Friday’s Focus—What’s Eating You? Our Habits Have Become a Bad Habit

Two and half hours of my life I’ll never get back. That’s what happened last week taking my mother to the cardiologist. The waiting room was about the size of my home (yes I live in a small house but bigger than a tiny house!). Scattered throughout the room were brown leather sofas and chairs. The leather furniture certainly raised an eyebrow and the large flat-screen TV mounted in the corner of the room raised the other one. What made my draw drop, however, was that the movie Patriot Games starring Harrison Ford was on. I knew I was in trouble if a doctor was playing full-length feature movies in his waiting room.

Disconcerting as all that was, what made it worse for me was during the entire two plus hours spent in the waiting room, the people who were there had changed but the number of available seats had not. As soon as someone got called in to see the doctor, someone new walked through the front door. I started to wonder if there was a line in the hallway and a neon sign blinking “Next” as soon as there was an empty seat in the doctor’s “theater.”

I’ve never seen so many people gathered in a waiting room before. Without much else to do, I looked around and became riveted by what I saw. Regardless of size, sex, or color, it was clear that these people were not healthy. For some, it was their pallor that gave them away; for others it was the slow shuffle as they were bent over their walker; and others it was just their body shape and overall demeanor. I felt like I was looking at a slice of America and what I saw really disturbed me. We are not a healthy nation.

There’s a constant debate over food and whether it’s organic versus local versus GMO versus cold-pressed versus hydroponic versus whatever else you want it to be. The micro-splitting of what’s coming from where and what may have been in the raindrop that fell on it as it grew is becoming exhausting, and to be honest, a little boring. Of course, I care about the food I eat and the naturalness of it but as the same arguments rage on, I think we are going too far in the wrong direction—we are overly concerned and obsessed over what’s in our foods and the type of foods we put in our bodies rather than what we do with our bodies once the food is in there.

We are a health-obsessed nation and yet our health is still declining because we are a nation not on the move. We are still a sedentary bunch in our cars, our jobs, our evening television watching. Many of us are not eating from our stomachs anymore—we’re eating from our heads and our emotions. I love food as much as the next person, but I think we’ve made food a pastime. Eating is no longer something we do because we’re hungry but it is something we do when we’re bored, upset, angry, happy, celebrating or saying good-bye. Eating has become an event.

We can eat as healthy as we want but if we don’t use our bodies for even the token minimally suggested 30 minutes a day, our sedentariness can be just as deadly as if you ate a full-on “I don’t care what’s it in, just give me more” meal. I really believe it’s this static lifestyle that has become the larger contributing factor to standing room only specialist waiting rooms. If what I saw was only in a cardiologist’s office, I can’t help but wonder how often this scene is replayed in the waiting rooms of  gastrointestinal,  pulmonary, and rheumatology doctor offices.

Our bodies seem to be morphing into softer, rounder shapes than ever before. Look around and you can see how the average person’s body shape has changed. Even people who are not overweight have a changed shape—shoulders are little rounded, neck is bent forward, posture is stooped. There’s more accumulation of softness around the belly area than ever before for both men and women.

The fact that our habits are killing us is nothing new. Being with all those people in the waiting room that day, and hearing the coughs, the wheezes, the heavy breathing I knew that the cardiologists behind those closed doors are going to take their vitals, ask them how they’re doing and refill a prescription. To have a waiting room full of people who are sick due to colds, the flu, or some other kind of virus or malady is one thing but to have a waiting room full of patients who are clearly ill and some who have trouble walking let alone breathing, be there due to preventable issues was unsettling.

Yes, I am generalizing here. I don’t know the history of each person that was sitting there and yes, there are circumstances unique to each individual but I simply do not believe that every one of those people’s issues started out as life-threatening. Cardiovascular diseases can be controlled and prevented. Not everything can be blamed on genetics. It’s the combination of what we do and what we don’t do that is so deadly—food, cigarettes, sitting. This combo is lethal but also preventable. Believe me, today’s Focus is a result of my own struggles and observations—in my life I’ve smoked, drank, eaten when I’m not hungry, and chosen parking spaces closest to the store because I didn’t feel like walking far. Been there and done all that, so believe me when I say I’m not here pointing my finger without knowing full well that there are three fingers pointing right back at me!

The preventability of illness and general malaise never seemed as apparent as it did from that afternoon in the waiting room. Yes, those were two and half hours of my life I will never get back, but I have also spent two and half hours in front of the computer; in my car; watching television that I will never get back either. What about that time? Does that loss of time make it less offensive because I was doing something I enjoyed? Was it only because I was in a place that was not the result of something from my own pleasure did I feel resentment about?

We live at the whim of our own hand and we are becoming victims of our own lifestyle. But to say we’re victims indicates that we have no choice, that our unhealthiness was put upon us by outside forces and to some that may be true—up to a point, but it’s not true for all.

We can read as many diet books and articles on health as we want and it’s terribly easy to say that we will eat better and move more but somehow we always end up starting tomorrow. It took a lot of tomorrow’s for all those people at the cardiologist’s office to get to where they were that day. Don’t wait.

Today’s Friday Focus is about letting today be your tomorrow and changing the full-length movie showings in doctor waiting rooms to 60-second sound bytes instead.

#takingitdeeper

Friday’s Focus—Keeping Prescriptions in Perspective

According to a study by the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation, the total number of prescription drugs filled in the United States alone for the calendar year 2014 was 4,002,661,750 and according to Medscape Medical News the nation’s most prescribed drug is Synthroid (levothyroxine) used to treat hypothyroidism, while the antipsychotic Abilify (aripiprazole), an add-on treatment for adults with depression, had the highest sales.

Western medicine definitely has its place in our health system but I don’t believe it should be the only treatment in our health care system. The use of prescription pills to treat, modify, and control ailments has become the easy go-to for doctors and patients to treat physical and mental problems without much thought given to the underlying symptoms that created the ailment in the first place. But it’s more than that. While many doctors are loose with their prescription pads, we should also consider the patient—us—who have given up our power and in the trust we have given to our modern doctors, blindly take these pills. The same pills that so often do more harm than good with side effects that are often worse than the illness it’s supposed to control or cure!

I’ve seen this happen especially with older adults. The older someone gets, the more prescription bottles line the bathroom shelves. Are they all necessary? Maybe, maybe not. And what happens when the combination of some of those pills create additional side effects that need more medicine to treat them? It just adds another bottle to the shelf.

As prescription use and abuse continues to rise each year, it’s more important than ever to take back control over our choices and our bodies and open our minds to educate ourselves on other ways of healing  (note, I am not saying cure but that can happen) with a more wholesome approach of well-rounded health support that includes dietary changes, movement, and other medicinal opportunities such as Ayurvedic and acupuncture and accupressure. There are certainly things such as hereditary and environmental factors that would be harder to change for a person’s health diagnosis but there are many health issues that can be controlled by ways other than Western medicine alone.

I am not saying that medicines are bad. Quite the opposite. Modern medicine has improved and even saved lives but we have come to a point where we’ve given up our choices and are relying solely on prescription medicines to make us feel better and treat illnesses rather than taking the time to address underlying health issues that are the incubus for what we are feeling. This goes for doctors and patients alike. Using medicine in conjunction with a more natural approach can reduce the amount of time we are on prescription drugs, which in turn reduces the number of side effects endured.

Prescriptions are great. They help and are at times, an absolute necessity to get a body back into a healthy state. But they also should be kept in prescriptive. There are wonderful doctors and nurses out there in the various fields of medicine, but I think we forget that they are human, too, and not all-knowing gods in white coats and stethoscope. And in reality, there are some who are too quick to write a script rather than initiate a deeper look as to the causes of illnesses. On the other hand, we, as their patients have to take things deeper and refocus on our own health and what may be causing our illness rather than focusing exclusively on what the doctor said. I strongly believe in getting a medical diagnosis if you’re feeling unwell, however, it’s what happens after that and what we do with that diagnosis is up to us—how much control are we willing to give to the drug companies and what we are wiling to change to feel better, which in turn will give us a better quality  of life?

Faith is a wonderful thing but not when it is blind. We have become a society that too easily settles for Big Pharma. I have seen first hand what happens when we settle for what we’re told and I’ve seen first hand when control over our bodies is taken back into our own hands.

Friday’s Focus, and in fact, an everyday focus is to keep our prescription in perspective.

Keep taking it deeper!

Friday’s Focus—Disowning Illness

Words are power. Each word you think, each word you say has an energy and carries a vibration. In some cultures and tribes it is believed that negative thoughts directed at another person is the equivalent to throwing daggers at their etheric energy level, creating real-world illness and disharmony.

When we are ill, we don’t think twice about saying my ulcer, my depression, my diabetes, my cancer. We essentially lay ownership to the illness that is affecting our body and mind, identifying with it as being us. But the illness is not us. It is something that is happening to us and should be regarded as such and treated as something separate.

Instead of using “my” when describing an illness or medical situation, create some distance and instead try referring to it as the cells, the [insert name of disease], or this feeling. Give the energy of your attention, your words, and your thoughts to yourself and not to the malaise you may be dealing with.

When you identify with the self and not the illness or the diagnosis, it is in this space that healing can truly begin.

Have a good weekend!
Singing LiLoLa [Live, Love, Laugh] all the way…

 

Doctor Doctor, Give Me the News–I Have a Bad Attitude

I have to say that though I understand, I don’t like the way some people wear their illnesses like a badge of honor. Having been diagnosed with an illness does not give someone carte blanche to be rude, brash, nor arrogant. Some people give off a sense of entitlement that somehow came along with their doctor’s prescription for treatment. A perfect example of this is a woman I met yesterday.

She was having her eighth and final chemotherapy treatment before going into surgery next month. From the moment she sat down in the waiting room and well into her treatment she did not stop talking about her illness, how she was going to cut people from her life because since being diagnosed they didn’t ask how she was doing. She even admitted that she stopped speaking to her son because he did not ask her soon enough (for her opinion) how she was feeling. They are still not speaking to this day. And yet, she kept saying what a happy person she is and has been through the entire treatment. She even went so far as to say, “I don’t like people who are not happy. What have they got to be unhappy about? I have cancer and I’m a happy person.” I bit my lip when I heard that and refused to look up from my iPad to even give any sort of acknowledgment to one of the most outrageous statements I’ve ever heard.

I believe that illnesses happen to not only get our attention to something that has gone remiss in the body, but also, sometimes, it is the universe’s way of forcing a redirect of our life. I’ve known people who hide behind their illnesses and use them as a way to get what they want from other people, via sympathy, or attention, and get out of doing things they don’t want to do. Maybe having a diagnosis and an illness is giving them a voice for the first time in their lives or perhaps, it is giving them justification for stepping back and away from jobs, people, friends, family–sometimes life itself. I get that. But my problem are with those people who feel entitled to bully because they wear the cape of cancer, or arthritis, or whatever.

While I admired this woman’s resiliency and her can-do attitude, she made me angry and sorry for her at the same time. Her energy of “Look at me and what I’m going through” was invasive and filled the room. Sometimes an illness is a wake up call for someone to find their own voice or empowerment, and sometimes people miss the message. I remember when I had cervical cancer many years ago, a month after I was diagnosed with anorexia. Feeling brazen, with both barrels loaded, early on, I was almost daring people and circumstances to contradict me because I was harboring feelings of “Oh yeah? Well I have cancer and anorexia, so I can do and say what I want. What are you going to do about it?” As shocked as I was to feel those things within myself, I quickly reigned them in and shook them off because they were ugly feelings of entitlement that I knew didn’t belong and definitely wasn’t who I really was. Thankfully with incredible support, I got over it—the illnesses and the attitude!

I applaud everyone who has beaten an illness or is fighting against one and I am sorry that people have to suffer, but it’s when people use that suffering or illness and turn it to a dishonest crutch or battering ram, I can’t help but feel sorry for them because people like that will never truly heal and are missing the whole point of what an illness can really teach them.

Blogging From A to Z: Near Life Experiences (NLE)

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Have you ever had a Near Life Experience (NLE)? I bet you have and if you haven’t, you probably know someone who has. I know I’ve had it. The opposite of a Near Death Experience (NDE), an NLE is a situation where someone almost lives. Instead of sincerely living life and being awake in its moments, they live life based upon the opinions and judgments of others and not their own experiences.

Many of us are sleepwalking through our lives. There is a Zen blogger who wrote about succumbing to NLE’s and described it as not living in the moment and being distracted by our own preoccupations. I completely agree with her but I also want to take the concept of an NLE deeper and a little sideways. I believe NLE’s also means that we have designed our conclusions about life and what it should be based on what we see on TV or read in newspapers and magazines. We are so quick to judge and form an opinion but how much of it is really our opinion and not one parroted by the more popular consensus?

When do we stop designing our opinions according to the latest news or stories in the magazine or newspaper? I’m including myself in this observation of following the crowd. I know I do, but I’m breaking free of it by forming and voicing my own opinions through my writing and art and really looking at things beyond face value. Waking up from an NLE doesn’t have to always mean taking your views publically like I have, but you can clearly show it by being an example. And yes, it can be scary!

Someone I know recently said that life has a habit of prompting us to act and many times it is through illness or a traumatic event. This prompt does not have to be life-threatening event but enough of one to threaten an existing quality of life. With a direct impact immanent, we snap out of our doze and begin to take an active role in our lives and find the courage to voice our particular opinions and beliefs. We begin to live according to our life’s voice and not the voices of others.

Don’t let illness or traumatic event become the motivator. Getting out of our NLE’s doesn’t mean extreme acts such as planning a pilgrimage to Tibet or hiking Kilimanjaro (unless you want it to be!), but it does mean stepping out of our comfort zones and not being afraid to form our own opinions and beliefs. Yes, it takes courage, but it is so worth it as I am learning while I continue to wake up to life and take things deeper. Join me!

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.