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Posts Tagged ‘Oprah Winfrey’

We all have that moment when we look in the mirror and truly see ourselves for the first time.  It might be the day of a big birthday, graduation from school, or for some, the diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness.  It’s a moment when clarity mixes with curiosity.  A split second when you ask the question, “Who am I?”

I spend a lot of time in my studio and I listen to podcasts to keep me company.  This is a recent shift because music used to be my go-to studio mate, but there’s so much to learn that the podcast has been like being in a virtual classroom.  Listening to podcasts coupled with watching interviews on the DVR gives me plenty of material to convert into creative iterations of my life.

On Super Soul Sunday Oprah interviewed Pastor A.R. Bernard.  A pastor for forty years he has one of the largest congregations in the country.  Well-spoken and thoughtful, he gives you the feeling like you’re sitting in his study ready to experience an epiphany.  He turned to Oprah and said, “Every personal crisis starts with an identity crisis!”  Can you think of anything more poignant when considering the diagnosis of an illness?

When we couple the question of mortality, quality of life, and identity in one equation we’re faced with a big challenge…who are we?  What makes us who we are?  What do we need to learn?  How will this/these experiences change my life, change me?

I’ve facilitated thousands of hours of support groups over my twenty-five years as a therapist.  The question of identity is center to a diagnosis.  All too often people surrender to a label.  All the qualities they embodied prior to the doctor saying, “I’m sorry to tell you….” disappear into thin air.  There is a tendency to redefine ourselves by our diagnosis, our side-effects, even our limitations.  What would happen if we redefine ourselves by adding qualities instead of subtracting them.  Imagine adding qualities like determined, dedicated, self-loving, and conscious to your personal identity!

If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a hundred times in these posts, “We may not get well, but we can always get better.”  So how has your identity been altered?  What do you see in the mirror that you may not have seen prior to your diagnosis, or other life challenge?  What new qualities will you inhabit with your ever-evolving identity?

We’re all in this together…I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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I’ve been watching Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, watching some amazing interviews.  Watching these interviews begins to engage my inquisitive mind and I begin to think about our relationship to others and ourselves.  We’re complex beings and we all have gifts and talents that allow us to live successful lives, and contribute to the Universe.

I guess the big question that comes up is, “How conditional is your relationship to your gifts and talents?”  I ask that question because for many of us have to squelch our gifts and talents to make it day-to-day in our jobs and everyday life.  We engage our gifts and talents when we have “free time” or in times of crisis.  Is that any way to treat your gifts and talents?

Which of your gifts and/or talents would you like to explore further?  What benefits do you derive when you engage in activities that utilize your gifts and talents?  Do you find that when you engage your gifts and talents there is a positive impact on your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being?

Illness is just one of the many transitions we may experience in life.  During these times of transitions, obviously filled with stress and anxiety, there is a need to utilize all the resources, inner and outer, that are available to you.  Your gifts and talents don’t only have to be a well you go to when you’re thirsty.  Your gifts and talents can be a mainstay of your physical, emotional, and spiritual life.  They can be the nourishment you need to survive and thrive.

These are troubling times, even without an illness.  However, a diagnosis obviously complicates matters.  I’m amazed each and every time I engage someone in a conversation and they share their gifts and talents.  They’re face lights up so bright that it’s like looking into an eclipse; it’s blinding.  This is the exuberance that allows us to create a healing environment within our bodies, and in our interactions with others.

What gifts and or talents will you summon today and how will you infuse your day with possibility?

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The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) may not be a success, but some shows are obviously taking center-stage on the network.  It shouldn’t be a surprise, but the shows that are doing well are the shows where Oprah’s touch is evident.  In these cases she’s either doing the interview as in, “Oprah’s Next Chapter”, or “Oprah Winfrey’s Master Class”.  It’s the later that caught my attention last night when the guest of the show was the famous actress, activist, and fitness guru, Jane Fonda.

If you haven’t seen the show it allows the guest to speak about their life dividing the segments into “life lesson” segments.  The show is tasteful, insightful, and inspiring.  When I was listening to Jane Fonda speak last night I kept my notepad close by waiting for those bits of wisdom that would get me to think about my own life in a new way.  The lessons that caught my attention were: Allow your vulnerabilities to show; we’re not meant to be perfect, we’re meant to be whole; and Empathy is revolutionary!

This got me thinking about all the client/participant stories I’ve heard over the years and the lessons I’ve learned from all of you.  On the other hand, I started wondering what it would be like if I put you in front of a camera for an hour and you got to distill your life down to four or five pivotal life foundations.  This is very different than conducting a life review because it’s not about summing up your life at the end; it’s about punctuating those things that have made you who you are today!

I believe this can be a great part of your health and healing journey.  After your diagnosis you may have began to reflect on your life, your experiences, relationships, and adventures.  What have you taken from each of those experiences that will support your journey to wellness.  One of the things that Jane Fonda made very clear is “It’s never too late!”  That would mean that even for you, getting a diagnosis of a chronic or life-altering illness doesn’t have to be an end, but a beginning.  It can be a launch pad for your new life.

What would you impart to us if you were filming your own Master Class for the Oprah Winfrey Network?  What do you believe are the most important, helpful, inspiring lessons you’ve learned that will propel your life and ours forward?

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Welcome to Caregiver Friday!!

Every so often Oprah has a show with some big socialite or other well-to-do individual who has been in a domestic violence situation.  Over and over Oprah will say, “You never know what goes on behind the doors of someone’s home…looks can be deceiving.”

It took me to that tickle file in my brain with stories of caregivers who held on taking care of someone at home because if they put their loved one in a nursing home it would “look bad”.  What does look bad mean?  Are you, the caregiver running for Mr. or Ms. Congeniality in the Miss/Mr America pageant?  We’re worried about how we look to others including our own families. 

My mother-in-law took care of my father-in-law at home for over ten years before we convinced her to place him in a nursing home.  At the point we placed him he had deteriorated considerably from small strokes that followed the years after his massive stroke.  He was falling out of bed in the middle of the night (she’s a whole 98 lbs soaking wet and he was a bigger guy) so eventually she began calling the fire department to help get him in bed.  You may have a fireman fantasy, but they don’t like doing these types of calls on a regular basis.

I spoke with another gentleman this week whose mother has Alzheimer’s.  He had built a suite onto his home for his mother and she lived with him for over three years.  The tipping point, as it is for many if not most people, when deciding about a nursing home is the incontinence issue.   The research shows that incontinence is often the straw that breaks the camels back when making the decision to place someone in a nursing home.

Then there’s the issue of trying to be the hero.  A family where the man has Parkinson’s Disease (quite severe at this point) and his wife keeps him at home.  She does have some help getting him dressed the morning and put back in bed in the evening, but he’s a bigger guy and their in their late 60’s early 70’s.  A couple of times she has gotten hurt trying to help him get up when he has fallen out of the wheelchair.  What good does it do either of them to be trapped in this tug-o-war of guilt, shame, and emotional pain.  The decision is difficult, but we have to consider safety, health, and fairness on both sides of the aisle.

Only you know the true story of your caregiver/loved one relationship.  The decisions about care can be quite complex.  I’ve consulted with hundreds of families over the years to come up with a plan that is (according to Stephen Covey of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) a win-win situation.  Being a martyr, a hero, or a servant takes it’s toll….is it a price you can pay?

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I’m continuously inspired by the stories I’m honored to bear witness to regarding how you’re living your life with a chronic or other life-altering illness.  I’ve heard countless stories of courage, perseverance, and faith.  What I realized this morning is that I’ve spent my entire career working in arenas where community is key.  I’ve worked in drug and alcohol outpatient social model programs.  I’ve worked at The Wellness Community where the word “community” is the optimal word.  Community is how we get through the ups and downs of living with a chronic or other life-altering illness.

I remember one of the questions that Oprah Winfrey used to ask her guests was, “What do you know for sure?”  This morning it really hit me.  I know for sure that we can’t live in isolation.  The diagnosis of a health challenge often inflicts the feeling of isolation upon us because we believe the struggle is ours and ours alone.  I’m a firm believer in support groups because they get us out of the idea of being “terminally unique”.  The notion that we are going through this ordeal and no one has ever done this before.  Support groups break through that myth and put you in the midst or in some cases a sea of others facing the same challenge(s).

We’re social creatures.  We thrive in community.  So think of this…if we thrive in community and we focus on thrive don’t you think your body, your cells, will thrive in community?  The mind, body, spirit connection is strong so building one part of the triad up helps build the others.  Support and nurturance give your body the physical, emotional, and spiritual nutrients it needs to thrive.  Having others who you can rely on and who rely upon you makes you feel nurtured and needed.  You belong to something larger than yourself. 

I believe in community so much and obviously so do many others because entire movements have been established to create community.  Think of the Susan G. Komen Foundation.  Their “Race for the Cure” and the Avon Breast Cancer Walk gets thousands of people together in one place, engaging in one activity, for a common cause.  It’s why walk-a-thons have become so popular for fundraising by nonprofits serving those with a chronic or life-threatening illness…it builds community.

I hope you find your community, your tribe.  I believe it will reduce stress, help you make better decisions about your health, and keep you connected to others.  I’m prescribing lots of connection on your journey to wellness.

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