2015’s been a Big Year for me….. I turned 60 in May and my only child, my beautiful daughter, Annie, married in September.
At the time it seemed like just another birthday. But now as I look back many months later I realize that I have actually experienced quite a shift in myself.
I’ve known for a long time that I already have everything I need, but I now feel it viscerally. I know it’s partly a big dose of luck but also the result of consistent work over many many years.
I’m keenly aware that I’ve been able to enjoy the gifts of that hard work because of my parents. We escaped the communist country of my birth, Hungary, and they carried me in their arms to this amazing land of opportunity, almost six decades ago. For their sacrifices and all that I have as a result of their brave choices, I am grateful beyond measure.
I was a toddler when we left Budapest, on very short notice, during the failed 1956 Uprising against Soviet Communism. We had a harrowing ten day ordeal to get across the border and lived in a string of refugee camps for many months, arriving in the U.S. in the spring of 1957 in time for my sister, Naomi, to be born an American. Life was plenty hard, but my parents so appreciated the freedom here that the struggles of early immigrant life were overshadowed by their joy of living in a free and open society.
I was fortunate to receive a full scholarship to Stone Ridge Country Day School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, Md, outside Washington, D.C. There I was inspired to a deep personal faith in God, and instilled with lasting respect for intellectual values, building community through social action and a love of learning, that has been the cornerstone of my own personal growth.
My high school classmate, Maria Shriver, wrote a terrific blog recently about turning 60 in which she listed 60 things she’s learned over her lifetime. (Read her blog here)
I chuckled; she’s always been a high achiever!
My life has been colorful and filled with many many different experiences. One summer in college I was a research geologist on a Mid Atlantic Ocean dredging expedition ( out of the University of Rhode Island, Narragansett) and only 1 of 2 women of a 35 member crew.
Another summer, I was the director of an environmental education camp, the Living Rivers Program, on the Miramichi River of New Brunswick, Canada ( run by the Quebec-Labrador Foundation) that was so remote it could only be reached by river scow when the tide was in. Our only form of communication two way radio. Every morning we saw osprey flying overhead and often ate fresh salmon caught right in front of our camp. It was an amazing summer!
In 1977, newly graduated from Wesleyan University, CT, I backpacked through Europe with my younger sister. We met our Hungarian relatives for the first time. Hungary was still an Iron Curtain country and I was terrified when the border police confiscated my passport as soon as our train entered Hungary. Having been born in Budapest and visiting 20 years later apparently made me “a person of interest”. I had to retrieve my papers from the decrepit Budapest police headquarters, where I witnessed some police brutality that I’ll never forget.
During that trip, my sister was run over by a taxi, and spent two days in an Italian hospital. Then our Eurailpasses and passports were stolen, we had no money and had to seek refuge at a campground to wait out the week before our charter flight returned us home. I’ll never forget the look on my parents face when they caught a glimpse of Naomi as we arrived in LaGuardia, with a cast that covered her entire torso.
I survived the challenges of my first 40 years and lots more without a cell phone and ready access to my familiar support system. Throughout my early life I learned self reliance, discipline and honed my problem-solving skills.
Which brings me to the subject of courage, which in my life has manifested as walking down paths that were not popular or generally accepted. When I started talking about nutritional principles such as “leaky gut”, “non celiac gluten sensitivity”, food allergies, and supplements such as probiotics and COQ10, they were unknown by the general public, but are now considered mainstream. Twenty five years ago there were times when I was called a “quack” in my community yet today these principles commonly are accepted. It gives me great satisfaction that one of my favorite topics, “holistic health” is a popular buzz word and people are seeking healing through nutrition.
My career as a nutritionist has been so rewarding to me. I have loved helping people regain not only their health but their hope for a better life. I love passing on tools that have helped me with my own health challenges and adding to my toolkit regularly.
I want to thank each and every one of you for being part of the unfolding of my gifts. With each new challenge you bring me, come opportunities to learn about the amazing human body.
Functional testing has really elevated Angie’s and my ability to pinpoint health issues and correct them with “elegant” or minimal supplement regimens and dietary corrections. It’s been a terrific tool for us and our clients and the more we learn about new testing the more it benefits us all.
As the New Year begins I’d like to share with you some of my cornerstone life principals gleaned over my 60 years:
As hard as I try to simplify, life is not simple. So I’ve learned to meet it where it is. Sometimes it’s just chop wood and carry water, but even then, it’s all in the attitude. I’m happiest when I’m at home, fiddling around in the kitchen or in the garden or hanging out with my family and our animals, doing ordinary things, sometimes leading to extraordinary moments.
Be kind: I’m no longer a practicing Catholic but I consider kindness my religion. To humans and animals, to the earth. Towards all beings. We are not the same but if we can respect each other, that is enough.
Don’t expect yourself to be the same all the time. We change and our needs change with the seasons of the year (including what we eat!) and the stage of our life. Acknowledge what you need and seek it out.
Bloom where you’re planted. Work with what you’ve got, use what you’re given. Make changes when you need to…..and be bold!
Look for signs. Concentrate on listening to the “still small voice within”. Observe your emotional terrain and notice when landscapes change. Have the courage to act on those prompts.
Take time every day for silence. So you can calm your spirit and hear that inner voice that I mention above. This may be my single most important habit that I’d like to pass onto you. Every day is better if it starts with active silence. Listen to the silence.
Be Patient. If you can’t decide on something, wait. It means all the pieces to make that decision are not yet in place. You can’t hurry decision making, just as you can’t hurry the growth of a plant. There is a cycle and rhythm to both processes.
Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu explains this beautifully :
“Do you have the patience to wait
Till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
Till the right action arises by itself?”
Take time every day to do something you enjoy, whether it be taking a walk, playing with your animals, reading a book, doing a few yoga stretches. Try to address the needs of both your mind and your body. The body and mind are one, each makes the other stronger.
Trust that things will work out for the best, even if you can’t see it at present. Sometimes it takes years for illumination. Sometimes you’ll never know. I’ve found that asking for help from the Divine as well as from humans during those times is crucial.
There is a hidden gift in most calamities. Look for it and it will help you see your way through the difficulties. Remember, we often learn more from our mistakes and difficulties than from our successes.
Don’t take things personally. It’s rarely about you. Most often it’s the suffering of the other that causes people to lash out at you. And if it IS an action of yours that has caused another suffering, own it.
Don’t make assumptions. Ask questions. Act on facts, not fiction or your own made up story about how things are or should be. By the way, this one challenges me the most!
My husband says that we become who we have always been if we live consciously. Thank you, dearest, for giving me that. So pay attention. You WILL get guidance to help you make good choices along the way, choices that will help you bring your unique gifts to the world, find your “family”, both blood and otherwise, and bring you contentment and peace as a result.
Love really IS all that matters. And the present moment. That’s it. Moments and love are all that matter.
Relax into the moments by not rushing through your life. Even if you go fast through your day, do it mindfully.
Not only will you be less fatigued but you’ll notice the love that surrounds and nurtures you. Cultivate your moments, relax into the love.
Be there for your life!
Peace to you in 2016,
Photo at top: My daughter Annie and I at her wedding.