66 days

It takes awhile for me to buy into things.  I hear them, I process them, I’m pretty sure I know better.  And usually, when all is said and done, there’s a 50/50 blend of old and new in my life.

I love when people tell me what works, what I must do.  Aaaand that’s sarcastic.

But a couple months ago our company brought in a consultant.  (Cue initial eye roll).  And I was surprised because the things I learned from him were fascinating, and stimulated my brain.  Little tidbits ~ things I’d never thought of before.  Perspective.

For example, did you know that multiple studies have been done and it takes 66 days for something to become a habit?  It takes 66 days of repeated actions for it to become embedded in your brain as natural.  Sixty-six days is no joke.

I mean that sincerely.  Because after the hubs and I got back from Italy (both an amazing and excruciating trip) I decided that I needed to make some changes.  And I needed to stick to them.  I’m really *really* good at trying new things — but I don’t always tough it out.  It’s been a four-year journey for me ~ going from someone who never thought about a thing she ate to a person who thinks about everything she eats.  And when she eats it.  And how much of it she eats.  A person who drinks green juice and green smoothies and organic raw kombucha.  But once I began tuning into my body, I couldn’t turn the awareness off.  So every day is a new beginning of choices, of decisions.  Of picking what works for me.  (And sidenote, those things have changed and evolved over time).

When I was diagnosed with MS, I decided that nothing was going to change.  But that was unrealistic.  Like new parents saying that having a child wouldn’t change them.  It does.  It’s inevitable.  Some of the changes are necessary.  And some happen without even acknowledging they happened. And some things you fight to keep the same.

But the flip side of the coin is that if you DO decide you want to make a change, you actually have to make the change.  You can’t talk about it and then make exceptions every other day.  You have to choose to change, and then stick with it.

That’s always been hard for me.  I’m an excellent complainer.

It started small.  All my ‘healthy’ eating turned out to be not that healthy after all.  And then I discovered, that the better you take care of your body & your insides, the more you feel it, and want to stick with it.  When you are eating crap and drinking all the time, you aren’t really in touch with how shitty you feel.  But when you start to gain perspective, everything begins to shift.  Drink water.  Get sleep.  Eat green veggies.  The result is feeling better, having more energy, and generally having less health issues.  Good stuff, right?

But the other thing that happened when I was diagnosed was that I went ahead and broke my foot.  And it threw my body into a tailspin.  And all the healthy things that I’d worked hard to include in my life (running, yoga, hiking, etc) became infinitely harder.  I had weakness in my legs, my feet both hurt and were numb all the time …. It was frustrating, depressing, and didn’t inspire much hope for movement.

I sporadically went to the gym and swam laps.  But that takes SO MUCH WORK.  And it was hard to get into a rhythm with it.  When we moved to our new house, I once again joined the gym. I have yet to go.  It’s a pretty big money suck.  And then, in October, John found out he needed surgery.  Big surgery.  And he decided to buy a stationary bike.

It sat in our spare room and then our basement, for probably six weeks.  It became what all home exercise equipment seems to become — a collector of dust.  As our Italy trip approached, I hopped on it once or twice (because clearly, that’s all that is necessary to lose weight and look like a super model).  And then we went to Italy.  And we did a lot of walking.  And I could actually do the walking.  Which was a crazy realization.  And I started to check my steps on my phone and become aware of how much exercise I was getting daily.

So even though my eating in Italy was terrible, and I paid for it, it also showed me that I was capable of more movement than I knew.  So we came home, and I decided (armed with the new knowledge about 66 days) that I would start riding the bike.

I didn’t ride it every day at the beginning.  I don’t ride it every day now.  But I ride it most days.  And I have built up my time and my resistance.  (My insanely competitive nature has come in handy!) The other thing I started was tracking my food intake.  The first couple weeks were more informational that anything — I logged what I ate.  I didn’t change much.  I didn’t care if I went over my calorie goal.  But then it started to niggle in my brain — if you want a burger, ride the bike.  You get 500 more calories!  If you want wine, ride the bike.  If you don’t want to ride the bike, eat zucchini spirals and drink water.

I have not hit 66 days yet.  I’m at 50 (I know this, because My Fitness Pal sends me notifications with exclamation points which means it’s a good thing!).  But just like green juice and green smoothies began to change my life four years ago, making exercise a priority — even for 50 days, after such a long break — has changed my life.

I know that sounds pretty intense.  But I have started to take better care of myself because I feel the difference. I’m actually watching what I’m eating, and I’m moving my body & muscles.  I’m getting a healthy sweat in nearly every day (which has done wonders for my stress levels, I have to say!).  It feels good to be focused, and to also see results.  Do I look like Christy Turlington?  No.  I am certain that will never happen.  But my body feels tighter, I am sleeping better, and I’ve lost a couple of pounds.  So my clothing fits better, my eyes are brighter and I don’t have such dark under-eye circles.

About two weeks in, I really thought I’d see something.  And I saw nothing.  I weighed MORE, I was tired all the time (this is nothing new — MS takes care of that on the regular). But I felt like I was hitting my head against a wall.  I took a day off here and there, and curled up on the couch, drank wine and ate sushi.  And then I got up the next day and tried again.  And the longer I pushed myself to ride the bike, hit the bag, the better I began to feel.

I am proud of myself for making the commitment to do this for 66 days.  Because even 50 in, I know I’ll stick with it. I am finally feeling the benefits and the difference in myself.  I’ve seen all the memes about life being short, and enjoying the cake.  I enjoy the cake.  But I also enjoy the kombucha, and the spiralized zucchini, and the green smoothies.  And those things make my whole body and my mind feel good, too.  So that’s a huge plus.

 

 

 

 

bad words

Honestly, I think using the word ‘diet’ is self-defeating.

I don’t know why it’s been on my mind recently, but it has, and I felt compelled to share my thoughts.  Dieting — thinking it, saying it, attempting to do it …. well, I think it’s self-flagellation.

I have never been a big fan — and I am not a small human being.  I am not the girl who could eat chicken wings and deep dish pizza and drink with the boys and wake up looking like I spent hours in the gym.  I have never looked like I spent hours in the gym, and I have never very seriously dieted.  I sort of feel as though life should be enjoyed as much as we can enjoy it — and eating good food and drinking good wine help boost the enjoyment.  Water and crunchy raw veggies do not.

Sort of.

Over two years ago I was diagnosed with the not-very-joyful autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis.  When you are first diagnosed with something that big the amount of information that seems to constantly steam-roll you (imagine sitting in the ocean and just getting pummeled in the face repeatedly with medium to aggressive-sized waves) never ends.  Looking back, I can see fairly clearly the stages of denial and acceptance I went through regarding it.  First — I’m not changing anything, I am going to just live a happy life and everything will be okay.  Second — I reject everything you are telling me (you with experience and years of trial and error and knowledge -pwaf).  Third — I hate everyone and no one can possibly understand how hard this is, how unfair this is.  Fourth — I’m tired.  I’m so tired, and I just want to give up.  I miss my life.  Fifth — This medicine … works?  Sixth — Modifying my diet…. works?  Seventh — I remember life like this … it’s a little different, but it’s familiar.  Eighth — What other little tweaks can I make to make life a little easier and a little more normal?  Ninth — Oh.  That’s what you were talking about.  Ah. Gotcha.  No, you were right. My bad.

So that’s how I’ve found myself — at the young age of thirty-five — knowing a lot more about nutrition than I ever wanted to know.  I mean, yes, I think it’s wildly trendy right now because we, as a society, have crested the top of the hill, and as we collectively gazed downward, realized that many of the wonderful advances we’d marveled at were actually doing untold damage to the environment and our insides and we should probably address that stat.

But nutrition is a minefield, and I say that with a completely straight face.  So-and-So over here says one thing, and has reams of evidence supporting it, and we all enthusiastically jump on the train because who could possibly refute all.that.evidence? 

Oh, well, since you asked, Mr. Blah Blah over here has stacks and stacks of control groups and study groups and spreadsheets of evidence showing that So-and-So’s premise is a bust.

Everyone, off the train.

It’s exhausting. Seriously.  I cannot keep up.  And I really really don’t want to.  It’s a lot of work, it’s expensive, and I’m not sure I can feel any sort of difference.  And when you have MS — you feel everything.  Trust me.

So two and a half years into my MS journey (sidenote: that’s a train I wish I could get off — sigh– but that’s another story) I have armed myself with knowledge, some hand-picked opinions, and my amazing husband (there isn’t anyone better).

And I’ve made the proactive choice that I will never attempt to diet ever again.  I mean it.  I wasn’t very good at it in the first place (and who really wants to pursue things they aren’t amazing at or at least love? Not this little duck, I can tell you).

Here are my thoughts about life, and eating and all that jazz.  And it’s not complicated — in fact, I think it’s pretty simple.  But I like talking/writing, so that is why you have been subjected to my ramblings pre-point.

Eat whole foods.  Listen to your body.  Don’t overindulge in anything.  Don’t restrict things.

It’s a little harder than it sounds in practice, because we all love a good cookie or milkshake, or that really insane coffee drink (which stopped being coffee after the first step). But I’ve found that even when I want to eat a block of cheese, soft bread and butter and a huge glass of red wine… I remember how it’s made me feel in the past.  And then all of a sudden, a little bit of the shine dims.

Think about the things you enjoy, think about the way you want to live.  You want to enjoy each day, be present, have energy.  Putting value into those things helps to curb the cravings for not-so-great behavior.  Everything sounds like a good idea at.the.time.   And sometimes, it’s important to follow those urges, ride the bull, do the shot.

But life is about moderation and more importantly, balance. I think sky diving might be super wild one day. I can’t wait to go to Milan in February. But I also like my couch, and a good book or movie.  I like keeping the balance of fun and exciting and comfortable.  I think that idea, that principal, can be applied to every decision in life.

And food should be no exception.  Make choices to eat well every day.  Eat until you feel full.  Eat slowly so you enjoy each taste, each bite.  But don’t diet.  Because it takes all the fun out.  All of a sudden that’s all you’re thinking about.  What you can’t have, what’s banned.  I think it’s better to focus on what you enjoy.  Focus on the fun of cooking.

Anyway.  That’s my rant on dieting. Happy Saturday and Labor Day weekend all!

 

 

 

 

being grown up

The amount of things I do on a daily basis in the name of health — well, it’s ridiculous.

I began thinking about it one morning, as I took my liquid vitamin D, put my other supplements in my bag, made my lunch, prepared my hot water with lemon and green smoothie for breakfast.  And that’s just part of the nutrition side.  I drink over 90 ounces of water a day (trust me, that’s a lot of bathroom breaks), I’m about 90% meat-free, sober about 98% of the time (wine, despite being wildly delicious and utterly fascinating, also enhances my leg spasms and other MS symptoms) and I don’t eat very much gluten.  I have to say that when all these changes were first presented I was completely overwhelmed by all of it.  I didn’t think I was unhealthy but there were a lot of adjustments that were suggested as better alternatives. (In the years since I began this journey, I have learned that many of those adjustments did indeed make life better.)

Outside of food (and all those components) I also use a dry brush (my trusty Yerba) in the mornings before I shower — to help circulation, the lymphatic system and keeping my skin healthy. I try to meditate every morning. I moisturize every day (this is THE most tedious part of my day — I just find it completely tiresome), I have a pretty strict face routine (tinted moisturizer for the day, a different moisturizer for sleeping, different face washes/masks for the morning and evening — and I count to 40 -slowly- while washing my face).  I also count to 40 while brushing my teeth, and I use a tongue scraper morning and night (one of my favorite things — i have to say, as gross as it is, the junk that builds up on your tongue is a pretty good indicator of how healthy your insides are).

And in addition to all these things (which can seem endless) I also, oh, y’know, work and live my life.

It’s insane to think that when I was young I didn’t think about any of these things.  I didn’t worry about my intestines or my colon, I didn’t read my tongue’s debris like gypsies read tea leaves, I didn’t think about what I was eating at.all.  And let’s be honest — I’m not that old.  In fact, I don’t think of myself as old at all.  Thirty-five is just the right age.

I do attribute the life changes to both getting older and being more self-aware as well as MS.  And it’s crazy because the more you learn about things and decide what you agree with and what you think is just absurd (and trust me, there are things that seem completely insane in the world of nutrition and health), the more changes you make.  Almost unnoticeably.

To be completely honest (which should be a given, since this is a blog by me, about, well, me) I am proud of myself and how far I’ve come.  As John and I gear up to buy our house and move away from our first (and to this point, only) home together, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on where we began and how far we’ve come.  We started out as two kids who didn’t have two nickels to rub together, eating incredibly unhealthy dinners (as we learned to feed ourselves outside of the restaurant industry) and dreaming of ‘one day.’

Well, now, six years, a dog, a wedding, several jobs & several cars later, we’ve arrived at ‘one day.’  We took some detours along the way (no one plans for a chronic disease, right?) but we got here, and it feels kinda great.  It also reminds me that I have grown up — even if I still feel like I’m 17.  (There are things that a teenager just can’t — and maybe shouldn’t — understand.)  I think life, aging and all the things in between are fascinating.  I like analyzing it and dissecting it in my head, in my thoughts.  Understanding how I’ve gotten where I am and what I’ve learned along the way.

It’s kinda cool.  Even if it takes up a lot of time.  :)

 

acknowledgements

I often feel that my brain is full of things to share, but my body is too exhausted to make the effort.  I like to chalk this up to MS, and not inherent laziness.

Life is ever-changing, amorphous.  It gently pushes you down different paths merely because of circumstance.  And choice.  Of course.  We make the choices, even if we don’t realize it.

When I was diagnosed with MS, I felt relieved.  That’s the truth.  I knew something was wrong and the not knowing was a dark rabbit hole of fear.  Knowing — while shattering — made things so much more clear.  And I was able to choose what kind of MS patient I wanted to be.  I didn’t want it to define me – despite the fact that it does define nearly every moment of my day.  I recently read a blog post by a Lupus sufferer called “The Spoon Theory” and it certainly helped to define the immense ways that a chronic condition infiltrates your life.  But … that being said, or rather, that being acknowledged, having a chronic condition remains only one part of who I am.  And remembering that, holding onto that, is more important than anything.

This year, the man and I decided to go big for Lent.  We gave up drinking (something we do often, and I fail miserably at) and eating meat.  We successfully made it through forty-six days without alcohol or meat of any kind (meaning red meat, chicken, pork, etc).  We did eat fish, but surprisingly not as much as I anticipated — although we did enjoy sushi as per usual! And what I found — much to my chagrin — was that I felt a lot better.  Some issues that I had just accepted as part of my new normal subsided.  And I began to feel good about treating my body so well.

That’s the thing.  

When one of my friends had a child, she and her husband said they weren’t going to change — they were going to continue to live their life exactly as they wanted to, they were just going to do it with a child.  But inevitably things changed because that’s the nature of life, of evolution.  When I was diagnosed with MS I made the same declaration — I wasn’t going to give up things i loved, I was going to live life exactly as I had been living it.

But that’s impossible.

And as I ease into my reality (something that has definitely taken time and soul-searching) I have found that certain changes are inevitable.  And some are necessary.  I miss running.  I miss it, and I mourn it but I’m tired of feeling sorry for myself because of the loss of it.  It’s taken me nearly two years to get to that point — two long, hard, discouraging years.  And in those years, I’ve begrudgingly made small changes.  For the most part, to get through each day in an easier fashion.  I initially didn’t understand people who drastically overhauled their lives — how did they just make a choice to change everything about who they were as people?  I could do the green smoothies, the vitamin D — but I drew a pretty permanent line there.  Going back and slowly redefining that line has been both character building and humbling.

So will I miss eating meat?  Yes.  I love a good steak, a juicy burger.  But will I miss how it made me feel afterwards?  Not just initially, but for the few days it takes my body to digest meat?  Not really.

And I guess I have to admit the same for alcohol.  And until I figure out how to enjoy things in tiny moderation, those are the choices I have to make.  Just as parents cannot un-have a child (nor would they ever want to!) I cannot un-have MS.   But life can still be beautiful for me — beautiful and full of adventures and good food and lemon-flavored sparkling water.  And I’m finally getting to be okay with that.

new adventures

I love new cookbooks.  They are so inspiring.  Cooking can be fun but so often — in the craziness of life — it becomes more of a chore.  New cookbooks take the tediousness out of it, even if only for a minute.

I mean, seriously, it is completely unappealing to come home after a long day, a long commute, and have to put together a meal.  I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy it sometimes.  John will put on some nice music and we’ll spend the evening putting a meal together and talking about life and it’s really good.  But it’s hard to do that every night.

Anyway, I had a moment while the man was away on business when I felt completely inspired to purchase new cookbooks that follow the paleo diet trend.  I also — in my infinite wisdom and enthusiasm — bought the PBS mini-series Anne of Green Gables and a PSU sweatshirt that reads “I graduated from Penn State so you can assume that I’m always right” — or something along those lines that I thought was funny when I bought it.

My cookbooks arrived today and I greedily paged through them before John got home — salivating at photos of food I would never normally crave.  Food photography is an incredible art.  I salute it.

And now that we have all these new recipes that are gluten-free and sugar-free and dairy-free and all kinds of other things free it is almost -almost- inspiring enough to be excited about modifying our diets.

The thing is — I don’t really like doing things because I’m supposed to.  I get very ornery and stubborn.  And being told by many (I mean many) people that I need to use diet to help with my MS makes me want to do nothing in regards to my diet.  But …. and this is painful to admit … when I’m strict and good about what I’m eating and drinking, I do actually feel better.

So here John and I are, at the beginning of another food journey, another walk down an unknown path in hopes that there is abundance just around the corner. And I’m feeling pretty good about it — but that’s because the pictures in these books are so pretty.  Hopefully everything tastes as good as it looks.

floating in fatigue

Fatigue is a funny thing.  Sometimes it feels like you’re walking through water — sounds are muffled, your head doesn’t seem to work properly — everything feels slow and blurry around the edges.  Other times it feels like you’ve had too many glasses of wine — loose, and happy and slightly off-balance.

I’ve become intimately familiar with fatigue over the past few years.  I’d always struggled with feeling tired — something that is a strong symptom of MS, so it isn’t surprising, really.  But the fatigue that comes with MS is so utterly all-consuming, it’s almost funny.  And it comes in all shapes and sizes.  I’ve gotten very used to feeling tired all the time, for everything.  It’s all about pushing through — not allowing anything to manipulate your life so much it becomes it’s ruler.

Today the fatigue is so overwhelming I feel as though my brain is short circuiting.  As though I am unable to focus on anything for more than a few moments.  Everything feels foggy, and very difficult.  Small things become huge efforts.

It sucks.

I’ve definitely found the beginning of 2015 to be a challenge.  Maybe I just wasn’t quite ready to hit the ground running — maybe I needed a little bit of a respite before going full steam.  I’m not totally sure.  I just know that I feel stretched to the ends of my finger tips, the limits of my capabilities, the outskirts of my strength.

Tomorrow I get to go in and fill my veins with the poison of my drug infusion.  I’d love to be indignant about turning to medicine as my savior (“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” comes to mind).  But I’d be lying if I said anything other than I’m counting the minutes.  Two years ago I was diagnosed with the knowledge of my disease and since then, it’s been a spiraling rabbit hole of symptoms and flares and relapses and ineffective treatment.  To finally have found a glimmer of hope means that I’ve clung to it, focused on it, put all of my eggs (and everyone else’s) in one basket.  And today I’m less than twenty-four hours away, and it’s almost as if my body is giving out in anticipation.

So, that’s me today.  it’s the only thing I am aware of, the only thing I can seem to get my head around.  Nothing else is linear, my thoughts are amorphous clouds ebbing and flowing in my mind.

It’s been a long day.  And there’s still a long way to go.

introspection

Sometimes, I look at photos of myself on social media, and I’m a little amazed.  That might sound obnoxious — just gimme a minute.

I look normal.

I mean, my life, the photos, what I’m doing — it all looks normal.

And in a lot of ways, it is.  But ….  In some ways, it’s not.

It’s such a weird balance — and I’m not very good at it.  When am I just me –when do I have MS?  When should that be the most important thing … when should it be NOT important at all?

I mean, in general, I tend to believe it shouldn’t be important at all.  And then I have a day like today, when my hands puff up like … well, like puff pastry.  And I wonder if I didn’t have MS, would my hands be swollen?  Would they feel different? Am I making it all up in my head because I’m a hypochondriac?

It’s stressful.

I already overthought things — you know, before the MS.  And I already worried deeply — clearly, also pre- multiple sclerosis.  So then when you throw something in the mix as … serious? intense? incurable? … as MS, clearly, things aren’t going to get better.  Maintain the status quo?  Win.  But that possibility?  Very slim.

I  was looking at a photo from a  PSU game a few weeks ago — I’m smiling and posing — looking like every year I’ve ever tailgated in my life.  But looking at the photo, I knew that my legs were bad that day — I had Lydia with me every step of the way.  I remembered being frustrated in the stands, my vision so dark I could barely make out details.

And while of course the things I deal with are frustrating to me — how could they not be? — it also makes me consider the sadness of so many people, dealing with things that far outweigh the challenges I hurdle on a daily basis.

Life presents us with challenges.  We’d all love to believe that we care deeply about the trials and tribulations of others — we’re so evolved and aware.  And on some level, we are.  But on another level, it’s very easy to say things, to make gestures and promise fairy tales.  And then head home to our warm beds and our worry free life.  ”I’m so sad for such and such a situation” but at the same time, pour a glass of scotch and watch TV shows recorded on our DVR.

It’s a challenging thing to authentically reconcile.

I guess I’m not really getting at much.  Except that maybe photos — like appearances — can be deceiving.  Behind every smile — underneath every smirk and wink — there’s the underbelly of life, the truth of every day existence.  We can all pretend to be whatever we want to be on Facebook or Instagram.  And maybe that’s a good thing — who knows.  But everyone’s existence is colored by their own and others’ opinions.  Such is life.  Nothing — seriously, nothing — is as pretty and pure as a photo.

But sometimes it’s nice to pretend it is.

OHI moments

So, it’s been a few weeks since I finished my week-long stay at OHI Austin.

And despite my original desire to revert completely back to all my old habits and beliefs — that stuff gets into your head!

Okay, so I wasn’t completely set on forgetting all that I’d learned.  But throughout the week I was there, it was such a roller coaster of emotion and informational input — that by the end my brain was fried and I found deep comfort in the idea that life could and would go on just as I’d been living it before checking in to room 207.

Let’s rewind for a minute.

A few months ago, my boss spent a week at a place called Optimum Health Institute (OHI) in San Diego, California.  He came back refreshed and inspired — albeit with clear opinions about certain aspects of the program — and he felt very strongly that I should look into spending some time there myself.  I googled it.  I was intrigued but in a distant sort of way — oh, it looks good for those who have money to burn, bur for someone like myself, where every penny counts?  More like a faraway dream.

And then circumstances unfolded — the man and I booked a trip to Austin Texas to visit my brother in his newly purchased home in his newly inhabited city — and all of a sudden, I was booked for a week at OHI’s Austin campus.  And before I knew it, Sunday Oct 19th rolled around and it was 4pm, and my husband and brother were waving goodbye, and I was there.  Alone.

OHI was so much more than I anticipated.  Yes, I’d googled it, and yes, I’d skimmed through some menus, and read some bold print — but I didn’t really know what I was getting into.  Over the course of five and half full days, I learned an absurd amount about my digestive system, organs in my body, the nutritional value of food and the power of the mind.  And I made some incredible friends.

The campus was beautiful and the room (where I spent a lot of time … juicing and raw vegan food wears a person out!) was very comfy.  On Sunday night we had a small orientation, but it was an early night, and I (being the anti-social monkey that I can be) retreated to my room and spent a chunk of time in tears, wondering what I’d signed myself up for, before falling into an uneasy sleep.

On Monday morning we were walked through the program.  I recognized in the other first timers some of the same trepidation and unease that I felt within myself.  Do what?  Seriously?  These people have to be out of their minds.  

I had a tough time with some of it — buying into their philosophies, their love of wheatgrass (and its ultra superhuman healing powers …), their thoughts on food, colonics/enemas, etc.  It was so much information, and a total change of thought process — so much new stuff all at once, and so intense.  I went through waves of acceptance and then vehement denial.  I knew that I had someone at the touch of a phone to be support — but sometimes I wasn’t looking for support of the program.  Sometimes I was looking for support of the exact opposite — that living my life, eating decadent restaurant food and drinking sumptuous heady wines was okay.  It wouldn’t kill me.  And after a couple of days at OHI, I was pretty sure that their whole message was that if I followed their plan, and gave up some much of what I loved, I would somehow be healed of my worst MS symptoms.  And I had a problem with that, too.

But here I am, several weeks later, and so much of what I learned is still lingering in the forefront of my mind.  Could I eat terrible food?  Sure.  But unfortunately, now I am armed with so much knowledge, it makes it hard to do that to myself.

Ignorance really is bliss.

I’m not ready to jump on a raw vegan bandwagon — too many things come to mind that I just could.not give up — at least, not all at once, cold turkey.

But I also felt that way two years ago, when my boss’s wife gave me all sorts of guidance about food, and I realized that as healthy as I thought I was being, I really had.no.idea.  And since then, green smoothies and green juice, and eating a vegetable-based diet have become (mostly) our norm.

So despite all my skepticism, here I am, finally buying into the fact that some of that OHI mumbo jumbo was actually excellent information and I should apply it.  Just not all at once.  That’s just — well, insane.

lydia

Yesterday, despite all my internal struggles, I bought my first walking stick. (I can’t call it a cane — not yet).

And I named her Lydia.

I don’t know why.  It just sort of came to me as I climbed into the passenger seat of the man’s truck.  As though she was introducing herself to me.

And today, for the first time, I had a little help walking to work.  And it felt nice.  Weird, and surreal, but nice.  Because for the first time in a long time, I wasn’t filled with intense anxiety about losing my balance, or being able to get somewhere.

My co-worker also paid me the best compliment by telling me that Lydia is very nice, modern and sleek.  That helps.

I have good days — good weeks even, and then I have bad ones.  Stretches of days when my body seems to constantly fail me and things I had faith in crumble beneath my touch like grains of sand.  Having a disease like MS can be tricky — one moment you think things are on the upswing, you’ve figured it out, life is evening back out.  And the next moment — well, it all turns to dust.

I’m starting to understand it a little better – the signs that my body is once again in the grips of a flare.  And I suppose that’s a good thing — I suppose.  Each one is a little different from that last, and each one leaves traces of its most intense moments.  Remembrances for when the worst of it has passed.

Each time, a little more of my freedom of movement is erased.  Even if it seems minute, I know it’s happened.  And I’m still trying to figure out how not to be defeated by that.  So many people have words of advice, thoughts and encouragement.  And they are all well-intentioned and meaningful.

But it can be hard to accept when no one really knows what it feels like to be unable to walk from the bedroom to the kitchen without help.   How it feels to be unsure of your feet and your balance and the security and strength in your knees.  When your brain is so fogged and the fatigue is so intense huge chunks of memories slip away.  When fear runs like an undercurrent through life, bubbling and burbling like an underground river — ebbing and flowing with the fear of falling, the fear of slipping, the fear of forgetting, the fear of losing… your job, your husband, your independence.

It can get dark during the worst of times.

But there are also moments of light — a shining pinpoint in a canvas of black.  An upcoming trip, a long weekend — a soy chai latte from Starbucks.  A strawberry rhubarb crumble.  Sweet corn on the cob.  A good book.  A snuggle with Lucy.  Evita on Pandora.

Oh, and it’s the very beginning of football season.  Have I mentioned that? ;)

the grand canyon

A few moments ago, the man and I sat on our couch, gently speaking to Lucy and petting her, as the lights flickered and finally went out and the storm outside raged.  The lightning flashed and the thunder cracked and the sound of the rain against the windows pattered rhythmically.  Our little girl was shaking like a leaf, eyes wide and head darting to and fro as the lightning intermittently filled the room.

Our power is back now, and the sky is a sherbet shade of orange through the trees.  Lucy has settled herself in, no longer shaking in complete terror.

Something my yoga teacher said today during mediation really struck a chord, and the storm this evening sort of – in an unrelated, yet somewhat related way – reinforced it.  Marissa read a quote from her teacher’s teacher (and I won’t insult anyone by attempting to remember his name because I would inevitably get it wrong) which distilled the idea of struggle.  People want life to be happy and full of sunshine and light.  But what actually defines us, defines our character, are the struggles we all face and how we choose to deal with them and work through them.

I’d heard this before.  But it never had as much relevance to me as it did today.

Each of us faces challenges throughout life.  And none of us can definitely say that my battle is more difficult, or more debilitating or more defining that someone else’s challenge.  Social media can tell me in one day that a friend from college has a premie baby, a friend from high school as a teething child and hasn’t slept in weeks, another friend’s one-year-old son is staying in the hospital overnight with a staph infection.  An old co-worker’s husband left.   None of those things are comparable.  We all wake up to our own burdens every day.  Like the old saying goes, if everyone threw their problems onto a huge pile, more than inevitably, you’d choose to pick up your own compared to someone else’s.

The first thought I had when Marissa was speaking was that the perseverance that one has through a struggle is sort of like the perseverance of the water that -over millennia- formed the Grand Canyon.  And that perseverance made one of the most beautiful natural wonders of the world.

I guess it’s all about perspective, y’know?

Time changes everything.

There are a lot of clichés but I’ll refrain from listing them all.  At the heart of most clichés is a nugget of truth; possibly even wisdom.

In the end, we all get to choose how to handle our life’s journey and how we choose to tackle each obstacle in our path.  Those choices speak to who we are more than so many other things.  So each day, when faced with something unexpected or difficult, I hope that the choices I make reinforce the type of person I hope to be.