It’s noon hour and the pizza delivery guy has just arrived at our workplace. “Did someone order a pizza?” he calls out. We gather, famished, ready to wolf down a sodium-laden pizza for lunch. On the heels of the pizza guy, a Yolles Furniture delivery man strolls into the office and says “Did someone order a futon?” I smile and respond, gesturing with my hand in the air, “That would be me.” How else would I, plagued by chronic fatigue and migraines, sneak a nap into my day without a futon in my office?
Flash forward about eight years and I’m operating three businesses, rising every morning by 5 a.m. (without a clock in my bedroom) and on the fly all day, seldom feeling fatigued and without any health symptoms whatsoever. What’s the difference between present and past? I started taking care of myself, and well, following my dharma, my life purpose. Fact was, no one else was going to take care of me, but me.
I’d exhausted all of my energy into taking care of others, raising three boys on my own and juggling a full-time career as a managing editor of a business publication. My health had spiraled down to a point where not only was I suffering from unbearable chronic fatigue for two years, I had decided to drop my exercise routine for eight months and discovered a congenital spinal problem that led to chronic back pain and inability to even do simple tasks without excruciating pain, which makes life complicated when you’re a single mom raising a toddler. I was living day to day on inhalers for my asthma, popping Tylenol for daily headaches, plagued with painful menstrual cramping, and undergoing testing for symptoms doctors believed were linked to multiple sclerosis. And to boot, my doctor prescribed a course of antidepressants to help me feel better.
The reality is, consciously or not, we all make a choice on how we are going to live our lives – whether we will eat healthy, exercise, sleep or de-stress, or even live a life of purpose. I remember visiting a naturopath back then and I recall he had asked me how my headaches were. I smiled to him and said “Not bad, I’ve only had five this week.” He gazed at me and said, “That’s not normal.”
It’d become my normal. If I could go the week without a headache every day, then I thought I was doing well.
I’ve had two headaches in the past eight years, but instead of popping a painkiller, I explore the emotion behind the headache. Is my energy off? Am I neglecting my needs and pushing too hard? When my body communicates to me through symptoms, I listen, rather than mask it with drugs.
Menstrual cramps are now a thing of the past. In eight years, I’ve only experienced it once, and again it forced me to reassess what was happening in my life energetically and emotionally. Part of my journey to wellness included a daily ritual of meditation on compassion and love, which ultimately led to forgiveness and enormous healing of self and letting go; the kind of healing that brings strength and conviction, and releases attachments that keep us in bondage and prevent us from living the life we are intended to live. From there, the sense of selflove grew, and making the decision to nurture myself required little effort. I have come to the resolve that when we truly love ourselves, then everything else grows from there.
Small wonder my chronic fatigue disappeared when I changed my dietary habits and my lifestyle. I’d always been a relatively healthy eater, making home-cooked meals and baking homemade treats for the kids, but for some reason I’d forgotten about the basics of nutrition and health for myself. I’d feed the kids in the morning, but I’d skip breakfast. I’d find time to pack them a lunch, but I’d grab a pack of rice cakes for myself and nibble away at them while glued to my desk for eight hours. I was pleasantly surprised to find another quick and convenient lunch for myself one day – instant oatmeal packs flavoured with brown sugar and maple syrup. Wow, a one-minute lunch that can be eaten out of a coffee cup while still glued to my desk.
It’s quite humorous when I reminisce about it now. Not once during the two years did I stop to analyze my daily diet, which ultimately led to a daily afternoon crash for me.
Now, I never start my day without a breakfast, and not just any breakfast – not a piece of toast with peanut butter and jam on it, or a bowl of cereal or something energy-zapping like that. Nope, I have one of two things for breakfast: plain organic yogurt or organic oatbran, topped with fresh-ground sunflower and pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds and fruit.
If there is such a disease as spiritual sickness, I am certain I am living proof of it.
Symptoms of MS and migraines, which I’d suffered from for years, dissolved when I left my job to pursue my passions – health and fitness – to walk a life of purpose and fulfillment. Logically, one would have thought stress responses would have heightened for me. After all, I was a single mom without any savings in my bank account and I’d just left my job and walked into blank space, leaving behind a paycheque and a pension plan, to start a fitness business without so much as a plan on how I was going to do it. It’s hard to pretend you really care about a mining company president’s revenues when all you really want to do is inspire people to get fit.
While some may label it spiritual sickness, well-known author and medical intuitive Carolyn Myss would suggest when we experience this sort of cognitive dissonance the prostitute archetype is at play in our lives. We prostitute ourselves when we compromise our body, mind and spirit, sell out our true expression of ourselves, for financial security. For years I had been certified as a fitness instructor and teaching classes had been a sideline hobby for me, and every year I’d attend the Canadian Fitness Professionals conference and become more inspired about the things I dreamt of doing some day.
I had to reevaluate my life, and ask myself “What is a true expression of who I am?” because an editor for a business publication just wasn’t it. My new mantra became “God takes care of fools and little children,” and I had complete faith that what I put my attention to would grow.
My very first contract was with the health unit, which, by the way, had my ego stepped into the way, I would have declined. They had planned a volunteer recognition dinner with a Hawaiian theme and the co-ordinator had called and said “You taught my mother ballroom dance many years ago and she suggested I contact you. We’d like to have someone come in to do a fun hula dance workshop for attendees. Do you know how to hula dance?”
I paused for a moment, smiled to myself and responded “No, but I can.”
I bought a mini book on hula dancing and started creating the workshop. My then teenaged son one day passed by my room and stopped in his tracks, bewildered. I turned to him, fashioning a big smile, a flashy hula skirt, gyrating my hips to the beat of Rock-A-Hula Baby, and said “What? It’s not like I quit my job to join the circus.”
No, but I guess to them this pretty much seemed like a close second. Everyone loved the workshop, and my new mantra became “No, but I can.” It’s not easy to walk an unconventional path, a path of most resistance, particularly when society measures success based on acquisitions and wealth. What if we changed our perception of success to “How can I best serve?” How might this change our lives and the way we create our lives?
We all create our own reality. Every experience we have had till now, we have chosen. Alive+Fit was a product of marrying my passion to inspire wellness and my journalism background. Had I not awakened I’d likely still be eating instant oatmeal out of a coffee cup, interviewing forestry giants while still be glued to my desk, and, well, occasionally napping on my futon.
For my 43rd birthday I treated myself to a colon hydrotherapy session and it was one of the best birthday presents ever! Now that’s nurturing yourself!
There is one thing I know for certain, when we nurture ourselves through healthy eating, exercise and just taking time for ourselves, our whole family benefits. We all have choices to make, and the way I look at it, life is just too darn short to feel crummy.
By Sari Huhtala, Publisher, Alive+Fit Magazine