Posts Tagged asthma

How to feel alive. Be a Sun Warrior.

Do you ever feel the need to come alive, as if you have been hibernating for too long and your body does not know anymore how it is to be… real? Do you find yourself realising you haven’t used most of your muscles, except your fingers for typing or clicking the mouse or texting, since like… since when, actually?
If you want to feel you are so alive it’s almost raw, in the sense of feeling fresh and overwhelming, even on a rainy Wednesday morning which looks like a true autumn day, dark and wet and impervious, I have something to recommend. It is called Body Balance and, unless you are super-fit, there is a big chance it will leave you feel just like me today: pain in your neck muscles, shoulder muscles, arms muscles, back muscles, bottom muscles, well let’s just name all of them, for starters? It kind of feels like I am soar head to toes. When I sat in my bed to start writing this, for example, I first tried to do it with my legs curled, but that was painful! Better stretch them in front, so now I can only feel my bottom as I sit on it. I haven’t learnt to hover yet, unfortunately.

Here is what a Body Balance class looks like:

Maybe some of you are familiar and actually quite good at it. I have been to my first one yesterday and I completely LOVED IT! Being on a membership at Littledown Centre, which gives me unlimited access to all classes available, as long as I book one week in advance (all for £32, with access to the gym and swimming pool included), I have booked to do another one on Sunday already. Well, I guess until then my muscles will lose some of the pain.
This Body Balance thing was exactly what I was looking for. After two years of going to the gym quite regularly (and in the last 2-3 months I have been good, 2 or 3 times a week), I was getting bored of the same stretches, the same weight pulling and cycling for 15-20 minutes. I enjoyed it, but it felt like it wasn’t quite enough and I had to continuously push myself to do it, as motivation would start to fade. And this despite me being very aware I need this, after years and years of a sedentary life, from the asthma childhood with the motto “stop running, you’ll get an attack again!”, to my office years when the regular route would be desk, subway, chair (in the theatre, cinema, café), then desk again at home, and some weekend walks.

The truth is that we have bodies we do not much use any longer. Most of modern day jobs involve a series of repetitive actions, most of activities people get involved in are sedentary. In the field I work in this is not as much the case, but still there can be times of inactivity and waiting for the person you support to want to do something.
So I wonder how many people today do feel alive, do feel they are in their bodies here and now and not only inside an ever flickering mind, in our thoughts bouncing inside our heads like a crazy game which never stops. I know that people who go to the gym or do some sort of a regular exercise tend to be aware of how it takes them away from the ever in motion stream of thoughts and, as such, release tensions not only in body, but in mind as well.

Any kind of exercise taken seriously would do. But then why not trying to find the one which truly suits you?
I found mine, and writing this is not a paid advert for the Littledown Centre, hahaha! The stretches and movements we have done at the start of the session, coming from Tai Chi, completely work for me as they challenge if I push myself, but at the same time they are elegant and I can feel the openness they involve. For example there is the position/stretch called Sun Warrior (love the name as well!) which gives your body the elegance of a bird flying towards the sky, it opens your trunk while pointing upwards, and really stretches your legs. It just felt right to me.

During the last couple of years I have become more and more focused on finding a broader sense of purpose, as well as a better rhythm and involvement. I am still working in many areas, but hey, that is what life is for, isn’t it?
First, I started to go now and then to swim, took regular walks, then the gym. Second, I became fascinated with the Ketogenic diet, and the way it was developed could not leave you indifferent if curious about science. But then I understood a high fat and very, very low carb lifestyle is a bit too extreme for me. At the moment I am doing a low carb diet, excluding bread, potatoes, rice and cereal products from my every day meals, allowing some bakery once or twice a week. Also, I have discovered a Stevia sweetener, after reading reviews, which tastes great and reduces my intake of sugar: Natvia.
Funny enough (or not) it all started with an article in my favourite magazine ever, National Geographic, talking about sugar consumption and the BIG problem in the US with sugar-related obesity and the health problems caused by it. At the moment, they are doing an 8 issues series on world food, which covers challenges to possible solutions, and is incredibly good!
All of these might be a sign that I am getting older. Or wiser?
Don’t know for sure, but it might also have to do with the fact I grew up being regularly ill, three pneumonias on the record and an unaccountable number of times I almost died of an asthma attack, then the only big operation in my life taking place after I almost got into peritonitis (general infection of the internal organs caused by the spread from the appendix to the peritoneum inner membrane), which actually started, but I got into surgery soon enough for a simple draining tube to do the trick in a day or two. Well, this is only for giving you part of the picture, I guess, of what makes me think that giving my body the necessary respect is vital. It does so many things for me, it overcame so much hardship, shouldn’t I be able to do it some good and take care of it properly?

In the end, I want to thank Laura from Littledown, the trainer who led the Body Balance class yesterday evening, and is actually a substitute tutor/trainer at the moment (she explained this is how they start, until getting a class of their own). She has been great and I have deeply enjoyed it all! I hope she gets her own regular class soon.

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Going home for Christmas. Flavours of Banat countryside

 Craciun 100

Another winter, on my parents’ street. 

There is no better time than the present time, they say, as both the past and the future are, in great proportion, reflections of our own minds. And if it is so, how to better tell one’s life story than starting from what is here and now, in one’s grasp, fresh and throbbing alive. As it happens, that “one” is me myself in this (inside) land.

Since I’ve left Romania, it’s the first winter holidays I’m back at my parents’ for. The travel was the most adventurous of all so far and the time spent here feels so cosy, familiar and somehow new and surprising. It might be because I’m the same girl who left her parents’ house when she was eight, to go and live in a flat in the city with her grandparents, because of both fortunate and unfortunate circumstances, and because I’m different now, a woman who’s grown out of her own and the others’ expectations. Considering at least that I used to be so convinced I will never leave the region I grew up in, Banat, and I wouldn’t even want to think of moving to another country, my life today looks so different from what it’s been imagined it would be.

But I intended to write about my journey and my time here on this holiday so far, and the little revelations that came with it. Traveling from Bournemouth area to London proved most difficult and even tearful this time. True, when I booked my ticket out for the 26th I was trying to save some money and I knew at that time there won’t be any transport available. All those months ago we weren’t sure yet if I was going to travel alone or with my partner, meanwhile he decided he could use the money earned over Christmas and New Year’s, for the goals he has in 2014, and I couldn’t but agree. So the plan was for me to take the train to London on the 24th and stay there till the Boxing Day morning. Easy, right?

Wrong. The weather seemed to disagree with my plans and I was offered a double lesson. First, I really really really really (I couldn’t write really as many times as needed, as you’d quit reading my posting right now) need to be better organised. A difficult task for my bohemian side, but (hopefully) not impossible.
Second, I am blessed with great people around me.

Now what happened: it took me much more to finish packing than I planned or thought it would. Still, checking the train times at around 17:00 on Christmas Eve, the South West Trains web site seemed to let me book tickets for the after 19:00 trains. Yes, the storm was making havoc, but if the train line site didn’t say anything exactly about the later trains I expected to be able to catch one. Maybe I just didn’t look in the right place.
Fact is when I was finally done with packing, tired and sad and feeling guilty I didn’t spend more time with him that day, my partner dropped me off at the station on his way to work. And then disaster struck. I looked at the train station electrical panel to realise the only train left to travel that evening was the past 20:00 one to Southampton. SOUTHAMPTON????!!!  I was done, finished, heart-broken. There was no way for me to get to London, no more trains, and I couldn’t push my partner to drive me there as he would work for three nights on a row. Bursting into tears (I know, just like a silly cow) I called him to disclose the disaster. He asked me to calm down and go home. Later he texted me not to worry, everything was going to be alright, he talked to his brother and they would arrange the details later.

On Christmas Day my partner’s brother drove all the way from London only to pick me up, so that next morning, very early, he could give me a lift to the 757 Brent Cross bus stop to Luton. I was saved. And I can’t say enough how lucky I feel to have such great people close to me, on whom I could count to save my so much planned and dreamt of winter holiday.

The night of 25th, before catching that flight, was a torment: I couldn’t really sleep, I don’t even know if I slept, it felt like I was drifting away and sinking into sleep, only to regain my conscious hearing, open my eyes and see that it’s been only about an hour since I’d last check the clock. Horrible.
One thing went like clockwork: my luggage weighted exactly how much my home scales said, and my boarding was as smooth and stress free as it can get. Bingo!

The flight itself was shaky and not very pleasant, presumably because of the windy weather sweeping across Europe. I tried to sleep, I almost managed to, and I helped the little girl sitting next to me to get over the fear and feeling sick. Told her to look at the birds flying when it’s windy, they too are a bit shaken by the air flow, but nothing serious happens. Making her feel better and be less afraid helped me feel better. Truth is I do enjoy flying and usually at take-off I feel a bit like a Stargate character in space shuttle (well, I never said I’m the sanest in the world) and at landing I’m just as content as an elf who’s wrapped 1000 presents for the greatest children in the world.

My brother with my nephew and my foster brothers were waiting for me at the airport. We went home, unwrapped presents, they got me the loveliest pair of fuzzy slippers, we chatted and looked at photos and then I’ve slept for 12 hours. At last!

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Being at my parents’ home is different this time, if only considering I’m trying to eat as low carb, high fat as possible. The last part isn’t so difficult, as they have just had a pig sacrificed, in the old tradition, for Christmas, and now we’ve got homemade sausages, the best in the world, smoked and hanged to dry, sângerete or black pudding and caltaboș or what the Germans call leberwurst, bacon and pork grease and all the joys of a fat meat eater. The low carb part comes a bit more difficult, with the traditional chicken noodle soup (back yard reared poultry, they come running when you open the door, as it’s their signal for “come and be fed”), with the mashed potato and the Romanian mamaliga (worldwide known as polenta). Still, the pickled cucumbers, beetroot and red pepper, the zacusca (a very popular kind of vegetables stew, made with aubergine, carrots, peppers) help as acceptable side dishes in my new eating style.

It’s most difficult to fight my mum’s delicious cakes and sweets. This year she’s made a type of French fancy which is different by the fact that the sponge is moist and this makes it even more delicious. Then there is the usual two vanilla filling and caramel layers cake, with a chocolate icing, and the old Greta Garbo, with walnuts and strawberries jam. There is some left in the tray in the living room, used more or less as a storage room in winter, and every time I pass through in my way to the huge bedroom the sweet smell of walnut, mixed with strawberries and chocolate aromas, just seems like a winter childhood dream still alive.
If there is one thing that I could single out as reminding me of my home region, of my parents’ village, is the smell. Different smells, which all come together to say “here is where I grew up, this is what I will take with me no matter where I will go”. And, at the same time, it was one of the first things I’ve noticed to be significantly different when moving to the UK: the way the air smells, indoors and outdoors.
It might be linked to my childhood as a person with allergies triggered asthma attacks. Back then, and probably now still, I could smell a clean room or a dusty one or a room with mouldy walls, even if it wasn’t visible. But asthma attacks are a thing of the past I am not any longer concerned with, fortunately.

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Now, the smells of old familiar things have come to my mind not in a nostalgic way, but as something I want to keep with me, a small and important thing speaking of my roots. The way an old countryside house smells like, the wood smoke, the Greta Garbo aroma, the traditional sausages and ”jumări” (a kind of crackling, served on their own and not as crunchy), the dry vegetable garden, the smell of fresh snow and freezing cold (I haven’t yet been blessed with these so far, unfortunately), so many things talking the same silent language.
I don’t feel nostalgic or wanting to go back to my childhood, even if I came to realise the house where I grew up and which I have called “home” for all these years will no longer be our family home sooner than expected. My father being a priest has lived in this parish house since I was about 3 years old or so. But now he’s got two more years till retiring age. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, a priest can still practice priesthood and have a job as such for as long as he is physically and mentally fit, as it’s considered a vocation rather than just a profession. Apparently, they have come to ask priests to retire when they reach the age most people become pensioners.
It’s something I always knew would happen and most certainly both me and my brother have grown out of our teenage years, when we urged our parents to convince grandmother to sell the house in a neighbouring town and buy one here, in the village they’ve lived in for so long. At the same time, it’s a change coming sooner than expected and it just makes me realise it is high time for me to  find a way to store the heritage of where I’ve grown up, distilled into potions to be given further to my children or to whoever is interested in trying the flavours of different places.   

 

 

 

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