This past year my life I have been turned upside down and shaken on so many levels: as a woman, as a competitive athlete, and as the daughter of Rose (and Ampelio) Isetti. And oh, has it been dramatic.
The Drama of Menopause
In early 2018 I started experiencing dramatic menopause symptoms—so dramatic. Night sweats that drenched my body toes to head, soaked my sheets, and for an encore, they would be followed by severe, teeth-chattering chills, all night, every 45 minutes. During the day I had hot flashes; no big deal, right? All women get them, right? Mine were red-faced, full-sweat, ripping off my shirt sweating hot flashes followed by freezing. A tank top and sweatshirt became the most practical clothes, so that’s what I wore, every day. My sleep was severely disrupted—I’ve had very few truly satisfying nights of sleep since, and I had always been an avid sleeper in the past. In addition, I was plagued by severe joint pain. Before training, I would need so much time to get “warm,” to be ready to squat, to jump, to receive heavy weight. I felt as though my body had been taken from my control.
My Competition Complications
Then in November 2018, one week from a local competition, an all-day event, I was stricken with the most…dramatic…diarrhea ever. Again, I had no idea what had taken over my body. But I competed, and I even set a personal record in one event, jerk and clean. So sick, yet trying to eat to perform–it was a losing battle. It took the western medicine doctors 22 days to diagnose Giardiasis. I cook all the food I eat, except for that one time, the time right before the competition, when my friend had convinced me to eat carryout sushi. It seemed a likely culprit, as well as an affirmation to resume cooking all the food I eat.
Two little pills dramatically cured me. Antibiotics, when used properly, are miraculous. Western medicine can be miraculous, but Lordy, the wheels of insurance and extracting money from the people who hold the red tape certainly can get in the way. I was “cured” the day before Thanksgiving last year, giving me much to be grateful for.
Then, in early 2019 I sustained an injury that has kept me out of competition and heavy training all year. I have just been diagnosed with a cyst on my tibia. The experts don’t know what this is, exactly, or what it means. How perfect. But what it means for me is that I cannot compete in the sport I love. I can’t even run. Most of my life I have been able to head out the door and run 10 miles. But in 2019 I couldn’t jump, or squat, or run, or receive heavy loads in any sort of flexion. I cannot do burpees or land on my leg in very particular ways that I don’t even know…until I do. Apparently, this is my opportunity to be grateful for the ability to do any burpees at all.
The Begining of the End
Right about the time I was recovering from Giardiasis in late 2018, my sister called to report that my mom had fallen and was in the hospital getting staples because her skin was just too frail to receive stitches. At 84, healing a massive leg wound with congestive heart failure and only one kidney struggling to pump the liquid away and clean the blood is just a lot. Too much, as it turns out.
My mom, Rosabel Rhodes Isetti, had always been an amazing conversationalist–bright and funny, extremely well informed, and incredibly well-read. She could speak knowledgeably about most subjects. But by early spring, conversations with her were reduced to weather, repetitive statements, and long pauses. It was puzzling, but I surmised that she was dehydrated or experiencing kidney failure because she was so loopy. My sister and I decided to call EMS, but my parents refused the help. It was the beginning of the end.
Celebrating Family and Life
Along with several close family and friends, my sister, my dad, and I were all with her on her 85th birthday. This was monumental. I don’t remember when I had last been in the same room with my whole family. My sister and I have had what most would call no relationship for nearly all of our lives, which had been painful for my mother, who had been an only child and was insistent upon having two children. She felt that if she’d had a sibling, she would have had a built-in best friend, but my sister and I have just never been close. Actually, I have never been close to anyone in my family. I mean, I am just so different. So, for my mom’s 85th birthday, we came together to celebrate. And it was truly a celebration. Despite her diminished health in mind and in body, my mom’s spirit was ignited and comforted in the glow of family united.
I left four days later, and my mom died on August 26, 2019, eight days after her 85th birthday. Recently I was reading Cheryl Strayed recounting her mother’s passing and her mother’s last words to her, and I had a moment of panic because in that instant I couldn’t remember my own mother’s last words to me. When I did, it was both a relief and a heartbreak. Her last words to me were, “No, don’t go,” in response to my impending return to Chicago. She didn’t want me to leave. But she was ready to leave. Her body, and more importantly, her mind, were failing her. Monday, August 26, she slipped away. My dad went to take a nap, and when he woke she had departed this earth.
GIA: Gratitude, Intention, and Affirmation
So I barely know who I am anymore. I lost my hormones, my sleep, full use of my right leg, and my mom…all in the past year. So, here I am on 11/11/2019, setting intentions and practicing gratitude for ALL the gifts I have received. There is a practice known as GIA: Gratitude, Intention, Affirmation, which I have found to be so helpful.
There have been times I have felt so lost. There have been times when the losses seem to stack up higher in my perception than the gift. In these times especially, I recognize that what I appreciate appreciates. It is within my power to practice gratitude in every moment: if I am breathing, I am grateful. I write in a gratitude journal every night; my practice is to write at least three things I am grateful for that day, that moment, and what I find is that often the page runs out before my gratitude. How amazing is that, especially in this year of loss?
Reminders of Gratitude, Intentions for the Future
Recently, I was on a short trip to Miami with the love of my life (how grateful I am). Such a loud city! A number of times, I said, “What is with all the horns honking?!” Finally, my love responded, “What if it’s the universe reminding you to be grateful?” What a gift, really, because I live in Chicago, city of honking horns, and now, every time I hear a horn honk, I shout out, “I am so grateful!” So many reminders to practice gratitude!
All the things I have to be grateful for from this last year of dramatic “losses” include so many blessings: from affirming how I choose to fuel my body, to all the memories I have of my mom, to coming together with my family after so many years, to discovering that when I still myself, I can have it all, even though stillness is not my nature. That seeming paradox is integrating. I mean, right now, this second, as I write. The dam is breaking, and the seemingly insurmountable healing crisis is turning around. Let it flow, let it flow, let it flow 🎶 So today, 11/11, I am setting intentions for this next phase of my life.
Set Your Own Intentions
What are some things you’d like more of in your life?
What do you want to accomplish today, this week, this year?
How would you like to experience your job, your partner, your workout?
What do you want to manifest in your business or career?
What are you open to receiving? Where would you like to travel? What do you want to experience?
In setting my intentions, it is key to ask myself what I want to do, to own, or to experience. After I have some intentions, I then create specific affirmations to bolster each of my intentions. Affirmations are an opportunity to focus on the internal experience. Affirmations are a positive expression of how we want to be, how we want to experience life, how we want to act, and what we want to believe. They usually begin with “I am…” such as, “I am guided and supported to receive good.”
Make no mistake: whether you sit down and do this work intentionally or not, you are doing it. Your negative self-talk is also setting an intention. My railing against the things I cannot control—horn honking, for example, allowing what IS to interrupt my peace—is setting an intention, albeit an unconscious one. You can take control of your thoughts and actions or not. The choice is yours in every moment.
Today I am grateful for ALL the lessons learned. Today I am grateful for seeing the glass as not half full or half empty. The glass is always full. Today I am grateful for the ability to choose the thoughts that inform my experience.
Did you hear that horn honking? Gratitude is a practice.
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