My Inner Worlds
John Denver’s song never made much sense to me when I was younger. At one point someone mentioned the high was from drugs, but I didn’t grow up in an environment that explained drugs and didn’t understand the connection. My family listened to John Denver because the lyrics were clean and safe for our conservative home.
Now that I’ve been in the Rocky Mountains for over 24 hours, I understand what John referred to—altitude sickness. I’m weathering it better than Matt is, but I still have to catch my breath if I walk too quickly while wearing my backpack. Last night I woke in a panic unable to breathe, but after realizing it was just the lower oxygen level creating that feeling in my body, I fell back asleep. Matt barely slept and isn’t handling the high very well.
This morning we drove down to Longmont to meet a friend for lunch at Sakura Japanese Cuisine (amazing food and wonderful owners). We were amazed at the difference in mental clarity and the ability to breathe. Estes Park, Colorado lies 7,500 feet above sea level. Longmont is at 5,000 feet. My precious husband and I are used to oxygen levels found at an elevation of 315 feet—a huge difference.
We are supposed to hike in the morning with another friend. I’ve already warned her that we need to enjoy a nature walk or a mild hike. Matt thinks we can handle a real hike, but I’m not so sure. Maybe I’ll get to post pictures of one of us fallen to the dirt trail or having to be fed oxygen in the back of an ambulance.
Four years ago we successfully climbed the Alamos Vista Trail near Santa Fe, New Mexico, a hike that began at 10,000 feet above the sea and ended at 11,100 feet. So what has changed? Does age make that much of a difference? Are we really that out of shape compared to our 44-year-old selves? My goodness, but this makes me rethink my lifestyle choices. I work at a desk (and love my job), I write in a comfy chair, I play Dungeons and Dragons once a month—again in my comfy chair. And I practice yoga two to three times a week. Possibly I don’t have enough cardio in my physical activity.
Tune in post-vacation to see how I mix it up exercise-wise. Something has to change if Matt and I are going to hike Machu Picchu next spring. We have seven months to kick it into gear so we aren’t passing out in the Andes.
Tomorrow marks 48 years of my breathing this planet’s air, consuming nutrition grown on its land, and hydrating from the vast water supply on the sphere we call home. It also marks the day when I honor the call I’ve avoided for the past several years. My creative nature must rise from the hidden dark corner where I stuffed it in my first decade on Earth. I use logic and reason to restrain its growth and expression, and guess what? Like any neglected child, it now has issues and requires family therapy.
When Matt and I signed up for a series of personal integration workshops this spring and summer, I knew changes would happen. Why would we invest in flying to Phoenix, AZ not once, but three times if we didn’t think there would be benefit? Our first training module occurred in mid-April and flattened me for an entire week. I could barely think and felt extreme exhaustion. The second week I felt better physically, but all the trauma and distress I thought I’d dealt with from my childhood came back. Not just to revisit the old material—oh no, I got to see new stuff. You know, the second season has to outdo the first or else the audience will get bored and no longer watch the show. I remembered more blocked experiences and had to process them. I woke from a dream last Friday morning that left me unable to eat much of anything the entire day. I’ll spare you the details. By Saturday I felt better and thought I had processed what the dream meant.
However, today I woke feeling ill because yesterday I did everything “old Sarah” would have done to hide from her feelings. I completely skipped meditation, yoga, and bodywork, while indulging in food, wine, and binge-reading fiction (which ironically was about a grown woman who remembered she was raped as a girl—even in my escape, I can’t escape). I’m tired of avoiding my power, my creative nature, my gift to those who are meant to read what I want to say or write in whatever form it manifests.
Yesterday was a taste of the life I’m trying to leave. I don’t want to be numb anymore. So my gift to myself is to stop running and hiding. Running away doesn’t work, and I’m only making myself and those I care about miserable. I have a structure in place to face my inner self and allow her to shine through the visage I allow the world to see. Do you like the conceptual art that aligns nicely with how I see that inner light?
This past week was a pretty balanced one. Yoga tired me and reminded me I need to take it slow as I build my practice back to what it was last fall. Work offered unique opportunities, but allowed me to stay in my quiet zen-like office for as long as I wanted. I felt good and in my flow.
My flow broke when I returned a call to one of our stakeholders. I’ve never truly interacted with this particular woman and regretted the need for a conversation after ten seconds on the phone. This lady was filled with spiky, intense, destructive mojo that absolutely destroyed my peace of body and mind. She argued and actually told me she didn’t care what I had to say (I was explaining financial policy that is out of my control). Ugh. After attempting to be gracious in a no-win situation, she finally allowed me to hang up the phone. But that didn’t disconnect the attachment that formed between her energy and mine.
I’m a Reiki Master, and I’m in tune with energy around me. It has taken years of practice and awareness to balance myself, body and mind, in different environments and tough situations. The effects of this woman’s lack of regard and stabbing intent sat heavy in my gut for hours. Even writing about it brings the feeling back. Eventually I found my equilibrium and went on to have the peaceful sort of day I love and enjoy.
Yesterday I had lunch with a dear friend and relayed this story. She and I met 16 years ago in Reiki Level I training and became fast friends, taking our remaining classes together to become Masters. She reminded me of one of the symbols we learned: Raku. Reiki is based on using symbols while allowing the universal energy to flow through the practitioner and into the person/animal/situation needing healing or wholeness. A Reiki teacher uses Raku to separate her energy from the student after attuning the student to a new level.
Duh. What took me hours to accomplish on my own could have been done within minutes if I had used Raku to separate my energy and emotions from the woman-on-the-phone’s spite. I need to have this symbol on my cork board so I will always see it at work when I end a phone call. If something isn’t in front of my face, I tend to forget it. I trained hard to become a Reiki Master, but I’ve allowed some of that knowledge to fall into the cracks inside my skull. It’s time to dust off the Reiki symbols and see if there is a new and improved way to use them in my life. If I can rediscover a cool use for Raku, then surely more tricks await my creative spin.
What ways do you find effective to keep healthy, safe boundaries with those who think they can intrude into your emotional space? Reiki is one way. I’d love to hear about others.
Since learning of my allergy to PPD in January, I’ve taken baby steps to remove the chemical from my life. Since it’s virtually impossible to do so (hello, laptop keyboards and cool phone cases), I’ve purchased clear silicone covers for my tech devices. Dark eye makeup is gone from my styling routine—and until my face has completely recovered, no makeup touches the area around my eyes.
The one thing I couldn’t easily eliminate without shaving my head, was the hair color I’ve used for many years to “beautify” my locks. For two weeks I debated the pros and cons of keeping my hair long. While the outside observer would think my allergy had gone away, every time my hair touched my face, I itched. Keeping my hair pulled back in a ponytail worked for a day, but I just didn’t want to look like a cheerleader at the office. I decided to chop the hair and maintain it at super-short layers until my natural hair grows long enough where I can do something with it.
I have consciously grown my hair long for six years. My stylist Christina Hardesty has been with me through this entire journey, even keeping me from cutting it short after my car accident in 2016. My past has been one of shocking transitions when it comes to my hair, going from long to short with no in-between state. While this new look is incredibly different from what I’ve had in recent times, it didn’t come from a place of wanting to be different or to draw attention to my daring nature, which was the motivation in my younger years. I laugh that what I used to do for selfish reasons, I now had to do out of true medical need.
If you’ve followed my blog these past several months, you know I’ve had a weird allergic reaction affecting my eyes. I finally consented to see a dermatologist, which went against every stubborn bone in my body. He recommended a contact patch allergy test to help determine what chemical I’ve exposed myself to. Last week I went through that sneezy time (because I had to be off antihistamines for over a week) and endured an itchy back for five days. I couldn’t shower or exercise during this time—yuk, I know, but very much worth the discomfort to me and possibly those around me.
While Matt and I thought my back reacted to quite a few of the 69 chemicals taped to my back, the doctor diagnosed only one allergy. The chemical PPD (paraphenylenediamine). The chemical that is in my hair color, my eye makeup, my black leather purse, my boots, and for all I know, in my computer keyboard. I haven’t had the courage to Google that one yet.
The treatment? Stop using these products as much as I can. When asked “Are my days of hair coloring over?” my doctor looked at me and nodded yes. Can you feel the deflating of my spirit? My hair appointments are a highlight (no pun intended) of my beauty regime. One of my friends at the yoga studio voluntarily stopped dyeing her hair and embraced the gray months ago, but that was her choice. I guess I have a choice to still color my hair, but the cost of horribly swollen, burning eyes is not worth it.
The silver lining is that I can still use my leather products as long as I don’t touch my eyes. Well, I rarely touch my eyes, so that should be easy. When I informed Matt, he laughed. “You touch your eyes all the time!” I do? Obviously I must since my eye area hurt for over six months. My body is now retraining itself to NEVER touch the eyes. Never. Unless I just washed my hands. It’s actually difficult to stop this bad habit.
Mascara and other dark-colored makeup contain PPD, so I’ve determined to embrace the true color of my hair (whatever that is) and to not use cosmetics around my eyes. Since I stopped eye makeup a couple months back, I think everyone is used to my more natural look, including me.
Now to test this theory that PPD caused my painful eye reaction. My new mantra: don’t touch the eyes, don’t touch the eyes.
Technically, it’s half a snow day since my office opens at noon. Also, I could work from home, so I really don’t get a snow day. But I’ve taken this morning's hint from nature and slowed down. When the weather shuts down a city (as a dusting will do in the Southeast), it’s wise to also take a moment or two to go inside and see what’s happening.
My body has been whimpering for yoga. The past couple of months have been my busy time at work, so my yoga practice has suffered. I’ve accepted this is the natural flow of the year for me, for as long as I have my current job. Since I love my job, I’m accepting the cycle of church accounting life.
Enter snow day. My yoga mat unrolled itself in my exercise room. My Yin props floated to the floor from the corner where they have gathered dust for weeks. And I enjoyed over an hour of quiet, except for listening to my body telling me that all the progress I made with six solid months of yoga practice will be for naught if I don’t have a plan for a semi-practice during the winter months. Either my yoga instructor sees me regularly, or my chiropractor does. I’d rather spend my time and money at the studio because I feel awesome every time I leave.
As I write I’m eating a hot breakfast, not my usual fare during the week. Taking the opportunity to leave routine is fun. Now I have to figure out if it’s safe for me to drive on this road…
Last week I wrote about my eye allergy and how a dream led me to eat pomegranate seeds as a potential cure. I had used process of elimination, but found no obvious trigger or allergen that caused redness, swelling, and burning around both eyes…for months. This past Friday, the day after the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere, my eyes stopped getting worse. Yesterday, they were slightly better; and this morning, little to no swelling. They still burn and have some redness--the skin needs to heal after months of abnormal irritation. Do I know what’s making it better? No, other than I’ve suffered enough. Someone up there has taken pity on my condition and granted me a Christmas boon. Thank you, mysterious someone.
To all who celebrate Christmas, I hope you have an enjoyable holiday and make special memories with your loved ones. I will be doing my best to not trigger whatever the heck caused my eyes to swell in the first place.
Peace, love, and a whole lot of joy to you!