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Breaking the Old, Creating the New

I just watched the movie The Secret for the 3rd time in my life.  Each time I have watched this movie was for a different purpose.  Obviously, the purpose of the present moment is to help me heal from the arthritis that has manifested in my body.  It is a slightly dramatic movie, but I believe it holds a lot of truths.  The portion of the movie that focuses on health really struck me since the people being interviewed say over and over again how important it is to believe yourself already healed.  Instead of focusing on the illness, focus your thoughts on healing and the end result, allowing the universe to take care of the rest.  They say that illness is merely a reflection of what is going on in one's mind.  This is why the placebo effect is so potent.  The mind has great power over what goes on in the body.

For me, having a disease that is thrown in everyone's faces with my wobbly way of walking, my swollen fingers and my bent arm, it is difficult to focus on it not being there.  People around me are so kind - they often ask me, when they see me struggle to get up from my seat, if they can help in any way.  I feel so loved and taken care of if I ever do need help.  People are truly wonderful.  At the same time, I constantly have to give a short explanation as to why I struggle because oftentimes, even when I say "no, thank you, I don't need help.  Just a few more seconds of time to get to standing," people still stand by to lend a hand.  So then I follow up and say, "it's just arthritis."  Strangers will usually give me a surprised look (how can someone so young?  . . . )  and then let me be.  And to say "arthritis" over and over again just reminds me that I have this disease.

I do believe, from evidence of this past summer when I was in an absolute state of euphoria from reading up on people who have had near death experiences, that the mind does heal the body.  Nothing - absolutely nothing - could waver my belief in my being healed.  Nothing.  I was selfish for the first time in my life.  I was selfishly doing things that I wanted to do and saying no to anything I did not want to do.  I loved myself and let go of so many of the "stresses" that I put on myself.  I let myself have fun!  This, unbeknownst to me, was so difficult to do.  How can it be so difficult to have fun?!  Sometimes, though, it does feel difficult.  When you fall into habits, to break away from them seems impossible.  And it isn't until you try when you realize how many habits you created in your life that hold you back.

This past summer, I found spirituality that resonated (resonates) so deeply for me.  For the first time, everything in my life makes sense.  However, after 32 years of habits, 4 months of euphoria were not quite enough to change things permanently.  I was thrown off track when I got that other tidbit of bad news regarding my health caused most likely by the medication I was taking.  So I was thrown back into old habits.  And I have been working this past month to get back on that track.  And I am getting back there!  I am rereading the book that started it all and I am reminding myself every day - EVERY DAY - to live with abandon and love.  To be love.

I am headed to Brazil at the end of this month to see a health guru in Brazil who may help me further.  I feel that this entire summer has been leading up to this moment and that I will be healed.  

[My husband dipping me 5 years ago in front a beautiful mansion in Lake Geneva, happy and healthy - Blissful memory]



The Week of Eating Practically Nothing!

The week of fasting is over!  I decided on day 3 of the juice fasting that it wasn't enough.  I wanted to go full force ahead and drink only water for as long as possible.  My system was needing a complete overhaul.

To sum up, here is what happened:

Day 1:  Two glasses of juice including kale, carrots, apples, cucumber, peaches, celery, brussel sprouts, beets, and pineapple.  Water in between.

Day 2:  Two glasses of juice including the above fruits and veggies and also adding rhubarb (horrible decision.  It should not be juiced.  Yuk, yuk, yuk).  Water/ herbal tea in between.

Day 3:  WATER ONLY

Day 4:  WATER ONLY [note:  I did cave once and had a tiny piece of pinapple by the end of the night and a cup of vegetable broth]

Day 5:  WATER ONLY 

Day 6:  1 banana, three stalks of celery, 1/2 cup of mixed, raw hazelnuts, almonds, cashews, walnuts and raisons (no salt added)

Day 7:  1 batch of fresh raspberries; a few mixed greens with balsamic vinaigrette dressing on the side, 1 bowl of lentils, 1 apple, 1 banana

What I was hoping to gain from the fast:

A body cleanse.  I wanted my body to be completely fresh and ready to start again.  I wanted ailments to heal and my arthritis to go away, even if it was only temporary.  

The Result of the fast:

My body definitely shed a few pounds during the week (approximately 8 pounds).  My arthritis actually improved on day 4 of the fast (after my first day of drinking only water), but then actually declined for the rest of the week!  Each day, as I was tracking my pain level and inflammation, each joint got steadily worse.  In fact, I have two new joints that are affected - my left ankle and right elbow.

However, when I mentioned that I had a health concern come up in my last entry, which is the real reason I decided to go on this fast, I was told that the condition slightly improved (without going into much detail, I will tell you that this seemed impossible news as this condition has been slowly getting worse for the past 3 years and was potentially cancer!).  Needless to say, I was so elated by this news, I was driven to tears of happiness.  It was complete and utter bliss.  A happiness that is difficult to describe.

The Conclusion:

These past two weeks were actually two weeks that I would like to forget most out of all of the weeks of my life, but the pure and utter exhilaration I felt at hearing the news that my other condition actually improved tells me that I did something right.  If a week of fasting can help something that has been progressively getting worse over a three year period, I would recommend some kind of fast to anyone, even if it means cutting out one unhealthy thing out of your diet for a period of time!  

I really don't understand why the arthritis got worse as the week of fasting continued. It went against all of my research on it.  I can only guess that I was so anxious about this other "thing" that came up in an exam caused me so much stress that it actually caused me to have a major flare-up.  I do feel that my overall health improved.  My mental state was up and down as I shifted from starvation, to determination, to self-pity, to positivity, to hopelessness and on and on.  On day 5 I felt particularly agitated with my place on this earth.  Seeing perfectly healthy people eating whatever their hearts' desired made me wonder why I have been faced with this challenge.  

I have said this before and I will say it again:  I think that until you are faced with a health issue that can change the quality or longevity of your life (and hopefully no one reading this will ever have to face this), you become much more introspective and clear about what matters and what doesn't.  I think that five years ago when my arthritis basically changed the way I lived, it also changed my perspective on many things.  I believe that every ailment in the body is caused by an imbalance somewhere.  I believe that judgement, fear, guilt, and feelings of inadequacy can all lead to different kinds of illnesses.  When I focus on love, happiness, acceptance, tolerance, joyfulness, and fearlessness, I feel minute positive changes in my condition that tell me I'm on the right path.  

I try to further help my body heal with a vegan, mainly plant-based diet, and I immediately saw the positive effects of that last year when I could forgo my medication for 6 weeks.  I haven't eaten an Oreo cookie since October 2011, and anyone who has been following this blog can attest to how difficult that has been for me (I miss McFlurries so badly!).  My doctors tell me that arthritis never goes away no matter what I eat or how I think, and it will only get worse with time.  I was once afraid they were right, but deep down, I never believed them, and I am here to prove them wrong.

I am testing and trying and trying again, and I will stop at nothing until I completely get my body back to the way it was when I was 25 years old, the last year that I truly felt physically perfect.  The fast may not have worked for the arthritis, but it might have worked for something.  

I recently asked my husband how he always remains so positive no matter what comes his way, and he told me that he has always believed that out of every experience in life something good comes out of it.  Something good ALWAYS comes out of it.  So I will hold on to that thought and look forward to the amazing things to come out of this life-changing, sometimes difficult but at times enlightening situation. . .


(2005:  This was a time when all I really ever thought about was food and how badly I wanted to live in France - this picture was taken in France, incedentally)




Healing Everything

I am on day 2 of a juice fast.  So far, I am feeling fine as long as I don't hear mention of things like toast, pasta, or butter.  Those three things have caused serious hunger pangs that only toast, pasta or butter (preferably on the toast) can satisfy.

The reason for my fast is this:  I recently recieved news of some health issues that I need to take care of.  And since I have spent the last year researching methods on how to heal my body through food, juicing, and fasting, I have decided to put into action all that I have learned.  I am going to practice what I have been preaching and heal myself.  I have stopped taking my very strong medicine - Enbrel - for my arthritis, as this is very likely what caused my most recent health issue, and I am now moving forward sans medicine.  It feels good!  As my husband says, it is time to get my body back to the way it was 10 years ago and move on.  Enough is enough.  The way I see it, I am giving my body permission heal.  Through my research, I believe that pain is the body's way of telling us that we are off-balance somehow.  It is a trigger to change something, whether it be what we eat or how we think.  For once, I am beginning to listen.

There are certain things that I believe are necessary to get back to "normal" again:

1.  I meditate on LOVE every single night before going to sleep and when I wake up.
2.  I do yoga at least once per week, and I will be increasing this to 2-3 times per week this month.
3.  I eat an incredibly strict vegan diet, and in addition to that, I stay away from fried foods as much as possible.
4.  I have quieted my inner voice and listened more to what it is telling me (for example, it has always told me not to take Enbrel.  And although I am grateful for the medication that helped relieve my symptoms, I am confident that I will be better without it)
5.  I make sure to watch television that makes me laugh heartily.
6.  I read and re-read books that inspire me.  One book that I would suggest to everyone is Dying to Be Me, by Anita Moorjani.
7.  I de-stress by putting things that stress me out into perspective.  For example, I think of myself 30 years older and whether what I am worried about now is really going to affect me later in life.  9 times out of 10 the answer is "no", and I am sure that 10 times out of 10 is actually the more exact statistic.
8.  I write in a journal almost every night.
9.  I have fun in my life, even if my joints feel a little stiff.  I LET myself have fun and remember that LIFE IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN!
10.  I surround myself with people that are positive and loving.


My status report for being off my medication for 4 weeks is that I am feeling great (relatively speaking).  I hate to be vague, but it feels too lengthy to go into detail about every joint.  Plus, some days are better than others.  It's like the stock market.  Some days are up, some days are down, but the important thing is that everything is improving overall.  And it is!  

I do not think of myself as an arthritic person.  I like to think of myself as a person who has a temporary ailment that can be overcome with a healthy attitude and diet.  So here I go, embarking on complete healing of the mind and body.



Choosing a Thought

OK, when I begin to write blog entries that somehow relate to my arthritis, I always hesitate because, really, who wants to read about something depressing?  I always feel as though my audience will roll their eyes and skip that entry to find something more entertaining or uplifting.  That's why I always try and keep these types of entries positive - when I have discovered something that I feel is worth mentioning.  I want to try and help others out there, even if it's just one person who might find something valuable to take away.

So I have experienced something that is quite profound and life-changing that I couldn't possibly jam into one entry here.  But I will write down one experience that happened to me yesterday that relates to it all.  It's going to sound hippie-ish and all kumbaya, just warning you, but I hope that you try this yourself and discover the effects it has on you before passing judgement.  

To preface this experience, I will tell you that I had a major flare up yesterday in my knees and elbow and a couple of fingers.  My knees were enflamed to the point of it being difficult to walk more than a few steps and lift things with my left arm.  I wanted to sit stagnant the whole day, which I basically did.  But sitting stagnant makes it worse because my joints become even more stiff when I do finally move around.  So needless to say, I was depressed about it.  Angry, even.  I felt jealous of my perfectly healthy husband who is 10 years older than I am, and started to pick small fights with him about nothing important.  I felt sorry for myself.  I have been feeling "off", emotionally, for the past few weeks for no reason at all, but it annoys me that the inspiration that held me for long this summer after I had been introduced to several books that changed my ENTIRE OUTLOOK ON LIFE had slipped away somehow.  I couldn't hold on to the feeling (if you are interested in the books, just message me and I'll be glad to share!)

Anyhow, the more I spiraled down into my own self-loathing towards myself and others, the more my joints seemed to hurt.  Or the more I let the pain effect me.  I am not typically this negative at all, but on days where my body just does not want to cooperate with me are the days that are the more difficult to get through while putting a smile on my face.  

So, I made a very conscious decision at 11:59pm last night, that I would lie down on the bed and picture every person in my life - including myself! - in my mind's eye and feel, really feel, deep and profound love for them.  I concentrated every cell in my body, every breathe, every molecule on this love.  I went through each person I know, even acquaintances that popped into my mind.  I pictured these people, some appeared more clearly than others, and poured love into them.  Pure acceptance.  When I got to myself, I not only pictured myself, I started feeling love pour into my physical body with every deep breathe I took.  I imagined healing light go to my joints and heal them.  I felt deserving of the love.  I felt accepted.  I pushed aside judgement and opinions and just focused on loving everyone and everything in my life.  I focused on each person in such a way that I imagined them feeling the love I was giving them wherever they happened to be at the time.  

That's all.

So simple, yet so difficult to do, especially in such an angry state of mind I was in at the time.  I did not fall asleep right away.  This whole thought process took a mere 20-30 minutes, and then I tossed and turned a while longer before falling asleep.  This morning, the pain in my joints had so greatly subsided that even my husband looked surprised.  I have always known that one of the largest components to my condition is related to stress or negative emotion, especially towards myself.  I woke up feeling energized and positive again.  It was like the ugliness of the day before went away as soon as I allowed these loving thoughts to saturate my every cell.  

Right now, as I write this entry, I feel almost fortunate to have this disease.  It is almost like having an alarm go off to remind me that I need to meditate and focus on what is truly important - LOVE TOWARDS MYSELF AND OTHERS.  I have never felt such a dramatic decrease in a flare up before.  Never.  It usually takes a few days for me to feel "normal" again.  It has never happened overnight like this.

And that is all.  I just wanted to share this with you and hope that it can help.  

With love . . .


        


Dog Eat Dog World

Early this summer, when I was feeling really ready to buy a puppy, the universe provided and gave me a test-run dog to see if my husband and I could handle it.  Many people say that to find out what it feels like to experience parenthood, buy a dog first.  

I have never been the type that feels I need a test run (and to clarify, I am not pregnant).  I dive into most things head-first, and when the Frenchie, Bella, that I have been cooing over for years walked down the street three months ago with her owner, I immediately jumped at the chance to babysit her for a week while her owner [let's call him Charlie] went out of town.   

What ensued that week was just short of nightmarish.  Did you know that you have to wake up each morning to walk that dog, whether you feel up for it or not?  Whether it's raining, snowing, hot or cold?  Whether your head, joints or stomach aches?  Whether your late for work or not?  Whether you have the flu and a temperature that could put you in the hospital?  Whether you need surgery?  Whether you just plain don't feel like it?  Yes, I know that you know that.  But until you experience it first hand, you don't really know.  

Bella hated my staircase, so I would have to pick her up and carry her 20 pound body up and down two flights of stairs each morning for a walk.  She didn't care that my knees hurt or that I was tired.  She refused to walk those stairs.

When we got outside, she would stop and sniff at every damn blade of grass there was.  She would eat sticks that I would have to pry out of her lock jaw, covering my whole hand with her saliva.  She would climb up every other staircase that we passed as long as it wasn't to my apartment, and I would have to wait while thoroughly examined each entranceway in Lakeview.  She would spot another dog and submissively lie on the ground so that they could sniff her, which is adorable, but also lengthened the walk to make it double the amount of time it could have been (I live in a neighborhood of dog owners). 

When I tugged on the leash to pull her along, she would sit deadpan on the ground, refusing to walk in the direction I wanted her to go.  She was addicted to the 7-11 on the corner - must have been something about the lights and the big parking lot - and would dart to the door to try and get in while I helplessly got dragged with.  

At night, when I put her in her crate, she would bark.  I opened the door to the crate so she could get out, but she still wouldn't stop.  One night she came in the bedroom.  Howling.

Bella was on a very strict diet, and I had already fed her for the night.  But when she wouldn't stop barking, I caved and gave her a second dinner.  She still wouldn't stop barking, and since she ate her whole second meal, I thought she might even need a third meal!  I had already been up with her for over an hour, and nothing seemed to work.

My husband, who wanted to make sure that I got the full puppy experience (how kind of him), did not butt in until I contemplated feeding Bella again.  He got out of bed, irritated that he was still awake, and carried her to her crate in the next room, shutting the door to it but not locking it.  He came back to bed.

"You need to show leadership," he said to me.  "If you keep placating her, she won't stop."

"She might be hungry!"  I said. "She might need another walk!  She is barking for a reason."

"Yes, because she's getting attention," he said. 

"This isn't a child, hun," I said.  "This is a dog.  A dog we don't know.  She is obviously in some kind of distress."

"Just watch and learn," he said, adopting a smug tone.  

A few minutes later, Bella began barking again.  She trotted into our bedroom.  I snickered, feeling like I won my point.  My husband, completely undeterred, picked her up without saying a word and put her back in her crate.  She came out again, and again her picked her up without saying a word and put her in the crate.  He was using the technique we had both watched on "Super Nanny". This ensued for another 10 minutes until she quieted down and started snoring.  The technique worked after only 10 minutes.  I mean, c'mon.

"Now let's go to sleep," he said.  The undertone was clear - he had made his point and wanted us to end the day on that note.  My blood boiled.

"There could have been something wrong with her," I said.  "You are so unsympathetic."

"Clearly, there was nothing wrong with her," he said.  "What she needed was someone to show her boundaries."

"I was trying to make her more secure by being with her.  Not just shoving her in a crate and leaving her alone," I said, feeling defensive.

"Is this how you're going to parent?" he asked.  "I thought you were stronger than this."

"And I thought you would be a bit more loving!" I said, fully enraged but keeping my voice low so that Bella wouldn't suddenly wake up again.  "I hope this isn't the limits of your parenting style!"

I felt hurt and defeated, so I got personal.  We both did.

"This is a dog," he said.  "This is not even our dog.  So I am not going to bond with her like I would when we have children."

"Well, I feel like I have gotten a glimpse of what you will be like as a parent with Bella.  And at least I worry about her.  Watch out for her.  You just want your sleep!"

"There is nothing wrong with her," he said.  "If I felt that there was something wrong, I would do something about it.  She is eating, pooping and barking.  There is obviously nothing wrong."

We had this argument many times during the week, and it always came back to proper parenting.  All of the sudden, our philosophies about parenting had come to the surface with this dog.  Even though he and I have always agreed on the way to parent during discussions, it seems that in "real life", my actions relayed something different.  I became a worrier.  I let Bella control our walks.  I fed her too much.  And, as much as I hate to admit this, I let myself go a little that week.  I put on sweat pants everyday because the dog hair would mess up all of my nice clothes.  I barely put on my makeup because, really, what was the point?  I was just going to walk the dog.  I became over protective.  I was not myself.  My husband, in turn, appeared stern and the true disciplinarian.  He once showed me how to "properly" walk the dog by holding the leash close to him and walking at a quick pace, tugging her along without letting her stop until she needed to "use the bathroom."  I saw this as less enjoyable and too strict.  We bickered and competed.  I wanted to enjoy the dog more by allowing her to stop and smell the roses, so to speak, and he wanted the walk to be perfunctory and short.  [I hate to admit this, but by the end of the week, I held the leash close and took her home the moment she did her business because I really just couldn't take it anymore].

And the reason I write about this very long week with Bella so long after it happened is because I was so profoundly affected by it and needed time to process it.  I saw a new side to my marriage that I had never seen before.  It wasn't necessarily bad, but it was disconcerting.  I realize how every person (or animal) that comes into your life changes the dynamics, and you almost have to start again from a new vantage point.  I do believe that we became a stronger couple after the experience.  Now that I am beginning a new phase in my life (yet again), there is a newness that we both must get accustomed to.  Life is always changing and we are always finding our footing.  

So if you ever want to test yourself, get a dog and see what you're like.  Guarantee it will be an eye-opener.  Needless to say, I think I am more of a cat person.

Becoming the Black Sheep

When I was in Vienna (I think it was Vienna) with my best friend 8 years ago, we were walking the grounds of a palace when all of the sudden we hear a loud crashing sound from a distance.  The hundreds of people around us all scurried to where they thought the sound came from to try and figure out what caused it.  From what I can remember of the experience, my friend and I were being bumped into by a flurry of people all trying to see what the fuss was about.  People who didn't even hear the noise had approached, trying not to miss anything.  Have you ever looked in the direction that someone else is looking at just to see what he/ she is looking at?  It was like that.  

My friend, completely irritated by the commotion and seeing nothing that could have caused the crashing sound at all, yelled out, "Sheep!  We're all sheep!"

I looked around us in the midst of the crowd and realized that yeah, he's right.  We are a bit like sheep.  He and I were just as sheep-like as the rest of them.  We stumbled to the front of the crowd to try and catch a glimpse of whatever caused the noise, and when we saw absolutely nothing, we pushed our way back through the swarm of people and hung around a little while longer just in case we heard the noise again.  Others followed suit until the group dispersed and we went about our days as usual.  My friend felt deflated.  He felt disappointed in the human race and himself.  Dramatic, I know.

This particular memory pops up a lot for me, especially lately.  As I have made choices this summer to try and become more myself, I have realized how driven I have been by other people.  Many of my decisions in my life have subconciously been to please someone else.  This is difficult to admit, even to myself, but as I look within and really try to differentiate what I have done for me as opposed to other people, I have to say that all too often it has been for other people.  And the strange thing is, to get to the core of who I really am, I have had to peel back layer after layer with a lot of quiet contemplation to catch mere glimpses of what I really want.  After so many years of trying to please everyone around me, it is difficult to figure out what actually makes me happy.

I am not willing to be a sheep any longer.  I am not even sure that this is the most appropriate analogy because I wouldn't classify myself as a follower.  What I would say, though, is that I have convinced myself to take most every other path but own.  So that stops now.  Time to go rogue.  

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Reading What I Write

There are two things that I feel hesitant about sharing with people.  My singing voice is one of them and the books that I inevitably stop writing after 5 pages is another one. 

Let's talk about the singing first:  The best singing grounds for me are places where I can be alone, undisturbed and free to belt it out like it's my job.  I sing in the shower, alone in my car, in empty public restrooms, on vacant elevators, alone on my bike, or underwater.  If there is even one person around, however, I clutch or quickly change my tune into some sort of joke, with ridiculous accents and off-key notes to show people that I really don't take myself seriously.  But when I'm alone, I do take myself seriously and sometimes even practice my scales or notes that I didn't quite get right the first time.  I turn into a serious student of song.  

My writing is another matter all together.  To share it with the world is quite daunting and downright scary.  When I first started this blog three years ago, in fact, I kept it a secret for fear that what I wrote would be a big joke to everyone.  Many times I do write with levity, but deep down I want my ideas and thoughts to resonate, effect and possibly change someone for the better.  What I write on my blog are merely snippets of a grander plan.  My intention is to become confident enough in myself and my writing to trust that one day I can turn all of these thoughts into some kind of book.  It is practice for me so that I can write something significant, important, captivating.  I realize I sound like most every writer out there.  But here is the reason I am writing this now:

Just today I mustered up the courage to give a few pages of my new book to someone I trusted to read it and give me honest and productive feedback.  When I say "productive", what I wanted him to do was be specific about what he liked or did not like and make suggestions on how to improve it.  I asked him for this, and he agreed. 

What I sent him was only a few pages, so it should not have taken a long time to read, but he never called to tell me what he thought.  After an hour, I couldn't handle waiting anymore, so I called him.  I asked him what he thought of my book.  He said that he did not like it.  I asked him why.  He didn't know.  I asked him to think about it more and get back to me, and he said that he is not good at knowing how to pinpoint what he likes and doesn't like when it comes to books.  It's just the way he is.  He is not good at analyzing his thoughts.  He doesn't know why he doesn't like it.  He just doesn't.  He's not good at that.

"Is that all?  You just didn't like it?" I asked.

"That's all I can say," he said.

I practically hung up on him. I nearly deleted my entire book in frustration.  I ranted to my co-workers.  I felt sorry for myself.  I forgot my feeling of zen.  I berated my bad idea of a book.  I vowed never to let anyone read my writing again.

[taking a moment of pause with a deep sigh]

And now that I have written this all out and I feel a bit calmer and less frustrated, I realize that at some point I am going to have to trust people with what I write.  If II do write a book and it shows up on shelves and in Kindles, I am going to have to let you all in and hope for the best, even if your opinions are not exactly what I hope to hear.  I am going to have to tumble forward and face my fear.  And even if this man did not give me the feedback I hoped for, I should probably learn to accept it for what it is or else continue making excuses for never finishing the books I start.

So I will continue with this book, see where it goes and set the frustration aside.  But I mean seriously, isn't there more to say than just "I didn't like it?"  Ugh.

Ok, I'm over it.  I swear.  Moving on . . .


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New Age Hippie

The word Hippie carries with it a lot of different meanings for people.  When my husband first laid eyes on me, he thought I was a hippie.  He was about to cancel our date because hippies, apparently, weren't his thing.  My curly red hair is what he noticed first, and I guess it was enough for him to make that assessment.  For the record, he fell head over heals the moment we started talking and soon realized that I was not a hippie, so ehem, ehem, don't judge a book by its cover.

To me, a hippie evokes an image of a pale, unwashed human who rarely bathes and does not shave any part of the body.  They wear hemp clothing and spend their time protesting and debating animal rights.  They eat a lot of soy and smoke a lot of pot.  They are very intelligent and very one-with-the-earth.  They are very opinionated and smell of incense and body odor.  Many have dreadlocks and wear mushroomy hats.  They love trees.  I am not sure if everyone has this image, but this is mine. 

I have never thought of myself as a hippie.  There is nothing wrong with being classified as one, but I would say that when I met my husband, I did not fit into my categorization of a Hippie and did not want anyone to think of me that way because, frankly, I don't like to be misunderstood.  Plus, I am not hairy, I do not smoke pot, I do not protest and do not sport dreadlocks, just for the record.

This summer has been an interesting one for me.  I have done a lot of soul-searching, as usual, but these past few months have been different.  I have started meditating, practicing yoga, listening to my inner voice, following my gut feelings, loving trees, burning incense, and wearing hats (not mushroomy ones, but still hats).  I feel happier, more at peace, more centered.  I do not take life as seriously as I once did.  I feel more compassion and empathy towards others.  I do not think that I am turning into what my image of a hippie is, but I am feeling more connected to the earth and to the people who flit in and out of my life, and to me, that feels like a "hippie" thing to say.  I think that I am turning into a hippie, but a new-age hippie.  I am redefining what it means to be a hippie or maybe I am just one of many types of hippies that already exist that I did not know about. I feel zen.  I feel excited about life!  I feel confident in my new hippie-ness.  

So here I go, embarking on another chapter in my life, only this time as more myself.  Perhaps my husband was right those 6 years ago when he first saw me.  Perhaps he just saw a part of me that even I hadn't seen yet, even if it was only my red curly hair that prompted the initial judgement.  Either way, I am embarking on life and my next job, whatever it may be, with a sense of security and one-ness with all things.  I am a hippie.

Surrounded by trees - My favorite

The Positives of the "Negatives"

I have been thinking about coincidences lately and what they mean, if anything.  I spent a night making a list of strange things that have happened where I can with 95% surety say, "that happened for a reason."  I am not sure I necessarily believe in coincidences anymore.  I don't believe in fate or destiny either, but I am becoming more and more convinced that there is a plan or a goal in mind for each of our lives and it is up to us to listen to the signs and follow the doors that become open to us, even if it is because another path had become severed.  

I am on a quest to figure this arthritis thing out.  I no longer believe that diseases need to necessarily manifest themselves in people's bodies - but I do believe that it is the body's way of telling us something.  Doesn't it make sense that if there is something emotional eating away at us each day and we do our best to distract ourselves from it, our bodies react in the only way they can to warn us that something is out of synch or out of balance?  Pain becomes a body's voice.  And mine is speaking loud and clear.

I am not saying that everyone who suffers from disease or a serious ailment it means that this is the result of some deep-rooted emotional suppression, but I am saying that it might be our chance to look within and seek ourselves again.

I have been doing that this summer.  I have been attuned to what the universe is throwing in front of me and listening to my inner voice more, and I have found people that have seemingly popped up out of nowhere who have come into my life for a reason.  I have quieted myself and listened for signs or ideas that appear to just present themselves to me.  I rely on my feelings more and push the doubting analytical voices aside.

The result from doing this for the past few months is this:  I was able to stay off of my medication for 3 weeks and 6 days without much more pain than if I were taking my medicine.  This may not seem like such a big deal to many people, but I want to put it in perspective.  

Since I became a vegan in October 2011, my condition had vastly improved.  In fact, I was able to be off my medicine for 6 weeks, and I was in relatively good condition.  When I began my new job in December 2011, which caused me a tremendous amount of stress for various reasons, my arthritis worsened.  I have been unable to completely straighten my left knee since December (it is still not completely straight, but it is almost there!) or my left elbow, and I have been unable to be off my medication for more than 1 1/2 weeks without being in major pain. I may not be at the point of not taking my medicine for 6 weeks, but as my dad says, it's hard to stop a moving train once it starts.  I am not in a rush - I know that these things take time.  But my recent success shows me that I am heading in the right direction.  In a sense, I feel fortunate to have this arthritis since it has given me a wake-up call to start loving myself more, listening to myself more and being in the moment more!  And this - to those of you who don't know me - is an amazing milestone for me and amazing feeling to have.  



A little Zen to add to my Zen

Anyone want to Talk About Their Days?

I went to an open mic night at a little place called the Loose Leaf Café.  It was a grungy little joint, with delicious vegan sandwiches and rich teas (they described their teas as being rich . . . in flavor).  Anyway, it was a slow night for the performers.  There was only one person signed up to do a reading, and the host had to entertain us for most of the evening with songs on his guitar.  He kept asking the group of us sitting in the audience, “Anyone want to perform?  Or just come up and talk about your day?”  I felt like being bold, standing up and reading one of my blog entries because, why not?  I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone and make myself vulnerable. 

So I spent time on my husband’s iphone looking through all of my entries, finally settling on one of the first ones I had written called “Standing.”  It was an easier one to read because there wasn’t any dialogue.  I couldn’t imagine myself standing in front of a microphone having to do the voices of my husband or my sister, the two people most frequently mentioned in my entries. 

As I read over the entry a few (dozen) times, I slowly felt myself go cold.  A little voice in my head started to talk to me, asking me kindly whether I actually want to subject this audience to such trivial nonsense.  Does anyone really care about what I observe during the day or what I think about in my head?  I started picturing myself standing on the tiny stage in the front of the room, prefacing my reading with a string of apologies and justifications:  This is just a blog entry.  It was something I wrote a long time ago when I first started writing a blog.  So it’s not that good.  Just something that I thought I’d share.  Since the host needs a break from playing the guitar.  And I figured someone might like it.  Or not.  I just might as well read it to put myself out there. (Honestly, I would have probably said this.)

The host finished playing a song and asked, “Does anyone want to perform?  Sing?  Read?  Talk about your day?”  He was so inviting and non-threatening.  I held my husband’s iphone, feeling my hands shake with fear.  I swallowed hard and just about spoke up, when the moment passed and he began to play another song.  I would wait for the next five songs to be played before deciding that I just didn’t have the guts to read anything.  I chickened out and relinquished the phone to my husband. 

On the walk home, I chastised myself.  Why didn’t I just go up there and read?!  Was I really that self-conscious?  Am I only capable of posting blog entries when I can hide behind a veil of anonymity, for the most part?  If I don’t think my thoughts are worth reading, why do I write them?  So I am going to make a promise to myself here and now:  The next time I attend an open mic night at the Loose Leaf Café, I will read a blog entry and put myself out there for real.  It’s time to step out of my comfort zone.