Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween

As Halloween approaches there is always a specific show in the Buffy series that I want to watch.  In the fourth season, there is an episode called "Fear, Itself."   There are so many clever lines in the episode that it never fails to make me laugh.  Plus the ending is absolutely hilarious.  

I was thinking about this episode recently, about how each character needs to confront their fears.  These fears that we have cycling in our lives from time to time, these exaggerated stories about not being enough, not being loved, being abandoned, or losing control.  These fears that play our in our heads and can cause us to take all sorts of action.   Much like in the climax of the show, when the fear demon shows its face it is suddenly not a big deal.  This enormous fear that has been playing out in our minds, can easily be squished by sharing it with the he right person, looking at the fear to see what it is or just letting it go.   This is all captured beautifully in the show while Xander taunts the tiny little fear demon.   

It is easy to look back, after the fear has been confronted and say "it wasn't a big deal, it was tiny."  But in that moment when you are buried in that emotion, in that story it feels like it might never end.  It is those moments when we have skin in the game that call for courage.  Those are the moments that I practice for, to have the peace to realize it is a story and ask myself what do I want?   I fail a lot, a lot.  However I am slowly learning from those failures and realizing they aren't failures, they are just moments when I didn't use my tools, the tools weren't available or it is time to grow.  

Adam and I moved into our house 10 years ago, full of dreams.  The house was going to be the first backyard Sterling would play in (he hated playing outside), the home our children would remember, it was a place for us to grow into that suburban American Dream. As life revealed more and more of the terrain to us, those dreams shifted.  The room for the nursery became a yoga and meditation space, the living room was designated as Sterling's "ball room," we slowly filled the house with the people we actually were becoming of those dreams.  

However in the last year or so, the house has become too much for us to maintain.  It has been a struggle to keep up with daily maintance and we have started to constrict how much of the house we use.  We slowly started getting rid of things and eliminating clutter.  However I know before we put the house on the market there are some larger maintance projects that need to happen.  Even though Adam and I are facing a lot of opportunities right now and are unsure of where we might be going, it was time to ask an expert about what needs to be done.  

Adam got a hold of the same realtor that sold us this house, because we loved her and she was amazing!   We set up the appointment to have her come by and advise us on the house and to get an idea of how to proceed.

Here is where the fear demon entered the equation.  No one tells you how chronic illness will affect your life, no one tells you that maintaining your home might become too much and you might feel embarrassed about the state it is in.  So inviting someone into our home to tell us what needs to be changed is pretty vulnerable place to be.  In fact I had no idea what fear demons would present themselves before Adam made that phone call.  Nevertheless here they are and I get to look at them until the way through is clear.  

Obviously one way through is to meet with the realtor and then come of up with a plan to execute.  That solves the fear demon associated with "what if no one wants to buy our house."   

The larger fear demon is that I will be judged by the state of my home and my ability to take care of it. That my mask of everything is perfect will be shattered.  That perfection mask is a reoccurring demon for me, it is the belief that I can do everything "right" that no one will ever critized me or take their love away.  This demon cannot be taken out by planning or doing something to solve the issue, because the issue does not exist.  Perfection only exists in my mind, it is not real and provides an armor and mask for me to hide behind and prevents my true self from being seen.  

For me this demon is squished by talking it out with someone that has some compassion, perspective and appreciation.  This is accepting that my current health is more important then the state of my home and it is okay to move to something smaller and simpler to accommodate my needs.  It is making peace with all the grief of those dreams that didn't come true, celebrating the ones that did and aknowledging the extra graces we never saw coming 10 years ago when we first walked into this house.  It also helps to laugh at the tiny little fear demon. 

Question of the day: What is the most recent "fear demon" you squished in your life?  How did it feel to get through that fear and into a new state? 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Scarcity

I have a difficult time identifying when enough is enough.  It feels like I am either doing too much or not doing enough.  This week when my body told me that it was time to rest, it didn't matter if I wanted to go to work, I pouted for a little while.  I kept analyzing what I had been doing for the past couple of days, to figure out what I had "wasted" my energy on.  Of course this was a fools errand, but still part of my process.  

I finally settled down and turned my attention to one of the books I am reading.  It was discussing how people believe joy is a limited resource.  That the reason that people might have a hard time being happy for people is because they believe that if someone else is happy it takes away from their happiness.  This theme of joy, empathy, sweetness or kindness being a limited resource has come up in my trainings and other readings.  

It is a belief that I have sometimes.  I forget when I am exhausted, in pain, frustrated or stressed that fruit still tastes sweet.  Last night I chose to cancel some plans with a friend because I really wasn't feeling well.  When Adam left for an event, I realized I didn't have my normal food in the house.  Since I was in no shape to safely drive, I needed to get creative.  I needed to drop this idea that there wasn't enough and focus on what was in front of me.  (Do not misunderstand, this was not a fast and easy process.  I had a number of anxiety attacks, looking through the fridge and freezer.)  

So where is the idea that pain, sadness or all those other uncomfortable things associated with life are scarce?   When Sterling passed away, my mom told me "that's three, the cloud will pass by you for now."   It is a common belief in my family, that bad things happen in threes.   However it is accepted that the cloud will come back at some point.  For me this idea leads to fear and bracing for impact, it is  my default setting.   It is only through practice that I remember and am able to shift my focus to other things.  

Joy, empathy, connection, love and kindness are precious, they are invaluable.  Is that where this idea of them being a limited resource comes from?   That for us to hold something close and dear it needs to be a rare event?   Can something be precious and abdunant?  Can something be abdunant and not taken for granted?   

I have approached these feelings and states with caution.  Perhaps I believe that if I am in a joyous state too much that I will take it for granted, that the medicine will eventually become my poison. My struggle right now is more with energy levels then emotions I am always calculating and guessing how much energy I have.  I always want to make sure I have "enough for the swim home", maybe I need to start chosing the trust that the energy will be there to help me get home.  It is a little bit like saving China only for special occasions, why only bring out joy when things are just "right."  

Question to consider: What are you looking for more of in your life right now?  Do you believe it is a limited resource or maybe like me and you believe you are the limited resource?

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Am I doing the best I can?

It is an interesting question.  Do you believe in general that people are doing the best they can?  I have had a lot of eye opening experiences that have given me the gift of being pretty generous with people. I generally tend to believe that people are doing the best they can with the tools they have.  This attitude helps a lot with the type of work that I do, and it seems to come pretty naturally.  I have triggers, we all do.  But generally when I feel triggered I wonder what it is about and do my best to learn more about the situation.  

However the other side of this, is I do not tend to believe that I am doing the best that I can do.  Because I live so much of life with the self-critic, I don't want anyone else to feel that way.  I want to believe in people because I struggle with it myself.  I have discussed the self-critic before with the self-compassion writings.  

The idea of doing the best one can do, is coming up a lot in my reading lately.  So I have been examining the question a lot. Who I tend to be easy on, and who I tend to be hard on?  Who do I expect more of and is it really fair?   This has nothing to do with potential growth or worth, just learning to love everyone including me at this moment.  When I have been walking, I talk it out with myself, poor Adam is getting to hear about research and how different religions seem to approach this question.  

Let's fast forward to today.  I have mentioned before that I am struggling with sleep, and anyone that has gone through sleep deprivation knows how much it sucks.  Anyone that has lived with someone who is sleep deprived knows how much that sucks too.  Senses are heightened, pain is more intense, cognitive thought is slower, and it is hard to stay focused at least those are a couple of effects for me.  I got a couple of hours of sleep last night, which is kind of my norm.  

I feel pathetic, I didn't go to work, I canceled some appointments and am doing my best to stay calm in bed.  Imagine my surprise when I looked up at Adam and said "My best is pretty pathetic, but I really am doing my best right now."   I meant every word of it.  Maybe that is the gift today of feeling like I hit a low point, I got this question answered.  I am doing my best.  My best just doesn't look the same everyday or in every situation, but it is enough.

Question of the day: Do you believe in general that people are doing the best they can?  

Saturday, October 22, 2016

3.5 miles

My planner is filled with numbers right now, numbers based on a training program for the Star Wars Rebel Challenge in January.  Twice a week I walk 30-45 minutes doing my best to stay on pace.  On the weekends I have longer walks, and this is where the numbers come in.  It is not a linear progression but somehow it works and the idea is that safely one will build up the endurance to safely completely a 10K and half marathon in two days.  

Confession time, I have been unable to walk more then 3.5 miles.  I wake up on the weekends look at my planner set out with a goal in mind and start walking.  Sometimes I don't make it very far, but for the most part at about 3.5 miles my body is communicating to me stop in one way or another.  

What do I do?  I keep getting up and walking.  I have no idea what will happen in January and my lack of confidence in my body breaks my heart.  Finishing these races is not supposed to be my focus, but I really like the idea of being able to finish.  I love the idea of being able to show myself that I am not as ill  as I feel a lot of the time.  I want to feel like my body is thriving again and not just surviving.  It is not useful metrics, but honestly the desire to finish is there.  Last week as I hobbled in the door Adam was a little concerned.  I just told him I needed to figure out another muscle imbalance.  However I felt really defeated.

This week as I worked on correcting the muscle imbalance and changed my stretches again.  I realized how lucky I am to be able to walk 3.5 miles, to have learned so much that I have the confidence I can help bring more balance to my body and help it function better.  Sometimes it doesn't feel like I am making progress at all because the finish line or the goal seems so big compared to where I am.  It is the little steps that will get me there. 

Perhaps the little steps will eventually lead to a giant leap forward and perhaps not.  I just know that 3-4 times a week I will continue to take this training one step at a time.  

Question to consider: What is a goal that you continue to strive for even if it seems to big for you?  What keeps you going through those moments when it feels like you might never improve? 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Sunshine Sunday

Adam and I got to go to a yoga class this morning together and then we went to brunch.  Glad we took the moment to take this photo and enjoy each other's company.  

Friday, October 7, 2016

Multiple hit Hypothesis

When I was studying genetics in school, we learned about a hypothesis about the role of mutations in DNA in cancer.  Knudson proposed that it took at least two hits, or two insults to the DNA in order for certain cancers to develop.  

This idea never really left me, both when analyzing chromosomes and in life.  Because I saw some truth to what these researchers were discussing.  The truth I saw was that there is always context to each patient, each situation.  It always served as a good reminder that even though I was looking at the genetic make-up of a person there was always something else that I would not be able to see.  There are so many factors that make up one's health and well-being.

Right now I feel completely exhausted and overwhelmed.  As I was working on the grocery list and planning out my day this "two-hit" idea came into my head.  My illness is an evolving learning process and it is a hit right now to my nervous system and life.  (It doesn't mean that I am not living a full life or happy life, it just means that I am still adjusting to same major life changes.).  Then I received a second hit, Sterling passing away and some other major life decisions.  Understandably I felt like my health took a couple of steps back and honestly my focus shifted to some more pressing matters.

Adam took me for a walk to get me back to focusing on my health.  Here I was walking around the neighborhood in my pajamas and slippers and Adam just kept telling me what I needed to focus on.  That pesky foundation: eating, drinking, sleeping, resting, relaxing and playing.  While we walked around the neighborhood, he asked how he could help with food.  This is a really scary idea for me and so I put my armor on and said I would continue to handle it, that it is hard to trust someone else.  

I wasn't seeing the larger picture, I was so focused on one of the hits that I was missing all the other hits that were contributing to my latest flare.  Adam in his wisdom decided not to press me, instead he used helpful experiences that I have had.  He has noticed who I trust with food preparation and who I am comfortable around.  He didn't argue with me that I must trust those people, he simply started to make arrangements for me to have food made by those people.  

He has paid attention and knows how difficult it is for me to accept help.  (I am stubborn which is one hit, the second hit is food is honestly terrifying right now.  I have had so many reactions to food, that I am extremely cautious about trying something new.)  He has made time to drive me to acupuncture appointments, to help me with laundry and to lend a hand in ways that don't make me feel sick.  He has helped enourmously the past couple of weeks to help me put on some weight and double the amount of sleep I tend to get.  

It is an interesting experience though, right now my body feels more tired and my mind less sharp despite getting four hours of sleep and eating more.  It is relaxing a little bit into this experience of being care for, and letting go of some of the tension I didn't even know I was holding.  I told Adam I wanted to just stay in bed for a while, so we are working on getting food and stuff in place so that I can spend the weekend resting.   Maybe that will help lessen the blow of some of the hits to my health, and even if it doesn't I get a weekend of food, blanket forts and cuddling.  Sounds like a win to me.

Question of the day:  What are your plans for the weekend?

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Thank you

There are many types of spaces in this world and many types of keepers of those different spaces.  When I started this little space on the Internet, I was very careful about what I posted and what I said.  Honestly I was going through so much I just wanted a little place of happiness and brilliance.  However as more people talked to me about what I posted and how I was looking for things, I opened up a little bit at a time.  

This space belongs to us all, everyone no matter if they only viewed one photo or one post has contributed to this little space.  This little corner of the Internet where I feel pretty safe and at home.  This is a place where I am able to be honest, show the good and the bad of my journey.  

Because even on my worst days, there is always some good.  Even when I feel alone, there is this tiny little home where I feel free to babble a little bit and look at my life.  

Thank you for helping to create this space, for giving me a place to write and practice.  

Question of the day:  Who are you thankful for today?  If possible take a moment and let them know.    

Monday, October 3, 2016

Stepping out of the Comfort Zone

I am currently listening to Rising Strong by Brene Bown while I train (walk) for this upcoming run next year.  I find myself pausing the book again and again, as I want to take time to hear what she said.  This morning I felt like a failure, because things are not going according to plan.  I LOVE plans. I stopped the book to allow myself to take time to absorb her take on storytelling and the Hero's Journey.  (Disclaimer, I am just saying what I heard, not attempting to say what she actually said or quote her.)

I love the mythology of the Hero's Journey!  When I was still in college and obsessed with Harry Potter, I had spent so much time reading and learning about the Hero's journey in an effort to understand where the story was going.  (The fifth book came out while I was in school).   I used to joke that if I ever became a Chemistry teacher, I would refer to my class as potions class.  The fascination with the Hero's Journey came long before that, deconstructing Star Wars and even the Bible lead to long debates with some of my family and friends.  Identifying the archetypal characters and understanding the role they play in the overall story, and therefore hoping to understand this crazy roller coaster of life.

I even have a fiction story started using that construct, but I was always missing an understanding about a part of the Hero's Journey.  It comes in Act Two, having to really understand and accept a character's motivation to continue on after the glamour of the call wears off.  It is that time in the unknown, in the uncertainty, the pause between the monkey bars, it is going out of the comfort zone.  Brene said something like act two starts when the main character has done everything comfortable to resolve the situation and finally accepts what it will really take.  This is leaving the scholar world and entering the warrior one, it is embracing the time when one is in the dark.  

Why is that important to me?  Because there are many times I have done something that is out of my comfort zone and been surprised with what happens.  There have also been times where I have walked away and thought, "not the best idea."  However I love certainty, I love knowing how the story will turn out.  That is probably why I read so many Fantasy stories, they tend to always work out.  No matter how dire the circumstance, it all comes together.  I know the story before it starts.  It is always okay.  

Storytellers rarely discuss those moments in the dark, when the mind is going back and forth between what is comfortable and what needs to be done.  They are summed up quickly, so that the story will continue.  Maybe that is why I wanted to understand, to feel, to experience the hero's motivation.  I needed to understand leverage, leverage that closes the door behind you and prevents you from going back.  However that leverage might not be enough to keep going and so sometimes I get stuck in the dark for a while. 

The dark is part of the process, it is that time to find that motivation, to decide where that next step is, it is out of the comfort zone and therefore it is where growth happens.  We have all experienced that second act in one way or another. It is where we gain skill and some sort of experience that will help us the next time we enter that dark room.  The experience and skill is that we got through it, the flip side of that is we also remember how much we didn't like it.  It takes something that cannot really be put into words to allow the door to shut and take a step into the unknown.  

Question of the day: What is your hero's journey?  Which Act are you in right now?  Who or What inspires you to keep moving?  



Sunday, October 2, 2016

Sunshine Sunday

Adam is super sweet and goes to the effort of making the bed nice and cozy for me before bed time.  He even tucked in this little frost pup, so that I would have a dog to cuddle as I fell asleep.  We each find our own ways to make the other person smile right now.  Even just a tiny smile goes a really long way.