I come to you full of gratitude after a long break, and I’ve missed you! The past 22 months have been perhaps the hardest – and most growing of my life. I’ve taken time to reflect and heal, and while certain pain never fully goes away, within time this experience has made me stronger. I am so ready to share positive energy with others who may not be feeling so strong.
Here’s what happened.
My Mother, whom I dearly love, had been battling ovarian cancer with the courage of a lioness. My Dad, her husband of 52 years, whom I also dearly love, was her rock. One day he fell sick, landed in the ER and remained hospitalized for the next six months, in and out of ICU the entire time. He was catatonic much of that time. They both showed amazing courage, but the parents who have propped me up my entire life were both too weak to fight alone.
My sisters, our husbands, and I took turns being with them…a logistical challenge as we all live in different states. My Mom remained strong under the most painful, difficult circumstances, holding onto the belief that Dad would come home and that life would return to normal, albeit a new normal. She worked tirelessly to get him there and Dad did pull through. The heart-wrenching end to the story is that my Mom breathed her last breaths just days after he made it home.
We lost my Mom on September 19, 2018. My sisters and I have lived like deer in headlights. We’ve focused our energy on Dad, who despite a recent Alzheimer’s diagnosis, has made an incredible recovery, thanks in large part to the caregivers that my Mother hand-picked. I continue to spend a lot of time with him, flying from Boston to Knoxville, TN every month or so, and finally, after seeing that he’d settled into a comfortable routine, took some time to mourn my Mom.
When not with my Dad, I’ve been quietly working as a personal chef, writing recipes, and getting certified in functional nutrition specializing in digestive health. Of course, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting over the course of this past year. I have always valued good health, but because of this experience, my approach has changed. The revelation: there is no better formula for health than joy, and to make space in your life for joy, you must practice acceptance.
My parents followed all the rules: regular exercise, regular doctor visits, a low-fat Mediterranean diet (outdated thinking I believe, but these were the marching orders of the their time), no smoking; drinking in moderation…however they both very quickly fell very ill in their 70’s. As deeply as I love my Mom and Dad, stress management was not a strength for either of them. And sadly, stress leads to disease. Now to my parent’s defense, they devoted their entire lives to building a happy, healthy, financially stable household and they wanted the same for us as we built our own households. They worried when any of that felt shaky. They worried because they couldn’t bear to see any of us living with distress, pain, or fear, and no doubt it came from a place of unconditional love. Trust me, for that I am eternally grateful.
In no way am I advising that you make efforts to separate your emotions from the lives of your loved ones. The key here is acceptance. Acceptance for the things we cannot control. Acceptance that there is a greater plan for all of us. When you find acceptance, you make space in your life for joy.
Over the past year I’ve had to find acceptance for the heart-breaking loss of my Mother. Perhaps even more difficult, I had to accept the fact that though I came to her cancer battle armed with holistic knowledge that I know would have helped her, her faith was in the oncologist, and she was interested only in spending time with me. So I stopped trying to change her diet, stopped trying to convince her to practice yoga and eat less sugar. I had to let go of the professional me, and just be a daughter. That, my friends, is acceptance. Quite frankly, spending time with my Mom just being her daughter brought me joy.
Where can you practice acceptance in your life? Maybe it’s acceptance as you watch your child make the same mistakes you did in your youth and the knowledge that you cannot make decisions for them. Maybe it’s acceptance of inevitable change, like a restructure at work. Maybe it’s as simple as accepting a rainy day when you had planned a sunny hike. Acceptance is acknowledging your experience…acknowledging it but not judging it as good or bad, just something that is.
The message here is not to take things, or yourself too seriously. Remember, joy is at the root of good health, and, by accepting what you cannot change, you create space for joy.
Now that I’ve made peace and space in my life, you’ll be hearing from me frequently with tidbits that I cannot wait to share on gut health, lifestyle habits, and lessons from the kitchen. Stay tuned and keep an eye on my social media channels and for this newsletter in your inbox. It’s good to be back.
With love, Teri