As I crouched down and sat on her rug, I felt immediately at ease. It had been weeks since we last met and there was much to share. She pulled two large pillows across the room and created a chair against the wall, I felt good just being off my feet. The last time we met we had talked about my new book cover for A Little Lift. I had decided to change the image of the starfish to a picture I had taken of myself and the girls at the beach trying to rescue hundreds of starfish that had washed up on Short Sands. I caught her up on the obstacles I had encountered getting the book cover formatted and loaded onto my publisher’s server and I sighed heavy. Writing seemed to be the farthest from my focal point that it could be these past few months.
She crossed her legs and smiled across the room at me. It seemed as though as we became settled in her office the weight of the world lifted from both of our shoulders. I smiled back at her. I had been rambling incessantly and slowly I allowed myself to come back to the present moment, a precious time shared between a writer and a medium. She asked me what had been going on with me and why I looked so heavy. I shared the burdens we all carry and then some that are mine alone. As I spoke, my body and mind lightened and my shoulders seemed to rise as if on their own. The words streamed out riding their own wave of consciousness just as the air lets out of a balloon after the party is over. We are all running on fumes in all directions at one time, it seems to have become our way of life. Our children’s schedules mandate dinner time, family time, and available slots for vacations and weekenders. I thought I had been managing all of it, I believed that I was in control of it all. Then little by little my body began giving me hints that I needed to slow it down and change things up but I refused to listen and kicked it into over drive.
The parts of me that were hit hardest by a diet filled with sugar, dairy, and gluten had had enough and began to stop working the way they were designed to function and operate within the human body. My spleen, kidney, liver, and adrenal glands had become so inflamed that I no longer had any energy even when I tried pushing myself, I began to get dizzy and nauseous, my eyes felt as though they weighed a thousand pounds, I would become short of breath climbing the stairs, and worst of all I would wake up each morning feeling as though I hadn’t slept for weeks. It wasn’t the first time I had felt like this but this was one of the worst times. In the past I visited my doctor and blood was taken and tests were ordered. Each time the results came back anemic and irregular blood cells. It was determined that I didn’t have cancer, lupus, lyme, celiac, or anything else for that matter. I was somewhat relieved as anyone would be but being anemic isn’t a disease, it’s a symptom of something causing it.
I had been referred to a holistic healer over a year ago but on the day that I was supposed to meet with him, my appendix ruptured and I was hospitalized to have it removed. After getting home from the hospital and resting a week or so I gradually began to feel better and put the visit with the alternative doctor on the shelf. Some months later my symptoms returned, frustrated I decided to investigate on my own and turned to the internet. I know, I can hear you loud and clear. That was one of my worst decisions yet but I will never forget turning on my laptop and seeing an ad for Blue Tree Reiki. That is when I first discovered Anne Donnell. When we met for the first time I found the courage to ask her if I was going to be okay, I hadn’t yet been tested for cancer, it had only just been brought up as a consideration. I remember her gentle, calm reply, “You are going to be fine, there is something going on with your digestion track, it doesn’t like what you’ve been feeding it.”
Months later at a medium circle at my home, SeaStar Farm, she turned randomly to me and said, “Jen, enough with the sugar and dairy. It’s killing you. They want you to stop putting that chocolate stuff on everything you eat.” I turned to Kyle and smiled. I had recently discovered Nutella and not only spread it on toast, fruit, and rice cakes at home, but I brought in a second jar to have at work for snacks. I was drinking four to six cups of tea a day adding 2 teaspoons of sugar to each cup, cooking with sugar in places it didn’t belong, ordering dessert often, making sweets at home, buying doughnuts to go with my coffee at work, and never once giving it a second thought. This went on for months, years, even decades of my life and little by little my spleen, kidney, liver, and adrenal glands started slowing down. My blood production would decrease, my energy supply would empty, and my adrenaline to suck it up and go ceased to exist.
Somewhere in the middle of this downward spiral with my health I had two separate bouts with kidney stones. A trip to the emergency room, plenty of morphine, and a cat scan revealed that I had a stash of stones that could come down any time that they chose. Anne had told me on separate occasions without having any knowledge of my symptoms or what I had been experiencing on and off since 2011 that I needed to cut the sugar and dairy out of my diet. I failed to connect my diet or lack of one to anything I was experiencing physically. Until my body refused to let me ignore it any longer and just after Thanksgiving this year when it felt as though a bomb had dropped into my life, changing the way I would look at food forever.
Exhausted, hopeless, and scared to death, I listened one night as Kyle whispered that maybe I should think about contacting the holistic doctor that our friends had referred to us over a year ago. As I lay in bed next to him, facing away with tears in my eyes I nodded silently, letting go of the notion that I was in total control and whatever was happening to me would pass. The next day I found his number and called him. He listened as I explained what my body was refusing to do and how the state I had accepted might be forever was limiting my life. He gave me a few directions, no caffeine before the exam, do not brush my tongue, and do not come in on an empty stomach. He also asked me to fill out a questionnaire and bring it with me on my first visit. Like a soldier who had reluctantly surrendered, I nodded over the phone with each request, realizing that I had succumbed to something much greater than I could ever possibly be.
Three weeks since my first visit have passed. I have reluctantly accepted that I have been addicted to sugar for most of my life and the effects of it almost brought my life to a halt as I knew it. Pounds have poured off me as I have quit sugar, dairy, and gluten cold turkey. I shop differently, I eat differently, and I react differently to food that I encounter throughout my day. I am slowly feeling more like my old self. My diet, the choices I make every moment of what I willingly put in my body, has received a total face lift, and my thoughts about what’s most important have moved to the forefront of my thinking and feeling each and every minute. I hadn’t shared any of this with Anne and the moment I first said hello to her in the parking lot, my eyes filled with tears and she immediately dropped her bags and wrapped her arms around me and said, “lets go inside.”
I have been given an incredible wake up call. My organs will recover, my blood levels will rise, my bowel movements will no longer resemble Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Fall, and my energy and drive will return to do the things and be the person I was always meant to be. As soon as I had caught her up on everything in between, we sat back. The twinkle in my eye returned and the spark that ignites when we are together seemed to be burning bright. We shifted our conversation away from my health towards the future and working together as a writer and a medium. She shared the dynamic connections she has been making with other healers in her work and how thankful she was to have landed in the place where she is. The hairs on my arms raised as she shared their names, they are women that I had met years ago and live not far from my home. We talked about how she had first discovered my book and the strong feeling she had that it was somehow going to join us all together in our work and our individual growth as humans.
We wrapped up our two hour session this morning with specific goals and ideas to move forward with our current projects for 2016. Excitedly, we checked our calendars and confirmed that we were hosting two special groups in January, a fourth medium circle on the 14th and a new group intended for women who are separated, divorced, or even contemplating make the huge life decision on the 21st. It was from reading my book that Anne first felt connected to me and my story of surviving not only one but two divorces. It’s from my sharing with her about my marriage now, and the incredible man that somehow found me out of nowhere that she continues to have hope for her own life and meeting someone in the future. I shared with her that I have a close friend going through a separation. It’s hard to watch but even harder to know someone is settling and living a life that is unhealthy and without love. When I was texting with my friend late one night I surprised myself with one of my responses. I had sent her the message that Love isn’t a four letter word, it’s something we are all deserving of no matter where our journey has brought us or the choices we have made. Love is a need like food, water, and shelter, not just an accessory some of us get to wear if we are lucky.
I think going through what I have for the past five years with my health and the stress I’ve endured with two divorces, a failed business, a father who committed suicide, and a childhood that sent me in a tail spin has been a gift. It is a gift that I must open and fully embrace so that I no longer live in fear of what people may think or say about how I choose to live. I can no longer make decisions about who I’ve always wanted to be by listening to others or guessing what the world wants from me. We’ve all been programmed with the knowledge of what makes the most sense for us, we just need to slow down and listen. This gift has inspired me to do just that, for myself, my husband, and my children. Also, I’ve decided to share so that others fighting the same fight might know that they are not alone, and they are definitely not a head case. They just need to be their own advocate and find the answers that make the most sense.
Working with Anne over the past year has helped me and given me the push I needed to believe in myself and know that I am just as deserving of love as anyone else and lucky for me it just happened to show up three years ago when I had resigned myself to the fact that it didn’t exist. I’m looking forward to sharing this chapter of my life with all of you, now that I have found love from another and also I am beginning to know what it feels like to love myself. As one of the greatest artists ever penned, “All we need is love.”