Better than I was, but not as good as I used to be

My first true Adirondack hike, October 1998. I believed it was like walking in the woods, only with hiking boots. Halfway up Blue Mountain I was paralyzed in fear. Exposed granite, smooth rock, wet with recent rain and icy in spots. I could feel my boots slip as kids ran by me wearing sneakers. I wanted to turn back, but not as badly as I wanted to reach the fire tower and see the view from the top.

I told my then-boyfriend and soon-to-be hiking mentor/coach to go up ahead without me. I was embarrassed that I couldn’t keep up and I could sense his frustration. I kept climbing. I kept stopping to rest.  I can still picture him sitting on a rock as I came around a bend, waiting for me, a moment of empathy and kindness. *

I made it to the top and back down again. It was hard. One of the hardest physical challenges of my life up to that point. In sheer exhaustion, I fell flat on my face in the mud just before reaching the parking lot.  I determined to throw away my crappy boots and never hike again. I figured it was nearly the end of hiking season, the heck with it. By spring, if I was still with then-boyfriend, I’d break the news. No hiking for this woman.

Something happened that winter. I kept going over the hike in my mind. I had a vision of what hiking “could” be:  Seeing the beauty of the woods and views. Feeling the path and the granite under my feet. Remembering the exhilaration of reaching the top with my heart pounding as I climbed the fire tower steps. I didn’t know it yet, but I would soon be an avid hiker. My face down moment of utter failure and embarrassment led me to achieve my own personal “greatness”.

New hiking boots. A workout plan for aerobic and muscular strength. Spring brought black fly season and more hikes, snowshoeing in winter. In the next two years my then-boyfriend, mentor/coach led me on harder and harder hikes until my 50th birth year, when I hiked my very first Adirondack high peaks. Still paralyzed by fear at times, I kept at it. I remember reaching the summit of Algonquin and having an out-of-body experience.  I felt if I died in that moment, it would be OK. This was enough. In that moment I didn’t need anything other than to sit quietly with my back against a boulder. Plus, I wasn’t quite sure of HOW I was going to make the descent!

The following year, I lost 35 pounds and continued to get stronger. Then-boyfriend and I parted ways.  I began to hike with the man who would become my husband. I took Pilates **, and continued to increase my strength and stamina. We used common sense and took on “do-able” peaks, though rarely did I find one “easy”. I recall turning to my husband on a hike and musing, “I wonder when I’ll peak, not get any stronger and maybe even start to decline?” It may have been that day…

I find that I can’t “do” the extreme hikes any longer. In 2011, a nasty treatment for hepatitis C left me flat out on the couch for the better part of a year. (Gladly cured of hepatitis C from a second treatment, 2015.) I never regained my “peak” strength. I had to “rumble” with feelings of loss, grief and frustration. It’s been a process that continues today, even as I feel extremely grateful for my health and physical ability. I can still hike!

Now we take on smaller mountains, less traveled trails to waterfalls and views of the higher mountains we once traversed.  I depend on my trekking poles — my third and fourth legs to help me balance and save my knees! I do the very best I can. In so many ways I am stronger than I was on that very first hike. I know in my heart it is precisely because I challenged myself to turn my vision of hiking into a goal and that I continue to work through my face down moments and acknowledge my successes.

All I’ve been and “accomplished”, all I am and still “do”, and all that I will become and decide to “do” is simply good enough! I always was good enough, even on that very first hike on Blue Mountain.

*special thanks to J.N. for introducing me to hiking in my beloved Adirondack Mountains

** and thanks to Melissa my dear friend and best Pilates instructor for helping me find my core strength!

Posted in Brené Brown, hiking, integrative coaching, life coach, purpose, self-acceptance, self-compassion, Uncategorized, vulnerability | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Never Too Late (until it is)

I have the great blessing of diverse circles of “girlfriends” in my life. Old friends, new friends, friends of shared interests, friends to share laughter and tears.

Recently a new friends “pod” has formed from different circles. We get together once a month to talk about the state of the world and how we might “make a difference”. We share articles of interest on a private Facebook page to stay informed.

Last night a few from this group gathered and we talked about the importance of continuing to move forward. We shared the feelings sadness and frustration from the increasing negativity of our politics and our world, as well as our feelings of powerlessness. Our conversation led to the League of Women Voters*. Founded in 1920, it is officially non-partisan, but does support progressive policies, including women’s rights, campaign reform, climate change and universal health care.

I’ve decided to attend Saratoga County League of Women’s Voters next open meeting and plan to join.

As I sat in bed this morning with a cup of coffee slowly stirring me to wakefulness, I reflected on the privilege of voting and how I have voted since turning 18 and have wanted to join the League of Women Voters since I was in my 30s. Each time vote, I picture myself as “the young one” on the floor assisting voters as needed, as “the mature ones” handle the ledgers and sign-in. With this reflection in mind, me, in my 30s, a member of the League of Women Voters, I laughed as I realized that I won’t be “the young one” on the floor, I’ll be “the mature one” wherever I’m needed.

How quickly time passes and dreams forgotten. And remembered. Now is the time.

It’s never too late. Make a difference. Think globally, start locally. Your voice matters.

*Thank you Linda, Kathy and Phyllis.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

In Difficult Times

Now and then over the last few weeks, I’ve been jogged by a memory of an interview I gave for feministing online magazine a number of years ago. I recall that it was after the financial downturn which left many of us engulfed in FEAR.  Sound familiar?

I decided to share a bit here exactly as it appeared in February 2009. Although we’ve seen much change in the last eight years, once again, or still, we are faced with uncertainty. The emotions that bubble up are much the same. When we are paralyzed by circumstances beyond our control, we DO have a choice about how to respond.

Back to February 2009:

It’s a difficult time for many of us across the country and around the world. What are some everyday things we can all do to keep moving forward amidst all the dreary news and circumstances?
I love the saying by Wayne Dyer — “If you don’t like the way something looks, change the way you look at it.” We are headed for a complete turn around in the way we do business, do everything, as a global community. We need to let go of the old paradigm. It’s like standing at a padlocked door and pounding on it, knowing full well you’ll never get in. Accepting and letting go of our expectations of the way things “should” be takes faith that there is something more, a greater purpose for your life. It takes courage to turn around and look for an open door.
What can we do on a daily basis? Not watch the gloom and doom on the news. Radical, I know. But negativity breeds negativity and we are hearing mostly bad news. I don’t mean stick your fingers in your ears and sing, “La, la, la, la…” but temper all the negativity with some empowering thought and action. We are all a part of this mess and we all need to take part in our recovery! Stop complaining and see yourself as part of the solution. Sometimes there are only small things we can do, even if we are secure in our jobs and homes. But we CAN do something. Look around your community, make donations of your time, expertise or money (if you have to think about whether you can afford a donation, you probably can!) Your neighbors, your city, your country, your world needs your talents, your expertise, right now. Nothing feels better than giving to improve another’s circumstance, (remembering to take impeccable care of yourself at the same time!) Pay it forward by sharing your gifts and blessings with others.

Here’s more. Replace the question of job loss with WHATEVER your current sense of loss may be and the answer is the same:

If someone just found out they lost their job during this economic crisis, what do you think are some helpful first steps that person should take?
Mourn the loss. Grieve it like crazy for a while. Then accept the loss. Face the facts, the job is gone!
Pray for guidance. If you don’t believe in God or a divine presence, pray to your higher self — that wise part of you that has all the answers you need.
Instead of choosing to be a victim, choose the high road. You may not have chosen to lose your job, but you can choose how to respond. Make the decision that every event has a lesson and gift.
Be willing to ask for help! There is support available from your family and friends, I guarantee it. You would be amazed at how grateful people are to be asked for help, not rescue, but a helping hand. And many coaches and counselors from different backgrounds and trainings are willing to take a certain percentage of their clients on a sliding scale or “pro bono,” with the commitment that the client will pay it forward when they are back on their feet by sharing their unique talents and gifts!

Want to read more of this interview or know more about feministing? Here’s the link:

http://feministing.com/2009/02/28/cate_labarre_life_coaching_dur/

Posted in Brené Brown, compassion, Debbie Ford, integrative coaching, life coach, purpose, self-acceptance, self-compassion, stay engaged, Uncategorized, understanding | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Renewed Purpose

20161115_081830Sometimes I am amazed at how NOT in the moment I can be. For the last 18 months I’ve been waiting for the increasingly divisive and derisive campaign to be OVER, as though THAT was going to save me and end my frustration. My candidate lost. Though I know in my heart that even if she had won, it would not have changed the mood in our divided electorate and nation and that I would still be frustrated.

On top of all the anxiety and frustration, I’ve experienced a deep sense of grief and loss. Not just for what I hoped would occur for our nation, but for my own loss of purpose, wasted time and energy. I’ve been feeling lost in the woods of my own creation, unable to find my path.What a perfect waste of my precious life force to lose connection with my reason for being.
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I remind myself that the world is my mirror. Everything I experience is a reflection of something in me.What I see that upsets me deeply is something in me that needs healing. It’s taking courage to look in the mirror, to be brave enough to see all my imperfections, flaws and outright ugliness. It takes equal courage to see my strength and gifts. I’m ready to be brave and rumble with all the emotions that are “up” for me. There is no logical “end” to this blog post, because life is always changing, there are many paths ahead and I’m not in control of most of them. But I can choose who I’m “being” as I navigate what’s next. I can choose from a place of alignment with my core values of kindness and authenticity.

Perhaps that is my sole purpose, to stay in alignment with my core values; to notice what breaks my heart and do something about it; to remember that we are wired for connection and born worthy of love. The simple act of stopping, as others hurry by, to see if the man sitting on the curb needs help, does make a difference in our collective “being”. In my coaching practice, helping others find and heal their “lost” connections, does make a difference in our collective “being”. Noticing when my hatefulness bubbles up and recognizing that my anger can be turned to advocacy, does make a difference in our collective “being”.

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There are times when the pain I see in the world hurts so much I simply want to hide, numb, and withdraw. These are also the times when it’s hardest for me to remember to practice self-compassion. When I can love myself through the pain, find solace in a cup of tea, a lap cat or a walk in the woods, my energy and purpose are restored.

I remind myself to stay engaged and not give up — to connect through small acts of kindness and to join with others in large acts of advocacy. The finest impact I can make on the collective “being” is to remember that it all starts with me, with who I’m “being” in the world.

 

 

Posted in Brené Brown, compassion, Debbie Ford, life coach, purpose, self-compassion, stay engaged, Uncategorized, understanding | 8 Comments

Gluten Free, Scarcity and Enough

After a third suggestion by my nurse practitioner that I might like to try a gluten free lifestyle to alleviate some of my digestive and inflammatory issues, I decided to give it a try just after the new year. I didn’t do any research. I just gave up wheat, barley, rye and sugar. Also dairy for a short while. I was determined to see it through, at least for a month. An experiment. I would bring my curiosity and journal along for the ride, find new recipes, explore gluten free grocery isles and play! What I didn’t anticipate was that I would get ill, flu like symptoms without the fever, from the withdrawal of wheat and sugar.  In a conscious effort to tap into my resilient spirit, I was not about to give up, so I googled and found a blog by the author of Wheat Belly Diet, Dr. Davis on Wheat withdrawal.

I followed the advise in his blog, added supplements, gave myself lots of extra rest, nurturing and compassion, as I counted the hours and days to feeling better. In those days I experienced so many emotions. I felt blessed to have the privilege of purchasing quality, fresh foods from our farmer’s market. I was grateful to be taking good care of myself. I also felt deprived, all alone, and pissed off as I watched my husband and others eat “the usual”. I was overcome with rampant fear. SCARCITY. I was stewing in lack.  I was now deprived of my most favorite foods and actually hoped I wouldn’t feel any better and could skip this whole silly experiment.

Brené+Brown+QuoteI don’t know if I could’ve shifted this feeling of deprivation if it were not for the groundbreaking research of Dr. Brené Brown. She writes and teaches about our current scarcity culture.  We are steeped in not enough — not thin enough, not rich enough, not smart enough. We don’t get enough sleep. We don’t get enough vacation. Our outer and inner worlds just aren’t enough!  From the perspective of scarcity, what I thought would bring me renewed vitality and health was doing less than nothing, a waste of time and effort, because for those few days I was focused on deprivation, choosing scarcity rather than gratitude, scarcity rather than enough. I had lost sight of how blessed I am to even have the knowledge, privilege and means to make this kind of change in my life. After I allowed myself to whine and feel deprived, I made the choice to step into ENOUGH.  I no longer say “I can’t”, but “I choose”.  I affirm that the foods I choose are enough. The lifestyle I choose is enough. The rest I get and work I do are enough. My life is enough.  And at the end of each day, no matter how I’ve succeeded or failed in fulfilling my own expectations, I truly am enough. P.S. I’m sticking with it. I feel better. And that is enough.

 

Posted in Brené Brown, compassion, food obsession, life coach, self-acceptance, self-compassion, Uncategorized, vulnerability | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Miracle and Mystery

My life has been profoundly impacted and contextualized by the fact that I contracted hepatitis C virus in the early 1970s. Diagnosed in 1995, this knowledge has weighed in on every choice I make. It has been the theme of my story. The longest chapter of my life. It has been with me like background noise, like a hated song that just won’t leave my head, always lingering on the edge of my awareness — the worry, the fear, the angst, the “what if’s”, the obsessive self-monitoring.

Giving the noise some credit, I’ve managed OK, not perfectly [which I’ve learned is an exhausting and impossible endeavor],but well enough to stay healthy and alive. Hope upon hope that if I could do so, a treatment would become available to wipe out the virus. I’ve learned and shared the gifts and challenges of living with chronic illness. I truly believe that I never would have been as healthy as I have become had I not had this chronic, low grade illness as an “opportunity” for growth.

Some of you know that in 2011-12 I endured 8+ months of triple drug therapy intended to rid my body of the virus. I was sure it would work. I suffered so it would work. The treatment was horrendous, causing rashes, sleeplessness, manic episodes, hair loss, low white cell count, low red cell count, other blood abnormalities and debilitating fatigue. I could barely get off the couch. The treatment didn’t work. It was a failure. For months I believed I had failed. I did everything right and it didn’t work. I spent the next two years rumbling with shame, grief, heartbreak and self-loathing, as I tried regaining my trust along with my physical and emotional strength…

Just in time for the promise of a cure.

I was excited and terrified as the buzz started to build last year about a new “miracle” drug, Harvoni,  with a reported cure rate of 96-99% for those like me with genotype 1 [the hardest to impact]. I began to swim in doubt. What if my insurance company wouldn’t pay for it? What if I was one the 1-4% failure rate? Not another failure!

On November 15, 2014, I began a once-a-day regime for 84 days. At ~$1,100 a dose, I am truly blessed that my health insurance immediately agreed to pay for the treatment [all but our annual co-pay]. With each tablet I took, I affirmed my gratitude — thank you, thank you, thank you for this cure. I also experienced new doubt. It was hard for me to believe that Harvoni could possibly be working. Where were the side effects? I felt a little more tired than usual, but it was late fall and winter, a time when I always feel a little more tired than usual. I did my best to let the doubt flow through me. I focused on gratitude and affirmed that I was doing the best I could. In fact, I had spent 20 years doing the best I could to protect my health so that I would live long enough for a cure. Perhaps part of that success was genetics, another part pure luck and part the pretty-good but less-than-perfect small choices I made each day. Or maybe I’m just plain lucky. I was here. I was receiving treatment. It was meant to be, whatever the outcome.

During the time in treatment with Harvoni, I had the honor of being coached by my colleague and dear friend, Barbie, as she incorporated her new training in The Daring Way™ [based on the research of Dr. Brené Brown] into her practice. I explored the arena of creativity, and courageously took up watercolor painting for the first time since junior high school, learned more about my digital SLR camera, wrote about my hep C “story” as a chapter for a book [The Energy of Healing, published in June 2015], and enrolled for my own training in The Daring Way™.

I completed treatment in early February and then came the long wait until May to have the definitive blood work.

HCV not detectedI still look at this and take a deep breath. Not just virus free — I’m told that this is a cure. Forever. Really? I ask. Really. It’s a mystery to me how “they” can be so sure, it’s such a new drug, but I’m willing to live in the mystery of this miracle.

So as I decide, at last, to share this news in my blog, I ask myself what IS different? I still have pretty good genetics, still pretty good luck [knock wood], and still make pretty-good but less-than-perfect choices each day. I still have a great insurance company and good doctors. What’s truly different is the noise is gone — the theme song in the background, the annoying background noise is gone.

When I told my son, Nick, the good news, he said, “Wow, Mom, you get to start a new chapter in your life.”

The noise is replaced with peaceful silence. Sometimes so quiet, it’s unsettling. I breath into the space, content with a few inadequate words to describe what is indescribable. I’m free to not know what my end will be [as if I ever really knew] and I am happy to live with the mystery and write a few new chapters.

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Cookies and Silk

cookies1My husband was away last weekend, so off I went, farmer’s market basket in hand, alone for our Saturday morning ritual. After filling my basket with fresh organic vegetables, pasture raised meat and Anna Mae’s jam, I stopped at our favorite bake shop table for the bread my husband loves. While there, I scanned the cookies and chose an oatmeal chocolate chip. These are not your average sized cookies, they are enormous. Each one is easily shared and enough for three with tea. I knew my husband would be surprised and pleased that I was so thoughtful.

Before I go on with my story, a little background. I consider myself a foodie. Not the type who is constantly trying new gourmet recipes with unusual ingredients, though I do that on occasion. I am more the gourmand. I have been and can still be obsessed with food. Recovery is a daily process and takes both vigilance and a huge dose of self-compassion. I’m a lifetime member of Weight Watchers, which means I reached my lifetime goal [about a decade ago] and attend meetings for free provided I stay within 2 pounds of my goal. My structure for vigilance. Then there’s my husband, Win. Win likes good food, but he is not a foodie. While I stay alive to eat, he eats to stay alive! He needs to eat extra calories [and chooses mostly healthy ones] during the day to keep weight ON, while I’m concerned about keeping it OFF.

Back to the cookie. Win got home Sunday morning and was delighted with the cookie and then promptly forgot it, reaching for healthier afternoon snacks over the next two days. Tuesday afternoon arrived and this huge cookie, now stale, sat in it’s waxed paper bag, forlorn and forgotten, except by me. I suggested sprinkling it with a few drops of water and heating in the microwave for a few seconds. It worked. Win ate half the cookie. Well, not quite half. I had nibbles from around the crusty edges, yum!

Fast forward to late afternoon Wednesday. The cookie, now four days old, sits and stares at me from the counter while I chop vegetables for soup. My pulse increases as I begin to feel anger about the stupid cookie.

I said: Your cookie is still sitting here. He said: I forgot all about it. I said: Well, maybe I’ll eat the damn cookie. Incredulous, he said: Really? I said: Really. I fumed; he went outside.

I began an old pattern. I ate AROUND the cookie. I ate grapes, then hit the pantry for some “healthy” crackers. Next I grabbed Win’s reduced fat potato chips. I took a small handful. Good thing there weren’t many left. I looked at the cookie and finally opened it and ate 1/3 of the remaining half. There. I was done and wish I had just eaten the damn cookie at the onset of my food meltdown.

I was crabby. Win asked: what’s up? I shared my meltdown over a glass of wine — Win’s glass of wine, I abstained. I felt ashamed and angry, mostly at myself, and I needed to figure out my overreaction to this stupid uneaten cookie. As I told my story about buying the cookie as a thoughtful gesture, something deeper emerged. I shared that I hadn’t REALLY bought the cookie for HIM, I bought it for ME! You see I could never justify eating an entire cookie so enormous and luscious, it would be my Weight Watchers points for the whole day, but I could justify nibbles. I would count them, of course, as a small chocolate chip cookie, maybe 3 points. As is our ritual, whenever Win gets a treat on our Saturday morning at the farmer’s market, I indulge in a nibble and it is heavenly!

Win listened from the heart, but couldn’t relate. As I shared, he’s not a foodie.

We talked more about what I noticed, that gift giving isn’t just for the receiver — the giver always gets something out of it. Whether it’s writing a check for a cause, purchasing a birthday gift that WJ5-8you hope the receiver will love, or buying an expensive gift for a couple whose wedding you don’t plan on attending — the giver always get something out of it! The donation feels like the right thing to do; the birthday gift warms the  giver’s heart to see the delight of the recipient; the extravagant wedding gift alleviates the guilt of skipping the wedding.  Then it hit me and I said:  Think of when you purchase a lovely piece of jewelry for me, you want to see me wear it! It feels good, it warms your heart. He nodded yes. Or a red silk nightie. Though it feels fabulous on, the gift giver gets to see it on. My visual husband nodded again, yes. He got it!

I awakened at 5 AM with this blog brewing. I’m able to share the story only because I’ve reached a new level of understanding, self-acceptance and compassion. I love my perfectly imperfect human self.  I am deeply grateful for the abundance of my life that I can even obsess over a cookie. And grateful that I can find humor in the process.

Posted in Brené Brown, compassion, Debbie Ford, food obsession, gift giving, integrative coaching, life coach, self-acceptance, self-compassion, understanding, vulnerability, weight watchers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments