February 13th, 2013
I finished my January book last month, When the Body Says No, and was actually a little disappointed. It’s funny, living with a chronic disease for the better part of my entire adult life, I’d already learned a lot of what Gabor Mate outlines. Stress contributes to the disease, and your life choices can impact your health–you need to live in balance, as much as possible. What I wanted from this book was more prescriptive advice, and less “I had this patient who had this terrible life and this terrible experience” narrative-style storytelling to make the same point over and over again, and more “this is how you cope with ongoing life with a crazy-ass disease.” So this led me to the recommendations from my friend Kate about meditation. The first book that showed up from TPL was Real Happiness, and I’ve been slowly going through it this month. It’s a 28 day program with interesting exercises like walking meditation (which I find compelling). The other two books that I have out are Breath by Breath and Teach Us to Sit Still.
Also, I’ve been doing some restorative yoga at home, my lungs have been bothering me lately, and I’ve been doing a lot of pranayama breathing to work them out–it’s helping. It’s a bit hard to do anything with a toddler, but at least once I’ve got my legs up on the wall, I can handle him bouncing up and down around me. Taking five minutes isn’t hard–it’s not ideal in terms of trying to calm down while there’s a manic energy around me, but I’m doing it anyway. I had thought I might tackle my diet this month but I’m still so harried on a day-to-day basis that finding five quiet minutes is something more than I had a couple of months ago.
I find that rhythmic breathing, counting in, counting out, to be so restorative. I know it sounds simple and kind of silly but the more I concentrate on the simplicities in my life, the easier it is to deal with the giant bits. So there’s my revolution for the month, breath. Belly breathe, if you may.
January 4th, 2013
One of my New Year’s Revolutions is to ramp up a sense of healthy living now that the terror of the complications from my pregnancy and the massive disease attack has subsided. It’s only taken two and a half years! Each month, like I said, I’m going to try and tackle an aspect of my life, not that I’d like to fix per se, but that I’d like to evolve a la AJ Jacobs. I’ve decided that January is the month I’m going to think about stress.
It’s an all encompassing term, sort of like “depressed” that people toss around left and right without really taking a moment to consider what it actually means either literally or figuratively. For me, stress, and worry in particular, is the number one reason the disease becomes active in the first place. When I am too busy, too stretched, worrying all the time, freaking out, panicked, upset, terrified–it ramps up my immune system which is a signal for the disease to jump into action. This is not scientific, this is just me living with Wegener’s for the better part of two decades.
The weekend before I came back to work, I was at a spa with my darling friend Heather. I was looking forward to it immensely after the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, of cooking two giant meals, of intense days spent with a two-year-old. And it was amazing, except for one small thing–I have absolutely no idea how to relax. Oh sure, I know how to be comatose in front of the television after a long day. But I don’t honestly know how not be so go-go-go all the time and laying down for a straight 24-hour period of people rubbing oils and lotions etc into my body was amazing but perhaps a little lost on me. We did a chakra realignment treatment–it was incredible–except every single one of my chakras are blocked. The therapist kept telling me to visualize a colour associated with a particular chakra and in my mind I got it wrong every single time. This was not the fault of the therapist. This is all me. I can’t quiet my mind. And since I’m too busy for restorative yoga these days, I don’t even have that hour space in the week where I could meditate and rest.
There’s a viable difference between being still and simply not moving. Being still incorporates a mindful, healthy essence–it’s breathing, it’s contemplation, it’s restoration. Not moving is just that–it’s sitting, mind whirring, iPad still on, spelling game in check, bad TV on full and putting in the time before bed. You’re too tired to do anything else. Being still takes work. Not moving, not so much. It’s a subtle difference, but I’m not being very still these days. Sure, there are stretches of time where I’m not moving but my brain buzzes over lists and things that I need to do the next day and moving forward and keeping on keeping on and work and RRBB and this and that and that and this and all of a sudden it’s 3AM and I haven’t slept for the fourth time this week and my kid’s going to wake up in an hour and wow I’m flapjacking tired.
There was an hour when we attended a yoga meditation session. I did pranayama breathing and for the first time in months I was still. It was the best part of the time I spent at the spa. The treatments were amazing but they aren’t something I can afford or realistically do regularly (except massage is covered by my benefits at work). But the meditation, well, that’s something I can try. My friend Kat has written a great introductory ebook (published in March), that has some terrific tips in it, and I’ve decided the book I’m going to read this month is When the Body Says No by Gabor Maté. I’m also looking for any bits and kernals of information anyone out there would like to share about how they deal with stress, about what else I might read, what other things I could do… About what really causes it and what it truly is. I’m embarking on stillness. That’s my goal for January.