Just Another Detour

Just Another Detour

I’m in Phoenix. That sentence is void of detail. You might have given it meaning that isn’t there. We do that. We hear, see or experience something and add all kinds of layers that don’t actually exist. You may have thought I’m in Phoenix to enjoy the sun and get away from the snow in Colorado. Or maybe I came for a conference. Both are inaccurate. It is raining today so if I came for the sun I wouldn’t be getting any today. It was sunny earlier so I did get to enjoy the tiny bit of sun I got walking from where I’m staying to the hospital. And yesterday when Anna was taken for X-rays. But that’s it. I am learning more about the medical world and the life of a transplant recipient, but it’s not a conference.
Anna developed pneumonia after first being exposed to parainfluenza 3 (a strain of influenza commonly affecting children and often the cause of respiratory illnesses). Another reminder to keep our sick selves and our sick children isolated until healthy again. ūüėČ
Several of Anna’s transplant friends were hospitalized for pneumonia and they never got better. Just a reminder of the fragility of life but not the truth for Anna today.  What she knows is her body is responding to treatment. She is getting better. As of today, Anna is healing and doing well. Her focus (and mine) is on what we know to be true and real today.
I am in Phoenix. Now you understand what that really means. Remember to keep your focus on what you know is true and real, beyond a shadow of doubt. You will experience a great deal of peace and save the anxiety, sadness or anger until absolutely necessary. ūüėä

De-Icing

De-Icing

ice formations in winter streamIt’s that time of year again, the holidays. As with each year since I started blogging I will post holiday-related topics for the next few weeks.¬†Last week was Thanksgiving for those of us here in the States. Generally I have enjoyed my¬†Thanksgiving holiday but¬†not so this year. There were some highlights: gathering together with most of my children and grandchildren, seeing siblings, nieces, nephews, a few cousins, my mother-in-law¬†and my mom. It was a chaotic experience with many people I did not know and¬†that was¬†not enjoyable. Sometimes I am in the mood for conversations with strangers but this year, not so much. This year, I just wanted to be with family. I definitely felt my dad’s absence and that was part of my sadness.
I¬†experienced the¬†strangling of disappointment and anger taking over inside of me. It¬†sucked me down into a ¬†familiar hole. I stayed there for several days. I was less patient with those around me, especially strangers in cars who received eye rolls and shouts of frustration. All of which I’m sure went unnoticed. It felt safer to yell at them. They can’t yell back (or at least I won’t hear them if they do). You know those times when you only want to have one-sided conversations because you are pretty certain a two-way conversation won’t go well? I felt gloomy, eyore-ish, and it’s been hard to get out of it.
I stopped to take stock of the why. My self-care¬†was nearly¬†non-existent while I was away for the week of Thanksgiving. I had been expecting myself to survive on the basics alone and that is not enough for me. On my last day away, I grabbed my husband and our puppy¬†and¬†went on a walk. I griped along the way, getting all¬†that life-sucking¬†poison out. I requested that we leave early (a looming snowstorm sealed that deal for me!) to put an end to this misery. Along the way, we stopped on a pedestrian bridge that¬†overlooked the Roaring Fork River (sounds big but it’s just a stream really, especially in the winter). The clear frigid waters lolly gagged and splashed around huge boulders and scattered tree limbs. Patches of ice formed on the rocks on the¬†downstream side of the bridge while the upstream side,¬†in full sun, remained ice free. Something about that caught my attention. Maybe my heart was like the river. When I am on the downstream side, away from my source for internal warmth, I ice over. It’s harder for me to stay grounded. When I move toward the warmth of my source (in my case, God), the hardness and ice inside of me begin to melt.
But it doesn’t stop there. Ice builds inside of me when I am not getting out on walks, feeling fresh air and sunshine on my skin. I desperately need¬†to soak in nature,¬†do yoga, and spend time in solitude with my thoughts and prayers. Those are my biggies, the most important pieces of my self-care that must be regular ingredients in my life. I had a profound experience of what happens to me when I starve myself. I am working on stabilizing again, turning toward the sun, feeling the ice crystals softening and chunks of ice peeling away from soul. I feel warmth growing again and with it, hope that I will be ok.

Freaked-Out? Sad? Angry?

Freaked-Out? Sad? Angry?

human_mindNot happy about current circumstances and want to navigate well? You don’t have to just wallow in your misery, you can do something productive. First, clearly identify what you are feeling (anger, sadness, fear…) and the thoughts that are dictating the emotions. Emotions don’t just show up all on their own. They are linked to cognitive thought: you have a thought and an emotion will follow. We sometimes notice the emotion and not the dictating thought so it’s super important to get back to, “Where did this feeling come from?” The reason? If the thought isn’t based in reality, it’s not worth entertaining and neither is the accompanying the emotion. We often feel these not-based-in-reality emotions¬†anyway and develop incredibly unhealthy neural pathways that become ingrained in our brain and feel like a reflex when in fact they are an unhealthy learned behavior that we keep feeding.
For instance: “With this new President-elect, our country is going down the tubes, freedom will be lost, this is horrible!” What is true at this moment that you know for sure beyond a shadow of a doubt? We have a new President-elect. That’s it. We don’t actually know what he will do. We know what he said he will do, but nothing has actually been done yet. Breathe. Remind yourself of what you know for sure. Let go of all the places your mind is going with the “what ifs”. They are crazy-making and completely unhelpful. You can mourn the loss of your candidate if you did not vote for Trump. You can celebrate that your candidate¬†won if you voted for Trump. That’s it. Nothing more. Don’t get too puffed up about all that is going to happen or too depressed about all that is going to happen because–none of it has happened yet. Stay with the here and now and breathe deeply and slowly.
Next, after feeling the emotions based in reality, take a deep breath, splash some water on your face and ask yourself, “Where do I have control? Is there anything I can do about the situation that is healthy, legal and wise?” At the very least, we always have the ability to choose how we are going to react, what kind of attitude we are going to have, if we want to smile and find the joy in our life. Always! Viktor Frankl learned this in a Nazi-run concentration camp during World War II. If he learned this concept in the very worst of circumstances then we can surely do this in our circumstances. I know, if you are reading this, you already have way more freedom and more to find joy in than a concentration camp prisoner.
Now, move on. Surely you have something you need to be doing or could be doing that is productive. Maybe it’s time for a good dose of self-care (something you can do that fills you up in a good way–healthy, legal and wise!). Go for a walk, pet your dog/cat, talk to a friend, listen to music, feel the sun/fresh air, read a book, knit, play piano, write…the list could go on and on. Be good to your body and your mind. Fill up and restore so you can reset. You will deal with whatever happens when it happens and until then, you can¬†take care of yourself, anchor to the present and bring joy into this world in your own unique way ūüôā

When Life Takes a Turn for the Worse

Life isn’t filled with good all the time. I know, not a shocking statement and yet, when we face adversity or challenges many of us¬†can easily slip¬†into a downward spiral. If we know life isn’t always going to happen the way we would like, then why are we so surprised when life doesn’t go well? If you’re in a “life isn’t so good” place, keep your eyes focused on just this moment. We will often go to the “this is never going to get better” place. First of all, you have no idea what’s going to happen until it does. It is possible that your life won’t get better but you won’t know that until you take your last breath and realize it never got better…though you might not know you are taking your last breath and be spared that realization. Live each moment as its own. Avoid lumping moments that you don’t know anything about into this one that you actually know something about because it’s real and happening…now.
When life is going well, celebrate it and enjoy it. When life takes a turn for the worse, grieve and mourn as necessary and remind yourself to focus only on the moment not a created future-tripping story. Sometimes that moment is just a wave. Sometimes it’s longer. Just be where you are, be vigilant about healthy, wise and legal self care and be sure to have safe, healthy, wise support along the way.

Predicting The Unpredictable

Predicting The Unpredictable

I don’t really mean we can predict what’s going to happen but we can predict there will be winding, unexpected occurrences in our lives. I’m certain you know what I mean because if you are breathing you have experienced some moments or seasons you did not think were going to happen. Sometimes they can be good things…sometimes they don’t seem good at all. The best job you can imagine…a baby…a broken bone…a new house…a free cup of coffee…an accident…a call from a friend…a broken water pipe…cancer…a puppy… I could go on but I think you get the point. We have no idea what is going to happen in the next second, really. We can guess and sometimes our guesses are spot on but we don’t really know. Anything can happen. And you know what? That is life.
One of the biggest dangers we can get caught in is believing we know what’s going to happen. We are making assumptions and you know what they say when we assume? It makes an ass out of u and me.¬†What’s even worse is we set ourselves up for disappointment. We can¬†slip into an emotional downward spiral because we assumed or predibutterfly on flowerscted and we were wrong. One of the best words of wisdom I’ve heard was from a man named Toby Shope. He was preparing me and others for a journey to Afghanistan. We learned how to dress and¬†act to honor the Afghan culture.
Toby taught us to have a blank slate approach to our experience. Just let the canvas be filled in as I take each step of the journey. This concept has helped me so many times since the day I learned it in 2010.
My daughter Anna, whom I have mentioned in many previous posts, has Cystic Fibrosis and received a lung transplant in 2013. She’s experienced so many set back and challenges throughout her life. Just recently she learned she has rejection. At this point it’s treatable so we are hopeful.¬†Learning of the rejection was a reminder that so much in our lives is out of our hands. The less I cling to what I think should happen the easier it is to accept what is happening…to let the blank parts on my canvas of life be filled in as I take the steps rather than having to waste a ton of energy erasing what I thought would happen and then trying to fit what is happening on top of the erased parts. It’s cleaner if I just let it happen…it’s going to happen anyway.

When It's Not Manageable, Just Breathe

When It's Not Manageable, Just Breathe

It snowed 25 inches in my town yesterday. March 23 2016 snowI live in Colorado. We get snow. It doesn’t surprise us. It was 70 degrees and sunny the day before. Even that isn’t a huge surprise. The surprise for me was I thought we were getting about five inches. Five inches of snow is easily manageable. We drive and go about our normal business when it snows five inches. So that’s what I did. I got up, met a friend for coffee at 8 and was preparing to head to my office to see clients. When I walked out to my car, I knew this was not a five inch kind of storm…by 10 am it was already close to a foot deep. Driving home was a challenge. Five inches can be navigated, 12 plus inches is tricky. I didn’t actually make it all the way home. I was four houses away when I got stuck. The snow was too deep to go any further. Sometimes that’s how it is for us in life…we just have to stop.
Sometimes it’s an illness or injury that stops us in our tracks. Sometimes it’s depression or fear. There are no easy ways out. We take a breath in and let that breath out and then we do it again. In and out…just breathing… Sometimes the sun comes out and melts the snow. Sometimes we have to pay someone to plow for us. Eventually the snow goes away and we go back to our usual tasks. Sometimes we heal but¬†sometimes we don’t. When we don’t, we just go back to breathing…slowly in, then out… Not all situations in life are predictable or even manageable at times. We just do the best we can whether it’s five inches or 25. Whether it melts or not…