To change gears from my last post, I was gifted a very lovely bookstore giftcard for Christmas and I have been putting it to use. My Goodreads list is 200+ books long so I’ve purchased quite a few of my list items to read this year. I’m in love with reading again, and am excited to dive into the books I’ve chosen.
Let The Great World Spin, by Colum McCann. This is the overview from the Barnes & Noble website.
In the dawning light of a late-summer morning, the people of lower Manhattan stand hushed, staring up in disbelief at the Twin Towers. It is August 1974, and a mysterious tightrope walker is running, dancing, leaping between the towers, suspended a quarter mile above the ground. In the streets below, a slew of ordinary lives become extraordinary in Colum McCann’s intricate portrait of a city and its people.” “Corrigan, a radical young Irish monk, struggles with his own demons as he lives among the prostitutes in the middle of the burning Bronx. A group of mothers gather in a Park Avenue apartment to mourn their sons who died in Vietnam, only to discover just how much divides them even in grief. A young artist finds herself at the scene of a hit-and-run that sends her own life careening sideways. Tillie, a thirty-eight-year-old grandmother, turns tricks alongside her teenage daughter, determined not only to take care of her family but to prove her own worth.” Weaving together these and other seemingly disparate lives, McCann’s powerful allegory comes alive in the unforgettable voices of the city’s people, unexpectedly drawn together by hope, beauty, and the “artistic crime of the century.” A sweeping and radical social novel, Let the Great World Spin captures the spirit of America in a time of transition, extraordinary promise, and, in hindsight, heartbreaking innocence.
Winner of the 2009 National Book Award for Fiction
Winner of the 2011 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
You can get it HERE for under $10 right now. I love the way the story jumps from perspective to perspective. The story is told by several different people instead of one point of view.
- Gone Girl
- Animal Farm
- The Catcher In The Rye
- Lovely Bones
If I get through all of these, I have 200+ other books on deck just waiting to be read. It’s gonna be a good year for reading. I’ve missed out on a lot by not reading much for the past several years.
What are you reading right now?
There’s a little problem that afflicts some of us in this world. For a lot of us it’s something we prefer not to talk about, but I feel there are people out there who are dealing with it and have no clue what to do about it, or why it’s happening.
I call it The Grief Sicks. The medical term for it is IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (Note: See the bottom of this post for great info on IBS and how to deal with it). To explain it completely non-medically, it is when your digestive systems goes haywire and you are constantly unable to relieve yourself (aka poop) until you’re really sick, or you’re instantly sick all the time, and are becoming the toilet’s best friend.
For some it only happens when they eat certain foods, like really spicy foods or curries, for others it only happens when they are overwhelmed with stress. It can look like anything, really, every body is different in how it reacts to grief. The grief sicks come on in so many various ways, that this advice may or may not help you. I believe it will help you, though, because it’s something I’ve battled on and off my entire life. When I get severely emotionally stressed, my body reacts in kind, and not only am I battling my emotions, but I end up battling my body as well. This makes it harder for my emotions to get back in check, and my out of control emotions make it harder for my body to get back in check. It’s a vicious cycle, but it can be stopped, with patience, and perseverance.
When my mom died, I knew it would happen again. I’d been through it many times before when I’d gone through bad breakups, and even had small spells of it when BIG life changes were occurring. It had been starting while she was sick with cancer, the stress came on little by little, and suddenly (but over a period of a year) I’d lost 10 pounds because everything I ate made my stomach upset. It’s quite hard to maintain your body weight when you can’t hold anything in, or don’t want to eat because you just don’t want to spend a night with your best friend, Toilet, AGAIN.
When she actually died, I was in a state of numbness to the emotions for about a week. Long enough to get through the funeral, and long enough to eat all the comfort foods my mother-in-law was feeding me (she’s an angel, a real life angel, I tell you). Once we got home and back to real life, my body went haywire, and I got really sick. I already was on and off, but this was the full blown grief sicks. I could barely eat anything without feeling like my stomach was upset, I lost 7 more pounds, in a period of two months, and every possible sickness I could get came. Because I couldn’t get my health in check, my immune system’s walls were down. I caught anything and everything people were carrying. I have had some illness or another consistently since my mom died.
BUT… through all of this, I’ve somehow managed to reset my body. For a month now, I’ve been able to eat full meals, and only feel a little nauseated or have stomach cramps on a few occasions. I’m now able to say that I’m not really sick with anything (knock on wood).
How did I do that? Well, it took a lot of patience, perseverance, and trial and error. So… with that introduction out of the way, let’s talk about the simple steps to reset your body when the grief sicks kick in and keep on kicking you while you’re down. We all need a little help, and if me speaking up about awkward digestive problems can help another, I’m all for it.
Disclaimer: I’m not doctor. This post is just based off my own experience. If you’re having problems, seek out help from a therapist and/or your general family doctor as well. They may have something that will help you.
Like anything in this life, we can handle it better when we get good sleep. Get a healthy night’s sleep every night when possible. Take short naps when you need a boost. Your body repairs everything better with sleep. Your emotions are better kept in check when you have good sleep. I’ve noticed the weeks where I decided to stay up late, just for fun, I ended up paying for it in losing the stability of my emotions. When you’re dealing with severe grief, you have to think of everything as medicine. You can’t skip a dose when treating an infection just because you want to, or you’ll pay the price. Sleep is medicine for your soul, for your immune system’s strength, for your ability to feel a renewal when a day has been particularly awful. Just make sure you’re not overdosing on sleep or it will leave you feeling groggy and gross.
Here’s my non-medically backed prescription: Get one healthy night’s sleep every 16 hours, and take a 15-30 minute power nap as needed during the day.
It never fails that exercise is at the top of every list of dealing with anything and here’s why. Cardio boosts positive endorphins in our bodies. I know blanket statements are not always correct, but I believe this to be true through my experiences. if everyone that had depression or anxiety were to walk or jog, or even dance, a few times a week for 30 minutes they would see a boost. The endorphins are real.
As someone who has battled generalized anxiety and beaten it several times, I can speak for this. The years that I got cardio exercise at least 3 times a week I had virtually no symptoms of IBS and anxiety. I know that some people’s anxieties and depressions are worse than mine, and I’m not saying they shouldn’t need medicine, because those illnesses are very real. I am saying that I believe exercise will boost the effectiveness of the medicine. Not only will you feel happier, but you’ll get stronger and healthier.
One other fun side-effect of exercise that I’ve noticed for me, is that it boosted my immune system’s protective walls. One winter, I was jogging or walking two miles, three times a week. It took about 90 minutes of my week, but I somehow managed to not catch a single cold, flu, sniffles, or anything. I live in the mountains, we are cooped up inside all winter and most of us have one of these sicknesses at all times during the snowy months. Somehow, my immune system was given a triple exterior defense from my regular jogs, and I stayed healthy the entire winter. It was nothing I’d ever experienced, as I usually caught everything that went around.
While dealing with the intense grief my mother’s death brought on, when I was getting regular fresh air, sunshine, and exercise on my bike or on foot in those months of unemployment, my IBS was not so bad, and I felt stronger, even though I was crying almost every day. When I quit doing that and sat inside all day at my new job, everything hit full force, and I realized just how sad I was because I could see how sick my body was, and my depression hit harder than it had in the Summertime. As I started walking on our treadmill, and walking up and down the four flights of stairs to my office every day, I noticed my body felt happier, and so did my mind. You don’t have to do hard workouts to feel the effects. You just need to MOVE your body.
My prescription: Get 90 minutes of cardio a week. That’s just 30 minutes over 3 days. I recommend spreading it out. Like, Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday or Monday-Wednesday-Friday. It is hard to do this when you’re sick, and when depression feels like it’s holding you to the couch. Trust me, I get it. I watched more Netflix than I ever want to admit to out loud. Just do it. Think of it as medicine. You have to do it to protect yourself. Cardio is a great way to regulate your bowels. Ask any gastro doctor. That’s one of the first things they recommend when you’re having haywire bowel functions.
I don’t say this because you need to GO ON a diet. I say this because IBS is best when you control your diet. I know depression makes us want to eat all the bad foods. The ones that taste SO GOOD, but if you’re battling IBS, you can’t do it. Well you can, but it will keep you feeling awful. If your body is regularly having digestion problems, I recommend eliminating all junk food to the best of your abilities. I got rid of sodas, lots of candy (I still eat some on occasion because… SUGAR). For me I got rid of really greasy foods, and dairy.
I’ve had problems on and off with dairy before, so I thought I’d give cutting it completely out of my diet a whirl. It was in most of my food, since I love cheesy foods, and I figured the worst that would happen is I’d go without cheese and stay sick, so I had to do it. I avoided really spicy foods for a while, and stuck to healthy mild meals at first. It took practice, but after two months, I felt like I’d reset my system. Suddenly I realized I hadn’t had a stomach attack in over a week. My best friend Toilet and I weren’t hanging out as much, and I was starting to feel more stable with energy, and felt more motivated to do things instead of lie on the couch under a blanket watching Netflix. Each person is different so you’ll have to figure out what you need to stop eating to feel well, but I promise if you get rid of junk foods it will help. Then, when you have them, it won’t be so bad because you are only having a little bit at a time. I ate a burger last week and didn’t want to die. A couple months ago, that would’ve left me sick the rest of the night. It is possible to fix the IBS and maintain it. You can live a normal life and not have to know the quickest route to a clean toilet everywhere you go. I promise. IBS is a regular visitor with my generalized anxiety, so I’ve mastered this on and off. It takes time though. Be patient. It took a month before I saw results, but when they finally came they were the most wonderful feeling I’d felt in a long time. You can get through a lot of hardship when your body is able to eat properly. It’s much harder to deal with things when you’re sick or hungry because you don’t want to be sick for the fiftieth time today.
My prescription: Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, and eliminate the junk and whatever else causes stomach upset so you can reset your body.
4. HAVE PATIENCE AND PERSEVERE
This is so necessary. You cannot get through it if you don’t understand that your body is grieving. Our bodies grieve just like our minds do. They are connected in every way. This is why your body is going haywire to begin with. Be patient. Understand that as you start to get a handle on things emotionally, your body will react in kind. Also understand that as you start to get a handle on your health, your emotions will react in kind. It’s all encompassing. Persevere in your goal to feel better. Be regular in your efforts. Sleep well, eat well, and move your body to improve it’s functioning. Yes, relax when you need to. Grief is hard, depression is hard, and you will not want to do anything. It is totally ok to be sad, and have periods of wallowing. You need to get the emotions out. But throw in my other prescribed “medications” as well and you’ll get through it.
Just remember, grief takes time to heal. You won’t just forget about the person you lost and move on. If you do, that’s ok too. We all experience things in our own way. Some people don’t grieve for a long time, some grieve right away. There is no right answer. But take care of your body and it will be able to get through the harder things better than a body that just lies in one place and refuses to go on. You must keep pushing through the hard times. My husband taught me that in any situation where you have to survive, you have to keep moving or you’ll die. I took this to heart, and applied it to everything. I couldn’t just sit in my huge pile of grief, I had to keep moving. I had to keep going to work even though I was miserable. I had to wake up and get dressed every day and keep trying. I had to focus on today and not on being better for a month. I had to say, “TODAY is all I can do. TODAY I will try to focus on being happy.” Sometimes I had to take it even smaller, and say, “For the next hour I will choose to act happy.” Take things small, and keep going. Suddenly, each of those hours have become days, and each of those days have become months. You’ll get there. I promise. Just don’t give up. Persevere.
My Prescription: Be patient with yourself, and keep moving forward. Don’t give up, the time must pass for you to heal, there is no way around it.
It’s been almost a year. I’m still sad inside, I still see a picture of her, and my breath catches and I think to myself, “I can’t believe she’s dead.” I’m not completely free of grief, but I now have moved past the phase of intense grief, and am more into the phase of what happens as we go on with life after our loved ones have died. Some call it the Acceptance Phase. I call it the “livable” phase. I’m happy to be here. I feel like I am finally able to get on with life, and cope with her death when needed instead of have it be in front of my face wherever I look. I just hope that others that are grieving can get to the same place. We all deserve healthy, happy lives. I know that’s what our loved ones would want for us.
Have you had the grief sicks or dealt with IBS? What did you do to get through it? Got any more tips? Please share them in the comments below!
GOOD INFO ON IBS:
- Web MD – http://www.webmd.com/ibs
- Mayo Clinic – http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome/basics/definition/con-20024578
- Gastro.org – http://www.gastro.org/patient-center/digestive-conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome
GOOD INFO ON GRIEF:
- HelpGuide.org – http://www.helpguide.org/articles/grief-loss/coping-with-grief-and-loss.htm
- Mayo Clinic –
- Psychology Today – https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/grief
- Psych Central – http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-5-stages-of-loss-and-grief/000617
- Grief.com – http://grief.com
Can you believe it’s February already? I can’t. I know this sounds cliche and silly for me to say this at 30 years old, but time flies the older you get. I can’t believe January is over. I swear Christmas JUST HAPPENED. We’ve been busy here every weekend with what we now call Project Saturdays. Sometimes it turns into a Project Weekend. We both have so many fun things we want to make/do/accomplish/research/try that we just keep moving from sun up until sun down on the weekends. I sure didn’t do much on my weekends last year except become a Netflix connoisseur. It’s amazing to be human again.
Here are January’s Blonde Moments. They involve lots of time spent in my new woman cave working on projects, and setting up the room, lots of beautiful winter skies here in Northern Utah, walks outside in the cold air for Vitamin D and exercise, and my two furkids.
How was your January? What was your favorite part of it?
I still remember April 18, 2014 like it was yesterday. I’d been with my parents for almost a week at that point. I refused to go anywhere because I wanted to spend every last minute of my mom’s life with her. I knew I was letting work slip and didn’t care. I would later be asked to step down as manager of my department because while she was dying of cancer, I was no longer able to pull long days and work the insane load that was my old job. I just couldn’t care any less about it. I had a real emergency on my hands. Work could wait. My mom couldn’t.
I’d been reading to her off and on all week. She’d been partially comatose, and partially half alive. Tiny moments where you could see she was still there, even though it felt like she had already left us the day she had her seizure a week before. Brain cancer had slowly but quickly been taking her. That’s the weird thing about it. She was fine, and then she wasn’t. And then she was gone. April 18, she had grown cold, her hands and face and everything were cold. I knew she wouldn’t be with us long. I could feel her presence had already left even though I was looking at her, watching her struggle to breathe.
A few people were at the house, a sibling or two of my six, an aunt, my dad. People shuffling around trying to help us prepare for what we all knew was coming. There was no stopping it now. I don’t think I’ll ever shake the image of her on that day from my mind. I’d never seen her so miserably peaceful, so lower than low, so… gone. The woman who’d always been there for me through everything, the woman who was so full of life, her aura radiated for miles. I wasn’t aware of that last fact until she was gone and even the corners of my parents’ home felt darker than I’d ever seen them. The yard didn’t look the same. Everything changed when she left us.
That afternoon, I had to take a break. I’d been there the whole week. I’d read every page of the hospice manual three times. I’d read her a couple fun children’s books, I’d put her CD on repeat and she was so quiet. The quiet of someone who is giving up their soul to God. So I left the room to gather myself. I walked out to the kitchen, feeling the room spin, and sat on the stairs leading up to the playroom loft. There were clothes and shoes everywhere. The boys and my dad had stopped cleaning when she was too sick to function. It’s like the whole world fell apart when she got cancer. I was sitting on a shoe, and the awkwardness of it brought out the tears I’d been holding in all week. I’d teared up off and on, but these were the ones I needed to release. I silently sobbed on that little staircase while the few visitors milled about trying to be helpful.
Then the phone rang. it had been ringing non-stop and I almost let it go. But I hobbled to my feet and grabbed the receiver and stifled out an as-normal-as-could-be, “hello?”
“…. Yes is Mary available.”
I was stunned.
“…. Yes, can I please speak to Mary?”
I almost lost my shit right then and there. I couldn’t believe this idiot from who knows what call center was calling for my mom. She was in the other room dying, we’d been mourning her impending death all week, and I’d just had the ugliest cry of my life, and this freak of nature wants to talk to MY MOM. I almost screamed at her, “Yeah, well I’d like to talk to her too! She hasn’t been able to form a normal sentence for 7 months now, and she’s dying right now in the other room, maybe you could call back later, when she’s dead and see if she’s available!!!!!!”
I took a deep breath, because I didn’t want anyone else to know someone had called for her, no one else needed to be boiling inside their blood stream like I was, and I said a simple but angry, “HELL NO” and slammed down the receiver. I was so angry, I went outside and walked around for a bit. J came with me and we went to the park nearby for thirty minutes and just moped around.
Early the next morning, she died. And I bet you a handful of telemarketers have called since and asked to speak to my mom. And they probably spoke with my poor widower father, who just sent his youngest kids off to college 3 months after his wife died. This was to be the prime of their marriage, and now he’s alone. Death sucks. It really does.
So, despite all of this garbage, how do we get through it? How do we go on, when it seems like the whole world hasn’t stopped moving, but our whole life came crashing down? These are the methods that I do to get through it. Grief is miserable and sometimes you have to do what you feel like you need to do regardless of whether any one else agrees. I am no doctor, so take this advice with a grain of salt.
HOW TO COPE WITH HEAVY GRIEF:
1. Realize it’s ok to check out for a bit. For me, I had to pull away from people. I couldn’t even handle a regular “Hey, how are ya?” Because I was bursting at the seams to say, “I HATE EVERYTHING! I’M SAD. AND IT WON’T GO AWAY AND THE ONLY PERSON WHO CAN HELP IS THE REASON I’M SAD.” So I just stayed away from people. I ignored phone calls, until I was ready to talk. I didn’t commit to activities, because I didn’t know if I’d be in a good mood that day or in a major depressive funk. I spent time by myself writing, cultivating hobbies, watching a LOT of shows, crying, talking to the ceiling when I needed to talk to her. I did what I had to do. It hurt to be around people, so I stopped being around people whenever I could help it.
2. Don’t stay gone forever. The problem with pulling back from life, is you start to love it. I now have to force myself to be social, I long for my weekends of solitude and projects. J and I have been really focusing on introducing me back into the real world of people and friendships and social activities. I’ve had to learn that I now have to say yes at least half the time to invites, so that I can justify the other weekends of solitude. Baby steps.
3. Let people help you. People will want to help. It will feel weird to suggest something when they ask what they can do. Let them. They want to help you and feel awful that you’re coping with painful loss. My neighbor offered to bring me comfort foods. She showed up at my door later that night with dairy free bread, and homemade chicken noodle soup. I needed that food that night. Something about it just made me feel better.
4. Be patient with yourself. This is vital. You will have days where you start to feel whole and happy, and then you can drop to the pits of despair again the next day. I can be singing along to the happiest pop song, and a memory of my mom on her death bed will flash through my head and I’ll get stuck on it and feel awful. Grief isn’t cyclical, it’s crazy. You can feel everything all at once or nothing at all. You can be happy and feel guilty for being happy. You can be sad and feel guilty for being sad when you think you need to move on. It’s just crazy. Be patient and allow yourself to feel everything as it comes. You shouldn’t be anything. You just need to be. It has to run it’s course. Just keep going and you’ll get to the other side of the mountain.
5. You’ll always miss them, and you’ll never be the person you were before they were gone. It’s just a fact. It doesn’t mean you can’t be happy though. It just means you have to find out how to live now that they are gone. It takes time. You’ll get there.
What other tips can you think of that are important for dealing with loss? Anything I missed? Please share in the comments. I’d love to hear what you come up with! One of your suggestions might just help me.
“Without your wound where would your power be? It is your very remorse that makes your low voice tremble into the hearts of men. The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children on earth as can one human being broken on the wheels of living. In love’s service only the wounded soldiers can serve.” – Thornton Wilder
A long time ago, we’ll say in about 2007, I decided to compile a list of things I thought would make my life complete. My all out no-holds-barred bucket list. I knew it would have to be fluid, because as life went on, I’d add more to it, and grow in new ways. Here in no specific order, are some of the things from that list. Are you ready?
I’ve recently discovered two things that have changed the way I think about clothes. The first is a blog called Un-Fancy. She has a minimalist approach to her closet by setting up capsule wardrobes for each season and really mixing and matching the pieces in her closet. This not only allows you more space in your closet, but you also have less money spent on cheap crappy clothes that you’ll never wear, and everything in your closet goes with everything. Read More
I’ve been raiding the lipstick sections lately at Walgreens/Target/Walmart (wherever you can find cheap makeup), to try to find the perfect colors, and I think I’ve succeeded. I used to just be a chapstick girl, but a couple years ago I discovered the perfect colored lip stains. Although, I’ve since discovered my lips are too chappy for most lip stains, I have not given up on the look of dark lips. I love the look of matte lips and light eye makeup, and I happen to feel that the right lipstick can knock an outfit out of the park. Perfect example? I wore a casual outfit today to work, that I also wore on a Saturday trip to Ikea. The only difference was, today I rocked a bright matte lipstick with it, and my husband said, “You really got dolled up for work today, didn’t you!”
So without further delay. Here are my favorites for this winter. Read More