Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘living with chronic illness’

If you follow my blog you know that I travel around the country for work, months at a time. I work long hours and in return my time off is really off. I’ve had the good fortune to visit some great cities and in each one I make sure and find my tribe. My tribe is anyone who engages in artistic endeavors, no matter the genre. In addition, I always make it a point to visit the local attractions such as museums and botanic gardens not to mention quilt shops and knitting shops.

My current work assignment is in Baltimore. My other blog www.manofthecloth.wordpress.com is where I focus on stitching as meditation. I was looking for a particular yarn and found that a local art supply store happened to carry this gorgeous 100% wool yarn. I made it over to the shop, found the yarn, but they didn’t have enough for my project. Little did I know, until I got up to the register, that they have back stock that isn’t on the floor. I found five more skeins of yarn and proceeded to check out.

The staff inquired if I was affiliated with the Art Institute as a student or faculty member, to receive the discount. I explained that I’m visiting from out-of-state for a work contract. Once I divulged where I lived, the two employees proceeded to tell me about all the art spots that I had to see while in town. First they were focused on fiber art, since that’s my medium, but I explained I’m open to anything art related. They gave me a list of locations, exhibitions, and venues to visit before I leave town. They made me feel very welcomed and over the next few weeks will give me things to see and do while I’m far away from home.

So who is your tribe? What makes a tribe? I find that it’s about common passions. It doesn’t matter what you’re passionate about, these folks exist all around you. Another way that tribes are formed is by common experience. I’ve worked in outpatient drug and alcohol programs and the bonds that are formed are very strong. When I worked at The Wellness Community, serving cancer patients and their families, they created a tribe. The tribe can tell you the things you need to do, see, look for, and experience, as well as where the land mines are to avoid.

I was fortunate to attend a graduate school that had the ancient Wisdom Traditions as the foundation of the curriculum. I met amazing people who were on the same pilgrimage as me. We took classes together, worked on our dissertations together, and fortunately graduated together. The experience of traveling with other seekers was amazing. It eased much of the anxiety of the process and increased my level of devotion to the work. My tribe supported and nurtured me throughout my journey.

Where we got the notion that it’s better to go it alone I’m not sure. What I do know from personal and professional experience is that having a tribe makes me feel a part of something larger than me. It gives me the sense of expansion and possibility that exists beyond what I can see in my world today.

Who makes up your tribe? How have they created a safe haven on your personal journey? How have you benefited from being part of a tribe? Be conscious of these questions and I think you’ll be amazed at the connections that are all around you!

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

It’s a Monday morning and I woke up to see snow on the ground.  Last night’s weather report had said that we’d have some moisture between midnight and 4am, but it was still snowing at 6:30am.  As I sit here and write this post it’s still snowing.  So why am I giving you the meteorology report for the state of Colorado?  Because the weather is an inconvenience.  It’s annoying because it means the roads will be slippery, the people driving on the road will be a bit more stupid than usual and when the wind blows the snow gets in my face; it’s wet and cold.

Those facing a chronic illness are continuously in the midst of their own surprise snow.  It’s those small inconveniences that happen to those of us facing a chronic illness every day that can feel like a continuous uphill battle.  It gets in the way of the plans you may have for any given day.  It may put a cramp in your style, and depending on the level of inconvenience may need to create a change in plans.

Just like the snow maybe you’ll have to be a bit more careful how you walk up and down the stairs or how you get in or out of the car.  It’s possible that you may have to change your schedule giving yourself more time to engage in any particular activity.  You may feel warmer or colder depending on how your personal thermostat is working on any given day and the side effects of your medication.  These are just a few of the inconveniences those facing a chronic illness have to endure.  The trouble with this idea is that we’re not talking about a cold that we get over in 7-10 days; it’s a lot more complicated and involved.

We have to become masters at flexibility.  We have to have the patience of the Saints.  We have to have the endurance to make it not only through this particular inconvenience, but all those to come.  We have to commit to a treatment plan that may outlast many of your relationships/marriages.  It’s a complex issue, but those of us facing a chronic illness, after a bit of time, understand that this is the “new” normal.  We have been drafted to serve the body in a way we never could have imagined and my hope is that we serve with honor.

How will you serve today?  Will you allow the inconveniences destroy your mood or the joy you may have the opportunity to experience?  How will you cope with your snow?

Read Full Post »

I remember the first time I saw the pictures of the earth taken from outer space, what a magical vision.  For a planet that seemed so large the picture made it look so small; I guess that’s a lesson in perspective.  As we stand on this planet, in our bodies the illness experience knocks us off our pedestal of feeling big and cuts us down to size.  It’s not a punishment, or a lesson in reality, but an understanding of our place in the world.

The question “what’s the size of your world?” is important because it’s not uncommon following an illness diagnosis for our worlds to shrink and the unfortunately it’s repopulated with a medical community we had no interest in knowing.  Maybe our world has to increase it’s size like a taffy pull, just keep tugging at the edges and stretching it till it becomes smoothe and shiny. This would happen by friends, neighbors and co-workers engaging you.   Maybe we can increase the size of our worlds the way they do with angioplasty…insert a balloon into the artery and then slowly fill the balloon with air increasing it’s size allowing for increased blood flow.  Perhaps we can increase the size of our worlds by invitation, making specific requests of people.

It’s interesting that President Obama asked the country to engage in acts of service.  Can you think of any greater act of service than maintaining our relationships to their full capacity?  Service is not only something we do for those we don’t know.  Service is about extending a hand to anyone who could use a bit more support and encouragement.

How will you increase the size of your world?   Make a list of five things you can do and then select one that you can do today.  I’d love to hear what you’ve chosen and the actions you’ve taken to increase the size of your world.

Read Full Post »

As a kid I used to watch Gumby and Pokey.  As an adult I had both a Gumby and Pokey toy in my therapy office.  The amazing thing is that it wasn’t the kids who played with these bendable toys; it was the adults.  It could be that kids didn’t know who these two claymation characters were and adult knew full well the escapades these two got into in every episode.  It wasn’t unusual for the adult to pick up the figures and bend them in all possible ways, shaping them to match their emotional being in the moment.

I ask the question, “what shapes you?” because you’ll need to have an answer, and a conscious answer as you move through your health challenge.  Facing a chronic or life-threatening illness means you recruit all possible allies to help you move forward on your journey to wellness.  The amazing thing is that the answer to this question can be as unique as the people walking on this earth.

When I ask clients or audience participants this question they respond with everything from how they were brought up as children, to their ethnic or religious backgrounds, to their political beliefs, and to the person sitting next to them on the bus.  There is no “correct” answer because we’re shaped every day whether we know it or not.  Every time you see a news story or read an article and you have a reaction you’re being shaped in some fashion.

The question is do you want to be able to foster that experience or allow it to be spontaneous?  Knowing what shapes you will give you the edge in your wellness strategy because you will look for things to support and expand your belief system and validate, not to mention reinforce your values.  I’ll give you an example.  I have a friend who has become a raw food vegan.  She was a vegetarian, then a vegan and now a raw food vegan.  Why the evolution?  As she dove deeper into her beliefs and values she found that her diet needed to be a part of the big picture.  It wasn’t a chance decision it came from years of personal experience and knowledge about her own body.  The results she reports are truly beneficial.  She not only feels better physically, but she feels more congruent in her mind, body, spirit connection.  She has created harmony within her body and soul and that creates a healing environment.

What has shaped you in the past and how has it manfiested in your life?  What would you like to dive into deeper?  What are the beliefs and values that need support?  How do you feel this will impact your healing?

Read Full Post »

It’s Christmas morning, last night was the fourth night of Hanukkah, the Winter Solstice just passed and Kwanza begins tomorrow, talk about a holiday grouping.  I’ve been flipping through the channels on television and there are numerous programs talking about what the holidays mean, how they began, how we celebrate and noting the time of wonder.  Families are waking up this morning to open presents, the traditional Jewish celebration of Christmas was to go to the movies and then Chinese food and the candle industry is riding the tide during a season of lights.

In many faiths this is a time of wonder and miracles.  I’m sure many of you facing chronic and life-threatning illnesses are hoping, wishing even praying for a cure.  It’s difficult to let go of the anger, the blame or the pity that results from being sick.  Many can’t understand why they just can get past the diagnosis and move on to more fruitful endeavors.

If you read stories about the mystics and the Saints you’ll find they weren’t believing all the time.  Many had battles with their God and they still became Saints.  Following a difficult time in Teresa of Avila’s life she’s quoted as saying to God, “If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few of them!” I share that with you because it’s natural to want to blame someone for the diagnosis.  It’s understandable to want to be able to answer the question “why” or even “why me”, but as of today you may not have any answers.

I know that you may feel picked on, but then why would you want to believe or need to believe that you were singled out by God to be given a heavy load to carry.  Last month I was talking to a friend who has a lot of challenges in her life.  She said, “I hear the phrases like, God doesn’t give you more than you handle, or what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.  She then turned to me and said, “If that’s true then I’m mad at God”.

This is one of those times in life when we tend to leave science and move exclusively into our relationship with God.  This is a time in your life when you need more friends than enemies.  This is a time in life when spiritual comfort can mean the difference between soul stamina and soul exhaustion.  This is a time when the belief in the possible far outweighs the belief in victimization.  What if we just walked around with the notion that what happened to us happened and now what am I going to do about it.  Take the pressure off your relationship with the Divine and use that relationship as a pillar of hope.  Miracles do happen.  It’s not time to make something happen; it’s time to welcome something in.

What will you Welcome In this holiday season?

Read Full Post »

They say you shouldn’t judge a person before you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.  If that’s true then how do we cultivate empathy in others.  Those who are facing health challenges could hold classes for the loved one’s in their lives to explain the complexities of their illness and all the ramifications of treatment.  That’s obviously an unrealistic expectation.

Let’s look at the continuum.  First we have sympathy.  Sympathy is the experience of enmeshment with the person who is challenged.  You literally feel the person’s pain.  This is not helpful to either of you and can create a cycle of negative energy.  You’ll both be on the hamster wheel with no way off.

Empathy is the absorption of the other’s pain.  It’s like the episode of Star Trek with “The Empath”  she absorbs the pain from the other person and processed it through her own body.  People experiencing challenge believe you’re a hero.  Unfortunately it’s because they have someone doing the work for them.  There is little chance that you, the person with the health challenge, is going to grow and create healthy avenues for wellness.

Finally there’s compassion.  Compassion is the state where you don’t go into the emotional state with the other person but you’re fully present.  This is the greatest gift you can offer someone with a health challenge.  Acknowledging their challenge, their bravery, their courage and their resourceful and allowing them to come up with solutions is powerful.

It’s easy to get seduced by the story of someone who is ill, but that’s a trap without a happy ending.  Developing the ability to sit with the pain, but not have to eliminate another’s pain is difficult, but empowering for the person with the life-altering health diagnosis.

As someone who is ill the obvious would be to have someone remove the pain and let you off with no responsibility.  Obviously that’s not possible, so don’t you want your loved one’s to show compassion and give you the strength to emerge stronger than before?  Let me know how you would encourage your loved one’s to develop compassion.  Sharing this information with the world could end a lot of suffering for those facing an illness.

Read Full Post »

You can’t wish away a hill or a mountain, so why do some people think they can wish away their illness?  I believe the “wish” mode kicks in when the individual is following one of two paths.   Either they are too lazy to do the necessary healing work, or their belief system in “wishing” is so strong and they have witnessed that type of healing

In my world, I know after years of wishing that participating in my healthcare makes all the difference in the world.  It’s amazing the path your healing journey can take when you plan for it the way you might plan for a vacation (obviously we know which one is more fun).

When preparing for the journey you have to be clear where you want to be.  You have to have that dialogue with your doctor because it may require your treatment plan to be a bit more aggressive.  I know when I have chosen treatment regimens I’ve been very clear to the doctor that I don’t need every symptom to gone, I don’t want to be uncomfortable, but I’m not trying to pass in this world as someone who is 100% without medical concerns.  This conversation allowed us to pick a medication plan that has the least number of side effects, and if it works it has the least long term effects.  The bottom line is that I can manage my illness without worrying about dreadful long term effects that might cause more harm and truly impact not only the quality of my life, but my longevity.

Know ahead of time what you want to spend…I DON”T MEAN FINANCIALLY.  What energy are you willing to exert in return for improved health.  Years ago I had a client with AIDS who have CMV retinitis.  His treatment included a daily home infusion that would take three hours and it had to be done before he went to work.  To save his eyesight he was willing to get up three hours early in the morning to do the infusion and that became is new normal.  You sweat equity may not be that drastic, but know ahead of time what you’re willing to do.  Are you ready to learn to self-inject medication?  Are you willing to attend physical therapy three times a week?  These are just examples, but knowing this ahead of time will aid your doctor because he won’t prescribe a plan that you won’t be on board with, and the treatment regimen prescribed will have greater success with you on board.

Don’t throw wishing totally out the window because the hope of wellness is good for the psyche.  Include wishing in your total medical plan and you may even come to convert wishing into action in your spiritual life…we can only wish.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »