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Connection

There’s so much that pressures us to have it “all” – big houses, more money, top of the line clothing, having our homes look like they are straight out of magazines. It’s all there, all around us. Advertising sprinkled in our relaxing tv time, out our windows as we drive to soccer practice and work, in between our finger scrolls and magazine flips at our doctor appointments. And for awhile, it is so ingrained that we don’t even realize that it’s happening. And, most importantly, that it’s all fake. Created to make us consumers. To make us spend more money, make more money, spend more money and so on.

It seems sort of ok, and sometimes harmless to acquire stuff and to enjoy creating an image for ourselves, but what’s the actual damage being done?

I hate to say it, but my opinion is that the damage is deep. We have created a culture that values nothing. Not even each other. We actually have allowed ourselves to value the junk to the point of tearing each other apart – constantly judging and commenting and comparing. We are valuing things we were told would fill us and the reality is that they don’t.

Take it from me. During diagnosis I was confronted with a variety of things that this MS could have been – tumors, other diseases, and some with not good prognosis. I spent a week waiting for results of a test for something that had a strong likelihood of leaving me blind and paralyzed (if not dead) within 5 years. This changed me. As I sat on the floor with my two babies toddling around beside me, I remember taking in every breath as if it were my last and questioning what was left for me here. And I will tell you this, none of it included house décor, new clothes, or really the best of anything.

What I actually found in the aftermath of this waiting period (which I would claim left me in some kind of PTSD state for quite some time), was that I wanted everything in my home to be as simple as possible. Décor that only reminded me of a wonderful memory or love and health. Clothes that simply comforted me and made me feel unique. I wanted all of the stuff, all of the bull#$!& out of my life because all I wanted was the space to hold the people I loved and the immense laughter and fun that we share, and the room to go out into the world and enjoy new experiences. That’s it. My people and the world.

So when I read Johann Hari’s book Lost Connections recently, I was confirmed in my beliefs that we are caring for things that don’t matter, and becoming isolated in the mean time. We are losing connections left and right and our society/advertising is not providing the examples to help us get back to ourselves and each other. Hari states, “You need your pain. It is a message, and we must listen to the message. All these depressed and anxious people, all over the world- they are giving us a message. They are telling us something has gone wrong with the way we live. We need to stop trying to muffle or silence or pathologize that pain. Instead, we need to listen to it, and honor it.”

Our bodies are amazing. They are meant to hold us and nourish us. They want to be healthy. It is not possible, in my mind, that so many of us seem to be suffering (physically or emotionally) because our bodies are physically simply failing us. All of us? Really?

Hari’s book goes on to discuss 9 ways (and he claims there’s probably more) that we have or can lose connection in our lives. It’s an incredible book to help you look at the power you have over how you feel, and the life you are living.

One of the most eye-opening connections for me was our loss of connection to each other. I mean, I think we all realize that it’s happening with technology, but I kind of forgot about the way humans have evolved. “Now imagine if-“ Hari states, “on those savannas – you became separated from the group and were alone for a protracted period of time. It meant you were in terrible danger. You were vulnerable to predators, if you got sick nobody would be there to nurse you, and the rest of the tribe was more vulnerable without you too. You would be right to feel terrible. It was an urgent signal from your body and brain to get back to the group, any damn way you could. So every human instinct is honed not for life on your own, but for life like this, in a tribe.”

So these individual lives we’ve created – new moms/dads taking on everything because they need to meet that standard of doing it all, people working 40+ hour weeks with no time for family or love, kids racing from activity to activity with no downtime for the joys created in boredom or socializing in the neighborhood – we are alone more than ever and it is damaging our health. We need each other. We need someone to bring meals after a new arrival, and give advice on how they cared for their crying babies. And we need to know it is ok to accept other people’s offerings, it doesn’t mean we are less. We need to scale back on our material possessions so the need for money, and overly full work weeks, can go away. We need to make sure our children freely play in the dirt. No guidance, no micro-managing just open, dirty exploration. These connections help us to be our best selves and feel fulfilled. We are all supposed to be doing this together. Helping one another, laughing at mistakes and jokes, crying during sad and frustrating times and just boosting each other along during this crazy ride of life.

It’s not easy. I still continue to strive for this simpler way of living every day. But the best part is that it doesn’t have to happen all at once. So just take a look around. Take a look at connections- to the earth, to others, to service, to love. Start filling in the gaps, piece by piece, step by step, and create that meaningful life you were meant to live.

Fitness

Rock It

I cannot say enough about this new workout challenge I came across, The Betty Rocker. (Or my adorable nephew pictured above.)

I signed up for the 30 day challenge and it was AWESOME! FREE, 15 minutes every day, & totally challenging. Especially with this lull in Minnesota winter where we all want to be outside constantly, but just can’t quite get there yet (Come On, Spring!), it was so nice to have something new and different and challenging that I could get done easily, anytime. My kids often just played nearby or were napping, and within minutes I was done, feeling strong and energized.

No equipment, no cost, and almost no time. What more can you ask for?

Thank you, Betty Rocker!

Fitness

Resistance Training

MS is 100% BS.

But, you can’t dwell on it. You have to move on.

Once I jumped on the Wahls Protocol shortly after my diagnosis I was eating in an entirely new way for my body. I was also in a state of panic, anxiety, and fear. So, within a few months of my diagnosis I was suddenly very thin. I remember seeing a photo of myself and thinking, ‘Geesh, am I doing ok, here?’

I was doing a lot of soul searching, because I had care providers who abandoned me and because I think that’s what a lot of people do when they come to a big crossroad. What route was I going to take through this? What do I know about myself that will help me navigate this new life? And I came to a conclusion that I was strong and resilient. That my body needed to follow my heart and do the same. If I stayed strong, flexible, active, and moving then maybe it would be that much harder for MS to take me down. If my body muscles were building from exercise, then the exercise had to be building something in my brain as well.

‘The secret to change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.’ Socrates

So I started. I gained weight by building muscle. The exercise also calmed my mind, which calmed my stress hormones, and that probably helped me gain a little back, too. And come to find out that in listening to myself and following the path that my soul and my searching led me to, I now have research to back me up with the science of it all.

Aarhus University in Denmark came out with a study in August 2017 that states: “Resistance training may slow down the progression of multiple sclerosis. New research shows that resistance training protects the brain in persons with multiple sclerosis, which may delay the development of the disease.”

Dr. Herb Karpatkin is a board certified neurologic clinical specialist through the American Physical Therapy Association, and a certified Multiple Sclerosis Clinical Specialist through the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers. He conducted a small study with weight training and found, “At the end of eight weeks, all subjects showed significant improvements in gait endurance, balance and, lower extremity strength. None of the subjects complained of increases in fatigue as a result of the strength training, and no injuries were reported.”

And lastly, Dr. David Perlmutter a specialist featured on the Broken Brain docuseries by Dr. Mark Hyman stated quite simply that, “Exercise is fundamentally important for growing new brain cells…” Enough said. I’m hooked.

So whether or not you have MS, keeping your body fit and strong is essential to a happy and healthy life. Each person will have their own place to start and I highly suggest, besides consulting your doctor, that you should look into getting a professional to help you get started. When I began my journey I was lucky enough to find a place called BeWELLness in Clear Lake, Iowa that supported me 100%, with food and exercise. Having a community and support kept me feeling strong and connected to my path and purpose. (Shout out to Shea and Ashley Coleman!) Since moving to Minnesota, I worked out on my own for awhile, but recently touched base with an old friend and trainer at Vault Fitness who gave me some new goals and ideas for workouts (Thank you, Chad Henry!) and I continue to feel empowered and strong.

You don’t have to do it all alone. And you don’t have to start out with a workout that is over your head. You just have to start.

She who is brave is free.

 

Fitness

Fit for Life

I used to think that being fit meant that I needed to spend time in the gym. Hours. I had to do cardio, lift weights, stretch. I had to do it all. When I was younger, I had the time for those 1-2 hour gym excursions. Not anymore. That may change and it may not, but for now what I’ve realized I need my fitness to be is useful. And I’m striving to teach my children the same thing.

We ride our bikes to and from school whenever we can. We walk to the store on occasion. We walk the nearby paths almost daily and always walk to the nearby parks. We walk our dog, for his benefit and ours. We bike ride and just cruise the neighborhood for fun. We go on longer hikes in more adventurous places. We go to special open swim times for littles. And when we do go to the gym, we found a place where the kids are just as active in the daycare – jumping in ball-pits and climbing up and through tunnels.

For the kids, our hope is that they are brought up with this naturally active lifestyle. That biking to work might not feel weird, or even be a question.  We talk a lot about the benefits for us and the earth when we are active like this and we hope that it resonates in their spirit.

For me, my hope is that through this crazy, busy time in my life I can see (and feel!) that being fit doesn’t have to be about the gym. Getting my heart rate going while jogging next to the little bikes, lifting and holding 30 lb kids while we are hiking in the woods, and stopping randomly to do a few yoga pose challenges on the walking paths are all efficient ways to stay healthy and strong while providing my kids with their lives as well.

Some of my friends do go to the gym for those 2 hour chunks, and I love them for that, too. What happened for me was that it wasn’t fitting into the life I wanted anymore and it ended up in some major guilt. So again, trying to strip away the “rules” that somewhere in my life I created for myself, I tried to start noticing how much I could do at home during the day that could replace what I did in the gym. It’s all up to you. Whatever you need is what you should do, because I promise you this – the stress you cause yourself about the workout (whether it’s to rid the guilt of not getting to the gym, or the guilt of wanting to get to the gym) the stress is countering the workout you’re trying to get to.

Be brave and do you. Being happy makes you healthy, too.

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