Monday, December 21, 2015

Taking the NEXT STEP

I "run" marathons and train for them daily but not the kind you may think.   My daily struggle as a chronic migraineur with its many symptoms, triggers, and pain makes me feel as though my days are just one long race of endurance after another.   The importance of trying to maintain as much of a healthy lifestyle balanced in body, mind, and spirit is essential to me and to those for whom I love and care.   As I was never athletic per say, I did engage in sports activities and did learn the valuable lessons of preparing my body for what it needed to participate in each activity of physical endurance.  So, those lessons have served me well for just a time as this.  

I find it takes me a great deal of mental energy, never mind the physical, to just put my feet on the floor some days especially after repeated nights of painsomnia and the like.  Sometimes just mustering up the courage to start the day all over again knowing I will be very medicated and sick and barely functioning can take every ounce of emotional bravery.  But then, I say my prayers, and I start to breathe in the light of the new day's grace, and I give thanks and begin again...not refreshed, but anew.

I put my little feet on the floor (possibly stumbling) and take JUST THE NEXT STEP.  One step. Then I take another...and another...and another... Before I know it, I have changed positions, possibly rooms, maybe taken nourishment, at least maneuvered to my favorite brown couch, and made an attempt to embrace the day with all it has to offer in whatever state of health I find myself.  I feel old, frail, lost, beaten down, sad, but taking the NEXT STEP moves me forward in some kind of positive direction and still gives me a sense of purpose and accomplishment no matter how small it may seem.  

I can get easily overwhelmed with my daily "new normal" a lot.  Yep---I feel out of control and defeated and frustrated when I only focus on the big picture.  The thing is, I realize that focusing too far ahead with all of its unknowns and what if's just doesn't serve me well.   Reflecting on taking just the NEXT STEP helps me realize how valuable staying in the present moment really is.  Sitting in the moment after I have taken the next step offers time for me to see where I am, where I have been, and where I might like to go next.  I don't always feel "comfortable" in that sitting, but that is okay.  I am also learning it is okay to NOT be okay.  All will pass eventually and time moves on.  I will trust in the Lord in my sitting. 

This week is the last week before Christmas.  I absolutely LOVE this last week of Advent and its final period of waiting.  It has the most meaning to my heart and soul.  I plan to walk it out purposefully and carefully and prayerfully just taking the NEXT STEP and reflecting on the real meaning of the Incarnation.  

Mary and Joseph traveled with much uncertainty and fatigue, I imagine, waiting to find a birthplace for our Savior only to keep being told there was no room in the Inn.   They kept journeying one step at a time until they were blessed with a humble stable surrounded by animals and love in which Jesus could come down to earth into our sufferings and messes and redeem us.  If the Holy Family can travel and TRUST by taking just the NEXT STEP in front of them, then so can I.  

Friday, December 4, 2015

Waiting is so hard sometimes

Here we find ourselves in the beginning of the Advent Season.  For Christians, it is a special, liturgical season when we prepare our hearts for the Incarnation.  It is a most sacred time of interior reflection as well as practicing "waiting".

I don't know about you, but I am not especially gifted with patience and waiting under certain circumstances.  That being said, the more I pray for the opportunity to increase in virtue, the more the good Lord sees fit to answer my requests!  Ouch!  As "they" say, be careful what you pray for.  LOL.

My first week of Advent was mostly spent tethered to my couch or the bed trying to cope with yet another migraine marathon of epic proportion which unleashed its reign of terror on my body for days and nights on end.  Waiting was the only thing (besides begging and praying ) that I could actually do.  I sure had other plans for that first week---like decorating just a bit, looking up some fun cookie recipes, getting some organization to my Christmas lists, and preparing for an upcoming trip for the holidays to visit family, to name just a few.  But, no, my body and its illness had other plans.

So, my waiting began...
wait for the meds to work
wait for the time to take the next dose
wait to be able to open my eyes enough to see where I am going
wait for the passing of the many awful neurological symptoms to abate enough to even move
wait for my husband to come home from work to help me in my fragile state

and on and on the waiting went...  minutes seemed like hours and days were lost.

All the while I waited, I definitely prayed and prayed hard.  I actually did reflect a lot about Advent and how Mary must have felt as she waited those months and days before giving birth to our Savior and then waiting for a place to even labor and bring Jesus into this world.

My struggles are teaching me valuable lessons on waiting.  Waiting can be productive and redemptive if I allow it.  Waiting slows me down and teaches me to live with a more purposeful and intentional mindset.  While I do still pray for healing and certainly much better management of my current chronic conditon,  I am always amazed at my ongoing transformation in the journey.

Even if you are not celebrating Christmas due to your own background and tradition, can you still find value in waiting through your own struggles?  Is waiting easy or hard for you?  Maybe helping someone else who might be having a hard time waiting for one reason or another right now would be a great gift to offer this time of year.  Any easing of suffering in the waiting, I can assure you, would be a most generous gift of the heart.

    I decided to call my new orchid  "Advent Orchid" as it started to 
    bloom while I waited.  It bloomed patiently and silently.
    I love learning from Mother Nature as well. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Pursuing Peace

I would venture to guess that the topic of "peace" has been on the hearts and minds of many of us recently.   Our world is unraveling at alarming and scary depths right before our eyes.  It seems hard to even catch our breath and try to comprehend even a small bit of it.  I, myself, am in disbelief at the sick, twisted evil that reigns in people's hearts.   How could things get SO BAD?  We could go on asking a million questions and looking for a millions answers,...but...

One great grace that comes from my personal trial that I am managing is the amount of alone and quiet time which allows me the space to "pursue peace".  God has already GIVEN me His Peace as a gift, but I still must pursue it daily so that I can choose to "live it out" for the world around me.  It is a choice. 

 Just like being thankful is a choice.  I can LIVE thankfully or not.   I am grateful for the many blessings God bestows upon me each and everyday and this beautful, albeit broken, world.  I pray my choices and actions reveal my path to peace and gratitude.  

The Simple Path----Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

The fruit of silence is
The fruit of prayer is 
The fruit of faith is
The fruit of love is 
The fruit of service is 

     Holy Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us.  

Saturday, November 14, 2015

From Whoo Hoo! to Boo Hoo!

I am just coming through one of my VERY rough weeks of relentless ICK!!  The weather up here in New England, although beautiful in the Fall, has really done a number on me.  The continual fluctuations of pressure, temps, humidity, and winds are just a brutal combination of triggers for a chronic migraineur.  I was flat out for an entire week and no amount of meds or extra self-care were helping much.  It was a battle of endurance.  Day by day.  Minute by minute.  As I usually describe my situation to many, it is like trying to tread water in the very stormy seas with waves crashing and barely being able to catch a breath or even see the shore up ahead.  Feeling scared and in pain and discouraged just adds to my continual loss of control which leaves me frazzled and fragile to say the least.  

Just last week I blogged about celebrating BETTER days.  Yay!   Woo Hoo!  And celebrate I did!  But this past week quickly turned from Woo Hoo to Boo Hoo.  They were not some of my finer moments, I tell you.  My saint of a husband patiently guided me through each stormy day even working from home when necessary to care for me.  GOD BLESS HIM.  We have learned over the years to manage and constantly find new ways to cope together.  Our faith is growing deeper, and we are truly leaning into the loving arms of Christ to hold us and speak His wisdom into our hearts.  

I am still treading the stormy seas... the waves are calming down a bit at least for today.  However, when I surface each time, I usually look like the "drowned cat"!!  

I am weary in body and mind, but my spirit remains peaceful and calm.  I am continually finding renewed strength in the Lord.  I am clinging to Jesus and His promise of  "Do not be afraid."  

Whatever particular stormy seas you are trying to tread presently, keep your head above water and keep going!  Allow whatever faith brings meaning to you, sustain and bring you strength. 

Just remember, cats have nine lives!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Botox = Better

Poke.  Pinch.  Sting.  OUCH!   Ah, yes, the glorious feeling of 31 botox injections given to me at specific landmarks in my head and neck for treatment of my chronic migraines.  Fun. Fun. Fun. I have completed two rounds, three months apart as per protocol, and when asked how I am feeling, my response is "Botox = Better."   This is a completely honest statement.  Compared to my daily state of chronic pain and debilitation especially over the past two years, I am definitely feeling BETTER.   My doctors and I think maybe I am headed in the right direction for managing my chronic condition.   Having Botox on board along with a whole host of other tools in my tool chest, I am feeling positive and hopeful!  Every little sign of relief is a breath of fresh air.

Of course, Botox can have its "funnies" surrounding it too.  When I tell people I am receiving treatments, I now know of practically ALL the women who are getting it for cosmetic purposes---shhhh---I won't disclose your names!  They act like it is a major sin for Pete sake.  If you feel better getting "de-wrinkled", then by all means, have at it!  Hey, I am looking forward to the benefits myself. LOL!  However, other than erasing a few lines on my forehead, the rest of the areas are not visible.  Oh well, just my luck.  That being said, Botox can bring humor in addition to the ouchies.

When reflecting on this theme of Botox = better, I dug a little deeper into what it means to just feel BETTER.  I am SO grateful for my better days.  They allow me to participate in my own life and give me back some of ME again.   I am not sure if I will ever feel "well", per say, because I just have too many strange symptoms in addition to pain.  The overwhelming fatigue and fog I try and walk or crawl through each day cannot be adequately described.  But, if some of my days can allow me to feel BETTER, then I am going to celebrate!!  

A few of my friends have some serious, chronic health issues with which they struggle daily in a most heroic way, and we share our journeys together.  Part of that sharing recently made me think of how we should at least be grateful and celebrate our "better days."     Yay!!  It might seem odd at first, but I think it is worth a try.  Often times we wait for our situations to be fixed and all better and good before we offer gratitude.  

I am blessed to live near the beach. On my better days, my sweet hubby and I enjoy boardwalk strolls in the evenings. The ocean brings peace and calm to our souls.  I look forward to this simple activity that binds us deeper together as a couple.  We walk.  We smile.  We breathe in the breath of God. We are filled with His Grace to continue on and look forward to BETTER days ahead.  

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

"NO" for now.

Remember as a kid much of growing up felt like those in authority around us were always imposing the big "NO"?  I felt that way.  No to this, no to that, no going here, no going there, no it isn't safe, no it isn't the right time, etc etc.  Sometimes life seemed more about what I couldn't do than what I could do, and somehow that really dampened my sense of adventure and even curiosity as to the possibilities of "YES".   This brings me to where I find myself a lot of the time today.  The looming NO festers and frustrates me to the point of my feeling small and insignificant.  Over the course of my illness with all of its limitations, I have been opressed with NO.   I can no longer enjoy some of my favorite physical activities like taking long walks, hiking in various terrains, and enjoying my beloved Irish step dancing.  I can't eat certain foods.  I can't stay up late or sleep in because if I mess up my routine, I am sure to pay the price.  Going to concerts with loud music and bright, strobing lights is out for sure. Even the movie theater experience is pretty much off limits except for a rare occasion.  You get the idea.  But most importantly, it is the people to whom I have to say NO that hurts the most.   Forever cancelling plans or asking kindly to see if they can be rearranged at the ninth hour is an all too familiar scenerio.   My dear family and closest friends "get it" and cheer me on and work with my ongoing limitations, but this gets old. I feel like a big disappointment and wet blanket to those I love.  However, my lovely and wise cranial sacral therapist reminded me to put it in the perspective of "NO, for now."   What a difference three words can mean---  NO.FOR.NOW.   Let's look at it one day at a time and go from there.  My days might not forever be filled with so many limitations and NO's.  It just seems so during this present time of struggle. 

This journey is teaching me about patience.  Is this an understatement or what?  How can I be more gentle and kind to myself?  When is it necessary to take an account of how I am truly feeling and impose a self-made NO?  There are times when my body either physically, mentally, or emotionally simply cannot carry on with what is being asked of it, and so, the only sensible and compassionate response is NO to anything further.  Simple.  Absolutely not!!  However, I am a work in progress through God's Grace.  The amazing and beautiful unfolding of actually choosing NO is that I am realizing it gives room for a greater opportunity for YES!  How cool is that?  I can enjoy another event or outing or some form of physical exercise if I allow myself to say NO when my body needs me to in response to a hard day. 

You may be in the midst of grieving over a loved one, caring for a sick or dying loved one, dealing with grave financial concerns, living in chronic pain and or depression, or any number of life issues that are burdening you with many NO's right now.  I understand how utterly devastating that can feel.  I would suggest trying to look at the perspective of "No for now" and breathe deeply and slowly.  Take it one day or one moment at a time and be gentle with yourself. Be open to accepting help if offered from someone who is trying to lighten your load because it could allow space for the greater 
hope of a YES.  Besides, it provides others the beautiful opportunity to offer their gifts in time of need.  

 Try and look forward to the next YES that God has ready for you just around the corner.  It is an exciting YES!  He loves us and wants to bless us.  

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Meningitis, migraines, meds, mayhem, and me

The title just about sums up part of my story for the past five years.  Since my diagnosis of a serious form of meningitis and shingles became part of my life, I have been suffering with the fallout, so to speak.  I struggle with chronic, debilitating migraines, extreme fatigue, and a whole host of symptoms that are associated with an overly-sensitized central nervous system which doesn't function with ease in the real world anymore.  I now live each day with a brand "new normal."   Sights, sounds, smells, weather, foods, etc. all produce a variety of triggers that can send me down a slippery slope of enjoying my life one minute to becoming disabled in pain and full of meds the next.  Believe me, it is not a pretty thing.  Not only have I had to learn to adapt and adjust and ACCEPT this crazy new normal, so have my dear family and friends.  Without such an AMAZING support system at my side, I would not be coping-----or blogging!  LOL.  

As I wrote in my first entry---Life is hard.  Life is messy.  Life is beautiful.  There are days when I feel totally and completely overwhelmed by my mess.  I can't just take a pill and move on with my life.  It is not that simple.  I suffer a lot of nasty side effects from my meds, and I push through as best I know how.  Not only do I physically have complications, but emotionally I feel fragile.  I have fallen into times of dimness and even darkness wondering how I will ever have the energy to navigate this long term.  My life as I once knew it and lived it, is gone.  I was a spunky, care-free, wife and mother who was very involved in the life of her family, school, church, and community at large.  Since I am a nurse by training, I was used to be an active "doer" and "fixer".  I thrived on activities and involvement.  That all gave me self-worth and certainly fed my ego.    Gulp.   Here comes the beautiful part of my story.  Slowly, and I mean SLOWLY God is transforming me from finding my self-worth in "doing" into simply just "being".   I am learning on a daily basis that there is so much beauty that comes with active being.  It is peaceful if I allow God's Grace to settle in my soul and surrender my every moment to Him. He is opening up a new way of living to me that is more contemplative in nature.  I probably would not have explored this lifestyle had I not found myself living with this chronic condition.  I know I still have something to offer to people that may not involve "doing" or "fixing".    It is not about me.  It is about God's work through me.  I try to live out each day with a peaceful and prayerful presence that will accomplish His work in whatever little way I have to offer.  

This week I had the rare opportunity of a short 24hr get-a-way with my loving hubby to go leaf peeping in Sturbridge, Mass.  God blessed me with enough energy and a clear enough head to enjoy some time out of the house.  Spontaneity is the name of the game for me most of the time, but it, too, comes with a price.  For instance, in order to prepare to leave for our little adventure for just an overnight, the shopping list of my emergency migraine kit that must accompany me at all times is about a mile long.  I have learned over the years to have my supplies of medicines and comfies and food and drink all basically ready in one place to make a get-a-way even possible.  Then there is the hotel room.  It must be free of smells.  Do they use carpet and or room fresheners?  I cannot tolerate smoke either.  Eating out at restaurants is very tricky.  Many foods set me off with unknown ingredients.  Is the place crowded?  Music too loud?  The real biggie is the ladies room---you guessed it---the awful glade plug ins that just about send me to an ER!  Have you ever tried to hold your breath for the length of time you are in a restroom?  Yikes!!  Either way I can almost pass out.  Gift shops and lovely boutiques are fun when they don't have 100 scented candles or soaps or perfumes everwhere out on display.  I do A LOT of window shopping by default.  LOL.  Let's just say that I was bombarded with a plethora of "smellies" on our little trip, but I was vigilant about self care and managed to dodge bullets so as not to have our sweet hours of couple time sabatoged.  My loving husband of 27 years deserves a medal of honor for taking such good care of me each and everyday without hesitation or complaint.  I am grateful beyond words.  God continually blesses us both abundantly as we learn to see each other in a different light.  I am humbled by receiving his tender care.  He is humbled as he watches me suffer with my affliction.  

I don't know where you are on your journey or what struggles you may be facing, but I hope you will search for some beauty in the midst of the hard and messy, at least for today.  The attitude of gratittude really does go a long way to finding true JOY.  

Friday, October 16, 2015

Everyone has a story

As the saying goes, "Everyone has a story."  Yes.  So true.  All our stories are unique and give meaning to life while here on earth.    When we share our stories with one another, we can find a common bond that helps hold us together as we journey through life.  I think this bond is called HOPE.  Without it, we simply cannot live.  Our purpose fades.  HOPE gives us the energy to wake up, get up, and show up for our lives day after day after day.  So, in the midst of my daily struggles and messes and quest for re-purposing my life as a middle-aged woman with a newly diagnosed chronic illness, I thought maybe having the courage to share "my story" would offer HOPE to at least one other individual on this planet. 

My story is just that.  My story.  It has many of the same characteristics as does yours, I am sure.  It involves struggles, achievements, highs, lows, doubt, faith, pain, healing, darkness, light, loneliness, and love just to mention a few.  Hopefully, our stories will connect on some level that might offer insights as to how we can move forward in our daily living, especially in those times when we may be feeling small or just plain stuck in a rut.  Life is messy.  Life is hard.  Life is beautiful.  When we can journey together and open our hearts in an authentic way, the beautiful part becomes more apparent and, perhaps, the hard and messy can be easier to bear.  

I wish to tell my story and write my blogs through the lens of my life long faith while embracing the glorious mystery of God's Grace.