Gasping in the New Year

So I ushered in the New Year gasping – not in wonder and awe that we’d survived the world’s ending as predicted by some, but – for lungs full of air! Some mysterious agent, all the usual suspects were ruled out, laid me out for close on two weeks. The only thing I knew was that for the first time in memory, I had to get help to breathe.
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In the days leading up to the Urgent Care visit, I lay in bed acutely aware of my body’s struggle for oxygen. The changes – physical, mental and emotional – brought about by this lack of oxygen were astounding. My face had shrunken and had become grey. I was weepy. Speaking was almost impossible (a nightmare for someone who started talking before her first birthday). The times I did try speaking, my voice was weak and filled with huge ‘hollows’. These hollows were only rivaled by the ever increasing dark circles and sink holes that were appearing around my eyes. Each morning as I leaned over the sink to wash my face, I would straighten up to notice my eyes growing glassier as if a little light was receding far back into a darkened room. The windows of my eyes were like foggy black glass at a smoggy dockyard. Too fatigued and mentally incapable of forming a coherent thought, all I could do was lay in bed and watch what was happening in my body and mind, as it happened.

The little air I could draw in to my body fought an uphill battle to get to my lungs. It ran an audible obstacle course through mucus-filled bronchi; the air would bubble up and then a curious little ‘clicking’ sound would begin. It would dissipate when I exhaled only to appear again on the inhalation. Because of the sound, I could track the oxygen as it made its arduous journey to my lungs.

This struggle highlighted how free and easy breathing normally is, and how much I take it for granted. Other insights came later – body and mind are intricately intertwined in the delicate dance of life. Getting to know this balance or even just paying attention to it from time to time is well worth the effort. We don’t have to wait for something to go wrong, or for the systems to begin malfunctioning before we appreciate what a wondrous thing breathing is. Can we afford not to notice this ‘everyday miracle?’

After all, everything we do in life is by courtesy of breath. So being mindful, even for a few minutes a day, is beneficial in so many ways. Scientific Meditation research is showing that even spending 12 minutes a day improves short term memory, increases attention, and decreases distractibility. In as little as 8 weeks, Mindfulness meditation brings about structural changes to the brain: new neural pathways and connections develop, grey matter increases, and different parts of the brain are activated to respond to life situations. And as the brain likes repetition, doing this everyday for a few minutes will make a big difference to our brains and how we negotiate life from moment to moment. If you are interested in the brain changes brought about by mindfulness, check out the link to “Your Brain on Mindfulness” and “The Neurobiology of Mindfulness” on my website.

In this New Year, may you do some healthy gasping in awe of life’s wonders!

Signed,

Lola

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Keeping in Perspective

There’s nothing quite like watching a film or reading a novel that shares a tale of great tragedy and heartache to help you remember what is truly important – keeping things in perspective.

Tonight, a friend and I went and watched the Naomi Watts / Ewan the-impossible-posterMcGregor film The Impossible.  We knew little about the film going into it, and in hindsight may have picked a different more cheerful film for the night.  The original plan was to see Bill Murray in Hyde Park on the Hudson, but poor reviews had us concerned so we made a last minute swap.

For those of you unfamiliar with the premise of The Impossible, let me share, the story follows one family torn apart during the tsunami that hit Thailand on December 26th, 2006.  The film is based on a true story, which always makes watching it that much more intense – this isn’t just someone’s imagination at work this really happened to those people.

For me personally, I think it is necessary to watch or read stories such as these to help keep me grounded.  Often, I find myself getting nose-close to my problems or concerns and forgetting the big picture – how simple life truly is.  Life is about living and loving, if you are doing and feeling those two things really nothing else matters.

There will always be someone out there that has it worse off, and I am not suggesting that anyone compare themselves to someone else.  However, I do think a teaspoon of gritty, honest reality is healthy to keep us all in check.

Films like these make me want to go home and hug those I love, including the dog.  But it shouldn’t just be a film making you feel these things it should be ominpresent, always there.

So next time you talk to someone you care for, tell them you love them.  Next time you see someone you care for, hug them.  You never know the difference that action will make for them or even for yourself, you never know when that will be the last opportunity you get to express your love.

LOVEThere will always been problems, heartache, death, and everything in between but if we lose sight of LOVE then we truly lose everything.  Many scientists believe that what sets us apart from the animal kingdom is our ability to think and reason, but I would propose that it is our ability to feel and most importantly to love.

Even though tonight it took a film so raw and intense my abs hurt, I’m appreciative of the reminder.

Signed,

Lola

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The Beauty of an Obsessive Weekend

The significant other is away and the cats will play, so to speak. I’ve been left to my own devices for a week now, and while there is plenty to be done around the house I find myself indulging in a little TV addiction.

I spent most of the weekend in a state of obsession – over Downton Abbey. I realize I am two seasons late to this party, but better late than never?! I fully acknowledge my addictive personality which is why I avoid drugs and other habit forming things, but really good TV shows are an area of weakness. In the past I have indulged in West Wing, JAG, The Tudors, Bones, NCIS, CSI, and Archer.

This last summer I enjoyed a few weeks of a wonderfully written political drama, Political Animals with Sigourney Weaver. With most of my other favorite shows out of “print” and others winding down like Bones I have been looking for something special to fill the void.

Downton Abbey is a beautiful mixture of romance, drama, and intrigue. It is exquisitely written by Julian Fellowes who penned Gosford Park – he has a way of writing in both upstairs and downstairs form. The customs, sets, music, and cinematography truly set it all off. A sucker for British historical pieces this was bound to be an attraction for me.

However, rather than indulging in my addiction one episode at a time, savoring each piece slowly I gobbled it all up at once. Much like Harry Potter Order of the Phoenix, which I read in 13 hours (800+ pages) I spent roughly 18 hours of my weekend watching Downton Abbey – season one episode one to season three’s premiere last night. I was not disappointed, but I feel like I should go back and watch these shows a bit more slowly and truly enjoy the world of the Crawley’s.

This is my confession of the week, if I don’t feel to read or rather make time to read much these days at least I can enjoy high-quality writing in the visual format :) horrible I know, but true.

So next time your SO is out of town, spend a moment to indulge in that secret little show you love, oh and check out Downton Abbey (it’s on Netflix)!

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To A New Year

Four and a half months ago, I launched Project Lola with a grand vision of having a safe, anonymous space for women to come together and share their stories – a community.

2012 was a rough year, personally and professionally. I have learned a lot about myself as well as people in general. I have watched those around me that I care for reach near breaking points. While there have been positive moments all in all it was a pretty dark year – it will be a year marked by loss.

For 2013, I hope for number of things. Happiness and health for myself, friends, and family. In the words of Cesar Milan, “become a calm assertive pack leader.” And finally for this blog to take off and become something beyond my wildest expectations.

I’m not a fan of ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ they are often broken by month end and not a great reason to change something in your life. If you truly want to grow and change you should make those resolutions for yourself no matter the time of year. Project Lola is interested in hearing from you on what you want to change in your life, why, and how you can/are living that change. We want to embrace your success and triumphs – celebrations together serve to bolster self-esteem and keep you on that growth path.

I wish all of you Lola’s all the best in 2013!

Sincerely,

Editor-in-Chief
Project Lola

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Is It An Impossible Task To Keep Our Schools Safe?

It’s been almost a week since the horrible, tragic events in Newtown, CT. In an instant 20 children with nothing but their bright futures ahead of them gone. Not to mention the loss of teachers and staff. It is hard enough to convince someone to go in to the teaching profession these days with low pay and teaching to the test – but now you almost wonder if hazard duty pay should become expected.

Rather than arming our teachers with chalk and books, should we be providing bullet proof vests and body alarms like those worn by prison guards.

While adults can adapt to living life like this, should we really be asking our kids to do the same? Rather than just accepting that this is what going school has become, should we not instead fight the norm that school crime has become and push for change.

Over the course of the last few days, I’ve caught snippets of interviews from the media. A continual comment being made has been, “it was never like this when I was at school.” And why is that? What has happened? What has changed so much in the last 20 years that the pendulum has swung so far in the opposite direction.

I don’t have the answers, I wish I did. I’m well-educated and I work with a lot of very intelligent people and this week has left us all scratching our heads, looking at one another as though they should have the answer.

The problem now is the political agendas. A huge tragedy will be if nothing truly happens from this event, if no change is made – if the only things that happen are political gain it’ll leave a sickening feeling in my gut. The staff at Sandy Hook deserves more for their heroic actions than political gain. The children who were struck down so young deserve more than this being a blip of sensational news. The families of those affected and the rest of the world that is mourning alongside them deserves for change to happen – NOW.

I’ve spent the last few days reading research articles, trying to wrap my head around this situation. I looked towards the American Educational Research Association hoping they’d have answers, “What Can Be Done About School Shootings? : A Review of the Evidence,” but I came up empty-handed.

“A series of high-profile shootings in the 1990s focused America’s attention on the problem of school violence. Public fear generated by these emblematic events drove a dramatic shift in security-related policies and procedures for our nation’s schools. Many of those efforts proliferated in a desperate and well-intentioned effort to make schools safer, but they were often predicated on unrealistic appraisals of risk and misunderstanding about the nature of the actual threat.”

Many incidents of school-related violence has been student on student, but what has most of the world in a state of shock about Sandy Hook is the apparent disconnect between the perpetrator and the victims. In the statement above, is it possible that the what school could have done anything differently to prepare for such a risk? A rhetorical question, because short of having an armed officer on campus I don’t think many lives could have been saved.

According to the latest issue of Newsweek (Dec 24th, 2012), “The United States can now claim 11 of the 20 worst mass shootings of the last half century.”

And what to tell our kids? How long do you try to preserve their innocence before you have to let them know about the realities of life – for their own safety? Again, I don’t have the answer, I think it’s personal. But I do feel that no matter your decision you should foster open, honest, and safe communication with your kids.

Let us raise a new generation, one that respects life, appreciates others, and most importantly learns to love.

I recall a line in the movie, “Love Actually” – “Love Actually is All Around.”

Let us remember that sentiment and never forget the value of a human life, young or old.

Peace,
Lola

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