Grief, A Year Later


C1.JPG

Oof. This is going to be a hard one to write. Even as I just sit thinking about the general last year of my life tears start to come to my eyes. 

Last year was hard. 

It was a year full of upheaval. Full of loss and grief. Change and fighting stagnation. Sadness and joy. 

This time last year I put down my cat, Patches. I have never made a harder decision in my life. Moving to Paris was easier. Buying a car was easier. Nothing has torn at the fabric of my soul so much as that decision. I frequently still mull over whether I made the right choice. And I keep reminding myself that I did. 

Patches was in her 17th year. She had been my cat friend since I was 12. Her illness came on fast. It was inconclusive and not diagnosed. She had fits where she could barely breathe at the end. But she was still my grumpy lady, knocking over water bowls, watching TV with me, and purring. She certainly didn't make the decision easy. 

I play those images, Patches sitting on the couch, those last moments before the vet put her down, over in my head often. Sometimes I bring them up purposefully, most of the time accidentally. Does that seem tortuous? It is. (If I wasn't crying earlier, I certainly am now.) But it is also a reminder that I don't take anything lightly. This life can be over so quickly, and we better make the most of it while we can. 

Patches' passing was the catalyst I needed for change. I was stuck. I had moved to New York for a job I thought I would love for a long time. My interests had evolved quickly in that year, though, and I felt a deeper yearning to move into the healing space, to give my time and knowledge to helping others find balance in their bodies. 

For a few months after Patches passed, my thyroid function tanked deep. It was all I could do to get out of bed and go to work. I have never felt so physically exhausted as I did then.

About a month later, I adopted a 5-month old kitten, and she quickly broke up the stagnant grief that was forming. Cricket was (and still is) a ping-pong ball of energy. After coming home to find my room in pieces one day, I questioned if this kitten was the best move. I had an appointment with my facialist, Melanie Herring, and talked about it before our session. As I laid on the table, Melanie doing her magic, she said could feel that this kitten was a good thing for me. I needed something, and someone, to break things apart. To break the grief. And that was Cricket.

While this past year has also included the passing of a beloved aunt, quitting my job, moving to a new city, struggling to find a new job, balancing two jobs, and getting accepted into herb school, that grief over my baby cat Patchy has still been there. Still is there. Sometimes I call Cricket Patches. Sometimes I confuse their images in my brain when I think of Cricket. I have to remind myself that it's Cricket, not Patches, who waits for me at home. 

Has my grief transformed? Wholeheartedly, yes. It has softened. It is not gone. Nor do I really wish for it to be. If I'm honest, I want to hold on to that image forever--the image of my last moments with Patches--to remember what I have lost, the consequences of each decision I make, and the joy that comes with loving. 

I'm not sure what my future grief may look like. I will love and lose again. That is the nature of life. But I will hold on to each precious moment and tell my loved ones how much I care for them while I can. Even if that's just giving little Cricket an extra treat tonight.

 

If you are grieving, reach out. Find someone to talk to. We cannot do this on our own. I am infinitely grateful to the friends and family who have been there for me this year. 

Ladybugs + Processing Emotions


IMG_1643.JPG

I heard that ladybugs come at moments when we need them. I chanced upon this one on one of my favorite herbs, red clover, and was waiting to find out what it could speak to in my life. Apparently, ladybugs caution us to not rush into striving to fulfill our dreams, but to enjoy life as it unfolds. Funny how those things happen sometimes...

Things have been really hard lately. I can't remember the last day that I haven't at least teared up once or full-on cried. I had my first therapy session this past week. The first thing the therapist said when I sat down was "This was a big step." And she's right. It was a big step. It was admitting that I can't process all the thoughts in my head. That I need someone to help me make sense of what I'm feeling. My emotions are so surface-level that I can cry at a moment's notice. It hurts, y'all. The grief. The anger underneath the grief. The lack of trust in the unfolding of my future. The need to hold on so tightly and have it all together. I just wanted to write this short note to remind you (and me) that you are not alone. If you are hurting, if you are broken, there is always someone experiencing the same thing as you. Thank God we were not put on islands all by ourselves. This is also a reminder that sometimes the best thing you can do for others is to take care of yourself first. It's just like they say on airplanes about oxygen masks. Sometimes you need fall apart to be built back up, but reach out. Ask for help. Feeling emotionally unwell sucks (trust me), but the good news is we don't have to be there for long. I'm so thankful for the family and friends I have around me who have been patient in this time and respond when I reach out.

Jessica Murnane + Reflecting on the Old Self


Photo by Nicole Franzen for One Part Plant

Photo by Nicole Franzen for One Part Plant

My sister is a treasure trove of information. I don't know how she does it, but somehow she finds most of the things that make me happy. I have her to credit for putting me on to today's interviewee. Jessica Murnane is an inspiration. She's a podcast host, cookbook author, plant-based eating evangelist, and mother to one of the cutest kids I've ever seen (seriously). I had the chance to meet her through helping to launch her cookbook baby, One Part Plant, into the world. I was so excited that she agreed to let me interview her to share with you here. 

 

Before jumping into the interview, I wanted to share something I've been struggling with that Jessica addresses below: the old self. The old Lisa has been haunting me a bit lately. Old me ate until she was beyond full. She shoved every sugary thing in her mouth. She was sick, but she ate anything that she wanted. It isn't hard for me to admit that I miss old Lisa, even if I didn't feel well then. I want to eat pizza and not stress about what on the menu I CAN eat. What IS hard for me to admit is that I actually really like the idea of the new me. While I've still been feeling pretty fatigued, I like the idea of enjoying exercise and having great digestion. Of balancing my hormones and skin naturally. It's a work in progress, but I have to remember that it's barely been a year since I radically shifted my lifestyle. One day, this will be easier, but for now I just need to have a little patience with myself and keep up the good work. 

[Side note: In case you are unfamiliar, endometriosis is a condition where the tissue that makes up the lining of the uterus attaches itself to other parts of the body, usually within the abdomen. As the lining builds up during the cycle, the rogue tissue builds up as well causing pain and cramping. Jessica refers to this condition below.]


Tell me about why you started the One Part Plant Movement?

I changed my diet because of my Stage IV endometriosis. Well, I should say I "tried" to change my diet for Stage IV endo. I didn't think it would actually work. I had tried so many things to manage my pain and symptoms and nothing helped. I planned on getting a hysterectomy before a friend intervened and suggested I try a plant-based diet. I told her I would try it for three weeks and see what happens. In the back of my mind, I thought I'd still get the surgery. But then in just a couple of weeks, I began to feel better. I was able to get out of bed, exercise, and feel alive again. I never got the hysterectomy. 

But changing my diet was one of the hardest things I've ever done. There were moments where I thought it would just be easier to get a hysterectomy. I didn't know how to cook. I didn't know what to eat if I did cook. I felt so alone in my new food choices. I created One Part Plant for all those people like me. People that didn't wake up loving kale smoothies. People that struggle with food choices and change. I never want anyone to feel the way I did! 

 

Did endometriosis affect your digestion, skin, or hormones before you changed your diet?

I mean, my endo still affects my digestion, skin, and hormones. But now it feels manageable. In the old days, the week before my period you'd find me curled up on the bathroom floor crying. I was out of control emotionally. My face would be a mess and had terrible digestion. 

Now is a different story. I'm not saying I don't get moody now, because I can still be a little asshole the week before. But I'm more in control. I'll still get a pimple from time to time. And if I go off my endo diet, I'll have bathroom issues. But I'm a completely different woman!! 

 

Once you changed your diet and your endometriosis began to be managed, did you notice any other changes physically?

I still battle with inflammation issues (which I'm working on), so I'm not rocking a six-pack or anything . But overall, I just look healthier. My eyes are wider and whiter, my skin is softer, and I just feel so much better physically. It's been a huge lesson in my relationship with food. I make food choices based on managing my pain and symptoms and not on what foods make me "skinny" or "fat". 

 

What about mentally? 

There is a huge difference mentally for me. When you live with chronic pain and you know that every single month that you will lose a few days-week of your life because of your illness, it can put you in a very dark place. I was severely depressed and there were some days that I just didn't want to wake up knowing the pain I'd be in. 

I think it's so important that we raise more awareness about endo because of infertility issues and unnecessary surgeries, but we can't forget to talk about the mental toll it can have on a woman. It's very real and needs to be talked about. 

 

On a recent podcast you spoke with Minaa B about your "old self". This is something I am grappling with right now, too. Can you tell me what your old self was like? Do you ever miss her?

My old self still lingers around. I don't miss her, but do recognize the fact that she's made me who I am. She's the reason I got to change my life, write a book, and talk to you right now. She's insanely strong and determined, but was just in so much pain, (mentally and physically). She creeps back in when I'm struggling with negative self-talk. She can VISIT, but I kick her out because sometimes she overstays her welcome! 

 

What has been toughest about reconciling your new self to your old self?

Pizza. Kidding. But not kidding. Pizza meaning just being able to go out with a group of friends to grab some pizza and not having to plan ahead about what options I can eat there. I get bummed about this, but then remind myself just how shitty I felt after eating that pizza. I could be in bed for the day because of it. Having to plan ahead is worth feeling good...even if sometimes it feels like a pain. 

 

How do you celebrate the person you've become while still honoring your past?

By acknowledging her and not pretending that it wasn't hard to get here. 

 

As a teen, and even into adulthood, I had no idea what was going on in my body. You've been starting to speak to young girls about endo. What has the response been? Are things clicking for them?

At first they are like "who is this chick coming in at 8am to talk about periods?!". I'm a pretty open person and have to remind myself that they are still teenagers and aren't as open yet (and may not ever be) talking about periods. The thing that always gets them to get more engaged is when I tell them that 1 in 10 women have endo. They can look around the room and know that one of their friends or themselves might have it, it makes it less of an abstract idea. 

The most important thing is for them to know the symptoms. This is something I focus on a lot in my sessions with them. Just knowing the symptoms is a huge education moment. Not just for themselves, but they might be able to help other women around them. 

 

When you began this lifestyle and diet change did you use any herbs or essential oils to assist you in the transition?

I didn't! I wish I did. It was weird enough to me that I was eating vegetables, essential oils were not even on my radar. Since then, I know the power of them. My friend, Giselle Wasfie (she's a Chinese Medicine Dr.) has educated me on all things herbs and oils. My favorite phrase she says is "HERBS WORK". They do. They are so powerful and it's important to find which ones work and don't work for you. I loved my interview with her on my podcast

 

Do you have a daily self-care routine? 

It really varies every single day depending where I am in the country. I've been traveling a lot on my book tour. But I always try to get in some form of body movement. Even if that's just doing a 20 minute yoga class on my Aaptiv app in a hotel (I just did that on Saturday!) or finding a quick workout somewhere in the city I am visiting. I always make sure to take my Tumeric, B12, and D. Eat something green. And I try to make someone happy everyday. 

I think lots of potions, powders, and self-care "stuff" is cool. But I try to keep it pretty simple, so I don't get stressed about adding more to my day or feeling guilty because I forgot to skin brush. P.S. I do love skin brushing, but am usually half-way through my shower when I remember I was supposed to do it! 

 

Before guests leave your podcast they always share their favorite plant-based recipe. What are you sharing with us?

AH! Turning the tables. I love this Creamy Mushroom Lasagna from the One Part Plant Cookbook. It's one that for sure doesn't taste "healthy" and you can share with all type of eaters in your life, plant-based or not. 

 

Photo by Nicole Franzen for One Part Plant

Photo by Nicole Franzen for One Part Plant

Creamy Mushroom Lasagna

serves 8

Olive, grape seed, or coconut oil, or veggie broth for sautéeing
3 garlic cloves, minced
16 ounces mushrooms, chopped (you can use a mix of different mushrooms)
1 tablespoon tamari or coconut aminos
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 cup raw cashews, soaked for a few hours (overnight is best), drained
1 cup veggie broth
2 big handfuls spinach
10 ounces gluten-free lasagna noodles (I love Tinkyada’s brown rice pasta)
4 cups marinara sauce, store-bought (a 32 oz jar) or homemade
Nutritional yeast (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large skillet, heat a glug of oil or veggie broth over medium. When the pan is hot, add the garlic and sauté until it becomes fragrant. This will take about a minute. Add the mushrooms, tamari, and thyme. Cook, stirring every minute or so, for 6 to 8 minutes or until the mushrooms release their water and a little broth starts to form.

Combine the cashews and veggie broth in a high-speed blender and blend until the mixture is completely smooth. This might take up to 5 minutes, depending on the speed and power of your blender. Pour the cashew sauce into the pan with the mushrooms. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for a couple minutes to let the sauce thicken, stirring frequently. Throw in the spinach and stir for another minute.

Prepare the lasagna noodles according to the package instructions. Make sure to do this after your mushroom sauce is ready to go, so the noodles don’t sit for too long and start sticking together. Spread a third of the marinara sauce on the bottom of an 8-by-11-inch baking dish. Add a layer of noodles. Cover the noodles with half of the mushroom cream. Add a layer of noodles. Use another third of the marinara to cover these noodles. Add the remaining mushroom cream. Add the last layer of noodles and cover it with the remaining marinara sauce. 

Cover the lasagna with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, add a sprinkle of nutritional yeast over the top, if you like, and bake for another 15 minutes. Let the lasagna rest for 5 minutes before serving.

 

Thank you so much to Jessica for answering my questions! You can find out more about her and the One Part Plant Movement by heading to her website and connecting with her on Instagram @jessicamurnane and @onepartplant. Be sure to tag @onepartplant and #onepartplant if you make this yummy lasagna!

Notes on Grief


I've been trying to think of what to write to you for a few weeks now. I want to tell you that I'm doing fine. That I have the answer of what herb has been getting me through my grief. That I have all the answers of how to move through this time with strength and peace. But I have no answers for you. The only things that have helped get me through this loss have been my faith in God as my comforter and the love, support, and kind words from my friends and family. So this is what I want to tell you, because I don't want to leave things unsaid, as if I will just jump back into talking about cooking and face masks without acknowledging that something awful happened:

Almost three weeks ago I had to put down my best friend of 16 years, a grumpy, chubby, weird, and so sweet cat named Patches. The loss has been devastating. I walk in the house every day expecting to see her wide-eyed sitting on my bed ready to greet me. But she is there no longer. My heart is broken in ways I didn't quite know were possible. Everything feels tinged with a sadness and a wonder in its value in my life. I still feel somewhat guilty in smiling or laughing and I remember how much joy P brought into my life and I can't help but smile. Her sweet face made even the worst days better. One day I will get another cat, and it won't be P, and I will get through it. I will learn to love deeper through the love that she has given me. 

So thank you, friends, for your kindness during this time. It has meant so much to know I'm not alone in this.

Reflections on Eating


Creamy Cocoa with Sweet Potatoes Soup from the Soup Cleanse Cookbook by Nicole Centeno

Creamy Cocoa with Sweet Potatoes Soup from the Soup Cleanse Cookbook by Nicole Centeno

What do you eat when you grieve? This week has been hard. Not only has the country felt like it's in a state of upheaval, but I've been going through some personal issues as well. The health of my sixteen-year-old cat, Patches, has started to decline with no cause as of yet and this week brought not great news. I can either spend a ton of money and put Patches through a lot to find an answer, or I can try an antibiotic and steroid and hope for the best. The possibility of losing the cat I've had since I was 12 is one of the hardest things I've had to face as an adult. Making the choice for someone else about how they want to live (or go) is not a decision I feel capable of making. For now, we're going to try some antibiotics and say some prayers. 

As I reflected on my week, I started to notice a pattern in my food habits. This week I made a few batch soups from Nicole Centeno's Soup Cleanse Cookbook. They were a lifesaver! They've been breakfast and dinner and lunch, at least one to two times a day. Quick soups easily heated up on the stove feel so comforting to me and help me not to worry about what I will be eating. I think that's the hardest part of eating when you feel sad. When you don't feel the energy to cook, but need to eat, what do you do? When you are reduced to only eating for the need to survive, does that make the act of eating meaningless? I've tried to practice more mindfulness in my eating habits, but I just couldn't seem to focus. I also noticed how much I eat when I feel sad (and bored). Once I noticed this habit I was able to start asking myself, "Do I feel hungry right now?" If the answer was no, I shut the fridge door (or gave into a cookie, I mean, let's be real, I'm not perfect!). I'm going to start asking myself this question more and hopefully be able to listen to what my body wants, and not what my mind is craving. 

What do you eat when you are grieving? What do you eat when you are sad or heartbroken? Do you eat at all? I'd love to hear how you deal with eating during trying times or ways you've started to break patterns in your food habits. 

Sometimes I Need to Hear Things Twice


Sometimes I need to hear things twice before I REALLY hear them. Such was the case this past week when I attended The Class by Taryn Toomey on Wednesday. They mention on the website how cathartic of an experience The Class can be. The sounds, movement, and sweat can really get emotions flowing. While in the cool down after intense cardio, I contemplated what I needed to leave in the room before I headed back into the world. My mind immediately jumped to something Erin Stutland says in her "Soul Stroll" audio.

"What you used to think was hard is now easy. Just see if you can take on this idea that it's easy. That life is just getting easier. " 

These words brought tears to my eyes. As crazy hard as the workout was, my life has been feeling harder. It's been so hard to see my face breakout. To see my thyroid hormone plateau at an elevated level. To not know if something I eat is going to make me feel terrible. But as I sat there on that mat and heard those words again (which to be honest, I've heard them at least 20 times), I realized I had a choice to make. I could either choose to let my life feel hard or I could choose to let my life feel easy. I don't know about you, but I want any easy life. Does that mean I won't have bad days? Of course not. But choosing my health is an easy choice. Choosing to not eat specific foods because they can disrupt my body's processes sounds like an easy choice. Is it challenging? YES. But it is the easy choice to make. I keep thinking how hard it is to have to watch what I eat so carefully. And is this going to be life for as long as I live? It probably will be. But that doesn't mean it has to be hard. It may feel hard for awhile. Hard to figure out what my body responds well to, but it will get easier. The more I pay attention to how I feel with certain foods, exercises, and daily habits, the easier it will be to stay on the path of health. 

3 Ways I (Try to) Cope with Anxiety


I wrote the post below while sitting on a plane heading back to New Orleans for Christmas. I'm going to be honest, it's pretty personal, and possibly TMI. It also feels good to post it knowing that the people who need to read it will, and anyone else will just know my digestive system a little better. Also, to my cousin Charlotte who sat next to me on the plane, if you read this, sorry and I love you!


At present, I'm sitting on a plane with Debussy in my ears while still hearing the screeching cry of a baby a few rows away. And I am feeling that baby's pain. Maybe not that much. But I'm uncomfortable. My stomach is popping little gas bubbles all the time and I can't figure out why. Yes, those zucchini potato latkes at the airport may have been a bad idea. But why? They were oven baked. Nothing weird. And the few fries I had? Not out of the ordinary. Somehow though immediately upon consumption I felt terrible. Sharp stomach pains then annoying bloating and gas. And then I ate some banana bread. And some dried mango.

I've been having weird stomach problems for a few days now and it's something that comes and goes. Overall, my digestion is better. Better than it was last year. Better than it was 6 months ago. But I'm going home. And that brings anxiety. Sometimes I am the strongest disciplined person, able to say no to the things I don't want and know will make my body feel awful. But lately I've been giving into cookies and sugar and things I know I don't want to consume. The anxiety I've been feeling over going home, over the election, and the stress my family has been under because of it has taken a toll on my strong will. I want comfort. I want mac and cheese. I definitely don't want kale. I want a po-boy and bread and cookies. I want bacon. These are things that have never made me feel good. So the question becomes how do I move through this? How do I cope with anxiety and the stress I feel I'm under? Well, I'm still figuring that out. 

One thing that seems to work well for me is writing. Even a few minutes helps release a lot of tension that I feel. Writing this now I'm consciously having to unclench my jaw just from the build up of anxiety that's manifesting itself in my body. 

Another thing is breathing. Consciously, deeply breathing. I'm a breath holder. It's unconscious but sometimes I have to remind myself to breathe. 

Talking (and usually crying whilst talking) has also become a big part of moving through this season. I'm a very emotional person anyways but this season has brought an uptick of sharing my feelings with others and looking for support and someone to talk it out with. My sister has been a big part of this as well as a few other dear friends without whom I would be a mess. I'm also looking forward to potentially seeking some professional guidance in the new year. 

This outlet of talking is also coming forth in community. I've set up a meeting this month for women who have (currently or otherwise) health issues and need space to be supported by other women. As I've reflected on this year, I've realized how far I've come, while also feeling like I haven't moved at all. I've been getting a lot of advice but I see the need to just vent and cry and be comforted in the unknowing of what my health looks like and will look like in the future. If you're in the NYC area and interested in participating, please email me at the address in the About section. There is no better time than the present to hold each other up and give comfort and support.