Covid Gratitude 1

Gratitude

An interesting phenomenon has been occurring for me throughout the Covid-19 crisis — as the pandemic causes me to try different things, change old habits, rethink things, etc. I’m finding many reasons for gratitude. Haven’t decided if this will be weekly or randomly, but have decided to launch a Covid Gratitude series.

Immune Boosting

This one actually started before we knew there was a crisis, when my mother fell and broke her hip.  Because I knew hospitals are a breeding ground for viruses and bacteria, I took her a bottle of Aireborne chewables to take one daily and I started drinking daily (and then eventually every other day) glasses of the fizzy version.

We’d been bucking up for two months by the time the warnings started coming, just about the time she was coming home from skilled nursing.

I’ve used the Chinese anti-viral herbal formula, Ganmaoling, for years (close to 30!) to ward off colds and flus.  Long ago they used to put a preventive dose prescription in the instructions, 3 tablets, 3x/day for 3 days.  So as soon as she came home I put us through the preventive regimen.

Through the advice of some friends I also started us on elderberry gummies, taken every other day.  And I already have been drinking turmeric ginger tea every day for some years (and since Mom doesn’t like the tea, I make her a tincture she takes every day) — some studies have found it more effective than flu shots because of its immune boosting qualities.

So we have felt decently prepared for this crisis. The one time she had an in person doctor’s appointment after this started, we were stuck in the waiting room being sneezed and coughed on by a family of four who all had something. And amazingly neither of us came down with anything, which I attribute in part to our boosted immunity.

Feeling very grateful that not-such-happy circumstances led to us working on immunity before we knew there would be an emergency need for it!  And grateful that I know a bunch of alternative health/remedy stuff to assist. I’m not saying I think this makes us totally immune, just that I feel like we’re safer than we might have been and that gives me peace of mind.

The virus and the rabbit hole

As Mom moved toward the end of her stay in rehab and my hip/psoas issues were hitting a zenith, we started hearing about the coronavirus.  Things were revving up when we got home. But we’d been sent off with Mom having barely moved from diaper changes to being able to get to the bathroom with assistance and no home help coming for days, so I felt too overwhelmed by dealing with the transition to full time caregiver to do more than note it as a rising issue.

Before long, though, I was discovering that with Mom in the house I should be going out as little as possible — some say not at all but I have yet to figure out how to get everything done for her without leaving the house.  As much as possible I get curbside pickup or delivery, mostly curbside pickup, but for a couple of places I have to go in.

Otherwise I’m staying home. I gather this is a huge lifestyle change for many people but, having dealt with health issues for a long time, I’m used to staying home a lot, so I feel like life has prepared me for this moment very well.  Not to mention being an only child means I’ve spent tons of alone time since early childhood…

Not feeling huge fear except for my Dad, alone in Florida and not taking this too seriously.  One silver lining to all the time spent in hospitals, etc. is I had Mom and I taking Aireborne every day to ward off the many things that float around those places so we were more immune boosted than normal.  And I’ve had us keep taking some along with elderberry and preventive doses of ganmaoling. Sent some of all those things to Dad and he’s actually taking stuff! I don’t go quite as far as some about wiping everything down or quarantining the mail, but I’m careful and Mom is not going out at all.

The hardest part is watching our already-dwindling investment account go down and wondering how we survive on the other side.  Otherwise the adjustment to this new normal after adjusting to a life of daily hospital/SNF visits and then adjusting to be the only caregiver 24/7 just seems like part of the ongoing fall down the rabbit hole. Head over heels, down and down, dizzy and disoriented, heading for a new world.

In the meantime, I’m looking at the commentary on what an opportunity this is to decide to change the world and throw off the beliefs about wealth and striving and what drives economies to start anew from a different set.  Now is the chance to work on “people power”, for which I advocated in my recent series. Let’s dream and plan a new world. And I’m excited about that.

A big twist in the road

I’ve been largely absent for a while now.  My 94 year old mother fell and broke her hip on January 24 and life has felt like I went down a rabbit hole ever since.

The first hospital failed to take proper x-rays and sent her home, being told to just walk on it. The second one the next day found broken hip and two days later she had three pins put in by a specialist.  All this launched what wound up being almost two months of daily trips to either hospital or rehab, trying to get the house completely rearranged around that schedule so she can get a walker everywhere she needs to, running errands around both of those activities…

In other words anything resembling “my life” pretty much disappeared as life circled around Mom’s health and well-being.  She didn’t like the food at the rehab place so it also included having to fix a sandwich and put together some other snacks — not to mention making sure she still had her daily doses of kombucha and a smoothie– on a daily basis.

After the first days at rehab another problem was found, sending her back to the hospital for almost a week which interfered so much with her PT progress that her stay at the SNF wound up being extended.

By the last week or so of her time at SNF the coronavirus was becoming a thing and the full force began hitting on the first week home.  We’d been left for days high and dry with no nurse’s aide to help and OT and PT in home being slow to start.  Already floundering as I shifted from the weird schedule of the daily visits, etc. to having to be up and down all night to help her and available all day, the worries about the virus initially didn’t really register with me.

In the meantime, sitting for hours in bad chairs at various of the places wound up setting off an old painful hip pattern which wound up intertwined with a badly pulled psoas, so the next post will be about the journey through all of this while barely being able to walk.  And then after that we’ll get to Covid-19.

Yup, I fell down a rabbit hole and I just keep falling past a new twist and another turn…  Must be a really big rabbit!

It was a pretty good year

My mother and I are not big fans of New Years Eve.  Have never really seen what the big deal about changing years is (for me birthday is more a time to think about that) and, having put up with her alcoholic sister for decades of our lives, neither of us finds hanging out in rooms full of drunks to be as much fun as many people apparently do.  So the big celebration this year involved making popcorn and both of us watching TV in separate rooms.

But this year I have been in a reflective mode through the latter part of fall, marking some bigger changes than most years for a while.

Finally arriving at a place where the inner journeying and physical healing are producing noticeable results outwardly — after years of constant inner transformation and physical progress that moved along but seemed to never end — feels worth noting.

I’m very pleased and excited at my work on the People Power series I’ve been writing here.  Feel totally magnetized to it and while I don’t yet see where this path is leading, I definitely feel it’s a path I’m meant to be on and for which SO many things in my life have prepared me.

It’s been a couple of years since I began noticing a bit more stamina.  For many years the chronic fatigue left me literally feeling no “there” there — a state one practitioner referred to as having “negative chi”.  No matter how much I slept (and for some years it was a LOT) I always felt shaky and exhausted.  Now even a moderately good night’s sleep leaves me with the energy to feel pretty normal for a chunk of the day and this year that became more sustained.

With some energy I can count on, this year has been one of trying to take back control of a few more things.  Perhaps the biggest change has been in reaching out to make some new friends.  I’d worked very hard at networking in my first years here but slowly the groups fell apart, people moved away and by the time my health left me pretty isolated, there were few people to reach out to.

I began with signing up to volunteer with Ahava Center for Spiritual Living’s God’s Pantry group, my first evening being the last Friday of December, 2018.  A number of friends are involved at Ahava and I’ve nibbled around the edges for years.  Through the volunteer group I’ve been meeting some lovely folks.

Eventually I inched a little closer and am now in a women’s group at ASCL.  Not much of a service attendee, I’m occasionally actually showing up for one; really nice to walk into a group of friendly faces.  I’ve pushed to attend a few other events here and there along with a few more lunches with old friends.  All still a little tentative, but it’s been nice to move out in the world a bit more after this long hibernation.  Feels like doors opening, life moving, etc.

The long unwinding of muscles in my face and head still continues, but this year there’s enough opened up to feel my face as SO different   There’s still enough tightness I don’t quite know how it feels to have all these muscles in their natural state but one increment at a time I learn more about what healthy muscles in my face feel like.  From steely and hard, many of them have transitioned to feeling spongy and flexible.  So cool.

Some of the smallest things are among those I note the most.  I mentioned a while back getting control over a few things like getting dishes done in the evening.  It’s around two years or so now that I’ve gotten it done every single night, never facing a pile of dishes in the morning because I was too tired to do it.  The last couple of months I’ve smiled and felt so grateful every time I soap and rinse, pleased to have a record so long I can’t tell you exactly when the streak began.

I’ve added in a regular laundry day.  The piles don’t always cooperate by being the right size on the right day, but a lot gets done every week on the same day and just that small regular thing feels so good.

The other big shift has been trying to take control of my schedule.  The unwinding, with accompanying sleeplessness, shifted my sleep schedule till it was pretty normal to go to sleep at 5 a.m. and get up at noon or later.  For a long time the exhaustion was so bad I just slept whenever I could and made no effort to corral the times.

In the summer I decided my increased stamina meant I could tolerate some even bigger losses of sleep.  I started off shifting the schedule by about 2 hours and then managed to get to 3 on a journey to make it 4.  Recently the unwinding around my eyes has wreaked such havoc I’ve lost ground back to the 2 hour shift but I’m counting it as a victory to have managed to hang on to that much of the change.

Some days it’s a little weird for me to look at these little shifts and changes as big victories, but compared to life a few years ago, this feels like a major unfurling.  Some days I’m still resentful at being handed such a long difficult healing journey.  But a lot of the time this year I feel so pleased to see these little changes slowly, slowly, carefully moving me to living a fuller life again, this time as a person with so much more emotional, mental, spiritual and physical health than I ever had before.

Looking forward to even more opening and LIVING in 2020.  Hope you all are starting the new year in peace and that this will be your best year ever.

 

Mashed Cauliflower and Parsnips with Spinach

Normally this would just be on the Scribblings blog, but since I’m participating in the blogging month with the Cheer Peppers and I only signed this blog up, you get to see it here too 🙂 A healthy way to have “mashed potatoes” for Thanksgiving

Scribblings from the Bluegrass

Cooking in water

Several years ago I saw a Rachael Ray episode on Thanksgiving for which she prepared a dish with mashed potatoes and parsnips with spinach and parmesan stirred in.  It sounded so good but I wanted to try using cauliflower instead of potatoes to make it healthier.

Substituting 2 cauliflower heads for the potatoes, it turned out great but was a lot of work. Since then riced cauliflower has become popular so I hunted for a recipe for mashed cauliflower using the riced version–so much easier.  Then I used aspects of both recipes to create this one.

Mashed Cauliflower and Parsnips with Spinach

  • 3 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 2 16 oz packages riced cauliflower (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 parsnips
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup reserved water from cooking cauliflower
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 6-8 oz fresh organic baby spinach or kale or 10-12 ounces fresh spinach…

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Growing Pains?

In my last post, I was feeling a little down about my struggles with making a huge schedule change.  I’m happy to report I was soon back on track but I have to tell ya, shifting your entire schedule by several hours is harder than it sounds.

Right now I’ve landed in a place where I’m routinely somewhere in between the schedule I’m aiming for and the schedule I used to have.  I’m counting that as progress and an accomplishment.  But this in between place also has some issues.

Way back when school and then working outside the home forced a schedule on me, I routinely had to get up anywhere from 5:30 to 6:30 a.m. in order to get ready and accomplish whatever commute required.  I’ve always been a night owl, so pretty much every night I was awake till midnight or one, slept till the alarm dragged me up and headed off.

Lots of coffee all day long helped me to pretend I had energy.  Weekends contained many extra hours of sleep, trying to catch up.  While many things contributed to chronic fatigue for me, I’m quite sure many years of sleep deprivation is one of the threads.  Once I no longer worked on somebody else’s hours, my pretty natural schedule was more or less 1 a.m. to 9 a.m.  But when a combination of kundalini, prana bursts and wild muscle activity started interfering regularly with sleep over some years that schedule slowly morphed to being awake often until 4 a.m. or 5 (and sometimes beyond) and sleeping until 12 or later.

I’ve hated that for many reasons, especially in winter and even more this past winter when night vision problems kept me from driving after dark.  But as long as the muscles mostly ruled my schedule and kept me utterly exhausted I didn’t feel up to trying to wrestle the schedule back.

Now that I’m back feeling quite a bit better and with restored determination, the old 1-9 a.m. seemed attractive and that’s my aim.  Oy, though, trying to shift that much while also changing liquid schedule to stop drinking anything several hours before bed has been far more huge than I imagined.  And yes, the muscles in my faces haven’t finished with me; some nights are impossible…

When I can get to the 1-9, many things have a natural spot and I can see how the schedule will work well, but this in between moment makes it so awkward!  While I long to complete the shift to the new dream schedule, right now I just try to take a breath and appreciate how much I’ve accomplished so far.

I love having extra hours of daylight.  I love being ready to head out for errands earlier.  I love having time to take a nap (so far it’s been easier to get up earlier than to make myself sleep earlier) and still have hours of light left to enjoy.

Just thought I’d let you know I’m done whining… for now 🙂

Hello Coyote

That ol’ trickster coyote showed up within a couple of days of my Determined Again post.  In the last 10 days or so muscle yanking left me with about 3 hours of sleep 5 times and another night a sudden 2 a.m. allergy attack deprived me of some more hours.

For the most part I’ve been pleased that, in spite of the disruption and sleeping later than the plan in order to sleep at all, I’ve still managed to drag up earlier than I had been.  It’s left the whole plan about early rising and re-doing the whole schedule of meals and drinking various things still constantly shifting instead of settling into the routine for which I long.

And today after 3 hours again and a number of things that went sideways, I finally threw up my hands on trying to force the new schedule.  It’s past 11:30 p.m. and I just finished by daily cup of turmeric ginger tea and am still sipping water, the final touch on a day of watching my new schedule go down the drain.

I knew when I started this shift it would be challenging given the muscle unwinding process has still not finished, but the muscles gave me a break in the first couple of weeks of the venture and I felt cautiously optimistic about succeeding sooner than I’d assumed.

Through much of the week I managed to remind myself I was still being earlier and managing a number of items on the shift to earlier list — if not as early as desired or even at consistent times, at least everything was in fact earlier.

I know with some sleep I’ll be in a better frame and one day of sideways won’t change the general trend,, but right now feeling a little down and very tired of coping with all this…

Determined again

In my younger days, determination was a fairly central feature of my personality.  I remember a long ago boyfriend telling me it was amazing how I would just decide I wanted to know how to do something and go about learning it.

The long journey through health problems eroded that determination and during these recent years when my muscles pretty much took control I seemed to lose that “now I’m gonna do this” spirit as to everything but healing.

There are ways in which the sidetrack into a life operating in some aspects out of my control was a good and necessary thing as I’d always been too in control.  I’ve learned a lot about letting go over years of having muscles operating on their own volition and on their own time schedule.  But sometimes it felt a bit like I wasn’t me any more; while in many ways that was a needed too, it also felt left me feeling lost.

Over the last couple of years as more energy and stamina have returned, I’ve been slowly picking up threads on getting things done.  And recently I’ve moved forward in a firm decision that muscles or no, it’s time to get some control over my schedule again.

With a caveat about surrendering to the muscles when they decide to do their thing, I started shifting my crazy sleep schedule.  Around the same time I also realized drinking too much liquid late at night interfered with staying asleep for long enough stretches, so I also started working on a hugely shifted schedule of when I drink what.  And then saw the sleep and drinking schedules impact one another a lot and the two wind up impacting just about everything.  So many things to shift!

So I’m setting an alarm for 3 hours earlier than when I’d been getting up and setting an alarm to signal when it’s time to turn all devices off and move to bed. Not actually getting up when the alarm goes off, but I’m up quite a lot earlier than before.  And working my way through the times many things need to happen through the day.

I know to most people these are small things, easily controlled, but for me, after years of being totally out of step with “normal” hours because of my muscles and fatigue, it has felt SO good to take charge and push for a big change.  Helps the muscles are somewhat cooperating. A couple of nights a week are lost which throws me off schedule, but I’ve even been managing to be earlier on those days.  And I can see the muscles and healing had to reach at least this stage of doneness for me to have the oomph to do this.

It’s clear it will be a while before I get everything moved to my ideal schedule but just operating on the determination to be earlier in everything and managing to accomplish a degree of it feels major.

It feels like me again.  A better, calmer, kinder me.  But me.  Maybe me 2.0?  Or maybe after all the transitions, me 10.1???

Navigating CFS and Fibromyalgia

Dhanwantari, Hindu god of medicine

As I inch ever closer to “completing” the journey to health, I’ve been thinking a lot about CFS, fibromyalgia, the differing worlds of allopathic and alternative medicine, and how my healing journey has operated on many levels. [btw I’m still working on the People Power series so stay tuned for more to come]

Neither ailment was ever officially diagnosed by a “western” doctor.  When I first started complaining of fatigue and pain, western medicine held steadfast in denying chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia existed.  They’d tell you it was in your mind and maybe you should see a shrink.  I knew something was wrong so I started seeking alternative therapies, beginning with acupuncture.

Many alternative practitioners felt I had fibromyalgia — some talked about the pattern of calcified fibers ALL over all my muscles; for them it was about how the muscles feel — but when allopathic medicine finally acknowledged its existence their list of symptoms didn’t match mine.  And as usual their treatment is a pharmaceutical sop to symptoms that in no way cures it. So anyone’s guess whether my muscle problems are or aren’t fibromyalgia.  I call it that because the practitioners who helped me did.

In hindsight I see it as a blessing that western medicine had no place for my problems because (1) I think the alternative medicine path has been a total, eye-opening gift and (2) the emphasis on healing rather than masking symptoms is a big part of my returning strength and energy.

From the purely physical standpoint, I think it’s important to understand the path to healing for these ailments looks very different for different people.  Several practitioners along the way noted that CFS and fibromyalgia– particularly CFS — are often a result of a catastrophic collection of system issues/failures which means the underlying causes are multiple and differ among sufferers.  And fibromyalgia can be one of the pieces leading to CFS. The path to wellness for one may do nothing for someone whose underlying issue is different.

For instance some practitioners were convinced about one particular diet — often vegan or vegetarian — and thought everyone had to be on that diet.  Diet, too, is an area in which different people need different ones.

I go on a fast downhill slide on any strict vegetarian diet (although I eat a fair number of vegetarian meals), with symptoms that start with my digestive system ceasing to function and move on to lowered blood pressure, extreme fatigue and anemia. My life-long problem with anemia only disappears if I eat red meat once a week or so.  At the same time I know people who are robustly healthy on a vegan diet.

What works for you can be complicated.  I’ve been sorting through things for years trying to figure out what seems to keep me healthiest and my diet continues to be a process of tweaking.

For me a huge turning point came at the end of my first Body Patterning appointment, when the therapist asked if I knew that muscles were squeezing every single organ and gland.  All the many years of treatments till then had dealt separately with the muscle issues and the CFS.  Acupuncturist after acupuncturist treated me in constant rotation for issues with all the glands and some of the organs.  Treatments would help for a while and then fade in effectiveness.

Acupuncture treatments for muscle and pain issues are not the same as the treatments of meridians for gland and organ issues.  Unfortunately acupuncture diagnosis doesn’t seem to have a way to distinguish between weakness in a meridian caused by muscles squeezing the associated gland or organ from weakness caused by a problem in the organ or gland itself.

Once I understood the muscles were my primary problem I focused my attention on opening/releasing the muscles, a plan which included some trades for body work (by this time I’d run out of funds for endless alternative treatments…).  I worked along by practicing yoga and with tapes of Robert Masters’ Psychophysical Method and eventually I re-worked the Masters stuff into sets I found more effective and combined the work with yoga postures to support the opening created by his triggers of release.

Initially I walked my spiritual and physical journeys as separate paths.  Eventually I came to see how mental, emotional, physical and spiritual issues all enter into any journey of healing.  I began exploring issues, digging through childhood memories and releasing old beliefs.  In more recent years i also started exploring ancestral patterns and how patterns in muscles can be passed from one generation to another to another.

When I started there wasn’t even the beginning of a guide to how to negotiate all this and as far as I can tell the information people with these diagnoses get still varies.  Western medicine deems them incurable.  Alternative medicine thinks they can be resolved but often fail to understand the complexity and that you probably have to use more than one healing modality and combine it with emotional and spiritual work.

The bottom line is these ailments (and some other immune system disorders) are still to some degree mysterious even to alternative practitioners and allopathic medicine knows even less.  Your path to healing is going to be a quest you must undertake and only you will be able to discern the impact of various suggestions and modalities and practices.

Making it even harder, at the worst stages, even something that’s helping may not produce an impact you can feel.  As long as you aren’t getting worse, sometimes you have to try something for a while on faith.  You have to get to know your own body and its nuances.

And you have to be willing to stand up for what you know to be truth.  I have literally quit several practitioners the day they argued with or refused to accept what I told them I knew about my own body, especially some of the diet nazis.  At the same time I’ve had to be prepared to listen to analyses that were hard to take, especially those with good intuitive skills who homed in on issues I hadn’t noticed.

It can be a balancing act.  But hard as it is, the journey to health is ultimately up to you and you need to be your own best advocate and as thoroughly aware of your body and how it reacts as you can become.

For me this journey of getting in touch after years of being numb, of learning what works for me, etc. has been enlightening and empowering.

 

I like my aging face

For some months now I’ve felt like I’ve been in some sort of hibernation/incubation mix, drawn to studying up on a bunch of current events issues and unsure what’s next.  Finally in the last couple of weeks a couple of epiphanies have arrived.  The first will take several posts so I’m writing up the second one to open.

Lately a number of articles and insights about aging have cropped up, during a spell when I’ve often enjoyed my graying hair in the mirror as well as appreciating my aging face.  They’ve had me contemplating myself as an aging woman.

Time Stopped

Aging has been an odd process for me.  Like many with a long-term ailment like chronic fatigue and/or fibromyalgia, in many ways my life froze at the point in my mid-thirties when normal life stopped.  For many years I had trouble conceiving of myself as having moved anywhere past that age.

At the same time, the process of moving toward wellness included lots and lots of bodywork and a faithful yoga practice combined with some other movement practices.  Once the process of aging caught up with me enough that I could no longer hold an illusion of being 34 🙂 I had transformed my body from stiff and pained and barely mobile to strong and lithe and flexible.

So I find myself at 66 with a body that feels younger than it did in my thirties and a face that clearly says “66” in a life that felt like a couple of decades went missing.

“Not Fair”

Clearly somewhere along the way I drifted from feeling 34 to seeing the aging reality in the mirror.  Having, in most conventional senses, lost 25 or so years, my initial reaction was, “Not fair!”

Alternating amongst angry and mournful and denying, I grappled with “losing” most of the middle of life and finding myself old and still struggling to get past all the health and emotional issues   Not fair!

Again, because my body was coming back to life and my muscles were serving me better than ever, denial became an easy refuge.  As long as I didn’t look in the mirror, I felt so much better it was hard to reconcile the “old” thing with the state of my physical being.

I never landed on anger or grief or denial for long and through it all I could manage to look at what I accomplished during those years and have a little re-think.

I Earned This Face

I can’t remember how many years ago I quit dying my hair (I’d gone prematurely white around my face in my early 30’s and, like so many, once I started, I kept going too long), but an appreciation of the gray look has been growing ever since.

Lately, as mentioned, I’ve been seeing a lot of photos and posts about amazing “older” women.  Soaking in the tub one recent day and pondering some of these “signs” I flashed to the image of my long graying hair when it’s down and my face with its wrinkles and the deep circles under my eyes that tell me my kidneys are still being squeezed by muscles and I’m not getting enough sleep.

Suddenly I felt love.  I earned this face.  When I look at the photos above I see a progression that may not be as visible to those who haven’t lived it, but to me is clear.

The toddler me is still open and bright; it’s a photo taken before I shut down.

By the time of the graduation photo taken at 17, my face is frozen and the muscle issues have already pulled my eyes back farther into my head than they should be.

The next photo, at 45-ish, was taken after I’d been doing spiritual work for 10 or so years, after going through the Fisher-Hoffman process work and I can see a little more openness, but, not having started work on the facial muscles, my eyes have pulled even farther back.

In the final photo — from last week — I see a face much more open.  My eyes have moved farther forward.  Not all the way yet, as final recalcitrant core muscles continue to work out of the web behind my eyes, but they’ve moved and appear more open again. Still in progress, but a visible confirmation of accomplishment.

I worked hard to move from the girl with the frozen face to the aging woman with masks removed and brighter eyes  I’ve faced into dark depths and wandered down entangled pathways from which I could not see a way forward.

To the outer world my life moved nowhere except from one U.S. state to another to another, but in my essence, at the core of my being, I have traversed a thousand miles of wilderness, facing down the lions and tigers and bears.

At 66 I stand on the brink of being the healthiest I have perhaps ever been.  I’ve jettisoned neuroses and useless beliefs and large pieces of what I thought was my personality.  I’m still not positive where the next phase will find me but I know I’m finally going to be living life as me and on my terms.

I earned this face.

Sage advice: muscles

My knowledge of muscles is taken from many places.  From a section on anatomy and muscles in my yoga teacher training, to info on muscles liberally dispensed by yoga teachers and multiple body work therapists to reading on my own, I’ve been learning about muscles for 30+ years.

The key factor I would emphasize is that most of us are woefully ignorant about our muscles and the central role they play in our health, well-being and ability to get around.  Western medicine largely ignores muscles, so many problems go undetected because they don’t even look for damage when you’ve fallen or been in an accident.

It’s worth learning about your muscles and seeking assistance outside of allopathic medicine in order to maintain muscle health and to restore it to balance after injury.

Emotions and muscles

Since this is everyone’s least favorite aspect, let’s get it out of the way 🙂  At times of trauma and/or drama we tighten our muscles and often the emotions evoked by these events wind up locked in knots in the muscle.

When you start opening the muscles, whether through practicing yoga, getting body work or treatments like acupuncture, those emotions and the memories associated with them are going to surface.

I think it’s one of the biggest reasons body work may plateau; resistance to remembering and/or releasing leads the person unconsciously to tighten.  In yoga people prevent these openings by getting out of a pose as soon as the muscle starts to relax enough to let those memories and feelings rise up.

Getting clear of old issues almost always needs to include some work on muscles in order to open the flow and restore essence.

Strength and Flexibility

America has somehow come to the conclusion that healthy muscles need only to be strong.  It’s a persistent misconception even though multitudes of people who work only on strength have wound up suffering pain from the impact of having muscles that are rigid but incapable of flexing.

Natural movement through the world requires muscles to have both the strength to make certain movements and hold certain parts of the body upright and the flexibility to allow you to balance, and to adjust to the motions life throws at you and, even more important, to allow vital force energy to flow throughout your body.

The nadis, or energy channels, through which prana (chi, qi, vital energy…) moves go through the muscles.  Rigid muscles restrict that flow.  Western thinking and medicine understands very little about energy, but energy and its ability to circulate is crucial mentally, physically and spiritually to good health.

After 32 years of yoga I’m prejudiced, of course, but I think it’s one of the best ways to get your muscles into the perfect balance of strength and flexibility.  A good yoga practice works on balance on many levels and one of the important features of a good practice is performing poses for both strength and stretch.

The Pain Place and the Source of Pain May Not Be the Same

The first serious massage therapist for me used a combo of sports medicine and the trigger point therapy theories of Dr. Janet Travell, particularly as shaped by Bonnie Prudden in Myotherapy.  Because muscles are interconnected, a holding pattern in one area will spread –given enough time, tightness can spread throughout your body — and may create a tight spot that hurts somewhere else.

If you work only where the pain is, you will not get rid of the problem.  Practitioners who know how to follow patterns* can figure out where the source of the problem really is.  When that piece releases, others will be easy to open.

Margaret, that first practitioner, often worked on my neck, couldn’t get anything to budge, moved down to a giant ball of knotted muscles at the top of my achilles tendon, worked there and then went back to my neck, where the muscles would now respond.

In Body Patterning, practitioners learn to see patterns in muscles and will often release several other areas before working on the place where you’ve indicated pain.  They’re releasing pieces that are holding that one and the spot you may think is central will not let go while the other patterns hold.

Another aspect of this is that your brain will numb out much of the pain if you have tight, sore muscles all over (or in many places).  Then it will zero in on one or two specific parts where you will experience the pain.  They’re not necessarily the places of origin for your problem.  Sometimes the pain is just referring from the pattern that’s the real issue.

Find a good practitioner –making sure you check on the training and experience — and trust him or her to work wherever you most need it regardless of whether that turns out to be the place where you feel pain.

When I do Flowing Body work on myself or with students, I generally do triggers of release for at least three areas and work with consciousness not only of before and after, but what has been affected by what.  For instance, during a recent knee problem, I did the triggers for ankles, knees and hips and noticed the ankle release did the most for the sore knee and the hip release was also more effective than the knee releases.

Another I’ve noted frequently, as have many students, is that releasing the ankles will often release something in the neck and/or jaw.  Almost every release will cause people to lower their shoulders even if no work has been done on shoulders.  Pay attention as you practice yoga or other exercises as to which movements bring relief where.

Muscles and Bones

Many muscles are connected to bones which means muscles pulled out of alignment can pull bones out of alignment too.  In the early years of trying to work my way out of fibromyalgia –harking back to Margaret again — the massage therapist prescribed chiropractic appointments to help.

Once the muscles have pulled bones out of whack, it often takes work on the bones as well to get the muscles to release.  If you’re not keen on the invasiveness of traditional chiropractic work, try Network Chiropractic. which doesn’t use the bone crunching technique and instead is gentle touch.

Therapy and Self Care

Over time I learned that body workers can help a lot but if I don’t do anything to help in between appointments, progress is exceedingly slow.  There are a variety of things you can do to help

I’d already been doing yoga when I began getting massages, etc. so that has always been a natural piece for me.  But it was when I lived in the San Francisco Bay area that I became conscious of helping along more.

I’d moved out to Marin but still wanted to go to the same massage therapist and also liked going to Kabuki Hot Springs, a Japanese bath place with wonderful sauna, hot tub, steam, etc.  To save trips over the bridge I started booking the massages on one of the ladies’ days at Kabuki and going in to soak, sauna, etc. first.  The therapist quickly noted my muscles were much easier to work on from the deep heat work right before the appointment.

Then, years later when I started doing a trade for Body Patterning, I only had an appointment every other week and I knew I needed to do something to maintain from one visit to the next.  Yoga had always helped but not enough.  And the commute to Kabuki Hot Springs had become a couple thousand miles 🙂

I’d done Robert Masters’ Psycho-physical Method to tapes for years but found it unwieldy for regular practice.  I began doing some of this work in between appointments and gradually re-worked it into sets of my own which dropped some pieces and joined various disparate parts in his classes into sets that worked well together and then combined it with yoga

Practice in between helped and I began a practice of doing 30-60 minutes of this work shortly before massage appointments, with a long soak in a hot bath right before leaving.  Suddenly I was being told that I had released more since the last appointment.

Normally practitioners get a number of things to open and then a combination of repetitive motions performed in life and the pulling force of patterns still holding in your body take the progress backwards a few steps (say 4 steps forward, 2-3 steps back).  Then at the next appointment the practitioner spends 15-30 of the first minutes of your appointment getting you back to where you were at the end of the last appointment.

So doing your part through practices that maintain progress and making sure you’ve done all you could before an appointment, you can move much faster through the body work to healthy muscles.  Very little time needs to be spent on getting you back to where you were and most of the appointment is about progressing further.

Problems Arise Slowly

It’s amazing how little it can take to start a problem with muscles and then it may take years before you feel the pain.  Yup.  Years.

I know I try the patience of some of my students with my emphasis on form in doing yoga and they don’t really believe me when I tell them doing it wrong can cause injuries.  If they’re not being wheeled out on a gurney at the end of class, to them there was no injury.

But do a pose wrong — or watch TV daily with your head turned or tilted or sit with your hips uneven, etc. — and keep doing it wrong and one or more muscles can be pulled a little out of place and/or strained enough to create a small knot.

At the time and perhaps for some time to come you probably won’t feel any pain at all.  But you’ve started a pattern. And if it goes untreated, the muscle will lock into the slightly-off-position and the first couple of knots will pull more of the muscle into knots.  Once that muscle is far enough out of whack it will start pulling all the muscles around it and causing them to tighten.

You might have started off pulling a muscle in your right hip out of place and a few years later it’s expanded until you’re having pain in your left shoulder and since you haven’t even done yoga for two years, you have no idea that doing it wrong started your problem.

The same is also true of having an injury and failing to get help.  You may stay off an ankle for a few days or go on bed rest for a spell and feel okay enough when you move again. But there’s a very good chance the trauma and the automatic tightening of muscles around it has set a little pattern.  Left untreated the pattern will remain and keep reaching out to affect more muscles.

The best way to protect your muscles from injury is to stay aware in the now.  Learn to do any exercise properly — and if your teacher can’t carefully explain the details of how to do something correctly, FIND A DIFFERENT TEACHER!!!  Also take care about positions you engage in routinely — how you sit, how you hold your head.

If you do an assessment and realize you’ve been twisting your neck when you sleep or sitting with one hip higher than the other, etc., seek help on identifying any patterns that have arisen and releasing them before they’ve turned into 20 patterns.

Bottom line, your muscles are important and you are the best steward in maintaining health.  Do what you can to keep them healthy and any time you have an accident or injury or feel a strain from repetitive motion seek help from alternative practitioners who actually understand muscles.


*i.e. cranio-sacral or body patterning

Sideways into New Year

Close to home

I’ve never really understood the to-do about the New Year nor what it has to do with getting drunk the night before….  But I usually try to have a special snack of some sort on hand and do a year-end tarot reading or something.

This year, however, I came down with the flu over the weekend and wound up spending New Year’s Eve in three layers of clothes plus a hat, under two blankets with a hot water bottle AND a heating pad.  Mom gave up at 10 p.m. and I didn’t have much interest in any of the countdowns — too much noise, too much being introduced to rock/pop/hip-hop performers I’m sorry I ever heard…

So I put on a recording of the Great Performances celebration of Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday and dozed to strains of Tchaikovsky and West Side Story.  Opened my eyes and realized midnight had passed without even a notice.

I always feel like my birthday is more of an occasion on which to note what has just passed and contemplate what comes next.  As I’ve slowly recuperated and moved on into the first days of 2019, I haven’t felt much need for reflection, other than to think about the week and realize it was an odd way to start another year.

Thank goodness for the Chinese herbal ganmaoling.  I took it faithfully and the worst lasted only 1-1;2 days instead of the week others have been suffering.  And I’d add some kudos to the extra Aireborne I took and drinking my daily cups of turmeric-ginger tea.

The picture up top reflects one of my biggest desires for the coming year:  to manage a visit to my beloved former home in Marin County, CA.  Need to pull together funds to see my father too, in Florida.  Otherwise I’m content to let the year unfold without the need to impose intentions and goals on the flow.

Stumbling sideways into the new??  🙂  Or flowing peacefully??

And the healing goes on

View from Windy Corner — Leigh Gaitskill All Rights Reserved 2018

Two weeks ago at my latest appointment with Hanna, she worked on my head again and returned the pleasing news that she felt nothing fighting back any more; the muscles are just gracefully opening back out.

Ever since, the core pattern has been yanking and opening at all hours; all at once an exciting, wearying and crazy-making process.  Every time some more pieces open and I feel both the relief and the realization that there’s still more, I realize anew that the complexity was more intricate and the problem much bigger than I comprehended.  An amazing process to follow.

As I follow along I often wonder how many people realize the degree to which their muscles can intertwine, twist into knots along every strand, glue themselves to one another, etc.  Or how much worse it gets the longer a tight area goes un-addressed.

So I’m planning a “Sage Advice” post just about muscles.  Due to severe lack of sleep the time line for that is questionable 🙂

Sage Advice: Calcium

Apparently I’m going to be so sporadic on the Sage Advice posts that I feel the need to remind:  these posts are me sharing the wisdom I’ve gleaned during decades of alternative health practitioners from acupuncturists to many varieties of therapeutic massage therapists to cranio-sacral and body patterning therapists.

Some years back I had a few encounters with an alternative practitioner with very different training than many I’d seen, including studying for a while with an endocrinologist, and she had some completely different suggestions that proved to be very helpful.

One involved calcium.  She looked at my finger nails and the tiny to non-existent “moons” at the base of them.  She told me the moons on the fingers should be proportionally equivalent to the ones on the thumbs and that it indicates calcium deficiency if they’re not.  She felt some of my symptoms arose from this deficiency.

Since then I’ve done some research and found there are other deficiencies that may also be indicated but in my case upping calcium brought back larger white crescents so her diagnosis proved right for me.

She also told me to be careful about the type. Calcium Citrate, which is one of the most common forms, will only maintain the current level of calcium, it WILL NOT ADD any more.  So you want to look for a calcium tablet that has multiple varieties.  Or, her big suggestion was Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5), which when bought as a stand-alone (it’s often in B-complexes) is usually in the form of calcium pantothenate and absorbs very well, helping to raise calcium levels.  I happened to be seeing an MD turned acupuncturist at the time and when I told her about this calcium theory I was trying, she nodded and agreed about all of it, what the citrate form does, that Pantothenic Acid works well and using a supplement with several forms of calcium.

I take Pantothenic Acid AND a calcium complex with magnesium and zinc daily  and it has been part of regaining core energy — not to mention those moons on my fingernails 🙂

Grateful for small steps

In my ongoing musings on thankfulness, lately I’ve been feeling extremely grateful for small but noticeable areas of progress in my long slow healing journey.  I’m back doing some regular tasks that most people would perform without a thought; and many would (or have) consider it shocking that some of this stuff went by the wayside.

But when the unwinding muscles and bursts of energy were keeping me from sleep 7-9 nights out of every 10 –on top of chronic fatigue and muscle issues– my ability to move pretty much disappeared.  Even simple household tasks were constantly procrastinated.

The main example that’s been having me grateful every morning is dishes.  With only two of us who don’t do a lot of cooking, the dishwasher doesn’t need to be run daily but there are items of daily use that need washing plus things not safe for dishwasher. It isn’t that much from one meal so I generally accumulate through the day so I can just run hot water once and do it all.

At the worst of the fatigue, I would be so weary and shaky in the evening that it wouldn’t get done.  Then in the morning I would get up not feeling much better than I did before sleeping and wander to a kitchen with the dirty dishes waiting– many of which had to be washed before I could fix breakfast.  Man is there something disheartening about facing dish washing first thing!

Somewhere in the last three years the sleep shifted a bit so now there are more nights when I get a decent amount of sleep and nights of only 2 or 3 hours are far less frequent.  When the shift occurred and I started trying to do stuff, I realized I lost incredible amounts of stamina during those do-nothing years.  So I’ve been slowly trying to work up more staying power.

Laundry gets done more often before the piles need to be divided into more piles.  More areas get picked up more regularly.  Errands get run in a timely fashion (and in the interim I now have to run all my 93-year-old mother’s errands as well).

Lately as I’ve wandered near the pristine and empty sink each day I’ve been realizing that I’ve been spry enough to do the evening dishes daily for so long I actually can’t tell you when the last time was I had to wash dishes before breakfast!

The house needs much more work — hours and hours of clearing and sorting.  I need to build more physical energy as I’m still startled by how little activity can leave me feeling drained.  But right now I’m just grateful for the small steps of doing more that have become normal.

My concentration for so long has been only on accomplishing the healing, it hadn’t occurred to me that there’d be such a long transition to accomplish from being too ill to do anything back to being a person who gets stuff done.  But it’s in process and that feels so good!