Pulling Away and Eating on the Road.

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Here we are in front of the moving truck. A friend is driving it to Virginia for us, and we are traveling by car.

Pulling out of town for the last time was difficult, but not as hellacious as I thought it would be. I think that was in part due to the fact I decided to drive and let my husband take the passenger seat. I had this strong sense that if I was driving it would be more like leaving vs. being taken away. It’s the same reason I walked myself down the aisle (which was actually a dock) when I married my husband. It was my second marriage and I had a child. By that point, I was my own person. Nobody was giving me away. I was entering my new life on my own.

It’s sort of the same with this move. I am leaving the only home I have ever known for my husband’s home town. In some way I need to carry my own identity with me, and for whatever reason I thought being behind the wheel would help.

My heart hurt and heaved a little as I drove down the ramp to 94 East for the last time. And then it cleaved a bit when we crossed into Wisconsin about 20 minutes later. There were tears. But I was not a sobbing mess, which I think was due to the fact I had to concentrate on the road. That was another reason I wanted to drive.

So that’s the leaving. Now on to the eating. Not easy on a road trip when you have my diet restrictions. I am on the Paleo diet, as it is anti-inflammatory, which helps fight lyme induced inflammation. I am restricted by the diet, but I also have intolerances. As a result, my food life looks like this: no gluten, dairy, added sugar sugar, grains, garlic or onions.

Interestingly, my daughter has GI issues that are completely different from mine, however, she shares my main food intolerances: gluten, dairy, garlic, onions. And she mostly avoids sugar. (FYI, the garlic and onion and the hardest to deal with — everything else is pretty easy to work around).

Food intolerances aside, neither my daughter or I are willing to eat fast food, which isn’t really food as far as I am concerned. Our sensitive GI tracts are used to high quality, “clean” food, and we’d probably require medical assistance if we ate at Taco Bell. BTW, my husband can eat anything and feel fine, so he balances us out.

Since I’m on a liquid diet for every meal except dinner, I only need to figure out one meal per day. But my daughter eats real food all day long, so we had to figure out a plan for her. We brought instant oatmeal cups for her breakfast.

My plan for lunch and dinner was to stop at Whole Foods. My thought was that even if we passed a Whole Foods at a non-meal time, we would just pick up stuff for lunch and dinner that day and keep it in the cooler until it was time to eat.

Well, that plan fell apart, as we never passed a Whole Foods that was even remotely close to our path, and we did not want to waste time veering off course.

Enter plan B.

The first night, we managed to track down a grocery co-op in a little town called Stoughton, Wisconsin. Honestly, it was pretty slim pickings, but we made it work. My husband found prepared food (remember he can eat anything), but none of the prepared options would work for my daughter or I. So, I went into assembly mode. I picked up some lettuce, tomatoes, an organic avocado, raw, organic goat cheese (we can do goat dairy), and Applegate all natural deli turkey (technically not on my diet, as it’s processed, but desperate times…..).

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Here I am cutting the avocado with a plastic knife while I assemble my salad. You can see my daughter’s meal in the bottom right. We had gluten free bread in the car, so she grabbed that, and I made her a sandwich version of my salad. You can see the fixings gathered around my salad container — the meat, cheese and lettuce. Doesn’t everyone buy a head of lettuce on a road trip?

(FYI, never mind the plywood. Apparently a truck drove through the window of the co-op).

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Here is my salad. Not the most beautiful thing I ever made, but it was good in a pinch.

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We finished our meal with organic raspberries and a spot of dark chocolate. I can usually tolerate a square, and it’s a nice treat.

So day one went pretty well on the food front.

Day two was more of a challenge.  Once again, no Whole Foods within reasonable proximity.

At lunch time fast food was literally the only option, so we went to Taco Bell… for my husband. I had my protein shake, and I assembled lunch for my daughter from food we were carrying with us. I had packed a loaf of gluten free bread and a jar of organic SunButter in the event this very situation arose. She rounded out her meal with grapes and baby carrots I had packed in the cooler.

So picture this scene at a Taco Bell somewhere along the side of a highway. There is a man eating a burrito. There is a woman sipping from a thermal cup. Spread on the table are the following: a loaf of bread, a jar of SunButter, a bag of grapes, a bag of carrots. The woman makes a sandwich for the teenager sitting across from her. The man eats the burrito. The woman continues to sip, and the teenager eats the sandwich, fruit and carrots.

Just another day in our life. I don’t even get self-conscious about that stuff anymore. It’s just how we roll.

Which brings us to dinner. A complete disaster. Again, no Whole Foods. Nothing viable. We were in Charleston, West Virginia around dinner time, and I had located a farmer’s market that also had prepared food. It seemed like it would be a home run, but everything was closing up about the time we arrived.

Then I Googled “organic restaurant near me” and something came up that looked promising. We pulled up, and it was in a mostly boarded up neighborhood and did not seem to be open. Strike two. Third option — a grocery store. I thought we could get salad fixings and a cooked deli chicken we could pull apart with our hands. Kroger is the local brand, so I entered the nearest Kroger into the GPS, and we were brought to……the side of a river. No Kroger. No nothing. Crap.

By this point, we had wasted about an hour and we still had three hours to drive and just wanted to get on with it. So, we pulled out of Charleston and hoped for something better down the road. There was not much, so we decided my daughter and I would cobble something together from the food we had on hand, and my husband would eat whatever fast food he wanted.

Then I saw a sign for Wendy’s, and a memory from way back came to the surface. Wendy’s has baked potatoes. Technically, white potatoes are not Paleo, but we had to get real here. So, we stopped at Wendy’s. I gathered random things from the cooler — the rest of the avocado from the night before, the goat cheese, the carrots, the lettuce. My daughter and I ordered the plain baked potatoes, and I made myself a side salad with the lettuce, avocado and cheese. My daughter added the cheese to her potato and supplemented with baby carrots.

Before we ate, I said “let’s say a quick prayer over this lovely meal”. Without missing a beat my daughter added “and let’s hope it doesn’t kill us”. I laughed right out loud. It was the first time I’d been in a Wendy’s since I don’t know when, but it was fun and funny. Geezzz..

This morning, we are just three hours from our new home and food will not be an issue. I know for a fact there is a Whole Foods on the way, and we will definitely be loading up.

This might seem like a lot of work, and maybe even a little crazy. And if you think that, consider yourself lucky, because it means you’ve never had serious GI issues. Look, I can barely eat. Just one meal per day. And I if I don’t take care with that meal, I will feel very crappy. Not just for a few hours. But for a few days.

I didn’t enjoy the stress and hassle of the food gymnastics. But my daughter and I feel as well as we possibly can given the circumstances, and that is no small feat. We spent a lot of time talking about how “normal” people would take a road trip vs. how we take one. It wasn’t a sad or remorseful conversation. More wistful. We are both pretty accepting of our digestive situations.

And truly, there are so many people out there with much bigger problems. Everyone has their cross to bear, and this is mine. All things considered, it’s pretty manageable, and I can’t complain. I really can’t. It could be so much worse.

Onward.

 

 

It’s Moving Day.

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I have been dreading this day more than I could ever express in words.

The past few months have been filled with lasts, endings and goodbyes. It’s been heart wrenching and heart breaking. Some days I would shake from the inside out. Some nights I’d wake up in a panic. The tears have been free flowing and endless.

I am leaving the only place I have ever lived. I am leaving countless people and places I love dearly. At times my heart hasn’t felt big enough to contain the tremendous ache of it all.

My daughter is off to college in Virginia, where my husband is from, so that means we are all moving. It’s a new beginning for my daughter, and it’s a homecoming for my husband. But for me, it’s just……..leaving.

I knew it would be hard to go, but the process of shutting down my life here has been exponentially more difficult than I could ever have imagined.

But today is the day, and I woke up with a feeling that was 150% unexpected: calm. Don’t ask me where that came from, as the past few months have been anything but. Perhaps it’s that saying goodbye is harder than actually leaving. I don’t know.

In spite of my calm, my heart is still heavy. There’s no escaping that. However, before today my sadness was so all encompassing there wasn’t room for any other emotion.

But for whatever reason, that changed today. In addition to calm, a wave of gratitude has swept in. These past few months, I have been focusing solely on everything I’m losing and leaving. But in the shower this morning, it occurred to me there was another way to look at my situation. It wouldn’t be so hard to leave if I hadn’t been so happy here. It wouldn’t be so hard to leave if I hadn’t experienced so much love here. And it wouldn’t be so hard to leave if I hadn’t experienced so much healing here.

So today I’m focusing on all those who have loved me, helped me and stood by me in both good and bad times. I’m grateful for every person who has crossed my path and left a mark in some way. It’s a funny thing to say, but thank you for making it so darn hard to leave. I’m lucky that way.

At this moment, I’m sitting on the floor in the corner of my bedroom as the movers quickly, yet methodically remove our belongings. Every last thing is packed. Every box is closed, every piece of furniture is wrapped up. The fridge is empty. There is nothing for me to do now but wait. Wait for the movers to finish their job. Wait for my new beginning.

And as I wait my mind is relatively still, which is unusual for me.

 

This move is going to be difficult. There will be challenges and adjustments. I hope there will be happiness and laughter and joy too. But that’s all in the future. And I don’t know about that.

The only thing I know for sure as I sit here on the floor is that my heart is full. Full of love. Full of gratitude.

If I keep focusing on gratitude, I think I just might have the courage to walk out the door and drive away. I’m not looking forward to that moment. It feels so large and impossible and unfathomable. But it’s happening. Soon. In a couple of hours.

Please pray for me and wish me well. I will do the same for you.

XXOO

When The Baggies Come Out, It Means We are Heading Out.

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I’m not going to lie. I long for the days when packing for a trip simply meant putting clothes in a suitcase. Now, clothes are the least of what I pack, or even give my attention to.

Since I am on a primarily liquid diet, my special, pre-digested protein powder is the first, and most important thing I pack. I have it down to a pretty good system. And while the liquid diet has made traveling exponentially easier, it’s a bit of a process to manage it. I thought I’d give you a glimpse of what a few days on the road with my liquid diet look like.

For starters, here are the basics:

  • I mix each shake with a cup of water and 1 tablespoon of MCT Oil. The oil adds 120 calories, and is easy to digest.
  • The shake separates if I mix it in advance, so I mix each shake when I’m ready to drink it.
  • When on the road, I use insulated cups to keep my shake as cold as possible, as it tastes better that way.
  • When going through an airport, I cannot add the water until we get through security, but I can add the oil ahead of time. So, I add the oil to each cup before we leave the house so I’m not messing around with oil and measuring spoons at the airport.
  • When we get on the other side of security I buy a bottle of the coldest water I can find and pre-fill my cups.
  • I use a small backpack as my purse, and my secret is it carries my shakes, along with my lipstick, wallet, etc. This is important to me because I used to carry a cooler around, and it felt so unnatural. Now I just feel like a normal person with a backpack.

OK, those are the basics, and here is what it looks like.

Step 1 is above. Pre-pack protein powder for each day.

Step 2. Buy water at the airport and mix shake.

This flight was at lunch time, so I’m making “lunch” here. I am measuring the water into a mason jar with line markers, as my thermal cups do not have measurements on them. My shake only tastes good if the powder to water ratio is correct.

A few other things to note. You will see my backpack to my right. You would never know it’s basically a life support system, right? You can also see the baggie of protein powder I packed at home, along with a cup of hot water I picked up at the airport. Whenever possible, I drink warm water along with my shake, as the warm water helps my GI tract relax.

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Step 3. Sip. Slowly.

Here I am enjoying my lunch at the gate while we are waiting to board. Because the shake is so calorically dense (500 calories per), and I have very slow digestion, I have to sip it quite slowly. It usually takes me about an hour to get a full shake down, and a half hour to drink a half shake. I do full shakes for breakfast and lunch, a half shake for an afternoon snack, real food for dinner, and a half shake for “dessert”.  This routine has helped me gain 26 pounds over two years.

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Step 4. Get to hotel, wash shake cups and prep for the next day.

If we are going on vacation, we always stay in a house with a full kitchen to make it easier to manage my food and shake needs. When we are in more of a road trip situation, as we were here, my accommodation of choice is Residence Inn by Marriott. Each suite has a full kitchen, so it’s very easy to deal with my shakes. I absolutely hate washing my shake cups in a hotel bathroom sink and avoid it at all costs. Gross.

Here my cups are all nice and clean and ready for the next day. I will usually chill them in the freezer overnight, so they will stay cold longer the next day.

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And that’s the end of this day. Now let’s take a look at the next day, which was a long one. We were at my daughter’s college for freshman orientation. We had to leave the hotel first thing in the morning, and would not return until after dinner. That amounts to a lot of preparation on my part. So, here we go with day two.

Step 1. Prep.

I measure the water and oil into each cup, grab the baggies for each meal (I label them in advance), and load everything up into my trusty backpack.

In this case, I mixed my breakfast shake at the hotel and sipped it on the way to campus. Pictured in the photo are my lunch, afternoon snack and “dessert”.

My morning supplements are in the bottom right of the photo.

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Step 2. Hit Campus.

Here I am on campus, ready for a full day of sipping and learning. I am finishing up my breakfast shake, and the rest of what I will need for the day is in my backpack. Nobody is the wiser.

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Step 3. Lunch.

Lunch was served in one of the school dining halls. My husband enjoyed chili and sushi, and I had….. a shake.

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Step 4. Meditate.

OK, this one has nothing to do with my liquid diet, but keep in mind I am not fully restored to my old self. As such, I still get overwhelmed pretty easily when I am in a situation with a lot of people and a lot of stimulation. And the orientation featured an abundance of both.

We had a short break after lunch, so I high tailed it over to the prayer chapel, as I guessed it would be empty, and thankfully, it was.

First, I sat on a chair and closed my eyes and breathed. That wasn’t enough. I was still feeling quite anxious. So, I dropped to the floor, which usually helps ground me. That was an improvement, but still wasn’t getting the job done. Then I took my shoes off, grounding myself further. Then I was finally able to breathe easier and shed a few tears, which is usually a sign I’ve finally relaxed enough to release whatever emotions I need to.

After about a fifteen minute meditation, I was feeling improved enough to get back in the game. I wasn’t completely calm, but I felt better then before I meditated.

Yes, I know it’s a little weird to take time out from a college orientation for a cry/meditation break, but when you live with anxiety, sometimes you just need to do what you need to do.

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Step 5. Afternoon Snack.

I was ready for a snack as one of the afternoon sessions approached, so I quick mixed it up before the session started. In this case, my husband did the shaking for me. Incidentally, it takes quite a bit of shaking to make my shake nice and smooth, so I need to factor that in if I’m in a public place, as I try not to call too much attention to myself.

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Step 6. Dinner.

As with lunch, dinner was served in one of the school dining halls. I was wondering how it would work for me, as I have many food sensitivities. But the dining hall staff literally bent over backwards in order to prepare a special meal for me, and I was extremely grateful.

I forgot to take a photo until I was mid-meal, but here’s what it looked like. A little more oily than I would prefer, but beggars can’t be choosers. I didn’t eat much anyway.

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Step 7. “Dessert.”

They had us on a tight schedule, so I had to mix my “dessert” up and bring it with me to the first post-dinner session. Typically, my shake has more calories than what I consume for dinner, as I’m only able to eat small portions, so my dessert shake is actually more important than whatever food I eat.

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Here’s my shake on the chair next to me during the session.

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Step 8. Get everything washed up and prepare to do it all again the next day.

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Step 9. Collapse.

Yes, that was exhausting. First, it was information overload. Incredibly useful, but a lot to process. Then dealing with my shakes in the midst of it all was honestly, a bit stressful, and quite the hassle.

But right now, this is the only way for me. My GI tract cannot process enough actual food in order to maintain anything even close to a healthy weight, so what choice do I have, really? I can sip and continue to gain weight, and feel half way decent, or I can eat, and lose weight, and feel crappy.

I mean, when you look at it that way, it’s not even a discussion, right?

So I will continue to sip while also trying to heal my fractured gut, and never give up hope for a different future.

 

That was a Blast.

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File this one under: reclaiming a piece of myself.

I was a runner before I got sick. In fact, I ran a half marathon just two weeks before everything fell apart.

All these years I’ve been sick, I’ve held on to the image of myself running. Of feeling free and alive and healthy.

But running left my life as swiftly, dramatically and unexpectedly as illness entered it. And with the loss of running came the loss of something that felt essential to my self-concept. And my happiness.

As my illness progressed, I slowly morphed from a person to a patient.

I don’t know where or when exactly, but somewhere over the last few years, things finally started to turn around both physically and mentally. And now I am morphing in the opposite direction — from patient to person.

It’s a slow, arduous process, and it’s definitely not in a straight line. But every time I tap into a part of myself that was pre-illness, pre-heartache, pre-suffering, I feel a little more alive. A little more person. A little less patient. A little more like myself.

I just finished running a 5k.

I didn’t train for it. I wasn’t planning to run. The plan was to walk. But as I approached start line, I said “F**k it, I’m running.” I had absolutely no intention of doing so. It was just a wild hair. I figured I could pull it off since I’m in fairly good shape from walking most days.

Can I tell you how glorious it felt? I was slow, I walked a little in the middle, but I ran more than I walked. I freaking ran. And with every step, I slipped just a little more into my old skin. I felt alive, free and happy. Just like I used to. I swear, I was grinning the whole time.

And when I crossed the finish line, I felt like some sort of conquering hero, returning from battle. I was smiling, I was floating, I was free.

I was myself.

It would be hard for me to explain how significant that is, or how tremendous it feels. You could only understand if you’d seen the devil and lived to tell about it.

I have no idea what my finish time is. It’s surely unremarkable, and it’s not even the point.

Because regardless of my time, I won.

As an added bonus, I was joined by my teenage daughter. No small feat, as the race started at 6:50 AM, which amounts to the middle of the night in teenage time. Plus, she was under the impression we were walking until I said “let’s go”. She was a gamer, though, and I’m so proud of her. So proud of us. So grateful for this day. For this moment.

Happy 4th everybody.

 

 

My Anti-Yeast Protocol is Getting Off to a Slow Start. That’s OK. I’ll Get There.

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My recent GI testing revealed I have an overabundance of yeast, and a deficiency of good bacteria. In other words, my gut is unbalanced. I wrote about it in this post a few days ago.

The yeast overgrowth is likely not the cause of my GI problems, rather a result of them. Getting rid of the yeast won’t solve my problems, but it may help me feel incrementally better. And I’m all for anything that helps in any way.

Unfortunately, yeast is a beast and it does not give way easily. It can take months to restore the proper bacterial balance in the gut, and the protocols typically involve supplements and diet modification.

My doctor prescribed a Gastrointestinal Restoration Protocol (GRP). Sexy, right?

The GRP involves five objectives, all carried out currently, as follows:

  1. Remove Therapy. In other words, kill the yeast using anti-microbial agents (i.e. herbal antibiotics).
  2. Reinoculation Therapy. Probiotics to add good bacteria.
  3. Replace Therapy. Often when your gut is imbalanced, you don’t produce enough digestive enzymes, so you replace them with supplements.
  4. Repair Therapy. Supplements to heal the mucosal lining. Again, sexy.
  5. Rebalance Therapy. This is support for the brain, as an imbalanced gut can negatively impact brain functioning.

Any time I’m given a new protocol like this, I need to introduce the supplements very slowly — usually one or two every three days or so. I start with a small dose and slowly work up to the recommended dose. I must do it this way because I am extremely sensitive to medication, and have had too many bad reactions to count.

I wasn’t too concerned about the supplements in steps 2-5, as they are pretty innocuous, but I suspected I would have trouble with the anti-microbials in step one, based on my prior history. My GI doctor prescribed three different anti-microbials, and I introduced them one at a time. I only made it about 5 days on half the lowest recommended dose of the first one before getting sick. No surprise. I’ve been in that movie many times.

My GI doctor recommended setting that one aside for a while, and moving on to the next one, which I’ve done. I’ve taken half the lowest dose for four days without incident, so I’m going to slowly ramp up the dose each day until I am at the highest recommended dose, or I get sick. Whichever happens first. Based on how things go, I will introduce the third anti-microbial somewhere along the way,

 

I will be on this protocol for several months, with check-ins along the way to see if I am making progress towards killing yeast and introducing more beneficial bacteria. My GI doctor said once we get the yeast under control there is other testing he wants to do, but he’s very methodical and wants to take it one step at a time.

I’m on board with that.

This is a perfect illustration of life with chronic illness. While you live in hope of resolving the root cause or your problems, you chip away at whatever is popping up at any given time. Right now, it’s yeast.

This is most definitely a marathon, not a sprint, and I will never, ever give up on trying to regain all I have lost.


Addendum.

I am intentionally vague about mentioning specific supplements and medications I take because I am not a doctor and I don’t want anybody doing anything based on my advice alone. But I know there are many people out there battling yeast, and I also know it can be a challenge, so I am going to share the specifics of my protocol in the event it might help somebody. But please use this for informational purposes only, and if you think something might be right for you, please talk to your doctor. Most of the supplements and anti-microbials in my protocol can only be obtained from a doctor, so I feel fairly confident nobody is going to run with scissors here.

Here we go:

  • Remove Therapy. These are herbal antibiotics that are as powerful as pharmaceutical antibiotics, and sometimes more effective.
    • Morinda Supreme (this is the one that made me sick at a very low dose), Candibactin-BR by Metagenics. So far so good on this one.
    • GI-MicorbX by Designs for Health. Have not started this yet.
  • Reinoculation Therapy.
    • Ultraflora IB by Metagenics. Mega probiotic. 120 billion per day.
  • Replace Therapy. Enzymes to help with digestion.
    • Spectrazyme PAN 9x ES by Metagenics.
    • Betaine and Pepsin by OrthoMolecular.
  • Repair Therapy. Nutrients and phytonutrients for the mucosal lining of the gut.
    • L-Glutamine Powder by NutraBio
    • Zinlori-75 by Metagenics
    • Curcumin BCM-95 by Progressive Laboratories
  • Rebalance Therapy. This is support for the brain, as an imbalanced gut can negatively impact brain functioning.
    • NAC-600 by NutriDyn

Additionally, I am on long term bone nutrients, as I have osteoporosis as a result of my severe weight loss:

  • Bone Builder Active by Metagenics.
  • OmegaGenics EPA-DHA 1000 (Fish Oil) by Metagenics.

 

 

 

 

 

Hummmmm……..

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I came across this sign on my walk this morning. And I took it as a Sign. As in from above.

I am not sure what the intent of the person who wrote “Gods (sic) Plan” was, but I have my own interpretation. To me, this sign says that what feels like a detour to us is really what God had in mind all along.

This is exactly the gentle reminder I needed right this moment, as my life feels like one enormous detour. If you’ve been reading along, you know what’s happening, but if not, let me quickly get you up to speed.

Basically, my life is changing in numerous and dramatic ways. We just sold a house I adored and never wanted to leave, and are temporarily living in an apartment. My only child just graduated from high school and is heading to college. We are about to move across the country, and I will leave behind my entire family, my health care providers, and a network of friends, many of whom I’ve known since high school. I have lived here my entire life. Walking away from my whole history feels impossible. Wrong, even.

Literally, the ground is shifting beneath me.

As I absorb these shifts, I feel somewhat destroyed by them. I am so distraught about moving that I feel physically ill most of the time. If I hadn’t gotten chronic lyme disease, and was still the vibrant, healthy person I was 9 years ago, maybe I would feel differently. But the last 9 years happened, and they have left me physically and emotionally diminished. And very adverse to change.

But our daughter decided to go to college in Virginia, which is where my husband is from. It’s a new adventure for our daughter, and my husband is thrilled to be going home. He deserves it, after moving here. While that leaves me outnumbered, I will follow my family anywhere.

So, I’m moving.

Every fiber in my being is telling me to stay. I’m thinking about a scene in the movie The Bridges of Madison County. Meryl Streep is in a car with her husband who she no longer loves. They are at a stoplight, and her lover pulls up behind them. She quietly grasps the door handle, and for a moment you think she’s going to jump out and run for her life. And her happiness. Or both. But in the end she lets go of the handle.

Let’s be clear. I love my husband, so there is no parallel there. But I would like to pull the door handle on this move. Really and truly. I want to run for my life. And for my happiness.

But if I run away, I’d be running away from my family, and I will never do that. Never.

And if I run away, I’d be running away from God’s plan for me, and that seems like a bad idea.

However, I can’t see the plan now. When I look at my life, all I see are detours I’d rather not take. But I need to remind myself that with God there are no detours. Just a plan that is known only to Him, and will be revealed to me in due time.

That’s where faith comes in.

I have faith. I really do. But I would like to know what’s in the damn plan. And the plan most definitely has not been revealed to me yet. How will moving ultimately be better for me than staying?  How will my life be changed?  What lessons will I learn?  What things will I see and do that I would never have seen or done?

I don’t have any answers yet. Just questions, fear, sadness, and a heavy heart.

My faith tells me to just hang on. To trust. To believe. And importantly, I need to continually remind myself of the notion that this is all part of a plan instead of a detour. 

At this moment, as so much change swirls around me, there isn’t much I know for sure. But this one thing I know: I didn’t run into that detour sign by accident.

 

 

When I am Climbing Everything Else Fades Away.

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When you suffer from anxiety, there is usually a lot of noise in your head. In my case, there are two different soundtracks. There is the one that’s telling me I need to worry about everything under the sun all the time, and then there’s the one telling me to ignore the first one.

One is involuntary (the worrying), the other is voluntary.

Regardless, it’s a lot of traffic between my ears. It’s exhausting.

Over the years, I have tried everything imaginable in order to conquer my anxiety. What I’ve learned is that anxiety is basically un-conquerable. It’s impossible to completely make it go away. But it’s definitely possible to turn the volume down. Way down. And over the past year, I have managed to do just that. However, I’m rarely, if ever, able to turn the volume all the way off.

Enter rock climbing. My daughter is a serious climber, and I’ve been watching her climb in competitions for many years. Over the years she has repeatedly encouraged me to try climbing. Until recently I never felt well enough or strong enough to give it a go.

Oddly, I finally felt strong enough to give climbing a try because I was diagnosed with osteoporosis a year and a half ago. That sounds funny, I know. But here’s the situation: weight bearing exercise is a way to combat osteoporosis, so for the last year plus, I have been near religious about getting 10,000 steps per day, along with lifting light weights, taking the stairs, etc. Somewhere along the way, I started to feel kind of semi-strong.

So I finally got on that wall. And something miraculous happened. The inside of my head was spectacularly silent. No worried soundtrack. No soundtrack telling myself not to worry. It was just me and the wall. The sound of silence has never been so joyous.

When I am on that wall, everything fades away. I’m not a patient. I am not wrestling with my physical and mental health. The only thing I’m wrestling is gravity. And it’s absolutely glorious.

In addition to the abundant silence, the other thing climbing gives me is a sense of accomplishment, which has been sorely lacking in my life since I got sick. I know I have accomplished a lot just by maintaining life and re-gaining my mental health. Let’s be clear. Those are big ones. But those accomplishments are really just about trying to get back to the baseline of where I started before everything went so horribly wrong.

Every time I get to the top of a wall I didn’t think I could climb, I am going above my baseline. I am achieving. I am feeling a sense of satisfaction I have not known in these nearly nine years of being sick.

When I come off the wall, I love just sitting on a bench in the gym. I take my climbing shoes off and let my feet air out. I am chalky. I am sweaty. I am exhausted. And I am alive. So very alive.

And it’s quiet upstairs. Gloriously quiet.

After I leave the gym and get back into my day, the noise inside my head slowly returns. But I don’t fight it. Instead of getting angry about it, I feel gratitude for the temporary respite. Gratitude to have climbed and achieved.

Gratitude for the silence of the wall.