Monday, May 30, 2011

Hot Flash Yoga (TM)

One of the most annoying things about being a woman of a "certain" age (that age would be 46) is that you can't confess to being too warm or to being forgetful --even if these are lifelong traits of yours--without someone bringing up the dreaded M word --Menopause. I have not yet reached that part of my life, but I am already really sick of it.  It just seems like another demeaning way to dismiss a woman's behavior, attributing it to some hormonal/biological/gender-related frailty instead of thinking that just maybe, if I'm angry, it might just be because you're behaving like an arsehat and not because it's that time of the month or life or WHATEVER. 


Not that I feel strongly about this or anything.

So, it will come as a great surprise to you (as it did to me) to learn that on a recent Wednesday, at 11:30 in the morning, in the middle of a yoga class, I thought that I'd suddenly come down with the M. I was really focusing on my breath and trying to do the breathing each pose requires and suddenly, my core temperature shot up to what most have been close to the same temperature as the SURFACE OF THE SUN.  I was radiating heat and LORDY, I was sweating buckets.

It was super-glamorous, as you might imagine.

(I looked like I was in the cast WaterworldI had to mop up afterward.)

Luckily, the people in my yoga class love me and thought this was funny and not, you know, super gross.

I came home and consulted Dr. Google, which is normally a really big and bad mistake, but I figured, at least, I'd get some sense if this was normal or if I know...DYING.  (Dying in yoga class wouldn't be so bad for me--I'd die happy--but it might put something of a damper on my classmates' enjoyment.) There were several links with quotes like this:

The end result of the combination of practices that are used in Ashtanga Yoga is the generation of heat in the body and, in particular, the area of the abdomen. This heat has profound benefits, which range from the physical to the emotional, mental, and spiritual. The heat generated during the practice of Ashtanga Yoga helps to release tightness in muscles, ligaments, joints, and other parts of a man’s body, as well as in the internal organs. The heat actually allows the tissues in the body to soften so that previously constricted areas can remold themselves into more appropriate alignment. The release of areas of physical holding can be accompanied by the letting go of tight, restricted, or outmoded ways of feeling and thinking as well.
In addition to its effects on the soft tissue of the body, the generation of heat can also play an important role in spiritual development. Yogis have believed for centuries that a vital, primordial, creative energy known as kundalini, or “coiled serpent power,” lies dormant at the base of the spine. When aroused, this potential energy becomes activated. It rises up through a central channel in the body to unite with the power of cosmic consciousness that resides at the crown of the head, resulting in enlightenment and the release of tremendous amounts of creative energy. (See Chapter 7 for more information on the important role that kundalini plays in yoga philosophy.) A principal goal of yoga practices in general is to help awaken the dormant kundalini energy so that it may rise and lead to enlightenment. One way to help the kundalini awaken is to stoke the body with heat. Ashtanga Yoga is designed specifically to build up the internal heat in the body, particularly in the abdomen. This can contribute to the awakening of the kundalini energy.
The kind of yoga I do is really a form of Vinyasa yoga, though, so here's a link the mentions generating internal heat during Vinyasa. (What I experienced should not be confused with Bikram yoga, which is done in a super heated room --EXTERNAL heat. This was more like an internal nuclear reaction.)

Here's a link where someone was complaining about it.  I didn't feel sick, but I was incredibly spent afterward.  It's happened to me twice now, the second time a little less apocalyptic, and after each time, I had to take a 20 minute power nap.

So, I don't know.  I think it's a good thing, but I can't really talk to anyone about it because as soon as I do, people infer that I've hit Menopause, which makes me crazy in addition to being hot and bothered.
In other news: my lovely and exceptional daughter Jane (10) has been discovered. She wrote to Robert Burton Robinson, asking for permission to illustrate one of his stories on her blog. He not only said yes, he wrote her a very encouraging e-mail and linked to her from his website. I learn so much from her as an artist about what is possible when one doesn't impose limitations on oneself. She's amazing and I hope to be like her if I ever grow up.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

And, We Have a Winner!

Sarah, from the third comment on the Arbitrary New Year post, is the winner of the giveaway! (After assigning everyone who commented on the post a number, I used to generate a random number: 3.)   I loved, loved, LOVED her comment and was going to donate a can of worms in her name anyway, so now she gets not only worms, but an entire vegetable garden donated in her name!

She said:
Oddly, I just today, and after Yoga class (!), decided what my words for the year should be. They're not resolutions, they're more like directions. They are Strength and Balance. I've had others in past years, but this year I'm seriously less strong (physically) than I have been. I think I'm talking about physical strength and physical balance, but words like that have a way of turning metaphorical on you, so we'll see.
I almost know Sarah in real life --she might come stay a night with me if she's traveling up in this area.  I have known her virtually for many years.  Unlike my LAST giveaway, I have already contacted her and she accepts the present.  (anash and TruBrooklyn, I still have your tubes of the best smelling lotion ever if you want them.  Last chance, because after this I am donating them to a women's shelter because they are just sitting there, mocking me with their yummy Starbuck's-esque smell.)

Congratulations to Sarah and thank you all for playing along.  I think we're onto something here!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Quick Reminder

Today is a really busy day for me, including needing to be two places at once between 7:00 and 8:00 tonight, but I wanted to send a final reminder about the giveaway, which closes tonight, no matter if I manage to clone myself or not. (I just almost typed "CLOTHE myself."  Yeah, it's that kind of day.  I just spent valuable time out of my day (that I will never get back) trying to find two pounds of tiny new potatoes that escaped when my grocery bag fell over in my car. If you've never driven down a hill with masses of tiny potatoes rolling at you from under the seats of your car, you're really not missing that much.)

Anyway, Happy Arbitrary New Year:  You have until midnight tonight to enter for a chance to give an entire vegetable garden to an impoverished family in a third-world country. Just leave a comment under that post (click on the blue (or red?) words and it should take you right to it).  Participation has been sparse, so your chances are good.  (I know, I know, it's not as much fun to give a virtual garden away as it would be to, say, have a chance at winning a car or a trip or something, but the KARMIC payoff is MUCH LARGER.

Good luck and may all of your potatoes stay firmly put. I'll let you know how the cloning/clothing thing goes.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Sword of Damocles

When I woke up Sunday morning, everything hurt.  The FULF (Effed Up Left Foot,) of course, but sometimes it takes a while to wake up and remember that it's not supposed to hurt anymore.

But my hips were KILLING me, too.  They kept waking me up at night.  My acupuncturist thinks that after four years of limping, my hips moved into a new alignment.

I don't limp anymore.  (Much.)

My hips are getting the message and starting to move back into a normal position, I guess.

This turns out to be very painful and I may have to actually go see a doctor to find out if it's really THAT or if I was born with deformed hip bones, maybe some extra ones for good measure, and no one discovered it until now. (If it can happen with my FOOT, which had been x-rayed a bazillion times before anyone noticed the weirdness, it could also be the case with my hips.  Maybe there's a reason I had two c-sections. At this point, nothing would surprise me.)

My shoulder hurt.

My back was sore.

I constantly weigh what is normal pain, because (I know this is a shock) I'm not a twenty-something anymore and I'm trying to undo years of inactivity, versus what's abnormal pain that needs to be addressed by a professional.  There's this low-level anxiety that runs in the back of my mind with each new twinge.  I worry that pain is the new black for me.  That even if the foot somehow stops hurting, I will develop Fibromyalgia or some other deeply painful condition because that's just my new normal.

I really, really don't want that to be my new normal.

I want my new normal to be that feeling I get when I'm in the middle of a transcendent yoga practice, when it suddenly feels like I've...I'm just going to say this... swallowed light and it's radiating out of my fingertips and my smile.  I know how that sounds --no, I really do, which is why I'd only say it to you, trusting that you'll understand. The feeling is akin to a runner's high only with less heavy breathing-- a Yoga Calm (TM).

I thought about not going to yoga.  In fact, I went upstairs and woke my husband up and told him I was having a really bad pain day and that I didn't think I could go.

It's a pretty big thing for me to miss yoga so he was instantly awake, alert for anything he could do.  He was already rearranging his day in his head, just in case the bulk of it would be spent doing everything with the kids, pets and house while caring for me as I sat on the couch and tried not to move.

See, that's HIS new normal when I'm in pain.

I texted my friend Shirley to see if she was going.  (It's an 8:00 class on Sunday so we're not all as regular as we are to the other classes.)  She said she was.  I told her I was iffy, Pain Day...blah, blah, blah. Maybe I'd just meet her there and go easy. She said, "Okay. But don't feel bad about not going either.  Listen to your body."

I decided to go just for the breathing. I would just breathe along and move gently where I could without pain. I told my yoga instructor and he did that thing he does where it looked to me like he understood more than I was saying.  And then he said, "Just breathe through and do what you can.  Maybe as you go, you'll find things will loosen up."

Of course, that's what happened.

Because it turns out the all-over pain I was feeling?  It was from taking two yoga classes on Friday.  I was SORE.  Sore is very different from the grinding, all encompassing, soul sucking, relentless pain that kept me on the couch for the better part of three years.

Sore is actually kind of good.

Unless it triggers some sort of Post Traumatic Stress attack.

I guess I'm going to have to start seeing a therapist because I simply don't know how to live without pain anymore.  I'm constantly on high alert, waiting for the next attack.  It's stealing part of my LIFE, and y'all, pain has taken quite enough of my life already.

Arbitrary New Year Update: You still have a few days to enter for a chance to give an entire vegetable garden to an impoverished family in a third-world country. Just leave a comment under that post (click on the blue (or red) words and it should take you right to it). Participation has been sparse, so your chances are good. (I know, I know, it's not as much fun to give a virtual garden away as it would be to, say, have a chance at winning a car or a trip or something, but the KARMIC payoff is MUCH LARGER. (If you can talk about payoff in the same sentence as the word Karma.) (Which is probably really wrong.) (I'm totally going to hell, aren't I?)

Thursday, May 19, 2011


This is just amazing.


Isn't it spectacular??

It really IS a miracle when you consider that it spent six months in my basement, deprived of food and water and with only a tiny bit of sunlight.  I guess it was safe from freezes and parasites, but otherwise, it had to wait for the Spring to overcome its winter of deprivation.

And there it is, now, blazing forth in its loveliness.  Not eaten up with bitterness at having been starved and neglected. Not keeping its fantastic blooms a secret out of spite. Just standing there in all its magnificence. Glorious and gorgeous for all of us to see and admire.

Rising up out of the dirt stronger than ever.

I want so much to be from the Amaryllis family.

Arbitrary New Year Update: I'm on Day 3 of giving up refined sugar.  I have stopped wanting to kill people, which is a good thing.  Even though I almost cried when I realized the dried cranberries I was eating weren't sweetened with fruit juice.  So this is either the third day or the first day again.  AGAIN.  I don't care, I'm feeling better.

The book is coming along--I am still struggling to find my rhythm but thanks to my friend R, who has listened to me whine on and on, I have an approach. It's called: Just Telling My Story.  (Radical, I know.)

Also, if you haven't joined me in writing down your resolutions, you can do so in the comments of that post (click on the blue words to be taken there to comment) until Wednesday-ish of next week and be entered for a chance to give an entire vegetable garden to an impoverished family in a third-world country. Maybe an amaryllis will be included, just for encouragement.

Monday, May 16, 2011

It's May: Happy Arbitrary New Year!!

I have a tendency to just make stuff up as I go along.  Stuff and holidays and words.  Recipes.  Family rules. Paint colors.  Really, it's kind of an illness with me.

I guess you knew that.

So it should surprise no one that I'm ready to wish you a Happy New Year.  Today.  On Tuesday, May 17th, 2011. (Yes, I'm post-dating this entry.  Because right now?  It's a rainy Monday morning and mostly, I just want to go back to bed. I love a good spring rain.  I mostly like Mondays. But Rainy Mondays should be illegal.) (It's supposed to rain tomorrow, Tuesday, too but by then we will have momentum on our side.)

Pretend, for a minute, that this is last week, when the weather was spectacular and the garden beckoning. When I spent as much time as possible outside, noticing the dogwood and azaleas in bloom.  Or the week before, when we celebrated Cinco de Mayo (except we celebrated it on the seventh because that's just how we roll around here) by breaking in our new fire pit, built by moi in a fit of Spring Giddiness.

(I will now use parenthetical photos to illustrate, just in case you needed further proof of my digression prowess.  (Seriously, I am a master.  They ought to add this sport to the Olympics.)

Fire pit in use. How much do I love this thing??
Roasting marshmallows--a totally awesome added bonus!! (My friend Shirley brought sombreros, because she understands the need for appropriate and whimsical headware when celebrating the Siete de Mayo.) 
Opening Mother's Day presents outside, surrounded by gorgeous flowers in bloom (especially the one in the softball uniform.)

See, it occurred to me this last week, as Spring is bursting forth all around me, that THIS is really the time when I want to make my New Year's Resolutions.  In January, when most New Year's Resolutions are made, I'm so tired from the hectic holidays that all of my resolutions have to do with relaxing and getting more sleep and notfreakingmakingmyselfsocrazyNEXTyear, whatwasIthinking. But during THIS time, when you can almost measure the new growth of the plants on a daily basis, when hibernation is over and the need to go out into the sun is a compulsion, when it's impossible to practice restraint while buying flats of impatiens --THIS is when I feel renewed and energetic and resolved.

So, first, I decided that I would resolve to give up refined sugar. Since we got back from Texas, I haven't been feeling very well and I think it's because of the reintroduction of processed, refined foods back into my diet after a pretty significant hiatus.  (My husband is always talking about "respecting your ride."  I never really got this until I found yoga, which inspires me to live healthier in order to get better at it.  I think that's why I lost weight --I started eating more mindfully and listening to what my body wanted.  Oddly enough, it never wanted dense, high-fat sugary stuff. (I know what you're thinking.  Just keep it to yourself.  I've lost 25 pounds! However deluded I may be, you can't argue with the results.)

Anyway, I gave up sugar for about half a day before I had to make my daughter Ana's birthday cake.  (Yes, she turned 13 in MARCH.  It's my calendar and I reserve the right to celebrate things whenever the heck I want.)

Got refined sugar?
The great thing about just arbitrarily declaring New Year's in May is that if you fall off the wagon, you can just start again on some OTHER completely arbitrary day.  (Y'all, this is brilliant.)  So, on this Arbitrary New Year's Eve, I am resolving to give up refined sugar. (Again.  Shhh!)

My other resolution is to begin my next book and to write something on it every day.  One of the things I took away from Stephen King's book On Writing is that you have to stay in touch with your current Work In Progress every single day or it will die on you.  (I know this to be true with knitting.) So I started my book on Tuesday, May 10th but so far, I've only written 341 words.  TODAY, on this Arbitrary New Year's Eve, I just cut my fingernails in preparation for much typing. (I am a terrible typist anyway, but with long nails, I am an EXCRUCIATING typist.  Sorry to everyone who received e-mails from me over the past month.) The working title for the book is Inhaling Wonder: The Story of One Woman's Journey Through Chronic Pain. (Thank you all so much for all of your encouragement. I may never be able to express how much it meant to me.)

I have a few other sub-resolutions concerning my yoga practice and my household money management practices, but those are the big two.  I invite you to join me, because simply writing down your resolutions seems to have magical properties.  I'll even throw in a giveaway, Barb-style.

Tell me what your resolutions are in the comments of this post and you will be entered to win the donation of a vegetable garden in your name. (Contest closes one week from today, or a week from tomorrow, depending on when you celebrate the Arbitrary New Year.)

Happy Arbitrary New Year, either today or tomorrow!  Have fun!

Monday, May 09, 2011


So, yesterday I was in some serious pain from my messed up foot.  I overdid it during the week and got lazy with doing the exercises that keep my foot supple.

Don't worry; although it is still tender today, I took it fairly easily yesterday so it's not near as bad today.

But I was thinking about a man I saw take a fall at my daughter's Tae Kwon Do class on Thursday. He has a history of back pain--had been injured and had to take 15 months off of exercise of any kind. He was just returning to his former life. When he fell, his entire body contorted and he lay on the ground--the cardiac nurse sitting next to me (also waiting for her child) moved into position in case he had some kind of seizure. He went pale and panicky.

I sat with him for a while after he got up and assured everyone that he was okay.  He was a little shamefaced at having reacted so strongly --not to actual pain but to the REMEMBRANCE of his pain. He struggled to find the words to explain to me how bad it had been and how much he appreciated being pain-free now. I completely understood.

I was really struck by that fear, though.  It made me wonder if it's a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Because I have felt that panic at the memory of the chronic pain that zapped all of the good things in my life not so long ago. I have felt that panic and been paralyzed by fear, even though I have been fortunate enough to experience life pain-free again.

It's just hard to explain how debilitating that kind of teeth-clenching, soul-sucking pain can be. It's hard to find words to describe it adequately. And even after the pain leaves us (if we are lucky and I am very lucky,) the pain is such a monster that it leaves little seeds behind in our psyche.  It's like the mint I planted two years ago that I freaking CANNOT eradicate now. Little sprigs of it keep popping up. I had to move the whole garden box to get rid of it.

(That mound of dirt and MINT to the left is where the bed used to be.  The box in the front is where we moved it.)
The good news is that the garden box is in a new and sunnier place and will yield corn and carrots for us this summer, which weren't possible in the old place.
From left to right: herbs, peppers, carrots, corn

The harder thing is knowing how to move the garden box where my pain keeps springing up. Because, yesterday morning, I wanted to curl up in the old spot and let the pain cover me like a blanket, stealing my joy and shutting out everything good.

In a way, it's a good reminder of how far I've come.  It's also a reminder of how close to the drain so many people are.  Over the past seven months, as I've emerged from the pain fog and begun to live again, I have heard story after story of people who went through something similar and came out on the other side. But I don't really hear stories of people who are actively in the throes of chronic pain and despair.  I think maybe this is due to the fact that when one is inside of that pain, it's so loud and so all-consuming, there's no way to talk about it.  I know *I* couldn't and you KNOW how wordy *I* am.

It strengthens my resolve to help in some way. I'm still listening for how I'm supposed to do that, but more and more, it seems to me that there are signs pointing toward being a voice for those who have been robbed of their voices by that smothering, all-encompassing pain. I've been thinking a lot about writing my story in hopes that it might help someone somewhere who can hand my work to his/her loved ones and say, "Here.  It's like this."

What do y'all think? If you suffer from chronic pain, would it help to read something like that?  Would it be inspirational to hear the story of someone who found her way out of it, or would it be like salt in the wound of your own pain? If you don't suffer from chronic pain, would that kind of a story inspire or depress you?  Would you even read it at all?  What if it was sort of funny because it was coupled with the story of how a Texas gal found herself transplanted to New York, grew some tomatoes, got a puppy, and found yoga?