On January 26, 2012, my husband and I left our Minnesota home for the last time and permanently moved to Fountain Hills, Arizona. This was our dream. Some 20 years prior, the Sonoran desert had stolen our hearts, and now we were stepping into the life we had envisioned for ourselves!
“If I had my life to live over again, I would ask that not a thing be changed, but that my eyes be opened wider.”
On February 10th of the same year, I came down with Valley Fever. Yup. Eight years ago. Beginning the year I was strong and healthy, golfing, hiking, socializing, and going to Jazzercise 5 mornings a week. Life was full and busy! By mid-February, I was confined to my bed with severe fatigue, headaches, nausea and body aches, and struggled for most of the next 4-5 years to have any sort of a normal life.
In this 3rd and final part of nO Regrets Living, I’m taking a stroll back through the last 8 years to revisit some of the more important lessons I’ve learned, and to pan for any gold nuggets I might have missed along the way. I’m grateful for every lesson, each challenge, and all the ups and downs there have been. Thanks for coming along for the ride!
Somewhere in the last 6 months I can honestly say I’ve reached my new normal. I no longer think of myself as “sick”. I will no longer use my experience with Valley Fever as a way to mark time. I will consider myself recovered. The dictionary defines recovery as “a return to a normal state of health, mind, strength” and/or “the action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost”. I also looked up the definition of transformation, which means “make a thorough or dramatic change in the form, appearance, or character of.”
There are definitely parts of myself that have recovered, but I would say, as a whole, my entire being has been transformed. I may look the same on the outside, but my insides seem to have been totally rearranged. It was time. Actually, it was over due. During the last 8 years I have said many times that if I had gotten “well” in less time, I would have gone right back to all my old patterns and coping mechanisms. And that is the last thing I wanted. Change takes time. Transformation takes time. And, I’ve never wanted anything so badly in my life.
I’m grateful beyond words for the role ART has played in my recovery. It is the safe place I’ve returned to again and again, to play, and begin once again to hear that still, small (very wise) voice inside me. Growing up in an alcoholic and overly religious home, feeling “the crazies” comes pretty natural to me. Words and feelings of doubt, being less than, shame and unworthiness abound in this mind of mine. And like my friend, Karla, says, “Our minds are dangerous neighborhoods to travel in by ourselves.” Luckily, my artist self has become my traveling partner, and it has made all the difference. It makes this whole process worth every step. Truly.
As odd as this might sound, taking risks in my art, my writing, and my life were easier when I was sick. Life was simpler, more basic, and safer. As I’ve gotten better, the judgements and expectations I have of myself, and others have of me, have crept in and shut me down quite often. I had to dig deep when I was ill, and now, as I’ve become well, I’m having to dig deep in a completely different way. I’ve been digging deep my whole life, but for some reason I wasn’t expecting I’d have to now. Yes, Sweetie, grab the shovel again. There are more things to be cleared out, and there is more freedom to be had!!
Chronic and long-term illness changes a person, in a lot of positive ways if you let it, but also in some very challenging ways, too. Our brains change and create new pathways to help manage our lack of energy and pain. Those of us who are lucky enough to “get well”, and reach a new normal, can find those coping pathways actually hinder our healing. Again, not what I expected. I’ve recently become conscious of how I immediately begin checking myself (body, energy, mental and spiritual state) every time I consider saying yes to anything. Do I have the energy? Will it take too much out of me? Do I need a nap? These aren’t bad questions, but I no longer need to keep traveling this pathway in the same way. I am well enough. I am strong enough. I’m transformed enough to move forward.
In my new life, I’ve had to admit it’s not good for my health and well-being to handle and have answers for everything in my life, and everyone else’s, too. It may seem obvious how unattainable that is, but for this self-prescribed savior, it is a huge step to let all that go! Staying healthy, grounded, happy and lit up has now become my focus. I have realized that some things (quite a few things, actually) are not worth my energy. For this recovering co-dependent and alcoholic, admitting that is another huge step. Staying focused on nO Regrets Living, meditation, creating art, experiencing Nature, down-time, intimate connections and conversations, good movies, and adventures that expand and enlighten me, get first priority now. There. I said it. In black & white. And, no, “saving the world” didn’t make the list. I may be a slow learner, but sooner or later, I do get the lesson!
Through these last 8 years, I have slowly learned to let myself be loved and seen in new and deeper ways. I’m also learning how to love in truer, less encumbered, less co-dependent ways. I’m so grateful. It’s been a long time coming. Being vulnerable and gut-wrenchingly honest is scary, but the rewards are great. Miracle level great. Learning to trust myself has finally given me a foundation to begin trusting others. Thank you to the many angels who have shown up, in person and in spirit, to hold my hand and show me the way. Thank you for not giving up on me. We are not meant to do this journey on our own (I tried damn hard, though) and I would not have made it without you.
I started this nO Regrets Living 3-Part Series by writing about the loss of my dear friend, Eric Lunde and his family (read nO regrets living-Part 1-a tribute HERE. In it, I wrote:
”Since Eric’s death, I keep hearing: Don’t wait to wake up. Don’t wait to love. Don’t wait to swim in the ocean. Don’t wait to take that trip. Don’t wait to be with your favorite people. Don’t wait to celebrate. Don’t wait to live your life the way you want to. Don’t wait.”
Only now do I realize how impactful writing those words have been. Without knowing it, they have become a living, breathing energy and power operating in my life – helping me to make choices that fill me with light & love, and truly with nO Regrets. Yup, miracle level changes.
Thank you and goodbye, dear Valley Fever. You have been a mighty teacher, and one I will never forget. I will travel lighter, more consciously, and more honestly than before, creating as much beauty and joy as I can. Thank you for giving me a new set of wings. I will cherish them and use them wisely.
One other radical shift that I’ve become aware of recently, that I finally feel in my bones, is that I am responsible for my own happiness. Me. Only me. Not my husband. Not my friends. Not my family. Not the checkout girl. Not my doctor. Not even my therapist. Me. Only me. (My husband is sighing in relief that he is finally, finally off the hook.) Believing that other people were responsible for my life and state of being, even subconsciously, is one of the core beliefs that has kept me acting out of co-dependency, instead of love. It is a hard way to live. And nobody ever ends up getting what they need and want. In my new life, I get to fly free, and so does everyone else. I promise.
So, here’s to freedom, happiness, fulfillment, peace, pleasure and love. It really is possible to create a future, not from the past, but from your beautiful, vibrant, luscious, light-filled dreams. Thank you, thank you, for listening and supporting my journey to wholeness. Listen to the callings of your own soul, and choose things that light you up. You will never, ever, regret it❤️
One year ago I found myself writing about hitting bottom in my hello bOttOm post. Bottoms are rich with lessons, insights, inspiration and motivation if you choose to keep looking, breathing, and then screaming and crying when you need to. It is not the easiest choice, but, in my opinion, the worthiest.
“Stay close to anything that makes you glad you are alive.”
Today I find myself in a much different place (yippee!) and I’m suprised at how uncomfortable I feel. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit that, but it’s really the truth. Don’t get me wrong. I’m crazy happy and excited that this is the best I have felt in five years, but it’s also quite challenging to embrace the joy of it all. I’m not 100% yet, but feeling this new level of vitality in my body is amazing, and frightening at the same time.
Amazing because I now feel capable of taking what I’ve learned these last five years to build a life that offers the world the best of me, and really makes me happy. Frightening because I know what it’s like to not have the strength to get out of bed, and the memory of it is still quite haunting. But maybe that makes it even more important to happily and boldly claim where I am now.
“What we don’t need in the midst of struggle is shame for being human.“
– Brene Brown
Maybe this moving on and embracing joy time is as sacred as the dark, rich, fighting for your life time. Oh, I sure do hope so. I wouldn’t want anyone else to miss this part of their journey, so why am I giving myself such a hard time about it? I actually think I’m feeling guilty. Oh, man, I didn’t see that one coming!
Feeling guilty for getting well when other people are still suffering with their dis-eases. That part of this makes me really sad. If I could give everybody good health and vitality I would. I really, really would.
“Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.”
– Anne Lamott
So, I guess I have a choice to make. To keep shining my light in the best way I know how, or to let the shame and guilt win. Well, I will tell you right now – they are NOT going to win. I’ve worked too damn hard and long for that to happen!
Even though it feels terribly risky, I’m making a promise to myself, right nOw, to revel in this new energy. To keep claiming every bit of joy and light I can, and to keep making choices that light me up. It’s really my wish for everyone on the planet, so why wouldn’t I choose it for myself, too?
To that end, I will share with you that I have been accepted into the Fountain Hills Artists Gallery!!! How crazy unbelievable is that?!? Truth be told, I am over the moon about it. As far back as I can remember I’ve dreamed of being an artist. I’ve always loved creating things, fixing things, and finding ways to put things back together again in new ways. And here I am sharing it with the world!! Some dreams really do come true!
For many of my working years I imagined my 80-year old self as a budding artist. I’m so happy I didn’t wait that long. I’m actually 20 1/2 years ahead of time! All I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you. To the Universe, my creativity, my perseverance, and to all of you. I truly wouldn’t have made it without you.
None of us know what is around the next corner, which makes every day a special opportunity to respond to life in a way that is in line with who you really are. Your unique brand of love, creativity, humor and kindness is invaluable to the world. Don’t ever forget that. I promise I won’t either.
P.S. My artwork will be in the Fountain Hills Artists Gallery beginning June 6, 2017. I’m so happy to be a part of this new community, and to be supporting the arts right here in my beautiful little town. I’ll be sharing more about it in the coming months, and invite you to check out my Artist Bio on their website.
Keep dreaming and becoming!
“Even if our efforts of attention seem for years to be producing no result, one day a light that is in exact proportion to them will flood the soul.
Today it is 5 years since my journey with Valley Fever began. I can still hear the first Pulmonary Doctor say to me that it might be three months or more before I begin to feel better. At the time those three months sounded like forever. Who would have ever thought it would be 5 years?!?!!
I have been an instant results kind of girl for most of my life. It worked for me for a while, but I’m learning that it also took it’s toll on my body and soul. I don’t recommend it, and I’m still surprised how often I catch myself setting impossible standards for myself, and, unfortunately, others. I’ve learned it is not sustainable, or even really all that fun. Needing and requiring instant results feeds perfectionism, judgement, and harshness. Yeah, REALLY not fun!
This journey has forced me to grow in ways I didn’t even know were possible. It has been humbling, incredibly challenging, enlightening, surprising, freeing and downright joy-filled many times. I have felt more loved, creative, grateful and empowered than ever before. Yes, this sacred illness has changed my life for the better.
By early November I was feeling the best I have felt since I got sick. Oh jOy!! I even felt up to playing 18 holes of golf on Ladies’ Day, which includes golf, lunch, socializing, and seeing friends I hadn’t seen in a very long time. Being on a golf course is truly one of my happy places, and I have missed it dearly. So, again, Oh jOy!!
My game was rusty, and I was a bit anxious, but I loved every minute of it. Unfortunately, it was all just a bit much for me. It took 3 days to recover, but the following week I was back out there. My inner dialogue went something like this – “You can do this. It is time to be out there. People are expecting you to finally show up and be a part of things again. And remember, you love golf!” Yes, my inner critic and her high expectations are really hard to shake. By the end of the month my energy had bottomed out and I finally, and sadly, had to admit that I wasn’t up to the whole thing. Again?! Really!?
One day I wandered into my art studio, rearranged a few paintings and came upon this sign. Sometimes the “signs” from the Universe are actually signs!!
I chuckled, and smiled, and was flooded by memories of two of the most amazing women I have known. This sign first hung in Sharon K.’s house and was the mantra she lived by everyday. Even as she battled multiple myeloma for several years, I never once saw her give up. Even during her final days, there was no throwing in the towel for her. This sign was then passed to her life long friend, Sharon L., and was a beacon for her as she open-heartedly walked through her own battle with cancer. So many reasons to give up, and no “I can’t” was heard. And now that neither one of them are on the planet, it has been passed to me.
To be honest, the first time I saw this sign I really thought it was a bit harsh. I mean, some days, don’t we all just get to throw in the towel and cry uncle? As I watched both my dear friends courageously battle cancer and intense loss, I began to see more clearly the depth of their spirits. There was no “give up” there. No “I’m done” there. No “I can’t” there. It humbles me and still brings me to tears to have experienced their unbeatable, beautiful, brilliant spirits.
As I lay on my yoga mat this morning, I finally realized what I had witnessed in my two amazing Sharon’s. This sign doesn’t mean to keep pushing and gutting my way through life. It doesn’t mean to just suck it up. It doesn’t mean to see how much I can suffer through. What it DOES mean is to:
Never, Never, Never give up On yOurself.
As I lay sobbing on my yoga mat, I was flooded with feelings of relief and gratitude. I get it now. They were showing me their light, so I could see mine. It felt like for the first time I could feel the true and real energy and light of my spirit. My spirit really is there. Always has been. She has my back and I have hers. And so do my two Sharon’s.
So dear friends, I am encouraging you to not quit on yOurself. To not quit on the spirit of who you really are. You have no idea what wonderful things might happen. I sure didn’t!
shine On dear Ones!
Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love.
It will not lead you astray.
– Jalaluddin Rumi
In May of 2012, just three months into this illness, I decided I would let my hair grow until I was well. I was so sick at the time that getting myself to the salon wasn’t even an option, but making that declaration gave me a little sense of control, which I badly needed at the time.
While I was writing last month’s nO push zOne blog post, I made another declaration. I consciously made an intention that “I will do whatever it takes for me to get well”. Now, you’re likely thinking, “Weren’t you already doing that? And if you weren’t, why the hell not?!”
You see, I know that setting intentions work. Big time. They alert the universe that you are really ready for a change, and it responds by setting in motion things and events to create the opportunity for that change. Amazing, right!? Well, the scary part is, the universe needs us to work in partnership with it, and there is no way to know exactly what will be required of us once the ball gets rolling.
For example, in October of 2000, I stood in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Kauai feeling so moved and transformed by the beauty, that I found myself declaring to the universe that I was ready to be “opened up” and healed. Three months later I found myself in emergency surgery in Miami for the first of three surgeries for cervical cancer. Believe me, this was NOT the “opened up” scenario I had in mind. In the end though, it saved not only my physical health, but my marriage, sanity and happiness as well. So, yes, miss wise, powerful and creative universe, I got just what I wanted, but it’s all those steps in between that sometimes scare the hell out of me.
So last month, after four years on this particular journey, feeling really ready to be done with it all, I once again summoned my courage and jumped off the so-called perverbial cliff, and screamed “uncle” into the wind.
To make sure the universe knew I was serious about doing whatever it takes to get well, I followed through on the plan to cut my hair. It was scary, empowering and really quite freeing. Since then, almost every day, my meditations have been deeper, my decisions more important, and my body stronger. I’m ever so grateful to the Great Change Agent who has responded to my screams into the wind. I know there are more opportunities for change to come. And I will keep saying yes.
So, my dear friends, I’m encouraging you to live the life that lights you up. It requires tough decisions, finding a way to not care about what other people think of you (yup, this might be a tough one), saying no even when it scares you, and increasing your capacity to tolerate, feel, and transform your emotions (yes, even anger and grief) into the most amazing energy ever. And you might just discover a whole new level of happy, too.
We are all “lit up” by different things. Take the time to find out what your unique combination might be, and:
Claim your truth.
Follow your intuition.
Don’t judge yourself, or others.
And live the life you were meant to live.
Be brave. Be happy. Be true.
Just when I thought I’d learned as much as I could from the gift called Valley Fever, it knocked me on my bum, did a little happy dance, and not so gently reminded me that my old outdated ways of being just aren’t going to work anymore.
My dear friend Karla came to town for a conference in early January, and since I was feeling pretty darn good, and we hadn’t been together for 7 months, I decided to join her for a couple of nights at her hotel in Scottsdale. Only in retrospect can I say,
“What was I thinking?”.
We talked, laughed, cried, and ate delicious healthy meals – ok, and some bacon – to keep us going. I made sure to get in my daily 1-2 hour nap thinking this would be enough. Unfortunately, I also began ignoring the subtle messages from my body that were informing me that I was “pushing it” beyond it’s currently tiny energy reserve.
In less than 36 hours, I found myself back in my bed unable to do much of anything. No more adventures, walks or long talks for Karla and I. It was maddening, heart-breaking, and a bit embarrassing. It was a perfect time to ask,
“What am I missing?”.
Over the past 6 weeks as I tried to see the opportunity in this lastest setback, I began to realize that my first reaction to just about anything, is to push. The truth is, I’ve been pushing myself most of my life. On the outside I’ve looked cool, calm and collected, but make no mistake, on the inside, I’m pushing like mad. Pushing to fit in. Pushing to perform. Pushing to be perfect, nice and smart. Pushing to always be available, proper, and of service. Pushing to belong. Pushing to be more. And at times, pushing just to survive. I can honestly say I had no idea how exhausting and taxing it all has been.
Don’t get me wrong. Being able to push myself has, at times, served me very well. It is a skill I will keep on the shelf for when I need it, but I don’t want it to be my everyday way of being. (My body, brain and energy system is sighing in relief.) Without a doubt, my health depends on me getting this!
It’s not the stress of life that is the issue, it is my response to it. Meditation is helping. Being honest about it is helping. Listening to and trusting my intuition is helping. And, as you know, being grateful helps everything.
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve had to make some really hard decisions in order to keep my committment to myself to stay in the no push zOne. It has been downright scary at times, and is requiring me to dig deep for courage, truth and resiliency. It is all worth it, though, because I really believe that I am in the process of uncovering a type of energy that is grounded, connected, steady, strong, relaxed, sparkly, reliable and resilient, The type of energy I’ve only dreamed of.
Keep dreaming, dear friends, because dreams really do come true.
Stay true to who you really are.
“Give every day the chance to become the most beautiful day of your life.”
For most of January and early February I was terribly scared, concerned, and frantically spinning with fatigue and fear. During those days, I was asking a lot of questions in my head (a dangerous neighborhood to go by oneself, as my dear friend Karla says). Questions like, “How come I’m this sick again?” and “What is wrong with me?”, and sadly, “How can I expect John to stick around if I can’t do anything?” Oh, how quickly I turn on myself.
In retrospect, I realized the biggest error in my ways was in asking all the “wrong” questions. “Wrong” being those things that are out of my control. Focusing on those things will cause you to go crazy, you know.
In response to my turmoil, amidst many tears and much worrying, I have chosen to let go and begin again. And again. Here is what I am choosing to focus on instead:
- My husbands’ love for me, and his ability to keep me smiling and laughing, and his belief that I am getting better and better. I SO believe in us, and so does he!
- An affirmation from Louise Hay (I’m not always big on affirmations, but this one feels good to me right now) – “I am enthusiastic about life and filled with energy.”
- Making really positive morning decisions – meditation, art journaling, drinking water.
- How much stronger I am than I used to be, and what is most helpful physically to me right now.
- How cool it is to be learning so much from the incredible artists/teachers in Life Book 2015. You can still sign up HERE!
- AND, stay really clear about what I value, what brings me joy, and what is most important in my life.
shOw and tell (one of my favorite things as a kid : )
Last June, in my post titled lOve, trust and demOlitiOn, I shared pictures of our condo remodel in progress. During one of my daily visits to Starbucks a few weeks ago, I ran into our contractor Tony, and he reminded me that I never posted the “after” pictures of our project. Now that everything has been completed, including my brand new vickiO art studiO, it’s time for the big reveal!
If you need a great contractor, and live in the Phoenix area, contact Tony Timonte at Accurate Interiors, HERE!
The pictures really don’t do the space justice, but trust me – the colors are bright and comforting and bring us much jOy. We plan to be here for a long time❤️
And now to my studio! For the artists out there, most of what you see was purchased at IKEA for a very reasonable price. A huge thank you to my talented friend, Lisa Shore, who designed the room and took me to the IKEA store in Tempe Arizona to select, pick (literally pick the products off of the warehouse shelves, load them onto a large cart, and wheel them up to the checkout lane) and purchase each piece. We laughed, lugged, and lunched our way around the place, and the result is priceless!
I even held my first one-on-one art class here with a woman from Chicago who saw my work at the November art fair! Loving being vickiO!
And with just a few changes, here it is as a guest room!
It really helps to use carts and shelves with wheels on them for art supplies. While our guests are here, I just move the necessary pieces into our bedroom, and continue to create and paint there.
February 24, 2015
My life changed drastically and shockingly today. My dearest friend, Sharon Lunde, passed away suddenly. She was my mentor, my teacher, my mother, and my Soul Sister for 32 years. We were the true definition of The Mutual Admiration Society.
Silly me, I thought I could prepare myself for this day. At least a little, anyway. Not even remotely possible. Mind-numbing, heart-breaking loss. Unknown territory. Beginning again.
Here are a few things I said in her eulogy:
“Surprisingly, Sharon didn’t think she was an artist, and yet, if you were lucky enough to be one of her students, colleagues or friends, she could take the scattered bits and pieces of your broken heart, and fiercely and lovingly weave it back together again, and make you whole.
And she was willing to do that over and over and over again.
The truth is, I loved everything about her – and luckily, she loved everything about me. There was no way to walk away from our time together and not feel important, or seen, or heard. I don’t know what life will be like without her. Only time will tell. All I know for sure is that her love challenged me, transformed me, and saved me, and I will be forever grateful.”
Sharon would have loved the Celebration of Her Life that took place last Monday. It was touching and real, funny and sad, moving and inspiring, and standing room only. It was all about her – just as it should be, and just as she would have wanted it to be.
Seek comfort for your beautiful heart. Hug those you love. Appreciate the goodness in your world.
Whatever you do, don’t stop moving forward. In art, in love, and in life. Don’t lose the hunger. Long for the next chance to feed that hunger, not to silence it.
– David duChemin, photographer
The end of one year, and the beginning of another, is one of my favorite things. Not for the parties or the drinking. Not for the late night or the crowds. But for the time to review and honor the lessons and gifts of the past year, and for the dreaming and honoring of the possibilities that are waiting for me in the new one. And the kissing. I love the kissing.
I tend to measure the success of a year by the fears I faced, the challenges I said yes to, how gentle I’ve been with myself and others, and by my capacity for love and gratitude. My goal is to not only celebrate my growth (which helps keep me going), but to see where I might want to place my focus in the coming year.
To help me continue on the path of becoming my healthiest self (mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually – which, like my therapist says, is a full-time job), 2015 will include:
- Life Book 2015 – An Honoring and Celebration of You! This is an online mixed-media art course, organized by Tamara Laporte at Willowing Arts in the UK. Among many other wonderful possibilities listed in her LifeBook Manifesto, these are the parts that caught my eye: “We look to become our own super heroes and our own best friends. We feel our feelings. We lean into discomfort and see where it takes us. We honour our inner world, we sit down with sadness, we sit in the fire and rise again, like the phoenix.” If you are looking for a way to play, explore and grow this year, check this out by clicking on the link above. You will not be disappointed!
- Meditation – This is something I have dabbled in, struggled with, loved, and hated for many years. I’ve started reading, at the suggestion of my therapist, the book Real Meditation In Minutes A Day by Joseph Arpaia. It talks about the idea that our minds, just like our bodies, need training to be fit and healthy, calm and relaxed, calm and steady. My mind SO needs this training! I’ll let you know how I’m doing with it. Uh, where was I? Oh, right…
- Continue Reading The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer. This book is on the New York Times best seller list and complements my goals of greater trust, knowing and creativity in the new year.
- Continue Practicing Radical Self Care – acupunture, therapy, resting, choosing, saying, and letting my artist-self play til her hearts content.
Thank you 2014, for blessing me with improving health, the best husband in the world, the loveliest of friends, creative inspiration, the most magical road trip, generous and supportive vickiO Art customers, and moments of jOy that will last as long as I live.
To those of you suffering with Valley Fever, please know you are not forgotten. Each day, when I feel grateful for my improving health, I send healing and heart energy to everyone of you. There is so much physical and emotional pain that comes with this illness, and the road is often very lonely. More light needs to be shed on the acute and long-term effects of Valley Fever. Our voices need to be heard. I’m thinking of some creative ways to bring more light, attention, understanding and education to our cause, so we are all not so alone. More to come on this in 2015.
Another on-going goal of mine is -how should I say- to become “co-dependent no more”. Or at least “co-dependent a hell of a lot less”. Much of the time, it feels like I’m fighting a ghost, an aberration, or an unseen marauder, that sabotages my self-esteem and confidence at every turn. It causes me to question even the smallest decisions, and, I’m realizing, is taking up way too much of my precious energy.
I have come a long way in my recovery, and will continue to do what ever it takes to defeat this most sinister foe. It is my work to do, and I’m sure not going to stop now! Best book on this work – Facing Codependence by Pia Mellody.
Life isn’t about being harmonious with other people, it’s about being harmonious with ourselves. -Panache Desai
Be at peace.
Three and a half weeks ago I completed my first 3-day juried art fair. It was truly a dream come true, and one in which I experienced the kiss of grace, love and friendship over and over again.
I thought I’d be able to describe and share my experiences from the weekend by now, but the truth is, I’m still in major “integration phase” over here. I’ve worked my whole life to arrive at this magical and deep place, and I don’t want to rush through the process of discovering all the gifts that lay within. It feels like very sacred ground to me, and I want to take the time to honor it all.
With that being said, I don’t want to miss this opportunity to say thank you to all you beautiful people out there. It feels important to acknowledge the love and support I have received from my friends, family, and customers this past year. Without you all, I wouldn’t be where I am today, and that would be a very sad state of affairs, indeed.
You have touched my life in ways you may never know, and I will cherish each and every special moment for the rest of my life. Just know – kindness really does change the world.
I have more peace, more confidence, and more comfort in my body and soul than at any other time in my life. Every experience, lesson, and hour of therapy over the past 50+ years has brought me here, and I am grateful for it all.
Yes, I’m even grateful for Valley Fever. Not for the disease per se, but for what I have learned, gained, let go of, and embraced. I know jOy like never before. And even though I’m not always happy being careful and thoughtful with my energy, this slower paced life suits me quite well.
So, I will leave you with thoughts of lOve, and grace, and blessings of all kinds. Celebrate your friends and families, sunshine, rain and snow, and the miracles of this year-end season. Most of all, celebrate yourselves. Embrace your beauty, your uniqueness, and the power of your amazing heart.
P.S. You can find me on Thursdays at the Fountain Hills Farmer’s Market and Art On The Avenue.
Come support our local growers and artists‼️
We are on the Avenue of the Fountains from
11am to 5pm every Thursday from now until May.
– Louise Hay, You Can Heal Your Life
Early on in this valley fever journey, I heard from several sources that it was important to either cut back or remove sugar from my diet. You see, the fungus, among other things, feeds on sugar. As if this disease wasn’t bad enough, it was now going to take one of my favorite “foods” away from me, too! As I continued to search for ways to get better, a very dear friend of mine pulled the above Louise Hay book off her shelf and read a few affirmations. The one above really caught my eye – how could I not pay attention to the possibility that I, not others, control the sweetness in my life?
Sugar has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. As a child, it came in many forms, and was given as reward, and withdrawn as punishment. We celebrated with it, soothed ourselves with it, coveted it, yearned for it, and ate it every chance we got.
My Dad reveled in sugar as much as us kids. Every night before bed, he would dish himself a bowl of vanilla ice cream, cover it in Hershey’s chocolate, and eat it with a handful of saltine crackers. Let me tell you, I learned from the best!
It wasn’t until 1975, when my Dad read the book, Sugar Blues by William Dufty, that his, and my, relationship with sugar changed forever. I could no longer indulge my desires blindly. Now my cravings and late night ice cream and M&M binges came with guilt and remorse. My childlike wonder and belief that a sweet and happy life could be bought and consumed, was shattered.
But if I’m being totally honest, I questioned the value of those empty calories pretty early on, and wondered why they left me feeling so desperate and alone. The wonderful sugar high was (and still is) so damn temporary. No matter what form, it never really fills me up – not with the right things anyway. Over the 56-years that I have been on the planet, I have tried many times to remove sugar from my diet – more accurately, from my life. It feels like it is part of the very fabric of my being, and that without it I will die.
Welcome Valley Fever as my teacher once again!
It took me a while, but I finally accepted the challenge of exploring my relationship with food and sugar as a way to create my new healthy life. As with all important choices, it was not something I took on lightly, or without help. Thank you to:
- my kind and gifted acupuncturist, Mary Papa,
- my very wise therapist, Carolyn Settle
- my inspiring online health coach, Lacy Young, and
- the dedicated and life-changing Geneen Roth, author of several books, including, When Food Is Love, and Women, Food and God.
Each one of these loving and brilliant women have taught me about loving my body, embracing my nature, and what it really means to have and be enough. I am still hugely in process with all of this, and will continue to be dedicated to a life filled with love, honesty and beauty.
By beginning to pay attention to what feeds me, I am learning what really makes my life sweet –
- laughter and smiles,
- kisses and hugs,
- big, white puffy clouds against a brilliant blue sky,
- making art,
- quiet dinners,
- hearing thunder,
- playing golf, and
- being kind, brave, gentle and true.
This is just the beginning of My Sweet Life list. It contains the people and things that truly feed me and could never be replaced with ice cream, cookies or even mint M&M’s! Notice, I didn’t say decaf vanilla lattes💟‼️
As I’ve mentioned in other posts, the baristas and staff at my local Starbucks, have been a part of my healing team. They send me loving messages and drawings on my coffee cups, and are genuinely concerned about my well-being. And, to me it seems, all that love and joy and sweetness gets poured into my latte, and warms and heals me as I drink it. That is just how good it tastes to me.
For now, I’m still enjoying my latte every couple of days, and will continue to explore what really brings me sweetness and joy. As I write this, I am seeing all the beautiful faces of the people in my life who love me, who have helped me heal and grow, and who, without them, I would not be here. Is it really possible that it isn’t about the lattes after all?
One more thing I want to add to My Sweet Life list, is our home remodeling project. I have enjoyed sharing ideas with my husband, and have learned that all out trusting him with decisions brings me great joy and makes me smile. My appreciation and admiration for him just keeps growing❤️. I have loved saying what is really important to me, being heard, and then trusting enough to let go of the outcome.
Here’s wishing you a beautiful and sweet summer. And, remember…
BE GENTLE. BE BRAVE. BE TRUE.
About a year ago, I wrote my forth blog post, titled hOly rOadrunner, Batman, it is valley fever! At that time, it was a huge relief to finally be able to name why I had been so sick for over a year, and to begin healing. Now, another year later, Batman doesn’t think it’s valley fever anymore, and I am once again searching for an answer.
Every doctor I have seen has told me that a negative Valley Fever blood test doesn’t rule it out. Why now does Dr. Galgianni (aka Batman) say that he doesn’t think I have VF because my blood tests have all been negative???
Has the Joker finally taken over Gotham City?
In an effort to get a definitive diagnoses, my husband and I decided it was best to make an appointment at the Mayo Clinic here in Arizona. Even though it is out of our insurance network, we thought if anyone could help us, the doctors there could. So in early March, with high hopes and two years worth of test results in hand, we headed to the Mayo Clinic.
My appointment was with Dr. Doug Peterson, and as we were called in, we were told he liked to initially see the patient alone. The nurse said she would bring John in later. All too quickly I override my alarm bells, and agree to going in alone. Have I mentioned I’m a slow learner?
I am a huge believer in having an advocate with you at all times when dealing with doctors, but this is the Mayo Clinic, and they know best, right?! WRONG! Fifteen minutes into the appointment I ask to have my husband join us. The doctor talked me out of it by saying he just wants to get to know me. He worried that John might talk too much and take over the appointment. Even though none of that is true, I again override my needs and agree with the doctor. (Okay, I’m a slow learner AND a delayed reactor.)
I’m not saying Dr. Peterson wasn’t smart, he was just also arrogant, controlling and selfish.
The goal of going to the Mayo was to rule out any serious conditions that we might have missed over the last two years. So last week, I had a nuclear stress test and an echocardiogram to make sure my symptoms were not being caused by coronary artery disease. My father died of a massive heart attack at the age of 64, (ack! I’m less than 10 years from that age!) and I sure don’t want to take my heart health for granted.
After secretly hoping they would find something that would explain the symptoms I have had over the last 25 months, I am very happy to report that all heart tests, breathing tests and blood work are normal!
With the knowledge that I am dealing with a chronic condition, and not something that is going to cause me to drop dead in my tracks, I next went to my acupuncturist, Mary Papa. She is an amazingly gifted practitioner and healer, and has helped me tremendously over the last 18 months. I knew she could help clear the radioactive medicine from my body, and continue to support me in moving forward with love, gratitude and wisdom.
So in an instant of clarity, with needles still in my ear, I realized that although I still really like Batman, I don’t need him to save me! I am, after all, Catwoman! Catwoman, if you remember, is very resourceful, agile, empathic and extremely skilled at evading capture. So now that I have remembered who I am, I will NOT allow this illness, Batman, or any doctor for that matter, to stop me from believing in myself or being who I really am! There! I said it.
As I move forward, I have recommitted to knowing and listening to myself like never before. The truth is, I know a lot about myself, what I need, and who to trust. I just need to get better at hearing and listening to my wise inner voice when she says, “That’s not going to work for me.” When I am able to say those words in the moment I need to, I will be dancing in the street! Keep an eye out for me!
After experiencing a very specific set of symptoms over the last 26 months, extensively researching Valley Fever and other chronic fatigue conditions, and ruling out all acute conditions, I am convinced I have been dealing with VF all along. Just like viral illnesses that become chronic fatigue conditions, I believe VF can become a chronic fatigue type illness, too. Just because Western medicine doesn’t know what to do with those of us with these conditions, doesn’t mean it isn’t real. I will continue to educate, research and advocate for Valley Fever patients and their families, as it is just the right thing to do.
I will leave you with a few images of our beautiful desert blooms and fountain, and a couple new vickiO creations inspired by the interesting and amazing path I find myself on.
Be gentle. Be brave. Be true.