Saturday, October 30, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Anam Cara ( Soul Friends)

This is the face of Friendship.

Chronic pain changes everything, and that includes friendships.  In the blog titled "My Island", I wrote about my new mantra; "pain demands efficiency." With all the new and uncertain challenges that accompany chronic pain, I had to figure out how to create a new "normal" in my life. Sleep was so non-existent that I grabbed doses of it in minutes, rather than hours. In the very beginning, when my pelvic pain was so heightened- the sunburned, I can't sleep on normal bedding kind of pain, I scheduled late night acupuncture just to get knocked out for a few hours of blissful, deep, anesthetizing, drooling, sleep.  I used to joke with my acupuncturist that she could certainly remove my liver and I'd never notice.  The sleep at her office would restore me for a time, and then the cycle of pain would start over again.  

The sheer exhaustion I felt prompted me into action.  I needed a team. I needed my Anam Caras, or soul friends. Immediately, I found an empathetic therapist who graced me with her soft-spoken wisdom, humor and comfort. I told her that "I need a safe place to talk and dump my burdens and fears."  KC has been a true angel in my life. I still see her now and then, and although our relationship remains in the professional realm, we have grown to know each other well, and learn from one another. 

 I have a few other Anam Caras in my life, and that is a huge blessing.  I hope you can gather one or two friends that care about your soul.  The kind of friend that resists trying to "fix you." The kind of friend that understands that you slept through plans and it's OK. The kind of friend that delights in driving 2 hours to visit you, sit by your side while you doze, and make you a magnificent lunch with every possible fresh green thrown in. The kind of friend that so "gets you" and understands why you need to take a friend sabbatical for a while. The kind of friend that will smile and watch you knit as you squirm trying to find the elusive comfortable sitting position. Your Anam Cara will think you're awesome because you are suddenly liberated from wearing underwear.  If you can find that friend, in the real world or through a  virtual support group, or family, count your little gems.  An Anam Cara is a rare gift, a guide that we need through this unpredictable and sometimes lonely journey.

What is Anam Cara?

According to Celtic spiritual tradition, the soul shines all around the body like a luminous cloud. When you are very open ~ appreciative and trusting ~ with another person, your two souls flow together. This deeply felt bond with another person means you have found your anam cara, or "Soul Friend." Your anam cara always beholds your light and beauty, and accepts you for who you truly are. In Celtic spirituality, the anam cara friendship awakens the fullness and mystery of your life. You are joined in an ancient and eternal union with humanity that cuts across all barriers of time, convention, philosophy, and definition. When you are blessed with an anam cara, the Irish believe, you have arrived at that most sacred place: ~HOME~

Monday, October 25, 2010


Next visit I'll ask,
"Put yourself in my stirrups."
Will her eyes soften ?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

My Island

I wrote this essay a little over two years ago.  I re-read it when I need to find my center.

Today I went for a beautiful hike with Elsa, my nine year old Border collie. We live near the state forest in the mid-west and the hiking in May is perfect. After a long, still winter the prairie comes alive in the spring with songbirds, beautiful grasses and fun little critters for Elsa to chase.  It’s a time for us to breathe in our surroundings and walk in silence together.

The Ice Age trail system intersects where we hike and it is a popular spot for long distance runners to train.  Nearing the end of our hike today, a thirty-something woman with well-defined biceps, wearing Oakley glasses and an I-pod ran past us.  I could hear her rhythmic athletic breath at work, and her bouncy long runner’s ponytail bobbed back and forth under a baseball cap. 

In an instant, that old competitive spark welled up in me. I couldn’t help but feel like she was lapping me in a training run. After all, that is what I often did to others in the past. I wondered if she thought “Oh, look at that nice middle-aged woman on a leisurely stroll with her dog.”

Before pelvic pain hit me, leisurely and stroll were not words that I used in the same sentence. I was the one that went for long training runs and skied early morning powder runs. I was the one that rode my bicycle through Europe for three months.  I was the one that wrangled four hundred pound miniature mules and worked dogs twice my size. 

After the runner babe whizzed past me it took a few moments to let the memories of the former me go. I looked at Elsa trotting next to me, breathing with the extra effort that she uses now since she developed a heart problem. She was totally in the moment- soaking the warm sunshine into her black fur, while anticipating the chase of an unsuspecting gopher. 

Elsa reminds me of what is true. We don’t get to choose what happens to us, but we can choose how we respond. When pelvic pain moved into my life, I had to regroup and make choices. Choices about how I wanted to live each day and what was possible each day. In the beginning, I was in total survival mode. 

The first few months were a daily battle.  I felt like I was climbing Mount Everest, and never got past base camp.  Sleep became my summit.  If I could get a few hours of sleep, maybe I could make it through the next day. 

I learned quickly that pain demands efficiency.  My days were broken down into hours and consisted of small goals that were signs to me that I still functioned.  A good day consisted of getting a few hours sleep, feeding the dogs and horses and my husband, Keith.  If my pain was tolerable, then sleep was possible. 

I also noticed that I needed to put the superficial relationships in my life on hold. I stopped accepting phone calls from certain friends.  I stopped responding to unnecessary emails. Recently, I put out emails alerting friends that I was turning my phone off and checking out for a month.  I used to joke with my old soul friends, that my life was now like the show “Survivor” and I was kicking people off my island.

My island is my home and I’ve created a nurturing place.  My island is my family, a few close friends and my animal companions. I am no longer that runner babe.  I am no longer riding my horses.  I meditate.  I take long leisurely walks. I am learning how to breathe. Really breathe.  I am learning to live with pain each day.  I am learning to live with uncertainty. I am learning to relinquish. 

I am learning to go deep into that divine place that John O’Donohue; a Celtic philosopher calls the “inner landscape”.  He says that our bodies are temporary residences for our soul.  Perhaps my soul has been asking me for a gentler home and I intend to honor that request. Maybe I should have listened sooner.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Anatomy of a Name

Like an archaeologist, the anatomist delicately sections the sacrum, the final stage of the long, statuesque spinal column.  First he cuts through the dermis, fascia, then muscle. With surgical precision he continues to explore. He discovers a long, nerve that takes a tortuous course across what was the hip, around the thigh and then, this overachieving nerve splits into three directions. This powerful transmitter escorts signals to the genitals, the rectum and perineum. It is responsible for ecstatic pleasure, and more mundane functions that govern the bowel and bladder. With such duties, this nerve never rests. Why then, long ago, did the anatomist select the Latin word pudendal- meaning "shame" for such a gallant conductor?  If one is suffering from the pain of this overworked or injured nerve, perhaps it's time for a more respectful name.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Do they have an app for that ?

Girls, text yourself a message to breathe today. An Intentional breath. A mindful all about ME breath.
Inhale big into all four chambers of your heart, gently exhale all the way through
your belly. Keeeeeeep going. Feel the wonder of l e t t i n g  g o. There is always more of more to let go. Release.
Breathe it out. Open the door and escort a little pain out, perhaps "pain" would like to take a hike.  Give birth to an amazing haiku. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Nerves Talk

Injured nerves gossip.
Rumors spread pain.

A Twinge

rhythmic delight girl 
on bike faint cry below
zap!  stops the butterfly