The Quality of Bending Easily Without Breaking!

The Quality of Bending Easily Without Breaking!

A quote by Maynard Webb caught my eye some time ago.  He stated, “Flexibility has become a modern-day value.  But flexibility comes with a cost.”  

It brought me back to a time when a friend and I attended yoga classes.  Rosalie and I were thirty-something, and our instructor was perhaps in her 60’s.  She was amazing!  Just watching the spring in her step, her agility and “stretchiness.” Is that a word?  Whatever!  She had stretchiness!  Watching her was inspiring.  

While I’m not an expert on kinesiology, it’s known that as we age our joints stiffen, and that lovely suppleness of youth is but a memory.  I was experiencing this.

I’m not Elizabeth Gilbert, and it’s unlikely that I will go to an ashram as she wrote about in her book, ‘Eat, Pray, Love.’  But thinking again of my former instructor, it occurred to me going to a yoga class was an excellent idea.  I googled Yoga and found a Hatha Yoga school not too far from my house.  And surprise, a beginners’ class was scheduled to start in one week!

On day one, I found myself with some ladies ranging in age from twenty to perhaps 60 or 70.  We were told some movements tend to be effortless, while others are arduous.  We were assured that if we’d stick with it, we would see improvement.

The first thing we were asked to do was sit cross-legged, while maintaining good posture, with knees bent and opened wide like a book. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?  I watched the others in the class.  Their knees were not only opened wide but almost touching the floor.  Mine were up to my ears.  It was suggested that I sit on some towels, elevating my bum, so my knees appeared to be closer to the floor.  Somehow that seemed like cheating, but at least my “pose” looked more similar to everyone else’s.  Of course, I appeared to be a foot taller than everyone else in the room as well.

We proceeded with several poses.  Funny, I had no recollection of pain during my earlier classes.  Our instructor explained that most of us had spent many years sitting, standing and walking incorrectly.  “As a result, some of these poses may be difficult. But don’t worry, just stick with it.”  Good grief!  I had so many years of lousy sitting, standing and walking to make up for!

And the poses continued:  the mountain, the chair, the triangle, downward facing dog — some more difficult than others.  I don’t recall perspiration dripping down my face in past classes, but I was beginning to feel it now. Thinking back on my earlier experience, we glided almost ballet-like from one position to another.  There was nothing rhythmic in my movements now.   Then we were on the floor again —  I in an un-lotus like pose.  I panicked thinking, “Oh my God, my hips are locking, where is the exit?” 

Perhaps, the instructor saw the look of terror on my face, because she asked us to rise again and that’s when it happened.  When you’re as stiff as I was, getting up can be a challenge.  I didn’t fall, because I was able to catch myself by jamming the second toe of my right foot into the floor.  There was PAIN!  Just as I was about to let out a gasping cry, I saw the sign:

“NO WHINING PLEASE”

“What?  No whining, please?  This place must be run by sadists!

I looked around for an escape.

Our instructor, however, was on to another pose — the ‘Warrior Pose.’  She tried to assist this now wounded warrior by moving my left foot, putting more pressure on the toe on my right foot.  She didn’t understand that I couldn’t do that and breathe at the same time.

The hour was almost over.  The instructor said,“It’s time for the ‘Corpse Pose.’”  CORPSE POSE?  They actually have a designated pose for a dead person?  I figured they were going to put me out of my misery.   Lying on my back, my toe throbbing, I awaited my fate.  Fortunately, the Corpse Pose is a time for meditation.  I would have enjoyed it but was in so much pain, I couldn’t think of anything else.  Then I heard a soft voice say, “Namaste.”  The class had ended.

I hoped my ‘corpse toe’ could be revived.  Too bad there was no video of me leaving the studio.  Limping and appearing to be wearing some kind of body armor, I was the personification of rigidity.

Good old Maynard Webb.  He was right.  Achieving flexibility does come with a cost.  Of course, he was talking about working in the age of the internet.  For me, well it came with a broken toe.  

For my next act, I think I’ll take up Tai Chi.  

Editor’s Note:  You may recall this story from back in 2014.  Last Wednesday, I was asked to fill in as a speaker at Toastmasters.   So reworked the original article to a speech format.  Hope you enjoyed this version.

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DO AS I SAY…

DO AS I SAY…

Editor’s Note:  Following is a speech given at Miracle Mile Toastmasters, February 8, 2018

WomanHeart is The National Coalition of Women WITH Heart Disease.  If someone had asked me 5 or 10 years ago, if I would be active in an organization that had as a criterion for membership having a disease, I would have said, “Not me.”  Yet here I am.  Every WomenHeart Champion has heart disease, and each of us has a story.

Let’s get personal.  On January 18, 2016, I awoke with the most horrible pain in my jaw.  I couldn’t believe it.  It felt as if I needed a root canal.  I looked at the clock, it was 12:30 am.  I went into the kitchen to get some water.  As I walked, the pain began to subside.  I was exhausted and thought, “Did I imagine that?  I must have.”  I went back to bed.

About 4 hours later, it happened again.  I woke up with severe pain in my jaw.  I’m smart enough to know that root canal pain does not come and then go on its own.  What to do?  Have you heard of Google?  Yep, that’s what I did, I googled angina.  What I read said it could be a heart attack, but then again, it might not.  Being the outstanding diagnostician that I am, I deduced it was not.  My doctor would be in the office in a couple of hours.  I decided to wait (yet again) and call her.  She said, “Go directly to the ER, do not pass go, do not collect $200.”

Ten and a half hours after the first pain, I was diagnosed.  I’d had a heart attack.

Fast forward 1 year.  I was at Cardiac Rehab exercising.  I was pushing up the speed on a treadmill.  I noticed some pressure in my jaw.  No pain – just pressure.  I stopped and had someone check my blood pressure.  It was okay.  I continued with my routine and only as I was leaving did I mention the mild discomfort I’d felt.  The nurse looked at me as if I had 2 heads.  “Why didn’t you tell me?  You need to see your doctor right away.”  I called my internist and explained what had happened.  The next thing I knew I was in her office where the staff told me several times all would be OK.  Oddly enough I wasn’t alarmed until the third, “you’ll be OK.”  The next day I was at the cardiologist’s office, the next week in the cath lab.  I didn’t have a heart attack.  However, my Left Anterior Descending Artery (aka the Widowmaker) was 95% occluded, making it far more dangerous than the attack I’d had a year earlier.

What can you learn from my experience?  You know the old saying, “Do as I say, not as I do.”  What were my actions? I ignored symptoms, waited far too long to get help, even worse I diagnosed myself!

Considering that heart disease is the number 1 killer of men and women in the United States, here is what you should do:

Know your risks (some over which you have no control):  If you are African-American, Hispanic or Native American, or if you have a family history, you are at higher risk for developing heart disease.

Know your risks Part 2 (you can change these):  If you’re a diabetic, if you are overweight or if exercise is lacking in your day — make changes to your routine, and diet.  And for heaven’s sake STOP SMOKING!

Know your numbers:  Is your cholesterol too high?  What about your HDL and LDL?  How are your triglycerides?  Do you have hypertension?  Remember the guidelines have changed.

All of these risks and numbers apply to everyone in this room.  You may ask, “But, what is WomenHeart?  Why is there a need for an organization just for women with heart disease?”

Let’s look at some facts and statistics.  While 1 in 31 American women die of breast cancer (which is far too many) 1 in 3 dies of heart disease.  Since 1984, more women than men have died from heart disease.  Let’s say a woman goes to the best cardiologist on the planet.  And that cardiologist gives the VERY BEST advice available.  The reality is that “best advice” may not be the best at all.  Doctors recommendations are often tied to the results of clinical trials.  Today, women comprise less than 27% of the participants in cardiac trials.  Women are not little men.  Their biology is different.

Women’s symptoms during a heart attack are different as well.  Yes, they may have chest pain, but they are likely to present with various indicators such as nausea, feeling light-headed, having extreme fatigue, pain or discomfort in the arm or shoulder, neck or back — and don’t forget my symptoms — pain in the jaw.  With my second event there was NO PAIN — merely pressure in my jaw.  Is it any wonder that women are often misdiagnosed?

The most important thing to do if you have any symptoms of a heart attack is to go the emergency room.  Time is of the essence.  Call 911 or have someone take you.  Do not drive yourself.

Many of you work for companies in this area or belong to organizations that meet locally.  WomenHeart has a program called WomenHeart@Work.  We can design a power point meeting for members of your group, giving each participant facts about taking charge of their heart health.  I have some of our “Bags of Courage”  with information on protecting your heart health as well as my WomenHeart Business Card.  Call me, and we will schedule a presentation, which will be a gift to your company, its employees or members of your organization.

I implore you to “do as I say.”  Education can save the life of a colleague, friend, teammate or partner.  Take this life-saving opportunity.

 

Making Lemonade

Making Lemonade

Editor’s note:  The following is a speech given at the Miracle Mile Toastmasters Club on July 13, 2017.

We all experience events which render us vulnerable – as if caught in a vortex, incapable of controlling everything swirling around us. At moments like this we find ourselves thinking, “How will I survive?”

In her book, “Option B,”  Sheryl Sandberg states, “We plant the seeds of resilience in the ways we process negative events.”  What are the narratives we tell ourselves about the event?  Are we personalizing it – perhaps even blaming ourselves? Do we believe the event is pervasive – that it will affect all areas of our lives? Do we tell ourselves that we will feel like this forever? The negativity of the 3P’s (personalization, pervasiveness and permanence) can impede our ability to recover.

I have 3 stories to tell you. In my first, he is 33 years old, 6’ 11” and a remarkable basketball player.  One of the Heat’s Big Three, he was number 1 in more ways than one.  In 2014, the first sign of a career ending problem – pulmonary emboli were found in his lungs.  Imagine that.  When most people his age are in careers that are just taking off, his was coming to an abrupt end.  The game he loved, that was his passion would continue, but without him.  In May, it was announced that Chris Bosh and The Heat would part ways.  In July, Chris wrote on his website,  (http://www.chrisbosh.com) an extraordinary open letter to Miami.

He spoke of the support he’d received from his family, teammates, coaches, fans and the entire community.  He thanked Miami for welcoming and encouraging him as “we” traveled together on this journey.  While he spoke of his discouragement and “down” moments, he somehow broke through the 3 P’s and made a conscious effort to dwell on all the wonderful moments he had here.

Wow!  Chris Bosh took a bunch lemons and made lemonade.

My second story is about someone who is part of our Miracle Mile family – Susan Racher.  Some of you are aware of her story – some not.  Susan has an MBA in accounting and finance, and is Vice President of the Walter H. Coulter Foundation.  As such she is in charge of the endowment’s investment portfolio and has experience in obtaining grants.  Little did she know that these skills would help her in a larger way.

A few years ago, her son became ill and was hospitalized.  As Susan puts it, “if he had kidney stones there would have been a good deal of support.”  However, her son had a mental illness.  There were support groups for families overwhelmed by other illnesses, but nothing to support families of people with mental illness.  As a family member who was dealing with new problems and concerns, Susan recognized the need to do something and do it NOW.

A friend suggested she get in touch with NAMI – the National Alliance on Mental Illness.  Unfortunately the organization in Miami was practically non-existent, what she called a “zombie organization.”  Susan started from scratch – at first going to Broward to get better educated and then worked with others to rebuild a new Miami-Dade NAMI organization.  This group is providing support to families throughout Dade County, raising awareness and educating the community.

Susan observed that when the unimaginable happens, we feel like victims,  Working to help others is empowering.  When she was given lemons, she made lemonade, and has helped many people she doesn’t personally know.

My 3rd story is about me.  As most of you know, in January of 2016 I had a heart attack.  I made many lifestyle changes and thought I was doing great.  Almost a year to the date, I was exercising and felt pressure in my jaw.  Since the heart attack presented as intense pain in my jaw, I mentioned it to the staff at cardiac rehab.  Before I knew what was happening my cardiologist had me scheduled for another cardiac catheterization.  The result was an additional stent.  My medical records indicated an occlusion in the LAD (left anterior descending artery, sometimes called the Widow maker).

What a shock!  What did I do wrong?  Whoops, there goes that narrative personalizing the event and blaming myself. Changing that  story wasn’t easy, but with some outside help and persistence I did.  In the last few months, I’ve done more investigation on my specific condition and worked with a number of medical professionals at the Miami Cardiovascular Institute at Baptist Hospital to improve my health.  A couple of weeks ago, I was nominated by the Institute to represent Baptist as an educator for the WomenHeart organization.

What a journey this has become.  It was surprising, then frightening, then depressing, but now enlightening.  It was as if the Universe was waiting for the right moment to give me this opportunity.  I was telling my friend Leisha about this possibility and she said, “You’re just like Susan — taking lemons and making lemonade.

I may not have made the lemonade yet, but I’m working on the recipe.  How cool is that?

My YOLO Plan

My YOLO Plan

Hello everyone.  I’m getting back into the swing of things.   Following is a portion of a speech I gave last week at my Toastmasters Meeting.  Some members had heart health questions and I thought this might answer some of them — perhaps you’ll find it helpful as well.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

When it comes to life as we know it, there’s a paradigm – YOLO – “You Only Live Once.”  Think about that: one chance – one journey.  No instant replay – no do-overs.

Like most of us, I’d like to maximize my life and developed a “YOLO plan.”  Here’s why.  Last year on January 19th, I awoke with intense pain in my jaw.  At first I thought I needed a root canal, but after several minutes the pain dissipated.  Still very tired, I climbed back into bed.

A few hours later, it happened again.  Root canal pain comes on its own — it doesn’t end without a dentist’s intervention.  I concluded this was something else.  I was correct.  I’d had a heart attack.

We’ve all heard stories about a person grabbing his chest or left arm, then collapsing in pain.  Some heart attacks are like that.  However there are more exceptions to that scenario than you’d think.  The first rule of my YOLO plan is, “Listen To Your Body.”  Unexpected pain anywhere from your jaw through your torso could be referred cardiac pain.  Additionally, heart attacks  may come masked as nausea, heartburn, indigestion, fatigue, dizziness, or profuse sweating.

After recovering from the shock of learning I’d had a heart attack, I started educating myself.  Yep!  Number 2 on my YOLO plan was, “Learn all I can about what had happened.”   My first stop was medical records.  I read everything that occurred from the time I entered the ER to the time I was discharged.  If I didn’t understand something, I asked questions or did some research.

Important to my education was learning a heart attack is an event indicating the real problem.  In my case it is CAD or coronary artery disease.  This was like a good news/bad news joke.  The good news is, it’s treatable – the bad news is it doesn’t go away.  Number 3 on the YOLO plan:  Life style changes would be required.  Are any of these things you might consider?

DIET

People ask if I’m on a restricted diet.  There is a line from West Side Story.  One of the “Jets” was explaining why he was a delinquent.  He went to a social worker who said he had been deprived as a youth.  As a consequence he became depraved on account of his being deprived.  Likewise, highly restrictive diets make me depraved!  I ignore fad diets.

I am incredibly fortunate to have a physician who is Board Certified in Obesity Medicine and is knowledgeable in the science of nutrition.  As a result I’ve spent the last year learning about macronutrients, the glycemic index and load.  I have an app that tracks what I eat and shows how macronutrients are balanced in each days meals and snacks.

Of course you must have an idea of how successful your dietary changes are.  I’ve lost more than 20 pounds but that is only one way to measure success.  For a cardiac patient monitoring blood work is critical.  Of particular interest is tracking your cholesterol (both HDL and LDL and the ratio of the 2), your triglycerides, and lipoproteins.

EXERCISE

After the event, I was strongly encouraged to go to Cardiac Rehab and begin an exercise plan.  Cardiac patients are closely monitored and the program includes cardio, weight training and some interval training.  I try to go 3 to 4 times per week.  On beautiful days, I head outside to take a walk.  My hypertension is not a thing of the past but with exercise and medication, it’s under control.

SLEEP

Did you know that sleep deprivation contributes to heart disease?  I’ve discovered that I’m at my best when I get between 7 and 8 hours of sleep.  My internal alarm clock goes off about 5:30 am, so I’m in bed early.

DE-STRESS

One of the most difficult things for a Type A person (like me) to do is to manage stress.   I’ve taken up meditation.  Initially I actually found that stressful.  Ever try to clear your brain of thought?  Pardon the pun, but mine has a mind of its own!

Last month I was doing some cardio at Rehab.  Actually I was “overdoing” some cardio.  As I was exercising, I felt some pressure in my jaw — no pain, just pressure.  I stopped and the feeling went away.  I mentioned it to one of the staff who suggested I contact my cardiologist.  Within a few days, I’d seen my primary doctor, the cardiologist and had a cardiac catheterization with a new stent inserted.

When I had the attack a year ago, a stent was inserted in the Right Coronary Artery.  There was also indication of a slight occlusion in the LAD (left anterior descending artery).  The blockage had grown significantly and it was where the new stent was inserted.  The LAD runs down the front of the heart and is often referred to as the widow maker.  “You Only Live Once.”

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading cause of death in the United States is Heart Disease.  During the last year I’ve become acutely aware of that.  In addition to the life-style changes mentioned above it’s important to:

1. Know your family history.

2. If you smoke – STOP!

3. Get physical exams regularly and check those numbers in your blood tests.

4. If you have hypertension — get it under control.

Of course follow your YOLO plan — educate yourself and above all, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY.  Remember it doesn’t have to be an extraordinary event.  It may seem like nothing — pressure in your jaw, or nausea or extreme fatigue. Do not ignore these symptoms

Remember, YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE — don’t cut your life short.

INDECISION

INDECISION

Years ago, there was a Peanuts cartoon in which Snoopy  was running one way, then another, back and forth.  In the last panel Lucy said, “Indecision is an awful thing.”  Last August, in addition to preparing for my Toastmasters club’s humorous speech contest, I was tracking a tropical storm named Erika.   It would strengthen, then weaken, speed up, then slow down.  She just couldn’t make up her mind.

If Erika was indecisive, the news media was not.  In spite of the storms apparent dissipation, I was bombarded with alerts to take caution and prepare.  Doomsday outweighed writing a speech.

I ran out to get supplies.  Once in the store I headed for the water aisle.  There was none — the populace had commandeered all the water.  I left the store thinking, “Where am I going to get water?”  I looked next door and there was a liquor store.  “What the heck,” I reasoned, “liquid is liquid.”

I woke up the next afternoon to sunny skies and one heck of a headache.   My brain was on hold.  I needed to work on my speech and couldn’t come up with a topic, much less develop a humorous speech.

By Sunday, I was rarin’ to go.  “Come on Google, let’s get some ideas.”  I typed “humorous speeches.”  There were countless lists and hundreds of topics.  It was like a good news / bad news joke — lots of ideas but too many to wade through.  That leads to indecision and of course “indecision is an awful thing.”

Further down the page I spied another link — Humorous Speeches – Toastmasters.  Wow, I hit the mother-lode.  I clicked on it — and found various videos of former contestant winners.  As I watched masters in action my confidence started to wane.  Google should have a disclaimer — “don’t watch Toastmasters Humorous Speech Contests if you’re going to be in one.”  Which reminded me of another disclaimer Google needs, “Never use medical sites to diagnose your symptoms.”

A few years ago, I noticed the vision in my right eye was blurry.   It was also red and uncomfortable.  After a couple of days, I got the bright idea to google blurry vision.    Good old Google even had a selection for blurry vision in 1 eye.  Several clicks later, I found I either had macular degeneration, glaucoma, or …  a brain tumor.   By the time I saw the doctor I was trembling.  After an exam, he announced, “You have dry eye syndrome.”   DRY EYE SYNDROME?   That was never mentioned on any of the sites I saw.

Monday arrived and there were 4 days to prepare my speech and still no topic.  I wasn’t close to a decision.  Yeah, yeah, I hear you, “Indecision is an awful thing.”

Staring at my computer, my mind drifted and I thought about how much technology and the internet had changed our lives.  Have you noticed that today everything is abbreviated: like OMG – Oh my God, BTW – By the way, LOL – Laugh Out Load, BB4N – bye-bye for now.  What happened to words?  We are speaking in letters and numbers.  I love the written word and it’s disappearing.

Then there’s social media.  It seems everyone is vying for the Golden Thumb Award.  You know, winning the prize for getting the most likes on Facebook in 1 day!  We don’t socialize any more, we sit in front of computer screens having pretend relationships with strangers.

By Tuesday, the tension was mounting and while my mind wasn’t a blank — it was full of random thoughts having no connection like:

Erika,

News media,

Lucy,

Google,

The internet

Social media.

Where was the commonality?  In my mind, I saw Lucy shaking her fists in the air screaming, “INDECISION IS AN AWFUL THING.”

Then it hit me.  Perhaps Lucy wasn’t right.  You know, the mind works in mysterious ways.  What if I were to take Lucy and all my incongruous thoughts and weave  them into a story about creating a speech.  And there you have it — a bit crazy, a little odd — but a speech none the less.  Goodbye Lucy!