Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Empowerment, living with chronic illness, overcoming adversity

Lessons from the road Part 4: Pay Attention to Change

The drive across country took me three days. The driving time gives me a lot of time to think, listen to interviews on the radio, and take in the sights of the country. When traveling during the warmer months there is a lot of road construction underway. What comes with road construction? Detours!!!

At the end of 2013 I drove home (to Colorado) from the Pittsburgh area. I had been on I-80 just like last week and there was a detour in the Indiana/Illinois area. Unfortunately I-80 was closed and I had to take the detour on I-90 and rejoin I-80 down the road. As it would happen, I wasn’t paying attention and I missed the return to I-80. It took me over two hours on I-90 to find my way back to the correct road. I even asked a toll booth attendant how to get to I-80 and her directions took me in a complete circle ending up back at that same toll booth….Arghhhhhhh!!!!!!!

On this journey I knew that there was a detour and was acutely aware of the detour signs. Lo and behold, I found I-80 without any difficulties cutting two hours off my travel time. I had learned my lesson about paying attention to the smallest details when driving. The detour signs were small and hidden, and if I hadn’t been aware of my previous mistake I might still be driving around the Chicago area in a fugue.

The same is true in our lives. Life presents interruptions that cause distress. It’s up to us whether or not we learn from these detours. How many people do you know who have made the same wrong turn over and over again thinking they’ll get it right without changing their actions? It’s important to learn from our missteps. It’s important to be aware that change requires attention. It’s important to move cautiously through new territory or understand that there’s a huge potential that you’ll be lost taking your time and energy.

When we pay attention on any journey, whether it is on an interstate made of pavement or the interstate of your life, we reach our destination with less stress. We are available to notice the nuances that present themselves allowing us to make subtle shifts in our plans and giving us new opportunities to learn.

Feeling lost or undirected?  Looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Want to explore the road of life in a creative way?  Visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

Follow me on Twitter: @GregKatz2

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Emotional Health, living with chronic illness, overcoming adversity, Spirituality and Health

Lessons from the Road Part 3: People at Work

Ever cross the country on one of the Interstate highways created during the Eisenhower administration? I can’t imagine traveling cross-country and having to meander through small towns trying to find the most direct route to my destination. I’m grateful for these highways and byways and for the men and women who keep the roads in good shape.

There are signs on the roadside where work is being done that says, “Hit a worker and receive a $10,000 fine and 14 years in jail.” That’s quite a hefty price to pay, but we’ve been warned so driving recklessly through these work zones is sheer stupidity. It always makes me nervous driving through these zones because there are always anxious, tail riding drivers behind me; no matter, I stand my ground and drive the reduced speed limit. We need these roads to be in the best condition possible to make travel safe.

The same is true as we live our lives. Our personal infrastructure is critical to living a good life. Our physical, emotional, and spiritual lives are always in flux. There are definitive steps we can take to insure that we keep ourselves in the best possible state-of-being. We can pay attention to the needs of our body, mind, and spirit to provide a foundation for a life filled with health, joy, and peace.

What are the work zones in your life? Where are there areas where you need to slow down, pay attention, and take steps to shore up those aspects of your life? What are you reading? What are you creating? What are you exploring? What actions do you take when you have moments of insight? We know that if you don’t pay attention to your personal infrastructure, just like the roads we travel, your body, mind, and spirit will begin to deteriorate. This deterioration creates physical ailments such as migraines, back pain, and gastro-intestinal trouble as some examples. The huge increase in depression and anxiety across the lifespan is evidence that our emotional infrastructure, as a society, is in need of attention. The number of suicides, and the number of people on antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs is staggering.

Life doesn’t come without a price and I’m not talking about financial. I’m referring to the energy and attention that is required to propel us toward health and healing. We can’t live our lives on autopilot. We need to pay the price such as exercising, praying, meditating, therapy, or creative outlets of our emotional lives. Create your own work zone, it works for our country and it will work for you!

Facing adversity and looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Want to explore your creative side to use as the roadwork for your body, mind, and spirit?  Visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

Follow me on Twitter: @GregKatz2

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, overcoming adversity

Lessons From the Road Part 2: Learn to Handle Your Load

When you spend twenty-five hours on I-80 you have lots of time to think. I play games like checking out the license plates of the passing cars and making up stories about those traveling the never ending interstate. While on the road I also pay attention to billboards, flora and fauna, and the driving habits of others. On my way to New Jersey I noticed that the big eighteen-wheelers were having more trouble driving than I had previously experienced.

Following these big rigs I noticed (this time) that a higher proportion of them were having trouble staying in their lanes (not comforting for someone driving a Honda Element). I watched as many of these big rigs drifted into other lanes and the trailers seeming to have a mind of their own. It made me consider how experienced the drivers were and if they were taking all the road conditions into consideration as they made their way across the country.

It wasn’t a huge leap to begin thinking about how each of us is our own big rig driver covering many miles both figuratively and literally throughout our lives. There are times in our lives when we incur adverse conditions creating a heavier than usual load that we haven’t been trained to manage. It shouldn’t be a surprise that during those times we too seem to swerve across lanes in our lives.

When life presents itself with interruptions it is necessary to follow the road signs. You may have to make detours because your “normal” way of living life has new conditions that need your attention. It’s imperative that you learn how to navigate the interstate of your life with this new load. You may have to learn new skills to accommodate the changes. These life interruptions may ask you to take time to adjust to the new conditions requiring you to slow down, take notice, and make the necessary adjustments to stay on course.

As the driver of your life big rig you decide the load you take on, and decide where and when to off-load the cargo. Find ways to stabilize your rig! You can learn new life big rig skills by joining a support group, finding a coach to help you navigate the highways of life, or a spiritual director to help you avoid that big pothole life has placed before you. No matter what you choose, know that learning to handle the load will increase your sense of peace. It will give you the tools you need to overcome adversity!

Looking for education, support, and inspiration as you navigate life’s highway?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Want to explore creative ways of keeping yourself on the road of your health and healing journey?  Visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

Follow me on Twitter: @GregKatz2

Posted in coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, overcoming adversity

Stay In Your Lane

I just finished a cross-country trip for a job contract. I’ve made this long drive many times and I pay close attention to driving habits on my (this time) twenty-seven hour drive. On this journey I seemed to focus on how drivers position themselves on the road in relation to me and those big eighteen wheelers. There are lots of typologies out there and I have yet to see how driving habits relate to personality but it would be interesting to investigate.

I am amazed at the number of cars that seem to change lanes every five hundred feet. Watching those drivers is like watching the silver ball bounce off the bumpers and obstacles in a pinball machine. What’s the problem with staying in your lane?

We create the delusion that changing lanes gets us to our destination faster. Obviously the truth is that continual lane changing leads to greater and more intense frustration of the drivers. It is a danger to those around these perilous drivers and requires those of us around them to be on hyper-alert.

How many times have you read the latest and greatest self-help book, spiritual guide, or diet book hoping for immediate resolution of your issue; perhaps even salvation? We’ve been indoctrinated into a culture of immediate gratification. It’s gotten to the point that we jump from one set of practices to another with disparaging remarks about the strategy we recently abandoned. Are we so delusional to believe that change is instantaneous? Can we be naïve to believe that our lives will mysteriously resolve all the past issues because we engaged in some practice or strategy for a couple of days or weeks?

When we don’t stay in our lane we become disillusioned with the possibility of change. Our experience of hope is diminished and that often derails our health and healing journey. We sabotage ourselves because we have been conditioned to believe that change happens because we wish it to happen instead of understanding that it takes work.

Next time you’re driving and see a serial lane changer and realize you both end up at the same red light; think about how that same premise arises in your life. Stay in your lane and give the strategies and practices you’re committing to a chance to create change in your life!!

Looking to find education, support, and inspiration when facing challenges in your life?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Want to “Stay In Your Lane” through creative practices?  Visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

Follow me on twitter: @GregKatz2

 

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, overcoming adversity

Living in Fear? Time to Change Your Address!

We all have an address, whether it is a physical address that the snail mail gets delivered to or a heart address where you and others connect at the deepest levels. It’s a place to land and without a place to call home our lives can be teetering on the edge.

If you think about a home (whether you have one or not) you know a home is made up of rooms. Each room in a house has a purpose or special meaning (just ask all the realtors helping families where the man of the house wants a “mancave”.) Perhaps you want a library to spark your intellectual curiosity, a craft room to express yourself, or a meditation room to seek a sense of peace. The truth is that rooms have emotional energy as well and for some the place they live in is fear.

Fear is powerful and prevents many of us from accomplishing our life’s mission. It holds us back from completing our life assignment. It tricks us into a state of confusion. When our address is fear what scares us knows exactly where to find us. It’s like we’re a magnet and those things that scare us are drawn to that location like a moth to a flame.

The great poet Hafiz shared his belief on fear, “Fear is the cheapest room in the house; I’d like to see you in better living conditions.” Wouldn’t it be great if Hafiz were your emotional and spiritual realtor? Imagine having someone who knows, believes, and encourages you to change your life’s state-of-affairs. The great things about being an emotional and spiritual realtor is your license never expires and we’re all free to gain insight by his lessons.

How will you change the room you live in? First you have to want to abandon the fear that keeps you locked in a particular room. It requires you to redecorate your surroundings with positive thoughts, rational thoughts, and clear and present action. We give fear too much power; let’s strip it of its power. Let’s tell fear to find a new address with no forwarding address.

If you evict irrational fear (we all have rational fears like starting treatment for a health condition or overwhelming debt from the loss of a job) from your life you’ll be able to take strides to health and healing. You’ll give your body, mind, and spirit the resources it needs to face challenges with determination, endurance, and perseverance.

Want to evict fear?  Looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Fear can be released through art.  To find out how visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Empowerment, living with chronic illness, overcoming adversity

Interior Designers, The New Motivational Experts?

We know that where you live impacts how you live. Your environment effects how you move through our day. Your home should be your sanctuary. It should provide shelter, comfort, protection, and even inspiration. Needless to say I was surprised when I was watching an episode of Fixer Upper on HGTV. The designing team, a husband and wife, were transforming the space of a single woman. It’s one thing to do the major renovations, but what about the actual decorating?

Interior designers are not only worried about the configuration of the space, but the aesthetics. The accessories are just as important as a sofa. They are looking for ways to create a complete experience. In this episode the designer decided to put an inspirational phrase on the wall, “Today is a good day for a good day!” It shouldn’t be a surprise how delighted the homeowner was with a mantra front and center in her living space. Is that what we need, an interior designer to become our new gurus? Obviously I’m being facetious, but how do you remind yourself of the importance of a positive attitude when facing a challenge?

The evidence is in that the body and mind work together. It’s important that we infuse our cells with positive energy giving each of us the much-needed boost when facing adversity. It seems that we have short memories when it comes to keeping positive. It takes work, that’s a fact. However, can we afford to let negativity rule our actions and decisions?

We all find ways to keep positivity in our consciousness. Creativity is one way to increase positivity. Ultimate self-expression allows us to celebrate what is working in our lives and release what is holding us back by telling our stories. Exercise reinforces the message of self-care. Volunteerism punctuates our connection to compassion. It doesn’t need to be a saying on the wall, but finding some way(s) of keeping positivity in your consciousness will alter your brain chemistry. You’ll find new solutions to your challenges, and will create new opportunities for growth.

Today’s thought, “Today is a good day for a good day!!!!”

Facing adversity in your life?  Looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Want to develop creative strategies for having a good day?  Visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

Posted in coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, overcoming adversity

Playing Life Poker? What Trumps What?

Every play rock, paper, scissors when you were a kid? There’s a hierarchy in the game and the goal is to try and always be the one to come out on top. When facing a challenge we look for ways to overcome adversity. Our goal and our only goal is to find solutions that will outwit the challenge or put it to rest. That’s great when talking about tangible things like overcoming debt, fighting illness, parenting teenagers; we can develop strategies that minimize the stress caused by these life events. Think about the moments before you find the solution and you’re in that place of suffering; what do you do with suffering?

When I was a freshman in college I changed my major three or four times the first year. There was a period of time when I was in the teacher education program and my professor Dr. Sacca was teaching us how to determine for ourselves as students and a tool to teach our future students about what is important in the lesson. He said, “Repetition for emphasis.” His point was that if something comes up more than once in the lesson it will most likely be on the exam. So in life, when we experience suffering from life interruptions over and over, what do you cultivate to overcome that pain?

I told you that story because at the end of the show Criminal Minds (I’m obsessed with profiling serial killers…don’t worry just a phase) the voice over is a quote pertaining to experience the agents just experienced. I heard this quote yesterday and wrote it down, then said to myself, “Gee this sounds familiar”. It was familiar because the last time this episode aired I had written down the same quote in my notebook, “repetition for emphasis.”

The lesson expressed by Ben Okri is, “The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love, and to be greater than our suffering.” In these moments it’s important to remember that we’re spiritual beings having a human experience. We as a species have survived because we’re adaptable and teachable. We are social creatures allowing us to teach each other ways to overcome adversity and avert negative experiences in the future. We love and have the capacity to comfort and be comforted alleviating isolation and vulnerability.

The quote by Okri is one of those “in your face” lessons that we must not only read, but assimilate into every cell of our being. We need to infuse creativity, endurance, transformation, and love into all of our actions, thoughts, and beliefs. We’re greater than the interruptions that intrude on our lives. Tattoo that quote on your heart and use it as a guide when you need to make the tough decisions life requires of you.

Facing a chronic or life-threatening illness?  Looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Want to explore how to use art to release suffering?  Visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

Posted in Autobiography, Caregiving, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Life Motivation, living with chronic illness, overcoming adversity

Arthur Ashe’s Life Principle(s)

I was listening to the audio of Andy Andrews book, Mastering the Seven Decisions. It is the follow-up to his monumental book The Traveler’s Gift. Andrews talks about the seven decisions not as suggestions but as principles. He makes a point of stating their principles because principles are universal. They aren’t specific to any one person but to everyone. His seven decisions (or principles) were derived from reading the autobiographies/biographies/memoirs or more than two hundred people. He found that the challenges these people faced and the tools and strategies to overcome their challenges could be reduced to seven decisions.

The idea that principles are universal makes me think about how important it is to find these gems. It’s one of those things I’m on the lookout for and when I hear it, read it, or experience it, I grab hold tightly and see how to make the principle (a universal strategy) more conscious in my life.

I was listening to the acceptance speech by Michael Sam, the first openly gay pro football player drafted to the St. Louis Rams, who received the Courage Award at the ESPYS. In his speech Sam referred to another great athlete Arthur Ashe. He shared Ashe’s philosophy of, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” This simple three-part statement took me by surprise. How could something so simple, so true, so applicable to everyone’s life not be needlepointed on every cushion in the land?

The first part of the principle “start where you are”, can it get any simpler. It requires us to make a personal assessment of what’s going on in our lives, in the now! It doesn’t matter how things used to be, but what is your current reality. This is very important for all of us who have experienced any type of life interruption such as an illness, divorce, bankruptcy, or other challenge. Where are you today and on the map of life that’s where you put the red dot that says, “You are here!”

The second part of the life principle, “Use what you have” is just practical. There are no imaginary resources. If you need more tools in your life toolbox seek them out. You can augment “what you have” by taking a class, attending a support group, going to therapy, or seeking counsel of a spiritual advisor.

The final part of the principle’s trilogy, “Do what you can” requires you to take action. If you’re facing an illness how will you support your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs? If you’re looking for love you have to get out in the world; UPS doesn’t deliver life partners to your door. If you’re having a spiritual crisis finding support, going on retreat, setting out on a pilgrimage, or attending a service are the things you’re able to do to change the situation.

We know that Arthur Ashe came to these principles based on a long career as a champion tennis player as well as someone who eventually died of AIDS. The challenges in his life were eased because he lived by these principles. He learned how to make the necessary accommodations to live a full life.

What will you do today with Ashe’s three-fold principle?

Facing some form of life interruption?  Looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Want to implement Ashe’s life principles through art?  Visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Emotional Health, living with chronic illness, overcoming adversity

Enjoy Your Own Company

We’re social creatures. We spend most of our days interacting with people in our family, our work situations, and our civic/social arenas. We’re connected by phone and email so we’re never out of reach from anyone. What has become a social world, interacting as part of our human process, has become a noisy world. We’re trying to find more and more ways of being together and sometimes I wonder if it’s because we’re afraid of being alone.

I do make a distinction between alone and lonely. Being alone is a choice we make to cut off from others for some quiet time. Lonely is a social deprivation that for many can lead to many physical, emotional, and spiritual problems. When we’re alone we give ourselves the opportunity to hear our thoughts without interruption. It gives us time to think about what we really want and need so we can set our priorities.

The other aspect of being alone is when we do things singularly. How many times have you decided not to go to the movie, the theater, a party, or a host of other social outlets because there was no one to accompany you? Going alone means enjoying your own company. It allows you to say to yourself, “I’m enough”, in order to achieve that you have to enjoy your own company. You need to make peace with you in all its glory.

Be your own date! When you connect to enjoying your own company you can delve into interests that are uniquely yours, avoiding a go with the flow mentality. You can express yourself through speech, dress, or even affiliations.

Enjoying your own company is about giving the world the you it deserves. It’s allowing your voice to shine through adding to the symphony we all life. We need your voice, your beliefs, and your presence. We need you to share what you know, what you need to learn, and what you can teach. On the flip side, you need to feel confident in who you’ve become. You need to “accentuate the positive”. The world is hoping and expecting you to show up in all your glory.

Facing the diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness?  Don’t do it alone?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Learn how to Enjoy your own company through art.  Visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Emotional Health, living with chronic illness, overcoming adversity

Life is a Series of Adjustments

It would be wonderful if life were predictable. You may have behaviors that are predictable, but only within a given context. We don’t have any notion of what tomorrow will bring and I’m not saying that just to be cliché. We can make assumptions about what’s ahead of us, but until we live it there are no guarantees.

Think about when you drive a car. You start to drive and your goal is to keep the wheels straight. In order to do that you make adjustments with the steering wheel. Throughout your drive you’ll make minor adjustments multiple times or you would have crashed into numerous other vehicles.

It seems to me that life works the same way. Within certain parameters we live our lives with a certain degree of certainty. We go to the same coffee shop, exercise at the same gym, or go to the same movie theater. However, what happens when there’s a long line at your coffee shop and there’s another shop around the corner? What do you do when the aerobics class you want to take at the gym is full? These are minor adjustments, but they direct you to different actions.

When facing a challenge whether it is health or some other form of life interruption, adjustments become more the norm than the exception. We find ourselves making adjustments with our time and resources. We modify (an adjustment) our workout routines depending on our energy level. We begin to ask questions that are deeper in nature because we’re looking for a solution to the interruption life has set at our feet.

We have to be careful not to over-adjust. I’ve met numerous people who think the way to solve their challenge is to do a complete 180 in their behavior. It’s important to remember that more is not always better. Minor adjustments may be just the thing to keep your life’s status quo.

It’s not uncommon for us to over adjust when we feel anxious, uncertain, or scared. We’ve been conditioned for the quick fix. This is most prominent in the diet industry where big results in a short amount of time headlines every commercial. Learning to take care of your body is paramount to good health and keeping off the weight. If you don’t learn how to “eat” without the program are you willing to make the “program” your new lifestyle instead of a quick fix?

I wrote a post earlier in the week about the importance of learning. We must learn healthful ways of reducing stress, alleviating pain, or minimizing distress. There are resources such as meditation, journaling, or moderate exercise that relieve stress and allow you to become better acquainted with your body, mind, and spirit.

Watch for those minor adjustments through the day. Be conscious of these adjustments and make sure you don’t drive out of your lane!

Facing a challenge in your life?  Looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Want to ease your adjustments with your creativity?  Visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com