Tuesday, July 2, 2019

The Dreams of Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow…


I have a LOT of dreams. They fall into various categories but here’s how I often think of them because I feel like this is one of my better ways of grouping them together.

As we dive in, I’d love to hear what you think of these categories.  Do they provide a new perspective of all you achieved in your life and the dreams you still hold?  

I find that it can provide quite a success story when you really analyze your life within the scope of these categories – one filled with many successes, including some forgotten but quite important ones.

Here’s the three categories I find most helpful:

The dreams of yesterday:  I’m not going to dwell on this category too much because I’m very happy with the goals I accomplished pre-illness.  I was a bit of a wild child while also still graduating from law school with honors and summiting Mount Kilimanjaro.  There are still many of yesterday’s dreams that have not been fulfilled yet because my illness put a halt on them.  Stay tuned though... more to come on that. 

In short, while I haven’t achieved them all, I’m happy with what I have achieved.  I’m not sure I know anyone that can say they’ve achieved all their dreams.  If they can, wow, how lucky!  But I think many of us are in the boat of having some dreams achieved and many not yet achieved. 

The dreams of today:  These are the dreams that I am constantly working on.  Most of them are new dreams as many of my old dreams are not currently possible.  I have had to give up (at least for now – yes, that is my stubbornness coming out) many of my pre-diagnosis dreams.  I know many of us have had to do this.  Dreams near and dear to our hearts.  And that’s pretty hard – it’s like being kicked when you are down. 

However, the way I look at it, living with a chronic illness has made me grow in new ways and achieve things that were never even on my radar or that I dreamed were even possible.  I have a feeling the same is true for many of you too.  Sometimes it just takes really thinking about them.  Here’s a few of mine:

·       I never knew I would find a medical conference on an illness enlightening (or even understandable).  Seriously, I failed science in college. So, this is an unimaginable dream that has come to reality.  Kind of cool!

·       I learned that legal research skills translate well into medical research skills. Who knew?  (Thank you @google!)

·       I never thought I would be viewed as an insightful contributor on a panel to medical students, educating them about my illness but I was!

·       And I discovered that my coaching talents have helped me better identify with and support my friends that also have chronic illnesses.

·       While I knew I was a pretty decent writer, I never knew someday I would have my own blog!  Blogging has been a blast and a bit therapeutic!

·       And soon, me (remember, I failed science) will be presenting at a booth at a state medical conference to educate medical providers on my illness.  NEVER saw that coming.  But this has become a dream of mine now – sharing with as many providers as possible about my illness so more of us can find medical support.

We all have our lists – every day we are achieving dreams and goals that likely weren’t on our radar pre-illness.  Unexpected but welcomed growth!   I wish it didn’t have to come this way for us, but it has and I see us all doing wonderful things, being even more wonderful, amazing people because of it.  There really is something to take away from every bad (or really bad) things that we encounter in life.

These items on this list were definitely not on the dream horizon before I got sick but they are success stories that I now have.  So, while I have a chronic illness, I have no qualms saying that I also live a pretty happy life. 

The dreams of tomorrow:  I am admittedly very stubborn.  I am still hanging on to some of my original dreams.   Some I know I should let go, at least for now, but I’ve found justifications and rationalizations for hanging on to them.  Some I try to make possible still.  This has its up and down sides.  Sometimes it leads to me pushing too hard.  Sometimes it leads to disappointment.  But sometimes it also leads to small steps toward the dream or a smaller version of the dream.  And that part is pretty exciting.  I really need to get a reality grip on the first two parts though as those aren’t good for me.  And reality does hit… hard.  

Some of the dreams of tomorrow include things I aspire to do once I have more time.  These are pretty realistic.  They are focused on helping others, raising awareness of my illness and those of others.  I have a voice and I know I can use it to do a lot of good.  I just need the time and energy to do more of it.  I am determined to find it.

Some of the dreams of tomorrow include things I hope to do when I get better.  Yes, I say when, not if.  While there’s no science to tell me that I will get better there are options that I continue to try.  Some give me small gains, some bigger.  I’m not giving up on any of them.  Because the dreams of tomorrow mean a lot to me.  

For example, I’ve always wanted to walk part of the Appalachian trail, see the Grand Canyon, and hike Macchu Piccu.  None of these things are possible right now.  And while some may call me unrealistic, I choose to believe that if I keep advocating, raising awareness, and fighting for a cure, that better is to come for me in my life.  And if I need to get on the Appalachian trail on a scooter or trolley across Macchu Piccu, I will.  I’m okay right now with creating new versions of these dreams but I’m not ready to give up on them totally.  Maybe I never will be.  Maybe I’m setting myself up for disappointment.  Or, maybe, just maybe, the excitement at the thought of these dreams coming true is just what I need right now.   Because maybe some of them will come true! 

I would love to hear where everyone feels that they are at with their dreams of tomorrow.  Have you let them go and moved on?  Do you have new dreams?  Have you found a way to bring them to reality?  Do you get excited about the possibility of them?


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

24 Quick Tips to Relax, Mix It Up, and Even Live It Up A Bit



Looking for some fun?  Need a distraction from your condition?   A new hobby?  Additional self-care ideas?  Here’s some great options to consider:

Stimulate your mind Grab a book (Maybe even join a book club!)

Bask in lavender relaxing scent, relaxed self.

Entertainment galore:   Binge on a favorite streaming series.

Self-care, self-care, self-care Rest, yoga, stretch, mindfulness   

Gravitate to Meditate:   Find your inner peace. 

Down it:   Drink more water; get more energy.

Love it:   Surround yourself with happy people, laughing children, silly stories. 

Live the Dream:   Find it; go for it.

Attitude of gratitude Seek it out, embrace it (journal it!).

Plant a seed:   Create (green) life!  

Destress:  Filter out unnecessary life stresses.

Peer out a window:   Sunrise, sunset.  Nature’s daily gifts of beauty.

Candle Up:   Embrace the light; shut out the darkness.

Treat time Salty or sweet?

Phone a friend:   Share some laughs. 

Got a puzzle?  Piece one together!

Game night!   In it to win it!

Fancy Smancy:   Decorate those toes!

Cuddle up The human touch is priceless.

Furry friends Comfort, fun, and laughs. 

Scenery change:  Bask in sunshine; enjoy lunch on your deck or patio.

Relaaaxx:    Melt into a massage.

Crayola Magic:   Check out coloring (or even painting!) 

What do you do to de-stress?  Relax?  Distract yourself from your condition?  Please feel free to share what's worked magic for you, helped you get through a rough day, or added some fun into the mix.


Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Exhaustion = Pain. It does!



While my illness comes with many, many symptoms, the one that seems to affect my daily life the most is my exhaustion.  And to me, I consider that exhaustion painful on both a physical and mental level.  However, a variety of google searches quickly shows me that pain and exhaustion are constantly talked about separately.

I’m no doctor but this just seems plain wrong.  Pain is often defined as physical suffering or discomfort caused by illness or injury.  If I look at this definition, to me exhaustion falls smack dab in the middle of it.  I physically suffer because I am exhausted.  The level of exhaustion that comes with a chronic condition is so deep that simply standing for a short period of time can be too much.  Constantly pushing myself to stay alert, keep my eyes open, and stay focused are also ways my exhaustion plays out, each of which causes me physical discomfort.

Then there’s the more direct pain that is caused by exhaustion.  For example, I am forced to lay on my couch or bed for over 12 hours a day because of my exhaustion.  This causes back pain and has greatly weakened my body to the degree that I can no longer perform daily tasks such as grocery shopping or vacuuming.  Because of exhaustion, there are even times that chewing is too much work for me so I go without food. 

In short, the definition of pain seems way too narrow to me.  On top of what I already described, what about mental suffering and discomfort?  While some definitions of pain include mental suffering, many do not.  Those that do not disregard the pain associated with how it feels to have brain fog due to exhaustion.  And the pain that comes with exhaustion-induced short-term memory loss.  This sure feels like suffering and discomfort to me.  At the very least, “physical” should be removed from all definitions of pain.   

So why is sleep and pain often thought of as two separate concepts?  These examples barely touch the surface of what exhaustion is and does to a person.  In looking up the definition of exhaustion I found this: A state of extreme physical or mental fatigue.  This sure sounds painful to me. Given all this, it simply doesn’t seem right to not consider exhaustion to be painful.  In fact, I find it a bit insulting.

I know I’m not the first to have had someone say to them “oh… you’re just tired.  I didn’t sleep last night either and I just can’t think straight today.”   Grrr…  We’re not just talking about being tired here.  And that’s the problem.  Tired and exhaustion are put together rather than exhaustion and pain.  Exhaustion, unlike simply being tired, comes from not sleeping well for extended periods of time, years even.  It also comes from living with various types of pain for long periods of time.  Exhausted of being exhausted; exhausted from being sick.  It's all painful!

So why are pain and exhaustion still talked about as separate and distinct states?  I see exhaustion moreso as a subset of pain, a type of pain.  By putting them into separate categories I almost feel like it does those of us that primarily fight deep exhaustion on a daily level an injustice.  People hear pain and think one thing; people hear you are exhausted and think you must be doing something wrong, that there’s a quick fix available for you, or that it’s really not that big of a deal.  They subconsciously align it with simply being tired.

Okay... now that we’ve deep-dived on exhaustion, let’s bring this around a bit.  For those of you familiar with my writing, you know I write about finding realistic optimism within life with a chronic illness.  So where is the realistic optimism here?  Well, I think we clearly have talked about the reality of exhaustion.  What about the optimism part though?

First, knowledge and awareness is quite powerful.  The more that we can share information like this with people, the easier things get for us.  When we talk about exhaustion, people won’t just scoff it off as much anymore if they realize what it really is.  We will have less to prove (not that we owe it to anyone to “prove” the validity of our symptoms or conditions but we often find ourselves in that position).

Second, as cliché as it sounds, it is what it is.  If you ask me if I have pain, in my mind I include exhaustion as part of that pain. It’s self-validating and provides a more accurate depiction of my life.  It’s me authentically sharing what my life is like.  In the past I considered exhaustion separate from pain so when people asked me if I was in pain, I would scale back my level of pain.  However, that caused me to question myself – why can’t I do this or that if my pain level is that low?  What is wrong with me – did I lose my motivation? Have I become lazy?  Now that I include my exhaustion level in my pain rating, it all makes more sense.  My pain level aligns with my ability level.  Basically, I’ve right-sized my illness with my abilities.  And honestly, that feels like a huge mental burden has been lifted off of me.  

And that’s where my optimism comes from – figuring out that exhaustion is part of pain. By putting exhaustion on the playing field with pain, my symptom and ability level line up.  I no longer question myself, I feel more validated, and I have hope that by continuing to share what exhaustion really is that eventually the world will catch on that fatigue is one facet of debilitating pain; it’s not to be minimized.

With knowledge comes power and with that comes change in attitude and perceptions.  With changes in these areas, our lives can become easier.  We will no longer have to prove what exhaustion does to a person to our employers, disability insurance providers, friends, and loved ones.  People will simply know.  And that’s a burden lightened…  and that’s where I find my hope and optimism.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Drowning in Priorities


How do you manage your life when you’ve already whittled it down to just your top priorities and it’s still too much?  Feeling like every day is another day of playing catch-up or worse, falling even further behind – it’s not a great feeling. Okay… reality.  It’s a terrible feeling.


As my illness really set in, I quickly realized that I had too much on my plate.  So, I removed the easy-to-eliminate extras in my life. However, I found I was still overloaded with outings that were causing crashes, daily activities that were too much to keep up with, and relationships that were a struggle to maintain.


So, I learned to say no more often (this is still hard for me!), I further reduced my outings, and I asked my caregivers for help (this too was hard for me.  I’ve always been a helper, not a “helpee.”) with some of my daily activities.   However, I found I was still playing catch-up.  I was still feeling miserable because I wasn’t feeling productive, only disappointment in myself and what I wasn’t able to accomplish.

So back to the drawing board to re-evaluate what was left on my plate.  But this is where it got hard.  Because I have already skimmed off so much, what was left was what I considered my top priorities.   Things that either kept me afloat financially, created a back-up plan for me when things changed, were dedicated to creating awareness and support for my illness, and the relationships in my life.  So, what do I have left to cut?

I’ve really been feeling stuck in this place for quite a while… and it’s not a pretty place to be in.  I still have a few days where I get the “high” of feeling like I was productive and made some progress, but there’s still too many days where I cannot contribute to my key priorities as much as I want to.  This disappoints me and I feel, at times, I am disappointing others.  And I am chipping away at the reputation and strong work ethic I spent decades creating.  And that is quite humbling.

So, I’ve stepped back. I’m still a little unsure about whether I need to re-evaluate my key priorities.  But I’ve decided to take a different tactic this time since I’ve already eliminated so much.  I’ve decided it’s time to simply look at my key priorities and determine how I can still contribute to them, but perhaps in a new way.  In a way that adds value but also doesn’t disappoint or overload me. I’m just starting this process so I don’t know how it’s going to turn out, but I’m going in with great hope!

Just in writing this I’m feeling a bit better as I’ve realized that I’ve prioritized my life perhaps in a way I should have all along.  I’ve learned to say no – there was a huge learning curve for me with this.  I’ve also learned to ask for help – even a bigger learning curve for me.  And as I review my process, I feel like it’s pretty solid.   So, while I have ways to go with solving my problem, I’ve realized that all along I’ve been creating successes and growing as a person.  And that’s productivity in action!

So, I guess my lesson is that we really need to cut ourselves some slack.  The reality is that we are doing more than we think we are.  It may not be with the concrete goals or projects that we’ve set for ourselves, but better yet, as people we are growing and figuring out how to solve advanced problems that affects us as a whole.  These are the kind of skills that will serve us well our entire life, not just the duration of today’s task.


Thursday, June 6, 2019

Finding A Way…

I feel like I’m caught in the middle of a variety of places in my life.  I’m not complaining as I know that things could be much worse.  Rather it’s just something that’s come to mind as it seems to be a more prominent piece of my life now. 


I don’t think I’m unique in this feeling.  I think many of us find ourselves in some sort of middle ground for a variety of reasons that we didn’t always intend or want to be in so I thought it was worth exploring what it means, how it feels, and if there’s some opportunities that lie within it. 


Here’s a few examples of when I feel caught in the midst of conflicting states:


I am sick, sicker than the average person, but not as sick as many.


I still have so much I want to do with my career but my body says no!


I still crave to work out, my forbidden fruit; will that craving ever subside?


I miss my friends dearly but I’ve been forced to give up seeing almost all of them.


I don’t want to hide my illness but in certain cases, with certain people, I do.


I’ve always been the caregiver, not the receiver; this role reversal is a big change.


I want to say yes, to be that same go-to person I always was, but no is now my new mantra.


How do we find acceptance with all the changes that come with life – and more so, life with a chronic illness?  How do we adjust to them?  Does the grieving ever go away?  Does saying no get easier?   Can we find new ways to thrive?


I don’t have the answers to any of these questions.  Or maybe I have a few for some of my own questions – the lawyer in me at least wants to give my standard answer, “it depends.”   


I used to be a person that wasn’t comfortable until I had all the answers to questions like this.  Once I had concrete answers I could move on; I could not only find a way to succeed but I could thrive.  But now the answers are scarce, elusive, and often unknown.   If they are there, I have to work hard for them.


Time is a beautiful thing though.  Time has taught me that not knowing the answers is definitely okay.  To be honest, I really never did know as much as I thought I did.  Perhaps I had some answers or guesses at the answer, but if randomly getting so sick has taught me one thing, it’s that you never truly know what life has in store for you.  Or what one moment will be like to the next. 


While unpredictability and uncertainly can create uneasiness at times, a lot of what I don’t have the answers to I may never have had them or will have them.  So, I can worry, fret, and be stopped by that or I can just be okay with it and find a way. 

So, I am finding my way.  Many times in the darkness and many times by the light of my circle of friends or from within myself.   While my path once was a straight line, it’s now zig-zagged and sometimes even circular.  Graphically speaking, it definitely paints a more visually appealing picture.  It has its challenges, but it also has its successes.   


For example, some things time has taught me is that grieving for our losses does get a bit easier with time. While it doesn’t go away, it tends to ebb and flow at an easier pace.  I’ve also realized that at this point it’s safe to say that my love of working out is rooted deep within my core.  Having realized this, I’ve found viable alternatives to satisfy that craving, such as gentle yoga.  I’ve also learned that perhaps I should have been choosing where I spend my time wiser all along.  A few more no’s in my past might have been a good thing.  While I don’t like how often I have to decline invites now, when I can say yes, it’s a YES!!

In life we will always find ourselves in the middle of situations, challenges and opportunities.  The key may simply be to see them as temporary pit-stops.  There’s a lot of room in that middle ground area where we can carve out a spot for ourselves that satisfies our needs.  And sometimes we may find that being in the middle teaches us something we wish we would have known in the first place.


While being in “limbo” was not something I could have readily accepted at one point in my life, the unpredictability of living with a chronic illness has not only taught me to accept it, but to see it as an area that some opportunities and even better life decisions may lie.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

The Most Important Habit I Formed Post-Diagnosis


Hands down, meditation has to be one of the most important habits I have formed since becoming diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis.  It’s been my savior in times of great stress, my companion for all medical procedures, and my friend in seeking calmness and inner peace. 

As some of you may recall from my earlier article on meditation, I had a bit of a rough start with it.  My mind wasn’t really into it.  I thought I was more of a mountain climber than a meditator; though I’ve now since learned you can absolutely be both (though my mountain climbing days are long over).  Also, try as I might, I just couldn’t get my mind to slow down.  In short, I couldn’t get meditation to work for me.  Thankfully I kept at it and it’s now one of the easiest states I can slip in and out of as needed.  And it’s definitely been needed!
First a quick refresher on what meditation is (I keep this definition bedside as a reminder of this strategy that’s been so helpful to me).

Meditation: 

A practice where an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness, or focusing their mind on a particular object, thought or activity – to train attention and awareness,
and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state.[1]


Meditation is used by people in various ways and for various reasons.  Some use it often, others at specific times.  I have found that there are three particular times that meditation has proven most helpful to me.  Though I also find that starting and ending my day with meditation sets the right tone and pace for the day and also ends it on a peaceful note.  But back to my top three…

During times of high stress:  At first, this seemed like the worst time that I should stop to meditate.  These times were often when I was running tight against a deadline or brain fog had caused me to lose track of time, making me run late.  I quickly came to realize that these are the times that meditation could become my best friend.  Even though I was often running short (or behind!) on time in these instances, stopping and taking even 10 minutes to meditate actually set me back on track quicker. 

If you are like me, when you or your mind is racing around in a panic, that’s when mistakes happen the most and they set you back even farther.  While stopping to meditate in these moments, I often save myself my panicked mis-steps and I am able to proceed with the task at hand and with my mind in a better place.

During medical procedures:  Unfortunately, these can be a norm in our lives.  Despite that, a blood draw still makes me queasy and nervous, let alone a lumbar puncture.  My strategies during these procedures are two-fold – don’t look at the instruments and get prepared to meditate my way through the procedure.

Now, as soon as the procedure starts, I began by slowing my breathing down (which has already quickened at the thought of what is about to happen).  I slowly start to relax my entire body and focus solely on my breathing, even letting the provider’s narration fall to the background unless there are instructions for me to follow.  I’ve found that doing this makes the procedure go faster, it becomes more pain-free for me, and because my body is relaxed the procedure often goes smoother than if I had let my body tense up for it.

Trying to fall asleep:   One of the most elusive things in my life – sleep!  Even if I get it, it often has no restorative value.  Yet I still crave it.  Constantly.   However, at times I find my mind is racing too much to let me even get to a place that comes close to letting sleep in.  It may be that I had too much screen time before bed, have something stressful on my mind, or I’m just worrying because I’m so exhausted that I can’t think straight.

When I meditate in bed there’s two different methods I try.  I will either slip into some deep breathing exercises.  Often this quickly does the trick.  It refocuses my mind on restfulness and slows it down to a pace more conducive to sleep.  The second method I try at night is conducting a meditative body scan.  I slowly focus on one small part of my body, starting at the top of my head and move my way down.  At each body part, I focus on relaxing that part of my body, whether it’s my facial muscles, fingers, or abdomen.  Quite often I find that I never even make it to my waist or knees.  Getting so many parts of my body into a relaxed state often causes the others to get there too and before I know it, I’m asleep.

If you haven’t yet tried meditation, I encourage you to consider it.  It can be a wonderful resource to tap into when you find yourself winding up, pacing too quickly, or simply unable to relax.   Try not to get discouraged if it doesn’t “work” at first though.  As you can see in my earlier article about my introduction to meditation, it doesn’t come natural to everyone. Like anything in life, it takes practice.  But dare I go so far as to say it’s been a magical tool for me quite often now!

For those of you that are more experienced with meditation, please help spread the magic around!  I’d love for you to share how and when you use it. 


Thursday, May 23, 2019

Tips, Tricks, and Strategies to be Summer Ready!



Summer can be a time of year when our conditions flare up for a variety of reasons.   To help get us all through this season with a bit more ease, I’ve put together a short list of some top tips, tricks, and strategies that will not only help get us through the season, but have some fun along the way!

The Sun!   The sun can pose a variety of issues for those of us with light, temperature or sun sensitivities.   Here’s a few strategies we can arm ourselves with now so we are ready for when summer gets into full swing:
a.      Many of us have light sensitivities.  The bright sunlight can literally hurt on a sunny day!   Let’s make sure we are prepared with a pair of sunglasses that block out 100% UV light whenever we are outside.  This strategy is also important on cloudy days too – after all, the sun is still beneath those clouds somewhere.
b.     Temperature sensitivities can go both ways in the summer.  It’s quite easy to get the chills on a hot day or overheat. Let’s be prepared for both.   If we find ourselves getting the chills, bringing an extra sweatshirt, blanket, or being prepared to step inside for a bit to limit exposure to the outside elements can be great options. Overheating can often happen and quite quickly as well.  Staying hydrated is key (I always recommend closed capped waterbottles – to avoid bugs or bees from getting in the water while at the same time ensuring we are staying hydrated and our drink doesn’t get spilled).  Overheating (or even a heat stroke) can come on quickly so being prepared on hot days often means having an escape route planned in advance – an indoor, cool option and again, staying hydrated can be essential.
c.      Some of our medications can increase our sensitivity to sunlight.  It can cause us to get sun rashes and also a sunburn much quicker than usual.  In general, exposure to the sun can also cause us to get fatigued (even more!)  and increase our joint pain.   Checking our medications now and making sure our condition itself doesn’t create or exacerbate any of these issues is very important. If it does happen to be the case, wearing clothes that cover all exposed skin, a hat, and sunglasses that block out the UVA light when outside is very helpful; it’s also often a good idea to limit outside activities on particularly high UV days and times of day.

Bugs!   Besides the obvious fact that most of us want to stay as far away from bugs as possible, there’s reason for extra caution when you have a chronic illness.
a.      Ticks:    Know the seasons and know your options for protection.  Preventing tick encounters is ideal.  If you do find you have a tick on you, carefully read the tick removal best practices and follow them to a “T.”  Ticks bites can turn quite serious – the more we can prepare ourselves for preventing bites and in the unfortunate situation of getting one, on the proper removal, the better.  Considering consulting with a doctor if a tick encounter happens is a great idea – it’s always better to catch these things early, just in case!
b.     Mosquitoes:   For many of us, even a mosquito bite can cause a flare up in our condition or stronger than typical inflammation at the site of the bite.  Investigate what, if any, products can safely be used to protect against mosquito encounters.  As far as non-personal application products, while citronella candles are often promoted as a mosquito repellent the validity of this is in dispute.  However, lavender and peppermint smells are often touted as great scents to repel mosquitoes; bringing out lavender or peppermint smelling candles are a great alternate option to citronella candles.  If anything, at least the area you are in will smell great!   If you find you are in a mosquito heavy area though, it may be best to relocate to avoid any ill-effects from bites.
c.      Other Bugs:   Spider bites and other insects can present problems as well.  Protecting ourselves when outdoors can be incredibly helpful but doesn’t always protect us completely.  Those pesky bugs tend to find the one little exposed area of skin we may have in a given moment!  If bitten and it looks like it may turn into something more than a typical bite, don’t hesitate to get it looked at.  Quick detection can mean a lot!

    
     Self-care!   With the bright, sunny days, and warmer weather it can be compelling to want to go out and make the most of beautiful day.  Often with summer, comes graduation parties, weddings, reunions, and family picnics.  A lot of invites, some of which we may need to say no to or no to some parts of them.  Key to all of this for each of us is remembering that it’s okay to say no.  And no again!   And again.  It’s not something to feel guilty about but rather we should pride ourselves for putting ourselves first, which isn’t always easy.
    
        Fun!   The weather is going to be beautiful, the view from our front window is likely to brighten up with color, and there will be more opportunities to pick and choose from to participate in.  So, while pacing and self-care is key, let’s also make sure to have some fun this summer too!  Laugh with friends, enjoy the blossoming flowers, and partake in whatever activities our health permits. 

While these tips just touch the surface, hopefully preparing for these potential triggers and situations can help minimize and prevent some flare-ups for us this summer.  And… allow us to enjoy the beauty of the season, perhaps get out a bit more, socialize with friends on more occasions, or even quietly read a book on a shaded patio.  After being cooped up in the house for so long during the colder weather, a few hours on the patio sounds like a dream.  

Have a wonderful summer everyone!

P.S.  Have more strategies?  Please share them in the comments below!



                                                             

Thursday, May 16, 2019

H-O-P-E



Hope... four little letters that randomly sorted around mean nothing.  Put together properly, it can mean everything.

Hope

A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen
A want for something to happen or be the case.

But where do you find it when pain emanates from your body, when you can’t leave your bed, or when there is no cure in sight?  Where do you find hope then?

Thankfully there is an abundance of sources of hope. (Whew!).   I like to think the list is endless so my thought process here is to name the few that I most often hear from my friends and where I find my hope.  “Hopefully” you will find many of the sources resonate with you – or possibly even become a new source for you!

For many, it’s grounded in a deep spiritual foundation.   It embraces them heart and soul and brings a peace that goes deeper than the pain.  This is a source that I have always admired – a faith so deep that no matter the challenge, it remains unwavering. 

Many also find hope from those around them.  The sources of hope that can be found within others can vary greatly.   Sometimes hearing expressions of hope from others about our situation can instill hope within us; our trust in them is just that strong.  If they believe, it feels as if we too can, and should, believe.  It can also come their reactions to our situation or how they support us.  If they are calm, positive but realistic, and support our dreams and ambitions it can inspire us, reassure us that we are on the right track and that there’s a reason to hope.

Hope can also be found simply through observing how those around us live their life.  Whether it’s the tough choices they make or the challenges we watch them overcome - it all can be so inspiring.  Watching their successes, whether it’s a small win or achieving the seemingly impossible - these are the things that can fill a heart with hope and our spirit with the fight it needs to carry on.   If they can do it, so can we!

Hope can also be also be derived from within ourselves.  For some of us, for whatever reason, we just seem to innately to have hope about just about everything.   We have hope of the unknown, hope of what becomes known, and what can be.  Looking from the outside in, many may feel we are hopelessly hopeful.  And maybe we are.  While hope can at times lead to disappointment, like much in life, if you decide to take the leap, you do risk feeling disappointed on occasion.  For me, I prefer to take the leap and live a bit more in hope, even though I know it may come with disappointments here and there.

Others seem to learn how to find hope through their various life experiences.  Whether through unfortunate tragedies they have endured or alternately a big accomplishment, they learn how to find and keep hope within their heart and soul.   They find a way to leverage the power of it when they need it and use it to support them through their challenges.  

Hope.. that is the great thing about it.  There are so many sources of it.  In addition to the above, many find hope within the lively spirits and carefree nature of their young children or the success, wisdom and support of their grown children.  Others find their pets to be a source of hope and happiness.  Many also find facts and science to be sources of hope.  What works for one, may not for another.  In thinking through all this, I think what it all means is that there is an abundance of hope out there.  So, if you aren’t feeling much right now, keep looking!  It may be just around the corner.  And if you’ve got it nailed, it never hurts to keep looking then too.  The more, the better.

Feeling Hopeless At Times

Hope admittedly is a bit of a tricky thing.  There is no neutrality with hope.  You are either moving forward in hope or feeling despair.  There is no shame in feeling despair at times though.  Sometimes life dishes out some pretty heavy stuff.  To say otherwise I think would be ignoring the reality of life.  As I’ve shared in a previous blog article, fully experiencing all emotions is actually good for us.  Each emotion tells us something, guide us, protects us, teaches us, etc.  The key is simply to let any despair we feel be fleeting – taking from it what we can and trying to move on to more positive emotions and thoughts when we are ready.
Hope is one such place to move on to.  With it comes new joys, moments of gratitude, and the belief in more and better things ahead for us. Hope will take us to places unknown and makes the seemingly impossible possible.
I want to say let’s just all choose hope but that’s a bit simplistic.  First one must find hope if they don’t already have it.  So, I will end this blog with saying that my hope is that this article at least facilitates the process for those seeking hope or more hope and reminds us all of the value and power of hope. 
What is the Source of Your Hope?
I’ve barely touched the tip of the iceberg with the various ways in which hope can be found.  I would love to hear where others find their hope so we can all benefit from your insights. 

Why?  Because we all deserve to live a life of hope and all that comes with it. 

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