My life changed dramatically in the past year. I began working full-time, my husband and I bought a house on 5 acres, and I needed to find a new health team. I put my blog on the back burner because it was an obligation that I could not add to my busy plate. But I’ve missed the process of writing and sharing. It is a project that gives me purpose. While sometimes a painful and challenging process, clicking submit always satisfies.
I am not sure where my writings will lead this time around. Reading past postings, I realized that there was too much about my health challenges. How boring is that?! My original intention was writing as a motivator, educator and counselor but it sounded more like a whiner. I do not feel pity for myself so why would I write like I was seeking consolation from others?
This time around, perhaps Erato, the poetry muse, will bless me with inspiration more often. Perhaps my camera lens will document some of the remarkable landscape, creatures, and loved ones that surround my life. All I know for certain is that I want to nudge my creative self.
I continue to manage life with chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyletis (we have to find a new name for this disease!) and fibromyalgia. Postings will continue to be influenced by my chronic illness, as it is a component of my life. But now I plan on sharing experiences from my exploration of ways that enhance my life – increasing joy and giving purpose in life.
“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” — Nelson Mandela
I watched with detached interest as Mandela walked from prisoner to prime minister of S. Africa in 1990. One might think that growing up with parents active in the 1960’s civil right movement, that I would be captivated by the events but S. Africa was far away and I was busy with my graduate studies in social work.
It was several years later when I read Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, that I became enamored by the man whose broad beautiful and joyful smile belied a challenging life and brilliant mind. I counsel and write about overcoming obstacles and how challenges are vehicles that strength us and teach us. Nelson Mandela was one of those rare people who lived with grace, forgiveness, inner strength, and an incredible understanding of the human nature. He also struck me as a leader and hero who accepted his role ending apartheid but never let his ego get the better of him. Maybe this was partly due to the tragedies he endured throughout his long life. He just seemed so darn approachable and the interactions with people seen on television seemed more than just for the sake of a 10 second news byte.
I believe we can all learn from Mandela. He was a lawyer, civil rights activist, prisoner, world leader, peacemaker, and AIDS activist. He was a husband, father, and grandfather.
He did not wallow in self-pity nor did he try to capitalize on his suffering. Rather than looking back, he looked forward in his work in overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles with quiet charm and an engaging smile.
Nelson Mandela was an imperfect human with faults. His wife said he had a temper and when he was angry – look out. His daughter honestly shares her frustration and sorrow growing up without a father and while she visited him while in prison, she was sad that he was not home with her and frustrated that she could never be touched by her father on these visits and when released from prison, she still rarely saw her father as he led South Africa through the new anti-apartheid rule. I think this is what I admire most about the man.
“Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.” — Nelson Mandela
I challenge myself and all readers to consider how we can live a bit more like Mandela in the coming year. Instead of allowing obstacles overcome us, let’s overcome obstacles with patience and creativity. Instead of blaming others, let’s find the good in others and forgive. And perhaps most importantly, let’s smile through it all.
I finished reading Gone With the Wind recently. While I’ve seen the film several times and never tire of Clark Gable’s suave Rhett Butler or Vivien Leigh’s seemingly flighty yet head strong Scarlett, I never took the time to read the tome. Perhaps the size of the book was so daunting that I never thought I’d get through it. Living in the south now as well as my kindle made it less intimidating and I confess that I was sorry the story ended.
Not surprisingly, the movie depicts a very small part of Margaret Mitchell’s saga despite its length. Elements including Scarlett’s other children and that the role the Ku Klux Klan played on her second husband’s death are just two examples that the movie dropped. What struck me most, however, was Scarlett’s development from shallow, detestable teen to reluctant savior of her family and Tara and, I dare to say, a feminist.
Scarlett is one of the most interesting and transformed characters in literature. Born a southern belle with nothing to worry about but beaus and her Ashley, Scarlett soon departs from her tranquil plantation life to Atlanta where the war soon intrudes on her pleasant life. In short order, Scarlett’s world falls apart and she begrudgingly becomes a midwife, caretaker, and very successful business woman.
Scarlett’s survivor instinct and carefully calculated actions are admirable and perhaps give a hint about how it was the women’s ingenuity that rebuilt the fallen south after the civil war. Scarlett survives the most difficult unforeseen obstacles yet rarely finds a problem impossible to solve. The only time Scarlett said, “I can’t” was when forced to play midwife for Ashley’s wife, Melanie. Marriage, murder, buying saw mills, were all motivated by the red dirt of Tara, her family plantation. Facing one tragedy after another, Scarlett planned (some may say calculated) whatever action necessary to accomplish her goal: the saving and rebuilding of Tara. The downsides of a plan did not concern Scarlett. “I won’t think of that now. I’ll think of it later,” was how she dealt with the inevitable fallout from some of her actions. Some viewed her as nothing more than a gold digger by marrying for money but Scarlett was more complex and intelligent than that. Yes, Scarlett’s character is selfish and devious but she was not completely without compassion. She was a farmer willing to get her hands dirty, a business woman and the owner of saw mills. Her need for Tara’s success was more important than weak human emotions. And her refusal to feel hunger again drove her as it drove so many others who survived poverty and tragedy.
Change is hard but events happen beyond our control. War, economics, loss of a loved one some times force us to alter our lives and we must adjust accordingly. It’s risky. It’s unknown. It’s just plain
scary. But when tough times hit, what is the alternative but to survive? I don’t recommend following Scarlett’s path of insensitivity, cruelty, and deception. Though by the end of the story, we learn that Scarlett’s eyes are finally open and, too late, realizes that Ashley was a weak man, Melanie had an inner strength and fortitude comparable to her own, and admitted that Rhett Butler was the only man for her.
Was Scarlett able to win Rhett back? It seems unlikely considering her atrocious behavior and his famous departing line, “I don’t give a damn.” But then again, Scarlett succeeded in every goal she set her mind to and I want to believe in happily ever after.
Such a dreary Monday. It looks more like my hometown of Cleveland outside than Meridian, Texas. My body aches on days like this. After perusing the news websites I typically read every morning, and playing a few mindless games, I can’t seem to get started on any projects. I opened a couple of writings that I hope get published someday, added a few words and promptly delete them. Is it too early to take a nap?
Lacking inspiration, I begin day dreaming about our future ranch. We aren’t ready to buy now but it’s one of my husband and my life dreams. Turning the dream into an achievable goal takes work – and more money.
I begin writing this post and hit ‘save draft’. I move on to search ranches for sale. There are a few that pique my interest and I further explore locations, square footage, and acreage. I make notes of addresses and find the locations on my phone’s GPS. I thought taking a detour from productivity by researching one of our goals may kick-start my motivation.
It stopped raining so maybe I’ll just take a little drive and check out a couple of properties. Then again, maybe it’s finally nap time.
I see life as a river, born of the earth, merely a small trickling brook. As it leaves its point of origin, the stream quickly grows and expands
into a river. Throughout its life, forces, such as geography and climate, aid the river’s development. It flows and grows, full of endless possibilities. The water’s boundaries expand and branch off, exploring other options. Occasionally, obstacles appear, hindering movement. But a river must keep moving towards its destination so it flows over and around rocks, dislodging logs, pushing difficulties aside. At times, drought may zap its strength and hurricanes may overwhelm. But a river persists.
Winding through life, tributaries meet the river and it builds strength and quickens, sometimes losing control. It churns and swells, frustrated, angry with the overwhelming obstacles. But it has only one direction to move, forward, and obliterates any impediments. It weaves around boulders, pushes aside hindrances. Thankfully, the tantrum never last long. Eventually the river returns to normalcy, again ebbing and flowing through life. There is nothing a river cannot overcome.
Throughout our life, we grow, push boundaries, face and overcome challenges. We make goals, develop plans of action, and, like a river, move forward. Even when we feel overwhelmed and seemingly insurmountable obstacles block our path, we somehow push through. Our goals are achieved, perhaps not as anticipated, but better, more satisfying. And that gives us the confidence to keep moving forward with new goals, new dreams.
Imagine changing your way of life by improving the function of your brain. Mind & body expert and bestselling author, Deepak Chopra, claims we can do just that in an article I read recently on the CNN website. Apparently, we can make our brains work better simply by thinking we can improve them and the best way for us to relate to our brain is to ‘inspire it’.
The ways Chopra suggests improving brain function are also important aspects of living better despite chronic illness & pain that I coach my clients. The brain is a powerful muscle requiring exercise and a bit of TLC for best results. By changing how we think of ourselves, new adventures and opportunities await.
Below is an abbreviated list on how you can inspire your brain to work better:
Avoid dull routines
Do something creative everyday
Read something inspirational everyday
Take time daily to relax, meditate, self-reflect
Deal with negative emotions such as anxiety and anger
Love and Be loved – it’s a worthwhile risk
Take some time to notice and appreciate nature daily
Follow a personal vision – how do you want to live your life?
Participate in at least one activity that fulfills
Get involved in a cause that is bigger than you.
The article continues with thoughts in your brain that you should ignore. Not surprisingly, the thoughts to ignore are: passivity such as letting life take care of itself; inflexibility in daily routines and opinions; and allowing feelings of stress, anger or anxiety get the best of you.
For many of us, inspiring our brain may seem like an overwhelming task. But with encouragement and patience, I believe everyone can do it. I also think it especially important for sufferers of chronic illness to work on inspiring their brain, for it is through these activities that living better becomes possible.
As mentioned in recent postings, the past months brought me several health challenges. While chronic illness sufferers are more susceptible for catching every virus floating around, stress and anxiety further compromise the immune system making infections and complications more likely. My efforts to please others, personal beliefs that I must complete every task I start, and an expectation that quitting is a societal taboo kept me from making a life decision that in my heart I knew for many months was the right decision.
I achieved my Master’s in Social Work over 20 years ago and after working mostly in nonprofit management, I pursued my dream of becoming a school counselor in Alaska. I took classes for my Master’s in School Counseling in Alaska thinking that it would be more useful if I wanted to become a counselor outside the State.
When my husband and I moved to Texas, I continued my school counseling studies through long distance learning though my interest began waning. It was about this time last year when I began exploring coaching people with chronic illness. The more I learned, the more this vocation resonated within me. I learned the hard way how to live happily despite chronic illness and helping others is part of my DNA. I completed my final school project (like a thesis) last spring and when I defended before my committee, they told me that my plan was not satisfactory and I basically needed to reconsider my entire project. I will not get into details though I do agree that I had a project in mind before starting my schooling and instead base a project on where the research led me. My intent was to develop a training for educators on how to work with the most challenging students. I believe with the right tools, any educator can work with difficult students. My committee disagreed.
I took a break from my project over the summer but my heart was no longer in formal education. I always received A’s in graduate school papers and essay tests. I feared my chronic illness hindered my ability to write technically.
I paid tuition this fall and decided that I needed to place all of my energy on my project. I pushed my coaching efforts to the back burner. My physical pain worsened. Focusing on reading became difficult. One health problem after another arose. I became depressed and unable to do much of anything. I rarely get depressed. The more deadlines I set for myself passed with little progress on the project. What was going on with me?? How did I get so lost??
I knew the answers to these questions but feared doing anything about it. I am not a quitter and everyone was encouraging me to finish and receive my M.Ed. Finally, I had enough. Suffering through Thanksgiving weekend with yet another painful infection, I decided it was time to take back control of my head, heart, and health. I contacted my school adviser and told him that I was not going to complete the project. I feared telling my mother and husband who encouraged me but they were surprisingly understanding.
I preach to my clients how stress can cause flare-ups and further compromise the immune system. I failed to heed my own advise. Life events can change the road we are on. By keeping our hearts and minds open to possibilities that we believe are best for us – even if they are difficult – allows us to live more fully. Growing my business is not easy but I know I am now on the right path.
I grow stronger every day and am currently setting personal and professional goals for the next few weeks, months, and next year. As my favorite poet, Robert Frost, said in one of my favorite poems, The Road Not Taken,
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.“
Do you have a chronic illness and need help setting goals to manage your life better?
Do you wish to live more fully and joyfully?
Contact me and schedule a free, no commitment, exploration session and let’s reach our goals together!