Rituals, routines and beliefs
After the craziness of the past few months, living on a building site, we have tried to settle down to the next phase of our life here in France.
It’s taking a while as we have not had much of a normal routine for probably the best part of 2 years now. Even whilst still in England, we were finishing up our jobs, Martin starting the wind down at work, and me starting to wind up my small business – so we didn’t have the structure that a morning routine brings for some time before moving to France, and of course once we had moved out here we were finding our feet, planning all sorts of things and then eventually having the initial stages of the building project to sort out. So, as I have previously alluded to – our lives have not really felt our own for a while. Not the fault of any one thing, or person – it just is that way.
Subsequently, we have struggled to get back into some sort of semblance of normal life. And when I say normal life, I honestly do struggle to identify what normal life is!! It’s been such a long time.
I started to reflect on all the things I used to do (when I had a house) that used to help me to start my day in a positive way, and it became really quite scary to admit to myself that I have left slip so many of my little rituals that used to help me get on to the right path each morning.
Anyone who knows me, will know that I am spiritual rather than religious. I don’t believe in a God per se, but I do believe that I have a guiding force that helps me (when I ask) to live my life in the best way possible. But, on reflection I realised that I had let so much of my daily ritual go by the by that I was feeling out of touch with my spiritual practice. And also, my self-care routine has wound down to pretty much zilch. I have been spending no time at all looking after myself in either a physical, or an emotional, or a spiritual way. And that, I feel has now manifested as the ill-health that I have experienced for the past year or so. The word disease actually is formulated from dis-ease – which when you look at it like that no wonder with all the dis-EASE in my life my health has suffered. It has frustrated me so much that when I left England I was fit, and healthy, I had a healthy BMI range, I could pump a really decent amount of iron at the gym, I could cycle for hours, could run 8km easily. And now, I cannot run at all, I struggle to walk 5km, I cannot walk down stairs properly, and my weight has sky rocketed.
With my recent health problems and trips to hospital I have of course reflected on why I might have become so ill. And can only conclude that it is a combination of two things.
Firstly, my diet became very unhealthy after moving to France (partly my own fault as I found the French bread, cheese and pastries too tempting, but also partly because eating out is so limited as a vegetarian).
And secondly, the stress levels that we have been under. The Brexit process has been incredibly stressful for us both, and this, on top of the life adjustments of living in a different country to our children, leaving work, reduction in income, pressures to learn a new language, all whilst living in a motorhome.
So, I have had to take a good, hard look at myself and reflect on how I can remedy this as the problem is clearly not going to resolve.
Having underlying health anxieties, and a huge mistrust of doctors and hospitals in general, alongside a very enquiring mind, and a lot of confidence in my research abilities, I was never going to just take the prescription from the hospital doctor without doing my own investigations and I am so glad that I didn’t. The Quadruple Therapy treatment for the Helicobacter Pylori bacterial infection was, to say the least grim. Had I followed it to the doctor’s instructions it would have been unbearable. Luckily, I found an online support group through which I found loads of ways to make the side effects of the treatment more bearable. Simple things like drinking loads and loads of water, avoiding all dairy foods, leaving 6 hours between dosages of medication (which was different as there was four dosages a day so it went like this – breakfast and morning meds at 0700, lunch and mid-day meds at 1230, dinner and evening meds at 1800 and then snack and late night meds at 2300 as I just couldn’t quite manage to stay up until midnight. Then when I woke in the middle of the night, I would have to take my probiotics as they needed to be without food and not within 3 hours of the antibiotics.
The side effects that I got were stomach cramps, a severe headache, black poop, tearfulness, anxiety, dizziness, feeling faint, vertigo, problems with my eyes, tinnitus, acid reflux, a horrible taste in my mouth, and breathlessness. Luckily the 10 days went by soon enough, but what they don’t tell you at the hospital is that the treatment strips your gut lining out completely, so you are left with the Chronic Gastritis and no good gut flora to help with the symptoms of that. So, I am now starting with a very raw, very sore stomach which needs to heal. And that process could take anything from 3 months to forever to take place. So, obviously I am going to do as much as I can to help that process. Which means, a lot of research in to the optimum diet for Chronic Gastritis, along with some supplements, and a change in lifestyle that will support the healing of my gut.
So, I’ve been introspecting a lot on what I can do to help myself. One thing I used to find helpful was the use of Essential Oils. I used to have oils for just about everything you could imagine, so I have dug them out and have put together a little Essential Oil routine for myself. The concept of ingesting Essential Oils is a very controversial one in the UK, but it seems not so much so in France as they sell little neutral tablets that you can put a few drops of oil on to and swallow. I used Peppermint Oil in this way after my Appendectomy and it was the only thing that worked for dispersing the gas from the surgery, so I am a big fan of this. But in the past I always used to ingest by diluting in water and always used Certified Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils. I’m a bit nervous about doing this at the moment as my stomach is still very raw – so I have made myself some oil rub for my stomach containing peppermint and lemongrass oils in a coconut oil base and am using it topically for the time being – but when I feel my stomach is ready for it I will start ingesting the oils.
So, my little daily routine is:
After my yoga stretching routine I put 3 drops of a motivating blend called Citrus Bliss on my feet (the soles of the feet allow the Essential Oils to enter the system very quickly) and then I put 3 drops of a blend called Balance on to my wrists and inhale 3 counts in, and exhale 6 counts – 7 times. This is to ground me.
Then when I’m getting dressed, I use the stomach rub.
If I feel stressed during the day, I use a bit more Balance on my wrists and inhale.
At bedtime I use the stomach rub, and put 3 drops of a blend called Serenity on the soles of my feet and spray my pillows with Lavender spray.
I’ve slept so much better since doing this. And in the morning the combination of my yoga stretching, 1:2 breathing, and the oils really motivates me.
After my morning Essential Oils routine, I do my Reiki Precepts. This is the equivalent of someone saying their morning prayers. I thank my spirit guides for the gift of Reiki and ask for their love and support with helping me to use Reiki in my life for the greater good of the universe. Although I am qualified to Level Three in Reiki I have not been working as a Reiki Practitioner since being in France as our living arrangements have not been conducive to this, and also my ill health has meant my energy has been low. But I know that this will come soon, when the time is right. The 5 Reiki Precepts that I say are:
Just for today I will let go of worry
Just for today I will let go of anger
Just for today I will count my many blessings
Just for today I will live my life authentically, and speak my truth
Just for today I will be compassionate to all living beings, including myself
I then think about how I will spend the next 24 hours, and set intentions of how I will fill the time that I have been given.
These rituals have really helped me to start to get back on track (and now, in hindsight I regret so much letting these simple things slip as I can see how much they help – but we cannot go back and fix the past – just be in the present).
As well as looking at my self-help rituals I have also been looking at what I can be putting in my body to support my gut healing. Turmeric has come up time and time again, so I have looked at ways of getting plenty of this in to me. First, I tried the way that a friend told me – which was to add turmeric to some oil, along with black pepper and just swallow it. But I found that too difficult – I was loath to use too much oil (all those calories) so without much oil it was just an awful powdery mouthful and it made me feel sick. Then I remembered being told about Golden Milk by another friend – so I started making this in the evenings. It was a bit weird to begin with but now I really enjoy it as part of my bedtime routine – but I always brush my teeth straight after it as the Turmeric makes everything yellow.
The way I make it is; one cup of almond milk, ½ teaspoons of turmeric, ½ teaspoon of cinnamon, ½ teaspoon of ginger, 1 teaspoon of coconut oil, some black pepper and a good slurp of agave syrup (to make it vegan) or honey (if not vegan). Warm it up in a pan, then sit quietly, sipping and contemplating. It’s very relaxing.
Matcha Tea is something that both me and Martin used to really enjoy when we were in the UK. So much so that we treated ourselves to some fancy Matcha bowls and the whisk, and a really good quality Ceremonial Blend matcha tea. Martin was always better at whisking the Matcha tea to get a nice froth on it – so this was his job. So, over the past few weeks we have reintroduced this little ritual in to our day and our afternoon tea break is a Matcha Break – with Martin doing his Guru bit and whisking it up. I always feel really energised after drinking Matcha and it’s an added bonus that it is good at fighting Helicobacter Pylori.
I had been getting quite confused about stomach acid and lemon juice and had avoided lemon juice as it is acid. But apparently lemon juice turns alkaline in the stomach so it can be good for gastritis. So, I found another way of getting turmeric in to me in the form of lemon and turmeric water in the morning.
My method is this: when husband wakes up ask him to boil some water, put ½ teaspoon of turmeric into a glass cup, cut a lemon in half and take a thin slice of one half. Squeeze the juice of a half a lemon into the glass, add the boiled water, Stir, put the lemon slice in and hand the glass to sleepy wife!! It’s lovely, and I sit in bed for a few moments sipping this before thinking about starting to do my yoga stretching. He is a good husband; as my friend Frieda said the other day – he is “sent from God” as is her husband Jan.
About 5 minutes after my lemon water I take my probiotics tablet and also a Broccoli Sprouts capsule. These sprouts are apparently very effective in eradicating Helicobacter Pylori so I have invested in these to hopefully eradicate any that are still lurking and also prevent any future occurrence.
One thing I have learnt with all this research is that these bacteria are stubborn little bastards and have become resistant to antibiotics, and with the treatment being so horrible I really do not want to have to go through it again. But equally I know that I must do whatever it takes as if left unresolved the Gastritis will lead to stomach ulcers, which then can lead to stomach cancer, which terrifies me of course!
The gut healing diet is going to be challenging. Avoid dairy, avoid gluten. So that’s all the amazing French cheeses and bread out for starters. Avoid starchy vegetables. Don’t go too mad on beans and lentils. Avoid sugar. Avoid alcohol. Is life worth living??? So far, I’ve not been able to stick to it completely, but I have cut back significantly. Breakfast has been eggs, with home made lentil loaf. Lunch – soup or leftovers from dinner.
Dinner is some form of beans, or chickpeas or lentils, with either gluten free pasta, or brown rice, and vegetables – so Veg Chilli, or Curry, or Pasta Bolognese – that sort of thing is easy and pretty much what we have all the time but I now need to think tasty rather than spicy. So, the main meals are covered – but it’s the in-betweens that is the problem. I’ve always had problems with bloating if I get hungry, which I now know is a symptom of both H Pylori infection and gastritis. When there is nothing in my tummy the little buggers start getting hungry and gnaw at my stomach mucus lining! Charming!! So, it’s best to not get hungry – which means in between meal snacks. Trouble is, the rule is to not eat fruit on its own – you need to have it with protein and fat at the same time. So, I’m struggling for ideas, although I have discovered buckwheat pancakes (taste lovely but don’t look so great. I’ll get there – I always do manage to rise to a challenge when it comes to eating – I love cooking so now that I have my new range cooker to play with I will soon be conjuring up healthy snacks that are Gastritis friendly. In order to support this, I know that my best chance of success will be to meal plan – another routine to get in to again. I used to do it every week – have a whole week’s meals planned out.
It does all seem like a bit of a flaff at times – but I know ultimately, I need to do this. I really do need to put my health first, and although it will undoubtedly be an inconvenience at times as eating out will be very difficult, I do need to be kind to myself.
I think about that Reiki Precept a lot these days – it was always the one that really hit me straight in the heart – I would say “be kind to every living being” and then have a nagging voice coming back saying “yeah, what about those ones you eat”. And that was ultimately what prompted me to become vegetarian. I felt as if I was being untrue to those Reiki Precepts. But of course, in the same way that different people interpret the bible teaching differently, different people interpret the Reiki Precepts differently. Some people will interpret that as being mindful about what they eat, honouring and respecting the animal, others will take it as to not harm at all, and others will read that as not causing any harm other than eating it at the end of its life. We are all different, and ultimately none of us are righter, or more wrong that the next person. We each need to be able to go to bed at night and feel comfortable that whatever actions we have taken in that day make us the best version of us that we can be (or not….as the case may be).
I humbly accept that not everything I do in any given 24 hour period is all kind, but I do feel that I try hard to be kind to people when I can be, and I’m always kind to animals, but I also now realise that I have to be much kinder to myself. My default setting is to beat myself up and that has been due to past abuse, and so I need to learn to be kind to myself. I’ve also had to learn over the past few years that sometimes in order to be kind to myself I have needed to let go of people who have constantly provoked anger and anxiety within me – it’s one thing trying to accept that they may have a different point of view, but when they show no regard to my feelings it is kinder to myself to simply let go and let them be who they want to be without them harming me. A friend once said to me that people only stay in our lives as long as they are meant to be there. Looking back I was very hurt when she appeared to drop me as if I was a piece of shit on her shoe, I had no idea what I had done wrong – but I now realise that for her, I was no longer a person that had a place in her bubble. It’s true – there are people now gone from my life who I never could have imagined ever not being part of my bubble….but they have made way for the people who are meant to me in my life right now – here in this moment in time. One of life’s lessons that I have learnt is that we should not chase people, if it is hard to form a relationship with a person despite a lot of effort and goodwill, they are not meant to be in your life and that is OK.
There’s a lot of talk in past weeks about being kind, since the tragic death of Caroline Flack. Her story resonated with me so much, on many different levels, but in particular two reasons.
Firstly, I can’t help but think that the incident she was being prosecuted for was a domestic argument that just simply got out of control and led to an accident. Who can honestly say, hand on heart that they have never acted in a way that was out of control when having an argument with a partner? In this case I feel that she was a troubled woman with a need for help for her mental health issues – not a demon. Have we as a society really been reduced to a culture of attacking people who actually need help? I knew of a young woman once who hanged herself – she went to friends begging for help and no-one would take her in as she had her big dog with her. I often wondered if she would still be here now if her friends had put themselves in her position and just been a bit kinder, more flexible and opened up their homes to a poor woman in distress with her beloved dog.
Secondly, the CPS did not need to pursue the case. Her partner withdrew the allegations. The CPS could have and should have dropped the case, yet they allowed it to continue. Many years ago, a man attempted to rape me. This was a traumatic experience enough, yet by the time the police caught up with him some 9 months later I had begun to put my life back together and wanted to just move on and put it all behind me. The CPS however would not drop the case and forced me to take the witness stand. I was made out to be all sorts of things in that court room. I was victim shamed, called a liar, and told it was my fault. All so they could get an extra month on his sentence (he had assaulted a police officer on a separate occasion – undoubtedly the main reason they were so keen to prosecute him). The CPS didn’t care about how I felt about pushing those charges, and in my case, it caused me a significant amount of trauma. In Caroline’s case I believe it cost her life.
So many lessons to be learned from tragic events like these. We all need to be kind, to each other, but most of all to ourselves. An act of kindness often costs us nothing at all. It can be as simple as a hug to someone in distress.
We don’t have to have the answers to other people’s problems – it is enough to just say “I have no idea how that feels but I can see you are upset – can I just be with you?”
And to ourselves – just a few minutes a day to spend taking care of ourselves, putting the right stuff in, or doing something to alleviate some of the stresses, maybe just saying “enough is enough” and giving up on an unhealthy relationship (pressing that Unfollow or Unfriend button can be oh so cathartic), finding healthy rituals to soothe ourselves – whatever it takes …..just “Be Kind”……for your sake, for our sake, and for Caroline.
One final ritual that I always take comfort from is the marking of the birthdays of our special loved ones who are no longer with us. I usually mark my Dad’s birthday in August by eating cheese….in particular Roquefort cheese as that was his favourite. And on my Step Mum’s birthday in February I marked the occasion by planting up a lovely Meleze Planter with mauve and yellow flowers. Mauve was her favourite colour. I found it very therapeutic to plant them using the top soil dug out to create the space for the foundations of our house, from what was once “their land” and to give it pride of place on the “terrasse” of our house hoping that she is looking down and approving of what we have created here. I am always mindful that it is a sad fact that it was the devastating and abrupt end of their dreams that has afforded Martin and I the opportunity to fulfil our own dreams out here on “this little piece of land”. And for me, this simple little ritual helps me to feel that I am respecting, and honouring their dreams, and them, for giving us ours.