Blog

Overcoming…..

I’ve had a few new challenges lately, which I will admit derailed my usual happy attitude. I would normally head up the mountain for some snow therapy, but my snowshoes are packed and stored deep inside my garage (in prep of moving), and I recently sprained my knee.  So I have had to dig deep to find other ways to get over my usual Winter ‘SAD’ syndrome.

Going back to the island of myself was the first thing i did. I didn’t talk about this to friends, instead I talked to myself like a friend. I was laid up with an ice pack, so why not do some meaningful reading, meditating and reflecting? Yes, I shed some tears in the process, but they were necessary before I could move forward.

The next thing I did was make a date with a 2 year old and her Mom. We made valentines and cookies and had a little tea and craft party, followed by some wild hula dancing entertainment!

I’m back out of my cave and ready to play with more little kids when I go visit my nephew and his family soon. I am going into the sunshine and will soak it into my soul! When I get back, more signs of Spring will be happening in my garden.That always lifts my spirits!

Happy Blue Moon tonight! I hope She makes an appearance through the clouds!

Aging Backwards

As I get packed for my 8th yoga retreat (4 in Kauai, 4 in Manzanita,OR), I realized something. After 30 years of living with HIV, I actually feel the best and healthiest since I started this journey! I credit many things , amazing Doctors and treatments, including  alternative ones  (why Acupuncture, massage and chiropractic are still considered alternative, just baffles me! Thousands of years of practice can’t be wrong!). But mostly, I credit MYSELF for seeking out these treatments, and moving my body ,when I just felt like curling up in a fetal position with covers over my head.

I happened upon a PBS special the other night, which inspired the title of this post. The yoga teacher was talking about creating movement to get out of the pain. What a concept! Not an opioid in sight! She said when the pain becomes chronic rather than acute, you must start moving in order to strengthen those muscles and ligaments. We talk alot about synovial fluid in my yoga class. This is the goop in your joints that lubricates and keeps the sockets and joints healthy. You can’t get that lubrication by sitting on your duff!

My Grandmother was hilarious. One of her secrets to living with chronic arthritis was “9 T’s of ET” (9 tablespoons of Early Times bourbon). I wish we had known all we do now about the effects of exercise and movement when she was in pain! I keep thinking she would have been a natural yogi! Her other secret was “The more fun you have, the better you feel”. Now, those are words to live by!

So get out there and play! Dance, swim, ride a bike! And don’t forget to dress like a teenager.

 

Living with chronic pain

Pain sucks! I have a back that needs constant attention and vigilance. One of the symptoms of HIV is chronic inflamation, which affects the body in mysterious ways. . Rather than suck down a bunch of opiates, I have found some ways to cope.

The first thing I do is remind myself it’s temporary! Chronic and permanent are not the same . It’s easy to devolve into a pity party, and trust me, I have fallen into despair at times. But I know the next day, my attitude will be more positive as the pain lessens. It always does! For me, it’s lower back pain and sciatica, and if you have experienced that ,it’s no joke. I know without my yoga practice it would be much, much worse. I have my series of exercises from the physical therapist, plus a few things I figured out on my own. I lay face down on my bed and hook my elbows over one side, and my feet on the other. I gently pull both directions for a slight traction. That helps pull the discs back into position, which gives me some relief. Then I do some low cobra right there on the bed. I also alternate between ice and heat. A nice warm bath always feels great. I also do both acupuncture and shiatsu massage, which I highly recommend.

A stroll around the neighorhood always helps loosen things up.At the moment, I am walking with a foot brace and a cane (I railed against both for a long time, now I am just grateful I have them), but come snowshoe season, I can actually walk farther than in my daily life! I am really looking forward to that!

To all of you living in pain, know you are not alone. There are many books and support groups out there to help .At this moment, I am reading a wonderful book :”The book of Awakening” by Mark Nepo.It’s helping me get out of my head and into my heart and the present moment.

 

Change

I am on the threshold of a huge change in my life. I have vascillated wildly from terror to thrill and back, but now I am entering a new chapter of calm. My meditation and yoga practices are helping me stay present, even while I look forward to the future. When I make a big decision like this, I generally just jump in the water with my eyes closed. This time, I am being forced to slow down  (which was initially frustrating, but now I know it was necessary) and get my feet  firmly planted in the ground.  At the same time, I am planting seeds for my future.

Blame it on the eclipse if you wish, but this change has been percolating in me for a long ,long time! My friends are in shock, because for once I have kept these thoughts inside and haven’t shared. When something is important and scary, I tend to wrap my arms around it and keep it safely tucked away untill I am ready to reveal it.

If you feel stuck in your life, just ask yourself, where or how could i start to change? Mine started with 2 phone calls. If either answered no to the questions I asked, I would have stayed where I am. After I got those 2 yes answers, I grabbed a box and started packing up clutter! What a concept, living without 5 million things to dust or trip over, or for cats to break. I am feeling pretty proud of myself for passing on things I don’t need in my new life, and creating some breathing room.

Today, make one change and see how you feel! The change in weather is the perfect time. Shed your leaves, gather your energy inside, and prepare for a fresh, new season!

Floating

I love to float! Preferably on a lake or a lazy river, but I will resort to a pool if need be! Just get me in that water,baby, and all my cares float away! All you need is an air mattress, a picnic, a fun friend or kid to join you.

I will reveal 4 of my favorite spots, because you are my friend

Battleground lake (30 mins from my house!! I go often!)

Lost Lake (there are many, mine is on Mt Hood, 2 hours from my house)

South Twin Lake , close to La Pine

and my favorite of all time: Elk Lake!

yes, that is me floating last year on my cover photo. It’s divine! My family has been going since I was a baby, and my Mom has been going since she was 2. There is alot of history, including a stint one summer break from college, where I worked at the lodge and a 12 year old taught me to cook! I learned to clean cabins, pump gas, serve and cook for 30 people in the dining room, and work behind the breakfast counter . I still love to flip me some flap jacks!

It is one of my favorite things to visualize as I go to sleep, or prepare to meditate. It’s also a great metaphor for life. When things get scary or tough, just float above, like an out of body experience. Given all the turmoil in the world right now, floating is GOOD! Floating is PURE. Floating is DIVINE!

Forget your body images and just slap on that swimsuit, grab your floatie and go! you won’t forget it

miracles

I found this little snippet inside the lid of a “great tea” bottle. I am amending it slightly to reflect the miracle of my survival all these years:

“The only way to live is by accepting that each minute, I am an unrepeatable miracle”

Strom Jameson

This is to say, I will live in the present moment, and not be dragged into the past, or into another persons drama or story. I am constantly working on my boundaries however;people often are drawn to what they percieve as strength or light, and I sometimes get swept away by wanting to help a person who can’t be helped. So I am working on putting my own oxygen mask on first, before I offer help to another. And I am mindful that a friend can become toxic, and to create distance when I see they can’t accept help or friendship.

This year I am celebrating my 30th anniversary of HIV positivity. I have had many bumps and challenges, but I let each go as I move on to the next FUN thing. Some are harder to let go than others, it’s always a work in progress and so am I ! I am recreating myself every minute of every day, and I treasure each second I am on this earth. I am a miracle!

coping with uncertainty

while I remain optimistic, in spite of threats to our health care, I am also realistic. Cuts to medicaid will have a profound affect on my life. This isn’t political, it’s personal! I will admit to becoming so worried , that had direct impact on my health.

I have had shingles a number of times, but recently the shingles in my cornea became active, which affects my vision ( I was blind in my left eye for 4 days, very very scary to me! of all my senses, that is the one most precious to me), This is a result of stress! I am on my 2nd week of acyclovir, 5 times a day. It’s getting better, but at the same time I got a wicked cold which quickly turned into sinusitus. If it’s not one thing, it’s another! I am slowly recovering, but it was a good lesson to mitigate my stress.

This includes too much Facebook, too much news, too many interactions with people who have no respect for my opinions or beliefs. I am trying to limit contact with them, but it’s not easy for me to say the word “NO”. I am a people pleaser! I am the peacemaker in the family (well, I used to be! I am hanging up that particular hat).

For now, I am spreading my story in hopes that it may soften some people’s opinions of living and coping with a serious disease.

Embracing Suffering, Embracing Happiness

Long ago I read a book by Thich Nhat Hahn , which talked about embracing your suffering, so you can transform it into happiness. It’s the same principle as “taking the bitter with the sweet”. I know my suffering is impermanent, which is very comforting. If I am down, I know I will go back up. I know I have friends and family that will help lift me when I don’t have the energy to lift myself. I have lately become very honest about this, and my friends have responded with inspiration and treats, visits and phone calls. It helps!

A friend told me you only experience intense feelings for 10 seconds, and then they pass.. Just breathe through those 10 seconds untill you get to the next 10 seconds, which won’t feel like those first 10. If you like, you can put a hand on your heart and one on your belly, and just breathe.

I like to visualize what color, what shape, and what my suffering is saying to me. Then I wrap my virtual arms around it and wait for the peaceful feelings to return. I am a hugger by nature, so this little meditation is good for me.

If you are too squirmy to sit quietly, you can walk slowly around your garden or house, just concentrating on touching your feet to the earth, and enjoying your surroundings.

 

Hope is HUGE!

I will always latch on to any shred of hope for dear life, and then run with it! Since the beginning of my 3o year journey with HIV, I have always taken the most optimistic opinion the Doctors could give me. When I was first diagnose,I  was told I probably had 2 years to live, maybe 6 if I was really lucky, I DECIDED I would have at least 6 years, and by then some new drug or treatment would appear. If I could only hang on by my fingernails, I could stay alive long enough to see things improve. Trust the unfolding! That has been a good mantra for my life, especially when I devolve into worry or fear (and I do! I’m a human bean after all).

Yesterday i met with  my naturepath, who always gives me a list of possible things to help me. She has a couple of ideas to treat my neuropathy, and hopefully get me walking again. This tiny shred of hope, even if it doesn’t pan out, will keep me going untill something better comes along. I believe it, so it will happen!