Life lessons from a fall off the wagon

When my 6-year-old has an important question to pose he likes to survey the audience (even if it’s only myself and his Dad) with the preface, “Put your hand up if…” So to follow his lead…put your hand up if you fell off the wagon these past two weeks as well? Go ahead, do it, put your hand up. Like really do it, sometimes admitting it is the first step, to wherever that is?

For me, I went into the holidays heavily armed with knowledge about mindfulness and self-acceptance. But knowing I would find myself in old, familiar settings where I would let my guard down and indulge.

Whether it was beer, bread, sugar, or coffee-all substances my body loathes to process. Or lack of process such as daily walks, yoga, writing, audio-therapy (podcasts and audiobooks) or reading. It was capital “O” official, I had mailed it in-full on. Express post. The expensive one you stand in the impossibly long line for, in vain hopes that that sweater will get to Grandma in time for Christmas.

The movement meditations were available to me. It was my choice to not walk, not stretch and breathe slowly, not write a single word on a blank piece of paper. Like everyone else, I took a holiday from my job. I own it. But I do need to record this now for posterity and more importantly as a stark reminder of the price I paid to “not”.

I do feel at this point it is important for me to also acknowledge the time I had with friends and family. I am fortunate to have many wonderful people in my life, many of which I was able to steal time with during the holidays. But that’s not what this post is about today.

Up until mid-December, I was operating with a clarity where decisions and conversations flowed with ease. I was aware of myself and surroundings and so grateful-dare I say joyful for these moments. Able to recall, even now, these moments vividly as if they had just occurred moments before.

My migraines had decreased in frequency and intensity and did not panic me when the aura descended upon my brain with its little lightning storm, signalling the start of another one.

I was making some truly meaningful and powerful connections to other people in my life – something I didn’t know was possible without my classroom teaching. I was listening to their words and hearing the space around their words.

And I was beginning to find honesty in past actions and regret-forgiving myself for hurting others as I began forgiving those who had hurt me.

All sounds pretty enlightened right?!

But as the lack of routine took me over, how easily I slid back into old mindsets-those pathways scored deeply into my subconscious.

Over the holidays we tried to spend as much time with family and friends as space allowed. But in the hustle-bustle of it all – the clarity faded into a familiar fog of auto-pilot. The memories of Christmas 2017 – a blur.

My migraines were back with a vengeance-not just taking me down Christmas afternoon, but 3 days later as we drove into Vancouver and then again the first two days of the New Year. When the frequency goes up, my recovery time increases and by the 4th migraine, my brain felt like over-cooked porridge. Lumpy and lifeless. Spending all the second day of 2018 in bed, in the dark, feeling pretty depressed and missing my family terribly, even though they were just down the hall.

I was disoriented as a surfer being thrown from an untethered board in deep waters. Not knowing which way to swim to reach the surface. Tossed about by a watery encasement. This happened to me once, in only 3 feet of water and I don’t know if my head even submerged but it effing felt like it. I haven’t surfed since.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve found it difficult to articulate myself. I could scarcely carry on a conversation without losing my train of thought, let alone string together a sentence to write anything worth writing, let alone reading. I had zero desire to write as I had zero desire to be mindful. My head, once again, completely detached from my body like an overinflated helium balloon, bobbling 3 feet above where my neck should be. Utterly disconnected.

And with this break the ultimate shift in my being-the forgiveness (or acceptance) of self and others. I found myself (or my ego) reading into others words and actions – as if I possessed some magic telepathic magnifying glass that provided insight into “what those words really meant” or that look or arm cross. Over analyzing my interactions into fictitious facts. And the negative self-talk seeped in through my freshly sealed cracks. Perhaps if I balanced out the badness with my own internal shaming I was justified to think what I wanted about others?

And let’s not even mention the record-breaking consumption of buttered popcorn inhaled during the full-length feature animation of Ferdinand. Best thing about that movie – only 108 minutes…so the feeding frenzy had to stop because I ran out of eating time.

How easily I had settled into such a difficult place – a familiar place.

Now because I am writing this, I’ve obviously begun to pick-axe my way up and out of this hole (I may or may not have also dug) and thank god I know what I need to do. And I know what I will do. I am doing it now.

Having the clarity to write this today is evidence I am finding my way again. I will walk my dog, resume my audiobook, yogi my way through some new (but very old) lower back pain and perhaps the migraines will stop telling me “no”. And even if they don’t, I will be doing the things I know help me be. Be accepting, mindful, forgiving, flexible and present for myself and my family.

I suppose in the end this piece ended up setting some of the classic, ill-fated New Years resolutions my husband asked me about last week. My response at the time was I didn’t need to because I had already started on Sarah 2.0 (as he calls it) months ago – but thanks to the big red eject button I smacked as hard as I could, on the mindfulness wagon as it pulled into Christmas Town, I get to make them my resolutions after all. So cheers 2018. Bring it. I am ready for you. (That’s right no exclamation points…I am that serious).

And the only other endeavours I couldn’t quite eloquently fit into the main body of this write are like a P.S. (Something my son also likes to use in his vernacular to squeeze in one last detail of import). And it does touch on the subject of ingestion of things I should “not”. These are as follows:

1) I look forward to feeling what being hungry is like again. After being full to over-stuffed these past few weeks, adding layer upon layer of indulgence for my digestive tract to somehow sort out. Like what is this??? An effing magic show? Sorry Digestive tract, you’re on your own. Well, guess what? No it’s not okay- now we all suffer together as one.

2) I endeavour to love myself as much as I loved devouring the remaining morsels of Chinese BBQ duck I polished off yesterday (that I procured along with 2 BBQ pork buns and 2 coconut cream buns from a market in Vancouver’s China town). All of which have already met their demise in my above mentioned digestive tract.

This is me, climbing back onboard with myself.


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