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With a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction degree (Goucher College, August 2014), I am looking at a new phase in my life. From 1992 to 2009, I served as Founding Executive Director of Miriam's House, a residence for homeless women living with AIDS. I left this position when Chronic Migraine Disease overtook my ability to do my job. Now I hope that a writing career will both accommodate the migraines and give me a creative, productive outlet. And soon, September 4, I will launch my Inkshares author page in a bid to hit the 1,000 pre-order goal in 90  days. The book I want to publish is "Nowhere Else I Want to Be," a memoir of ten of my years at Miriam's House.

28 December 2014

Resource -- John Ratey's book about exercise and the brain



"Spark, The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain."

By John Ratey, MD.

I'm reading this book on the recommendation of a friend who is, at forty-something, exercising vigorously for the first time in her adult life. She's lost weight and seems lighter, somehow, and freer. A perfect testimonial for the book.

I'm only about half-way through, but find the mix of biology, physiology, and scientific research interesting and accessible to a lay person. Ratey writes about how exercise affects our brains and our thinking, and writes in detail about depression, stress, ADHD, addictions and anxiety.

Photo  by William Marsh
No mention yet of chronic pain specifically, yet a good bit of what he says applies to living with chronic pain, which is stressful and can make us depressed and anxious.

I started working out at the YMCA recently (this post), and find what Ratey says to be true for the benefits of my new exercise regimen. I have made a very slow start as I learn to accommodate migraine pain and allow my stamina to slowly increase, yet the benefits are there. It's helpful reading this book and discovering positive changes I had not been aware of.

In my next post, I'll share a bit about how it is to develop an exercise regimen despite chronic pain and from a very out-of-shape beginning point.


Thank you for reading my blog. You can leave a comment below or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com.

22 December 2014

Holiday Strategies -- Inner Peace

I'm getting a migraine, so this post will be short and sweet.

The holidays bring with them a certain amount of chaos and confusion. It's easy to get drawn in, to lose one's inner peace struggling to do and be all that is expected: the perfect parent, daughter or family; the most fantastic gift; the best of everything.

Choosing inner peace over outward chaos is counter-cultural. Of all the many expectations and needs loaded onto Christmas, the ability to remain calm, centered and quietly joyful is not one of them.

Choosing inner peace over outward chaos can seem like indifference or ingratitude to those who expect or need us to buy into the 'shoulds' and the 'musts' and the 'it has to be this ways.'

Photo by William Marsh

So take a deep breath or three or ten. Keep up with your prayer and meditation times. Exercise when you can. Eat and drink moderately. Look around to see what is good and wonderful in your life regardless of season and holiday. Let gratitude fill you.

And relinquish your inner peace to nothing and no one.





Thank you for reading my blog. You can comment below or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com.

20 December 2014

Holiday Strategies -- Saying No

I started to write this post on stamina earlier this week. I didn't have the stamina to finish it.

I had the physical stamina -- only one really bad migraine day that kept me from the computer. I've even been to the gym twice, although I've had to modify exercise time and type to accommodate migraines.

What I didn't have was the emotional stamina. I have never just popped off a post without really thinking about it and trying to write well. Writers want to be present to and authentic in their writing and bloggers want to blog honestly and with integrity. So it takes emotional presence and patience to write a good blog post.

I just didn't have that this week.

It's an object lesson for this series on strategies for holidays.

All I can say is that I didn't force myself to post. Even though I thought I should keep up with the series I'd started. Even though I'm trying to create a platform as a writer and for that I should have  regular posts and a widely read blog.

Photo by William Marsh
That's a holiday strategy: I realized I was "should-ing" myself beyond what was right and possible for me. Then I allowed myself not to let the "should" push me.

Parties. Family stuff. Presents to buy and wrap. Baking. When we are unwell, whether in pain or in emotional distress or ill in some way, we cannot do it all.

The holiday strategy for today: it's OK to say no.


Thank you for reading my blog. You can leave a comment below or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com.

14 December 2014

Holiday Strategies -- All I need

In a previous post, I wrote about Stuffy Santa Claus magic.

I get stuck, sometimes, in wanting the holiday to be 'special,' although I'm not sure I could say exactly what that means. But it makes for a niggling feeling, a recurring sense that something's not quite right. Or I suddenly become aware that I'm upset over something ridiculous. Something that has nothing to do with what is here, now, and ready for me to see:

Photo by William Marsh
That my life is blessed in so many ways.


That I don't need presents or a certain kind of tree or the perfect cookie or a fantastic holiday party because all I need is here, now, in this moment. As is all that brings me inner peace.

I love the memory of my Stuffy Santa Claus moment. I love it that my parents cared so much they went on an all-out search on Christmas Eve. That's how much they loved me, how much they wanted me to be happy.

I guess Stuffy Santa Claus magic isn't about having a Stuffy Santa Claus moment every year, or even ever again. It's about the love that made the magic happen for me when I was three years old.

That's all I need.


Thank you for reading my blog. You can comment below, or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com.

12 December 2014

Resources -- My Essay in the Chronicle of The American Chronic Pain Association

Here's a link to the December 2014 Chronicle of The American Chronic Pain Association:


Click on "December 2014 Chronicle" to download the pdf.

My essay is on page 11, "Pain's Lessons Are Life Lessons."

And there's more:
* A series of articles about communication -- with your Health Care Providers and with your family and friends
* Review of the book, No It Is NOT In My Head by Nicole Hemmenway.

Enjoy!  

Thanks for reading my blog. You can comment below or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com.


09 December 2014

Holiday Strategies -- Stuffy Santa Claus Magic

(Second in a series of posts about holiday spirit and life itself. For all of us living with chronic pain, mental health issues, grief, less-than-functional families, and other unjoyous realities.)

My mother tells me I wouldn't say what I wanted for Christmas the year I was three. When I finally asked for a gift other than the "canny and ba'gums" that comprised my entire list, they tore through stores in a frantic search. It was late in December and what I wanted was inexplicably hard to find. They kept looking until Dad finally found it on Christmas Eve and brought it triumphantly home.

My"stuffy" Santa Claus.

He sat atop a cardboard chimney, in up to the waist with his fat red arms and black-mittened hands spread wide like he wanted a hug. He said "Ho ho ho," when I turned the handle on his back. I loved everything about him: the red felt suit, white fur lining, plastic black belt with its little gold buckle, hard-rubber head with its wavy white beard and open-mouthed smile. He was magic.



This must be the moment that came to define Christmas and holiday joy for me: a girl of three who really, really wants only one thing and ... there it is.



We go through life wanting to recreate the magic, don't we? Each with our own Stuffy Santa Claus moment. It happened once and will never, can never, happen again yet drives us into hopes and desires for years. That's poignant, isn't it? But it's a simple truth, and this blog is about life and pain and the reality that we must learn to deal with in order for our spirits to be free of our expectations and graspings.

If we don't recognize long-ago magic for what it is, we go into the holiday season looking for what will not be. And so we're vaguely frustrated, or we crash around trying to make things "perfect," or we try to get others to make the magic happen for us. We miss what's plain old good, the things that make for peace inside us.

What's your Stuffy Santa Claus moment?


Thank you for reading my blog. You can comment below or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com.



08 December 2014

Holiday Strategies

I've been having a rough time -- migraines have been bad and the occipital neuralgia is back after the final treatment 8 weeks ago -- and several people I love are struggling, too. But it's December. Part of me still believes I'm supposed to be and act happy for the holidays. I know I'm not the only one that can get stuck in that I'm-supposed-to-be-happy-but-I'm-not, yucky feeling.

I thought a series of posts about holiday strategies for people in pain might do us all some good. And if you have thoughts, ideas and strategies of your own, email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com. I'll include them in posts.

It's December, but physical pain still hurts. It's Christmas, or Hanukkah, but being unemployed is still awful. The holiday season approaches, yet depression, mental illness and addiction don't
magically go away. Families don't suddenly become functional. Loved ones that have died don't come back. Disease and illness stick around for the festivities.
 
Photo by William Marsh
Those are facts. I just needed to state them up front. Because this blog is not about pretending everything's fine when it isn't. It's about being honest with ourselves and one another. It's about acknowledging life's difficulties and tragedies as a first step to opening that smallest of breaks in the misery to allow our spirits to soar. If only for a moment.

This is the backdrop for this series of posts: the reality is that, holidays or not, life can be very, very hard.

From here, I'll just ruminate about that reality, offer strategies for cracking open the misery a bit, and welcome your ideas. 

Thank you for reading my blog You can leave a comment below, or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com.