Monday, June 25, 2018

Living an Exuberant Life

I attended stress management class at work last week and was listening to all the stuff I've heard before about self-care.  Eat right, drink water, sleep, exercise, meditate, be grateful...  It was a good presentation, but it was not lost on me that spending an hour of work time talking about stress management was only taking time away from work that needed to be done -- thereby stressing me out more.  

The presenter, however, made one statement that immediately perked up my ears.  "Live an Exuberant Life."  It was like receiving a hug from a long-lost friend.  I think it may have affected me so much because I had recently tried out a dating app, and so many profiles made comments about how you needed to have a valid passport and ability to go on a trip at a moment's notice.  I often "swiped left" (said no) to those profiles.  I have a passport but I need to give work a head's up that I'm taking off, and I have to have vacation time built up.  I'm not (yet) independently wealthy and able to book a last minute weekend trip to the Bahamas just 'cuz I feel like it.   In retrospect, I'm sure none of those guys were either.  However, it got me thinking about happiness and how travel seems to make people so happy.  Are their lives better because they've had the time and money to travel all over the world?  Possibly.  But is my life NOT better because I haven't?  No.  I've been to Mexico and Canada.  And Hawaii.  All cool trips, but it wasn't the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, which I am told is life changing, although I'm not sure why.  (That's actually a trip I want to take someday, so I'm not poo-poo'ing it either.) 

What does exuberant mean?  "Joyously unrestrained and enthusiastic."  (View HERE.)  You can read some recent blogs that have, hopefully, taken on a more joyous and positive tone.  One about feeling fortunate (HERE) and my Year of Joy (HERE). 

Recently, I watched a Ted Talk that a friend had sent weeks ago but I hadn't made time to watch.  It is called: "Where Joy Hides and How to Find it."  (View it HERE.)  And it just tied into feeling like I DO have an exuberant life.  I find joy in so many simple things (which doesn't mean I can't also enjoy the big, amazing things).  Walking around the block with toddlers as they ride their bikes and find interesting rocks to collect brings me joy.  Sitting at my pool alone, or with a friend, brings me joy.  Simply seeing a ladybug (a very special symbol to me) brings me joy.  The sun on my face.  The sound of the ocean.  Hearing the babies laugh.  Listening to my three and a half year old princess niece tell me I'm not doing a burpee right.  My love smiling at me and kissing me on the forehead.  All of these things bring me joy.  None of them cost any money.  It doesn't mean that I can't also enjoy going to the Maldives someday, or buying a ridiculously expensive car that I don't need.  But it does mean that I find the happy place in my life as often as possible. 

And I believe that since I DO find joy in so many simple things, it does allow me to lead an exuberant life.  We have two choices in how we deal with what life throws at us.  We can approach it from a positive standpoint or a negative one.  When I look back at old posts from when I was working in San Francisco, I feel like I wasn't even the same person.  I was in a commute and job I hated and a relationship I didn't want to be in anymore.  I was vomiting my unhappiness all over Facebook.  I was also reading old journals recently to help me write my book.  I found that I mostly wrote down the bad things (I think it was so I could "get it out and let it go").  But now if anyone finds those journals, they're just going to think I had nothing good going on in my life (although there will be large chunks of time where I just didn't write anything because things WERE good, and I hadn't yet switched to writing from a place of gratitude instead of a place of lack).  And, also, going through those journals in the present day only brought me a lot of sadness.  I kind of feel the need to destroy them.  I now journal about the good things.  The things for which I am grateful.  The things that bring me joy.  Sure, sometimes my frustrations come out, but I approach my journal writings from a completely different place now. 

Last weekend, I paid to do a photo op with Jeffrey Dean Morgan.  It's a lot of money for literally 22 seconds of a celebrity's time.  The event coordinators make it a cattle call and you're barely allowed to say hi before you're shoved off for the next person to step up.  I did it anyway.  I don't know why.  I am no one to that guy but another rabid fan who clearly has too much money and time on their hands.  But he just seems like a genuinely nice guy.  And he makes everyone who steps up there feel special.  And it brought me joy.  So I did it.  So that made it worth it. 

So, I am here to encourage you to live an exuberant life.  Find joy in the small things.  Yes, life happens.  Stress.  Tragedy.  But if you live with your glass full, it will allow you to recover faster when it is time to deal with whatever is thrown at you.  I love the messages I receive in response to these posts.  Either comment below or send me a message to tell me about the things that bring you joy. 

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Flexibility Training: We are six months in

So my flexibility training is going much like my pole training.  SQUIRREL!  And I'm gone. 

Check out my two month update from March HERE

I find I do about a month consistently, then I get side tracked, whether by injury or boys or laziness, and take a month off.  I was getting consistent again by Skyping with my friend, Kat, and following the beginner Valentino Brothers splits series.  It is nice to have an accountability partner.  Then I joined Bumble (a dating app) a few weeks ago, got sidetracked, got overwhelmed, and unmatched everyone to take a break.  So I got back together with Kat tonight. 

I have been going to yoga consistently each week, so I feel like that keeps me at my baseline.  But I really do want to "get more flexible."  Duh, who doesn't? 

But I am back at it...thanks to Kat.  Here are some photos of the progress since January.  I feel like I have made progress, so I'm not complaining. Hopefully I can keep this up.  Health first.  Everything else second. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Operation Upside Down: Months 9 and 10

I had hoped to be reporting major gains after my disappointing update two months ago.  However, over the last two months, I have had more of the same.  Sick.  Tired.  Lazy.  I did find out I was slightly anemic last month, so that (with some other low numbers) were probably contributing to my exhaustion.  I was also sick for over two weeks straight.  I increased my vitamins, am back on my protein shakes, and have already noticed a huge difference in how I feel.  I am back to getting up at 5:30 AM for mini-workouts, am walking more, stretching at night and am ready to get back to Twirly Girls full time.  I have been marching around my house in my new seven inch heels so I can get more comfortable walking in them (which ends up being a workout).  I am not fully back to my flexibility training but feel like I am almost ready to get back to that as well.  My knee doesn't necessarily hurt anymore but I have a general tightening of my hips and knee, which is making me nervous.  I just can't sit on my knees or squat down for long periods of time.  I don't want to lose mobility but I don't want to injure myself.  There has to be a middle ground.

That being said, I still feel strong.  I kept up with my yoga practice, and I feel like that is always my saving grace.  I also feel like it's time for a change.  I had been feeling lost for the last few months because I wasn't really sure the purpose of my need to get upside down.  Just to say I did it?  Was I going to get good enough to drop it into a routine?  I really still don't know.  But what I do know is that I have been away from flowy dance classes too long and I feel like I'm losing my ability to free dance.  So, I was excited to find out that Janet was going to start teaching a movement class on Wednesdays.  Beginning this week, I will use lyra to get strong and pole movement to learn how to flow.  I am really excited about my new schedule!

Despite being light on classes (again), I still have a few highlights from the past two months.  You can see those below:

I also joined Wildcat Parlour, LLC for the Empowerment Through Movement day in March.  I took Jen's class, then taught the Closer routine.  I was nervous because my knee still hurt a a bit, so I was stiff and unable to spend a lot of time on my knees, but I otherwise did pretty well.  You can read about that and see videos at the link below:

Spinning Pole with Ellen:

Heels with Ellen:

So, here's hoping next month, I will have a better update for everyone!  Cheers!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Do Not Dim Your Light For Anyone

I'm weird.  I know I'm weird.  I generally like that I'm weird.  But I'm weird.  I'm pretty loud and obnoxious.  I often make inappropriate comments and gestures that shouldn't be witnessed by children.  I feel like I'm too much for this world sometimes.  I'm always over-analyzing why I'm like this.  Grew up in a large family where you have to be loud to be heard?  Insecure so I'm covering it up by being bigger than I really need to be?  Attention whore who is trying to be cooler than I really am?  I don't know.  I'm sure there's an official diagnosis for it.  But it often leads to anxiety and depression because I know I don't always fit in even though I kind of want the cool kids to play with me.  But trying not to be weird just leads to more awkwardness, which makes me...weird.  I've never really felt like I fit in.  Square peg.  Round hole.  The world doesn't generally reward you for that. 

I remember being in a relationship years ago and I was telling a fantastical story, probably using my hands and making giant gestures, and my boyfriend at the time looked at me and said, "you are just SO loud."  Uh yeah.  Have you met me?  He also didn't like that I was fat.  But, again, have you met me?  Every time he would comment on the personality traits that I definitely had when we met, I felt the sparkle leave me a little.  When I got out of that relationship, I decided I would never dim my light for anyone again.  This isn't just about love relationships.  It is about family and friendships.  The people you attract into your life should love and appreciate you for who you are. 

So I am reminding myself, and you, that you should never dim your light for anyone else.  Sure, sometimes we have to consider our audience and censor ourselves a bit.  But, for the most part, be you. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Anemia in the Gastric Bypass World

I don't even know where to start with this one.  I guess we start with today and then I'll work my way backwards.

I'm anemic.  My ferritin is extremely low.  The "healthy" range is 22 to 250.  Mine is 7.  (I am low in several other areas as well, but am going to save everyone the gritty details.)  I have been overly exhausted lately (for probably close to six months), but it was easy to blame getting older and continuing to be too busy (hey, I calmed down for like two months, then suddenly my life ramped back up).  I had my 14th surgery anniversary on March 17, so it was time to do blood labs.  I wondered if possibly I was low in iron.  My nurse practitioner emailed me to say, "hey, you're right, you're anemic, take some iron!"  Ellen explained it's not that simple.  The numbers I am low in do indicate anemia but apparently it can be a deficiency of iron (which most people associate anemia with) or with folate, a B vitamin.  

I am sure I did a blog on this years ago, but I can't find it right now.  I'm probably just too tired and frustrated to look for it.  

I am bummed because I feel like my vitamin levels have been pretty good since I started working with Ellen in 2014.  I take a lot of expensive supplements.  I did struggle with some liver issues a couple of years ago, but those seem to have resolved.  I let some vitamins go, thinking I was eating better and I would get my nutrition from food.  I think this is a reminder that I have surgically altered my body and I literally can't get all of my vitamins out of the food because part of my intestine has been bypassed.  

I also have to admit that when I heard "anemia" can also refer to a B vitamin deficiency, I was taken back to when my doctor told me that B vitamin deficiencies can be related to alcohol consumption.  It is no secret that I have been drinking a lot more lately.  I am definitely drinking less now than I was last year, but I do enjoy going out for a drink (or five).  I guess I would have to categorize myself as a binge drinker.  I don't need to drink every day.  Or even every week.  But if I do happen to go out, I am more likely to drink to excess and act stupid (I mean, fun stupid, for the most part).    

I just worry.  I feel like everything is connected and I don't want to start circling the drain.  My body jumped up about 6-7 pounds about two months ago for no good reason.  None of my old tricks are taking the weight off.  I have stabilized so I am not stressing about it too much.  Potentially, it was a reaction to letting a couple of my supplements go while trying to save money.  I did recently have a break-through on my psoriasis and I cured a flare-up without medication.  However, I have had what feels like a cold for almost two weeks, and now I'm wondering if it is allergies.  I stopped having to take daily allergy pills after I went gluten-free last year.  I am not militant about gluten.  I choose not to eat it but I don't stress if I get a bite in here or there.  In fact, I kind of feel like having small bites on rare occasions will help me not get super sick rather than if I cut it completely and it accidentally gets into my system.  (I do pay a price for eating it.  My wrists and fingers get super sore if I have more than a bite.)  Also, I can admit I've been eating candy at work lately, so sugar is sneaking back in.  

I mean, even with these issues, mentally I feel great!  My depression and anxiety are under control (so the sugar intake isn't anywhere close to my previous levels).  And, although I am fairly tired, I otherwise feel good physically.  I am doing yoga three to four days per week.  I have been more spotty on lyra and pole (at night, I am ready to rest, not go to class).  I hang out with my family and play hard with toddlers at least once a week.  I try to walk around more at work.  (And once I get this exhaustion under control, I will return to my early morning mini workout at home.)  I am in a good place.  

So, I am going to increase my vitamins for the next two months to see if I can get my levels back up.  This is just another reminder that I am, first and foremost, a gastric bypass patient.  I need to put my supplements and vitamins first, food second.  I know I often lament the fact that I don't get to be a "regular" person who just gets to eat normally and not think about food and vitamins every day.  I'm not that person.  I made that choice 14 years ago and the best thing I can do is own that decision and move forward.

If I don't get my levels up, I will have to go to my doctor for weekly iron infusions for five weeks.  I am trying to avoid that.  I do remember being told that anemia after gastric bypass is very common, and that I would most likely never be able to donate blood again.  But I am hoping I can get my numbers up to acceptable levels, and get my energy back.  I'm tired of being tired.  

Thursday, March 22, 2018

"Curing" Psoriasis

I am one year into being gluten-free for the purpose of healing my psoriasis.  My last Stelara (immuno-suppressant) shot was in July 2017.  My skin stayed fairly clear, even through the stress of my complete melt down last August.  That's pretty good.  No.  That's fucking amazing! 

Autoimmune diseases are a funny thing.  They are these mystery diseases where no one really knows why your body is doing what it's doing.  The over-simplified explanation of psoriasis:  On the inside, your immune system is over-active and basically starts attacking you.  On the outside, skin cells in certain areas replenish every three days instead of every 30 causing ugly plaques/dry skin.  Stress is usually the trigger for a flare up. 

I made it into 2018 before my skin started showing signs of a flare up (over six months medication-free).  I can't really put my finger on a trigger.  Perhaps more gluten sneaking into my diet for the holidays.  Maybe some stress.  Who knows.  Regardless, it was a minor flare up.  I treated it occasionally with a topical medication and it stayed fairly mild, although it didn't go away.  I started being more careful with my diet, but I still had some patches. 

Then, I remembered the blog I wrote about psoriasis and its metaphysical explanation.  When I Googled it again recently, I just looked at the general theme (and not the specifics I mentioned in my blog).  Fear.  But fear of what?  What did I fear when I was a kid?  My parents splitting up -- sure.  But we had differing opinions on when my psoriasis started.  My parents insisted it was when I was anywhere from 10-12 years old, and I thought I was closer to five years old.  Then about three weeks ago, I found a journal entry from when I was 11 or 12 years old.  I mentioned how I had suffered from psoriasis for seven years.  Boom.  I WAS five years old when I was diagnosed.  I still remember sitting in the doctor's office and he asked me if I ever picked at the plaques.  I admitted I did.  He laughed and said I shouldn't be so honest. 

So what happened to trigger psoriasis when I was four or five years old?  My first memory as a child: 

I was in my neighbor’s backyard catching ladybugs (now a symbol of joy and peace for me) and, as I turned to leave (I remember reaching for the door knob), a visiting dog attacked me from behind.  He sunk his teeth into the back of my head, dragging me around the yard, and trying to shake me to break my neck.  A little girl in the yard with me apparently kicked the dog until he let go and I walked screaming through the house, then the neighbor’s front yard toward our shared fence.  I remember walking into our yard, bleeding, and I saw my mom run towards me, then fall to her knees.  I’ve always thought I was around three years old.  I asked my mom three weeks ago what she remembered.  She confirmed falling to her knees.  She couldn't remember if she was six months pregnant with my brother (which would have made it sometime in December) or if it was when my brother was six months old (which would have been around August or September).  I don’t remember her having a belly, and I remember the shirt I was wearing.  It was a short sleeved 70’s style striped shirt.  I wasn’t wearing a jacket.  So I am leaning toward the August/September time frame.  Also, I have a vague recollection of the stitches in my head coming out around my birthday, which is August 31.  So that means I would have been closer to four years old.  And that means the psoriasis presented itself within a year.  I have never been afraid of dogs, but apparently I bottled that fear up inside anyway.  But that’s my first life memory.  Being bitten by a dog and my mom running toward me and falling to her knees.  And that bottled up fear potentially triggered an autoimmune disease, which I have battled for nearly 40 years. 
Psoriasis sucks.  I realize its really just an inconvenience and slightly embarrassing.  Ugly skin (explaining to people they won't catch it).  Can be a pain when you're a pole dancer because you can't use your regular lotions.  Realistically, it is pointing at some inflammation on the inside, but of all the immune system issues to have, it's a pretty benign one.  But I still hate it. 
About a month ago, I listened to a podcast about EFT (emotional freedom technique) tapping (HERE is the site I like best).  What is that? 
"EFT is a form of psychological acupressure that uses a gentle tapping technique instead of needles to stimulate traditional Chinese acupuncture points. The tapping on the designated points on the face and body is combined with verbalizing the identified problem followed by a general affirmation phrase." 
So I wrote a tapping script -- a long one.  Acknowledging, then releasing my fears, as well as many other issues.  Guess what?  My psoriasis cleared in a week.  It is the first time I have healed a flare up without medication in my entire life.  No, that is not an exaggeration.  Although I am certain being gluten-free has helped keep my skin clearer for much longer than it ever has before, this was the first time I actually HEALED myself.  (Another benefit to going gluten-free and healing my gut issues:  I haven't taken a single allergy pill in a year.)
I'm pretty stoked about it, and its just another reminder of how powerful our minds and bodies are, if we will just get out of their way. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Empowerment Through Movement

Recently, I had the pleasure of joining the ladies of Wildcat Parlour, LLC for their second annual Empowerment Through Movement, which offered an entire day of pole and flexibility workshops.

Although I was still recovering from my knee injury, I took Jen's heels workshop, then I taught the Closer routine.  My knee totally survived, and I really enjoyed both classes.

In addition to owning Wildcat, Jen teaches lyra at Twirly Girls.  She's good people and I'm happy she's part of my tribe.  Thank you to Jen for including me this year.  I look forward to celebrating movement with the Wildcat crowd again next year!

Check out our videos below.