A Heart

How do you fix a heart

That was broken so long ago?

It was stitched and patched back together

With silk and gossamer tears

And thin scar tissue barely threatens to hold

The broken heart halves together

~

How do you mend that hole

Where the blood and the tears mix

Together as one

Before they leak and then pour

Merging into a lake sized puddle

Spreading slowly across the floor?

~

Where do you go

To buy the proper materials

And find the best mechanic, artist, technician, or doctor

To put it all back together,

in a way that makes sense?

Please make this poor heart, so full of holes

A whole heart again

~

This heart full of holes

Releases its leaden balloons

Sending up signals

Here is anxiety

Here is pain

Here is fear

And anger comes along too

Leaden, heavy balloons

~

They are floating

Floating heavily before me

Until they slowly fall

Dragging the broken stitched up heart behind them

Into the lake puddle of blood

Leaving me wondering

What now for this empty, empty space

The remaining hole in my chest

With the heart that could not be patched or stitched up again

What now.

 

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Just a Clear Little Night

The Dog

He needs to be walked and walked and walked

It doesn’t matter if it is raining or snowing, he needs to walk

And do his business

So I took him out last night

Last night, out into the cool air, bundled up in my purple down jacket

With the fake furry fringe around my face

Which allows me to peak out, as if from a tunnel

I peak out and I see a clear, dark, crisp sky

Stars shining, twinkling with their gaseous light

And a half full moon glowing bright white in the center of the sky

We walk and walk and he does his business

The shadows of the leave-less Spring trees follow us back down the empty dark street

Their spiny branches creating fingers that reach for us, reach for us, reach for us

And it’s so beautiful

So beautiful that I cannot imagine not going out for this walk

I needed to be breathing in the fresh air of this clear little night

With my tunnel vision, and dog in tow

And the leave-less shadow trees reaching, reaching, reaching.

Finally a yoga teacher

I am completing my 200 hour yoga teacher training this weekend. I remain humbled and excited to see where this dharma might lead me. The changes have been subtle and meaningful. I am amazed that my capacity to grow and evolve remains in place, though sometimes I feel stuck, stuck, stuck in the attachments, cravings, and aversions of this material world. Yes it is normal but i see it more clearly every day, feel it more dearly, this need to let it go and let it go and let it go.

The major change from undertaking this journey that I feel confident in mentioning is that my “anger” seems to have dampened. I still suffer from anxiety, but I am better able to observe and let go, strive for peace regardless of the situation. Let go, let go, let go, let go. I do not have to do it all, I do not have to be responsible for failure, I can learn and move and grow.  I also see yoga more clearly each day as the path to a peaceful death, as well as a way to meet the stress of life, by taking the philosophy from the mat and applying it off the mat. Like it or not, death looms large before all of us, and I recall the hours I have spent as a hospice nurse, sitting at the bedside, holding a hand, watching the breath of others on their slow or fast movement toward death. And we all march on, every breath closer to the end, every breath an opportunity for growth, every breath a chance to be here now before the inevitable arrives.

The other day I was laying on the mat in my favorite little yoga studio. I lay staring up at the plain white ceiling and the long bright mid-day light came streaming through the windows. I had a flash of laying in bed, waiting to die, recalling the San Francisco Hospital, with its “Nightingale floors”, where I used to take nursing students for their first clinical experience. Some of the wards housed 20-30 patients, beds lined up on either side of the open room, with only a thin curtain to provide a chance at privacy. This was a city funded hospital, where many truly indigent patients would come to live and die, and the style of care often seemed as ancient as the 100 year old buildings.

But laying on the mat, I thought of the tall ceilings of this hospital, of the people who resided there, living and dying,  and how if I had my yoga practice, or even  the capacity to simply focus on my breath for some time, I could do this death thing, or anything, peacefully. I could breathe, and breathe, and breathe my way out of this suffering world when my time was right.

From the Mat

I look up and stare into the white light, the warmth, the all and nothing blending together

And I breathe

I notice the knots on the white washed wood. I realize how old this building is

Brick and mortar and wood and wires that will surely someday collapse in and down and around, back toward the earth

I wonder if anybody died in this place where I am now, feeling certain they have

And I breathe

The warm sun light streams into the room, basking me, floating me on its rays

And for just this moment I find it, that spaciousness, that opening to life

The peace, the letting go, the thing I have been craving

And I breathe

It floats away as new thoughts enter. I continue rearranging my thoughts

Thoughts flowing through predictably, continually, like the stars marching across the night sky

Which is okay for now, because I can at some point remember

To let go, let go, let go and watch the thoughts march by

Because I breathe.

Here on the mat.

With the white washed walls, the sun shining through, and my heart opening to peace, to the all and nothing.

And then we sit together. We chant aum and we say namaste to one another in a meaningful way.

I can feel that connection before it dissolves; yes I do see the light and beauty in you and me, in this room, with the light streaming in through the tall windows and reflecting of the white walls.

Because I breathe, and breathe, and breathe….

Hello Fall in New England: Remaining Sugar-Free

Though we are still technically a few days away from the Fall Equinox, this weekend has felt like Fall in New England. The weather has been gorgeous with cold nights and mornings, warmer days, but a hint of crispness in the shade. We have had clear blue skies, puffy clouds, and the foliage is just beginning to hint at the promise of an extravagant color show to come. Yesterday I did a 6 mile run through the woods and the perfectness of the day filled me with joy, gratitude, and a glowing appreciation for this beautiful area of Western Maine. Apple picking and pumpkin hunting need to be added to our weekend agendas, and thoughts of the last fair of fair season in Maine (The Fryeburg Fair) bring about excitement to our young girls thoughts. They ask about rides, cider, donuts, and ice cream.

So, yes Fall means that there may be new temptations as sweets and sugar seem to continue to abound in the landscape of life. I have made it 5 weeks sugar-free, and a common question has been, so what has changed for you? As I have written about before, the changes have been subtle, and I have come now to appreciate these questions (mostly from yoginis) as a chance to really reflect on what the benefits have been.

I have lost some weight, but now I need to focus on making sure I get enough to eat that I don’t lose any more weight, as being underweight may affect the immune system. Losing weight was not really the goal of this change in lifestyle. I feel more “even” and do not have nearly the extreme swings and sudden outbursts in temper or loss pf patience with my kids that I had before. My energy and endurance are improving, and the other day I noticed with my running that I am able to do about 10% more mileage in a given time period then I was able to do before without feeling any more effort.

But I have to say the greatest aspect of being sugar-free is that my anxiety has decreased greatly. Things that would normally send me into an internal stomach knot, I am now able to contemplate, recognize the feelings, and start to breathe through them. I feel as if I am more aware of my body in yoga, and I am able to find my edge and then back off a bit to be in a greater state of focused relaxation. On the days I don’t work out, I don’t feel quite as antsy I usually do.

I still have not gotten my lab work done (hopefully I can do that this week), but my hope is that with the elimination of sugar and the associated processed foods, perhaps my high cholesterol levels will have come down. I think this will be a huge supportive factor in continuing this process.

I also know that I need to be gentle with myself, and I need to focus on an eating plan. I am currently reading the book the Sugar Addict’s Total Recovery Program, (SATRP) and the author, Kathleen Desmaisons, has some great ideas about how to change your diet and lifestyle. I honestly had never thought of myself as a sugar addict,I was doing this as part of my yoga training, but when I look at her definitions and the lifestyle of a sugar addict, I realize that indeed I fall within the parameters of the sugar addict. I prefer to not eat breakfast, I prefer to eat a sugary treat as my first food of the day, I get hypoglycemic episodes, and I had my special foods and treats that nobody else was to eat.

With the SATRP, Desmaisons has a gentle and long-term approach to supporting the recovery from sugar addiction. Although I don’t feel I can completely start from the beginning of this program (you start by eating breakfast everyday that has a protein source), I would like to incorporate some of her ideas, such as eating 3 meals/ day at regular times and incorporating some protein, equivalent to 1/3 of daily needs, with each meal. I did order some protein powder to add some protein to some of my meals; I think being a vegetarian may make this a challenge. I have found some protein bars that are sugar-free and meet this criteria, and I will combine those with a piece of fruit for a meal. Hard boiled eggs and cheese will be my friends, as will veggie burgers, Quorn products, and beans. Desmaisons also recommends a potatoe before bed to increase serotonin levels and she offers an understandable and somewhat scientifically sound explanation for how this might work in the body and brain.

I know this will take a lot of planning, and trips to the grocery store, but I think the nurturing of my body is worth the effort I will need to put forth. I know that should I opt for a sugary treat, I should combine it with a meal to decrease the impact on my blood sugar and spend the time to really reflect on how my body-mind-spirit feel after having the treat. In all honesty, I almost want to have a treat to see if it really does make me feel woozy/ foggy, but perhaps I will wait until the fair to try it out…

Camping in Maine: What is up with the outhouse and shopping when it rains.

This week we are camping in Maine at a coastal campsite in Freeport. The great thing has been the ability to drop my older daughter off at farm camp, and then cruise into Freeport during the rain and drizzle and go shopping.

I am still madly in love with Freeport, and of course LL Bean. Did you know that the number one tourist attraction in Maine is shopping? I like to go in to LL Bean and look at the clothes, but I do find that they are often out of stock in my size on the floor. Then I know what styles I like, so I can order them online. I also tried on some girls larger size clothes and confirmed that I can still wear a girls 16, which is going to be fun for a few years as my daughters and I can buy the same outfits (LOL). Of course, someday they will grow up and enter into tween-dom, and likely not want to wear the same clothing as their dowdy old mother.

There is also a Mexicali Blues store here in , for all of your hippie accessories. For my husband’s upcoming old-man birthday, I bought him a Jerry Garcia song book and a Maine deadhead sticker. What do you get the hippie was has everything he needs anyway?

The campground is a lovely place right on the coastal bay in Freeport. We survived a pretty intense rain storm where 2 inches of rain fell in about 4 hours and the winds were howling (the winds are of course a great deal more scary then the rain, because of the potential for tree limbs falling). The only issue we have had thus far is with the outhouses. They are literally filled to the top and when I went to the office to check, they said, sorry, there’s nothing we can do because the clean out is not scheduled until tomorrow. I of course informed them that I was a nurse and I was very concerned about the possibility of an illness such as Hepatitis A spreading easily in such an environment; the young ladies at the desk just smiled and nodded. Luckily there are pit toilets and it is worth the extra walk to ensure a bit more safe environment.

And the last challenge is remaining sugar free while camping. Eating nuts and fruits seems to help a great deal and I am on day 11 of 21 days. I am still not sure where this venture is leading me, but eventually, I think I will at least find some balance in my diet and try to stay away from foods with added sugar on a regular basis. My hubby went shopping for me yesterday and he came back to the camp completely disgusted that he had such a difficult time finding foods that do not have added sugar; he called the nicotine of the masses, but the problem is that most of us are completely unaware of what we are eating and its origins. So, if there are certain products I want to buy, like spaghetti sauce, dressing, or salsa, then I will need to learn which brands do not have sugar.

Surviving a Fair in Maine: Going Sugar Free

Yesterday was my fifth day “sugar free”. I had a great 7 mile run in the morning, a quick meditation session, and did yoga before I went to bed. Meanwhile, the afternoon was spent taking my 3 and 5 year old girls to the fair in Topsham, Maine.

 

Fair Time in Maine

Obviously, going to the fair is a challenge for anybody trying to eat healthy. My usual fair foods of choice would be mini-donuts, kettle corn, and ice-cream. Do you think those have sugar in them?

So, the going to the fair process needed to be addressed with a plan in mind. I made sure to eat before I left the house (apples, nuts, bread), drink plenty of water or herbal tea throughout the day, and focus on having fun with the kids. We did all of the kiddie-rides first (merry-go-round, kids cars, big jumpy slide, tea-cup bears, and ferris wheel). The girls then played darts to win a prize. Feeding them was easy since I don’t impose my eating restrictions on them to a great degree (basically, they do not get soda, limited juice to a few times/ week, and no junk food in the house). But what do I eat at the fair?

Luckily I found a baked potato stand (Really!?) and I ordered the potato with sour cream and broccoli. I thought he lady felt bad for me; she frowned at the potato and she wanted to make sure I didn’t want some delicious (Velveta?) cheese sauce on the potato. Unfortunately, the broccoli was cooked down to an unattractive green-gray mush, but some of it was edible. While I was waiting for the kids’ dinner, a man asked me what in the world I was eating. I felt apologetic and sort of sorry for myself while I told him it was just a baked potato. We watched the karokee competition for awhile and then visited the animals: cows, pigs (is there anything cuter then a piglet that is only 10 days old?), ducklings, rabbits, baby chicks, and an alpaca named curly. The girls wanted ice-cream on the way out, and the pregnant lady behind the counter, after serving up the girls choices, asked me, “don’t you want some ice cream too?”.

So, I survived the fair remaining sugar free. Afterwards we drove out to our summer home (here in Maine, everybody calls them “camps”) and their was more temptation on the way. Dairy Queen had a special $0.79 for a blizzard (must…drive….by) and then the biggest temptation, the local home-made frozen custard stand. The sign out front said “Just made: Moose Tracks”.

As my mouth watered and I drove on by, I thought back to the conversation I had earlier in the day with my yoga teacher. Julie was very encouraging and supportive, and yet there is still this sort of personal ambiguity of whether or not I need to remain sugar-free, will I turn into a martyr, etc. She offered the sage advice of perhaps going for 21 days sugar free, and then thinking about moderating the sugar intake, or perhaps doing honey or cane sugar only. We spoke about controlling the environment and simply not having the foods available, which is an old weight loss trick that works. Also, we chatted about how to get enough food and calories in without the sugar-fat foods to maintain my weight. I think it will mean eating frequently, and focusing more on protein and fats.

This morning hubby said, “So, no more mochas for you…”. I felt a bit sorry for myself for a minute and sighed. In all honesty, I felt angry that he would say that first thing in the cool morning when nothing could be more delicious, soothing, or inviting then a warm quadruple mocha. He is usually quite supportive of my endeavors, so I know he was just making conversation and that an attitude of love for myself and others will get me through any mocha withdrawal symptoms.

As part of the yogic lifestyle, one has to notice, be aware… so if do moderate sugar, how do I feel before, during, and after eating the sugary-treat? If I fell angry about not having a usual treat, what is that about on a deeper spiritual level? When I get passed the 21 days, I think I will try and moderate to a treat once in awhile (perhaps no more then one/ week), though I will focus on my awareness before, during, and after.

Summer in Maine

Maine is a beautiful place to spend the summer. Everything is incredibly green, the days are warm, and the thunder storms are spectacular. Roadside farm stands abound with berries, corn, squash, cucumbers, and flowers. I have been indulging all of this week on warm blueberry pie with ice cream, which also means I have been running 5-7 miles/ day to keep the pudge at bay.We made a trip to Albany earlier in July where I received a professional recognition award from my alma mater, and two weeks ago we went to music festival in CT. Ahead of us, the girls have a dance camp next week, and then following week, the older one will go to day camp at farm while we also tent camp as a family at the sister campground. We may also take a drive up the coast, as there is so much of Maine we have not seen.

It’s nice to just spend time chilling out. We are fortunate to have the most amazing summer home; my husband’s father and mother purchased this property on a lake in Western Maine some 48 years ago and now hubby owns it along with his 2 brothers. We are the only one’s who live locally enough to access the property regularly, and to be honest, I sometimes feel like this property is mine! The girls love it here as well, as they get to go to the beach almost everyday, ride in the ski boat, go fishing, and swim to their hearts’ content. Being at “the camp” feels like vacation, and I think we all experience a sense of peace and ease that we don’t have at other times in our lives. It’s easier to meditate here, it’s easier to sleep and rest here. I also find that without the daily distractions I experience elsewhere, I am more likely to get to work on writing and other projects then I would be at home.

Sunset on the Lake

Maine Lake Sunset

We have had a dear friend from college visiting this week and that takes away some of those lonely feelings and my pity-party attitude of I don’t have any friends here. She has been helping a great deal with the girls, acting like their second mom, and this has allowed me the time to finish prepping two of my three Fall courses, while I also continue to write an article that needs to be done by the end of this month.Tonight we are going to have a picnic dinner on the beach, then take a boat ride at sunset and light off some balloon lanterns in memory of those we have lost in the past year. My husband’s mom passed away, my father died, and our dear friend lost her husband (who was also my husband’s best college friend) to lymphoa.

More Maine sunset!

It has been only about a month total I have been “off” from work, and, as I mentioned, I am really experiencing a sense of ease and relaxation that is hard to come by during the school year. However this makes me nervous, because I have this crazy idea that when the wheels start spinning again, I won’t be able to keep up. I also get concerned about just how hard and fast those wheels spin during the school year. I need to find ways to maintain this peace and ease on a year-round basis, though I am entirely grateful that I have these two months to rest and rejuvenate.

But for today, right now, I know what I can do; step away from the computer and spend 10 minutes meditating before the kids return from swimming at the beach, hot and tired and looking for Mommy comfort.