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Monthly Archives: May 2013

A New Chapter Begins

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A New Chapter Begins

I feel as though I am at the end of a chapter. Bits and pieces have been woven together and packaged. I have written about learning to live in the moment, finding emotional health, overcoming grief, seeking out balance, creating a home, belonging, admitting limitations, renewing creativity, and having the courage to find joy and acceptance. I have written on these topics, not just on this blog, but also in my journals, and most recently  in a article I submitted to the North Dakota Humanities Council for their magazine publication, On Second Thought.

As I share these experiences with readers, there is another chapter in progress. Perhaps it is the change of seasons bringing it forth.

Elm seeds fallen

Or a change in perspective. I can’t entirely describe it yet.

Shoulder- charcoal and watercolor Rachel Brazil

It has to do with all these things I’ve written to date, but from the perspective of physical health.

Scapula- graphite Rachel Brazil

I am no expert, I don’t claim to be. But I have my story of experience to share.

Head and Neck, Choarcoal and watercolor Rachel Brazil

I have the experience of my emotional healing becoming such a holistic process that I can identify the effects of stress and trauma has had on my body.

Head and Neck on Skeleton, Graphite, Rachel Brazil

I have the understanding of what simple breath and relaxation can do. I have knowledge of human and mammalian osteology and anatomy.Cow skull Graphite, Rachel Brazil

I have a fascination with how the world works within our own physical beings.

I first created Pages of Paradigm with the intention of one day writing a book. I may have shared that before, that I wanted to write a memoir on the experience of redefining success. But I have not shared that there is another book in mind. A book about learning about ourselves, the living, through those now gone. I have learned much from the dead. I have many stories about my experiences cleaning animal skeletons for a museum collection. The first of which was an African Lion. Just a few weeks into that semester, my grandfather passed away. At his funeral, people I had never met before came up to me and said, “You’re the one with the lion! Your grandfather told us all about you and your work.” He had a love for gaining a greater understanding of the world. A few months after the funeral, I had a dream about walking with him to his final resting place. In my hands was a beautiful bouquet that consisted of clovers, little white flowers, and the long bones of a squirrel. Maybe strange, yes. But I thought it was beautiful. I treasure the memory of that dream to this day.

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a walk in the rain

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Rain has continued for days off and on,

I cannot help but feel like my mind is flooded.

The intensity of spring cannot be described.

I cannot come up with enough words to describe even a short walk.

But there are photos.

These photos I share with you now.

Feel free to leave your own words.

Your interpretations and perspective would be valued.

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Tiny budding leaves

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young elm seeds

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young leaves of a box elder in a puddle

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needles settled after a wash

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nature’s debris

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fallen blossoms of the box elder tree

bursting buds and emerging foliage

bursting buds and emerging foliage

bursting buds and emerging foliage

bursting buds and emerging foliage

dead and down wood, with lichens

dead and down wood, with lichens

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the diversity is stunning

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this is the world we live in

(Trying to) Navigate Stress in New Ways

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(Trying to) Navigate Stress in New Ways

Stress and I have an unhealthy relationship. It’s kind of a co-dependent relationship. I tend to respond to stress with compulsive behaviors.

Yesterday I put my husband in the hospital and today he might have surgery. It’s only his tonsils… but still, I feel the familiar stress of any set of crisis and unknown outcomes.

Without working a 9-5 job, I am not entirely sure how to spend my time. In fact, I am almost certain that working on any of my projects would not be a healthy option right now. For me, work as an escape is a habit. A bad habit. Using work to escape from the stress of any current state of being is essentially the same as using a chemical substance. And of all the things in my mind, work, play, rest, sleep, spazz-out, be grateful, write, draw, do dishes, walk…the one thing I can confidently know NOT to do RIGHT NOW is to have a drink. So, it would make sense not to engage in any other addictive behaviors, right?

This is day three of being in a stress response mode. And I feel like I’ve done remarkably well up to this point. Prioritizing, eating well, meditating, sharing, sleeping, I even went to yoga last night. And yet it is like speaking a foreign language. It takes great effort and sometimes feels like I’m doing it all wrong.

I think the key here is to remember the choices we have. I don’t know anything more than I did 10 minutes ago in regards to my husband’s condition. However I choose to use this limbo time, it is up to me to make choices that nourish me, reduce stress, and enhance my sense of well-being. Because acting like I’m trying to fix the situation certainly doesn’t fix it.

Interesting… the things we can learn when we are mindful of the situation at hand.

Note to Self, Resurfaced

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The cycles of nature are fascinating. She has no concern for deadlines. Spring will come when it comes. Even if our calendars say its May and our thermometers say it is 30 degrees, the day still goes on. Nature doesn’t try to fix things. Nature is a master at living in the moment.¬† We have so much to learn.

But I tried to take on one of my spring tasks this morning. Cleaning out the closed-in front porch. Somewhere around Christmas it becomes a storage area for stuff, and the stuff stays there until it is warm enough to want to move it again and use the space. Is it warm enough? No. I just cranked up the heat and am taking breaks. You see, I really am wanting to re-create some of my spaces. To start fresh. To start new. After all, isn’t that what spring was about?

But, as it often happens when I am cleaning, I found something. Something amazing that stopped me in my tracks and almost put me in tears. Something from a year ago. Not that long, really. But, my, how life has changed.

A year ago

A year ago, I was grieving the sudden loss of my father. I was missing my siblings everyday. I was completely overwhelmed with work. I needed a break. I needed to rest and cry. We needed to settle my fathers estate and clear out his house. We needed to pay funeral bills. I was terribly sick with abdominal pain. All my tests came back normal. But I was clearly ill. I was terrified. I was scheduled for exploratory surgery with the assumption my gallbladder would be removed. I tried to take each day on its own. But even that was too much. I made the decision to leave my job. This was one of the hardest decisions I ever made. But even as I gave my resignation, I had to prepare all the projects, grants, and reports for my departure. I wasn’t in the clear yet. I still had to wake up each day, show up to work, try not to break down, and be somewhat available for two more months.

What I found on the porch this afternoon was a piece of paper that I carried in my pocket on each of those days. It was a comfort object. It was my reminder. I was terrified and felt completely alone. I wrote myself notes. This piece of paper was folded up into squares. A total of 16 areas to write on, on the front and another 16 on the back. When I heard or thought of encouraging words, I wrote them down on a square. When I needed them. They were there for me. And I knew them to be true.

These are the reminders that helped me have the courage to make the changes that I needed in my life, even if I was absolutely terrified to do so.

  • It’s important to know that today is all I really need to worry about.
  • It’s important to know that I am making a choice.
  • It’s important to know that I don’t have to work hard to be okay.
  • It’s important to know that I have friends thinking of me.
  • It’s important to know that I am breaking my dysfunction.
  • It’s important to know what makes me uncomfortable.
  • It’s important to know that I am valuable by just existing.
  • It’s important to know that I am not giving up.
  • It’s important to know what makes me happy.
  • It’s important for me to listen to the trees.
  • It’s important to know that possibilities exist.
  • It’s important to know that my husband loves me best when I am me.
  • It’s important to know that my children value time learning and working with me on the things that I love.
  • It’s important to know where to find myself.
  • It’s important to know what I love to do.
  • It’s important to know that I deserve to be happy (and am allowed to be).
  • It’s important to know that my health is part of my well-being.
  • It’s important to know that my home is my own.
  • It’s important to know that I don’t have to be strong.
  • It’s important to know, I can change.
  • It’s important to know I don’t have to give all of myself.
  • It’s important to know that things can be simple.
  • It’s important to know I am learning what I need.

What amazing, powerful words those are. Some of them still bring me to tears now. What amazing lessons we can learn from life, indeed.

dogwood