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.

brave

 

 

 

 

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!

sparky

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

road

 

 

 

Because Ordinary is Extra-ordinary

ellenDogs recognize the exceptional in everybody because they take the time to sniff them out.  Dogs don’t worry about your social standing, where you live or work, what kind of clothes you wear. They’re more concerned with who you REALLY ARE (or if you have treats in your pockets). Because I’ve been taking the time to sniff out the people around me, I’ve been blessed to meet some extra-ordinary folks

Today I’m going to introduce you to Ellen, a friend I met through running.  I wasn’t sure how to write this so I conducted an email interview. Her words are in bold, mine in italics.

Ellen is a runner, fitness fanatic, mother, wife, ex-cop…and what else…(as if that isn’t enough).  

So where to start on this interview. Of course, looking at your Facebook page, two things really jump out – your love for your children and your love of running.
I’m sure everybody reading will want to know “How does she do it?” But I think the answer is obvious “With love”
So let’s get started with you…

You were a law enforcement officer. Is that what started you on your fitness journey? What motivated you to join the force.

I guess I secretly wanted to be a police officer ever since I was a kid.  I loved the show Dragnet and then moved on to Hawaii Five-O because they always got the bad guy.  I was pretty focused, even as a young kid on trying to make the world a better place even if it was one bad guy at a time.  Of course, as I got older, the line between “bad guy and good guy” got blurrier and more obscure.  It was then that I learned of a thing called “situational ethics” (would you steal to feed your starving child?) and police work became more about social work based on personal morals.  I liked that well enough, but laws and personal perspectives sometimes clash.

Over the past…how many years…you’ve lost quite a bit of weight and gained quite a bit of fitness…
Tell me a little bit about that.

Well, the long and short of it is that I was always a jock in high school.  I was always a bit more athletic than most girls and competed mostly with boys.  I did medical missions for years through a non profit I started.  We brought 250 kids from 16 different third worlds countries to the USA for live-saving FREE medical care.  That is a tale all its own.  But while I was doing that, and traveling, I got lost somewhere and woke up with a whole lot of weight, which in turn, depressed me, which in turn, exacerbated into more weight gain and that cycle was born.  When I realized that I had 2 kids, both age 5 who needed me I decided I needed to get my health back.  Sooooo, 86 pounds later and a whole lot more healthier, here I am.  I am trying to learn to be a runner because running is the total package for me.

You’re a foster mother to quite a few children with special needs. That takes a special person. What made and your husband decide to dedicate yourselves to these children? (I did learn Ellen is not a “foster” but read on…)

I am a Mom to 2 bio adult boys, both with children (3 grand daughters between them) of their own. As they were growing up, I did foster care for “the system” for a while, but again, got quite dismayed with the real purpose behind foster care (it is a numbers game) and how little “services” were actually provided.  The pendulum swings from “you are a bad mother, let’s take your kids away because you feed them poor food” all the way to “ let’s put your 6 month old baby in a foster home for the 18th time and give you a break—oh and stop using drugs”.  In other words..you can half kill your kids and still not lose them or you can be poor and be penalized for it.  The system is broken.

Our ELEVEN adopted children are not foster children.  They know the joy of permanency.  I need to emphasize that because of our 11 children, SIX of them were adopted by other families who were unable to parent them.  They ALL came from third world nations where they knew poverty, abuse neglect and lived a constant state of never knowing what was next.  Permanency is a HUGE need for them. They are not foster children; they are all children who have a family and belong.

When people adopt children, there are challenges that not many talk about.  International kids can be a challenge not only for the obvious reasons (they don’t speak the language, they are accustomed to the food, smells, even skin color of their new family.  But they also can be a challenge because they had no say in the deal.  There they were…in an orphanage which is the only home they ever knew and suddenly they are a million mile away, in a new culture with strangers who expect the child to immediately love them.  These kids can be full of rage, sorrow and confusion.  It really can throw a family for a loop.  And usually, the mother is the target of that rage.  Running helps nullify some of that agony from watching your child grieve. 

I have 11 special needs kids.  I love, adore and am smitten with them.  They taught me more than any books, lectures or even ideas I have ever encountered.  But not everyone feels that way about my kids.  For school systems, they are a financial burden and we have struggled and fought with schools for services.  Advocacy is not always a popular position.  Educational advocacy can pit school against parent and I have to tell you, of all the tough things I have done in life, this is one of the toughest.  I know my kids need me to fight for what they rightfully deserve, but there is a certain vindictiveness that happens when you force big entities to do their job.  We have fallen victim to that vicious retaliation more than once.  Running helps me clear my head and turn my anger around.

So, if I were to tell you that I run to keep the weight off, that would be true.  But more so, I run to keep my head and heart balanced. The reason I hated running so much was that I KNEW I was fit, but I could not find that balance.  I could not defeat that inner voice of anger and contempt.  The real challenge of running for me, was learning how to be ok with not being my best or with feeling tired and waiting to quit and being ok knowing that some days are just like that. When I could give myself permission to just run and let my run be just that..a time to just “be”, I started liking running and now, it is the best medicine.  It took great friends and real support for me to get there and I am still shaky with it all. Always a work in progress but it teaches me the value of friendship, too!

My first race was a 10K.  I am proud of that but truthfully, I should have done a 5K.  I did a 10K because I wanted to prove that I could do more.  In a way, that is good.  But in a way, that was the EXACT barricade that I was facing with my running.  Needing to be the best without fail.  The 10K taught me that I could prevail, but it also taught me a bit about arrogance.  That is the dichotomy of running…it teaches you about your strengths, but it also flashes your weaknesses and lights them in bold marquee lights. Mostly, it teaches me about balance.  We all need balance.

Another thing I love about running is the “brotherhood”.  When I read yet one more story about how someone, without care and concern, stopped their own personal marathon to help a stranger meet their goal it lights my heart on fire with hope.  When I read stories about kids who can’t even walk, hoisting themselves over a finish line named courage and determination, what does THAT tell you about the human spirit?  When I read about a woman with stage 4 brain cancer, not only running her final marathon, but running it to make others aware of a cause, what does that sayleaf about self-sacrifice?  I have found the camaraderie of runners is unique, inspiring and universal. I love belonging to such a cohesive  community of hope  in times of worldly division and degradation.

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.

cownose

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.