Turning Left

An amazing thing happened while walking Sammy this morning. I set out to walk our usual 5km route, which takes about an hour when you factor in the P-mail and canine message board checking along the way.  It was a beautiful morning, not a cloud in the sky, not a breath of wind, and a deliciously crunchy minus 6 degrees. But I was feeling the slight edges of “broken-ness” creeping into my day. I don’t know why. I could just feel it encroaching – my balance beam was narrow this morning. Recognizing the signs and determined to turn it around, I grabbed the leash, put on my gear and out we went. I tried to puzzle out the why & how as we walked along, but the feeling only got worse. Finally I gave up and mentally called on my balance checklist for help. “What have I done on my checklist today”, I asked myself? Well, I haven’t done anything for the house. I haven’t taken my supplements. I haven’t taken a bath. I haven’t told my husband how I am feeling…wait, wait! Stop!

Let me try that again (standing in the middle of Falcon Street.)

“What have I done on my checklist today?” I asked myself. “I did something creative (I spent about an hour working out a new square for Nora’s quilt), I had a piece of fruit (a healthy food choice) for breakfast, I communicated with someone (made an inquiry about a depression skills workshop that was recommended for me called Changeways). I am getting some exercise. I recognized my beam was narrow and took action by going out for a walk in the fresh air and sunshine. I reframed negative thoughts.

Much better! Okay, now I will continue my story!

An amazing thing happened while walking Sammy this morning. Instead of walking our usual route, we turned left part way along and explored some new streets. There is only one reason that this is amazing. And that reason is…time. Usually when I go for a walk, it is for a pre-determined amount of time or distance. I will walk 5K, for example, or for 30 minutes.

Why? Because, like most people, I always have something else to do, and going for a walk has to fit around everything else. For example, I can only walk the dog for 20 minutes and then I have to make dinner because we have band practice right after that. Or, I can only walk the dog for 30 minutes in the morning, and then I must be home to get ready to go to work. Or, I cannot walk the dog at all because I just got home from work and I am hungry, and after dinner I cannot walk the dog because I have to leave to teach a class. Sometimes there are legitimate reasons that determine how long I can walk for. It is true that I have to be home in time to make dinner because one or both of us have band practice/dance class/ground school/pool league as soon as dinner is over. Because of that, I have created an artificial need to put boundaries around the amount of time I can give/spare for taking a walk, even if (as happened today) there is no reason.

“I can only walk the dog for an hour and then I must go home and… and… finish the quilt square?” (Really? Is that the best you can come up with, Nita?)

The amazing thing is that for the first time, I realized that I did not have to be home at any time in particular, for any reason in particular. I could just walk. And so I did. We turned left and explored a whole new neighbourhood. As we walked along, my mind wandered and wandered. How luxurious!

I realized how tightly I hold control over time, how everything has always been so scheduled in my life in order to fit it all in. For all of these 5 weeks that I have been away from work, I have walked the dog almost every single day. For only 30 minutes. For only 60 minutes. For only 5K.  Only because of that artificially self-imposed sense of urgency around not having enough time. How glad I am that after (only!) 5 weeks it has finally clicked into place for me! And oh, how I enjoyed that walk! In fact, as we were walking down one particularly lovely street, we passed a house that had the most beautiful quilt airing over the railing. I stopped and admired it for the longest time. It was a hearts & checkerboard pattern in red prints on a white background. I had the biggest smile on my face and felt utterly delighted at discovering this treasure. It seemed to be waiting just for me to walk past. It was A Sign of Good Things to Come.

Walking for pure pleasure is definitely going to the top of my priority list (as soon as I find time to make one – just kidding!)

Anyway, I feel like things finally have the potential to start coming together for me. Like I am standing right on the edge of something truly awesome and immense and GOOD. Today, walking along, I had the sense that I will be whole again, that I am well on the road to getting there. Like bones slowly knitting together, it all takes time and I don’t really have any control over that, it just is what it is and that’s okay.

I feel sorry that I am returning to work next Monday, because the luxury of having the time to embark on this (very slow) journey of discovery and healing will be over. I’m a bit worried about that.

Here is an example of only one small thing that I am afraid will happen: I will find myself saying, “I can only walk for 30 minutes and then I have to make a quilt square.”  When that happens, both the joy of the walk and the joy of sewing both become chores.

Forewarned is forearmed, so let me see if I can reframe that into a positive:

“With all of my evening obligations currently off of my plate, I will have the evening after work (and after supper) to take a walk or do something creative such as writing a new blog post or sewing.”

I would like my next task to be getting rid of that mindless urgency and guilt around time and never having enough of it. I can give myself permission to do only one thing each evening and let the rest go where it will.

Wish me luck!

All Better Yet? random thoughts related to recovery

Over the weekend I asked Kelly if I seemed “better” to him. By “better” I meant “all better”. He said yes, I seemed better but not “all better” from his perspective. He then asked me what my definition of being all better was. I immediately said that it meant being back the way I was before I got sick. After all, isn’t that usually the case? You are recovered from a broken leg when the leg is healed and back to the way it was before? I’ve been thinking about that a lot, though, and I don’t believe that definition is true anymore. After all, if I break my leg, do I then go back and repeat the activity that caused it to break in the first place? I mean, maybe I slipped on the ice. After my leg is healed, aren’t I going to be sure to be more careful next time? Or maybe I broke my leg trying to jump over the coffee table. I don’t think I would try that again! LOL! So… I got sick for a lot of reasons; menopausal hormones, traumatic life event, insane amount of obligations on my plate (meaning a work ethic set at over-achieve.) Some of those things just “are”. Others, though, I have some control over. Will I consider myself to be “all better” when I’m once again working 6 days per week, with no time to spare for anything other than work? That’s the way I was before I got sick. According to my definition, that’s what being well would mean.

Guess what. It’s not.  It’s not what I want to go back to.

Questions running around in my mind…what do any of us want out of life? Who am I trying to impress by working myself into the ground? I have a great day job, but I don’t love it the way I used to. And also, when did teaching dance start to become work, too? And isn’t that a sign?

Work ethic overdrive. Where does that come from? It’s okay to be proud of the work we do. How many vegetables we planted and canned, how we painted the house, how we sewed a quilt. But where does it cross the line into being unhealthy? How many days a week can I work and still be alive? How many hours each day without collapsing? If I can’t add up what only I can judge to be a “sufficient amount of X”, have I failed?

Time has always been an issue for me. Often, my broken times and panic attacks center around the feeling that I don’t have enough time.

Time for what? Ah…there’s the question! (and the answer).

I think I will call up my future self and ask her. I’ll let you know if she calls back.


Mending a Broken Heart

I have been doing a lot of thinking. Sometimes I’ve needed to keep very busy to avoid thinking, but the thoughts move around on their in the background and eventually push themselves to the front. Like a sliver in your finger. Takes time. Lots of time.

I used to tell a story to my students about posture and self-confidence; about how you can change your mood and your self-image simply by changing your posture. Walk like you are confident and eventually you will start to feel confident,” I would say. “If you don’t feel confident, then pretend to feel confident; hold a confident posture.” So much power we have over ourselves. So much power the mind has over the body.

Today as I walked through the woods with Samson, the thought pushed itself forward that it can work both ways. Events can happen to you that cause your brain chemistry to change so drastically that you become physically ill, causing PTSD, or major depression – what they used to call a nervous breakdown – a term I actually prefer.

The heart is indeed a fragile thing. Fragile and resilient at the same time. But it can break. And it does mend. I’ve been thinking, and it seems too much of a coincidence that the depths of the depression followed on the heels of heartbreaking events in my personal life last Fall.

The beautiful song “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” has been playing in my head. Poor Andy Gibb. Andy suffered bouts of depression most of his life. In the last year of his life he went through a severe depression caused by a broken heart from his break up with the love of his life, Victoria Principal. He died in March, 1988 from myocarditis, a virus that attacked his heart. He was only 30 years old.

How can you mend a broken heart? How can you recover from depression? Time. Time and the guts to move forward. Andy knew it, and so do I.

Here’s to you, Andy.