Tag Archive | journey

The Gift of Illness: A Re-Invention of Self

"See simplicity in the complicated Achieve greatness in little things." {Lao-Tzu}

“See simplicity in the complicated
Achieve greatness in little things.”
{Lao-Tzu}

There are two ways I can look at my illness: 1. “It was the end of my world” or 2. “It was the start of a Brave New World.”  Today, I choose option #2.  The option of Hope, hope for a new world, a new beginning.  I am in no way trying to profess that this was an easy choice!  I lived with both perspectives and took time before making a final decision.  I don’t think I would be in the place of peace I am today if I hadn’t lived with both the Paths of Despair and of Hope.My hope lies in the recognition of an opportunity to reinvent my life. 

I can actually have gratitude for my chronic illness today (imagine that!).  Because when I look objectively at my life “in the now,” I have been afforded opportunities to discover and develop parts of myself I didn’t even know existed before.  In saying “before,” I mean the time before my autoimmune disease (Polychondritis, Fibromyalgia, Migraine, Chron’s) stopped me from working, and let’s be honest, engaging in most of my previous activities.  In this “T.B.,” I was a Type-A, “go, go, go girl!” I was (egotistically) proud of my ability to multitask and juggle all parts of my life, during all parts of my day.  No breaks! Believing all that “idle hands make idle minds” crap. I mean, really, what was I constantly rushing around for?  Sure I received accolades and “atta girls” from all facets of my life.  But, in the end they were just words; words with no real meaning because they didn’t originate from within me.

Lately I’ve begun to look at this change in my life differently…

I’ve started to celebrate the fact that I was given the gift of reinventing myself!  I look around and see most people on the same path for 40+ years of their adulthood.  And many are content with their journey. But few, too, are afforded the luxury of stepping off the established path and taking side-trails until they re-discover a new route that fits for the next phase of their life.  Luxury?  How can I call chronic-illness a luxury?!  Well, for as much as it has taken away from me (which is plenty!) it has returned, just in different forms than I was used to.  It would be (and has been) easy for me to overlook these new “gifts” ahead of me because I am spending my time looking back at all the things that have been stolen from my life, on a constant hunt to retrieve that which has been lost.  It’s not atypical to be stuck on what once was and is now gone; because trusting in an unknown future is a far scarier prospect.  But this approach only caused me constant emotional pain, regret, sadness, and emptiness.

Then, one day, I decided to look forward. I picked up one of these “new gifts” lying in my (new) path and opened it.  Inside I discovered an opportunity to awaken my inner artist.  It came in the form of a night nurse who suggested I begin beading to pass the time during my lengthy hospital stays.  I was quickly hooked, finding this quiet, meditative activity deeply soothing to my mind and pain fluctuations.  In a short time, I was selling my creations out of my “hospital room storefront” (no joke!) to all the staff.  This first step on this Road to Artist boosted my confidence and helped me to feel productive again.  The best gift was the positive energy I gained and shared with the influx of visitors coming in and out of my room, nurturing my own Soul Beacon of Hope.

After veering off what I thought was going to be “My Path for Life,” which I blamed my illness for taking from me, I realized the first step was the hardest.  I’ve taken many breaks along this new way, some chosen by me and some chosen for me by my ailing body.  But when I reflect on the anguish I first felt at “losing” all the things I thought made me “me” and then I fast forward 7 years to today, I discover that I am now an artist, a writer, a truly present friend and wife, a seeker of peace, a role-model of hope and acceptance, and a Survivor!  I started to look at all things I’ve gained.  No, none of those things would be placed on a resume.  But for me they are far greater accomplishments than all of my professional and schooling achievements.  They are my re-invention of self!

Just the other day, in the midst of painting, my husband commented, “You know, in a strange way, you getting sick was a blessing.  You would never have become the artist you are today if you had continued to be so consumed with work.”  And he’s right!  It used to be hard for me to recognize that a blessing of this magnitude could arise from such severe, sudden illness.  Oh, I’ve always had a hopeful heart and been able to recognize small, daily gifts of gratitude, from a helpful friend to a stunning sunset.  But, again, this was gratitude for all the things outside of me.  To have gratitude for what’s within me?. . . now that’s a truly miraculous discovery!

I was able to pursue a solid career in early childhood education for 15 years.  Now, I am on Re-Invention Phase Two: becoming both a Creative Person and a Beacon of Hope for others. Herein lays the miracle: I can reinvent myself again at any time! It may be self-directed or Universe-directed, but either way, I am staying open to the change. And am embracing the NOW… where I can truly find gratitude in being sick!

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Embrace the Journey, Not the Destination

forest pathThe Journey is Your Future… Your Have Already Arrived

So often we have our eyes firmly affixed on the “prize.”  We spend hours, days even, imagining what it will look like, what it will feel like, what it will be like to achieve whatever goal is in our future.   The goal becomes the sole destination:  Welcome to “Pie in the Sky,” U.S.A! 

Yet, what truly happens when we focus all of our energy, thoughts and actions on reaching for this, many times elusive, destination?  We completely lose sight of the journey unfolding right in front of us; blossoming and growing with each step and action we take.  We get so focused on the product of all our hard work, that we can feel depressed by the end result. 

We try to manipulate our lives, our surroundings, people, time; anything that will hopefully contribute to a satisfactory outcome.  We can over analyze ever aspect: if only I had done x, y and z, it would have been better!   We can live in fear of what may happen; setting up contingency plans for all the “possible” outcomes: if A happens, then I’ll do B; but if C happens, I’ll do a combination of B and E; and if P happens, then…  We may feel shame over what happens; falling into the mental trap of the “should ofs,” the “could ofs” and the “wish I hads.”

But what if we decide to do differently?  To stop right now.  Try and focus solely on what is in front of you at this very moment.  So, you’re reading my blog.  Embrace it.  Don’t think about what you’re going to do next, how this blog will serve you in your future, how you would have written it differently, etc.  Just embrace each word and let them settle into your mind and spirit in whatever way they may.

Our one true purpose on this earth is to go with the flow of the process of living… fully: to be completely in the now.  This is what brings true peace.  For most of my life, I spent (and wasted) so much time thinking about the future.  I was always waiting for the other shoe drop, and when it did, I was determined to be prepared!  Then I couldn’t get hurt, right?  Then I would avoid fear and uncomfortable situations.  Then I would I have the power and be in control of my own destiny.  But no one knows their own destiny.  None of us have control over the outcome.

Our futures are already written in the stars!

And instead of feeling a sense over loss over this, look at this as the greatest gift of all.  The gift of freedom.  The gift of letting go.  Permission granted to just live your life and be.

And if this is the case, then why do we expend so much energy trying to manipulate the future?  For me, it started way back in childhood, when I thought my “little self” had the power to make my dad angry or to keep him calm.  So I tipped toed around and tried to constantly be on guard for whatever the future would bring.  And I kept on tip-toeing right into my adulthood.  I measured my actions and behaviors to the people around me, thinking I knew what their reactions were going to be.  I prepared myself for whatever next health challenge would come my way.  I had contingency plans for every “possible” scenario (emphasis on possible!).  I was armed for anything; I was a Girl Scout, after all!

But, all this created was an internal state of constant anxiety.  And when you’re anxious, there is no way to just be… in the moment or with yourself.   Then I was blessed with being shown a different way of living and I decided to do differently.  This has changed my life in more ways than I could have ever imagined!  I now feel truly at peace.  I don’t have to worry about the future, that’s already taken care of.  For me, I know the loving energy of the Universe is guiding me in the direction I am meant to go.  For, you, it may be trust in God’s hands.  Just as long as you believe in some power or force greater than your own.  It’s called “turning your will over.”  When we hold onto to our will, we make ourselves into God.  We think we can control the outcomes, the end product of our hard work.  That’s exhausting!

I read recently that you can think of the word “will” as “faith.”  And in that context, if you think of the phrase “Thy will be done,” it is now transformed into “They faith be done.”  Let go… have faith.  Your life will turn out exactly as it is meant to be.  Stop keeping your eyes on the prize, and instead realize you’ve already received the prize. The gift of life is right here, right now, unfolding before your very eyes.  Each step you take on your journey presents you with an opportunity to be fully present (hmm…sounds a lot like “gift,” doesn’t it?). 

Once you take your foot off the pedal and turn on the cruise control, you are still moving in a forward direction, heading to your life’s goals.  But you can now enjoy the scenery as you drive past it, be focused on the conversation that is occurring with your loved one right in that moment, feel the energy of the radio’s music pouring into your soul.  You are now completely embracing the JOURNEY.

You’re alive… believe in that.  Let go of the idea that the path will lead you to your goal.  The truth is that with each step we take, we arrive.  Repeat that to yourself every morning:

I’ve arrived.

(Excerpt from The Witch of Portabello, by Paula Coehlo)