Tag Archives: willingness

Temptation, trying, failing, trying

Mini Napoleon by sweetfixNYC

I ate my own Napoleon(s) too fast to photograph. They looked like this though. But with more filling.

Sugar is not my friend.

I know this, I know this, I KNOW THIS, and if I have any doubts whatsoever, I need only touch my tender, itchy skin.

And yet this afternoon I ate a cannoli, half a Napoleon, something that looked like a ball of meringue but was crunchy amaretto instead, two coconut cookies with rasberry jam, and finally, another Napoleon.

I am not writing about this occurrence in order to guilt trip shame myself. I’m just confused, and I want to understand.

Nearly ten months ago I found out that if I stopped eating sugar, dairy, and gluten, my chronically itchy skin would stop causing me pain. At the time I made this discovery, I was in a great deal of discomfort.

eczema evidence

This is what my chest and shoulder looked like.

I’ve had eczema most of my life. When I was a child it was severe, but after I hit adolescence the rash faded to an annoyance. A persistent patch here and there, but nothing I couldn’t easily endure or ignore. And then came last summer. Suddenly, at age twenty-nine, I was overcome with an outbreak that rivaled the eruptions of my childhood.

The itching was relentless, and my scratching as destructive as it was unstoppable. Nighttime was torture. I tried wearing gloves, wearing socks over gloves, wrapping fabric and bandages mummy-style over my hands–anything to keep me from tearing up my skin as I slept. Nothing worked. Each morning I woke to freshly clawed wounds; no matter how short I cut my nails or how hard I tried to confine them, my unconscious hands found a way to do damage.

Then I stopped being able to sleep. Instead, I’d sit up for hours, scratching and worrying, experiencing flashbacks of long, lonely nights and futile frustration. In a way, I was grateful to be reliving my youth. I hadn’t realized how bad things had been, and connecting to the suffering of my younger self allowed me to show up with compassion, to heal distress that had not been acknowledged. It made me want to take action as an adult, to help her/me in a way I couldn’t before.

Having long ago maxed out the (in)effectiveness of steroid creams, I decided to try something different. I visited a friend who is a healer, and I surrendered my inflamed self into her care. Entirely desperate, I was willing to try whatever she suggested.

I immediately changed my diet. No sugar, no dairy, no gluten. No coffee, no chocolate. No chicken, no shrimp. No onions, no garlic, no spices; nothing raw, nothing frozen. I ate eggs, cucumbers, walnuts, apples. Salmon, quinoa, and kale. Hot lemon water in the morning, berries once a day, steamed arugula as much as I could manage.

I got better. The new diet, and my friend’s unique approach to acupuncture, was working. Two weeks into the treatment plan, I slept through the night for the first time. A month after that, my skin had almost completely cleared.

eczema improvement

Six weeks of solid self-care paid off.

And then I started to slip. A bowl of lobster bisque at a wedding. Some gluten-free gingersnaps at Thanksgiving. A few buttermilk bacon pecan pralines at a holiday party. As the new year progressed, I coasted along a gradual slope of occasional indulgence…that turned into a freefall.

Coffee became a daily habit. A couple weeks ago I had a Twix bar for lunch two days in a row, followed by a Friday breakfast of bagels and cream cheese and a Saturday night milk shake with a generous helping of cookies. I had a friend in town, and when we got groceries, I encouraged her to put shortbread biscuits with chocolate medallions in the cart and added ice cream sandwiches. When she asked about my restricted diet, I waved her off.

I knew I was pushing my limits, eating whatever and dismissing the consequences. I figured I’d get back on track eventually, but I was waiting for a sign.

I thought the sign would be jeans that were too tight, or a belly unfit for a bathing suit. And I’m sure those indicators are en route. But what showed up first were welts. All along my torso, my chest, and under my arms. Not quite as bad as last summer, but close enough to remind me where I’ve been. The itching is back too. I woke up scratching the other night.

“Food is either medicine or poison,” my friend told me last fall, and I know that she is right. I’m back to hot lemon water in the mornings, and steering clear of coffee and chocolate and everything else I’m not supposed to have. Last night I baked sugar-free, dairy-free, gluten-free muffins.

And today I ate a truckload of Italian pastries.

People change at the pace of pain. I’ve heard that before, and it seems to be true for me. Apparently I’m hurting enough to buy better groceries, but not so much that I can pass up free sweets.

I pray for patience and compassion; there is no place for shame. It is too easy to say, “What were you thinking, eating those desserts! You know better—and it’s not like you had one cookie. Have you no self-control? Do you not care that you’re harming your health?”

It is a little harder, but not hard, to say, “Oh hon, oh dear. I feel sad that you did that, but I understand. Sugar is not your friend, but I know how it pretends. I know it was very tough to resist that unexpected temptation. Yes, you lost control, and I know you feel bad. But you are making progress. Next time can be different.”

I ate a lot of sugar this afternoon, but I also passed up pizza at lunchtime, and instead splurged on carrot-celery-apple-ginger-beet juice to go with my arugula and walnuts and eggs. I am making progress. Next time can be different.

I am willing to feel great!

Scatter Joy

“With excitement comes possibility, the prospect of unprecedented joy I can generously scatter.”

“This too shall pass” is one of my favorite phrases, because I’ve found it to be very, very true. In good times and bad (and everything between), remembering impermanence helps me appreciate, or at least tolerate, the present.

But what if I could always feel okay? For that matter, what if I could always feel good? Or, dare I say it…great?

A YouTube video by Brian Johnson has me seriously considering the possibility. In the video, Brian neatly summarizes The Big Leap, a book by Gay Hendricks that, among other topics, addresses the issue of upper limits.

I learned about what Gay calls “upper limits” back when I read Conscious Loving several years ago, and I’ve been pushing past them ever since.

Basically, an upper limit is a glass ceiling of my own creation, a limiting belief that prevents progress. These limits keep me comfortable, but they also hold me back.

For a long time I was afraid to feel good. This sounds silly to me now, but it also makes sense: feeling good was unfamiliar, and I feared the unfamiliar.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with fear, it’s just not often helpful. But you know what is? Breathing. Love.

“Fear is excitement without the breath,” according to Fritz Perls (via Gay Hendricks via Brian Johnson). This may be my new favorite quote, as it resonates with truth straight to the core of my breath-loving belly.

When I breathe into my fear, it fades. And as I learn to let love’s light dissipate the darkness of fright, I learn to welcome the unfamiliar with open curiosity, even with excitement.

And with excitement comes possibility, the prospect of unprecedented joy I can generously scatter.

In the video, Brian recounts an anecdote from The Big Leap:

Apparently when steam-powered trains were a new thing in the nineteenth century, scientists and other thought leaders wanted to cap the maximum speed the trains would be allowed to travel. “They were convinced that human bodies would explode at speeds greater than thirty miles per hour,” Brian says. “How funny is that? Thankfully some brave souls went for it…”

Thankfully, indeed! Can you imagine if no one had breathed through their fears?

It might seem absurd to consider society stuck at 30 mph, but Brian says Gay thinks “we’re at essentially the same place in our own development, in terms of how much goodness we can sustain, how much bliss we can endure, how great we’re willing to feel.”

I’m excited to find out.

Changing focus, moving forward

shift key

I never meant for ThisIsWheretheHealingBegins.com to be a yoga website.

When I purchased the domain in 2010, I envisioned creating a destination where people who were in pain (aka everyone) could easily explore accessible, affordable ways to feel better. Yoga was certainly on the list of resources I intended to offer, but so were EFT, Inner Bonding, and other tools that had helped me on my own healing journey.

But I knew nothing about web design and was going through a challenging time in my personal life, so the domain sat dormant until January 2011, when I realized that my impending training to get certified as a yoga instructor would provide me with a great opportunity to begin blogging. And since I already had a website…

I wrote regularly about yoga for nearly a year, and I’m grateful to say my passion for the practice has yet to wane. But it has certainly evolved, and I haven’t shared much about the transitions. In fact, with a whopping seven blog posts in 2012, I haven’t shared much at all.

One reason is that as I’ve become increasingly capable of appreciating the present moment, I’ve been less motivated to summarize it. I’ve also been self-censoring. If something I wanted to write about wasn’t directly related to yoga–if I couldn’t think of a tidy way to tie it into an asana experience–I deemed the content unacceptable for publication. I’d heard (and believed) a blog must occupy a narrow niche, and I felt obliged to stay on topic.

Because of self-imposed restrictions, I stopped publicly expressing my ideas and feelings. I don’t think that’s good or bad, but I’m ready to abandon expectations and try something different. I’m ready to be braver and even more authentic, and I want to expand my scope, to steer closer to my original intention of helping others heal. The best way I know to do this now is to let my own light shine, on and off the yoga mat.

So in 2013, I’m getting back to blogging, and I’m going to talk a lot about love. Other stuff too, but mostly love. Because I believe love is the bottom line, and if my personal perspective can help even one person feel better, it’s worth publishing.