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courage, Guest Posts, healing

I Am (Not) 43 & Fabulous.

January 5, 2014

image courtesy of Simplereminders.com

image courtesy of Simplereminders.com

By Wendy Jackson.

 

I had my second back surgery shortly after I turned 40. 

I knew I needed it and that cortisone shots would not be on the menu when I lost feeling in my right foot and it turned in at a awkward angle that I could not unbend on my own.  I could not wiggle my toes. And it hurt like a motherf*cker.

I was not upset that I needed the surgery.

My first one was not terrible and my recovery was unremarkable.  At 40 I had just run my first 5k and was determined to be that woman who ages gracefully and looks better with the years. I wanted to be that woman in MORE magazine with the caption “This is what 40 looks like”.

I was most upset that I was going to miss the annual girls get away (read: drinking, laughing, sleeping, dancing, eating fest) on the river. It’s an amazing little place, with the best view, and to be surrounded by love and laughter all weekend- it’s something I look forward to. The girls offered to take me immediately from the hospital and nurture me on the dock all weekend with promises of good behavior, plenty of painkillers, and the best bed in the house.

My doctor and husband said no. (It should be noted that my husband considered it, he knew how crushed I was to be missing it.)

I assumed of course, that I would exit the hospital good as new with a few prescriptions and a stern “no driving for 6 weeks” as I had before.  A few weeks of physical therapy and we are back on track to being 40 and Fabulous.

But when the doctor came in after surgery and asked if I could wiggle my toes, I could not.  When he asked if I could ‘feel this’, I didn’t feel it . And when I tried to straighten my foot from that awkward angle, it wouldn’t.  And when I asked the doctor to tell me when it would all come back to normal, he couldn’t.

So I did what any normal person would do-I cried.

I cried in my bed, on my couch, and in public. I cried after a full day of shoe shopping, my dear husband trying to find me cute shoes to fit over this hideous leg brace I had been fitted with. I cried in the shower, the howling kind of cry that you don’t want to share. I slipped so deeply and so quickly into this desperate place, that I didn’t notice it.  Or maybe I did. I don’t remember. I just know that I blamed it on grief and the normal, totally acceptable grieving process when you lose something or someone. And I was losing a part of me.

I was losing the part of me that rocked platform, spiked or chunky heels. The me that loved to dress up, and felt sexy, and beautiful. I was losing the part that could chase my kids around the yard and up the stairs as I pinched their bottom and they laughed. I was losing the woman that just ran 3.2 miles and felt powerful and renewed. I was losing the girl that walked effortlessly on the beach, the boat, the dock, the cobblestone sidewalks downtown.

Suddenly my husband was offering me his arm, not in that romantic, Victorian way, but in that way you offer aid to an elderly woman crossing the road.  I was losing freedoms I never imagined-stand up paddleboarding, my step classes, and yes, my yoga.

And that is how I justified the crying, the depression and the hole that I was in. I don’t need medication, this is normal, I kept saying. Until the day I admitted to my husband that there were days when I would drive over the rivers that surround this city, so beautiful and serene, the most peaceful views I have ever seen-and think ‘if I just turn the wheel really hard, really fast, I could go over the edge’.

But I already had, hadn’t I? By just thinking that, by actually saying that, I had stepped off of grief and into something entirely different.

Medication. Reiki. Accupuncture. Therapy.  It is hard to say which one helped me the most.

I stomped my feet and said ‘enough!’ and tried everything at once. I chucked the brace in the back of the closet and vowed to retrain my leg and my body. I sold, donated and gave away my shoe collection and vowed one day that I would wear heels again. I went back to the gym and tried my yoga-failing miserably, but I tried.

I told my husband to hold my hand, not take my arm. I still had 9 months of 40 left-plenty of time to get back on track…

But just months later there was a car accident, not my fault, and when the car stopped everything was muffled, and my ears were ringing terribly. The ER said it was ‘temporary, it happens, don’t worry’. But it wasn’t, and three days later I had the volume on the TV at 32 and I knew it was not good. So off to the doctor, and the ENT and the audiologist I went.

Bilateral sensorinueral hearing loss. Threshhold shift. Permanent.

I laughed. I actually laughed as I heard it, thinking Really? Is this real?’After the leg ordeal, can this really be happening to me? As I sat in the doctors office while they put goo in my ear to take an impression for hearing aids, tears streaming silently down my face, I saw myself walking toward that hole again.  It is dark, and comforting, and it was calling me.  I had just turned 41. This was not how it was supposed to be.

They say that God (or the universe, or whatever you believe in) keeps giving you the same test until you learn the lesson. What lesson was I missing? Why was I being punished? Was this karma? What had I done to deserve this? How on earth did I get here, how did I become this broken person? I was off my meds, and I was trying to make sense of this, and couldn’t. I was determined to push through it, on my own, to be stronger, to be a fighter, and I could not let go of that picture of myself in my head that I had when I turned 40. I kept going back to that place-but it was all different now. I felt as though I was made of glass, and that at any moment, I would shatter and just disappear.

Today, I am 43. Three years of changes, challenges, tears, anxiety, depression, medication. Three years fighting with my doctors, my lawyers, my husband, my friends, and myself.

I kept trying to get back on an earlier path, not realizing it was long gone, washed away years before.

I keep looking at that one picture, that one moment- I was forty and fabulous, and I didn’t even know it.

And there is the lesson.

I wanted THE job, THE body, THE friends, THE life that I thought by 40 I should have. But I had it all along and I didn’t take the time to see it, let alone be thankful for it.

I wasted so much time, so much energy, so much love and life trying to go backwards so that I could move forward, when all I really needed to do was sit still. I needed simply to be present and see everything around me, to feel and acknowledge what I was feeling and then let it go.  I didn’t have to fight everyday, I just had to put down my baggage, take a deep breath, and move forward.

Fabulous according to Webster’s Dictionary means:  resembling or suggesting a fable :  of an incredible, astonishing, or exaggerated nature. It lists related words as : fabricated, fantastic (also fantastical), fictional, fictitious; fanciful, imaginary, imagined, invented, made-up, make-believe, pretend, unreal.

So no, I am not 43 and Fabulous.  I am 43 and Free. And strong. And authentic.  And honest, happy, loved, present and peaceful.

And that is much, much better.

Wendy Jackson is a mom, wife, lover of life and laughter, books, music and writing. She recently attended Jen Pastiloff and Emily Rapp’s writing retreat to Vermont. Book the 2015 retreat here.

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Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above.

Jen Pastiloff is back in London for ONE workshop only Feb 14th. Book by clicking poster. This is her most popular workshop and space is limited to 50 people.

Jen Pastiloff is back in London for ONE workshop only Feb 14th. Book by clicking poster. This is her most popular workshop and space is limited to 50 people.

Awe & Wonder, Beating Fear with a Stick, Guest Posts, healing

Do You Want To Be On The Lifeboat?

December 23, 2013

Do You Want to be on the Lifeboat? 

By Catherine Hummel.

Close your eyes.

Imagine you are on a plane. You are on your way to a vacation you have saved up for and have been looking forward to for several months. You have your drink, your favorite book and a blanket. You are so grateful for a break from your busy life. Your eyes begin to soften as you settle in to your seat for your long ride across the ocean.

Just as you are about to drift off the pilot comes on the loudspeaker.

He begins to notify all passengers that one of the engines has gone out.

You are over the Atlantic Ocean and he informs you that the last engine’s gas will not last longer than one more hour and you won’t make it across the ocean.

The plane will crash.

Your heart starts to speed up.

You start to sweat.

Your mind is racing.

Is this the end of my life?

He then proceeds to tell you that there is one lifeboat on this plane.

6 people will be able to survive and that is it. Others, once they hit the water despite having life jackets will die immediately.

6 people will survive and all passengers on the plane will have a chance to make their case for why they should be the ones to live. And all passengers will have a chance to vote.

Panic. I can’t breathe.

Do you want to be on the boat?

***

I was in a workshop two years ago where I sat through this guided visualization.

I had a few minutes before I stood up in front of 15-20 people and would have 90 seconds to make a case for why I should be picked to be on the plane. I was 24 years old. I was working at a non-profit in downtown Boston. My life was simple. I had made some great changes over the past two years, I had decided to stop drinking. I began taking steps to living the life I dreamed of but at this point I had really settled in to playing really, really small. I had already lived the chaos and I wanted to just get by, wasn’t that enough? Perhaps now it wasn’t. I had passions and dreams but was I doing anything about them? How often did I feel comfortable sharing my heart? How often was I experiencing tremendous joy and excitement about the life I was living? Was I too comfortable playing small? What was I living for? What was important to me? What did I have to offer the world, offer to life? Was I living my life like I wanted to live it??

I stood up. I felt small and insignificant. I felt ridiculous having to fight for my life in front of total strangers and yet I said I want to be on the boat. I don’t even remember consciously saying it. I barely remember what else I said. My voice shook, my hands were trembling, and yet in that moment my life flashed before my eyes.Catherine, do you want to live? What are you doing with your life? What if you were about to die and this was your last chance, would you choose it? In my 90 seconds I talked about what was important to me, I shared my dreams I had never shared with anyone before, that I wanted to help people, specifically help women connect with themselves and their hearts, I wanted to build communities, I wanted people to remember how precious life is and that it’s all a gift, help them connect with their own inner spark, for them to choose a life that they were happy about living. I told the group that I wanted a spot on the boat. I chose life.

As the exercise went on I noticed some things about the way many other people shared. All of us were nervous but many were ready to give up their life. Women talked about how their children needed them but didn’t talk about why they wanted to live for themselves. Men talked about their businesses and their work but not about what really mattered to them. Others younger than me shared about how they had so much life left to live and they too had dreams and goals and passions. Others who were over age 65 said they were ready to die. I found myself getting angry at the ones who were ready to give up. Why are you giving up? Why aren’t they fighting for their life? We are all equally valuable to this world and what kinds of people are we BEING in our day to day life? What really matters? It doesn’t matter how old you are. It doesn’t even matter what you do for a living, each person has something to offer the world. It’s not over til it’s over. I knew people in my life that had found true love at age 70. There are 80 year olds running marathons. There are people who live each day as if it is their last, Wait, am I doing that? Some people got up and even though they made a case, never once said “I want to be on the boat.” Others stood there speechless.

Then we had to vote.  I voted for the ones who said they wanted to be on the boat. Who clearly said it. It didn’t matter if they had good reason, they said they wanted it. I shared with the ones who were ready to give up how angry that made me, that I wanted them to see that they were worthy of life, that they had something to offer regardless of their age, and why were you so easily ready to give up? The martyrdom made me sick. I don’t want people to step aside, I want each person to claim their space, know their worth, equals. It didn’t matter how much money people made, what mattered is what kind of difference they were making in the world. I wanted the ones on the boat who were real. Who were confident in who they were. Who believed in service to others. Who knew life wasn’t just about being happy, ones who had overcome tremendous struggle, and were continuing to live their life in gratitude and with passion. I wanted the fighters on the boat, the ones with hope and desire, the ones who wanted to live.

Of course many people were in reaction to the exercise and treated it as such. Just an exercise. But for me it felt real. I began to ask – Am I living my life like I actually want to?  What about those dreams that I just expressed to complete strangers, why am I not trying to live them? Am I confident in who I am? Do I like who I am? Do I know I am inherently worthy and valuable? Do I show up in my life fully self expressed and free?

I challenge you to ask yourself those questions.

Forget how you would do the exercise- how are you doing your life right now?

Life is a gift. It’s given to us the day we were born. We don’t have to earn it. We don’t have to work for it. It’s handed over and yet how many of us treat life that way?  Waking up in the morning do I act as if this day is a precious gift meant to be lived with kindness and grace? Am I deeply aware of the miracle that I am, that I was born worthy of all my hearts desires, and that my dreams are planted in my heart by spirit and I am strong enough to carry them out and make them real? Am I brave enough to handle when life doesn’t go my way? Do the people in my life know that I love them?

I created my coaching business after that weekend. I wanted to keep my spot on this planet. In this world. I wanted to help other women step up in their life, to know their worth, their passion, and their fire. To know their power and their value. I wanted others to be able to feel their desires, to know that they can handle both the light and the dark, that we were all given this life because we are strong enough to live it. Maybe up until this very moment you’ve been unhappy, you’ve been playing small, you’ve been afraid. Here’s the thing: every second is a chance to turn your life around. You don’t need to wait. This is what Second Chance Coaching was about It took one second for me to make the decision to do something different. To stop playing small. To stop criticizing myself. To pray to see what others see, the beauty within me, until I could see it myself. One second to believe I belong here, that I have a place in this world, and I am not ready to give up, no, I am not willing to give up.

That was 2 years ago when I sat in that workshop. Today I write this blog as a full-time women’s life coach and I have become a yoga teacher. I wanted to write this so I could remember. I could remember what it felt like when parts of me wanted to give up. When I thought life had become too bearable to live.  I want to remember the truth of who I am, of who we all are: unconditional love, infinite possibility, miracles. I want to remember the truth when I want to give up, when it gets too hard, when I don’t want to feel. I want to remember that I said YES to this, that I continue to say yes to this, my spot on the boat, my spot in this world, my life.

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Catherine Hummel is the gal who helps women who’ve lost their spark re-discover the magic within to fall in love with themselves and their life. At 26 years old she is a life coach, Reiki practitioner, yoga teacher, workshop and retreat facilitator, truth-telling machine and oh so very human. Her passion to help others transform their lives stems from her own experiences. At the age of 22 she hit rock bottom – lights out. As she rediscovered her own light and lit up her life, she found meaning in helping others do the same. She leads a monthly women’s circle titled “Sisters of the Heart” in Boston, MA, retreats in North Sandwich, NH and coaches women all over the country journey to their heart. 

 

Abuse, Addiction, Guest Posts, Things I Have Lost Along The Way

Shameful Little Secret.

December 22, 2013

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By Janine Canty.

My son is a drug addict.

I’ve taken to practicing those words in the mirror. They feel unreal. They sound foreign, no matter how many times I repeat them. They taste bad. They actually taste bad. They smell like sour milk and unwashed skin. They feel like a snowstorm in July.

I love him enough to die for him. I love the part of him that named a gerbil “Blub Blub”, when he was three. I love the part of him that ran a gentle finger across my swollen abdomen, and quietly whispered “Baby Brutha”, when he was four.  I love the part of him that wrote a journal entry for his first grade class. He wrote:  “My cat, Mittens, has fleas. Mommy had to give her a bath.  Mommy swore a lot.”

Maybe it was because I dropped the F bomb in front of him. Maybe it’s because he was conceived in the backseat of a blue Dodge Dart with broken seat belts.  Maybe it was the tinny rendition of “Paradise By The Dashboard Light” blasting out of cheap speakers. Maybe it was the sound of clothes slipping lazily off of skin. Maybe it was the boxed macaroni and cheese I let him live on when he was six. Maybe it was a cold night in November. When he watched me climb into a police cruiser without him. I didn’t look back that night. I didn’t see him standing there in a pile of brittle, dead, leaves. I didn’t need to see his face, to memorize it’s every pore.

Maybe it was bad luck, caffeine, or even a faulty gene pool. Maybe it was Bazooka bubble gum and beer. I remember when I was seven, how the rotary phone rang from it’s spot on a kitchen wall. My mother played with the pushpins on a cheerful bulletin  board, while she listened.  Her voice got smaller and quieter. Her body slowly folded in on itself. Assuming the fetal position. Protecting herself from the words.  My cousin, Jackie, a solemn boy with big eyes and soft curls, had been found laying on a Boston street. His blood staining the cement underneath him. His life light extinguished by a strangers dirty knife.  Drugs the adults whispered with red rimmed eyes. Drugs . They lowered their voices. Jackie was reduced to a shameful little secret, with that one word: “Drugs.”Life went on. Family barbecues resumed without him. Jello cake, sweating soda cans, and half smoked pall malls littered a picnic table. While my aunt sat in the shade, with her broken heart hidden behind a pair of  Walgreen’s sunglasses.When I was 23 the phone rang again. This time death had come on a beautiful summer day. My cousin Stephen silenced his demons with a piece of plastic tubing,  He ended his life on top of a mountain, with one push of a hypodermic needle. He was found among soft grass, and sharp boulders. His face looked peaceful. He didn’t leave a note. Whether it was on purpose was never decided.  Whether it was on purpose was irrelevant.  “Drugs”. again, it was “Drugs” Guilty whispers.  Shameful glances. Red rimmed eyes, and a closed casket. Stephen’s life reduced to it’s tiny, sad, ending.

Many, many, years have passed since those events. Rotary phones have been replaced by fancy cell phones. My son has grown into a scabby looking transient. His hands shake. His once beautiful face is cracked,, and covered in tiny sores. He hides his eyes behind an oily string that was once healthy hair. The world looks at him and judges him for what he has become. Someone you wouldn’t leave alone around your pocketbook, or your child. When I hear “Ballroom Blitz”  start playing from my fancy cell phone, my hands turn to heavy ice.

While I rummage through my purse, grapple on top of a crowded bathroom vanity, or reach blindly in the dark to silence one of my favorite 70’s songs. I wonder if this is the time I’ll have to go identify the remains of my child in a freezing cold room while bland professionals  offer me horrible coffee, and whisper Drugs.

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My name is Janine Canty. I have been writing since age 11 when a teacher told me I had “talent.”  Writing has always been a tonic for me. Being published is a pretty little dream I keep tucked away in a safe place. I am not a professional writer though the passion for it has stayed with me like a campfire. I make my living as a CNA- Med Technician in a busy nursing facility in a tiny Northern town almost no one has ever heard of. I dabble in blog writing, and all things Facebook.  I fail at tweeting.

Jen Pastiloff is back in London for ONE workshop only Feb 14th. Book by clicking poster. This is her most popular workshop and space is limited to 50 people.

Jen Pastiloff is back in London for ONE workshop only Feb 14th. Book by clicking poster. This is her most popular workshop and space is limited to 50 people.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above.

Contact Rachel for health coaching, weight loss, strategies, recipes, detoxes, cleanses or help getting off sugar. Click here.

Contact Rachel for health coaching, weight loss, strategies, recipes, detoxes, cleanses or help getting off sugar. Click here.

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