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Monday, March 30, 2009

Imaginary Life

Stuart recently had an article on his page by Christine Groth about the different kinds of thinking. I commented on his page about experimenting with creative thinking and a short correspondence ensued. I mentioned that I have been engaging in some creative thought before I go to sleep and that this has led to some very vivid and interesting dreams. I also mentioned to Stuart that I have an active imaginary life. Below is an edited excerpt of the email I just sent to him this morning.

My imaginary life is always changing. When I was a kid I told myself stories about the people I met. Even now when I am awake, I can create whole imaginary back stories for people. It keeps me entertained. I also like to daydream about the books I read.

My own imaginary back story is that I am an artist of some kind who is always involved in arts events. In this world, I know tons of Bohemians and artists. Sometimes I am a professional dancer or a full-time yoga teacher. Sometimes I am even a pop star (LOL). I dream about being a successful author too. When I can ignore the MS, I am a world-traveler as well. It is possible to have a vivid, imaginary life even when you are awake, you just have to suspend your realities and let your mind take you where it will...

Today I am grateful that I am tapping back into my creativity and imagining some other possibilities outside my current realities.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Snow day, MS and Excercise

I got a snow day! Actually I got a day and a half. I couldn't have been more thrilled. When I posted my journal yesterday, I was actually at work and in the worst of funks. No more than an hour passed before an announcement came at school that we were being dismissed early due to the snow. I think I cheered at least as loud as the kids. I beat the worst of the snow home. My husband was working from home so we got to hang out a bit. I also got to take a two hour nap in the middle of the week. My yoga class was cancelled too so I stayed home and kept warm. It snowed all night and we were given another day off today. Fortunately, the sun has come out and I should be headed to Arizona in a few hours to visit my mom for spring break. Needless to say, my attitude is swiftly improving.

On another note... Please check out the latest from Merelyme on Health Central. This week she writes about MS and excercise and I'm pleased to have contributed a short piece to this article. I will expand on some of the ideas I contributed to Merely's work in a later article here too.

I am excited for my upcoming trip. I am glad I will have time to relax and destress so I can put some thought into the issues on my mind without feeling overwhelmed. Things have even started to change since yesterday. At first I was dead certain that I had an obligation to be involved in the events unfolding in my school district but as I step back, I am beginning to ask myself, "What do I really want?" Somehow I keep coming back to the idea that maybe I don't want my old life or priorities back. Things have changed and I like my new, less demanding lifestyle and focus. I realize that relaxing, doing and teaching yoga are much more important to me than furthering my career as a public educator. I realize that I am less ambitious than I used to be. I don't really care about making a name for myself. I care about what is good for kids but I don't need to be recognized for the work I do. These days I would rather fly under the radar and keep my schedule as mellow as possible. I have not made any final decisions yet but my gut is telling me that I already have enough on my plate. Sometimes I think I should get a prescription for Provigil so I can feel less fatigue but then I question why. I have enough energy to do what I'm doing so why find more energy just so I can feel like I should be doing more. I do not think doing or achieving are the keys to my happiness now so why push it?

Today I am grateful for my snow day and some new clarity about my real desires.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Journal 3/26/09

I am feeling the weight of the world but I'm so tired. I fight my anxiety, battling against the current of a future I cannot solely control. Sometimes I just want someone else to provide me with answers and solutions. There are times when I just wish I could lay down and quit trying or caring but I have this deeper sense that I am responsible not just for my own survival but for a multitude of other lives as well.

Why this current tangent? It has been a busy week, I'm exhausted but the task of preparing myself for the next school year is looming. My school district has decide to restructure the English acquisition programs (ESL) in our district and this directly effects my students and my programs. Last night I went to a meeting to discuss this but I had this sense that most of the stakeholders in the decision-making process will not be involved in making the decisions. I realize that I don't have to be left out. I can apply to be part of the group that will make the decisions but I'm so tired. I want someone else to do this job. I want someone else to solve the problems but I am afraid that this is one of those times where I must attempt to participate for a greater good.

My profile lists "activism" as one of my interests. It is, has been for a long time, but now I just don't feel like I have the energy to do what must be done. Perhaps someone else will step up or appear to shoulder this burden but I am uncertain. Perhaps I will apply to help and not be accepted but I realize that despite my hesitations, I must try to help. This would have excited me a year ago but now I just long to do less, rest more and focus on teaching yoga. The ills in public education glare at me but I don't want to own them. I honestly want to just show up, do a good job in my room and then leave the work behind at the end of the day. I have been able to do this for a while but I can tell that things are shifting and I am going to have to look and plan beyond my current horizon. I am just so tired...

Today I am grateful that there is a vacation around the corner and time to rejuvenate so I can face the challenges of the future.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


When I went to yoga today the teacher's theme was purpose. She talked a lot about each of us having a purpose and she went on to claim that finding that purpose is the key to contentment.

Several months ago I was reading Yoga and the Quest for the True Self but after a while, the book started to make me anxious and unhappy. I was obsessed with finding my true self, my purpose etc... This fixation troubled me. I could not remember who I was before MS and after it I no longer had a sense of who I was and what I wanted. When I finally stopped trying so hard, things got easier. I started living much more in the moment and enjoying the little things as they came to pass. Eventually I had a recollection of who I am and realized that I had never left. This feeling has brought me a measure of peace. I no longer feel adrift in a universe with no answers for me. Today's yoga class did give me some pause though.

I asked my husband, "Do you think we all have a purpose?" This is a hard question, especially for someone who does not believe in a "higher power" or a "life after death." My husband commented that we all need a purpose to take us through this life. I asked if it was preordained or if we create it for ourselves. He said we create it. I think I agree with this idea but I wonder if I might see my own purpose differently if I did not look at life through an MS lens. Would I still be satisfied with where I am at right now? This is not a question I can actually answer because my life is my life. When I get to really thinking about something I like to think about it from many angles.

The other day I tried to visualize what my life might be like if I were living my fantasies. It was quite a bit different but when I look at where I am, I am not discontent. My fantasy world is different but not necessarily better.

My husband mentioned that his purpose was to be the best he could be although that might change on any given day. I like that way of thinking. I think that might be my purpose too; giving life my all on any given day. Perfection, impressing others or overall outcome are not necessarily that important, like in yoga, it is the practice that counts.

I am curious what other people think about my question, "Do we all have a purpose?" Feel free to comment.

Today I am grateful for the sunshine and the fact that I have the time and energy to ponder one of life's great philosophical questions.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood

It was hard but I got myself up in just enough time to go to a 9:00 am yoga class. To the early birds of the world I'm sure this sounds pathetic but for me, when the weekend hits, it's all about catching up on sleep. Even right now I am contemplating a nap (LOL). Anyway... it was so beautiful outdoors when I stepped out to go to yoga that I couldn't help but say, "Good morning sun, it's good to be alive." I even made sure no one was looking and then spread my arms out into a sun salutation. Sometimes I even crack myself up.

I had a great yoga practice today at the studio where I teach. The owner is turning into my new favorite teacher so it was worth it to get up early and take her class.

When I got home, the day was even nicer and my husband was busy turning all the dirt in the yard so he could lay sod. Amazingly, he had the whole yard ready by about noon and now he is just finishing up. It looks great. I made my own small contribution by weeding, sweeping the pathways around the yard and cleaning up debris. I actually also helped carry the sod off the truck and I imagine that's why a nap is now creeping up on me. Either way, it was great to get outdoors, smell the fresh earth and enjoy the advent of spring.

Today I am grateful for the return of spring.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

How do you decide whether to take MS meds?

Chances are that if you have MS you have asked this question at one time or another. Chances are that if you are related to someone with MS that you have also wondered about treatments. This week Merelyme addresses this all important question on Health Central. Stop by and check out her article and all the comments from the MS community. You will even find a quote from your's truly in the article.
Happy reading,

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

MS support group and more perspective

I have been busy lately. To adjust, I schedule a nap date with myself after each flurry of activity. This has been working well so far. On Monday I had my first MS "Self-Help Group" meeting so I went home right after work to rest and prepare for Tuesday.

The group came right on the heels of my post about perspective. Somehow that line of thinking proved very important for me when I went to the group. Sometimes I get so caught up in being tired and sick or planning to avoid those states that I cannot take my mind off MS. Two of the women in the group mentioned that they now go days at a time without thinking about MS. I realized that I have not done this. In fact, I don't think a day has gone by since my diagnosis where MS has not crossed my mind. Perhaps this is unavoidable as long as I blog here but hearing these women talk, I thought, "I want that kind of peace."

One of the women in the group has been diagnosed for twelve years now and she told me that she has never taken MS meds. She has an excellent quality of life and she does not let MS affect her planning or lifestyle. While it seems her symptoms are minimal and that may account for her attitude, hearing her talk really gave me a state of mind to aspire to. I am not trying to forget or deny the MS but I am working hard to get rid of my fears about the future. I think this group is going to be good for me.

There was also a woman at the group who was just diagnosed in the last two weeks. She did not seem afraid or disturbed at all. I admire that. She has not had a serious exacerbation but learned of her MS because of some numbness in her arm. I wonder if generally feeling ok takes some of the fear out of the disease. As I thought this, I wondered if my state of mind might be better if I had never experienced a trauma as a result of my disease. When I feel bad it is hard for me to avoid conjuring up graphic sensory memories of vomiting blood in the waiting room of the hospital. I remember what it was like to suffer vertigo that questioned the laws of gravity. I remember skull pain, clenched muscles, crawling across my floor because I couldn't stand. I remember and I shudder.

I think that it is time to stop myself from reliving these memories. It is impossible to move on with my life productively if I am fixated on the worst parts of my disease experience. I think it is important to prepare for the worst but it does not need to involve negativity or painful memories and ideas. I do not intend to forget the lessons I have learned about slowing down, drawing boundaries or taking time for myself but I think a new chapter in my life is ready to dawn if I can let go of the trauma and just experience life as it comes.

Today I am grateful that I can learn from my experiences. As we often say in yoga,"Bowing to the teacher in all things because we can learn something from everyone and everything." Namaste.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The latest

Despite being busy, I cannot claim that I have the world's most interesting life... That is if you count out the sky diving, world travel and jet setting that make up my regular routine (not). Anyway, not too much to report here.

I made it through the first week of CSAP (our standardized testing) and I only have a few more days to go. I taught some nice yoga classes this week too. The yoga class I'm teaching at school is going very well so far. I have a number of super-engaged, very agile students who seem really into participating and that is refreshing. It is definitly a highlight for me right now. My Hatha class at the studio is also going well. On Thursday I had 11 students. I also got invited to a potluck at the studio in about a month and I am already excited for that.

I did get out of the house for a while on Thursday to catch a hockey game at the bar with my husband and a few friends. I know it's not much, but it was a change for me. I dragged through Friday and went to bed at about 9:30. I did make it to Joan's chat room last night were I enjoyed a lively conversation for over an hour. One of the things I realized when I was chatting is that a lot of people with MS seem to have the same concerns I mentioned in my previous post. One of the ladies at the chat asked, "How can I make other people understand why I overreact to little things?" Her question made me realize that we cannot often reach that understanding unless we have walked a mile in someone else's shoes. That is one of the best parts about meeting and talking to others with MS. Almost every time I talk to someone else with MS, or even with another chronic illness, we find common ground in our experiences and emotions around being ill.

I think illness amplifies our concerns. When I feel well physically it is much easier to be positive and to look ahead. When I feel ill or exhausted, I lose faith in my ability to do new things and even doubt my ability to do the small things I do every day. I think an important part of perspective is realizing that how I feel in any given moment, is not my permanent reality. It is important to enjoy the good times and the good things. They are what makes life worth doing. Just because one day I feel paralyzed with doubt, it does not mean I need feel that way for eternity. This perspective is incredibly helpful. Almost as often as I feel crushed by life, I feel consumed with almost indescribable joy. I may fixate on the bad but in reality, there is probably just about as much good. This seems like an important thing to remember.

Right now I am grateful to have several things I am looking forward to. On Monday I will go to my first newly diagnosed group with people my age. At the end of the month, I am going to visit my mom for spring break and next month I will go to the yoga teacher potluck I mentioned. Spring is coming and I can feel it livening me up little by little.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Fear and MS

I imagine that everyone who learns they have a life-altering illness or disease goes through a period or times of fear. I know I have mentioned this before but during this past year, I have really had to confront my mortatlity for the first time. I used to feel so invincible. It was as though I could do anything I put my mind to. Now I am less certain of myself. I worry about taking on too much. At moments I find myself almost paralyzed by thoughts of the future. I think that is because I often have to psyche myself up and remind myself I can get through the week or even the day. When I look too far into the future, I am filled with anxiety and dread.

I want to plan for next school year. I want to plan for the summer but when I think about what needs to be done, I get terrified and it seems the only way to calm myself is to focus back on the day where I am. This may not be a bad thing. It keeps me very present. I have been learning to realign my mind this way. It was really only a few days ago when I realized that it was the future that was at the root of almost all the anxiety I experience. This was a good revelation because I think it is easier to confront the fears that can be identified, rather than those that are hazy and disturbing.

Today I am grateful to know the source of my fear so I can begin to confront it.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Yoga and MS: Part 3

“Good morning sun it’s good to be alive,” intoned Hayward, our yoga guide at Hawaii’s Yoga Oasis. Every day for years he has faced the sun and said this. I found myself repeating these words shortly after my diagnoses. I think I started welcoming the sun once I could stand on my own two feet again. The longer and better I could stand, the greater my joy. I think that once I could balance on one foot again that I knew I was going to be ok.

It was actual light that brought me toward healing from my first exacerbation. I remember that when I first was diagnosed, many people kept telling me about the candles they had lit for me. During the night I wrote about in Part 2, I used those candles as a guide.

I hadn’t slept in days. Days without sleep and large doses of steroids do strange things to people. The night before my healing began, I stayed up almost all night surfing the net and reading strange stories about the Nadja who is my namesake. In my heightened state it was as though we connected across time. When I closed my lap top to sleep, I began to drift off for the first time in a while and then I felt her beside me. My heart raced as for a minute, I thought I beheld her ghost. Then I startled fully awake to find this specter an image of my overactive imagination. That night as I struggled with the pain in my body, she visited again briefly. It was a dark and stormy night (literally) but I banished her from my room and set to healing myself with breathe.

I breathed, moving in circles through my vertigo but when I closed my eyes I felt as though I was tumbling. At this point, I focused on my breath, deepening it through the pain. The breath alone was not enough to stop my tumble so I began to imagine the candle my mother had lit for me at the Notre Dame cathedral. I followed the light of that candle in the dark place behind my eyes and for the first time in a long time, I was not afraid. I breathed and breathed. All the candles people had lit for me surrounded me and I was reassured by the voices of every teacher I ever knew. Perhaps everything that happened that night was the result of sleep deprivation and steroid psychosis, but whatever actually occurred, like Hayward, I came to embrace the sun.

I awoke with the feeling that I had just experienced months of yoga teacher training in one night. I had more clarity than ever before. Things are murkier now but in yoga we take about a “practice”, so I guess these days I do a lot of practicing. I still practice breath, patience, meditation and compassion for myself and when I teach, I try to practice karma yoga (giving). My desire as a teacher is to give some of what I have received, to share the joy and pleasure of yoga and to promote peace within myself and others. I truly receive more than I give but the practice itself brings me light. The light of yoga is what I give thanks for today.

Overdid it

I must have overdone it or something because yesterday's complaints are nothing compared to today's. I lay in bed half the day fighting nausea, muscle ache and a sore throat. I still feel lousy, almost lousy enough to call in tomorrow but not quite. This is a big week at our school because we start our mandated, standardized testing on Tuesday and it's serious stuff. I don't want to miss tomorrow because I want to preview the test and also do some last minute review with the kids but I could really use a day. I am keeping my fingers crossed that I will feel a lot better in the morning.

Today my husband pointed out that I almost always sick on Sundays. He said he knew why. I thought he was going to say it was because I was dreading the week but he surprised me. He said that I am doing too much on Saturdays and I need to slow down. He said I am doing two day's stuff in one day and I needed to just chill a little. I am glad he said this because I always feel guilty watching him do stuff around the house when I am doing little. I guess he would rather that I did less so I would have the energy for us to spend more time together. That sounds good because one of the things that was getting me down yesterday was how much my exhaustion has been getting in the way of me doing the things I really want to do. Next weekend I am going to try to be more mellow on Saturday to see if it helps.

Today I am grateful that my family has what we need, not just for survival but for actual comfort. I am grateful that I have a nice, warm, cozy bed to convalesce in when I feel bad.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Expend, exhaust, repeat

I am tired. I am tired of trying to figure out every day if I will make it to my next nap without going through a period of discomfort and disgust. Sometimes I just wish I could stop looking at my life through the lens of chronic illness. Before, the issue was always time. I felt like I did not have enough time to do everything I had planned. Now I don't make that many plans so it's not really a huge issue and yet all my sleeping seems to get in the way of doing some of the things I most want to do. Lately I am rarely to sick to clean my house, cook dinner and go to work but by the time I have taken care of the musts, I am exhausted and it is time to sleep again so I won't get really sick. Don't get me wrong, I love sleeping, I just hate watching the time I planned to spend writing or reading constantly being eaten up.

I have been scarce in blogland. I can hardly find the time to write and I almost never have the time to read the way I want to. There are all these ideas of things I want to write and things I want to create but I fear they may have to wait until my next vacation. I think it is that way with just about everyone but before I was sick, I seemed to find the time and energy to do it all. Today I was actually up at 7:30, went to an hour and fifteen minutes of yoga, ran an errand and cleaned my house all by 2:00 pm. The problem is that I started to turn into a pumpkin around 1:00 and by 2:45 I was already taking a nap. I slept for two hours and by then, the afternoon was almost gone. Again, don't get me wrong, the nap was awesome but now it's almost time to leave home for the evening and I never wrote the things I wanted to write today. I did not read anything and I created nothing.

My husband told me that the time changes tonight and all I can think of is how tired I am going to be all week. I have learned not to think too much about this. Such thoughts just make me more tired but still I long for all the energy I used to take for granted. Why is staying out past 9:00 pm a chore?

Today I am grateful that these are the least of my worries. I will not be so self-absorbed as to imagine that I have much to complain of. This is a good life and I value it but still I hunger for something more. I am grateful that I hunger for more. There was a time when I lost all interest or hunger for anything. Now I know that my future is not dimmed, it is just different...

Friday, March 6, 2009

Journal 3/06/09

I find life a twisted path that I continue to navigate with varying degrees of success. There is a part of me that desires complete control and another part of me that wants to surrender all my will to come what may. These desires compete and sometimes one outstrips the other. If MS has taught me nothing, it is that I am not in control but old habits die hard. I want to let go, quit grasping so hard for the reigns but sometimes it is as though I canot live without the illusion that I can somehow manipulate my life and my health to make them as I would have them. I pat myself on the back for taking care of things. I pat myself on the back for getting through each day but more and more I find that I must just accept things as they come. When I must push through pain and adversity I will if I can but I am beginning to find that by resting when my body tells me to rest, easing my grasp on the reigns and living one day at a time, I am more satisfied with the ultimate outcomes in my daily existence.

Accepting that I am not in control is hard. Yesterday when I taught yoga I encouraged my students to let go of any need they might have for control. I told them that all we can really control on any given day is our state of mind. This is true but boy is it hard to control ones state of mind all the time. My therapist said it is ok to feel what you feel. I try to do this to without falling apart at the seams. For me I think it is ok to feel sad or anxious when I do, I just cannot let it consume me.

So what have I been up to lately? I have just been trying to make the best of each day. I have been trying to enjoy the things that I enjoy and to carry the good feelings from those things around with me. I think I feel the very best when I am teaching yoga and right afterwards. I guess that means I just have to teach a lot of yoga.

Today I am grateful that I have the opportunity to teach yoga almost every day.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Guest Post by Sarah Scrafford

Hello all Sarah recently emailed me about an interest in guest posting here on my blog to fine-tune her writing skills and to begin marketing herself as a writer to a larger audience. Being of the writer sort myself I promised to help her out. Below please find her article about cross training and then go check out her site for yourself by following the links. Good luck Sarah!

Train Your Sight on Cross Training: by Sarah Scrafford

I’ve been working out for at least 8 months now, and although my stamina levels have gone up and I’ve lost quite a number of pounds, my overall fitness was not anything to write home about. It’s not like I was slouching off at the gym – I jogged for half an hour on the treadmill, cycled for another 20 minutes, and did a few abdominal crunches. But it wasn’t enough, and I didn’t know what I was doing wrong until a new trainer came along and introduced me to the world of cross training.

For the uninitiated, cross training involves a fitness routine that works every part of your body. While jogging and cycling are good exercises, they are cardio workouts that improve your stamina and help burn calories and decrease fat. You need to build your strength with lean muscle mass and also increase your flexibility and balance with techniques like yoga and tai chi.

When you lift weights, do squats and lunges, and get involved in other exercises that tone your muscles, you improve the way you look. You lose sagging flesh, your butt firms up and your breasts become perky. Your skin becomes tighter and your posture improves. Yoga, tai chi or other similar exercises help you relax and improve your mood and overall well-being.

Cross training also helps you avoid injuries, especially the repetitive ones that are caused by strain to your body parts that are used regularly when you exercise or play a sport. You also prevent falls and accidents that happen because of muscular imbalances – when you workout without training all your muscles equally, some become more developed than others, and this causes you to lose your balance and sustain injuries.

If you’re worried about packing in all these exercises into the one hour you spend at the gym, cross training is not done in a day. And that’s the best part of this workout – you break the monotony of the gym by doing different sets of exercises each day. If it’s jogging and leg workouts one day, it’s the cycle and hand exercises the other. You work on your quads and hamstrings one day and your biceps and triceps the next.

Remember though, not to ignore your cardio workouts. They’re very important if you’re trying to lose excess weight and improve your stamina. Cross training is invaluable when it comes to training for any sport, be it running marathons or playing tennis. Rather than exercising just the muscles you use for the game, you need to improve your overall fitness and boost your stamina. And when you cross train for a month or so, you’ll find your energy levels going up and your tiredness quotient coming down. So try it today, and feel the difference.


This article is contributed by Sarah Scrafford, who regularly writes on the topic of online pharmacy technician schools. She invites your questions, comments and freelancing job inquiries at her email address: