Monthly Archives: April 2015

What kind of “treatment” are you getting? Part I

When reading of an accident, I often come across a phrase like “the driver was treated and released”. Or on the news a spokesperson might say “… she is currently receiving treatment”.

coffee in bed is good treatment!
coffee in bed is good treatment!

Is it just me, or do you wonder what kind of “treatment” they’re getting? How are they being treated? Are they being treated well? Respectfully? Rudely? Patiently?

There can also be a perspective of the assumption that treatment is the same as a cure or a fix, as in “we have treatments for that”. I’ll save that for Part II.

The word “treatment” in the context of illness is a gross oversimplification of what happens to us. It’s almost like a secret language, a code that only a few ever break.

And seemingly missing from this medical version of the word, are the qualities that we would use to describe our experience. If someone asks “How were you treated?”, you’re not likely to recite the litany of procedures done to you: “Well, first they inserted an IV, then they took some blood, then they gave me an injection, blah, blah, blah”. Your first thought would likely be about the qualities of how you were treated. Were they nice to you? Generous? Kind? Empathetic? Patient? Understanding?

So when you advocate for yourself (or someone else), remember that there’s “treatment” and then there’s “treatment”. Both of them matter. I trust you know that you deserve to be treated well while you’re receiving the best treatment available… ~Z

You can stop apologizing any time now…

  • “I’m sorry but this chair is uncomfortable”
  • “I’m sorry but can you make something not on the menu?”
  • “I’m sorry but could you get me…?”

Our bodies are now making new and different demands on us. We ignore them at our own peril.

no apologies here...
no apologies here…

As we acclimate to our “new normal”, we learn to honor our body’s requests around pain, comfort, flare-ups, relapses, prevention, sleep, getting healthier etc. This is a way of protecting ourselves – of caring for ourselves. You could call it self-love if you want…

And living well probably requires that we’re out and about some of the time – with others, in places not our home. Others become intermediaries to what our body’s need. Others who become witnesses. Others who see if not feel the impact of illness – on our lives and theirs.

Here’s the thing: You didn’t ask for this. You didn’t make it happen. You don’t have to apologize for being you. In fact, apologizing may show a lack of respect for yourself – a diminishing of your worth relative to the “healthy” folks around you.

First, at least ask for what will serve and help you. Not asking is hugely disrespectful to yourself. It’s just being mean! Second, you can ask directly and confidently for what will help you without apologizing – and not necessarily be rude. Worrying about how someone else views your needs is just another waste of what precious little energy you may have anyway.

If you’re body is like mine, it’s bossy and strict. And it has my best interests at heart. I respect it by honoring it’s request as much as possible. And I respect myself and others by not apologizing. On a good day at least, I am unapologetically sick.

Stand tall – proudly and powerfully (metaphorically speaking of course if you’re legs aren’t working) in ALL of who you are. You deserve respect. Don’t you?     ~Z


Are you healthy or sick?

I struggled with this apparent contradiction in a big way for a long time – especially after I started really taking care of myself. In most objective ways, I’m healthier than I was before I “got sick”. And I certainly live a MUCH healthier lifestyle than at any other time in my life. And yet, I’m still “sick”. How can I be this healthy and still be this sick? So what am I?

I now think “sick vs healthy”is the wrong question. This question is a set up. And yet, it seems to be hanging in the air doesn’t it?Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 10.02.14 AM

So don’t answer this question. You’re not either “healthy” or “sick”. You’re some combination of both. “Healthy” is not an all-or-nothing proposition. Neither is sickness for the most part. And trying to answer this question rarely moves us forward in a good way.

Better questions to ask are about what you’re doing to become healthier, or how are you living well? Living well is about learning how to create and live healthy lifestyles that are harmonious with what we know to be our most important priorities and values – and putting illness IN THAT CONTEXT!

Being sick is only part of the picture of who you are and who you are becoming.

Imagine illness like a snowstorm when you’re driving. It’s a big problem for sure, and you can make adjustments. You can metaphorically turn on your wipers, slow down, watch out for speeding bozos, and crank up some good tunes…, and still get where you’re going. Plus, you might be singing when you arrive! It really IS about how we react to what’s happening to us.

A phrase that has served me well when I get stuck in my black and white thinking is: “I am that also”. As in, “I am sick also” or “I am well also”.

Using this perspective can be liberating by allowing us to define ourselves in all our beautiful and seemingly contradictory complexity. Try it out. Or wait to try it out (“I am a procrastinator also” 😉     ~Z


What if Selfish means Generous?

Or Protecting!

Sure it’s great to serve others and take care of people in your life. But what about you? Who is taking care of you?

Self-care is about putting yourself first so you can and protect that in the world for which caring for you fortune cookieyou are responsible. It’s really that simple. Nobody will protect what’s precious to you but you. When you over-commit to what drains you, and under-commit to what feeds you and helps you recover – and then you go down (whether that means literally crashing, making crappy decisions and stupid mistakes, being mean and cranky…) you’re working against that which you hold dear.

Self care is not a touchy-feeling thing. It takes a harder energy to set the boundaries and create the space to heal and nurture and recover – so you’re able to respond to the next set of demands on your life energy. And yes, that might mean saying “no” to a meeting and “yes” to a massage…

I’m guessing you don’t have an understudy ready to step in to the role of YOU if you make yourself sick by ignoring what you know to be your limits. Know your limits! Honor your limits! Set your boundaries! BE SELFISH! So you can be generous when it counts!

Selfish = Protecting = Generous

Try THAT on! And then pick one thing you’re going to do differently in the name of self-care tomorrow and commit to that!                          ~Z

Who’s driving this car (life?)?

“I don’t have time” – “I’m too busy.” – “Sorry, I know I said I’d take care of that, but I didn’t have time”

You’ve heard these things. You’ve probably said them yourself. I certainly driving car 2

Yet I’ve come to believe there’s no such thing as “being too busy” or “didn’t have time” or “I forgot”. Or rather, I think those types of expressions are not precise descriptions of the truth. A more truthful statement is when I say (at least to myself, but more often now also to others), “I overcommitted and made more promises than I can keep or “I made other things more important”.

When I do this, I start taking back the power of my choices. I notice how I’ve spent some – sometimes most – of my time (and my precious energy) in pursuits different than what I tell myself is most important. And I start to take back a little bit of myself that I’d lost. And you know how easy it can be to lose your “self” when you’ve got a chronic health issue following you around.

Didn’t have time for exercise? Nope, you didn’t take the time. You made everything else more important than exercise. That’s not an opinion, it’s data. You didn’t CHOOSE to exercise – you chose to do everything BUT exercise (or cook healthy, or call your doctor, or take a nap, or ask for help, or drink water, or play with your child, or to say “NO”, or…).

Your daily actions speak volumes about what you’ve actually chosen (whether consciously or unconsciously) as your beliefs and priorities. If your actions are indeed in alignment with what you KNOW to be the most important things to YOU – and you’re not leaving other “most important things” out – then it’s all good.

If not, a first step is to STOP using time and busyness as excuses, and start owning the choices YOU made to get here. Work backwards in time and see how nobody has been making choices about your life but you.

If you feel your hackles rise with this perspective, you’re not alone. It takes some time to get used to. But what’s the danger in trying this out for a day or 10? When you notice you’ve broken yet another promise to yourself, just try this wording “I chose not to _____”, and see how that feels. Then say it again. Yeah it might hurt a bit. But there’s the sweet feeling of truth too, eh? Doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or did something wrong. It does mean you’re inching your way back into your own driver’s seat… ~Z

Resistance: The bad news and the good news

couple in rapids - resistance
just the right amount of resistance keeps you afloat…

Resisting things as they are is the source of most of our suffering. By definition it is the opposite of acceptance. Tell yourself there shouldn’t be a traffic jam or that slow driver in front of you and VIOLA! – instant agony. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that within resistance there is the desire for change. That’s important if you’re ready for something different. The trick is to use that energy towards something that can actually change, versus trying to go upstream.

So go ahead and resist being sick and push against your illness(es), however that looks and feels to you. AND, notice also the desire to live fully underneath that resistance, and turn to focus your future. You don’t want to end up in your future all worn out from fighting do you? There is power in surrender and accepting things as they are – and planning accordingly. It’s your choice though…

I’m confident that some resistance is healthy and mature, and other kinds are immature and not good for you. Resistance that looks like denial is probably not so fruitful. And yet, even within that near desperation to reclaim what is lost, there is a deep yearning.

A more healthy or “mature” resistance then might be to resist the “life sentence” your brain or others’ dire predictions might be giving you. Resist declarations in your head that start with “Now I’ll never…”, or “There’s no point in…”, and instead use that longing for change to ask “How”: “How am I going to make this happen”, or “How can I get what’s important to me, and How might it look different than I’d planned?”

A piece of Zen wisdom that has served me well, is “This being the case, how shall I proceed?”. How does that land on you?

Feel the desire driving the resistance. Choose consciously what you will do with it. ~Z

Which step is first?

How will you know what the first step is?

You’ve read the poem by David Whyte. If not, do it now or this won’t make sense. I don’t want to tell you how to interpret his poem, and here’s what it means to me.

For me uncovering the first step, the one I don’t want to take, is about telling myself the stairs up mountaintruth. It’s about asking myself “what really is the first step from where I am now?”, and then listening for the answer. From inside. And knowing that the first answer – maybe the first batch of answers – are the familiar and easy ones. If answers come quickly and easily, they are probably later steps.

So finding the first step and “finding your own voice” is indeed a manner of listening – of getting quiet and tuning out the other voices that speak loudly and make an unproductive ruckus in your head. As you step in to find your truth, you will learn to sidestep these other voices that are probably not your own, as they’re likely voices the culture or your upbringing planted into you. Trust that you’ll know when you “hear” an answer that is your own voice, your own truth. One way to know is that it might feel unpleasant, like a shoe that doesn’t quite fit until it’s broken in. Because this is the scary step “that you don’t want to take”.

Also, consider that this idea of asking and listening for the answer could become a practice – a grounding exercise to find each next landmark to aim for. You can get better at it the more you do it. And getting good at really listening to your uncensored answers – to your authentic truth…That can be a skill serves you for life. Imagine if you stopped lying to yourself!?

So try it on. Ask yourself today what the first step is. And if the answer doesn’t ring true (which is not the same as whether it seems comfortable or doable or reasonable), then ask again. And whatever the answer is today, ask again tomorrow.

Imagine one good “first” step a day. Imagine where you’ll be 365 steps from now… Or just 1 step away from there… ~Z

“Had” to say no again… :(

yes NO maybeI just said “no” to something I really wanted to do.


If I’d have followed my emotions of excitement and anticipation, I’d have said “yes”. Used to be, I could use those emotions as a reliable guide to make certain decisions. Does it sound fun? Interesting? Exciting? Relaxing? Then DO IT!

Nowadays, I know to pause before deciding – to step back and look at my choices from a respectable distance.

I could tell myself that I “have to say no”. But that’s a lie. I could have said yes and lived with the costs of several days of recovery and feeling crappy (and sometimes getting depressed if I really over-do things). Other times, I might choose to say yes anyway and hope the cost is worth it.

But not now. Not this time. Damnit! I’m pissed I’m not well enough to do this! I SHOULD be healthy enough to do this! It’s not FAIR! Why me?!

Okay, venting (or should I say “pity party”?) over for now… I’ll be with the sadness and anger, and that little shaming voice saying somehow I’m “less than” because I can’t always rise above my limitations (actually more of a whine this time about not being able to do what I want when I want…).

And then I’ll give myself a break and bless myself for making the better decision that hurts – for acting in alignment with what I know – with what I PROMISED myself are my higher values and most important priorities.

As they say, “you can’t do everything”. Sometimes I’m pissed about that. And yet I feel stronger for knowing the choice is mine. Sure the bar is lower. But for now at least, there’s still a bar…   ~Z