Posts Tagged With: Gratitude
When I was six years old, I was spilled into the deep end of the Y pool intentionally during swim lessons. They wanted me to catch up to the other kids and tread water. It did not work. I had to be pulled from the water by my younger brother. As a teenager, I was taking a tippee test at Camp Tahepia on Georgetown Lake and was pulled from the water by our lifeguard. I was going down again.
Since then, I have not been in the water any higher than my chest and never when I could not touch the bottom of the pool or lake. I have always been afraid of the water.
Until today …
On Monday morning, I got into this water at the Grand Velas Resort in Puerto Vallarta and spent an hour learning to swim. I discovered that I was struggling, even when the water was able to hold me. I found that I stopped breathing which made me sink faster … which did not help me to swim. I learned how to stand without scrambling for the bottom of the pool. I floated on my back, breathing, eyes open, enjoying the sun’s rays and the last glimpses of the moon. And I swam. For the first time in my life, I swam. On Wednesday, I returned for a further lesson. I am thrilled to report that I swam! On my back! On my front! Alone! And I have played in the water a number of times since… and lived to tell of it.
What I discovered is that my six year old self’s brain patterns were very successful in helping me avoid shock and loss … when I was six. And I found that I could alter those brain patterns. By shifting my breathing and my actions, my brain followed suit.
I am so thankful formy friend Christine Arbor for her patience and compassion as I worked through all of it. It is so shocking to me that after all this time, I could overcome my fear. Thanks, my friend, for opening up 70% of the planet to me.
What fear shall I conquer next?
Three short years ago, a doctor said words I never expected to hear. “You have a clean bill of health.”
After more than seven years of dealing with doctors, labs, blood draws, medication, therapies, treatments, shots, IVs, patches, and other things that I have thankfully forgotten, I was free. I was free to live. I was free to create. I was free to thrive.
During the past 36 months. I have marveled at the resiliency of not just the human body, but of the human spirit. I made my first trip to the gym in April of 2011. At a fundraiser for a local junior high trip, I won a year’s membership and ten sessions with a trainer at Fuel Fitness. On my first visit to the gym, I met my trainer, Brian the Brave (not his true name) who quickly told me I needed to get some endurance with the machines before he could start working with me.
The gym is about 8 minutes’ drive from my home, and it was common for me to spend more time driving one way to the gym than I was able to spend exercising. I use the term “exercising” loosely, as it usually meant riding the recumbent bike for five minutes or doing a few reps on a couple of the band machines. On more than one occasion when I was pedaling the bike, the machine would read “Paused” even though I was pedaling as steadily and quickly as I was able. In retrospect, I can only imagine that it was a little entertaining to the staff to see me arrive and leave in less than fifteen minutes. And, I kept going. Every day, six days a week, I kept going. By the end of July, Brian and I agreed that I was ready to start working out with him. By then, I was spending at least twenty minutes doing some cardio (bike, treadmill, or elliptical.) With Brian, I added weight lifting. My thirty minutes training session would be paired with at least twenty minutes of cardio, each day, five days a week. It became my habit. I was reliable for getting there every day, doing the work, and taking nothing for granted.
Also in April of 2011, I started participating in the Landmark Wisdom Course. My friend Ann Peterson had arranged for me to participate in the course by Webex, as she knew I was unable to travel or to sustain the time and energy of being in the course in person. By participating from the comfort of my Lazy-Boy, I was able to be fully engaged and still get the full benefit and impact of the course.
In August, I had the privilege of attending a vacation course in Sonoma, California (See? I was traveling!) I had the opportunity to look at failures in my life and see the opportunity for transformation. During the first days of the course, I got to see that I was well, and experienced for myself that well-being is a function of participation. I considered myself well at that moment.
I learned a few important lessons.
ELIMINATE ANYTHING TOXIC IN YOUR LIFE. I started with the easy stuff ~ the toxins under the sink, the bad food, and the harmful chemicals in some of the soaps I may have been using. The tougher toxins involved relationships, choices, and incompletions I had tried to sweep under the figurative rug. By completing and resolving those toxic things with love and compassion, first for myself and then for those I have loved and cared for, I was able to ‘cleanse’ my space. I learned to eliminate anything toxic in my life.
ILLNESS BEGINS WITH I. WELLNESS BEGINS WITH WE. Only when I allowed myself to receive the contributions of others was I able to return to life. The social commons held exponential opportunities that I could never amass myself. In the words of Groucho Marx, great American philosopher. “Learn from the mistakes of others. You won’t live long enough to make them all yourself.” I was learning, through struggle and effort, that I could gain strength, healing, and power by sharing and receiving. This is a game changer for me. Illness begins with I. Wellness begins with we.
WHEN YOU CAN’T AND THEN YOU CAN, YOU NEVER WANT TO NOT AGAIN. Many times during those first months, I was asked why I kept going back to the gym. It did not appear that I was getting stronger, slimmer, or healthier. Some days, it probably looked like I was struggling. The truth is I did not know whether it would ultimately extend my life or improve my health. What I did know is that I was not too far removed from having to use a cane to walk, nor from being unable to walk more than three minutes without sitting down and resting for ten minutes. Up to that point, I had taken for granted walking, dancing, and functioning in any way physically. Once I was able to start moving again, I knew I could not take it for granted. I learned that every day is a gift, and to use the gift to its greatest and highest benefit, I needed to do whatever I could. I learned that when you can’t and then you can, you never want to not again.
You are the reason. You are the gift. You are the possibility of a life well lived. I thank you for sharing yours with me ~ and I look forward to what we create next. What shall it be?
Tomorrow marks five years since I walked out of the doors of a ‘health center’ in south Kansas City, Missouri for the last time. I arrived, hopeful and energetic (well, as energetic as I could be after nearly four years of being mysteriously ill). During my pre-treatment appointments, I was promised that I would be a patient for three to four months, leaving me healthy and well and ready for a return to my life as I had lived it before I became ill. The treatment was rigorous, with twice daily IV infusions of antibiotics and other medications and vitamin shots. In addition to the daily infusions, there were some 35 different prescriptions of varying doses and schedules. The ten alarms on my then flip phone were set for times to take doses of these ‘cures’ for what ailed me.
For nearly eleven months, from August 18, 2008 through July 1, 2009, I followed the strict protocols and did as I was told. For the next ten months, I continued to follow the protocols prescribed for my continuing treatment once I returned home to Montana. For my efforts, I lost nearly half of my body weight, much of my hair, and all of my finger and toe nails. And I was not better. According to my family and friends (who have only recently begun to tell me their thoughts about that time), I was much worse.
People who saw me in the summer and fall of 2009 have since told me that they expected to see me at my funeral. I was told on a number of occasions to get my affairs in order as there was nothing more that could be done for me. I spent all of my savings, retirement accounts, and the monies donated by people ~ some I knew and many I did not ~ to maintain my treatments. Through April 2010, I continued to take those additional pills ~ 30+ prescriptions and other supplements. I injected my thighs twice daily with heparin. I drank more water than I ever thought possible, assured that I was washing the diseases from my body. I so wanted to believe that all of this would work to restore me to my former self.
Thankfully, and miraculously, my high school playmate, Mary Lyn Hammer (who had been alerted to my story and had visited me on a few occasions during 2009 and 2010) was alerted to my situation and had fought similar illnesses for years before I did. She intervened, and according to my new health care providers, she did so just in time. She paid for my flight to be with her; she covered the testing and the costs of care. Through her meticulous research and efforts, she had worked with health care providers in Phoenix to develop a protocol that could help. She was an angel on the earth, ensuring that every form of healing from medication and shots to energy and spiritual healing were available to me. Within four months of my three-week visit to be with her, I had reduced my prescriptions from more than thirty daily to four. I was using natural alternatives ~ food, light exercise, meditation, laughter, and homeopathic supplements ~ to build a new body.
Eighteen months later, in November 2011, I returned to Phoenix to see the naturopath who was caring for me. In that time, I had all but eliminated my need for daily migraine medicine, started working with a trainer to get my muscles back in shape, and was thinking straight for the first time in more than eight years. I was given a clean bill of health and the go-ahead to return to living life ~ an upstat from surviving it.
Since November 2011, my life has move at warp speed in the direction I am committed. Given a second chance at living, I am grateful for each moment I spend. Some moments may seem dismal, and when viewed through the lens of my 40’s, they are a joy. I no longer need a cane to walk. I have the strength to do whatever I want. My energy and vitality allow me to make trips and spend time with people. My hair is back (though a tad less red than I recall it being) and my nails are strong. I exercise regularly, walk almost five miles daily, and love every challenge and opportunity on my path. Some days, I have to pinch myself to be reminded of how far I have come.
None of this would have been possible without several things working together. The synergy of the people in my life and the time they spent with me is moving and inspiring ~ leaving me in tears at the blessing you are and have been to and for me. You listened whilst I rambled. You donated time, money, and your efforts. You reassured me when all I could see was despair. You encouraged and challenged me to face my limitations, real and self-imposed. YOU are my hero. And you have given me back my life. And for that, there are no words.
My commitment to you is that I will live a life worthy of your efforts. My promise is that people will have the strength, facility, and capacity to deal with whatever life throws at them.
Happy fifth anniversary of my ‘release.’ I celebrate because of you!