Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

The Year Comes to a Close

Happy New Year’s Eve!!

Can you believe it’s the last day of the year?  I’ve certainly experienced the phenomenon of every year going by faster and faster and it’s a bit alarming.  We’ve just past the holidays and now everyone is gearing up for that big celebration and the ball in Times Square dropping at midnight in hopes of starting fresh.  Can we really start anew simply by a Waterford crystal ball coming down a pole in the middle of New York?  Do you really want to start fresh on January 1st and if so what would that look like?

When you think of starting fresh I hope you look at various areas of your life.  Ask yourself in the new year, “If I can start fresh I would like to achieve xyz goal.”  If that doesn’t tickle your fancy then how about, “If I can start fresh on January 1, I’d like to feel (this way) in the new year.”  So it’s clear that it’s not simply about eating better or getting more rest.  What we have to remember is that starting new doesn’t erase what has happened until this moment.  It’s not like you can erase the day of diagnosis or any other health challenge you’ve had through the year. 

It does mean that instead of trying to achieve something you can make shifts so you life a bit differently.  It can be as simple as increasing the number and times you say please and thank you.  It can be as easy as writing a note to a friend.  I sent a friend a snail mail holiday card and she was so excited because everything is going electronic.  She said to me, “It meant you had to think of me more than 30 seconds ago.”  That’s a big statement and obviously had a big impact.  It means you are acknowledging your relationships and connections.

I’d like to believe that I’ll go to the gym more in the new year, but to make it a goal is only self-defeating, even though I know the benefits.  I can more consciously cook healthier using better oils, less animal fat, and more veggies (love those veggies).  I can find more heart healthy recipes and that’s an activity that I love and has tremendous health benefits.  I can share more meals with friends and that alone increases the activity in your immune system. 

Don’t make it difficult.  Don’t make it something that’s either successful or a failure.  Don’t start something that’s so not in your line of vision that it’s a stretch and not very enjoyable.  Don’t live by anyone’s expectations. 

Do put yourself on the list.  Do think of how each action impacts your journey to wellness.  Do increase the amount of time you spend with those who are special in your life.  Do be more creative and expressive.

I wish you a wonderful 2011.  I hope that in the new year you’re feeling better.  I hope that we can develop a closer relationship in the coming year! 

Peace…

Greg

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Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Eat Pray What?

We got a new tv and blu ray player for Christmas so of course it’s required that you buy at least one blu ray movie.  We decided on Eat Pray Love even though my other half saw it in the theater while I was in San Antonio.  It’s a total chick flick (not a bad thing), after all I had read the book.  I wanted to see it mainly because I love Julia Roberts.

If you don’t know this story it’s about a woman who takes a year after ending her marriage and goes to three international places, Italy, India, and Bali.  At each location she experiences takes on a personal challenge.  She eats her way through Italy; learns to meditate and develop a spiritual practice in India, and then all that’s left is finding love in Bali.  Bali is interesting because she meets up with a medicine man, Ketut, who guides her through a process of inner exploration.  The movie was entertaining, certainly not winning any academy awards, but it got me thinking.

After 25 years of doing this work I’ve heard thousands of stories about the day of diagnosis.  It ranges from shock, to meltdown, to “I already knew”.  It’s the experience of what John of the Cross calls “the dark night of the soul” that gets people’s attention.  “Dark night of the soul” wasn’t intended to be an internal nuclear meltdown, but not being able to see in front of you like driving on a night with a very thick fog.

I talk about the dark night of the soul in its intended meaning because not seeing ahead of oneself is often what sets us out on a pilgrimage or journey.  So I want you to consider this question.  If the movie was called Eat Pray Love, what would your movie be called?  It requires three words that capture what your journey entails.  It captures the qualities of your life once receiving the diagnosis that you want to elevate to new heights.  It’s the motivation that draws you on your pilgrimage to health and healing.

If you haven’t seen the movie rent it and then come up with your movie title.  I invite you to tell us your movie title in the comment box.  I think this could be rich for us as a community.

For more information on the pilgrimage to health and healing, check out the website at www.survivingstrong.com

Posted in art and healing, creativity and health

Technology and the Urge to Groove

Welcome to Art and Healing Wednesday!!

I grew up loving music.  My parents always listened to music in the house; so I know a lot of the music from the 60’s, surprising all my friends.  I sang in choirs through college and just continued to love music over the years.  There’s something about music that is universal.  You don’t have to be a musician to enjoy it and it really does have an impact on mood, health, and healing.

I remember when I read Don Campbell’s, The Mozart Effect, the new insights I gained about how music can be used for healing.  The old saying, “Music soothes the savage beast” could pertain to the illness living inside your body…one never knows…do one!

What I like about technology (and believe me I am not a techno wiz) is how available music has become.  Think about 1979 when the Sony Walkman was introduced and how that revolutionized how we listen to music.  Music became portable and it could be the selection you want, not just listening to a transistor radio.

New technology allows you to carry your entire music collection with you at all times.  Why is that important?  Because, at least for me, the music I listen to at any given time is directly related to my current mood, or the mood I would like to establish.  I like to sing so there are certain CDs I play when I feel the need to belt out a song.

As technology has progressed, it has become easier to carry more music around with you.  The new smart phones even allow you to have internet connection so if there’s a music video you love you can bookmark it so it’s ready whenever you want it.  I currently have two songs from GLEE bookmarked on YouTube…quick and easy access.

Listening to music makes my body start to move and for someone who doesn’t like to exercise, that’s a big thing.  I find myself walking in time to the rhythm, watch out for those fast dance songs…they can take you by surprise.  I listen to disco when I’m in my studio creating textile art…I find that my hands like to move to the beat of the music when I’m stitching a piece.

You don’t have to have any musical ability to love music.  It is accessible, fun, and generates good vibes.  I remember an episode of , Ally McBeal where she goes to see her therapist, Tracy Ullman.  Her therapist asks her to find a theme song.  I think it’s a brilliant idea…if you tell me yours, I’ll tell you mine.

When facing a chronic or other life-altering illness small pleasures can mean a lot.  Find a way to incorporate more music in your life.  If you enjoy playing music, that’s just taking it one step further.

For more information on health and healing go to the website, www.survivingstrong.com

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Emotional Health, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Sharing on a Continuum

I speak a lot about the benefits of support groups following the diagnosis of a chronic or other life-altering illness.  What we should remember that the key is the word “group”.  There’s a website, www.meetup.com, that has lists of groups in your area that meet socially for a host of topics and activities.  I’m a big proponent of this group because social connections can be as important as medical treatment in the holistic spectrum of things.

Last night I attended a men’s group in the Denver area.  The group has been meeting regularly for the past 35 years, and only recently was it added to Meetup.  I was surprised to see over 20 men in attendance.  The group was quite diverse in age, ethnicity, and I’m assuming religious/spiritual beliefs.  This group meets weekly so there’s an opportunity to connect with these individuals on a regular basis, giving me the opportunity to make friends, and develop a support network.

While I was sitting in the circle listening to people sharing it occurred to me that we really all are on a continuum on each and every issue.  If you’re attending a support group focusing on people who have the same diagnosis as you do remember that people will be on a continuum; everyone won’t be at the same place at the same time.

In a support group meeting there will be those who are healthier than you, and some who are sicker than you.  You’ll find some people who have fully integrated their diagnosis into their lives and those who are still having a pity party and are very angry.  Sitting in the rooms you’ll experience some people who make connections and depend on those connections between meetings, and others who are satisfied to interact during the group but don’t want to integrate the group into their life outside the group.

Why do I heed this warning?  Because as I sat in the group last night I could have easily decided not to return because I felt I was ahead of the pack (I’ve spent the past 25 years on self-development, spiritual development, and lots of therapy).  All it takes is one person with one nugget to make the experience worthwhile.

I’ll go back again and will see what other nuggets I can take away from the group and what new friendships I can develop.  I’d love to hear about your group experience.  If you share your group experiences it may help those who are still a bit leery about joining a support group.

For more information you can check out the website, www.survivingstrong.com

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Bookend Holidays and the Traps that are Set

Hanukkah was at the beginning of the month.  We passed the winter solstice last week and Christmas was celebrated over the weekend.  Kwanza started yesterday and if there are any other special holiday celebrations I missed I’m regretfully sorry.  Now that these holidays have past or are underway what happens?  I’ll tell you what happens; we start seeing commercials for fitness clubs and diet plans because New Year’s Eve is this coming weekend and that comes equipped with lots of pressure to set a resolution.

I decided to discuss the resolution today to let you off the hook.  DON’T MAKE A RESOLUTION.  They’re a trap for self-loathing and self-disgust.  I know at some point in history they probably were a planning tool, but now they’re a gimmick to sell products.  This is when all the self-help books come out, and self-help is good, but not the most important thing.

Following the diagnosis of a chronic or other life-altering illness, it’s not about resolutions.  It’s about understanding and compassion.  It’s about learning the intricacies of your body; so in other words it’s about intimacy.  It’s about being kind to yourself when you aren’t up to going somewhere, doing something, or visiting with someone because you don’t have the energy. 

This does become a time of reminiscence.  Many of the shows are looking back on the events of the year and that’s interesting because we can see the latest and greatest trends and fads, but with that always comes the “in memoriam” section honoring those who have died during the year.  Unfortunately, as I wrote about in one of my November posts, not everyone survives and illness.

I’m pleading with you to let yourself off the hook from the New Year’s resolution.  If you want to set goals for the coming year that’s great, especially if they entail ways to promote health and healing.  The trick is to understand that it’s a goal and not a resolution.  A goal is something to work toward, a resolution is filled with idea that the first time you aren’t in line with the resolution you’ve failed.

Goals take time to integrate.  They’re like putting on a new pair of shoes and trying to break them in and when you do they’re your favorites.  The health and healing goals can be made alone or they can be made with friends and family, your medical team, your therapist, or your spiritual advisor. 

Don’t give your power away by making a resolution and then be judged by the “powers that be” on whether you were a success.  The 12-step programs say, “Progress not perfection.”  I think that’s a good motto to live by.

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

The Morning After

Whatever your religious or spiritual beliefs and inclinations I wish you a Happy Holiday Season.

It’s the day after Christmas and all through the house….remember that famous line?  I bet you have a 1001 ways to finish that poem.  The response would depend on whether or not you celebrate the holiday or simply think of it as another day.  I know that this morning there are many of you who may are venturing out to the stores to get those after holiday bargains.

The morning after is an interesting concept because it entails dealing with some degree of a let down.  You plan for months (at least some of you) and then in 10 minutes everyone opens their gifts and it’s done.   On the day of the holiday or spiritual celebration of your choice you may cook for hours and then you sit down at the table and in 20 minutes you’re finished. 

We have a tendency to build up events in our lives and take enormous amounts of energy to plan these events and celebrations and they’re over in a flash.  The question is, “did you enjoy the event/celebration/holiday?”  What will you cherish most about the day?  Following the diagnosis of a chronic or other life-altering illness making memories are important because they are like making deposits to your emotional and spiritual bank account.

There may come times during the course of your illness that you may need to rely on the memories you created with family and friends to get you through the next leg of your journey to wellness. I’ll give you a good example that I saw on the news the other day.

Austin Williams, a typical 14-year-old had dreams of joining the army someday.  In April he was diagnosed with a myosarcoma, a very aggressive and smart tumor.  He was admitted to the hospital for a 54 week course of treatment (that’s a long time to spend in the hospital).  It was approaching week 30 and his family began to see signs that he was in the throes of giving up.  (As you I know, when facing a health challenge you have to keep forging ahead to maintain health and healing.)  His step-father was creative and called the local recruiting station and asked if a member of the army would be willing to come visit Austin in the hospital.  The army took it one step further and sent 6 soldiers.  The gave Austin a set of dog tags with his name on them and a plaque making him an honorary solider.

Watching Austin as he discussed the experience you could see something in his heart and soul re-ignited.  He was so surprised, as was his family, at the number of soldiers and grateful for the time they spent with him that it created a spark in him.  I have no doubt that the memory of that day will get him through the next 24 weeks of treatment.

When you hit that wall as many of just did the morning after the holiday; what memories will you refer back to as you venture forward on your journey to wellness.  I’d love to hear some of your stories.

For more information on health and healing check out the website at www.survivingstrong.com.

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Getting to the Finish Line

Last night I went to sleep at my regular time, but at 3am I woke up and couldn’t fall back to sleep.  I follow the rule of thumb that says if you can’t fall back to sleep after 30 minutes it’s a good idea to get up and do something like read until you get sleepy.  I always ask myself what’s going on that I can’t fall back to sleep and last night it was just a bunch of racing thoughts.

Laying in bed awake the racing thoughts felt like they were competing against one another, all the thoughts fighting to get to the finish line.  Of course there’s a lot going on since I just got home from being away for four months, it’s the holiday season, and like you I still have to fit in doctor’s appointments before my medical insurance changes.  (just a side note: last year on New Year’s Eve Day the line at the pharmacy was a mile long since everyone was getting refills before their prescription plans changed…be prepared)

It’s common to have racing thoughts on an ongoing basis following the diagnosis of a chronic or other life-altering illness.  The big question is which thought will make it across the finish line.  My hope is that you give the thoughts about health and healing a head-start so that those thoughts have an advantage on your journey to wellness.

How do you find ways to let the thoughts tire themselves out.  It’s funny, until this very moment I hadn’t thought about letting the thoughts wear themselves out, but I guess everything including thoughts get tired.  If nothing else, you get tired of them and once you exhaust them you don’t have to worry about them continuing in the race.

Of course this time of year adds stress and that will give some momentum to your racing thoughts so find ways to reduce your holiday stress.  Make things simpler.  Don’t get caught up in the hype, keep the holiday feeling realistic and authentic.  You’d be surprised how people are returning to more intimate holiday experiences instead of trying to buy everything and anything just to say they got something.

Let your racing thoughts run and hope they run out of steam.  As you enter the holiday season insulate yourself from these racing thoughts by reminding yourself what’s important for you during the holiday season.  For me, it’s all about family and friends.  It’s about trying to do things like donate food to the food bank for those who need a bit more help.  If you have a spiritual practice, this is the time of year when relying on that spiritual practice can ease your mind and limit the energy resources for those racing thoughts.

If you want more information on health and healing visit the website, www.survivingstrong.com and you’ll also get a free gift if you register for the special report.  My gift to you is to help you limit those racing thoughts and get rest so you can enjoy the holidays!