Self Care: the One Year Mark

The anniversary of Don’s passing is coming up in a few days and I’ve been deeply affected by it.  Don wasn’t only my husband; he was my best friend and the best person I’ve ever known.  Certainly the most solid.  I spent almost half my life with him.  Watching the struggle and rapid decline of someone who was my rock was the worst experience of my entire life.  I am only now beginning the healing process.

Some of these photos I’ve never seen before because they were recently sent to me.

Photo: Fred To
Photo: Fred To

People say it will get better but so far I don’t know what they’re talking about.  As of today, I can say that I’m managing my grief.  I say managing because I’m living with it, not overcoming it.  I don’t have a time frame for when it will affect me less; maybe never.

Grief feels very solitary. Even if we’re not alone we’re still alone in our grief because it’s all individual.  No one can tell me otherwise.  But there are a few similarities with others living with loss.  We work through it.

Working through grief is painful and tough.  It’s about finding ways to live alongside your loss; building a life around the edges of what will always be a vacancy. Making sense of something senseless.  We live in a culture that doesn’t understand.  It’s not really our fault that we’re ignorant. We’ve grown up with what we’ve learned; trying to fix things and make everything better.  Most people mean well.  But knowing that you had a good life with a partner doesn’t cancel out the fact that they’re no longer here to continue with the life you had.  Certainly doesn’t make one feel any better.

Photo: Fred To.  Our mutual friend Colleen Kohse was sitting on the other side of Don (but she would not have approved the photo of her in this shot).  RIP dearest Colleen.

It’s even more difficult if someone looks for the flaws in how someone got to where they were.  Hearing things like he/she didn’t really take care of themselves, didn’t exercise enough, or exercised too much, didn’t take proper vitamins or took too many.  They should never have taken that turn; things like that. As if that would have changed the outcome.  It’s hard for some people to accept the cold hard fate of what is.

Photo by Willy. I was surprised to see this up on the screen at Beth’s recent Celebration of Life. At former Heaventree Gallery from our Ambience of Africa photo exhibit.  RIP beautiful Beth.

So you try to heal as best you can.  You continue to go out with friends but there’s a huge void.  And there are moments where you lose yourself in laughter which feels great, but then you may feel guilty because your partner is not here to laugh alongside you.

Don with his mom Jean. She was lovely.
Don with another love.

Transforming  grief into a work of art that touches someone has been and continues to be a way of healing.  The best songs, poetry, movies and art are created out of loss.  Expressions of great pain were reflected by the images of Picasso’s Guernica or in the words of writers like C.S. Lewis.  Or Eric Clapton’s song Heaven written about the loss of his little boy.  Creating art out of loss is certainly not a fair trade for the loss, but sharing an expression of grief with others can help tell the story and stay connected to who you’ve lost.  Many people find that journaling helps.

*There is something to be said about our biology being affected by grief.  Losing someone close to us changes our biochemistry.   Respiration, heart rate, and nervous system responses are all partially regulated by close contact with familiar people and animals: these brain functions are all deeply affected when we’ve lost someone close.  I’m not a neurobiologist (surprise, surprise) however it is a factor of neurobiology.  Losing someone close changes us is ways we never could forsee.

Activist Don with friend Ruth

Then there’s the emotional rollercoaster just when you think you’ve got it all under control. And so you cannot expect everyone to understand your being overly sensitive or acting a little irritable at times.  Your real friends of course will understand some occasional out of character behaviour as being related to a deep sadness.  Someone said “those who support your shifting needs are the ones to keep in your life.  The others?  They can be set free.” Well meaning people can sometimes be very unkind; even cruel.

So missing someone who you’ll never get to see again in this lifetime is like finishing a great book that you like so much you don’t ever want it to end.  You turn the last chapter but the storyline will resonate with you for the rest of your life.  

And that my friends is what true love is all about.

*Source: Megan Devine, therapist + author

 

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Self-care: take this!

I always thought of self care as more than mud masks and bubble baths.

contributed image – thecord.ca

It really is a total package encompassing mind/body/spirit + other life essentials.  So when I saw this article from another website it was only fitting to share it with you.  Because life is simple and complicated at the same time.  We need to focus on what needs to be fixed on the outside in order to feel good on the inside.  I’m not the only one who thinks this way.

Self-care is often a very unbeautiful thing – by Brianna Wiest: thoughtcatalog.com

It is making a spreadsheet of your debt and enforcing a morning routine and cooking yourself healthy meals and no longer just running from your problems and calling the distraction a solution.

It is often doing the ugliest thing you have to do, like sweat through another workout or tell a toxic friend you don’t want to see them anymore or get a second job so you can have a savings account or figure out a way to accept yourself so that you’re not constantly exhausted from trying to be everything, all the time and then needing to take deliberate, mandated breaks from living to do basic things like drop some oil into a bath and read Marie Claire and turn your phone off for the day.

A world in which self-care has to be such a trendy topic is a world that is sick. Self-care should not be something we resort to because we are so absolutely exhausted that we need some reprieve from our own relentless internal pressure.

True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from.

And that often takes doing the thing you least want to do.

It often means looking your failures and disappointments square in the eye and re-strategizing. It is not satiating your immediate desires. It is letting go. It is choosing new. It is disappointing some people. It is making sacrifices for others. It is living a way that other people won’t, so maybe you can live in a way that other people can’t.

It is letting yourself be normal. Regular. Unexceptional. It is sometimes having a dirty kitchen and deciding your ultimate goal in life isn’t going to be having abs and keeping up with your fake friends.  It is deciding how much of your anxiety comes from not actualizing your latent potential, and how much comes from the way you were being trained to think before you even knew what was happening.

The act of self-care has become yet another thing women are expected to be good at. Did you use the right filter for that ‘gram of your impeccably prepared acai bowl? Are the candles you just lit in your Snap story made from organic hand-poured soy or are they that mass-produced factory shit? And how can we stem the inevitable capitalist tide from turning something as simple as self-care into yet another thing to be bought and sold? These are all things I wrestle with as I order Dominos in sweatpants under the guise of ‘being good to myself.’ –  Amil Niazi

If you find yourself having to regularly indulge in consumer self-care, it’s because you are disconnected from actual self-care, which has very little to do with “treating yourself” and a whole lot do with parenting yourself and making choices for your long-term wellness.

It is no longer using your hectic and unreasonable life as justification for self-sabotage in the form of liquor and procrastination. It is learning how to stop trying to “fix yourself” and start trying to take care of yourself… and maybe finding that taking care lovingly attends to a lot of problems you were trying to fix in the first place.

It means being the hero of your life, not the victim. It means rewiring what you have until your everyday life isn’t something you need therapy to recover from. It is no longer choosing a life that looks good over a life that feels good. It is giving the hell up on some goals so you can care about others. It is being honest even if that means you aren’t universally liked. It is meeting your own needs so you aren’t anxious and dependent on other people.

It is becoming the person you know you want and are meant to be. Someone who knows that salt baths and chocolate cake are ways to enjoy life – not escape from it.

Well said! Who else agrees?

Self Care: riding the wave

I’ve been warned.

Somewhere in Sinai, Egypt. Taken from a photo album.  Photo: d. king

How after someone very close to you passes, where you’re first in mourning, then experiencing major grief, after a certain time period you suddenly begin to get a bit stronger, then you reach a low point.  Then you’re okay again, then you’re not. Kind of like riding a wave.  It’s happening. An ebb and a flow.  High tide and low tide. I suppose lack of sleep and sometimes not eating properly doesn’t help the situation.

I know what I’m supposed to do.  Just go with the flow and ride it out, hoping for the time when the memories will become pleasant instead of painful.  Actually they’re not really painful because most are joyful, but it’s in the joyfulness of remembering what was good that brings on sadness if that makes sense. For me it’s the physical loss of the person who’s no longer here for himself, not just for me. It’s his loss even more so than mine. What hurts most is the person having lost the fight and having lost hope. It seems in the end you never really know the truth. Whether they came to terms and finally let go with acceptance. As for the rest of us, we have to continue to live our lives.  That’s where I’m at.

Among the Bedouins in Sinai, Egypt

It may also have something to do with yesterday, sitting for hours finally clearing out a locker space filled to the brim with stuff I haven’t seen in many years.  In an over-heated room no less.  And sorting into 3 almost equal piles, suitcases and boxes filled with clothing, equipment, photos, etc. 1)keepers 2)salvation army 3)dumpster. And who keeps every single report card they ever had? It went into the “keeper” pile (just in case one day I want to remember how well (or not) I did in math in Grade 3). And re-discovering a photo album with amazing memories from Egypt & Israel then going home and turning on the news only to be shocked and saddened about the senseless killings in Egypt. Which puts everything into perspective.

On the terrace overlooking the river Nile

So after a restless night of a little doggy waking me up 3 times to go out (at least she woke me; smart girl – better than the alternative) I have not been able to get back to sleep.  And I couldn’t make up my mind what to eat for dinner and didn’t feel like cooking or even seeing anyone. So I ended up going to my favorite cheese shop and getting the grab-bag (they choose for you), then my favorite pastry shop and getting a fresh baked baguette (white bread, no less), and a little pumpkin pie and on the way home stopping at yet another local place for homemade cookies.  I chose 3 kinds – heart shaped jam filled, chocolate/marzipan + coconut macaroon.  I don’t feel too guilty cause due to no effort of my own I lost 6 lbs. without even trying.  Although for health reasons I don’t intend to make a habit out of this. So if I gain 3 back tonight so what.

On my way home, feeling like I could use a little therapy, I stopped by the local wine shop for a sampling of a wine called “therapy”.  After 4 sips (from 4 different bottles) I could already feel it. No more for me.

I realize this is a “self-care” post.  So I don’t know if my message is clear or if I even have a message.   If there is one, it’s just that sometimes you just have to give in to what is and not question why. Sometimes self-care is doing what feels right, right at the moment.

After all, tomorrow is another day, godammit.

 

 

 

 

Self Care: Dinner for One

I’m slowly getting back to some of the usual happy rituals that make my day complete.  One is the enjoyment of cooking dinner.

Broccolini with shaved Vermont cheddar, baby potatoes & wild sockeye salmon with salsa verde (Botanica recipe posted on October 17th – absolutely delicious).

Over dinner (many times accompanied by a glass of wine) along with pleasant music playing in the background, there is conversation. Which means normally there’s another person to converse with. Someone who can talk about pretty much…anything, which makes the ritual that more gratifying. Of course I talk to the dogs but it’s not the same.  They’re really not up on current affairs, however they’re very good listeners.

So it has taken me at least two months to get back into some kind of norm of cooking only for myself.  It’s not that I don’t have the inclination to invite someone else to join me, it’s just that I feel the time has come to look after me, in the same way I used to do for two. So I went grocery shopping and thoughtfully put together a proper dinner, taking time to do so, incorporating healthful ingredients. And I enjoyed every bite.  By myself.

I’m not gonna lie; I much prefer dinner for two. But there is something to having a routine even if it’s only meant for one. It brings meaning to everyday living.  And besides,  I enjoyed the company.  Maybe next time I’ll try taking myself out on a date!

But really; looking after ourselves is as important as looking after another. Even if it’s not as much fun.

How about you?  Do you take the time to make a nice meal just for yourself?

Wine + Dinner = Winner                                                                                                        (image: d. king)

 

Self Care Sunday: Acceptance

This is a new series surrounding health related mind/body/spirit posts of things that inspired me to share them with you.  Because accepting the way things are now can be either healthy or detrimental to your health depending on the circumstances.  Read on.  I’m starting off with an article written by Brad King; the founder and chief tribal leader)of  Metabolic Warrior, a website that gives you the tools to help  rebuild your body’s metabolic potential, improve your present health and regain your true life capability – for the best is yet to come.

@ http://www.metabolicwarrior.com/

Mediocrity – we’ve all been there at one time or another. We’ve felt the weight of societal pressures and the burden of our own lives. We’ve found it difficult to carry on, and when we eventually did, we settled. We settled for things that we knew we didn’t deserve, and took life as it came, accepting the negative and keeping it that way.

The Human Brain is a pattern recognition storage machine that is programmed to default back to a place of least resistance. In other words, your brain feels most comfortable when things are familiar to you, even if that familiarity isn’t positive. This is one of the reasons people who have addictions keep falling into their addictions over and over again. The addiction is most familiar to the brain. And so it is with acceptance.

Once you agree to accept a less than optimal life as the way it is (I call this the Disease of Acceptance), it becomes difficult to break out into something greater. It’s easy to fall into a depression and believe you aren’t destined for anything special, even when that is a flat-out lie. You are destined for great things, but you can’t just sit back and expect great things to come to you without working to achieve them. So if you’re ready to dig yourself out of this slump called mediocrity, then read on.

You’ve Got to Move it – Move it

If you’ve been feeling sluggish, like you’re not all there, then there is a great lack of energy in your life. This usually comes about because of poor nutrition and lack of exercise. Without good health it’s impossible to feel great, and without feeling great, we can’t bring ourselves the happiness and abundance that we truly deserve.

 If this lackluster feeling is getting you down (and it should), you have to take the time to move your body and tease some life back into it. Start by getting your ass outside. Try walking, running, or whatever you like to do and take the time to observe the world around you. I mean really look at the scenery; the grass, the trees, the sky; feel the breeze; experience the way you are breathing in and out. Work those limbs and lungs and keep moving forward, both in your walks and in your life. You’ll be thanking yourself once those feel-good endorphins start whizzing through your body.

Eat Well, Live Better

If we aren’t giving our bodies the right amount of nutrition, then we’re bound for bad feelings all around. Sure, junk food is nice once in a while, but without proper nutrients from real, whole foods, our stomachs feel empty, our minds feel fuzzy, and our bodies move slowly.

This is no way to be, and if you want to get rid of mediocrity and move forward into a life of true happiness, you have to take care of yourself. There’s no other way around it.

So make sure that you’re getting enough food-based vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Without proper health, we are doomed to live a life of acceptance, of mediocrity. Do not let yourself fall into this trap. Love your body. It is stronger than you think and does so many things for you. It’s only right that you treat it well, because it deserves nothing less.

Believe That You Are More

Mediocrity comes about because we don’t believe we are worth more. When this happens, it can turn into a downward spiral where things seem to be going wrong left and right, and we feel powerless to stop it. Is this you? Do you believe that you’re not worth the best in life?

You have to start thinking differently. In a world where self-deprecation is treated as a joke, we need to continually remind ourselves that we are worth so much more than what we believe we are.

Moving forward without first coming to terms with that truth that we are more, will lead to nothing. Look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself that you are worth more than what you had previously thought. Tell yourself this daily.

You are worth it, you are special, you are wanted, and you are more.

I’m off to the walk for CF (cystic fibrosis) this morning in beautiful Van Dusen Gardens.  But not before the pancake breakfast!  It’s a beautiful day for a beautiful cause.