Posts Tagged With: gratitude

Nana 101

Yesterday, my grandmother, Michaela Marina Durán (née Moreno), would have turned 101 years old. She passed away in 1985, when I was three years old. Consequently, I don’t know her too well, but one of my earliest memories of love is from Nana. I have a strong image of her in the doorway at 558 Ramona, holding a baby (although I can’t think of who that would be…maybe a toddler version of Monica or Justine :)). I don’t have any words associated with the memory, just a clear image. And a powerful, visceral feeling of love coming from her.

It’s difficult for me to conceptualize the time period she must have lived in or her life in general. 1914 was such a different time for women, especially women of color. She was the mother of eight children, and I’m told she also miscarried three times. 11 pregnancies…I cannot even imagine. Having only one baby makes me question her overall sanity for going forward with the process seven more times. ;) There have been multiple times already over my one year of motherhood and 9-10 months of pregnancy that I have asked Nana for strength and felt her love in return. When I was going through my insane labor process, I felt her very brightly and I know she helped me stay alive and healthy to push out my baby boy.

Why talk about this now, after a full year of silence on this blog? Why visit these memories? I don’t know, really. I was in yoga last night and during savasana, it dawned on me that I’ve been receiving a lot of messages lately. These messages are becoming more loud and urgent in my brain, and are even showing up in my dreams. I have a calling to serve others. I know that, and I’ve known that for awhile. I do help people in my job/career now, however there is a larger audience for me to speak to and I have to start taking those next steps. I want to support others with IBD to find balance. I think it’s the only way I will “cure” myself of my chronic disease. I will come up with a series of postures and call them “Yoga for IBD.” It’s a concept my friend Joel cae up with and tried to get me to help with many years ago, but I pushed him away. I will also go back to school and learn more about mind-body medicine model with the intention of helping other UC’ers with their pain, balance and journey. The question is when? I don’t know, but the messaging is becoming louder that I need to start something quickly. My first step is returning to my writing. And today I wanted to write about Nana’s love.

I don’t have many pictures of my grandmother here at the house. Just three really. Although they are prized possessions to me. Two of them have love notes on the back from Pop, my grandfather. They were married on April 12, 1941 and stayed together until she passed in 1985. These love notes were from 1938, when he was still in treatment for his tuberculosis and she was there for a visit. It is moving to read his words of love to her, penned so beautifully, so long ago. I now see why my dad is such a romantic.

Anyway, this post is a ramble, but I needed to get it done. I will be taking the next steps toward my recovery and eventual balance with my colitis, and that all starts here for me. Thank you for your patience as I moved through my silence in writing and I hope to see you all here soon again.

My music corner tonight will be courtesy of Ben Harper. I pieced together a video with the pictures I do have of Nana and Pop, along with the other family photos I have here at my house. I don’t have many, still they all show the love and happiness through the foundation that Nana and Pop laid out many years ago. I love you Nana, and Happy Birthday.

Categories: Balance, Healing, Love, Self-care, Self-love | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

2 years (ish) later

LoveOkay, I’m a few weeks late with this post.  Okay, almost a month.  :)  But I did celebrate two years (!!!) of being medication free on August 13, despite my lack of pomp, circumstance or blog post about it. It’s a little surreal to think that it has been two years. And simultaneously, it seems like much longer. Especially if I think if it in terms of alcohol! It helps that I’ve been pregnant for all of 2014, granted…still, I don’t remember the last time I was even buzzed, let alone drunk! Strange. I guess my 30s will be defined by different types of headlines than my 20s. I am okay with that.

It has been interesting comparing Year 2 of living drug-free versus Year 1. The first part of any new adventure is filled with hope and motivation and dreams and pie-in-the-sky expectations. After that wore off, in Year 2, I had to M A I N T A I N. Long-term maintenance can be much more challenging than the initial cold turkey decision. It has been for me in a few ways. First and foremost, I started feeling better! This was a blessing and a curse. And as my dad would say, my lifestyle changes were working so well that I stopped doing them. I started putting different things into my diet, in the spirit of “seeing what works for my body”. In reality, it just tastes good to eat a bagel with cream cheese occasionally. I am human after all. As I was feeling better, I lost that direct feedback loop of “eat crap or get stressed out –> have blood in poop”. I didn’t have the blood anymore and consequently, I had to find new ways to remind myself that it’s not a good idea to freak out at small things out of my control or eat random processed sugar at all hours of the day. Of course, after a few days/weeks of poor decision making, the blood would make a comeback anyway, so, good job colon? At least it’s consistent and I know what I’m dealing with. Having strategies to combat the colitis has been hugely helpful during this second year.

Socially, the long-term maintenance has been way easier than the first year. People adapted so easily to my strict eating habits that when I began deviating from them after awhile, they were kind of confused. Especially after I got pregnant and my colitis was SUPER AMAZING. Gotta love the upside of hormones. I was eating whatever I wanted with no repercussions at all. Now that the pregnancy is almost at an end (is it Sept 19 yet??), I am noticing the return of traces of blood, small changes in my acne, slight shifts in my hair, etc. I love observing it and figuring out how to return my body back to balance. It’s like a crazy Jenga game.

I think the hardest part of long-term maintenance is the most obvious: staying committed. It’s like being an addict. You have to take it one decision, one minute, one hour, one day at a time. You have to be okay with yourself when you deviate from the plan. Be nice to yourself and try not to develop an eating disorder.  :)  It’s all a little overwhelming sometimes, which means sometimes you take a break. Relax and eat a cookie and don’t judge it. But don’t eat the whole box either. Work in a little spinach and kale more often. Such a dance.

Speaking of being an addict, I was cleaning a few months ago, and it was stunning how I had hidden the drugs that were maintaining my colitis in various rooms of our house. I didn’t even realize it. I felt like an alcoholic discovering bottles they hid for themselves. I found a bottle of Asacol in the back of the third drawer of my bathroom. I found another half bottle faaaaaaar in the back underneath the sink. I still had three weeks worth of medicated enemas in my closet, just in case. Even though I had long since given up the habit of mesalamine, there it was, lurking everywhere. I knew I had the enemas as insurance in case things got really bad, really quickly and I needed it. However, I had been holding on for such a long time that they expired! The pills were all still good, but why did I have them? I hadn’t taken them in years. As I threw out the final bottle and box of enemas, I started crying. It was much harder than I thought it would be. At the same time, it was incredibly liberating. I knew I was doing right by my body, nevertheless, the finality set in during that moment. Saying I was done taking the drugs was one thing. Stopping the 9 pills a day regimen was another thing. Physically eliminating the option was apparently a whole new thing. Luckily, my incomparable supportive husband was there to give me hugs and tell me I was doing the right thing. He’s incredible. Not sure what I would do without him, but I’m pretty sure it would involve me shooting drugs in my butt through enemas. HAHA! That’s ridiculously gross! But true. Weird.

At any rate, the house is now officially 100% mesalamine free! It only took almost 10 years to get there! It is an interesting, frustrating, exhilarating, educational path, and I’m grateful everyday I’m on it. Plus, since it is a chronic disease, I may as well embrace the journey because it’s not going anywhere! As the name of the blog implies, I feel that I’ve been given UC as a life assignment and the only way I know how to deal with that assignment is through love. Love of self, love of patience, love of mistakes, love of others, love of balance within my body and life, love of food, love of yoga! It’s all very exciting. Thanks to all for the support and hopefully Year 3 will be even better than the last! I’ll have at least one more family member to share it with soon.  :)  LOVE!

 

ALISA’S MUSIC CORNER

In the spirit of love, here’s one of my favorite love songs ever. It captures the emotion of love in such a heartbreaking and accurate way. Makes me cry most of the time when I hear it. I like the studio version best:

Categories: Colitis, Healing, Love, Patient History, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Supplementary manifestations

Light on the end of railway tunnel.

Supplementary manifestations….sounds more lyrical than “new stuff,” or “current updates” doesn’t it?

There’s a lot to share, but I’ll try to keep it to a reasonable amount of words.  I had a follow-up appt with my GI at the beginning of the June (seriously, has it been that long since I wrote on here??).  He went over the photos with me and re-iterated how well everything is going.  Two things that stood out:

1-I don’t actually have any ulcers right now.  What?  Yeah, apparently it’s just inflammation and mucus.  Although this is good news, it is confusing and frankly, disorienting….which is probably a good thing.  I think it makes for good character development to have your freaking world rocked every now and again.  I’m so used to identifying with these damn tiny little ulcers that I have to now redefine myself.  Do I have to change the name of my blog?  Maybe I should dye my hair a new color.  Do I have to get all new friends and buy new clothes?  I hope not, it all sounds like a lot of work.

2-the “healthy” part above the inflammation is still classified as “inactive colitis” according to their biopsies.  Although this should not have come as some huge surprise to me, it did.  Basically, this stuff doesn’t go away easily, or at all.  It’s like the UC is saying: “Hey, in case you forgot, I will be with you for THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.  Just making sure you don’t forget and F things up again!”  I realize it’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but goodness, it would be nice if it just freaking went away already.  And for good.

The doctor patiently explained again why a daily medication would be helpful.  It would reduce the chance of another bad flare by 50%.  He likened it to a vitamin that you take in the morning, just to make sure everything is running smoothly.  He explained it as a topical intervention….it goes directly to the colon, where it needs to and only affects the first few levels of cells.  The one he wants me to take is not an immuno-suppressant like many other UC drugs are.  It’s safe and relatively harmless on paper. He complimented me on all of my hard work and said I was 90% of the way there.  This just helps you get to that last 10%.  It all sounds very natural and easy when he says it.  :)

Fast forward to a yoga class I took on Saturday with one of my favorite teachers.  After working us really hard for 60 minutes (I thought I was going to die a few times during the flow), he had us sit and meditate.  He asked us to think about our greatest teacher in life.  What it is that keeps us inspired and focused.  What keeps us coming back to our mat.  He asked us to thank those teachers and pay respect to all of them.  I just sat there and cried like a crazy person.  I have had amazing, humbling, brilliant teachers.  But none of them comes to close to changing my life like UC has.  What choice do I have but to be grateful for this annoyingly efficient teacher and spotlight?  And I’m close.  I’m ridiculously close.  I’m 90% of the way there.  I don’t want to turn it off now with a prescription.  I’m still a work in progress.  Maybe I always will be.  But at least I’ll have found my way by listening to my mind, body and spirit.  I know what I’m doing may not work for everyone, but I am absolutely happy that it’s working for me.

Which leads to my other MD appt I had in June, this time with an integrative, Ayurvedic, yoga teacher who just happens to be my new primary care physician.  She is amazing.   I am grateful to have her on my side.  We had a two-hour appointment where she went through the most comprehensive health history that any doctor has ever walked me through.  She (ironically? fittingly?) said the same thing as my GI: Alisa, you’re almost there, we just need to tweak that last 10%.  The HOW was different though.  She prescribed VSL#3 which is a behind-the-counter, super strength probiotic.  I didn’t fill that prescription either.  I’m so stubborn!  haha.  I already have a probiotic that has been working great for me, therefore I’m happy with it, no need for the VSL.  She did make a number of recommendations that I am following, though.  In terms of herbs, I’m now taking triphala, curcumin (turmeric) and aloe vera juice.  I’m also supposed to be doing a digestive tea daily with fennel, coriander and cumin, but I’m still working that one into my routine.  In terms of lifestyle, she recommended more restorative yoga, warming foods, soothing activities, and of course, less stress overall.

For today, there is a growing light at the end of the tunnel: I won’t always have to have colitis as a reminder to be nice to myself.  It’s fine for now (that’s for you, Papa!) but it’s not exactly a sustainable situation.  Knowing that makes it that much easier to let it go, which I’m doing slowly.  I’m learning how to be a real person, functioning in a healthy way on my own, without the help and guidance of my colitis.

ALISA’S MUSIC CORNER

Does it make me a teeny-bopper if I love the new Bruno Mars song?  Is that who buys his stuff?  I don’t even know.  I’m not saying I celebrate his whole catalog, but I’m digging his new wannabe Michael Jackson/Earth, Wind & Fire song, Treasure.  I never got into disco music overall, but this song is just fun.  Check out the music video and you’ll swear it’s actually the Jackson 5 dancing around.  Despite what I said on my last post, I do love when people rip off other people and do it just as well or better.  So keep on rocking it, Bruno.

Bruno-Mars-Treasure-Video

Categories: Balance, Colitis, Healing, Love, Patient History | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Well hello there.  In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been putting off writing for some reason.  And then the longer the break expands and takes up space, the more pressure builds on what comes next.  This is all in my head, of course.  What’s very interesting is that I actually missed writing.  But as much as I missed it, I still didn’t do it.  What is that about?  Why does motivation seem so elusive sometimes?  For me, it’s lack of motivation and also a sense of “it has to be AMAZING and EPIC and LIFE-CHANGING” in order for it to be a good post.  I apparently have a competitive performance-anxiety issue that is quite pervasive.  One of my favorite stories that some of you may have heard is from my kindergarten teacher….20 years after kindergarten.  I saw her a few years back when I was 26 and she A) remembered who I was which is always fun and B) had some amazing insights into my apparently already formed personality at age 5.

Side story: I had a major hint that my personality was set early on (as a lot are) when I read my baby book with personality descriptions written by my mom.  As a baby, I was really smiley and happy….unless one of my parents walked by without picking me up which is obviously super uncalled for.  I loved hugs, attention, reading (my sister taught me when I was 3), making others happy, and was very determined.  Doomed from the start. :)

At any rate, I run into my kindergarden teacher and it’s all “hey! hi! how are you, life is good, general niceties, etc”.  Then she starts in with “You know I remember you and Jill Pasqualetto and Brandon Davis used to be really good friends [yes, she remembered full names 20 years later!] and you were always really competitive.  You wanted to be the best.  But you were the most competitive with yourself.”  Jeez.  Was I that transparent my whole life…..and since I was FIVE?  I wish she could have told me that, you know, a few years earlier into my 20s.  But it was a huge wakeup call even then.  It wouldn’t be for a few more years that I would start to take my health more seriously, and a few more years after that that I would start to piece together that my stress of trying to be the best at everything while also being in control of everything was slowly draining me.

All of this to say, I’m going into this post without expectation for myself.  It’s something new I’m trying on.  I’m aiming to approach things in life as I would a yoga pose: with interest and curiosity without a sense of “I have to get this right”.  It’s a strange thing that I’ve been practicing “on the mat” for awhile but applying it to real life has been a lot slower.  But I think it’s helping.  Which is good.

What else is going on.  Colitis update.  I had an appt with a new GI, Dr. Barrett Levesque, last Monday and have a colonoscopy scheduled for April 29, my first!  So exciting (she said sarcastically).  No, it will be good to get a baseline for where I’m at since I’ve been off meds for over 8 months now and never had a full colonoscopy.  I still have good days and bad.  I’m still learning my emotional, stress, and food triggers, and at what times of the day and month those are more prevalent.  It’s a hard freaking process.  But it’s fun and I am continuing to approach my ever-present colitis as a spotlight where I can more accurately shine my love and attention.  The new doctor is light years better than my last.  He is an expert in IBD and is open to trying out different things, although he is still very entrenched in the “fact” that a prescription will make my colitis go away, we just haven’t found the right one yet.  It’s how he is trained and how he approaches disease, which is fine.  He answered all of my questions, including ones about how stress and exercise play a role in IBD.  His perspective is that although stress plays a role, when my colon is healthy and functioning at a blood-free level, then the stresses will not affect it as much.  But as it is right now, the inflammation is super susceptible to any little thing.  He feels that although diet and lifestyle can help maintain a healthy colon, enemas and pills are necessary (or at least faster) at getting the colon into fighting shape.  He did say that he thinks no ONE thing makes colitis go away, it is a combination of all the interventions.  Again, light years ahead of my last GI.

Dr. Levesque also made me feel better about the risk of cancer since I’m going on 8+ years of colitis.  He’s never seen anyone actually develop colon cancer and the overall numbers don’t seem to actually increase as reported in a lot of data based on older information.  The numbers are simply not coming in as high as they were thought to.  Developing colon cancer is one of the things that keeps me up at night when I’m having a freakout moment, so hearing that it is not likely was hugely helpful.

My current plan is to get the results of the colonoscopy and sort of shop them around to different types of healers (GI, ND, acupuncturist, integrative MD, Ayurvedic healer, etc) to see what resonates the most with me.  It’s a total trip to learn about all these different types of healers and to see that each of them has their toolbox full of ideas, each of which is equally trusted and valid in their eyes.

Speaking of healing (wouldn’t it be nice to just be all healed up?), I attended a Chopra Center retreat last month called “Journey Into Healing” which was phenomenal.   It was geared toward integrative medicine, featuring Deepak himself and also Dr. Andrew Weil of anti-inflammatory fame.  My sister volunteered at a retreat there a few months back and knew I would love it (she was right, of course).  I was originally turned on to the Chopra Center because they do a 21-day meditation challenge a few times per year, and it’s all online and free.  I enrolled in my first one in August 2010.  I’ve since enrolled in 6 times….and I have yet to actually finish all 21 days.  haha.  It’s the thought that counts?  Meditation practice remains challenging for me.  The motivation factor strikes again!  With that one, I think a fear factor kicks in too, like, what’s going to happen?  Will my mind melt down and never come back?  What if I never reach total consciousness?  Am I a failure?  Damn performance anxiety.  I can’t get away from it even with intentional breathing.  Am I doing it right?  What do I look like?  haha.  My thoughts are so endless.

At any rate, there were probably 100 different interesting and perspective-changing events that happened to me during the retreat, but I think the most important was reminding myself to keep it simple.  It’s very easy for me to get bogged down in the details of Ayurveda or medicine or life in general.  But at the end of the day, just making yourself happy and calm seems to be the answer to so many questions.  Bobby McFerrin is a freaking genius!  haha.  Lots of ways and theories on how to do that (enter all those crazy details) but I’m working toward keeping it simple, happy and calm.

So choose one option below for your day and I’ll talk to you soon!  Love to all.

Be Happy

Categories: Balance, Colitis, Love | Tags: , , | 8 Comments

Gratitude and Forgiveness

My previous post was such a huge weight lifted from me that I’ve been finding it kind of difficult to return to writing.  But before another day passes, I need to say thank you to all in my life who have continued to read this blog and continued to talk to me about this journey and continued to be amazing supporters of my life. I turned 31 on Tuesday (yay!) and was fortunate enough to have a few celebrations so far (hooray birthday month!).  For the biggest party, my family and I took over a restaurant in the OC which was great…we had about 10 people more than I thought we would but this was not a deterrent for the Duráns.  No, we just started grabbing tables and chairs until there were enough.  I loved it, plus the waitress was really laidback, so it was perfect.  I love all of my family and their spirit so much, and to have a huge group there to celebrate was very special.  Plus we had some east coast family present too with Jon’s mom and sister at our place for the weekend!  Everything came together perfectly.  Thank you.

Thanks to the many friends who always are there to celebrate with me too.  My WT friends made it to the OC celebration (even though one of them was about to pop out a child right there at the table!  Now that is love.)  And I actually had a similar overflow situation on Tuesday night in SD when we had a bunch of extra people around a table for 6, but we just got rid of a few chairs and stood around (it was a high bar table).  Everyone around me is so flexible!

The demonstrations of love that are all around me constantly force me to look at my life in new and fun ways.  I’ve been making my dedication for yoga practice one word lately: love.  And what is a more appropriate day to celebrate LOVE but today?  My parents taught me a long time ago to come into each day with gratitude and forgiveness, which to me, is a huge part of love.  Such strong and important concepts to approach life with.  If you apply gratitude and forgiveness to each part of you, your life and those around you, everything becomes much more clear and simple.  For me today, these words are my token of gratitude.  As for forgiveness, it can be a challenge.  I see forgiveness right now on par with acceptance.  I accept myself as I am today and I invite you to do the same!  I am where I need to be and I accept and forgive myself.  Deep breaths.  Happy.

Happy love and Valentine’s Day to all!

ALISA’S MUSIC CORNER

Today I am hearing Aunt Cecil in my head sing the prayer of St. Francis.  I tried to find a good substitute on youtube, but nothing compares to my Aunt Cecil singing.  She has a powerful gift that moves me and so many others.  I hadn’t heard this song in a long time and it popped in my head the other day and has been sticking with me ever since.  I looked up the words again (which vary greatly depending on the translation, but I pieced together from what I remember singing as a kid) and wow.  Super powerful.  Even though it originated as a Catholic prayer, I hope even some part resonates with you on some level.

PS–Thanks for being an inspiration Auntie Cecil.  I love you!

Prayer of St. Francis

Make me an channel of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me bring your love,
Where there is injury, your pardon now,
And where there’s doubt, true faith in you.

Make me an channel of your peace,
Where there’s despair in life, let me bring hope,
Where there is darkness, only light,
And where there’s sadness, ever joy.

O Master grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled, as to console,
To be understood, as to understand,
To be loved, as to love with all my soul.

Make me an channel of your peace,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
In giving of ourselves that we receive,
And in dying we are born to eternal life.

Categories: Love | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

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