The Art Of Reinvention

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Cartwheeling over one of life’s inevitable speed bumps and landing in a ditch, is the perfect time to hone the art of personal reinvention. We lick our wounds, shake our head and hopefully keep moving forward with a few curses streaming in the wind behind us.

Some people will continue trudging, head down, feet dragging, oblivious to the lessons at hand. The wise will stop, assess the scene and adjust for variables. Most of the time this is done with some foot stomping and a growl or two, but “Oh that moment!” when you surrender, adapt and look for new qualities within to reveal.

This is a beautiful rite of passage that comes with the human journey. The incredible fact that we can always become something else and find joy or satisfaction in new ways. What an amazing moment to savor, emerging from one form of yourself, shaking your wings and taking your first breathe from within the new you.

This is the time for new eyes, new opportunity and endless pathways ahead. Who will you be now?

I am always inspired by those souls who can be in a chrysalis of suffering, pain or loss, and emerge with new understanding or a new plan. To be the athlete turned painter, the builder turned angler, the scientist turned gardener. To see the possibilities spiraling out within any circumstance is true power.

How will you approach this new horizon? How will you reinvent and rediscover other aspects of yourself for the joy of moving forward and thriving in a new way?

The Hamster Sleepeth.

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My husband and I had been enjoying an incredibly beautiful fall, walking in the woods with our pup and biking around town on days off. I barked out a laugh. “You know what I’ve been thinking? Absolutely nothing. Blank space. The hamster in my head is laying face down in the curve of the wheel, back arched, one leg dangling off the side, snoozing and drooling.”

This was a strange place to be. Especially for the personally motivated life coach, trainer, striver, traveller and seeker that I am. The status quo is for my brain to be in overdrive and at it’s peak at 3 am, stars twinkling as I plot and plan and dream of the next whispering horizon yet unseen.

This unknown territory began in the spring of last year, before I ended up in bed for two and a half months with a case of Zika turned into encephalitis. Five months of migraines and the stupids followed. The brain was turned to mush, ending in a slow drawn out recovery; hardly full of brilliant and complex thoughts.

I realized that for quite some time before that, I had been in between the chapters of my life. A space of unknowns, of questions, and a lot of the time – nothing. A moment of clarity bubbled up, that me (the usual loud mouth) had nothing to say and oddly enough had come to that elusive place of living completely in the moment and with no plan. Savoring the cup of tea, having an extra pint and listening to loud music on my Ipod into the wee hours of night, to choosing my new hobby of fishing and hanging out with my dog, over reading or growing my mind.

I found myself lying in my hammock pondering the width of my feet, to enjoying dinners of mixed languages with kids yowling with laughter at wrong words in different languages. To that moment when the only clear thought was “I don’t know.”

I spoke of it with friends and smirked at myself in my own quiet time. My husband smiled at me and a typical wise statement escaped his lips. “Vanessa, you realize that most of the people in the first world can only dream of attaining a place of the quiet peace you live in day to day. They dream of retiring and seeking the moment of the slumbering hamster. Yet here you are.”

Only a month ago I realized my brain had sped back up and THUMP, the pages dropped me over into a new chapter of my life. Even though lately the hamster is hot footing around the wheel of my mind, I now realize the gift of giving him snoozing breaks from time to time. I allocate siestas for him, and have somehow compartmentalized his workouts. Even though I embark on a new chapter, I take time breathe deep and feel my pups ears draping over my toes as I write this. I have to lift the computer off my lap just to watch her for a moment and take in the gift of a crazy animal that seeks out the comfort of drooling on my foot from time to time.

The reminder was that sometimes in life we need to allow for a break, to not know, to let the tides wash in and out of our minds, to clear space for new thought, and to rest up for the next segment. It really is OK not to be running full tilt all the time, and a blessing to have the “Hamster” take a good long nap.

Health and the elusive Balance.

 

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Health. Some of us have it, and those of us that don’t, yearn for it, covet it, and prey for it to wrap its sunny arms around us.

Some people abuse themselves for life, and live to a hundred – insert here a photo of a craggy farmer smoking cigarettes and drinking whisky all his life. He lived outside, worked physically on the land and ate home cooked food with ingredients found close by. Got in fights, broke bones and ate dirt.

Some people are health nuts their entire lives: No drinking, no smoking, taking their vitamins, eating organic and religiously go to their Pilates class or the gym. They had a plan but were so stressed about keeping to it, they die of a disease or in a car wreck on their way to their next appointment. Sometimes it feels like there is no rhyme or reason.

As a personal trainer, people always are always asking me about the latest trends, or what they should and shouldn’t do in terms of exercise and diet. My response back is, in the gym and in normal life:

What are you willing to change?

What will you not give up?

How much do you want it?

And is your choice sustainable?

Often people do not want to really work that hard, and will find an endless well of excuses. Others make mind blowing gains due to some inner fire or driving need. Maybe its divorce, health, vanity, babies, growing older, whatever the reason, the results vary greatly.

And it’s confusing. When I am lying on the floor with a back flare up for the third month in a row, worrying about getting better, about my husband, if I will ever heal, am I putting on weight, and taking a ridiculous amount of medications to exist, is a cheeseburger and a beer healthy? Damn straight it is. If it brings even a fleeting feeling of normalcy, or a ray of sunshine through the clouds and ticks my stress meter down an inch, hell ya!

My husband and I snicker together at the definition of “Health food.” Sometimes it’s mental health food. As long as it’s not all the time, and oh that sneaky word of “Balance” pops up again to bite you in the ass.

More and more as I trainer I ended up listening, and cheerleading my clients through a breakdown instead of crushing out a workout. This eventually lead me to go back to school for personal coaching, in attempt to better support them through the mental aspect of their health. Something so overlooked in a lot of our health goals today. Our awareness is getting better but we have a long way to go in terms of application versus conversation.

In this day and age of technology, of electronic stimulus, fast lives and little time off, it seems hard to find the magic balance of what will keep us healthy.

We are all wired differently, with a myriad of needs and wants depending on culture, sex, country, and economic stature.

Yet one thing is undeniable. We have the choice to govern our lives. We can recreate ourselves each day, but have to take the time to inventory our life, ask what is missing, what makes us happy, and what the heck we really want. Make a plan, that is constantly reassessed, then have the courage and tenacity to take a perhaps staggering step towards the goal. If it’s forward, it’s still a step in the right direction.

A Reminder

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It’s amazing to come back into your power after being broken.

After an injury, illness, divorce, whatever it may be that pinned you down, there will always come a moment that you will shake your head and realize that lesson is behind you. That you are clear, full, and back to being who you really are at that moment.

You may have some scars, some battle wounds, and you will never be the person you were, but the new and powerful you.

Be aware of that changing moment, that pause, that smirk, that happy dance.

For a lot of my friends, it might be a moment of clarity and joy, watching the sunrise over the mountain they are standing on, it might be mountain biking or skiing an epic line. Or surfing that glassy wave at sunrise.

For others its in meditation or yoga, or just plain and simple being able to walk to the park. It might be closing the biggest deal of your life at work.

It’s inevitable that in the future the hard lessons or life challenges will come again. If your in the hard times now, breathe, close your eyes and dream that beautiful moment to you. If your standing on top, shining with potential this is your reminder.

Open your eyes wide, look around and savour it. Celebrate this moment with every single way you know how.

The Journey back

Sunrise San Cristobal

My number one goal while lying stoned on pain meds and unable to get to the bathroom alone, winter deepfreeze crystalizing the landscape and frosting the window above me, was to be standing in the sunset palapa.

Drinking a glass of local rum on ice with a lime from out of the tree. To watch the sunset and know we were there. We had done it. Hardly an end but an unknown horizon ahead.

And there we were.

Tears streaming down my face, savoring each shift of light, the birds, the setting sun. Searing pink streaks and brushes of peach and gold across a fading blue sky.

An old playlist; casually put on, was the perfect soundtrack for a goal 7 years in the making.

I sobbed with happiness. Grinned with absolute joy and clung to my husband. An incredible new adventure so longed for, now a very surreal reality.

After another Fall of being laid up in bed with back flare up after flare up, made getting here that much sweeter.

I said to EJ, “ I feel like I am getting all my tough life lessons out of the way so I can have the best year of my life yet.”

Just getting on a plane crippled me during the first leg of our journey, then two weeks later, a bit more mobile with less medication, I whispered to EJ just get me to the sea and I will heal.

I would go slow. I would be patient. I would communicate my injury and get the support from my new family of friends. I would walk and swim and lay like a lizard in the sun or like a happy panting dog in the shade. If I am not mobile, I will get a puppy, perfect my Spanish, and learn all the plants and trees in the area.

It was a rough start to my 40’s, not knowing who I was without using my body in sport and play. Not knowing if I could ever surf again. Not really able to see my next ten years, to truly be able to visualize a future.

And now one month later, I sob once more with absolute soul filled joy.

This morning after 3 hours of sleep, I woke. Wrestled out of the mosquito net with creaking back and hamstrings like beef jerky. Staggering by the light of my I phone, out into a slight offshore breath of wind.

I breathed deep and gazed up, smiling under a full moon and the glimmer of dawn creeping. Constellations setting, as the sun tries to climb high enough to kiss the moon before he sinks below the shimmering sea.

I walk past the security guards thanking them for another quiet night. Their grinning missing-teeth smiles follow me as they place their guns and machetes on the table to be put away until sunset.  I wander down the lane as the light grows stronger, old traveling songs making my heart ache through my I pod.

I walk smiling and fighting off tears. Waking dogs barking, fires burning in hearths. I wave to families stretching out of hammocks above mud floors and grass roof dwellings.

I feel my back and hips stretch as I watch the sun spread her fingers over a volcan San Cristobal, just a silhouette in the distance. Pigs grunting, cows on their daily commute from pasture to pasture. Friends on motor bikes begin to pass on their way to work, with a fast honk and a wave.

I turn to see my husband, pulling up beside. Boards loaded, water jugs full. We grin at each other, munching on peanuts, and have our normal morning banter as we bump down worn dirt roads.

We turn the corner to see bigger swell and waves heaving onto the beach. We recognize friends in the water and trucks pulled onto sand dunes.

Sun shimmers across an out going tide. I stretch some more, and for a moment consider if I’m strong enough to paddle out. The question rolls by with another beautiful wave and I don’t think twice.

I time my exit to the back of the line up. I stroke off to the side, and within moments a perfect peak rolls towards me. I look around and it’s only me. Without a thought, I do what my heart and soul loves more than anything.

I paddle into the wave of the morning, making a deep drop and carve across a fast glistening section; a long wall that makes me yip with joy. I carve like before, unhurt, confident, and pull off with a dolphin dive off the top of the wave to swim below the depths and squeal with joy. Popping up to cheers of friends and relief of my husband.

I can see and feel the future we have been working so long towards.

I am home and nearly whole in body, with wisdom and support to go slow. My heart overflows and I am the happiest I’ve ever been in my life.

The long term pain in the ass.

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For those who suffer from chronic pain, there is absolutely nothing that compares to the feeling of having a pain free moment, minute, hour or day.

It’s that moment when you move in a certain way that makes you feel free, smooth, and agile. It’s that ah-ha moment of joy that bursts from your heart and sends all the happy signals to your brain. The astounding weight on your shoulders that you are so used to carrying is removed and the brain actually begins to function like it used to or better. Space is freed up to think, to feel, and to dream.

Chronic pain is reminder of the small things in life that bring happiness. At the beginning of writing this post I was on an upswing of back health, being positive and trying to add in mini exercises to feel like I was actually doing something. Then overnight I am seized up and bed bound without strong enough pain meds, and just able to make it to the toilet or vertical for 5 minutes.

Yet once the pissed off “sulks” of denial pass, I am an old hand at finding wee happy things. Like inspiring movies, and treating myself to some junk food. To have friends pop by with trashy magazines, and having to tell my husband to stop making me laugh as it’s shearing stabs take my breath away.

It’s watching the sunlight or wind in the leaves, painting my nails crazy colors, and rolling on an unshackled time schedule. Of stoned Iphone scrabble, and a platinum audiobook account that can I plow through on triple speed.

Having a mega flare up once again has put my modified aching normal life into great perspective. At least then I can put on shoes and ride in cars, rather than being a floor mat of that which I seem a professional. Yet even here, I am thankful for a warm house, internet, and loving people in my life.

Here’s a toast to my super hubby, sending me sweet texts and making sure I have all I need. To the caregivers that suffer emotionally along side. This is shout out to other chronic pain people who will hopefully find light in the dark. Here’s to having gratitude, faith in healing with time and many more ah-ha moments.

Renewal

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For a moment time stood still.  I gazed at the rippling sea, the womb of my spiritual birth. The place I felt my soul was reborn from, calling me into her arms to heal my ragged wounds, to wash away the uncertainty and fear of the previous year. The sky before me was awash with the soft colors of dawn. The water, a silky gunmetal grey of early morning, oily quicksilver kissed with hues of mauve, and amber.  I was frozen in a second of time, a moment in between the pages of a new chapter of my life. No sound, just a surreal shimmer of this view before my eyes.

The lightest touch upon my cheek brought me to the surface of my consciousness, a breath of wind whispered in my ear.  Slowly sound returned as though lifting my head out of calm water so that a rush of air suddenly filled the quiet space.

The sea tumbled and swirled to caress the shoreline with its salty touch. The soft clicking of crabs excavating sand out of their holes and onto the endless beach. Slowly a myriad of patterns appeared, etchings upon the surface of the sand, created with balls they industriously rolled up and pushed away.

I had waited for that moment for a year and a half, to stand on that shore; the one place that I could begin to cast away the clinging stress and anxiety. Tears streamed down my face as I began to walk into the water with my board clutched under my arm. My shoulders shook and my stomach contracted as I cried like never before. Water swirled around my waist as I waited for a break between the sets of waves. I paddled through the whitewash, sputtering as I tried to control my breathing and duck diving my way through until at last I paddled into calm water behind the break.

I was filled with a torrent of emotions. The feeling of sheer joy at being in the Pacific, of lying on my board and about to ride the waves rolling in beneath me.  Yet at the same time, I felt so frail and wounded that I just needed to sit, watching the fish shimmer beneath my feet and welcome the comforting embrace of the tropical sea.

My husband, at 31years old, was diagnosed with cancer the year before.  We did not know the severity for the first few weeks, and life jerked to shocking halt. My heart went into lock down, my actions into survival mode. We were lucky to find the tumor in an easy to see place beneath his jaw, like a cherry caught in his throat. It was perched in his lymph nodes, yet thankfully was still isolated from the rest of his body. How strange to think that only day’s before he had been rock climbing with a friend, feeling the power of the mountains and within his own body.

He did not feel sick in any way, and yet the thought of having to check into the cancer centre to make himself more ill than ever in his life, seemed against nature itself. He spent five months in treatment, a year fighting for his life. Both of us caught in a test of mortality.  So full of smiles and hope, he would make the other patients laugh, and the nurses want to be around him. He held his head high and only once or twice faltered under the cloak of darkness.

His treatment was successful, and he is healthy for now. We were in Panama to heal our minds and hearts and find comfort in the thought that we may sneak a few more days together. To perhaps buy a month or a year or hopefully sixty before we say goodbye.

My tears were that of a child who has had a difficult lesson, and at the same time, being ones of absolute joy that we made it that far. Those tears were all the ones I wanted to shed when I thought I had to be strong, in the water they tore out of my body in wracking sobs. Yet even as I cried I had joy welling up within me. Looking around at the beauty of the tropics the darkened space filled with wonder, and the ecstasy of being alive.

There I was renewed, beneath the vast and gorgeous sky, with a pelican soaring low over the waves in search for its breakfast. I dove under the water and off my board squealing and wiggling like a dolphin being born. I rolled under water with my eyes open and gazed in wonder at the shimmering surface, my bubbles bursting into perfect expanding rings.

The words “I am here, I am home” echoed in my mind. I erupted through the surface, breathing in the salty air, and looking toward the beach. My husband was there, gazing south and watching the light grow brighter. He stood in quiet reflection, hardly as emotional as I.

I thought, “ It will be a long time before he can allow the reality of his new health to wash over him, to begin the journey of his own emotional healing”.

He would not dare to dream much into the future; he would guard his intricate web of emotions well. Yet for that moment, he was celebrating his recent win.

He smiled and waved, knowing me so well, he had given me time to greet the sea alone.  With his gaze I buried the remaining swell of emotions and my surfers mind took over. I paddled towards the shore, my body changing from a weeping and fragile mess to a strong and powerful surfer.

While catching my first and beautiful wave, sliding down a glassy face, feeling the speed and power of the ocean, I yelled with pleasure at the exhilaration of it. The shimmering golden light highlighting the shape of the wave in front of me, as I carved towards the rising sun.  My husband paddled out as I pulled off, dropping into the water beside him. We grabbed each other’s hands with twinkling eyes and huge smiles. There, together, we began the new chapter of our lives.