This is going to be a short post. I just got back from a few days camping with wonderful friends on the shore of Lake Michigan. This has been planned for a year. Our group, we fondly call the Wander Woman, started the hiking/camping trips July 2018 when we did a week-long trip to South and North Manitou Islands in Lake Michigan. My friend, Lisa, reminded me that she noticed my constant massaging during that trip. It wouldn’t be until November of that year that I fully understood that there was something very wrong with me.
I’ve been planning and working towards my goal of spending the week with them. We were to camp in Canada at Lake Superior Provincial Park. However, the border between Canada and the United States is still closed due to COVID-19. So, instead, we chose a closer state park in that we could drive to. Not everyone who had originally planned to join us could come: some due to family commitments, one due to the death of her mom (non-virus related), some due to not feeling comfortable in doing so.
We agreed to be logically safe and trusted that our Wander Woman cohort had been safe prior to camping. The park was not crowded at all and so we had no issues out on the trails, at the camp, using the restrooms, or on the beach. We chose to wear masks only inside public places (the restrooms).
I am so energized after these past few days. Wonderful conversation with my friends that ignited my imagination and funny bone, as well as a few shared tears, met with empathy and love. The photos will be the rest of my description of the joy that is currently bursting in my heart.
I can’t thank my friends enough for helping me get back my courage to stay in a tent after a day of hiking and swimming. I have gotten my courage back to do this more often with my husband. I even talked my daughter into doing a short trip with me soon. My soul is nourished and my passion blazing again.
My blog is ONE-year old now. I have learned a lot from doing it. I’ve made friends from across the country and the world. I’ve learned from other bloggers how to live well with a chronic condition as well as how to blog better. It, too, ignites my imagination and gives me a purpose that makes me happy.
So, when I found out that I was nominated for two WEGO HEALTH Awards, I felt that this passion was also recognized by those who have watched my blog grow and those who I have hopefully helped in some way. It’s such a wonderful, supportive group that I have found through blogging.
If you are interested in endorsing me via the link below (just being nominated is really amazing), I humbly thank you. In my post for the end of this next week, I will be sharing out those who have most impacted my wellness journey, so that you, too, can learn from them (and endorse their nominations for WEGO AWARDS) if you should feel led.
I appreciate this time in my life that I am able to live my life fully (filling it with purpose and passion) alongside good friends and my family despite living with Fibromyalgia. I hope that I can help you find that for yourself as well as you journey through this life.
Thank you for visiting my blog today. I am committing to posting once a week on Fridays. However, as you know, my new normal means that sometimes I have to listen to my body and am not able to follow through as planned. Thank you for your understanding.
A lotus flower begins growing at the bottom of a muddy, murky pool, and slowly emerges toward the surface, bursting out of the water into a beautiful blossom. During the night the lotus closes and sinks under the water, and emerges again with the sunlight of a new day. As the lotus flower emerges from the mud, and up toward the surface it is completely unstained.
Bob Dylan was right. The times are continually changing whether small or major. Change is a part of life. However, change, whether good or bad, brings a certain amount of stress, and that stress can bring on a flair for those of us with chronic conditions such as Fibromyalgia. Since November of last year, it’s felt like one pretty big change after another in my family: changes in health, changes in jobs, changes in homes. My first reaction tends to be a pulling back, in my mind and body. I stiffen, literally, as if to strengthen or to push back on the change. This can lead then to tension in my shoulders and chest which triggers in me a sense of anxiousness. What I’m purposefully working on is leaning in. Leaning into the change like a trust fall. Breathing and being present in this moment, reminding myself that I’m safe, secure, and supported. That my family, we are in this together, and we’ll all be all right as long as we stick together. This means that we share at a deep level, knowing that we can make it through anything. This is bringing a new perspective to change. Change that at first seems like a disaster, turns out to be just the kick in the butt that was needed to move to the next level in our lives. It ends up being a major blessing. The prospect of change is now exciting and full of potential, making me open up my imagination for what I can create out of this next part of my life.
As the daughter of a mom with bipolar/schizophrenia, I heard again and again that just as things were going good, it would turn and storms would come. She would tell me that if things get really good, then prepare for them to get equal parts horrible. At that tender age, I took that as a life lesson that has kept me on my toes, waiting for the anvil to fall at any moment. However, now I realize that this was her reality, one which she really didn’t understand. She’d fly high for a time and then crash. It was what she understood to be the way of life. I’m just now realizing that I had this underlying belief coloring my entire life. This last week, I went on a vacation that I was hesitant to take. It was coming at a time of major change for my children, and I felt that I needed to be around to help them through. I didn’t think I could enjoy the time away. Right up to the night before we left, I was tensing up, bracing for the worst. I only went because my husband really felt we needed to go (and we’d already committed to the condo with my brother and sister-in-law).
After the November 2016 fire ripped through Gatlinburg and Anakeesta Theme Park, the community came together to rebuild this favorite tourist attraction. When we visited the fall of 2019, we could still see scars of the fire but they didn’t compare to the new beauty that was present.
The time away was so good. We went to a place we’d never been to- Gatlinburg, TN. My brother-in-law chose our destination. It’s not a place that Kelley and I would normally visit. But, I think, it was just what I needed to let go, getting a bit wild and silly. My sister-in-law is one of the most caring, real, and hilarious people I know. We did things that neither of us would have normally, but with the four of us, we did. Tonya conquered her fear of heights by walking among the tops of the mountains over a glass, swaying bridge. I tried moonshine-nearly all 13! To conclude our week, she and I each got a symbolic tattoo. It is Tonya’s first. She remembered her mom, gone 15 years now, with a Rose-of-Sharon and her mom’s signature copied exactly from the note her mom had written to her 40 years ago. I got a lotus on my inner left arm. It’s something I will see often reminding me that I am strong and have come out again and again to show my beauty. I’m reborn daily. Daily I am changing.
This last week, I didn’t take any pain medication. I was able to get up in the morning and be alert and active all day (with a bit of a rest in the afternoon between activities). My symptoms from the Fibro are there but much more in the background. I’m feeling like I can be recreated, just like the lotus, each day is a brand new start. Times of change are times of celebration, growth, potential to recreate my self. I’m choosing to lean in and enjoy! 4/10/20 Update: Due to COVID-19, Akaneesta Park is closed until the #stayhome #staysafe orders have lifted. They working on even more additions and improvements this year. To say that our world is facing enormous change from this pandemic is an understatement. But, I have faith, that we will come out the better and stronger. Mother Earth has given us the kick in the butt we need to make substantial changes to how we treat both her and each other. Are you open to change? Do you balk at it? What have you learned from the changes in your life?
Thank you for visiting my blog today.
I am committing to posting once a week on Fridays.
However, as you know, my new normal means that sometimes
I have to listen to my body and am not able to follow through as planned.
Belonging to a community has been a driving part of my entire life. As a child, I went to nearly every summer church program (partially because my mom couldn’t afford daycare) because I just loved that week of being a part of a special group: knowing the special song’s words and hand motions, sharing in stories, munching on little sugar cookies and red punch around a small table with this temporary community. Working as a camp counselor, not only did I find a temporary community to live with, but I met my best friend and my future husband. In college, I connected to a small group of friends (most I still have today) and sought out others from my classes that shared similar goals. I studied to become a teacher; my schools had been major sources of community for me growing up and I longed to continue to be a part of it. When my husband and I chose the home we’d live in for our retirement years, I fell in love with a new development that was built on a former site of a summer camp, creating a built-in community of people to connect with.
Emma Seppälä Ph.D. explains inPSYCHOLOGY TODAY “Connect to Thrive”, 2012 “Social connection strengthens our immune system…, helps us recover from disease faster, and may even lengthen our life.” On an emotional level, “People who feel more connected to others have lower rates of anxiety and depression.”
People who feel more connected to others have lower rates of anxiety and depression.” Too many of us pull in and away when we aren’t feeling well. Seppälägoes on to explain that a study conducted in 2006 showed that social connectedness is rapidly declining in the lives of those living in the United States. The report states that in 1985 Americans had on average three people they felt connected to on a deep level and in 2004 that number dropped to only one, with 25% of respondents saying they have no one to confide in.
Nearly, one year ago to the day, I was yanked from my school community, after 32 years, very unceremoniously. That’s the way I felt when I went onto long-term leave and then into retirement last June; my whole life as an educator just ended. It was really difficult knowing I wouldn’t be an integral part of my teaching community anymore. (I still am having dreams a few times a month where I go into school, knowing I no longer work there, trying to give my input on the things I know are going on, then realizing that my ideas aren’t needed any longer.)
Not only did I abruptly stop being a part of my teaching community, but I also began to really pull away from everyone. Mostly, because I felt so horrible, I just didn’t have anything to give to my family and friends. A new trend began, me canceling plans to go out, to getting together, to calling, to responding, even to posting and responding on Facebook. And within my solitude, I felt invisible and increasingly sad.
The night before Thanksgiving last year, I was invited to a breathwork workshop at a yoga studio in a town near 20 minutes away from my home. I felt like @#$%, but the task was to get there and then lay down, bolstered by support pillows and wrapped in blankets like a cacoon. I didn’t have it in me to drive, so my husband drove and visited with our daughter who lives in that town.
Joan, the owner of Branch Out Yoga in Fremont, MI, intentionally creates a place for community.
Upon walking in the yoga studio, the sweet smells from the essential oil mixture and the brewing tea greeted me, calming me. Inside the entry, I was welcomed by several smiling, chattering people scattered throughout the India-infused, boho space. I felt like I was walking into someone’s home.
Breath Work Session with Panacea Breath led by Candence and Ross Zigenthaler.
At the end of the three-hour session, I felt more energetic and positive than I had in a while. I vowed to start coming to this place and be a part of this community. Even though it took me a while to get consistent in attending, I began to feel the support and positive energy from the people through this place. The owner of the studio purposefully sets up a place that would keep people there after class to share in community through talk and tea.
Slowly, my husband and I are making new connections in communities that we are interested in being a part of now that we are retired. We’ve met other couples interested in getting out-of-doors: hiking, kayaking, snowshoeing, etc. Also, as the development that we live in has more homeowners living here, we are beginning to get to know them through organized activities that generally involve food. Recently, I’ve connected with a few other writers who have shared some nuts and bolts of the process of writing, helping me to feel like writing is something not only do I want to do but am able to do.
Through my blogging, I’ve become connected to others in the Fibromyalgia and chronic mental and physical illness communities. I find that communication through online forums is very important for me. At times, I’m learning something new; other times, I contribute something to a discussion that helps someone else. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve even gotten some much-appreciated kudos from others in the community for my writing, which really helped to get me back at the keyboard.
When we are in pain or not feeling well, often our first reaction is to pull away from all our communities. I know it takes great energy that you just don’t have. However, as I have learned both from my therapy and from my experiences, the more I pull away the darker I get. The more I push in, doing only what I can at that time, the better I begin to feel. The light from others is contagious.
So, at this time of the holidays, when things can get really overwhelming, I suggest that we connect with those communities that build us up. And that we keep this going throughout the year. How can I connect with a community when I’m not feeling well?
On line communities in areas of your interest or experiences can be really good. (For me, I work to only participate in ones that are uplifting. I want to share the real, but I don’t want to dwell in negatives all the time which a few groups I joined and then dropped did.) For me: The Mighty (mental wellness group), FIBRO CONNECT on Facebook, North Country Trail Community on Facebook, and Twitter (following only those I want in my community: teachers, librarians, authors, and those with chronic pain).
Pen-pal or phone-pal arrangement can reconnect to those you can’t see regularly. For me writing back and forth (generally online) with a friend is really fulfilling. Recently, I connected back with my friend by setting up a weekly call date (being she works at home we generally connect in the morning for about an hour). I can’t say how wonderful that sharing time is. Talking using video (whatever tool you chose to use) brings you loving faces along with your conversation.
Ask around about smaller groups in your area that do things you are interested in. I’ve found wonderful groups of people who love to get outside, paint, play the ukelele, eat vegan, etc. (Many share rides, etc. if you aren’t up to or able to drive.)
Stick close to your closest family and friends. They totally get it if you’re not feeling well. My family has always done impromptu get-togethers where we either meet at a restaurant or go to someone’s home with each of us bringing something to eat. Very low-key and low-stress.
Go to businesses that create community: yoga studios, some gyms (especially if you go to the same classes at the same times), even some restaurants (early breakfast groups), and some shops (art studio, knitting & quilting stores, bookstores, etc.) that allow you to hang out and learn from one another.
Volunteer (this can be done on a regular or more flexible schedule which I like) for places that build community: hiking trail care groups, homes for senior citizens, schools, libraries, etc.
My wish for you (and for me) as we are beginning this time of winter hibernation is that we stay connected. Through our communities, we are revived, strengthened, honed, and loved.
What are ways you connect? What are your obstacles? What are the benefits you get by being connected with others?
Thank you for visiting my blog today.
I am committing to posting once a week on Fridays. However, as you know,
my new normal means that some times I have to listen to my body and am
not able to follow through as planned. Thank you for your understanding.