Thank you A Figment of Fitness for the nomination! I had no idea you were following me and wouldn’t have known had I not checked my Referrers sections–what a pleasant surprise!
(01) Thank the blogger who nominated you and link back to their site.
(02) Put the award logo on your site.
(03) Answer the questions the tagger has given you.
(04) Nominate ten people, and
(05) Make up ten new questions for those people to answer.
(1) What made your today most special? There are a thousand special moments in my day. When I take my first steps; when I drink organic fair trade coffee and think of all the people who harvested it for me to enjoy in that moment; when I drink it out of the cup I bought in San Francisco, an impossible yet fulfilled dream; when I take my pain management medication and know that I’ll soon have enough relief to actually live another day; when my dog, Muffin, and I see each other for the first time; when I hear the birds outside chirping; when I turn on my music and can forget that I’m sick; when I turn on my phone and see text messages from loved ones; et cetera. What made today even more special was being able to work on this website, at my leisure, without much suffering to distract me, and create a new blog post. Lately all of my energy has been spent toward coping with new challenges, and it hasn’t left me with anything remaining to actually do things I WANT to do.
(2) Why do you blog? What a wonderful question. This blog started because I felt I was talking too much about health problems on my personal journal. I needed to write it down somewhere, but the way I was doing it made it seem like that’s all I was: Someone with health problems. So I made this separate blog to keep up with my symptoms, treatment, and developing issues. I made it public, and a few friends followed, but I didn’t think many people would actually read it–now, every month people from over 45 countries visit my site, to my utter astonishment. Somewhere along the line I realized my way of thinking and writing was helping people, so now I feel like I have to keep that in the forefront of my focus, because with that also comes a responsibility to make your intentions clearly known, and not use words carelessly. Luckily, this is also a main part of being Buddhist, so they both teach me to be mindful. Now my blog is less about every new health development as it is how I feel about living with them and what I’m doing to continue enjoying life.
(3) What is one thing that you wish people understood about you? Maybe I used too many brain spoons on the first two questions, but, I don’t know…!
(4) What is on your desk right now? If you’re not at a desk, describe your surroundings. I’m using my overbed desk and all it has on it right now is the remote to this adjustable bed and my cellphone (face down, because no distraction). Oh, and the laptop!
(5) What is your favorite season? Describe how it makes you feel. AUTUMN!!!!! The weather makes me feel my best, symptom-wise, which is a major perk. Since it’s started, I’ve been able to drop 400mg off of my daily ibuprofen dosage and 3.25 off my percocet. I love the cool air; being able to keep my windows open even at night, and listening to the frogs and crickets; making a pallet on my porch to sit outside with my dog, a cup of coffee, and read, or listen to audiobooks, or draw zentangles, or just watch the leaves fall and enjoy the fresh air. Fall has always felt like the real beginning of the new year, to me. Plus, it is THE BEST season for theatre! The best dance performances, orchestras, and singers come to town.
(6) What do you do when it is o’dark-thirty and you are stressing so much you can’t sleep? I don’t. There’s no point in berating your body for not being able to fall asleep, or cursing the moment for not being what you want. It is what it is and your body will fall asleep when it’s able. Audiobooks almost always put me to sleep at some point, or at least help me enjoy that time.
(7) What is your obsession? Nothing really comes to mind! There’s a lot I’m passionate about and/or really enjoy–music, learning, reading, documentaries, dance (watching), but I can’t think of any one thing I’d call an obsession.
(8) When you are walking down the street, do you pick the street side or the building side of the sidewalk? …What?
(9) What is the town you live in like? It’s the halfway point between a large city and small town, part of a metropolis. Not enough people to drive you crazy, not small enough that major necessities like hospitals and doctors are missing. Outside friends who visit have told me that the people here are nice, but I’ve been around nicer, aha!
(10) What is your favorite quote? Oh, lord. I’ll just put a few that I like, because I have tons.
“When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.”(African Proverb)
“What would you be like if there was nobody else in the world. Who would you be if the only opinion that mattered was yours. Because if you want to be truly happy, you must be that person.” (An Englishman in New York)
“When a tiger, a powerful creature, forgets who he is, he will allow himself to be intimidated by a whip and a chair.” (Iyanla Vanzant)
“Never pretend to a love which you do not actually feel, for love is not ours to command.” (Alan Watts)
“Science is how God thinks.” (Deepak Chopra)
Documenting M.E.(I know it’s next to impossible that you’d have spare energy to do this, but I’m still including you!)
After spending a week considering a one month break from Twitter (and other social media outlets), I “stumbled across” something I wrote two years ago on my personal blog when I first tried this. (I say “I stumbled upon,” but I do not believe in coincidence.) Almost exactly like now, I had just relapsed (the one that necessitated I stop treatment) and found myself needing to prioritize my energy in order to adapt to my new normal. I’m posting it here partially as a testament to my growth, partially to explain my current social media absence using words I’ve already written (no spoons!), and partially that others might identify with any of the struggles I had back then. But trust me, this is NOT an anti-technology rant!
Tuesday, 18th December, 2012
I feel a need to be more free in my writing and not always have it dictated by a clear “purpose.” I mean, obviously there is always an intent, but this All or Nothing mindset that has still somehow managed to stick onto my creative expressions is getting me no where.
I fear having a bunch of unfinished projects because in my brain I’ve associated that with something “bad.” It’s “bad” to not finish things, and it’s “bad” to start something new before you finish what you’ve already begun. And perhaps for many things, even most things, that’s true. How will you see what you can do if you don’t see anything through? But this isn’t a major life decision–it’s expression. The All or Nothing mindset was drilled into me since I was a child, but it’s time to evaluate why I think the way I think. Do I really feel that way, or do I think that because someone taught it to me and I never stopped to question it, question them? No, I get to choose which rules I live by, which ones will serve me, and my common sense says there are exceptions to everything.
If there is an option between writing nothing because you cannot write everything, or writing a little even if it might take a while to make sense… I don’t want my brain to implode from a lack of expression.
“I used to believe that time was the most important thing I have, but I’ve come to believe differently. The single most valuable resource I have is uninterrupted thought.”
“I’ve realized how Twitter has made me break up my thoughts into tiny, incomplete, pieces-lots of hanging ideas, lots of incomplete relationships, punctuated by all manner of hanging threads and half-forked paths. I am perfectly fine with unfinished work-in fact, I doubt I’ll ever be a better finisher than I am a starter. But I’ve found that my greatest joy, deepest peace, and most valuable contributions come from intentionally choosing where to let my focus rest.”
After reading the potential for this social networking site to do that to one’s psyche, combined with the fact that I’d recently been putting thought into what purpose Twitter served me (something I feel is important to do from time to time; weed out what doesn’t bring you where you want to go), I had to try it for myself.
It’s barely been two weeks since I told everyone on Twitter I’d be leaving until the new year, and I haven’t tweeted since…save the automated ones that post from my health blog. I have logged in occasionally to see if there were any mentions or replies, but no. Is that unusual for someone with almost 200 followers that are otherwise pretty chatty?
One major part of Adam’s Twitter ramble was how much he CARED, and how the site was draining him emotionally because he couldn’t really do anything about the bits of information that were posted. I can thoroughly relate to this because my main use of Twitter was participating in the support system us “spoonies” formed. There are lots of tweets about suffering. (It was easier to release the thought there, where people at least understood, instead of “bothering” friends or making Facebook posts.) So sure, he wanted to do something for people, but–much like myself–he liked to show sincere care and do something real to help, and how can you do that for the hundreds of little tidbits posted? Truly, they leave more questions than anything. “Twitter is outsourced schizophrenia.”
And one major facet of people like us, the “carers,” is that.. we care a whole hell of a lot more than most, meaning we get close to people and form connections with them easier than most. This is never clearer to me than when I leave behind any social networking platform I’ve ever used: I want to take people with me, but they don’t care where I go. I want to keep in communication with those I’ve formed bonds with so I leave e-mail addresses or new account locations, but they never contact me again.
And it is what it is, truly. I realize people are meant to come in and out of others’ lives. But the fact is I end up caring about others far more than they care about me, which–in Twitterland, especially–means I extend energy toward irreconcilable situations and incomplete relationships. This is not something that is conducive to what I want, need, and am entitled to as a human being. (Maybe, too, I’m just from a different time, before the internet when people called and wrote and relationships weren’t so throw-away.)
And my thoughts, it’s like they all had their potential to become something, but the goal really did become fitting them into character limits instead of expanding them. It filled the temporary niche for an expressed thought, but then it died there. Did I explore any introspection or make blog posts when I was on Twitter? No. (Of course there were other reasons I haven’t been blogging on this account, but.) It’s honestly kind of amazing, when you think about it.
I do miss Twitter, though, for when I REALLY DO have tiny incomplete thoughts. I must have been using it wrong, something it wasn’t designed for, at least not for people like me who are creatures of many words. So I call this experiment a success! More useful knowledge to bring with me into the new year. I was never a Twitter addict, but when I return to it next year, I will not be checking it as much, I will know my limits when I start to become irrationally emotionally invested, and I will be more mindful to use it in a way that adds to my life.
I thought I had been doing that, but when I started to delete people, I felt like I was doing something wrong. I felt guilty pruning through the lists of users to leave only the ones that inspired me to be greater–a thought that, when I type it, seems absurd! As Adam wrote,
“Ultimately, I still *like* a lot of those people and like much of what they have to say. I don’t believe that restricting the people I follow to only the ones I agree with 1000% of the time is healthy.”
But if I cannot find a way to keep balance with it, it has to go until I can do so. As I always say, if you’re not going to use social media for what you want out of it, why is it in your life?
I knew the Universe had something to show me when it brought that article to me right when I was contemplating my relationship with Twitter. As Oprah would say it, I have learned to listen to the whispers before the bricks start flying!
I remember how well that one month break ultimately worked for me the last time, and reading this old post solidified my decision to do it again. I laughed at how, even in my old entry, I mentioned Adam’s post appearing right as I was contemplating a break. This time, my own old post came to me! The Universe always sends us what we need, if we pay attention. With my newly-limited energy, I need to focus. I don’t have spare energy to do it all anymore. The situation has changed, and I must change with it.
If it’s not bringing you where you want to be, let it go. “Let go or be dragged.”
I received a message asking for advice from a person who was new to chronic illness, having just found out they had late stage Lyme disease. In construing a reply, I came up with a bunch of things I wished someone had told me. For a good book to accompany you on this road, I once again recommend How To Be Sick.
The first thing I believe most people want to know when they get sick, is that their life isn’t over. You’re scared, and you think your life cannot possibly continue unless it continues on the path you were already on before the illness arrived. I offer you my compassion.
Things are going to change, but I assure you, your life isn’t over. I ask you to consider that it never even paused at all. Your plans might have changed, but life is still happening, which I’m sure is evident as you watch others continue their own plans while you are forced to reconsider yours. Reconstruct, don’t abandon. The ultimate goal of everything we do in life is happiness for ourselves and others, so that we can enjoy ourselves and our time with loved ones, and if you’re still here, your ability to do this has changed but isn’t gone.
“I just see the divine within you struggling to make itself known to you, and taking you on a journey IT wants to go on…which may be not the journey YOU wanted to go on, your ego-self had in mind, but is the divine journey in you beginning to manifest.”
This really, really spoke to me on a core level, even though the film is not at all about illness. I don’t necessarily wholeheartedly believe that disease is predestined for a learning opportunity–illness and death are natural processes and not punishments–but I do believe the Universe can guide us through any situation so that it works out for our benefit. I think my spirit wants to get the most out of this hand it’s been dealt, and you might consider that yours does, as well. “What has awoken in you is not a passing phase.”
It’s okay to grieve the direction your life is no longer going. Just know there is more out there, and grieving is a part of joy. I repeat: Grieving is a part of joy. Don’t try to force yourself or your loved ones through the stages of grief faster than any of you can handle, and remember the process doesn’t follow a straight line.
You are going to be okay.
At first, you may be entirely focused on cure cure cure. You may seek validation that your symptoms are real and try to prove it to others through research, because the people in your life may not believe you, especially if your illness is invisible. If you eventually find a cure to be unavailable, you may spend long periods of time–weeks, months, or longer–trying to find a treatment to slow down your disease; your loved ones might go through this, as well. If that doesn’t work out, still, your life is not over.
Buy yourself nice things. Don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t deserve nice things just because you’re sick or have to go on disability; this is the only life you have. Don’t wait to begin your life again “when [this or that] happens” because your life is already happening right now. Remember that the future is made from nothing more than present moments like these, and
“If the present moment has peace and joy and happiness, then the future will have it also.” (Thich Nhat Hanh)
Don’t let your surroundings be drab; make sure they make you feel good, mentally and emotionally. Get comfortable clothes. You probably spend more time in bed than anyone you know, so that needs to be comfortable, too. Invest in a pill organizer that doesn’t psychologically drain you. Make pain management a priority because uncontrolled pain is its own disease.
Learn to gracefully allow people to leave your life, but don’t close your heart when they go: You’ll need that open space for better people to walk into.
There are different groups in what many call the “spoonie” community, and you’re going to find where you belong. You’ll also probably change roles many times. There are the advocates; the emotional caregivers; the writers and bloggers; the medical advisers, some of whom are actual physicians; the philosophers…
For the people who continue to advocate and fight for advancements in how to help us, including medically, thank you, for you play a part in us being heard. For those who spend their energy enhancing their mental and/or spiritual growth, thank you, for you teach us how to live day-to-day. For those who help us navigate the scientific waters and avoid snake oil salesman, thank you, for you help us use our time and money wisely in a world where physicians may not even exist to help, yet. We are all in this together.
I had an unexpected moment of crying earlier, after realizing I had gone back to some old, unhelpful habits, but what actually brought me to tears wasn’t the slip-up. It was the sudden, immense gratitude I felt over having become this person I am today, who now not only has the tools to change and live better, but even the awareness to notice when they’ve regressed. We’re talking about me, this woman who was raised with a psychological and spiritual toolbox that could only ever bring about mental and emotional distress, whose relationship with almost everything and everyone was accompanied by intense suffering… Simply put: I was not raised to be peaceful.
I was raised to judge, be cynical, feel vengeful, hold grudges, be elitist, a perfectionist, and to never relax. No one wants to suffer like this, but we can only do what we know at that time. I am a completely different human being, now, although like anyone, I can slide back into old thoughts, habits, and behaviors when something or someone triggers my protective defenses, when I react instead of respond. But now I have enough awareness to pause, realize when I’m not happy, and decide what I can do about it. I now sit with the knowledge that I am worth my own happiness; that I’m worth investing in myself and my healing in all ways; that it’s okay not to be like everyone else around you; and it’s okay to be the first to change.
Unfortunately, what often happens when you’re the first to make positive change within your circle–whether it’s your friends, family, or family of origin–is the very people you thought would be happiest for you actually ostracize you the most. Their egos feel threatened by you trying to become more or become better, because it makes them feel worse about the damaging behaviors in which they engage in their lives. They lash out and try to stop you from being true to yourself so they don’t have to deal with their own feelings of inadequacy. It’s heartbreaking.
I remember when this path first started, for me. Don’t laugh, but my internet broke for two full weeks, at a time when I had a craving for knowledge, for “something.” So I watched two weeks worth of spiritual programming on my television–perusing channels I didn’t even know I was paying for–and found all sorts of things. I had the realization that there were many other paths to peace than the one I inherited from birth, Southern Baptist Christianity, which teaches we’re inherently sinful from the moment of conception and that only Jesus can “save” us from their god’s eternal wrath. Meanwhile, Buddhists believe in original goodness, not original sin.
Who are you to think you can do this? Who are you to think you have what it takes to find your own peace? Who are you to investigate what YOU want to know instead of trusting what you were taught? Who are you to take enlightenment into your own hands? Who are you to think you are even worth it?
The book gave me an introduction to meditation in the form of mindfulness, which was the perfect outlet for me, personally. I don’t enjoy visualization, and I don’t enjoy posing in awkward, painful positions just because they’re supposed to “take me higher.” But I did enjoy learning how to pause and pay attention to my life and what is happening RIGHT NOW, without a need to judge it. I desperately needed to learn how to do this. My life up until then was passing me by because I was never taught to find gratitude in the present moment; I was only taught to get to the next one, and almost all of my actions AND thoughts revolved around using time efficiently.
Underneath it all was the assumption that using time efficiently would equate to a life well lived, but all it actually did was equate to a life that I couldn’t remember living.
Why? Because if you’re always living for the instant gratification and self-congratulation of “efficiently” using the moments that follow, what happens to ones you’re already in? They’re ignored. Instead of living in your actual life, you’re living in your head about what you think could be happening next.How is the brain supposed to make memories out of your life if you only ever give awareness to what’s going on in your own mind? There was so much happening around me, but I was going through life asleep.
There’s a saying, if you take care of the Now, the future will take care of itself, because the future is made up of nothing but present moments. Here’s an example, for those who don’t quite get how living in the next moment leads to a life forgotten. You could be reading this half-heartedly, picking up the remote or cellphone every few minutes, distracted, wondering what you have to do tomorrow, what you need to plan in order to make that happen… But is the time to plan for later, when you’re already doing something? You can pause, and realize what you’re doing right now. You may be lying down, or sitting. Your attention is on these words and how they might apply to your life. You may be sipping a drink, cool or warm. You may be comfortable, or uncomfortable. You might enjoy the colors on this page. You might take notice of your breath and realize it’s too quick and shallow with anxiety, and relax your body. Now what are you doing? You’re on the internet–connected to a system that is literally going to outer space and back to provide you with this very moment in time–reading an article. Who knew there was so much peace to be found right here? How has your experience changed since you began this paragraph?
Ironically, while writing this, I heard my mindfulness bell chime. It’s an app you can download for your mobile device (for Android or iOS) that you can set to periodically chime throughout the day, helping you remember to pause, breathe, and focus on what you’re doing in that moment. Toni Bernhard’s describes a method in here book of taking ten comfortable breaths while you focus on one sense at a time: What do you see? What do you currently smell? What do you currently feel in your body? What do you hear?
Is there a Mara in your life, or in your head, telling you that you don’t have what it takes to live a better, more present, enjoyable, peaceful life? Asking you, Who are you to think you can do this?
I leave you with the ever-beautiful words of Ralph Marston yet again, which gave me the courage to even write this blog entry:
“Start where you are, and do what you can. Make use of what you have, in the time available to you, and there’s much you can get done.
Don’t waste your time waiting for conditions to be perfect, for they will never be. Go ahead, with things as they are, and begin making real progress.
The place to aim is as high as you can imagine. Yet the place to start is right where you are.
Let go of any concerns about not having enough time, or money, resources or anything else. Focus instead on the great value and potential of what you do have and of what you can do right now.
See the real treasure that exists in your opportunity and ability to make good, effective use of this moment. Claim that treasure by going ahead and putting forth your very best effort.
Today is your day to achieve and to make your world a better place. Start where you are, and get yourself solidly on the way to wherever you wish to be.”