January 9, 2017

Sometimes you need to compromise in life.

A very wise woman once told me that it’s totally acceptable to take a day and just recharge. Sometimes our bodies and minds need a break. Life can get pretty crazy and if you don’t take some downtime your health an suffer. Thank you JoAnn.

This is contrary to how I was raised. I was taught, through observation mostly, that an idle day was a wasted day. The only reason to be at home and not accomplishing something was illness. And it better be a serious illness. The kind that keeps you in bed. Thanks Dad.

So today I compromised.

Dad, you would be proud of what I achieved this morning.

Jo Ann, you would applaud my slothness this afternoon.

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A Different Approach – “Tales of the Momside”

Roche Trail

It was the fourth time that night that she had woken up.  Sweating and burning like a furnace had just been switched on inside her.  She threw the covers off and waited until it was over.  Waited until she could feel the chill creep back into her.  Once it did, she pulled the covers back over her and tried to get back to sleep. God damn hot flushes.  One good nights sleep.  Was that too much to ask for?  Of course, the second glass of wine she had at dinner last night wasn’t helping.

A few hours later, standing in the cold at the trail head, she hoped her bad nights sleep wouldn’t affect her run.  She could just get back into the truck and text her friend and running partner a lame excuse.

I feel sick.

The school called.

The cat is sick.

Really? The cat is sick?  That is the lamest excuse ever for not going for a run.  Too late.  Her friend pulled her truck into the spot beside hers and jumped out.

“Ready?.”

As ready as she could be to run up the side of a mountain.

They chatted for the first ten minutes or so but then the trail got steep and breathing became the priority.  One day, she hoped, this would get easier.

At some point the trail leveled off a bit and their conversation started up again.  As it did on most days, the topic turned to seven-year old girls and schools yard disagreements.  Raising spirited girls was a tough job and they both needed all the help they could get.

“Why are girls so mean?”  I asked.

“I don’t know if they’re mean or if they just don’t understand how their words can hurt people?”  Her friend countered.

She told her how she had taken her daughter her lunch yesterday and seen her daughter’s friend Katy crying on the playground.

“I asked her what was wrong and she told me that Liv and Gail had told her she couldn’t play with them.”

Her friend smirked because she had heard this all many times.

“I know right.  So this is how my conversation with her went.”

“What?”

“Why can’t Katy play with you ?”

“It’s not my fault?”

“I didn’t say it was your fault I just asked why she can’t play with you and Gail?”

“We want to make fairy houses and she didn’t want to.”

“Yes I do”. Katy adds wiping her drippy nose.

She had told her daughter that a good friend needs to remember two things.  Be kind and treat your friends like you would want them to treat you.

“How would you feel if Katy and Gail said that you couldn’t play with them?”

“Bad.”

Her friend nodded in agreement and sympathy.

“But you know what?  I bet you anything you have the same conversation next week too.” She said.

“Ya, I know.  But I had to try.”

It’s a conversation they have had many times.  Different names.  Different scenarios.  But the same general idea.  All of this seemed much easier eleven years ago when she had been raising a boy.

Just as she thought her legs might give out the trail dipped briefly.  But then they rounded a corner and faced another uphill stretch.  No wonder they called this trail Old Buck.

“Is Don away this week?”

“Yup. And next week too.  James?”

“Leaving tomorrow until Friday.”

Another shared challenge in their lives.  Husbands who travelled for work.  They joked about finally getting the bed to themselves again when they went away but the reality was that they couldn’t wait for the days when they came home.  Having another adult in the house evened up the numbers.

“Ugh thank god.”

They had reached the top of the climb.  She pulled up and let out a huge breath as they approached the junction for the next trail.

Now came her favorite part. Running down.  If her friend had an advantage on the uphill, this was her time to lead.  Maybe it was her low centre of gravity.  She could fly down the trail with a huge smile on her face.  It made the slog up the hill almost worth it.

Sometimes the mountain trails are like life.  The familiar ones are often easy to navigate and even welcoming.  The unknown ones can be difficult and may even seem intimidating.

“So what’s up for the rest of the day?”

“Hot lunch volunteering.  Liv’s got dance after school.  Hey can you email me the recipe for that apple salad dressing?”

The rest of the run was spent alternating between quiet periods punctuated with laboured breathing on the uphills and catching their breath on the downhills. All the time catching up on neighborhood gossip and laughing at parenting fails.

An hour and a half later they were back at the parking lot and both admitted to feeling better.  Both women knew the power of not only a good workout but the power of good company.  The past couple of years had been stressful for both of them and they had come to rely on physical exertion to solve the problems of the world.  Okay, maybe not the whole world, but their world for sure.

To be continued.

snowy trail

Sugar Free

no sugarIf at any time during this post something doesn’t quite make sense, I will be blaming it on my current state of deprivation. You see, I am trying to rid my body of some nasty stuff, so I am on a sugar free diet. No, that does not mean that I can have all the sugar free soda and sugar free gum I want. It means I can eat protein, vegetables, seeds and some nuts. Yup, that’s it. No, I’m not kidding. Basically nothing that has sugar in it or that my body would convert to sugar. No sugar, no wheat, no dairy, no wine. WHAT? No wine. I am so screwed. I can eat rice though? No? WTF?

I am not doing this by choice. Well, that’s not entirely true. I could choose to not do it and continue to feel horrible and have weird arbitrary symptoms pop up every few weeks, but is that really an option? So, I have decide to heed the advice of my naturopath and change my ways. A few years ago I would have laughed at you if you said I should see a naturopath. My godmothers husband was a naturopath of sorts. He would wave a crystal attached to a string over people’s nail clippings and tell them what was wrong with them. So my perception of the field was a bit skeptical. I have, however, discovered that there are certain areas of health and well being that are better served by a different approach.

A couple of years ago I was feeling really run down. I wasn’t sleeping well, I felt nauseated in the mornings (nope, not that) I was anxious, not really sick but always just on the brink, chronic cold sores and my running ability was seriously going to the dogs. I went to my regular doctor and he said I should start on anti-depressants. “But, I’m not depressed”. I said. ” I know, but it might help anyway”. Really? How could it help? I’d feel like crap but I’d be happy? I left hos office feeling really disappointed in a man who I had trusted with the health of my family for years. I’ve since realized that there are some things that he is great for and some things that he is not. Conventional medicine is pretty black or white. You are sick or you aren’t. You have this or you have that. Not a lot of room for anything else.

So over the past couple of years I have explored some alternative ways of dealing with my overall health. This time around I have discovered that I can most likely deal with my current symptoms with changing my diet. I will admit that I have been hard on my body. I don’t have a high pressure job, but my husband travels a lot and I have had to hold down the fort (with kids in it) after a day of work on many occasions and weekends. I’m not a hard partier, but I like my wine. I’m not a marathon runner, but I do push myself physically. Running is my stress relief but I now know that running itself puts stress on your body. I’m not a junk food person but there have been times (I’m not proud of them) when I have been known to eat Nutella by the spoonful. There is said it. If you add all this up and on top of it put about eighteen months of a truly stressful time in my recent life, you could see how my body could be saying “Enough, I am done.” And that is what it has done.

Now, how to reverse the damage? Cut out all sugar from my diet for a minimum of one month. Just as a note to anyone doing this. Do NOT watch the Food Network. It will make you crazy. Take probiotics every day to restore the good things that should be in my body. Take it easy. That one is easier said than done for me. I have a run coming up in four weeks that will involve me running three legs of two hundred mile relay. I at least need to be able to do that.

So here I sit munching on buckwheat crackers trying not to think about cupcakes and sushi and anything with cheese in it and resisting the urge to lace up my runners. I have learned to embrace coconut flour, coconut oil and coconut milk as alternatives to many things. My trip to Whole Foods yesterday involved a good deal of time wandering the aisles searching for suitable foods. I have to say, they do make it fairly easy to find good, albeit pricey, products. Did you know that some people eat like this all the time. By choice. At the end of the day The Best Thing in Life is my health so I guess that I am now one of those people living this way by choice.

Happy?

happy face

What makes you happy? It’s different for everyone I suppose. The easy response would be, perhaps, a sunny day, a warm hug, an unexpected windfall, a great glass of wine. It’s a pretty loaded question really. It could be something life encompassing or it could be something tiny and seemingly insignificant. This morning listening to the Eagles Live album really loudly in the car made me happy. Sleep, chocolate, a new pair of shoes.  Those things seem so fleeting though. What sustains happiness, long term?

Over the years I have discovered that my happiness is very closely tied to my physical well being. If I feel good physically I am happy. If I’m tired, have an upset stomach or haven’t worked out in a few days, I can feel myself slipping into an unhappy place. I think this is true for most people and really it’s just simple biology. The act of getting your heart pumping and the endorphins flowing, puts a smile on most people’s faces. So why can’t we just spend our days out running or hiking on the trails? There. Problem solved. Happiness all around.

Then there is the saying money can’t buy you happiness. No, it can’t. But it can alleviate the anxiety and stress that go with a mountain of debt. I’m not ashamed to say that I am happier now than I was a few years ago when we were struggling to make ends meet. We don’t have any more “things” than we did then, but we argue less and worry less and in turn, are, I believe, happier. Do I envy people who have more than I do and think that having all that would make me happy. You bet. I know it’s materialistic and there are many people who have nothing and are extremely happy. I’m just not one of them.

When I reached out to friends to see what makes them happy, without a doubt, the most common answer was friends and family. Kids laughing, connecting with friends, time with spouses are all major happiness factors.  In no particular order here are a few examples of the responses I got.  They really are some of The Best Things in Life.  Sunshine, nature, wine, travel, napping, sex, cold beer on a hot day, love, chocolate, exercise. Of course one of my friends turned if around on me and asked me what made me happy. On that day? Seeing my inbox full of happy emails. Learning more about my friends and their joys in life.

An old friend commented that she was happiest when she knows that her interests and ideas are being supported by those closest to her. But then in the next breath she wonders if it’s right to leave her happiness in the hands of others. “I shouldn’t rely on others to make me happy”. This is something I struggle with as well. I have tried not to be a “gold star junkie” as Gretchen Rubin terms it in The Happiness Project. When you rely on others to pat you on the back or give you a gold star for your achievements you are, in essence, keeping score, and rarely come out on top. Am I successful in this? Let’s just say I’m working on it.

100 Happy Days is an on line project that has been around for a while. I was hiking with a friend a few weeks ago who was on day 56. The premise is that you email an image to their website every day for 100 days that symbolizes happiness to you. I would imagine that by the time you reach 100 days it would have become a habit for you to find something each day, no matter how small or insignificant, that makes you happy. A bit like a gratification post. I think that I’m going to try the 100 Happy Days project. It may be a good reminder to me of how many great things I encounter each day that make me smile. I also find that “having a clear vision and taking steps towards it every day” makes me happy as well.

Can you be happy all the time? I don’t think you can and I think that’s totally okay. Of course it’s not okay to be unhappy all the time either. The key is to find the right balance for you. The right mix or percentage of happiness . Over thinking things makes me happy too. It’s an odd thing, actually, to stop and really think about whether you are happy or not. People have made billions in the self help industry telling us what we need to do to be happy. Why do we need to read a book about it? Shouldn’t we just BE happy? Can it be that simple?

So at the end of the day did I find my answer? No. But I did start thinking more about my happiness and the happiness of others and that in itself is good.   One of the surprising emails I received was from a friend I hope to meet with very soon to talk about her passions. I totally expected her to say decorating cakes and being on my bike with my dog. What did I get instead? A great quote to close my post .

“I am happiest when I am continually striving for my potential in life.”