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(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

I was born in the heat of summer but fall—and especially October—is when I most feel at home. I like to think it’s the annual reminder of the day I married my life partner or the explosion of autumnal colors or the cool nights or the rhythm of routine that returns in the fall, but maybe it’s because October is the month when I didn’t die—the month when I was reborn.

I have no memories of what happened that first October of my life—just the subjective tales my mother told me. For most of my life I’d tell you these things that happened to me didn’t matter. Well, other than that ugly long scar on my belly that might have ruined my bikini days if the coloring hadn’t become my own thanks to being only four months younger than I was.

Road Trip 1962

Road Trip 1962

My mother’s stories took on an almost biblical quality. While we trekked across deserts and mountains for what was supposed to be a relaxing autumnal trip to and from the Promised Land of Oregon, little of what I ate stayed with me. Upon our return, it became obvious that travel alone could not explain why I grew so weak. For three days and nights Mom rocked me in her arms, my pharmacist father keeping me hydrated as best he knew. The myth of my stoicism at the time is large but I have no way of proving this wasn’t some tale my mom told herself so she could will me into becoming someone who would not only grow up but also grow up strong and healthy.

That I did, but my near-resurrection from being an inch close to death could not have happened in an earlier era. I don’t remember being whisked from my mother’s arms to an uncertain outcome. In fact, my distance from this major event in my life kept me from realizing, until a few years ago, that I never told doctors I’m missing my appendix, something surgeons removed while they were inside removing the gangrene. For years I’ve told myself that since all that happened to pre-memory Me, it didn’t really matter except for how it affected my parents and how they treated me.

Me, before surgery

Me, before surgery

Wasn’t really until muscle imbalances brought about painful back and hip difficulties that I started looking for more subtle explanations. The more I worked with my yoga instructor and massage therapist, the more I realized that abdominal pain and surgery as well as being restrained or needing breathing help during recovery would have changed how I moved and developed—whether I experienced delayed development or my development modified in other ways to accommodate my unique situation.

Yet, how could I have believed that only my body suffered from those days? Surely there is something primal to fears of pain and mortality in addition to that of being separated from our first caregivers.

Whatever the little infant I was suffered that first October of my life, she also was born again. I can’t tell you the exact date of that rebirth but somehow I think my body knows that October is when it got to start again—for good.

All I know is that whenever the earth starts readying itself for rest, that’s when I feel most renewed and ready for growth.

(Note: These words were written—and then forgotten—in the busyness of March. Almost two months later, much more is different and changing. Healing continues in more ways than what we could even guess back then. Hallelujah!)

(c)  2010 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

Back from my retreat from my life—ha, ha, right? OK, so three nights and three days helping my daughter get around college post-surgery didn’t really constitute a break, but it did limit how much else I had to do since I wasn’t in my own home but in the home of my daughter and her friend.

My main duty was to be the chauffeur to get her to and from her classes. A distance that translates into reasonable commute times and good walking exercise under normal circumstances is pretty challenging post-surgery recovery. Campuses aren’t exactly car-friendly anyway, even when you’re not parking, so I was pretty darn happy to have a small car to drive on our short travels.

Somehow the extra quiet time on my own seemed fitting for starting my Lenten journey. Though I couldn’t sing with the choir at my church, I could take in a midday Ash Wednesday service and receive the cool, gritty ashes on my somewhat furrowed brow. No, I hadn’t planned to spend more time away from home and duties and, no, I didn’t really enjoy watching my daughter’s pain or absorbing some of her stress from trying to work with her professors regarding extensions, but I could relate to being on a journey not of one’s choosing and yet still feeling God’s love.

I am so weary of the health-related challenges and the difficulty of walking alongside someone in need, but I do so because of love. God loved me enough to give me this child when I asked him. I also know he walks with me always in all our challenges together.

In my solitary moments, I read or wrote or escaped outside to run along muddy trails through bits of nature preserved within the developed spaces. I let the girls’ current foster kitten purr on my neck as well as on my laptop in whatever strange position she chose to flop—provided she wasn’t suffocating me or loading up unknown programs on the computer. And I prayed—prayed that healing would come sooner than later and that the school would work with my daughter enough so that she could stay on the planned track—and prayed for happier days for all of us.

Together we ate simple foods, relaxed with TV, laughed at the kitten, and worked through her assignments—not that she is taking a single course with which I could provide any more than moral support. I was the keeper of chronos time, both for staying on task (usually!) and for keeping up with the allowed pain relief in the forms of alternating Tylenol and ibuprofen. I was the photographer’s assistant who pointed out angles and light and shadows and watched in amazement as the artist in her forgot, temporarily, to limit her movements in the quest to get the right shot. I was also—for one of the few times in her life—the better sleeper as she struggled to find any comfortable position.

After a hard week’s work for her, we returned to our home so she could attend her post-op appointment where the doctor pronounced her as healing in the typical manner—which meant she still has some hard days ahead of her and yet she has every reason to believe she will feel better soon.

Though tired of the uncertainty of the hows and whens of healing in one way or another over the past several years, she also had a chance to reconnect with an old ally who is so often able to help her spark her own sense of renewal and hope and help her along the path to recovery in so many ways.

These past several years have been a journey seemingly set forth in so many ways by outside forces and, yet, there is still time to renew a sense of joy and direction. Healing happens so often when we accept that the valleys that got us to where we are now can teach us to see joy in things ranging from a kitten’s purr to a long overdue apology and point us back onto a road that still leads to both ordinary and extraordinary peaks in a life too long subdued.

Sometimes we need to put to ashes our old pains so we can get back to resurrecting our future.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

Just been thinking about fitness lately—maybe because it’s April. The cliché about thoughts turning to exercise in the spring is often as true as the cliché of thoughts turning to love. People look in the mirror and suddenly realize they can’t hide in their layers anymore—at least if they don’t want to faint from heatstroke.

I meet so many women who aren’t as fit as they’d like to be or who are fit but don’t look that fit. Many times you find out they used to be almost overboard fit and are still mystified that the body facing them in the mirror is theirs.

Boy, do I get that. When you grow up slender and spend a lot of energy moving, sometimes it’s hard to realize when you have become far from slender and have stopped putting much energy into moving. What was maybe easy to do or find time for when all you had to do was think about yourself, becomes so much more difficult when adulthood’s real obligations kick in.

Which is kind of a funny thought because right now my exercise lifestyle seems pretty extravagant to most adults in my age group—as if I’m back in my adolescent period (although without quite the same results in the mirror!) Exercise has been my main self-care indulgence during these past years of intense care-giving and lack of time for self-focus.

Yet, I probably can’t afford to be a gym rat the rest of my life unless I’m going to somehow make it part of my profession. I’ve ignored too many real life obligations for too many years. (Nonetheless, here I am still not getting all my paperwork together so my longtime friend Kathy can help us figure out how to salvage our lack of financial planning . . .)

So, here’s a semi-secret: just over a month ago I took my ZUMBA instructor training—and then ignored it in light of all the real life drama. However, my ZUMBA instructor friends, Jennifer, Diana, and Karleen, are getting tired of waiting for me to practice so they can let me do a song in their classes. They say I just have to jump in to teaching.

But first (yes, I’m afraid so far there is always a “but first” with me when I start something new) I had to figure out how to set up a space where I can watch the DVDs and practice. It’s the technology and some long sad story about how the DVD player (and the replacement we bought) won’t talk to our TV, but the Xbox will play DVDs. Yet I am a little bit shaky about how to use the stupid controller to play the DVDs. Blah, blah, blah.

However, I have succeeded in mostly figuring out the system and have begun practicing. At the same time, my mind is filling with other musical choice selections and clothing ideas and trying to pin down how to share my mother’s rhythm instruments in a class setting.

Turns out, this also coincides with a week or so when I have felt stronger during almost all of my exercise times.

Still, I need exercise no matter if I am “productive” or not while doing it. Last week’s yoga classes brought me to tears without warning. Wednesday’s savasana tears told me how badly I was missing my doggie Fordham one month after his death. Then Thursday, strains of “Moonlight Sonata” came on in the background and I almost lost it mid-pose. When my cousin’s son Sam performed the piece at Mom’s memorial service, I listened dry-eyed. But in the stillness that is often yoga I finally heard all the sadness inherent in that most beautiful music.

These are not life experiences I had lived when young and fit. Then running was more a way to workout nervous energy and to deal with the ups and downs of a youthful emotional life. Now with so many more losses from longtime relationships, exercise is even more important to me—and no doubt to a lot of people as the years creep up on them.

The obligations of adulthood make exercise that much more necessary. It’s not really just about improving the picture in the mirror or even how the body works, but about finding something that helps get a person through what inevitably comes with later seasons of life.

That’s why I can feel the mission behind something like the ZUMBA fitness program. Oh sure, they’ll tell you ZUMBA class is a party—which it is. But more importantly, anything that gets people to move, despite life’s scars, has the power to create deep changes.

People arrive to their first classes, timid and afraid, believing in the permanency of the mirror and difficult life losses, but they start leaving happy in the moment. They jump back in the dance of life.

Count me in, too.

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(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert