Thursday, March 27, 2014


“Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists.. it is real.. it is possible.. it’s yours.” ~Quote from “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Ran

It hurts, it hurts badly…my back that is. Apparently I was a little rough on my body over the last 30-some years and now I am paying for it. It’s hard to say what caused my spinal alignment issues. I am
tremendously clumsy and could have been injured from several falls. It could be from the years of strenuous outdoor and recreational activities. Or I could blame it on my most recent stint in childcare. Lugging a stroller and baby up and down the subway steps in NYC cannot be good for anyone’s back. At this point it doesn't matter, I just know that I am in a lot of pain. However, this blog is not for me to whine about my back problems. It is about looking for the signs and the meaning behind the current situation.

I had a recent appointment with my bodyworker (who will remain nameless because he is already in high demand.) He informed me that my spine was twisted and I had several vertebras and ribs out of place, including my C1 vertebra (the Atlas.) I cannot even begin to explain what it feels like to have someone put that little guy back in place. But since the appointment, I have been thinking a lot about the “atlas.”

In anatomy, the atlas (C1) is the most superior vertebra of the spine. This vertebra forms the joint that connects the skull and the spine. It is named after Atlas in Greek mythology because it supports the globe of the head. When the atlas is out of alignment, your whole world is literally out of whack.

I was intrigued that the name of a body part stems from Greek mythology, so I decided to do some research. Atlas was one of the second-generation Titans. He personified the quality of endurance. It is said that he led a rebellion against Zeus and was therefore condemned to bear the heavens upon his shoulders. Others believe that he was appointed guardian of the pillars, which held the earth and sky asunder.

This pictorial depiction of Atlas also peaked my interest. As he bears the weight of the world, he clearly feels pain in his back (as would anyone.) The serpent is also an interesting addition. I didn’t research the actual meaning of the snake, but to me it represents kundalini. Kundalini is described within Eastern traditions as “an indwelling spiritual energy that can be awakened in order to purify the subtle system and ultimately bestow to a state of Divine Union.” The Yoga Upanishad describe Kundalini as “lying coiled at the base of the spine, represented as either a goddess or sleeping serpent waiting to be awakened.” I do believe that we do all have this energy sleeping inside of us. It is just a matter if we decide to wake up and let our true energy ignite. To me, Atlas’ kundalini is fully awake due to his direct connection to the heavens.

In no way do I compare myself to a Greek Titan, but I do relate to the idea of bearing the weight of the heavens on my shoulders. I feel a connection to a voice deep inside me. This voice (or my intuition) has guided me on a pretty crazy journey thus far. However, it has also led me to the realization that my life purpose is to be of service. I realize this is a broad statement, but numerous people have told me that I am a “healer.” My initial response was, “WTF?! A healer? What does that even mean?” However, over time I have come to realize that this is my calling. I am meant to help others heal…physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. It is just who I am and what I am meant to do.

But here is the problem…where do I begin? How do I help others? How do I become a non-traditional healer and still be able to pay my rent? I have been on this path since 2010, but some days I feel further away from fulfilling my purpose and doing my life’s work. I just need a map to tell me which way to go! Which ironically brings me back to the word “atlas.” According to the dictionary, an atlas is “a book of maps or charts.” 

As I find myself at another crossroads, I keep thinking that a map would be really nice (even if it was written in German.) But where is the fun in knowing what lies ahead, right?!

I think my biggest fear is that I will wake up one day and think “what if”, “if only” or “I wish I had.” I don’t want to live for one-day. I want to live right now, in this moment. I distinctly remember a conversation I had with a friend right before I left New Zealand. I was sitting on the step scribbling in my journal and he asked what I was writing. I excitedly replied that I was writing a list of all the things I want to do or accomplish one day. He looked at me with a judgmental (yet encouraging) facial expression and then told me to not live my life for "one day." It’s too easy to push your dreams and desires off and keep saying “one day I will…”. Live in the moment. Do it today!

That conversation has stuck with me. Yet, here I am again...saying one day I will start my own business…one day I will do what I love… One day I will “be a healer.” I have come to the realization that all of these things won’t just happen. I have to take small steps to get there. And with the state of the union (my back), smalls steps are all that I can take right now. So if you’re still reading, I encourage each and everyone of you to take that first step. Follow that first step with other small actions steps toward reaching your goals, fulfilling your purpose and living the life you have only dreamed of. But don’t forget to enjoy the journey as well.

So I will leave you with this…

“I started my life with a single absolute: that the world was mine to shape in the image of my highest values and never to be given up to a lesser standard, no matter how long or hard the struggle.” ~Ayn Ran

Sunday, February 23, 2014

"She still aint awake...but she is grinnin..."

"The brave don't live forever, but the cautious don't live at all."

Every once in awhile something crosses my path that truly speaks to me. It could be a quote, a song, a person, or an experience. This week it was a documentary called The Crash Reel. I stumbled upon this movie at a very interesting time. It has been haunting me and I just can't seem to shake when I can't escape something, the best thing I can do is write about it.

This documentary is about the life of U.S. snowboarding champion, Kevin Pearce. It documents the challenges he endures after a near-fatal accident in Park City, Utah. The film follows Kevin and his family as he suffers from a Traumatic Brain injury and recovers from the accident. This is not just another ski/snowboarding movie. It is a film about strength, the human spirit and family. Even if you have no interest in snow sports, I highly recommend The Crash Reel (plus the soundtrack is amazing.)

I just celebrated my 34th birthday up at Stevens Pass Ski Area. It was an amazing day of skiing with great friends. As I struggled to ski waste deep powder, I was reminded how lucky I was to be able to celebrate my birthday in such an exhilarating way. The day of my birthday also marks the two-year anniversary of an avalanche at Stevens Pass that deeply impacted people who mean a lot to me. New York Times writer, John Branch, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his article "Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek." As Stevens Pass received over 10 feet of snow in 10 days this past week, it also lost another member of it's team to an unfortunate accident. Ken Kelley fell and hit his head while snowboarding. My deepest sympathy to the friends and family of those lost.

The events of this last week and the documentary are just reminders of how lucky I am.

To date, I have suffered from one severe concussion, two moderate concussions and two mild concussions. Each concussion was such a freak accident. I am truly fortunate to be alive and well. However, each time I hit my head I can definitely tell that something changes and I am not the person I was before. My memory has drastically declined and I find it more difficult to make complete sentences and remember words (that I once knew). After a few of the hits, I couldn't clearly communicate or read for days. I also dealt with anger and depression during those times.

My first concussion happened back in April of 2009. The World's Toughest Cowboy was in Portland and that week I was doing PR/promotions with members of the tour. By the end of the week, I had become pretty good friends with Kenny the Rodeo Clown and Chuck-wagon Racer. He was eager to hit Mt. Hood while he was in town, so I offered to take him up on our day off. The conditions were good in the morning and we had a great half day of riding. Like most days on the mountain, we went in for lunch and enjoyed some local brew. During lunch the clouds moved in, but we decided to go up for a couple more runs before we headed down the mountain. When we got to the top of the chairlift the Ski Patroller told us it was the last run because they were closing due to heavy winds.

The wind was so strong that it knocked me over, so I sat by the top of the lift and waited for the gust to die down. The next thing I knew I was laying on the ground. When I opened my eyes I saw metal and a crowd of people standing around me. It was a freak accident. The wind was so strong that it picked up one of the Ski Patrol metal sleds, propelled it through the air and hit the back of my head. They walked me over to the Ski Patrol shack and put me on oxygen. I might have been a little bit tipsy form the beer, but I was definitely out of it. I remember being really angry at the Ski Patrollers for asking me so many questions.

"She still aint awake...but she is grinnin..." ~Facebook post on April 1, 2009 by Kenny

I was determined that I was going to snowboard down the mountain because I refused to "be wrapped up like a burrito in the sled that caused my injury." After awhile, I realized I wasn't going to win that one because I was in no shape to ride. So they wrapped me in the sled and started the trek down the mountain. As if things weren't bad enough, half way down the run the wind knocked over the Ski Patroller and the sled I was riding in flipped over. There I was laying face down in the snow...again! That night I miraculously made it home safely and went to bed. 

The next few days were rough. I was extremely nauseous, foggy and weak. I was in and out of doctor appointments and had to recruit friends to take me because I was too out of it to drive. I will never forget when I was waiting for my CT scan and the receptionist gasped. She turned to her co-worker and said, "Did you hear that Natasha Richardson just died? She was skiing and fell and hit her head." That was the last thing you want to hear as you wait to see how your own brain is doing. It took several months for me to get back to normal. 

Ever since that fateful day I have had a string of freak accidents. The hatch of a car fell on me, I got kicked in the side of the head while swing dancing, and I fell this summer while wakesurfing. My second worst concussion happened while I was in living in New Zealand. I was snowboarding out of bounds and it was extremely icy. I thought I was safe because I was skiing with friends who worked for Ski Patrol and the Medical Clinic. However, I quickly realized they were much faster than me and I was falling behind. While trying to keep up, I caught an edge and my head flew back and hit the ice. Luckily I was wearing a helmet because my head carved a 6" inch deep hole out of the ice. I didn't black out, but I definitely felt off after the crash. The concussion symptoms worsened over the next few days. I lost my speech, couldn't read, and I was extremely angry and tired. I remember going to work and trying to help a customer. They asked me a question about goggles and I couldn't answer because I couldn't remember the words and put a sentence together. 

Snowboarding at Mt Ruapehu in New Zealand in July 2012

In all honesty, I don't feel like I am the same person I was before each of the accidents. It is extremely frustrating at times. I find that I sometimes struggle to read children's books to Alta, I find it difficult to form sentences when I talk to my friends, and well, my memory is just shot. I am not comparing myself to Kevin Pearce in any way, but I do relate to his frustration as he tries to learn to adapt to his new brain. I also understand his desire to keep riding. Yes, I suppose I should sit home on the weekends and protect my head. However, I have such a passion for outdoor activities. What is a girl to do?

Life is short. Enjoy it, but be smart. Protect your brain. Say a prayer. And always tell the people you care about that you love them.