Good Car-ma

Unless you are a city dweller, you probably depend on your car or someone’s car to get you around.  I confess. I love my car. It is an extension of my personality, and as I’ve changed and practiced better self-care, my car[s] have benefited from better care as well. And today, as I trade in my second Rav4, I am nostalgic. I’m thinking back to all our adventures as well as appreciating the day-to-day reliability of my car. I decided to write the following for the new owner and stash the note and picture in the manual that will go with the car with the hope that it will be found and that the new owner will appreciate my Rav4 as much as I did.

Meet Ravi Shan-car II.

He was my car from March 2010 to March 2015. We traveled +/- 96,000 miles together, mostly on the roads of Upstate NY. He’s hauled me and my husband, visitors, garden soil, tools, furniture, plants, bird seed, dog food, dog, cat food, reluctant cats, Christmas trees, hiking boots, snowshoes, trekking poles, luggage, groceries, workout clothes, yoga mats, farmer’s market produce and shopping bags.

He looks especially adorable with a canoe strapped to his rack.

Ravi and canoe

Most of Ravi’s miles are local, back and forth to Saratoga Springs, with a weekly 165-mile round trip for business and a stop to see my son along the way. He’s traveled to remote trail heads in the Adirondacks, as well as shorelines of rivers and lakes. Although a country car, he always finds me the perfect parking spot on our very frequent trips to Saratoga Springs. He’s even navigated the streets of NYC. He waits patiently wherever he’s parked and we are always delighted to climb in for the safe trip home. We had only a few hair-raising adventures and close calls and absolutely no accidents, not even a fender bender. He always starts, even at temperatures below zero. He’s been stuck in the snow only once, this winter in a snow drift, because we forgot about his wheel-locking feature.

He has been spoiled. He’s never been yelled at or abused in any way. He has rested nightly in a garage and received regular weekly washing, unless it was bitter cold. He’s been waxed and detailed several times. He has rubber mats at your feet and cargo area. He’s had all his regular maintenance and has only needed new windshield wipers and tires and a little work on the brakes. Oh, and once a mouse living in his air filter had to be evicted.

Take good care of Ravi and he’ll take good care of you. Though I take the spirit of Ravi with me to my new and third Rav4, he comes with the good Car-ma! He/she will be happy to be renamed.

Good luck and stay safe!

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Perspective and Choice

dragonfly 2What do you see when you look at this picture? Do you see my shoulder? Ear? Pond? Log in the pond? Shadow? My shirt? The dragonfly on my shoulder? It depends on your perspective.

My husband and I began our Sunday early. We chatted briefly about preparing for our hike and I shared a dream. In the dream, my mom was still alive, my dad had just died and my adult son and I were [somewhat desperately and through tears] looking for my mother. In the dream, it was NOW. Today. My son as a young adult, not the 12 year old he was when my mom died, nor the 14 year old he was when my dad died, exactly 10 years ago today.

Our conversation continued as I commented about how grateful I am for my sight, vision. My dad was legally blind several years before he died, from a combination of macular degeneration [wet and dry] and glaucoma. I don’t have nearly the risk factors he did, but there is a genetic link on his side of the family. I DO have glaucoma, well controlled with drops. I recall my dad, an avid reader, depending on NPR and books on tape the last few years. A dear hospice volunteer visited him every Wednesday morning to read to him, from news magazines, Science Magazine, poetry or whatever he chose that day. Recalling this, I expressed gratitude for my vision.

Preparing for the hike, we popped in our contact lenses, packed the hiking boots, socks, water, lunch, Arnica, bug repellent, tissues, forgetting nothing, we thought…. ready to head to the mountains on Lake George.

Almost to the top of the mountain, sweating profusely, I wiped the sweat from my brow and right eye with the back of my hand. I realized I had shifted my contact lens with the rub and stopped to readjust. I rinsed my hands with fresh, precious drinking water and was glad I’d had the foresight to pop eye drops into my cargo shorts. Win, my husband, stood by as I fished out the errant lens. I placed it in my hand, took a look as I prepared to place eye drops on it, only to discover it was only HALF a lens! We debated going on as I realized that with my right eye closed I had no depth perception. And that with both eyes open I was straining terribly to see the trail. Lesson learned immediately: always pack extra lenses and/or glasses!

We turned around to return an hour or more to the trail head. This was my moment of choice. I realized I could make this experience bloody awful or appreciate my sudden, if unwanted, shift in perspective. I knew I would have to be extremely careful, but also knew that I had an opportunity to appreciate the beauty of the forest in a new way, one I hope to never repeat. I had this one chance. When I closed my right eye, my depth perception disappeared, but with that I was acutely aware of the GREEN of the hardwood tree leaves. The sharp edges of the beech tree leaves popped out, little noticed with two eyes. The roots and rocks on the trail seemed eerily dangerous. I reminded myself that I was safe. I took my time and had a traveling companion. I’ve been walking since I was 11 months old, one foot in front of the other, and my eyes have been about 5 feet from the ground since I turned 11 years old. I noticed the sound of the birds and babbling stream even more than on the way up. I was completely in the moment with my new perspective. Because it was a change that was temporary, I could play with it, appreciate it; I could return to my normal “seeing” life soon.

I had choices. I could go ahead or turn around. I could be mad at myself. I could curse the trail. [This one was easy, I’ve never had a really good hike on the Tongue Mountain Range; it’s always been especially challenging in one way or another.] I chose to turn around. I chose to accept this sudden change and appreciate something different. I affirmed my gratitude for my sight and strong body.

Though shifts in perspective may come unwanted and barely announced, I do have a choice about how to respond.


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hands-with-heart-and-bandaid“My religion is kindness.”  — His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama

A few weeks ago, I was struck by the most amazing thought that sunk into the very core of my being. I have had a warped understanding of self-love.

The negative voice in my head that has persisted since childhood  finally began to unravel. It is no longer a matter of accepting the voice and shifting to a positive voice. Now I can accept that voice and understand it on the deepest level and let it go with ease.

No one is born with that negative voice. It is planted at an early age, often by the very people who most love and protect us. I know my mother loved me, yet she was often mean in words and deeds. Through the amazing transformational work of Debbie Ford, The Shadow Process and my training with The Ford Institute as an integrative coach, I learned that what my mother couldn’t love in herself, more to the point, what she hated and could NEVER be, she couldn’t stand in me.

The result of the “love” as expressed by the woman who gave me life has caused me to harbor this confused notion of “self-love”.  If my mom loved me and she was often a bitch so that I would relent and do things HER way [I, of course, would then act out behind her back], that must be what love is! Sometimes nasty, sometimes nice and on rare occasion, kind. What a mix!

Despite all the “work” I’ve done to break the spell of negative self-talk and the amazing inroads I’ve made in healing my inner critic, it’s still there. After all, if my mother could love me and bitch at me… that must be MY job now! Tough love, right?

Back to my “ah-ha” moment. As I listened to part of an interview by Joe Donahue on WAMC Northeast Public Radio [interviewing Carrie Wilkens, PhD, co-author of Beyond Addiction: Science and Kindness Help People Change] I almost had to pull over as all the neurons in my brain went bonkers and my heart expanded to fill the car. I realized that the missing piece for me to heal my confused concept of self-love is kindness. Self-KIND-ness.

Let me clear something up before I go on. Let’s not confuse NICE with KIND. They are not equal. Nice is polite, sometimes coy, expecting some reward in return. When I am nice, I expect some acknowledgment or love in return. I don’t do it for you. I do it mostly for me. You’ll like me or even love me for being nice to you.  Kind is respectful, honoring, that we are equal and worthy. I expect nothing in return. Kindness comes from a place of love, deep, heartfelt, not attached to your response.  If I apply this to when I’m NICE to myself, having treats I don’t really want or need, I expect that I’ll experience this as love. WRONG. Doesn’t work for me. Also doesn’t work for me when I’m nasty and don’t allow myself pleasure or treats, withholding love and nurturing until I do something right to “deserve” it, to earn a reward.

I’ve been sitting with these thoughts and reflecting on the interview. If kindness [from a place of clean, clear boundaries and respect] rather than “tough love” [from a place of hyper-vigilant, bitchy boundaries and making wrong] is a positive influence on change for loved ones with addictions, this could work for me in every choice that I make!  With this new tool I’m able to ask, “Is this an act of self-KIND-ness?” rather than “self-love” and avoid the rat hole of recrimination and harshness that has been my habit for way too long. I easily shift my behavior and feel loved from the one person that most needs to love me, ME!

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Listening from the Heart

ear of heart

Recall a time when you felt heard, when your deepest thoughts and feelings were held reverently by another. Think of a time when you listened with all your heart and held a safe space for another to share openly. What was that like for you and the other person?

Listening is an art, something that can be learned, refined and practiced. A large part of my coaching training was about listening – not only recognizing and busting the habit of listening to another through a filter of my own “stuff”, but learning to hear what is said through the filter of faith, the heart.

I am reminded of the power of listening from faith. During a weekend retreat in November, participants shared how deeply moved they were by a powerful listening exercise. The group of 30 was paired for sharing periodically throughout the weekend. Sharing was timed for two minutes.  Comments like “Wow, I realize how hard it is for me to listen without interrupting, nodding or making comments as my partner shared.”  And “It felt great to be able to share for a specific amount of time and know that my partner would simply listen.” And even more “I realize how I don’t really listen anymore; I’m too busy with my own thoughts, getting annoyed or wanting approval, rehearsing what I’m going to say next.”

My intention for this year is to be conscious of the practice and gift of listening from my heart. I’ve been listening to the silence in the winter woods, breathing in the stillness; listening to my clients, consciously connecting to what is said and what is not said; listening to my husband, focusing intently as he describes a work project; listening to my son, feeling his concern about going back to college; listening to a friend, sharing her excitement of an upcoming vacation; listening to the voice inside my head that is sometimes obnoxious and judgmental, other times compassionate and loving; listening to the whisper of my heart’s desire and honoring that voice. Listening from the heart means that I am willing to be open, present and compassionate, even when I notice I’m not really listening!

Listening from the heart can be painful at times.  As my son tries to explain what’s going on for him, I want to gloss over his feelings, jump right in and fix things. Wanting to fix it for him is old habit that still pops up.  When I’m courageous enough listen with my heart to whatever he’s sharing, he feels better.  There’s an old proverb that states: A problem shared is a problem halved. Sometimes that’s all I have to do, just listen.

When I listen with my heart, instead of in “fix-it” mode, I can see life through another’s eyes, hear with their ears and experience their pain or joy. Listen to what is said and what is not said. This kind of empathic listening, staying curious, accepting and silent until a response is desired or needed, if it is at all, allows the other person to share at the deepest level. No right or wrong, no good or bad, simply a flow of love, willingness and understanding. Listening from the heart to experience what it feels like to be in another’s shoes.

In To Kill a Mockingbird Atticus Finch says: If you just learn a single trick, Scout, you`ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.

Maybe all it takes is listening from the heart. Imagine — gentle people, peaceful world.

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Because I BELIEVE I Can

bootI gave up hiking for the better part of two years. Not because I wanted to, but because my body wouldn’t let me. There was no “believing” that could overcome the reality of the near impossibility, yes — even if my life depended on it — of hiking. For many months, walking 400 feet to the mailbox and back was my biggest effort of the day, and I only managed that because I BELIEVED that I could and that it would be good for me to challenge myself.

Since I’ve been regaining my strength and challenging myself more and more each week, I have had to adjust my choices and be realistic. I’m unlikely to climb a mountain if I can’t go farther than the mailbox and back.  I make slow and steady progress as I keep in my awareness the importance of attitude. If I’m in a bad mood, whiny, think I can’t — I absolutely can’t. I won’t. I’ll resist and complain and not even try. My old shadow beliefs* that I’m not good enough surface and if I don’t recognize what’s happening, sabotage is the result.

Sunday, on a beautiful hike back in my favorite stomping grounds in the Adirondack Mountains, I wondered if I had taken on too much with the decision to “do” this hike that I had “done” twice before and always found challenging. However the pull of the reward of getting to the top and the encouragement of my husband won me over. As I usually do, I decided at the trail head how long I thought it would take to get to the top, based on distance, past experience, trail guides, etc. I play a game with myself, “believing” it will take “this much time”, usually over-estimating, so I can be pleasantly surprised at the top.

As we walked, I thought about how far I had come, to challenge myself with this particular hike, not really knowing if I could be successful. I was a little worried that I might not make it.

And then something happened, I allowed a “shift” to occur, a shift from “maybe it’s too much”, to “maybe I can”, to “I believe I can”, to “I know I can”. A smile crossed my face as I knew that in that brief moment everything changed. It didn’t matter if I didn’t make it, I believed in myself again, even if it mean turning around.

On Monday, when I shared this experience with a support group that I facilitate, one of the wise women asked me if I have regained the strength I once had and I shook my head NO. I’ve been sitting with that question and my response ever since. Somewhere along this journey I believed that I would never regain the strength I once had. Now I’ve decided that when I believe in myself I am always at my personal best. Now the answer to that question, Judy, is YES.

*thank you Debbie Ford for helping me understand that my unconscious “shadow” beliefs rule what is possible for me and further that by shifting them, a world of possibility is mine. Suggested reading: “The Secret of the Shadow” by Debbie Ford.

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In Awe of Farmers & Farmer’s Markets

Kilpatrick kids at marketI moved to the country from the NYC suburbs when I was 24. Although my mother was an avid flower and vegetable gardener and we enjoyed her bountiful harvest, I never really appreciated how food got from the farm to my table. Moving to the country opened my eyes. In rural central NY most of the farms in the mid 1970s were small, family owned dairies. As agribusiness grew and milk prices dropped, these small family farms struggled and many went out of business. Though I’m not an expert on what really happened, I noticed that farms that had diversified, had enough land to grow and sell grains and hay, seemed to stay in business.

The opportunity to move to Cherry Valley arrived in the form of a “job” as a property caretaker for an old sheep farm owned by the poet Allen Ginsberg. He named the property “The Committee on Poetry” in the exodus of city to country that occurred in the late 60s and early 70s. After a few years he went back to his city life but held on to the place. My experience there was remarkable. Spoiled suburban girl living “off the grid”, no electricity, for three years. The “farming” I did there with my co-caretaker and boyfriend was random and interesting. Boyfriend grew up on his family dairy farm and had just returned from driving a “combine” [tractor] for the annual massive wheat harvest from the Midwest to Manitoba. He was no stranger to hard work. Though we weren’t technically farming, there was no getting away from the fields and small barns that called to us to farm. Within a few months we had a massive garden with more produce than we could ever use. We had chickens for eggs and I learned how to milk a goat. Twice a day. EVERY day. We cut hay and loaded it by pitch fork [no baler] into the loft of the barn for Winter supply for the goats. We offered free veggies to our friends and neighbors.  I traded goats milk, eggs and homemade bread for Yoga classes. It was quite a time and thus began my awe of small, independent farmers. Hard work and you have to love it!

I had a vegetable garden nearly every year from then until my most recent move to a community that has the most remarkable farmer’s market imaginable. I decided that I had grown enough zucchini and made enough zucchini bread and relish for a lifetime. Now I would let the experts do the growing and I simply purchase and cook! I have no regrets, because I am IN LOVE with the Saratoga Farmer’s Market.

I am in awe of the young people who have taken to sustainable agriculture. They are well educated, determined and hardworking. In our surrounding farms they work together with older farmers, sharing knowledge, expertise, equipment, resources. They are always smiling and helpful at the market. Their passion shows in the beautiful produce and farm products they sell.

This Saturday I filled in at market for a vendor. Chrissey of The Joy of the Journey Farm needed some help so that she could be be a vendor at another event, so I volunteered and spent the morning with farmers! Before market opened, everyone running about saying “hello” to their market friends and colleagues, laughing, sharing stories, helping each other, visiting before the bell went off at 9 AM, when the customers began to shop. Rick, the beekeeper stopped off to see Chrissey and visited with me for a bit. Arnold, the Saturday market manager [and market vendor] toured to make sure everyone had everything they needed and stopped by to welcome me to market. Andy helped me set up.  By the time the bell rang I was filled with a sense of belonging, if only for one day, to this loving, supportive community of farmers. Wow, in awe again!

I can’t imagine my life now without the market. The food is extraordinary. We love supporting the local economy and sustainable agriculture. The passion I sense from our farmers is contagious. I leave the market smiling and delighted with my purchase.

I see a connection, in my own peculiar way, to farming on this sustainable scale and personal transformation. Life needs to be “like this” in order to be sustainable. The determination, hard work, acceptance of “what is”, surrender to loss, choice, regrouping, moving forward, passion, love…. Well, I think it’s better said by Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: Writings on Farming and Food:

“Why do farmers farm, given their economic adversities on top of the many frustrations and difficulties normal to farming? And always the answer is: “Love. They must do it for love.” Farmers farm for the love of farming. They love to watch and nurture the growth of plants. They love to live in the presence of animals. They love to work outdoors. They love the weather, maybe even when it is making them miserable. They love to live where they work and to work where they live. If the scale of their farming is small enough, they like to work in the company of their children and with the help of their children. They love the measure of independence that farm life can still provide. I have an idea that a lot of farmers have gone to a lot of trouble merely to be self-employed to live at least a part of their lives without a boss.”

Find your passion. Find and live a life you love if you don’t have it now. Transform your life so that it reflects all the qualities that you desire. Now that’s living.

— Photo above is at Saratoga Farmer’s Market — vendors Kilpatrick Family Farm

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Marketing Box [Trap]

Marketing Box, OllieThose of you who receive my Constant Contact newsletter know that I recently UNsubscribed to a bunch of newsletters and invited my readers to do the same. As “simple” as I believe my life to be, now that my son is grown and nearly launched into adulthood, care-giving for my parents long over, a move to a new home half the size of our old farmhouse, a career, exercise regimen and community that I enjoy, I “simply” don’t have time to read everything that lands in my in box! AND I’m the one who put them there. I still do it. I sign up for free calls for the amazing marketers who “guarantee” a six figure salary within three months if you just purchase their program and put in place their marketing plan. The pressure is overwhelming. Part of me DOES want to BE THAT. However a bigger part of me says NO WAY! I’m not making the marketing strategies of others WRONG, believe me, I know it works for them. I’m just not making it RIGHT for me. I am breaking OUT of the box [trap] of making myself WRONG for NOT using their methods. Why? Because the motivation to sign up almost every single time is birthed out of fear, followed by the feeling that I AM IN A BOX [trap].

I need to be me. All I want to use Facebook for is to post silly pictures of my cat, flowers, me, my friends, and stay in touch with my friends. I am incredibly rude and mostly don’t respond to event invites on FB because I am overwhelmed with them. I have a Facebook fan page that I’ve never launched because it feels fake to me. It’s not that I created a page that doesn’t represent me as a coach, it does. However, after creating it and procrastinating the launch I finally realized I don’t want to market through Facebook. End of story.

When I REALLY look at my coaching practice, workshops and teleclasses, I am thrilled, provided I don’t fall into the BOX [trap] of comparing myself to others. When I REALLY look with loving eyes, I see clearly that the universe provides me with exactly what I need, even if it doesn’t always look like what I THINK I need. When I say I WANT and NEED more, I have to ask myself if that’s really true. It is only true when I compare myself to others and hear the marketing goodies of those amazing people who have turned their businesses into huge moneymakers mostly by marketing to ME when I fear I must be doing something WRONG.

Breaking out of the BOX [trap] is an ongoing task. Just this morning I signed up for two free marketing calls that are geared to give me just what I need to sign up for more. I signed up out of FEAR that I would miss something, fear that I’m not doing things right, fear that someone else will get the edge, fear I’ll be left behind.

As I sit with whether I will be on these calls that will force me back into the BOX [trap] of another’s design, I will continue to “market” myself in a way that is in integrity with who I am and the clients I most want to attract to my practice. No right, no wrong, just ME.

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Good Deeds

XanderThis little critter came into my life for four astonishing days. Last Thursday I nearly ran over her on my way to town. She was sunning himself on a chilly morning and I thought she was a plop of horse poop and avoided it. When I realized it was a kitten, I got out and approached, only to have her scurry into the brush. When I told my son the story, he said “catch her!” I determined I just might do that.

I couldn’t stop thinking about this kitty, alone, cold, lost perhaps. The next day I threw a cat carrier into the back of my car as I headed to town and there she was. Just at the edge of the brush where she had run the day before. This time I was very cautious. I distracted the kitten with one hand and reached around to grab her with the other. She was hissing, we were both frightened, but me, being bigger and all, managed to get her into the carrier, back home, quarantined in the bathroom with food, a litter box, water and a couple places to sleep. I shook hard from the adrenaline of capturing what should have been someone’s pet, but was clearly feral.

I called my vet right away on Friday, but there were no appointments available until Monday. So we had three days to get acquainted and perhaps start the taming process in the bathroom prison. I read articles, watched videos and wondered what the hell I was thinking when I picked “Millie” up. I hadn’t really planned on having a taming project for August and my mind reeled, even though I knew there was a possibility she could be sick, carrying one or more diseases all too common in feral cats.

Sunday I had the distinct pleasure of spending the morning in Urgent Care for the tiny little cat scratch I received during the “capture”. Fees paid, prescription filled, I went home and spent a quiet day reflecting on the many unexpected consequences of doing a “good deed” and recalled the quote, “No good deed goes unpunished.” Little did I know that this was only part of the “punishment”.

Monday was long as I waited for 3:00 to arrive. I distracted myself with my commitments as a mentor to training coaches, taking a walk, picking blueberries, making lists, answering emails from clients, paying bills. My heart was heavy with anticipation and dread. Whatever the outcome of our appointment, I had fallen in love with this vulnerable little critter and I had no idea what lay ahead.

A flurry of activity the moment we arrived. Three, no four, staff members went into the room with our little spitfire, tiny kitten. It’s not a girl! It’s a boy! Worms, fleas, ticks, CHECK! Blood work for leukemia and AIDS, CHECK! Suddenly everyone was quiet and I was called in to talk to Dr. Lori and one of her staff. Newly named Xander [for Alexander Road where he was found] was sick. Very sick. This beautiful, sweet cat, who should have been born into a home, not in the woods, could not go home with me. I burst into tears. Dr. Lori hugged we twice. We talked. I looked at his beautiful face again and again and finally said goodbye.

I came home and continued to cry as I took apart the crate loaned to me by a friend which would be his transitional home as he got acquainted with us. I bleached the bathroom that had been his little holding cell and threw away everything he had contact with so that my kitties won’t get sick.

I cried some more as I plopped into my husband’s favorite comfy chair. My cat, Ollie, came bounding across the room into my lap and purred to comfort me. This is unusual for him. He is shy of “lap sitting” because he, too, had been a feral kitten before tamed with tough love at a kindly veterinary clinic. He generally lies “near” me, but not “on” me. I took great comfort in this, that he knew I was hurting and wanted to help.

I fell into a deep sleep early, only to awaken at 3 AM with a compelling need to work “some” of my pain out. This whole experience felt so “unfair”. Unfair that this kitten and his litter mates didn’t have a chance of survival in the wild. If even one survived, what would be its fate? Bringing more homeless, sick, feral kitties into the world? In my research I read that if every single person, including babies, in this country adopted from shelters, each would need 7 cats or dogs to care for them all. That doesn’t include breeders, dog and cat “mills” and certainly doesn’t include the feral cats that populate our cities and countryside.

I wondered if I didn’t have cats at home if I could have, would have, brought him home and tamed him and nursed him. Perhaps he’d have gotten well. I shift my thoughts.  I know it’s time to accept it, feel it some more and let go.

I reflected again on the quote “No good deed goes unpunished.” A wry expression I’ve understood in only one way — that people who give begrudgingly will always look for the bad that comes out of it for them personally. Like my boo-boo finger infection. NO, it didn’t apply! Because I had given from my heart. It really was OK.  And then it hit me.

In doing a good deed we give from our hearts. When we open our hearts to anyone, any “passion”, any critter, any thing, we are allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, to let love in as we give love. We can never be vulnerable without the risk that we’ll be hurt. We can never, ever love without loss. Today, tomorrow, next week, 30 years — someday we will experience loss from that love. In that pain lies the “punishment” for our good deed.

Yet life is meant to be filled with love, giving and receiving. I was meant to have this experience, even if I don’t completely and may never completely understand it. I know there is something deep and rich that this little critter brought into my life and I’ve only begun to scratch the surface, as the scratch he left me with and my wounded heart continue to heal.

Good night. Good morning. Perhaps just one more hour of sleep before another day filled with love and light.

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[No Longer] Sleepless in Saratoga

Max and Ollie kitchen 2012-06-28_19-15-19_701For women and the men who love us: This blog is not intended as medical advice, simply sharing my experience. Please talk to your health care provider about your concerns.

I’ve struggled with insomnia over the last 8 years. When comparing notes with women “my age”, it seems more common than bunions! Research suggests that there is nothing all that abnormal about insomnia, which is a good thing, I guess. Yet that information doesn’t lessen the impact of not getting enough sleep! Brain fog, the need for naps, crankiness, tears, craziness and outright hostility has been my unwanted response to sleep deprivation.

At first I just figured I was under a lot of stress. Granted, I was.  Raising my teenaged son with all the struggles that involves, having just lost both my parents in a span of 15 months, dealing with “estate” issues, recently married, considering a BIG move to another community — seemed like all the perfect ingredients to contribute to sleepless nights. A normal night for me might look like falling into bed exhausted at 10 PM, a coma like sleep, only to awaken at 2:00 and stay awake until 4:30, finally falling back to sleep and having trouble crawling out of bed at 6:00. Horrible. I suffered, took naps when I could. Tried Valerian root at the suggestion of my doctor, which was awful for me. I felt hung over the next day. I tried curtailing the internet at night, limiting my appointments with clients to earlier in the evening, avoiding heated conversations with my son… all to no avail. I was sleepless.

My husband and I moved four years ago. More stress. My son was horrified that I would move a whole hour away. I was riddled with guilt and questioning my choice. Settling into a new community and new routine had its challenges, insomnia continued. I figured there was nothing I could do.

Then I contacted a holistically minded nurse practitioner recommended to me by a friend. We talked about natural hormone replacement therapy for some other “issues” I was having. She tested hormone levels and since it was appropriate for me [given personal and family health history] she prescribed a compounded prescription to use topically. The first night I slept like a baby. I was astonished and delighted. I never suspected that the progesterone that was no longer adequately supplied naturally by my body was the cause of my sleeplessness. I was at peace.

Fast forward a couple years… in treatment for Hepatitis C, I took Interferon injections for nine months. Though the most common side effect is depression with this drug, I had a less common reaction, I was MANIC! Insomnia returned like gang busters, despite having blood counts so low, transfusion was suggested. I finished treatment over a year ago, but the mania, in the form of sleeplessness, has been relentless. I tried meditation, soothing music, EFT [Tapping], moving to the guest room, reading and finally an occasional sleeping pill. The most I could experience was a night or two of “good” sleep in a week. I felt awful, miserable, teary, angry, depressed and ready to snap.

Until last month.

I saw my nurse practitioner again, who recommended long-acting melatonin,  available over-the-counter at my compounding pharmacy. Although I still wake up during the night, I fall back to sleep easily most of the time. In addition, she made a few more adjustments in my bio-identical HRT and I feel so wonderful in contrast that I hardly recognize the woman I was a few short weeks ago.

The intention of this blog is not to suggest my specific remedy. It may not be appropriate for you. It is intended to encourage you to talk to your health care provider about your most personal health needs. Even if you’ve convinced yourself that you just need to “live with it”, whatever “it” is. It is quite possible your belief may not be true. There may very well be a solution for your “problem”. Do your own research and then talk to your provider as an informed health care consumer. If you don’t get satisfaction, find another health care provider. Ask your friends for recommendations, check with your health insurance company, search until you find someone who is in alignment and shares your highest vision for your health.

I’ve said it before and will say it again, you know yourself better than anyone. Be your own health care advocate. You are a consumer of health care, stand in your power and find what serves you.

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Healing Body Image

watching the varsity gameAs I made my way around the block this morning, I passed a young woman who was running — red top, pink shorts, orange shoes. Totally cool. I wondered if she was running to train for a sport she plays in school or running to stay fit or running to keep the pounds off or running because she loves it or ???

In a flash I was back in the summer of 6th grade. I saw myself riding my bike for hours in the circles of our dead end driveway turn-around. Riding for even more hours up and down our road, especially the big hill, which I always had to walk. I recall living on tuna fish, lettuce, Alba skimmed milk, Fresca and artificially sweetened kool-aid.

You see, I was chubby. And I was terrified.  I was leaving my safe, secure elementary school and being thrown in with students from five other elementary schools in our town’s junior high school. I wanted to grow up and be a junior-high-schooler, even though I cried to leave my elementary school. At least there kids and teachers there knew me. What was I facing? I could NOT be chubby for another second. I starved myself that summer. No one talked about eating disorders in 1963. I was just “dieting”.  My mother approved and did her best to keep me supplied in my “diet” food of choice.

I wanted to fit in. I sure didn’t fit into my family. On my mother’s side, the side that mattered, I was from a long line of svelte northern Italians. OK, my grandmother was a large woman, but she didn’t count.  My cousins, mother, aunts, uncles, brother, sister and grandfather were all on the thin side. How did this happen to me?

Just before I began 7th grade, my dad took a Polaroid of me. I wish I could find it. My sister ran across it several years ago when we were going through family “artifacts” and showed it to me. I was in a brand new dress, holding one of our cats, newly grown out pixie to my shoulders in the flip of fashion. She remarked, “oh, you look so beautiful and happy in this picture!” I looked at it and gasped. I saw a scared little girl, terrified that she would be judged by her classmates. I recalled the feeling of just wanting to hide, but I knew I could never hide if I was chubby, everyone would notice me. So I opted for being invisible.

There was another side to this. I wanted something more than being invisible, which hoped would still be an option if all else failed. More than anything, I wanted to belong in my new school. Practically svelte me joined clubs, made new friends, tried out and became a cheerleader [the only thing remotely like a sport before Title 9], went back to dance class and did my best to look smart and pretty. All the while doing my best to hide my chubby, dumb self.

My heart aches for the girl I was and all the girls who have measured [and still do measure] their self-worth on how they look and what others think of them. It’s taken me years to heal the shadow of my self-image in my family.  My quantum leap happened when I discovered Debbie Ford’s book, The Dark Side of The Light Chasers. I decided to study with her and become a coach so that I could help others learn that their story and their “shadow” have gifts beyond measure. I learned to I love the little girl inside me and the woman I’ve become, in all my shapes and re-creations.  Healing is an ongoing journey. I delight in the twists and turns and new discoveries every day.

I thought back to the girl I saw this morning. I hope that she is encouraged to be healthy, to be herself, and find joy in her activities, whatever she chooses. It is this that I have discovered and claimed… many, many decades later.

[pictured above — me watching a basketball game at Ossining High School in 1966-7.]

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