New Style for “Blue Haired Old Lady”

What will bring about a shift in perspective for you?

Advertisements

I’d like to open up with a confession. You see, lots of times, I come up with cool ideas for the blog, then I remember my beloved’s words, when I first began this:

“You’re a Massage Therapist, and you’re writing as such. Shouldn’t your posts be about things that are about massage?”

Those words have influenced me more than I could have thought! On one hand, and I explained this to him, I just want the world to see us as people, too. On the other hand, there’s a lot that can be shared to enrich people about the benefits of massage to their bodies. However, I reasoned to myself, there’s also already a plethora of therapists out there who do that — their sites are supremely focused toward massage in others’ lives. Seriously, go look up “massage therapy blogs”. You’ll come up with two types of results — either how-to instructions to develop your blog to support and grow your business, or blogs for therapists. That’s it.

So, where are the blogs that show us as just regular people? You know, ones who have thoughts about anything other than massage? Is that even a big deal?

I think it is. Hence, I’ve decided I’m going to just blog, from now on, whatever I want without stressing over what I should be blogging about. I mean, this is my blog, right? Does it have a big following? Nah. However, if one thing I write reaches one person, and impacts that one person in a positive way, then that’s a good thing, right?

Ok, back to the topic at hand. As you can see by the picture above, I’ve recently gone blue! Well, shades-thereof, actually. Anyway. Why is this so momentous in my life? Let me tell you a brief history, and you can then decide for yourself if this is celebration-worthy.

I grew up in a severely abusive household. I don’t say that lightly; for me, it was normal. It wasn’t until I was 40, and going through yet another round of therapy, that my therapist looked at me as I was relating a tale from childhood, her eyes opening wide. “You do realize,” she said to me, “that that would be considered torture in most peoples’ minds?”

That was a new perspective to me. I mean, sure, ok, I knew, intellectually, that I’d had it rough. Sexual, mental, emotional, and physical abuse; neglect; isolation; humiliation, degradation. These were all normal parts of my, and my siblings’, everyday lives. But it was normal to us. It’s impossible to truly see things in a different light when you’ve lived them, and they were your normal. The only way I’ve ever really achieved any ability to see it for what it was was after I had my daughters. Then, only then, was I able to imagine the horror I’d feel if they ever had to live through what I have lived through.

The result of this is that I had a very, very skewed self-image. I am a very female version of my father, facially; from the neck down, when I’ve seen myself in pictures or mirrors, I’ve always seen my mother (who was my primary abuser, as well as my sexual abuser — yes, it does happen). In short, I’ve never liked seeing myself in mirrors or pictures. When I put makeup on, I’d put it on with a hand mirror, so I only had to look at the portions of my face I was directly applying make-up to. When I was changing clothes, I was out of a room with any mirrors. When I had to have pictures taken, most of the time I asked that I not have to see them. If I saw them, this schism developed, where all I could see was an exaggerated caricature of myself, skewed to show the areas of my parents that I so loathed. Now, keep in mind, I relate this to you in a very clinical manner. I don’t have the words to express to you how emotionally devastating seeing myself has been, all of my life. In fact, when I was 17, when I left my parents’ home, I systematically and methodically located every single picture I could find, in all the albums, that contained me, and I ripped them up. Part of this was a statement to my parents that the child they raised no longer existed; I was stepping out, intent on recreating myself as I chose to exist, not as they had made me. But I can’t help, now, except wonder how much my loathing of my physical self played a part in that decision. I can’t honestly answer that question.

Now, I’m nearly 49. Recently, my bestie and her beloved came and spent the day with myself and my beloved. She’s military, and she’s dedicated her life to keeping soldiers alive as they were flown from combat arenas to hospitals. Because she still has two years left in the military, she’s still prohibited from any of the “fun” colors that’ve recently exploded on the market for hair. She has begun getting her tattoos, and they’re gorgeous. Each of them tells the tale of her past service, fighting to keep her boys alive.

Rewind slightly to 2015. Segueway! Anyway. I chose to cut my hair off so it could grow out grey. Why? I started coloring my hair when I was 17, because I started going grey at 17. No big surprise, right? Anyway. I had, by 2015, been coloring my hair for about 29 years. I was, simply, tired of it. Also, I reasoned, I was in my mid-40s. I hadn’t yet realized that I was falling into a trap!

Back to our conversation. She is excited for her upcoming retirement, she’s so thrilled, just thinking of the fun colors she can do in her hair! She’s thinking green, and maybe orange, and her hubby’s thinking he can get a mohawk and dye it purple (he retires next year, I believe — yay!). I made a comment along the lines of “Yeah, I’d like to do that, especially since these lovely fantasy colors just started really exploding when I decided to grow my hair out, and I DON’T want to repeat that process!”

Looking at me with her ice-blue eyes, my wonderful, amazing, smart, and knife-sharp best friend engaged in the following conversation with me:

BF: Ok, so, let’s assume you live to be 90. That’s a good potential, right?
Me: Ummmm … sure?
BF: What that means, then, is that you’re committing yourself to living the next 42 years with boring hair that doesn’t make you happy
Me: *speechless*

My mind exploded, folk. I mean, wow. How many of us have said “If I could go back then, and know what I know now …”

Well? We can. Age is, truly, just a number. We are here, now, and we do, now, know what we know. We’ve been through all life has thrown at us, and we’ve overcome it. And now, looking forward, there’re a lot of potential years left to do what we want, to be what we want.

Just … whoa. That took me, actually, a few days to fully process. I mean, really. Just think about it!

Back to the blue hair!

My youngest daughterbeast has normally rich brown hair, but she’s kept her hair red for years. She found a stylist through a friend of a friend of mine and this stylist did amazing things with the DBs hair. Dark dark at the roots, lightening up to a gorgeous red, then lightening up at the ends to an almost hot vivid pink/red. Simply stunning. So, I called the stylist up, said “Hey, you wanna trade? I work on you, you work on me?” She accepted!

And I went under the colorist’s hands! The process took about five hours, and I really must give this young woman kudos. She was patient with me, answering my questions, as we took my hair from salt & pepper to blonde, then to blue/green/teal. Dark brown at the roots, with a dark, deep blue under that, brightening to teal at the ends. The result, this first time, was a bit patchy, since you have to get hair REALLY blonde in order for the blues to hold. But, when I saw myself after she got it done, I was amazed! A big grin ate my face, I must admit.

I got home, styled my hair the way I like it styled, and I’ll be danged if I didn’t find myself taking pictures of myself!

Ok, backtrack a bit. A couple of years ago, I needed to take a picture of myself for my business website. Apparently, sites do better when they have a picture of the practitioner. We’re now being chosen on our appearance, as well as our qualifications. Imagine that. I sat down with my camera and began clicking. And clicking. And clicking some more. Eventually (after about 48 snaps, as well as multiple conversations with another friend, trying to find the “best” of the mess) I ended up with this: pic

Keep in mind, this was after 48 pictures! Pay attention to the smile in this one.

After getting my hair done, and styled, I took this picture to send to my beloved:

blue with glasses

I dunno about you, but I just feel like this picture has a more open smile, a happier smile. And it was after one click!

So here’s what’s happened in my little pea-brain.

I look at myself, now, and I see me. I don’t see my father’s face. I don’t see my mother’s body. I just see me, Angel. I don’t have the words, again, to express the emotional impact this has had on my life.

I’m fortunate that I work in an industry that expects a little oddness. Honestly, walk in to any massage clinic and I’m sure you’re going to find someone with tattoos, fantasy hair, shaved scalps (male & female), piercings, so on and so forth. So I’m very lucky in this industry. Do I realize that there will be some people who look at my picture, with my vibrant and vivid blue hair, who’ll be turned off to the idea of having me as a therapist? Yep, I surely do. However, I also realize that these are likely not the types of people I want on my table. The people I want on my table are the people who can see that I have blue hair (or blue green, or whatever color I decide to take it!), and just be like “Oh, cool, her hair’s pretty!”

I will admit, my coworkers’ and friends’ responses have helped, a great deal. I get regular compliments on the hair. It’s insane. Even the director of the clinic I work at had a very positive response; I’d discussed this change with her before I made it. Her response to my initial “Do you mind if I do this?” was amazing; in short, she explained that she supported people finding their own individuality, but she also cautioned that clients have the right to choose their therapists, and some may be put off by the hair. When she saw it, her jaw literally dropped, she stopped mid-word in her sentence, and exclaimed, “Oh, goodness, I never thought it’d be so beautiful!”

So yeah, the positive reaction from people around me has helped, a great deal. But the biggest response to this has been internal. I am proud, now, to feel that I’m changing the face of the “blue-haired old lady.”

And I’ve come to realize, even more strongly, that age is just a number. I may be turning 49 this month, but that’s ok. Inside, I’m still me. I’m still Angel, and I still have the right and the ability to express myself as I choose to. I hadn’t realized how much I was falling in to the rut of “acting my age.” Letting my hair grow out grey, slowly making my wardrobe more drab, more mundane … Wow!

Thank you, bestie, for bringing me to my senses, you have changed my entire outlook on the rest of my life. I may not, in actuality, live 42 more years, I may only live six more months. Who knows? But I can tell you that, thanks to your sharp-edged wisdom, I will live each and every day of the time left to me embracing me, and that is helped, more than I can say, by actually seeing me, not my father, and not my mother.

Incidentally, the photo at the beginning? Took that last night. The hair’s a different blue, but my hair, to me, looked soft, and pretty … and again, when I look at it? I see me, and I’m not afraid to share it with the world.

All that, just from a change in hair color … preceded by an amazing shift in perspective!

On a side-note? I’m pretty sure my mother-in-law will be pleased that I no longer shy away from the camera at family functions. And she’s enough of an amazing lady herself that she’ll embrace me, even if she doesn’t fully understand me.

Keto For Life!

How do you make it work for you?

This blog post came about because I have been asked to compile information on the Ketogenic Diet for a few people. I decided to just write it once, then share the link. So much easier!

To begin, I should tell you that my darling husband (DH) and I began the Keto diet experience on 10 September 2017, after I watched a fantastic video provided by ZDoggMD (click here) about LDL, cholesterol, and oh, yeah, Keto! On 10 Sep, we both weighed in, he at 254 and me at 255. Both of us had been heavier, but that was our starting weight.

Currently, he is down to 207, and I hover between 206-210. Women do seem to be cursed to have more difficulty with weight loss, but I’m not griping, as I’m now down a minimum of 45 pounds. I’ve about 20 more to go to reach my target weight of 185-190. To note — I am 5’8″, wear a size 10-11 ring on my ring finger, and size 11 shoes. For me, 185-190 is actually skinny.

I would like to point out right off the ball that all I’ve done here is put, in an easily-referenced format, much of the information that I found when I was researching the Keto Diet to determine if it would be healthy for us. I cannot thank, enough, the bloggers, etc, whose information I’ve referenced. I accept none of the accolades for the information they compiled — they did it all, and they deserve all the credit. I just utilized it, and am now sharing it forward in a (hopefully) easily-perused document.

I’m presenting all of this as though you, the reader, know nothing about the Keto Diet. This allows me to be sure I supply as much relevant information as possible. Forgive if I include information you already know!

Terms & Important Information

These are not alphabetical, but rather, I think, logically progressive.

Ketogenesis: The biochemical process by which organisms produce a group of substances collectively known as ketone bodies by the breakdown of fatty acids and ketogenic amino acids.

Ketones/Ketone Bodies: An organic compound containing a carbonyl group bonded to two hydrocarbon groups, made by oxidizing secondary alcohols. The simplest such compound is acetone. (For more understanding of the role of ketones in the ketogenic diet, read this).

Ketosis: A metabolic state characterized by raised levels of ketone bodies in the body tissues, which is typically pathological in conditions such as diabetes, or may be the consequence of a diet that is very low in carbohydrates.

Ketoacidosis: A pathological metabolic state marked by extreme and uncontrolled ketosis. In ketoacidosis the body fails to adequately regulate ketone production causing such a severe accumulation of keto acids that the pH of the blood is substantially decreased. In extreme cases ketoacidosis can be fatal.

Keto Sticks: Useful, though inexact, tool for tracking ketone body levels. What we use: Oh, click me!

Keto Adapted: This is the state you are in when your body has been wholly converted from using glucose as its primary energy source to using fat as its primary energy source. This can happen after anywhere from one-three weeks, usually. Cheating (having more carbs than allowed) can throw you out of Keto adaptation, but it doesn’t usually take as long to re-adapt as the initial adaptation took.

Net Carbs/Actual Carbs: This one can be a bit confusing. The guidelines for Keto consumption indicate that no more than 20-50g of actual, or net, carbs should be consumed daily. This means, for instance, that 50g of an avocado has a total of 80 calories, 8g fats, 4g total carbs, and 3g of fiber. In determining net carb count, you subtract fiber from the carbs, which means our 50g of avocado above only has 1g of net, or trackable, carbs — the total carbs (4) minus the fiber (3).


Nuts & Bolts – General Information

In short, the Keto Diet changes your body’s energy consumption from sugar-based (glucose) to fat-based (ketones, ketosis, nutritional ketosis). Our current diets are heavy in foods that easily convert to glucose, and very low in fats. This is based on old information that is being questioned and reevaluated.

What does a day of Keto Diet consumption look like for me? I begin the day with two cups (20 oz each) of coffee (decaf, I drink it for the rich flavor, and can heartily recommend Fresh Thyme’s Fogcutter). In that coffee I’ve added a creamer I make, which is 1 part heavy cream and 2 parts coconut/almond blend milk. I add vanilla and stevia to the creamer for taste. I’m playing with the idea of going full-on coconut milk, since almond milk doesn’t have as much fat, but for now, this is working just fine for us.

Around 11ish, I start getting hungry, so I might have some bacon. Or I might have some deli meat wrapped in a slice of cheese. Or I might have a baked avocado, mixed with butter and sour cream and maybe cheese. Or I might have some leftover something from the night before.

After my DH gets home, we have supper, our “big” meal of the day. It could be something as simple as hamburger patties (Bubba Burgers ftw!) with butter and cheese on top, or it could be a roast, chicken, whatever — but cooked in a manner consistent with high fat cooking. I no longer remove fat from meats when I prepare them, and we use chicken thighs rather than breast meat, as the fat content (and flavor!) is higher in the thighs. I also make a lot of cream soups, or sometimes we have salads with a lot of high-fat dressing. Our salads usually contain avocado, small portions of tomatoes, lettuces and spinach, and other vegetables that don’t increase our carb intake. I also recently found out that all my butternut squash recipes, which I love so much, can be made with kabocha squash — less carbs, yay!

If we’re hungry throughout the day, we’ll have a fat bomb or two. Oh, did I not mention fat bombs? SUPER way of increasing your fat intake without seriously impacting your other nutrients. Find out more here: click me!

Another thing I love doing, when I feel that I’m not getting enough green stuff in my diet, is casseroles. I’ll make this with any of the approved vegetables, but so far, I’m loving them with shredded Brussels Sprouts. Yum! I really love olive oil as a base for many of my foods, especially considering I have to follow a FODMAPS Diet, so I infuse my garlic into my olive oil. Olive oil combined with butter? Major yum! Also, I’m learning to use a good deal of canned coconut milk or coconut cream. I’ve learned how to not be afraid to really pour in the oil (fat), which just makes everything taste better, as well as making it more filling.

I’ve found that the easiest foods for conversion to Keto, for me, are American, German, Hungarian, and some Eastern foods such as Indian. There’s still a great deal of leeway, and it’s not hard to find a Keto recipe for just about anything. Google is your friend! You can literally input “Keto Pork Recipes” and find a huge list of just about everything possible — see? Keto Pork Recipes! But clam chowder, made with a Roux base? Hello … here ya go — Keto Clam Chowder Recipes!

I, personally, have given up on finding a good bread recipe. They just don’t exist, aside from a flatbread I make from a pizza crust recipe (Fathead Pizza). There’s another recipe for this using coconut flour, which is cheaper than almond flour, and lasts longer as you use less coconut flour (Fathead Pizza – Coconut Flour). Bottom line on Keto Bread: The flours you use do not contain gluten, so they don’t bind together themselves. Further, you can’t use yeast to get them to rise. You end up using a great deal of eggs for the binding, and then tons of baking soda and/or powder for rising. I’ve tried several bread recipes, and they’re either too eggy, or too metallic, for consumption. One I had to throw away as soon as it came out of the oven; it was not edible. In general, the breads are dense, don’t rise well, sink fast, and taste eggy and/or metallic.

One of the first things to understand, and grasp, is that this diet will absolutely only work as long as you remain in ketosis. Any cheating, or going out of ketosis, throws you out of Keto Adaptation, at least for the short-term. It’s fairly easily recoverable, usually taking no more than a week for things to resolve themselves after only one cheat. However, I believe that if the Keto Diet is abandoned and you resume your previous way of eating once weight goals are achieved, then all benefits of the Keto Diet will be lost; in short, the weight will be regained, and fairly quickly, and you’ll be inundating your body, again, with bad-for-you stuffs. There are people who say “Keto for life!” and others who insist it should be a short-term solution specifically targeted to weight loss and physiological improvement. More on that, down below.

Another thing to be aware of is fat distribution in our bodies. At a high level, we can separate body fat distributions to visceral and subcutaneous. Visceral fat is the fat that’s packed in and around the abdomen, usually displacing and squishing internal organs. It’s most predominant in men, and it’s also the more dangerous fat. Subcutaneous fat is the fat that tends to be softer, and is more generalized over the whole body, since it’s distributed mainly under the skin level. Women are usually the ones with sub-cu fat, and it’s the less dangerous fat type to have. The kicker? Visceral fat is easier to lose, while sub-cu fat is more difficult.

Go figure, right?

Initially, using an app such as MyFitnessPal is absolutely invaluable to tweak the Keto Diet for each person. For instance, my DH can have more protein in his diet and maintain weight loss, where I require more fat, and a good bit less protein, than he can get away with. Using the MFP app, rather than the web-based PC version, gives you access to macro- and micronutrient levels and percentages more easily than the PC version does.

For me, maintaining my macronutrient levels at 75% fat, 5% carbs, and no more than 20% protein works, while my DH can fluctuate around 60-75% fat, 5% carbs, and the rest protein. Further, one hard-fast rule that we both follow is that we consume absolutely no more than 20-35g carbs per day. Period. We let the fat and protein take up the rest of our calories. For many people, only 60% fat, 5% carbs and 35% proteins works. If you wish to do this correctly, you’re going to want a food tracker, and you’re going to want a food scale. Both are necessary, trust me!

A happy sidenote we’ve both noticed is that our appetites have significantly reduced. We’re full, sooner, and we stay full, longer. In short, fat is a satiating factor in our diets, and our bodies have naturally adjusted themselves to lower calories. We did not have to do this for ourselves, our bodies just kinda stepped in and said, “Hey, you’re full! Stop eating!”

One of the more startling results I’ve noticed for myself is the dramatic decrease of my Fibromyalgia symptoms. I’ve been diagnosed with Fibro since the early 2000s. I, at one time, was on medications such as Lyrica and Gabapentin to manage the Fibro, though I still struggled with the fatigue that’s endemic with that illness. I found a doc willing to prescribe me Thyroid hormone since my Thyroid levels were .01 above being “low,” and my regular doctor preferred to prescribe me antidepressants rather than try the Thyroid. My symptoms resolved enough with the Thyroid treatment that I was able to come off the Lyrica/Gabapentin, and my fatigue decreased. I still struggled with flare-ups, and they could be as bad as without the Thyroid hormone. I was able to use Ibuprofin to manage the pain, which I saw as a better alternative to the previous medications. However, once we began Keto, I noticed that my pain level decreased significantly. The last couple of months, I’ve stopped taking IB more than once or twice a week, if that frequently. The reason for that is that the foods included on the Keto diet, by and large, are not foods that contribute to inflammation. That’s a whole separate area of research if you’d like to indulge — it’s fascinating. But I’ll share with you the following link, which kind of touches on it: click here!


Managing the Keto Diet

Ok, now, into the good stuff. As I stated above, the key components to weight loss on the keto diet is carbohydrate reduction and control, and significantly increased fat consumption. This meant the elimination of many of our favorite foods: potatoes, breads, pastas, rices, desserts, so on and so forth. It also meant that the regular intake of most fruits, and many vegetables, was tabled. Why is this? Let me list for you the carb levels per serving of many foods:

Apple: 1 medium apple contains 25g carbs, and 4g fiber, which equals 21g net carbs
Pear: 1 medium pear contains 26g carbs, and 6g fiber, which equals 20g net carbs
Orange: 1 medium pear contains 15g carbs, and 3g fiber, which equals 12g net carbs
Cucumber: 1/2 cup cucumber contains 1.9g carbs, and .3g fiber, which equals 1.6g net carbs
Tomato: 1 medium tomato contains 4.8g carbs, and 1.5g fiber, which equals 3.3g net carbs
Turnip: 1 medium turnip contains 8g carbs, and 2.2g fiber, which equals 5.8g net carbs
Potato: 1 medium potato contains 37g carbs, and 4.7g fiber, which equals 32.3g net carbs
Rice: 1 cup cooked white rice contains 44g carbs, and .6g fiber, which equals 43.4g net carbs

As you can see, if you’re not careful, those net carbs can add up quickly. Fairly safe vegetables for consumption include cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, rutabaga, many radishes including Daikon radish, eggplant, lettuces & leafy vegetables, and cabbages. Other, lower-net-carb vegetables can be used, but I recommend, at least initially, ONLY doing so when calculating percentages and tracking them via MFP, so that you can easily learn how to juggle the percentages. I cannot stress enough that finding, and then sticking to the correct percentages will be a huge component to successful implementation of the Keto Diet.

Another factor that the Keto Diet utilizes, but which my DH and I have not been able to pursue as diligently as we like is the use of GOOD food. Not the antibacteria-laden meats we generally buy, but actual organic vegetables, and grass-fed beef, and organic meats, as often as possible. The reason for this goes beyond just weight loss; it encompasses an overall healthy way of learning to eat. You can research for yourself the wholesale use of pesticides, herbicides, antibacteria, and other chemical processes which are now commonplace in our food production. We won’t even mention GMO in here.

The truth is that if you do any real research into what commonly comes across our tables (I recommend reading “The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Wal Mart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields, and the Dinner Table” by Tracie McMillan if you haven’t already read it), you’re going to be horrified by what we’re regularly putting in to our bodies. From the preservatives which keep our foods on shelves longer to all the rest of everything else, it’s no wonder we’re seeing such an uptick in medical problems. We’re poisoning ourselves.

My DH and I are working on cleaning up our foods as much as we can, but due to financial constraints, that will be a long-term project. We do count every time we can move closer to that goal a good thing.

I guess this is as good a time as anything to make the following point — If you don’t cook, this will be difficult for you to follow. Myriad reasons for this exist: When you cook, you have absolute control over the ingredients and portion size. Further, when you go out to eat, while nutrition information is posted, you can’t count on it being completely accurate since most foods are prepared by people — well, those that don’t come pre-packaged. But we won’t even talk about those evil foods! Anyway, if I read a recipe I like, I always alter it to suit my tastes. Also, I take into account factors like scale weights being slightly off, or my desire to have just a bit more cream cheese in that dish … you get the idea.

The only way you can accurately know what you’re eating is to prepare it yourself, measuring and tracking it as you go. MFP allows you to enter recipes; I did that, for the first few months, with everything I prepared. I didn’t write out the directions, just entered the ingredients and allowed the computer to figure out our macro- and micro-nutrients. Another reason to maintain control over your food is the oils used for frying, etc. For instance, how many of you are still using partially-hydrogenated oils? Are you aware of them? Click here for more information on these. Anyway, my DH and I will eat out now, but only with restaurants where we know the quality of the food prepared; Panera, Red Robin, J. Gilbert, and Firebird’s are ones we’re usually pretty safe with.

Side note: Be aware that cheese can bind you up! Cheese is an easy way to increase your fat consumption; wanna make a casserole? Add cheese! However, Impaction is not unheard of, nor is high levels of constipation. For me, I’ve had to significantly cut my cheese intake down, which means I’ve had to learn how to use other fats to keep my fat intake high. This is problematic for me, ‘cuz it means I gotta actually think more, but I’d rather have more headache figuring this out than more constipation because I was lazy. Watch your cheese intake, and reduce if necessary! Increasing water and sodium can help, but as one person said, “Constipation isn’t about what you’re not eating (fibers, anyone?) but rather about what you are eating.” Can’t find that quote to correctly mark it, and it’s a bad paraphrase, but you get the idea. I used Flax and Chia seeds to try to “fix” my constipation, but nothing worked until I drastically reduced my daily cheese intake.


Starting Out

First of all, when you start Keto, your body will go through an adjustment process. This means that you can have flu-like symptoms. Further, once you’re firmly set on this path, your supplements will need to make up for missed nutrients in your foods. For my DH and I the two biggest ones have been Magnesium and Potassium for muscle action. In short, we began having horrible leg cramps. Increasing Mg and K intake is vital to continued health and well-being … and sleep! Waking up with leg cramps = major not fun.

Further, you will absolutely want to increase your water intake. I can’t stress this enough. Do research on artificial sweeteners currently used, and you’ll want to swear off sodas forever. My DH and I both use Stur in our water to enhance the flavor; while Stur does contain trace carbs, our carb intake per day is low enough to handle this. Also! Sodium will likely have to be increased. It’s crazy, but sodium levels seem to drop a lot when you begin Keto, so get used to adding slightly more salt to meals. I, as a rule, don’t salt while I’m cooking, so all salt is added at the time of consumption, to taste. Our measurable sodium levels do not appear to have increased at all.

Keto, and making it work, has to be different for every person. For instance, I found it easier to scour the web for information, then make my plan of action, implement it, test it, and go from there. For some people, it’s far easier to follow a menu plan that’s already been developed by other people. I can’t tell you what’s easiest for you, but I can tell you there are countless resources out there for getting started. Since I’ve planned on this becoming our new way of being from the start, it made more sense for me to really get in to the inner figurings of it and go from there, but every single person’s situation is different, so in the interest of helping you obtain more information, I’ve included some really good how-to-start guides at the end of this blog.

Note: Keto and sugars. Because sugars are carbs, and we’re reducing our carbs so drastically, many people lament they won’t be able to have sweets anymore. That’s simply not true! The types of sweets you can eat will change; I use fat bombs, or Endangered Species Chocolate Bars, for our sweets. Knowing what your sweets are sweetened with is a huge part of successful Keto Dieting. For instance, my DH and I eat this bar as a snack, consuming no more than three squares at a time. This contains natural cane sugar, but in a very small amount, and the carb/sugar count is low enough that it’s not a danger to spiking the A1C. For other things, such as cooking treats, etc, we use either Erythritol or Stevia. Also, as I indicated above, I do sweeten our coffee creamer. At the end of this blog I will include some links on sweeteners.

Maintaining

Once you’ve gotten started, figured out the nuts & bolts (again, this can be a couple of months), you’re ready to sit back and embrace your new way of being. Congrats! You’ve likely begun to notice some weight loss, and are beginning to feel better. Below, I’ll list some links for several theories on Keto and lifestyle.

To put it simply, there are a great many people who believe “Keto for life!” is, in fact, for life. My DH and I fall into this category. We will not go back to our previous way of eating. My DH, the other day, just looked at me and said “I will never weigh that much again.” As we’re both aging, obviously, being as healthy as possible has become important; important enough that we won’t allow ourselves to fall back into the high-sugar diets we were consuming. I’ve always cooked, and we ate well, but we did consume a lot of high-carb foods, including at the least potatoes & rice. We miss those, but we don’t miss being fat!

One proponent of short-term use of the Keto Diet is Dr. Axe, and he’s proposed several ways to transition off of keto and on to a more “normal” diet. You can find his proposals here: Dr. Axe – Transition off Keto. My DH and I have decided that Keto is going to be our long-term way of life, with occasional cheats allowed.

Proponents of long-term Keto Diets all say about the same thing — there’s not enough information yet to show that long-term Keto use is harmful, and the anti-inflammatory and other benefits are too great to give up. There is speculation that long-term adherence to the Keto Diet can actually be harmful; keep in mind much of that speculation comes from avid followers — both medical and layperson — of the current FDA Dietary Guidelines. For my view of the current and historical dietary guidelines? See this: Funny — but true — Video.

In short, you will have to decide for yourself whether this is a weight-loss gimmick that works, or whether it’s a total recommittment to eating right, and taking care of your body, and the body(ies) of your loved one(s).

Long-term options for some people can include what’s called Keto Cycling. This means that you cycle your carb count, varying the amounts on different days. I suppose my DH and I could consider this, if something comes up that shows that long-term ketosis is dangerous. In my opinion, though, there’s just not enough verifiable information out there for people to make an all-inclusive decision regarding remaining in ketosis or not. Again, for my DH and I, it was a decision we made together, and one we’ll continue to follow, as we feel the health benefits outweigh (ha!) the health detriments. Be assured we will also be following information as it becomes available. A link about Keto Cycling is listed below.

I’m going to wrap this up now with some good’ol fashioned links on many things Keto that I believe will answer the questions better than I can; those links will then be followed by recipe links. There are some absolutely amazing bloggers out there who’ve done a lot of the hard work for us! Yay!


Getting Started Links

Types of Keto Diet Plans

Sweeteners – They’re not all Equal!

Tasteaholic’s Tasty Low-Carb Dessert Recipes

Aside from that, I can only imagine responding to any questions you may have. It’s difficult to try to make this everything about Keto, as there’s just so much information. Hopefully, however, this is a good start for you! Please do NOT hesitate to let me know if I can help more!

Things I’ve Learned as a Massage Therapist

People are the same, wherever you go!

All Bodies are Beautiful

Seems an odd statement to make, yes? I mean, in my industry, I see all types! Big, small, fat, scrawny, broken, limbs missing … you name it, it’s crossed my table.

But the difference, I think, comes in how massage therapists view things. First of all, when you’re on my table, you’re none of the above. At all. You’re a person asking for my help, and that is what I see. Before you got on my table, as we spoke, I considered what you said, already assessing what you’re saying with what I’m seeing; body posture, gait, stiffness of movement. Combining all these things gave me an idea on where to begin, in order to try to resolve at least one of the issues you mentioned.

Next, you need to understand that in order to work toward your best benefit, I need to see you first as a person, not a project, and not what you look like. Simply, a person. A spirit housed in flesh seeking help with one or more problems. Granted, my time with you is limited, so I don’t see the fullness of who you are. But what I see is enough. You see, I witness our shared humanity. I feel your pain through my fingers, and I feel the spirit that overcomes that pain, daily, in order to accomplish the tasks that you’ve defined as your lot, your responsibility. Is it making money to support your family? Or is it having the strength to carry your children? Is it working to propel your body into its highest state, an athlete perhaps? Whatever it is, that spirit defines you more, in my eyes, than whatever shape you wear.

Lastly, and most importantly, the act of giving care, for me, creates a temporary state of love. For the time you’re on my table, and I’m working on you, I’m working from a position of love, care, and compassion. When seen through these lenses, how can any body be anything but beautiful, housing as it does the myriad pains, and triumphs, that living a full life has brought about?

We don’t see the shape, we see the essence, and within our limited repertoire, that’s what we work to help, to heal, to care for. Because of this, all bodies that spend time on my table are beautiful.

No Two Bodies Are The Same

Seems simplistic, but it’s not. To understand why this is such a huge deal to me, you need to understand that I’m OCD, specifically what I’ve come to think of as “Stereo OCD.” Basically, if something happens to a body part of the left side of me, I attempt to make sure it happens on the right, as well. Stub my left toe? I’ll have to at least apply pressure on the right matching toe, or things feel “uneven” to me. And it’s not just left-to-right, it’s also right-to-left. Brush my right thumb against the wall? Ok, I’m gonna have to brush my left thumb against a wall, too. All things must match, left-to-right and right-to-left.

However! Bodies don’t work that way! People come in a delightful assortment of differences! Some are right-handed, some left-handed. Some are right-dominant, and some left. So on and so forth. Then, there’s the way our bodies accommodate posture and movement to accomplish tasks. And the way our bodies are made — some leaner-mass musculature, some denser. All so different, yet many with similar or common ailments.

In short, all this means that the techniques that work best on Person A will not, necessarily, work best on Person B. And even from person to person, there are differences. Some people have issues equally from side to side, but most have significant levels of disparity from side to side. I had an instructor in school who called herself “left-side-stupid,” meaning that she finds it impossible to do anything that leads from the left. For this reason, she has massaged for years by making sure that all tasks she has to accomplish can be done from her right side. This meant that her body spent all these years supporting her from the left; you’d think her right side was the bigger mess, but it was actually her left! Another friend of mine is “right-side-stupid,” but in her case, her left (dominant) side is also the side requiring the most work.

So, one of the first lessons I had to learn was to let go of my own stereo needs; sometimes, I have to spend more time and effort on the left, or the right, or the center; some people I have to use more pressure, some less, in order to effect the positive change we’re both seeking.

Each person who places themselves on my table must be seen in their own light, and handled as the beautiful, unique creature they are. This means that, while I may have “tried-and-true” therapeutic techniques I’m fond of, I can’t only use those. I can’t limit myself to “this-much-time-here-and-that-much-time-there” for all clients. For my clients’ benefit I must treat each one differently, even if those differences are only slight. To fail to do so, to stick to the “same-old-same’ol,” would be to belittle the unique nature of each person’s body, and to short-change my clients.

To Care for You, I Must Care For Me

Again, seems simple, right? But it’s not. As an LMT, I’ve dedicated my skills and my energy to caring for other people. This in and of itself speaks to a type of person who would be inclined to put their needs below the needs of others — and many in our industry do just that. Working weeks, or even years, without receiving care for themselves is only one of the traits our industry is famous for.

Why is this a problem? According to the AMTA, “Upwards of 90% of massage therapists say they are in pain at any given time.” I mean, let’s look at a therapist’s hands, for starters. Much of the work we do, especially when we’re working around the neck region, requires small, fine, delicate finger and thumb work. Supporting the head, turning the head, requires that our hands have the strength and dexterity to move, regularly, in configurations that can take them far out of the neutral range. If we do this, repeatedly, day in and day out, without seeking the proper amount of care, we’re going to end our career early. Why? Our muscles, used and sometimes misused frequently, can become tired, fatigued. Lack of proper body mechanics means that our joints, as well as muscles, can become fatigued or even arthritic. Muscle tension can compress nerves, which can affect the strength of our movements. Without receiving regular, proper care, our careers will be very short, and thus, or ability to care for others will be curtailed.

Learning self-care is one of the most important lessons we, as therapists, can learn, I think. We are, again, driven by the desire to help others. But if we don’t care for ourselves, give ourselves the appropriate rest and the appropriate care, then we’re actually limiting the amount of time we can care for others. Where on earth does that make sense?

However, the truth is that if you poll 100 therapists, I’m pretty sure a good solid 60% of them (at least, that’s the number I’m aware of in my own circle) would indicate that they don’t receive the proper care to nurture their bodies, thus prolonging their career. As of this writing, I couldn’t find anything that actually provides statistics for this; however, if you google “massage therapist self-care” you’ll find a ton of articles about the necessity, as well as common injuries that can sideline or even end our careers.

In short, my dedication to my own care can be seen, also, as my dedication to continue my care for you. I think this is pretty important, and it really does help drive away some of the sense of “selfishness” we tend to feel when we actually do strive to take proper care of ourselves.

Some Clients Want Education, Some Only Want “Care”

Why is this a thing? Well, for me, at least, there’s the simple fact that I’m an information junkie. Additionally, I’m a natural teacher. You combine these two things with being a caregiver who’s trained to find the origin of the problem you’re seeking help with, and it’s a potentially dangerous combination!

For me, receiving aid and assistance means gathering all the information available about it. What’s causing it? Is it something I can resolve myself? Is it something I can take steps to work on, so that I don’t have to rely on others? I can’t tell you how much physical therapy annoys me! Ok, I have 15 visits, so I can come in and do the same exercises you showed me in visits 1 and 2, over and over and over. Just show them to me, let me go home, then let’s check in six weeks and see if I’ve made the appropriate improvements.

Most people, however, don’t seem to work that way. Here’s a for-instance scenario:

  • You come in because you “carry all your stress in your neck and shoulders”
  • In talking with you, I learn that you work at your desk 10 hours a day, and your desk isn’t ergonomically set up. This means that you’re sitting all catty-wampus to your body’s neutral positions and, most often, your head is leaning forward, and your shoulders/arms are curled around your keyboard and mouse.
  • I explain to you that, based on your statements and my observations of your body posture and movement, I believe that your pecs are tightened/shortened, medially rotating your shoulders, and that your anterior neck muscles are also tightened/shortened, pulling your head forward off your centerline.
  • After explaining this to you, I ask you if you’ll mind me spending some time on these issues, so that we can attempt to resolve the problem, spending less time on the “symptom” — the tight muscles between your shoulderblades and in your posterior neck

At this point, some people will happily say “Sure, whatever, work what works best!” However, a huge amount of people look at me blankly, having tuned out most of what I’ve said, and just respond with “It hurts back there, that’s where I want you to work.”

At this point, I have two choices. I can choose to become frustrated because you’ve just completely ignored what I’ve said, and I know for a fact that we’re only band-aiding your problem, not actually resolving it.

Or, and this is a really big “or,” I can gracefully accept your request because you’re my client, and this is your massage.

To me, it’s pretty much a no-brainer. You’re my client. You’re coming to me for care, for a respite from the pain. Maybe this’ll be a one-off, and I’ll never work on you again. But maybe, if the trust builds well enough, I’ll be able, eventually, to begin working on the issues and, as you see improvement, we’ll both work together to overcome the problems.

It really isn’t part of my scope of practice to force my knowledge, skill, and experience on any of my clients. It is part of my scope of practice to do all in my power to help with the problem, but sometimes, for some people, the resolution to the problem is just having someone care enough to listen to their wants, needs, and desires. If I can’t respect that, in each and every client who comes across my table, then why should I expect that you will respect my want, need, and desire to help you as fully as I can?

All relationships involve compromise. For me, as an LMT/NMT, that compromise means that I don’t get to work on what I consider the problem; for you, my client, it means you don’t get the overall work that can improve it. Both of us have lost something. But you, my client, have gained a therapist who’s willing to completely listen to, and respect, your wishes, and I have the potential to gain a client who recognizes my dedication to their personal care.

For many people, I’ve found, getting a regular massage is a “luxury,” an investment of time and money that’s difficult for them to regularly manage. How can I, as a dedicated therapist, do other than respect that client’s wishes, during the time they’ve set aside to actually seek care for themselves? Who cares if they don’t want to be educated; they want to be helped. I can do that. Eventually, the education may come into the relationship, but the basis of that relationship must, always, be the clients’ needs having primacy.

There are many, many other lessons I’ve learned, like, we don’t care if you don’t shave. Or, cell phones in the session are the devil (I personally will stop working on someone until they put their phones down). Lots of others. But for me, the ones above have been some of the most jaw-dropping lessons I’ve learned as I’ve worked my way into this rich, rewarding career field. Some of these are client-centric, and some are caregiver-centric. I think one of the things that appeals to the OCD in me is that they each balance each other. Care for you means the need for care for me so I can continue to care for you. Whether my self-care is a nice, long, relaxing massage or Continuing Ed, it’s still time and care I’m pouring back into my ability to care for others.

Maybe that’s the biggest lesson of all? Because we’re all interconnected, what I do for you I do for me, I do for you.

And that brings me full circle back to one of my earliest epiphanies; I am You are Me.

 

Letting Ourselves Go

Or, in other words? Simply hating ourselves; how do we move past that?

My beloved husband will confirm, I read. Voraciously. Like, nearly everything I can get my hands on, though I do have preferences! This began, I believe, as a child seeking a means of escape. Or maybe it was because I’ve always been an inveterate info junkie. Or both? Who knows. Anyway. Why is this important?

It’s important because something I read recently made me start really thinking. The main character in this story, a middle-aged man, was reflecting on how quickly he healed, when he was younger. How much easier so many things were. His reflections led down the path of how younger men saw him and assumed he’d “let” himself get old.

Wow, I thought. Just … wow. I mean, that stopped me, right there. How many of us do, in reality, look at ourselves and others like that? I certainly look at myself that way. I’ve hated my body forever, but it’s been worse the last several years because I “let” myself get fat. Obviously, I had the means to control that, right? Well, maybe not, actually, but I’ll get to that. Let’s get back to the self-castigation game. I let myself become fat because I just don’t care. I don’t care about my health, right? I don’t care about my appearance. I don’t care what others think of me (ok, maybe that one’s true). I don’t care about so many things, which must have been what led to my getting fat.

Now, here’s the real story. Up until 1999, I was very active. I loved hiking, I loved bicycling, I ran Cross Country in high school (and still have dreams of just running, free, through the trees, as I did when I was much younger). I swam, I walked, I danced, I practiced yoga. I did lots of things. However, in September of ’99, I tripped over a hole and shattered my left ankle. Let me be explicit here: I broke both my tibia and fibula about three inches above my ankle, and I wrapped my outside ankle bone (lateral malleolus) around the back of my foot so that it was right next to my inside ankle bone (medial malleolus). I think that wrapping of the ankle bones came when I tried to stand on that foot, just to “be sure” it wasn’t broken.

Long story short, I had to go through a pretty significant surgery to try to repair the ankle, then went through weeks of highly intensive (and painful!) Physical Therapy so that I could be sure I walked normally. I regained about 85% of that foot’s abilities, which was more than the doc thought I’d regain. He’d estimated about 65%-70%.

Let me briefly explain how our feet are made. The “heel” of a foot is made of a bone called the calcaneus. On top of the calcaneus sits the talus, and on top of that sits the tibia, which is the long bone of our shin. Because bones don’t like rubbing directly on bones, there is a layer of cartilage between joints. What specifically affected my foot was the cartilage that existed between the talus and the tibia. In short, after about seven years, the cartilage just poofed. Gone, destroyed, finito. As the cartilage had been degrading, I’d begun building up calcium spikes around the top of the talus and the base of the tibia. These calcium spikes are produced when bones rub against each other, and they’re what we call arthritis. In short, by about 2007-2008, I was walking with these spikes of calcium constantly rubbing against the tissues in that area — ligaments, tendons, muscles, etc. Walking wasn’t all that caused pain, however; swimming, running, bicycling, turning, pivoting all caused pain. In short, every movement made by my left foot caused pain.

Now, if you haven’t lived with constant, chronic pain? Yay! You’re one of the lucky ones, and I am ecstatic for you! However, if you have? Then you pretty much know that not only is it, well, painful, but it’s also emotionally and mentally debilitating. You just get so tired of hurting all the time. However, during that time, my second marriage was falling apart and so that took precedence over everything. Further, I lost my sister during that time, had a holy hell of a debacle with my family, and well? Just didn’t have time to get the foot looked at.

Fast forward to 2010. By 2010, I still looked great, but I was at the peak of an emotional breakdown, and I also could barely walk without excruciating pain. Lots happened in my life during that time, lots improved, and by 2013 I could begin to look at getting the foot fixed. Went to the doc, got a diagnosis of End-Stage Arthritis. This essentially means that there is no option other than surgery in order to stop the pain. The choice became one of “Do I get it fused or go for a replacement?” In doing research to try to make this decision, I chose the ankle replacement. Why? Because, in short, fusion would allow me to run, but the replacement would allow me to do my yoga. I have knees that’re trying to go bad, so I went the yoga route.

Doc botched the surgery, had to (in his words) “yank out the prosthetic, shave more off the tibia and attempt to replace the prosthetic.” Look up ankle replacement techniques, I think you’ll be amazed. Anyway, fast forward to 2016. I could still barely walk. I’d gone to my doc several times because I thought the prosthetic was slipping out of place. The pain was so intense! He’d look knowingly up at the X-Rays, purse his lips, then say “the prosthetic is in correctly.” End of story. I finally, in 2016, went for a second opinion and found out the problem was tendonitis. Now, let me explain tendonitis to you. You see, our muscles begin as tendon where they attach to the originating bone. Then they become “muscle” or what we call muscle belly, then they become tendon again to attach to the bone they insert on. When you get tendonitis, that means that the muscle belly is spasmed, or shortened, or what we might call “tense.” Get that belly tense enough and it pulls on the tendons which attach it to the bone. Most often, we see issues where it inserts on the bone rather than where it originates. Anyway, in my case, my calf muscles (specifically Tibialis Anterior) was spasmed and it was pulling on the tendon in my foot, where it inserted, thus causing the pain. A regimen of Ibuprofin and PT was recommended and VOILA! I could, for the first time in years, walk without pain!

Ok. You’re asking yourself what all this has to do with body shaming, with self-hatred, yada yada, right? I’m getting there, don’t rush me! Let’s examine the facts. Catastrophic injury to the foot in 1999. Developing and then end-stage arthritis from around 2007ish until 2013, when the replacement happened. Then, 2013 to 2016 of living with tendonitis. So, those are the physical components. However, I also had emotional and other issues I was struggling with; the dissolution of my second marriage. The loss of my sister. The family issues. Entering a new relationship, picking up, moving several states away. Learning who I was. So on and so forth.

So, if I’m fair to myself, then I have to admit, I didn’t “let” anything happen. Life happened, and I consistently did the best I could with what I had. I could no longer do my yoga. Due to massive depression, it was often all I could do to get outta bed and keep the house up. To be succinct (because I’m well-known for this, amiright?), my lifestyle changed drastically, and between about 2010 and 2016, I packed on 70 pounds. Now, keep something in mind; my skinny weight is 185. Not kidding; at 185 I wear a size 12 pant, a medium top, and look very skinny, though still full-figured. I wear a size 10-11 ring, size 11 to 11.5 shoes, and am 5’8.5″. I’m buxom, I got back, and so on and so forth. No, tall and willowy has never been me, but yeah, I can be skinny. At 2010, I weighed my normal 185ish. Now? Well, I won’t put the number down, but you can do the math, right?

On to the body shaming. I’ve given this a great deal of thought over the years. First, let’s begin with when I was a kid. For the longest time, I was called Stringbean because I was so tall and thin. Then around 14 I began to develop. Immediately, I went from Stringbean to “fat.” “You’re putting on some weight,” my father would tell me. “Lose weight to X pounds and I’ll buy you some designer jeans.” My mother would poke me when I ate, telling me “You need to slow down, you’re getting fat.” Ok, gang. I’ve seen the pictures of me at this age, and on, and guess what? Nowhere was there an ounce of fat on me, other than the girls and the booty. My legs were thick, but they were muscular, as were my arms. For a woman, I have very broad shoulders. I used to take so much pride in the strength of my body; I was as strong as many men I knew, even being able to successfully arm-wrestle against many of them, and I was stronger than most women. I didn’t work at it, it just was. So I had a very athletic build, partly due to genetics and partly due to my constant activity. Additionally? Have I mentioned “buxom” and “booty” yet? Yep, that was me. But there is a difference between that figure, and fat. However, I think a lot of parents react that way when their daughters begin to develop. I know my first husband did when our youngest daughter started to develop; he and his new wife dressed her in baggy jeans and oversized, shapeless hoodies and sweatshirts and t-shirts.

So. What is really happening here? Are our daughters really getting fat, or are you terrified because they’re beginning to look like women? And then let’s not even talk about the media! I was watching a commercial for a refrigerator recently. It begins with a woman (skinny, noticeable thigh gap) opening her refrigerator as a woman narrates. It then goes to talk about her creations, and the pictures are all of dessert and pastry making. So, the message we’re seeing here is that a woman who loves to bake and prepare all these sweet tasty treats should be skinny as heck, and with a huge gap between her thighs. Why? Why are we doing this? I’m a gamer, and there was recently a thread in a new game I’m interested about character creation. One of the people asked whether the sliders would allow them to create a muscular woman. You should have seen the responses! “Women like that make me puke.” Or “Why can’t she just be a normal woman? I mean, looks like you want a woman who’s just gonna dominate the men she’s with.” Or this, my favorite — and it’s a direct quote — “Sounds like you want a man with a vagina.”

Why is this acceptable? Why is it appropriate for anyone to dictate a “normal” and then decry anyone or anything that has the audacity to step outside that normal? In what sane world does this make sense? Oh, wait, guess I answered my own question. Not sure we can consider this a sane world.

Now let’s wander back around to my original topic. Didja read the quote I posted? How many women do you know of who’ve been accused of “letting herself go”? Or, let’s look at aging. I’m a Massage Therapist; trust me, I see all kindsa bodies. I can tell you without equivocation that, almost always, aging causes changes that express themselves in women as a thickening of the waist, sagging of the breasts, and sagging of the booty. Additionally we have all the wrinkles, the development of a double-chin sometimes, greying of the hair. How much money is made by hair color industries by women who color their grey? I know I did, until about two years ago!

When did we decide that these trophies of a life well-lived were things that indicated someone “let herself go”? When did it become acceptable to view someone who didn’t pay out the wazoo for plastic surgery to “correct” these “deficiencies” in appearance as shameful? How many female celebrities do you know of who’re looked upon with frowny faces because they didn’t follow the plastic surgery craze? Why is this a thing?

I think it’s a thing because we are social creatures, and we seek to belong. It’s far easier to look outside ourselves at what society deems acceptable and strive to model ourselves to meet that criteria, rather than seek inward and determine what we consider acceptable. It’s easier to point to our bodies and say “I need to lose this spare tire around my middle” than it is to look inside our minds, our hearts, and say “I need to change my outlook so that I’m more positive about things.” Trust me, I know this. Further, our society has done two things in our recent history. First, it’s expanded nearly exponentially. Second, it’s become highly technical and, by association, highly “social.” I mean, the local small-town bar I go to and love even has our resident “Selfie Queen.” I call her this because more of her time in the bar is spent taking and posting selfies than it is interacting with the people sitting next to her.

This has led, I feel, to a crisis. This crisis is the ideology of “Normal.” Normal, now, is plastered on our televisions, on our social networks, in our games, and even in forums.  And what’s more? It’s accepted as “The Norm.” Step outside The Norm and you become outcast. You don’t fit in. And then, don’t even get me started on our ability to think for ourselves in our society! Our children are taught what to think, not how to think. So all these messages are being sent about The Norm, our kids see them and immediately measure themselves against The Norm, and find themselves lacking. Surely, if they have pouty lips, huge unreal eyelashes, perfect hair, and of course a vast thigh gap, they’ll be accepted!

Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. But even when we know this, it is so very difficult to correct these beliefs, these behaviors. Trust me. I’m possibly the most self-analytical person I’ve ever met, and I still struggle with this! It’s easier for me to fall back on my parents’ messages about being “too fat” than it is for me to dive down inside and figure out what’s really going on. Further? It’s a habit now. Yep, I said it. Self-castigation and self-hatred is a habit. It’s a constant little voice in the back of my head, making snide comments and assuring me that if I’d just stop letting myself go, I’d be happy.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to stop this in my lifetime, but I’ve determined that I’m going to work actively toward it for the rest of said lifetime. How do I intend to do this?

Well. Let’s take it by the numbers:

  1. I am going to alter my diet. Wait, what? Does that mean I wanna lose weight? Actually, yes. But let’s look at my reasons. First of all, I’m aging, and I need to do as much as I can to age gracefully. I already live with a lot of pain, constantly, from inflammation and other issues. Changing my diet (and losing weight if that happens) will help with these issues. Also, remember — artificial left ankle. Being 50 pounds overweight just ain’t good for it (yes, you did the math right — I did lose 20 pounds recently).
  2. I’m going to start giving myself small successes. Today, I got out and worked briefly in the yard. Probably not enough to burn major calories, but certainly enough to give me a sense of accomplishment and achievement! Additionally, I redid my walking music mix, and I’m going to start walking again now that the weather’s good.
  3. I’m going to (try to) stop arguing with my beloved when he says “You’re beautiful.” Ok, yeah, that’s the hard one. But seriously, why argue? He believes it! Why don’t I just accept that, to at least one person, I’m beautiful? Doesn’t that mean that I can be beautiful? Maybe not by society’s standards, but pft. Who cares? He believes I am beautiful, and I can choose to allow myself to see myself through his eyes.
  4. I’m going to try to wear sleeveless tops, rather than hate the wingspans I have. Seriously. I could fly to Atlanta with these wings! I’m still outrageously strong, I just have extra flesh there. So what? If I wear a sleeveless dress to go out with my beloved, he’ll make sure I know he thinks I look beautiful. Really, who else matters?
  5. I’m going to start laughing at the commercial for the refrigerator, and remind myself “You can’t trust a skinny cook.” That’s an old-old saying, by the way, if you didn’t know it. Basically means that if a cook won’t eat their own cooking, you probably don’t wanna either. A pastry/dessert chef who stays skinny? Crazy genes, or a lie.
  6. I will, one body part at a time, start really seeing myself in the mirror and strive to accept that body part, then move on to the next

Yeah, tall order. Like I said, I may not actually achieve this in my lifetime. But guess what? I am determined to try.

I leave you with this last little visual. I’m sure many have seen it before … but maybe we all need to see it again?

friend

Rebranding

When new things are born

I’ve now been an active, practicing licensed massage therapist for just over a year, and what a year it’s been! I’ve learned much; I have great people I work with, who practice a variety of modalities, and are more than willing to share their knowledge and experience. Gotta love this industry; we’re in it to help people, and that includes other therapists. In any other industry, I’m pretty sure competitiveness would kick in, but here? No. It’s all about “Oh, I do this, let me show you how!”

I’ve worked, for the last year, for a large massage franchise. I know, I know; if you’re a practitioner, you’re probably cringing as I say that. I cannot tell you the amount of flack I get because I still, to this day, staunchly defend this franchise as a beneficial work environment for some. I mean, let’s take me. It’s given me a year now to figure out what to do, how to do it, and perhaps most importantly, what I don’t want to do any longer.

Let me explain. I go in to work on scheduled days, during scheduled hours, which I picked. My clients are lined up for me. I don’t have to solicit them, they come to us. The front desk associates strive to line up clients with me who want what I have to offer, so I seldom get stuck with someone who needs a lot of deep pressure, when I prefer to work at a light-medium pressure. I don’t have to worry about laundry, providing draping materials or any of the props/supports necessary to different types of massage, nor worry about music, ambiance, so on and so forth. In short, I go in, I do my hours, I go home. Life is good.

What’s not so good, however, are the pay rate (I do believe we’re very much underpaid) and the mess-ups that see clients paired with me who should be paired with someone else. This is a problem both for the client, who doesn’t receive the work they want, and for the therapist who often works outside his/her comfort zone, attempting to provide what the client desires. In some cases, this can actually cause injury to therapists.

In addition, I’m not able to specifically reach out to the client base I want. What’s that mean, you ask? Isn’t massage just massage, and what’s the difference? The difference really is that mindset. You see, most people come in and receive massage for two reasons: Either they want the stress reduction and relaxation that comes from massage (which is, in my experience, fewer clients) or they want some specific problem fixed. “My neck/shoulders/shoulderblades hurt.” “I pulled something in my back.” “I was jogging yesterday and something in my foot started hurting.” “My doctor told me I should try massage for my sore hips.” “My sciatic nerve is killing me!”

As you can see, the majority of these ailments are very physical in nature. Now, don’t get me wrong! It is one of the more gratifying experiences of my life, knowing that I can help with these ailments! But … and yeah, there’s always a but, right? These aren’t the ailments I feel drawn to reach out to, to assist with. In short, the ailments I feel drawn to help are more, I believe, of the soul-sucking ones. The ones that can destroy confidence, that can make one feel isolated even when they’re around people. The ones that are patently “abnormal” when compared to the rest of our society. These ailments are Anxiety. Depression. Stress. PTSD. ADHD. SPD.

And massage can, and does, help with these as well. However, these are not the majority of the clients we see at our franchise.

So, I took a chance, and reached out to a local Reiki clinic here, and was accepted there as a Massage Therapist. Yay me! This, now, will give me the opportunity to begin catering my business where I want it — helping people who struggle with the same issues I’ve fought my entire life.

Well, now comes the difficult part. You see, the call-in clientele for Massage Therapy at this clinic is small. This means that I’m in the driver’s seat now. I have to find my clients. I have to reach out to them. I have to overcome their natural, in-born defensive mechanisms — especially in regards to touch — in order to begin to demonstrate that massage can benefit them. In short? I have to drum up the business to pay for the education to continue the business in the direction I wanna go.

Whew. That’s a lot, huh? I gotta say, I’m amazingly grateful to my franchise. Not only did they agree to keep me on one day a week (I have clients there with whom I’ve developed a trust relationship that I cannot void), but I’m also able to put myself on the schedule for additional days. Thank you, thank you, thank you guys; despite what folk say aboutcha, I like ya!

I’m scheduled, August 15, to attend a Wellness Fair for a local school district. I’m pumped. And nervous. And and and … so many things! But this is good, I keep telling myself. You see, I want to reach out to people for the things I mentioned above and, sadly? Many of the clients I can help are children. So this could be very good, right? Yep, I keep telling myself that!

Small steps, then, I must remind myself. Progress is progress, and moving forward is moving forward. I’m not the first who’s done this, especially within my field, and I won’t be the last. It’s doable, and it’s right. The time is now. So just breathe.

Let me tell you, folks. When you step out, off that cliff, you know you’re going to fall. But you believe, even in the face of known physics, that you might fly. Right now? I’m stepping off, looking up rather than down, and believing firmly that flight is possible. This is an amazing journey, and I’ve been gifted by being allowed to take part in it. So anything else is just gravy, right?

Rebranding ain’t easy. It’s stepping out into the unknown. However, most of our lives involve that stepping out, taking chances. It also invariably involves failure. But our view of failure can change. We can choose to see it as a loss of ourselves, or we can choose to see it as a new possibility. As the ability to figure out what didn’t work, and move forward. Much as I figured out what I didn’t want to continue doing at my franchise. Much as I have figured out that sometimes, it takes a goad to get us really focused, and eliminate that fear of failure. I have to wonder; how many great ideas never came into fruition because I was afraid I’d fail? How many books unwritten, songs unsung?

Not this time. This time, I step off knowing I’ll probably fall. Assuming the cliff ain’t too high? I’ll pick m’self back up, dust m’self off, and climb back up. Only to step off, again.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’m amazingly lucky to have reached the point in my life where I can see this, do this, and accept the falls.

 

“Mother is the name for God…

…in the lips and hearts of little children.” –William Makepeace Thackeray

To begin, Happy Mother’s day to all you moms & moms-to-be out there! I had the joy and  privilege, yesterday, to work on several mom-daughter combos who were celebrating their mothers and their motherhood with a nice relaxing massage, or facial, or both!

How special is it to be a mom? Words don’t even begin. We are given the privilege to carry you inside us for nine months, building up in our heads all the things we wonder … for instance:

  • Will you be tall? Short? Willowy? A boy, or a girl?
  • Will you have the blonde hair of your father, or my dark hair?
  • Will your eyes hearken back to our side of the family, or your father’s?
  • If your eyes are from my side, and hair from your father’s side … oh, how beautiful you’ll be!
  • Will you sing? Dance? Play sports? Read lavishly, as I do?

Then, you are born; even during the pain of our labor for you, we still wonder these things listed above, and so much more. And yet, when you are born — at that moment, just then, we realize “Oh. Oh, wow, this is a brand new human, and I am supposed to raise it to be self-sufficient, to be productive.” Talk about harrowing! The responsibility is seemingly insurmountable; I can barely keep myself productive!

All of this has been spoken of before, however. What can I offer, today, on Mother’s Day, that might be a bit different? How about I talk about some of the more amazing Moms I’ve known? I think I like that idea much better.

I can’t help but begin with my sister. You have to understand; my siblings and I? We were raised under what has been described as torturous conditions. Horrible abuse; you imagine it, we likely lived it. I was the oldest, so I was the “responsible” one, which just means I did better at not getting caught, most of the time.

My sister, Taura — eight years my junior, so I often felt very mom-like toward her. She grew up as hard as I did, and she fell into a very bad lifestyle; drugs, strip-clubs for jobs, you name it. When her children were 18- and 6-months old, she was arrested for abandonment of them. In July, in the middle of summer, in a mobile home that was completely shut up, she left them. Why? Because she was addicted to heroin. She went into prison and spent five years there.

And she came out of prison a new person. She had kicked the drugs, and set about herself with a determination to never go back down that road. She lived in Georgia and fought her way into jobs, including at times two at once — her main job and a job doing bookkeeping, or accounting, or whatever she could get. Further, she sent herself back to school. And even further? Well. My father had gained custody of her children; I fought against that, as I believed that he would do the same harm to them that he’d done to my siblings and myself; but the court decided it was better for him to have them than they be in foster care. And so he took them to California, where he lived. And my sister, while she was working two jobs and going to school, also pursued a custody battle to regain her children. A custody battle fought from Georgia to California; my father resisted, and made her fight hard for her kids, and it took her two years before she regained them.

She regained them in time to graduate from school, and finally land the job she’d been wanting forever. Landing the job gave her the ability to buy the house she wanted, and in this house, in this neighborhood, she became the quintessential neighborhood mom. We all know that mom, the one that has a yard and a way of being that all the kids in the neighborhood respond to. Her home was always overflowing with kids, and she was happy, in her element. She laughed as she cared for her children, and her neighbors’ children; she smiled, she fed, she succored.

She was taken from life, then; but in her life, she’d had the opportunity to completely screw up, then recover from that screw up and make something of herself. But her making something of herself was all focused on her children; on rejecting society’s labeling of her son as ADHD; rather than force meds on him — which she’d tried and found didn’t work as intended — she worked with him to begin helping him learn how to manage himself. She focused herself on being the mother her daughter could look up to and respect, rather than disdain. She focused herself on doing all within her power so that her children would always know her love. She was taken too soon, but the time between her going into prison and the time when she came out was all dedicated to becoming strong enough to teach her children how to be, and love, a strong woman.

I honor her for her determination, her stubbornness in fighting, her grace in saying “I will do this because I can do nothing else.” Her acceptance of what is, in order to achieve what she demanded life become.

Next, I think? My mother-in-law. Understand, I basically have no mother, and I’m too old to ask for a mother in my life. Further, when I met my future mother-in-law, I was still broken; it was difficult for me to interact with her. Compound that with her faith, her belief, her Christianity; I saw her as living within this bubble that didn’t include what I considered “real life.” She’d never had to struggle with the things I’d struggled with. She’d never had to deal with the torturous environment I grew up in. She’d not had to fight for her very sanity, for her ability to be a part of her childrens’ lives. In so many ways, I found reasons to remain separate from her.

But she was soft, and she was gentle, and she was accepting. Over time, as I’ve healed, she’s always offered to me the space I needed, when and as I needed it, so that I could come to a relationship with her on my own terms.

She has never demanded, never judged, never done anything more than offer me room to find my own way to some form of accommodation with her. I am not Christian as she is, yet she casts no aspersions on me. I smoked, when we met, and she met that without condemnation. It was as if I kept looking for some way to compare her to the example of “Mother” I’d grown up with, and that way was never found. But in the looking, I began to be able to see her as she is.

She is gentle, she loves, she cares, and she wishes to be of help, where and as she can. She is generous with her love, and with her self. She is very bright, and has a searing insight, but she uses that insight to build up, rather than to break down. Because of the very nature of who and what she is, I could not do anything except learn to accept, then appreciate, then love her for all she is, believes, and lives. I’ve learned that while she never lived my hell, she has lived her own, and she has her battles to fight, just as I do. But her example of grace is a truer one than anyone has ever shared with me before — even those who mouth the “grace” that they’re so generously offering. Perhaps it’s because she doesn’t speak it, she just does it. But she is an example of motherhood that I hope everyone has the opportunity to experience, some day.

Last, my daughter. Let me tell you, Moms out there, if you haven’t yet had the opportunity to experience your child as a parent — just hold on. It’s amazing. It’s beautiful. It’s exquisite.

My grandson was born in October 2015; I was able to travel to see him that Christmas season. I had the wonderful opportunity to watch my daughter as she mom’d her son; as she held him close to her, so he could sleep. As she talked the gentle baby-talk to him that whispered love with every breath. As she made changing time special, by taking a bit of time after his diaper was changed to just put her face right next to his, as he lay on the changing table, and whispering gentle words of love to him. As she booped his nose, just to see his smile.

I’ve been able to keep in contact with them through Skype, and I hear little tidbits of her and their lives; her making crock-pot meals to put in the freezer, so she’ll have more time when she’s home with him. Her reading to him. Her giving him a counter to open with pot-and-pan lids made available for his inquisitive self. Her changing his room as necessary, so that he can remain stimulated, so that his ever-expanding mind always has something enriching in easy access.

In all ways, I consider her a perfect mom. But now, her world is shaking, and the more fierce side of motherhood is beginning to be awakened. Her husband, my son-in-law, is a drug addict; he’s lost his ability to pay for the prescription drugs that were his bailiwick, so he’s turned to the dirtier, cheaper drugs; a couple of weeks ago, he overdosed on heroin.

Now, I watch her pick up the pieces. I hear, through her sister, of her continuing on, of ensuring her son’s life remains as unspoiled as possible. I see, when we are able to Skype, her determination to keep her chin up, shoulders squared, so that her son is always put first. I grieve with her as she begins to have to make difficult decisions, decisions which will of course fully impact her son’s life.

And I believe in her. Because of what I’ve seen of her strength, her determination, and her abilities, I know that her son will suffer as little as she can help. Because of her fortitude, I know that she will overcome all the hurdles presented to her, and her son, and will both guard and protect him as those hurdles are exposed.

Not because of what I’ve taught her of motherhood, perhaps, as my examples weren’t always cogent, but in spite of what I’ve taught her, I believe she will surpass me in all ways, and I know her son will remain safe.

Three mothers. All different, all at different stages of their motherhood. The loss of my sister was great; the loss of these other two mothers will be equally great. But all of them, by example, can pave the way for other mothers, as examples of what is right, and beautiful, and loving and kind and generous and protective in a mother.

Happy Mother’s Day; may this day be a day of celebration for the mothers in your life(ves).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Healing

Note: Normally, I try to keep things lighter; this subject, however, cannot be treated lightly. Be prepared before you start reading, but make it to the end; the end is the message of this blog.

The last couple of weeks have been nothing short of revelatory. I suppose, to fully do this blog justice, I should start at the beginning, but I find sometimes that it is difficult to pin down that “beginning.” Was the beginning when I was born? Was it when I was six weeks old, and my mother attempted to drown me so my cries wouldn’t wake my father? Was it the life I lived as the older sibling, struggling to care for two younger children and to, when I could, protect them from our parents? Was it my teenaged years, when I consistently broke every knuckle on the backs of both hands, bashing my hands against concrete walls to try to contain the rage, the anger that ran through me? Was it my first marriage, which granted me two amazing daughters … or my second, which finally broke me?

Was it my third marriage, where I began to learn, for the first time, just who I was, whom I wanted to be, how I wanted to shape my life?

I can’t tell you these answers. I can tell you the results of them, though. I can tell you that I’ve lived an entire lifetime rigidly holding myself in control. I learned to distrust decisions made in the throes of emotion; therefore, I clamped down on the emotion, hid it, buried it, and made decisions from a purely intellectual perspective. I learned that talking to people about my “issues” put a burden on them; either they felt compelled to help, or they saw me as weak, and disregarded my struggles. So I found ways to project all the things I admired — strength and determination, wit, joviality — and I pushed down all the things that I saw as weaknesses — care, compassion for self, grace toward self. Pushed them down, put them in a box, and slammed down the lid. Then piled on top of that box everything I could find to keep the lid down.

I can tell you that I did what so many horribly abused women have done; I became promiscuous. I became a party girl. I learned to open my mouth and discuss the banalities that everyone around me was discussing, and to hide any higher discussions for those very, very few whom I friended who were like me … struggling to stay whole in a world we couldn’t very well understand. I hid my shame, my sense of worthlessness, behind drugs and alcohol. I sought my understanding of love in the arms of many who could love me for a moment, only.

I developed, as so many traumatized people have done, coping mechanisms. At three years old, I began compulsively eating. I would sneak down to the kitchen, in the middle of the night, open the refrigerator, and find inside the bags (yes, you could buy them in bags in those days) of Chunky candy bars; thick, dense bars of chocolate that sometimes had nuts, sometimes not. I learned how to take one, or two, depending on the fullness of the bag, and leave the rest. I knew my parents would each think the other was eating their treasures. I also, at this time, began eating my food as a convict would — arm curled protectively around my plate, fork shoveling as much food into my mouth as I could get, as fast as I could get it there.

I have always enjoyed foods. Varieties of flavors, of textures; the silk of a mousse combined with the rich tartness of raspberry; white chocolate icing the top, making a delight for my mouth to enjoy. Crispy meats, the fat still sizzling from coming off the grill. Eggs, cooked in butter, served on buttered toast; the delicious flavors combining with the myriad textures to make a delight my mouth could lose itself in. Sadly, however, I never until recently allowed myself to actually take the time to enjoy these things. It was necessary that I eat, then that I be prepared for whatever came next; protecting my brother, cleaning my sister, taking care of the dishes, cleaning up so I could put the kids to bed … so on and so forth. So, for me, the compulsive eating allowed me to substitute quantity of food with quality of enjoyment.

At eight, I took some cough medicine; I’d read the label, and took what was recommended. However, my father saw me putting the medicine back and he pounced on me; dragged me into the bathroom, slung me over the toilet, and proceeded to put his huge finger down my throat until I vomited up anything and everything in my stomach. And I clicked. I was, at eight, stick-thin, but beginning to eat everything in sight as I was growing; also, because I was a compulsive eater. My parents had begun, even then, to chide me for watching what I ate, so that I wouldn’t “get fat.” And this, this episode with my father, taught me how I could eat as much as I wanted, as often as I wanted, without fear of getting fat.

Coping mechanisms are just that — they allow us to cope with something that is bigger than we can handle, at the moment we must handle or endure it. You get beaten, then your mother covers your mouth and nose with her hand so you can’t scream, and you learn to self-soothe with the Chunky bars. Or you get awakened in the middle of the night, you and your brother dragged down the stairs to find every single dish in the kitchen laid out on the floor; you have your parents screaming at you about a dirty dish they found, and telling you “clean and put away every single one before you go back to bed.” And you learn to nibble on the bread left on the counter as you do this, offer some to your brother, so that he won’t cry anymore.

You learn that when you hate yourself, when the shame is more than you can bear — if I were a better child, my parents would love me; if I were a smarter, stronger sister, my brother would not be hurt — when the shame of constant failure becomes overwhelming, you can punish yourself for not being enough. You can eat, then you can force your finger down your throat and vomit up every bad thing you believe you are. You deserve this; you deserve to not enjoy your food. You deserve your food to be your punishment.

Coping mechanisms serve their purpose; they allow us to endure what should not be made to be endured. But when their time is past, they become a weight on the soul that drags you down. My bulimia allowed me to live my life as thought there were nothing wrong with it. We won’t even talk about the cutting; perhaps, another time, though I think maybe not.

When one pursues healing, one must find ways to make sense of what is insensible. I never deserved what was done to me; no more did my brother, or my sister. We never deserved to be beaten, to be sexually abused. To be locked in our bedrooms for days on end, with everything but a mattress removed. We never deserved to be turned out of our home, half-dressed, to march up and down our neighborhood asking neighbors if they would be our Mommy, because our Mommy didn’t want us anymore. We never deserved watching our father nearly kill our mother because she antagonized him, and he had no ability to control his own anger.

Yet, in order to manage our parents, I assumed responsibility for all these things. Let me be a good enough daughter, and we won’t be beaten. Let me be smart enough, and my brother won’t be hurt. Let me be strong enough, and I can keep my sister from suffering the same fate my brother and I suffered. The truth, however, is that none of these tasks were mine, and I could not manage them. My parents would always be who and what they were, unless they decided to change; I couldn’t change them. My brother would always be hurt, regardless of what I did, until my parents stopped hurting him.

It is difficult, but not impossible, to separate oneself from this tyranny of should, to accept what is. What does that mean? I struggled for so long to be what I thought I should be, in order to protect myself and my brother, and those struggles always ended in failure. How could I see myself as anything other than not-enough?

Recently, I took my Advanced Reiki Training (ART) class. Just before taking it, I’d reached out to one of the instructors from my school, for accupuncture. You see, I’ve reached a point in my life when everything tells me I should be happy, content. I should be able to just relax, grow in my profession, move forward … yet I found that bulimia still had a strangle-hold on me, literally. Failures, setbacks, stress — all would trigger a bout of compulsive eating; the only method I had of fighting back was to refuse to stick my finger down my throat. Not fun, that … cuz ya know what? That’s how ya get fat. And I, now, am fat, which led to yet one more reason for me to hate myself.

In my ART class we learned a technique that can help one release emotional pain and trauma. I won’t go through the whole procedure, but I will say that as I was learning this, I was crying. I could see an application here, for myself; however, I didn’t know the people in the class with me, so I couldn’t allow it to be done for me, then. I contacted my Reiki Master, who graciously consented to work with me on this.

I went to her home office, and she performed the procedure. I was frightened; I mean, we all know when you take something away, something else has to take its place, right? If I took away this coping mechanism, what would fill its place? How hard would it be for me to give up this, my earliest coping mechanism? My earliest means of self-soothing? As it turned out, it was gentle. It was … I can’t say easy, but it was definitely gentle. Slowly, I felt it diminish, this weight of self-loathing and -hatred I’d always carried. I felt it just drift away from me. She followed this technique with a Reiki session; during part of it, I felt as though light flooded me, clearing out the darkness that I’d used to hide everything I hated about myself. Where that light flowed in, I learned love. Love for self. Grace for self. Forgiveness for self. And healing, for self.

I walked away from that, literally, a new woman. I can look at myself now, see my fat stomach, and my over-developed arse, and I can touch them and say “It’s ok. I accept you. It’s ok.” My relationship to food has changed; I think it may be more correct to say that my relationship to me has changed and, thus, my relationship to food has changed. I can slow down, now, enjoy myself as I eat my food. I can stop, when I recognize my stomach is getting full, and be content. I can finally, after nearly 37 years, not feel the urge to shove my fingers down my throat and purge myself of all the perceived “badness” I’ve felt I carried, all my life.

I can just be. If you have never experienced the joy of feeling grace for yourself, find someone who can work with you, help you, help you find your light to fill in your dark places. For the first time in my nearly 48 years, I am at peace with myself. I have no expectations of myself, except that I live. That I treat everyone I meet with kindness and compassion; if they don’t wish that, then I choose to have no truck with them. For the first time in my life, my life is my own, to choose what I do with.

For the first time in my life, I am finally able to spread my wings, look into the sunrise, and choose the direction I will move in. The heights I will fly to. The shadows I’ll make on the ground as I pass over; I can choose how light or heavy they’ll be. I can choose … well. I can choose anything.

Healing is amazing. It’s a lifelong journey, sometimes a struggle to attain; but it is also just the beginning. Now that I’m here, I’m even more excited to see what each day will bring to me.