Posted in after the diagnosis, overcoming adversity

We Need To Change How We Interact In This World

Valentine ’s Day is right around the corner and stores are displaying merchandise and cards for the occasion.  I started thinking about the messages sent by some of the big companies like Ma Bell and Hallmark and what’s been lost with the invention of Facebook and other social media.  Ma Bell wanted us to “Reach Out and Touch Someone”, and Hallmark told us buying cards, “When You Want to Send the Best”.  These two company taglines spoke more, to me, than just about commercialism, but how we interact in the world.

I’ve watched the number of birthday cards dwindle significantly over the past four years.  I used to have a mantle full of cards, and now it’s down to a select few.  Don’t get me wrong, I get plenty of Happy Birthday messages on Facebook, but it’s different.  We no longer have to plan on how we interact.  We are now able to wake-up in the morning and see who we need to send a birthday wish, congratulate for an achievement, or commiserate about a dilemma.  What happened to sentiment?  Have we lost the ability to connect more than electronically?

I sent out a bunch of cards today because there are people who I haven’t spoken to in a while that I wanted to send a special message.  I want to appreciate certain people who have supported me, kept me in the loop of their lives while I’ve been traveling the country.  It gave me an opportunity to say I took the time to spend a few minutes devoted to connecting with you.  I know I may be a bit over the edge, but social media has left too many people connected to others with only a dotted line, and they’re still lonely.

When going through difficult times we need to make those phone calls, send those calls, and show that we’re making an effort and that this person matters to you more than just a count on your Facebook page.  Illness, divorce, death, financial struggle to name a few are life events that require deeper connections to emerge with a sense of peace and to have the ability to continue on life’s pilgrimage!

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Emotional Health, living with chronic illness, newly diagnosed illness

Scare Away the Dark

One of the things I’ve always liked about Halloween is the idea of scary masks, parties with dry ice making smoke/fog, and of course candy. Horror movies try to scare us by catching us off guard, utilizing the age-old element of surprise as its weapon. Our fears are also scary. Yesterday I was asked if I was scared of anything and all I could think of was really high heights. I’m sure there are things lurking that I’m unaware of, and when they arise, I hope I can scare away the dark.

When we face adversity we often experience darkness, and heaviness sets in our body, mind, and spirit causing despair. Its goal, if you let it, is to deflate you. Utilize all your resources to fight the dark; you need those forces for health and healing. Those dark places want to take hold with the force of a vice and convince you that there are no better days ahead (the reality is there may not be, but scaring away the dark to gain a sense of peace is helpful).

The other problem with those dark places is they distort reality. Ever go to the carnival and look at the mirrors that elongate your body, or make you look like the Michelin Man? When we live in the dark (not insinuating you’re a mushroom), we lose perspective. Every experience is filtered through these dark lenses and it leads us to make less than helpful or healing decisions.

What can you do to scare away the dark? My go-to response it gather support. There is something amazingly healing when you receive love and friendship from others. I assure you their perspective is quite different from yours and at least you can see things from another point of view. Support groups are helpful because the folks in the groups are on the same pilgrimage. You’ll get lots of perspectives, some helpful and some not so helpful, but it opens you up to the range of possibility.

Read lots of autobiographies, memoirs, and pathographies, even blogs. See how others have used their internal resources to scare away the dark. It takes effort and it takes work. Depending on the circumstances of your life it may be ongoing or it may be short lived, either way you need to seek out sources of light.

Pretend every day is Halloween. Go find your scariest mask, it may as simple as a thought, and use that mask to scare away the darkness. Who knows, there may be a treat waiting for you on the other end.

Diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness or facing some other adversity?  Looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit

Interested in how Art Heals?  Visit

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

Charles Schwab Wants You to “Own Your Future”

I’m always mindful of my surroundings leaving me open to inspiration. I was passing a construction site not far from my home. Charles Schwab is building a brand new campus for it’s local operations. There are two large buildings and a third building that reminds me of a visitor center. The front of the building is enclosed in glass allowing passersby to see the lobby of the building. On the wall, displayed prominently are the words, “Own Your Future”.

“Own Your Future”, obviously to a financial services company that means something very specific. They are hoping to entice, motivate, and assist you in creating a financial future where you are in charge, not at the mercy of things like social security or simple savings. However, for those facing adversity, such as the diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness, it would mean something very different.

Once you enter the challenge vortex it may feel like you’ve lost your power and your voice. Your future is dictated to you through the powers that be; the professionals. It’s not our fault! We’ve been conditioned to be good sheep; unfortunately sometimes we’re led to slaughter (figuratively of course).

What would it mean for you to “Own Your Future”? It may require some education. I’ve spent the past twenty years reading pathographies, memoirs and biographies that share a person’s experience with an illness; they can shorten the learning curve when facing a health challenge.

Support Groups are another great way to understand the health challenge (or any challenge) terrain.   It’s easy to believe that we’re on an island alone, but support groups provide socialization, support, and encouragement. They give you the tools to feel empowered as you navigate this new arena in your life.

It’s also important to find inspiration. Listening to speeches like Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture (which has been turned into a book) can be invigorating to the soul. It can be a catalyst for you to explore new ways of living your life. It can serve as a blueprint for your spirit to embrace whatever the future holds and how you can reframe any situation to one of ownership instead of victimhood.

Owning your future requires energy and perseverance. Owning your future will alleviate some of the stress associated with overcoming adversity. When you feel in control, part of the process, and informed in the decision making process, the result is a sense of peace. The angst of not knowing subsides and your gain clarity. This clarity is the essence of “Owning Your Future”.

Looking for education, support, and inspiration when facing a chronic or life-threatening illness? Visit

Interested in Art and Healing? Visit

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

There’s A Community Out There Waiting for You!

There are so many times when facing a chronic or life-threatening illness that we feel alone. It’s not a surprise because it’s happening to us and while in a state of shock, it’s hard to believe that anyone else could possibly be experiencing turmoil and confusion.

I’ve been fortunate over the past twenty-five years to work in nonprofit agencies that promoted a sense of community. We’re all stronger when we align with others on a similar path. Over the past twenty years we have seen the proliferation of nonprofit organizations that are illness specific. They provide support services and education about living with the specific diagnosis.

I was reminded of that this past week when I had a conversation with someone who recently moved to the Denver area. He’d spent years in New Mexico and moved to Denver to have a broader sense of community. He was pursuing a deeper spiritual path, but felt he needed a broader sense of community.

Listening to his story made me think about the impact of having a sense of community. Knowing that you belong to something greater than yourself is empowering. It doesn’t only pertain to having an illness; I find the same comfort in the art guild I belong (275 members). We form a sense of community and the numbers of people that attend the monthly meetings, participate in critique groups, and come together to create amazing exhibits.

This morning I began looking at organizations that provide social activities in the Denver area. The idea of being amongst others, participating and generating communal energy is uplifting. The sense of belonging it critical to our well-being. It decreases the circular thinking that often gets us in trouble because we are getting feedback from others.

What are you doing to stay connected? How does developing a sense of community provide your immune system with a boost? What is it about community that you value most? I’d love to hear about your community experience; I hope you’ll share it in the comment section below.

Looking for more information about living with chronic and life-threatening illness? Go to for more resources and opportunities!

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, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

If Michelle Obama Said It; It Must Be True

The Democratic National Convention ended last Thursday, but more importantly, the week started off with a riveting speech by the First Lady, Michelle Obama.  She was eloquent and on point making her message clearly and powerfully.  It wasn’t until she said, “Life isn’t a sprint, it’s not even a marathon…Life is a relay”.

When I heard that line it clicked that she was talking about how reliant we are on others to make sure we make it to the finish line.  The African proverb goes, “If you want to get somewhere fast, go it alone; but if you want to go far, go with others”.  That’s the message Michelle Obama was sharing.  We wanted us to know that as a country all of our efforts are part of the solution and success of our country.   The follow-up question for some is what does that have to do when facing a health challenge?

Fact of the matter is that you only have so many internal resources at your disposal.  Most of us aren’t medical doctors or complementary health providers so there will be times when we need to pass the baton to those who will guide our journey.  Ultimately you’re the captain of the team, so what support do you need from your team members?

Aside from the obvious, medical knowledge, your team can help keep the team on its path on the journey to health and healing.  Your team members will help you recruit others to be part of the relay by referring you to specialists, or recommending other resources like support groups, benefits advocates, or spiritual directors.

It may be hard to pass the baton because we all want to feel in complete control all the time, but when you allow those with special knowledge and skills carry the baton you gain from their experience and give body, mind, and spirit a breather to regroup.  Your relay team will propel your forward in your quest for getting better or getting well if you allow them to show their strengths.  On a relay team they often put their fastest runner in the last spot of the race because they can make up time that may have been lost in earlier legs of the race.  Who is that person in your life?  The person who anchors your relay team may change based on the particular race you’re running on any given day.

The First Lady offered us as individuals and a country some sound advice; will you take it and make it work in your life?

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

Are You a Home Run Hitter?

One of the great things about being an artist is meeting other artists.  One of the great artists I know, Kyle Bannister, had a birthday yesterday.  Kyle’s art is devoted to baseball.  Baseball is his passion and his work of baseball players and everything else baseball is incredible.  When I wished him Happy Birthday I told him that I hope the day hit it out of the park; trying to use sports metaphor (I’m not very sports inclined) to punctuate the day.

Later that day on Facebook, Kyle had responded back to me, “I always aim for the fence”.  I got to thinking about his philosophy and his action plans for his special day and his life.  Do you aim for the fence every time you get up to bat?  You’re in the batter’s box everyday.  When you step up to the plate what are you thinking?  Do you strive to hit a home run everyday or do you set your sights lower?

You may think about everything related to sports as physical, but the truth is every sport has a huge psychological component.  Many athletes engage the services of sports psychologists to get past the blocks (like an artist) that prevent them from playing their best.  There are times when unbeknownst to us, we hold back.  Do you hold back from fear of how powerful you might be or that you won’t measure up to your own expectations of the expectations of others?

If you were going to be a starting athlete in your own life, what kind of training do you need?  Do you need to journal, speak with a coach, a therapist, or a spiritual director?  What will make you stronger emotionally?  Should you look into support groups or engage in expressive arts like dance or theater?

My hope is that every day when you step in the batter’s box you, like Kyle, aim for the fence.  Having the vision and the belief in the possibility of a home run is critical on your journey to health and healing.  You’re the star of your team…hit that home run!

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

The Confessional

I watch a fair amount of reality TV.  Fortunately for my own sanity I don’t get caught up in “Survivor”, “Big Brother”, “The Glass House”, or any of those that we may consider to be social experiments.  I tend toward the arts, like “Project Runway”, “So You Think You Can Dance”, and I’ve watched, embarrassingly, “Gallery Girls” (I’ll share my thoughts on that another time).

What all the reality shows offer is a time for the contestant to speak to the camera one-on-one in private.  The intent of these “confessions” is for the producers to edit them into the show’s storyline giving more background information for the viewer.  In addition, it allows the contestant to reveal the truth about their experience and how they view their competitors.  Trust me, it’s seldom nice, helpful, or complimentary.  It serves as a bitch session, and probably makes for good television.

Although we’re not competing with others in our day-to-day lives, what if our homes were equipped with a confessional?  Following the diagnosis of a health challenge, or some other life-changing event, there are moments when what’s pent up inside needs to come out, but it needs to be done in a safe and secure manner.  What do you want to get off your chest in the confessional?

Research shows that holding negative thoughts in your body hinders the body’s natural defenses and limits the focus of the immune system.  Years ago there was a book titled, “You can’t afford the luxury of a negative thought”.  The book’s title alone stresses that negative thoughts cost you, maybe not dollars, but certainly peace-of-mind and the ability to focus on health and healing.

You and I know that a confessional is probably not in our future, no matter how appealing the thought might be, so what’s the next best thing?  A support group allows you to be completely honest and within a safe that is confidential and safe.  It provides you with an outlet for anything and everything you’re holding back outside those walls.

Another way to create a confessional, without anyone realizing it would be to express yourself creatively.  How many museums have you gone to and seen a work of art and you get a sense for the artist’s true feelings, not matter how raw?  I hung a show at a local hospital and I held back from hanging two pieces because the theme and the colors were dark.  One piece, “Stop the Madness”, looked as if a massacre had occurred.  It was all black, grey, and red.  It had a Jackson Pollock quality to it, but had an emotional darkness that wouldn’t have shown well in a place devoted to health and healing.  However, the fact of the matter is the piece was real!  The piece was an expression of my thoughts at that time, and that’s what came out in the studio.  I was able to release the negative energy and share my emotions without taking it out on others while being true to myself.

Short of creating your own documentary, having a space where you can be free of negative feelings is imperative.  The virtual world allows us to connect with people all over the world day and night.  It allows us share our thoughts and feelings in social media, blogs, and other creative venues

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

Where is the Story Going?

Ever begin a book and after about 50 pages wonder where the story is going?  I have friends who must finish a book once they start it; I’m not that way.  If I don’t see where the story is going and I’m not hooked I abort the mission and move on to something more pleasurable.  Life is too short to get caught up in a bad story.

Interestingly real life works the same way.  We all have a story to tell.  We all have a story that is near and dear to our hearts, but not necessarily to others; especially if we tell the same story over and over.  You may be thinking about abandoning this post right now, but hang with me for a moment.  It’s not that people in your life don’t love you, but often we’re waiting to hear coming attractions or a sneak preview of one’s life to keep us engaged.

One of the fascinating things about your life story is that for those you’ve known a long time they hold your history.  They can help you reflect and remember those times you’d probably like to forget (like the naked pictures taken of Prince Harry).  So what happens to your story following the diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness?

I’ve sat with thousands of people and facilitated thousands of hours of support groups so I’ve heard a lot of stories.  Undoubtedly one of the most powerful moments in a group is when the facilitator or another group members asks, “So what does this mean for tomorrow”?  The inquisitor wants to create a spark in the person sharing to challenge them toward movement.  We’re not talking about making major changes, but if you’re sharing something with others, they want to know why?  What is it you’re expecting from those who are listening to your story?  If you’re only intention is to expel hot air then maybe a support group isn’t for you.  However, if you share your story with others and you’re able to get a glimpse of what’s possible based on other’s stories, then you have moments of hope and possibility.

How can I spark you today to ask yourself, “How is what I’m sharing going to influence my life tomorrow”?  “What will I take from the responses I receive from those with whom I share my story”?  “How will telling my story impact the chapter on health and healing”?  “By telling my story, what’s possible when I turn the page”?

I’d love to hear your stories!  You can share them in the comment section below or email at  Also, check out the videos at

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

Do You Have a Manifesto?

Ever wonder why people, organizations, even countries write manifestos?  It’s to be able to communicate their platform to the world.  A manifesto is a playbook for the person or group writing it and it informs, interprets, and guides the thoughts and actions of the individual or group providing a road map to what that person/individual considers success.

There are times that a manifesto is used to ignite a cause.  It creates tension-promoting controversy between the individual/group and those who are often in disagreement with their philosophy.  So why would it be important to have a manifesto?

As someone with a chronic or life-threatening illness, a manifesto is a challenge to the individual, the medical community, and the Universe that there is tension.  The manifesto is a way to stake one’s claim that health and healing is the primary objective.  Let’s examine one of the most prominent health and healing manifestos in the past decade.

Suzanne Somers noted for her role of Chrissy on “Three’s Company” was diagnosed with breast cancer.  At the time she refused conventional treatment and chose alternative healing.  Following her return to health, she made it her mission to create an environment that would promote this alternative, and often-controversial method of healing.  She went to write multiple books about her experience and about her views of how the medical community is trying to put one over on the public.  She may not call it a manifesto, but it certainly looks, reads, and acts like a manifesto.

How would you create your manifesto?  Start off my sitting and thinking about what your primary goal is beyond the obvious, getting better or getting well.  It’s as if you are writing a political platform, or branding yourself in the business world.   It’s a way to create a framework for how you will achieve your goal of getting better or getting well.  It’s a roadmap you can follow for your journey to health and healing.

There are many ways you can achieve creating this manifesto.  You can actually write your manifesto as part of a journal.  You can do something expressively that captures the essence of your manifesto whether it be visual or performance art.  Your manifesto can be shared in how and what you share in support groups.  It doesn’t matter how you express it, but having that essence of your determination and conviction is what helps solidify your stance in your body, mind, and soul.

What’s the first action step you’ll take to create your healing manifesto?  What do you believe in your heart of hearts will propel you forward on your journey to wellness?  What personal philosophy to you ascribe to that keeps you motivated to pursue health and healing even when there are challenges placed before you?  How will you share that manifesto with the world?

I’d love to see, hear, or read your manifestos…you can share them in the comment section below or email me at