Reminders

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The plan was to spend a good part of the day on my book. Having looked forward to this day off from work for a week, I mulled over phrases and thoughts from where I left off last time.

I woke up early, ready to take on the day. Sitting up to get out of bed, I took a deep breath and expanded my chest, startled to feel chest pressure and heaviness. Moving forward with usual morning things, I waited for the chest pressure to go away. And this is how the day went–waiting for chest pressure to go away.

Rarely do I have a full day like this anymore. I have figured out it seems to come during times of stress and, therefore, I try to avoid getting worked up or feeling stressed out. But, of course, in life this isn’t always possible.

Or, chest pressure comes when something really bad is going on with my heart. So my worries on Thursday were, Is it extreme pressure? Are my hands sweaty? Does my jaw hurt? Monitoring symptoms takes vigilant energy. My symptoms were relieved when I sat down and rested, so most of the day was spent resting. And being frustrated.

My brother called that evening and sensed something in my voice; he asked if I was okay. I told him I had felt crummy all day. He said he felt crummy the day before, like he was getting the flu. But with extra sleep and a new day, he felt better. “But,” he said, “I have the luxury of feeling sick and not worrying about it.”

This is the chronic part of my heart and vascular disease. Symptoms and extreme fatigue pop up, without regularity, as if to say, “Don’t forget, I’m still here.” I feel a bit sorry for myself, frustrated over the lack of energy and mental space to even work on my book. A day lost. A day sick.

These reminders come, always unwelcome, but usually with a lesson or a positive outcome. This day of rest reminded me of how grateful I am to feel well most days. More good days than bad is a good thing. And now I have plans to work on my book one day next week. Some of the thoughts and phrasing may be different, and just may be better.

Make is a good week!

 

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The Thin Line

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In the movie, “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” one of the lines goes like this: “It seems as if the space between my dreams and my fears is nothing more than the width of an eyelash.”

The woman who said this was referring to her deepening love for a new man in her life. The fear of love was keeping her emotionally distant from him. She did not want to risk opening herself up to the hurt that often comes with love, but, yet, it thrilled her to be with him.

I love the image of the width of an eyelash, a thin line between dreams and fear. It is a universal experience to which we can all relate.

Right now this sentiment is true for me about my book.

My memoir, for the past four years, is the thing in my mind, after which, my dreams will come true. I have given it the power, in my mind, of being the pivot point after which my world will change. I’ll be rich and famous, or healthy and totally together… or… perhaps nothing will change? Fear of success and lack of success are equally powerful.

Now that I am close to finished with the edits suggested by my editor, I realized recently I seem to be stalling. When I finish these edits and get one more official proof, the hard work of publishing, marketing, and getting it out into the world is on.

Realizing that I am stalling, though, has been freeing. It is up to me whether or not I finish the book, and I decided that the risk of my life changing or not changing is better than a future of what if? I am committing to pushing through, finishing the edits, and hiring the proofreader. I will open that new door and see what lies on the other side, no longer allowing fear to win. When it’s done, readers, you will be the first to know!

Make it a good week!

On Control

imageThe other night Michael and I arrived home from dinner to a door we could not open. Our glass front door was stuck shut. Each trying the handle, jiggling and tugging, we realized quickly it was in vain. Thankfully we have another door to the house so I was able to get inside and tried to open the door from there. We discovered, each on opposite sides of the door, that the handle was stuck in the locked position.

An hour and a half, and a new door handle later, we were grateful to be done with this surprise project. And grateful that we worked on the project together without argument.

As far back as I can remember, I looked around and made mental note of any potential stressors. If I could anticipate the problem, I thought, I could control the outcome. I was vigilant with preparedness, sure that being in control was the best way to manage life. Trouble was that managing life isn’t very fun. And it is exhausting.

Several years ago, coming home to the door stuck shut would have left me furious. Its unpredictability would have been a monumental stressor. I would have taken it out on Michael. Most likely I would not have helped him with the project, and would have been steaming mad until it was fixed.

A few years ago, I made a conscious decision to stop trying to control the unexpected, to stop taking inventory of each possible stressor. I kind of think (and I’m not a lunatic or being dramatic about this) that God let me have a heart attack and subsequent health crises to show me who is in charge. I am not in charge, and I needed to loosen up. I needed go easier on myself, to realize that the beauty in my life would come from how I handled the stressors.

So much of life is not in the forecast. I believe learning this is one of life’s great lessons. Although taking things as they come does not come naturally to me, I enjoy choosing to operate this way. I hope that you can’t related at all to what I am talking about, that you never need to be the person who works at going with the flow. But if do struggle with the vigilance of anticipating stress, I encourage you to give it a shot.

Make it a good week!

 

Attention

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I have a story, or a bit of a rant, perhaps…

On my way to work every day, I drive a side-street, two lanes in each direction, to get to the main highway. A street light stands at this very busy intersection where the two-lane street meets the highway. Traffic backs up for a few blocks as people wait to either turn left onto the highway, go straight through the intersection, or turn right onto the highway. I turn right.

In the few blocks leading up to the busy intersection, there are other small streets and parking lots which intersect. Cars need to turn off the two-lane street onto the small streets and into the lots. But, often, other cars are blocking the way. People have not paid attention to where they are or what they are blocking. They know they need to stop due to the traffic waiting for the street light. And they stop right behind the car in front of them. Like sheep.

I pat myself on the back for always leaving space for cars to get through; I do not want to block an intersection, cause a back-up, or increase congestion. And when I drive past those who have blocked an intersection, I yell, (inside my car with the windows shut… no one can hear me, and I don’t have road rage) “You idiot! You’re blocking the street!”

It seriously bugs me that people do not seem to pay attention to what they are doing and they cause problems for other drivers.

I assume these street-blocking drivers are engrossed in the radio, talking on the phone, texting, or just deep in thought. Some may be jerks who don’t care they are blocking others; but most, I am sure, do it by accident. They are not paying attention to all of their surroundings.

We benefit from paying attention to what we are doing when we’re doing it. Multitasking, although meant to make us more productive, actually reduces productivity. Doing two different things that require different kinds of attention reduces our ability to do either one well. Some say it is the sure way to do both jobs poorly. I think our culture and modern lifestyle makes a lot of demands on our attention, and sometimes the schedule and constant demands take over.

But I believe we can be in charge of our schedule and demands. We can be intentional with our thoughts and attention. Entire industries involving meditation and yoga have sprung from our culture’s desire to slow down, to take a break from the demands of modern-day life. They help shut out the clutter and help us focus.

I don’t know if you struggle with this–multitasking or not paying attention to what you’re doing. But if you do, I encourage you to try an experiment. Consciously think about, attend to, the task at hand. Try to finish the email you are working on before looking at the one that just came in. Avoid answering the phone if you are engrossed in a project. Put your cell phone in your pocket or purse while at work rather than letting it pull your attention away each time it dings or vibrates.

If you do this experiment, intentionally focus your attention, I believe you will find three positive results:

  • You will enjoy the task or event rather than simply checking it off the list, onto the next thing.
  • The project or work will be done, touched once and finished, rather than drug out through distraction.
  • You will accomplish more in your day than you do when you let the demands of multitasking control you.

Make it a great week!

 

Curb Appeal

I love this time of year, Springtime. People seem peppier, a little brighter and happier, although sometimes sneezier due to allergies. Trees are budding, and green is popping out of the ground as new plants and flowers grow.

The other day I was cleaning up and pruning the landscape in our front yard. Last fall I left the flowers and greenery on small bushes for “visual interest.” Someone told me it looks nice to have some height in the landscaping over the winter, and it helps with curb appeal. I gave it a try, and it did look nice over the winter. But there really was nothing to those flowers or bushes. They were dead.

These are last year's flowers I cut out of the new, growing plant.

Last year’s flowers that I cut out of the new, growing plant.

As I cut off the dead flowers and pulled old leaves out of the bushes, the landscaping looked much better, cleaner, and healthier. It got me to thinking about spring cleaning, for my life in general. I wonder how much I do to maintain my visual interest or curb appeal–holding onto a façade throughout a season.

If you have a chronic illness, or have had a medical condition, addiction in your home, a significant loss, or perhaps a child making his own choices on what seems to be the wrong path, you probably know what I’m talking about. The façade we put on for other people, just for appearances, is like the bushes left for the winter for visual interest. It is just that, a façade.

What we say to others about ourselves is selective and, with Facebook and other social media spaces, it is easy to post the positive things in our lives–the good curb appeal. When asked how we’re doing, it is often easier to say, “I am doing fine,” than to really get into the truth of the pain we feel. Or, we try to show our best physical selves when we are holding onto unhealthy habits, or dysfunctional relationships.

This spring, in addition to pruning, weeding, and washing windows, I am thinking more about my life in general, and what needs to go. Perhaps the easiest person to fool is ourselves. But at some point, it becomes obvious that we need to be honest and make changes. What is the visual interest that you need to let go of? In what ways are you pretending, putting on a façade? Can you prune some of it away?

The little Autumn Joy Sedum bushes after pruning.

The little Autumn Joy Sedum bushes after pruning.

Buoyancy

The greatest glory in living lies not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail.  ~  Nelson Mandela

Remember when you were a kid? When you played softball and struck out? When you played goalie on the soccer team and allowed the game-losing goal? When, as a top student, you bombed the final? When you didn’t get asked to the prom?

Okay, I’m not trying to bum you out. Failure feels really bad. Even after years have passed, we can still feel that pain in the pit of the stomach, reminding us of how that bad experience felt. But failure is one of those inconvenient and difficult facts of life.

Learning how to fail, accept and learn from it, is critical. We need to know we are okay and secure, even after a mistake. And we need to try again.

This is resiliency. Actually, I like the word buoyancy better because I see a visual image of a boat buoyantly moving on the water, floating easily with the waves, never covered for long by water, always reclaiming its place on the surface.

There are a few mistakes in my life that I remember vividly; the wrong words said in a relationship, an error at work with huge financial impact, mistakes from moving too quickly. It felt really bad each time, and I thought if time could be reversed, words retracted, then the world would be so much better!

But, with time, I can recall the lesson in each one. And I haven’t made those mistakes again. Likely never will.

I think the ability to absorb failure begins in childhood, and I wonder if it is taught rather than simply attained. If children see it is okay to strike out, to allow the goal, to get a bad grade, and are encouraged and supported through the difficulty, their sense of self will be bolstered to sustain some failure.

Mistakes and failure usually have higher stakes in adulthood than they do in childhood. But our reactions to them can mirror our reactions to our childhood mistakes. If we learn how to get up again after the failures as children, we will be better able to get up again as adults.

I wish no failure for you. But if you are going through a rough patch, or have made a mistake, I encourage you to get up and try again. It is just one stop on the path to success.

Make it a good week!

 

 

 

What’s Your Why?

imageYesterday I attended a writing conference and was inspired in many ways–to write consistently, to develop my online presence as a writer, and to believe in my writing. I’ve been working on my memoir for a few years off and on; lately I’m on, and have a deadline of May to give the second draft to a professional editor. Exciting!

One of the most powerful messages yesterday came in a memoir workshop led by Lee Blum, author of Table in the Darkness: A Healing Journey Through an Eating Disorder. Her moving story is about growing up in a family where she did not feel good enough, about her struggles with, and ultimate recovery from, anorexia. When beginning to write, she said yesterday, you must find your why. Why are you telling your story?

My why for my memoir, at first, was to tell people about having a strange heart attack when I was just 38. But I have figured out over time it really isn’t about that at all. My why is for those living with chronic health conditions, about living fully and completely, with faith and hope. If I can help one person with their process of healing, it will have been worth it.

Telling our stories to make money, or for the shock value, or to please others, will ring hollow. It won’t work. In life, as in writing, If we tell our stories for the wrong reasons, lack of authenticity will shine. I hope that my why for the memoir shows through in my life. I want to listen to people, and be empathetic to those going through difficult times. Perhaps one of the reasons why I live with a chronic health condition is to help others.

What is your why? Not just for writing or telling your story. But what motivates you as you go through your life? How has your why changed as you have aged, or as you have experienced new things?

The cute little white typewriter in the photo was a gift from my lovely aunt, Georgette. She said she thought of me when she saw it, and knew I needed it. I love this little typewriter and its simple but potent message. This post is my 50th since starting this blog a year and a half ago. Thank you for reading, for your feedback, and support!

Make it a good week!