Tag Archive | Surgery

Chasing The Elusive “WHY ME?”


Inevitably, at some point in time, after receiving the news that one is facing a long-term or chronic illness/disease, comes the elusive question of ,”WHY?!” For some, this may be a fleeting call to arms, for others, it becomes a constant refrain of, “Why?” or “Why me?” or even “Why, God, why?

During my last hospital stay, the progressive pastor of my family’s church came to visit me. After the necessary check-ins were taken care of, he turned toward me, and simply asked, “Do you ever find yourself questioning ‘why?’.” I have wondered since what direction he was taking the conversation in, if he had any expectation of what my answer would be. But this has been fleeting, because in all truth, I think he was just curious.

In that instant, though, there was no hesitation; I didn’t even pause before responding: “Yes. I am sure I have asked, ‘why?’ at some point in this long journey. But I have quickly discovered that this is a fruitless pursuit; a question without an answer; a path that only leads me to remaining stuck in the miserable moment.”

But that conversation has left me with equal curiosity. What is the point in asking, “Why me?” in the face of any number of events (I’ve heard this turn of phrase applied to everything from an unexpected car repair bill to a diagnosis of cancer), when one could just as equally be asking, “Why not me?”

The relentless lamenting over the “why” produces an on-going cycle of strife and depression. How could it not? There are no (satisfactory) answers to this perennial question. But there are concrete, solution-oriented, answers to the question of “What next?” We don’t know the why, yet we do know the how. It’s what we do with the how in the now that defines us.

I know I am sick. I know that there is currently no cure for my autoimmune condition(s). I know that my disease will continue to progress, causing a ripple effect that may require future surgeries and invasive procedures. I know that the mountain of daily meds I take to treat my diseases and conditions also create an equal amount of unpleasant side-effects; and that it is difficult to separate the two apart.

But I also know that I am a fighter. I am creative in the face of challenges. I discover new pathways when faced with a seemingly impassable road block. I am a giver of light, love and energy. My mantra is “Hope.” I know that I do not have to face this life alone, unless I choose to isolate. Which I do not.

This is where I can put in action the “What next?!”

Each surgery may chip away at the person I used to be. But that’s the key, used to be. Not the person I am now. Life is not stagnant and neither am I. In the course of my conversation with the pastor, I shared my views on the River of Grace that flows through me, receiving energy from beyond, recharging my own Soul Beacon, before continuing to flow out into other souls around me.

He smiled and said, that sounds like what Jesus speaks of in the bible, “Our Well-Spring,” that source of God that flows through each and every one of us, just waiting to be tapped into.

I have heard many people refer to this well-spring in their own words. I have heard it be called: Universal Energy, Chi (Qi), Kundalini, Indomitable Spirit, God’s Grace, Life Force, Eternal Flame, and many other monikers.

For me, it is my River of Grace. Because a river is an ever-flowing body of water, that both draws from many sources (is not a singular entity) and pours itself into (nourishing) many other bodies of water. Rivers are not stagnant, they are an ever-changing and evolving path through life. And water is our life’s breath; we cannot survive without it and 2/3rds of our bodies are made of it.

My River is a well that never runs dry. Yet, it is my responsibility to drink from it, to pull from it to renew my spirit when it is lagging.

Which brings me to the Grace part. I think of grace as a gift. As the ability to look for the light in a sea of darkness. To see beauty and gratitude, no matter what the situation. To ask “what’s my next step” instead of getting stuck on the repetitive refrain of “why?!?”

And then I decide to look up the official definition: Grace: “unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration” (Meriam-Webster). To merit something, is to earn it. You don’t need to do anything to earn, or to deserve, grace. It’s there for all of us. A gift from beyond ourselves, to regenerate the mind, body and spirit.

We have all experienced unexplained loss, devastating, mind-numbing losses. We have all had to endure unnecessary pain, physical, emotional and/or metal. Or had to witness, powerless, as a loved one is faced these. We have all encountered enumerable challenges, obstacles and sudden change.

These experiences are what define us. It is what has defined me.

But I have also chosen not to have them be the all of me. They are one part of my story. They are U-turns on the path of my life. And instead of sitting down in the middle of the road and stopping, staring befuddled behind, below, and around me. I’ve decided to look straight ahead. To tap into my River of Grace and chart a new course.

This attitude has carried me and allowed me to see my life as full of opportunities. To say, “What next.” Instead allowing myself to feel victimized, always the punchline, left lamenting the “why?”

Think of one area in your life where you can flip your knee-jerk response of “why?” on its head. Start small. See how this one shift in attitude affects your whole day. Your whole week. Your attitude and out-look on the things that come next.

And if you already embrace an attitude of “what next,” please share your experiences so that they may inspire and encourage others!

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Calling All Angels

AngelPositiveThinkingGuardian

Just over three weeks ago, I had emergency surgery to remove a non-functioning gallbladder (another “perk” of Polychondritis, my main autoimmune disease. Yea!). My husband couldn’t help but announce repeatedly that this was now my 15th surgery in 7 years’ time(!).

The surgery went fairly well as did my initial recovery. After re-learning to walk post a 5 day epidural (I swear, I now know what Bambi feels like on those wobbly legs!), I was happily released.

After my 10 day hospital stay, I was only home for 3 days, when I suddenly developed a hot, sharp and stabbing pain in my abdomen. A same-day CT scan showed a very large small bowel obstruction and I was promptly sent to the ED, to await transfer to the inpatient unit.

This time, my stay was Hell.

It began with the placement of a nasal-gastric (NG) tube. I have always said this is the worst procedure I’ve ever undergone (and that’s saying a lot, considering all I’ve been through!). But this time was even worse. The main disease process of Polychondritis is the destruction of cartilage in my body, most prominently in my chest, ears, and nose. I already knew that the cartilage damage in my right nostril was so pronounced, it was effectively “closed for business.” And I clearly stated to the attending surgeon that only a pediatric sized tube would fit in my left nostril. Yet, she insisted in trying larger sizes first.

The doctor quickly learned that I knew my nose better than her, and had to use the smallest tube possible. Now, I don’t know a single person that feels “okay” about having an NG tube placed, so surgeons are used to complaints regarding this procedure. What they didn’t take into account was my personal history. The pain was beyond excruciating. The only way I can think of describing it is; it felt like someone had first taken a hammer to my nose, shattering the bones, and then commenced to insert (shove) a tube up my nostril, while asking me to drink water through a straw, drawing the tube down my throat and into my stomach.

This was the first time I felt “my light” go out. I felt like my Soul Beacon had been 1-blown-out-candle-michal-boubinsnuffed. I was drowning in pain and couldn’t tell the surface from the bottom.

My husband bore witness to this, and stated later that he saw the moment I let go. The moment my eyes went dull and blank. I would have done anything to make the pain stop. I was ready to trade my life for this relief.

Having these very deep visceral feelings scared the heck out of me. I started to question whether I had the strength to continue this battle being waged inside my body, with no foreseeable end. Slowly I began to fight again, to refuel my Soul Beacon from the exchange of light, love and energy with others. But I still felt dim; like my light could once again blow out with the slightest of breezes.

That breeze came a few days later when my body started to shut down. I had uncontrollable shakes, deep abdominal pain, unrelenting migraines, and spasms traveling from head to foot. I couldn’t focus on anything. There were none of my normal reprieves of drawing or writing, or reading, or even watching T.V. All I could do was lie there, writhing in agony.

I felt myself slipping away. It felt like I had one foot in this world and one in the realm beyond. One breathe from the universe, and I would blow away. Forever.

Without words, my family could tell. My husband and mother put up a barricade around me, keeping visitors away, while silently standing guard. They didn’t complain of hours spent entertaining themselves while I slipped in and out of consciousness.

And then one day, a dear friend of mine showed up unexpectedly for a visit. I whispered a request for Reiki. And while sending me healing energy, she also received messages in return:

angel of light 2She leaned close to me and told me that everything was going to turn out the way it was supposed to; that I could let go (and let God, so to speak). Then she passed on the most remarkable message: “As I have told you before, you are surrounded by angels, spirit guides and light beings that love and protect you. But this time, I felt something even deeper. There is one angel that has wrapped themselves around your entire body. They are protecting you and encasing you in love. They are only waiting for you to call on them for help and support. Use this angel. Ask for their guidance and protection.”

And with that, she left.

I was overwhelmed. If I let go, would that be letting go of this body, of this lifetime? Or would the act of letting go release the tension and stress I felt over having to “keep up the fight?” Could I truly trust in my angels and guides to take care of me, to lead me in whatever direction the Universe had planned for me?

I chose the latter, to trust in this intuitive message my friend passed on. It took me a bit to even find the strength to ask for help. But eventually I did. And that’s when the miracles started to happen.

The nurses discovered that my sugars had dropped so low, I was partially going into diabetic shock. And after several bags of sugar water being pumped into me, I started to recover. Another nurse ordered me an air bed that softy pillowed my inflamed joints. And the doctors finally reinstated my medication regimen that treats my autoimmune conditions (stopped out of fear of effecting the recovery rate post-surgery), most significantly providing infusions of steroids. My body started responding in kind.

But, even more remarkably: I embraced my angel back. I called on the energies that swirled around me for support and protection. And I began to feel like I was wrapped in a quilt of love. A quilt that hugs my body, wherever I go.

I don’t think it matters what your particular religious or non-religious beliefs are. Words like “angels,” “spirit guides,” and even “God,” don’t need to be defined. They can mean something entirely different for each person. For me, they all come down to energy. I don’t believe that when we die, all of ourselves just disappear. We are made up of many charged particles. So our physical bodies may fail us and be sent back to the Earth (to be recycled and revived), but our energy, or our “soul,” stays active. For some, they may find comfort in the idea of Heaven. For me, I truly don’t know. But I do know that I have felt the energy of loved ones passed surround me at many moments in my life. They have sustained me, they have pushed me, and they have caught me when I’ve stumbled. But, most of all, they have saved me. They brought me back from the brink of death 7 years ago, when my colon first ruptured. And they brought me back this time, when my mind and body was too fatigued to continue the fight on its own.

And that’s the key: even when we feel alone, we are not. We don’t have to face life’s challenges all by ourselves. Each one of us has an army of angels, light beings, and spirit guides just waiting to be called upon.

All it takes is a little prayer or meditation. Picture yourself surrounded with light and love. Feel the energy of the universe travel from without to within and out again. We are not stagnant beings, each one of us has a River of Grace flowing with our life force within us. Some believe this river is fed by God, others Buddha or Allah, or a Higher Power. For me, it is not an entity I can name. I choose to call my source God. But my God is not an omnipotent being, it is a mass of swirling light and energy that flows around all of us. Most often, my God wears skin, as a messenger of hope.

Each day I pray to have my eyes, ears, heart and soul open to receiving the gifts and messages from God and the Universe. This way I don’t miss the miracles when they come my way.

Because of this practice, I was able to see God in the form of my friend’s words as she asked me to trust in and use my Guardian Angel.

And even a skeptic cannot argue with the outcome. Because here I am just one week later, at home and recovering, with the energy to share my story with you.

Will I be able to weather another wave of physical assault on my already ailing body? I don’t know. But, that’s the key; I don’t have to know. All I have to do is trust in the universe to provide for me, whatever comes my way. My goal is to spread this message of hope and faith to others, so that collectively, we have the energy to face life’s challenges.

What challenges are you facing today that you could call on your angels or guides to help you navigate? All it takes is closing your eyes, taking a couple of deep cleansing breaths, and then, just… asking.
What have you got to lose by trying?!

angel guardian 2

Dear Life…

hug you well

Dear Life,

You have been unpredictable and you always keep me on my toes.

At times, I even dream of trading you in for a newer, shinier model.

I can develop “life envy” when comparing mine to others around me.

Sometimes I want to scream, “What the heck is the meaning of all this?
“What is the purpose of living a Life such as the one I’ve been given?!”

But, in the end, I always come back to the same answer…

THIS is My Life and I wouldn’t trade it.

I wouldn’t want it taken away from me.

I wouldn’t want to be robbed of the chance to live it.

And, then, Life, you’ll throw me another curve ball.
Like the one that was lobbed at me yesterday…

Time for another emergency surgery,” Life reminds me with the insistent alarm that keeps going off in my side. This time, the snooze button does nothing to delay this scheduled appointment with My Life.

And I am reminded, “Tam, just because this is the hand Life has dealt you, doesn’t mean you have to play it alone!

So I reach out to others.

Some surround me instantly with Love and Support.

Some even put their own Lives’ on hold for a bit, to help me navigate mine.

But I also discover that many, the ones I most need and crave right now, are so used to Tam’s Life, that this is just another regular ol’ occurrence for her.

No need to worry. Don’t be alarmed. We’ll just go on with our Lives and pretend that everything is just fine.

And they’re right, I am used to a different quality of Life than most.I have had to catch these fast balls many previous times.
And in the end, I’ve always come back swinging, “Watcha got next for me Life? Huh? Huh?!

But, what if this is The End, Life?

What if I’ve already played out my 9 Lives?

Just because I’ve gone through this before, doesn’t mean I, too, don’t battle the arch-nemeses of Life; Fear, Anger, Hurt, Insecurity, and Loneliness.

If anyone else in my circle of family and friends was facing a similar uncertain future, we would all drop everything to be by their sides, to Fight for their Lives.

Yesterday, when I was signing my release for surgery, the surgeon was going over the four long lines of possible (and many, probable) risk factors involved with this procedure. The last two were: “Heart Attack” and “Death.” And you know what he said, Life? “Well, you’ve already had both of those, so you know the risks involved with these complications.” Chuckle. Chuckle.

BOTH of those? Meaning “death,” too.
And, you know what, he’s right.
Because I have not only met my Life, I have also met my Death. Twice.

So, is this supposed to make me feel less scared?
Because it doesn’t.

Yet, when I inform my closest loved ones of this impending, very serious and complicated surgery, happening in just 2 days’ time, they respond, “Okay.”

Okay? Isn’t that what you say when you let someone know you have to reschedule lunch because you’re having a tooth filled?

But, that just highlights how insanely crazy You are, Life. So insane, that insanity begins to appear as normalcy.

And, yet, I still wouldn’t trade you in.

I want to keep living you, Life.

I still have uncharted parts of myself and the world that I want to explore.

I still have so much love, light and energy to give to others.

And I still have a great big capacity to receive that love back.

As I write you this letter, I sit outside in the waxing and waning sun. Watching as it plays hide-n-seek with the clouds. I listen to the one of a kind bird song symphony, never to be repeated at any other time nor in any other place. A unique crescendo of my backyard birds, a concert for one.

I listen to the traffic coming and going on the expressway behind my house. And I dream of where they are headed. I dream of where I next want to go.

I can feel the soothing, loving presence of my husband as he gets ready inside. The one person who has born witness to the all of you, My Life. And never takes for granted the extreme pressure I am under…

I am constantly pushing you up hill. But, I am up for the battle.

I do not planning on meeting your shadow self, Death, again for a long time to come.

But, I also know it is not solely up to me.

So I’ll make a deal with you, Life…
Don’t give up on me and I won’t give up on you.

Love,
Tamara
aka: HopeSpirit

Listening To That Intuitive Knowing

my story

So, you keep telling the doctor, “Something’s wrong.” And the doctor responds, “I just don’t see anything conclusive on your tests. It’s probably just… referred pain/muscle pain/arthritis/ adhesions (scar tissue), etc. etc.” And you say, once again, “No. Something is wrong. The pain is intense at times, and it’s different than the myriad of regular pains I deal with every day.” “Hmmm. Well nothing I can pinpoint. Sounds like intermittent constipation” But you know. You live in this body every day. You are not malingering or unnecessarily complaining. Yet this very judgment often keeps you from going to the doctor until the situation is unbearable. You know about accepting every day pain that many others don’t deal with. This is different.

So you’re faced with either: letting the doctors wormhole their way into your brain, making you question your intuitive sense. You may start think, “Well, I guess I may be overreacting. The doctors know best right?” But, there is that small insistent voice that grows more and more persistent, “Don’t let the doctors question yourself! You know your body better than anyone else! Every time you’ve said something ‘bigger’ is going on, you’ve been right!” Time for option #2: putting on your “Self-Advocate Hat” and getting to work. Be the squeaky wheel. Not allowing yourself to be a push-over. Keep insisting on further tests until you uncover the true source of your pain.

So you push and you push and lo and behold, there IS something wrong! Alas, something pretty majorly wrong. And now you start to think, “Hmm. I don’t know if I wanted to be right after all! Maybe denial wasn’t such a bad place.” Because now reality is smacking you straight upside the head. This pain will no longer be ignored!

This is the story that most recently played out in my life. I have had an intermittent pain in my upper right abdomen, right below my rib cage. At times it doubles me over, almost knocking the wind right out of me. But then it will quiet down, and I wouldn’t hear from it for a while. Starting about 6 weeks ago, it would no longer be ignored; the persistent and at times intense pain demanded attention. Hence began the above journey.

I started to question my own intuitive sense. I started to acquiesce to someone else’s opinion about my body. I almost didn’t seek out additional evaluations because I didn’t want to appear as someone who over-reacts.

Where does this irrational fear come from? I know I am not alone in this experience. A dear friend recently encountered similar resistance when she was sent to the ED to get treatment for an urgent condition. Hearing just one voice naysay her doctor’s advice was enough to make her shut down. Enough for her to push on, to work beyond what she should of being doing in her current state. Enough to keep her from calling the doctor when her symptoms flared again.

And I am intimately familiar with this self-conscious resistance. The advice I would so freely give to another, the concern I would have if they were experiencing similar symptoms, the nudging I would provide to encourage them to call a doctor asap… are all compassionate techniques I seem to reserve for others. Not for myself, heaven forbid!

Why is that?

Why do we joke that men will never let their ego stop and ask for directions, when we, females, are just as guilty when it comes for asking for help with our physical bodies?

This stoicism doesn’t serve us. It inhibits are well-being and our ability to fully be there for others. And most often, the end result is an exacerbation of the (physical or mental) situation, because we did not seek help or treatment in a timely manner… we blatantly ignored our intuitive voice.

And all of this is reinforced by society. How many stories have we heard of doctor’s dismissing women’s chest pains when they go to the ED, being told,:”you’re too young/the wrong sex/ too healthy to be having a heart attack… must just be indigestion.” Even in the face of irrefutable studies showing that heart disease is the number one killer of women!

I have already had a near-death experience (truly) due to listening to a doctor tell me that there was nothing wrong… again, the phone diagnosis was that I was constipated (what’s up with that?) and just needed to take a walk. When, in fact, my colon had ruptured and I was septic… and dying.

I now know what is happening inside my body. And I know when something is awry. Now I just need to trust myself. And, even when it is challenging, be my own advocate… push, push, push until I get the care I need.

So, here I am, today, waiting on an appointment with my surgeon on Tuesday to discuss removing my gall bladder. That pain that was “just constipation”… is in fact a large gallstone that appears to be also effecting my liver (hence the lovely cankles I have been sporting as of late!). And if I hadn’t insisted that the doctors keep looking, I would have found myself much worse off. Of course, I am not thrilled that there is something so serious going on. But with knowledge, comes power. Now that I know the source of my pain, I can focus on the treatment for my pain.

I encourage you to take a few quiet moments today and “listen” to your body.

Is there anything that has been lingering, nagging at you mind, that you’ve left unattended? Is it time to ask the doctor about that pain/ache/different sensation or symptom?

Have you held back from telling others how you are really feeling for fear of being judged?

Are you experiencing anxiety, worry, stress, sadness that you are trying to keep bottled up inside?

Or perhaps, it’s something more positive, but just as secretive. A voice in your heart that sings the song of your dreams… a wish left unfulfilled for fear of disappointing or stressing others; of taking time to feed your own needs for once instead of everyone else’s?

What are these intuitive thoughts telling you?

Do NOT ignore them.

They are the essence of your being.
And they are meant to be listened to… by yourself and others!

Fluent in the “Language of Pain”

Pain and wisdom

A recent article in U.S.A. Today discussed the “health care crisis” of chronic pain, stating that 40% of Americans now experience chronic pain… 40%!  Just think about that for a moment.  Thankfully, research institutes are also finally paying attention to this startling statistic and studying ways to treat this epidemic.

What stood out most to me in the article is the description of what happens to a being when they experience unrelenting pain.  We learn to become fluent in the Language of Pain.  It’s the old “practice makes perfect” adage. But in this case, it is completely unhelpful.

Our bodies and minds are wired to learn new habits and behaviors through repetition.  The article states:

“In a sense, chronic pain is not all that different from learning to play the piano or speak French.  The more the body ‘practices’ processing pain, the better it gets at it and the stronger the connections between nerves becomes.”

It speaks of a term, us chronically ill are all too familiar with, “allodynia.”   Allodynia is when pain sensations are so out of proportion with the reality that even the slightest breeze on the skin, gentlest of hugs, or softest touch of a feather, can feel like scalding water, the burn of a blowtorch, or thousands of needles stinging the skin all at once.  This can be a very frustrating condition to explain to “non-sufferers.”  How do you tell someone, “I’m sorry, but your hug hurts me,” without hurting their feelings?!

Chronic pain is defined as pain lasting 6 months or more.  It can be triggered by illness, but also by post-surgical pain that doesn’t go away, injury (even after it is technically “healed”), aggressive medical treatments (especially those for cancer), and chronic conditions such as arthritis, back pain and headaches.

Chronic pain effects 100 million Americans and costs between $560-635 billion dollars per year, yet doctors only receive 9 hours on average of pain education during their entire medical school education!

One of the sacriest facts is that it causes permanent damage to the body.  Chronic pain can literally shrink the brain.  It can reduce gray matter as much as 20 years of aging does!! (according to research at Northwestern University)

The biggest enigma of the pain puzzle for me, is the incongruity of my own personal pain responses.  I actually have an extremely high tolerance for pain when it comes to injury, injections, and other invasive procedures.  And then there’s the flip side… my body can be triggered by God knows what (I always equate it to having a switched flipped). When this happens, I am writhing in pain, the touch of the lightest sheet on my body can trigger what feels like an attack on my body… my nervous system is on fire.  I would sell my soul to the devil to make it stop!

Hence the pain conundrum!

And also the reason why scientists state that suicide rates are twice as high in people with chronic pain.  Chronic pain is highly unpredictable and volatile.  And, currently, extremely mistreated and misunderstood.

Although, they are starting to discover that there are several non-invasive, non-drug treatment options for “quieting the pain.”  I have found many of these helpful (when I remember to employ them!) and I would be interested to hear what techniques others use to treat this painful condition.

  1. Exercise:  This can be the hardest to start because when we are in the midst of pain, our minds tell us to be still; we are terrified that if we move, it will only get worse.  But this is the exact opposite from the truth. The USA Today article states, “Exercise is as close as there is to a magic bullet for pain.” Hazzah!  I think of it as re-training the nerves, muscles and brain (just as it has been conditioned to feel pain at every turn).  I started riding my exercise bike daily 2 months back and it has changed my life.  Now when I am having a particularly bad flare of pain, my body actually “tells” me to get on my bike and move. And it works! Truly. NOTE: It may be helpful to begin a exercise program in a warm pool.
  2. Acupuncture: Once dismissed as little more than a “placebo effect,” newer studies in (objective) mice show that acupuncture stimulates adenosine, a powerful pain reliever made naturally in the body.  And studies in humans are showing that after acupuncture, there are powerful changes that occur in the nerve pathways, running from the brain to the rest of the body (an important way the nervous system can control pain). Has anyone had success with this?
  3. Massage: I swear by this! I see my massage therapist every 2-3 weeks and she has changed my body’s response to painful stimuli. My recommendation would be to find someone trained in therapeutic/medical massage that will work long term with you; make sure it is someone you can clearly communicate with. When I first started, my therapist could only “rock” parts of my body until I got used to touch. Now, even when my body is “on-fire,” it responds positively to her touch; she quiets the hyper-active nerves. There is no one else I would trust to touch me.
  4. Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Meditation and Bio-Feedback:  All treatments that use the mind to quiet the body.  I use guided meditations daily and can now almost “leave my physical body” when it is in pain (not always, but often). I know people who have had success with formal bio-feedback training and EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique or Tapping Therapy).

There are other treatment options, not scientifically proven, but people have found comfort with:

  1. Chiropractic Care
  2. Magnet Therapy
  3. Reiki
  4. Heat Therapy
  5. Hydrotherapy
  6. Electrical Stimulation (TENS units)
  7. Ultrasound
  8. And what I like to call: “Distraction Therapy:” engaging the mind in another activity (something simple and repetitive like knitting, coloring, zentangles, bead stringing, crosswords or puzzle books, music, silly kitten videos!, etc.), until the pain becomes distanced from your physical body. This works wonders for me!

Please share your pain coping techniques, so that we can all benefit from the shared experience of this “painful” condition (pun intended!).

If you are interested in reading the full article, follow this link:

Chronic Pain: A Health Care Crisis

Also, here is a link to the American Chronic Pain Association:

ACPA

Breathing in the Now

Present moment

I was asked recently: “How do you stay so calm and in the present moment throughout all your health scares?”  This inquiry came from a dear friend who is filled with future worries over a loved one who may have cancer.  I include words like “future” and “may” on purpose.  Because upon reflection, I realize that this is the key to my acceptance, and subsequent serenity.

I must keep my mind in the present moment at all times.

This is a mindful practice. And as the word “practice” implies, it takes concentrated effort to maintain.  But with practice and time, it becomes more natural; like a form of breathing.

Breathing in the NOW.

Here are some steps I’ve taken to keep my mind, body and spirit in the here and now; neither fretting about the past nor worrying about the future…

SPIRITUALITY: The next question my friend asked was regarding to my spiritual health… “Is this what makes you so strong?” she wondered.  I’ve thought a lot on this. My immediate response was to explain that although I am deeply spiritual today, it was not always this way; especially during the throes of my most severe illness.  But, I was wrong.  Although it is true that my spirituality has only grown over the years and I can now comfortably say I believe in a Higher Power, an Energy that is greater than myself, there was always a spiritual trust deep in my soul…

TRUST: A trust that everything would (and will) work out the way it is supposed to be.  I can’t define what this is and nor should I (this is where I can get into trouble!).  But I do have an unexplained knowing.  And that “knowing” is the faith that I am going to die not on my time clock, but on the Universe’s.  And although that may sound scary, it can actually be very freeing.  Because once you let your mind release the worry of when you’re going to die, or get sick, or come upon hard times, you can focus on the HOW:

THE HOW: How am I going to live today to the fullest extent of my spirit?  What steps am I going to take to: nurture my mind, body and spirit; reach out to others instead of isolate; strengthen my relationship with my spiritual base (whether it is God, Buddha, the Universe, or the trees); show myself all the love I deserve; and reach out to others in need?..

SERVICE:  One of the best ways I have always found for getting outside of my own insular world of worry is to reach out to others.  This certainly isn’t the first time you’ve heard me sing this song!  Being of service to someone else (stranger or loved one) not only gets me out of my own head, it uplifts my soul, recharging my internal energy source, my Soul Beacon. And, let’s be completely honest here: there is always someone who has it tougher than you right now.  It’s important to keep that perspective!

IN THE NOW:  There are many techniques I use to keep my mind in the present… I will repeat the mantra “I have arrived” over and over while holding my hand on my heart.  I will use a God Jar (you can name it anything you want); this is a container where I write down my worries and place them inside.  Then when those worries resurface in my mind, I gently remind myself, “Oh, Tam!  You already sent that to the universe/God; you don’t need to worry about that anymore.  It’s taken care of.”

CONTINGENCY PLANS:  Stop making them!!!  I was master of this for so many years, and all it did was exhaust me!  I would figure out all the “possible future outcomes” and then come up with (several) contingency plans for each scenario.  But, you know what?  90% of the time my future would unfold completely different than anything I had “prepared” myself for.  So I would still have to fly by the seat of my pants, in the moment; but my mind would be so fatigued from all the ruminations, I wouldn’t have the energy to successfully face what was in the here and now.  Then, one day I just stopped!  And, you know what?  If I am doing all the above things to take care of myself on a daily basis, I can always find the tools to help me with whatever comes my way. And my life, my spirit, is much calmer because of it.

I realized all the anxiety I was feeling on a daily basis was self- created.  I decided to get off my own Merry-Go-Round of Hell (cue Twilight Zone music…).  You can, too!

STOP WAITING FOR THE OTHER SHOE TO DROP:  I thought that if I was always waiting for something bad to happen, I wouldn’t be caught off guard (disappointed, disheartened) when it did.  Yes, my life is constantly dropping shoes on my head!  But, all that waiting did was create a stress-filled environment where I was inviting trouble.  We attract what we expect!  So, I started expecting differently.  And because I stopped looking to the sky for these impending “bombs,” I am now able to recognize and celebrate all the calm days between the storms.

STOP ASKING “WHY ME?” AND START ASKING “WHAT NEXT?!:” Truly, there is no answer to the question “Why?”  I can’t tell you how many times loving friends have lamented, “Why you?  I just don’t understand why the nicest people get the hardest lives?”  I don’t know either.  But all this question does is create an environment of self-pity.  And when I am stuck in self-pity mode, I can’t see all the amazing gifts that have come out of my illness.  I’m not saying it’s all “unicorns and rainbows” here! But, I do know that in any situation, be it physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, financial, inter-relational… the only question that serves me is: “What next?”  What am I going to do with the hand that is dealt me?  How am I going to make this Situation serve me?  What skills do have to get through this?  And who do I know that can help me?

Once I move beyond victim mode, into action mode, I am living in the present moment.  AND, FOR ME, THAT’S THE ONLY PLACE I WANT TO BE!

Shine On, Soul Beacon, Shine On!

lighthouse

I have mentioned in many of my posts the idea that each of us has our own Soul Beacon. This is a concept that came to me organically during a moment of extreme illness.  It was a vision and even more so, a “knowing,” that I felt soon after my first near death experience. I was in a “stripped down state,” mentally, physically and most certainly spiritually.  I felt raw and exposed.  But, in this vulnerable state of being, I opened myself up to being completely vulnerable.  I felt as connected and observant as a child when discovering something new in their environment.  I became aware of the flow of energy between people.

I started to notice that energy exchanges could be both positive and negative; they could either lift one up or drain them entirely.  This was not just a feeling; I actually visually experienced this phenomenon. That insight gave me an intuitive knowledge of human interactions that I hold to this day.  When people exchanged laughter or encouraging words, streams of soothing, white strands of light would connect the interacting parties.  I saw this as a “recharging of the soul.”  It was pure energy, being given and being received.

Conversely, when an exchange was less then pleasant or supportive, there wasn’t a free-flowing exchange of energy. The flow would become heavily one-sided, with one party literally “sucking the life” out of another. This would show itself in forms of jealousy, fear, anger, insecurity, and dominance.

I had a clear vision of a beacon of light.  I saw that each of us is born with a cache of energy.  But just like any form of energy, if it is not recharged (refueled), it will deplete.  And when our energy sources are low, we experience depression, illness, sadness, despair, fatigue, hopelessness, and diminishing spirituality.  Most people respond to this feeling by hoarding the small amount of energy they have left.   We don’t share this energy out of fear of running on empty.  But in that hospital room, I discovered the key to unlocking a never-ending supply of energy.  The key is…

You have to give your energy away in order to receive more for yourself.

Give it away?! Yep.   This is where the concept of a Soul Beacon comes in.  Imagine a lighthouse.  The night is foggy and therefore the beacon’s light source barely reaches beyond its own standing.   Now translate that to the situation I spoke of above.  You’re feeling “foggy” and out of sorts, so you only shine your light source on yourself.  You keep your depleting energy close at hand and do not include anyone else in your circle of light.  Eventually, that circle of light will get smaller and smaller until its hardly providing any energy source for you to face the world.  This is the moment when many want to curl up in a ball and tell the world to go away.

This is when you need to stretch your final energy source far and wide; to imagine that Soul Beacon, seated in the center of your body, stretching its fingers of light to illuminate others paths.  Because this is what happens when you do: that light shines on someone else in need; the receiver is then recharged from this positive exchange and shines their light back onto you.  You will feel your inner beacon growing in strength.  With each positive interaction, the foggy veil of sadness and fear will lift.  You will start to have energy to take that next step, and then another.  And the best part is, while you’re recharging your own energy source, you are also giving that gift to someone else!

Who are you going to illuminate today?

How can you reach out in order to replenish your own light source?

What choices can you make today from a place of compassion and faith whether than from fear and insecurity?

How can you shine your Soul Beacon from heart to heart?

Read the story I wrote of a young girl and an old sage in: It All Began With A Beacon of Hope (click link)

Please share your stories and experiences!