Lesson Two: $2.49 Mussels

I rolled my forehead on the cool bathroom floor. I breathed, trying to calm the violent nausea. After throwing up for three hours, I decided I could do nothing more than wait.  I knew that regardless of the ending, this would not go on forever.

Sometimes you have to accept that your body is in pain, but you don’t have to identify with that pain…accept your body is aging, but not identify with the aging body.  Sometimes you just have to accept imperfections, but recognize you are more.

 

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“You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.”
― Brené Brown

 

Seems more than coincidence that earlier that day, I’d lit my sage smudge and with a feeling of perfect peace, smudged myself.  I still felt a barrier, an old resentment to which I kept returning. I knew it was time to move on but something around my heart felt like a burnt-out light bulb. So I smudged myself prayerfully and went to the kitchen to fix those delicious $2.49 mussels I’d found on sale along with a light gluten free pasta pesto dish. I watched a short segment on Gaia TV enjoying my delightfully inexpensive supper.  A few hours later, I asked Barry to just bring a pillow to the bathroom for me.

That was Sunday night. I’m writing this Friday night and I still don’t feel 100% right physically.  BUT throughout this whole thing, I’ve felt peace. I think I vomited up a piece of resentment.

 

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Finally letting go of those things I cannot change..

So what is my point? There is always another obstacle. There is always a problem to overcome, a friendship that is lost, a body that ages…there’s always a resentment to release or a fear to face.

Life is like a sit-com series – it opens with laughs then a conflict arises. By the end of the show, the situation is resolved and more laughter erupts.  A week later you do the whole thing all over again. Sometimes you get a break during re-run season but usually there’s always another episode. And it’s ok…because all that stuff happening is kinda the whole point.

A dear friend sent me the following meme after she patiently listened to my constant yammering for the past few months. I think this beautifully sums up the Lesson of the Mussels.

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It’s all in your head

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I haven’t been running. I haven’t been blogging.  I haven’t been doing much of anything. I injured my knee somewhere along the line and  gave up.  I could have stayed positive and rode my bike or rowed or …something…but no, I sat on my butt, mind filled with negativity, believing all was lost… and gained 20 lbs.

But even though I sound like the original Negative Nelly (no offense to Nellies everywhere) I believe that something positive can be gleaned from any experience and this knee thing is no exception.  I just finished six weeks of physical therapy and that was quite the learning experience.

Further along in the PT process we started working on balance. The first day of balance work, I was frustrated. I could not stand on that darn leg. So per the therapist’s instructions, I turned so I could hold onto the table if necessary. Well, suddenly I found perfect balance. I never had to touch the table. Just knowing it was there was enough for me.

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So we control our bodies…..

Tossing and turning, unable to sleep, .I decided there was absolutely no reason my mind couldn’t make my body sleep. My mind controlled the most sophisticated bodily functions. Why couldn’t it just put me to sleep for a few hours? And boom…I was asleep. This doesn’t ALWAYS work, mind you, but I no longer take Benadryl nightly.

Then this weekend while running, I realized that I focused my right knee and it’s lack of function during these run/walk training sessions. So I focused on my left knee and it’s ability. I moved on to noticing the birds, the flowers, Cupcake’s wagging tail. And I ended up running the whole three miles without any walking  – longest and fastest solid run since surgery. And best of all, completely pain-free!

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Sparky just hanging out.

It’s all in my head…

I believed I would fall, until I believed I was safe. I believed I would feel pain, until I just shut up about it.

So I’m going to focus on happy endings and possibilities and I’ll strap Negative Nelly to the railroad tracks.

 

 

“Of course there must be lots of Magic in the world,” he said wisely one day, “but people don’t know what it is like or how to make it. Perhaps the beginning is just to say nice things are going to happen until you make them happen. I am going to try and experiment.”
― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

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I just wanna sit on the porch!

I’ve shared so much supposed “wisdom” on this blog.   I claimed to follow the Universe’s lead and listen to my Soul.  But here I am again: Overwhelmed and overwrought without enough time to make a phone call or post a blog.  How does this keep happening?

Today as I write this, I feel so out of balance. Sadness seems to have consumed me and I’m fighting it. Two years ago yesterday my nephew died. And next week it will be two years since my brother died. I’m thinking about death a lot. I’m afraid of losing  people I really love. I believe there is more after this life but I don’t “KNOW.”  I want to KNOW for SURE without any doubts. But I guess none of us have that.  Some folks claim to believe/know but that’s generally BS. Most of us (ALL?) faced with death will still be afraid.

Life is short. Too damn short. I want to squeeze so much into it…and squeeze so much out of it. I’m wringing the hell out life!  But it’s too much. . . . I’m trying too hard. Days are cluttered and I can’t really focus on the things that matter.

What really matters?   What are those shiny moments? What makes me happy?

When I think of HAPPY…

I think of my dogs… and cats…family…friends…running…laughing…food…

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Life is too short to be anything but happy. Love deeply, forgive quickly, take chances, give everything with no regrets and forget the past with exception of what you have learned and remember everything happens for a reason. (anonymous)

 

And do what YOU want to do…not what you think you SHOULD do or what you think others expect you to do. Say NO to those things that steal your energy. Say YES to the things that make your heart happy.

For now, I just want to sit on my porch and watch hummingbirds.anotherone

 

 

Rain, Sleet and Joy

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“How can you tell somebody has run a marathon? Don’t worry, they’ll TELL YOU!”  

On March 1st, I did it.  I finished my second marathon and beat my previous time by more than 30 minutes.  A few days before the race the National Weather Service predicted a start temperature of 40 and a daily high of 55. Sounded like perfect running weather. As the race neared, the predictions grew gloomier. At 6:30 a.m. the morning of the race, the current conditions were freezing rain, 30 degrees and a wind chill of 23. Now for some people this isn’t a big deal, but I’m a true Texan. I love sunshine and prefer sweat to chill bumps any day of the year. As sleet pelted the windshield, I honestly considered leaving – – – nobody would blame me, right? But I knew I’d regret it the rest of my life, so I stepped out, shivering and muttering obscenities under my breath.

I shuffled off into the sleet, determined to make my goal time and prove to myself I could do better than I did in October.

PACING

One of the problems I had with my first marathon was pacing. I was so concerned with the finish line, that I didn’t run a steady, slow pace.  During a recent yoga class, my instructor explained that one of the problems beginners have with yoga is trying to hurry into the final pose.  Instead of concentrating on creating a strong base for a headstand, they start kicking their feet into the air,wanting to get UP…NOW.  It doesn’t work out well.  So I focused on my base…I concentrated on my steady pace.

COURAGE

Around mile 6 I saw a sign on the back of a man’s shirt so I ran a little faster to catch up and read it.  The sign read “Running off the chemo one mile at a time:  26.2” I ask him about the chemo. Last year he ran the Army Marathon. Shortly thereafter he was diagnosed and had been receiving chemo all year. And there he was  – out in the icy rain – running.  His courage took away every excuse I had for not finishing. In Harker Heights the sidewalks were crowded with Harker Heights firefighters cheering him on. I remarked that he had quite the fan club and he told me he was a firefighter.  What a motivation!!!

SELF-CARE

I trotted along, still at my pace (give or take).  I rewarded myself at certain points by eating gels and drinking sports drinks. I had failed to take adequate nutrition at the first marathon. The lesson here is that self-care is vital! We can try to be brave and tough and unselfish but the bottom line is unless we feed our bodies and souls, we’ll end up pretty useless to everybody around us (and we’ll post a terrible performance).

MINDFULNESS

I also focused on running one mile at a time. I didn’t think about how far I had to go or how far I’d gone. I tried to concentrate on that single mile under my feet. Step…step…step…focus on the step. Live in the moment. I reminded myself I can’t go back and run the last mile any differently and I can’t be at the finish until I’m at the finish. I tried to be mindful, living the race foot by foot, mile by mile.

ATTITUDE

Smiling…I smiled as much as possible. I thanked volunteers along the way. I made a game out of trying not to miss a single volunteer. Of course, when there were 15 folks at a water stop, I had to yell out a general THANK YOU.  But I wanted my heart filled with gratitude and joy on this run.  As I remarked to some of the law enforcement officers, I chose to be out there running in the ice. I’d actually even paid money to participate.  But these men and women were there out of duty. I felt gratitude and compassion.

I was affected by the positive attitude of those around me too. Somewhere between mile 18 and 20, I ran with a wonderful woman from Killeen. She was so full of energy that I felt revived talking to her. We laughed and shared for several miles.  I thought about how such exuberant energy is contagious…what a gift to the universe!

PURPOSE and REAL HEROES

Then I hit my wall…it started on the dam when the cold wind picked up and slapped me in the face. By mile 22 I was doing a lot of walking. Then I remembered why I was running . . .

When I signed up for the marathon, I was given the option of setting up a fundraiser page for one of several designated charities. After reading and studying, I chose Team Red White and Blue.  Team RWB works with veterans to reintegrate them into the civilian world. From the website:  “Team RWB’s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.”

Every day 22 veterans commit suicide…that’s one human life lost every 65 minutes.  Involvement in sports and physical activities has been shown to alleviate the despair in which these veterans find themselves hopelessly lost.

(A good article to read:  http://teamrwb.org/in-the-media/two-teams-unite-to-better-veteran-community)

As I ran, I started thinking about how so many of our veterans are living in darkness – in sadness, grief and despair so thick I can’t even imagine.  I was just running 26.2 miles. I was smiling and happy.  I felt some pain but it would be over in a few hours.  These men and women can’t see an end to their pain so they opt for the most radical of solutions.

I could endure for them…I only raised $1,420 on my fundraising page, but just maybe that would change the life of even one veteran somewhere. Just maybe he or she would wear the Eagle (the Team RWB logo) and find hope.

Thinking of these heroes, I finished my race….I was so overwhelmed I couldn’t decide if I wanted to laugh or cry so I did both.

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I was laughing and crying simultaneously.

And just as the Army Marathon promises, I did run with heroes…and I ran for heroes.  May God bless them ALL!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Green Eyed Monster versus Beauty Queen (winner takes Tokyo)

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAIt is in the character of very few men to honor without envy a friend who has prospered. ~Aeschylus

Forty-eight years and I’m finally getting over it…the green eyed monster that has kept from appreciating so many wonderful people.

I’ve always had amazing friends – talented, intelligent, kind, beautiful friends. But while I love them, sometimes I would feel such ugliness. I have been such a jealous, envious person. Here’s a confession: I even screwed two friends over because of my nasty feelings. That’s hard to admit but it’s true.

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My jealousy is part of my brokeness.

In high school I used to call the popular girls “plastic people.”  I made fun of the whole concept of cheerleading and beauty contests.  I knew I could never be one of them.  As a matter of fact, someone told me back in those days that it was a good thing I was smart because I’d never get anywhere on my looks. So I tried to be as anti-pretty as possible, attempting to convince myself I was morally superior rejecting superficiality. Deep inside I still felt so inferior.

But things are changing in my life . . . things are changing in my soul.

The other day in yoga we were asked to sit and stare into the eyes of our yoga partner. I was sooo uncomfortable. My hands were sweating and I had the constant urge to laugh and say something funny. Proving the universe has a point to make, my partner was a beauty queen and former cheerleader.  But as I looked into her eyes, I saw that deep inside she wasn’t that much different from me…I knew she felt uncomfortable too. She laughs and cries and worries about being laughed at…and all those feelings I have.

She looked into me and saw my pain – the scary stuff I try hard to hide.  I was living my nightmare…being vulnerable and transparent in front of one of those people who always intimidated me. Why does that frighten me so much? Am I so afraid of my reflection? Has this always been about my own insecurity? In a word “YES!” But during the yoga exercise, I was insecure but not envious or jealous. I felt only warmth toward my partner.

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Reflections can be scary

 Embrace the glorious mess that you are! – Elizabeth Gilbert

Now I could write more about the solution, but I think it’s so very evident.  I won’t go through a lot of narration because there are so many layers. To the point:

I’m learning to be accepting of and compassionate toward others because

FINALLY I’m starting to accept and love myself.

“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete” ~ Buddha

As with all my life lessons….to be continued…

Wabi-Sabi

Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.    ~Marilyn  Monroe

Last week in yoga, preparing for the one pose I can do perfectly, Savasana (Corpse Pose), I leaned back on my mat and looked up.  I was intrigued. The ceiling in the old building is beautiful – antique tin tiles, paint peeling – imperfectly beautiful.  It reminded me of a phrase I’d heard a few times:  Wabi-Sabi (not wasabi which is also something I do well…or at least eat well). I realize I could get into the entire concept a lot more deeply but I’m just going to dance on the surface of Wabi-Sabi in this blog.

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       Wabi-sabi

 Wabi-sabi represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”. It is a concept derived from the Buddhist teaching of the three marks of existence, specifically impermanence, the other two being suffering and emptiness or absence of self-nature. Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, asperity, simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes. (FROM FREEBASE.COM)

A smile is ALWAYS beautiful.

A smile is ALWAYS beautiful.

I love getting out with my fancy camera and taking photos of critters and nature. People often ask me to take their photo but I nearly always decline. Most folks, me included,  will inevitably be unhappy with photos of themselves. We pick out each flaw and focus on it. Animals don’t care.

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OH NO! You can see my pores.

Is it my vanity that has convinced me I look like a super-model but the camera can’t quite pick it up?  Why can’t I love my deep smile lines and uneven eyes? Asymmetry is one of the characteristics listed in the Wabi-Sabi definition.  Looking around in nature, there is nothing but “imperfection.” Flowers missing petals, trees with broken limbs, irregular shaped clouds…but it’s all still perfect. We are so captivated by the beauty of a sunrise that we don’t notice the landscape isn’t following the 3/4 rule.

One of the things I love about our yoga class is that it’s ok to need  a block or a strap and bend my knees during forward bends.  Oddly enough, being unable to do things “textbook” perfectly  isn’t even deemed as imperfection or as a weakness. We’re told to honor ourselves – accept ourselves and our own limitations. According to our teacher, nearly all yoga teachers have poses that are difficult for them.

And with this new appreciation of Wabi-Sabi comes forgiveness.  When I accept my own “imperfection”, I’m more likely to accept the imperfection of others. My screw-ups are beautiful because they are a part of my charm. And maybe your screw-ups are part of yours.

But this morning on Facebook a friend posted something that really struck me….and I’ll end with this thought:  Maybe everything IS perfect. 

Stay OUT of my Peaceful Place

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My mother-in-law had created a sanctuary in her backyard for birds, deer and all manner of creatures…except snakes. Snakes met some ugly fates.

“I don’t like your hair like that. It makes you look old.”         “Why would a grown woman dye her hair pink!?!”              “You really need to start going back to church. ”          “You really need to . . . (fill in the blank, the options seemed endless)”

The comments seemed to keep coming.  After a long day of criticism and unwanted advice, I ran by the grocery store for comfort food. The cashier was so rude I couldn’t decide if I should slap her face or cry.

I finally made it home and noticed my husband had made lunch and not cleaned up after himself. There were crumbs and smears of mayonnaise on the counter. The dishes were piled in the sink.  I went into the living to complain and found him soundly sleeping in his recliner, oblivious to the world and my complaints.

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Why stand in the storm when you go inside?

I needed to escape so I threw on my running clothes and headed down the road, but I couldn’t shake the ugliness inside of me. I was angry and hurt. The world wasn’t fair. My chest felt like it was holding back a flood of tears. My legs just hurt.  I thought my head would explode. I knew my blood pressure was getting higher and higher because my ears started ringing.

So what the hell is wrong with me???

I slowed down and focused on breathing.

#1 – Just because somebody has an opinion doesn’t mean it’s right! WOW! Sometimes I believe everybody has the right answers except me. For years I’ve listened my family members and people in positions of authority as though they held the secrets to the universe. Hey…maybe I hold the secret! At least I need to give myself a little more air time. I realize I can be wrong, but sometimes I can be right.

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You don’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.

#2 – Why should somebody’s opinion affect me? Another person’s opinions and thoughts don’t have to mean anything to me unless I want them to.  Maybe I do look ridiculous with pink hair but I like it and at the end of the day, isn’t that really all that matters?

 

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Even after getting into trouble, Cupcake isn’t the least bit bothered. She just takes a nap!

#3 – How important is it?  How important is it that hubby sleeps in his recliner? I get some tv time that way.  The dogs are acting crazy but do I have to get involved if nobody and nothing is being damaged? How often do I find myself stressed out by things that I could so easily ignore? Maybe I don’t “approve” of what somebody else is doing, but it doesn’t have to affect me…in the same way another person’s lack of approval doesn’t have to “harsh my mellow.”

and finally:   

#5 – MY LIFE! MY TIME! MY HAIR! What do “I” want? When I’m on my deathbed (hopefully a long time from now), what will I regret? What will make me smile?  If I quiet down just a bit, I can hear my soul whisper her desires and needs. I just have to listen. I choose to be happy today. I choose to be calm. I choose to stay in my peaceful place and you can only come in if I let you.

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Peaceful scenes are all around me – so often in the details.

Who’s Watching the Big Dog?

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I worry about their safety, so I keep them on leashes when we go out in the pastures.

I was never a good babysitter. I remember once watching my neighbor’s youngest son and daughter. I sat back as they raced around my house spraying each other with air fresheners.  We probably should have all died of asphyxia.

I do a little better with dogs….well, a “LITTLE.” I let them run around like wild ones sometimes because I think they need to do that. And it’s hilarious to watch. But I am a pretty good fur-baby-mom. I make sure they have shots, I buy expensive healthy foods, limit treats (even though at times, a long lasting busy bone would be the ideal thing to make Cupcake stop bouncing off Sparky’s head). I try to keep them safe from harm and I won’t even go out of town overnight because I worry.

But who’s babysitting the babysitter?

I appear to take really good care of myself. I run and lift weights and eat healthy sometimes. But if you really know me, you can see through that facade. I can eat a dozen cupcakes followed up by a bag of Doritos…which often leads back to chocolate because you have to change the salty taste in your mouth to sweet (or vice versa.)  And if there is anything decadent in the house, I feel the compulsion to eat ALL OF IT!  I have this rationale that I should rid the house of it so I can start eating healthy tomorrow.  Why can’t I take loving care of myself like I do my pets? By the same token, why can’t I let myself run wild like I did the kids that day?

The past few days I’ve rewarded myself for being alive by feeding myself large quantities of fat and sugar.  Or maybe I just thought that feeding my negative emotions would keep their mouths busy chewing so they’d shut up for a while. I’ve completely overdone it.  And I can feel it…my stomach feels queasy, I’m tired and lethargic, and I noticed I was breathing harder on my runs.

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Sometimes you just have to tell them to back down!

But I don’t just abuse myself. I allow other people to treat me with disrespect. There’s a saying “talk to him/her like a dog.” Well, I don’t talk to my dogs the way others have spoken to me recently, with my permission.

During this time of self-abuse, I have been loved by wonderful friends.  I honestly don’t deserve the love of these women, but I guess ‘grace’ extends into all areas of life.  And these sisters teach me much.

Thanks to my friends,  I believe...

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I could adorn myself with flowers and ride in the back of the pickup, smiling into the wind.

…things are going to change. I’m going to learn take care of myself…healthy diet, healthy living, boundaries, and the permission to run wild. I started this blog to learn life lessons, I just didn’t expect to be pushed into a journey that feels this large.

But I’ll take it one step at a time and just breathe and focus on love…loving myself, loving others, forgiving myself, forgiving others…and moving on.

Wearing my errors with style and grace

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Bella has a cozy spot where she feels safe and secure.  It’s inside one of the best cat inventions yet: the pop-open kitty cube. When the house gets crazy, and the dogs act like wild ones, she goes to this hiding spot.  Sometimes, all curled up, she seems almost smug in her little corner of the world.

I find myself smug like that sometimes. Secure in my little world, sure of myself and my knowledge. But if somebody messes with my cube, I get angry.

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So often Sparky tries to play with Bella while she’s happily purring in her cube. And equally often he ends up with a claw on the nose and . . . occasionally he gets his head stuck. But it never seems to bother him….he just runs around the house, quite proud of himself and his newest accessory. Very stylish in the dog world, I hear.

The other day I found myself in an argument. I was 150% sure that I was right.  I didn’t doubt myself for a moment. When somebody attempted to correct me, I turned vicious, throwing some profanity into my defense.

I was no longer sweet little Bella curled up in my cube.  I discovered I was wrong and my head was stuck in the cube. There was my denying it…my head was completely STUCK! I swallowed hard and then decided to sit in silence, brewing and fuming in my “wrongness” and trying to find a reason…an excuse or maybe a loophole.

Periscoping my red face out of my cube, I glanced around the room. Yep, they were watching…oh woe is me. What do I do now?  I look like a fool. I look ridiculous!

*GULP* I swallowed that big bitter lump of pride and…I wore the cube with grace…I said THOSE words…

I WAS WRONG! 

And it wasn’t that bad…actually it felt kinda good. Almost like a relief. I don’t have to be infallible. I can be human. I was wrong and the ceiling didn’t cave in around me ears.  The room of people didn’t laugh at me.

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I was wrong! I was wrong!

WOW! I look good in a cube.  I’m kinda cute in my humanness/dogness.

So like Sparky, I just pranced around the room with my cube around my neck, wagging my tail the rest of the day.