lupus

Hidden Gifts

rainbow-jpgThis past year or so I’ve been trying to find the gifts in whatever life hands me. When I’m stuck in traffic, maybe it’s that I got to hear something really great on NPR before I reached my destination. If I dropped and shattered a favorite heirloom glass serving bowl, maybe it’s that when I swept the floor I found the missing earring I’ve been looking for under the fridge. You get the idea. The game is thus: can I find the gift no matter how deeply it’s hidden, because I really and truly have to believe in a God that cares about me so much, He would only give me a trauma wherein a gift is hidden just for me. Otherwise, I don’t think I could do this Life.

When I meditate in the mornings, I frequently have an old trauma come forward in my consciousness. It will be something from when I was young and vulnerable. Abuse of all kinds. Situations where I’ve been holding on to guilt and shame and anger. Most of them I felt like I’d already dealt with and let go, but I stopped being surprised to see them months ago. And what I’m learning is that I can’t really fully release them until I find the gift, even if I’ve dealt with the trauma. And with some of the stuff? It’s hard. HARD. Finding a gift when someone has sexually assaulted you is a tall order, my friend. But so far, in my own experience, it can be done. It may not be fast. It is definitely not easy. And who knows, I may run into one in the future that takes the rest of my life, but it won’t stop me from trying because the pay off is worth it. And just in case it’s not clear, this gift is NOT in any way from the person who perpetrated the crime. That person did not do me any favors in harming me. No. It’s just that my God is so powerful, He can turn anything for good on my behalf.

Which brings me to this election cycle and this past few months in particular. In case you don’t know who I am, I’ll sketch it for you.

I’m the most white woman possible coming in at 100% European octane, who has been in relationships previously with women and believes in marriage equality and safe living for all, and who fell in love with a half-Mexican man. I was abused and assaulted by those I knew and some I didn’t starting before age four. I went through most of my life challenged with mental health issues like bipolar and DID [ I was a consultant for the Showtime series, United States of Tara ] and I am a passionate mental health advocate. I have physical issues like Lupus. I’m a mother to four children and have two grandchildren. I was raised in an LDS family, left the church for about twenty years, and then came back to it about two years ago. I live in California in a warm seat of liberals with a local economy that does alright and even though I was raised by an ultra-conservative father who sent me to John Birch camp one summer, I lean more left than center in most things. My husband has a full-time job with benefits which makes it possible for me to work from home on a part-time basis mentoring and doing energy work for others who have compound physical and mental challenges. I also write, shoot photos, make jewelry, paint, and do pretty much any craft that exists.

Between my husband and myself, we have a lot of family, including many minority and gay family members and friends who live all across the country. We mostly live paycheck to paycheck but have modest 401Ks. We have three month’s food storage smack dab in my bedroom requiring me to get in bed by crawling over canned goods because we live in a tiny condo and there’s no other place to put it. We will not have a gun in our home. Neither of us has a Bachelor’s degree but two of our kids do and one will soon and the other one doesn’t seem to need one because he’s already making more per year than we do by a very large margin. We don’t care about material things and are usually late adopters. The largest TV we’ve ever owned is so small you can’t read the questions on the screen when you watch The Chase.

I volunteer for my church on a weekly basis and can’t imagine my life now without it, although I’m also deeply conflicted about multiple beliefs that are held by most members. I hate crowds and having conversations that mean nothing. I’d prefer an afternoon on my couch reading, snuggled up to Joe instead of heading to a fancy party. I’ve been known to be awkward in public settings because I have a hard time regulating my language if someone says or does something that rubs up against what I consider imperative like protecting the underdog or exhibiting blatant racism, misogyny, xenophobia, or anything that implies that person thinks they are better than any other person on the planet. I’m getting better at picking it up when it’s not so blatant.

That means that this past year I’ve been repeatedly hit by Donald Trump and his words and promises. I’ve been in fear. I’ve been angry. I’ve been confused. I’ve been worried about my friends and family that aren’t white and straight. I’ve been worried about the future and what it means for someone like me with preexisting health issues and how protected I need to be walking down the street alone because my body is now not my own and is open season for leering men who want to grab me and assault me (which is how minority people have felt for, oh, ever.). And I’ve been wondering how to just forget all the things Trump said he’d do now that he’s going to be the president like so many people suggest because of course HE’S NOT REALLY GOING TO DO any of those things (but I don’t believe that) and I’ve been wondering how it’s possible to expect all the people who are now committing violence in his name to just stop because he says to, IF he says to.

These are not hypothetical worries I have. They are very real. And I’m that 100% creamy mayo white lady living in the lap of liberal territory. I can’t imagine how my Muslim immigrant friends feel or my Mexican and Black family and friends in red states feel or my LGBTQ and Latinx friends feel who married someone of the same gender or simply hope to use a bathroom in a public place without getting beaten up. And what keeps me up at night are the thoughts about how this is trickling down into our youth. The stories of what the kids are doing to the other kids at school. I mean, you remember school, right? It’s a nightmare even when you’re popular and the going is good. Imagine how those kids are feeling. (And then donate to Kelly‘s Being Black at School because they are doing the work.)

Circling back to the beginning of my post –> where is the gift? That’s what I go to sleep asking my God. Where is the gift in this? And He didn’t answer. For months I’ve been asking and frustrated and angry because it felt like He wasn’t playing by the rules.

Wait on the Lord, I’d hear. Wait.

Election night, as Joe and our son, Tony, and I watched the election results come in, it was about the time Florida kept going back and forth that I realized, I mean, it HIT me, Trump could win this. The only hope I’d had for months was that Trump was about to get his hat handed to him with a thorough trouncing and then things would go back to normal. I needed that so bad.

Normal is not coming. It’s not happening. Normal doesn’t exist anymore and I don’t think it ever did but I didn’t know that in my bubble. All my worst fears came true. Trump won and reports of violence started pouring in. It was like someone took the cap off the slow leak of terrible things that had been happening and everything burst out. Conservatives pretty much across the board had one of three things to say: 1. Stop complaining. 2. Things are not that bad. 3. Voting for Trump doesn’t make me racist. Minority liberals had one thing to say: 1. I’m terrified.

Over the past three days I’ve been in a crash course of learning what I didn’t know. Normal for me looked like living in a bubble of information that I already knew. It meant not having important conversations with the conservative members of my family to see how they felt. It meant not looking deeply into why so many people in the middle states were hurting. It meant discounting the importance of listening to my minority friends who had been worried for MONTHS that this was going to turn out bad. It meant looking at everything through a simplistic telescope. It meant being slightly smug that I was smarter or “got it” and those in the red states didn’t. It meant being able to lie to myself that I knew everything would turn out how I wanted it to. Needed it to.

And then, that is not how it went down.

Joe and I wept that night and off and on the next day and the next day and even today. We listen to someone elses story, witness their pain and grief, and feel that connection that only comes from surviving trauma. Make no mistake about it, this has been a PTSD experience for thousands. This is severe trauma that taps into survival fears. The Flight/Fight response. People are fighting for their lives.

But there’s been a gradation of grief that has begun to dissipate from time to time and every now and again something extraordinary happens. I find a gift. I realized today that I had a few I could list and as I started listing, more and more came. It was as if my God was saying, “Hey there. Here’s your gifts. You thought you would just get one or two? Sillyhead.”

That’s often how it goes. He gives me way more than I was expecting.

  • I had to dig deep to find out what I believed about the world and in doing so, I know myself better.
  • I have an opportunity to shore up my boundaries about what I believe is acceptable and think up strategies for what to do when I see them being crossed.
  • My own capacity for being there for others has increased. I can be more present.
  • I have to open my eyes to see where I failed and what my own part is in this, which creates room for me to change, grow, and improve.
  • I’ve been shown where I dropped the ball in relationships, giving me a chance to reconnect and do better.
  • I’ve been brought closer to members of my family who I haven’t had any serious conversations with in quite some time.
  • I realize I’ve made it through terrible, horrible things in my life and no matter what happens now, I’ll find a way to be ok and I take it upon myself to help everyone I can to find that peace also.
  • I reaffirmed my determination to not be a victim in my own story. No one gets to decide but me what kind of person I am or how I will respond to a situation.
  • I see more ways to be emotionally useful to others.
  • The training I’ve had in energy work repeatedly comes in handy in supporting others.
  • Joe and I had conversations about emergency preparedness and survival that we should have had long ago.
  • The potential for growth and important learning is happening right now. Like, RIGHT NOW.
  • It’s ok if I don’t know how to do everything right the first time around. I can always learn if I stay open to it and don’t get defensive.
  • I’m more ok with other people feeling uncomfortable while they’re learning. It’s part of the process.
  • I’ve had a sneak peak into my own soul and I pretty much liked who I saw.
  • To Do:
  • Learn Spanish.
  • Take a Self-Defense class.
  • Learn how to peacefully protest.
  • Learn the art of agreeing to disagree so conversations can continue.
  • Choose even more deliberately where to spend my energy and which direction I want to go.
  • Try to get more “in-between” moments with the kids where the real connections happen.
  • Tell everyone I love them

None of these things changes the situation at large. Nothing I’ve learned makes it easier for anyone else. It only changes what’s happening inside me, but with those changes I can come from a place of peace and that might be helpful to others while they navigate this tricky and deeply upsetting terrain.

I believe real conversations are the only ones worth having, and I intend to make as many of them go as deep as I possibly can. It’s going to take a long time to release all the trauma that’s happened, not just for me but for so many this past year, especially because it’s ongoing. I have hope I can do my part now because of receiving so many gifts with which to process it all. I’ll keep waiting on the Lord, but I’m also going to do everything within my power to help those around me. It’s a sacred responsibility.

Your Body Is Not Your Enemy

Let me set the scene for you.

We’re sitting on the couch, my husband and I, my nose buried in his shoulder. I’m weeping, beside myself with a ball of grief and failure burning through my chest like fire, wiping snot on his arm, making noises that are approximations of words, but no one can know for sure. I have auto-immune issues that after several years of being in remission have reared their ugly head starting sometime last December and have now flared with the vengeance of a fifteen-year-old girl who lost her cellphone privileges and is punishing her parents. I can’t sit very long without pain. I can’t stand very long without pain. And moving from one of those positions to the other also hurts quite a bit. I am not strong. I am weak. I am in pain. I am frustrated, angry, and deeply sad.

He’s so patient, my husband, and the very best kind of person, who has actually been listening to me over the preceding twelve years of marriage together, so that when I fall apart like this, he can throw all the things I’ve said back in my face. Which is wonderful and exactly what I need.

“I’m a failure,” I moan, “I’m tired of being sick and in pain,” or something close to that, anyway. There’s some grunting and high-pitched wails.

I thought I had beat this thing. I really did! Almost four great years,” is what I was trying to say. Probably it sounded more like, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaablubblubblub, but he knew what I meant anyway, because he’s very clever.

What about all the inspirational stuff you say all the time? You’re enough? You can do hard things? You’re right where you’re supposed to be, right?” my husband asks, rubbing my arm and reaching for the gentlemanly handkerchief he keeps in his back left pocket, just like my father always did. Sadly, I think we’re way past saving his shirt at this point.

My shoulders and hips are aching because of the awkward position I’m in, twisted to be closer to him, possibly to climb inside his skin. Sharp pains call attention to my right ovary where a golf ball-sized cyst has recently burst and has begun slowly exhaling in excruciating slowness. I must turn my body straight or I’ll be up for hours with throbbing in all my joints and unable to sleep.

You believe in Divine Timing,” he reminds me as he dries my cheeks and begins to corral the snot stream from my swollen nose.

Oh, stop it. I did believe in it. I did believe all those things! But maybe not now,” I blubber. I grab some tissues and help in the clean-up attempt of my face. My head begins to pound. Oh, I’m really starting to feel sorry for myself now. “I mean, I can’t even help put the laundry away! Or load the dishwasher!” I flourish my right arm about to emphasize my point.

Which are absolute facts, by the way. Bending from the waist sends waves of throbbing pain down my right leg. I can’t squat, either, because I’ve lost most of the strength in my thighs. I refuse to take the heavy painkillers, mostly because they make me feel so nauseated, but also they make me useless and I wouldn’t get any laundry or dishes loaded anyway. Pain or nausea, pain or nausea. Another thing to feel sad about. A fresh wave of tears hits me like a tsunami.

So. You believe all that stuff you say, but only on your good days, is that it?” He looks steadily at me with his blue eyes, a slight twinkle in the right one and blankets of love in both. “The whole point is that you believe it on the bad days, too.

I immediately stop brandishing my ineffective arms around and get very still. The truth of what he says sings to my heart.

I think I’m different than everyone else, apparently. I’m destined to only have good days, is that it? All the things I’ve told my clients over the years come rushing back to me. Go easy on yourself. There will be good days after the bad days, you just have to wait it out. Self care is paramount. Learn to say no without guilt. Create your healing cocoon.

Your body is not your enemy. It’s trying to save your life. Have gratitude.

IMG_4105My husband, who insists he knows nothing about the healing arts, leans down and kisses my red and puffy face with a fierce tenderness that could slay a dragon.

“Being ill sucks and hurts and is the very worst, but it is not a failure,” I say out loud to him. He nods and then turns on Netflix and an episode of 30 Rock where Tina Fey’s character, Liz Lemon, allows her boyfriend, Dennis Duffy, to move in with her and he calls her dummy, in a sort-of affectionate way, which she puts up with.

Liz Lemon needs more affirmations regarding self-worth,” I tell him. And he sagely nods.

(Also, this.)

Pre-Order Heal Something Good

Heal Something Good BookYou guys. I’m oh-so-close to being done with Heal Something Good, the book I’ve been working on for the past three years.

This has been a labor of love. My last book, Not Otherwise Specified, was such a deep journey of mental discovery that I would never call it “Light” or “Nurturing.” I mean, the subject matter includes suicide attempts and graphic material. It’s an important book for what it is and I continue to get letters of appreciation from people who have found it helpful on their own journeys, which is why I leave it up and available.

But. But! Heal Something Good is light and nurturing and full of joy. It’s educational and fun. I’ve enjoyed every moment of writing and putting it together. Who knew learning about supporting our whole body in healing could be so fun?!

I was asked the other day if my new book was *just* for someone healing from chronic illness or *just* someone healing from mental illness and the answer is an emphatic no.

Show me someone who doesn’t have some physical, emotional or mental healing to attend to and I’ll show you someone who is an imaginary person. Life happens and during that “happens” we encounter all kinds of things that damage us. And surprise! It’s all connected inside us. Our emotions are connected to our body systems are connected to our mental well-being is connected to our emotions. (See what I did there?)

Heal Something Good hits on all that and more. If you have experienced life, I dare say you’ll find it helpful.

Pre-Orders get 25% off the book price plus a free hour of mentoring PLUS a book mark inked & water-colored by yours truly. Today is a great day to pre-order!

The image below was taken just the other day when the sun was out and tapping me on the shoulder and whispering in my ear and I was thinking about you, how happy I feel and how I want to tell you all about it.

Leah Peterson

What I Am

Fortunes

“But, what do you have? What are you?”

Oh, right. This is the part where I’m supposed to list all the illnesses and diseases and disorders I’ve collected over my lifetime and use their proper medical terms. This is how we measure each other up, to find out where we fall in the Diagnosis Scale. Are we the same? Are we different? If I told you, would you have an immediate recognition of how I feel right now because you’ve got “IT,” too?

Using this shorthand is not meant to be insulting or belittling. It’s meant to cut to the chase and find out where your battle scars are. It’s the fastest and easiest way to get to know someone else sitting in the waiting room to see the doctor or in line at the grocery store reading a magazine about health. It’s the quickest way to find out if you want to keep having a conversation with this person. And if you’ve been struggling for months, years, maybe they know of a good support group or a treatment you haven’t yet tried.

It’s Dating for Sick People.

After years and years, I’ve collected quite a pile. My suitcase is full. Disorder-this and Ailment-that. And when I open up the case and take a look I realize – hey. I don’t really want those.

How validating is it to have a medical professional tell you that what you’ve been feeling, what you’ve been struggling with for so long, what you’ve been trying to tell people about and make them believe is happening to you, that THING that is making you feel like the pits – is real? And it has a name. And here is that name. Blessings, my child, now we know what to call you.

You feel like you’re going crazy, what with all the symptoms that don’t add up and the tests you’ve been taking that come back negative and the unexplained pain and trips to Urgent Care on the weekend. Can’t someone just please tell me what is wrong with me? And if one more doctor pats you on the head and tells you to just go home and get some rest, maybe consider an anti-depressant, you’re going to go crazy. Maybe you are crazy. You’re tired of being “ish.”

Peacock

And then they do. They do finally tell you what’s wrong with you and they give it a name, a diagnosis, and then that’s that. You have IT. Are IT.

And it’s such a relief, right, that it has a name? And you can tell people like Judgy McJudgerson that have doubted you all this time that Name and that you have IT, and it feels better, just a little bit, that they know a doctor told you what it was. That the tests were positive. And sometimes it even has a treatment plan, along with drugs meant to help stop whatever is happening that’s causing you such distress. And sometimes those drugs *do* help and sometimes they only have *a few* side effects and dangit, that’s awesome and you’re thankful.

When you get woken up with pain or you can’t get out of bed or you miss your kids school event or have to go home because the mall was too crowded and too loud or you get tired just walking down the driveway to get the mail – you remind yourself that it’s ok, because you have IT. People have to understand and you can be easier on yourself, let go of the shame and guilt. You know IT’s name.

SanteFeTile

So. There I am looking in my suitcase and whoa. There’s a lot in there and they are varied and some are “worse” than others and I don’t want them anymore. I don’t want to use it as a shorthand to allow someone to get to know me faster and easier. I don’t want to own them at all.

I’m going to dis-own them. Maybe one-by-one like petals from a flower. Maybe all at once and watch them swirl down the drain like foamy residue from shampooing.

I don’t want to be called “mentally ill” or “physically ill” ever again. I’m not those things. And neither are you.

And there’s something so freeing in banning “fibromyalgia” and “lupus” and “bipolar” and and and….. I’m not a diagnosis or a disease. I’m no one and nothing that can be categorized and typecast with such simple terms.

What I am is healing and getting better and better every day. What I am is a human with some bodily systems that need support. What I am is in love with my body that continues to try and try and has kept me alive for 43 years. What I am is ecstatic that I keep getting new days and new mornings where the sun comes out and I can tell my Self in the mirror that it’s going to be a great day. And mean it. And every step I take away from the name of a disease that has been hanging on me for years I feel more joy and happiness than I can express. We aren’t meant to be burdened with illness.

Heart

What you are is strong and brilliant. You wouldn’t be alive right now if you weren’t. Your body is trying and coping in the best way it can to help you survive. You, too, could try calling yourself by, and talking about yourself in, more-than-illness terms. Don’t let IT own you. Let go of the validating feeling you get from reminding yourself you have IT and instead validate your body in new ways. The guilt and shame you carry for “failing” at doing the things you want to do in your life due to your “Illnesses” isn’t needed. It never was. Being kind and gentle with your body that is STILL ALIVE and working on your behalf? That’s enough. That’s perfect.

Thank you, stomach, for trying your best to digest the food I eat. Thank you, ribs, for holding together for me every day. Thank you, knees, for hanging in there all these years. And thanks, circulatory system and hypothalamus, for heating up and letting me know I need to slow it down a little.

Creatively, Mentally, Fabulous

TinyPeeps2k

We’ve heard many times that it’s the crazy ones that are creative and there are studies that may seem to prove such findings.

A post came up a few months ago by Scott Barry Kaufman about the link between creativity and Mental Illness. He has a book out called Ungifted, which may tell you without reading the post above what he thinks is true about said link.

Here’s a main takeaway: “There are many eminent people without mental illness or harsh early life experiences, and there is very little evidence suggesting that clinical, debilitating mental illness is conducive to productivity and innovation.”

And later:…my colleague and friend Zorana Ivcevic Pringle found that people who engaged in everyday forms of creativity— such as making a collage, taking photographs, or publishing in a literary magazine– tended to be more open-minded, curious, persistent, positive, energetic, and intrinsically motivated by their activity. Those scoring high in everyday creativity also reported feeling a greater sense of well-being and personal growth compared to their classmates who engaged less in everyday creative behaviors.

Creating can also be therapeutic for those who are already suffering. For instance, research shows that expressive writing increases immune system functioning, and the emerging field of posttraumatic growth is showing how people can turn adversity into creative growth.

I have no quarrel with that. People who have had hardships and/or are mentally ill have no ownership over creativity. Creating is awesome and can be healing and everyone should do it in whatever way they want.

Later, he talks about the families of those with mental disorders, and it’s interesting:Research supports the notion that psychologically healthy biological relatives of people with schizophrenia have unusually creative jobs and hobbies and tend to show higher levels of schizotypal personality traits compared to the general population. Note that schizotypy is not schizophrenia. Schizotypy consists of a constellation of personality traits that are evident in some degree in everyone.” (Maybe go read the entire article.)

But then we get to the very end and it’s this last paragraph that just kind of stuck me in the gut:

Which brings us to the real link between creativity and mental illness.

The latest research suggests that mental illness may be most conductive to creativity indirectly, by enabling the relatives of those inflicted to open their mental flood gates but maintain the protective factors necessary to steer the chaotic, potentially creative storm.

Well, I gotta say, that’s insulting on a few levels.

So, basically, the mentally ill people of the world are the conduits for creativity for all those around them who are strong enough to “steer the chaotic, potentially creative storm” because they themselves are not actually all that talented and couldn’t handle it even if they were?

Let me say this – I’m a creative person. You can divorce that from all the other things that I am if you want, but it doesn’t change. I’m still a creative person with or without the history of bipolar or the eating disorders or the MPD/DID. If you take the hardships in my childhood or the rocky part of self-medicating in my late 20s/early 30s with drug abuse and alcohol dependence, you’d still find me painting or doodling or crafting or writing.

BUT. But. I am a person with a history of all those things. And to say that my creative existence is not for myself but for others to feed off of, well, it just feels bad. To say I couldn’t handle the REAL creativity because I’m not strong enough, only those around me can, as they help corral me to safety, well, that’s just rude and belittling.

The times I felt I couldn’t handle my own creative power was when I had alien drugs in my system that were prescribed to me by doctors trying to help me get my levels back to a place where I could function. Anyone that has had to get on a new medication regimen for the first time or the 50th time knows what I’m talking about. You have a bloodstream full of new, tiny particles zinging this way and that way and you sometimes feel so lethargic your brain can barely think and you can hardly inhale and exhale correctly. Or your hands feel like they’re 20 feet wide. Or you start smelling all the sounds around you. And your teeth hurt.

AND EVEN THEN I still had the creative juices flowing but I couldn’t do anything about it. Thoughts wouldn’t form coherently and I couldn’t concentrate long enough to finish anything. Or picking up a paintbrush was impossible because it was heavier than a car.

But, this was all due to the management of my mental illness. It was because of medication in my system, which I needed so I could have some resemblance of a “normal” life.

I had the trauma and indignity of abuse in my early years. I spent the major part of my 20s trying to figure out how to be a parent and pretend my brain worked like everyone else’s did. In my 30s, things got increasingly worse health-wise for me before I was finally diagnosed with lupus in 2011. In the past couple of years I’ve finally started to make sense of how my brain and body work together and my health – both mental and physical – has never been better.

But through all my life I’ve had some form of creativity to fall back on – to keep me sane. To propose that my life of mental illness is somehow just to benefit those around me so that they can have a more fulfilling, creative life and that my creativity pales to theirs because of the very fact that they aren’t mentally ill and I am? Well.

I’m not going to run through my family members to try and see if my creative energy is rubbing off on them. I’m not going to start comparing us and ranking us according to who might be the most creative. According to who? And about what? And in what field? How presumptuous would someone have to be to think they knew the creative aspirations and secret heart of someone else? And who’s to say that any one person’s project in any field is any more or less creative than any other person’s in any other field? And how can you tell if said person can actually express all the creativity they feel?

I feel like I’m back in 4th grade art class and the teacher is “grading” our paintings.

Let’s pretend for a second that we can score where everyone falls on both the creativity and the mental health grids accurately. Like that’s a thing. Let’s pretend that mental illness doesn’t run in families. Let’s pretend that it’s ok to hypothesize that a member of a family should be thought of as a catalyst for everyone else in that family to feel more creative, a little better, a little “Phew, at least it’s not me!” about. Like they are the sacrificial lamb.

And now let’s stop pretending because it’s not.

Originally posted on RealMental.org.

Speaking near Salt Lake City on Dec. 19, 2013

leah_karenwalrond2I’ll be speaking on healing our bodies and minds holistically in Orem, Utah next week. I’m really excited to share what I’ve learned these past three years. When I started this journey, I had no idea how intricately our mind and bodies were connected and how healing our guts and changing our lifestyles could change how our minds worked and felt.

Healing from a chronic illness is no joke and I know many of you struggle with it. If you can make it, I’d love to meet you face to face.

Email me for details.
xo

Photo by Karen Walrond of Chookooloonks.com

Paleo Lunch – Tuna Salad

Simple food is one of the great benefits, in my opinion, of Paleo eating. I have a few main go-to meals for breakfast and lunch and I stick to them. It makes my day go smoother. I don’t have to think about it. They are fast and easy to prepare. It’s everything I’m looking for in a meal.

One of these is Tuna Salad. And it goes thusly:

1 sm can of organic chunk white tuna
blob of homemade mayo
fermented pickles
crudites (or potato chips!)

  1. If I can’t find organic tuna, I get whatever is on sale. I don’t drain it very much.
  2. I make my own mayo when I can to avoid vinegar. This is a great simple mayo recipe that I like better than all the other more complicated recipes out there. I like it best with Olive oil.
  3. I make my own pickles (shown above). This is a great recipe. When I run out, I buy Bubbies. Again, to avoid vinegar, because Bubbies are naturally fermented. (They also have divine Sauerkraut.)
  4. I eat the tuna salad with carrot and celery sticks and sometimes potato chips, the latter being really, most definitely NOT Paleo unless they are homemade and not in vegetable oil and let’s face it, I don’t make time to do that. So, sometimes I open a bag of Lay’s and eat a handful of chips with my Tuna Salad, like today. Just thought you should know. Everyone’s got their little things.

Remission

Take me to the beach, I whispered, silky soft in his ear.
He wrapped me in his warmth beneath the covers.
I need to see the waves in every shade of green and blue and frothy white, I told his mind without uttering a sound.
He padded down the hall, got his sandals, keys.

We drove five miles, wind whistling through the vent, the heater waking up.
Ocean water swirled and raced, bubbled, then calmed and went away.
Surfers danced on ten foot waves through the pilings, praying their religion under the pier.
We watched.

Grit between my toes, pulling my sweater close, I took a breath and then another.
He took my hand, pointed out evidence of birds, busy as on every other day, beaking mites from the sand.
Today is different, I told them as we walked. Today I’m in remission.
The wind whipped my words away before they heard me.
They wouldn’t care, even if they knew.

We went for eggs, forked avocado and endless coffee.
Across the table, he smiled, wrapping me in the warmth of his eyes.
I smiled back.

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From the Mailbag

Here is a precious letter from a reader I’ve been hanging on to for a bit, holding it close and letting it fester. It says so many things that I secretly think in my dark hours that it’s almost like this person just reached inside my deepest fears and pulled it out. I’m usually so disciplined about ignoring meanies (especially while United States of Tara airs. Man, my tribe of the Mentally Ill folks can be cruel.) but when my confidence is low, it’s hard to just move through it.

“you know no one reads your blog anymore, right? god your writing is all over the place. You used to be someone that people cared about and now I’m sorry to say it but you are rally just pathetic. I guess if you go back to the oh my god I’m going to kill myself well too often, no one wants to hear it anymore. do you get it! I’m just telling you what everyone is thinking. I’m trying to help you. And what is whith all this crap you are trying to sell? It’s ugly and everyone has bills these days so why do you think someone would want to buy the crap you are trying to make us buy! I don’t come here to buy some stupid fugly crap you made! Your art is ugly!! Stop trying to make money of me. and I’m sure people have told you this before but god you are fat and you should probably wire your jawshut or something because it’s looks really bad. I’m just trying to help you and someone should tell you.”

First of all, thank you for considering me your god, but I must happily decline the position. Secondly, I read this incredible post from Gluten-free Girl this morning. I say incredible because I started bawling and by the time I was done reading, I was reminded why I do this, this writing online thing. Because it makes me feel good.

This website is 9 years old in a few weeks, friends. I’m a grandma around these parts. And at times I have no idea why I keep writing. And months go by when I don’t because I don’t want to be open to the haters for awhile. And then I feel stifled and stabby and low and SAD because this is MY space, my online home. If I’m feeling low, I write about it. If I’m feeling positive, I write about it. If I’m in the mental hospital or thinking about my career as a meth addict, I write about it. And if I painted something and need to pay the electric bill, I’m going to try and sell it because I’m more comfortable with that than a Donate button on my website. I can’t work a full-time out-of-the-house job. I’m getting comfortable with the limitations of having Lupus and creating things at home makes me feel good.

I’ve struggled with my body and its size and my mind and its weaknesses for so many years and it took me until turning 39 that I finally got it. I could finally, FINALLY, turn to my daughter and tell her, and MEAN it, “I’m so happy to be myself! Like, right now! Just like I am!” I won’t spend any more time wishing I could have done that years ago for her sake. I’m just so happy I can do it now for both our sakes. Like Shauna said, “For the first time in my life, at 45, I am relaxed into my body. What am I going to do, spend until I’m 75 wishing someone I was someone a little bit different, a little less, a little more conforming? Hell no.”

I told my husband last year that I didn’t want to spend one more second of my time with anyone who didn’t love me for exactly who I was. No more time spent with people who are “trying to help me” by changing who I am because I’m not good enough. Well, horseshit. I AM good enough. Better than good enough.

I am enough, full stop.

5/12/11

Today was a low day. A very low day.

In another life, today would have been the day I decided things were too hard to bear and so bleak I’d never see the blue skies again.

I would have left my OBGYN results appointment (from the same woman who raked me internally) knowing she wants me to get my uterus biopsied because she thinks it’s precancerous and knowing she wants me to get on birth-control pills and remembering how she called me a liar just moments before when I showed her my daily food logs and exercise chart, because I’m fat, so I must not be telling her the truth. And how she rolled her eyes at me when I explained how painful the fibroids in my breasts make a mammogram.

I would have placed those thoughts next to the ones from the two rheumatologists who tell me I have lupus and need to take antimalarial drugs and noninflammatory drugs and muscle relaxers and it doesn’t matter what I eat or what drugs I take, my life is going to be painful, however long it lasts.

And then I would have added the words from my psychiatrist who told me I need to up my dose of some things and add other things and that fibromyaligia is mostly all in my head. Because I have bipolar, along with other things.

With those things lined up next to each other to look at, I would have added my guilt at not earning money to pay for all these doctors and tests and how uncomfortable I feel calling my health My Full-time Job right now. And how shameful I feel thinking about applying for disability in case I never have reliable healthcare. And how ashamed I feel that I have such a need for it.

I would have really honed in on that shame and guilt and despair and frustration at my inability to change things to be easier.

Then I would have gone to bed. Maybe fantasized about selfharm. Maybe begun the journey toward the romantic notion of ending it all, because surely that would be better for my family who has to watch and feel helpless and uncomfortable at my flailing. Who must surely feel I am such a burden.

And then the darkness would have been fully descended. Over my eyes, and ears and mouth. Over my brain that couldn’t think straight anymore. And it could have been months before I resurfaced to try again if I hadn’t been successful at terminating my life and never tried again at all.

As I sat in my car, outside the hospital, dizzy with so many thoughts and feelings, I decided to breath. I made a small choice. A very small choice, to open my lungs and take in a breath, and then expel the air with a little force, listening to the sound in my throat. And then I did it again.

I thought of Grandma Jean, who just left us days ago. She fought her way back from a debilitating stroke and learned to live her life again when most people just die who experience that same stroke, it’s so damaging. I thought of her smile and quick laugh, even as her body failed her these past weeks. How she thanked me every time I did anything for her and told me she loved me even when she couldn’t recall who I was, because she knew I loved her.

Grandma had her brushes with depression and contemplating her own death. She didn’t have the knowledge or support I have with managing those symptoms. And she survived for years, decades, from sheer determination. And I’m better for knowing her. I’m so thankful I didn’t miss out on knowing her like I did. Thank you, Grandma Jean, for what you suffered in this life so I could know you.

Then I thought of Phyllis, my mother-in-law, who passed last October. The cancer never won. It was just her time to go. And she was ready. She told me so every day, but it was always with a smile and expectation of meeting her God, not sadness, fear or regret.

I watched her barely able to carry the groceries, mop the floor or move the vacuum, but refusing help because it was her sincere joy to do it. She loved her work. She delighted in doing what she could to care for others. As she told me many times, she loved the work because she loved the people she did it for, and her face would shine when she said it and I knew it was true.

As the cancer grew in her body and ate her alive, she refused to get down or be afraid. She prayed and read and worked at the soup kitchen when she could. She found new recipes and showed me how to cook them. She laughed. She was beautiful always, but when she laughed, her countenance beamed. She laughed all the time and her smile was so genuine and sincere it made you smile and laugh, too. She was a great beauty even as breath left her.

Phyllis was careful what she said and how she said it and said nothing to hurt others. I knew I was safe with her because I never heard her say an unkind thing about anyone else. She taught me so much just by being herself. The year I spent as her companion was so precious. Thank you, Phyllis, for teaching me so much about how to live as you prepared to pass. Thank you for your unconditional love even as I carried my shortcomings around on my back and brought them out to show you on occasion. Thank you for showing me how to love others with the fierce fire of love I also carry in my chest. And thank you most of all for giving birth to and raising a beautiful, caring son who has become my partner and champion. Because even with his few shortcomings and my many, we somehow make a perfect fit and support for each other.

At 3pm today I went to yoga. My Yogini welcomed me and listened while I poured out my heart in a rush and never hurried me when I paused, choking on my words and tears. She placed my body in poses while I cried and she used her own breath to show me how to better breathe out my pain. She soothed my shoulders and neck and witnessed my entire body in sorrow. Her kind and loving touch calmed my fears and sadness and in time, I felt calm and strength in my chest instead of tightness and daggers. With each breath’s inhale and exhale, my body released the old and filled with new strength.

With my eyes closed, breathing deeply, I thought of the women in my life. My daughter. My mother. My friends. My sisters and aunts and grandmas, some of them here with me now and some carried in my heart. I drew on the power of Mother Earth and felt connected to everything and everyone.

The things that are hard in my life didn’t seem so overwhelming in that moment. It felt shared, like a thousand shoulders were carrying my pain and I even felt room on my own shoulders to help carry another’s hurts, should they want or need that.

And I felt a bit of joy in the journey. It was just a bit, but large enough that I think I might find it again.

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