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

Storm Surge

The news is flooded with stories and pictures of the damage done by Hurricane Sandy.  The East Coast has been devastated by a storm that devoured a region.  First responders are still working very hard to rescue people that hadn’t evacuated.  Power is out for over 7 million customers and on top of it, fires broke out burning houses and exploding cars.

It’s one thing to see this force of Mother Nature take hold and be in command of the fate of so many people.  However, if you’ve been diagnosed with a life-threatening or other life-altering illness and have ever had a flare, you know what a storm surge is like from the depths of your soul.

Just like Mother Nature we can’t predict when an internal storm surge will begin its devastation.  For many, it comes on suddenly and impacts body, mind, and spirit.  The effects are devastating and it can take a long time to recover following one of these episodes.

This came on my radar screen this week when one of the individuals I was going to interview for my dissertation called with the news that she’s in the midst of one of these storm surges.  She’s very concerned about the impact this new bout with her illness will take on her life, and to say the least, she’s very discouraged.  There’s never a guarantee that health will be sustained, and when it’s compromised, like when a levee is breached, the fallout is difficult.

It took me a long time to understand my body’s own circadian rhythms.  I’ve come to understand that my body and my illness tend to revolt some time between Halloween and Christmas.  I’m particularly careful during this time period to take extra special care of myself physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  If the storm surge hits, I’m prepared for it and take the necessary measures to take back control of my health.  I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s something I’ve learned to take on to live the best life possible.

Storm surges in nature, and in the body are difficult to predict much less control.  The only defense we have it to nurture ourselves and know that the body-mind connection is powerful.  The body-mind connection is the best defense along with good medical care for riding out the storm!

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

Are You Waiting for a Special Invitation?

I’m continuously on the hunt for inspiring stories about health, healing, and living large.  I’m currently reading Stephen Cope’s “The Great Work Of You Life: A guide for the journey to your true calling”.  I know my true calling, but there are aspects about recognizing one’s gift and how to use that information in all other areas of your life.

I don’t have any answers (not that I usually do), but I do have some questions that keep haunting me.  I keep a notepad by my chair in the family room so that when I’m watching television I can capture thoughts and quotes.  When I looked at the pad this morning I noticed the question, “Do you have to have a near death experience to begin living large?”

There are plenty of interviews and books written about people who have had near death experiences and the catalyst this experience was for living large.  I guess what I’m wondering is why wait?  Are we continuously putting things off until we’re faced with an ultimatum?  Have we created a culture where we hold back because others can’t handle our bigness?  Wouldn’t it be great if everyone lived large and we were equipped to handle that bigness?

How large are you living?  As I write this I’m asking that very question.  I’m in the midst of writing my doctoral dissertation and it’s on artists with life-threatening and life-altering illnesses.  I’m amazed at how large these individuals are living.  There are no shrinking violets.  They are following their calling.  Their voices are strong in speech and their art.  They are truly leaders in how to live large, and the rewards one gets by living in alignment, body, mind, and spirit.

No one can send you an invitation to your own life so stop checking the mailbox or your email inbox for it.  You get to create your life so how large do you want it to be?  What would it look like if you lived large?  Are you ok with dwarfing those around you?  Believe me, if you begin to live large others will take your lead because they will see the results so don’t hold back!

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

Speaking the Unspeakable

What do you want to talk about?  Are there things that you would like to discuss with people since you’re diagnosis?  Have you found that when you broach the topic people either make excuses to leave the room or change the topic?   It’s like the episode of “Sex and the City” where Samantha is talking about her illness with Carrie and Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) tries to change the subject.  Samantha says, “Please let me talk about what I’m afraid of”.  That changed the conversation and probably their relationship forever.

Last week on “The Jeff Probst Show” he had Jennifer Gilbert as a guest.  She had been brutally attacked over twenty years ago.  On the show she discussed not only the horror of the attack but the lingering effects of the attack lasting over twenty years.

As Gilbert shared she never discussed the attack with her family.  She held the enormously disturbing impact to herself, keeping it all in and as result creating new rules about how to live life.

Gilbert went on to get married and have a family.  She gave birth to twin boys and unfortunately one of the boys was diagnosed with alopecia.  Alopecia is obviously quite visible and hard to ignore, and yet the family did a good job of not discussing the obvious.  One day when Gilbert returned home her daughter came to her and said, “Mommy, (one of the kids who came to play) came over and broke the rule?”  Gilbert in all her wisdom asked what rule?  Her daughter said, “The rule that we don’t speak about (her brother’s) baldness”.  It hit Gilbert hard because she realized in that moment that she fostered an environment where they didn’t discuss difficult topics.

It was in that moment that Gilbert decided to change the rules.  She sat down with the kids and they talked about the child’s alopecia.  She said they have become a “bald proud” family.  She changed the rule and the dynamics of the family making it easier to discuss difficult situations.

How will you change the rules?  How will you make it known that you not only want to discuss your diagnosis/health challenge, but you need to discuss this change in your life?  It means taking a stand, bringing the diagnosis center stage, and feeling comfortable with the discomfort.  The reward is a dialogue creating support from friends and family.  It means you open your relationships to more open and honest communication.  It spotlights the love you have for those in your life and their willingness to engage with you on this level is the ultimate showing of love!  You will experience a new sense of freedom and lightness not having to hold all this energy within the confines of your body, mind, and spirit.  The new experience of life will serve you on your 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, Spirituality and Health

Space Planning

I watch a lot of HGTV and I’m always amazed at the result the designers achieve.  I have some friends currently building homes and it’s not uncommon to discuss space planning because they are all artists and are designing their ideal studios.  We consider space planning when it comes to our physical homes, our dwellings, but don’t consider space planning in any other realm of our lives.

What if we worked on space planning in our minds?  How would our lives change if we thought about how we use the space in our minds?  What would it take for you to consider space planning for your emotional and spiritual life?

Let’s face it being diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness is a big thing; it takes up a lot of space.  The most obvious place it takes space is in your body.  You and your medical teamwork together striving to reduce the amount of physical space your illness takes in your body.  Along with various treatments and medication, good food and rest are vitally important to reducing the amount of space your illness takes up in your body.

The other aspect to this is the amount of space a diagnosis of an illness takes up in your mind.  It is like “The Blob”, expanding into all the nooks and crannies of your mind zapping your energy that you need for health and healing.  When you ruminate about your illness the amount of space it takes up is enormous.  What can you do to contain the expansion of negative energy?

Support groups are a great way to contain the negative emotional aspects of a health challenge.  It allows you to dump the negative energy and get support when you need it most.  The group atmosphere is affirming and lets you know that you’re not the only person in the world having these experiences.  The problem is that not everyone lives in a geographic location where there is a support group for your particular diagnosis.  The Internet has given us the opportunity to connect with people around the world at any time day or night, creating relationships and partnerships for mutual support.

When it comes to your spiritual life, expansion is the name of the game.  Finding a spiritual director or coach to help you create a space plan in your soul can be a game changer.  Having someone who travels with you on this pilgrimage can provide you with soul reinforcement allowing you to continue this arduous journey.  This partnership is about comfort as well as expanding the positive aspects of belief in an energy force greater than you.

Space planning is not just for your physical environment, but your inner habitat as well.  It can provide you with comfort when you feel as if your diagnosis is taking over your entire life and you feel as if no one understands.  Containment of the emotional and spiritual intrusions can promote health and lead you to getting better or getting well!

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

What’s Going On In Your Universe?

Since 1969 when we landed a man on the moon, we have been a nation continuously asking questions about the universe.  We want to know if life has ever existed on other planets and what types of life.  We wonder what it would take to set up settlements in these far and distant locations.  Scientists are also wondering about how planets stay in their orbit, and the forces that keep all the planets from crashing into each other.

Gravitational pull is the mediating factor in how planets rotate around the sun.  It’s an amazingly strong force, and keeps order.  Whether you realize it or not, you have gravitational pull.  The energy that emanates from you is what attracts others to you and in times of need this energy is important.  I’m talking about more than just the likeability factor, but a compelling energy that keeps people in your orbit going out of their way to help you on your journey to health and healing.

I follow Robin Roberts from Good Morning America.  She had breast cancer about five years ago and as a result of her treatment, she was one of those who developed other complications.  Her previous treatment resulted in her developing MDS, a bone marrow disorder.  She just recently went through a bone marrow transplant and is on the mend.

She has gravitational pull.  I don’t believe it’s simply because she’s a celebrity.  I believe her personal energy engages the world around her and keeps them connected in physical, emotional, and spiritual orbits.  People are following her on social media, on television, and through interviews.  Her doctors have been on television not only discussing her treatment plan, but explaining the importance of being a bone marrow donor and how this connects us in inexplicable ways.

I believe that if you took a step back and looked at your life, you’d witness your gravitational pull.  I believe this energy far exceeds your family and friends and you may not even be aware of how far reaching it may be.  I attribute this to the way you interacted with people before your diagnosis.  These connections are the foundations for health and healing.  We don’t do it alone, and understanding the force of your gravitational pull may propel you a life full of hope!

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

Fix Me

I listen to a lot of music and when I find something that speaks to me I listen to it over and over again.  One of the things I look for is to find music that has a message.  I like to be able to reinforce my thoughts and beliefs with music because the words and melody continue to play in my head.

Over the summer I rented the movie “Joyful Noise”.  The movie stars two music greats, Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton.  It focuses on a small town’s church choir and their desire to win a singing competition.  One of the subplots is between Queen Latifah’s character and her daughter.  A scene shows Queen Latifah’s character in the church playing the piano and singing a song titled, “Fix Me”.  She’s praying through song.  She’s hoping to appeal to her God to mend fences and show her a path that is healing.

It got me thinking about how many times do we ask/pray to be fixed.  Following the diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness sparks internal conflict and potentially even conflict within their spiritual/religious life.  It’s not a surprise that we want to be “fixed” because they went of course.  We never know what causes illness, because some who have identical lifestyles never see a day of sickness.  So why do we really feel we need to be “fixed”.

One possibility is that we feel that our lives have been lacking some essential ingredient.  If that’s the case then instead of “fix me”, maybe we can shift to “fulfill me”.  The idea of finding what’s missing and making changes improves our health in body, mind, and spirit.

Another possible explanation would be that we haven’t met our potential.  If that’s the case then maybe it’s not “fix me”, but “extend me”.  Allow me to stretch and reach new heights, allowing me to reach my highest good.

“Fix me” makes me think I’m broken and I don’t believe that about anyone.  Facing a health challenge isn’t about being broken; it’s about being challenged.  It’s about being sent on a journey, not of your own choosing, pushing you to go within to new and deeper levels.  It’s not necessarily joyful until you get to your destination, but the journey to health and healing can have some amazing outcomes.

How would you like to shift the notion of “fix me”?

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

Soul Transparency

This is probably one of the most personal posts I’ve written, but the experience was so striking I wanted to share it with you.  I was at the park last week and going about my business.  Usually I go to the park to read or do some writing, but I was sitting in my car just thinking about the day when unbeknownst to me, I was being observed.

I was sitting quietly in my car when a woman who was getting in the car next to me approached my window.  She asked if I wanted her to pray for me; figuring I could use all the help I could muster I said YES.  Her prayer was sweet and meaningful, although obviously Christian (only mention it because I’m Jewish).  She finished her prayer, offered me some literature and then went on her way.

The kind woman pulled out of her parking spot to leave and immediately pulled back in next to me.  She got back out of her car and asked me if I wanted her to wait while I reviewed the literature in case had any questions that she could answer for me.  I politely declined, but didn’t feel like she believed me totally.  She left the parking lot and I was dazed and confused.

I began thinking about how transparent I might be if she were able to pick up a vibe calling out for help.  I didn’t feel particularly needy or distressed that day, but I’m suspecting I had an aura that said something different than my personal experience.  It made me begin wondering about how transparent I am, and how much of my soul cries out even without me being aware.

When we’re challenged in life how much does our soul reveal about us?  What does the soul do to catch the attention of others bringing people into our lives who may be able to ease our pain.  When diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness those times may be come and go, but are we really aware when challenges arise on our health pilgrimage?  Do we acknowledge the challenges and allow them to serve as teachers?  This experience happened over a week ago and I’ve been contemplating it every day since it happened.  I keep wondering why this woman was brought into my life and what was she leading me to see that I couldn’t or still can’t.

Having a health challenge may serve to mask our connection to our soul, but when people intervene, such as this woman, does it reconnect us more authentically?  I’ll continue thinking about this experience and continue searching for the meaning of this meeting.  I’m thankful that there are people in the world intuitive enough and courageous enough to intervene.  As I wrote in that post the other day, “I may not know her, but I’ll never forget her”!

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

Oprah…Dr. Phil…Katie…Your Choice

Talk shows have become all the rage on television.  Every major network flooded the market this fall with new shows hoping to get your attention.  What are the networks doing?  They saw a huge opening with Oprah leaving network television and everyone is vying for your attention, and the advertising dollar.  If you watch the shows you’ll notice one thing for sure, they all have their own flavor and point-of-view.

So what would happen if you were going to be a guest on a talk show?  It’s not only what you would talk about, but also how you would handle yourself when on the show.  A lot of this depends on the show you choose, and if I were assigning you to a show it would be based on your demeanor and how you’re handling your health challenge.  I would look at how you’re living your life and that would determine the best host for what you’re showing the world.

If you’re continuously angry about your diagnosis, I might select “The Jerry Springer Show” or “Maury” because you could scream and throw things around the studio.  If you’re in need of gentle support and spiritual guidance, “Oprah” might be the best hope to guide you on that path.  If you’re in a bit of denial and need a bit of tough love, then “Dr. Phil” is your host.

If you were taking a quiz to match your journey to the tv host it would require that you take a personal inventory.  It means that you need to be honest and if you’re ok with your current stance in life, then you’ve got the correct host.  If you don’t like what you’re seeing and feel it’s getting in the way of getting better or getting well, then it’s time to make some changes.

You may not think that the world sees what you’re experiencing, but we’re a lot more transparent than we believe.  This transparency impacts how others respond to you just as a different television hosts would respond differently.  Is your point-of-view aiding your health and healing journey or it is a hindrance?   Who’s show would you thrive on, and do you need to make any changes?  If you really want to be on a talk show, go to the website and see if there’s a show they’re planning that matches your life experience.  Who knows, I may be writing about you after you make your talk show debut!

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

See Through…Fall Through…Saved

I’m one of those people who daydream quite often.  Between daydreaming and doodling in all of my notebooks, it’s a wonder that I get anything done, but it does serve a purpose.  Those moments allow me to incubate thoughts and ideas I have about my life and the experiences I have daily.

As I began to construct this post I had a dozen or so thoughts run through my head, but one image seemed to stand out to me.  It’s the visual of the new glass lookout at The Grand Canyon.  This look out allows you to step over the edge of the canyon (fully supported) and not only look out, but also look down.  For many it’s one of the scariest experiences of their lives (obviously those folks have never been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness).

The actual lookout is not the focus this morning, but what it represents.  When you step out on the lookout you can see through to the bottom, you don’t fall through, so in essence you’re saved.  In our world, during one of the scariest times in our lives, you’re supported even though simultaneously terrified.  You have the benefit of transparency, but not the risk.  It’s this experience that many with a health challenge embrace.  There is an adventure like quality to the experience, but it has very high stakes.  Do you feel supported while stepping out on an emotional or spiritual see through ledge?  Who’s providing you with that support and is it enough?

If your soul had a lookout point, where would it be?  What is it that you can see from this lookout point?  Is what you see scary or comforting?  What’s it like to have the illusion of doom, but the reality of safety?  These are the questions that arise when I begin one of these explorations.  My world is all about dangling the carrot that keeps me asking questions.  These questions propel me forward on my own 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

Crack Open the Fortune Cookie and Be Surprised

I went to the Chinese restaurant for dinner the other night and at the end of the meal, as is customary, I received a fortune cookie.  Most of the time I’m indifferent to them because they say something either so obvious or so absurd that I leave it on the table to be swept away with the other trash.

This evening was different.  I had one of those fortunes that actually made me think.  It was even something I could agree with, so I’m sharing it with you.  What if you, “Make your life an exclamation, not an explanation”.   It’s simple and to the point, but what does it mean for you, someone diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness?

I believe it’s about claiming each and every day.  It’s making conscious decisions about what you do on your journey to health and healing instead of looking back at what might have happened.  It’s proactive and doesn’t reek of shame.  It’s about taking responsibility for what the decision you make in your life instead of the excuses you may be prone to making on a regular basis.

When you “make your life an exclamation” it becomes a celebration.  It may not be a ticker tape parade, but it’s the soapbox you stand on, not the thing you hide behind.  You show others what’s possible instead of backtracking about what could have been.

Let’s face it; coming up with explanations is exhausting.  It drains you of the precious internal resources you need to get better or get well!  When you need to explain things it enters the realm of storytelling and with that comes a certain degree of fiction.  Is that how you want to live your life?  As a fiction character?

Living life as an exclamation is the true story.  It’s the story you want to share with others instead of one you hope no one asks you about.  It’s the story that serves as a catalyst for the next day of our life and hopefully every day builds upon the day before!