You can find me over at my new space on the web: www.aliciabockel.com
I have had a lot of inspiration to get back into this space and share the play by play of the twists and turns that my life story has taken as of late. I have gone through this beautiful growth period this summer, and now that Autumn is upon us, I think it’s a good time to put fingers to keyboard and share a little update.
When I last posted, Spring had just begun, and I was getting ready to ship myself off to Montreal for a 10 day Vipassana retreat. This experience was something that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I genuinely relished in the monotony of waking up at 4am every morning, staying silent, meditating 10 hours a day, and having no distractions except my own thoughts. And, after a few days, my monkey mind calmed down and I didn’t have many thoughts to deal with either, and I could just let my emotional baggage unload itself. The biggest takeaway that I had after the retreat was that I am in control of my own emotions and I don’t have to let other people’s problems become my own. I guess the biggest “leave-behind” that I had was the big unraveling of my headstrong idea that I will one day have a baby. I had to let go of the life I thought would have in order to make space for the life I do have. This is an ongoing process, and like any of life’s big challenges, it comes in waves of ebb and flow.
After the retreat, we headed back to Europe for the summer. We flew in to Luxembourg, and drove down to Chamonix, France, where we had some quality time with the family up in altitude. From trips to the glaciers to visits to the supermarket with the best quality veggies in the valley, this little trip was a lot of fun and it got me excited about being back in Europe.
Next we headed down south through the Dolomites and into Tuscany, where we settled into our sunny summer base. We rented an apartment in the Monte San Quirico area of Lucca, a beautiful medieval city close to Florence. For the next four months, we ate amazing fresh vegetables from the local farmers and spent many a night on our terrace, bathing in the moonlight and taking in the star shows. I cycled to Italian school every morning, Peanut in the basket in the front, books and laundry in the basket in the back, and began to maneuver the cobble streets like a local. I let elderly neighbors take me for walks around the neighborhood and introduce me to each Lucchese whom we crossed paths with along the way. I saw that foreign tongue take me from complete confusion to open communication, and I rejoiced in my ability to renew my cell phone plan or trade garden tips in Italian, which just weeks before would have been impossible. Language is such a beautiful thing. It opens doors to people’s hearts, those that would otherwise remain elusively shut. And I am so astonished at the speed in which the brain can assimilate and whole new vocabulary and use it to speak with others in such a short time. It was all a beautiful learning experience and I cherished my summer in Italy with my love, and our little dog.
We had a few trips to Austria mixed in there, to escape the heat of the Tuscan sun. The mountain air up in Fuschl am See is so refreshing. I just drank it in. We spent a lot of time at the lake, stand up paddle boarding with Peanut at the helm, and hanging out and chatting nonstop with our good friends over there.
When our summer was finally coming to a close, we decided to change our flights to the US to a later date and take a big camping trip through Norway. We took all of the seats out of the van, and put in a couple of mattresses and camping essentials, and headed up north. We have driven around 70 hours in total! This trip has been one of, if not the, best trip we have ever taken together. Camping is so freeing. We just drive from place to place as our hearts desire–stocking the back of the van with fruits and veggies, and many hours of audiobooks. We are getting back to nature and to each other, and Norway has been so good to us. This place is magical.
So, as I sit on the rainy coast of Norway and watch the sun set on my summer in Europe, I am overwhelmed with gratefulness. I am sitting on the edge of something even more amazing, and I can so sense this change in me and my external world. Thank you summer for letting me walk in your sunlight and question things, only to have you give me the answers I was looking for–the only answer which is to let go of trying to find answers. The seasons are changing now and so am I. I am moving into a chapter of extreme and radical self-love, that is fueled by my desire to evolve to who I really am. For this turning of the page, I am covered by a sense of conviction and knowing that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.
Spring is officially here, and my inner self seems to reflect the blossoming change that I see around me. As I sit up in my perch, aka my attic studio, I am blessed enough to overlook all of the fresh green oak leaves that have pushed their way through, leaving lots of brown ones on the street for me to rake up. Out with the old and in with the new, the plants are renewing themselves and so are we.
For Lent this year I decided to do another 10 day juice cleanse, which allowed me to shed some no-longer-needed emotions. It never ceases to amaze me, just how much the spirit and body are connected–intertwined so deeply that there is no end of one and beginning of another. I saw a change in myself during this period, and I truly believe I am in a transitioning time. In a week or so, I will head to Montreal, Canada for a Vipassana Retreat, which will entail sitting in silence for 10 days, meditating for 10 hours per day. The fact that I am signed up for this retreat was the result of quite a few amazing serendipitous events, and I am certain that this is a big part of the next step in my journey.
So I started Lent with a juice fast, and will end it in silence. What a dramatic way to ring in the season! I am hoping that my brown foliage will flutter willingly to the ground, allowing those fresh green leaves to push through towards the sunlight.
The dawn of 2015 is now upon us, and I am in a state of gratefulness and awe of all that has happened in my life over the past year. The first half of 2014 was pretty dark for me, as I went through a lot of grief and pain that pushed me into the fetal position for a while. This dark shadow that was cast over me only made me grateful for the light that finally began to shine this Fall. I am so thankful for the darkness, for this pushed me to where I am now, and the journey has been so perfect and orchestrated that I cannot help but look back in awe.
I didn’t realize it, but my health had taken a serious hit after years of not really taking care of myself. I didn’t understand that I had been living an unhealthy life, but contrast always helps to reveal a very different perspective. Now when I look back on photos from just 6 months ago, I see a dullness in my face that was just normal for me back then. My body was reflecting the pain I was feeling in my heart.
A monumental trip to visit my brother in Berlin was the tipping point on this journey, which started with my body and is continuing in my spirit. The two are so interconnected and this is something else that really surprised and delighted me. To cure the body is to work on the soul as well, and improving health also raises the spiritual vibration. For me, it started with cleaning the house so love could come and dwell inside.
After my visit to Berlin in August, I cut out all dairy, sugar, gluten, alcohol, caffeine, and agriculturally raised meats from my diet. I did a 10 day juice cleanse, and I quickly saw a big change. My eyes seemed clearer and my face more alive. I lost 10 pounds, and gained energy and a sense of well-being that has continued since then. I started working with a functional nurse practitioner and physical therapists who have helped me immensely, and I am so grateful. All of these people have been put on my path back to myself and it has been such an inspiring experience.
So, I am sitting on the edge of 2015 with dewy eyes, a bright smile, and a grateful heart. How blessed I am to be here now.
2014 also brought a few other experiences that were on my list:
Do a detox week
Make a “reasons I love you” list for people I love
Have a star watching evening
Write German without a spellchecker
Have a knackarsch
Own an beautiful and inspiring outdoor seating area
So, it’s that time of year again–my birthday is tomorrow and I will then officially have been 33 years on the planet. It is pretty crazy really, and thinking back on last year’s post, I realize that my path has not wavered much since then. No big accomplishments and not many things scratched off the to-do list, but a constant pull toward who I am.
This year has brought me through phases of joy and positivity, heartache and disappointment, and many a bought of gratefulness for my life and all the experiences I have had. I gained a doggy best-friend, and saw some human friendships fade into memory. I held on to things and eventually realized I had to let go of them. Now, I am cruising through my days in a laid back steady state, in a gentle rhythm of daily hikes, coffee with cream, cool breezes, and filtered sunlight.
I am a deep well of emotions with the tap turned tight. Sometimes the faucet drips, but it rarely runs on full blast anymore and most of the time it is just off. I relax into the comfort of my day and just let things happen–following the subtle tug of my spirit in the direction of my not-yet-known dreams.
A couple of weeks ago, the Schatz left for a training camp in Mallorca, and I decided that I needed some alone time on the road. Well, I wasn’t really alone, since I had my trusty sidekick with me, Peanut (the world traveling dog). We took off from Luxembourg and headed to Hornbach, to stay in an old Kloster (i.e. monastery) for a couple of days. Lots of long baths, long dinners on our own, and even longer hikes later, we took off for Munich for a night, and then down to the Chiemsee (as pictured above). It was May 1st, and the May poles were going up, everyone was dressed in the traditional Tracht, as they watched the strong young men hoist the pole up–giving a loud cheer once it was as straight as an over-sized proverbial arrow.
We took our time driving through the Chiemgau region of Germany, and then headed over to Austria, to our favorite summer haunt, Fuschl am see. We have been here, visiting our friends at Hotel Mohrenwirt, for about a week. I’ve been enjoying the time to get things done at the desk, get back into my running routine, go for long walks on the lake, and train little Peanut to be on her own from time to time. 5 course meals have been savored, and long conversations were enjoyed, along with lots of time alone (with my dog).
The Schatz arrived a few days ago, but just for a short stint, as he flew out again for Copenhagen last night. So, we are back to just the two of us, me and the little Peanut. Taking things in stride.
Sitting around, doing nothing, with nothing to show for it,
It’s so big and overwhelming, and yet, it’s just nothing.
How can I be overwhelmed by nothing?
Nothing happens, nothing’s wrong! It’s nothing!
It’s always there, the nothing.
A big empty black space, going on forever,
with me in the middle, alone, with nothing to do,
nothing to think about, nothing to worry about,
Nothing to get upset about; it’s nothing.
The nothing haunts me in my dreams,
and when I wake, it is still there,
hovering quietly, taking up all the space, swallowing everything,
doing nothing wrong, not overreacting, just not reacting.
Everything is out of line when you compare it to nothing.
Anything is too much, everything is over the top.
When there’s nothing to complain about, everything is superfluous.
Everything makes you sick.
The tiniest bit is far too much, when you have nothing,
anything gives you hope, but false hope,
because in the end you are left with nothing.
One night back in January I had a horrible dream. I saw a face in the darkness and sat up and screamed at the top of my lungs. I am sure I woke up the neighbors with that scream, and I definitely woke up the Schatz. He was set to go away for a month just a few days after I had that dream, and the thought of me being alone in our new house made me a little anxious. I went to visit my mom for the day and she suggested I take my dog (well, it was my dog about 10 years ago, when I first met the Schatz, but our traveling lifestyle meant that she had been with my parents for a decade). I just decided on a whim that I would take her back to my place for the time when the Schatz was gone, and then somehow that turned into her staying a couple of months, and then eventually boarding a plane with me to Europe. Now she is sitting next to me as I type, and look out onto the garden of our rental house in Luxembourg, as the Schatz heats up the grill that will soon cook up our dinner.
I cannot say how much I am grateful for this little coincidence that lead to Peanut being the newest doggie member of our family. She has taught me so many lessons, since she was pretty rough around the edges when we got her. I read all sorts of books and watched plenty of “dog whisperer” episodes, and after just 3 months, she has become a socialized little world traveling dog, and has carved out a little spot in my heart. It is amazing how much she can adapt, despite her old age. She has faced her fear of big dogs, and now plays with them and sniffs them. She boarded an airplane and flew across the world, and spent plenty of time in cars and trains, without even breaking a sweat. She is just a joy to be around and gives me a reason to smile every day and get out and go for long walks in the woods despite my desire to stay indoors glued to my computer screen. Thanks Peanut, the world traveling dog.
It is pretty hard to sit down and write what I am feeling right now, but I somehow need to get it out of my head an onto this screen… hoping that it will somehow help me to let go of it.
The story started about 6 years ago, when the Schatz and thought it was about time to start expanding our family. 4 years later, I still wasn’t pregnant, so after plenty of doctor visits and some advice from my cousin, I decided to get laparoscopic surgery to see if I might have endometriosis, since a bunch of my other cousins have had it. Sure enough, I had Stage IV endometriosis, and both of my fallopian tubes were blocked, meaning I would never be able to safely get pregnant without medical intervention, i.e. in vitro fertilization.
After the assurance that IVF would be the only way forward, we decided to go ahead with the first cycle, which after a lot of hope, didn’t end up working. We had 4 embryos that resulted from the procedure, but none of them ended up living past the 5th day. We then waited 6 months to start the next cycle, which began about a month ago. I was responding well to the shots and the vitamins, and tried to focus on mind-body relaxation techniques every night before bed. This morning, I was scheduled to go in to have the surgery to have the eggs removed, all according to the plan that we had set out at the end of last year. When I got to the hospital they informed me that I couldn’t have the surgery because I ate a bowl of cereal for breakfast an hour before, so I couldn’t go under anesthesia.
It is difficult to explain the emotional roller coaster that is infertility. The beginning of the journey is dotted with false hopes and disappointment each time a new pregnancy test is taken (I have taken way too many), tears each time you here that your neighbor or friend is pregnant (followed by guilt for not being happy for them), and putting your life on hold for when it finally happens. Then comes the denial that anything could be wrong, people telling you to “just don’t think about it”, and lingering thoughts that there is a chance that you will never conceive (what will it do to my husband, my parents, or me if I find out that I can never have a baby? Will I ever actually be a mom?). There are a lot of question marks and things we do to protect ourselves from the pain that is waiting to creep in every 28 days–just huddling there for a moment in order to deflate any hopes we may have had. Then there is IVF, which is basically a much more complex and pressure inducing version of the above. I gave myself over 40 shots in this cycle alone and swallowed over 20 horse-sized pills every night before bed, I did meditation that is supposed to help me influence my body to deal with the IVF hormones better, and forced myself to be positive and open to whatever comes my way. I let myself slip into that positive thinking spiral, believing the best and mentally prepared myself for a good outcome. The problem with thinking positive though, is that when things don’t go as planned, then the letdown is even larger and harder to handle.
In the end, infertility is something that has come back once again to disappoint and hurt me like a false friend. Just when I think I can trust it again, there is always something there to damage that trust. I ask myself how in the world I can keep doing this, and then I remind myself that I should be happy–I have a husband who loves me, I am healthy, I have a roof over my head and warm food on my table. Then I feel guilty again for having felt so bad for myself for not being able to conceive.
It is a strange mean thing, infertility. And I somehow I just have to move on. Time will go by and life will go on and the world keeps on turning. One day, I know in my heart that I will look back on this painful experience (although it isn’t everything–and I am still “happy” most of the time), and be glad that it happened. How does one go through pain and be glad about it? Well, first one has to accept that things are this way, and let go of trying to control them. Then one has to be grateful for what one has. Lastly, one has to realize that this experience is part of an intricately woven tapestry of events that make up the flow of things, and the strangeness of it all (a bowl of cereal prevents me from having a baby) confirms that things are going according to this flow. When I look back on events in my life, I know that there were tiny little choices I made, and miniscule little occurrences that took place, that had monumental influence on how my life turned out. One day I decided to go out for a drink with my friends and met my husband in a bar and flew with him to Europe two weeks later. I had a horrible nightmare that then, through a string of events, lead to me getting a dog. I had a bowl of cereal for breakfast and because of this, wasn’t pregnant in the Spring of 2014 and didn’t give birth to a healthy little baby at Christmastime that year. Letting go of things that may have been is hard, but it makes room for things that will be.