Love

Walk of Gratitude

427199_10151249525300578_1412222256_nThere is a large park close to my home. It’s perimeter is 3.5km long and many people walk or run its length to keep fit. I haven’t had an exercise regimen since my late teens which was almost two decades ago. So I’ve decided to walk the 3.5km a few times per week and hopefully build up to running.

There was a national holiday in my country this week so I was at the park that day by 7:00am. It was cool and overcast on account of a passing tropical wave so the morning dew was hanging around just a little longer than usual. The air was crisp and clean. I inhaled deeply as I started out and out of habit, began mentally listing the things I wanted to get done that day: article review, emails to clients, clean bathroom, edit poems etc. I passed by a father and his young son and smiled to overhear him gently explaining why stretching is always better to do before exercising. It made me happy to think of the memories they were both making, and that I got a chance to witness their exchange.

So of course that got me thinking about all the things I was witnessing on my walk: the “good morning” greetings from fellow walkers and runners; the coconut vendors getting their carts ready for customers; the small flock of protective blackbirds chasing a model airplane that was flying too close to their nests; the architect sitting in his car with paper and ink, drawing inspiration from the row of palatial, Victorian-era mansions that line the western side of the park; the confused chirp of a Big-Eyed Grieve who’s lengthy earthworm was stolen by an opportunistic Kiskadee; the rising sun, finding a way to peep through the clouds and rapidly warm up the right side of my face. It was a beautiful feeling. I decided right then and there that every time I walk the park, instead of creating a To-Do list in my mind, I would spend that time listing all the things I was grateful for:

The fresh air; my health; being able to whatsapp chat with my Mum (who is 2637km away) because she finally got a smartphone; my new job which allows me two extra hours on mornings to walk, or paint or write; my new job which surrounds me with art, creativity and real human connections; my ability to pay my bills even if things are tight for now; the extra dollars in my pocket to buy detergent, body soap, bread, sausages, potato chips and fruits for the homeless guy who asked me if I had any soap in my car that he could use to wash his clothes, and the smile he gave me when I asked his name.

I am grateful for my life.

The Girl In The Mirror

smokingmirrors

I love the madness that is the April A to Z Blogging Challenge. The creativity, the fast-paced induced adrenaline rush of posting every 24 hours, the community spirit, and at times, the frustrating but glorious intensity.

This year I chose to write poems inspired by movies about addiction and absolution. I write often about the importance of honouring our emotions, about allowing ourselves to sit with the darkness, kicking at it until it bleeds light, but every now and then I resist the complete vulnerability and surrender that any sort of healing needs. So as April approached I took stock of my progress so far: two years of sobriety; an understanding and acceptance of my triggers; the warmth and affection that had grown in key relationships with loved ones; and the knowledge of what I felt I still needed to work on.

It was my intention to reach deep down to the dark, murky, frightening depths with both hands and pull hard against what needed to be uprooted, clearing away the weeds and plastic debris that were stunting my growth. I hoped to reveal, better understand, and become more accepting and appreciative of the dark emotions I keep at bay. I was ready, or so I thought.

Don’t get me wrong, all in all, this year’s challenge exceeded all expectations. For one, I reached the depths I wanted to and spent more time there than I cared to in the end. Even though I’ve come away with several poems that are worth shaping and rewriting, my plan to use movies about addiction as triggers worked better that I’d anticipated.

The shift was gradual and I did not notice it at first. But by the time I’d reached the middle of the alphabet I was staying in bed longer on mornings, wide-eyed with the covers to my chin, unsure and a little afraid of what the day would bring. My meditative morning habit – a cup of ginger tea on my front porch with an inspiring book – had been replaced with reviewing the difficult poem I’d written the night before, and I was no longer jumping out of bed looking forward to my day. I had underestimated my vulnerabilities. The writing challenge theme I’d set for myself, together with two unexpected life events, affected me adversely. I won’t be doing something like this again. At least not without setting some boundaries and safe zones first.

There were breakthroughs as well, which I am grateful for, with poems like The Quiet, which makes me so uncomfortable to read even though I wrote it, and Thirteen, which I wrote when I came to an understanding about my relationship with my mother. I think if there is anything I am truly happy about is turning that corner with my Mom. It was my last important relationship to heal and I believe that now I can begin doing just that.

In the end, and today I am grateful for the opportunity to learn. I am not invincible. I cannot, ever, underestimate my triggers nor the importance of boundaries. I am grateful for loved ones (online and IRL) who supported me through this “mad experiment” and never judged me for it. It has helped me to be gentler with myself and keep my own Judge in check. I even have to send a nod to the Universe for crashing my laptop two weeks into the challenge. I chuckle to myself now when I think about it. Perhaps the Universe was sending me a message after all.

Love and light,

Phoenix

Ikiru (1956)

Ikiru (meaning: to live; to be alive)

Ikiru (meaning: to live; to be alive)

“Life is brief / Fall in love, maidens / before the crimson bloom fades from your lips / before the tides of passion cool within you / for those of you who know no tomorrow.”

2nd February 2014 to 11th April 2016:
1 new hat, one healthier liver
2 clear eyes, two lungs more pink than grey
3 new career paths with ladybirds on sunflowers
4 loves given a reboot
5 community projects that bring the sunshine
7 writing partners with Mad Hatter hats
8 dear friendships strengthened and deepened
17 pounds of excess weight lost
27 articles published, with blushes (did I write that?)
43 new poems I’ve grown so fond of
91 sober blogging friends I could not do this without
100 revealing blogposts
216 times I chose not to drink
324 packs of cigarettes I chose not to buy
800 life-changing days of sobriety
48,600 TT dollars I did not spend on alcohol
69,120,000 seconds of hard truths and lessons, of learning self-care and self-respect.
1,152,000 minutes of healing and hope, with growth, gifts and gratitude.
19,200 hours and me, here now with a newborn lust for life, embracing joy, passion and pride.
800 days of being in love with living.

~*~

My 2016 A to Z Blogging Challenge Theme:

Pieces They Left Behind: Poems inspired by Movies about Addiction & Absolution

Copyright © 2016 by Phoenix, author of Shadow. Ash. Spirit. Flame. All rights reserved. This poem or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author.

Phoenix From The Ashes

Shadow.Ash.Spirit.Flame. - Gabriel García Márquez

Last November I finally told my Dad about my decision to give up alcohol. He’d never really known about my binge drinking or about everything that had happened because of it, mostly because we were not really close for most of my adult life and did not see each other that often. There were a couple of times when in desperate need for peace I asked him to take me to see healers or guides but I never really told him why and he did not ask. So, last November I explained to him that February 2nd, 2016 would be the anniversary of a life-altering decision I made in 2014. I asked him if he would have a thanksgiving hawan (prayer) for me. He said yes, simply and quietly.

Two weeks before Christmas Dad fell sick with pneumonia. It was really bad and on the fourth day the doctor told him there was nothing more he could do. Now, my father is very stubborn and may have decided to fight his illness just to prove the doctor wrong. For whatever reason, he pulled through and even though extremely weakened and still on oxygen and drips twice per week, he was up on Christmas Day, enough to have a few pieces of fruit on the family lunch table. As the days in January rolled by I had decided that I would not burden him with having the hawan for me, so when he called a week ago to ask if I would still like to have it, I was surprised and very moved. I asked him if he was sure he was up to the task and he said that he believed it would be good for him too. It would be a thanksgiving for both of us.

A hawan is a sacred purifying ritual, in which a sacrificial fire is built in a kund, and specific ingredients are burned according to Ayurvedic tradition. These fire ceremonies are performed for all types of occasions: to let go of patterns and obstacles in our lives, for healing, purification of the environment and ourselves, to pray for success with a particular venture, or to express gratitude. Before we began my father welcomed our guests and started to explain why we had gathered together. But the only words he managed to get out were “my daughter” before he was overwhelmed with emotion. I think it moved him that I’d struggled and ‘come home’, perhaps proving him wrong in believing that he failed as a father by never providing a “home” for his daughters to return to. I spoke up and explained that I’d made a choice two years ago which turned my life around and that I felt it best to honour what I’d been given. With my second chance and Dad’s health, our ceremony was a thanksgiving for my life and for his.

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Having not been brought up in the Hindu faith, even though my father is Hindu, I don’t remember much from my childhood in terms of the significance of the ingredients used and of the meaning of the mantras (prayers in Sanskrit) but my stepsister sat right next to me and guided me along.

The mango tree is a symbol of love, prosperity and fertility, and on Sunday it provided the kindling for our fire. Ghee (purified butter) was used to feed the fire and signified light being brought into our lives. Several little blocks of camphor was burned throughout the ritual. Camphor represents the negative qualities in us and when camphor burns, it leaves no trace. Guggul is a resin formed from the sap of the guggul tree, and has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for over two thousand years. It too, shrinks and removes negative energies. Sweet rice was added to the kund too as rice is symbolic of wealth and success.

Samagri is a mixture of spices and each item of the samagri is significant. Ashoka, considered to be sacred tree, is also a herb that fights disease. Loban (frankincense) creates positive energies, creating a seal locking out the inflow of negative. Harmal seeds crackle on being heated, acting like grenades and explosives in the energy field, and drive away the negative astral energies in the environment. Specific Sanskrit mantras were chanted and sung too and these, together with the offerings to the fire create purifying vibrations that are beneficial to all present.

As the fire burned, the fragrant aromas triggered happy childhood memories of running through bamboo arches with deyas full of light, of delicious food and lots of family.

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Can you see the Phoenix? 🙂

I stared at the flames as they danced in the kund, charring the mango wood black then white. Dad spooned ghee over the ingredients yet to burn and pushed the camphor into unlit corners to ignite. There was forgiveness in those flames and hope in the heat I felt on my face. It is said that the smoke that rises from the kund contains a powerful healing energy, and as it rises to the heavens it purifies the atmosphere, both physically and subtly, encouraging peace.

For the last mantras (the ones I am the most fond of because they resonate with me, reminding me of a forgotten time) we rose to our feet. As the others sang I was very quiet, focused on the kund and what was left of the fire. I felt all my mistakes and my shame, guilt and remorse about them, reduced to black ash. I felt a surge of gratitude for all I have learned, for the courage and strength I was given, for all the new blogging friends I’ve made and the relationships with loved ones I was given the chance to deepen. I looked across at my father and he smiled at me. I am so thankful for this second chance. Late morning breezes began to blow, stirring the coconut and fruit trees in our garden into action. I felt love and reassurances all around me, from family, friends, the sky and sunshine, from myself.  Through tears I watched as the wind swirled, picking up the ash and carrying away everything I no longer needed.

“Happy New Year Phoenix, Year 3 is going to be even better.”

Love and light to you all, Phoenix

The Universe In My Mouth

pw_lk_krishna_showing_universe_01_300

Hannibal Lecter: “I’ve always found the idea of death comforting. The thought that my life could end at any moment frees me to fully appreciate the beauty, and art, and horror of everything this world has to offer.”

While somewhat morbid I actually understand what Hannibal meant. About a year after I gave up drinking and smoking, after the months of self-analysis and clarity that hit me square in the face, after the dizzying euphoria of my body healing and beginning to function well, and after the initial sadness and subsequent mourning period for a decade lost, I developed a marked lust for life.

While I’ve always loved so many aspects of life, I found my appetite for wanting more growing. I truly felt, and still do feel, like I’ve been given a second chance and the happiness I feel about that is made even sweeter because of the role I played in being rewarded with this second chance.

I’m proud of myself for recognizing that to successfully stop drinking was not only go to be about abstaining but also about having the courage to dig deep down to find and understand the reasons for wanting a numbing escape. I am grateful that I endeavoured to be compassionate with myself, to see myself as worth fighting for, and for making a commitment to do what needs to be done.

I have been releasing what does not work for me and what I no longer need. It takes time though, months in some cases, changing habits, de-cluttering my apartment, my computer (tablet and phone), sorting through clothes to donate, healing or letting go of unhealthy relationships. But for every item, bad habit, toxic relationship I get rid of, the clearer and wider the way opens for all the good stuff to find its way to me. I get nervous and excited at the thought of new good things heading my way, and sometimes I can’t wait!

I want to fling my arms wide open, reach out and wrap my arms around ALL of it – the whole Earth, around everyone. I want to talk to people and cry and laugh with them as they tell me their stories, I want to travel. I’ve never been more than 5000 km from my home (and that was only once). I’ve never crossed the Atlantic. The urge I had as a teenager to study ancient cities is now stronger than ever fueled by some underlying sense that I am destined to walk those historical streets. I am pushing my creative boundaries and finding new ways to express myself. And I want more. I want to learn more, create more, say more, do more. For the first time in a really long time I honestly believe I can make a difference in this world. I feel like the Hindu god Krishna, with the whole universe in my mouth. I have so much to offer. So do you my friend. It is time to get to work.

From my second chance to yours,
Phoenix

~*~

On February 6th 2014, four days after I stopped drinking alcohol, I started this blog. My two-year soberversary is fast approaching and my January posts, inspired by fictional philosophers who’ve inspired me with their bad-ass thoughts, is a way of celebrating my journey. I hope, in turn, to inspire you on yours.

Do I Deserve to Be Happy?

Claudia Tremblay

Artwork by Claudia Tremblay

“It’s as if you won’t allow yourself to be at peace, because you don’t think you deserve it. When will you begin to understand the preciousness of your own life?” ~ Richard from Texas, Liz Gilbert

I’ve been thinking a lot about why I held myself back for so long. For years I knew without a doubt that I could have a better life. I could be healthier, more focused, embrace all that life had to offer, and grow. But self-sabotage walked hand in hand with any progress I made and I always ended up kicking myself for not following through on plans to exercise, connect more with family, stand up for myself, take care of my skin or hair or home. I’d make all these great plans and then never act on them. Then I’d beat myself up for not trying, end up filling my life with people and things that were wrong for me, and then tell myself I wasn’t worth it anyway.

Allowing ourselves to grow has a lot to do with learning how to be accountable for our actions, accepting ourselves as we are and believing that we are worth investing in. It is also, particularly for those who made as many mistakes as I have, a great deal about forgiveness. While I’d come to terms with a lot of my mistakes and I’ve learned how to own them, self-forgiveness is something that I find challenging. It is one thing to know that I deserve to forgive myself and it is another thing to actually do it. I have come a long way since Feb 2014, and even though I get frustrated with myself sometimes for not “growing fast enough”, I also know that life’s lessons take their time and are given to us when it is time for us to learn them. I have to remind myself often, to be gentle with my thoughts and self-judgments, and to treat myself with care.

In my last post I wrote about finding a way to let go of the hurtful aspects of my relationship with my father. Through guidance in a metaphysical workshop I was able to let go of difficult memories of certain aspects of our relationship and deepen the healthy connections we do have. The workshop was geared toward helping us to release relationships and energetic connections that no longer serve us.

After the ebb and flow and relief of the first letting go, I settled myself in and breathed deeply, allowing whoever / whatever I was supposed to let go of next, to present itself to me.

Expecting to see an ex-boyfriend, or a shadowy image of a traumatic experience from the past, I was startled beyond belief when I recognized the two figures walking toward me. It was an adorable little girl and a beautiful, confident young woman, holding hands and smiling. The little girl was Little Phoenix, my toddler self. She was the one who I hid from because I felt that I’d let her down. I was ashamed that the innocent, bright eyed and hopeful little girl had turned into someone who I thought was out of control, ugly and a mess. I couldn’t look at photos of myself as little girl because I felt so far removed from that child, and so ruined. I’ve made my peace with that which is why I was surprised to see her walking toward me. The young woman she was holding hands with was me when I was in my twenties. She’s the one I call That Girl, and she was incredibly passionate, strong-willed, determined, brash and bold. She was also in a lot of pain and numbed that pain in all the wrong ways. I was bound to her, to that part of me, because of all the rough stuff we experienced together and the rebellion and reckless behaviour that came afterward because of it.

So there I was in the middle of the workshop, approached by two younger versions of myself, who evidently had something to say. I was confused. What was going on? Why would I need to sever ties with myself? Maybe I didn’t understand the instructions.

While Little Phoenix smiled and twirled her yellow dress, That Girl studied me. Without any sign of accusation or judgment on her face and with only love in her eyes, she said “We forgive youIt is okay to move on and to get better. You are not abandoning us. I am happy for you and for us, that you are finally building the life that you deserve. It is time and you can let go.”

I broke down. I had not realized that I’d been holding on to her so tightly. From a sense of responsibility or perhaps it was attachment to the familiar, I felt that to truly move on would mean that I would be leaving that side of me behind. That I would forget and to be honest, I didn’t want to forget the person I was underneath all the drinking and self-sabotaging behaviour. We had shared so much. In some way I needed her too.

But I understood. I needed to release all the painful experiences we went through… that I went through when I was that age. I needed to forgive myself for everything that happened after. I needed to trust that the best parts of me grew and are still growing, from the worst experiences. Those parts are with me now and I have been made stronger for it. It was time to move on. I took a deep breath and smiled through my tears. Little Phoenix giggled as That Girl lifted her into her arms, and they turned and walked away, leaving me with a very large lump in my throat and a heart filled with joy.

~*~

“Oh darling, it’s OK that you faltered…that you engaged in a destructive behaviour that was not in keeping with your true values. You did it to dull the pain, diminish the anger. But you realised that it still lay there…pressed further down. Let it Come Up a thousand times, again & again. Let it Rise…and Drift Away.” Patrice Charles

~*~

“How shall I go in peace and without sorrow? Nay, not without a wound in the spirit shall I leave this city. Long were the days of pain I have spent within its walls, and long were the nights of aloneness; and who can depart from his pain and his aloneness without regret? To many fragments of the spirit have I scattered in these streets, and too many are the children of my onging that walk naked among these hills, and I cannot withdraw from them without a burden and an ache. It is not a garment I cast off this day, but a skin that I tear with my own hands. Nor is it a thought I leave behind me, but a heart made sweet with hunger and thirst.” ~ Khalil Gibran

~*~

On February 6th 2014, four days after I stopped drinking alcohol, I started this blog. My two-year soberversary is fast approaching and my January posts, inspired by fictional philosophers who’ve inspired me with their bad-ass thoughts, is a way of celebrating my journey. I hope, in turn, to inspire you on yours.

Love, not time, heals all wounds

Print by Enjo Mathew

Print by Enjo Mathew

“I’ve learned… That love, not time, heals all wounds.” ~ Andy Rooney

A friend posted that on facebook last year and it made an impression on me because it struck as me as completely true. Having known people who are still harbouring hurt and anger over circumstances that happened years ago, and knowing people who seem to be able to quickly let go and move on, it seems as though Time is not the deciding factor in healing. Time may allow us the opportunity to fine tune our masks, perfect burying our heads in the sand, and hone our defensive skills, but true healing can only take place with Love.

Nanice Ellis wrote, “every time we talk about an unhealed wound or trauma, we re-activate it in our emotional, spiritual and physical bodies. As we speak, or even think, about an old issue, we experience it as if it is happening right now. Since our subconscious mind does not know the difference between current experience and past memory, for all intents and purposes, the trauma or negative experience is happening now.”

When we re-activate old painful memories, our thoughts, words and emotions create a negative energy that we unknowingly project out into our future. This energy manifests in more painful experiences, similar to the original issue. In other words, when issues come up without resolution, a pattern develops. When I look at my past behaviour I can see how this can be possible.

According to her article, each time this pattern manifests in real life situations, we re-experience the original wound and the current hurt simultaneously. When this occurs, we have a powerful opportunity to heal the past wound by healing the current one. “Wounds are meant to be healed. We are not meant to spend our lives carrying around past issues and hurts. Unhealed issues weigh us down, keep us asleep and prevent us from consciously creating. It is only our personal issues that stop us from experiencing our greatest potential.”

I’m not made of steel. I too have residual hurt from wounds sustained long ago. But instead of ignoring my feelings or pushing them away, I take deep breaths and wrap my heart in love as it fills up with every breath. I send love to the source of my hurt and to myself. I write a letter from my heart, wishing only love.

Walking the Path

Morpheus Knowing the Path.jpg

Why is it so very hard to do what we’re supposed to do, as in what’s best for us? Especially when we know what we have to do?? Why is that so tough? I mean, you would think it would be easy because its common sense, to walk a certain path which I know is the right path. So why is it so tempting to retrace our steps on an old path? Is it a fear of what the new path may hold, or the familiarity of the ‘old’ path? Most people make the mistake of thinking that they’re making the right choice by going back, simply because it’s so familiar that it feels comfortable and ‘right’, even though it usually isn’t. Comfort in familiarity and all that. But if I am aware of the fear, the comfort of familiarity and all the rest of it, already why do I do this?

Sometimes I feel like I sabotage myself over and over. It’s as though whenever I feel I’m on the verge of doing something great or being something great, (and I don’t mean ‘great’ like finding a cure for AIDS, or Cancer, solving the problem of Global Warming, or writing the novel of the century, I’m referring to something meaningful, purposeful, and fulfilling, that could make me, and others around me, happy), this is usually the point where I slowly but surely turn on my heel and step in the opposite direction. Sometimes I even run! It’s annoying, frustrating and depressing. I know I have issues with self-worth and believing that I deserve more, but shouldn’t loving myself and believing in myself grow with time and practice?

Master Planner or Procrastinator?

I have recognized that one of my problems is that I’m a ‘master planner’. Once I see that something needs ‘fixing’, I’ll get all excited about it and come up with a great plan! I think: “Yay, PROJECT!” Then once the plan is on paper, I feel happy that I have a plan and then immediately hit the brakes for a while because I’m no longer frustrated or unhappy. That’s my cycle. I’m really worried, because here I am planning again, making My New Life lists, and jotting down notes in my Happy Me journal, and bookmarking Work From Home websites, and then, stalling. I am this close to leaving my job, yet I have not sent out proposals to get my new career going, even though I have five potential clients lined up! I should be grateful and honour these opportunities by giving them my all. (Teeny tiny voice in my head: What if my all isn’t good enough?)

Sometimes I just think it comes down to habits to break. Maybe it’s as simple as that and maybe I just have to break the ‘bad’ thinking habits too. The thing is, unless I cultivate good habits to replace them, I’ll always have time for ‘bad’ habits. What puzzles me is despite the fact that I know what I have to do, and I know what will make my life better, I just don’t do it. I read something yesterday:

“Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.” (Marianne Williamson).

Which brings me back to what I was talking about, why am I so afraid to take that step? A line from a song I heard this morning goes: “That first step you take is the longest stride.” Maybe that’s true. I was talking to a good friend of mine about all of this and I told him that I don’t like the fact that I haven’t been able to get it together and annoyed that every time I feel like I’m progressing, I fall back. He asked me what I thought I wasn’t ‘getting together’. I had to think about it because I wanted to be honest with myself. What I’ve been running away from is the same three things for years: recognizing my purpose; loving myself; and allowing myself to be loved the way that I deserve to be loved.

Fear

I know I hold myself back, out of fear mostly. Fear of being out of my comfort zone, fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of opening myself up to love, fear of getting hurt. All of these fears fill my mind and stop me from moving forward, toward new adventures. They take up so much space in my mind and heart, leaving little room for appreciating what I do have and what I do know, and even less room for hope and promise.

Let Go?

A lot has been shifting and changing with me for the past couple of weeks and is a source of inner turmoil, but what if this is  an opportunity for release as well? I am trying so hard to steer the ship so to speak that what if there is incredible freedom when I let the rudder go? What if I surrender to what will be and not try to predict the weather and make adjustments to suit. What if I choose to focus on what makes me happy and fulfilled and give up on worrying about the dark sea beneath or about keeping my ship afloat. What if I allow myself to enjoy the anticipation of huge rolling wave and the excitement of the ride. What if I trust in all the work I’ve done over the last couple of years and have faith that a greater plan has been put in motion? What if I choose to follow my heart and allow the mystery of my journey and destination to unfold?

What if? Indeed. 🙂

https://youtu.be/13WAhlE02ew

~*~

On February 6th 2014, four days after I stopped drinking alcohol, I started this blog. My two-year soberversary is fast approaching and my January posts, inspired by fictional philosophers who’ve inspired me with their bad-ass thoughts, is a way of celebrating my journey. I hope, in turn, to inspire you on yours.

 

My Beating Heart

Artwork by Michael Parkes

Artwork by Michael Parkes

“Once. I was on a trek in the Andes, and a hummingbird flew up to me and just hovered there staring at me. Its tiny heart was pattering like a machine gun… And I thought, what a thing, you know, to have to work that hard every day just to stay alive, to be constantly on the verge of death, and how satisfying every day must be that it survived” ~ Klaus Mikaelson

The human body is remarkable in the way it is designed to repair and heal itself. With the exception of serious illnesses or compromised immune systems, from the moment we sustain an injury or get sick, our bodies begin repairing. Blood clots, new cells replace old or damaged ones, muscle tissue regenerates. When I gave up drinking, I understood that I would experience physical withdrawal symptoms until the alcohol was completely out of my system, and I also understood that healing would take time. For me, I started feeling healthier about six weeks after I quit. By then my sleeping and eating habits had normalized. My energy levels were higher than ever and I steered more of it toward enjoying life instead of fighting hangovers.

A few months ago I went in for my annual physical and after listening to my heartbeat my doctor recommended that I schedule an echo cardiogram. She explained that it was probably nothing to be concerned about, but she was hearing a ‘snap’ in the mistral valve of my heart. She explained what the mistral valve was and what may have been creating the sound she heard through her stethoscope. Of course when I got to work that day I googled and learned all about the mistral valve and put myself in a nice little state of panic. After a few deep breaths I decided not to worry until there was something to worry about, after all the appointment was a week away and I didn’t want to spend seven whole days worrying and imagining the worst.

The day of the echo cardiogram I arrived at the lab early and while I waited, chatted with an elderly lady who was also scheduled for the same scan. Having been in and out of hospitals for problems with her heart, she was worried because the prognosis for her ailment was not good. I didn’t know what to say to her.

When it was my turn in the exam room, I removed my shirt, and lay down as I was asked. The technician came in, set up the monitor and explained what he was going to do. I knew from my research on the net that it was more or less the same equipment used when performing a sonogram to see unborn babies. Then I heard a squoosh-woosh, squoosh-woosh sound and looking at the monitor saw my heart pumping away. It was fascinating. Almost as cool as seeing a baby on the monitor.

The technician looked at my heart from three different perspectives, and explained which image showed my mistral valve. The squoosh-woosh sound continued and I felt so very protective of my own heart. It actually seemed vulnerable, which made me feel guilty for ever doing things that were bad for my heart. Things like way too much alcohol and thousands of cigarettes, poor diet and not exercising. My heart was working so faithfully to keep me alive and I had been completely disregarding that fact for most of my life.

I started to feel better when the technician said that all seemed well. What a relief. I was very grateful. Then the doc came in and confirmed the technician’s opinion, “Yes…”, he said, studying the images, “Yes, you have one happy healthy heart there.” I liked that. ‘Happy healthy heart.’

From my Happy Healthy Heart to yours: Be kind to your hearts and take care of them. They work hard to keep you alive, and they give you the chance to see all the beauty, love, and magic in this world.

Take care of each other’s hearts too.

~*~

On February 6th 2014, four days after I stopped drinking alcohol, I started this blog. My two-year soberversary is fast approaching and my January posts, inspired by fictional philosophers who’ve inspired me with their bad-ass thoughts, is a way of celebrating my journey. I hope, in turn, to inspire you on yours.

From the Tao of Pooh

Motisfont Christopher Robin and Pooh playing poohsticks creditThe E.H. Shepard Trust reproduced by permission of Curtis Brown Group Ltd

“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” ~ Christopher Robin to Pooh

I’ve been writing and rewriting cover letters and resumes for the past month. I’m leaving a job where I’ve been involved in sales for the last 15 years and I have to say it’s been challenging figuring out how to sell myself.

So many of us who have had issues with alcohol (or have issues with addictive behaviour for that matter) are uncomfortable coming to terms with and expressing our worth. We feel ashamed and broken and tend to focus on all the ways we don’t measure up. So imagine my quandry: How do I convince a new company that an alcohol abuser with residual psychological issues from past trauma and poor choices is the best fit for their open position?

By coming to terms with, and believing, that those things are only a part of me and do not make up the whole of me. They are not ALL of who I am. So I sat down with a blank piece of paper and started taking notes. I thought about the strengths a journey like this allows us to develop:

Courage and Resilience
Compassion and Benevolence
Discipline and Analytical Skills (you know, the overthinking!)
Honesty and Accountability

And you know what? I started to feel better about myself. I could do this. I forced myself not to give in to doubt and I called up a few trusted friends. I asked them what they considered to be my assets. I was humbled, grateful and touched by what they had to say. Sometimes our friends see us in ways that we can’t, especially when Ms Doubt and Mr Self Sabotage walk next to us so often, whispering tales from our negative core beliefs.

In each person who has found the courage to admit the truth and tackle their addictive behaviour there are reserves of strength we should not take for granted. We are resilient because we won’t give up. If we falter we will try again, simply because we already know how to begin. We begin again, because we have to, carrying what we’ve learned every step of the way.

~*~

On February 6th 2014, four days after I stopped drinking alcohol, I started this blog. My two-year soberversary is fast approaching and my January posts, inspired by fictional philosophers who’ve inspired me with their bad-ass thoughts, is a way of celebrating my journey. I hope, in turn, to inspire you on yours.