Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Resilience and Rebellion

After a rough September, I decided to make my word (or intention or goal, if you like) for the month of October - Resilience.  I'm resisting the temptation to share the definition because you all have google and you pretty much know what the word means anyway.  But it's a word that really appealed to me, because if September (not to mention the latter half of August) was my month of being injured, then October was my comeback month!

It turns out I should've extended my intention of Patience a liiiiiiittle bit longer.

October hasn't quite been the bounce-back I hoped and expected.  I'm certainly better than I was a month ago today - after my cast came off, the smallest bit of pressure on my foot was agony, and I was still figuring out the mechanics of walking again.  But today, I still experience pain when I walk, I'm much farther from back to normal (to say nothing of back to running!) than I expected, and I haven't always dealt with the disappointment in the healthiest ways.

Last week I wrote about boundaries and my anxiety over the election, as well as my health.   One would just feed the other until I was a depressed and anxious pile of goo.

It helps that there are no more debates, thank the sweet sweet lord.

But the fact is, that boundaries don't help worth a damn unless you set and enforce them.  (Gotta build a wall...)

And resilience is just a pretty word if I keep rebelling against doing the things that I know will actually help my mental and emotional and physical health.  Following rules I know I should follow, rules that are for my own good for reasons that I do actually understand.  Limit electronics.  Have a book to read so my attention span grows from the 3 seconds it currently is as I constantly skim headlines or bounce from work email/text back to whatever else it is I'm trying to do at home.  When I write, actually pay attention to writing without interruption.  Eat foods that quell instead of increase inflammation.  Get up on time, even when the snooze button is calling my name.  Actually focus when I meditate instead of just using it as another snooze button.

Intention really is a powerful thing, and words do make a difference - but it's just syllables rattling in your head if you don't put a plan of action to go with them.  That's why the advice to "Be present" always annoys me - yes, that's great, but how?

It's also hard to find the motivation to do those things or follow those rules or dig deep and get perspective that I'm really okay when I'm truly just not feeling it.  If I'm particularly stressed or scared or depressed at the glacial rate of my recovery and I let myself cry or get down, I find that I automatically go to a place of feeling like I don't deserve to feel this way because I'm really okay.  I'm not dying, for God's sake.  So then by not letting myself have a moment (or even a day) where I'm just sick of it all, those feelings just continue to simmer under the surface and negatively impact every other decision, conscious or unconscious, that I make.

My beautiful friend Michael Bartelle, who is one of the most inspiring, kind, funny, beautiful, and loving people I've ever met, wrote something strikingly similar to how I've been feeling today.  He shared several methods and techniques and practices he's engaged in throughout the years (such as meditation, doing morning pages a la The Artist's Way) and how when he seems to need those practices the most, he's least likely to habitually do them.

It's a reminder, especially coming from someone who inspires me as much as Michael does, that we're all human and we all go through rough patches that knock us off our pedestals and practices and keep us from being our best selves.  No one has maintained perfection in their practice in life - if they are, they're probably living on top of a mountain far, far away.  It's just part of life.

I think that's why the phrase, "Take care of yourself," exists.  When someone says that to us, don't we tend to just sort of nod and agree and appreciate the warm thought without really thinking about what it means?

To "Take care of yourself" probably means, more often than not, taking away the short-term dopamine hit (ie checking Facebook for the 100th time in an hour) from yourself and replacing it with something that you probably don't feel like doing, but that will be infinitely better for you.  The emotional, spiritual, and often literal version of Eating Your Vegetables.

So I'm here toward the end of this month where my resilience has been tested deeply by my inner, struggling rebellion.  Today feels a little different, though, and it just takes a few positive steps and a few good days to shift momentum to a better direction.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Setting boundaries

In case you haven't noticed - there's an election going on.

For people like me, who have tremendous interest in and anxiety over it, it's very, very easy to get unhealthily preoccupied.  It's one thing to be informed, and quite another to spend every free moment listening to or reading about it - even when there's no new-news from the last time one checked (even though in recent weeks it seems like there's a new development every five seconds).

There's a lot of talk among parents and teachers over a great "screen time" debate.  Parents worried (or decidedly not worried) about exposing their toddlers to the TV and iPad, parents trying (or not so much) to have family meals without phones at the table, the idea of having time limits vs. total freedom on video games - there are arguments to be made for every kid, family, and situation, and people spend a gigantic amount of time judging each other over it and judging themselves, often, over failing in their goals. (And for the record, I have no judgement or opinion on what anyone does - it is 100% not my place, and I don't even have kids so I'm not coming down on any particular side)

We spend so much time analyzing the effect that screen time has on kids, but it seems we don't even put one tenth of the same effort into analyzing the effect that it has on us as adults.  Sure, there's a flurry of recommendations about having TV in the bedroom or using electronic devices before bed, but how many of us let that permeate into the reality of how we live our lives?

I go through phases with this. Sometimes I'm great about avoiding my phone before bed...but most times I'm not.  Sometimes I resolutely delete Facebook from my phone, thus removing the ability to constantly check so I can post whatever article has most recently articulated my views.  Then inevitably something pops up (like a day full of air travel) where I feel I need / deserve to bring it back again.

The bottom line is, we all ought to honestly look at our intake of and exposure to media, and assess how it really affects us.  At what point might it just be reflexive, addictive?  At what point is it truly helpful?

And more importantly - what do you replace it with?  For me, that's usually diving deep into a novel.  I tend to be a happier person when I'm reading a book.  I'm able to get absorbed into one long narrative, rather from skipping and skimming article after article after article.  Also - hey, music still exists!

I think part of my issue with this is that I'm so much less mobile than I used to be while my foot is still healing, and obsessing about the election is an activity that requires zero movement.  If I were still able to go for a run three times a week and jump into a yoga class every so often, I'd also have a much better outlet to let the anxiety physically get the hell out of my body.

In the meantime, I just have to rely on good old self-discipline.  Usually not a problem for me, but there's something about an injury that makes you insanely permissive to yourself, usually at the eventual expense of health or sanity.

And therefore - boundaries.  Hiding the phone from myself.  Deleting apps. Creating boundaries of time when I'm on and when I'm off - and the kicker is, I'll probably pay even closer attention to and be more present with the news that I'm reading when I'm finally reading it.

I'll confess right now that, with the election three weeks away, I don't have the highest confidence in my ability to stick to these boundaries.  But at least they're there.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Music Share - Hipster Playlist

Lots going on this week, but not for blogging.  Instead I'd love to share one of my most used playlists that I bring out for my Prenatal / Mom & Baby classes.

A lot of this was taken from the Acoustic Covers playlist on Spotify, which is always full of hidden little treasures.  It's bookended with some gorgeous music by Dustin O'Halloran from one of my favorite albums chock full of beautiful instrumentals for savasana.

My favorite song on this, though, has to be Bells by The Bengsons.  I first heard it in savasana after one of Elizabeth Barnett's spectacular classes at The Giving Tree (check her out on Monday's at 7:45 and Friday's at 6:30!), and it absolutely floored me.  Astorians especially will like the shoutout to our neighborhood in the song.

There's a lot of poignancy in the song as well as throughout the playlist...it's one that makes me happier when I'm happy and heartens me when I'm sad.  Enjoy!



Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Peg Leg & the Pool

Last week, I was dealt a setback to my foot's healing process that pretty well broke my spirit for a couple of days.  It's been hard for me to write about my emotional reaction and struggle with my injury because all I can keep thinking about is how much worse other people have it and how sort of inappropriate and gross it would feel to put that out into the world with so much else going on.  Because of that, I think I've been repressing my frustration and disappointment and heartbreak and anger in an effort to be as positive as possible.  As a result, when I had the setback (back to crutches instead of finally being able to walk again), I took it insanely hard.  Tears, pity party - the whole 9 yards.  (Shouldn't it be the whole 10 yards...?)

Luckily, I have the world's best physical therapist who gave me the best advice: get back in a pool.

Because I was in such a negative headspace last week, I kept focusing on the obstacles.  Figuring out how to join, how I should get there, when I should go, the pool schedule, what a pain in the ass it is to get around a wet locker room on a crutch and to change with the use of one leg, getting in and out, dealing with a wet towel and suit and goggles and swim cap when I have to go to work right after and have a hard time carrying a lot around...little things.  Petty annoyances that I let myself get caught up in and complain about.

And then - just like this summer, when getting to the pool was such an ordeal on the crutches - as soon as I got in the water, it all melted away.  The freedom that I've always felt anytime I get in the water is that much more healing and necessary and soothing with this injury.  When I swim, I can use my entire body, I can use my left AND right side at the same time in the same way!  I have freedom and symmetry in the water in a way that I just don't on dry land right now, and won't for a while, even once I get walking again.

My main homework in the water is to do some practice walking, in water up to my chin so I'm as weightless as I can manage to be.  As you can imagine, it's very slow work.  No other distractions - no headphones, no phone, no nothing except paying attention to how my body moves, how it feels, and the space around me.  It's the most meditative thing I've experienced in quite a long time, and it's so important that my brain be given that space where it's not engaged in anything else except what I'm doing at that moment.  No news.  No podcasts.  No Facebook. No reading.  No work.  Just my own brain and my own body.  It's the most yoga I've practiced since even before my injury, I think.

I honestly don't know if it was the feeling of walking, the freedom of swimming, or the forced mental freedom that's been the most impactful.  I've been mourning the loss of running lately for a variety of reasons - the primary one being what a huge outlet for stress relief it is.  The pool is helping me to fill that void in a totally new and totally needed way.

I've got another appointment with the doctor tomorrow.  I think the days of getting off my foot and back into the crutches coupled with the weightless practice-walking have paid off.  This process is still painfully, frustratingly, infuriatingly slow, but - I have my perspective back.  We'll just see what the next slow step is.