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My Medicine Chest

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I’ll be traveling this week. It will be a bittersweet trip as we will be saying good-bye to my grandmother.

But this will be my first autumn in southern Illinois and Missouri in 10 years.

I’m looking forward to visiting some of my favorite trees in their fall costumes. I hope to collect some persimmons and pawpaws. I want to show my boys about sweetgum and hickory. White oaks and red buds. There are many more.

Plants have always seemed to be part of my well-being. In many situations, I have developed relationships with sycamores and poplars.

As of lately, I’ve developed a new relationship with plants. They help me maintain my wellness. I am not well without plants. They are the only medicine I can trust.

This spring I had some terrible unexplained allergic reactions. It turned out my allergy medicines had one of my allergies in it. Somewhere between that realization and this summer, I realized that I don’t need to rely on prescriptions to feel okay. I have the plant knowledge to guide me.

Last night I prepared my medicine chest for the trip ahead. Some herbs will be used in cooking- like rosemary, thyme, parsley, and sage. Others can be used to brew calming teas- like rosehips, lemon balm, raspberry leaf, yarrow, licorice, and elderberry. I have my root tea prepared which consists of burdock, dandelion, rhodiola, and eleuthero.

I have herbs prepared into a salve that can be used on dry and cracked skin. I have a plantain liniment that can cleanse and relieve scrapes and cuts on the skin. I have a tincture (or potion as my kids call it…) in which I soaked devils claw and willow bark for pain relief and another with tart cherry and ginger to help reduce inflammation. Finally are the oils, rosemary, tangerine, and bergamot which I dilute with almond oil and use for massage.

My medicine chest

So there it is! I’ve got my medicine chest ready to go- all natural and allergen free. Just what I need to take care of myself on a long trip!

If all goes well, I’ll be able to post more about my experience introducing my boys to my tree friends.

I’m not Lost… I’ve been Learning about Love

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I’m not Lost… I’ve been Learning about Love

It’s been almost two months since I’ve written a post. You must have been wondering where in the world I have been.

I wish I could answer that question with something fun and light-spirited. But alas, my fun and light-spirited parts of myself have been in hibernation.

Only my serious and intense parts have been seeing the light of day… as well as the dark of night.

I’ve been struggling. I’ve been sore and sick. I’ve been in the clinic, seeing doctors, getting tests run, and filling prescriptions. I’ve been hurting at my very core. My muscles, my ribs, and my spine. All the way down to what my children call “the spirit heart.”

For the first time in my life I have been able to sit with discomfort, tend to it, listen to it, comfort it. Just like I do with my young boys when they wake up in the middle of the night ill and out of sorts.

Recognizing and listening to the pain has been nothing short of terrifying. I lay on the couch, propped up my pillows at 3am, listening to meditative music, sitting with the pain. Suddenly some other sources of pain surface. I want to deny them. Tell them they aren’t welcome. But I resist. I try to treat them with compassion. I try to listen to their story.

This second kind of pain was deeply emotional, and buried for nearly twenty-years. It was my source of self-hatred that emerged during my early teens. It was the most destructive and loathing part of myself. It was the darkest part of my being. It is a part of me I have been ashamed and afraid of, keeping it hidden, deep within.

Why would this inner-yuckiness surface now? I’ve been “doing so well.” I’ve been healthy. I’ve been happy. What gives!?

Well, during the daylight hours, I have been sharing myself with others. I’ve been building vibrant friendships as well as professional partnerships. I’ve been accepting myself and others as they are, in the moment. I’ve been striving for excellence in place of perfection. I’ve been learning to love myself. Truly, truly love myself.

It’s not an easy task. But when my 4 year puts so much energy into describing the scale of his love for me, “All the way up to the sky, Mom” or “Down the river and to the bottom of the ocean, Mom,” I can’t help but realize how big love is. Truly.

And to make room for the magnitude of energy that love occupies, it might make sense that I would need to clean out my inner closets. I need to recognize the times in my life that hatred was bigger than love. Times that I didn’t believe that I deserved to be loved. I need to shine light on those dark times. Recognize them as a part of me… but not a defining part of me. I need not to fear them. I need to grieve the sadness this part of me feels so deeply. I need to know that my actions, no matter how destructive and painful are in the past.

It’s not an easy task. Not at all. When I wake up in the morning to have dreamed of people I cared for deeply and knowingly hurt… it makes it hard to want to get out of the bed. It makes it the physical pain all that worse. But somewhere, within all of this, I know there has to be truth. Throughout those years, as a scared 12 year old… as a suicidal 15 year old… as an idealistic 18 year old… I was learning about myself. I was learning about the power of relationships. I was learning about how to share myself with others. I slipped and failed many times… but now as I begin to understand the magnitude of love. How big it is in the universe and how big it is within ourselves. I know that was what I was missing.

In those spaces where the pain resided, I imagine a little hope held on. After all, that’s how I made it through, right? And all those places where fear took hold, I imagine there is space for love to grow. Love that extends throughout the present, but also into the past.

For those I cared for and clung, I can now extend love to… truly and fully.

For myself, who was broken, shattered, and scared to go on, I can now extend the love… truly and fully.

It is with these roots, deep within my core, that I know my love can grow into the future… for myself, for my family, and for my place in the universe.

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.