Thursday, August 28, 2014

I sure love you.

Once buzzed in, I walked past the fish tank on the left when an unusually foul smell assaulted me from the bathroom tucked to the right of the corridor and revealed a half naked woman wrestling with a caregiver. 

I moved quickly through the next room where Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart were talking flirtively in black and white. Passed a silver haired shrunken woman in a blue top shuffling by while wringing her hands and stopped short as I turned the next corner and caught glimpse of her.

Marcee, August 2013
Seated in a simple striped shirt and usual smart jeans that gaped from her recent weight loss, she gazed out the window with her now dulled blue-brown speckled eyes. She didn't move to look at me as I sat down. 

I reached for her hand tentatively. Would she be upset by the unfamiliar touch? 

'Hi Marcee,' I said. 

We sat for a while, and I tried hard to get her to laugh or even look at me. I performed silly faces and talked out loud to her in what she must have interpreted as gibberish. It felt like chattering to someone who's ignoring you, only I knew she simply wasn't comprehending. Anything. 

A heavy emptiness fell between us. 

In desperation to connect, I reached to rub her shoulder as my dad suggested that she seemed to respond to his touch. Hopeful she'd acknowledge mine, too. She didn't seem to notice. 

Curious if she would sing along, I played the entire album from Diana Krall's greatest hits, one of her favorite jazz singers. My hopes were raised with a few fleeting moments of humming and the tapping of her foot to the beat. 

Peel me a grape, a song that used to make me giggle when I was younger, came on. Smiling through pooling tears, I leaned over and said, 'I sure love you.'

Marcee, August 2014
Suddenly her words, which up to this point were incoherent, were as clear as the song itself. 'You do?' she asked. 

I managed to whisper, 'Yes. Yes, I do.' 

Alzheimer’s is an insidious disease that slowly unravels the mind and the self. It shakes families to the core, and forces them to adapt in smart and meaningful ways. These four short documentary films explore that process. I recently watched A Place Called Pluto and was reminded of my step mother, Marcee's early stages of Alzheimer's. How she knew she had the disease, and yet couldn't quite articulate it as well as award-winning journalist Greg O’Brien can. She is now in the last stages of Alzheimer's. Everyone is unrecognizable to her, and she is completely incontinent and in need of help to eat.

Reading O'Brien's story is like diving into what must have been her thoughts, her fears, and her rage when this journey first began. The curse and the blessing of this is: she is a shell of a body with so little of her once vivacious personality left, and yet she no longer knows she has the disease. 

For the caregivers, for my father... my heart aches. For the ones embodying this disease, I simply pray the quality of life left will be full of dignity and ease. 

More than 5 million Americans are living with this disease. To make a difference, please get involved.

Marcee and me, August 2014

Marcee passed away, December 8, 2016. May her soul finally rest in peace. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

breath inside the breath

" 'Take your eyes away from the needle. Slow your breath, baby. Take a slow, long sip of air and exhale longer," I tell my 8 year old son who is undergoing chemo for tumor in his arm. Using imagination and breathing has helped his anxiety and calmed his butterfly stomach each week. On weeks where he doesn't focus on breathing, he often throws up before we even start treatment."

This is my yoga. The breath inside the breath."

Read more on Yoga Vibes:

Sunday, August 17, 2014

To Rest

The human brain is a glutton, constantly demanding 20 percent of all the energy the body produces. It's no wonder with all the digital impact we live with that we can never seem to turn it off. Unless of course, we need to recall something critical during a test or make an important quick decision. Or when we are in love, our wisdom and intuitive part of our brain appears to have hit the pause button. 

Oh the crazed choices I have made when love induced dopamine gave me a feeling of euphoria and clouded my senses. Over time though, that fortunately fades and the wisdom body kicks in. Suddenly, I realize how damn tired I am. How I have been spinning my wheels to please others or even a passionate attempt at doing what I love: yoga. 

Many things are good but there are paths that are more soul-quenching than others. 

I think I've found it within Rest.

"To rest is not self indulgent, to rest is to prepare to give the best of ourselves, and perhaps, most importantly, arrive at a place where we are able to understand what we have already been given."

Rest is an essential part of healthy brain function. In order to function optimally, at our best, we all have to have it. When life, kids or work demands I wake up and my body is not rested, I feel drained. I reach for things like coffee or plunge into naps at odd hours just to keep up. When I travel abroad, I'm usually so fatigued that I can sleep the entire 17 hour first flight. Entirely. Now that's tired. 

Lack of rest and adequate sleep can cause depression, weight gain, dull your brain, age your skin, health problems, disinterest in sex, and increase your risk of death. We all know the end of our story, but wouldn't it be a gift to ourselves and certainly to those we love to prolong our life by getting the rest our body is craving?

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” ~John Lubbock

Now home in Asia after months of traveling, I'm coming back to a routine of nurturing myself. Catching up on work emails, yes, but also making time for quiet, writing, a realistic yoga asana and pranayama practice, my kids, or just simply walking the dog without my phone. And, of course, sleep. Just doing life at it's normal rhythm without forcing things or over scheduling. Creating space for Rest.

From my favorite author and poet, Davide Whyte. He shares his definition of rest which resonates with my desire to return to inner stillness, breath and feeling whole again.

"REST is the conversation between what we love to do and how we love to be. Rest is the essence of giving and receiving. Rest is an act of remembering, imaginatively and intellectually but also physiologically and physically. To rest is to give up on the already exhausted will as the prime motivator of endeavor, with its endless outward need to reward itself through established goals. To rest is to give up on worrying and fretting and the sense that there is something wrong with the world unless we are there to put it right; to rest is to fall back literally or figuratively from outer targets and shift the goal not to an inner static bulls eye, an imagined state of perfect stillness, but to an inner state of natural exchange.
The template of natural exchange is the breath, the autonomic giving and receiving which is the basis and the measure of life itself. We are rested when we are a living exchange between what lies inside and what lies outside, when we are an intriguing conversation between the potential that lies in our imagination and the possibilities for making that internal image real in the world; we are rested when we let things alone and let ourselves alone, to do what we do best, breathe as the body intended us to breathe, to walk as we were meant to walk, to live with the rhythm of a house and a home, giving and taking through cooking and cleaning. When we give and take in this easy foundational way we are closest to the authentic self, and closest to that self when we are most rested. To rest is not self indulgent, to rest is to prepare to give the best of ourselves, and perhaps, most importantly, arrive at a place where we are able to understand what we have already been given."