A Pain in the Ass

Oh this past summer was going to be the one! Yep – I had the grandest of plans. Yoga three times a week. Get back to running and finally complete the half marathon training that I ditched in the spring. Meditate- Every. Single. Morning.

I could already hear what my friends would say come September “My gosh Lori – you look amazing! You have an ethereal quality about you…. downright angelic!” And I’d just smile coyly and reply “Geez it must be all the fresh air. Maybe the quality time spent with my three loving children and ultra-romantic husband. I guess it might be that …oh and perhaps the homemade gourmet food I whipped up.” [insert self-deprecating laugh here]

And it really did start off with a bang – 3 yoga classes and two runs the first week of July. Booyah! Week two we were heading to a friends cottage for a relaxing vacation. After about an hour of driving – I felt a slight twinge in my left butt cheek. Kind of like a pulled muscle. “My bum hurts” I said to the kids and my 7-year-old erupted with laughter. I smiled at him in the rearview mirror and kept driving – confident in the knowledge that the pain would soon disappear.

However, when I hopped out of the van a couple of hours later, the pain was even more intense. In fact, I could barely put any pressure on my left leg. It felt like an electric shock was racing from my butt cheek down to my left knee with every step. “I must have done something at yoga. Damn downward dog!” I muttered to myself, as I hauled armloads of stuff into the cottage.

The first few days were excruciating. I was convinced that I’d pulled a muscle, so I stretched it out and went for a walk each day to try to get it to release. Sleeping was impossible. The only position I could get comfortable in was with my left ankle crossed over my right knee. More than one night I left the bed and went to sit on a chair in the living room with my legs criss crossed and my eyelids drooping as I thumbed through an old issue of People magazine (I may have shed a few tears over the unrelenting intensity of my pain….and the still shocking breakup of Brad Pitt and Jennifer Anniston. They just seemed so perfect for each other!)

I emailed my massage therapist from the cottage. “I know rubbing my ass probably isn’t high up on your summer wish list. But I need you” I pleaded. She replied with an LOL and promised to fit me in as soon as we got home. “Her magic hands will do the trick” I smugly thought to myself.

It wasn’t until week later, as I lay face down on her massage table, that I got an inkling that perhaps this wasn’t going to be a such quick fix. “This seems like sciatica,” she said. “Don’t expect to hop off the table feeling all better. This is going to take a while to heal.” What?! I had to tamp down the urge to reach back and smack her. Never mind, I thought to myself. I’ll just do my own research as soon as I get home.

Turns out she was bang on. Over next three months- I repeatedly consulted my doctor, my massage therapist, an acupuncturist, an osteopath,  and a chiropractor. Sciatica was the official diagnosis but turns out – there was no easy fix to alleviate my discomfort. So I took pain killers, plied my back, butt and leg with ice, heat and healing lotions, and contorted my body into a variety of stretches. And still the pain persisted.

Eventually, I even did a session with an intuitive to find out if an old buried childhood issue was causing the pain. Hey – I was desperate! She leaned over me intently and put her hands on my sore bum. “This pain is coming from your feminine side,” she said. “There is a female in your life that is literally giving you a major pain in the butt.” “Aha” I thought. “This is gonna be good!” I waited anxiously for her to blurt out the name of the offending female. Oh boy – that woman was in for an earful! But after the hour session – it turned out that the pain in my butt was me. ME. According to the intuitive, I am my own pain in the butt. Ugh.

Needless to say, I did not emit an ethereal glow. Rather I wore a somewhat pained expression and limped through each day with  grim determination. Sleeping continued to be a real challenge so I was tired. A lot. I was grumpy -a lot. My husband and kids were sick of hearing about it (and frankly I was sick of talking about it) – so I just pushed through and carried on the best I could.

To top things off, because I could barely walk or even bend over for that matter – exercise was virtually impossible. I was limited to floating in the pool or taking painfully slow walks around the neighbourhood. And no exercise plus an inordinate amount of time sitting on my ass meant that soon my pants all started to feel tight. Sigh. (Bless you jogging pants and your delightful expanding waistline).

I really started to believe that the pain was never going to go away and vacillated between crying, raging and trying to maintain a sense of humour about it. I told my husband that if it got to the point where he had to start wiping my ass – he might as well just shoot me.

BUT. But. Butt.

As I write this, the pain has finally, blessedly subsided significantly. I can feel a dull ache in my leg but the sharpness has disappeared. I feel hopeful for the first time in three, long, agonizing months. I also feel a deep compassion and greater understanding for people who live with chronic pain. The pain in my bum and leg made me feel crazy and there were times I think I would have tried anything to find just a moment’s relief. (That’s probably why I found myself googling “medicinal marijuana” at 3am on a particularly tough night).

I wish I could say that the pain transformed me into a brighter, shinier and wiser version of myself. But truth be told – the past 3 months were often a brutal slog of simply trying to stay afloat as a human being. And right now, I am so overwhelmed with relief that I haven’t had time to truly process the lessons this experience has taught me.

All I know is that today I touched my toes – and that is huge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Right Way to Meditate

Martha is easily one of my favourite people in the meditation class. She turned to me midway through the second session and whispered “I have no idea what the hell is going on here.” – and I knew instantly we’d be kindred spirits.

She’s brash, outspoken, quick to laugh and definitely the most skeptical person in the bunch. And as soon as we lie on our yoga mats to meditate, she inevitably drifts off and snores like a truck driver.

In the hushed and focused environment of our gatherings, she often makes me smile with her brutal honesty. “Well I wanted no part of that meditation,” she admitted after a guided reflection where we were encouraged to imagine ourselves floating underwater. “I can’t even friggin’ swim so I just sat here and made my grocery list!”

It’s not that the class isn’t amazing. It is. I am learning a ton and breathing and trusting the process and I can see that perhaps the skyscraper of worries I’ve meticulously built up over the years is starting to crack and shift just a little tiny bit.Or maybe I’m viewing it differently. Either way – I feel better.

Just last week we were led through a half-hour seated meditation. When it came time to share our experience, Martha blurted out “I’m not doing it right! My mind wanders endlessly or I fall asleep. I keep thinking about what I have to do and what happened yesterday and when I should book my next nail appointment. And you people all look so smugly blissful. What am I doing wrong? How come you are getting it and I can’t?!”

Our leader simply smiled peacefully and said “By a show of hands – who else in the class doesn’t feel like they are meditating the right way?” All 18 of us raised our hands. And Martha started to cry.

“The answer is that there is no right way to meditate.” our teacher shared. “You come to the practice and observe what happens. So you fall asleep. That’s ok. So your mind wanders. That’s ok. Everyone will have a unique experience that is right for them. Just keep coming back to your breath. And please be gentle with yourself.”

Isn’t that just the perfect metaphor for life?  It’s so darn easy to look around and think that everyone else has their shit together. Look at that perfect family, that gorgeous couple, those well-behaved kids, the beautiful house, her amazing career, his killer body – that zenned-out person meditating across the room. And we think- what am I doing wrong? Why isn’t this working out for me? It’s frustrating and depressing and makes us feel really alone.

But the truth is we all have messy parts to our lives if you scratch just beneath the surface. We all struggle. Sometimes the dog drags his butt across the freshly washed floor, or you rip the crotch out of your jeans while  volunteering in a kindergarten class, and sometimes you flip out at your kids and threaten to move to California! (or is that just me??)

We all wonder if we are doing things right. Martha just had the guts to say it out loud.

After class I walked to my car with Martha.  Her eyes were still red from crying and I gave her a hug as we parted ways. “Thanks for saying what you did tonight,” I said. “It was really brave.” Her face broke into a wide grin. “I really feel so much better knowing the rest of you are just as shitty as I am at this whole meditating thing.” 

Then she drove off before I could tell her that I have no idea what the hell is going on most of the time either : )

Resolution 2015 – Letting The Lessons In

When I was about 16 years old, my dad took my sister and I for a ski holiday in Whistler, BC. Although I was happy to be on vacation, I was also a self-absorbed little shit who was overly critical of pretty much everyone and everything. And as ashamed as I am to admit this – my dad more often than not took the brunt of my criticism. I didn’t like the way he snored, the way he clinked his spoon on the bowl when he ate his cereal, the way he breathed so darn loudly and on and on and on.

One morning as he and I rode the chair lift alone together I shot yet another barb his way (probably about the way he obnoxiously knocked the snow off of his skis for heaven’s sake!) he had had enough. He turned to me and said “Lori, you really have to stop being so critical. It seems like you are constantly annoyed with me and it really upsets me. I know I have flaws but so do you. There are always going to be people and circumstances in your life that are challenging for you to deal with and you can’t control that. You can only control yourself and how you react – and you definitely need some work in that department! No one is perfect Lori and if you wait around for your friends and family to BE perfect… then you are going to end up a very lonely person.”

chairlift

Needless to say the rest of the ride up the hill was very quiet. I think I stammered out a sheepish apology and silently vowed to keep my opinions to myself for the rest of the trip.

My point in sharing this story is not to offer insight into my angsty teenage years or to expound on my dad’s pearls of wisdom- but rather to share what I did after that chair lift ride and how it changed my life from that day forward. I listened. I really listened. I heard what he said and I let the lesson sink in. And although I certainly haven’t nailed it, becoming a less-critical, less-judgemental and more compassionate person was something I intentionally began to work towards starting on that crisp winter morning.

My sister and I were chatting recently about the most important things we have learned over the years and how they have impacted the people we are today. I shared the story from our Whistler trip (she had no idea it happened at the time) and she said she believes this is the key to life. At every age and at every stage there are lessons to be learned, new ideas to be shared, insights to be uncovered and wisdom to be gleaned- and if we can temper the “critical/all-knowing/judgmental/negative/too-busy” response that automatically pops up- we can continue to learn and grow and change and evolve for the rest of our lives.

Yes I have an opinion on that subject – but might there be another way to think about it?

I actually hadn’t thought of it that way before. How interesting!

I would love to read that book/watch that documentary/attend that class/go to that event with you. Thanks so much for introducing me to new things.

Wow! I didn’t realize that about myself. Thank you for sharing.

Perhaps I was completely wrong. I need to do more research.

I didn’t know about that. Can you tell me more?

2014 was a year of many powerful lessons for me – some of them I was more open to than others if I’m being completely honest. It takes quite a large dose of bravery and vulnerability to be truly open-hearted and I can use some work in those departments too.

But here we are in a shiny new year and I’ve decided to opt out of the typical resolutions and instead to focus on what I can learn in 2015. In fact, I was ruminating on this idea at the grocery store recently when an older man tapped me on the shoulder. “Excuse me are you ok?” he asked. “You have the most worried look on your face!” Ah yes, the patented “Lori-Wilson-I’m-Currently-Carrying-The-Weight-Of-The-World-On-My-Shoulders” look. Relax Lori, smile, breath and release those crinkles from your forehead. Thank you kind stranger for the lesson- I’m working on that one too!

Happy New Year to all of my family, friends and followers! Let’s all open up and let the lessons in this year. Who’s with me?

 

The Upside of Crying at Target

I recently had a really good cry. A long and stressful week culminated with a Friday morning trip to Target where I ended up at the cash with a big pile of goodies. After frantically checking my purse- I realized that I had no money and no phone! Shit! As I loaded the toddler back into the van to head back home the tears just started flowing. “Why are you sniffling like that mommy?” my little guy kept asking.

My oldest son was at home when I came to collect my wallet and immediately asked what was wrong. I told him it was nothing – I was just feeling a little sad and he said “it’s okay mom – it’s good to let your feelings out.” So darn wise for a 12-year old.

After I dried my tears, stopped my blubbering and blew my nose- I really did feel much better. I headed off for a coffee and repeat trip to the store in a much better frame of mind. I was able to laugh at myself and the absurdity of sobbing over something so ridiculous. (As a side note I’m pretty sure I freaked out the cashier at Starbucks because she asked me at least 5 times if everything was ok – guess the red puffy eyes totally gave me away.)

My son’s words got me thinking about how often I rush through life and suppress or ignore my emotions or just totally numb them out with coping mechanisms. My go-to’s – chocolate, reality TV, red wine, Candy Crush and People magazine just to name a few. Especially with the advent of our cell phones, it’s so much easier to zone out with mindless games, Facebook, Twitter and texting than to stop, breathe and really check in with ourselves and how we are feeling. And what I realized in that moment was that by feeling that sadness, I made way to feel better, to laugh and to move forward.

This video features the comedian Louis C.K. He’s actually talking about why he refuses to get cell phones for his children but the overall message is much more powerful. Have a watch and remember that as much as we all love our devices, it’s a good idea to put them down every now and again, to slow down and to let ourselves just be……even if that means crying in the check-out line at Target ; )

Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes with My Daughter

My daughter came home from school the other day with tears in her eyes. The sting of not being included in a much anticipated play-date with a good friend was almost more than she could bear and she flopped on the sofa and covered her head with her hands. I’ll admit that I was tempted to ply her with reassurances like “you can invite someone else over to our house” or “I’m sure you’ll be invited next time” or “you’ll be fine” but instead I just gave her a moment to wallow in her sadness.

sad girl

I am following the author Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook (Eat, Pray, Love & The Signature of All Things) and she recently posted a wonderful article about accepting negative feelings. She was specifically focusing on betrayal but her thoughts are relevant to any difficult emotions. She discusses her initial desire to convince herself to simply buck up and LET GO of negativity but then she offers a different approach:

“But what I’ve been trying to do lately   — whenever I experience feelings of sadness, anger, resentment — is to just say to myself this word: “Freedom.”  I will say to myself, “Freedom to feel anger,” and just let it be anger. I will say, “Freedom to feel sorrow,” and just let the sorrow be. “I will say, “Freedom to regret,” and let the regret run its course. And ultimately, I will say, “FREEDOM TO PROCESS,” and just accept that all these difficult feelings are part of the natural human process for handling complicated emotional encounters.

When I allow myself that freedom to just feel whatever I am feeling, the walls of the cage seem to fall away. I still experience the anger, the sadness, the regret — but if I keep repeating, “Freedom to feel…Freedom to process…” it all seems to pass more quickly, and Judging Liz doesn’t escalate the whole situation into something worse, which is World War III inside my brain. 

In other words, I am learning to let things go by just letting myself be a normal human being — not by beating myself over the head anymore with the message that YOU HAVE TO LET IT GO, DAMNIT!!!!!  And somehow, curiously, that lets it go…” Elizabeth Gilbert

So what was a mom to do? After giving her a respectful amount of time to deal with her feelings I asked my daughter if she’d like to join me in the kitchen for some cupcake making. And no I don’t believe in soothing every wound with sweets but on this particular day I thought the time spent in the kitchen would remind her of how much fun she could occasionally have with her boring old mother.

And you know what? I no time at all we were giggling and stirring and commiserating about how annoying it is to bake when a 3-year-old pulls his chair up to the island and offers to “help” out. I stepped out of the way and let her do all of the work (including making a giant mess filling the cupcake tray) and I could see how proud she was of herself when I pulled the finished cakes out of the oven.

I guess my point in sharing this with you is twofold: first of all – remember to allow yourself and your children the time and space to feel and accept a whole range of emotions without always stepping in to rescue or reassure. And second – never underestimate the power of a good cupcake!

Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes

cupcakes

2 cups flour (regular or gluten-free)* if using GF flour – add 1 tsp xanthum gum
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 cup of organic sugar
1 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup safflower oil
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar)
Icing and sprinkles of choice (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Add wet ingredients and stir to combine. Blend with a stand mixer or hand mixer on low until combined and then on medium for 1-2 minutes until lumps disappear – scraping sides often with a spatula.

Line 12 muffin tins with paper cupcake liners. Fill liners with batter until 2/3 full. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean.

Allow to cool in the pan and then remove and top with icing of choice. (Easy icing recipe: 1/3 cup organic butter or vegan margarine melted combined with 3  cups powdered sugar and 4-5 tbsp. water).

Enjoy!