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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Real Beauty

I know it's been a while since my last post. Real life has kept me busy raising my daughter, Grace, and my pregnancy and birth of our second daughter, Elizabeth. I've not stopped asking big questions, though. Nor have I stopped collecting ideas, facts, and opinions.

I spent several months of my pregnancy living in a women's shelter - my hormonal surges were unmanageable, when coupled with the stress of daily living and first-world economic hardship. I needed help and support to keep from repeating the cycle of violence I was taught from an early age. I wanted to feel the beauty of life, and not the hardship, but I was completely imprisoned by imaginary chains. So, I ended up entering a different prison altogether - one where I had many fewer choices, but in other respects many more freedoms.

I learned so much from that experience, I could write a book about it. Maybe, one day, I will. I was surprised that I missed very little from my home. The things that I thought I had to have to be comfortable became completely irrelevant. The only thing I missed was cooking my own food. During my pregnancy I had to manage my Type 2 Diabetes with insulin, and had a difficult time maintaining my blood sugars. Without control over my daily diet, it was nearly impossible to keep from having spikes and plummets. One afternoon, I woke from a nap with a headache, and found myself with a blood sugar of 47. A few points lower, and I would have lost consciousness. There's no greater panic than knowing if I didn't act quickly, I could die. And believe this - finding even a piece of hard candy when living in a shelter is not an easy task.

Because I was living in a shelter, I minimized as much as I could from my daily routine. One thing you discover within the first few minutes of entering a shelter is that whatever you have with you is likely to be taken. You cannot turn your back for more than a minute, before whatever you'd had in your hand disappears. In a shelter, you're surrounded by people with different habits and lifestyles and values - many of whom learned the hard way that they had to take what they needed or wanted in order to survive. You can't take the thievery personally - because it's not about someone wanting to hurt you. More often than not, it's about fulfilling a chronic emptiness that is often grown from the abusive relationships that brought the women there.

I was fortunate that I was still able to go back to my house and get things I wanted. I didn't have to rely on whatever products were given to the residents. I lived with a single bar of Ivory soap the 5 months I called the shelter my home, and used organic shampoo and conditioner I'd bought on clearance at a local wholesale store. I'd been in the habit of washing my hair about once or twice per week and rinsing with my every-other-day shower anyway; once I lived in shelter, I discovered I could function just fine (without stinking) with washing my hair once per week, and showering twice a week. My scalp issues continued to clear up, and my skin didn't get it's typical dry, scaly, am-I-human-or-am-I-a-fish appearance I get every winter. I still was plagued with eczema-like patches on parts of my body, but otherwise I glowed. I wear pregnancy well.

I came home shortly after Elizabeth was born. It only took a night or two to realize that the shelter would make exclusively breastfeeding her nearly impossible. I also knew I would not get restful sleep, which I desperately needed. I wanted to go home, I was finally experiencing the "nesting" that happens to many women when they become mothers. I knew I was going to miss community living - I have not had as much love or support from others as I did when I lived in the shelter. The first two months back home were very hard and I did think about going back to the shelter several times. But I was most grateful to be able to return to my kitchen.

My recovery from the birth was much harder the second time around. One issue that plagued me during my time in the shelter was severe heartburn and digestive problems. Early on, I'd gotten ill with a virus with severe nausea and vomiting. My body had a hard time recovering from that, and I think I am still trying to recover. Any pregnant woman will tell you that the digestive system has a rough time with the hormones - and the physical changes to the anatomy help none either. Constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, flatulence - all are common during pregnancy and there's no one cure. Except, I was frustrated since I know that what I was eating was playing a huge role in my discomfort.

Since then, I'm thinking more and more about solutions. The time in shelter helped me clearly articulate what it is that I want for my daughters and myself. I want to feel good in my body. It's less about how I appear to others, and more about how I feel inside. As long as I can remember, I've felt ugly and disgusting - even when I was neither. My first "diet" for weight-loss happened when I was 7 years old. To think about that now, I am completely blown away. That is not a recipe for a beautiful woman. As a teen, I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome - and it's taken me over 20 years to figure out that the severe fatigue and pain I've had over those decades are a sign of toxicity and malnutrition. So, each day I ponder solutions to the problem, "How do I feel beautiful?"

Last night, I made my own shampoo after a two-week stretch of not washing my hair. I didn't go without the washing to clarify or detox or any noble reason like that. I just haven't figured out how to squeeze it in to my schedule - or, in other words, I've been lazy. My hair isn't dry yet, but so far it looks and feels soft and shiny. Hopefully it will stay soft, shiny and manageable, and I can forever say goodbye to one of the last remaining beauty products I use - shampoo. It's one small step towards my goal of sustainability.

I'm also reading more about the things in our food supply that make what most Americans eat not just bad for health, but disastrous. I'm making a commitment to stop buying products with the chemicals, sweeteners, stabilizers, enhancers and returning to nature. For me, it means not looking for "All-Natural" on a label. It means going out into my yard and looking at the plants I have there.

We have fig trees, I don't know if the leaves are edible, but I aim to find out.

For more reading on "Real Beauty" I've been digging through these blogs:

I'm also writing a cookbook. As the recipes are tried, I'll post them here. It's all about REAL FOOD. Real life. Real beauty. Real love.

Peace, my friends.