Taking time for mental health is something often forgotten. While many separate mental and physical health, they are closely linked in my opinion. When something is weighing heavily upon us and we have difficulty dealing with it yet still continue to go about our daily lives, we end up with mental trauma and anguish.
Taking time to ensure we have good mental health is equally as important as making sure our bodies are healthy. If you suffer from anxiety, depression, suicidal ideations, or anything that is making your quality of life less than ideal, please visit a medical professional. Please do not wait until it goes too far.
If you see a loved one suffering, do not avoid them. Engage them and offer your support. People need to know they are cared for. You might be the one thing that shows them that life is still worth living.
I have enjoyed my Sunday ritual of sitting at my computer and writing my weekly blog. To those of you who follow along weekly, and for those who have popped in today or once in a while, I want to thank you for joining me.
Recently, the Canadian government released a draft of the new version of Canada’s Food Guide. I was interested to read that under the Guiding Principle 1, there has been a shift from “meat and alternatives” to “protein-rich foods – especially plant-based sources of protein”.
Now, those who know me well would tell you that while I have a predominantly plant-based diet, with the odd bit of seafood and a little cheese once in a while, I do not force my diet or opinions on anyone. I do believe that everyone is free to choose for themselves, and the same is true for my children. My older son is the same as I am in his choices. We have plant-based milk to enjoy. I like soy milk in my coffee, and he is crazy about coconut milk. Conversely, my younger son still enjoys dairy milk, and so I buy that for him to consume.
What the current draft of the dietary recommendations has done for me is reinforce what I have been doing. It will also help to bring along a shift in the thoughts of the general public. Plant-based diets are highly nutritious, providing all the essential components needed, particularly when it is a diet with a variety of different plant foods.
I know there are some people out there (my ex-husband for one) who would say that you need to eat meat in order to gain the proteins and amino acids required for a healthy body. I am not going to argue anyone’s opinion. But I do encourage people to do the research for themselves and choose the diet that meets their needs. There is no one perfect diet for every person. We are all individuals with individual needs.
For myself, and for the positive environmental impact that these changes will produce, I am quite excited to see Canada taking the bold step forward so far with these recommendations. While it is still in a draft form and there are many changes that could still take place, I am proud to see that the steps are being taken to recognize how plant-based nutrition is advisable for the majority of people. I would like to congratulate the Government of Canada for taking these steps, and I hope to see this movement expand beyond borders and move into other countries to create a global movement.
I have been reminded lately of the importance of human interaction. In this, I mean how important it is to have contact with others. Physical contact, verbal communication, or whatever it is that satisfies that personal need. We all need to be valued in some way. To be appreciated. To be wanted.
To be loved.
Remember those who play a role in your life, no matter how small. Thank the person holding the door open for you as you enter the mall to buy those last minute gifts. Smile at the lonely woman sitting and looking out her window as you walk to collect your children from school. Give a compliment to a stranger for no other reason but to spread a little joy to the life of another.
In this world of smart phone abuse, I watch as people walk down the street and hallways with their faces buried in screens. People no longer notice those around them. I feel the isolation of technology affecting society, and I urge everyone to be part of the resistance here. Let’s not forget our humanity and our human interaction.
This has been a challenge of a week. It’s been a week of pondering, and of considering the words spoken to me merely seven days ago, although it feels like it was a lifetime ago.
My father has cancer. The big C.
Huge deal right? Well, my mother had cancer also. She spent a couple years in treatment, and her follow up appointments have all been positive, showing no signs of new growth. All positive. She’s not without her health issues, and the scare we had in summer thankfully was not a malignant tumor but still dangerous in its own right. But I digress.
The words my father spoke left me feeling oddly at ease, even though we still do not know all the details of the severity or chances of survival. I’ve had a good life. I have no regrets. I have done in my life what I aimed to.
Nobody likes to consider life without their loved ones. I am not the exception. My father came back into my life once my marriage fell apart. My ex kept me from having a relationship with my family, so once he was out of the picture, they were there, waiting all those 20 years for me to come back to my senses. I feel like I have just gotten my father back, so of course I have considered life without him once again. I’m not ready for him to go.
My father explained some things to me, and I understand completely. He is not afraid of death, and for the record, nor am I. I do not believe it to be the end of our existence. He has lived the life of his choosing. He has done all the things he has wanted to do, he has no regrets in this life. He has lived a good life, by his standards. He was never rich in monetary ways, but that never mattered to him. He was rich in much better standards. He has a family he loves dearly. He has friends who are family of his choosing that he loves equally as much. He gives from the depth of his heart and would give what he had if it meant someone else could use it more. Don’t get me wrong, my father is not a saint. He is human, and in that, he has made mistakes. He has made some choices that were less than desirable. But in that, he is 100% human and we all know there is no one living on earth that is perfect by any stretch.
So I considered the words he spoke. All week, and likely still will. I know that he will fight for his life should he need to, but if it is meant for him to leave our realm in any short time frame, he will have no regrets. He will not weep for the things he had not yet done. He does live a good life that will be celebrated whenever that time comes. But I still pray that time is not too soon.
If you pay attention, there seems to be consistencies in life. Things that repeat, or certain days or times that seem to be relevant. Perhaps this hasn’t happened to you, or perhaps you just haven’t noticed it? I have.
November 12 has been a recurring important day in my life. Some for small reasons, and others are more monumental. The biggest one in my life is that it is the anniversary of my breaking free of my marriage. Yesterday was my four year me-anniversary. As I reflected back on how far I have come in those four years, I do believe all the hurt and pain, all the problems and fear that went along with it was worth it. Breaking free from an unhealthy relationship, a controlling relationship, a manipulative relationship was the absolute best thing I have done for myself and my children.
I saw that in those four years, I have stood on my own two feet. I have found my voice and learned how to use it. I have stood up for what I believe in, learned to give in a little to the things that matter less. I have learned that it is not just ok to show affection and emotion, but that it is the only way I want to live my life. I am unapologetic in how I live, for it is my life, not yours. I have bought a house but more importantly, built a home with love where my family can feel safe without judgement. I have grown a family beyond blood that includes all kinds of friends and furfriends. In those four years, I have learned to explore, to take the next step, to not let my fears restrict me, and to live on the cusp of my discomfort and continue on because this is how we grow. I have learned to say no when I need to, and to say yes when I want to. I have indulged myself and grown a passion. I have let go of the things I thought I needed to be without regret. I have learned that it is ok to have my own style and that the only one I need to please is me.
In those four years, I have found me. So the only thing I can say to those who are currently at the start of their journey, or looking at ending a marriage is: I know where I was at and had no idea where the next step would lead me to, but looking back at the path I took, I have no regrets. I survived as countless others have. And at your four year you-anniversary, look back and see what it is you have been able to do for you. You might be amazed to see that the person you are right now is not who you will be four years into your own story.
I sit here this morning to write and weighing heavily on my mind is what the future may bring. As I prepare for a journey back home to visit my parents, I am consciously bracing myself for whatever news I will receive once I get there. My mother has been having her battles with health issues, and this visit was planned based off of some of that, however, events have occurred since my first thoughts on going back to see them.
We all have a fear of something. I think most of us fear the day we lose our parents. Some of you may have experienced this already, some are far from that day. I do not know how close to that day I am, but that fear is niggling. With aging parents, we are the sandwich generation…raising children of our own, and caring for our ailing parents. This becomes much more difficult to do when the distance between us is as great as it is.
And the words my father sent me haunt me… no surgery as planned, will tell you why when you get here. Why no surgery when it was deemed necessary? I try to not focus on this too much. Not without all the information to make any sort of judgement. So I wait. I pack and prepare for the journey. Housesitter/petsitter…check. Laundry done and packed…check. Gardens weeded and ready for the time away…check. House cleaned…check..sort of.
This week has been quite a ride! There have been so many ups and downs that I really truly felt like I was on a rollercoaster at the fair. My mother went in for surgery at the beginning of the week that had me nervous and frightened for her. Coupled with the fact that we live many miles apart, it is difficult to carry on with life as usual while my heart and thoughts are there with her. Where things lie for her are still a little unknown for me, so there will be a quick trip home to see her in the not too distant future.
These are the times when you realize how things change with aging parents and the medical complications that arise with senior years. I always assumed it would be my dad that would be needing extra care. He always led a hard physical life with his work, and I just assumed that he would be the one with physical issues in his later years. So far, he has still been going relatively strong. My mother, on the other hand, she has had her challenges. A couple of strokes, relatively minor and caught early enough for the interventions to be effective thankfully, cancer, and now this.
Life is unpredictable.
What this teaches me, is that you don’t wait to tell someone how you feel. Don’t wait to say I love you…wear your heart on your sleeve. Be vulnerable, be spontaneous, be silly. Enjoy life. Because you really don’t know what is around the corner.
How do you deal with stress? I think sometimes it depends on what causes the stress as to how I deal with it. This week I was given some news that was unsettling regarding my mother’s health. I live too far away to be of much help to her, and I think this is one of the most difficult things about moving away from family.
I cried. I stress ate. I had a few drinks. I fidgeted around and let my imagination run wild. Then I realized that what I really needed was something that could take my mind off the emotional trauma I was putting myself through. What I needed was to feel the physical exhaustion of manual labor.
So off I went to Home Depot. And back home I came with supplies to replace the flooring in the master bedroom. It’s something I had been wanting to do for three years, so it wasn’t a total spur of the moment decision. I lost myself in the project and went to work clearing out the space, pulling up the carpeting and underlay, cleaning everything up, and laying down new flooring. By the time I was finished, I was tired, physically sore and spent. But this way I had something to show for the pain I was feeling, and it did take my mind off of things.
This isn’t always the answer for me, but I think this time it was. I’m still worried about her, but at least now I feel like I can think more objectively about it.
Some days are harder than others to get through. Some days seem to go easily like the breeze. Some days I don’t know what I will get and others I can see them coming miles away.
Those out there who live with chronic pain can understand how I feel, I am sure. It’s not easy some days to get up and do what you’re supposed to do every day. Waking up after a restless night, feeling the drain of lack of sleep. Getting dressed and mentally prepared for work while working through pain in your hands, your feet, your neck, your knees or hips, or any combination thereof is not for the faint of heart.
Working, head down and engaging your hands all day whilst working through the pain, trying to not let coworkers or clients see how you really feel is hard to do. Coming home to the children, needing to give them your energy and happiness, still suppressing the pain and urge to cry because sometimes it’s more than what you feel you can bear. But you don’t. You don’t cry. You smile and keep on doing what you do because this is life. This is life of a single mother living with chronic pain.
Sometimes it escapes us. Sometimes the irritations of the entitled younger staff get to you to the point where you lose your filter. Sometimes we seem angry or maybe, if you look closely enough at our eyes, the creases in our foreheads that foretell of the pain inside that we are trying to hide, you might have a glimpse into how difficult some days really are. These days, nobody looks that closely at others. We live in a world full of self-absorbed individuals who really couldn’t care less about others. Empathic ones are few and far between, or so it seems.
But we keep on.
Why? Because we have to. There is no option. There is no Prince Charming out there who will save us, who will make things better or take us away from this pain we live in. Because we know the pain will lift at one point. Because with every flare comes a remission. We remember that. Remission makes us feel normal again like maybe these symptoms are just fabrications in our own minds. Like maybe we really aren’t feeling as bad as we seem to. Like maybe we can still have the life our age mates have.
But today, during the flare, we live with the pain. Today, we smile though the pain and remember that this will not last forever. Today, we treat ourselves with kindness and be gentle. Today perhaps we get our hair done. Maybe we stop at Starbucks for morning coffee instead of brewing it at home. Maybe we have lunchables in the fridge to send with the kids for lunch instead of making them chicken, cheese and avocado wraps with veggie sticks, sliced fruits and chia pudding.
Today, we are kind to ourselves. We may be single moms living with a chronic condition, but we are still strong.
With the holiday season comes holiday food, drink, and socialization. These things don’t usually mix well with my normal dietary preferences and restrictions. I can feel the negative effects on my body. So, with the new year, it is my resolve to return to my healthy eating habits. A return to my gluten-free, dairy-free, predominantly vegetarian diet, and back to routine of taking my iron supplements as prescribed by my physician.
As every year that passes, we change as individuals. For me, these changes have been taking leaps and bounds in the last few years as I have been rediscovering who I am as an individual. I have learned how important it is to me that I am aware of my impact on the Earth and society. I choose organic as often as I can not only because the chemicals are so damaging to my and my children’s bodies, but because these chemicals are also damaging to our Earth. I choose fresh produce as often as I can because that is what I prefer, however, I do prefer the local organic fare and choose to frequent local growers and farmers markets when I can. Winter here makes that impossible though. Gluten free and dairy free requirements are based on diagnoses from my physician over the years, not fad diets. I know when I am not following those requirements, and it’s usually holidays when this happens and I am not in complete control of my diet. I do pay for these times, as I am right now.
The other thing that changed is my attention to my own needs. To have things that fulfill me, which include hobbies and those things beyond my career, and my own spirituality. As the start of this new year, I also resolve to devote time to these things, to provide myself a deeper and more profound existence. This includes spending more time on my creative outlets, whether that be photography, painting, or writing. Spending more time on meditation, yoga, and with my spiritual directors.
Things don’t change dramatically just because the calendar changes, but small changes…small sustainable changes…can make a difference in our lives when we choose to make those adjustments in our lives. They need to be done with the right intention though. With the intention to maintain these changes, that is the driving force to continue to develop into who we are to become.