Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Reflections On Maintenance ; Gel Nails, The Musical Wicked, and I

She took an hour of her time to shape them, layer them and colour them. I found myself watching a romantic comedy on my worn purple couch with laundry piled on one side. The air outside was smoky from forest fires a country away and the inside with polish fumes. She smiled and made comments about life in general. I felt some of my anxiety melt away. She gave and in her gift I was thankful. I had asked because she loves doing it. It's her love language. She's my new sister. Too often I say no and I had an occasion I could use them for. It was a comforting sort of moment even though I was a little uncomfortable.

The truth is I hate having my nails done. Memories surface of a grad long ago that was both hard and beautiful. Followed by a trip to the Nicaraguan mountains. We cut off my gel tips with blunt scissors because they just were not right up there in the beautiful grit. It hurt. My nails were misshapen and scarred for months after.  A symbol that more of my life was not fitting and needed to be bluntly cut and life would be slightly misshapen for awhile. 

Memories of stinging hands secretly passing my plate through the wires to starving little mouths. We were not supposed to but how could I not? 15 pounds lost in ten days. It was hard on my soul which turned to my body. That was the moment I had to choose between my old life and the one my husband was going to give me. I had one phone call and I chose my husband despite a few misgivings. He answered in a bright, yeasty smelling Subway across the equator in delighted exclamations. I could hear his smile and picture him in his cap and green shirt. I felt calm with relief. I chose right. I still feel a tightening of my chest thinking of the what ifs. What if I hadn't?

The second time my nails were professionally done I was in a wedding. The day of rehearsal we announced our plan to move out of the basement suite so lovingly made.  I was four months into my post partum depression with a little muffin depending on me. I was yelled at. For months I found silence, long letters and accusations. Selfish. The trump card  so often thrown by extended family to beat all arguments; You. ARE. Selfish. That night I went to the rehearsal shaky and broken. I FELT selfish. So often that is the accusation after I have to set boundaries. I know deep down it's untrue but I do question myself for a moment. What if I had given in to please or believed the lies of perspective? What if I had not followed my husband to that little shack where we would raise the rest of our family before we found our forever home? What if I had not made that physical separation that set the tone for the rest of our lives? I loved that home until it was time to leave. It was a different sort of haven. One I would not go back to but am thankful for all the same.

When my nails are done, I dislike the reminders of a part of my body I am used to ignoring. I don't realize how much I pick at the skin on my shoulders and arms, scratch my head or rub the black eyeliner under my eyes. My fingers feel weighted down by the polish. Like they can't breathe properly. They look pretty but they are not fully me. I often wish they could be but they simply aren't. The colour on the tips of the nail hide the skin and eyeliner that somehow live under the depths no matter how much I wash. I eat with my hands a lot. I rip the meat off of bones instead of cutting it for my children. I separate food with my clean hands during mealtime. I simply wash after. It's easier than using utensils all the time. But with polish I feel I shouldn't. I start to rip the skin off of the drumstick and I pause. I see the nails that are mine yet are not. I go to the drawer to get a rarely used knife. I feel I should be one of those girls who manages to keep nails immaculate. The ones who complete a polish of their entire being on a daily basis. I wonder with awed curiosity how they live? 

As much as I lived under that illusion in my past or can create it for photos; I am NOT. That. Girl. Perhaps that is why Elphaba is one of my favourite roles? Perhaps that is why I cried through all the songs in Wicked's musical the first time I heard it 8 years ago? Perhaps it is why I play the songs in my darkest times to remind myself who I am? Perhaps many school mates thought high maintenance when my name was brought up? Truthfully, I am the green girl born into a white world. The one who does good deeds only to be accused of being the witch. No good deed...The only factor of high maintenance on me was the self inflicted time constraints of the illusion I created. While dusty memories were created by these illusions that won't be traded, I still wonder how many more could have been without it? Maybe it would have been worse? Illusion can also bring beauty. Beauty can hold inspiration. But not all the time. Sometimes a hazy sort of lovely bliss is also in the messy. The undone corners. 

That time my crush tried to comfort me with the words, "If it was on looks alone I would go for you- you are the hottest girl here but your personality while kind, is very odd. We just wouldn't work." And I knew he never saw me. I also felt the deepest wound because like being green, a inner way of being can not magically change. Also, being the "hottest" girl in the room is not comforting- it was a small room. There will always be someone prettier or younger. That was something I was not willing to hold my value on because of it's fickleness. Plus, I knew that I had my flaws, that I will age, that things will happen and that I don't want to maintain for looks alone. Of course, I could enhance my looks but my personality could only go so far under the chameleon affect. I didn't know why, no matter how much I assimilated, that I still managed to stand out, be odd, or different. At that time I felt it was a shame. Now I realize it was simply being an undiagnosed Aspie in an NT world. Now I love it mostly, but when I didn't know WHY it pulled at my soul and blurred my soft edges into sharp corners.

All in time. My time right now involves waking and rolling into the most comfortable clothes, smearing on some eyeliner because I can't seem to live without it, mascara, dabbing the moisturizer and pulling back my hair into a pony. I wash after I brush the night taste out of my mouth but I prolong showers until I can't go without anymore. I don't brush my hair until I shower again and it's rare that I put on extra make up for anything other than special dinners, trips to the city or a photo I KNOW will be taken. I don't like perfume or unnatural deodorants. Sometimes I lament to my husband that I don't have an enticing smell because I don't want one. He laughs and starts kissing and smelling my skin next to my armpits and says that he loves my natural smell and that it reminds him of the many ways we love. I cringe for a moment and then wonder why am I cringing? This is love, this is beauty, this is natural. If he is my lover, why should any other's opinions of what I entice matter? My kids love me, I like me this way, and my husband does. Enough.

Pretty nails remind me that everything comes at a cost and beauty is fleeting. Soon the colour will peel off or start to chip and I will either have to maintain or be comfortable with the half specks for months. I always chose the later. As much as the wannabe in me begs to maintain, it's really not in the real me to follow through. I spent too much of my life maintaining. I maintained kindness at all costs and gentle response. I maintained the 'appropriate' conversation (mostly). I maintained the elaborate hairstyles, hour long make up routine and immaculate (uncomfortable) business/preppy clothing. 
I remember some moments brought on by these decisions that were wonderful. I also remember moments filled with scratchy, dirty, sick feelings. It came with both. My current lifestyle also comes with both. Yet, I find that more often than not I feel at peace. The contented sensations matter more. I surround myself with beauty. I love beauty- both made and raw but now I live in the raw a bit more myself.

Perhaps it is a rare magic to be loved like the velveteen rabbit? To be assured that at the most raw you are the most loved. But at most moments I know I am by the most important person in my world; Myself.  It's even rarer to find a counterpart who also believes in this magic and finds a way to not only love himself but to love his partner. Luckily, I have three littles who are also living in both the maintained version of life and the overgrown. I may not be THAT girl but I am the one who ends up Defying Gravity and ends up with the guy at a cost. The cost of reputation and perhaps much of the world. I am the girl who can't grovel in submission to feed ambition. The one who has a brief temper at injustice and changes on a regular basis in response to these injustices. I can't play by the rules yet I can respect them if they make sense. I trust my instincts. I am the girl who no longer steals to the land of might of been or does so only for a moment to be thankful for the land that IS. I'm the girl who is kissed tenderly and held tight. As long as he is mine. I am the girl who leaves disasters in the wake of well meaning or a need to BE true but also the girl who has changed some for good and been changed for the better by a select few.

These are the reflections that happen once a year when I cave into my illusions and decide to paint my nails. Maybe it's a good thing I give into the illusions from time to time to only become a more real version once again? They are my nails yet they are not. I am a different sort of me. I'll take that version until my nails start peeling and then once again I will go back to the home that I am naturally.

While these aren't all of the amazing songs of Wicked these are the songs I referenced in my post. Enjoy!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Playing "FakeBall" (AKA Fake Baseball.) Lessons on faking Life to make Life.

*Post Edit: If you noticed I took this post down- it was to reconstruct and edit most paragraphs because I felt the idea I was trying to communicate needed some refining. I read it to my NT counterpart and he understood where I was going but mentioned that most NT's who do not know me would not get it. I still don't think that the essence of what I wanted to convey is fully captured, but I do feel that now it reflects a bit more of what I was trying to write. Thanks for your patience.*

Every year my cousin arrives and we play at unprofessional, fun, "photo shoots." Basically we dress up in themed outfits and take hundreds of photos. We pick the best photos to put into a summer montage video set to peppy music. It's a quick keepsake of the good times to share. Because I am old Skool and do not participate in Facebook or have large social media platforms besides Blogger and Pinterest I do this instead. I watch the videos on rainy days to remind me of the love infused in my life and to see the growth of each year.

For the pictures I try to think of themes that we already have outfits for. This summer my sister and cousin were teasing me because I mentioned that there was nothing hotter than a woman in a baseball tee and cap. Yes, stuff like that does come out of my mouth and apparently the way I emphasized that point had them on the floor in giggle fits. I am happily married to a man by the way. I chalk these sort of comments up to the fact that most Aspies can (obviously each of us has our own preferences) be pansexual. Many of us Aspies don't often see gender lines. Attraction is attraction. Anyway, that was two months ago but as an inside joke I decided we should go with the baseball theme. I had five casual baseball tees to share around anyway and normal shirts on the kids would work. My life is currently about comfort; plaid in the winter months and baseball tees and tanks in the summer, so this worked well.

I am severely Dyspraxic (link) so sports are NOT my thing. My sister had to show us all how to hold a bat. I still don't think I got it right...and it was a toddler bat. My cousin and I were laughing as we attempted the baseball stance. It felt so awkward. She also had to show us how to pitch a ball which is funny because she can't really play either. We staged an entire game on an actual baseball field at one point. It was the most fun I have ever had 'playing baseball'. While I like the concept of baseball my childhood memories of this sport are the worst. Many involve being picked last, clumsy falls between bases, witnessing two broken bloody noses, and getting hit in the head. "Fake ball" (as I lovingly dubbed it) was much more fun!

I would have loved to have been an actress. I had to pretend a role most of my life to fit in. So I tried to make it fun when I could. I had to act to survive. It sounds dramatic but it's actually true. I thrived because I could mimic. Sometimes, oddly to me, the act of acting CAN also be genuine.

"Genuine or real" are words often thrown around to judge an experience. I find this particularly ironic in our current social media age. Yet it begs the questions; "What is real? What is genuine? Who decides what makes an experience authentic? What about 'something' makes it 'fake'?" Our 'fake' playing was the best sporting experience I have had in years. It was real in it's unreality.

I had to lay down, due to health, for a few hours after to recover from the full hour of photos, and yes, I faked some of the energy during the time, but what would my life be like if I DIDN'T sometimes force myself to play a role for awhile? In "reality" I can't engage in much activity in my current condition. I DO have an experience I would otherwise not have.

I believe in authenticity. Over the years I have worked hard to discover my personality, my inner workings and my genuine thoughts, beliefs and abilities. But I also believe there is something to imaginative play. Imaginative play is different from being fake and untrue to oneself. I know many people who are fake. They do not know themselves but they know concepts of what they THINK will make them happy, so they play at it, all day. They judge themselves and others and levels of happiness based on outer concepts or societal rules. This is not what I am speaking of.

In order to have an imagination, to play a role, one has to have a genuine belief in their authentic self. Good actors leave a role once it is done but immerse themselves in it while they play it. Why? Because they KNOW themselves enough to see where they begin and end. They are not confined by themselves OR the role.

I know I am not a baseball player but I DID play ball. I didn't play by all the rules nor did I participate in a standardized team game, but I had the makings of the game with me. I had a bat, a ball, the shirt and tights, the cap, and the attitude. The props made the experience seem real (ish- our attempts did not look professional. They included a toddler bat after all and Hollister Tees) but one could also argue that props make up life.

Was my experience fake? Was I not in a genuine moment because it was staged for photos? Did I not play ball? Did I not laugh even though inside I was wondering how many more steps I was capable of?

I do not believe in pushing oneself to get a result. If I really felt sick I would have had no issues walking away. I don't believe in the evangelical cultural concepts of sticking it out or the sole virtue of determination. I was brought up to believe that anyone worth their salt would not give up. Giving up was seen as failure. An interesting thought process full of complex ironies. Practice, patience, determination, grit...those words were thrown around a lot. I was led to believe that I could only have a full life if I stuck to something. And for what? Most adults teaching these concepts believed that if one practiced they would BECOME something great at whatever they were practicing at. As if they weren't already something that was good enough and of great value. It was about a goal. It was about achievement. Achievement defined existing. Existing became about what one accomplishes. A good full life was defined as what a person DID.

It's interesting...the blind faith we put into what we think equates a good person, a good life, or a good way of BEING. Sometimes walking away is the bravest thing one can do. Walking away from a fight, walking away from abusive relationships, setting boundaries, quitting an experience that could be substituted for something more enjoyable. The reason we don't want to believe that walking away can be good is because the fabric of society is based off of people willing to stick it out. Our institutions would fail and the way society runs would go into chaos for awhile until people figured out how to exist without a cultural concept of Being and how to create a safety net of reliable people without the drilling in of 'losers' being the 'quitters.'  I have no idea how that would turn out and there are many books dissecting the topic better than I. It's just something I have been thinking of. I don't label us quitters. I label our family as boundary seekers and boundary pushers that can not be confined to a box. I see us as changing our minds in flexibility. I believe we base all our decisions on living in the current context with the future in mind but not using the future as the sole factor. One decision with one person could be the opposite of what we do with another in a seemingly similar situation.

(This photo was taken by my daughter when we were supposed to be working on our library renos. See, despite thinking women look hot in baseball tees, I think my man is hot too:)

While sometimes sticking it out is the best thing to do and determination can be a virtue, it's the goal of the matter that bothers me. I really do believe that we need to commit to things and follow through on our vows. I am an Aspie- forever commitment to my spouse for example, is not a problem because of my inner moral commitment. However, my thoughts are- if we really KNEW ourselves and if we really KNEW what makes us tick, the good and the bad, most times we would not need to have the grit to stick out. The majority of what we do would be either neutral or good. Bad things would happen, but even then we would have such a strong sense of self, that we would be carried through. We would know what we need to be happy and be happier to those close to us that we love. This would create a trickle effect, spreading out to others. Most of our influence would be small. If each person influenced their small world, this health would gradually encompass the world. Perhaps I am an Idealist? But could we  use a tad more dissection of why we "stick things out" or why we are not comfortable with something that seems "fake" when it's just a different sort of real?

I faked it to make it during photos because I wanted to. I knew where I began. I knew my limitations. I knew what I needed to BE but also what I could pretend to BE in order TO BE. I had a blast. That was genuine. The reason why I did it was just as important as doing it.

I spent most of my childhood doing things that made others happy. It was the fabric of our religion, my education and society. I was an Aspie who felt uncomfortable 98 percent of the time. It was awful. No longer do I confine myself to those standards. I am judged for it but at least I no longer feel that judgement from myself. I have bad times and horrid moments, like everyone else, but I try to own them and when I fail- I fail. If I can quit something to pursue more beauty and to infuse a more comfortable way of Being if its unhealthy and causing ill health around me- I will. Sometimes it takes more creativity, grit and stubbornness due to the cultural concepts of those around me to quit the activity but it's worth the effort and the judgement. I know who I am.

Why can't we teach our children and ourselves how to quit healthily? Why do they have to finish the season of soccer? Because others depend on them? Perhaps those others can learn flexibility and creativity? Perhaps it depends on the circumstance? IF our children are truly miserable why are we forcing them to participate? Life has enough miserable moments on it's own to build natural resilience and character, why do we feel we need to add more? As adults we choose experiences or avoid ones that will make us feel less than human- Why can't our children have that freedom too? Perhaps our children can learn how to say no with consideration and be dependable to those that really matter instead of people pleasing and society pleasing through life? Is it about image of the family? Image of the child? Can we teach them how to hone in on their talents be Being instead? Can we teach how to choose what they love so that they will do it even when they are uncomfortable because of the love of it? Why is a genuine experience based on cultural norms? Isn't it mostly circumstantial anyway?

I can't even begin to cover this crossover of philosophy, sociology, theology and psychology in this post but it was worth a little dip into the water. This complex thought process and way of being based on decades of previous collective decisions obviously can not be undone with a post but it can be questioned lightly. I have more questions than answers anyway.

Fakeball was the best sport I have played. Determination was worth the photos because I wanted the photos and the experience of the photos so thus it was worth the exhaustion. Yet, within my belief of determination I have let my children quit structured piano and culturally expected organized sports. I am a paradox I realize, but I know why I AM. I am trying to teach my children the same sort of thing. They will fail. They are still finding out who they are. Importantly they are conversing about why they do not participate or why they do. THEY are choosing. Sometimes they lose out, but more often they are learning how to win at being content or just simply BEING. I hope they are learning within that BEING is worthy on it's own.

I still feel like the life is being sucked out of me but within that I also have life. I fake some interactions that matter to me at times but at others I actually have some energy to give. I avoid the rest, but I know that by faking my energies at times at least  I am BEING with them. By avoiding the ones that take up extra energy I am giving love to those put directly in my path. That matters. It's not profound but ordinary in it's extraordinary of the daily...which makes each second profound.

Play ball! Ha. Even it it may be a game of fakeball. Enjoy the paradoxes, oddities, and general absurdities of the drama called life...at least that is what I hope I am doing and thus hope for you. I hope we can value BEING more than doing. I hope I continue to have more questions than answers and that we value each other simply because we ARE together in LIFE.

These photos made me think of this fun song- my favourite part is from 2:20 onward:
And this reminds me of summer magic. "We go together like a wink and a smile."

Saturday, August 15, 2015

My Summer: An Existential Crisis Caused By Health Issues

(Picture Caption: The only thing I seem to do well this year- Snuggle my nephew to sleep.)

A fellow Aspie and I were discussing how we tend to have an existential crisis once a year or more. Most people in their lifetime average 1-2, if that. My husband can verify that in these moments I re-define the very fabric of my self, beliefs and the foundations of my life. Autism already creates isolation in the way we perceive and understand the world. Rae, my friend, gets it because she also has Autism/ Aspergers. My husband travels often with me into the odd way I see the world and so does my best friend. They get me because I am constantly explaining and I share everything with them. I count this as a huge beauty in my life. Sometimes, though, it is so nice to talk to someone who shares my brain perceptions without having to explain. While Rae and I have different Keirsey temperaments and very different ways of living in the world our brains share the commonality of Asperger's Syndrome. The regular intervals of existential crisis are rough on us, but each crisis brings us further into enlightenment, understanding and questioning. The refreshing bit of it is that we are never stagnant. We are constantly re defining our value, purpose and meaning. It's hard and seems unfair at times but it also has it's own beauty. No one makes life harder on us than ourselves. And there is substantial evidence that existential depression does happen often in gifted individuals: http://sengifted.org/archives/articles/existential-depression-in-gifted-individual

This year's crisis started out in January when I knew I could no longer ignore my looming health issues. Bloodtests would be on the horizon with results I was familiar with and treatment that would be long and slow. However, I did not realize how far gone I was and how much more serious my blood levels were than usual. Currently, I am eight months into treatment without a current end in sight. I was threatened with transfusions a couple times but with the help of a few different people (doctors, naturopaths and friends) I managed to raise my levels these four months enough to keep "improving." My Ferritin went from a 2 to a 5 in eight months. I no longer feel like I am dying with every step but this took a toll on my physical self and my inner self. Google a level 5 Ferritin, which is my "IMPROVED" self, and a long list of symptoms and severe exhaustion is the norm. This is me feeling "better." Amongst rapid hair loss and greying, brittle yellow nails from loss of blood to my extremities, heart pain, bad skin from lack of oxygen and weight loss in all the wrong places, I have also had to face a level of stagnancy that even a cat personality finds annoying. I love leisure. I have the capacity to stay in bed for hours in bliss or curl up in a corner and not move until my bladder pushes me out of my relaxation mode. I have found that even for my feline self, eight months of "taking it easy" has taken it's toll.

The worst part of it is, it feels like it should be nothing. I look at my beautiful fulfilling life with many of my dreams coming true and I beat myself up for feeling so crappy. When my naturopath saw my blood results two months ago she asked, "How are you sitting here right now? Most people with these levels would be hospitalized or in bed all day? I have had borderline low levels before and I felt like crap but it was never as low as yours. This affects everything from the way your hormones work to your inner organs to your heart which is your very essence of health, to your skin and bones. Your body is going through deprivation. No wonder you feel like weeping all the time." When she said that I felt relief. I tend to be a trooper even if I know something is wrong until the facts are staring me in the face. Then I allow myself to feel it for a few hours. It took all my strength not to break down into gulping sobs which would not have done me any good anyway because then I would not have been able to breathe. I can't even cry properly.

Her statement was validating but the story I tend to tell myself is different. "It's just blood," I tell myself, "I just look old. It's something that can IMPROVE. It's not like I have a condition that can't be cured. It's something on going but temporary in it's extremity. It's a good lesson in patience perhaps? I still have all my body parts functioning. It's slowly improving. It is only affecting your looks and your capabilities...it could be so much worse. Get. A. Grip. Everyone is sick of hearing about it. When they ask if you are doing better they want to hear a yes. After 8 months they deserve a resounding YES. They don't want to hear that while you are steadily climbing up in degrees of improvement it is not enough to warrant much of a change in you. Just pretend. You are thirty- one not eighty. You at least have youth on your side to recover. Focus on the positive." That is basically what I tell myself but deep down I know I can't pretend with those I love. While focusing on the positive is good practice, it sometimes also contributes to a lack of facing what is flawed in front of us.

This summer has been especially hard in the fact that it's not hard at all. That doesn't make sense does it? It has been a beautiful summer with beautiful people and wonderful distractions. Inside I feel dead. Not in a emotional way, but in a energy seeping "I want to do this but I really can't" sort of way. Usually in the summertime my cousins show up. My sister and cousins are around a decade younger than me. Because of my Asperger's Syndrome I can usually relate to them very well and we have tons of fun together. This summer I was excited because my one cousin is living here over the summer with my sister.  I pictured many moments of us sharing time at each other's homes. I pictured conversations over good food and sharing my kid's beautiful daily. I pictured our old energetic city trips with immense laughter and moments so high with enjoyment they felt chemically induced.  However, how it has played out has been different then what I was expecting. I can't do what they can. I can't go on small walks let alone hikes. I can't go to noisy concerts (on my best of days I couldn't before either but I REALLY can't now) or cheer at marathons they participate in because the heat takes the last thready bits of my breath away. I can't "Just Dance" and giggle with them and my kids. I feel like an outsider. They are doing their own thing, being twenty somethings and topping the summer off with a week in Victoria together. Some things I wouldn't do anyway because of Autism, but when it's all off the table it feels so much more poignant. I am not an envious person over other's lives. I like mine. However, this year I feel the pangs of wishing to be more. I feel like a party pooper because the small ways I could relate in before are robbed.

It's hard to understand when you don't have a mind that causes being an observer in other areas of life  on a regular basis. Having Autism causes me to be a spectator in many areas of life due to sensory overload or a different approach to life. So having the few areas I can relate to people in taken away due to other factors brings on a deep sense of failure and disappointment.  Why do I feel like a failure? Because I can't be perfect or normal. What a ridiculous standard for even the most ordinary, "normal, seemingly perfect" person! I see my contradictions but it doesn't help.

Something as simple as conversing takes up a lot of energy. I laugh less even though in my heart I feel happy. I can't express it as much because it takes that which has to go elsewhere in my body. I can't cry excessively because it would hurt my heart literally. I can't laugh hard without feeling panicky after. My friend who had a heart ablation understands this. She said she could not express any emotion pre- ablation without triggering her heart problems and it led to anxiety and depression due to suppression. That is how I feel. I have to suppress to be an acceptable version of healthy in my organs.

Muscles spasm without enough blood flow, organs work harder to function at a regular interval, and the body does what it needs to do to survive. Miraculously the body does away with what is not necessary first. Not enough blood flow? Ok, let's cut off the nails, hair and skin first so that the organs can have more oxygen. I am in awe of that. Really I am. The body is amazing! But I suppose the vain part of me resents my veins for the sacrifices I have to make in my appearances. I already feel old and act old. Do I have to look it too? I look like I just lived through some awful heartache or ravaging disease. I look like I hate life or have a bad one. I am wrinkled yet zitty, my skin is sagging from lack of muscle tone and my hair is falling out in clumps. What I look like doesn't match how I FEEL about life or my existence. Sometimes I try to fake it by applying tons of make up, wearing hair extensions, and covering up my body in flattering clothes, but that takes so much energy. I wish I could do it everyday because mentally I would feel better but I just can't. I want my outer self to reflect my inner self. I feel my inner self, while struggling and different, is beautiful. I suppose each of us feels that way regardless...

I look at my sister and cousin and I feel like an outsider this time. For the first time in life, in a rare place I felt like I belonged, I no longer do. They try to include me and it's not their fault. The only ways I can participate is watching movies with them. Understandably they don't want to spend most of the summer watching and my heart hurts each time they say no because I understand but I still want to feel like I had a summer too. I realize that it's ridiculous and immature but if I am being honest with myself the feeling is there. I am going through the stages of grief. I feel angry about it or sometimes at them for something they can't control. I feel denial. We went to the city and I tried for the same level of energy I had previous summers before and I totally crashed. It was awful. I felt the bitterness creep up when usually I do not struggle with bitterness. Life is so different for me anyway that being bitter about it all would be a huge waste of my time. However, I think I am bitter because I see how much I have and I am bitter at myself for feeling like I can't live it. I feel the sharp sting of my own lack of participation in life. Especially because I WANT to participate.

We started renos last summer in our basement and upstairs. Basically we are re doing almost our entire house. Up until December I was helping a lot. I could already feel that something wasn't right but I pushed through. When I just crave being snowed in for days and days and I picture myself snuggled in bed as a life line and comforting image, I know it's time to face what I don't want to face.  I had to stop helping. The projects I loved contributing to, imagined up and designed could not longer be mine to shape. While I am so grateful my husband has the talent and energy to finish it all up, I HATE not contributing. The times I do I will hear, "Careful honey. Should you be doing that? You are going to pay for that later and be in bed for a couple days. Hon, you might hurt yourself. Go lay down." That is probably the phrase I hear the most, "Go lay down." I love him and he is such an amazing guy. I don't resent his care of me. I resent that he is right and my body is doing it's best to heal and I am impatient with it. I resent my own lack of inner peace. While I craved these sort of statements back in December/ January and needed to live in a state of couch potato until March, three months of laying down was enough. I didn't start improving until May. A ridiculously long time to do nothing. At the beginning I wasn't even supposed to do dishes. How does one be a mother, wife and friend when for months they can't attempt simple tasks? I had to redefine what it means to be a contributing member of society. I had to believe that just BEING is contributing. I couldn't even write without feeling exhausted. It still takes it's toll.

All of this lead up to my crisis. Chronic anything can cause crisis and it was inevitable. The problem is that I am so aware of my flaws and beauty that travelling it in ignorant bliss is not an option. The upside is that awareness can cause quicker processing. I am not ready for winter because this summer was an extended winter for me. I stayed in a lot more than I wanted to. I was so sick of my computer that I would just stare out the window longing for the suppleness of youth I am supposed to be enjoying. I suppose the experience causes empathy for so many young people suffering from disease, malnutrition, poverty ect. There are many people worse off than I, at younger ages. Which is why I try not to use my social media platforms to only talk about the good times. It paints an unrealistic version of life. I also believe the reverse to be true. To only talk of that which is a struggle is also unfair. Life is both good and bad. Honouring both brings a level of authenticity.

I am redefining myself yet again. I am re defining what it means to have a good life or a well lived one. I am reading challenging books on varied topics and listening to my heart when it asks for a song, a moment in the sun, or a light walk. Yesterday, everything inside of me begged to go outside in the rain. I probably looked insane to my neighbours but I walked out in the cold pouring rain in my bare feet. I gingerly touched the plants dripping with life and squished my freezing feet deeper into the earth trying to become part of it's energy. I held out my hands to the sky and steeped myself in it's tear soaked misery. Walking back into my warm haven, I felt better. When I listen to my heart, despite how the world may interpret my actions based on their own perceptions, I am a step closer to living in the moment. Living in the moment, embracing all that is, brings deep moments of beauty and pain. That is what I have to remind myself in a crisis.

I'm not better. I just am.

I have listened to this song over and over from one of my (many) favourite romantic comedies "Fools Rush In." It warms my essence when everything else feels cold.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Redeeming the Struggle, the Magic of the Gut and the Daily.

For over a year we have been on a journey of healing. A path that looks more like a zig zagged web of chaos then a straight forward angle. My husband and I change our minds quite frequently. We see this flexibility as strength containing a multitude of all that IS in our existence and allowing our minds to change so that we can embrace many lessons. Our healing path mimics this awareness. We don't embrace one specific diet, one specific way of healing... but we do have specifics that work for us, for a time being, specifically.

Another twist in our journey has transpired. We have been reading the book "Gut" together by Guilia Enders . While we have focused on gut bacteria for more than a year, we are constantly finding new ways of incorporating this into our daily life. Although Gut is a word that seems to have a cultural yuck factor with it we have found a magic within. The gut now symbolizes for us the beautiful dance of life that intricately makes up our micro to our macro. Neglecting the information or our respect for our natural states ties into every facet of BEING. Psychology, philosophy, belief, orthodoxy, health...ALL of it is tied to the gut in fascinating ways. It is pure magic and once embraced, an awe inspiring education.

I have read GAPS (Gut Psychology), Weston Price, Paleo, Eating for Your Blood Type ect. and our family has applied what personally works for us and discarded what does not.. What ties all of these together, is the power of what we consume and the fact that our gut is our second brain full of bacteria that makes up us and influences our decisions.

Being kind to our body...what we do, what we eat, what we converse with...the very nature of our fabric...is what enables LIFE. There is never a linear path to healing and if there is, it should be questioned. Redemption is in the struggle BECAUSE of the learning aspect. We can redeem any struggle if we have found more of our substance.

I find my substance in the ordinary, the raw, the natural, the simple and extreme. I have learned that many misunderstand me and I have to be careful what I say to keep peace although I simply can't play that game much anymore. I don't avoid but I don't look for those connections either. I have what I have, and on most days that is enough. In the past interactions my honesty was questioned continually and my paradox self was not embraced as genuine. I am learning not to care. The days that I do, I fortify myself with loving boundary quotes (link). Boundaries not to fence me in and keep me stagnate but boundaries that enable my freedom. To remind me I am worth more and can ask to be treated as the one I am. I know who I am and what begets freedom. Gut healing is not a straight linear path. In the best of guts, a bacteria can come and wipe out everything good. Such is also the landscape of relationships, the mind and all living things. Such is what I am.

My mind marvels at the way life is all connected. Resources we have needed, either through perhaps the law of attraction, or something universal, have been infused into our life with what I call enchantment: books, podcasts, music, people, moments, events, pins ect. leading us onward in a path that is infused with the daily. Daily is a combination of ordinary which is extraordinary mixed with some magic and some hardship.

My husband and I began a journey together back at the age of seventeen for both of us. We have seen each other through post partum depression that gave us both a differing case of PTSD. We have also seen those same moments give us the most life giving gifts. We have been through tempests and storms and people who were bent on tearing us apart because we seemed different. Through sweet diagnosis to bitter diagnosis, to questionings of faith to a greater faith or a lesser faith (depending on perspective) and through it all, our gut instinct, and our literal guts themselves, found a way of triumphing. Through vulnerability, constant communication in our little family, and questioning the absorption of all things, we found each other and we found ourselves. Our twenties gave us so much and took so much but I am honoured that we travelled them as partners: together and separate. Now in our thirties, we are finding more puzzles, more answers, and even more questions and sometimes the ordinary charm from every day life binds us together in a mystical dance of symmetry, while at others we are torn into chaos churning malnourishment on some level, clawing our way back to ourselves and each other.

Reading, absorbing, BEING in our home and the outdoors, learning, listening to the wind, touching each other's sun kissed skin, toes squished in the blades of grass or hearing music from our speakers or the trees and finding our rhythm in the smells of our day or the taste of what transforms to bacteria that gives life and death... all the senses living to a beautiful extreme has caused this way of life. I see it as a gift from Autism/Empath/Sensitive one ect. Having a different gut that causes a different brain scenario. Though the gut can heal and help heal aspects of the mind, we are still who we are amongst the changes. I see sensory overload, the curse gift, that can cause so much pain but also a level of healing that most have a tough time embracing BECAUSE of the deep sensory understanding.

I am content although my blood runs thin and life is not perfect. I feel both the sultry call of the inner micro and macro world and the deprived stagnancy that can also occur simultaneously. My introverted self may not show the entire world what my beauty is, the raw warmth tingle of my daily but it shows me and those nearest.

 I saw a picture of my 18 year old self pre pregnancy and though I recognized her, I realized only part of her exists in me now. I thank her for being HER as she WAS AND AM  and bringing me here, but I am also relieved life is not so stagnant as to keep me exactly her. My body may have been more supple back then but my mind is more supple now. I have accomplished the love of a lifetime in my husband and myself actually. My three children, once past the age of five, helped me find out that I actually AM a spectacular, if not culturally different, mother. Each has taught me more and infused growth on every level than any book could.

Life occurs in the gut, death occurs in the gut, nourishment and disease occur in the gut...all affect the brain and life itself. Each of us is a magical mixture of science and what can not be explained. Each of us partial to our gut bacteria, our inner working genes, our environment, and our decisions and experiences. Though these factors influence us, we also have our part to play in the world we create by learning about what influences us and how we choose to respond. I hope that on most days, my husband and our family and I continue to respond to our daily. I hope we respond by eating food that gives us a combination of good and bad bacteria (both are needed in certain amounts.) Likewise I hope we embrace the good and the bad in life's circumstance. Most of all, I hope we respond to the sensations of being alive in the little gifts of Being. I hope I savour the way my twelve year old still tucks her hand into the crook of my arm as we walk and I feel her warmth seep into my skin. I hope I take notice of my youngest's freckles that seem to dance upon his cheeks as they fill with a smile and giggle of mischief. I hope I remember the sound of my ten year old's voice as he croons his self written lyrics in his room, thinking I can not hear him. I hope I embrace my husband, smelling of construction, salt sweat, sun, and earth as he drives up in his rumbly truck after a day of working in his trade. I hope I notice his eyes and the twinkling warm welcome he always gives no matter how his day has gone. I hope when I wake to myself, despite some bodily ills, that I notice with gratitude what DOES work in my body, what beauty DOES make up my gut and all that is me.

I hope you also find the magic in your own journey and find redemption in the struggle.

A 20 minute clip of Gut author Guilia Enders in a interview. She is smart, funny, quirky...and just generally adorable...and yes I think I can say that a woman is not only extremely intelligent but also adorable ("inspiring  great affection/ charming".) Saying she is adorable doesn't outweigh her intelligence:)

And a happy song...because when I listen to this song I feel energetic and happy. This song completely describes my husband. I am so lucky: