- Following My Heart-Tentatively
- Whatever Makes You Hopeful and Lightens Your Heart Just a Little…
- Lessons Learned in Mother Nature: Managing My Fibro Symptoms
|A lotus flower begins growing at the bottom of a muddy, murky pool, and slowly emerges toward the surface, bursting out of the water into a beautiful blossom. During the night the lotus closes and sinks under the water, and emerges again with the sunlight of a new day.As the lotus flower emerges from the mud, and up toward the surface it is completely unstained.|
Bob Dylan was right. The times are continually changing whether small or major. Change is a part of life. However, change, whether good or bad, brings a certain amount of stress, and that stress can bring on a flair for those of us with chronic conditions such as Fibromyalgia.
Since November of last year, it’s felt like one pretty big change after another in my family: changes in health, changes in jobs, changes in homes. My first reaction tends to be a pulling back, in my mind and body. I stiffen, literally, as if to strengthen or to push back on the change. This can lead then to tension in my shoulders and chest which triggers in me a sense of anxiousness.
What I’m purposefully working on is leaning in. Leaning into the change like a trust fall. Breathing and being present in this moment, reminding myself that I’m safe, secure, and supported. That my family, we are in this together, and we’ll all be all right as long as we stick together. This means that we share at a deep level, knowing that we can make it through anything.
This is bringing a new perspective to change. Change that at first seems like a disaster, turns out to be just the kick in the butt that was needed to move to the next level in our lives. It ends up being a major blessing. The prospect of change is now exciting and full of potential, making me open up my imagination for what I can create out of this next part of my life.
As the daughter of a mom with bipolar/schizophrenia, I heard again and again that just as things were going good, it would turn and storms would come. She would tell me that if things get really good, then prepare for them to get equal parts horrible. At that tender age, I took that as a life lesson that has kept me on my toes, waiting for the anvil to fall at any moment. However, now I realize that this was her reality, one which she really didn’t understand. She’d fly high for a time and then crash. It was what she understood to be the way of life. I’m just now realizing that I had this underlying belief coloring my entire life.
This last week, I went on a vacation that I was hesitant to take. It was coming at a time of major change for my children, and I felt that I needed to be around to help them through. I didn’t think I could enjoy the time away. Right up to the night before we left, I was tensing up, bracing for the worst. I only went because my husband really felt we needed to go (and we’d already committed to the condo with my brother and sister-in-law).
|After the November 2016 fire ripped through
Gatlinburg and Anakeesta Theme Park,
the community came together to rebuild
this favoritetourist attraction.
When we visited the fall of 2019, we could still
see scars of the fire but they didn’t compare
to the new beauty that was present.
The time away was so good. We went to a place we’d never been to- Gatlinburg, TN. My brother-in-law chose our destination. It’s not a place that Kelley and I would normally visit. But, I think, it was just what I needed to let go, getting a bit wild and silly. My sister-in-law is one of the most caring, real, and hilarious people I know. We did things that neither of us would have normally, but with the four of us, we did. Tonya conquered her fear of heights by walking among the tops of the mountains over a glass, swaying bridge. I tried moonshine-nearly all 13! To conclude our week, she and I each got a symbolic tattoo. It is Tonya’s first. She remembered her mom, gone 15 years now, with a Rose-of-Sharon and her mom’s signature copied exactly from the note her mom had written to her 40 years ago.
I got a lotus on my inner left arm. It’s something I will see often reminding me that I am strong and have come out again and again to show my beauty. I’m reborn daily. Daily I am changing.
This last week, I didn’t take any pain medication. I was able to get up in the morning and be alert and active all day (with a bit of a rest in the afternoon between activities). My symptoms from the Fibro are there but much more in the background. I’m feeling like I can be recreated, just like the lotus, each day is a brand new start. Times of change are times of celebration, growth, potential to recreate my self. I’m choosing to lean in and enjoy!
4/10/20 Update: Due to COVID-19, Akaneesta Park is closed until the #stayhome #staysafe orders have lifted. They working on even more additions and improvements this year. To say that our world is facing enormous change from this pandemic is an understatement. But, I have faith, that we will come out the better and stronger. Mother Earth has given us the kick in the butt we need to make substantial changes to how we treat both her and each other.
Are you open to change? Do you balk at it? What have you learned from the changes in your life?
As you probably have guessed, I am not a trained medical health professional. What I am is a mom, a mimi, a retired teacher, a lover of nature and of music, as well as, someone living with chronic illnesses. I share my journey to provide some insight and hopefully ideas that may be helpful to others dealing with similar issues. Always, consult with your doctor before trying anything new.
Belonging to a community has been a driving part of my entire life. As a child, I went to nearly every summer church program (partially because my mom couldn’t afford daycare) because I just loved that week of being a part of a special group: knowing the special song’s words and hand motions, sharing stories, munching on little sugar cookies and red punch around a small table with this temporary community.
Working as a camp counselor, not only did I find a temporary community to live with, but I met my best friend and my future husband. In college, I connected to a small group of friends (most I still have today) and sought out others from my classes that shared similar goals. I studied to become a teacher; my schools had been major sources of community for me growing up, and I longed to continue to be a part of it. When my husband and I chose the home we’d live in for our retirement years, I fell in love with a new development that was built on a former site of a summer camp, creating a built-in community of people to connect with.
Emma Seppala Ph.D. explains in PSYCHOLOGY TODAY Connect to Thrive, 2012, “Social connection strengthens our immune system…, helps us recover from disease faster, and may even lengthen our life.” On an emotional level, “People who feel more connected to others have lower rates of anxiety and depression.”
People who feel more connected to others have lower rates of anxiety and depression. “Too many of us pull in and away when we aren’t feeling well,” Seppala goes on to explain that a study conducted in 2006 showed that social connectedness is rapidly declining in the lives of those living in the United States. The report states that in 1985 Americans had on average three people they felt connected to on a deep level and in 2004 that number dropped to only one, with 25% of respondents saying they have no one to confide in.
Nearly, one year ago to the day, I was yanked from my school community, after 32-years, very unceremoniously. That’s the way I felt when I went onto long-term leave and then into retirement last June; my whole life as an educator just ended. It was really difficult knowing I wouldn’t be an integral part of my teaching community anymore. I still am having dreams a few times a month where I go into school, knowing I no longer work there, trying to give my input on the things I know are going on, then realizing that my ideas aren’t needed any longer.
Not only did I abruptly stop being a part of my teaching community, but I also began to really pull away from everyone. Mostly, because I felt so horrible, I just didn’t have anything to give to my family and friends. A new trend began, me canceling plans to go out, to getting together, to calling, to responding, even to posting and responding on Facebook. And within my solitude, I felt invisible and increasingly sad.
The night before Thanksgiving last year, I was invited to a Breathwork workshop at a yoga studio in a town about 20 minutes away from my home. I felt like @#$%, but the task was to get there and then lay down, bolstered by support pillows and wrapped in blankets like a cocoon. I didn’t have it in me to drive, so my husband drove and visited with our daughter who lives in that town.
Upon walking in the yoga studio, the sweet smells from the essential oil mixture and the brewing tea greeted me, calming me. Inside the entry, I was welcomed by several smiling, chattering people scattered throughout the India-infused, boho space. I felt like I was walking into someone’s home.
At the end of the three-hour session, I felt more energetic and positive than I had in a while. I vowed to start coming to this place and be a part of this community. Even though it took me a while to get consistent in attending, I began to feel the support and positive energy from the people through this place. The owner of the studio purposefully sets up a place that would keep people there after class to share in the community through talk and tea.
Slowly, my husband and I are making new connections in communities that we are interested in being a part of now that we are retired. We’ve met other couples interested in getting out-of-doors: hiking, kayaking, snowshoeing, etc. Also, as the development that we live in has more homeowners living here, we are beginning to get to know them through organized activities that generally involve food. Recently, I’ve connected with a few other writers who have shared some nuts and bolts of the process of writing, helping me to feel like writing is something not only do I want to do but am able to do.
Through my blogging, I’ve become connected to others in the Fibromyalgia and chronic mental and physical illness communities. I find that communication through online forums is very important for me. At times, I’m learning something new; other times, I contribute something to a discussion that helps someone else. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve even gotten some much-appreciated kudos from others in the community for my writing, which really helped to get me back at the keyboard.
When we are in pain or not feeling well, often our first reaction is to pull away from all our communities. I know it takes great energy that you just don’t have. However, as I have learned both from my therapy and from my experiences, the more I pull away the darker I get. The more I push in, doing only what I can at that time, the better I begin to feel. The light from others is contagious.
At this time of the holidays, when things can get really overwhelming, I suggest that we connect with those communities that build us up, and we keep this going throughout the year.
My wish for you (and for me) as we are beginning this time of winter hibernation is that we stay connected. Through our communities, we are revived, strengthened, honed, and loved.
What are ways you connect? What are your obstacles? What are the benefits you get by being connected with others?
Thank you for visiting my blog today. I am committing to posting once a week by Friday. However, as you know, my new normal means that sometimes I have to listen to my body, and I cannot follow through as planned. Thank you for your understanding.