August Break

i am...

...undone.

As in, unfurled, spilling over, like an entire box of tiny ball bearings that've been released all at once. Hundreds of memories and hopes and dreams and joys and sorrows scattering in every direction, bouncing from table to floor with a percussive cadence that sounds impossible to understand. 

My baby left again today.

If my tears were solely about her departure, it'd be silly, really, because Anna is a grown woman -- 28 years old. And she's so very wise and capable. I am happy that she's courageous enough to follow her heart and move back to Nashville so she can be with her people. Her music people. She has given convention the slip again and chosen the path that comes with no road maps or guarantees. That's how I raised her. But this afternoon I'm a very proud mother blubbering her way through a box of Kleenex. Even though I'm sending her off with a heart full of admiration and hope, I will miss her terribly. My daughters are my best friends.

 My girl, sitting at my breakfast table for the very last time before hitting the road. I deeply wished for a pause button.

My girl, sitting at my breakfast table for the very last time before hitting the road. I deeply wished for a pause button.

I'm sure there are other things contributing to my waterworks. This morning my oldest daughter sent me a TimeHop video of my two oldest granddaughters when they were babies. I couldn't see her face but I could hear my mother's voice laughing and talking to her great-granddaughters. She's been dead nearly six years. The baby on the ottoman, now in second grade, is a brilliant little beauty with cascading red curls. She is fluent in Spanish. The diapered toddler has grown into a stunning, brown-eyed adventurer, flying on a trapeze, going rock climbing and hanging with monkeys and gators in Central America. Life goes on.

And on.

And on.

The tick-tock has picked up speed and increased its volume. Or maybe it's just that I'm finally paying attention.

Over the last 12 years I've said goodbye to a 25 year marriage and the obliteration of our family as we all knew it. Due to circumstances out of my control I found myself in bankruptcy court and in the middle of foreclosure proceedings. I've moved five times. I've seen both of my parents through cancer; my mom didn't make it. My dad triumphed over his, but several years later succumbed to multiple mental and physical health problems that required a crushing load of care. I spent three long years walking him through his last years on earth, and it may have been the hardest thing I've ever done. I've helped my children bury their their father, even though it was extremely painful for me to do so. In the last 12 years I've fractured my ankle (twice), been diagnosed with two autoimmune illnesses, and had back surgery earlier this year.

But there've been a lot of positives, too. I forged a new career at 44, started two businesses, and earned a college degree at 48. I am happily remarried. I have three beautiful granddaughters. I have found a sister and brother I never knew, both of whom have enriched my life exponentially. I have a lovely new home in the country, away from the hustle and bustle of a hometown that has ceased to feel like home anymore. I have a loving spouse, great friends, a wonderful family, and a comfortable life.  

And yet. 

Today I'm feeling the weight of sadness that accompanies goodbyes. Though I've emerged as best I could from what's felt like an avalanche of loss, I suspect I'm still carrying a load of grief that wants its day in the sun. As I watched Anna drive off today, I felt the dam cracking and breaking open a little bit more. 

 I apologized for not being able to stop the tears. And she was so good about it. I don't know if I've ever hugged her so tightly.

I apologized for not being able to stop the tears. And she was so good about it. I don't know if I've ever hugged her so tightly.

 Godspeed, child. I believe in you.

Godspeed, child. I believe in you.

peaceful

The sound of water is one of the most peaceful, healing forces in my life. I love to listen to fountains, waterfalls and oceans. They have so much to tell.

"Let go," they say, in a resounding chorus. "Accept the ebb and flow of things. Quit fighting and float. Allow life to unfold. Don't push the river--it knows exactly where to go." 

 Multnomah Falls, Oregon.

Multnomah Falls, Oregon.

I adore hot baths. Hot tubs. The cold, take-your-breath-away rush of jumping into natural springs. I even love the sound of those pivoting sprinklers. They're a signal that very thirsty ground is soaking up exactly what it needs. This give-and-take invites me to consider that perhaps I'll get what I need, too.

Somehow.

 Bitterroot River, Montana

Bitterroot River, Montana

Thunderstorms are my favorite. Somehow they make me feel safe, which is a little surprising because many people have the opposite reaction. A rainy day gives me permission to slow down a bit, take a book to bed, watch an old movie. Sometimes I just sit on the back porch and watch the wind and the rain and the swaying trees have a fascinating three-way conversation. Somehow, storms stop (or at least slow down) time for me.

This is the backyard of the home we left just two months ago.

 Frio River, Leakey, TX

Frio River, Leakey, TX

I mostly swim laps for exercise. I love it because it shuts out the common, everyday world and submerges me in a muted universe where the laws of gravity are suspended and my restless mind can wander. No agenda. No problem solving. No noise but splashing. Just jump in, glide, feel and listen. 

 

 

today is...

... another rainy day. 

 

We are certainly not getting pounded as badly as Louisiana is. But it's been raining and raining and raining for several weeks. Low water crossings are plentiful in central Texas, and if you're not familiar with them, they're pretty dangerous when it's perpetually rainy.

 

Flash floods are common here, and when a large amount of rain falls in a very short time, the low water crossings can rise in a matter of minutes. And when they rise, it's hard to tell exactly how deep the water is. There are gauges, but too many folks think they can drive through the water because the slope of the road makes it look shallow. But all too often the strong current sweeps the car off the roadway and scores of people lose their lives that way. There's a slogan to remind people not to try and cross them: Turn around. Don't drown. 

 

We have three low water crossings near our new house. The road was closed last night due to flash flooding, which meant I had to turn around and go around through a neighboring town to get home. We're grateful that we live in a spot where there's another way to get out of our neighborhood. Some of our neighbors get stranded every time the creek rises. But it's so beautiful out here, it's worth it.

 

We went down to the low water crossings today to see what we could see. They were back open, but in the following photos you can see how if there was a deluge it could become a dangerous situation very quickly. The cypress trees along the creek are so dreamy. I still can't believe this is my 'hood. 

In case you're wondering just how volatile these currents can be, take a glance at this video clip from today.

 

Today is also a day of spending some much needed time with my youngest daughter, who is soon moving to Nashville. We took a bike ride together this morning; it wasn't terribly hot (in the 80's) but the humidity was suffocating.

As you can see, Anna is a badass. 

And finally, I had to include a couple of photos of a beautiful weed I kept seeing along the way. Yes, sometimes weeds can be lovely. I especially love the symmetry of the leaves. 

breathe

I started regularly practicing yoga in late 2010, right after my mother died. I had no idea how it would change my life. For nearly six years I practiced at The Yoga Room in Round Rock, TX. Their slogan is, "Yoga for Every Body." I love that. Regardless of skill level, the unifying element of all yoga practice is the breath, being aware of it, following it, letting it center and ground us. I wish I could say that I always breathe freely and deeply with ease. But the truth is I still often find myself holding my breath, as though that could somehow influence any outcome. 

 

I moved away from Round Rock about two months ago and haven't found a studio nearby (I kind of live out in the country.) For now, I just signed up on the Gaia site, where there are a lot of different videos I can use at home.

 

Though no one ever specifically taught me this, one of the biggest things I've learned practicing yoga is how to let each body part do its job, and not try and take over the work of other functions. For example, I've learned how to bend over and get up without using my back muscles. It makes a huge difference in the long run. 

Over the years I've done several photo shoots for my studio. Here are a few of my favorites. 

A total aside that has nothing to do with breathing: About a year ago, the owner of the studio, Zelinda, got in touch with me and told me that the photo below had gone viral, and that there were studios all over the world using my image without permission! There were places from Thailand to Colombia (and lots of countries in between) who'd grabbed the photo and made it part of their marketing strategies. There were more than 300 places that were using it, and I felt helpless to do anything about it. 

And then I heard about Pixsy.

 

Pixsy is a licensing company that will go after those who owe photographers compensation for use of their work. Of course they take a cut, but that's fine by me because they handle every single bit of the practical and legal aspects of copyright infringement.

 

There are plenty of places that, for whatever reason, didn't pay me and still have the photo up. I need to send them a takedown notice at some point. But I'm happy to say that Pixsy has gotten me several settlements, resulting in money I never would've seen without them. For all the photographers out there, check em out. They do a reverse image search and troll the Internet regularly, looking for your images. When they find matches they end up in your in-box and you can go through them and file claims. Just recently a very large builder grabbed one of my photos from a trip I took, and I just filed a claim on that. I'm grateful to Pixsy for helping put an end to image theft.

*** Back to the subject of breathing, check out this song by Alexi Murdoch.***

 

 

Chasing Unicorns

 

“We’re all chasing unicorns to find a diagnosis, a specialist, a treatment, anything that will relieve the pain.” 
— Lisa S., from Virginia

 

Unicorns have become my go-to metaphor for the plight of someone with chronic pain. I am in that club. In addition to three autoimmune-related illnesses, I've had low back and sacroiliac joint problems that have wreaked havoc on my body for years. People in chronic pain want to get out of pain. So we seek solutions, trying a host of treatments, therapies, regimens, etc., many of which cost more money than we have. In my experience these remedies have more often than not led to a dead end, or at least a cul-de-sac. I've learned to manage my pain, but as of today I haven't completely gotten rid of it.

 

In a recent poll I took amongst a community of chronic pain sufferers, more than half had seen more than 10 doctors and practitioners to try and address their pain issues. Some had seen 20 or 30. After awhile you start wondering if you're looking for something that doesn't exist. Like unicorns. 

 

One frustrating thing about chronic pain is that it's lonely. You don't want to be Debbie Downer to your family and friends, always talking about how difficult it is to function. At some point I just decided to quit trying to make people understand. They don't, and I've come to believe that it's more because they can't rather than they won't.

 

Another reason I don't talk about it much is because so often I come across well-meaning people who know they have my answer. It's a vitamin/supplement regimen, an exercise program, a dietary solution, an acupuncturist, a chiropractor, an alternative therapy or at least a very strong opinion about why I'm still in pain. The very worst kind are those that insinuate that I'm choosing to stay in pain because I'm not open to their ideas. And when I try to tell them that I’ve been to more than a dozen doctors, four chiropractors, three physical therapists, four acupuncturists, 30+ various massage therapists, six months of prolotherapy, two personal trainers, three oriental medicine clinics, two nutritionists, a yearlong stint with a Feldenkrais practitioner and five years of yoga, that often doesn't convince them. Their solution is the one. At some point you've gotta just quit following the Pied Pipers of the world, even if they do mean well. 

 

I did have a really big breakthrough on my chronic pain earlier this year. Though I still very much questioned their existence, I went in search of unicorns again and actually found one. After 30 years of doctors telling me my low back pain wasn't coming from my sacroiliac joint, I found one that believed that it was. I had to go from Texas to Montana to find him, but he operated on me in January and that has alleviated about 90% of my chronic low back pain. (You can read about it here.) No, I'm not completely out of pain. But that one element, which was a biggie in my pain portfolio, is much better.

 

All that to say, I think our best shot at finding unicorns is to turn down the volume of everyone else's chatter and opinions, listen closely to ourselves, and choose to bet on what we know rather than what others say they know.