Changing the World
I realize that there are two things that have consistently been high on my to-do list.
- Change the world
- Change myself
I’m not asking for much, am I? Not much at all.
As I look back I realize that these two tasks have been my focus for over twenty years. And feeling the inability to accomplish them, as minor as they may seem (yes, I’m joking) has been the cause of high frustration.
Why? The answer seems obvious doesn’t it. Those are some pretty tall orders. But the reason they caused such frustration wasn’t out of a lack of possibility, it was out of not knowing how. And it was out of lack of perspective. I’ve allowed myself to feel stuck too often.
Yes, I want to do both. And yes, both are possible.
Change the world.
Celiac and Changing the World
My first intense desire to change the world hit within weeks after I was diagnosed with celiac. And when I say hit, I’m talking high impact hit. Experiencing the life altering goodness that I experienced when I removed gluten from my diet (after I was diagnosed with celiac) had me needing to blast this news from the rooftops.
I couldn’t stand knowing that there were MANY people still living with undiagnosed celiac as I had for so many years. For decades. My need to be a voice wasn’t one I could ignore. It was right up there with food and water.
I didn’t know what to do or how to do it. I just put one foot in front of the other, moving forward with ideas that started to flow.
Putting My Need to Action
I wrote a letter and sent it to 100 local physicians, sharing my story and information about celiac. I contacted the local newspaper to see if there was interest in sharing my story. The reporter did an amazing full-page article on me. The people who contacted me after that article was published led to the beginnings of a local support group.
That local support group led to more connections with more people and it led to co-creating a bi-state celiac support group with those amazing women. While life changes eventually took me down another direction, one that left me without time to put into that support group, my need to be a voice continued.
I eventually self-published a book and I created a website where I shared others’ stories of diagnosis. The hope was to increase awareness of the many symptoms connected to undiagnosed celiac.
From Celiac to Fragrance: Continued Efforts to Change the World
After two decades of celiac advocacy (or the desire to be a better advocate) I couldn’t have imagined my passion transforming the way it has these past two years. I don’t think a day went by where I didn’t think or say the word celiac or gluten free since I was diagnosed in the year 2000. That has now changed.
Through the years since my celiac diagnosis, I’ve also been battling with a fragrance sensitivity. It’s been something that has impacted my life for approximately twenty years. It wasn’t an I don’t like that smell sensitivity. It was an issue that impaired me physically and emotionally. Avoidance and requests for others I shared space with to avoid fragranced products was my only solution to feeling physically, emotionally, and cognitively well.
I always placed my fragrance sensitivity second to celiac– until I couldn’t any more. It wasn’t until I realized that I wasn’t alone with this issue, however,– discovering that this is a disabling issue for SO MANY others, that my passion to be vocal was generated.
Learning about the harmful chemicals that are often behind that single word–fragrance–and learning that so many others are living lives of avoidance and isolation had me transferring my energies into a new awareness effort.
I created a new Facebook page, Fragrance Free Respect. After sharing several awareness memes, I decided to set (and then completed) a goal of creating one new awareness meme a day for a year. I am so very grateful for that voice inside me that moved me down this road and that kept the constant flow of ideas coming. While I’ve only created a few new memes since that one-year completion, the original memes keep getting recirculated daily on my page.
Changing the world, one meme at a time.
The celiac stories that I shared aren’t going to lead to every single person with celiac being tested, diagnosed, and living a gluten-free life that will lead to improved health. Those stories won’t change the world in that way. But if any of those stories led to one person requesting tests that led to answers, those stories have served their purpose.
Those fragrance-free memes I created aren’t changing the world in a total and complete sense. They won’t result in all toxic fragrance chemicals magically disappearing from the planet. They won’t result in companies no longer profiting from highly advertised and promoted toxic products. But sometimes we place too heavy a burden on ourselves. We think (sometimes) that if we can’t reach a goal of completion, then we’ve failed.
What about the journey and the impacts along the way?
What if we just do what we can and accept that the changes we make are indeed changing the world. None of us knows where the seeds we plant take root. None of us knows how many seeds might be created from the plant or plants that have taken root. We just do our best and accept it as enough.
Can It Be That Simple?
What if that smile and those kind words that you offered a seemingly unhappy clerk at the grocery store led to a small opening in her heart that allowed her to accept the next smile that came her way–and the next, and the next. She felt happier by the time she got home. She hugged her ten year old instead of yelling at him for the mess he made. And that hug he received allowed him to feel good about who he was for that moment, not for what he did or didn’t do, but because of that connection.
As simple as that sounds, that really is how energy flows. We have the power to direct that energy towards light.
Small things can (and do) add up. And yes, these small things allow each of us to change the world.
Order: Putting Self at the Top of the List
Through these years, I’ve learned that my voice has always been inspired by the big picture.
Celiac: My voice was inspired by my desire to prevent other kids from having to live through childhood with undiagnosed celiac like I did. Having lived the transformation that I experienced just by removing gluten, I was better able to understand just how unwell I learned to accept feeling. I simply want everyone to feel as well as they can.
Fragrance: Understanding the impact one home’s, one office’s, one place of employment, or one uber driver’s use of air fresheners has on my state of being– Understanding the impact that one person’s laundry scent boosters or dryer sheets has on my health– And knowing that my experience is the barrier to life that SO MANY others experience , has inspired my voice.
It’s easier for me to speak up for others than for myself.
But just as I learned how to transform my health when I was diagnosed with celiac (by removing gluten from my diet) I finally found a way to improve the increasingly more disabling impact fragrance chemicals were having on my life. (Brain Rewiring Part 1: I Wasn’t Ready)
As the saying goes, you have to put your own oxygen mask on before you can help others on the plane.
I was grateful, in February of 2022, to discover how to put on my oxygen mask.
Brain Rewiring: Healing for Myself
So here it is, the next leg of my journey. And it’s a good balance. It’s a good balance because I’m learning how to stand on two legs and make them work together. One leg of my personal journey is advocating for cleaner air through cleaner product choices. I am devoting the other leg to myself, working at making this the leg I step off of first when I start each day. I’m healing my personal reactions through brain rewiring and I’m learning to increase my inner peace and connections to my inner self.
*(If you see me and I’m a crabby, grumbling mess, please know this: A journey to a destination takes travel time. And sometimes travel can include some bumpy roads. Goals and achievements are two different things. But I’m learning, gaining insight, and enjoying the journey, rocky roads and all.)
As for celiac awareness, I have only two legs. I’m letting this effort go. Honestly, there are so many remarkable advocates doing amazing things in that realm. I’m at peace with keeping my previous blog posts here but allowing my writing to transform in new ways. The children’s book that I wrote (for adults) is also still available.
Thanks for joining my journey.