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Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Joy

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh

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After quite an intense month of introspection, hard decisions and transition, I am pleased to say that I feel that intensity slipping away while my more joyful self is dancing her way back up to the surface. The change of late has been really positive, just fairly intense, and I feel like I have been very serious (aka boring) as I do this dedicated and somewhat solitary “self-work.”

Part of the reason I have taken up yoga and meditation again is to allow myself a break from all the mind’s noise and try to center myself a bit. I am pretty crap at meditation, I must admit. I can last about 20 seconds before a thousand thoughts swirl through my head. I try the cloud theory that people keep telling me about, where you focus on an imaginary sky and whenever a thought happens, rather than try to escape it, you see it as a cloud floating by and then return to an empty canvas again. This unfortunately does not work for me. The clouds take shapes and remind me of more thoughts and stories. What does seem to work, however, are mantras. I do not have a great memory for Sanskrit, so I usually make up simple words or phrases in English and just repeat those over and over again, silently to myself. I find I can ignore my thoughts longer doing that.

After writing the post about my gut feelings last week, and subsequent belly and heart issues which led me to go to the doctor to make sure there was not actually something wrong with me, I took a week off of all exercise and yoga. I was afraid of making my oddly palpating heart overwork in an already irregular state. But once I realized that it was probably my nerves making me feel bad, I decided that yoga would probably help and decided to go to class. And I am so glad that I did.

Often at the beginning of class my yoga teacher asks us to make dedications of that day’s practice to someone we know. I sometimes pick family or friends randomly, but last Thursday it was a purposeful decision to dedicate the class to my good friend’s mom who passed away the day before. Her name was Joy. I have such fond and silly memories of her growing up, she was such a sweet and generous woman.

joyInspired by the dedication to her during that class, I naturally and somewhat organically began chanting her name in my mind throughout the class. As the breathing was long and slow and calm, so was her named stretched and emphasized. Jooooooooooy. Jooooooooooy.

By the time class was over, all I felt was pure, genuine joy.

Later in the evening I was blasting music and dancing around my house cleaning, in my underwear. Which is usually what I do when I am feeling pretty good. I was hungry, and made a big meal – no belly ache or heart burn. And when it was time to go to bed, I found that my irregular breathing and heartbeats were steady, and well, just back to normal. And I slept through the night like a baby.

The following day at work I could not stop giggling, and in the evening I went out with some girlfriends for dinner. After making some inappropriate remarks, Natascha rejoiced and sang out, “Yes! Regan is back!” Following dinner, after getting denied entrance to a concert for lack of proper identification, the idea to funky chicken dance bomb some posh clubs came to mind, and we spent the rest of the night trying to make very serious people laugh along with us.

Days later, I am still feeling back to my normal self. Full of joy. Pure silliness. I really think that the dedication to my friend’s mom made some radical change inside of me. Perhaps it resonated, as I too lost a parent too early to cancer. And when this happened, at least for me, I really learned the fragility of life, the beauty of actually being alive. It is certainly a cause for joy and I want to make the most of it. I think there was also something about spending an hour and a half chanting the name “Joy” over and over again that seeped into my bones and shook me.

I enjoy my moments of reflection, and I think it is important to have these quieter moments from time to time. But when my body’s response tells me it is time to lighten up, then I need to. The past few days I have felt great, I am completely back to my silly, giggly self. It is all about balance, finding that healthy space between taking yourself seriously and at the same time realizing that life is just too precious to not live in silly fits of joy.

Thank you, Joy. For the generosity you shared with all of us during your life. And for reminding me to keep the joy alive.

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Lately I’ve been speaking a lot about change, following signs, coincidences and things of this nature. To add to that, you could say that I’m a person that follows her instincts, or gut feelings. In general I would say that my instincts are pretty in tune. I’ve made mistakes and bad choices in my life, no doubt, but in making those choices I also knew it was probably a bad idea from the get go, and went ahead with it anyhow. Meaning, against my instincts. And, voila! That is how lessons are learned!

When I honestly listen to and follow my gut feelings, even when what they are telling me is a little bit scary, life tends to sort itself out in a very positive way and I become a better person as a result. So when my gut was telling me last month to take a big risk – to quit the job that has given me so much security over the past three years, and head back to the USA for a while – I listened. I gave notice at work, and suddenly realized that it was time to come up with a game plan. Luckily I have an incredibly understanding and patient boss (friend first) who did not seem to flinch at the news and sweetly replied that he was surprised I had stayed so long. We’ve had a great run, but both he and I know that my heart’s hopeful work is in birth and I was not going to stay in sales forever. As I began to tell my friends in Barcelona of this new plan, to my surprise, no one really seemed all that surprised! It was as if everyone had seen this coming and I was the last to find out.

October was a big month. I would like to give credit to the stars and planets, as astrology was saying that October was going to throw everyone, all signs, into a spiral and if changes were happening, that they would happen fast. Virgos not excluded! So much has happened in this past month. I’ve made a choice to quit my job and to take the harder path of following my dream to work in birth. I’ve made the choice to leave my easy Barcelona life for a while to head back to a place that until now has been challenging for me – home. I’ve made a choice to fully accept that love is stronger than attachment, and have worked really hard to let go in order for someone else to grow.

butterflies_in_my_stomach_by_bee_ee Not surprisingly, with all these major changes taking place my gut has been doing more than just prompting my instinctual intelligence. As most people, my digestive system is closely connected to my emotions and stress levels. The gut is sometimes called “the little brain”, as it’s the largest area of nerves outside of the brain and is hyper-sensitive. There is a reason we get butterflies in our stomachs when excited or nervous. For me, my gut is both intelligent AND extremely, perhaps overly sensitive to my emotional state. We have a love / hate relationship, me and my gut. Love for being so smart and guiding me along the way, and hate for slowing me down when I want to move fast.

For the past month my digestion has been all out of whack, and this week it has culminated to a point of being quite painful. I have tried over the counter products, and probiotic, doing yoga and exercising, eating healthily, etc. And my reward has only been heart burn, which I have never had before.

While seeking out some natural remedies for my belly ache with a midwife friend of mine yesterday, she got straight to the point –

“Regan, your body is talking to you. Go lightly and gentle. Don’t think of what you can take, but what you can change.” – Oh no, more change!?

“What do you think you are holding on to? Whatever it is, let it go.”

I went on to tell her about all my recent developments, all the ups and downs of this past month. Her response came to me like if Maya Angelou had appeared before me as a midwife –

“Worried you only just dreamed you could fly? Breathe and take flight. Trust Regan in true. Breathe and open, this is birth. Your birth.”

Okay, I can understand birth analogies at this point! So what am I holding on to? What is upsetting my gut? I guess it is hard to let go of the stability and the easy life that I have finally achieved in Barcelona. It is my friends and family in my home here across the pond that I will miss so much. It is fear of being able to take on the complicated path towards midwifery, and even if I want to go that route in the first place. It is fear of moving a bit into unknown territory.

Overall I am happy and super excited about this adventure to come, but I guess it is okay to admit that I am a bit scared too. This is scary! My gut is acting up to remind me to slow down, to feel all these different emotions swirling around, to accept them, nurture them, and once that is all said and done – I really just need to trust in myself. I can totally do this!

My gut feelings are wise all around the board. I should listen to them in moments of love, but especially listen to them in moments of hate when they are trying to settle me down. So for now, I am listening. Just breathe and open. Trust and …

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Two months ago I lost my voice. And I still have not managed to recover it. I sound hoarse, which works fabulously for reading poetry, but the sexy raspy thing is now just annoying and uncomfortable. Every single time I speak on the phone, a client or friend asks me if I’m sick, hung over or exhausted. My answer is, “No, I’ve just lost my voice, that’s all.” But they are beginning to not believe me. And I am having my own doubts too.

I used to lose my voice all the time, but I often attributed it to lack of sleep, partying, shouting, and smoking. My chronic tonsillitis did not help much either. But my tonsils were removed eight months ago, which is also when I consequently quit smoking, and my partying has been reduced to intimate dinners with friends and relaxing on the beach. I sleep about eight hours a night.

So what the Hell is going on?

This morning I went to see my ENT (Ears, Nose and Throat doctor). He is the sweet, older Catalan man who removed my tonsils last year, and who I think is always trying to set me up with his son. After a thorough examination, which triggered my gag reflex and I almost threw up all over the guy, he tucked his little flashlight and tongue depressor away and told me, “Your vocal chords are a bit red and inflamed, but there is nothing really wrong with your … throat.” He put his hand on my shoulder, tilted his head sideways, and then added, “The problem is with the pianist in your head.”

Now, I realize I have a lot going on inside my head. But a pianist? I instantly had the vision of a small little figure, dressed in a black tailsuit, encouraging his fingertips to make love to the white and black keys of a grand piano shining brightly in my frontal lobe. Once the musical notes danced their way out of my ears, I registered the kind doctor’s words, awoke from my little daydream, and said, “¿cómo?

According to my doctor, there is a pianist living in my head. And my vocal chords are his grand piano. Supposedly he is up there composing and banging around on the keys. Passionately. Ruthlessly. And with no intermissions. Dr. Torres Esteban told me that my wild, unsettled head was the cause of my voice cracking. And then he wrote me a couple of prescriptions to help with the inflammation, told me to refrain from speaking altogether for a couple of weeks, plugged my cell phone number into his iPhone, and told me he would call me in September to arrange for me to see a logopedia (a speech therapist) to help train me to speak properly again.

For someone who speaks a lot, this is all very worrying.

On one side, I’m being told not to speak. But then there is the other theory – that I need to get something off my chest. Over the past few weeks I have had two friends and a holistic doctor all give me another source for my voice loss. Apparently I have a secret. A deep, dark secret that I’ve kept so well hidden inside, that not even I know what it is. Apparently when there is something inside us that we don’t voice, our voice can actually break down until we speak that secret. I have spent a good part of this week thinking about what secret I could possibly have. And I’m drawing a huge blank.

Pianists and deep secrets are nestling up together inside me. I would love to get rid of them both…but first I guess I need to identify them. Until then, I will attempt to not speak so much (yeah right), will down my little pills every eight hours, and will continue working on my “You Can Do It! List” until hopefully all my little worries diminish. Once all is (not?) said and done, and my voice is back to its normal cadence and tone, I will look forward to singing something other than Tracy Chapman and Chavela Vargas in the shower.

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“Just think, you’ll get to eat all the ice cream you want!” [cue the overly ecstatic facial expressions and colored balloons falling from the ceiling].

I am 5 days into tonsillectomy recovery and guess what? I haven’t had a single scoop of ice cream. Not that nobody has offered, of course. It’s just that the thought of ice cream sends a wad of mucus up my chest and there it hovers in my throat until I can’t breathe. Options are 1) swallow it, only to have it slowly rise again or 2) hack it up through a raw and tender throat and spit in the trash bin by the bed. Neither are attractive, or comfortable, options. I stick to popsicles.

Although I love popsicles AND vampires, not even these Dracula popsicles make this surgery worthwhile

Apart from the fact that dairy is the last thing one should eat after a surgery like this (milk = phlegm = cough = ouch!), ice cream just is not a motivating enough factor for surgery. So how is it that everyone, including doctors, tries to sell the ice cream happy vibe to tonsil-fearing, pre-op citizens? I’m beginning to wonder if the sales people from Ben & Jerry’s go around taking doctors out to fancy dinners, like in pharmaceutical sales, to boost their sales and consumption. Because really people – ice cream just ain’t worth it!

My theory is simple – this operation is meant for children, and not adults. Only a child could believe that ice cream makes a surgery worthwhile. If someone had promised me a house in the countryside, or a lifetime of perfect health, or even the love of my life (!), then perhaps I would have skipped and sung my way into the Operating Room. But ice cream? I would happily give up a lifetime of gelato to not go through this.

I am not old, but I am not 7 years old either. Previous to surgery I heard various opinions about tonsillectomies, basically broken down into three categories: 1) those who never had them removed 2) those that had them removed as young children, and 3) those who had them removed as adults. The former two said it was a breeze. And I bet you they ate (or recommended) A LOT of ice cream! The latter, however, all said it was extremely painful. A few woman blogged that it was worse than childbirth! And a Spanish friend of mine wrote me saying “when i did it some years ago i wanted to be kill it hurts me a lot!!”

Once again, all evidence points to this being a surgery meant for children. Not adults.

A friend asked me if this was going to be an aggressive surgery. My response was, “Aren’t all surgeries aggressive?” I guess it is true that in the big scope of medical procedures, getting one’s tonsils removed is not that big of deal. Regardless, they put you asleep for a reason. They cut into your throat, where all air, spit, food, beverages and words usually pass by the second. Then they don’t seal the wound. It burns and hurts to swallow, but they tell you the only way to get better is to eat and drink. Then there is that whole ears, nose and throat union – pain in one usually equates pain in the whole trinity. It hurts. Actually, it hurts A LOT. So if anyone hears me scream, trust me, it’s not for ice cream.

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