Beets: Blood Pressure Tonic … and an Aphrodisiac

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My second husband went to see a Naturopath at one point in his journey, and the naturopath told him to eat beets. He came home and told me that, and I had no idea what to do with a beet. I remembered eating those canned pickled beets as a kid, and I knew I wasn’t interested in eating that. He said she told him to boil them, slice them and toss them with olive oil, tarragon, sea salt, cracked pepper and balsamic vinegar. So I went out and bought beets and prepared them. I was surprised at how much I liked them. It became a staple salad in our household, and I still make it all the time.

Beets have lots of health benefits. Anything in nature with that deep purple color has got to be loaded with all kinds of vitamins. A quick search on the internet says that beets help prevent heart disease, birth defects and colon cancer.I know that beets provide a lot of energy. Runners everywhere are starting to drink beet “shots” before running for an energy boost. They also lower blood pressure, and I’ve read that some people have lowered their blood pressure by drinking a small glass of beet juice everyday. I love the taste of it in a juice. Remember that beets are the source of much of the table sugar in this country, so they are sweet. I roast them in the oven with olive and salt and pepper, and their sugars caramelize. They melt in your mouth they are so sweet. I get addicted to them when I cook them that way. My sister-in-law said she made a brownie recipe with beets this week. She didn’t like them, but the rest of her clan said they did.

My favorite beet salad
My favorite beet salad

An interesting fact about beets is that ancient cultures considered beets an aphrodisiac. One article I found called beets the Viagra of vegetables. The attached newsletter from Hallelujah Acres Health News says that an old abandoned brothel had a beet painted on the wall. Beets contain boron which is responsible for increasing the level of sex hormones in men and women. We all know testosterone is the key hormone for men’s sexual potency, and, as men age their testosterone levels drop. The answer? Eat more beets! Research shows that boron can increase levels by up to 50%. For women, beets help us metabolize and use estrogen which we all know decreases as we age. Estrogen is what keeps us from having all of those nasty menopause symptoms that can lower sex drive or desire. And, better estrogen use means less bone loss, too. Since beets lower blood pressure, I wonder if that may be one of the reasons beets are good for the sex life, especially for men. Isn’t high blood pressure a problem for men in sexual performance? Or is that just the medicines that work on it? I would think it would work the same for women. Virility is all about great blood flow. Whatever the reason, beets are a great natural food that seems to help us stay active in the bedroom!

I love to make a juice of beets and carrots. The first time I drank beet juice, I was a skeptic about juicing in general. It seemed like some kind of fad, and I wasn’t interested in spending all of that money doing it. But, I tried some beet and carrot juice, and my energy level went up exponentially and stayed that way all day. They also help with depression. I love them roasted with other root vegetables, and I love that balsamic vinegar and olive oil salad. I keep that cold in the refrigerator and snack on it whenever I want something sweet. I’m not a big fan of salads, but I do like that one. I also like them boiled with salt and pepper as a side dish. I’ve never tried Borscht, but I’ve always wanted to. It’s so pretty with that deep purple color.

Tomorrow I’m headed to the Farmer’s Market again. Last week, I got a big basket of the prettiest little beets you ever saw. I boiled them and sliced some to put in a salad today and used the rest for my usual refrigerator stash. They are easy to prepare. I boil them with the skin on. When they cool, the skin and tops just peel right off. You can also eat beet greens, and they are really healthy, too. But, I have to confess I rarely eat those. I prefer other greens like kale. I think I’ll get some more beets tomorrow for juicing. It might be a good time to boost my energy since I’ve cut out the coffee. I’m running the Crescent City Classic next weekend, so I might have to try out that sports “shot” idea. And, with all that beet juice flowing through my veins, who knows what kind of trouble I can get into? 🙂

If you are interested in trying beets, here are some recipes.

 

The Hammer … the Irresistable Kiss …. of Caffeine

 

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So, it’s been 3 weeks since my last taste of coffee. It actually may have been 4. I’m losing count mainly because my mind gets all loosey goosey without the polarizing power of my favorite drug. I had already been minimizing my coffee intake due to its effect on my anxiety levels. I know that sugar and caffeine are horrible for anxiety, and I LOVE them both. But, 3-4 weeks ago on a Sunday night, I had enough. I woke up in the middle of the night in horrible anxiety, and I couldn’t go back to sleep. I actually took the day off Monday it was so bad. I vowed to stop doing this to myself. So, I cut out coffee, sugar and started a daily yoga practice complete with deep breathing.

I’ve had a great stretch of anxiety-free days. They’ve been mellower than normal days – days that float by without the ups and downs of the coffee trip. I struggle with wanting to “ramp up” my energy. I was raised on coffee. I drank coffee before the rest of my siblings ever started it, and my sister still doesn’t drink it. I loved the ritual, and I loved the way it picked up my energy and focus. I loved the hit of coffee as it slammed into my central nervous system, especially the first time in the mornings. For a long time, coffee was definitely my drug of choice. I can’t even imagine how much coffee I’ve consumed in my life. I was a supervisor at a Starbucks in Valparaiso IN for a short stint. We drank coffee, frappucinos and lattes all day long and into the night. It was free while you were on shift, and we experimented with all of kinds of mixtures and recipes. Even then, I could go home and go straight to sleep. In fact, sometimes coffee would put me to sleep. I’d drink a cup and get very, very sleepy. It seemed it had loss its effect on me. My email was coffeefreak@hotmail.com. I loved … loved … loved … the flavor … the intensity … the richness … the boldness … the beautiful sultry kiss … of those dark-roasted coffee beans.

Toward the end of my second marriage, I started going through peri-menopause, and my stress level sky-rocketed due to my troubled marriage. I began to struggle with tolerating caffeine. My anxiety was so high that I had to start paying attention to ALL of the factors that were amplifying it. I also think my body quit processing caffeine the way it did before. My acupuncturist tells me that because coffee is so processed, it hits the nervous system with a hammer. Tea has a softer lift because it is minimally processed. Maybe we are born with a certain number of cups of coffee allotted to us, and I had reached that number. Maybe my adrenal glands had reached their limit, and they couldn’t tolerate the hammer the way they used to. I don’t know the reason. I just know that I’ve had a love-hate relationship with coffee ever since then.

So, the last few weeks, I’ve been drinking chai tea. I’ve sipped on green tea. I’ve gotten re-acquainted with my favorite coffee substitute, Teeccino. The tea gently lifts my energy in the mornings. I haven’t needed the hit of coffee so much since I’ve been practicing yoga first thing. The stretching, twisting, opening of my body and deep breaths of new oxygen lift my energy naturally. So, the tea has been enough to wake me up for work. I’ve become very cognizant of my natural energy level. It’s not nearly as high as I would like it to be, but it is steady. I’m sleeping much better, and I’ve had NO anxiety except for a tiny bit yesterday morning after eating a brownie the day before. I don’t know if they were related, but, with the knowledge that I have about sugar, I’m sure it was the culprit. Luckily, it was mild enough that my yogic breathing stopped it in its tracks. And, I haven’t had a desire for coffee. That last incident with the anxiety scared me. I don’t want to live like that anymore.

This morning I thought I might try to go without caffeine. Yesterday, I only drank it in the morning, and I slept so good last night. In fact, I fell asleep yesterday evening when Lisa was pampering me for my monthly facial. I stayed up too late two nights in a row, and I was a bit tired, so my body slept like it should. I did my yoga practice at 4:45 AM and fixed a cup of Teeccino. If you are not familiar with Teeccino, you should check it out. It’s an herbal coffee with a flavor similar to coffee without the acidity. It is made with roasted nuts, fruits and grains. It’s delicious with almond milk and stevia. It also raises my energy level naturally. I took Ashok for a walk and made a smoothie. I was doing okay until the headache started. Along with the headache, I got a little twitch in my brain that it needed something. I recognized the hunger. That kiss of caffeine was starting to call me ever so enticingly. So, I made some chai tea to perk me up. It had been at least 18 hours since my last caffeine hit, so it felt kind of amazing going down. Why is the kiss of caffeine so sweet? Mmmmmmm … Happy Friday, y’all!

Want a Vibrant Vagina? Have one “on me” :)

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NOTE: I really do want you to vote for me… If you don’t want to read this whole blog, please go straight to this link and place your vote for Midlife Moments… who cares why? Just do it!

I received an email the other day from Replens that I’d been entered in their Vibrant Voice blogging contest. Replens is a vaginal moisturizer targeted to us gals who have passed the point of no return on our reproductive cycles. I guess the old girl tends to get a little drier when the hormones stop surging through our bodies in full force. From what I gather, Replens is not really a lubricant for extra-curricular activities but a full-time moisturizer that provides relief anytime.

I started this blog when I turned 50, and my goal was to talk about subjects that I think are really important, but that you don’t hear discussed in most polite company. I don’t actually like polite company. I like people that talk about real things and experience life to its fullest, so I also wanted to find those people hiding out across the world that WANT to talk about these things. And I have found many of them. In fact, I think there’s a few people who have discovered they like to talk about this stuff, and they didn’t even know they did. So, I cover topics like addiction recovery, midlife dating, sex, menopause, divorce and codependency. I also talk about a lot of other fun stuff, too, just to lighten things up, but I really enjoy opening up topics that are taboo.

Dr. Christine Northrup.. Photo Courtesty of her Facebook page
Dr. Christine Northrup.. Photo Courtesty of her Facebook page

I was always sort of fascinated by menopause. I was terrified it too. It was shrouded in secrecy as if women dried up and were no longer useful or beautiful after it passed. I read somewhere that it is a life stage that is like the desert. Things dry up, and there’ s a different kind of rugged beauty to a woman in this stage of life. There’s more need for moisturizers and water. I’m heavily invested in the stuff now. I used to get by with cheap moisturizers, but now I spend more money on keeping my skin youthful and soft. I tried Botox once or twice, but it’s not for me…. at least not yet. It’s costly, and I just really want to keep my skin healthy and glowing. I see older women with bright skin and bright eyes, and they are stunningly beautiful. It’s as if their features fade into the background, and their wisdom and soul take center stage. What’s not to love about that?

The first time I started experiencing peri-menopausal symptoms, I actually felt a little excited. I remember researching it and feeling like I’d been admitted to a club that none of my friends had joined yet. It was fascinating to read about the changes that were going to happen in my body, and it was really interesting to read about how women tend to “take off” during menopause. No longer are we drenched in the baby-making hormones that drive us to focus on home and family. We become more like men in our focus and drive, and many women rock careers after they pass through “the change.” I felt really hopeful this would be the best time of my life… if I could manage the hot flashes.

Yogi Patricia Walden.. Photo Courtesy of her Facebook Page
Yogi Patricia Walden.. Photo Courtesy of her Facebook Page

The books I devoured were Dr. Christine Northrup’s Wisdom of Menopause and yoga teacher Patricia Walden’s The Woman’s Book of Yoga and Health. I consider both of these women ageless and fabulously beautiful. I grappled with my passage into my Crone Age. Ancient societies used to celebrate three stages of a woman’s life – Maiden, Mother and Crone. The Crone is the voice of wisdom, and it is presumed to be a time of sharing knowledge gained over a lifetime. I also grappled with the loss of my youth. In this day and age, we are so lucky that we can feel youthful into our 50s. In many times before us, women didn’t even live past menopause due to the hardships of childbirth and the rigors of survival. I truly felt the passage into this age right about the time I turned 50, but, by the time I got there, I found a new acceptance and an excitement about where I was heading.

Because I got so much from the writing of these woman that passed this way before me, and they were so encouraging, I wanted to write about it, too. What if I encouraged some woman who was struggling with the loss of her youth and baby-making phase? What if something I wrote brought a glimmer of hope that this age, too, can be exciting for very different reasons? I believe that is the voice of my Crone speaking, encouraging me to try something new and risky and exciting when some of society thinks I should be quieting down and accepting the downshift.

So, today I got an email informing me that I was in the top ten bloggers in the Vibrant Voice contest! I now have 250 Replens samples available to give away to my readers. They didn’t ask me to blog about it, but how could I not? My 15 minutes of fame could be due to my candor about menopause and my journey into acceptance. It worked for Dr. Christine Northrup and Patricia Walden! That’s how I want to live anyway. So, if you want a sample of Replens “on me”, click on this link, and they’ll send it to you. I could have a Vibrant Voice Blog Award, and you could have a Vibrant… Vagina! And, please go vote for me in this contest!!! I’d love to win it! You can find the voting page here. Go read those other bloggers, too, that are brave enough to write about this change of life! But… don’t vote for them… vote for me! 🙂

It’s My Job to Make Me Happy… Not Yours … or His

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“Stop giving someone the job of making you happy.”

…stolen from a friend of a friend of a friend’s status on Facebook.

One of the many things I nagged my second husband about was the fact that after we married, he never brought me flowers anymore. When we were dating, he always brought me flowers. He knew the florist down the street from my house in St. Joseph, MI, by name. He said she commented to him one day that someone was a very lucky woman. He replied, “You don’t know my sweetie.” He was so taken with me when we were dating that it was not uncommon for me to get flowers on every date. One time he brought me 4 yellow roses – my favorite, and he knew it. He explained that this was our fourth date, and he was counting. I’d never had a man treat me like this before. After we married, the flowers stopped. The adoration of me stopped. His happiness with me stopped. There were lots of reasons for this, but I focused on the fact that he never brought me flowers anymore. He heard it many times.

When I got into recovery for codependency, I realized – because they told me – that I had to focus on making myself happy. Those programs are not about the other people in your life that cause all kinds of chaos… they are about me and for me. I finally told myself that if I wanted flowers, I should give them to myself. When I ran that logic through, I realized it wasn’t the flowers that I wanted at all. When I finally learned how to make myself happy, I started to realize that even if he started bringing me flowers everyday, it would not make me happy. What I wanted was to live in a sane environment. I wanted to be loved the way I was in the beginning… or even close. I wanted all of the things that those flowers represented to me. I finally relinquished the desire for him to make me happy by giving me flowers because I realized that he wasn’t capable of delivering the things behind those lovely fragile creations. And, without that, the flowers were lifeless.

That’s the problem with codependency. We think that if someone changes how they behave or how they treat us, we will be happy. And, yet, we are denying the reality that this is who they are. Yes, if they are using substances, they can quit. Even if they quit, there is no guarantee that loving treatment will be there. I do think that other people, places or things can contribute to my unhappiness. They can make it more difficult to focus on my own needs. But, only I can make myself happy. Only I can surround myself with things that contribute to my happiness. So, if I’m with someone that is taking away from my happiness, the only real answer I have is to do what I need to to minimize the impact they have. Sometimes that may include leaving. Other times it may just mean setting boundaries and focusing on my own behavior and needs. He’s spending all of our money, and I want to have less fear around money. I need to come up with a way to protect my interests in that area. I cannot force him to change. Nagging about money is ridiculous. It’s a short-term solution to a long-term problem. I’ve often said that I made myself dependent on undependable people and then got mad when they were undependable. Whose fault is that? That’s my mess to clean up.

I so often focused on the ONLY thing that I couldn’t change and that was another person. Being single has given me a great gift in that I realize how to make myself happy. I no longer have a scapegoat living in my house. If I want flowers … or love … I have to find a way to get them with people who can … or will …. give them. If I feel lonely, I can’t nag my partner about spending more time with me. I have to open up options for me to interact with other people or to get spiritually connected. It has helped me become much more self-sufficient… and .. in turn … I’m happier. It’s even changed my perspective on what a partner might bring to my life. I now am only looking for companionship and love. I know that these things can only be freely given. I also know that they can be taken away, and I accept that risk. Even thought it hurts when somebody leaves, I can still accept their decision because I know I can’t force it through manipulation or guilt. I hope in the future I can give a partner the freedom to be who they are and not be so dependent on them to meet my needs or make me happy. Yes, it would be nice to have someone to take the garbage out… but it’s not really the garbage that’s the issue. The underlying need of being loved and cared for is what’s at stake. Along the way, I’ve learned how to love and care for myself, so there’s not such a desperate need for someone else to provide those very important human needs. And, when it’s a want … and not a need … I can more easily consider it a beautiful gift.

The Crown Jewels of Spring…. Strawberries, Greens and Farmers

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This morning I made my way downtown to the Red Stick Farmer’s Market. I’ve been meaning to get down there, but I’ve been busy every Saturday morning. This week, I promised myself I’d go. So I put on my favorite new Athleta dress with a light sweater and sandals in the hopes that it would warm up before I got there. The first thing I saw was a tent full of Louisiana strawberries from Ponchatoula. I made a mental note to come back and get some, and I walked through the market first to get an overall picture of what was there.

I didn’t make it too far before an elderly gentlemen held out a spoon for me and said, “Look, I made this just for you.” I was astounded. How did he know I was even coming? He gave me a spoonful of toasted pecans, and his son said he made some white chocolate pecans for me, too. It seems it was a family affair to greet me at the market, so I bought a bag of the toasted pecans for my oatmeal and salads. I’m a sucker for a great line. And I’ll put my money where my heart is.

 

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I ended up getting groceries for the week. I got:

  • Kale
  • Strawberries
  • Lettuce and cucumber
  • Beets
  • Whole milk
  • Goat Cheese
  • Shrimp
  • Eggs
  • Shitake Mushrooms
  • Trail Mix
  • Spinach

After I got my veggies, I walked through the inside market and stumbled upon a really hot guy selling pimento cheese. He had all kinds. I chatted him up about his cheese-making, tasted every one of his samples and ended up buying a white cheddar mix with almonds in it. I grabbed his card just in case I might need to look him up later. I mean... if I like the cheese, I’ll need to find him again! I passed a table that looked familiar from last year’s single visit to the market. A woman stood by the table last year, but I recognized the aluminum foil packaging on the product. The male vendor confirmed my suspicions when he said they were tea cakes… and I remembered the sweet potato tea cake I had last year that about knocked my socks off. He tried to sell me three for a better price, but a saner mind prevailed and I got one to settle in with this afternoon with a cup of chai laced with whole milk and Chutz’s Cane Syrup that I got at the syrup-making last December.

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While I was driving home, I started thinking about what I was going to do with all of this stuff. I imagined making fresh egg omelets with goat cheese, kale and mushrooms. I could have strawberry and spinach salads topped with fried goat cheese rolled in pecans and roasted beets. I can make grilled pimento cheese sandwiches with a lettuce, cucumber and strawberry side salad. Or, how about I have blackened shrimp with sauteed kale and marinated mushrooms? I couldn’t decide what would be best … first… so I made a pimento cheese and cucumber sandwich on some of the sunflower bread I bought in Bay St. Louis last weekend. It’s chilly out today, so I think this afternoon I’ll have my sweet potato tea cake and chai for an afternoon snack. Then, for dinner, I’ll blacken some of that shrimp with some roasted beets and marinated mushrooms. I’ll make a dessert of some strawberries, whole milk and goat cheese with toasted pecans drizzled with cane syrup. I can hardly wait.

 

The thing I love at the Farmer’s Market is the LACK of variety. There is plenty to choose from, but it’s the locally seasonal stuff. I hate that we’ve gotten away from seasonal eating. When I saw the strawberries, I was mentally catapulted back to my childhood and PawPaw’s strawberry garden. Strawberries were the real indicator that the growing season had begun, and we’d have strawberries any kind of way you can imagine. We’d be sick of them by the end of the season, but Momma always said we’d miss them when we didn’t have them. And, she’s right. I’ve picked strawberries at farms in every state I’ve lived in the hopes of feeling the bounty of the fruity red berry once again, but it’s a rare dietary jewel now. How I would love to eat so many in so many different ways that I’d be sick of them again. How I’d love to watch the farmer cover his berry plants with straw and get out and pick them day after day until they are exhausted. But for now, I’ll settle for talking to the farmer. I passed by the Ponchatoula Strawberry booth in favor of a booth down the way. A couple sat next to a table half full of berries. I asked her where they came from. “From my garden,” she answered. “Okay… I’ll take two,” I answered, and my money touched the very hands that propagated and picked the spring jewels.

The one thing I lacked from my journey was fresh flowers. They had a few, but I guess cut flowers are not really here yet. In Memphis, I had a favorite booth where I purchased flowers at the Farmer’s Market. Today, I couldn’t find what I wanted. So, all I need is some flowers to go with my elegant, lovely menu this week. Babycakes, if you’ll bring the flowers, I’ll make you lunch….. Just sayin’.

Unintentional Detox: Cleaning it Up

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I was scheduled for a run last night, and I have plans tonight, so I HAD to make it happen. My energy was so low yesterday that I felt like I was dragging myself through it. I picked it up a little bit in the last half, but I was still dragging my ass. While I was running, I was trying to figure out why my energy was so low – and my mood. I knew I had some relational stuff going on, but it felt like there was something else more physical going on, too. Then I realized that I had stopped eating sugar for the last 4 days. I had gradually been getting back on the sugar bandwagon, and, by the end of last weekend, I was craving fruits and veggies and clean food. Since Sunday night, that’s all I’ve eaten. I was at least partly experiencing sugar withdrawals.

When I had a bad anxiety episode about 3 weeks ago, I promised myself I would do better. I cut out coffee – again – and I’ve been without it ever since. That withdrawal didn’t impact me much since I’d only been drinking a cup a day anyway. It always ramps up my anxiety no matter how much I drink, so it really helped to get it out of my system. So far, I’ve been almost anxiety-free for 3 weeks. The same day I committed to a daily practice of yoga for at least a month to see what happens. If I said forever, it would be too overwhelming, but I felt like I could commit for a month. It wasn’t but a day or two before I started loving it so much that rolling out my mat in the mornings was a treat rather than a goal. I give myself the freedom to do pranayama (breathwork), meditate or do an asana practice (the postures we associate with yoga) depending on what I feel I need. I follow my inner guidance, and it feels so yummy! I’ve also had a recent aversion to eating meat. I’m not much a meat-eater anyway, but I’ve really NOT been wanting it lately. So, I’ve been eating a lot of plant protein and salmon.

I woke up this morning after my run last night, and I’ve lost 4 pounds in the last 4 days. I haven’t been hungry either. Yesterday’s lethargy seems to have disappeared, and I’m feeling better than I’ve felt in awhile physically. I practiced my yoga this morning – mostly pranayama today – and took the dog for a walk. I’m going to make a blackberry smoothie with some matcha in a few minutes for breakfast. I booked a session with a Reiki practitioner tonight, and I’m looking forward to a different style of energy work. I have not been able to find an acupuncturist here that I click with, and my relationship with my practitioner is very important to me. This Reiki practitioner is also one of my yoga teachers, and I feel really comfortable with her. Next week, I have a facial booked with my favorite aesthetician! There’s something about self-care that makes me want to keep doing it. It’s like a waterfall effect. Speaking of waterfalls, maybe I’d like to go find one of those soon, too!

Things have really ramped up at work, and I’m managing 3 projects right now – all of which come to a head by June 30. Dealing with a lot of people is typically very stressful for me because of my people-pleasing tendencies, but I’ve felt very grounded. I feel like I’m doing some good work and making some good decisions, and I attribute all of that to being present and feeling well. I even noticed that my eyesight seems a little better. I had been having trouble reading at night, but last night the same book that blurred before my eyes a few nights ago was clear as a bell. Losing a little weight makes me feel less bloated, and my joints and muscles are feeling really strong and stable. I’m feeling the benefits of all the good stuff I’m doing.

In 2000 when I first started practicing yoga, I remember seeing a tape on Yoga for Weight Loss. In my calories in/calories out mindset I couldn’t really understand how yoga could burn that many calories to help with weight loss. What I learned is that yoga works on the motivators that seek a healthy lifestyle. If weight loss is needed, the body will seek out the behaviors that create it. Yoga is a moving meditation, and when I am focused on where to put my feet, wrapping my quadriceps around my thigh, tucking my pelvis and opening my heart there is no room for worrying about my mostly imaginary problems. When I don’t obsess about those, I generally don’t need to self-medicate. The more grounded I get through practice, the more I listen to my body. It’s when I self-medicate that I lose touch with my body. I get numb to the subtle messages that tell me I should eat less sugar and more nutrients. So, that’s how yoga helps weight loss at least for me. It tunes me in to what I need and ramps up my desire for feeling better. I’m sure at some point I’ll self-medicate with coffee or sugar or a high-fat meal over something, but for right now, I think I’ll grab my smoothie and bask in this sweet music playing on Pandora. Have a great day, y’all! It’s Friday!

 

 

The Only Way Out is Through

 

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My heart aches. It’s not a giant heartache, but it’s a heart ache nonetheless. I’m transitioning through a life change, and I don’t like it, but it’s necessary. I have the consolation that I’ve been here many times before – sometimes in a lighter way, sometimes in a much heavier way. I know that the only way out is through. A friend of mine told me to keep busy. While appreciate the sentiment, I’ve learned that keeping busy is not healthy for me. In fact, the quickest most efficient route through this is right through the heart of it.

I have a meditation book by Rolf Gates. It’s called Meditations from the Mat, and, every time I pick up my yoga practice, I also pick up this book. He’s also in recovery, so our paths are similar. The readings aren’t dated, so I usually pick it up and trust God to show me exactly what I need to hear. This morning’s reading was about taking care of ourselves. He was in the military, and he was an alcoholic. He didn’t take care of his body or his spirit, but he eventually realized that the people that were the happiest were the ones that took care of themselves and their lives. It was an outward manifestation of their love for themselves.

If someone I love is hurting, I treat them with gentleness. I give them space, and I encourage them to feel their feelings. It would stand to reason that I would do that for myself if I truly loved myself. For so long, that’s not what I did. If I was hurting, I’d get busy medicating. I’d eat ice cream by the gallons. When I was young, I’d drink to the point of blacking out. I’d jump headlong into some chaotic busy situation in order to distract myself. This stuff gives my body more stress instead of less. It gives me more that I have to handle than what I’m going through. And, I may forget the hurt while I’m doing it, but, in the middle of the night when my mind is quiet, I’ll jolt awake with pain and disturb my sleep. I’ll get a knot in my stomach from trying to hold it in. I’ll get a headache from holding back the tears. I get irritable because what I really want to do is to curl up in somebody’s lap and cry, but I’m treating myself like a machine. My lack of kind attention to myself makes me mad… and in turn I get mad at everything else. It’s called high alert.

I believe that God crafted me before birth perfectly for my journey. He did NOT craft me and then say, “Listen, I’m going to give you these very powerful emotions, but I don’t want you to use them. I want you to bury them and ignore them because they serve no purpose. Just keep busy.” Women and men experience emotion very differently, although we all have them. They are drivers for women. I feel them as powerful forces that surge through my body enlivening all of my cells and organs in energy. In grief, they produce a low energy that I experience as fatigue. In anger, I experience high energy that allows to me to flee or fight. I shut them down for so long, and I was not able to ride them through to see where they would bring me. The first few times I let myself ride a particularly powerful emotion was scary. It was like an out-of-control roller coaster ride that I was afraid would last forever. My guides told me that it would move through me and stop at some point. It did. And, after it was gone, I felt cleaner and healthier than I’d ever felt. I felt alive. I felt enormous freedom with nothing bottled up inside.

We are spiritual beings having a human experience. I am a spiritual being having a human experience. I have this body, and it comes with some emotions that tell me when it’s time to stop something because it hurts. They tell me when to keep doing something because it brings me joy. They tell me who to have in my life and who to kick out. I can’t tell you how many times my gut has told me that someone is not good for me, and I chose to ignore it because the “facts” didn’t point to that. Somewhere down the line, the “facts” fell apart, and I discovered my gut knew the truth from the very beginning. For efficiency’s sake, if I’d listened to my gut, I’d have saved myself a lot of pain and misery. My body is the earthly home of my spirit. Like Rolf discovered, if I really care about myself, I’ll treat my body …. and my emotions … with the same tenderness that I’d give a hurting friend or animal. I know that this low energy of grief over a loss will move through me in time. I’ll give myself time without putting too many expectations on myself. I’ll remind myself that this will end, and it will not kill me. And I’ll wisely tell myself that the only way out is through.

Sinking into Sensual Pleasures

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Lately I’ve been in a very reflective inward mood. I’ve started a daily yoga practice again after many years, and I’ve been doing it for almost 3 weeks now. I can attribute this change of focus to that alone. But, honestly, I’ve been drifting here for awhile. I’m not sure why in the spring this is happening, but I’m going to go with it. Frankly, I love these periods of time when I want to slow WAAAAAAAYYYYY down and just be. A part of me questions whether I might be a bit depressed, but I don’t think so. I just think that when I slow down it is such a contradiction to my regular pace that it feels a little off.

I have discovered avocados. My friends JoAnn and Jessica eat them all the time, and they both talk about how nutritious they are. For a long time, I’ve tried to incorporate them into my diet but they rot before I figure out how to use them. I’m not a huge salad person, and I was sort of hung up on eating them on salads. I finally realized I could use them on omelets as a topper, and I’ve been eating them that way. This morning I threw a half one into a blackberry yogurt smoothie along with some cinnamon, cocoa and almond milk. It was divine. Avocados are so creamy. They are like ice cream without the freeze, and I adore ice cream. The other day I spread a half avocado on bread instead of mayonnaise and topped it with salmon. It was delicious that way, too, and I felt really healthy using such a healthy oil. I was reading about the health benefits last night, and they are just loaded with good stuff. I’ve noticed that it keeps my hunger and cravings at bay. Even though they are higher in calories than other fruit, it keeps me from eating other stuff that is REALLY high in calories. They are still a relatively low-calorie food. Every time I eat one, I feel so good because of the texture of the fruit on my tongue, the comfort of knowing that I’m doing something really good for my body, and the lovely soft green color of the avocado itself. I love the silkiness of slicing through it and spooning it out. It feels decadent.

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I used to think of sensuality as sex. I don’t know why. Somehow that was my definition of it. But, sensuality is so much more than that. It’s allowing myself to sink into the feelings that ride all of my senses. Touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing are those pathways that bring me to the very essence of being human and being in this world. Having a daily practice of yoga helps keep me grounded in my body, and, when I am grounded there, I can be more in touch with my own sensuality. Obviously, sex bundles a whole bunch of these senses together, but there are other ways to be totally sensual.

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Every morning for the past three weeks, I’ve awakened and gone immediately to my mat. I put it under the chair in my living room so it’s right there. I light two candles. I turn on a small lamp and let the rest of the room be dark. I put on Pandora on the New Age station, and I practice. I may only practice 20-30 minutes, but in that space I breathe deeply, I let myself feel every little tight spot in my body, and I open where my body tells me it needs to open. The scent of the candle burning, the gentle, sweet music, and the feeling of my breath moving in my body wakes me to myself. By the time I am done, I am so invigorated that I need very little caffeine – thus I’ve been without coffee – and I am relaxed. This morning I added a few drops of the essential oil mix Clarity to wake me up and get me focused. It’s licorice, minty aroma and the tingly feeling on my skin gave me a big grand hug of awareness.

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I decided to wear purple with a yellow tank just to get a kiss of springtime. I have this lovely little peace sign scarf that sort of pseudo-matches – it really doesn’t match – and I put it on. I’m in love with all of the azaleas here in bloom, and the sun shining through my blinds in the morning. I picked up an old beloved book on Yoga and Depression, and I read for awhile. It was comforting to see the highlights I had made so many years ago when I first picked it up, and I was bound in spiritless depression. I no longer related to the passages, and they seemed to be the markings from another woman. I felt grateful for my journey out of depression, and I was reminded how powerful my yoga practice was in elevating me from that pit. I feel in touch with my journey and the day and my soul. It’s such a comfortable place to be.

Shifting the Pain of Endings

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A friend of mine and I had a conversation awhile back about a friendship of his that ended badly. This was not a romantic relationship. Those very frequently end badly. It ended – as many do these days – in a flurry of hateful texts escalating with more and more venom fueled by the pain of rejection or hurt. He said it was really sad because it was actually a great friendship, but the way it ended colored the whole thing and made him wonder if it was that nice after all. I’ve often found, and it really sucks, that the way a relationship – or anything – ends can color the eternal view of it or prevent there being a transition into something more lasting.

If there is one thing that happens often in this life, it is that things change. And, when they change, there are necessary endings. Relationships end. Careers end. Jobs end. Financial success ends. Addiction ends. All of these endings can be good or bad or indifferent, but they all indicate a loss. That’s what “to end” means. Something has died. I know people who won’t date anymore because of the pain of endings and/or rejection. I’ve come to terms with the fact that ALL romantic relationships end. The rare exception would be the life-long marriage where both people die at the exact same time. In that one situation, no one has to feel the loss of the other person. All others end. They might end at the beginning. They might end amicably. They might end after many, many years and many life experiences. They might end very painfully. But, with each of those endings, there is a loss. There is the silence of communication that once existed. There is the void that person filled that is now glaring in your space.

With the acceptance that all relationships end at one time or another, I’ve become a little less panicky when one is ending. It doesn’t mean I don’t get hurt or mad. After all, anger is a separating emotion that protects me from pain and is a necessary stage in the grieving process. That’s what I think happens in all of those angry texts. In the olden days, we didn’t have the immediacy of flaming out at our perceived perpetrator in the midst of anger in our grieving process. Now, we can snatch that phone up and let them have it. My friend said it very poetically. He said he’d start feeling bad, and he didn’t think it was fair that she was going about her happy life without him, so he’d put it on her. Then she’d lash back. After awhile, he regretted the whole incident because now there was really no way to fix it. Too much had been said.

I get angry, and I’ve used text to hurt people, too, especially when I perceive that they are disposing of me. And, like my friend, my imagination tells me that they are going around being really happy that I’m out of their life. I can see them smiling, moving on, having this great life and thinking they are so thrilled that they got rid of this albatross around their neck … namely me. If I can catch myself before it gets too ugly, I now try to realize that this is an ending…. and endings are part of relationships. When I do that, I can be nicer, and I can even hold a parting conversation that may make both us feel better. I often find that they are in deep pain, too, even if they are the ones doing the dumping. It’s not always easy to have that conversation. But, it’s so much better to have it. And I have found that many amicable endings eventually reconcile into a different kind of friendship later. It’s a way of leaving a door open.

One of the ways I make endings better is to selectively choose healthier people in relationships. If a person’s life is full of cut-offs, bad endings of romantic relationships, or fiery friendships that blaze out in fury, then I know they are probably not healthy enough to have those hard conversations. The endings are hard conversations. They are also times when you have to tolerate painful emotions and stay present. Relationships are not the only things that end badly, but most endings do include people. I had a job that ended badly. When I left, I felt so relieved to get out of there because I was treated so badly when I gave my notice. It wasn’t a surprise. I had often been badgered to the point of tears in my boss’s office. It was one of the reasons I wanted to leave. On the day that I was leaving, I barely said good bye to anybody. I just wanted to get out of there. The ending colored everything about that job and that time period. And, actually the job was pretty sweet. But, I could never recommend that employer because of my experience.

I wish endings were easier. I wish they were as much fun as beginnings. Last night, I bought a t-shirt at my yoga studio that says Shift Happens. The fact is that every ending is a beginning. It is a shift to something new. It’s just so hard to wrap my arms around because the ending just takes up so much emotional energy. Nature abhors a void, and, when one is created, it will be filled with something new. When one special relationship ends, the needs that it filled will be filled from somewhere else. It may take a little while to get there, but love does seem to find a way. If I lose a job, I will find another one eventually. In fact, most people I know say they find better jobs after a layoff, and, in hindsight, they are glad it happened. One day I hope I love endings. I hope I can see them as “jumping off places” filled with hope and adventure. Until then, I’ll try to mitigate the damage to leave the door open for something else. Who knows? Sometimes an ending is not so much an ending as it is a gateway to something better if I don’t screw it up.

The Tower….. The Ashes … The Phoenix

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I camped in Waveland MS this weekend. The weekend started off pretty rough with a storm which drenched my tent. I slept in the tent until I slept in the car. But, I did sleep. And, when I got up in the morning, the ground was wet, and the fog was heavy over the bay. I had hoped to take Ashok to play in the low tide, but the amount of water that fell overnight covered the sand and left little shallow water for her to run through. I headed off in the foggy morning to Bay St. Louis for a steamy cup of Chai from the Mockingbird Cafe. It was just what I needed to wash away the night before and start the weekend over. There was a half marathon in town, and I walked the streets while a bicyclist rode up beside the finishing racers to cheer them on.

I met my cousin Amy later for brunch at the Buttercup, and then we walked downtown to shop and stop for a drink. We saw an outside bar called The Blind Tiger that looked like the perfect place to soak up the sun that had just popped out from behind the clouds. We ended up spending 3 hours or so at this lively little place, and we watched as barefoot patrons partied among all kinds of people including one with a pig on a leash. My brother Terry stopped by for awhile, and we finished up a perfect afternoon with some raw oysters and boiled shrimp. When Amy left, Terry and I walked on the beach. We descended a tiered sea wall, and I asked him if that was there before. “Before” – as everyone knows in this town – means before Katrina. He said they had a small one “before” but this one would be better, and he pointed out the new marina under construction. We walked up close to the new bridge that crosses the bay – the bridge that the half marathoners had crossed this morning. So much of this town is new…. the Phoenix … arising from the ashes.

The Tower card in the tarot deck is a symbol of complete and devastating physical destruction. I remember thinking that my second divorce was “the Tower” in my life. Everything I knew before crumbled in the destruction. I remember watching a real life tower in the break-room at Whirlpool when the twin towers fell. I went in with the rest of the call center employees to see what was happening on the TV. Right in front of my eyes, the first tower disappeared into a heap of dust. I blinked my eyes because I couldn’t fathom what had just happened. “Did it fall?” I asked whoever was standing near me. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Not only did that tower fall, but the world as we know it changed in its wake.

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I remember watching the newscasts from Northwest Indiana of Katrina heading toward New Orleans. Someone in my family mentioned a hurricane, and I pulled up the Weather Channel on my computer screen. I gasped when I saw it. She covered the entire gulf. She was a monster, and I knew it was not going to be good – wherever she chose to land. I heard that a police officer was in Bay St. Louis just prior to landfall, and he remarked that all of the water was gone out of the bay. These monster hurricanes slurp up water to feed their fury, and then they slam it all with full force into the land when they make landfall. Like a hammer with an unyielding punch, it smashes everything in its sight. New Orleans thought it escaped her wrath, but when the water tried to make its way back to the Gulf, it stormed back through bayous, canals and lakes…. filling them all and causing New Orleans and the surrounding area to flood. Water … that beautiful water where Ashok loves to play …. had become a deadly force that decimated the Mississippi Gulf Coast in a day.

I was so happy to see that progress was happening in Bay St. Louis and to some extent in Waveland. Waveland is where Katrina made landfall, and it was a moonscape for awhile afterwards. I’d go back every now and then, and a store or two would have opened. Things were quiet but making progress. But, now it seems to have made great strides in re-building the old and even adding some new things. Everywhere there are markers of Katrina. There is an enormous wood carving from a dead tree right on Beach Blvd. I found this blog that talks about the wood carvings and what they mean. Some new buildings are built next to ruins of their former structure. I took a run on Sunday, and I was happy to see that Waveland had some new construction in a General Store. People were gathered outside, and it looked like a happening place.

I took a turn back into a neighborhood, but it was a ghost neighborhood. From the street, driveway after driveway gave hints of the homes that were there. But as I passed each one, there was no home. Every driveway for a 3 block area led to a deserted grassland. Some had stairs that led nowhere. Foundations stood holding the weight of nothing. I wondered as I passed each one who had lived there… what was their story … where are they now? Ghosts … shadows of a former life …… washed away in a single afternoon. I was happy to get back to the main drag where there is new construction. The sun was shining, the breeze was blowing, and there was hope in the air.

Every time I go back there, I notice something new. Something has been restored. Something has been built that was … well … maybe a better idea. For awhile, when I returned, all anyone could talk about was the mire they were in or the way it had been. Saturday things had taken a turn. Amy and I were invited back by a local at The Blind Tiger. He said they come there every Saturday. I was invited by a race official to sign up for the half marathon next year. She promised it would be bigger and better than ever. At the Buttercup, we had 3 servers who kept offering us coffee. We laughed because we’d never seen such stellar service. We really weren’t drinking much of it, but when Amy finally said she wanted a refill, the server looked so happy. I imagine there were many years that they weren’t able to invite people in or to serve them more coffee or provide a race course. I know from my own personal Tower experience, that it takes awhile after complete physical destruction for the ashes to settle. As they settle, paralysis often sets in amid the debris. Eventually, questions start to percolate… What do we do? How do we rebuild? How do we make it better? What does better look like? Then … after awhile… new energy starts to rise from amid the ruins. The Phoenix rises from the ashes. Way to go, Bay St. Louis and Waveland!! You’re doing it. I’ll be back. I can’t wait to see what you’ll have done by then.

 

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