All that goodness makes me sick — or — Look out! A saber tooth tiger!

It started at 1:38 am. I know this because it was my one-year old’s second waking of the night and I checked the clock. I could feel a weird dryness in the back of my throat. I noted it while Aidan nursed, then went back to sleep five minutes later when he did.

At 4:03, again nursing Aidan, I noticed the dryness had turned to minor pain. Shit. I was getting a cold.

I’ve never had the opportunity to track so diligently the onset of a viral infection. I guess I can add that to the list of gifts I’ve gotten from my son’s frequent wakings.

I meant that sarcastically — you know, gifts like permanent black circles around my eyes and chronic mush for brains — but actually, there are true gifts, like sweet time spent with him and witnessing his maturing ability to put himself back to sleep. Last night’s “gift” could be considered genuine because, believe it or not, I hauled my exhausted butt out of bed to down vitamin C and spray my throat.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to have helped. I definitely feel sicker this morning.

But last night, at 4:32 (Aidan was up again… He had a rough night), I got to thinking about why I was getting sick.

Yes, of course, I know. The cause of my sore throat was/is likely a virus. But there are viruses around us all the time and mostly, I don’t get sick. (Though, I have to admit, I’ve gotten sick SO much since Aidan was born.) (Probably another gift from those frequent wakings.) So, why this time? Why now?

The usual answer to that question (yes, it’s a habit of mine to ask and has been since my parents taught me to as a kid) is I’m doing too much and I need to slow down. Another common one is that something is making me deeply sad and I need to more consciously grieve. As a kid, it was often about being afraid or otherwise wanting to avoid something. Getting sick has always been tied closely to my emotional state, and it’s nearly always serving some purpose.

Well, when I asked myself this question last night, as my little son slurped comfort as fast as his mouth could go, a super clear and immediate answer surfaced: I’m upper limiting myself.

A few months ago, my business coach recommended I read a book called The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks. It resonated so deeply I near fell over from the vibration. The premise is this: In the scope of human history, we have only very recently begun to enjoy relative ease of living. The vast majority of our existence has been fraught with frequent and life-threatening peril (think starvation, exposure, saber tooth tigers…). Consequently, we are not wired, in a literal, evolutionary way, for trusting our good fortune and reveling in good feelings. Such goodness, in fact, freaks us out, and we do all manner of things to bring ourselves back into more familiar (and therefore, comfortable) feelings like worry, doubt and dissatisfaction. Hendricks proposes that we each have an upper limit to how much goodness we can tolerate and, when we exceed that limit, we do stuff to bring ourselves back under the line, stuff like worry obsessively, criticize ourselves and others, deflect compliments, hide significant feelings… and get sick.

Well yesterday, I was feeling REALLY good. With a nod to Elastigirl and Edna as my copilot, I was exercising my super powers and taking steps to live my purpose. And I was LOVING it. I think the word I chose in last night’s blog was “exhilarated.” So a few hours later, when I discovered myself getting sick, it seemed incredibly (pun intended) clear. I’d crossed my upper limit and it was time, according to my ancestral programming, to pull back.

In fact, if I look back on the last few hours of my evening, I can already begin to see it. First, I was craving (and eating!) cookies. This is unusual for me. I typically don’t eat white sugar and if I have something like a cookie, it’s one or two tops. But last night, I kept going back to the fridge, one cookie after another.

Well, the reason I don’t normally eat stuff like that is because I feel crappy when I do. Sure, there’s twenty seconds of pleasure in my mouth, but then I feel jittery and spacey long after. But last night, even though I was feeling the effects of my mini-binge, I kept going back for more. Seems kind of obvious, in hindsight, that that crappy feeling was, in fact, the point.

Then, after staying up too late (new rule: no Facebook before bed), I had an impulse to take some Vitamin C before I turned in. And I talked myself out of it. That’s the one that really gets me. I mean, seriously, what good reason is there for not taking a little Vitamin C when you’re feeling a bit off? But I squashed the thought almost before I’d finished thinking it. Hard to believe feeling yucky wasn’t actually my subconscious goal.

And here’s the real kicker. As I was thinking about this in bed last night, I did what Hendricks recommends when you catch yourself “upper limiting.” I turned my attention to all the good feelings I’d been having and practiced savoring them, just sitting in them and stewing for as long as I could. And every time I did, I’d find myself taking a glorious deep breath and the soreness in my throat would vanish.

Of course, the moment I stopped consciously focusing on enjoying my good feelings, the soreness would return. And I couldn’t keep that up all night. I eventually fell asleep (as did Aidan, thank heavens). But all these things put together have me fairly well convinced that this little bug is merely a brave soldier in service to my upper limit.

I’m hoping that realizing that will, at least, shorten the duration and severity of whatever I’ve got. It has already empowered me to get my butt in gear and start pumping all the goodies I use to fight colds.

And one thing’s for sure. Embedded memories of saber tooth tigers aside, I’m going to spend as much time as possible indulging all those good feelings. Because that’s the only way to raise the upper limit. And I really want to feel good, more and more of the time. There’s really no reason not to.


Lessons from The Incredibles — Cultivating my inner Edna

Dean and I are big Pixar fans, and one of our favorites is The Incredibles. In fact, we loved it so much when we saw it, we went back the next day to see it again. The only other movie I’ve ever done something like that for was Lord of the Rings, and even then, I waited a couple of days. So yes, The Incredibles is in a class all by itself.

What I love about it could easily fill its own post (the music; the thrilling action sequences, the animation of knitted clothing!), but a little piece of it visited me yesterday and that’s what’s got my attention.

There’s a scene in which Fashion Designer to the Superheroes Edna (one of the best characters of all time) is suffering the blubbering, whining of Underground Superhero Helen after Helen has discovered that her underground superhero husband, Bob, has been lying to her. Helen is devastated, fears she’s losing her husband and asks, “What will I do?” Suddenly, Edna can’t take it anymore. Disgusted by her friend’s pitiful display, she erupts:

“What are you talking about?? You are Elastigirl. My god, pull yourself together! What will you do… Is this a question?? You will show him that you remember that he is Mr. Incredible. And you will remind him who you are. You know where he is. Go. Confront the problem. Fight. Win! And call me when you get back, Darling. I enjoy our visits.”

I’m not sure I totally understood this scene the first (two) time(s) I saw it, but I sure get it now. After ten years of living incognito, hiding her super abilities and denying her purpose in life, Elastigirl forgot who she was. She forgot how powerful she is, how capable. How super. So when life seemed to take a challenging turn, all she could do was collapse and cry.

That was me! For totally different reasons, of course, and not all the time, but far more often than I’d like to admit. Faced with certain kinds of challenges, I’d forget totally my strength and collapse into inertia.

Of course, that isn’t me anymore (Hoo Ya!). Since my New Year’s resolution and being shot in Santa Monica, I’ve been cultivating my inner Edna, dutifully practicing remembering my super powers. When that niggling feeling starts to pull me down, and I hear myself wonder “what will I do?”, I smack myself in the head with a rolled up newspaper and say, “What are you talking about?! GO. Confront the problem. Fight. Win!” It’s shockingly effective.

But I’m taking an important lesson from Elastigirl, too. The fact is, you have to use your super powers. Express them. It’s impossible to remember who you are if you’re not being her.

So, I’ve been inviting more opportunities to speak, and exploring new ways to help people thrive. I spent the afternoon polishing a self-discovery tool for two coaching clients. And I’ve put the word out to my Facebook crew that I’m available for local speaking gigs through the winter.

And you know something? It feels great. It feels expansive and energizing, like breathing freely after a long time holding an elephant on my chest. It feels like Elastigirl swinging through the trees on Nomanisan Island. Exhilirating. Super.

Which, of course, just makes me want to do more. But then I start to fret that I won’t be able to or I don’t know how — And here comes Edna, wielding that newspaper.

If only I had a superhero outfit I could don. Hmmmmm…….



Ten minutes

I make time to read two blogs: The Calm Before the Stork, written by my friend Julie Feinstein Adams, and Soule Mama, written by Amanda Blake Soule.

The first I love because it’s Julie, and I like the way she writes and sees the world. Julie is really more family than friend, and we have a lot in common.

In some ways, I have very little in common with Amanda Blake Soule, but if I was living a different life, it would be like hers. Not that I regret the choices that have led to my current life. I don’t. At all. But in a parallel universe, I would be mom to a passel of kids, homeschooling in rural somewhere, baking bread, making my own laundry detergent, sewing our clothes, and writing about it.

The last two days, Soule Mama has written about taking a bit of time for herself, ten minutes to slow down, take a breath, and be present. It’s got to be particularly challenging for her with four kids and a newborn. But in her writing, it sounds so lovely, so nourishing, I had to accept her invitation to do the same.

So tonight, as Dean, Aidan and Reba all slept, I turned off the lights in the living room, lit the little pumpkin candle on the altar honoring our Beloved Dead, and remembered.

Miles P, who died too young, and smoked the most heavenly smelling pipes, wore crazy ties, told dirty jokes in sign language, and wanted to paint his house bright orange.

Joan and Hasi — She who supported my stepmother when she came out, at a time when other family members were having trouble standing by her. And he who did tricks with cloth napkins and made the most delicious meat and cheese stuffed bread for Christmas.

Sonya, who died about a week before she was to be born to my dear friend; a baby very loved and still missed.

Bishop Mark, who baptized me and had a mischievous smile. He once set his curtains on fire making candles in the parish house. He put the fire out himself, then called the fire department.

Tara, my childhood dog. The sweetest girl who once ate a plateful of Christmas cookies, then passed out on the couch. When we found her, she looked at us so innocently having no idea her whiskers were covered in powdered sugar.

There are many more names and pictures to contemplate, memories to invite and cherish, but they will have to wait. The turkey stock for Aidan’s food requires my attention, and he’s soon to be up, and I’m hungry! But this ten minutes fed my soul and I’m looking forward to taking another soon. I hope you will, too.

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Today is for Reba

As I’m working hard to make time to write every day, I notice that it’s Reba who’s getting short shrift. Aidan gets the same amount of time and focus as he was getting before because there isn’t another option. And Dean… Well, Dean wasn’t getting any attention to begin with. I’m more or less keeping up with other work (though that’s probably getting a little less energy). So, the extra hour or two a day is being pulled from poor Reba.

I really feel badly about this. Reba is the most devoted, affectionate, playful, deserving dog I’ve ever known. And, in support of her service, we’re supposed to groom, exercise, and train her everyday. The level of care she’s supposed to get is much higher than if she were a pet dog. And it’s just not happening.

We’ve always struggled to get her walked everyday and, after Aidan was born, it got even harder. So we enlisted the help of friends by offering them a weekly exercise opportunity with the sweetest, most adoring four-legged they’d ever meet. My friend, Caterina, took us up on it and now walks Reba-girl every Monday. Other days of the week, my assistant, Jamie, takes her out. And Dean and I take her, usually with Aidan, as much as we can. So, for the most part, exercise is covered.

However, grooming and training are a mess.

Dean and I have an arrangement for grooming. He’s supposed to do it two days a week, I, three, and two days she goes without. But Dean frequently forgets and I frequently run out of time. So lately, she’s lucky if she gets groomed once a week. A pitiful nod to what should be happening.

And training… Well, training is basically my responsibility. I’m the one who went through intensive training in the CCI method. I’m the one for whom Reba technically works. And except for a couple of days over the last few weeks when I’ve been working with her to retrieve bibs and such from the ground and drop them into the laundry basket, we have not been doing any training.

Well, my guilt and sadness finally tipped the balance in Reba’s favor this morning. I decided it was Reba’s day.

Aidan was up an hour early (on one of my mornings, wouldn’t you know), so we had more time at our disposal than usual. Perfect. I got Aidan and I bundled and, after Reba’s toilet stop, we went for a long walk on the quiet side streets of my neighborhood. What a joy! In the brisk air, my chair wheeling EASILY, Aidan chatting up everything in sight, and Reba, head high, gorgeous gait, perfectly paced and placed next to my chair…It was delightful.

When we got home, I let Aidan crawl around the apartment. He LOVES Reba’s food and water bowls, always makes a bee-line for them first thing. We’ve learned (mostly) to pick up the water bowl but we let him toss around the food bowl.

Reba was lying peacefully on her bed when Aidan came scoot-crawling over. Knowing he’s a bit of a loose canon, Reba got up and stood away from him while he played with her bowl and clambered over her bed. When he got bored and headed for the kitchen, Reba went back to bed.

But Aidan soon returned. Reba’s bed is definitely more fun with Reba on it, afterall.

Reba saw him coming and before he got to her, she stood up, gave me a look that said, “You couldn’t have gotten a puppy?” and went into her kennel. Aidan would have been perfectly happy to climb in there with her but I’m trying to teach him to leave Reba alone when she’s in her kennel. The poor girl has to have somewhere to hide.

Aidan spent the next 40 minutes or so exploring the apartment which always means an astonishing debris field when he’s done. I try to pick it all up during the shift change and, to save time, I do as much of it as I can by myself. But today, I used Reba for everything possible. And she had a ball retrieving all the odds and ends Aidan had scattered — clothing, laundry, bibs, dish towels, sneakers, my keys, a pen, countless toys. At one point, Aidan was pulling clean laundry out of the basket and Reba was picking it up and giving it to me to fold. She was so excited. I think she loves being part of whatever is going on. Aidan, too, actually. They were both enjoying contributing to the laundry activity, even if their participation was making it infinitely less efficient.

As soon as I handed Aidan over to Dean, Reba and I got cozy on the bed for grooming. We call it doggie-spa, and it IS. Her coat gets massaged and combed, her ears get cleaned, her nails get filed, teeth brushed. And there’s lot of cooing and petting, telling her what a good girl she is, how much we love her. Today, she also got periodic treats in the form of her heartworm medication, which she LOVES. Ah yes… A most satisfying day.

And best of all, it all happened before I sat down to write. Today, Reba was the priority. And it felt great, I’m sure to both of us.

Right now, she’s got her head on the pillow where my computer is, wondering if I’m done yet and would I please scratch behind her ears a little and can we go play tug?

Yep, Reba-girl, we can. I’m done right now.


My chair has dreadlocks

I thought he’d NEVER go to sleep!

Aidan used to nap every 3 hours. Then it stretched to more like four. But the last few days, he’s routinely been going five. His dad and I are slow to adjust, still expecting sleep every 3 – 4 hours. Denial you think?

Anyway, he’s finally out and this is my window to write, so let’s see if I can get through this post before he wakes up. Ready? Let’s go!

Yesterday, Dean cleaned out the most disgusting gunk from around the axles of my casters.

Casters are the little wheels at the front of a wheelchair. They make all kinds of fancy ones, with super shock absorbers and little lights that blink when you roll (nope, not kidding). Mine are immensely plain and except for when I replaced one when it cracked, they have received exactly none of my attention for the five years I’ve owned this chair. Mistake.

It was Dean, actually, that noticed something was wrong. And that should be your first clue that I don’t pay enough attention to my chair. He was pushing it from the trunk to me in the car when he noticed one of the casters wasn’t turning. After he mentioned it, I started to notice it was sticking a little when I’d position the chair while sitting somewhere else. I didn’t notice anything weird while actually wheeling until a few days ago.

I was out with Reba and Aidan on a short walk and about halfway through, I started running out of steam. It felt like I was wheeling uphill through sand, or else like Aidan had gained about 100 pounds overnight. I actually cut the walk short because it felt like I was fighting the chair and, clearly, the chair was winning. That led me to experiment a bit over the next few days and I discovered that my chair was pulling to the right.

What’s remarkable about this is, one, how does a wheelchair lose its alignment and, two, I had FOREVER noticed that I had to push harder with my right hand to ride straight. But I just assumed it was the slope of the road or some small misalignment in how my seat is oriented to the wheels. I mean, really, it’s been YEARS like that. It never occurred to me that it was a problem with the caster and certainly never a problem that could be fixed.

(Aack. The baby woke up. But a little nursing and some sh-sh-sh’ing has bought me a little more time.)

I have to be honest, though, and say that even if I had thought it could be fixed, that doesn’t mean I’d have fixed it. I am EXTREMELY lax about these things. I constantly wheel on balding and slightly flat tires, which makes wheeling much harder. I tolerated a poorly fitting chair for four years, and now in a better fitting chair, tolerate the things that don’t quite suit me. I don’t know what that’s about.

If you’re wondering if it’s some unconscious rejection of the chair, I should share that I was like that on my feet, too. I wore athletic shoes far beyond their “use by” date, getting new ones only when my feet started to really complain. And I almost never had precisely the right shoe for whatever I was doing (nor the right clothes or accessories). So, it might be a subtle protest against the chair (or what it represents), and probably frugality plays some part, but I suspect there’s more than a bit of undervaluing myself thrown in there too. Because, really, why should I be a just a little bit uncomfortable (or a lot) doing something I do all day, everyday? It doesn’t make sense.

Anyway, the lip my chair was giving me finally got bad enough that I asked Dean to take a look at that caster. He had to take it off the chair entirely and, when he did, he found circles of hair and debris wound so tightly they’d dreadlocked into black, gritty rope. Both casters had them, but the ropes on the right had become so thick they were impeding the turning of the wheel.

I wish I had thought to take a picture. It was really impressive in a dirty, disgusting kind of way.

Now, the chair moves MUCH more freely. And it goes where I push it. What a concept.

Of course, this means I’m a menace now. My muscle memory hasn’t adjusted for the newfound ease so I’m over estimating the required umph and over-shooting constantly. The chair is also more wiggly now, so little pushes send me careening. I can’t tell you how many walls, door jams, cabinets, cupboards, and couches I’ve hit in the last 24 hours. A menace, I tell you. Menace!

Still, it’s delightful to be in a better maintained chair. Aidan and I went to the mall today and wheeling around was a piece of cake. So clearly, I need to investigate a little more deeply my chronic refusal to attend to such matters. And in the meantime, I think a helmet and seatbelt are required!

How about you? Are you valuing yourself enough to attend to your comfort and ease?

And ha! Aidan is still asleep. Only now, it’s getting late and I’m worried he’ll be up until all hours. Looks like we’re in for a LOOOOOOONG evening. Where’s that crisp?