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

What’s Your Trajectory?

There are lots of things that can send us spinning into orbit, but the diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness takes this concept one step further.  An illness diagnosis makes you feel like you’ve been shot out of a canon.  You are propelled into orbit without any idea as to where you are going to land.  You are flying at a high rate of speed with no protection and you’re probably praying that you land safely.  The idea of being shot out of a canon is funny if you’re at the circus, but when it’s your own life, not so funny.

So what would happen if you transformed yourself from just something shot out of a canon, flying aimlessly and reframed the experience?  What if you transformed yourself into a missile and your target is health and healing, would that change our experience?  Would it make transform being shot out of a canon from a terrifying experience to an experience with purpose and focus?

The other reason to reframe the experience is that it transforms your experience from being a victim to having a sense of control and purpose over your own life.  When you transform being shot out of a canon as scary and something happening to you, to something that provides direction and a mission you can alleviate much of the anxiety and fear that often accompany a newly diagnosed illness challenge.

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

Wake Up….PLEASE!!

Every morning the alarm clock goes off reminding me it’s time to wake-up.  I hit snooze once before getting up and starting my day.  I’m one of those people who like to take naps, not possible because work gets in the way, but staying awake is obviously an important aspect of one’s life.

I started thinking about my years in college and all those who tried to stay awake to study and took No-Doz.  They fought to stay awake, but really were they were doing was staying up, not awake.  Then I began to think about our lives today and how many people are taking No-Doz in life and simply exist, not living.

I guess what I’m really wondering, is there a way to stay conscious, equating to staying awake?  Are there times in our lives when we find ourselves dozing, not paying attention and as a result things slip by us unnoticed?  I find this happens when I’m knitting, which I use as a spiritual practice, I go on auto-pilot not paying attention and lo and behold I make a mistake.  It’s almost as if I need to be like a race horse and put on blinders to stay focused, but don’t know how I would do that with my mind.

Now turning to your health, being “awake” means paying attention to what’s going on with your body, mind, and spirit.  Are you aware of how your body is feeling?  Are you aware of any changes that you need to notify your medical team about?  These are important questions because you take an inventory of the physical body you can head off potential problems if you let them go too far.  The same goes for your emotional and spiritual life.  If you allow sadness/depression to spiral out-of-control, unchecked you become prone to feeling hopeless impacting your journey to health and healing.

What will you do today to start your “stay awake” efforts?  How will you remain conscious through your day?  I encourage you to take note of your level of consciousness and see if staying “awake” serves as a catalyst for health and healing.

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

Better Get Your Hard Hat

When you walk the streets of a city you often see fenced areas with signs that say, “Construction Zone”.  We often take specific actions when we see these signs.  There are some people who will look into the construction site to see what’s “becoming”, while others will cross over to the other side of the street to avoid the noise, the dust, and the fear of something falling on them.

Construction zones are clearly metaphors for what we create in our lives.  Ever watch demolition teams implode a building to make room for something bigger and grander?  It’s very exciting to see a building fall in on itself, only to know that once the rubble is cleared, there will be something new rising out of the dust, like a Phoenix!

So what are you thinking about as you read this post about construction zones?  I was reading this morning and there was a story of a fourth grade teacher who said to the kids in her class, “You’re either on the destruction team or you’re on the construction tea in your life, and you gotta choose now.”

You are empowered to choose whether your life will be marked by acts of destruction or construction following the diagnosis of a chronic or life-altering illness.  We are placed before a fork in the road and need to make decisions based on the information we’ve acquired, the level of hope and possibility we experience, and the level of commitment we have to our journey to health and healing.

When I refer to the destruction or construction team, I’m not discussing just the physical body, but the mind and spirit as well.  I found this week that I was in a bit of funk and realized that I had to extricate myself from the negative people around me because they were weighing me down emotionally and spiritually.  I was choosing, much to my dismay, to be part of the destruction team…needless to say I made some changes.

I am choosing to be part of the construction team of my life.  I’m actively taking actions that will improve my mind/body health.  I encourage you to put on your hard hat and get to work creating a construction zone for health and healing!

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

Are You Having a Moment?

I’m always on the lookout for words, phrases or images that sparks my curiosity.  I love it when I see or hear something that gives me pause and serves as a catalyst for asking a question.  It was in one of those searches that I came across the following Zen proverb, “Let go or be dragged.”

When you read this don’t you immediately get a visual image?  The impact of the proverb is almost visceral.  It provides you with such pause that it forces you to make a choice in the moment, and every moment when you may have a difficult decision.  I guess what it’s really asking is, “Can you release/surrender your attachment to what was, or be dragged along kicking and screaming trying to hold on to what is no longer reality?”

I can tell you that there have been many instances in my life when I have dug in my heels and was as resistant to change or transformation as anyone else I’ve ever met.  I’m sure in the moment I was feeling like no one can tell me what to do, or knows better than me…I was obviously proven wrong.

As you’re reading this consider that you’re holding onto for dear life.  Look at what is holding you hostage to the point where you’re stronghold is causing you more pain than serving your higher good.  If you were to let go what freedom or release might you experience?  How would that serve your journey to health and healing?

The difficult part of the process is that you may feel that by letting go you’ll be injured because the visual is holding on to a runaway horse and if you let go you’d be injured.  However when it comes to decisions regarding your health and healing, holding on to old antiquated beliefs, clinging to old wives tales, or basing your decisions on the lives of others keeps dragging you down a path that injurious to your body, mind, and spirit.

Let go and allow the “new normal” to be embraced so you aren’t feeling limited or restricted.  Give yourself the gift of letting go so you can reserve your resources for living in the world of possibility.

I’d love to hear about one of your “letting go” moments….either share your experience in the comment box below or email me at greg@survivingstrong.com.

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

If Anne Lamott said it…It must be true!

I feel fortunate to be following the work of Anne Lamott for 20 years.  I first heard her when I lived in the Bay Area and she was an ongoing guest on KQED, public radio.  She was discussing her book, “Operating Instructions”, documenting her experience with her newborn son, Sam during his first year of life.  I found the sequence of interviews to be refreshing, funny, and provocative.

I’ve read many of Anne Lamott’s books over the years, mainly those pertaining to spirituality or her books about a writer’s life.  I was thrilled to see that she was coming up with a sequel to “Operating Instructions” because her style and perspective is refreshing.  “Some Assembly Required” chronicles the first year of her son Sam’s life with a son of his own and the relationship of the entire family.

As usual Lamott’s words are insightful, funny, and thought provoking.  Then I got stopped in my tracks when I read the following, “Silence brings you to a place where all of a sudden you’re not in the mental ping-pong game.”  I’d never heard racing thoughts described as a ping-pong game, but for me it was so accurate in its description.

Since your diagnosis, what has the ping-pong game been like in your head?  What actions do you take to try and stop the volley between the rational and emotive parts of your being?  I know from personal experience, while waiting for test results or another doctor’s appointment, that the ping-pong game is exhausting.

What is it about silence that stops the ping-pong game?  I’ve been thinking about this and one of my own explanations is that when everything around you is silent you get to see how loud everything around you resonates.  We get distracted by all the noise and don’t really know how prominent the noise is and how it disrupts our lives.  When we are in silence we can work to eliminate the chatter, the negative dialogues that get in the way of your health and healing.

It takes dedicated energy to allow the quiet to prevail because so many of us are in desperate need of a distraction following the diagnosis of a chronic or other life-altering illness.  When we can sit in the silence and stop the ping-pong game we can work toward calm.  We can begin the journey to health and healing!

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

Beware of Sharp Points

How many times in your life have you been stuck by the thorn of a rose?  Have you ever tried to sew on a button and stuck yourself with the needle?  Life is full of things with sharp points and the trick or the mission, if you will, is to avoid the sharp points.  Unfortunately life is a complicated and avoiding the sharp points is often impossible.  There are some who would say it’s important to have the sharp points in our lives because by avoiding them we are conscious of our place physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  On the other hand, being stuck by something with a sharp point brings us back to center and back in our bodies so some would applaud the sharp object for waking us up.

Being diagnosed with a chronic or other life-altering illness is like being stuck with something sharp.  It hurts!  It causes pain!  It can make us fearful to continue what we were doing for fear of being stuck again.  The flip side of being stuck with this sharp object, the diagnosis, is that now you are aware of what is going on in your body.  You may have had symptoms and the diagnosis being the sharp points brings answers.  The sharp objects in our lives cause us concern because they represent an uncertainty.   The sharp points make us cautious and if that means we need to slow down a bit, then maybe that’s a good thing.

No one wants to be stuck by a sharp object.  No one wants to inflict pain on themselves, but the diagnosis is not something you did to yourself.  It’s like walking into a door or stubbing your toe on the bedpost…it happens, it hurts, and you will now take action to reinforce in your mind, body, and spirit ways to avoid it happening again.  In the case of your diagnosis that means taking measures to promote health and healing.

It’s important to remember what being stuck with a sharp point feels like so you can actively engage in healing behavior.  I can tell you that I’m currently working with an individual who had a stroke about 6 months ago, that’s a sharp point, and yet he continues to smoke knowing the danger and the possibility of being stuck by another sharp point.  You have to ask yourself why someone would engage in masochistic behavior.  I personally try to avoid the sharp points; I don’t invite them into my life!

How will you avoid the sharp points that are in the world?  What actions are you taking to promote health and healing?

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

All in a Day’s Work for a Farmer…but For Us?

If you’ve been reading my posts over the past 18 months, you know that I’ve been traveling the country for work.  My current stop is in El Paso, Texas where everything is dry, brown, and windy.  I began thinking about how my life translates to other stories and the most prominent one that comes to mind is that work that horticulturists and farmers do each and every day; they plant, transplant, and then harvest.

I feel like one of those plants.  I move to a new city, leaving my home, and get transplanted to a new area, culture, and people.  Eventually my job is done and I get to go home until the next job contract comes along.  So what does any of this have to do with those of you diagnosed with a chronic or life-altering illness?  Everything of course…

You were living your life, the way you thought it was supposed to be, and the doctor spelled out your diagnosis.  In that moment, you were transplanted from the life you were living to the live you will now live.  You world, your culture, and the people who become prominent in your life is changed.  You’ve added new people to the fold like your medical team, possibly a spiritual director, therapist, or coach.

This transplantation truly is an uprooting.  It displaces you from the comfort of life as a “healthy” person, and transplants you to the world of being a patient.  Don’t get me wrong, you can definitely choose to live a life that is rich, meaningful, and full of love and laughter, but there’s always that one thing looming in the background that at times is distracting.

However, the flip side of being transplanted into a new situation, just like a plant, you get to expand your root system.  You now have the opportunity to make choices about who you associate with and under what terms.  You can explore what it means to wake up every day and have the capacity you still have (which may be just as it was prior to the diagnosis).  It means you can explore your own belief system deeper and with a new sense of purpose as you till the soil of your soul.

I can tell you that living a transplanted happy life means you have to use some elbow grease.  I find I have to make a focused effort to connect with local people in the community so I can find out where to go and what to do when I have time off.  As far as my life as a patient is concerned, being transplanted into this world allows me to ask myself some very deep questions leaving out the obvious, why did this happen to me?  I can make utilize my spiritual practice as a means of finding a way to make peace with the uprooting and transplanting process, especially since for now it’s a way of life.

What does your uprooting and replanting life look and feel like?  How have you found ways to fertilize your life with what matters lessening the trauma of the diagnosis?