Monthly Archives: July 2015

Maybe you DO know what to do next?

A common situation when coaching people in their personal growth and awareness around health and other issues, is when they are stuck – feeling trapped or helpless. I bet you know that place of “I don’t know what to do next!”.

My experience is, that’s not the whole truth. I think they DO know what to do. They just don’t like the solution. It doesn’t smell right or taste good. It’s risky or complicated. It might hurt someone they care about or rock somebody’s boat. So they unwittingly use confusion as a mask for telling themselves the truth (or rather for hearing it).

There's GOLD in them that, uh… um… tunnels!
There’s GOLD in them thar, uh… um… tunnels!

Confusion seems like a reasonable place to be when you’re faced with difficult choices. And it can be – for awhile. But staying confused prevents you from having to make a decision, or from doing something hard or unpleasant. How handy is that?

So when considering your options in the context of a dilemma, or just around the next first step from where you are now, do the hard work and really listen for the solutions that might be ugly or even seemingly unfathomable. You don’t have to choose them. But not considering them is keeping you stuck in a place where there seems to be no escape. And if you been confused for awhile, I’m guessing a good solution is in there if you’re brave enough to look at it and consider it.

There’s an escape from stuck. Sometimes the way out looks a lot like the way in to pain and suffering. But is it?   ~Z

 

So much “not knowing”, so little time…

You know those discussions about sugar, gluten, meat, dairy, this food, that supplement… where most everyone seems to “know” the rights and wrongs of particular things with certainty?

Here’s the thing: we don’t really “know” for sure about any of this stuff, we only know what we read. Okay, you also may know what your body tells you – say that you have an allergic reaction to peanuts. But I bet you wouldn’t know a histamine if it landed on your nose.

Are you a good bug? Or a bad bug?
Are you a good bug? Or a bad bug?

I “know” good sleep matters for my own wellbeing. But that doesn’t mean I know why. Hell, the scientists don’t even know why we need sleep! And some days I get plenty and still feel like crap. Other days on less sleep I feel fine. So I “know” about sleep but not completely. Not 100%.

The same goes for your diagnosis and your symptoms. Even if you get a clear diagnosis (e.g. MS, fibromyalgia, cancer), that also opens the doors to more “not knowing”. We can’t completely understand the biology in terms of cells, and fluids and neurotransmitters and blood levels and all that stuff. At best, most of them are singular indicators of a situation that’s WAY too complex (and ever-changing) to grok.

My point is this: Don’t get lost in trying to know. Don’t substitute “trying to know” for actually DOING something. Keep searching if you want. And, do something right now that you KNOW to be good for you. Take your meds. Eat your veggies. Walk your dog. Get to bed! Let something go!

Self-care is fundamentally about faith in your efforts and taking the long view (because some of the things that help us heal and grow aren’t the most pleasant or comfortable things).

And keep experimenting because… you never know…     ~Z

Are you holding back permission to yourself?

I deny myself permission for the silliest things sometimes…

It may feel like there's more than one you, but who's got time for that?
It may feel like there’s more than one you, but who’s got time for that?

One of the bigger voices in my head is about what “other people” might think of me. For example, I just came out of the 90˚ heat having walked my dog for 45 minutes. The local farmer’s market wasn’t yet open, so I was thinking of going back for some produce. And yet, I was withholding permission to myself to drive there for fear of somebody thinking I should have walked.

Yeah yeah I know – Who cares what others think? I’m surprised I’m still unable (consistently anyway) to just put my own needs and the needs of my wellness first. I could walk the 4 blocks to the market. But frankly, I know my body has had enough heat for the day, as I’ve not yet acclimated to the heat of this summer, and I know too much heat can cause a relapse for me.

So I realize I’ve created an unnecessary quandary in my brain that frankly is creating more discomfort and suffering – and using some of my limited daily mental energy.

What others think about my choices (without knowing MY context) is irrelevant to what is important to me. I can give myself permission – I don’t need it from anybody else.

When I remember this – that nobody can see my context, nor can I see theirs – I also become more compassionate for others doing things that might seem questionable for me.

I give myself permission to be me – to TAKE CARE of me, and thereby give myself permission for others to be themselves…

Simple, but not easy…   ~Z

Does less time equal less opportunity?

For many if not most of us, managing our “illness” takes time and energy away from other priorities. Not to mention the time lost when we feel too crappy to do much of anything.

It is possible I was just looking for a way to put a picture of a spaceship in my blog… ;-)
It is possible I was just looking for an excuse to put a picture of a spaceship in my blog… 😉

What if time and energy are like food and water for your soul? What if you were on a space ship and suddenly found out you only had half as much food as you thought? Choices – whether consciously or unconsciously – will be made if you want to survive.

The flaw of that analogy is you probably want to thrive, not just survive. One of the first choices regarding your life may be whether you’re willing to wake yourself up as much as possible and look directly at the hard choices facing you. The alternative is to stay mostly asleep and pretend they’re not real or not real “yet”.

 

Here’s the deal: If you’ve been living in a way where most things in your life are seemingly of equal importance, or that everything you do has to be done perfectly or in a certain way – life is going to be damn hard for you until you can discriminate between what REALLY matters and what is simply a luxury.

Because you can’t have everything. Never could anyway. And now it’s just more obvious (if your eyes are open anyway). Maybe less of everything, but MORE of what matters to you?

You can start practicing making hard choices by making easy choices first. Pick one thing to let go of this week that isn’t connected to your deepest desires, values or dreams. Notice how it feels to let it go. Notice how it feels over hours and days.

Notice if it leaves room for something that matters that you’ve been avoiding.

What is your first step?       ~Z

Can you create boundaries without blame? Part II

Protect what matters. No explanation required!
Protect what matters. No explanation required!

In the last post I wrote, “We barely know how to take care of ourselves so why should we expect others to get it?”.

And I certainly don’t mean to trivialize the difficulty of setting boundaries, or of saying “no”. It may be the right thing to do for you and your health, but doing so can have an impact on your relationships that is uncomfortable, unpleasant or just plain nasty. Saying “no” to people tends not to bring out their best. But that’s not your problem!

But here’s the deal: anything other than standing up for yourself and what you know to be true for you in the moment is CHOOSING to be a victim, and living from a place of weakness, not personal power. And we need all the personal power we can muster to reinvent a lifestyle that works, in spite of our ongoing physical and/or mental challenges.

Each time you “go along” with somebody for the sake of keeping the peace/friendship/job etc., you lose a little bit of your “self”, and it gets replaced by somebody else’s version of who you are (or who they think you ought to be). The more you inhabit the ambiguity of who you are and not knowing or believing in what matters to you enough to stand your ground… the less you’ll be able to make (and live with) the hard choices that enable you to live the life you deserve. This is one of the big blessing/curse factors of being chronically ill.

You know what? If you need to (at least mentally) blame someone else to start setting some good boundaries, do it for now. Because a poorly set boundary is better than no boundary at all!

And trust that there’s a better way and a big emotional payoff for learning how NOT to make others wrong to be right! ~Z

 

Can you create boundaries without blame? Part I

Most of the time, when we set a boundary to protect what matters to us (values, health, lifestyle, integrity, privacy etc.), there is an impact on others. Because of course, THEY are who the boundary is keeping out.

Setting healthy boundaries with minimal emotion helps us accept and embrace limitations in a healthy way - which keeps us progressing...
Setting healthy boundaries with minimal emotion helps us accept and embrace limitations in a healthy way – which keeps us progressing…

The tendency can be (okay, MY tendency can be…), to try to apply reason and logic to the situation. That occurs when I’m trying to convince the other person of the “rightness” of my choice (e.g. I need be home by 10 so I get enough sleep etc.) and get them to agree with me. It’s a little like “I’ll set this boundary with you right here if that’s okay with you”. Hopefully you see the problem here?

A further extension of logic and reason – independent of whether you’re convincing the other – is to make them wrong, as in “I didn’t get enough sleep because you kept us out too late”. Or worse, “you’re obviously an idiot if you don’t understand me and my needs”. We barely know how to take care of ourselves so why should we expect others to get it?

At it’s simplest, boundary setting is about what’s right for me in terms of the best way to take care of myself. Nobody has to agree or get it (though an explanation seems respectful). Nobody else has to be wrong. It is saying some version of “if you do this, I’ll do that” or, “in these circumstances, I’m going to do this”.

Consider this quote:

Boundaries… should be firm enough to keep our values and priorities clear, open enough to communicate our priorities to the right people, yet closed enough to withstand assault from the thoughtless and mean”.   Anne Katherine, author of Boundaries: Where You End and I Begin

Setting boundaries maturely without blame takes considerable intention and practice. Can you get better at it? When? How? ~Z

Part II

The paradox of exercise…

Exercise usually makes me tired. Especially now as I’ve had weeks of travel and not exercising and I’m getting back in the saddle of getting fit. But even when I’m quite fit, exercise usually leaves me more tired than when I started, so I usually need to rest after a workout – or even a walk.

there are all kinds of ways to move more than you do now...
There are all kinds of ways to move more than you do now. Start very small and see what happens…

I really don’t know if it’d be the same if I was “well” or not. Perhaps this is normal at this age? Doesn’t matter really. Because here’s what I know: I know that I ultimately feel better about myself when I’m in good shape, at a good weight, relatively “toned” and with good aerobic fitness. And when I feel better about myself, I feel more confident, am happier and feel more in control of my life. Sure, being fit probably helps my brain, my overall health and perhaps even enhances my longevity a bit. So that’s a plus…

But it makes me tired. So I use faith to motivate me, somehow trusting that I’d be even more tired without it. Sure I’d have more time too, but how well would I be able to use the extra time if I had less self-confidence and knew I was failing on self-management? I don’t know. Or rather, I do know but mostly in a conceptual way.

Exercise makes me tired, but mostly it’s a “good tired” – leaving me with a sense of accomplishment and feeling fully connected to my physical self at its best (versus the physical self that’s not always cooperating). And NOT exercising leaves me tired of all the trying. THAT is trying… and tiresome… Am I being redundant 😕 ~Z

Will others ever “get it” that you’re sick?

I just returned from a two week Europe trip. It was a big experiment to toy with my various routines and practices that I trust to keep me as functional as possible. And a scary experiment to shift time zones 7 hours, given the importance of, and my struggles with sleep. Suffice it to say for now that it wasn’t nearly as bad for me health-wise as I’d worried it might be.

And I knew that upon my return I would need to recover by resting, dialing back in to the local time etc. – especially given that I had relatives expecting me to visit for a few days. When I told them I needed to have a few days to recover before visiting, one response was “doing what?”. This from someone who’s known me long before I got “sick”.

Yes, we may need to recover from vacations...
Yes, we may need to recover from vacations…

I felt defensive at first – and frustrated. “Don’t they know I’m sick? Do I have to explain this again? Don’t they believe I’m sick? What can I say that will convince them?”.

Then I remembered: I’m the only one who can possibly know and understand what I’m going through, and what I need (or at least my best guess about what I need at the moment). I tire of trying to convincingly explain my limiting physical conditions anyway. But I remembered that I don’t have to convince anyone. They don’t need to understand, or approve of my choices for self care. I can make my choices confidently and implement them respectfully and cleanly, and let any criticism or doubts about me glance off (easier said than done, but…).

And I certainly don’t need to doubt my choices just because others do. Maybe a little self-doubt is okay as a reality check. But I know a lot of self-doubt is just needless suffering… ~Z