not recognize myself. It pains me to realize that this is the person facing the world – this is the person everyone sees. I want to scream to the world that what you see is NOT what you get. There is so much more to me than this overweight body. I wear this extra padding as protection, and now it is time to be rid of it forever.

What I need to work on now is HOW exactly I do this. As the old saying goes, “if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” Ok, message received. What I don’t quite get yet is what exactly do I do differently? I am on a mission to figure this out. I will be using this blog to document my journey. I am not sure how much detail I will be sharing at this point – I am considering this to be an ongoing process, and I anticipate much growth on my part.

I would love to read your comments (hopefully supportive) as I shed layers and pounds, and as I heal my body. Thanks for reading. 🙂

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Reflections on Reiki

I’m sitting in a sun-soaked room in Newburyport waiting for my reiki session. It’s a cool but sunny day and the ground is covered in crunchy leaves. This room is amazing: hardwood floors that squeak under your feet, huge white walls covered in colorful art, a big squishy yellow couch and chairs, pillows on the floor, and a big, white bookshelf holding books titled “The Heart’s Journey” “Care of the Soul” and the intriguing “PersonaliTrees.” Plants fill this space. The room is, above all, silent. Only the faintest music can be heard from the massage session next door.

It is Saturday: my favorite kind of Saturday, in fact. In about 30 minutes, I will meet Kristin for a reiki session. I have the pleasure and privilege of engaging in reiki about once every two months, but I crave it almost every day. Not much physical touch is involved, but the change I feel is wondrous and dare I say, magical. It is as if my soul is being cleansed and re-awoken. I have never felt such peace.

I have been vaguely familiar with reiki since high school. My best friend had tried to explain the concept to me, but I was closed-minded. I didn’t understand it: it just seemed like a new-age practice reserved for hippies and other sorts of people who were walking a very different path than myself. I pushed it to the back of my mind. After I married, my mother in law started to dabble in reiki. I had one session with her for curiosity’s sake. Although I felt relaxed, I still didn’t understand what all the chatter was about.

Then I found Kristin. My daughter was five years old and suffered from what I thought was a rare problem-a true terror of having a bowel movement. We had tried conjoling, bribing, crying, yelling, hugging-nothing worked. I saw specialists, had her undergo tests, and scoured the Internet for answers. I was desperate. I saw Kristin’s name online as a massage therapist/reiki practitioner who worked with children. I thought I would give her a try. I was at the end of my rope. 

My daughter had one session with her. Honestly, I don’t remember how effective it was. Around the same time, I found a child psychologist who seemed to help. Ultimately, my daughter suddenly grew out of it when she entered first grade. To this day, I don’t know what exactly flipped the switch. However, my sister and I decided to indulge in massage sessions with Kristin, and were very impressed. She had such a great, kind energy that was contagious. Although I longed to enjoy the massages, I found even a light touch painful. My lower back is very sensitive and tender to the touch, and I have chronic pain issues. I just wasn’t able to fully relax and get the benefits of massage. But I loved Kristin and wanted to continue treatment. That’s when she recommended reiki.

I agreed to try a session, and tried to stay open-minded. As you lay down fully clothed, she essentially becomes attuned to your energy. She is able to “read” any rough spots – any areas that require healing. How she actually DOES it, I can’t explain as I simply do not understand the process sufficiently. What I CAN tell you is that I feel completely in tune to the Universe, to angels, to a higher power. As corny and ridiculous it sounds, it is like getting a massage from an angel.

Each session is completely different. There are times when I feel like an angel or higher being is trying to communicate with me actively. My mind is full of visions, and I feel as if I am receiving messages. Other times are quieter: during my last session, there was little communication and my mind was silent. The only sensation I felt was that I was absorbing every ounce of energy available – as if I was in desperate need of healing energy and my body just took it all in.

No matter what the particular response is, I feel peaceful afterwards, very quiet, whole, and receptive to intuition. After one particular session, I went to Starbucks with my ipad to do some journaling, and I just could not tolerate the noise – the talking, the hustle and bustle, the music, the parents disciplining their children. Normally, I would be able to tune it out, but this time, I was incredibly sensitive to everything in my surroundings. The lights were too bright, the noise was too loud – everything was just too much. I had to leave and escape outside and breathe in the fall air.

Reiki is quite simply my escape from the real world and all of its problems, noise, and distractions. The peace is addictive, and the experience is beautiful. Try it – it will change your life.

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Oh, hi there!

Well, I have moved from Twitter to Tumblr to WordPress. I have been looking for a blogging outlet, and this seems to work for me. Here, I will post about anything that interests me, from veganism/nutrition/weight loss to spirituality, reiki, and everything in between. Enjoy. 🙂

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