Exceeding Expectations

I love competition…just the other night we were building a puzzle with friends after dinner and my husband related that this is not my strongest skill, to which there was the comment “probably because she can’t win.” A statement accurate regarding my tendencies, but not so for puzzling. One of my favorite Christmas memories is an extended family puzzle-off. Many sets of matching puzzles and teams of two going head to head for the tournament victory. Admittedly, I was not the ultimate champion, but I thoroughly enjoyed the process knowing there was opportunity for a podium finish. In my history of racing, I have rarely entered without the expectation to win, at least my age group if not overall.  Though it has not always transpired, it has always been in the forefront of my thoughts.  Recent events have shifted this focus and it has been an entirely new experience to toe the line with only the expectation of completion, with zero aspiration for a goal time or place. This has caused me to wonder if I have changed as a competitor, if this is a new phase of my sporting life, but as I think of the statement my friend made and the one I so often utter “it isn’t fun if you can’t win,” I realized that even more than the result, the process of competition is really what brings me joy.  Key in that phrase is the use of can’t rather that don’t. While it may not always happen, the fractional possibility that a victory is achievable shifts the process entirely.

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As we build our community at CrossFit Inconceivable, cooperation and connection with other gyms in the area is important to us as we believe that collegial relationship with our colleagues improves quality for all and drives us to reach our highest potential. The Reindeer Games has been a longstanding successful competition at Rogue Valley CrossFit in Medford, and seemed a good opportunity to initiate our participation in local events. My fellow female coach joined me as The Miracle Maxes and our head coach was accompanied by a most dedicated member on The Brute Squad. With their focus on weightlifting, my novice status in CrossFit competition and our member’s recent recovery from Achilles repair, our expectations definitely hovered on the “get done and have fun” spectrum.  Looking at the workouts, weights and time caps, this seemed the appropriate mindset. The day started with the jitters, bathroom visits and nervous chatter, much like the start line of the endurance races with which I am quite familiar. One, of many, distinctions was revealed when the first “go” was announced and there was much down time. Waiting for heats to finish and new equipment to be set up leaves idle time, used for rest, recovery and warming up for subsequent events along with ample time to overthink and psych oneself out of the process.  While there is a mental strength in endurance competition, the waiting game was definitely a challenge unfamiliar to me and called for a new level of focus.

 

 

Turns out the mental game rehearsal was needed to support the challenge that was to follow. Walking out onto the competition floor for our first event was unlike any experience I have had. More often than not in triathlon, beyond the start or finish, much of the race takes place without an audience and, for me at least, at times not even near other competitors. Beyond the clock and your will, not much else is spurring you along. As we navigated the bike and dumbbells for 120 calories and thrusters respectively, people cheered, fellow athletes pushed their limits and we shared the tasks in a balance of strength and endurance, beating the time cap and finishing at the top of our heat. With a break before the next event, we rested and I prepared to face a row of barbells that far exceeded my max capacity. Embracing the gift of time, I was grateful for the opportunity to greet those from our gym who had come to watch, refuel and cheer for other teams.

 

 

The deadlift ladder proved challenging as anticipated, but I managed a higher weight than expected and my teammate hit a personal best lift. While we finished near the back of the pack, the event was a success as we achieved beyond what we previously thought possible. Heading into the fourth event (there was a floater max hang, which we later learned we won!) the barbell was once again a rate limiting factor. Unlike the first event, which allowed for division of labor freely, playing to strengths (literally!), this time we simply had to divide the reps evenly and I was responsible for cleaning 125lb five times for four rounds…a weight that was more than 90% of my one rep max for that particular movement. Managing a few in the warm-up area, I promised my partner my best effort and headed out onto the competition floor, hoping I wouldn’t let her, or the many people who ventured out on the rainy day to support us, down. As my partner completed the opening double-unders, I stared at the barbell, loaded with 45lb plates, which I have never utilized secondary to intimidation factor, and hoped I could get them from ground to shoulder with decent form.  Mentally, the first few were tough, but as I managed to make the lifts, my confidence grew and the bar actually moved easier through the rounds. I realized we would make it to the end of reps within the time allowed and executed my portion of the jump ropes with only one mis-step.  Energized by my teammate, empowered by the encouragement of the crowd, my capacity evolved and what was once out of reach proved possible.

 

 

With the bulk of our work done, we cheered for our men’s team, who, after rocking the first workout and crushing the deadlift ladder, maxed effort in their final, including single-legged double-unders to accommodate injury, in an inspiring performance. As we awaited the results, wondering if we had made the final, I was filled with joy for the day. From the opportunity to engage with gym owners and athetes from the surrounding area, the support of our own members showing up to cheer on their coaches, the effort of my fellow coaches and dedicated athlete representing our community and the performances beyond anything we had hoped, it was an unbelievably amazing day.  On learning we just missed the final, in fourth place in the women’s Rx division, I admit, there was a moment of disappointment – the movements were favorable to our skill set and after making the journey out, having another event to watch would have been nice for our supportive cheering squad. The moment was fleeting, however, as I reflected on the day, respected the quality of our competition, honored that we had given our best effort and embraced the opportunity to celebrate with my dedicated coaches turned terrific teammates.

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As fate would have it, I had opportunity to finish that final workout the next morning, in my home gym, side-by-side with one of my athletes, converting a team event into individual efforts, pushing each other to perform our best. The victory was hers, but I worked harder knowing the chance was there. Wrapping up a weekend of competition, while there was no tangible trophy, there was a true sense of triumph for finding the best of ourselves as athletes, teammates, competitors and in community.  It was most certainly fun because we could win, a lesson that victories aren’t always a gold medal and I will continue to seek opportunity to challenge myself with competition as the medium, knowing that the natural shift in focus can lead to inconceivable results.

Best,

Mama”Fit”Doc

Oh Village, My Village

I am exceptionally fortunate to have a husband who is the prime contributor to all things household management.  From bill-pay to cleaning to cooking to chauffeuring to laundry and beyond, he bears the bulk of responsibility in the daily maintenance of our health, sleep, nutrition and activity participation.  Friends who stay with us for extended intervals marvel at his capacity for meeting the needs of our busy family of five with a true love for helping.  He is generously encouraging whenever I schedule a conference, race or sister-weekend away and rarely complains about the burden of temporary solo parenting (likely because the duties are not significantly altered!).  When he leaves, however, there is a substantial shift in task management and this past week, I had not modified my work schedule to accommodate.  Knowing the importance of the conference he was scheduled to attend, both from the perspective of professional enrichment as well as much-deserved personal relaxation, I trusted in my own capacity for multi-tasking and the universe’s sense of humor and set forth into the week, with a constant reverence for the unbelievable work single parents do every single day.

Day One began with a bit of a cushion as husband packed the lunches before departing for his flight while biggest and middlest slept and I had littlest at the gym to coach the 6am class (a common occurrence even when not rolling solo).  We made it out the door and everyone got to school and work on time with a ten-minute window between drop-offs where littlest and I managed to get dinner in the slow cooker. In a moment of mercy, which I often confuse with weakness, I requested my office staff to hold on filling any gaps that might appear in the schedule.  Much better at shepherding my time than I am myself, they whole-heartedly agreed to maintain any pauses that might serendipitously occur in the week. With littlest safely in the care of one of her favorite friends, and also one of our most dedicated members at CrossFit Inconceivable, I made it to school in time to see middlest off with another friend, and super helper at the Siskiyou School, for dance while I coached Run Club with biggest.  With the final meeting with teacher and mamas from littlest’s school on the evening agenda, pick-ups by our neighbor and fellow solo mom of the week (whose husband was with mine on the adventure), the earlier dinner prep and extended stay of littlest’s friend and friend’s husband saved the day.  I arrived home to a happy crew, telling stories, drawing pictures and adequately tired for bedtime as our helpers departed for home.

Day Two, my coaches rallied and gave me the morning off from the 6am class.  Though littlest wondered why we were not heading in to coach, she was happy to replace her chilly morning stroller ride with waffle-making.  A little hairier than the day before (not surprising given no head-start from husband on the lunch-making) but we made it to school without mishap.  Tucking in for the rest of the day at the gym, I collaborated with another coach, completed a conference call for working moms (it called for doing less…) and literally ran to get littlest in between workouts, honoring the beautifully sunny weather. As the end of school day approached and the sunshine continued, it worked well for my coach to pick-up biggest and littlest, taking them on a hot chocolate outing and to flag (thankfully not tackle) football practice.  In another ten-minute window, littlest and I prepped dinner and wagon-ed over our toaster oven for a gym-side meal.  As littlest snoozed, consistently soothed by the ambient noises of workouts that have been the soundtrack of her early years, the afternoon classes concluded with arrival of neighborhood friends to play in our newly crafted kid’s area.  As the children of the gym designed their own workout and cheered for their parents, I felt a lifetime of dreams coming to fruition.  Walkable neighborhoods, full days of training, shared responsibility and relaxed hangouts in a space dedicated to wellness.

Day Three, we were back in action for the early morning class. Brightened by our newly painted boxes, littlest and I managed the 6am, powered by leftover waffles from the day prior.  After, we gathered middlest and biggest for the day. Littlest even got the special bonus of a before-school hang-out with one of her classmates – a fortunate opportunity borne of the connection of Monday evening’s sewing group – for all the challenge and frustration of the task for my non-crafting self, sharing time and tale with the other mamas was a welcome, nurturing experience.  My clinic day was full, with the exception of a serendipitous re-schedule that allowed me to stay on-time and caught up on charts. Upon our move to Ashland, I worked to match school hours for most of my work days, to be available as needed and generally more present with my children.  This mid-week day, however, I remain later in clinic, requiring outside help to manage the pre-evening bustle. Thankfully, fellow solo mom generously shared her time with littlest while biggest and middlest enjoyed a hang-out with friends between chess club and middlest’s classroom lantern walk. Embracing the dark of winter and finding the light within, the gathering is such a beautiful moment. Hearing the voices of all middlest’s classmates guiding us through the night with a pause to greet his kindergarten teacher, was truly a magical experience. Not as adept with the meal planning this time, we had the luxury of a meal out at one of our favorite spots before heading home, ready for bed.

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Children’s Garden Alumni

Day Four was supposed to be a relaxed start, allowing for muffin-baking to share at littlest’s pending evening lantern walk. The morning took an unexpected, frantic turn when I received message from an athlete at the gym that no one had arrived to coach. Thankful for the reliability of my 6am-ers and the brief 300m sprint from my doorstep to the gym’s, I packed up littlest and we made it in record time. Luckily, the skills of my coaching staff are diverse and instead of help with coaching, I received help with baking and the potential muffin catastrophe was averted. We made a rushed run to school and work, with one last favor from my coaching staff to pick up littlest after school, bringing her back to gymnastics in the studio that shares foyer with our gym, a home away from home for all three of my kiddos. We wrapped up in time return to school to coach run club while middlest, though offered a ride by generous dance friends, elected for baking of his own at school alongside his favorite friends and biggest hitched a ride with his coach to another football practice.  As the sun began to set, we ventured off to our second lantern walk of the week, where we reunited with my husband and enjoyed a beautiful, though chilly, walk illuminated by candlelight and song.

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FlipSide Fun!

The week was intense but richly full and, above all else, an amazing testimony to the genuine care and commitment of the community that has developed around and among my family here in Ashland.  Knowing that from gym to school to work, with neighbors, colleagues, staff and friends, we are held so strongly with love and generosity is overwhelming in the best way.  With tremendous gratitude to my husband for his selfless care for our family every day and to this marvelous community for truly being our village and making the week better than any I could have possibly imagined or planned. May we all give with the spirit of abundance and receive with simple graciousness – we are truly better together.

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Thankful!

 

Promises, Promises

Never had a doubt in the beginning…never a doubt, trusted too true

Having missed the first annual Bandersnatch 5K in 2015 secondary to timing error, and making wrong turns trying to navigate the course solo later that same day, I committed to officially running the event in 2016. On November 19, I made my way to the start and was pleased to run consistently throughout the steep climbs and tricky switchbacks. Not a naturally talented trail runner, and under prepared by 20+ years of training in a land of minimal hills, I was happy to just stay upright for the entire 3.1 miles. On conclusion of the race, I had a vision of completing the full circuit of local races, with a few additional triathlons and adventure race I had not yet tried, along the way.

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You made me promises promises, knowing I’d believe, promises promises you knew you’d never keep

This would mean a season concluding nearly one year later, on November 4, 2017, with the Lithia Loop Trail Marathon. 50+ weeks of training seemed reasonable, though the attempt would be a direct contradiction of the statement I had made at the conclusion of my prior 42km effort, basically announcing the end of my marathon career. Aided by the amnesia that four years can provide, I kept the goal in the back of my mind as I entered the 2016 off-season.

In the beginning I loved you right through

Misty mornings up to Toothpick, biking and running to Four Corners, escaping the controlled burns of the wet season on foot and exploring the twists and turns of the Ashland Trails System under the expertise of the trail maintenance team, it seemed I was off to a good start. I learned to accept that road and trail mile times had little in common and was pleased to discover my survival instincts intact as I sustained a most brutal tuck and roll on the frozen grounds of December at elevation, but managed the concluding five miles of a dozen-mile adventure unimpeded by a bleeding leg and torn gloves.

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Second time around, I’m still believing words that you said

All went well as the next event approached, a generous four months later and I was grateful to enjoy a drier day than the prior year for the Tar n Trail 6 miler, ironically turning in a similar time but feeling much better about the entire experience. Along with biggest, making his return to multi-sport, I completed the Siskiyou Sprint Triathlon (my first ever pool-triathlon swim), and a few months later embraced the opportunity to participate in the Granite Man Triathlon thanks to the addition of a road bike option. In between was the Siskiyou Challenge, a kayak-bike-run-bike-run, which I raced with one other woman from my gym and had a fantastic time. Though my training had not quite gone to plan in this interval, the racing season was intact as I headed toward the event that welcomed my boys to Ashland back in 2015, when they visited to find a house for our family.

The Siskiyou Out Back is a festival of races set atop Mt. Ashland, roaming through trails for a reasonable 15K, challenging 50K and most impressive 50-miler. Ever fond of the 9.3-mile distance from my years at the Seaway Run in Muskegon, this seemed a great choice to cross the halfway point of the running season. Though I suffered the blunder of watch-glancing at mile one, and the ankle roll that quickly followed, I made it through in reasonable time and felt like the final two races, though the most arduous, were within reach.

You made me promises promises, you knew you’d never keep, promises promises, why do I believe

And then came the smoke…as a native, and apparently naïve, Midwesterner, I never knew the Pacific North West was subject to forest fire. Our first summer in Ashland was quite mild, luring us into a false sense of clear air throughout the summer season. As August arrived in 2017, the air grew hazy and I found myself constantly refreshing the DEQ website for air quality readings. In rare form, I had signed up for the Mt. Ashland Hill Climb, a race described as “13 miles long and one mile up,” well in advance and, as luck would have it, we returned to a green quality reading in time for this event, midway through the month. Putting CrossFit, and myself to the test, I headed out on the journey, climbing more than 5000 feet over the half marathon distance. It was one of the hardest events I have ever completed, particularly the final mile, up the ski slope, scrambling (and eventually crawling) to reach the top. A fleeting glimmer of hope for the final quarter of my racing year, this would be the last day of summer with truly quality air for outdoor exertion.

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You can’t finish what you start

As the weeks passed without opportunity to run outside the walls of the gym, my resolve to follow through on the Lithia Loop Trail Marathon waned. I have been known to train non-specifically for races, not focused on a particular training plan, but rather on staying fit, running, biking, swimming, lifting – ready for a race at anytime, though my usual distance limitations are half marathon or Olympic triathlon…perhaps a half Ironman in the right conditions. After six weeks without accumulating a mile on my feet and another few struggling to run barely a handful, it looked unlikely that my agreement, formed nearly one year prior and only with myself, would be broken.

Arm in arm we laughed like kids at the silly things we did

Race day quickly approached and I had nearly written it off as a loss. With one week to go, I found myself at the start line of The Monster Dash – this had been my first ever road race in Ashland three years prior, a family tradition and opportunity to bring the newly formed Siskiyou School Run Club out into the community. As I would be running the 1Mile and 5K with my kids – biological and of the team – I registered to run the 10K solo. Starting out on the same path as the Hill Climb, I felt immensely grateful that I would be able to turn around and run back after only three miles of “up” and was encouraged by finally maintaining a sub-8-minute pace for the first time since I restarted running. After completing the second two races, casually, as support for the children, I found myself thinking “that wasn’t so bad…I could do that for another 15 miles.” For the first time in the year, I found myself verbalizing the plan to others and being met mostly with encouragement, moving me through the contemplative stage.

Promises Promises

With a forecast for cold but dry weather and affirmation from my husband that he would handle the morning (as he so often does) I signed up the night prior, prepared my race-day items and committed myself to enjoying a lovely day on the trails of Ashland with no expectations for time or place. Reminiscent of my first ever marathon some 18 years prior, when I took to the wild Alaskan terrain and simply enjoyed the opportunity, I was totally relaxed. Though my pace was much slower than any of my prior attempts, I managed a courageous climb, steady shuffle and delicate descent, running consistently to finish just under five hours. After congratulating a fellow gym member who blazed a finish time nearly two hours faster and finished third overall, I biked myself home and felt surprisingly well after the effort.

Promises Promises

I often hear songs when I treat patients, usually a reflection of the therapeutic process. With this experience, it was the simple chorus of this obscure song, two words repeated endlessly as I ran. As I investigated the rest of the lyrics, I was happy to discover I had defied the disappointment of the song. Following through on my initial vision and completing the run, most appropriately, down the same tricky switchbacks of Bandersnatch, where the plot was hatched nearly one year prior. With gratitude to all who believed and for discovery that the always-but-not-specifically-training plan truly can make us fit for anything, helping us keep our promises even, and especially, those we make to ourselves.

Best,

FitMamaDoc

 

Transition Times

Ten years ago to the day (for those detail-oriented folk, the official date was yesterday, but the day was Thursday so I’m going with that) I was exceptionally pregnant and graduating from Michigan State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine. Two days beyond my due date, swollen beyond recognition (literally – I stood on stage for more than ten minutes while my class processed in and my family could not identify me) and hopeful that the hot water and towels, that our Dean flippantly mentioned were waiting back stage in case of emergency, would not be needed. After spending the better part of twenty weeks hoping the contractions I experienced would not lead to preterm delivery, I was beyond ready to see this pregnancy through to completion and meet the baby who had accompanied me daily through my senior year of school.

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Interestingly, I learned I was pregnant with biggest during my OB rotation, near the beginning of my fourth year of medical school. I remember the day vividly, sitting in the call room after returning from Grand Rounds in Grand Rapids, recovering from “car sickness” and extreme fatigue, which I attributed to the busy overnights. Two of the OB residents were discussing the end of their first trimesters and coordinating coverage for their anticipated March deliveries when I picked up a pregnancy wheel, plugging in dates and noting that RIGHT THEN would be a really great time to become pregnant as the due date would land at the beginning of the open time between graduation from medical school and the start of residency. On reviewing my symptoms, a senior resident insisted I obtain a pregnancy test from clinic. I complied and watched in disbelief as two stripes quickly appeared. I returned, shocked, to the call room and confirmed that the result did indeed mean what I thought it meant.

Fatigue gave way to intense morning sickness, making me an expert bathroom finder and permanently intolerant of hospital air freshener as I survived anesthesiology and internal medicine rotations. During an OMM month in Maine, where I anticipated my residency would take place upon graduation, there was a brief blissful interval of increased energy and resolution of extreme nausea, during which I abandoned vegetarianism (apparently biggest wanted meat, which proves accurate to this day, though I am happy to report his tastes have improved from that first foray of Arby’s Roast Beef…I know…).   For many reasons revealed during this month, the move to Maine was not meant to be and we affirmed our commitment to remain in Michigan for residency.

Settling back into the remainder of my core rotations, it was during a winter month on psychiatry with the appearance of a growing uterus now clearly visible, that I was quickly unsettled by the consistent sensation of contractions. Following protocol I had learned during my OB rotations, I hydrated, rested, waited and counted. Sure enough, they continued, very noticeably, in a fairly regular pattern. As I was barely approaching the halfway point of gestation, this was a concerning development for which I was quickly seen and evaluated. Thankfully, I was not progressing into labor, but I was started on medication to lessen the contractions and scheduled for testing every week to ensure more drastic measures would not be required.

Among my final rotations was scheduled time in Malawi – an experience I had anticipated since my interview for medical school back in 2001, when I had the pleasure of conversing with the director of the program, Dr. Terrie Taylor, en route to my acceptance to MSU COM. While preliminary tests were reassuring, extended discussion with my OB made clear that the risk of delivering in Malawi at 24 weeks was too great and I removed myself from the program with hope of someday (still pending…) returning as an attending and coordinating a visit to meet my husband’s family in South Africa.

I remained pregnant for the final four months of rotations, slightly crazed by restrictions on exercise and in denial of the rising blood sugars as I had “passed” the three-hour glucose test. Having met all my requirements, I had the month of April off prior to graduation, completed a baby quilt and the nursery, hurried up…and waited. My due day came and went as the contractions continued every five minutes, leaving me wondering how they could possibly help with excavation if they had proven ineffective for the past twenty weeks. It seemed that the two-hour drive and company of hundreds of doctors were support enough for the adventure to participate in graduation. I was grateful to biggest for granting me time to complete my duties as Class Vice President and deliver the oath for my classmates to recite as we moved our tassels and became Doctors of Osteopathy.

Thankfully, I made it back home and the following day had hints of a shift from the easy familiar contractions to a more intense and meaningful experience. Confident that a night of pain meant I was well on my way, I presented to the land of OB, where the saga had begun and was held for countless tests over the past 30+ weeks, only to be turned away at barely 4cm. Not wanting to be “the patient who cried labor” I waited out the next nursing shift, only to return to find the testing nurse pulling overtime but thankfully this time earned an admission. In a prolonged process, that was explained upon arrival as a 9lb 6oz, 22 inch newborn, biggest managed to wait for his aunt, Tusha and grandma, arriving 49 minutes before midnight, as the fifth baby born in Special Delivery on Cinco de Mayo.

At a combined total of 72 hours, these were my longest, but most transformational, transition times, but thankfully this was not a race won on time. Victory was not medal, trophy or podium stand – instead, it was snuggles with biggest with diploma on the wall, crossing the finish line together in the same building where we had started nine months prior.

With gratitude to all who walked with me on the journey – doctors, nurses, family and friends; with congratulations – to my classmates on a decade of learning post-graduation and with happiest birthday wishes to biggest – now nearly as tall as me and a confident, kind, independent almost-ten-year old, it’s been fun having you on board, then and now!

Best,

MamaTriDOc

 

 

Don’t Look, But See

 

In a fitting conclusion to National Osteopathic Medicine week, I spent this past weekend at Anatomy 102 in lovely Lebanon, Oregon. Courses provide opportunity to learn more about anatomy and osteopathy, to practice treatment techniques and discuss concepts. In recent years, however, I have discovered that they are also teaching me about myself, and offer unique opportunity to be treated. Through time spent connecting with others and better understanding my role as an osteopath, I often return home with more questions than answers, but am encouraged to explore. And while the expansion of the osteopathic concept certainly benefits my patients, it also shifts my perspective and behavior at home.

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The directive throughout the weekend was to listen rather than look when engaging with the patient. To make space and let the pertinent information come through. There were practical sessions designed to transition us from our typical interrogative state to one of observation and, ideally, even further to one simply of love – of the health, of the experience, of the patient. There were profoundly therapeutic moments for me throughout the course and, interestingly, the healing effect was equally powerful both as the person providing and as the person receiving treatment. It was a moving experience to witness mutually beneficial, reciprocated healing and acknowledge that the movement of the patient toward health was not depleting of, but rather enriching for the physician.

During a post-practical discussion, Dr. Jealous commented, “Sometimes you just need someone to recognize your health.” While I agree that seeing the health, the whole, the good in a person has merit, it did not quite fit my experience. As I sat with my green pen, doodling a border to those nine words, grappling with a sense of incompleteness, a simple yet profound inquiry from a colleague helped put it all into perspective.

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The only photo I captured on the weekend – this little guy making his was along the bike path during my run – glad I saw him!

In my time as a patient on the course, I experienced the powerful sense of being seen. Without inquiry, without expectation and certainly without willfulness for change to occur, I could be me – with random thoughts, odd aches and pains, questions and insecurities. There was no labeling, no agenda and no requirement to fix any of these “lesions,” as areas of restriction or dysfunction are called in osteopathy. There was simply a sense of acknowledgement and acceptance with a willingness to sit with me through any changes that might occur, including none at all. The end result was that I felt more at ease, not because I saw the health, but because the health saw me.

I realized that the statement from Dr. Jealous, for me, needed a different tone and an added ending, “Sometimes you just need someone to recognize your lesion…and love you anyway.” Perhaps we are not meant to look into our patients, but people need to be seen. I fully respect the healing capacity within the patient, but also recognize that disease is real and have long considered the role of the osteopath to shine the light on the health. Through the astute observation of my treatment partner, who postulated that perhaps the role of the osteopath is to bridge the gap between health and disease, which can at times mean simply sitting with the suffering, my perspective shifted. I felt invigorated to see patients – even love them – through, with, in spite of and even because of their lesions. Moved to honor their perfection as completeness, inclusive of flaws; to serve as a reflection, validation, and appreciation of their experience. Certainly no physician wishes ill for their patient and we all want for them to get better, but there can be power in not needing a particular outcome but rather meeting the patient where he or she might be along the way and seeing them just as they are.

In recent weeks, we have struggled in our family with emotional outbursts (mostly the children) challenges in transition and escalating levels of frustration all around. Through a beautiful conversation at her school conference, littlest’s teacher offered insight regarding the need to make space for her to emote. Contemplating ways to employ this advice, I considered designating a cry-moment or inquiring about emotions when they arose to allow them to evolve, but over the weekend I was struck by a comment – that making space is synonymous with grace – and it became more clear. Space was needed, but not in the sense of emptiness or a buffer zone for diffusion but rather in the tone of gentle welcome. My job was not to look for the reason behind the emotion, but to see that it was there and bridge the gap by holding firm, physically or figuratively around the rushing current of emotions without trying to change them. To bear witness, honor and acknowledge them as part of the perfection and be willing to sit as long as might be needed, through any change that might occur.

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Holding the current – twists, turns and rapids

It is most interesting to feel profoundly changed, but not any different – simply at ease with all that has been part of me all along. If I can facilitate such an experience for my family and my patients, I will have been more a part of the wellness journey than I ever imagined possible.

May we see without looking and honor the wholeness in each other, flaws and all.

Best,

MamaTriDOc

 

 

 

Love is Home

Joining in the fun of construction paper creations with middlest and biggest this year, I found myself researching the appropriate use of apostrophes and wielding a glue stick for the first time in many years as I shared love through snail mail with friends back in Michigan.  Actual Valentine’s Day (I am electing to keep the possessive form) for me began in a room full of osteopaths where the study of Biodynamics led to an extraordinary discussion of love.

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Though the details of the dialogue were certainly stimulated by the theme of the day, our study in osteopathy is never far from the concept of love – of learning, of anatomy, of health, of the work, of ourselves, of our patients.  In relating the experience of a truly meaningful treatment, we reviewed the concept of being present but not prominent, engaged but not intrusive. We were advised the ultimate love is to be unseen but fully awake to the health.  While this was in reference to the treatment of patients and our role as osteopath, the concept struck me as universally applicable and rang true to the concept of compassion.  As we all strive for unconditional – the ultimate – in love, for ourselves, our families, our friends, our neighbors, our world – what a simple yet profound concept to be present, to bear witness to the health, the good, in all without personal agenda or ulterior motive.

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My initial thoughts drifted to one of the more prominent moments when I witnessed love in action – the Love Party celebrating the matrimony of my brother and his bride.  It was a beautiful, creative evening that stretched into an extended family celebration filled with unique expressions of love.  On the day, we had opportunity to break into teams and share creative descriptions and metaphors of love, spanning from lasagna to home, the latter of which resonates conceptually with me still, some years later.  With the movement of a few lines, love and home were shown to be virtually interchangeable.   True love is indeed where we feel safe, sheltered, supported, which can be manifested physically, but more often is nestled in the minds and hearts of others.

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Though ever present in even the simple and seemingly mundane moments – a lunch packed, a dish washed, a back rubbed – love often strikes us most profoundly during the monumental milestones.  The overwhelming sense of pure and true love in the moments after the first breath out of the womb or the first kiss of wedded bliss are often matched only in gravity of the stinging and intense love that follows the final exhale of an earthly life.  Honoring the wholeness of health to include the process of dying and our experience of death, our discussion on Valentine’s Day included a most poignant statement by Dr. Jealous:

Your next lifetime is in the hearts of those who love you

I might have missed the conversation immediately following, as these dozen words hit me heavy and I sat with them for some time, considering their significance.  For those we have loved and lost, what an honor and legacy to continue their good work, with their life and light in our hearts, and thus in all we manifest.  What a true sense of continuum for the here and now as a little piece of my next lifetime might already be taking place all around the world, in the hearts of those who love me.  In that moment, I felt more connected, more alive and more in love than ever before.  Never had my heart been so full as I considered all those I love taking up space, life manifesting from many within.

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Three Funny Valentines

I initially began to write this on Valentine’s Day, but it felt bigger than a holiday and never came to fruition.  As the following weeks unfolded, I noticed many of my dearest friends commemorating the physical loss of loved ones so special and it felt right to finally knit the thoughts together, honoring a sisterhood separated in space but not spirit.  Today seems a particularly good day to complete the sentences after finishing a race with my family this morning, honoring the fleet feet of a brother whose finishing time was too fast on this earth but left an infinite influence of excellence.   With particular consideration for hearts especially tender after just one circle around the sun has completed since the departure of a father who so fully embodied joy and vigor for life, I write these words, more inspired to embrace the moment, enjoy the laughter and live for now.

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In a time when hope often seems lost, prejudice dominates tolerance, division more common than alliance, I am reinvigorated by the omnipotence of lifetimes living infinitely in love.  Under roofs physical or theoretical, our hearts are home and home is love.  Through action or word – spoken or written, with the occasional artistic flare only a glue stick can provide – I strive to make my heart a hospitable place suitable for the adventures of many so loved.

May we honor the legacy of those we hold dear with a lifetime eternal in love.

Best,

MamaTriDOc

See the Health, Be the Health

 

In my work as an osteopathic physician, there is much talk of lesions – areas of restriction or dysfunction in the patient, most commonly considered in the neuromusculoskeletal system, although as experience increases, the level of understanding of the concept of lesion – quality, location, connection – evolves. In any consideration, the following statement, and my favorite quote from the past week of study, reframed my thinking – unifying the ideas of finding the lesion and treating the health, infinitely extending the osteopathic concept:

There is more health in the lesion than there is lesion in the lesion.

– Originated by Jim Jealous, D.O. and shared by Tom Esser, D.O.

Inclement weather, delayed travels, an international group of osteopaths with a most treasured kindred spirit among them, mentors and magical moments. Though four years, three thousand miles, a third child and significant shift in career separated my experiences, it was with eerie familiarity this week that I journeyed to continue my study of Traditional Osteopathy. With travels delayed, I was faced with missing a day of the course and, with it, a large portion of the Hawaiian adventure. Thankfully, now as close to these magical islands as I am to my native peninsula, I was able to replace my initial flight with a relatively quick, though rainy, drive south and was welcomed with fresh flowers and Stevie Wonder on the loudspeaker onto a Virgin America flight in San Francisco. Having long admired the ingenuity and joy of Richard Branson, it was a fitting that I would reach Maui while witnessing his optimal entrepreneurial health in action. The unexpected relocation also gave me opportunity to visit a new gym, sending me on the journey more relaxed and physically balanced at an airport with quality food choices on a near-empty plane for prime relaxation. As it turns out, there was more calm in the stress than there was stress in the stress.

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So many minor details combined to bring the joy back to travel – thanks Virgin!

In the morning, the group – nine from Germany and one from the USA, along with our nomadic guide, welcomed me into meditation after which we began our maiden voyage on the water. Ever a fresh water swimmer, an aversion to salt and the sharp-toothed predators of the sea has long kept me on the shores of the ocean. With a traumatic tale shared by my final clinic patient the day prior to travel, I was even more reluctant, committed only to kayaking but unlikely to breach the surface. Held by an inexplicable sense of safety in the group, I ventured into the waters, surprised to find myself gently supported by the water, not overwhelmed as I had expected based on past experience.   With letting go, there was more peace in the fear than there was fear in the fear.

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Made it beyond the shore

As the week unfolded, I was stunned to learn of a tragic loss for dear friends back in Michigan, shocked and unsure of how to offer comfort. We had spoken during a lecture session about health and wholeness in dying and, given the prevailing theme of the week to find health, beauty and wholeness in nature, it seemed appropriate that the sign was presented to me simply and elegantly one evening in the form of a leaf. While not an absolution, it became clear in that moment that there was more love in the pain than there was pain in the pain (and perhaps that is what makes it so hard).

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Love in the pain

Spending the week half in German, I marveled at the amazing skill of our teacher to navigate seamlessly between two languages and at the richness given to the tenets of our profession as they were reinforced through bilingual repetition. Though cherished for many reasons, the greatest treasure of studying Biodynamics these past five years has been the welcome into an international community of osteopathic kinship.  There is something powerful in sharing knowledge, belief and understanding beyond dialect and distance, increasing the global potency of our therapeutic forces. With common fluency in the language of health, there was more unity in our difference than there was difference in our difference.

Having run a trial version of my own continuing education course a few months prior, it was so valuable to see what was meaningful for the students, how the teacher held the class and it was refreshing to hear stated on the first afternoon, after a gentle kayak among the whales, that if nothing else transpired, the course would be a success – for having brought the individuals together, for having seen the beauty of the whales – that the beginning can be the end point. Though smaller than I anticipated, I felt the same about my own course – the encouragement of peers, enthusiasm of my mentor and presence of colleagues past and present made the entire experience, regardless of topics discussed or techniques practiced. Learning and understanding are so much greater when there is more wonder in knowing than there is knowing in knowing.

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On returning home, I learned my family was studying the humpback whale to share in my experience from afar

On our first day, we made a wish for the course, putting into the universe our desire for the week.   Though the goals were unique to each individual –personal or professional, minor or major, physical or emotional – we shared the common therapeutic experience of space held, allowing compression to be released, fluid to flow freely and health to move in. Some achieved precisely that which they desired, some gained much more; for me, the tide began to turn just as the course concluded. It seemed there were more beginnings in the end than there was end in the end.

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Simultaneous moonrise and sunset on Haleakala – beginnings in ends

Seeing these contrasting reference points – varied themes on health in the lesion – throughout the week brought me continually back to another quote shared recently by a wise colleague:

The stillness in stillness is not the real stillness; only when there is stillness in movement does the universal rhythm manifest.

-Originated by Bruce Lee, shared by Zachary Musgrave, D.O.

In my work as an osteopathic physician, there is much talk of fulcrums– reference points about which we treat, gain leverage, seek balance. As I considered a definition applicable beyond the treatment room, I was moved by the simple yet poignant concept of a fulcrum as that which plays a central or essential role in an activity, event or situation. Once again, my thinking shifted and the osteopathic concept broadened – with health as the medium and the axis, the experiences of the week, and ultimately in life, were transformed. That wintry trip four years ago resulted in a physical shift as I now inhabit the fulcrum of the experience. Through this journey, I am inhabited by the spirit of the islands – calm, peace, love, unity, wonder and beginnings now a fulcrum within.

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Held by and holding the spirit of the islands

May we hold space for health, both dynamic and tranquil, to serve as anchor and guide – a catalyst for authenticity and transformation along life’s journey.

Mahalo,

MamaTriDOc