You Won’t Break My Soul

Many of us have experiences that cause us to slow down, examine how we react to things, and start making changes. Over the last week, I had two.

While in physical therapy, I chatted with a new friend as we were both left to do some independent exercises by our therapists. She and I made plans to go to an “Aqua Strength” class at her gym. She also offered to teach me some stretching techniques afterwards. I was moonwalking on air when I came home from the session. As we get older, it can be harder to establish new connections and I had made one with a bubbly, helpful person who is healing from the same injury!

After the class, she and I worked one-on-one with for almost two hours in their warm water pool. Now, here is where the first revelation came: she constantly had to remind me to put my shoulders down. I fully realized my natural state (when engaged in activity) is to have them hunched up around my ears. Although I was present with her, that realization was never too far away. It instantly conjured up a memory of an initial visit to an acupuncturist where he observed I hold my breath often during conversation. Between the shoulder and stifling of my breath issues, it’s as if I am in a near constant state of bracing myself for something to happen. It is as if my body is preparing for trauma.

Here comes number two: Many of you know outside of my writing I have worked for several years in the human services field. Yesterday, I spoke with someone who was having a particularly hard time which is nothing new because of the nature of my position. However, due to the intensity of the call which almost led me to trying to meet them for a moment, I had another flashback. As I was hurriedly throwing on clothes to dash over there, the mode I was in felt eerily familiar. I had just done this when taking my husband to the hospital just over a week ago (he is home and healing). The rush, the sadness and adrenaline pumping at the same time, and this urge to say “Forget about yourself because you know what you have to do ” enveloped me. Some of this is completely natural but the urge to grind a message of tossing myself aside into my being is unhealthy. While tending to and being of service to others is ultimately about that person, perhaps the message to myself in the midst of these emergencies needs to be more “I am scared but glad I am here to help right now. Let’s go!” and less “forget about you..you don’t count right now.”

All the bracing and unhealthy internal messaging sounds like one tight ball of trauma. It doesn’t sound like the woman who has been dancing in the shower to Beyonce’s “Break My Soul” all week and actually giggled with glee driving from home a shopping trip a few days ago (I usually hate shopping).

But it is the same woman.

I am both.

I am all.

As I take the time to breathe in and out, I release my shoulders. They don’t have to carry it all. When I am in “go mode”, I can be a bit kinder to myself.

It costs nothing.

And yet saves so much.

Rollercoaster

These last couple of months have challenged me to define what being on a rollercoaster means to me. Since I last wrote, I was invited to be a writing juror for the Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards, went through the absolute worst psoriasis flare I have had in years which caused me not to be able to travel to see my family over Christmas, chopped off a great deal of hair, as a wellness experiment for a new doctor was advised to eat meat again, banish soy and remove grains temporarily after 4 1/2 years of a plant-based diet, delivered a keynote speech for the awards and asked to teach for a couple of organizations.

While some of those things I absolutely love (hello haircut, writing awards keynote and teaching), dealing with a flare after months of progress and medication was tough for my psyche and eating meat again felt like an abandonment of my lifestyle and and created a small disconnect with my husband as we no longer eat the exact same meals. While none of that seems earth shattering, I have to be careful not to minimize my feelings, constantly seeking to compare my woes to others whom I perceive to be in much worse situations.

If I fall for the trap of comparison, I fail to do the one thing that is a catalyst for healing: Acknowledge the pain. It’s beneficial and it is healthy for me to acknowledge how painful it is trying not to scratch my skin, bloody sheets and clothing, reinstituting the daily sweeping of my dead skin from all over my home and being robbed of the joy of seeing my family on Christmas day. It is beneficial and healthy for me to acknowledge how awkward and uncomfortable it is to cook separately from my husband and eat animal products again as have always been united in how we choose to nourish ourselves.

I also need to acknowledge it is beneficial and healthy to look for the highs and not to dismiss all the good news even in the midst of the pain. I read and viewed writing and art that inspired me to work on my next project, I attended the grand opening of the first Black-woman owned bookstore and wine bar in my city and I never have to worry about the people in my life trying to dismiss me or drown me in the turbulent waters of toxic positivity when I need to speak my truth.

I acknowledge the pain, the pleasure, the heartbreak, the hope, the disappointment, the glee, the inspiration, the frustration, the light and the darkness.

I believe if I accept that the rollercoaster is inevitable but not insurmountable, I’ve accepted a truth that will guide me the rest of my days.

Precious Child

I am my own precious child.

I am my own precious child.

I am my own precious child.

This is my mantra for this new season in my life. The season where I put every aspect of my health first. It was pointed out that if I had a child, my own precious child would I feed him/her anything that would hurt them. I took it a step further and asked myself the same thing of how I speak to myself. The abuse of children has always been and will remain one of the most heinous acts to me—in any way. To make a child feel less valuable or to tarnish their innocence strikes a chord within me that makes me want to cry at the thought of it.

I was once a precious child.

I was once a precious child.

I was once a precious child.

I seek to honor and protect the woman this child has become.

So much has happened over the last couple of months. I celebrated a birthday where I spent many hours outdoors, letting saltwater and sun caress my skin.

I finished hosting my first poetry series with the library, had my first author signing and spent time at a school with children unexpectedly. During this time, I began experiencing an outbreak of psoriasis all over my body that could have caused incalculable grief but I chose, am continuing to choose to find answers to heal myself.

One thing that allowed me not to spiral was the experiences I was open to having even if nothing was perfection. During my last session of the poetry reading, my internet went out and it took a few minutes to log on and resume my hosting duties. I was on my way to a birthday lunch and stopped in to my mother’s school and was asked to speak to two classrooms. I had nothing prepared but something inside of me wanted to be present for these 6th and 8th graders. The answers to the questions they asked flowed freely and the teachers all made me feel welcome. A couple days later, I had the pleasure of meeting one-on-one with a student, a bright, inquisitive, creative girl who made me want to go home and write and bear 10 children just like her.

A couple of weeks later, I was at my first author signing with Chop Suey Books. It was a dream for me to speak with other authors about their work and meet curious readers who may have wandered into the event from the brewery.

With Author and Podcast host, Arvat McClaine
With Poet and Author Lindsay Young

I have a few new things coming for 2022 (including more Strongman training) but none of those things will matter if I don’t make and take the time to honor myself, to treat me like I am my own precious child.

Liberation

I want to be paid the highest compliment.

She. Is. Free.

I would be, too.

Free to take all my clothes off

On my balcony

In the dark

Brown full flesh kissing night air

Free to fall in

And out of love

As many times as

My big juicy heart pleases

Free to swallow kiwis and mangoes

And cherries

Whole

Remnants dripping

Down my chin

Pulp lingering on lips

Free to

Laugh with eyes closed

And mouth wide open

Free

To get it wrong

And let it go

Someone said

Black women don’t fall down

Someone said

We’ve got to make the time then.

To fall down

Grow silent

Scream until

Throats ache

Cry without hiding tears

That splash and slide onto the chest

Messy with no smooth edges

Nothing gets laid down.

I say

Only then

Would that freedom

Be

True.

Only then

Would that freedom

Be real.

Only then

Would that freedom

Be me.

 

 

 

Salt

Last Saturday, Hubby and I went to a salt cave for the first time. Months ago, I looked at a couples massage in a salt cave for a weekend getaway but didn’t end up going. When I saw a deal on Groupon for a local salt cave, I jumped at the chance to try it for the following reasons:

“Halotherapy is known to help relieve skin conditions, stress, high blood pressure, respiratory infections, hangovers, and allergies. Salt is a natural anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and antimicrobial.”

And also because I didn’t want to shut down any modes of therapy that may prove beneficial just because I don’t know much about it.

I set a 45-minute appointment for two chairs at a spa that primarily does float therapy and has an infrared sauna. The cave was dimly lit with 4 cream-colored reclining chairs. We were surrounded by bricks of Himalayan salt from Pakistan and the floor was also covered in salt. We were each given a fresh pair of socks to wear as to not track salt back into our own shoes after the session. 

 

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I don’t know if it was the gradual release of salt-infused air into the cave but I drifted off easily when I chose to use the wireless headphones provided to us.

When our session was over, I just thought it was a great way to get quality rest. However the next day, that changed.

I don’t know if I can attribute it to the salt but the nagging pain in my left ankle from the light sprain and the strain on the left side of my right knee disappeared. It’s been a few days and it hasn’t come back. I am willing to explore it more because I have heard of the healing properties for people living with psoriasis.

Since the completion of 75hard, my desire to experience life more fully has only grown and I am glad it now includes halotherapy.

On the Other Side

As I drove to work this morning, I listened to the first part of a sermon about patience.

And it made me wonder, after all of these years, why it is something I still struggle with.

I am in a hurry, in my current situation, for a loved one to heal.

I am in a hurry for my body to fully recover and recognize that it is going to be alright. Instead, it rebelled and robbed me of breath and sleep this past weekend.

I am in a hurry to figure out how our lives are “supposed to look” next.

I realized that being in a hurry, fraught with fear, can mean many things:

I am human.

I don’t know what is next and that is no different from other parts of my life. Sometimes failing, falling, crawling, careening into ambiguity is the only way to move forward.

It also can mean I am not completely trusting God to carry me through every moment. I believe He is not surprised by it either. God knew what He was getting when I was created. It doesn’t mean I don’t work on strengthening my trust.

It means I give myself grace.

I give myself space for the trust to develop, to heal, to write, to read, to pray, to forgo blame and the weight of trying to understand “why.”

I give myself space to rest, breathe, listen to wise counsel and pour my love into others.

On the other side of this, I hope patience finds me a bit sooner and not in a hurry.

Process

Over the past few weeks, I have thought a lot about what I need to do to feel better, to be a better writer, wife and self-care practitioner. I have gotten massages, journaled, spent less time on the phone, gone to church, a yoga class, went to an awesome lecture about laughter yoga, prayed, walked many miles, spoke to a counselor, stepped back on the scale without fear, showed up to doctor’s appointments and lunch with a friend, reached out to friends, listened to inspiring podcasts and powerhouse sermons  and even started to accept the reality that it may take all of that to feel completely like myself or who I am growing to be.

Something else was brought to my attention. While I am doing all of these things to reclaim Kristina, I might also need to let up on pressuring myself to do everything right now, as if I am trying to hurry up and solve “anxiety.”

I speak and write and try with varying success to think positively but I also have to do all of that with more patience. There is no snap of the fingers when it comes to “process.” There is forwards and backwards, trial and error and an understanding that it never really ends.

So here I am. Embracing process, trying not to be in a hurry and forgiving myself for the times I have and inevitably will, not treat myself with Grace and Love.

 

 

Healing

I don’t have much in me today. I am not sure if it’s because I am 26 days in and it feels a little like I have senioritis.

But there are 4 days left after today so something will be written each day until I have accomplished my goal. So here it goes:

In my post about being whole, I wrote about wanting to start a yoga or Pilates class in the new year. I was talking to a co-worker (and devoted Yogi) about self-care and all of a sudden, I couldn’t come up with a reason to wait. She told me about a studio close by. I found a class on the their site that embraces women of all shapes, sizes and levels. My first class starts Sunday. I haven’t been this excited in so long. When I read the description, it clicked and even if it doesn’t live up to my expectation, I will know I took steps.

I didn’t wait for my healing to begin.

Transformation

On June 3rd, I wrote FACE

It was about accepting how far I have come in my health journey with psoriasis. Even though I wasn’t thrilled about what happened to my face since being diagnosed, I had come to a point where I was happy with the progress I had already made.

And then I challenged myself to be a raw vegan for the month of July and with the exception of a few bites of hummus here and there, I succeeded.

Then something else happened. My skin started changing rapidly. The picture above is the transformation from June 3rd to August 3rd. The pink scales started to clear and my real skin appeared. My real brown started to emerge again. I walked out of the house several times without a stitch of makeup except for lip gloss. It has been years since I felt comfortable doing that.

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Out and about feeling like a real psoriasis warrior!

Even though I indulged in cooked food a few times over last weekend, I know how key this is to my healing and I know I’ve written it many times now, but I am not letting it go. When I first looked at those pictures side by side, I was bowled over by the change. There is an answer for me that doesn’t look or sound like injections or pills or steroids.

How blessed am I for having access to fresh fruits and vegetables? How blessed am I that I have access to information about how they heal and how my body wants to heal itself? I am grateful that I was open to it.

I was open to my healing.

Meatless Mondays: A Retrospective

I wrote a post months ago about having to say no in order to say yes to myself. Well, I am doing it again. I have been working extra hard lately and tonight, I will nourish myself and rest. I also thought about something special to share. I have made many vegan dishes–mostly cooked but several raw vegan. I had many favorites like African peanut stew, Raw No Bake Brownies, Vegan Shepherd’s Pie, Sweet Potato Enchilada Bake, Vegan Fettuccine Alfredo and Raw Taco with Cashew Sour Cream.

I look back and think how proud I am that I pushed myself to find and cook these recipes. I didn’t just rely on salads (but I have made plenty of those!). I can’t believe it took this long to become more creative with my cooking but mostly I am grateful that I used this as a way to take better control of my health.

I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year brings as I start to prepare more raw meals and watch food play a much bigger role in my healing.