Mind, Body, Spirit

PAIDcanstockphoto2646901

I saw a funny one on Facebook the other day that tickled my funny bone – water is good for you so I started my day off with water … heated up … in a mug … poured over fresh roasted grounds … coffee, OK – I had COFFEE.

……………………

Sipping coffee in the morning before 5am, slowly waking surrounded by the gentle warm waters of the hot tub, gives me time to think. I thought how fragile the human body is … water just a few degrees warmer or a few degrees colder can be uncomfortable and water that is icy or water that is near boiling will kill us.

It seems like there is a healthy range for everything … too much money and too little money, too much power and too little power, too much pleasure and too little pleasure … and I guess the same goes for too much pain and too little pain.

Too little pain and we aren’t pushing ourselves enough to our limits – to change, to stretch and to grow is painful in it’s own way. Too much pain and our whole body physiology changes and sets up a new pain pathway.

It’s hard to describe chronic pain to those who don’t have it. And for those who do, the manifestations are all different, but my chronic pain is like physical PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).

You’ve heard of the torture where you are given an electric shock … you have been shocked and it’s the worst pain you’ve ever felt and you can see the person holding the shock button. You watch them with fear, wondering when the next wave of pain will be delivered.

Chronic pain is actually like that. You didn’t have control of the initial cause of the pain and it was horrible. It created a pain memory that is unable to be forgotten. There is anxiety because you don’t have control over when the pain comes. Fear is also mixed in because you don’t know when or how intense the pain will be the next time. There is the memory of the pain constantly replaying in the depths of your subconscious mind, sometimes surfacing, sometimes just below the surface. That memory is like a trigger of it’s own … the nerves seem sensitized to deliver the next pain cycle. And then there’s the actual pain from the rawness of whatever happened. It’s all mixed together, all feeding on each other, making even something small into something much worse.

But I’m interested in learning how to break the pain cycle so my body can come back into balance and I can push through the little pains of life and stretch and grow and change with adaptability. Of course if you’ve been following me, you know I use warm water to help with pain, and plant and animal therapy too.

And I’ve come to a place where my body is feeling good again, so I decided to take a women’s self-defense class this weekend … 3 hours of commando defense training. It stretched me to my limits and I wondered if I made the right decision when I twisted my neck out of a sideways headlock position. I’m aching a little bit but so far it’s not triggering the chronic pain response.

But the whole combination of experiencing the limitations of my human body and knowing there are bad people out in the world led to this mornings contemplation of how fragile we really are here on this earth …  fragile to the power of nature, fragile to the evil of others, fragile in our own accidents. I found myself holding my breath for a moment and then I gave it over to God. My strength is not really my own, my real strength is in my spiritual connection to God.

I don’t have control of everything and that causes an anxious feeling until I remind myself that we are all in the same boat. We are all on a brief journey through time and we all die. I can’t control everything that happens but I can concentrate on how much good I can do before that happens. Mind, body, and spirit … I was in touch with all 3 this morning. And with a good cup of coffee, it has been a good start to the day.

 

Winter Thoughts

canstockphoto11134294

I’m introspective by nature but even more so during the winter. It just seems the appropriate time to stay inside, so to speak. One of my favorite inside activities is reading. I’ve been enjoying Clive Cussler and Dirk Pitt’s adventures and now I’m reading the Lord of the Rings by Tolkien. I enjoy mystery, fantasy, sci fi, and adventure. For years, about 20 years, I limited my reading to non-fiction, there’s so much to learn in this world. But how much I’ve missed out and now is the time to make it up. Reading a good book feels like eating comfort food if you get my meaning.

Last year, at this time, was a very different story. I was struggling with pain. The pain was addressed through spending hours of time each week in my hot tub. And the hot tub was 20 years old and breaking down, I was over the top with anxiety over being without it. All that was resolved when the hot tub was replaced but it was a breathless time for a while. That’s what I tend to do under stress, hold my breath. But this year is different. The pain is minimal, still there, under the surface but not the nauseating breathless type.

It’s hard to explain chronic pain, I guess everyone is different but mine is not sharp like a knife or throbbing like a muscle spasm … it’s more like something internal. Like what happens when you injure an internal organ or break a bone and are still in shock … your body knows something is very wrong and tells you not to move. Theres danger if you do. And then like with regular shock, there is the sympathetic nervous system breathlessness and nausea and dis – ease … a type of generalized anxiety and fatigue.

In the rare time I left my novels this past week, I came across some interesting research on chronic fatigue syndrome. They took 2 groups of people, one diagnosed with chronic fatigue and the other without the diagnosis. They gave both groups a painful stimulus (hand in icewater type of thing) and then had them exercise and when they came back, they gave them the same painful stimulus again. (Who makes up these type of studies???)

I’m summarizing here but this is the gist of the results. The normal group of people reported a pain level of a 5 or 6 (1 being little pain and 10 being the highest pain) during the first pain part and then after the exercise they reported a decreased pain level (3 ish) with the second pain stimulus.  Exercise decreased their perception of pain and/or increased their tolerance of pain.

The chronic fatigue group reported a pain level of a 5 or 6 during the first pain part and then after exercise they reported an increased pain level (8 or 9) with the second pain stimulus. Exercise increased their pain. Do you know what decreased the pain in those with chronic fatigue? Warm water.

A light bulb moment for me! In most people, exercise is the answer, but not for those with the body physiology that goes along with chronic fatigue. For them hot water is the answer to healing. For so long I felt guilty over decreasing my activity level and spending so much time in the hot tub. But my body wisdom was shining through. Even though I’m not diagnosed with chronic fatigue, I don’t need a diagnosis to realize that has been part of my story. I’m sorry I put myself through so much guilt. It’s 2 degrees outside and I just came out of the hot tub, my hands stuck to the metal door knob as I came back in the house. But I feel good, really good. Relaxed. I think it’s time to curl up for a while with a book.

Family History

Ancestry

My mom’s dad (my maternal grandfather) was born in 1899. In 1918 there was an outbreak of H1N1, a flu pandemic. It was estimated 1/3 of the world population was infected and up to 20% died.

My grandpa was 19yo when he came down with the serious and near deadly flu symptoms. His grandmother was half-indian and she treated him with many natural old remedies. He pulled through while others in the area did not.

Back in the 1800’s there was a lot of prejudice against native americans. Having Indian blood was often hidden, I guess much like having African blood.

I have always felt comfortable in nature, with natural medicine and around animals. It seemed like a connection to my native american roots.

I’ve been tracing my family history and working with Ancestry.com, so a few months ago I finally decided to submit for their DNA testing.

I had a hard time believing the results, yes, I have a large european mixture of English, German, French and Spanish and smaller percentages of Irish, Italian, Polish and even European Jewish but no native american.

The DNA videos on the Ancestry.com website warn of circumstances like this and say that people may not have accurate family histories but that your DNA does not lie.

But I had to know what was going on, was I my mom’s child? Those type of questions come up. My mom and dad were game to be tested. Yes, they are my parents and no, there still was no hint of indian blood.

This is a mystery. Because of the old time prejudice towards native americans, no one would say they were indian if they weren’t in the 1800’s.  No one in my family ever had any economic or other benefit from believing they were indian.

Was one of my ancestor’s orphaned and brought up by the Cherokee and thought they were indian? Was someone adopted in our past and didn’t know it?

It’s all very curious. It even feels a little destabilizing but fascinating too. I wonder what other surprises will turn up as I continue studying our family history?

Taking Stock

It’s the new year; a perfect time to reflect on the past and plan for the future.

What’s your new years resolution? Mine is to simplify, to declutter, and make room for new space.

I’ve had that resolution for years now. My husband would say for decades, but I haven’t acted on it. Actually, I’m sort of a hoarder. I feel more comfortable being prepared for possible problems by surrounding myself with “stuff.”

But stuff doesn’t last. I found a brand new saddle pad damaged by a mouse. Wasted money. Wasted planning ahead. But what really gets my goat, is that a perfectly good saddle pad was damaged by just sitting around unused.

I hate waste. And that was a waste of something that could have had value to someone. Why did I keep it. What good did it do. I grieved (or rather I blamed and shamed myself) when I threw it away.

Enough is enough. I am enough. I don’t need excess stuff. I trust in the future. I trust that I can handle it when I don’t have something I need. I am able to deal with that pain. I am stronger than I give myself credit for.

This year will be different. I have energy and frustration and forgiveness behind my intention to simplify and declutter. And I have a plan.

I have a calendar. On each month I’ve listed a different room of my house or barn. January is the month of the back bedroom. The “guest room” that has no room for a guest.

Week one I will tackle the shoes. I have lots and lots of shoes. It’s a type of comfort. You might gain or lose weight and need different clothes, but your shoes still fit. Shoes are like reliable friends. Month one, week one, I tackle the shoes.

Week two will be the clutter on the bed and dressers.

Week three will be the closet.

Week four will be the dressers and shelves.

The plan is doable. It’s day 4 in week one and I still haven’t done the shoes yet. Wish me well. I’m rooting for you and your resolutions too. But I haven’t done the shoes yet.

Let’s remind each other that we are enough. We are valuable just because we are human beings. We are good enough. We can trust in our adaptability. We can trust, love, and let go.