A Special Kind of Awful

It seems every time I come back here I need to apologize for my long absence. I often mean to write something, but am then overcome with self-doubt. Is there any value in putting my voice out there? There is already so much noise, so many competing issues and perspectives that my own life seems to shrink in comparison. Then there is the fact that I have long ago given up on writing about the original theme of this blog because frankly, I’m often too tired to cook.

So this blog has become a sort of chronicle of the chronic (illness). I have mixed feelings about this. When I’m in an active flare I tend to scour the Internet for illness narratives that are similar to my own. I then have the pleasure of yelling, “me too! me too!” to a disembodied voice. I’m not really sure how helpful this is. It can be comforting to know that there are other people out there dealing with the same thing, but it does take me out of the business of living my own life. Then of course there are a myriad of blogs and wellness sites offering really time-consuming and/or expensive health advice. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a believer in alternative medicine and have integrated much into managing my illness, but I’ve given up on boundless energy and living to 120.

Not everyone has good health and for most of us life is punctuated by illness be it brief or chronic. I think as a society we used to understand this better. Technology, heroic medicine, and rabid capitalism are perhaps to blame for this forgotten wisdom. I am so incredibly grateful and privileged to have the support system I have for the simple fact that I can rest when I’m sick. Right now I’m feeling a very special sort of awful, but I will rest and it will pass. Many people don’t have that privilege and my sense is that those of us who do feel a lot of guilt and shame about not being as productive. We must produce and consume lest we be a burden to society at large. That is pretty shitty. It isn’t the kind of society I want to live in. It isn’t even necessary. I can hear my more conservative friends groaning about people abusing welfare and disability and siphoning up all of their oxygen. Perhaps I’m naïve, but my sense is that when you allow people to truly heal or accommodate for their illness then they tend to be more productive. I know that when I feel well the last thing I want to do is sit around motionless sucking everyone dry like a Lyme infested tic. Pardon my sarcasm, but the rhetoric surrounding government support is often cruel and dehumanizing and I find it very troubling.

I am rambling a bit. I suppose what I am trying to say is that illness narratives can be helpful, self-care is important, but I also think there is value in moving beyond an individual management of illness. At some point perhaps for reasons beyond your control or for reasons that are really in our collective control, you will get sick. Your body will bear the weight of illness and feel weary. Don’t forget that. Advertising will try to tell you otherwise, but you really can’t run away from your humanness.

What is Wellness?

I’m currently enrolled in a distance herbal medicine course and one of the first essay prompts we were given was, “What does wellness mean to you?” I’ve been sitting on this prompt for ages because well, I don’t know so I’ve kept it in the back of my mind and though I still don’t have a clear answer (and most likely never will) I finally feel ready to tackle the question. Continue reading

Confessions of a North American Opium Admirer

“Oh! just, subtle, and mighty opium! that to the hearts of poor and rich alike, for the wounds that will never heal, and for ‘the pangs that tempt the spirit to rebel,’ bringest an assuaging balm; eloquent opium! that with thy potent rhetoric stealest away the purposes of wrath; and to the guilty man, for one night givest back the hopes of his youth, and hands washed pure of blood….”

– Thomas De Quincy Confessions of an English Opium-Eater  Continue reading

The High Price of Wellness

I’m not incredibly wealthy, but I am well-aware of my privilege as a white, college-educated woman. I grew up very middle class and thanks to the Texas Guaranteed Tuition Plan (which I wrote about here) I am debt free.  Because I am training to be a clinician I have invested quite a bit of money in health and health education and though I dislike spending lots of money I look at it as a business investment because who wants to take advice from an unhealthy clinician? I also am fortunate to live in a place where I’ve been able to barter, use high quality sliding scale services and get very reasonable payment plans and even then all of my money is going to classes, herbs (building an apothecary), cooking supplies, water filtration (dude, getting fluoride out is expensive) and the occasional functional medicine appointment. Is my health worth it? Of course, but I could not justify the expense if I did not also think it would eventually lead to financial gain. Is that screwed up? Yea! Gah…capitalism…but let’s leave that rant for another day.  Continue reading

The Moody Blues

Outside there is sun.
It is only sun
But men stare at it
And afterwards they sing.

I don’t know the sun.
I know the melody of angels
And the hot sermon of the last gale.
It screams until sunrise
When death poses naked
In my shadow.
-Excerpt from “The Cage”  (my translation)

The above is an excerpt for one on my favorite poets, Alejandra Pizarnik an Argentine Jew who killed herself in the 70s at the age of 36. I am drawn to these lines because I feel it captures the particular type of sadness that can creep into your body in early spring when everything is coming alive again and you are stuck. This time of year, historically has been tough for me, but today as I prepared the earth for planting I realized just how far I have come. Continue reading

Emailing Shamans, Critical Thinking, and Retrieving Souls

On Tuesday I emailed a shaman. That is a very bizarre sentence, when I say it aloud to myself I can’t help but chuckle, but the 21st Century is a very bizarre time and you can indeed contact them through that medium. I was interested in doing a soul retrieval, something I had first read about in Elena Avila’s bestseller Woman Who Glows in the Dark: A Curandera Reveals Traditional Aztec Secrets of Physical and Spiritual Health. The basic idea is that when you suffer a trauma or susto (fright) a part of your soul leaves your body leaving you disconnected or lost. This is very similar to psychotherapy’s concept of disassociation, but the difference is in therapy the focus is why and in soul retrieval it is where. Both interpretations seem valid, but from personal experience in psychotherapy, the constant rehashing of wounds and wrong doings can become rather self-indulgent. It seems that the shamanic practice is less concerned with why and focuses more on the practicality of bringing those pieces back together. It is difficult to say if analyzing the hell out of why we are dysfunctional facilitates the process. I don’t think in my case it hurt, but I also feel that most people who seek out therapy have a fairly good idea of why their lives are falling apart and maybe a soul retrieval would save a lot of time and grief. Continue reading

Lessons from my Grandmother: Little Voices

Somebody I know believes that your soul decides where it needs  to go before you are born. I’m not sure if I believe that, but if it is true I think I came into this body to gain wisdom from my amazing grandmother. If you haven’t already gathered we are extremely close as I was at her house nearly every day for the first twelve years of my life. We live in a sick world in need of healers and I was lucky enough to be born into her apprenticeship. It took me awhile to figure that out especially since I was sick myself, but now I realize that that is a tool rather than a hindrance. Continue reading

The Vine that Ate the South (and My Heart)

I ventured into the deep south for the first time last August on the Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity.  I was just this snot-nosed kid from El Paso who somehow managed to get on this bus comprised mostly of very brave Mexican activists who were following in the footsteps of Martin Luther King Jr. and being invited into the warm congregations of  African-American communities along the way. It was surreal, beautiful and humbling and I didn’t feel worthy. Everytime I think of that trip I get goosebumps. What an honor.  Continue reading

Everything is not Illuminated

I promise I will go back to writing about recipes and herbs and all of that good stuff, but for right now I am riding this wave of change…or shift? I’m not sure. When I sit down to write it is to describe mountains and beauty and the changing sky and how everything is magic. I want to dance and cry and roll around in the dirt. It’s like being a child again which in many ways is wonderful, but also a very vulnerable place to be. Continue reading