I am presently enjoying several weeks in my beloved Italy. There is so much to write about but I think I have to give first place of honor to the Island of Ischia, which sits just off the coast from Naples. We arrived in Naples, via Rome, on a Thursday evening and after six days catching up with jet-lag, eating LOTS of mozzarella (among many other good Italian dishes!), and going to Bahia Blanca, a favourite beach on the other side of Gaeta, we took the ferry over to Ischia. This is an island formed by volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago.
The first thing that visitors to Ischia notice as the ferry approaches the island is how green and fresh everything is despite the heat. Because Ischia is a volcanic island it is quite mountainous and its slopes are a rich green as they come down to meet the various towns and villages. Almost every garden is rich in flowers which at the moment are in full summer bloom.
All of the streets are lined, usually on both sides, with tall rhododendron trees dripping flowers in every shade of pink imaginable. Bougainvillea in all its many shades spills over walls, climbs fences, and trails up and down the walls of houses as though an artist had dipped many brushes into different colors on his palette and splashed them here and there in wild abandon. Hibiscus offer up their beautiful shallow open trumpets as though about to create some romantic perfumed symphony, and huge pregnant balls of mauve and blue blooms top the stems among the lush green foliage on large hortensia bushes. Everywhere is a riot of color.
But color does not stop with God’s amazing creation. The residents of Ischia have added their own artistic touch to their island. Houses are painted in every pastel tint available. Shops are decorated with colorfully decorated tiles or painted murals and a wild profusion of products hangs in doorways, spills out onto the sidewalks, or fills windows in such a way as to entice the passerby to stop and peruse and, perhaps, buy. My heart and soul are filled with color since being here in Italy and Ischia has played a principal part in that.
I know that talking things through with someone helps to diminish the hold that anything that is frustrating me or causing me anger or resentment has on me. Writing also helps in the same way. So here goes. Whether I’ll be able to post is another matter, and that’s where my present frustration is coming from.
I haven’t written in a while. I’ve given up trying to understand why this happens. It’s not that I have nothing to write about. I have been keeping, and adding to, a small list of topics that I want to express my feelings about. But something is getting in the way. The weather has been gorgeous lately. We have been enjoying the best Florida spring weather – no grey, no de-pressing stuff going on outside, so that’s not the issue.
Now that I think about it, maybe there is still an issue connected to the weather that’s been keeping me from writing, but it’s the reverse of dealing with the de-pressing grey. It’s been so perfectly beautiful outside of late that I have been called into the garden and have struggled to balance my time outside with all the other things that I want/am committed to do.
It has been really amazing to watch the garden come to life after the long cold winter. It seems as though with each passing year I become more aware of the transformation that takes place as plants come back to life, buds appear, then full foliage and flowers blossom out. The Confederate Jasmine, that I planted as two very small 20-inch tall plants at the base of the front supporting columns of my old gazebo two years ago, has now grown into thick, lush greenery that covers both 8-foot tall columns and trails upwards onto two of the roof supports and is also quite thick as it meets across the front horizontal bar. It is also full of flowers which I hope will last so that I can see them and enjoy them when I return from this trip.
And therein lies another source of frustration. I have been travelling on and off since 28 March. Being out of my normal habitat and routine is always somewhat disconcerting and disruptive, and I haven’t yet learned to handle that with total grace and acceptance. I drove up to Newport News, VA back then to spend a few days with my son who was there from Italy to attend a work related conference. It was a gift that I had no intention of passing up. We had a great three days hanging out together. On the way home from there, I was then able to stop in Fayetteville, NC to spend an afternoon and night-over with my dear sister-friend LeeAnn. She and I never waste time on pleasantries, diving deep into our sharing from the heart and soul which allows us to broaden, deepen, and strengthen our relationship on all levels, especially the spiritual level. Another enormous gift for which I am truly grateful.
Arriving back in Florida after that trip, I had three days to catch-up (I always say that with tongue in cheek because, how on earth do you catch up with time that has already passed??). So it was a flurry of unpacking and keeping up with some commitments that were on my calendar, before I then had to pack for the trip that I am presently “enjoying” ( barring bad internet connections – grrrrrr!) with my husband.
And therein lies the ultimate frustration. Yesterday evening I had the first real longing, desire, to do some creative writing. I sat down eagerly in front of my computer and – nothing. I don’t mean nothing would come out on the page. I mean nothing would come up on the computer. No worries, I have my resident computer technician travelling with me, no? But after checking things out he told me that there was nothing he could do. There simply was no internet connection and he had no control over that. Talk abut frustration!!!
As well as the creative writing I felt called to do, I also had a bunch of emails I wanted to send out, and there were several things that I wanted to check out on Google. I was stuck. Couldn’t do a thing. So I called it a day and picked up a book and decided to read. But the frustration was there, bubbling under the surface and even though I checked in with God and asked for inner peace, I guess I was wanting to hang onto the frustration and wallow in it for a bit because it was still there this morning, and so was the lack of connectivity!!!!!!!.
Rich has struggled all morning to give me some connection, but it has been been frustrating for him too. Right now I have no idea if I have connection or not, but I did learn (thank God I can always learn something), that I can at least access my Live Writer programme and get the words out and down, and in doing so I have released some of the frustration. Whether I will be able to post my writing is another matter, but at least it’s ready to go if and when we get a connection.
About six weeks ago in my posting Going Raw- Part One, I wrote about the process I am going through to change from eating cooked foods to eating raw foods. This is all part of a bigger process that I have embarked upon in order to get as healthy as I can. The food area of my life is probably the last major bastion that I am attempting to overcome and, because it has its roots in my childhood, it is proving to be the most difficult.
However, there is another area of my life that I am addressing right now that is having a major impact on my health. This is in the area of exercise. Yes, I know, that’s a four letter word in my vocabulary too!!! I have been struggling with exercise for many years. Which is really annoying to have to admit when I remember being the athletic person that I was in school.
I played on my High School’s netball team (UK equivalent of basketball) in each year of school. In several of those years I was the team captain. I was fanatical about netball and just remembering it, I can feel my adrenaline level soaring. We played netball during the winter season, September through March, which meant we played twice a week as part of our class PE program and then the team would also practice once or twice a week after school. Matches were played on Saturdays.
After graduating from school I went on to a teacher’s training college, and sports and gymnastics continued to be part of the regular curriculum. During my second year of college I “went off the rails” and left to get married. A baby came along quickly and my new lifestyle was very alien to anything I had known up until then. Physical activities disappeared from my life.
Many years and a divorce later I attempted to return to some form of exercise. But I only hiccupped along in fits and starts. I tried aerobics but felt very clumsy and because I am not good at multi-tasking I simply did not have the coordination necessary. I tried working with a personal trainer but it proved to be too expensive, so I just gave up.
By now I had remarried and had another baby at age forty and had not been able to rid my body of the baby weight as I had when I was in my twenties. I think this was when I pretty much gave up on myself for a while and simply indulged in eating what I wanted. The weight slowly crept up. I remember pledging with myself that I would never allow myself to go over two hundred pounds. I sat at two hundred for a few years.
About fifteen years ago, while living in Naples, Italy, I met a wonderful yoga instructor and started practicing yoga with her. I loved the asana’s and working with the breathe. Moving slowly into and maintaining the poses under Meredith’s compassionate instruction, I began to feel somewhat reconnected with my body. “Sun salutations” became my passion along with the “fish” pose. My weight diminished some and I felt healthy for the first time in a long time.
Then in 2004 I moved to Jacksonville, Florida and, in hindsight, I realize that it took me about two to three years to make the big transition from my European culture to the American culture. My exercise pattern got lost in the shuffle for quite a while. Every once in a while I would make a half-hearted effort to implement a walking regime. I love being outside and walking puts me close to God’s creation which allows me to exercise my body and my soul. I also found a good Yoga studio and began going regularly again.
Then I had a shoulder problem. Had to quit yoga while I dealt with that and exercise got away from me again. Once the shoulder healed I finally pushed myself back into yoga but shortly after that I had a knee problem. Six months later I tried to get back into yoga again but found that it re-awakened the knee issue so quit. I tried walking again but the knee was just too much of a problem and, again, I found myself at that quitting-on-me stage.
One day at the beginning of this year I got on the scales and realized that my weight had bloomed to two hundred and sixteen pounds. I felt defeated and at an all-time low with myself. I made the decision to try and go raw – again (I had been dabbling with raw for a few years), or at least vegetarian. But underneath I knew that if I didn’t start exercising I would get nowhere fast. However, I simply could not get myself motivated to do it.
I think God took pity on me – again. He has a habit of doing that from time to time and when I get to the end of my rope, he offers me the beginning of His! But, as usual, He has a funny way of doing it. My husband was hospitalized toward the end of February with chest pains. Long story short: no heart problems but he was finally forced to look at high blood pressure and cholesterol issues and the doctors were serious when they told him to make lifestyle changes. Our diet swung drastically to mainly salads, lots of veggies and fruit, and we cut out most of the carbs.
Within a month or two we both lost weight dramatically. Then I hit a plateau and stayed there and got depressed. Underneath I knew the answer was exercise but I just didn’t want to have to deal with it. Again God came to my rescue in His usual round about way, and in July I was introduced to Wendy, a personal Pilates instructor. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to do Pilates because my only knowledge of this form of exercise was a memory of a friend who used to do it (a much fitter, younger woman!!!), and she would say things like “We were massacred at Pilates class tonight” or “I didn’t think I’d make it through the whole class today.”
I am grateful for the God-incidental way that I got to Wendy, for I’m sure I’d never have taken the leap otherwise. She is a compassionate but relentless instructor with a grand sense of humor. I told her where I was at and she said something like “I guess I’ll have to work you”. I have been doing Pilates twice a week with Wendy since about mid-July. I have pushed below my plateau, not a lot but enough. However what has happened to my body is nothing short of a miracle.
I have a level of sustained energy that I did not have before. My body is so much more flexible and feels very alive. There has been a shift in shape; I cannot explain it any clearer than that. The first major change that I noticed was one day when I went to do up the strap on a pair of shoes and realized I did not have to get into a certain position to “accommodate my stomach” as I leaned down! My tummy has definitely toned and my legs are so much more flexible. I can climb a flight of stairs without feeling breathless.
This week Richard and I are enjoying our traditional week of Thanksgiving in our time share in Orlando. Yesterday afternoon we went to Universal to watch the new Harry Potter movie (which was great by the way!). We walked around for a while before the movie and I noticed that I had no problem keeping up with Richard (he’s over six foot and has a long stride). Nor did I find myself getting breathless keeping up with him and, in fact, I felt quite invigorated. Today we went to Sea World and the same thing happened.
As I sit here typing this post I have to make a confession. I have been wanting to walk on a regular basis for about a month now. The reason I have not is because I did not want to feel tired and breathless or realize that I couldn’t keep a decent pace for long. Yesterday and today have shown me that I can get out there, keep a good pace, and feel really good. I know that this is partly because of the diet changes I have made as well as the regular exercising with Pilates. It is a total change of lifestyle that is allowing me to feel good about myself and to feel so much more healthy. This is what self nurturing is truly about.