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Category Archives: Self Care

A Deeper Call to Being Child-Free

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Artist: Katie m. Berggren

I knew from the age of 4 that I did not want to have children. “I’m going to have puppies!” was my declaration when someone imposed their kid-wanting assumptions on me, when I was just a kid myself (why do people do that?). Throughout my childhood, I didn’t like dolls and preferred stuffed animals. It is believed that children hold the most genuine of truths, so I am happy to say that 40 years later, I have no regrets about being  child-free.

Throughout my teen and early adult years, the desire to have children did not present itself. “But what if you regret not having kids?” was the common response I received from others. As I grew older, I kept my mind open to the idea that I might meet the right person who would pull this maternal desire out of me. But that never happened. Except for two situations that lasted about a week, I never came up against a desire to have kids.

One of the situations where I did, was after a painful and disappointing relationship ended. I was in my late 20’s and believed that I had so much love to give, and needed to give it to someone who needed it. As I said before this lasted for about a week. I realized that, for me, this wasn’t a good enough reason to have kids. This belief was simply another co-dependent belief akin to my preexisting beliefs of: “if I only had the right relationship (job, home, lifestyle, etc.) then I will be whole and happy.” I think I knew then that replacing a baby for a relationship just wasn’t the answer.

As I look back, I am so glad I never became a mother. I know myself too well. I love my freedom and free-time. I cringe when it comes to unsolicited obligation and hate stopping what I’ve started. I know most people do, but when I have to sacrifice these things, I become depressingly miserable.

More importantly, I believe my life’s journey has been about growing and healing myself to the point that I truly needed to know how to mother myself. A few years ago, when I mentioned my decision to be child-free to a woman (that I have a lot of respect for), she replied with “You were too hurt”. I was immediately angry inside as my brain scrambled as if I had been clocked in the head. I didn’t know how to respond, and I didn’t want to ask for clarification. Now I know what she meant. This part of me that was hurt has always been here and wasn’t going to make room for anyone else, and I respect that. This hurt part in me needed me to be its mother, and being a mother to anyone else was not going to work.

I am grateful for my 20-something self that knew I couldn’t solve my heartbreak with a baby. There was a wisdom there that would reveal more of itself later. Yes, I do have so much love to give, and yes, there is someone who needs it. That person in need is myself, and I have more than enough on my plate when I take on that task.

Am I saying that you can’t mother yourself if you have kids? Absolutely not. I know many women who do a lot of inner-healing while raising children. Am I saying that every child-free person has a deep pain that needs healing? Definitely not. The decision to be child-free is an individual one, and I can only speak for myself. I have no desire to have children and  I truly believe that my decision to be child-free was born from a deep need for something else. There was a core place in me that was screaming for care, and needed all of me to attend to that care. Truth be told, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Re-Adjusting: Resurrection and Transformation

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Source: pexels.com

If you have ever experienced the death (or loss) of a loved one, you know that your life becomes a series of firsts. First birthday without them, first holiday, first year, and so on. So here I am in my first month without him.

These last 30-days have been a slow drip through the surreal. My emotions have ranged from acceptance to anger, but mostly I just want to be in silence. My hospice grief counselor says I am right on schedule for feeling all the feels. She mentions that after 2-3 weeks the shock usually wears off and the emotions begin to rise. This feels about right, because it has only been recently that I have felt more anger and irritability mixed in with the pre-existing sadness.

I wish I could go on retreat, somewhere in the hills or forest, and just be in silence with every emotion that arises. This feels like the ideal thing to do, but instead I go to work, and mostly it has been okay. After a full day I am exhausted and do nothing (and I am grateful for the ability to do nothing). Sometimes I get a burst of energy, but as quickly as it comes, it slips away (I guess that’s why it’s a burst).

Being in my grieving life, and “old life” has had it’s consequences. One day, I came home form work to suddenly feel a horribly paralyzing anxiety that left me feeling physically, emotionally, and mentally agitated for hours. I realized that being in both my grieving life and my “old routine” life felt like a schism, and that living in both worlds was/is probably too opposing for my psyche.

The flashbacks have been the hardest. At times I can’t stop thinking about my father’s last days. I remember the lightness of his thin body, his agitated body movements, the pained expressions on his face, and the sadness in his eyes. The inability for us to verbally communicate haunts me as I wonder if he was in more pain that we knew. I wonder if he was scared. I wonder if dying was scary for him.

Then there’s the wondering. Wondering if he really had dementia. Wondering if there was something else going on and that we could have helped him more. Everything happened so fast that we didn’t get a chance for a decent second option or tests. This helpless experience has made it easy to feel guilty for not doing more, especially before he became symptomatic.

On most days, it’s the experience of a routine that no longer is. I never realized how much my dad was on my mind. Like an idling car, he must have been a constant hum in my subconscious. I still wake with the thought of calling my dad to see how he is doing, or spontaneously have the desire to tell him what I saw that day. If I have a really good cup of coffee, I think of him and sending some to him. One afternoon I sat in a medical lab waiting for a blood draw. I imagined the many times he did the same. Even though he was relatively healthy, he had routine blood draws and doctor visits to monitor his health. I imagined how this must have been so tiresome for him.

Despite all this, I trust that both he and I are well. I trust that I will land in my new normal. I trust that dreams of him are our way of staying connected and I trust he is with me in my waking life.

With today being Easter, I find myself more aware of resurrection. It’s everywhere all the time! A resurrection is an awakening, and re-birthing, a renewal, and a transformation. On my dad’s final days, I was well aware that he was in his own transformational journey. It was intense to feel our lives changing and falling into deep stillness. At that time I wondered what both our resurrections would look like.

Today I still wonder, and yet know, that resurrection and transformation is happening in it’s own slow and gentle way everyday. Anxiety attacks and all.

Earthquakes and Landscapes: Day 1 without Dad

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Today I awoke on my first day home without my father.

I had spent the greater part of February in his home 3-hours away, in an unexpected whirlwind of emotional chaos, intense vulnerability, and the eventual release of him as I watched him being taken away for cremation.

I know enough to not expect that I’d return home to life as I knew it. “Now back to your regularly scheduled program” does not apply here.

I know that my life is now altered. Yes, everyday, our lives change. Each day is unlike the next. But this is different. There are these life-altering events that completely changes the landscape. Subtle shifts become earthquakes and aftershocks.

Upon waking, I take it slow. “What’s next?” in every moment. I try some “old life” on by checking e-mail (that felt okay, let’s try…) listening to a recorded call from a training I’m in (yeah, not quite feeing it. Let’s try…) suddenly it’s too much. My heart aches and I feel my energy in my belly. I remember a song that feels the way I feel now.

I listen to “Winter” by Tori Amos on repeat and break down sobbing just as I need to. Every part of me vibrating in grief. Why does life seem so stupid. All the things that took up space in my life seem so ridiculous. I should have spent more time with him. Should have, should have, should have….

 

The Gifts of Darkness: An Invitation for Self-Care and Connection

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Image by Catherine Hyde

Image by Catherine Hyde

During the Winter Solstice we experience the shortest day and longest night of the year. This time of extended darkness (the longest of the year) can bring about mixed feelings depending on your situation. For some, having longer nights brings about little disruption to daily life. However for others, this time can brings discomfort on many levels.  In either case, the Winter Solstice can serve as a time to ground and honor where we have been, and where we would like to go.

Darkness of all sorts serves a purpose. Seasonally, the darkness allows for rest and rejuvenation. Emotionally, the darkness can facilitate a stillness we can harness to turn inwards, dream, connect, and reflect. Like the plants that feed on the sun’s energy, so do we need a break from the light. This break brings about balance, rest, and an opportunity for deep connection to ourselves. Dreams are born here in this place of darkness. The Winter Solstice becomes an invitation to access these gifts that darkness brings by taking a pause, turning inward, reflecting on what is, and birthing dreams of what can be.

The day after the Winter Solstice, we begin to see longer days, and shorter nights. We slowly begin to feel more of the sun’s light and energy allowing us to move forward from our dream state. In these days after the Winter Solstice, we can be in the planning stage of manifesting our newborn dreams, and begin to take action on bringing them to light.

I also like to think of this time as a reminder that, no matter how dark our days, there is the promise of light. When in the darkness, it can be hard to imagine anything different. However nature always serves as a living example of how life works.

If time allows, I invite you to take this opportunity to connect with yourself, especially if you are about to step into holiday festivities where you will be surrounded by family and/or friends. A moment of connection in any manner (prayer, mediation, silence, journaling, etc.) is a beautiful way to practice self-care as it can really help ground you before stepping into relationships with others. The added bonus is: others then get the best you available.

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, this year’s Winter Solstice will be on December21 or 22 (for your exact day/time go to: http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/winter-solstice.html).

Here are some suggestions on ways to acknowledge the Winter Solstice and connect with yourself:

 Simple Activities:

  • Make a big pot of soup rich with grounding vegetables (i.e. potatoes, carrots and other root vegetables) and warm spices. If possible, eat early

  • Drink warm liquids, ideally something sweet, spicy and grounding like chai

  • If you have a fireplace, light a fire and spend time in prayer, mediation, or silence

  • Light those special candles you have been saving (use fire-safe precautions)

  • Spend time in contemplation through journaling, drawing, or other creative outlet. Explore your year and write down what you’d like to see in the new year.

  • Hang an evergreen wreath on your door (evergreens are a symbol of protection, prosperity, renewal, and the continuation of life)

 Rituals:

 Intention Setting Ritual:

  1. Clear the space by smudging sage, or by noise through clapping or ringing a bell 3 times.

  2. In silence, settle into your body by taking a deep breath in and exhale slowly.

  3. Allow yourself to let go of the day’s thoughts and worries.

  4. Ask yourself, “What do I want to manifest in the next six months?”

  5. When you have several intentions, write them down on small pieces of paper.

  6. As these intentions come into being, place them into a container. In 6 months, open your container to review what dreams you manifested.

You can also do this ritual at every New Moon and collect manifested dreams throughout the year. At the end of the year, open your container to review what dreams you manifested.

 Releasing Ceremony:

This ceremony is best done out doors, or indoors using a fireplace. An indoor option is also offered in the instructions.

  1. Light a fire outdoors in a grill or fire pit, or use an indoor fireplace.

  2. Light candles and clear the space by smudging sage, or by noise through clapping or ringing a bell 3 times.

  3. In silence, settle into your body by taking a deep breath in and exhale slowly.

  4. Allow yourself to let go of the day’s thoughts and worries.

  5. Ask yourself, “What do I want to release? What does not serve me?” This can include habits or patterns that get in the way of manifesting your intentions.

  6. On small pieces of paper write down what you want to release. At the end of each item write “Be Gone!”

  7. Read each item out loud (or to yourself silently) and toss them, one by one, into the fire. If indoors you can use a fireplace, use s shredder, or cut into small pieces using scissors.

  8. Give gratitude for new beginnings and the light that is on its way.

 Welcoming the Light Ceremony:

  1. Place one large unlit candle at the center of the table, and several smaller unit candles (such a tea light candles) near you.

  2. Turn off all the lights and spend a moment in darkness, as a symbol of honoring the gifts of darkness and welcoming the light.

  3. Light the large candle and offer a blessing.

  4. One by one, light each small candle from the main flame and place each one in a circle or spiral around the main one.

  5. When all candles are lit, give gratitude for new beginnings and the light that is on its way.

Are you a woman who would you like deeper, more personalized guidance in letting go of what no longer serves you, and bringing in more of what you do want into your life? I offer 1:1 coaching programs designed to help women release emotional blocks, and step into their power and voice. To apply go to: http://www.medicinanepantla.com/#!strategy-session-request/s57j1

What’s Wrong With Wanting More?

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“What’s wrong with wanting more? If you can fly then soar! With all there is, why settle for just a piece of sky?”

Last Thursday night, at the Adventures in Living class at Inner Light Ministries​, Rev. D referenced the movie Yentl, and my heart cracked open as I circled back to a sweet place in time for me.

I was in my mid 20’s, my mother had just passed away, and I was in the throws of a restlessness to live my life fully. My boss, who was a mother figure to me (I lived out of state and away from family), mentioned the movie Yentl to me. As I watched it, I identified so strongly with this character who wanted more than her little town could giver her, and was willing to do anything for what she knew was hers, even at the cost of going against cultural norms.

When I heard “A Piece of Sky”, I felt it directly pierce into my heart and soul as it showed me a stronger part of myself I yet had words for. I didn’t know it then, but this song was showing me a place I would eventually land in. The truer part of myself. At the time, I believed this song wholeheartedly, but still had a significant amount of self doubt and shame that would keep me hacking through the unpaved journey of my life.

And now, here I was in my early 40’s in Rev. D’s class, hearing her refer to this film. She was asking the question of “How badly do you want it?” “It” being our highest aspiration for being in the Adventures in Living class. For myself, this translates into, my vision for my highest self.

“How badly do you want it?” she asked, and I remembered a time when I thought it was bad to want, selfish to want, greedy to want, sinful to want, unappreciative to want. Although I shook a lot of those beliefs off of me over time, I know there is enough of these beliefs in me that hold me back in these covert and sub/unconscious ways.

How badly do I want it? It being a connected, empowered, and joy filled life. I want it with all of the passion “A Piece of Sky” embodies. Although it took a while, I can now say that I fully feel “A Piece of Sky”, not as a future vision, but as a complete NOW. I feel this song in my bones and my heart expands.

So I share this song with you, in hopes that you have a dream and are confident in wanting more, and can ask yourself “How badly do you want it?”

Anzaldúa, Coyolxahqui , and Dorothy: Homecoming and Re-Membering

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coyoEarlier this month I attended a conference titled: “The Feminist Architecture of Gloria Anzaldúa: New Translations, Crossings and Pedagogies in Anzaldúan Thought”. Although I only could attend half of day 2, it felt like an intense, and deeply rooted homecoming.

I first became familiar with Gloria Anzaldúa’s  work in 1996, when I was an undergraduate student at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA. At that time I had been away from my hometown of Salinas, CA for 5 years. I was 24 years old and wrestling with issues of cultural identity, gender roles, academic poverty, romantic partnership, my place in my family and the world outside it. Although I enjoyed new experiences, I felt out of place and conflicted in the mainly White  campus. Being that Salinas is an agricultural town, with a predominantly Mexican heritage population, the 5 years away from it left me with mixed feelings of being hungry for new experiences and homesickness for the small things that brought me what comfort.

I was in a Feminist Studies, Cultural Studies class when I was introduced to Anzaldúa’s work. At that time, reading Anzaldúa’s work was both nourishing and challenging, I did not consider myself an academic, but loved learning. Anzaldúa and other feminist authors used words that were unfamiliar to me, and described concepts that felt bigger than what I was ready to understand. Yet somehow, I could feel some sense of familiarity as some concepts did resonate with me, and helped me to name some of the struggles and challenges I was facing as I questioned parts of my “otherness”.

Despite feeling too green to completely understand Chicana feminist texts, I kept their books close to me, taking them with me to every place I relocated to. Anzaldúa and other Chicana feminists writers became older and wiser sisters to me, and over time, I turned to them when I needed a reminder of where I came from, and a connection to a part of me that I was yet to meet. I suppose I subconsciously knew that I would eventually grow into their works, and as a result, grow more into myself.

When I decided to attend the conference this month, it was a complete confirmation that I had indeed grown into, not only knowing, but into living many of the experiences Anzaldúa describes. As I slept that night, I dreamt of earthquakes. An internal experience I am all too familiar with. I often have felt aspects of my internal world crash or adjust against each other, each piece of me trying to make sense of me. This has resulted in seeing pieces of me reflected in various people, places, works of art, and communities. It has mostly left me feeling out of place everywhere. A stranger among strangers and an outsider among outsiders. It seems I have spent my life trying to find people and places where I can see my complete reflection. In failing to find this, I resigned to accepting my outcast nature.

At the conference, I could feel the beginning of something magical happening. The day after the conference,  I revisited Anzaldúa’s words and I felt my parts come together, and my whole being finally reflected back to me. It felt like abrazos, like the “whole” I have been searching for. It was blissful and frightening. Too new to feel true.

Like Dorothy about to leave Oz, I wondered why I didn’t understand these lessons all along. The words were there and so close to me for so many years,  yet I couldn’t see their deeper application to my life. How much suffering could I have spared myself had I just opened Anzaldúa’s  books again? And like Dorothy, I knew that I had to make the journey myself, because I wouldn’t (and didn’t) believe the truth if it was told to me.

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Dorothy’s lesson of “There’s no place like home” always sat awkwardly with me for many years. Especially those years where I was deep in my journey away from home (both physically, emotionally, and spiritually). But I understand now that the home she refers to is not the little farmhouse in Kansas, but the home that has been with me all along. Even before my time. It is my birthright, my divinity, my ever-evolving identity, and communion with the divine itself.

It is connecting with my favorite parts, getting to know them, accepting them, loving them. It is coming home to my body, this body that has devoted itself to my very survival.

“With the loss of the familiar and the unknown ahead, you struggle to regain your balance, reintegrate yourself (put Coyolxauhqui together), and repair the damage. You must, like the shaman, find a way to call your spirit home. Every paroxysm has the potential of initiating you to something new, giving you a chance to reconstruct yourself, forcing you to rework your description of self, world, and your place in it (reality)…” G. Anzaldúa “this bridge we call home: radical visions for transformation”

I have studied psychology, indigenous healing, myth, the S/hero’s Journey, shadow and light integration, chakras, dreamwork, the enneagram, and so much more, all in the attempt to make sense of myself of this world. All these have played a significant role in my healing. I wouldn’t be here without them. Re-connecting to Anzaldúa’s work has been both the journey home and the existential glue that fuses these pieces together.

More importantly, it is the fact that she speaks of psychology, existentialism, spirituality, and so on with concepts and language that is in my blood. She uses words and concepts that are culturally relevant to me. They are my cultural inheritance, so I have had them all along. Re-connecting with Anzaldúa has guided me to re-connecting  with myself on a deeper level that no colonization can take away from me, hard as it may try.

Colposcopy Pains: What I Wish I Would Have Done

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This post is going to talk about gynecology stuffs, specifically: the colposcopy. If you don’t want to know about this fucked up vagina procedure, feel free to skip, or better yet, pass this on to someone who you love who has a vagina.

A colposcopy is done when your have an abnormal pap smear that warrants a closer look. It is a way to screen for precancerous or cancerous cells. A colposcopy truly can turn physically and emotionally painful quickly, and the emotional roller-coaster that can follow is real. I have had two colposcopies before, both yielding no further action. However the one I had today was a worse experience than the other two. Then again, maybe I have some kind of post-colposcopy amnesia that keeps me from running in the opposite direction of the gyno’s office. This is partly why I am writing this post; so that maybe – just maybe – I will take my own advice should I (better not) have to do this procedure again. Mostly I hope this information helps you be better prepared for a colposcopy in the event that you need one.

My vagina is hard to put a speculum into. At 42 it’s drier and, even with lube, my doctor had to try three different speculums before finding the one that wouldn’t cause me too much pain and help her see what she needed to. Even then, she had to take the speculum out, and re-insert it twice because the walls of my vagina kept pushing in. Because my vagina was being stubborn, this colposcopy lasted much longer than usual. I’ve heard most sources say the procedure takes around 5-10 minutes, but mine felt like it took 15-20 minutes. The pinching and prodding felt worse as time went by. I was nauseous, felt like I needed to go to the bathroom, and kept cramping. Every poke and pinch shot increasing pain through my body and towards the last 10 minutes I started crying ( I seriously told myself I wouldn’t cry this time). The pain was getting worse and I had a huge flood of painful emotions coming up. I felt helpless, ashamed, and angry. I wanted to love my body so much, and felt like somehow I betrayed it but having to go through this.

By the end I was dizzy and wobbly. It took me a little longer to get up off the table and get dressed. I felt like a wreak. The loneliness was still there overall I just felt icky. Thankfully I was given a pad for the inevitable bleeding that was to immediately follow. As I left the doctor’s office I dreaded going to work, I was emotionally raw, still in pain, and just wanted to lie down and hug my cervix. It’s been 8 hours and I am still feeling waves of pain on my cervix.

Looking back, here is what I wish I would have done.

  • Taken a Benzodiazepine. I have a prescription for Ativan that I use for significant anxiety. I don’t use it often but I sure could have used it this morning. I was so nervous, as I knew from past experience, that a colposcopy is painful. I’m not much of a talker, but I was quite the chatty Cathy with the physician’s assistant (who was a total love). I noticed it was hard for me to relax when the speculum was being inserted, which made the whole procedure more painful, and take longer.
  • Brought a friend. Something about this procedure leaves me feeling so scared and alone (even with a patient doctor and comforting physician’s assistant). I wish I would have brought the most compassionate person I know to be with me and hold my hand through the whole thing. Never underestimate the power of a safe compassionate presence. Plus, having someone to drive home would have been super nice.
  • Taken time off. I had the procedure done first thing in the morning, and I wish I would have taken the morning or day off. I was light-headed, sore, and walking slowly. Being able to lay in bed and drink hot tea would have been a great way to practice self-care.
  • Read this blog postSeriously. Her honesty and humor feel comforting to me now, and if I would have read the post BEFORE the procedure this morning, I would have done all of what I listed above.

Even if your vagina isn’t as stubborn as mine, a colposcopy is generally painful. I hope this information prepares you for the procedure. Many hugs to you!

Note: I do not have a sexual trauma history and have never had an abortion. If this is a part of your history, I highly recommend ramping up on support people and measures when having a colposcopy. The experience of having someone causing you pain in your vagina and not being able to make it stop can trigger strong feelings and memories of being violated and/or having painful vaginal procedures. Talk to your doctor before you schedule your colposcopy to see if they have any additional recommendations.

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