I was completely overdressed for my mid-morning hike in the woods. The day was unseasonably warm, but since I think in a past life I must have been a sun worshipper, it was the perfect day for me, with the low, fall-sun beaming on my face. I was surprised to find a few radiant leaves still clinging to the branches after both Hurricane Sandy (a.k.a. Frankenstorm) and Nor’easter Athena hit. The gurgling creek passed by next to me, as if carrying all my worries away.
During the fall season, the big dipper, known as the Great Bear begins to sink lower into the night sky. The Native Americans believed it to be an indication of the change in seasons, revealing that the bear was going into hibernation. So, too, are we. Fall and winter are filled with added darkness, a welcomed relief from the busier, more energetic summer days. Fall brings about a calmer air as the days get shorter, and we spend more time indoors hibernating. It is also a time when I am able to spend more time with myself in reflection. This heaven-sent weather and time spent with the trees helped remind me to pay attention to myself if only for a minute.
I reminded myself to really stay focused in the present, take deep breaths, and enjoy where I was. It’s easy for me to find the cell phone or some other means of distraction since I am a creature who loves people and socialization!
As I walked, the blue sky penetrating through the empty branches, I began thinking about my doctor’s appointment the day before. . .
A bit of background . . . I have been working incredibly hard to regain my health after being sick for so many years before going gluten-free. It’s clear that the diet was the best decision for my body, but I had still been struggling to feel good every day. Often times from vitamin deficiencies I’d feel exhausted, I would run migraines, have stomach aches, or any number of other symptoms. My AMAZING doctor had me tested for other food intolerances through a stool sample. It came up that I have a super high intolerance to casein, (a protein in dairy), as well as minor intolerances to almonds, avocado, coconut, lemon, etc. I was fairly bummed out to learn this, since it meant removing more food from my diet, which I already found limiting. What it also told me is that I have a leaky gut, meaning that food literally leaks out due to past gut damage. The thought was that if I healed my gut, many of these problems would hopefully resolve themselves.
I revisited the doctor to tell her that I have never felt so alive in my whole life (or that I can remember). I had been doing everything in my power (and still am) to heal my gut as crazy as some things might sounds: I swallow whole cloves of raw garlic, eat manuka honey, drink Himalayan salt in my water, take probiotics and prebiotics, drink something called bitters to help stimulate digestion before I eat, and twice a day I make sure I eat fermented foods. This has truly helped me in every way. The migraines are gone, the stomach aches are resolving, and regardless of how little sleep I get, I still feel good. My mind is clear, and I’m just so happy. Being physically sick clearly affected my overall level of happiness.
In a nut shell, my doctor tells me that I’ve done an amazing job of helping my body to heal. She believes that once I have done such damage to my GI tract, she thinks I will always have to take probiotics and eat fermented foods. I guess it seems like a small price to pay, but the truth was that I was a bit disheartened by the news. For once in my life I wanted not to have to be so mindful.
As I walked though the woods, I allowed the wind to help me clear my head. I allowed myself to be sad, but it was hard to feel sad when I could see the beauty around me, and the strength that my body has been given.
Every fall I have watched as the trees let go of their leaves, but I didn’t always notice. This day, I was noticing everything. Fall is a time for letting go of what we do not need in our lives, just as the trees let go of their leaves. I attempted to let go of that which I could not control; I tried to let go of my sadness and frustration behind my struggle to heal my body.
I also noticed the trees that had already shed their leaves, standing so naked and vulnerable, which is how I think I often feel when I let go of something I have held onto for so long. Without the leaves to hide behind, there are no pretenses with a tree. It is what it is. When I accept where I am in life, then I am being true to myself; I am truly me as the tree is the tree. The noble tree reminded me to accept and embrace who I am and what I have been through as part of being me. When I do that, I find that I really like me, and it makes me a happier person and a better friend.
The same way that different religions are mindful of the foods they eat – like Jews with Kosher foods and Islamics with Halal foods – being gluten-free, soy-free, and dairy-free has truly taught me mindful eating. I think very hard about where my food comes from, how I’m preparing it, and the energy it gives me. This would have never been my thought process before going gluten-free. I am truly grateful for this path in life, for the good health for which I have worked hard, and all my friends and family who have supported me through it all. For all the moments I forget how lucky I am, I guess this is the season to reflect, remember, and say thank you.
So, just in case you haven’t paid attention to the seasons, it’s not too late to start!
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