“Ongoing health challenges* and tired of defining yourself and being defined by limitations? I’ll help you unearth the possibilities, rekindle HOPE, and stake your claim for a future worth loving and living.”
In Part I, I wrote of the gap between your current reality and your vision of your life – and the creative tension between them. If accept that denying your current reality is not the best option for creating a future and life you can love, read on.
My experience is that it’s a natural tendency to try to induce change in our lives by “adding” things – activities and commitments, new habits etc. Not necessarily a bad or wrong approach, but here’s a different one.
Spend more time and energy REALLY looking at your “current reality”. Look at how you live your life. Your routines. What’s getting done. What’s not getting done (or getting done poorly). What rituals and routines and habits (and “have to’s”) have become unconscious. Ask how each thing in your life is serving you – helpfully and unhelpfully. Yes, this is a project. Yes this takes some time.
The goal here is to discover something you’re doing that is an obstacle to the change you say you want in your life. And then choose to remove it. It’s probably something that made sense when you were more functional than you are now. Maybe it’s your bedtime, or how often you wash your bedding, or regular commitments to meetings or gatherings. But take a close look. And keep looking. Challenge it’s usefulness. Ask if it’s necessary.
You’ll know it when you see it. Then make plans to let it go – or just cut the ties now.
With our time and energy at a premium (to survive AND make the preparations for our “new normal”), there can be way more power in removing obstacles to growth and change than in pushing harder and adding new commitments. ~Z
In the previous post, I wrote of getting to know where you are, right here and right now. Let’s call that current reality.
And for most of us, most of the time, there is a gap between our current reality and our vision of our ideal life. The tension between the two is the place where we intentionally create our lives – also known as creative tension (my original learning about this was from The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge – a book on organizational learning and change).
I’m a dreamer of sorts. So there’s always been a gap between where I am and my ideal life. I’d learned to live with the gap and use the creative tension where I could (namely career, relationships, starting a business, owning a home etc.). But when I got sick – and then got sicker – and then didn’t fully recover – that gap expanded and kept on expanding. Dreams got remote as my focus was about getting through each hour or day. The tension built.
So, I did what I’ve always done – I worked harder (or at least it felt harder). And when that wasn’t working, I’d keep telling myself that I’d soon be getting better and then I could “catch back up” on everything I was neglecting.
I spent (and lost) a lot of years in that pattern of “push and lie” – doing what worked before (pushing harder) and lying to myself (pretending it would all magically get better somehow).
If you know what I’m talking about, nod your head.
THAT is an example of an approach that not only doesn’t work (when has living a lie ever been a good plan?) but which prolongs and enhances suffering. Not to mention being a foolproof method to prevent true healing, recovery, wellness and peace of mind.
I used the poem Start Close In by David Whyte (and named my business Close In Coaching) because the concept behind the poem of “starting with the first step” speaks to a simple but powerful strategy for living with ongoing and chronic health conditions. This can become a tool or a ritual to reset and recover – so you can move confidently into the next challenge or responsibility. A tool that, because our lives are constantly in flux, never gets dull.
Do you sometimes let drama and confusion shackle with your forward movement, corrupt your choices, and/or leave you stuck not knowing what to do next? Consider:
Start close in,
don't take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
the step you don't want to take. full poem by David Whyte
This is about starting where you are right now. Not where you were. Not where you think you are. Where you actually are! THAT may be the step you don’t want to take.
The close in step is knowingwhere you areright now. Slow your thoughts and your life down enough to look under the reflection on the surface and to the bottom of the stream of your life. Ask yourself “what is true now?”. And keep asking until you hear your truth. Learn to deeply recognize your current reality and trust the next steps that reveal themselves to you. (Okay, maybe that’s a lot of little steps – but you know what I mean 😉
“I’ve been through some terrible things in my life; some of which actually happened.” – Mark Twain
“Worry is a waste of imagination.” – Walt Disney
Worrying is anxiety. Anxiety is fear. Fear is a legitimate emotion about possible threats to our life, identity or wellbeing. Worrying is using fear to create fantasies about all the bad things that might happen to you. Which creates more anxiety. And the small but mighty vicious cycle repeats itself.
Worrying is not only a waste of the imagination, it’s a waste of life energy. It’s getting lost in all the unfriendly “what if’s” of the future. I imagine the phenomenon of worrying has helped us survive as a species. But does worrying help you thrive as a person?
What’s true for me is that when I’m worrying about a future that hasn’t happened yet, I’m less likely to be acting to create a future that I want.
So if you find yourself worrying, e.g. “I’ll never be able to…”, “I’ll miss out on…”, “What will I do if…?” – What are you going to do instead? Do you have an anti-worry strategy.
If you were a skilled worrier before you got sick, I’m betting you’ve become a certified professional now. But it’s a habit. And just like other habits, there ain’t no easy fix, but it can be broken. What’s your first step to breaking the habit of worrying?
Worrying doesn’t work. If it did, we’d have nothing to worry about would we? ~Z
“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorry. It empties today of its strength” – Corrie Ten Boom
In Part I, I invited you grow your confidence, power and freedom by finding relationships that are more drain than gain, and making a yes-or-no decision to act – putting YOU first by ending or strictly limiting a relationship.
Maybe you’re feeling some resistance (another word for fear, by the way) to making this commitment? Some of that might be related to whether you contain the skills required to cut somebody off in a good way. It’s not something we practice regularly.
And, there’s a more subtle type of resistance that might feel like guilt over “blaming” the other person for your suffering. You might be tempted to turn that guilt into demonizing the other and making him or her “wrong”.
But here’s the deal: They don’t have to be wrong for you to be right! You are the only one who knows your priorities and how you want to distribute your precious time and energy. You don’t have to explain, and you certainly don’t have to apologize. You are making the hard choices in your life – in line with your commitment to build a life that matters in spite of your illness – and some of those impact others in ways they don’t like or don’t agree with. Some folks will get it. Many will not.
And it’s not your responsibility to make them agree or understand or feel okay about your decision.
Can you prepare for their push-back and stick to your commitment?
Can you feel the power and confidence about to arise in you after you’ve staked yet another claim on living a life in integrity with what you really matters to your future? ~Z
One of the most powerful actions you can take to reclaim your wellness now and in the future is to cut loose the people in your life who suck the life out of you. Those folks for whom you don’t have any functional defense against, despite your myriad of interpersonal skills (here’s a good/brief article). This is especially vital if they are enablers of some of the “old” ways of living that you’re trying to transcend, or “accomplices” to unhealthy habits you’re trying to break.
Put frankly, your realities (read: your available resources) have changed, and probably not for the better (I’ve yet to learn of an illness that gives us super powers ;-). People that were not hindrances before, might be now. You need people in your life who help you feel “bigger”, not “smaller”.
The first and most important step though, is to make the decision that your LIFE is important and valuable enough to cut someone out of it. This is a YES or a NO choice. Be clear and committed on your choice or else you’ll probably half-ass your implementation – and maybe make things worse. Believe me. But do this part well, and the rest gets easier.
And no, this is not going to be painless – there will be a cost. In the short term, there may be some additional suffering. But in the long term, you’ll increase your power and your freedom. And THAT can go a long way towards gaining confidence and hope that will empower you to make the many other hard choices and actions that are certainly coming down the pike… ~Z
I’m often wanting predictability and control. I want to know WHY I’m feeling better or worse. Surely there’s some reason or explanation for how I’m feeling.
Simple cause and effect. When I do this I’ll get that. This helps me feel good, that leaves me feeling worse. Is that too much to ask for?
I’ve experienced both ends of this continuum. Sometimes, when I’m having a “relapse”, I’ll say to a friend of mine “I have no idea why I’m falling apart”. He knows I track sleep, exercise and other things, so he’ll ask. I’ll look at my calendar and realize I’ve completely overdone it – again. And yet, my reaction before looking at my own data was a helpless Poor, poor me… L. The cause and effect was there, but I was too busy pity-partying…
Other times, the connection of how I feel to what I’ve done or not done is WAY less clear. I’ve followed my self-care strategies to the T, and yet here I am feeling sick again. It can be tempting to go back to the pity party again (I’ve succumbed more than I care to admit).
And yet, the opportunity lies in our interpretation and reaction to the seemingly random flare-ups of symptoms. It’s a bit of faulty thinking to think that you or anybody, understands your particular ailment(s) enough to predict and control it with 100% accuracy. If that were true, none of us would be sick would we? Your body is complicated. REALLY complicated.
So, consider letting go of at least some “reason” around this. Consider 60 or 70% control and predictability of symptoms – connected to what you do and don’t do – being as good as it gets. Maybe 50%. And, don’t let go of what you DO know, or your willingness to keep learning.
You can fight your latest unreasonable flare-up or relapse at your own risk. Rail against it if you like. And I ask; Are you adding to or subtracting from your suffering? Yep that’s right, yet another opportunity to choose… “This being the case, how shall I proceed?”. ~Z
If you’re getting that the impacts of your health condition (and the losses) truly are going to influence your life – perhaps from this point on – then you may need to learn to help you make different choices. Information about what works and doesn’t work to support your wellness, being productive, avoiding relapses or making yourself sicker, recovering from over-extension, etc. Better information equals better decisions (usually anyway… I’m not so fond of completely unequivocal statements).
Here’s what I know: Sitting and thinking might be necessary, but it’s likely not sufficient for accelerating your ability to thrive in your new normal. Learning how to experiment however, may be one of the most important skills you can master.
One reality is that EVERY DECISION or ACTION is indeed an experiment – because we can’t predict the future. And, the learning from that experiment may require a new level of focus and awareness. After each choice, the next valuable step is to slow down, and look back at the consequences to assess what aspects of that choice served or didn’t serve your aspirations and vision. What worked and what didn’t work? What might you do differently the next time and why?
And here’s the other thing: If you’re going to try something new and different (either pushing something or pulling back), remember that an experiment is about learning, not succeeding. In other words, failure is just as valuable of an outcome as success.
If you push yourself or stretch yourself and try something uncomfortable, I offer that you do it with 100% integrity – do the new action as well as you can – and be prepared to learn NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS.
If learning is the goal of experimenting, failure is also a success. How cool is that?
Do something different today or tomorrow. Learn something new. Apply what you learn the next day. Repeat.
Become masterful at experimenting. It will serve you forever. No matter what… ~Z
Treatment is a term used for responses of the medical community to symptoms or a diagnosis. Notice how I didn’t say solution. It might be if you’re lucky. But more often that not, it’s just part of a solution. Or rather, it may solve some problems, but not all of them. And if you’re chronically ill, you know that even with multiple treatments, the some problems continue to exist – albeit in a hopefully less antagonistic form…
But let’s remember that getting a medical treatment is a means to an end, not the goal. We’re trying to get some respite or relief from our symptoms so we can live our life. Various treatments may be required for that to happen. But more than that too.
Given that our underlying issues are not likely to go away (maybe remission, but rarely a remedy), that means our “treatment plan” might serve us better if we included all the other things that help us function by reducing our suffering and increasing our living.
So don’t be lulled into thinking getting treatment is the same as getting all fixed up and back to normal. That’s usually wishful but unrealistic thinking. Things might get better, that’s for sure. And unfortunately, the treatment may unleash symptoms of it’s own.
Your condition(s) may be treatable – which does not necessarily equal curable. Remember the distinction: Treatments are probably necessary but not sufficient for your continued rejuvenation as you embrace your new normal.