The Day I Thought Would Never Come: Letting Go to Move Forward

This is the story of the day I dressed up in a Ralph Lauren designer dress to go on a hike!

March 8th Selfie Before Releasing Dad's Ashes

For the past seven months, my father’s ashes have been in my apartment. That is where they have belonged, with me. My dad always wanted to spend more time in my apartment, with me, but his Parkinson’s did not allow for that. He saw it once, and that proved to be too strenuous for him. So he’s been hanging out happily with me, in my place, through the holidays and into the new year.

Then, a couple of weeks before his 70th birthday (February 15th) everything changed. I got an undeniable sign that he was ready to be free. He was ready for both of us to move on. The message came through loud and clear, and with love. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to explain the mysteries of my heart, the depth of the secrets that led me to the moment where I knew he wanted me to let go. I just knew the time had come.

Before I took him to his final resting place, he and I had a few adventures to experience. I took with me to yoga one Monday morning in Marina Del Rey. He hung out with me in that hot room for 90 minutes, inspiring me with his spirit. His ashes rested in my Harry Potter backpack in the front of the room. Two of my friends dedicated their practice to him that morning. Most people, though, had no idea of the contents of the backpack.

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One Tuesday we went to the Dermatologist together. My dermatologist had known my dad for almost twenty years, and it meant so much to me to be able to share my dad with him. And it touched my heart to hear Dr. B express his love for my dad.

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I also took my dad with me to the Bikram studio in Downtown L.A. I still remember the moment I learned he had died. I had just finished a class and was in the locker room when I saw my mom had called. Even before I listened to her message my heart knew what she would say. I can’t explain how I knew, but I did. It was the first time I practiced at that studio. August 6th, 2013. I made new friends that day, people who had never met me were so nice to me in my moment of distress.

I took my dad with me, so he  could feel the vibrations there, friendly vibrations that keep me coming back. In so many ways, my practice at Downtown L.A. is a beginning and an ending combined, intertwined.

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I introduced him to a couple of my friends he hadn’t had a chance to meet. I took him to Starbucks—he loved the pumpkin spice lattes they’d have at Christmas time. We went to Barnes and Noble and hung out. He’d always love to do that. He came to work with me. I took him out for ice cream—his favorite treat. He came to the Apple store with me. He loved the Apple store, and on one of the last outings we had together, last April, we went there and he bought me an iPad mini for my birthday. Whenever I use it I can literally feel his presence with me. We had other adventures, he and I. We danced around my apartment. We talked. We cried. We sat in silence. I spent time just being with him in the best way possible.

The first weekend I had planned to take his ashes to their final resting place, it rained for the first time in months for three days straight.  Serious rain. But this turned out to be the best blessing I could have ever hoped for, for I knew that meant the ground would be moist and I when I’d leave his ashes, they’d be able to soak into the ground so that what was (his ashes) would become a part of what will be (new growth). With that rain, the universe gave me the most magical gift, and confirmed my decision that this was the right time, the right decision.

So yesterday, Saturday, March 8th I woke up, took a shower and dressed in my new Ralph Lauren designer dress. I prepared my dad’s ashes for their final journey. I did set asides just a bit which I put in an antique Prince Albert tobacco tin that my dad loved. He appreciates that gesture. My heart knows that.

Then I went and bought some roses to honor his transition, picked up my mom and we took his ashes to their final resting place. Before I released his ashes, I read the poem I selected for the prayer card at his memorial: “When I Must Leave You.” After I scattered his ashes, a lone butterfly appeared out of nowhere, flittered about and flew off into the freedom of the sky.

With each passing moment of the past few weeks I could feel my father’s presence growing stronger within me. I understood finally what it meant that by letting go, he’d actually be with me more, in my heart. My heart and his, freely intertwined in earthly and ethereal worlds. A daughter’s life becomes a celebration as her father’s presence continues to propel her forward into the magical light of life.

I love you Dad. Thank you for releasing both of us to soar to even greater heights than I ever imagined.

With My Dad at Work:

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With My Dad at Starbucks:

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With My Dad at Barnes and Noble:

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Releasing My Dad’s Ashes:

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“When I Must Leave You”

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Random Musings on Food, Yoga, Weight Loss, Grief, and Other (Un)related Things

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about food, grief, my relationship with food, and all sorts of other life issues. Food has always been a comfort to me, even more so now. I’m not sure exactly what my intentions are with this entry other than to share random thoughts.

Weight loss is important to me.  It is. So is being healthy. But I’ve been on this road long enough to know that my journey just can’t be about weight loss. You see I want to be healthy physically, mentally, and spiritually.

I have struggled with clean eating since my dad died and if I’m honest since a couple of months before he died. I haven’t been eating horribly by any means, but not clean either. But I want to, and I’m working on it.

Sometime last week I really decided to renew my efforts at looking at my current eating habits, and the results were inevitable. I watched my emotional self rise up. I could feel myself becoming needy. I felt a huge weight on my chest. I didn’t feel like going to yoga on Friday. I didn’t feel like going to yoga today (Monday). I didn’t feel like going to spinning on Sunday.

I could feel the oppressive sadness of my mood. I’ve made so many strides with food, but I need to make more, and I know that requires looking at how I assuage my pain with my eating.

I KNOW I have to do this because this is the only way I’ll succeed on this path. Have you seen the statistics on how many people are NOT successful at losing weight? How many people regain their weight after weight loss surgery? The stats are not good. And I know why they’re not good. If people don’t face their demons, the reasons why they gained weight in the first place, they’ll always go back to the behavior. I know that. I’ve lived that.

Continuing to work at losing weight, continuing to work at being healthy in every way means I have to look at some painful truths. It’s hard for me without my dad. I miss him more today than I imagined. My only other family really is my mom. It’s not that I don’t have other relatives, but I don’t see them. Yes, I’m blessed to have some awesome friends and a wonderful online community, but I still feel a certain loneliness that it’s just my mom and me.

I’ve felt so needy this weekend. But I didn’t really share that with anyone because I knew I needed to feel it. And as bad as I felt, and as much as I wanted to wallow in that state I still got up and went to yoga, went to spinning because I KNEW and I KNOW that to succeed I have to work through it. I can’t go around it, or I’ll never see the other side.

Food, as I’ve expressed before, represents a certain love, a certain escape. Yes, those are certain falsehoods, BUT it’s helped me through some rough times. It’s helping me now. But I’m ready to find a better way.

What does that look like? When I’m really successful at having a healthier relationship with the food I put in my body, it’s so simple. I keep a notebook and write down what I eat every day. No judgment.  Just observations. If I eat this for breakfast, then maybe I won’t eat that for lunch. I’m looking more now at eating whole foods and not processed foods. My body feels so much better when I’m eating natural foods.  Bathroom habits go much more easily, if you know what I mean.

And if I have an emotional reaction I write that down too because I have those ALL THE TIME.  I am an emotional eater. I am a reactor.  Not like I used to be though.

That’s why yoga will always be a part of my life. Even on days when I’d rather wallow in self-pity, throw a temper tantrum, cry huge tears, I’ll always go to yoga because it helps me find a way through the cr*p. And you wanna know a secret? My body is soooo much more toned for doing yoga as much as I do.  You should see how much I can hold in my core now!! It’s kinda cool! Being physically active helps me feel better.  That’s why I went to the spin class on Sunday. That’s why I went for a walk in the rain on Saturday. Any weight loss is a side effect. I LOVE feeling the clarity that comes with being physically active.

I made it through this weekend. In the words of the philosopher Barry Manilow “I made it through the rain / and found myself respected / By the others / who got rained on too”. I’ll make it through this. I am making it through this. One yogic breath at a time. You’ll make it through the rain too. All you have to do is ask. All you have to do is make the effort. There’s an awesome world out there just waiting.  And it’s only one thought away!!!  Choose that thought! I am!!!  Actually, I don’t know any other way to be…….

I meant to end the entry there. Then I started thinking about Ralph Waldo Emerson and his thoughts on self-reliance. I’ve spent most of my life living for others, wanting and needing their approval. I’m learning to trust myself and that’s no easy feat, but it’s worth it. “Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind” — the genius of Emerson speaks loud and clear.  Trust myself. Trust my heart. It’s the only way.

IF you’d like, please feel free to follow my daily journey on facebook via my community fitness page:

https://www.facebook.com/ConfessionsofaHawaiianPrincess

and my personal facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/IggieSue

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Secrets from the HOT (Bikram) ROOM

“I found my foundation. It was underneath me all along.” ~Jack Johnson

I sit here, in my reading/meditation room looking outside, watching twilight turn into nightfall. A year ago, six months ago, I never would have pictured my life the way it is now.

I don’t know where I’m going. I don’t know where I belong. I don’t know where I should live. The list of things I don’t know grows exponentially with each passing moment.

What do I know? Six months ago, I first walked into a Bikram yoga studio. Three months ago I wrote a blog about my experiences, but so much has changed since then, so much continues to change.

I frequently take pictures of myself in my yoga outfit and post those pics on fb and here, without hesitation. They show who I am now, and I’m okay with that most days. That is to say they show who I am on the outside, but that’s not really me.

Who am I? I don’t know anymore. I have so many profound thoughts to share here, but they seem to be hiding. I’ve had so many conversations lately about self-talk, and it makes me realize how I talk to myself, inside my head. I tend to so often define myself negatively by my body shape, but maybe it’s time I don’t do that anymore.

I’m smart. I’m funny. I sparkle from the inside out. I love to laugh. I love to make other people happy. I look pretty in pink. I love a good hug, and I love people who love hugs.

And I love doing Bikram Yoga. It’s about so much more than being in a hot hellish room. It’s about the magic that takes place as all the toxins come pouring out of my body. I don’t mean the physical toxins. I mean the emotional ones—all the negative tapes that have filtered through my mind. The more time I spend in the hot room, the more I realize the pathos of the ways in which I have diminished my SELF through my thoughts.

I feel at my happiest when I’m in the HOT room, but I’m also starting to feel like maybe I’ll be okay when I’m outside the room too. There’s so very much more I want for myself in this life, so many more dreams I have to fulfill.

With my father’s death still foremost in my mind, I have moments where I just feel this gaping hole in my heart, but I’m also finding the courage to learn to sit and feel the emptiness, not to try and fill it before it’s ready to be filled, but to sit and just feel. Then maybe I’ll find some of the answers I’m searching for.

But even if I don’t find the answers, I have a place to go where my heart feels at home, where my dreams find roots so their flowers will blossom, and a place where my mind finds some quiet, allowing the love in my heart to flourish.

Me with MK (who introduced me to Bikram) and Loren (the BEST Bikram teacher EVER)

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A Love Letter to My Father

For My Father,

You hated having Parkinson’s. You couldn’t stand that it limited your movements, that you had to ask for help. I remember you drove to a meeting in Van Nuys one day this past April and you needed help from a friend to get up from a chair. It was one  thing to need help from family, but to need it from a friend made the illness more “real.” You felt humiliated that day. Stunned and humiliated.

My heart broke knowing that you felt badly about yourself. Having Parkinson’s was never about you! It’s just what it was. It didn’t make you bad. It didn’t make you a loser. If anything, it made you a winner. You NEVER gave up. Not once. Long before others would have stopped, you kept going, always striving to find a way to have independence.

You NEVER gave up.  Perhaps that’s where my drive comes from. Perhaps that’s the story I need to tell. I’ve been wanting to share more of you with my world, but wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to say……until now. You NEVER gave up. You always wanted to live life as fully as you could, right up until the end.

I have that same drive–I get that from you. That drive propels me to do two (yes even three) yoga classes in one day. It motivates me to go hiking in new places, to discover new wonders I never imagined I’d see, to jump all the way down the rabbit hole head first–I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I know I can go further in this life than I ever imagined, and I look forward to you being there with me, in my heart, every moment, just as you were with me last Tuesday when I went to Disneyland to celebrate your life and to experience the truth of Walt Disney’s vision: “I think most of all what I want Disneyland to be is a happy place….where parents and children can have fun, together.”

Last Tuesday we did have fun together. I know you were with me. I dressed as your Princess, just as I always have been and always will be. I love you Dad!

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Life Lessons Learned from Zip Lining

I’m in trouble, and I know it. I don’t know the solution though. Everyone says it’s supposed to be inside. I suppose that’s true, but I don’t know quite where to look.

I decided to take today (Sunday) just for myself. To do whatever I felt like doing. I didn’t really sleep in but I did lounge around in bed reading Dan Brown’s Inferno.  I’m enjoying his bit of fluff.  It’s been far too long since I’ve just read for the sake of reading, which is sad in and of itself because I LOVE reading!  I also read a yoga magazine just because.

Somewhere around noon I got up and started doing a little cleaning. In my camera bag I found a camera card containing five videos of me ziplining in Maui. A light bulb went off—somewhere on that sdhc card I might find the answers I’ve been looking for.

I worked sooo hard for months, physically and mentally, to be able to go ziplining in Maui. (There’s far more to Maui story, but that will wait. I want this blog to be about zipping……) Of all the activities I dreamed of participating in while I was in Maui, ziplining was the ONLY one that came with a weight requirement. I struggled for months with my food choices and my workouts. I exhibited a determination I’d never seen before. My eating and workouts weren’t perfect but I woke up every day fixated upon my goal.

Someone told me if you worked out before you ate that you’d lose weight more quickly, so almost every morning I’d get up, put on my New Balance shoes and just go straight out the door and walk for 2 miles. I didn’t think about it; I just did it. I ate almost the same thing every day for breakfast: 1) Yoplait light yogurt with ½ c. fiber one cereal and a diced up apple or 2) oatmeal with a diced up apple and a ¼ c. of raw almonds. The rest of my day would vary, but I’d always start off the same.

A few weeks before I left I wasn’t sure I’d make the weight requirement so I bought some Nike shoes that weigh less that one pound.  They’re actually quite comfy.  When I got to Maui, ziplining was the first activity I did. I wanted to do it first so I wouldn’t have to worry about the scale for the rest of my visit. As it turns out I had nothing to worry about.  I was nicely below their weight limit, and I had an amazing time!  With this particular company two people zipped at the same time, so I had the pleasure of always going last and zipping with the cutest safety guy!

That was about eleven months ago (October 18th, 2011). So much of my life has changed since then, in ways I never imagined, in ways I never planned. Joseph Campbell was right, “we must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” For much of this past year, I’ve been okay. Just okay. I’m referring to my relationship with food here.

Then my father died. I went on auto-pilot. I started eating too much comfort food. It’s not that I ever really binged, but it’s adding up. I’ve gained a few pounds.  Just a few. But that’s a warning sign. I can’t go back. I won’t go back to where I was. But I’m no longer sure how to move forward. I’m just not.  And it’s not really about a number on the scale, it’s about how I feel, about how my body feels, and my body wants to feel better and stronger.

Looking at the videos of my zipling experience remind me of my inner strength and also remind me of the beauty and value of taking one day at time, and I know that if I do that I’ll keep moving forward into the amazing adventure my life is becoming……………….

Scenes from Line 4 of my 5 line zipping experience:

http://youtu.be/fjR9vZpkgPk

Scenes from Line 5 of my 5 line zipping experience (line 5 is over 1/2 mile long and takes you more than 600 feet above the ground!):

http://youtu.be/1dOMuNsutQk

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A (My) Picture of Grief

It’s only been 3 and ½ weeks since my father died. I can’t even begin to describe how I feel. My emotions are, understandably, all over the place. I haven’t written a post in a couple of weeks because, quite frankly, I haven’t had much to say, and I’m not sure I have much to say now, but I don’t want to keep my grief bottled up.

After the funeral, after everyone went home, I started to get the feeling my life was supposed to go back to normal. I felt (feel) sad, and a range of other emotions, that go along with grief. I function(ed) because that’s what I have to do, that’s what I need to do in the outside world, but behind closed doors, it’s a different story, a story best told with pictures.

I haven’t cleaned much in the past three weeks: dishes have piled up in the sink, my dining table became a catch-all, I’d wash undies when I was wearing my last clean pair and not before. I paid a $30 medical co-pay over 60 days late (I just haven’t cared). When I’m home, I stare into space, trying to focus, attempting to concentrate, but those moments don’t come frequently enough. I’m sad.  I need to be sad now.  My world looks different; nothing can change that.

Don’t misunderstand me; I don’t need psychiatric drugs; I don’t need therapy—after all it’s only been 3 ½ weeks. I need to and I choose to acknowledge that I need to just be for now; I need the space to figure out how the landscape of my world is altering at a faster pace than I ever imagined.

I miss my father’s love. I know that he’s with me now more than ever, but that’s part of the new configuration of my life that I haven’t quite settled into yet.

Knowing others care and love helps. As I looked around my recently cluttered apartment this morning, I kept focusing on the flowers my friends sent me Friday, and I felt (and feel) the love the sunflower arrangement conveys. Then I thought about the sweet messages of love and hugs I’d been receiving, and somehow all that gave me the energy to make space for my life.

I’m including before and after pics, so you can see the manifestations of my grief. You’ll also see a clutter free dining table, lovingly decorated with flowers and pics of my father, so when I wake up Sunday morning, I’ll be able to have breakfast with him by my side. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

With love and gratitude to those around me who are helping me feel loved when I need it the most.

Pics #1, 2, &3: Dining Table and Kitchen BeforeImageImageImage

Pics # 4 & 5 Dining Table and Kitchen After

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A Tribute to My Father

This entry deviates from my normal posts.  My father died 6 days ago. Today, Monday August 12th we held a memorial service to honor and celebrate his life.  This is the tribute I read.

Charles (Chuck) R. Taylor: February 15th, 1944-August 6th, 2013

I stand here today proud to be my father’s daughter.  I loved him with all my heart, and still do, and am forever blessed that the last words we spoke to each other were “I love you.”

My father never wanted much fanfare or too many tears, so my tribute today represents only a minutia of the love we shared.  There’s so much to say today, yet much more will remain locked in the treasure chest that joins my heart with my father’s.

I am my father’s daughter.  My father and I shared a special bond, an inspired love.  He taught me so many life lessons. He taught me how to drive, not too far from here, in the parking lot of Ralphs on Moorpark and Janss. If I close my eyes, I can recall how patient he was as I attempted reversing time and time again.  He taught me, through his own actions, the value of having endless courage and an indefatigable spirit.  He took a leap of faith when he decided to start his own business— a leap of faith in himself— for he knew the truth of Walt Disney’s words: “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” And he was relentless in his pursuit of his dreams, the most important of which was just spending time with family. When I close my eyes, I can still remember all the childhood Christmases where he’d look forward to seeing me open all my presents, the most precious of which were Nancy Drew books. I have a picture somewhere of one Christmas where I’m sitting beside our Christmas tree surrounded by at least a dozen Nancy Drew books. He fostered my love of reading, not because of its educational value; rather, because it’s what I loved.  And my happiness mattered to him;  it still matters to him.

He taught me how to find humor where others might not.  When he was in rehab a month ago he proudly and delightfully boasted to the nurses that he taught me how to fart.  Yes, of all the things he taught me, he felt most proud of that. And then there were the movies and tv shows I learned to appreciate from the times we’d spend watching them together: Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, Night of the Lepus, the original Friday the 13th, and every other campy horror film you can imagine.  There’s a reason why I always grade essays while watching TV shows like Get Smart and the original Star Trek: it’s a bit like having him with me, and that will be true even more so now.  He was so proud that I’d become a college professor, and it’s my honor to always have him with me as I impart my knowledge to others.

And then there’s Disneyland—he taught me to love Disney.  He and I share a mutual love of all things Mickey.  For the past several years, my mom and dad would buy me a Disney annual pass for Christmas.  We didn’t have the time to go together though, but I’d always take pictures and text them to him while I was there, and he’d always text back with “Say hi to Mickey for me!” My dad wanted to experience Disney—well Club 33—with me and he was trying to make plans for us to go for my mom’s 70th birthday.  The outfit I’m wearing today is the exact outfit—down to the tiara—that I planned to wear that day.  I was going to be Dad’s Disney Princess and we were going to have our pictures taken with Mickey.  So I wear this outfit today for him, and the next time I go to Disneyland, I’ll wear it then too and take him with me in spirit, texting him pictures in the astral.  And this January, I’ll be running in the TinkerBell 10K through Disneyland, and I know he’ll be with me as I cross the finish line.

The last few weeks of his life, he experienced an increasing physical burden.  On most days, he handled it well, but toward the end he’d had enough.  It was his time to go.  He wanted release from the confines of his physical body.

The most meaningful moments of these past few months were the times I’d just be with my dad.  Just him and me.  Moments where few words were spoken but so much was said.  He died knowing how much I loved him, and I will live the rest of this incarnation knowing just how much he loved me.

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