Monday, July 31, 2017

The True Secret of Happiness

There are many books on the market on the subject of happiness:  where it comes from;  how to get it; how to keep it; how to cope when it seems elusive.  I've read many of these books, and they truly have been helpful and interesting to me.  But I think William Morris has the best advice of all as stated in the quote I've included here to the left.

Taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.  That's what's important.  Being real.  Having an honest-to-goodness interest in your life, moment to moment.  Marveling at them.  Appreciating them.  Savoring them.  

It's easy to think that your life is mundane if you are constantly looking at it as compared to that of celebrities or friends who have more affluent lifestyles.  But consider looking at your life as if through a microscope instead.  Take every aspect of your life and think of the simple things that make it so awesome.

I've mentioned the Circle of Individual Perspective exercise before.  Draw a circle and divide it into six sections.  Next, label each section as follows:  Career, Relationships, Financial, Health, Spiritual, Well-being.  Now, rate your happiness in each of the six areas of life from 1 (very unsatisfied) to 10 (very satisfied).  Finally, draw a line across each pie slice approximately at the point that represents your satisfaction.  For example, If you rated your health a "5," you would draw a line across the midpoint of that slice.  If you rated your financial situation an "8," you would draw a line across that pie slice close to the edge of the circle.  This exercise is also sometimes called "The Wheel of Life," because, once those lines are connected, you can see how bumpy your life is compared to one in which each segment is quite equally satisfying.  Once you see that wheel, you can devise strategies and action plans to smooth things out and get each section closer to "10."  

Now, back to those "details."  

Career:  What is most satisfying about your career?  Who at the office makes you smile whenever you see him/her?  What simple ritual do you look forward to taking part in each day at work?

Relationships:  What little things do you love about your family and friends?  Who can you be alone with in a room, not talking or doing anything together, but feel totally comfortable with?  Do you have a sweet memory that pops into your head as soon as you think of a specific friend?  Do you have someone in your life that you can be silly with and it's totally okay?  Do you have someone in your life who totally "gets" you?  Do you have that special person in your life that you want to tell everything to as soon as it happens?  Do you have a special bond with someone who just makes you smile whenever you think of him?  Do you have a person in your life who you absolutely love to do thoughtful things for--pick up a colleague's favorite coffee on the way to work, write a love note to your spouse before you leave for work in the morning, or stop by an elderly neighbor's house to read to or play cards with her?  Do you have simple traditions that you look forward to participating in when you get together with certain friends and family?

Financial:  What are you thankful for regarding money?  What inexpensive activity do you love to do--maybe something you did as a child and still find joy in?  Do you feel secure money-wise?  If you are financially secure, what is one frugal thing you still do to save money?  Do you have simple saving tips you learned from your parents or friends that you still use?  Do you keep a jar for change in the house somewhere and look forward to seeing how much you've saved by the end of the year?  Every little bit helps.  (Side note: Jim is a genius at finding loose change.  He has funded a significant portion of our vacations with found money at various times over the years.  Tip:  look in coin returns at store checkouts and in vending machines (and on top of them), on the ground, on the floor, under seats and seat cushions, etc.  He never swipes money he personally sees people drop, however.  He picks it up and returns it.) 

Health:  Are you thankful for your good health?  Are you thankful for the health professionals who offer kind, encouraging words in times of illness?  Do you find something funny to laugh at even when you're in the hospital?  What tips have you picked up over the years that have helped you maintain good health?  What simple health-related rituals do you enjoy practicing?  What are some tricks that you have picked up to make fitness fun?  Do you have simple, healthy recipes that you enjoy preparing on a regular basis?  Do you have favorite go-to places for deals on healthy foods and exercise equipment?  Do you relish taking advantage of a 10-minute window of time to dance around your living room or go for a quick walk?  

Spiritual:  What simple things bring you peace?  What symbols of goodness and faith make you smile when you see them?  What beliefs bring you comfort during hard times and joy during good times?  Where is your favorite place to contemplate, meditate, or think?  Do you find peace in visiting the resting place of a loved one who has passed on?  Do you believe in guardian angels?  Do you find joy in doing simple acts of kindness for others?  Do you find it natural to be an honest person?  Do you feel comforted by the belief that spiritual entities/beings/higher powers are looking out for you?  Are you living your life purposefully?

Well-being:  Do you feel thankful for your life as it is right now?  Do you generally feel happy?  Do you wake up every morning, excited to start the day and see what it has to offer?   Do you find that your life is pretty much stress-free, or that you can handle the stressful situations you encounter in a healthy way?  Are you generally in a good mood?  Do you feel as if you are contributing to society in a positive way?  

These are just some questions you may want to ask yourself about different facets of your life.  I'm sure you can think of others that pertain to your life specifically.  The important thing is to ask yourself, "Am I happy?"   and "What is happiness to me?"  Then, live your life each day as close to your values and beliefs--your true self--as possible to help facilitate a feeling of true happiness.

What is your take on the topic of happiness?  Do you think it comes from the inside or the outside, or a little bit of both?  


Friday, July 28, 2017

I'm Tired: Dealing With Health Issues

Walking through the sprinklers in the park.
This has been quite a week.  It started out amazingly.  I got up early on Monday morning and got a ton of stuff done--personal stuff and business stuff.  I had every intention of keeping this productive, motivatiing trend going all week.  


Monday night, I started bleeding.  I won't go into the gory details, but it was more than a teensy bit of blood.  And it wouldn't stop.  I am usually pretty calm when it comes to medical stuff; health-related stuff.  I've lived in the medical world my entire life.  Most things don't freak me out.

Except blood.  And especially, bleeding that doesn't stop.

Even Jim was like, um, you need to go to the InstaCare, and he is usually the "wait and see what happens" type.  

I get to the InstaCare at the hospital and explain what's happening.  A doctor is consulted.  It's a 3-hour wait, and they aren't even sure they can handle my situation.  So, we decide that I should go to the ER.  I'm asked if I would like someone to wheel me over there in a wheelchair.

Um, no thank you.  I can walk.

Okay, we get to the ER.  They've been briefed by InstaCare already and are waiting for me.  I'm led to a room where they take my vitals, ask what's up, and review my meds.  Then, I'm told to wait in the waiting room.  Although the wait isn't extraordinarily long, it's long enough for the stupid bleeding to stop.

Sure, yes, that's a good thing.  But it means that I basically went there for nothing.  If I had waited at home for 15 minutes, it would have probably stopped.  But when it comes to blood, I act first and ask questions later.

I left the ER after about two hours with instructions on what to do if the bleeding started up again--wait 15 minutes, if the bleeding hasn't stopped, contact the doctor or return to the ER-- and a referral to a surgeon to look further into the matter.  

I was a nervous freakin' wreck!  We didn't get home until close to midnight.  I was exhausted but didn't sleep well because I was wondering if I would wake up in a pool of blood.  Luckily, Jim stayed home from work most of Tuesday to keep an eye on me.  I did not want to be alone.  Jim only left for a couple of hours leaving me with strict instructions to stay put in bed until he got back.  I did have more bleeding that day, so I was glad he was home during that time.  

But that was it.  Negligible bleedling since then.  That doesn't mean I didn't spend the week worrying.  I'm good at worrying.  

What a waste of the week!  It really ticked me off that, after such a productive start, I was screwed the rest of the week because of this stupid bleeding that turned out to be nothing.

Great, it was nothing.  But I am so sick and tired of having one thing after another come up to mess with my productivity, my progress, my work, living my freakin' life!   This year I have been battling lots of health issues:  shoulder and knee injuries coming back to haunt me, foot issues, one cold after another, sleep issues, a kidney function scare (that turned out fine, too, by the way)--enough already.

I'm tired of being me.  I'm tired of doctors, tests, sicknesses, having trouble with mobility because of this stupid knee pain, being told to exercise and then having the knee hurt even worse afterwards, having trouble losing weight because I can't freakin' move without pain,  having trouble losing weight because I am resorting to comfort food eating because I'm frustrated about not being able to move and lose weight.  Get the picture?  Not a happy camper, here.

All this has led to me being down lately.  Actually, feeling down a lot this year so far.  But this week it hit me especially hard.  

But I have a pretty awesome support unit.  I found comfort in talking with friends, rather than chowing down on junk food, ironically.  (Finally, junk food didn't come into the picture.  I haven't had any all week!)  And, walking.  It has provided some much-needed stress relief.  The other night Jim and I went for a walk through the sprinklers in the park.  Something gave just then.  Something clicked.  I was suddenly in a playful mood.  I love those friends and I love those sprinklers.    

What helps you get through the tough times when health issues just about drive you crazy or send you reeling in despair?  Who are your go-to people who are always there for you when you need them?  What activities do you do to get out of a funk?  Shoot me an email or leave a comment and let me know.  Thanks.  Take care.  

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Vlog: Lived In or Cluttered?

Is your home lived in or cluttered?  Or, is it really neat and tidy?  I consider our home lived in while Jim tends to think it's cluttered.  I've been to cluttered homes.  Ours isn't cluttered.  Cluttered homes have stuff EVERYWHERE.  There's no place to sit, hardly a place to stand.  Books, magazines, old pizza boxes, and broken toys everywhere.  That's not our house.  Lived in means, maybe you leave a glass out on the counter.  It'll get picked up when you wash the dishes in the evening.  Or you leave a project out that you're in the middle of working on.  Or you leave a book lying on the sofa that you'll return to tomorrow.  We have six cats and a parrot.  There is no way that our house is going to be pristine.  It's lived in.  I grew up in a lived in house and I liked it that way.  So, I'm carrying on the tradition.  You can wear your shoes in our house (well, unless they are muddy, but that just makes common sense to remove muddy shoes.), you can eat and drink in any room in the house.  We are flexible and relaxed about that.  I understand that other people have their own opinions and ways of doing things and that is fine; this is just the way we do it. 

What is your take on this topic?  Is your home "lived in," "cluttered," or "neat and tidy?"  

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Vlog: Do What You Want to Do

Do you tend to try to get others to do what you think they should do?  This could be fixing a lock on a gate or replacing a small appliance that has been sitting around unusable for months.  Or it could be that you think your husband or sibling should go to college or get a better job.  Step back a minute.  Could it be that what you're actually doing is chiding yourself for not doing those things? 

Do your best to stop worrying about what others are or are not doing, and concentrate on what you really want out of life. Pay attention to what you're doing.  Do what you want to do, whether it's starting a business, going back to school, learning to change a car tire, taking a CPR class, marrying, divorcing, having a child, or quitting your job. 

Do you find yourself harping on other people who don't do what you think they should be doing?  What was their reaction?  What did it tell you about yourself?  What did you learn from the experience?   

Monday, July 24, 2017

Are You Ready for Life on Your Own?

Parents and spouses are important parts of your support system.  But what happens when they're gone?  What if they pass on?  Are you ready?  Not only for the emotional impact but for living on your own without your primary source of support?

In 2003, I had a premonition of sorts.  I started thinking, "What if something happens to Jim? Would I be able to function on my own?  Would I know who to call?  Would I know how to handle the business side of our lives--bills, repairs, general maintenance?"  And so on.  I panicked.  I voiced my concerns to Jim, who usually took care of pretty much everything.  I started insisting that he give me a crash course in, well, everything he did for us.  He thought I was overreacting and didn't take it too seriously.  He explained a few things, but I was still pretty much in the dark.

Then in December of that year, he fell.  He fell when the old ladder he was standing on to remove snow from our porch roof broke in two.  He landed on the shoveled concrete walkway in front of our house, with three feet of fresh snow on each side of him. 

I was about to be put to the test.

 As soon as I saw Jim lying on the walkway, unresponsive, I kicked into emergency mode.  It was automatic.  It was instantaneous.  This is one thing I can tell those of you who think you are wimps and clueless about how to handle emergencies:  I said the same exact thing, and yet I did exactly what I needed to do at the time.  You will do what you need to do too.  Your instincts will kick in.  I just hope you never have to experience such razor-sharp instincts.  I wouldn't wish that on anyone.  

Besides keeping up with my medical care, the household stuff, bills, and Jim's condition, I had to manage a move. We had just sold our house and the closing was scheduled for December 31, less than two weeks away. I had to get help to remove the rest of our things from the house.  I had to get a power of attorney so I could sign for Jim at the closing.  We should have backed out of the sale, but we didn't.  Luckily, we had amazing friends and my family who helped get everything done on time, plus provided me with constant support, including transportation to and from the hospital.

Although the neurosurgeon in charge of Jim's care told me afterward he had had his doubts that he's be able to save him, save him he did.  Jim has partial hearing loss, short-term memory loss, and has had bouts with blood clots, but considering the shape he was in when he fell, he's doing quite well.  

Things to Consider 

These are things I wish we had considered well before Jim's fall.  Take a look:

  • Sit down with your parent or spouse--or another primary person you currently live with--and discuss what to do in case of emergency or death of that person.
  • Make a list of important phone numbers, email addresses, physical addresses, and other important contact information.
  • Make a list of account numbers:  banks, credit cards, and so on.
  • Do your own banking and handle your own money.
  • Add your name to every account, loan--everything--if possible.  I couldn't get information about our car loan because it wasn't in my name at the time of Jim's fall.  
  • Surround yourself with people you can count on to help with ANYthing you need.  These people will stay up all night with you while you talk about the same things over and over and cry your eyes out.  These people will drop everything to help you.  These people will have a place where you can stay, at least temporarily, should you be unable or unwilling to stay alone.  No excuses, no questions, no B.S., they are there--period.  Find those people and stick with them.
  • Get used to asking others for help when you need it.
  • Get used to getting around on your own, whether by car, bus, train, plane, your own two feet, via your chair--whatever--get really good at it.
  • Get used to shopping, prepping your own meals, and cleaning your own living space.
  • Get used to basic maintenance of your car, chair, house--anything that needs to be done.  Or make a list of reliable repair services you can count on to do it for you.
  • Keep up with your health maintenance.  You need to be strong and healthy in times of emergency.  The healthier you are on an on-going basis, the better off you'll be during and after the emergency.

Have you ever experienced a similar situation when you had to take charge and you weren't quite sure you could handle it?  How did you do?  And, do you live on your own?  I'd love to hear from you.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Vlog: Where Is Your Favorite Place to Just Be?

Where is your favorite place to just be?  Where you go to relax, be at peace, meditate?  I talk about my favorite places in this video.  I'd love for you to share your favorite places with me.  It can be inside or outside.  Wherever you feel most at peace.  Have a great weekend.

Vlog: Want Change? Swap the Negative Thoughts Out for the Positive

Hi, everyone!  I have two more vlogs for you today.  This first one is about making changes.  The best way to make a change is to concentrate on the positive rather than the negative.  Never might the old, worn out complaints, feuds, mistakes and so on.  Slowly swap out those outdated thoughts that don't serve you anymore, and replace them with more positive ones.  And watch the magic begin to take place!  Have a great weekend.  

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Vlog: Friendships: Distant and Local

It's Wednesday, and that means it's vlog time.  This week I'm talking about friendships, both distant and local.  Are most of your friends in your local area, or do you have friends all over the world?  I'm talking super close friends; deep friendships.  Not a random buddy at the gym or your lab partner at school.  I'm talking about friendships that go much deeper than that.  My take on this subject is that you can have deep friendships with people anywhere--across the street or across the world.  What do you think?  Let me know in the comments or email me.  I'd love to hear from you.

Related posts:  

Gender and Friendship:  Does It Matter?  

What to Do When You Just Aren't Interesting In Continuing a Friendship Anymore 

A Good Friends Is a Connection to Life  

Monday, July 17, 2017

Fear: Contributing to a Life-long Habit of Poor Decision-Making

Fear is defined as an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm.  It is often referred to as anxiety.  Fear causes a gut-wrenching response (frozen in fear, for example), while anxiety may make you feel mildly queasy.  A bit of anxiety can be a good thing.  It can help you prepare for an important exam or meeting, and even that reasonable fear can prevent you from crossing a street into oncoming traffic.  But a phobia is a different story altogether.  It is an intense, persistent, irrational fear of a specific object, situation, activity, or person.  People with phobias will do anything to avoid what triggers this intense fear.  While anxiety and reasonable fears don't necessarily hinder a person from leading a normal life, phobias certainly do.

Fear and Decision Making

I can relate to fears and even phobias.   I grew up fearing so many things.  Some were normal fears, while others did get in the way of my living a normal life.  From the time I was a small child, fear has contributed to poor decision making on my part.

  • Fear of strangers:  At my oldest brother's wedding, I was afraid of my new sister-in-law's father as he was a stranger to me.  But I think the more significant reason was that he wore a white suit coat which I must have associated with those worn by doctors.  Instead of snuggling up to him, I screamed until he finally handed me back over to my mother.  Ouch!  I was six months old.
  • Fear of the dark:  It took me ages to leave my parents' bedroom for my own.  When I finally made the switch, I was afraid of the shadows, thinking they were monsters.  I still don't like being out and about in the dark, whether walking in the neighborhood, sitting around a campfire, navigating the rooms of our house, or driving.  I rarely drive at night.  I can't navigate streets as well as I can during the day, and I easily get lost.  This limits me in that I opt out of events that I would enjoy going to that Jim has no interest in, such as concerts, lectures, or parties.
  • Fear of being alone or abandoned:  This has always been a big one for me.  I was in isolation in the hospital when I was about three years old due to an infection.  Between the strict visiting hours and my parents' having seven other children to take care of at home, I didn't see them much.  I developed an intense fear of being left alone or abandoned.  If my mother dropped me off at the mall, I would worry that she would forget to pick me up.  If my husband dropped me off at college, I would think the same thing.  That feeling still crops up to this day when I'm dropped off somewhere and the driver drives off.  I am certain that time in isolation is the reason for this fear.  I have never lived on my own.  I went from my childhood home to an apartment with a roommate to an apartment with my husband.  I think it would have been wise for me to wait a bit before getting married.  I was too young.  I'm in my fifties now and feel like I'm still in my thirties, so imagine how young I felt when I got married at 24.  I was an infant emotionally.  I had no clue how to do the marriage thing.  None.  I wish I would have lived on my own for a year or two before taking the plunge.  It would have made those early married years much less boggling.  But both my husband and I thought we were getting long in the tooth (he was a whopping 26, oh my) and if we were going to get married, we'd better get on with it.  Oh, please!  Age doesn't mean a thing.  We should have concentrated on, "Are we ready?"  or that little voice giving us warning signs that it's just not the right time.
  • Fear of thunderstorms:  Another big one.  I totally tense up at the slightest sound of thunder in the distance.  When I was a young child, I would lie on the couch and cover my head with pillows until the storm passed.  As I got older, I would simply lie in bed if I was home until it was over.  If I was out and about, forget it.  I was a mess.  I wrote about one particularly frightening episode that happened in Florida decades ago.  I inherited this fear from my father who was deathly afraid of thunderstorms.  He was a hard worker, but if a thunderstorm hit, all work stopped and he and my siblings would head for the safety of the house.  He cautioned against using the telephone, stove, and any number of other things during a storm.  He developed his fear when he was a boy working on his family's farm.  He was tending to a cow when the barn was hit by lightning.  The charge traveled to the cow, which died and fell on my dad.  He never forgot that.  To this day, I will not drive in a thunderstorm.  If it's supposed to storm on a day I have an appointment, I cancel it.  My husband, meanwhile, loves thunderstorms.  While I run for cover, he runs outside to watch it roll in.  Oh, my.  
  • Fear of dogs:  I have always had a fear of dogs.  I'm short and my balance is not that great, so jumping dogs are especially worrisome.  I've been tripped and knocked down by a few pooches in my day.  I have nothing against dogs in general, but I automatically tense up when I see a dog.  I especially get nervous when I see a dog running loose with or without a human companion.  That happens a lot in the park behind our house, and occasionally in the neighborhood, so I never walk alone.  That is a bummer because I would love to explore the area on my own. 
  • Fear of the unknown/uncertainty:  Here's yet another big one for me.  I have always feared the unknown, including the world of work, social clubs, being in a large group of people I don't know, working for others, traveling with or without Jim, and most recently, health insurance.  I like to know what's ahead.  I like to have a routine.  With the above examples, I don't know how it's going to go.  So I freeze up and avoid it if I can, or if I can't, I worry about what could go wrong.  It's mostly tied to health issues.  Will I get sick?  Will I get hurt?  Will my supervisor understand if I have to take time off for illness or surgery?  (Even if she is understanding, I will still feel guilty about it.)  Will my ostomy pouch leak in transit on a trip or during a gathering?  Do I have enough health maintenance supplies with me?  What if... What if... What if...  It drives both Jim and myself a little nutty, to be honest.  That's why I work at home and have for the past 20+ years, and I love that I can do that.  The traveling, well I grin and bear it when traveling with Jim, but inside I'm calculating when I need to do the next maintenance or take the next medication, and how to fit these things into the day's activity schedule. I've declined opportunities to travel with others, depending on the circumstances. I wish I could just go, have fun, and forget about the medical stuff just for a bit.  But my medical mind never shuts off.  It is always talking to me, keeping me in check. As for health insurance, don't get me started.    
  • Fear of change:  The comfort zone feels safer, so I generally like to stay put.  I've made that not-so-good decision many times during my life.  Change means beginning again.  It means learning routes to work, school, the grocery store, the hospital in a new city.  It means telling my new doctors my medical life story--again.  It means hearing from those doctors that I'm "a unique case"--again. It means new people, new places, new jobs, new everything.  Or, it means simply changing an attitude a little bit.  Ha.  Simply?  Not.  It's difficult.  It takes time.  Meanwhile, I'm fearful that I won't be able to adjust.  I've put off moves, jobs, switching to a new doctor because I dreaded the change.  But it's worth the effort.  Change is good.  It provides growth and learning and cleans the cobwebs out of our brains and bodies and lives.
  • Fear of water:  I've always been leery of the water.  I never learned to swim, almost drowned in the high school swimming pool, and get the heebie-jeebies when crossing a bridge over water.  I'm afraid of going more than ankle-deep into the water.  The smart decision to make in this case would be to sign up for swim lessons, but I never have.  Yet.  I absolutely refuse to learn to swim with a group.  That's how I almost drowned in the first place.  One on one lessons appeal to me.  Another fear has gotten in the way of those lessons, though:  the facility is across town and it's a tricky driving route.  Sigh. 
  • Fear of intimacy:  I was self-conscious about dating.  I tended to stay inside this wall I built up around myself, to keep me from getting too close to others.  To keep me safe.  But it also made me feel isolated and alone as well.  To this day, I have a hard time opening up to people until I know them quite well.  Sharing super-personal stuff related to health issues comes only when I have known a person a long time, and then only if I sense that they will understand.  I have to experience a certain vibe when I'm with the person.  If it isn't there, I won't share.  So, I didn't date much and I have very few deep friendships.  
  • Fear of driving:  Around the age of 13 I started stressing about learning to drive.  The closer I got to 16, the worse my anxiety became.  Most of my classmates were a year younger than me due to the fact that I repeated second grade because of frequent health-related absence that year.  While some of my classmates were envious that I was old enough to get my driver's license, I was petrified at the notion.  I absolutely did not want to get my driver's license--ever.  But, finally, when I turned 19, my mother dragged me down to the DMV.  She had waited until she was in her 50s to get hers and she wasn't about to let me do the same thing.  It took me four attempts, but I finally got it.  But, license or not, I hardly ever drove.  I was afraid to drive even on the quietest of roads.  I was afraid to drive without someone with me. I was afraid I was going to get into an accident, break down, or get lost.  I dreaded coming across a detour and not knowing how to navigate it.  And forget about driving on snow and ice. It petrifies me.  It is one of the reasons, actually, why we moved to the desert.  We hardly ever get snow.  I also never drive long distances by myself, so no solo road trips for me, although it is enticing.  I've passed up job opportunities because of this fear.  I've passed up going to social gatherings as well.  It has been a significant and limiting fear for a very long time.  When we moved to Utah 10 years ago, I decided that I would attempt to conquer my fear of driving.  I went driving with Jim early on Sunday mornings when NOBODY was on the streets to practice finding my way around.  It took some time, but now I can drive fairly stress-free in most areas of the city.  That was a huge accomplishment for me.
  • Fear of rejection:  This fear has caused me to shy away from opportunities for work, friendships, and dating.  I was afraid to try.  I was afraid that I wouldn't get the job because of my disability; that people would think I would be a liability, or that I wasn't qualified.  I was afraid that people wouldn't want to be my friend because I was too different, too weird, too broken.  Or, guys wouldn't  want to go out with me because of my health issues, because I walked funny, or because I wasn't pretty enough, or smart enough, or tall enough.  My confidence was in the gutter on this one for a very long time.  
  • Fear of public speaking:  This one goes back quite a ways.  I have always disliked public speaking.  It means getting up in front of people.  It means all eyes are on me and, oh boy, what if I goof.   It involves being vulnerable.  All things that really creep me out.  So, I've stayed away from public speaking in business, which means I'm limiting my exposure to those audiences; those potential clients.  Ironically, the best speech I ever gave was on spina bifida.  I was in college at the time.  Maybe that should spur me to actively entertain speaking more on special needs and abilities as well as friendship.  But the thought of doing it still creeps me out, even though it is enticing.  We'll see.
  • Fear of death:  This fear has to do with driving, rather than medical stuff.  Medical stuff, I'm good.  I am not afraid to die from my health issues.  I just don't want someone to smack me when I'm out and about driving and end up killing me in the process.  And what's even more frightening is, I don't want to be the one charged in a case of vehicular manslaughter.  I would absolutely never, ever, ever, ever drive again if I ever killed someone while I was driving.  Especially a child.  Never.  I would fall into a bazillion pieces.  Whenever a child runs out from behind a parked car on my street, chasing a ball or something, I about die. And when I drove our most recent exchange student to school every day, well, you can imagine how I felt as we approached the school and teen drivers were everywhere, kids walking in the street, on the sidewalks, everywhere.  My stress level was through the roof.  But I did it.  I did much better this time around than when we hosted years ago.  That fear just about did me in. I wouldn't drive.  Would NOT drive.  I was obsessive about it, and it caused masses of tension that contributed to that student leaving to live with another family.  Luckily, in 11 years between the two exchanges, I've calmed down just a tad.
  • Fear of getting physically hurt:  All my life I've been afraid to get hurt physically.  I didn't want another reason to have to go to the hospital.  So, I avoided walks with my family through the rough pastures on the farm, organized sports, backyard ball games with my family, gym class at school, and many other things that would have helped me keep in better shape as a child.  Also, there are countless hiking trails near us, and it bugs me that I can't tackle strenuous ones for fear of landing in the hospital or ending up dead.  
  • Fear of failure:  This is another big one.  I was afraid to try activities, hobbies, classes, jobs, and business opportunities because I thought that I would mess up.  It ended up being a pain in the neck because I got so, even if I did give something a shot, I didn't have the confidence to stick it out.  So, rather than keep going when things got a little sticky, I gave up.  But the kicker is, to me now, giving up is worse than failure.  Not giving myself time to get settled into a position or activity is cheating myself out of a potentially life-enriching experience.  Instead, I would give up and go home, convinced I was a failure.  I wasn't a failure.  I just didn't have the confidence to stick it out to the true end, whether that end came in a day or in 30 years.  
How We Develop Fears

So, how do we develop these sometimes annoying, sometimes debilitating fears?  There are generally three ways:

Direct experience:  We are afraid of thunderstorms because we were hit by lightning.

Indirect experience:  Our father is deathly afraid of thunderstorms because he was hit by lightning, and observing his fear makes us fearful as well.

Learned from the media: We hear about devastating storms in the media, so every time there is a thunderstorm, we freak out, thinking it's a tornado.

What to Do?

There are many things that you can do to try to ease your fears to help facilitate better decision making.  Here are some suggestions.  If these don't work, and you find that your fears interfere with your ability to function normally, day to day, consult a health care professional for help.

  • Take your time:  Think about the options and the pros and cons of each one.  Think of the people, time, and energy involved.  Will you be able to stick with your decision happily for the long haul?
Be true to yourself:  Think about the decision in terms of your priorities, goals, and values.  Whatever feels right to you in your gut is most likely the best choice.
  • Reduce the stress in your life:  If you are stressed, you'll have a harder time concentrating on the decision you need to make.  Keep your life as simple as possible to help facilitate positive decisions.  Clear space in your calendar to really concentrate on the issue at hand, go for a walk, meditate--anything that will calm your spirit and give you clarity.
  • Avoid worrying about making the wrong choice:  Instead of worrying about making the wrong choice, be happy that you do have a choice.  You're not being forced to make one decision over the other, you are being given the gift of, maybe, several choices.  Concentrate deeply on each option and go with your gut, again, when making your decision.  It is usually right.  
  • Get inspired by others:  See what others did when they had a tough decision to make.  What strategies did they use to figure out what to do?  You can ask your friends, family, colleagues, neighbors--anyone you trust to give you an honest answer.  You can also read inspirational books and articles, and view videos to gain insight.
  • Treat mistakes as lessons:  You may choose the wrong path.  Down the road, you're thinking, "What did I do!?"  But, you made the decision based on the knowledge and information you had available to you at the time.  Treat it as a lesson, make necessary changes, and try something else.  It's done.  It's over.  Work on forgiving yourself and move on.

Have your fears contributed to poor decision making on your part?  How did those decisions affect your life?  What did you do to facilitate change?   

Friday, July 14, 2017

Friendship and Life Changes

As I've mentioned before, friendships are very important to your well-being.  They comfort you, laugh with you, defend you, and provide companionship.  

But what if you make a major change in your life?  Will they still be there?  Will they know how to handle the new you?

Some changes that could affect friendships are:

  • Weight loss:  Your friends may be jealous of your ability to lose weight.
  • Eating healthy:  You're new eating habits don't fit in with their beer and pizza mentality.
  • Stopping smoking/drinking/abusing drugs: Sometimes the only thing you have in common is a bad habit.  When that's gone, the friendship is gone too.
  • Values:  If you have been friends with people who steal, lie, cheat, are disrespectful to others, and change your ways, you may find out that they no longer want to hang out with you.  They aren't willing to change with you.
  • Political affiliation:  This has been a hot one in recent years.  Your friends don't understand how you could possibly buy into a party they feel no affinity towards.  You've been friends for years, but suddenly you are dirt.  The tension is too intense and they dump you.  Over politics.  Bye!
  • Job--financial status:  You may lose touch with friends from work who you no longer see on a regular basis.  You may not have anything but work in common with them, so you drift apart.  You also may lose friends if you suddenly find yourself in a lower or higher tax bracket.  They can't seem to relate to you anymore.
  • Marriage:  Your single friends may drift away after the hoopla of the wedding and reception.  You have new responsibilities and priorities that don't necessarily fit into their single lifestyle.
  • Having children:  When you start a family, your single friends, again, may not be keen on this new you.  You aren't the footloose and fancy-free friend you used to be, so they back away.
  • Sexual orientation:  When you "come out," some friends may totally freak out and abandon you.  The same can be true if you decide to go through gender reassignment surgery.    
  • Divorce:  Your friends may feel torn between you and your former spouse.  They care about both of you, but they feel like they are being forced to take sides.  It could become too much of a strain for them, so they walk away from the friendship.
  • A move:  Even though friends can keep in touch with you via Skype, phone, email, texting, and visits once you leave, for some it just isn't the same as day to day in-person contact.  You're each experiencing new things that you can't necessarily explain or share intimately from a great distance, so they eventually fade away. 
  • Illness:  Of course, your closest friends will most likely understand when you're sick. But others may get tired of waiting for you to feel well enough to go out shopping, hiking, to the theater or a favorite restaurant when you used to be ready and willing to go on the fly.  You're just no fun anymore.
  • Death:  Again, you're closest friends will generally stick by you after you've suffered a personal loss.  But others may not know how to respond or what to do, so they back away.
  • Betrayal:  If you betray a friend's trust, you have a good chance of losing her.  Without trust, everything else you had with that person is gone, done, over.

Friendship is a tricky thing.  Some friendships last decades while others only last a weekend.  The important thing is that you stay true to yourself.  Do what feels right in your gut.  Make the changes you need to make in order to live your best life, and your true friends will be right there beside you, supporting you every step of the way.  

Have you lost friends due to changes you have made in your life?  

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Vlog: Do You Play the Blame Game?

 Do you play the blame game?  Do you blame others for your health issues?  Do you blame your siblings for being healthy?  Do you blame your peers for leaving you out of activities? Do you blame employers for not giving you a chance?  

I have at various times over the years.  

It doesn't work.  It doesn't get you anywhere.

Take action.  Take responsibility for your self-care.  Be your own advocate.  Provide information.  Let people know what you can and can't do.  Communication is huge.  

So, do you blame others for your health issues, or do you take responsibility for getting out there and doing what needs to be done in order to educate people about your needs and abilities?

I'd love to hear from you.  

Monday, July 10, 2017

Be the Victor, Not the Victim

When it comes to your health issues, are you a victor or a victim?  Take a look at the characteristics below and decide which one you most identify with.

Characteristics of a Victim
  • The world is against me
  • Any challenge is an unsurmountable obstacle
  • I blame others for my failures
  • I have a negative attitude
  • I make excuses
  • I am pessimistic
  • I see only closed doors
  • I give up quickly if I don't succeed

Characteristics of a Victor
  • I can be of service to the world
  • I consider an obstacle an opportunity
  • I am responsible for my successes and failures
  • I have a positive attitude
  • I see only open doors
  • I am optimistic
  • I don't give up until I succeed

Me:  A Bit of Both, and Working To Improve

As a very young child, I started learning self-care.  I also watched doctors and nurses carefully as they performed health maintenance and various procedures.  I learned all I could about the medical world as it pertained to me.  That part was pretty cool.  It helped lessen my fear of those surroundings that were a regular part of my life.  The part that wasn't so cool was that my parents tended to shelter me, so:
  • I can't do anything for myself (other than medical stuff, of course--that I knew)
  • I can't get involved with family activities because I might get hurt
  • I can't participate in gym class because I might get hurt, look foolish
  • I can't go play with other kids because I don't fit in, I'm too slow
My anger grew as I got a little older.  I hated having health issues, being stared at, being pitied, being different, being limited, being afraid to do things on my own, my parents' coddling, not hanging out with my peers, but I was a good girl so I never let anyone see that side of me.  I kept it inside.  When I hit my teens, things changed.  All that bottled up anger came flooding out:
  • I resent my family
  • I resent the world
  • I resent my peers for being healthy
  • I resent myself for being different, broken
  • I can't get involved in community
  • I can't learn to drive because I might get into an accident
  • I can't get involved in school activities because I don't fit in, I'm not good enough
  • I can't make really close friends because I "need" to keep so much of myself private
  • I will never have a boyfriend because I'm broken, too different, ugly
  • I resent myself for thinking all of these things but I can't help it
Luckily, things started turning around when I was about 15.  Otherwise, I am convinced I wouldn't be here.  I was deeply troubled and something had to give.  Someone would have to intervene and help me, or I would be dead.  Someone intervened.  It totally changed my life.
  • I joined school clubs
  • I volunteered at school and in the community
  • I made friends
  • Fell in love
  • I traveled without my parents
  • I went to school dances, including the prom
  • I went to school dressed as a Smurf for Halloween (I kid you not.  I would never have even thought of doing such a thing before.)
  • I got more involved at home, doing more chores on the family farm
  • I went for walks and participated in other activities with my family
Since then there have been ups and downs.  
  • Indecision regarding college studies.  (I'm just now figuring out what I really want and love to do) 
  • Insecurities about abilities related to work
  • Some pretty cool jobs, and the realization that I prefer working from home.  Not to avoid work, but to enhance it.  Make it work for me.
  • Marriage
  • More travel
  • More volunteering
  • More friends
  • A couple major moves to other parts of the country 
  • Old and new health issues to deal with
But basically, things are going well.

How to Be a Victor
  • Remember that any change begins with you
  • Have healthy conversations with family and friends about issues that are bothering you
  • Pick one thing in your life that you will start to react differently, more positively, to
  • Put visual reminders up around your home or in your car to help you think more positively
  • Learn to say "I'm sorry," or "I'm wrong," --and mean it--when you mess up
  • Say "I can" or "I will"
  • Contact local organizations to see if they would be interested in scheduling you to speak at one of their meetings or other events on a subject related to your health issues (advocacy, awareness)
  • Make a list of things you would love to try, then set out to do them  (a new hobby, vacation destination, sport, activity, class, social club, or maybe living on your own)
  • Surround yourself with positive people who believe in your abilities
  • Talk to your doctor about any questions or concerns you have

As you begin to change your mindset from victim to victor, you will experience ups and downs, but keep at it.  It takes time to adopt the attitude of a victor, but you'll get there.  Step by step, you'll make the changes necessary to live a happier, more positive life.

So, do you identify more with the victor or the victim?  If you exhibit more victim-like characteristics, what can you do to make a more positive shift?  


Friday, July 7, 2017

Do We Create Our Own Reality?

Do we create our own reality?  I've been thinking about this lately, so I went digging for some information on the topic.  What I found was a mix of "thoughts become things," and "we participate in creating our reality, but we don't have the power to make things happen just because we're thinking in a certain way."  Just because we are thinking negative thoughts, doesn't mean we caused our plane to crash.  Similarly, just because we are thinking positively, doesn't mean that our life will be perfect.  There are other forces involved.  Other people may block our progress, make us angry, lead us down a questionable path, bring us laughter to change our mood for the better, and so on.  We have no control over what others do, and what they do may influence what happens to us.  We also can't control environmental forces.  We may have this awesome outdoor wedding planned, but it could very well be flooded out by a summer monsoon.

What we do have control over is our reaction to what happens to us.  Our attitude is everything.  Rather than avoiding or denying things in life that don't set well with us, we meet them head on, accept them for what they are, and remain empathetic and compassionate toward ourselves through the difficult process.

To me, our attitude colors our perception of what reality is.  Positive thoughts can cause positive actions, just as negative thoughts can cause negative actions.  If we are positive and take on challenges with a can-do attitude, I think that affects our reality, making it better.  If our attitude is negative then we will perceive a negative reality.  And that affects outcomes.  Say you are walking along, thinking of a concert you'll be attending on the weekend; it brings positive thoughts that result in you humming the tunes you'll hear at the concert, smiling at everyone you meet, holding doors open for people, and the like.  On the other hand, if you are thinking negative thoughts about a fender bender you were involved in, getting madder and madder by the second at the incompetence of the  driver who rammed into your car, then as you walk along that same street you might very well scowl at people and slam doors in their faces. 

I spent a lot of time in an alternative reality when I was growing up--my daydream world.  Without it, I don't think I would have been able to deal nearly as well with the reality of my health issues, surgeries,  and people staring at me and teasing me.  Yes, the health issues were my reality.  I couldn't change that.  But the daydreams helped me figure stuff out, have practice dialogue with a doctor about a question had, deal with health issues, solve problems in a safe, fun environment, or just chill out and have fun with my imaginary friends, laughing, being confident and successful, and imagining myself healthy.  I was in charge of my fantasies, so I was in charge of how it helped shaped my reality.  So I did make my own reality by the way I acted and handled crises, and the fantasies helped me de-stress and learn to cope healthily with my chronic health issues.  

What is your take on this subject?  Do you feel as if you create your own reality, or are other forces at work?  Have you ever had a daydream world you escaped to now and then to help you cope with health issues?  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Vlog: Do People Tell You That You Spend Too Much Time Online?

Hi!  Two videos for you today.  This one is on spending time online.  I spend a lot of time online:

  • work
  • shop
  • get the news
  • talk to friends
That doesn't mean that I don't get out of the house, get fresh air, exercise, talk to people face to face, etc.  I do.  But it's really handy to do so much online that I spend a lot of time there.  Many of my friends live across the country, actually across the world, so it's easier to talk online.  It's not possible to visit super-often when you have to fly or drive long distances to visit friends.  The technology is there, so I use it.  I use it to enhance my friendships, not destroy them.  

What's your take on this issue?  Do you spend lots of time online?  Do you have more friends online than offline?  Do you still get together with friends face to face?  Do you prefer one way of communicating over the other?  

Vlog: Do You Have a Problem Keeping Medications in Stock?


Hello!  Here's another vlog for you.  It's about troubles with the pharmacy keeping medication in stock.  I have had this problem.  Loved the pharmacy staff, but they couldn't keep one of my medications in stock, so whenever I called for a refill, they had to order it.  It was frustrating, so I ended up calling around to other pharmacies to make sure they carried all my medication and found one that I felt comfortable with.  It was closer to my home and they carried the medication I needed.  Have you ever had trouble with getting the medication you need?  How did you resolve the situation?  

Monday, July 3, 2017

No Sleep, Again: What's Going On?

Last night I did it again--I stayed awake all night.  This used to happen to me quite frequently, but lately I'd been able to sleep better.  So I was a little surprised, and also frustrated when I was still awake at 5 AM when my husband got up for work.  My alarm was set for 6.  I thought I would stay awake and be able to get up at my usual time without much fuss, but no.  As soon as Jim left, apparently, I nodded off, because the next thing I knew, the alarm was beeping furiously.  Lovely.  One hour of sleep and now I was drowsy and craving more sleep.  So I went back to sleep for another hour.  The alarm beeped again.  I felt worse than if I had stayed up the whole time.  

Why is this sleeplessness back?  I have a few ideas.  

Health issues:  I went to the nephrologist recently and found out that my kidney function is down about 14 points compared to last year.  He said it may be because of my urinary tract infection.  So I need to go for a re-test in a month, once I'm finished the antibiotics and my body gets a chance to right itself.  I'm hoping it's the infection and not something worse.  The thought of failing kidneys is not pleasant by any stretch of the imagination.  I didn't think I would have to face that possibility until I was much older.  But here it is staring me in the face, or rather, sitting at the back of my mind, pestering me ever so slightly.  It's not something I think about all the time, but as the test gets closer, I've been thinking about it more.  In my gut, I think I'm fine, but then I won't know until I have the test.  I just want to know so I can either forget about it or take measures to combat whatever may be going on.  

Another aspect of health that has been niggling at me has to do with exercise, weight loss, and healthy eating.  I've been really bad at it during the last year or so, but it started sliding when I hit menopause in 2010.  I was in such good shape before then.  I had bundles of energy, I'd lost bunches of weight.  I felt light on my feet.  It was awesome.  Then, wham!  Menopause took the wind out of my sails.  Took the sails completely away, actually.  So for the last seven years, I've been lax about both eating healthy and exercise, so the weight ballooned up and up and up.  I was upset with myself, so, of course, I did a lot of emotional eating.  I would tell myself that I had to exercise, but I chose to work, read, or play on the computer instead.  I told myself that I really shouldn't be eating ice cream for the third time that week, but I still shoveled it in.  I shoveled a lot of food in.  It was as if my brain was totally overtaken by an evil force.  I'm thrilled for anyone who has a relatively easy menopausal experience, but I'm not one of them.  I've been a mess, especially regarding food and energy.  But the other day, something just clicked.  My knee hurt terribly, I could hardly walk, I had no energy, and I just stopped and decided I'd had it.  I would no longer let that evil force win. I didn't learn to walk despite the effects of spina bifida only to let the effects of menopause rob me of my ability to walk. And, just like that, my cravings reduced, my exercise increased, and I was eating much healthier.  So, I'm hoping that, in time, the weight won't be as much of a problem and I'll have more energy.  It's a start.  

Family issues:  I live across the country from most of my family.  That was a choice Jim and I made 10 years ago.  We were ready to move out west to a more moderate climate and new opportunities.  I was ready to spread my wings after being pretty much Mommy's girl all my life.  Then in 2014, my mother had a stroke which caused significant memory issues.  She's made several moves since we've been in Utah, including leaving her apartment to live with my sister, and then finally to an assisted living community.  It has been difficult to catch her at the facility when I call because she's either at a doctor's appointment or taking part in an on-site activity.  And when I do catch her on the phone, she talks for only a few minutes and then says she really should go.  Maybe she doesn't know me anymore.  I have my suspicions about that.  Maybe she thinks that she's hogging the phone. I'm not sure.  I'm thrilled that she's getting involved with activities there, no question. It's just frustrating trying to time my calls, two time zones away no less, to match her schedule.  I don't want to call too early or too late because, when I do that, she tends to be tired and more confused.  The family has a private Facebook group to help everyone keep up to date on all things Mom-related.  At first, we used it quite a bit and it was helpful, but it's fallen out of service of late.  I'm not sure why.  Communication is key in any family situation like this.  It would really help to get that back up and running.  I haven't called in awhile since it's been so difficult to get and stay in touch with her, but I have sent her cards and photos over time.  We last visited in  March 2016.  We need to plan another trip soon, but with our busy schedules and the distance, it takes some doing, and we don't have that much vacation time.  Of course, this year we went to Denmark, but that won't happen every year.  Part of me feels guilty that I haven't called and another part of me says I have tried repeatedly with the same result.  I feel like my hands are a bit tied in that respect.  

Work issues:  I absolutely love being a coach, so that's not the issue.  It's that I am still new at it and working to build my business.  Networking, developing a social media presence, interacting with prospective clients, and so on.  No matter how fun and rewarding it is, it still takes a lot of time and energy.  My calendar is filled with more tasks than I have time for.  It's just me, myself, and I here.  No staff to hand various projects over to.  I like being in charge and working on my own.  I've done it for decades.  But I need to remind myself that I can only do so much, so I need to set priorities.  First priority is reworking the schedule to include the most important tasks--those that are client-related.  The rest will fall into place as time allows.  

Social issues:  There was a time when we had all sorts of parties and get-togethers here with friends.  We had more friends out here than anywhere else we'd lived.  I loved it.  Then something started to feel off.  I've always been a loner, and all the socializing was getting to me.  As much as I liked the people I'd met out here, I just didn't want to deal with big gatherings anymore.  I'm headed back to somewhere between social butterfly and loner, which I think it a good place to be.  I felt bad letting some friends go, but I let it happen naturally, really, so it wasn't such a blow.  The friends I wasn't closest to faded away, and I had more time to concentrate on the ones who meant the most to me.  Both Jim and I are the loner type.  We like alone time and time together by ourselves to explore this beautiful area of the country we now call home.  But we also cherish the few close friends we have and look forward to spending more time with them.  

There they are, the sources of my sleepless night.  All these issues kept winding their way through my head, over and over again, until I knew it was pointless to try to sleep (until 5 AM, anyway.  Oh brother.).  I had a lot of time to mull each issue over in my head, at least.  I have to put health first, then the business, and then, of course, friends and family.  I feel good about the decisions I've made and the strategies I'm going to implement in the coming days and weeks to keep things balanced and healthy and help me sleep better.

Do you have nights when you can't sleep at all?  What do you do to remedy the situation?  I'd love it if you'd share your tips.