Friday’s Focus—Balance

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. And Jane a frazzled mom. And Steve a stressed out commuter. And Becky an exhausted caretaker.

It’s a tough thing these days to keep our lives in balance with so many responsibilities, and though the intention is there, the follow-through can be hard. It’s easy to become so focused on keeping our heads down and marching one foot in front of the other just to survive the day, that we tend to lose balance by losing ourselves in working too hard to keep everything (and everyone else) together.

Take some time out today and this weekend to do something to bring some balance back into your life and your daily routine. Even if it’s  a start with 5 minutes of stopping and looking out the window or closing your eyes and taking some deep breaths.

Have a great weekend!

Keeping it light and singing LiLoLa [Live, Love, Laugh] all the way…

Blogging From A to Z: Elderly

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The other day while I was waiting for my husband at the hospital to finish his tests, I realized that the entire waiting room was filled with elderly people. One by one or two by two they came through the doors as though a bus had just dropped them off. Their spouses accompanied some while others were alone. A couple appearing to be in their late 80s with matching walkers particularly fascinated me. He even had a mini-Velcroed cooler attached under the handle grips of his! Their pristine white sneakers shuffled along in unison as they searched for companion seats. I tried to picture what they were like when they were younger. My imagination ran wild with stories of what they must have seen and heard and experienced in their lifetime. These people lived through some of the most significant historical events in the twentieth century this world has ever seen. To me, they were living history right here waiting to be called in for their endoscopies and colonoscopies.

The elderly are our living ancestors. It seems we stopped paying real attention to and honoring our elders once businesses realized they could make more money by focusing on the new generation then on the old. The elderly have become something we tolerate and have to take care of, rather than endeared and welcomed into the family fold. They may have ceased to be productive members of our working society but they have not ceased to still be members of our society. Their worth should not be determined by how much they contribute but instead, be regarded with respect and how much they have already contributed.

These are the people that helped shape our nation into what it is. They weren’t always 70, 80, 90 years old. Once they were like you and me—they were actively employed, bought first-homes, raised families, fought for our nation, and had weekend summer barbecues. They were us and one day we will be them.

The baby-boomer generation has approached the Medicare age with a better understanding of how we grow older and the need to keep our bodies and minds more active, giving the stigma surrounding aging a much needed identity crisis and revamping. The changes are coming but not for the elders we have right now sitting with their son/daughter in the doctor’s office, caught in between business meetings, answering texts and emails from their Blackberry. They are still the lost ones in our society at the mercy of the “sandwich generation”, who splits their attention and focus conferring with caregivers in between office meetings and a quick drop off of the kids at soccer practice.

Blogging from A to Z: Coffee

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Coffee.

An ode.

You beautiful roasted bean that is so embedded as part of our morning and late night culture. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love the way you smell and taste no matter what time of day it is. When I have you first thing in the morning, you make me feel as though I can do anything the day ahead has planned for me. And when I have you as a pick-me up in the afternoon, you help make me feel that my obligations for the rest of the day are possible. Just smelling your fresh grinds gives my senses incentive to do whatever is needed next. You are my companion on those late nights. You give me something to do with my hands as I cradle you in my mug and allow your hot liquid energy to seep through into the palms of my hands and into the rest of me. Dearest coffee, to me, you are one of those little things in life—one of those go-to’s I can always count on to be my companion as I read other blogs and practice taking things deeper 🙂

Blogging from A to Z: Breath

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Breath

Breath—the whisper of the beginning, the sigh of the end. Everything in between, every thought, every feeling, every passion, and every sorrow is accompanied by the breath. It is not just the backbone of our life but the backbone of our sanity and our even our mental health. Breath sustains our life force. It helps us focus from the mental chatter and can calm us when we’re upset (How often have you heard or said, “Take a deep breath and calm down”?), it does all this without us giving it a second thought. But what if we did? What if, even for just a few minutes, you stopped and noticed how you feel, how your body and emotions change by changing your breath? A deep breath versus a shallow breath. A belly breath versus a lung breath. A fast breath versus a long, slow, inhalation and exhalation.

I tend to be a shallow breather so when I consciously breathe into my diaphragm I become aware of new physical sensations and even a change in my thoughts. Sometimes, all you need to do is to take that one big, deep, bellyful, blissful breath for a change in your mental and emotioal direction. Why don’t you try it now? Sit back, close your eyes, and breathe……..Let’s take it deeper.

 

 

Blogging From A to Z: Addiction

 

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For those of you who aren’t aware, starting today and continuing for the month of April (except for Sundays), I’m taking part in a Blogging From A to Z Challenge, during which I will post something every day that begins with the appropriate alphabetic letter for the day. My theme for this challenge is about the little things in life and how we can take them each deeper and I hope you’ll join me! So let’s go!

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Unless we are in a heightened state of awareness and already existing in our Buddha-nature, we are all addicts. Addictions can be loud or subtle. They can be screams from your body or whispers in your mind. Addictions can be food, people, emotions, or technology. It can even be places or things. We become addicted to a particular type of behavior or object because it makes us feel good when we do it or go to it and we want to continue that good feeling. To be awakened is to be freed from that desire and drive. Use the energy that is currently tied up with your addiction to free yourself. If you don’t think you have an addiction, take a look at your life and see what is at least one thing that you keep going back to and seeking more of to find solace in? Chocolate? Cigarettes? Girl Scout cookies? Alcohol? Sex? Pasta? Approval? Let’s take it deeper.

The Art of Being Human

You don’t need to know a name, date of birth, or occupation and it doesn’t take a big commitment. It can be a gesture as small and simple as a smile, holding the door open, or allowing that car into your lane of traffic. It’s about looking into the cashier’s eyes when they hand you back your change in the supermarket line. It’s about saying Good Morning every day to the security guard at work who never looks up but then one day, returns with his own, Good Morning.

It’s about helping someone who is lost find their way back to familiar surroundings by letting them follow you in their car. It’s about remembering that there are actual people behind the phone calls and tweets and screen names on Facebook. It’s about calling customer service and instead of giving a complaint, complement the service you just received. It’s about sharing an article or a photo with someone because it reminded you of them.

It’s about not always waiting to be asked. It’s about paying it forward, paying it backward and whatever falls in between. It should not be something we need to remember to do, it should be simply the way we are. It’s something that should not wait for a holiday to show people how we feel.

We are spiritual beings learning to be human. We are human beings learning to be spiritual. We never know what each day will bring or even every hour. My mother-in-law used to say, “It’s nice to be nice.” It doesn’t mean we can’t get angry, but recognizing that the anger should be about the right things—for wrongdoings and injustices, and not to be angry just because something didn’t go our way. Anger is a natural emotion and can be all powerful and used the right way, can move mountains, but so can empathy, love, and joy. It’s about the art of being human.

It’s a balance of recognizing each other’s soul and existence and stepping up and out without having a reason for doing so other than opportunity. It’s about not hiding behind our anonymity of technology or the false strength in our insecurities. It’s also about nonexpectations and about trust. We have no way of knowing where our one act of kindness, our one act of humanness can lead, but just trust that it does.

Ram Dass Was Right

Watching my husband deal with his illness has taught me more than just dosages and side effects that people going through chemotherapy have to deal with. As a partner, a witness, and being a survivor myself, if you ask anyone who’s had it, cancer can be one of life’s biggest teachers–if you allow it.

It was many years ago that I had my own struggle with cancer, and now, I find I’m on the outside looking in at another cancer battle. I know this fight is not about me, but I can’t help but see the lessons that are here for me, too—as a wife, caregiver, partner, nurse, woman, daughter, human being.  I cannot speak for my husband but we talk a lot about what he’s going through and what lessons there are for him in all this. It was after one of those conversations I realized that the lessons that illness can teach, aren’t necessarily limited to those directly suffering from it.

I’ve learned things about myself, some good and some not so good. I’ve finally learned where my limits are and that it’s completely okay to say, “No.”

No, I can’t do it
No, I’m not going to worry about this
God, you can take this one.

So I didn’t and God did, and because of that, I am trusting more and having faith that things will get done and whatever way it falls, things will be alright. Really.

I’ve learned how uncomfortable people are with the word “cancer”, and because of that, I have become more aware of other people’s unspoken fears.

I’ve learned that sometimes, the deepest unconditional help and love can come from the most unlikely people, so I’m learning to stop being judge and juror.

I’m learning to accept help with grace and not taint it with feelings of failure because I couldn’t do things myself.

I’ve learned how genuine the human heart can be and that there really are good people who put others first when they see someone needs help.

I’ve learned that when someone is in pain, or afraid of the unknown, or just plain feeling like crap physically, emotionally, mentally, it doesn’t matter what my deadlines are, what I’m wearing, how much I weigh, or how much the cable bill is this month. I’ve learned the most important thing is to be present with that person right there right now.

I’m learning to be out of my comfort zone and being okay with it.

I’ve learned it shouldn’t take an illness or the death of someone to find ourselves realigned and reawakened. Sometimes this has to happen—we have to get shaken up—in order to wake up. There will always be that call to make and that book to read and that TV program to watch, but there is a rhythm to life and relationships that seem only to get noticed in times of fear and problems. I’m learning to be more aware, more present, and to get more out of my head and into my heart.

Finally, I’ve learned to thank the circumstances that have surrounded my family for the past few months, because without them, I wouldn’t have learned to dance to this new rhythm and Be Here Now. As long we’re alive, we never stop learning and I don’t know what future lessons will bring, but right now, I can tell you that if you asked me what I know, I’ll say I know nothing. If you ask me what I’ve learned, I’ll say a lot.

To be continued.

Patterns

Patterns. Seeing patterns for what they are. Allowing the witness to step out of the shadow. Begging the sky to make it stop and allowing myself the one anguished cry, “why?????”

Today I sat by the woodpile and cried. I felt the clouds and sky closing in. I took a deep shuddering breath and let it go and as I slumped against the garage door.

And then a peaceful calm slowly came over me. The whispering in my ear was gentle yet insistent:

“She has other people who live closer that she can call if this was a real problem, a real emergency.”

“She could take a cab.”

“If it snows, we’ll just leave earlier or take a different road.”

“You can’t cure your husband’s cancer.”

And then even more insistent, “You don’t have to solve the problems. You can let it be and see how it rolls out. What would happen if you didn’t try to solve all this? What if you put down the superhero cape and just listened. No one elected you hero.” I winced.

My heartbeat applauded this sudden reveal of the subtlest of subtle patterns that I had on some level, at some time, created and now truly saw for perhaps the first time in my life. The witness kept whispering and the breeze suddenly blew a lover’s kiss upon my cheek, drying my tears.

I stood up, stretched, and looked up to the sky, suddenly feeling lighter with the realization that the answer doesn’t always have to come from me.

Just for today

They say that God only gives you what you can handle. I don’t know how true that is but with recent events, he must sure think I have some pretty big shoulders! I’m one of those people who will get done whatever needs to get done and then collapse afterward. Because of that, I was nicknamed “The Rock” by some friends a few years ago. These days, when someone calls me that, I say right back that even rocks get worn down over time.

While waiting with my elderly mother in the doctor’s office for her to be seen, I was struck by how frail and vulnerable she has become. When did this happen? There comes a time when the roles switch and the parent becomes the child and the child becomes the parent (aka caregiver). This change started for me a few years ago but is rapidly advancing to the point that there is a new problem/situation almost every time she calls. I try to be patient but when it’s the fourth and fifth and sixth time of repeating the same thing within a few minutes of each other, I find my voice rising in frustration and white-hot fear that this cannot be happening. Right here right now right here right now right here right now has become my version of counting to 10 as I shut my eyes against the conversation I don’t want to see, to hear, to have, but I must. Because I am the rock but like a river, my tears are wearing this rock down.

I always feared losing my self, my identity if I had children and I jokingly refer to my 80-year-old mother as my child. As I find myself in this not-asked for caregiver role, I realized that I have indeed lost my identity and my self as I knew me to be….but I am finding a new self and a new identity I never would have known if I wasn’t going through this.  To help speed up the process of roughing up this spiritual piece of coal to a diamond, I am also tending to my husband as he goes through chemotherapy. Off with one caregiver hat and on to another! So while I’m scared and I don’t know what I’m doing, I just repeat right here right now right here right now and am incorporating a write here write now write here write now to bring this diamond in the rough more out into the open and see where this will all bring me.