At the end of each year I check in with my clients asking them to reflect upon the previous year and to discuss goals moving forward to the new year. Throughout my discussions there were clear themes of challenge and frustration over the course of 2014. Challenge and frustration with personal health goals, family issues and work-life balance. The scale seemed excessively tilted with work ruling many client’s lives.
I also faced challenge and frustration in 2014. The challenge and frustration of coming from Thailand where I worked with children who were exploited back into an environment of ‘first world issues’. From questions of ‘where will I find my next meal, where will I find shelter, will I be safe’ to questions of ‘where will I go for my next meal, what hotel will I stay at while my home is being renovated, will I have enough time to get to my Yoga class”.
The challenge and frustration of loss. The loss of a client who at each of our visits taught me valuable lessons. A close family member waking one day to find out she had lost one of her legs from the knee down due to a disease. The loss of communication with friends and family.
These challenges and frustrations has led me to not taking life for granted and to use these challenges and frustrations faced in 2014 to find gratitude in 2015. To tilt the scale in the other direction, the direction of life – as I believe it is life that truly defines and satisfies us as human beings. It is the phone call we make to a friend we have lost touch with. It is acknowledging a person who is homeless. It is making eye contact and saying ‘Hi’ to that person you ride the elevator with every morning. It is being courageous. Is is redefining community. It is about being grateful…
It was refreshing to hear clients mention their focus/goals/resolutions for 2015 will be ones of reconnecting, being present, sitting together as a family (remember Sunday night dinners!) and having a serious relationship discussion with their smart phones. Gone are the days of establishing weight loss as a priority for the new year. But who knows – by embracing these goals you will find yourself happier and healthier and you may just shed a few physical pounds as well…
Although challenge and frustration are usually identified as negative words they should be looked upon as words filled with excitement, energy and opportunity.
Wishing the world a year filled with gratitude. Welcome to 2015!
I decided I needed another reset button journey to Vancouver however instead of roaming the city I immersed myself in 2 incredible events during my stay – TEDx Vancouver and We Day Vancouver. It so happened these events bookmarked my usual experiences.
I want to start with TEDx. I have always been a fan of TED talks and use some of the talks to inspire and provoke my interns to think outside the box. It just so happened I would be in Vancouver during TEDx, a smaller, local version of TED talks. The theme of TEDx Vancouver was TILT. To share a quote from the event – “Today we tell the story of a transformative sequence, a repetition that makes you better. Initiated by stepping out of your comfort zone, your tilt moment begins in tradition and results it triumph. Cycle frequently”
I spent the next couple of days enjoying Vancouver as I usually do. My journey led me to English Bay, Granville Island, Yaletown and Commercial Drive. English Bay to reflect on my own personal journey, Granville Island to engage in the market culture including some amazing local food, Yaletown to observe how quickly an area can transform itself and Commercial Drive to try to remain hip and in the know!
My final day was spent attending We Day Vancouver before flying back to Toronto. The message was loud and clear this year – The Year of Empowerment. I sat in an arena among 20,000 students from across BC. There was even one school that came from Whitehorse, Yukon – amazing! The energy of our next generation was nothing short of incredible. We tend to see this generation as the generation of isolation as they hide behind social media and video games. Today I was proven wrong thanks to Craig and Marc Kielburger – the founders of Free the Children and Me to We. These children are the Me to We generation and will hopefully transform the world as we know it. The day was spent in class sharing stories of inspiration and the importance of community. We had 4 periods:
These two events inspired, tilted and empowered me to continue to improve upon myself so I can help my patients improve upon themselves no matter where they are at in their own journey. These events also confirmed the importance for me to continue to help rebuild community. Being part of a community is integral in our journey towards health.
I realized TEDx may very well be We Day for adults. I walked out of TEDx with the same energy I did when I walked out of We Day. I am ready to help shift the world, to make it a better place for all to live in. Perhaps a lofty goal but one baby step at a time as it takes only one small step to tilt the world…
The latest trend is to use Labour Day as a new start. It seems to have become our new New Year’s Day where we set goals for the year – our Labour Day resolutions. It is also the time when we get back into a routine – our children are back in school, holidays are over and the busyness begins once again! Oh and did I mention summer is officially over.
Well…not quite. Summer does not end until September 22nd so we have a few more weeks to enjoy and a few more weeks to keep us in a healthy routine!
I must admit I am one of those individuals who feel like I need to reset for the fall/winter season, to buckle down and begin a new routine. I find the Labour Day weekend a difficult transition weekend as it marks the end of my outdoor swims and Yoga classes. Goodbye summer friends and thank you for the wonderful chats before Yoga class and the refreshing lane swims.
It is back into the gym where you feel isolated and claustrophobic. Layered upon the isolation is the lack of daylight; making us want to hibernate. Activity becomes a bit more difficult and motivation slides but do we really have to lose our healthy summer routine? I don’t think so. In fact, I challenge you to keep your summer routine and to modify it for the fall and winter months. You probably won’t be swimming outdoors and if you do find a swimming pool that remains open during the fall/winter months please let me know!
Transform your healthy and active summer routine into your healthy and active fall/winter routine. In the fall you can still cycle, run, play baseball or any other one of your favourite activities. You may just need to add another layer to stay comfortable. As you move into the winter you can meet your winter friends while skating, skiing or taking winter hikes. I encourage you to embrace your seasons and enjoy.
Yes – the children taught me many lessons, lessons I will never forget. These lessons were magical and impactful.
But what was just as impactful (and maybe even more so) was what I learned from KruNam. KruNam is the visionary behind the shelter we visited. She is the force that established a community. A community of children who faced extremely difficult challenges in their short lifetimes. She is the matriarch of a family – a family rooted in love, passion and belief.
KruNam is the type of woman who will not stand back and accept the injustice she witnesses around her. Nor is she the type of person who gives up. She is the type of person who sees an issue and acts upon it.
And this was apparent when I watched her interact with the children.
KruNam has an uncanny ability to connect with each child. She does not judge, favour or criticize these children. She nurtures, empowers and challenges every child she comes into contact with (whether they are in the shelter or not) to follow their dreams, hopes and aspirations. KruNam has the innate ability to see the good in all. She is another one of my heroes!
KruNam has also made an impact on how I practice as a Naturopathic Doctor. I believe part of a patient’s healing process is to identify community. It is important to find this connection as part of your healing journey.
I had good intentions! Good intentions meaning I was going to send out at least three blogs while I was in Northern Thailand. Yes – I had good intentions!
The good intentions went to the wayside as I dove deep into working with the children – playing with them, eating with them and relaxing with them. I actually got to play again. I can’t remember the last time I played Red Rover, Duck-duck-duck-goose and clapping games (think Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man). I felt alive!
Then there was the “Aha” moment. Playing together was not only fun but it was a way to communicate when presented with a language barrier. It also brought to light that wherever you are in the world – children are children – no matter what – even when they have been exploited. Children are children.
The learning lessons began to flow…
Lesson #1 – Don’t lose your inner child
We were split into four groups and these four groups were maintained for the rest of the time spent with the children. Each group had their own flag, name and dance. My group was represented by a yellow flag. We were the Rhinos. A nice, sultry Rhino dance followed. I have been back for about 2 weeks now and I still do our Rhino dance!
Lesson #2 – Allow yourself to be vulnerable
We were paired up with a child and were asked to draw each others portrait. This was an absolute nightmare for me. My inner thoughts kicked in – I can’t draw, I won’t be able to portray the child’s beauty, I am going to open myself up to being judged. The outcome – I can’t draw but I committed pencil to paper. It felt wonderful to let down my guard and just draw. My partner drew a picture of me and we both chuckled.
Lesson #3 – Appreciate and celebrate
The children taught me it is not about what you have or what you do in life. It is about appreciating your achievements and celebrating them. Once you have lost that perspective then you have potentially lost perspective on life. Everyday I witnessed the children celebrate the basic necessities in life – food, water and shelter. They had an appreciation for each other and genuinely cared for each other. Again it is okay to have but don’t forget to appreciate and celebrate what you have.
Lesson #4 – Remember to dream
I spoke to some of the children at the shelter and even though they endured whatever they endured in their lifetime they still had dreams. Dreams of becoming professional athletes, poets, artists, doctors and musicians. They still had dreams. So no matter where you are in your journey called life don’t forget to dream and even better don’t forget to follow your dreams.
Korp kun ka to the children for allowing me into their hearts and for teaching me incredible life lessons. My challenge now is to continue to practice these life lessons and to incorporate them into my practice. And…remembering these lessons can only lead to moving my patients toward success!
After touring Hong Kong and Chiang Mai I made it to my final destination – Chiang Saen to work with children in a shelter. These are children of many different ages starting from the age of 2 onward. We were told there would be 90 children as a number of them were on summer holiday.
When our van arrived at the camp the children were waiting for us waving flags. We were first greeted with a bracelet and a necklace made of jasmine flowers and rosettes. The garlands are given as a greeting and are a sign of respect.
As we continued walking through the line some children were carrying buckets of white paste made from water and talcum powder. As we walked through the line a child would apply the paste to our face – for protection and to ward off evil.
We were also splashed with water signifying cleansing and renewal. It also signified blessings and respect.
We later learned the white paste and water was in celebration of Songkran – the Thai New Year. Thai New Year was celebrated from April 12th to 15th and the children wanted to celebrate it with us.
As I was walking through the line having paste applied to my face and water poured on me I became extremely overwhelmed as two children grabbed my hand and looked up at me and guided me to their play area. Here I am amongst a group of children who had been exploited yet have an incredible amount of love to give. Their smiles were genuine.
As a Naturopathic Doctor my role is to teach and educate patients through their health journey. Now it is my turn to be taught and educated! Our excursion is called a Hero Holiday but it does not refer to us as the heroes. It refers to the children who braved through extremely difficult times in their young lives.
Recently there has been media attention surrounding ‘cyberbullying’. The Globe and Mail reported this week ‘one in three Canadian kids say they have been a victim of cyberbullying’. Why is this an important issue that requires attention? Because bullying whether cyber bullying or just plain old fashioned bullying can be dangerous to the individual on the receiving end. It could potentially lead to a child becoming depressed or even worse – committing suicide.
With easy access to social media and an overwhelming choice of options it makes bullying much more convenient. You no longer have to wait until you are in the school yard. Bullying can now be done any where, any time and has a much broader reach. I bring up this issue as I am encountering it more and more in my practice and have seen the effects. Being bullied affects a child’s self esteem, self confidence and how they perceive themselves in society. This tends to also be true of a child who bullies. It is not unlikely when you ask a child why they bully they will indicate it makes them feel better.
I do believe we all have a role in preventing the consequences of bullying. Listen, observe and ask questions. As a healthcare professional I will always ask my young patients about school, friendships and extra curricular activities. By doing so it may just preclude two children from having to deal with complex health issues down the road – the child who is bullying and the child on the receiving end.
February 14th was a significant day for me – not just because it was Valentine’s Day but it also meant another trip to the Orthopod. As I was in the waiting room watching Patrick Chan skate to Olympic Silver I was wondering what the outcome of this visit would be. Cast off, cast on; cast off or existing cast remaining in tact…
I had had my CT done and was pleased with the result – subtle nondisplaced fracture of the distal radial metaphysis. The scaphoid bone appears normal. Subtle. This was a good word. Subtle to me meant ‘delicate’, ‘faint’ perhaps almost non-existent.
The Orthopod looked at my scan and report. Based on the findings he recommended another cast but one that would allow my thumb to move freely. I pointed out to him the CT report indicated a ‘subtle’ fracture which was good news. He quickly corrected me by saying the wording should have been ‘incomplete fracture’ and not ‘subtle fracture’. The outcome – cast off, cast on!
And then a change of heart…he looked at me and said no cast but you will be getting a brace. Thank you cupid! With the brace comes greater freedom – showering without a plastic bag on your arm, being able to take the brace off when your wrist becomes itchy and allowing for better mobility.
I always thought of myself as being very disciplined but in this case discipline went out the window. My interpretation of having a brace meant wearing it when convenient. Another interpretation – not wearing it at all. I am now learning the true definition of discipline. It means to wear the brace full time and take it off as needed and NOT to have my brace off all the time and wear it when my wrist begins to throb!!
Two weeks ago I fractured my wrist and heard the words I dreaded hearing – you are getting a cast. After the cast was put on I decided I needed a quirky mantra to use when I was introducing myself during speaking events. I work hard and I play hard so it just made sense to use the mantra ‘Work hard, play hard – get a cast!’
But this is not what my story is about…
I knew my cast was going to prevent me from performing some of my activities of daily living. I quickly realized I would not be able to perform physical exams, would have more difficulty getting ready in the morning and would not be able to enjoy a number of winter sporting activities. It was going to be a challenging time for me but I was up for the challenge.
The orthopaedic surgeon (orthopod) came in to speak with me and informed me he wanted to see me in two weeks time – today. On the back of the card ‘cast removed’ and ‘x-ray’ was checked off. Yes! I will only need to have the cast on for two weeks. I can do this!
I went for my appointment this morning and my cast was removed. It was like I experienced freedom for the first time. My hand looked good. No more swelling and no pain. Of course you are not going to experience pain when you are not moving your wrist…
I had my x-ray done and met again with the orthopod. The x-ray did not show a fracture however when the technician was positioning my hand I started to experience pain and knew this was not a good sign. The orthopod began examining my wrist and was asking if I felt pain in any of the areas he was examining. When he was asking the question I was questioning how I should answer. If I answer yes there may be consequences to my actions and if I answer no there may be consequences to my actions.
Saying no would mean walking away ‘cast free’ and figuring out how to deal with the pain but maybe getting my quality of life back. Saying yes could mean another cast. I decided to say yes and I am back in a cast and going for a CT scan on Monday.
Why did I say yes? Because I knew I was not completely healed and even though being in a cast is inconvenient (get a grip Shelley and count your blessings!) I could do more damage by not allowing my body to heal. So you can say I took the Naturopathic approach to healing – slow and steady. Quick fixes will only get you into trouble down the road – poor healing, arthritis and maybe even surgery…