A smart man learns from his mistakes. A wise man learns from the mistakes of others. There’s some debate over who to give credit for this quote but I say it often to my kids. I’m hoping you will learn something from my recent experience.
We all have a certain amount of energy that has to be shared among different needs throughout each day. I like to visualize it as a whole pie (because who doesn’t like pie?) with different slices of pie going to serve different needs. There are way more energy costs than listed here, and surely they are not all equal in size, but this gives you a visual.
For the past 3 months my body has been fighting a tooth infection. Now I only noticed it here and there mostly but when it finally got bad, it got horrendous! I had one horrible, awful, no good, very bad 12 hours of pain. I was crying like a little baby while waiting for my prescription in Walgreens and a complete stranger bent over and hugged me in my chair and kindly said while rubbing my back, “I’m sorry you’re having such a rough day.” I could have had Covid for all she knew! (The fact that there is still kindness in the world is a whole other blog. I WISH I could find this SWEET woman and thank her!) The point is, I let the discomfort get to AGONY before I did anything about it. (Not smart.)
For the previous 3 months, it had just been an underlying nuisance. I didn’t notice it enough to do much about it. However, it was taking up some of my energy, whether I noticed it or not. In that time I got shingles and an allergy bout. I used to suffer these allergy bouts regularly years ago when I had leaky gut and I hadn’t had one in years. Those are the 2 obvious costs, but I’m sure my family would also testify to less patience than usual from me as well. I’m sure there were many small costs to my immune system fighting/ using up more energy than it normally needs.
Here’s another, more common example. Overall, exercise improves your immune system, but after a hard workout your immune system is suppressed for 3-5 hours. Why? Because the body has to prioritize where it will spend its finite energy. The most immediate need is to recover you from the workout… to regulate blood sugar, etc. (By the way, the same thing happens when you overindulge in sugar, except sugar does NOT improve your immune system over time.)
Our fight or flight systems are designed for balance and to keep us safe. When your body faces stress, real or imagined, defense mechanisms kick in to protect you. We face a thousand different stresses a day. What you eat can cause stress, and that can be different for everybody! Almonds are really good for one person, but can cause huge problems for another. How much and how well you sleep, how much water you drink, the air quality around you, your job, traffic, worry about your child or parent… all of it costs you energy, at the expense of something else.
I’m writing this in the hopes that you will learn from my mistake. Write out an energy audit on yourself and don’t forget about those silent costs we tend to take for granted. (IE decision making, will power, annoying colleagues.) Take note of where energy may be seeping out unnoticed and fix what you can to help all systems rev at their optimum level. I don’t know about you, but I want my metabolism revving, not just surviving.
Years ago after a trip of debauchery I felt compelled to try and fast on our way home. Aside from my eagerness to clean myself out, I had a spiritual incentive as well. I want to crave Him as much as I crave food.
I always try to give myself plenty allowance on vacations and after years of cycling through clean and vacation eating modes, I know that my body will revert to it’s normal state after a few days of discipline and returning to my usual eating habits. I’m not condoning or suggesting my way is the best way. I’m just admitting this is how I do it. I have days where I eat pretty clean, and days that I don’t. I will endorse however, my lack of guilt for it. We all overeat, or eat unhealthy sometimes. The difference is, some of us beat ourselves up for it. Repeatedly. Those who beat themselves up for their indulgences are usually the ones who will indulge more often than those who just enjoy without abandon, the exquisite delight of each “naughty” morsel, and leave the guilt behind with the vegetables.
I am a geek when it comes to experimenting with my body. For example, I LOVED being pregnant. I was fascinated at the size of my ankles and the depth with which I could plunge a finger into them some evenings. I was amazed at watching my belly grow, and I’m probably the only woman who was thrilled to have to pull my car over one day because I thought I might throw up. I mean, I was genuinely excited about this.
I’m a firm believer that everyBODY is different. Yes, there are general rules we all should really adhere to. There are certain things that just weren’t meant to be ingested by humans. There are specific behaviors that don’t add value to any of us. But when it comes to the nuances of sleep, diet, exercise and mental wellness, different things work for different people. This is why the wellness industry is so massive. Every diet out there has worked for someone! We can argue about it all we want but the truth is, some of us do great being vegans. Many have become MUCH more healthy by going Keto.
I tend to be of the thinking that protein, fat and fiber are the game changers. It takes a lot longer to digest an avocado, for example, then it does a piece of candy. Limiting sugar consumption helps stabilize the blood sugar, and keeps our satiety up. But let’s be honest, eating is not always about being hungry. In fact, some of us have forgotten what hunger even feels like.
On the way home from this particular trip, I wanted to feel hunger. I wanted to teach my body (and mind) that a hunger pang wouldn’t actually kill me. Fasting was being talked about in the wellness community a lot at that time and I had done minimal research about it. I did realize by then that breakfast was in fact, NOT “the most important meal of the day” and that to eat because most of the rest of the world was eating at that time didn’t make sense. Why should I eat if I’m not hungry?
*Side note* If someone is eating breakfast and they feel good and are healthy, why would we change that? But if someone is eating breakfast, despite not being hungry at that time, and they’re looking for different results, I’d say that’s an area of opportunity.
My fasting experiment did not lead to any major breakthroughs spiritually or physically. I did not learn to love it. I tried different lengths of intermittent fasting but in the end, the hangry place I would get to was just not something I could overcome. I basically landed in the place of not eating breakfast until at least 1, maybe 2 hunger pangs have passed. I did learn that if I eat a huge dinner, or dessert after it, I will be more hungry the next morning. But in general, I don’t like to be starving, and I don’t make good decisions when I am.
I recently scheduled my first colonoscopy. I’ve been dreading this recommended procedure since I learned what it entailed. Stick whatever you want, wherever you want to stick it, but to not eat for an entire day beforehand was causing me sheer anxiety. I was dreading it! But, I was also, somewhere deep down, excited about the opportunity to try a longer fast. I’d planned to drink bone broth so made a big batch in preparation, but my husband challenged me to just do it. He usually fasts until lunch and has done many 24 hour fasts.
The afternoon of what would be my “last supper” before the fast began, I started getting a sore throat. I was devastated. It was one of my allergy bouts rearing its ugly head. They start with a sore throat and then it goes to stuffy head, lands in my chest and then I cough, for weeks. (I actually cracked 3 ribs from the out of control coughing fits I used to get.) At least that’s how they cycled for 7 years straight back before I knew I had Leaky Gut. As it turns out, fasting has a healing component that I do know about, but I didn’t want to go through the whole prep only to wake up so sick sounding on the day of the procedure that they wouldn’t let me do it! I ended up skipping dinner that night and just had bone broth. I finished my broth around 6 and didn’t sleep much at all. The sore throat was severe and relentless, and I kept panicking about what was going to happen.
In the morning I cancelled my scheduled workout and took a Covid test to confirm it was just my allergies. I started taking little hot soothing sips of tea, and waited. Although I’d been smart to schedule a busy day in hopes of keeping my mind off my eventual suffering, canceling the workout left me time to wallow. I think the Benadryl I’d taken was still in my system and I was miserable. Not from hunger, but fatigue, sore throat, watery eyes and self pity. I felt like I had the cards stacked against me and I was already at a disadvantage of knowing I’m NOT good at this fasting stuff! My husband was going to rock this. So much so that he played a tennis match 24 hours into the fast!
As it turns out, the sore throat was a blessing. My first hunger pang didn’t show up until 1 and it was mild. I attribute this to the continual sipping, maybe even specifically of mostly warm fluids. As is often the case, what I dreaded the most, what I was most afraid of, did not actually happen. I’d decided in advance that I would not make everyone around me miserable because of my discomfort. I had made a deal with myself to do this with as much grace and humor as possible… to be present, and not try to hide from the discomforts. My husband and I intentionally scheduled these at the same time. (Talk about a bonding experience.) Misery loves company, but also, when your partner is in your same shoes, you can’t dump or lean on them.
They say that deep into a fast your mind sharpens and that clarity and focus are heightened. I did not get to experience this. They give you sedative-type drugs for the procedure and although I did not go to sleep, I was pretty groggy. Ali wanted to go to breakfast afterwards (which I know most people would) but I was not hungry and was hoping to wait until we got home to maybe start with some bone broth. In the end I caved and had an egg, bacon and some potatoes.
This was an amazing experience and I will be playing around with more fasting. I learned that a little hunger did not in fact kill me. It really wasn’t even that uncomfortable. (The fasting part at least The “cleansing” part is a whole other blog.) I actually liked the feeling of being a little more empty than full. Knowing in advance I wouldn’t have the energy to do much I seemed to have more compassion and understanding for myself. Instead of pushing myself, I was gentle, sweet and forgiving. I let myself sit and write some of this. I journaled. It was 40 hours of self love, not punishment. At least this was the mindset I had.
I am not a nutritionist and I am not recommending anything here. I’m just sharing my unique experience. I am not sad that the Dr doesn’t want to see me for another 10 years (Praise Jesus!), and I do not plan to go 40 hours again just for fun… but I’m open to the possibility. This experience taught me I’m capable of something I did not think I was capable of before. I can do hard things.
I am often amazed by my daughter’s ability to be so focused on what she’s doing that she doesn’t hear or notice anything around her. She will forget the world around her and just submerge herself in whatever she’s doing. Imagine that kind of freedom! It is fascinating to watch and frustrating to parent. I ask her to come and eat for example, and she is so engrossed in what she’s doing her usual response is, “Just a minute”. But I know that in a minute she will not remember my request so as sad as I am to interrupt her, I will sometimes insist it happens now.
The first day on the beach in San Diego we lost track of her. She was so involved in her seashell hunting that she wandered too far from us. I was relieved to find her in the distance finally. She was too far to make out her face, but I could tell by the pail in her hand the and dancing and jumping that it was her. I tried to convince myself on the long walk to her, not to be angry with her. She was after all doing such an innocently fun activity and I am jealous of her ability to be so focused on a task that she doesn’t even realize where she is anymore. When I was close enough for her to hear me call her name, she turned around, happy smile on her face, as if I’d been there the whole time and we’d been sharing the splendid experience. I calmly explained she would need to stay closer. As we were walking back we saw her dad coming in the opposite direction and he also gave her a talking to when he got close enough, a little more sternly than I had.
The next day daddy set the boundaries as he pointed. “You need to stay between that flag and the pier.“ An hour or so later, we caught sight of her in the distance (well beyond the flag) dancing away from us joyfully skipping over waves with bucket in hand. She was too far away for us to even yell with the ocean waves crashing nearby. I set off to track her down in a fast walk as my planter fasciitis was too flared up to run. I watched her as I followed and again envied the complete and carefree JOY she pranced about with. She never once looked back as she skipped and danced further away from our safe spot in the sand. Again, I tried to talk myself out of being angry. I envisioned her little brain so focused on her task, on her “work” in that moment. She was not trying to be naughty. There was no malice intent. And again, when I got to her, she spun around with excited glee as if I’d been with her the whole time. She had never once looked back. She had not seen me following her. And yet there was no guilt or shame, only enthusiasm and excitement and sheer happiness.
My anger did get the best of me and I did introduce shame and guilt. We were so far off track by now the discipline monster in me felt there was no excuse. She had never been in danger as I had her in my sights the whole time, and if I’d needed to, I could’ve broken out in a run. She never went into the water. She never talked to a stranger. She hadn’t noticed the people or the water, only the seashells she was hunting.
We made a big deal of it. There were tears. We had to leave the beach. There would be no more sea shell hunting this day. We hammered the point quite continuously in the hopes that she would know the severity of her wrong-doing. “We love you. We want to keep you safe.”
On the third day, daddy was more elaborate with the rules. I rolled my eyes a little at his grand show of it as I was confident she’d learned her lesson. She is in fact a brilliant human.
The beach is exciting for a Colorado family. There are waves, interesting people, sandcastles to build, books to read, body boarding and surfing. Izak buried Nadia up to her neck in the sand then went back into the ocean for more fun. It was shortly after that I noticed the beautiful life guard running into the water in his direction, diving headfirst into the waves with her buoy. He seemed fine to me so I was still sitting in my chair… almost giggling that he was getting a talking to by “official authorities” since he is such a rule follower. Turns out there was a riptide and the nice woman was explaining that for his safety he should not swim right there. Or at least not that far out. (Didn’t seem too far out to me, but she’s the expert so I took note!)
The next thing I remember was Ali asking me, “Where’s Nadia?” It’s a common question so I actually didn’t even look up the first time. “Seriously, where’s Nadia?” This time it was like a slap across the face. I looked up. We took a few precious moments to scan the beach in all directions. We didn’t see her. He went one way, I went the other. There’s zero reason to call out at the beach. The waves make so much noise your eyes work better than your voice. The thoughts racing through my mind were horrific as I tried to stay calm. “There’s NO WAY she would do this again!” This was the most horrific thought of all, because that meant she’d gone into the ocean. I couldn’t see her getting taken. There were a lot of people on the beach, but not too many. She’s feisty, strong and loud. I just didn’t see that as a probable threat. My real fear was that she’d gone into the ocean to rinse off from being buried in the sand.
After frantic searching in each direction we were crushed to meet back at our starting spot, both empty handed. We both took off toward the life guard tower without a word, but I quickly peeled off to continue the search. There was no need for us both to go there. By this time we’d pulled Izak out of the ocean to help with the search. He headed toward the pier and I went in the opposite direction.
Plantar fasciitis be damned, I was running now, in my bikini, crying real tears and looking distraught, I’m sure. I did not notice anyone looking at me. I only prayed while I ran. I begged God. “Please! Please God!” kept spilling out between sobs then.
Ali was soon in a truck with a life guard headed toward some report they’d “found a girl”. He asked if she was ok, and there was no answer from the radio.
Meanwhile, I had collapsed somewhere down the beach in the opposite direction. Some complete stranger was bent down over me and helped me to my feet. He was with me when I saw Ali coming toward me. I screamed at him with my eyes to give me some sign that he’d found her and from that great distance he waved his arms toward himself in a manner that made my knees buckle again, this time in relief. The man standing next to me still didn’t know what the heck was going on and he wouldn’t know for a while as I could not speak through my gasps of relief. “Thank you GOD!” He helped me up again and I thanked him and tried to explain that everything was ok now.
Her explanation was that Izak had said he would go find sea shells with her. She’d gone back to get her bucket and when she turned around she didn’t see him. Although he was in the water right near her, her eyes were set on the adventure she was about to have with her brother, so off she ran in search of him.
It is not helpful to have a history of the unthinkable happening to our family, on more than one occasion. We’ve experienced loss, before we had children, of close, young family members. You realize statistics don’t mean anything when you’re one of them, that you are not exempt just because the “chances are slim”, and it opens your mind up to the most awful possibilities. I do tend to assume the worst. It is not a trait or habit I’m proud of, and I did try so hard to talk myself out of the panic on that beach. I kept telling myself that this is just a scare. There will be a logical explanation. But until I knew for sure, I had no breath.
I begged God in those minutes for another chance. I would do better. We would train her brain better. I would teach her to think in a way that I could keep her safe. We talk all the time here about how the brain works and that hers is a lot like mine was when I was her age. And happy news, the brain CAN be trained! We CAN change our thinking and our habits and our tendencies, if we want to. The problem is, she has very little desire to do so yet. I mean she has, and she does and she will continue to grow and change and develop but so far, she likes who she is! It was no skin off her back that we were terrified. It’s not her problem!
We must have hugged her a thousand times that afternoon. We would both say out of the blue, sometimes through tears, “I’m so happy you’re here with us right now!”
The thing is, I don’t want to teach her to be less present. I don’t want to take away her superpower of being so hyper-focused and adventurous. I don’t WANT to have to teach her to continuously interrupt her fun to ask herself, “What am I supposed to be doing right now?” I will send her to clean her room and go check on her 20 minutes later and she is playing with legos in a VERY messy room. She’ll walk into the pantry to get her vitamins, forget why she went there, and end up in the living room doing straddle press to handstands. She’ll walk through the door to leave the house and not close the door behind her. She’s 9! We’re LEAVING the HOUSE in a very crime-ridden neighborhood! She left the hose on for 2 days before we realized it. She left our filtered water fountain on full blast all night long. The list goes on…. and on.
The real issue is, I don’t have the patience or focus to follow her around all the time making sure she’s doing what she’s supposed to be doing… so I suffer the consequences. I repeat myself. I yell. Things don’t get done. There are tears.
Ali and I always say “We’re not raising kids. We’re raising adults.” We struggle between keeping them safe and letting them fail. Nadia in particular will climb anything, to an unsafe height, continuously. People will gasp and point and I will look and say, “Nadia, get down.” I’ve actually tried to do the math sometimes before saying it, “How MUCH damage would be done if she fell from that height?” In the end, it is usually best for every worried mother on the premises for her to just climb her little fanny back down to a reasonable level.
Here’s the point friends… I am failing, repeatedly, every single day… so badly that her life is in danger because of it. And I am struggling between letting her be her, and not squashing that amazing spirit, but also not losing my mind in the process. Parenting is hard. I’m reading the books. I’m taking the breaths. I’m really, REALLY enjoying learning who my kids are. I’m loving helping THEM notice their amazingness too. In the end, my best most important job, is to be eye to eye with these small humans, and truthfully, whole-heartedly, COMPLETELY reassure them that they are loved, they belong, I understand, and I LIKE who they are. And to encourage them to do the same for themselves.
I am thankful God continues to give me another day to try again. I apologize often and have warned them both… “It doesn’t matter how MUCH or how WELL I love you. You are going to have reason for therapy when you grow up. I am just going to continue to do the best that I can.”
Maybe a year ago my husband started talking about moving us to Puerto Rico. It started as little conversations over dinner, here and there a mention…just dreaming. Then, one day I realized . . . OMG. . . he’s serious.
I was instantly mad. I pitched a fit. I had a 3 day tantrum. I didn’t yell at him, but I did not hide my anger and sadness. For 3 days I barely slept. I thought of nothing else. I thought about all the wonderful things we would be giving up. I love Denver! I love having four seasons. I love the kids’ school. I love our home. We have some really great, close friends. Mostly, I love the comfort of knowing where I am, where my things and people are, and where to find what I want. I love what I know. I do not like, not knowing.
It was a potentially lucrative financial decision on his part, and I understood that. He is the financial provider of this family. He works hard to do a LOT for us and if this would allow him to do what he wanted, I should be supportive. This is why I was mad. I didn’t WANT to be supportive, but I knew I needed to be. I didn’t want to be a dead weight sourpuss that sucked all the air out of his sails. I knew, deep down, almost instantly, that my objection was that it would take guts. I didn’t want to have guts. It would make me, US, uncomfortable, and I don’t like being uncomfortable. This however, was not reason enough to squash his dream.
It also COULD be, “the greatest adventure of our lives”.
On the 4th day, I came to him in the quiet of morning, before the kids were up, and said (through tears), “You are the leader of this family. If you want to go, we go. But I want to see it. You have to take us there.” He nodded his thanks and we found a week in our schedule to make the not so easy trip.
The kids also did not want to move there but were happy to be going on a trip. Izak fell in love with the surfing and wildlife and Nadia was happy to be in water (pool or ocean) all day long. The community was super welcoming and every box was getting checked off as the week progressed. We even looked at houses. I became more and more resigned to the fact that we would in fact be moving here. I envisioned us there, how it would look, what our lives would look like. I talked to God a lot. I truly let go and let things fall as they may. I somehow found a little comfort in knowing, God has a plan, and I do not get to be in control all the time. We talk about this, but when your life is facing a big flip like this, it is difficult to do. And I will say, I did it. I didn’t really have a choice, but I did it.
On the last night, Ali had a business meeting and Izak sat and listened through the whole thing, while drinking tea. He was engaged and listening and suntanned… All of the sudden he came to me, nestled into me and cried, “I don’t want to move here!” I pulled him away from the meeting and took him outside. We talked about the scary nature of this proposition. This kid has slept in the same bedroom his whole life. He is not a fan of change. A little part of me was excited for this challenge. I KNOW that kids need to learn that they CAN DO HARD THINGS and the only way to learn this is by doing hard things. This would be his chance to learn how strong and tough he really is.
To make a long story short, Ali loves his work and those he helps by doing it. It turns out that he would not be able to serve his clients to the level he wants to serve them, from there.
I felt like I had been tested, and passed the test. I have had talks with Izak about being able to look back on a difficult situation or time, and being able to be proud of the way you handled it. When I was having my pity party, this is why I was mad. Because I knew the woman I want to be, the woman my husband deserves, is encouraging. Agreeable, at least. Not selfish. I knew the woman I want to be, would be supportive. . . a lifter up of his dreams, not a dead weight. And the selfish part of me wanted to stick my heels in the ground and DRAG until I wore him out.
Izak has spent very little time away from us, unless with close friends or family. Because of Covid and chance, he ended up having TWO week long sleep away camps this summer. He dreaded the first, and didn’t make it the whole week before I had to go get him. Honestly, I wasn’t sad about it. We missed him too! He is soon heading to the second, and he has been “dragging his heels” about it. We had a great talk today about attitude and how it helps our mood. It is OK to be uncomfortable. It is ok to be scared, nervous, fearful… but he is going either way. So he can choose to go with a hopeful attitude, or a poopy one. I do think he is choosing hope.
These tests in life are opportunities. They don’t come around often, hopefully. But each time we survive something scary, we gain confidence for the next attack. The next time you are facing something scary or uncomfortable, consider handling it in such a way that you will be able to look back on it and feel proud of how you handled yourself. And maybe remind yourself throughout it, “I can do hard things.”
We are in a unique situation right now. Never in our lifetimes have we been forced to seclude ourselves from “unnecessary” work, activities and socializing. We have been hearing for years about how we should get our noses out of our phones and in front of each other, and now, we’re being forced to do the opposite. And we’re sad about it.
Before Denver ratcheted up our “social distancing” a close PA friend of mine treated a woman who they then tested for COVID-19. My friend self-quarantined for 3 days while waiting for the results. She is a lot like me. Social. Type A. She had her house cleaned (which was already clean) in the first 3 hours. She panicked, “What am I going to do if I have to be here for 2 weeks?!”
Talking to her on the phone I felt a pang of jealousy at the thought of it. I will admit, I’ve been known to be bummed I don’t get sick more often for the excuse it provides me to BE STILL.
I know. I can’t believe I just admitted that to you.
Truth is, I think facing the possibility through my friend put me in a different mindset by the time our orders came to sit still. I embraced it with a little more giddy than I should admit. I looked forward to a discomfort level that would make me use the word “bored”. (A bad word in my house growing up.) I wanted to be sick of my kids. I was excited to see how long I could go without going to the grocery store. This is big for a woman who normally goes daily. I thought it would be kind of fun to be down to the canned goods and an empty freezer… be a little bit miserable for some reason.
My husband is a financial planner. The kind who really cares about each and every one of his clients. So watching the daily plummet has been a little bit like hell for him. He was supposed to have back surgery, which of course has been cancelled, and he was fighting a cold or allergies bad enough to make even the happiest guy miserable. He’s an annoyingly happy guy by nature. Not even all this could prevent him from smiling and loving on us all like the strong, happy, loving man he is when things are going smoothly.
We have both taken the opportunity for real discussions with our kids. I have spent a LOT more time in the kitchen. I’m doing my best to keep their brains running, while also getting to enjoy a new pace. This is a challenge that I think will teach us all so much and this will likely never happen again in our lifetimes! That alone is reason to use it for good. Love each other better. Love ourselves better. Practice loving. Practice all the calm and awareness we’re usually too busy (and comfortable) to practice.