As I age with M.E.

In my forties I was moving forward fulfilling my drive to be a community organizer/communicator/coach (my day job) and also a screenwriter (a remnant of my earlier training and work as a stage actor). Being there for my grown children and reveling in the bliss of holding my grandchildren was a part of growing old that I welcomed along with coloring books, card games and baking sessions where I’d let them lick the spoon. 

Getting older was to be a time when laughter would come more easily as I learned to not take myself so seriously, to go with the flow, to explore new ways of enjoying life. I dreamed of finally pitching my screenplay to an interested and able producer, I dreamed of taking my grand-kids out for ice cream and engaging in general silliness that parents don’t always have time to indulge. Taking road trips, mini-vacations, going to lunch with friends, having folks over for potluck dinners, visiting museums in the city, witnessing graduations; all that seemed pretty tame and within reach during my golden years. The only extravagant item on my bucket list was to spend a week in New York and see a few Broadway plays. OK, a really extravagant dream was to visit Harry Potter World. Apparently, one can get old and remain a nerd! 

Illness has been a big part of my daily life for nearly two decades and at 64 years old, I have had to let go of the dreams I had for myself. The journey of reconciliation with life in a body that aged way before its time is not an easy one. After experiencing the known stages of grief over several years, I came out the other side feeling weaker and more physically fragile than I could have imagined.

The most difficult part of aging with ME is that loved ones become accustomed to my not feeling well. This of course, because they have no idea just how desperately ill I really am.  It is my doing, I know, because they never see me when I’m actually bed bound. Having to be “my own doctor” is another reality that becomes harsher as I age. This, because actual doctors with diplomas on their office walls have no idea of how desperately ill I am! NOT my doing but what can I do but go on as best I can? I endlessly research and participate in raising awareness in the hope that more people will put pressure on governments to allocate funds for medical research aimed at finding a cure (or even adequate treatments) for this Dragon.

Getting older when one is ill requires increasing help from family, friends and the community. Isolation makes getting help for daily needs more difficult in this day and age. It’s easy to let fear point to a not so distant future where I will be unable to care for myself—at all. I don’t want to look that far ahead, so I work everyday to look at this present day alone. No further.

To me, aging with ME means to simply, in the words of the Beatles: Let It Be.  I’ve let go of expectations from myself and from others. The best person to care for my heart and soul is me, and I believe that choosing to let things and people “be” is a good way to feel at peace with what is. After all, what is the point of getting old if one doesn’t allow wisdom to grow, to make us stronger in the face of adversity and to serenely welcome the uncertainty that is life? Isn’t it fascinating that most of us seniors have discovered that we don’t have all the answers, unlike when we were younger adults?

As I age with ME, I feel free to not know who I am or what role I am supposed to fill. I’m content to just be the best version of myself. When I can.

See you on the path of healing and beyond,

Marianne

Image: pexels.com

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The Colors of Perception

Experiencing chronic illness for almost two decades provides a person with the luxury of time for giving much thought to the meaning of life, relationships and the world. Somewhere between a nasty flu and imminent death is a space where I live my life every day, year after year, never getting “over it”. As I witness the world around me from this vantage point, I learn how few things we really need to just be, to just live.

Long ago, I decided to let the emotions I experience manifest themselves without judging whether I should or shouldn’t be feeling the way I do. I am not a negative person when I’m feeling frustrated and this frustration doesn’t take away anything from who I am. I am not a positive person when I’m feeling empathy; it is just another facet of my being. Any heart can hold the entire universe if it so wishes.

I recently became aware that several emotions, for lack of a better word, live side by side in the deepest recesses of my heart. In daily existence, we are subjected to feelings that are the result of our thought process, which defines what is acceptable to us, what is “good” or “bad”. All this, based on our perception of the world according to our individual experience. 

There are many people out there who want us to think that “negative” emotions can be expulsed from our being through a myriad of techniques and that the “positive” can grow to fill our heart with bliss, leaving no room for the nasty stuff.  I beg to differ with this over simplistic view of our inner universe. I have known people who proclaim that they are “pure joy”. Joy, joy, joy is their perceived personal identity until… you do or say something that offends them. These days, it’s easy to offend. 

If you prefer one political view to another, or you pray to a God differently from another, you love differently, you prefer the city to the country, or you’re vegan …, our differences are endless so you’re very likely to offend someone, especially those who pride themselves in being joy incarnated. They are first to shut you out of their life because you’re, well, negative, resentful, even disrespectful. This is strange to me because I am in fact the same person who was so lovable until I expressed something that was not shared by such a joyful, dare I say, “friend”.

It is a challenge to face such situations while remaining aware that each of us sees the world as we are and not as it actually is. To be honest, I cringe when I see hostile comments about a group of people who think differently from another group. How can we possibly know an entire group when we can barely penetrate the inner world of one single individual, even if that individual is our self?

Am I joy? Yes. Your life choices may affect how I momentarily perceive joy, if you hurt me or give me a loving hug, but what lives in my heart doesn’t depend on what views you express. If I embrace my own opinions or emotions as unique then there’s nothing preventing me from seeing your views as an expression of your own unique life experience. 

The human heart can paint the world in colors that can create rainbows of joy or dissolve into dark pools of sorrow. We are the masters of all that we hold in our heart and our canvas spreads farther than we can ever imagine. Kindness has a nice color, don’t you think?

See you on the path of healing and beyond,

Marianne

The end of Blissful Unawareness

This is the life!

I stretch my whole body with delight.

I don’t have a care in the world because I deserve this.

I matter.

I am important.

I’ve suffered enough.

I put myself first.

I don’t care about politics.

I don’t know who shot whom on this day.

Is the earth burning or freezing?

I don’t want to think about that.

I just want to feel good.

Two more species have gone extinct today?

Don’t know.

Some idiot’s hand is caressing a nuclear weapon launch sequence button?

Makes no difference to me.

Not my problem.

A nice steward brings me lemonade.

Lunch is coming soon.

This is so enjoyable!

Frightened children are starving?

That’s nothing new.

Desperately ill people are homeless, you say.

Sleeping in their car, you say.

There’s nothing I can do about it.

I can’t help.

I do what is right for me.

If I don’t take care of myself, no one will.

Let’s just enjoy the day.

Forget about everything else.

I love this deck chair.

So cozy, so comfy.

Let others worry about the world.

The sun soothes my light-starved skin. Hungering for fresh air, I take in as much of it as my lungs will allow. Every time I exhale renews a sense of freedom within me. Eyes closed behind my sunglasses, I can see the shimmering waters play with the sun as they morph into a myriad of delightful colors and shapes. My brow is relaxed and the few drops of sweat my skin exudes are just enough to be refreshing.

Yes, this is the life.

No point in feeling sorry for anybody.

I deserve the best and I’ve got it right here on the TITANIC.


May compassion win out over selfishness and may Love heal our World in time.

Marianne


How to Tame your Dragon/ Part 10 of 10: DEPENDENCE

OCT18 Dependence

In this series, I have addressed the most common challenges to our sense of well-being. I had in mind the notion that we have a say in how we manage our daily life in more ways than meet the eye. While many of us are faced with various degrees of health issues, we can still be empowered to look within for ways to stay peaceful and calm throughout a difficult journey. I’m the first to admit that this is not something instantly achieved; it takes practice and patience but it can be done.

I hope you experiment with all ten parts and learn what works best for you when the going gets tough.

How do you tame a Dragon?

One step at a time!

 

Real problem #10: Dependence

When the term dependence is used, we usually think of addiction. For example, one can be dependent on drugs to relieve chronic pain or anxiety but that does not necessarily make one an addict. It is when people become dependent on their job, their opinions or their lifestyle that they are thrown off-balance and distressed when these are disregarded or taken away.

Because of serious chronic illness we, sooner or later, are dependent on people for practical help; that’s a given. But when our relationships with friends and family are damaged because of an emotional dependence, when we need so badly that we forget to simply love people for who they are, unrealistic expectations arise and we often get hurt. The fact is that as much as we live in isolation and pain, even the people who love us have a life of their own and we are not always on their radar.

Dragon taming step #10: Take a Break

It is with good reason that our life is centered around illness (the Dragon) and all the symptoms that weigh so heavily on our body and our heart. We are not being selfish when we make our health a priority and we have no reason for feeling guilty when we ask for help; we’re doing the best we can with a tremendously challenging lifestyle that leaves little to no room for frivolity.

With that in mind, I submit to you that from time to time, it really would be beneficial to switch things around. How about – if only in your imagination – walking a mile in someone else’s shoes? Thinking about a loved one’s own struggles to make a good life for themselves allows us to take a vacation from our sorrows and fill our heart with understanding compassion. Are they going on a trip? Go with them in spirit and rejoice in their good fortune!

Another way to shake dependence is to change our habits or modify our daily schedule. I used to take a 10-minute walk with my dog after my afternoon nap. I realized it was becoming a chore, so I decided to take her out before napping although my energy level is lower. Turns out I feel more relaxed that way; I take deep breaths and enjoy being outdoors so that when I get to bed, I have a feeling of satisfaction.

Without noticing at first, habits can enslave us to the point of feeling depressed. Many of us already have a very limited view of the outside world and it is no surprise when cabin fever sets in. Our social interactions may be limited to social media – as wonderful as it is to have friends there – but we greatly benefit in so many ways from actual contacts with other humans. Instead of letting habits and traditions imprison us, why not use them to free ourselves ?

Each summer, a couple of old friends of mine drive a fair distance to meet up in a restaurant for breakfast. We usually met at 9:30 and had a good time. But this year, I just couldn’t do it. The idea of getting dressed early and sitting in a restaurant for an hour or so was too much for me. I recently decided to tell them that next time they’re up in my neck of the woods, they could simply call and drop by for a cup of Tea. If I’m lying down on the couch in my pajamas, who cares? I don’t have to be a “hostess”; they can even make their own cup of Tea! I get to see my friends and that’s what matters.

One step at a time, a little tweak here and there, and we can begin to let those little changes make life sweeter. Getting through the day is a struggle; we know better than anyone that we deserve to be gentle and kind to our self.

See you on the path of healing and beyond,

Marianne

I am the author of the self-help memoir:

Higher Maintenance, Managing the Dragon that is Chronic Illness – Transcending Limiting Beliefs – And Finding Happiness in the Moment

To read an excerpt and reviews, as well as order the book from your favorite vendors, please visit mariannegranger.com

For your convenience, my blogs are in audio on my website!

Thank you.

How to tame your Dragon Part 9 of 10/ STUBBORNNESS

stubborn-people

These real “problems” (i.e. opportunities for growth) I’ve covered in this series, and the solutions I suggested are signposts for you to consider as you strive to enhance your unique abilities to lift your spirit and general wellness. This next one is probably the opposite of the last topic we covered.

 

Real problem #9: Stubbornness

Hmm. I think it’s fair to say that a great many of us experience a bout of this every now and then. It is a time when we dig our heels and refuse to even consider that a situation could actually be different than what we perceive it to be.

Stubbornness can be more consistent when one becomes incapable of re-evaluating a situation or a statement that we disagree with. In a case such as this, changing our mind is out of the question, and forget about admitting that we were wrong!

Dragon taming step #9: Wisdom and humility

The adage that the definition of insanity is to insist on taking the same road heading for the same disaster could probably be applied to a lifelong refusal to expand one’s perspective.

Here are a few ways to break free from stubbornness:

  1. Developing a healthy curiosity
  2. Searching for new information
  3. Broadening our horizon every day
  4. Staying alert and mindful to be flexible
  5. Becoming more open to other points of view
  6. Exploring our creativity

When presented with a different point of view or facing circumstances that are new and perhaps a bit uncomfortable, instead of resisting, we can make a minor adjustment and map out a trajectory that will bring us a feeling of peace and well being. If you deem some situation as unacceptable, then it is your right to speak your mind or take whatever action is appropriate for you. But once that’s done, you have a responsibility to yourself, to your health, and only you have the power to regain your sense of calm.

When all is said and done, it is better to admit that we were wrong than to live with the stress of trying to prove we are right. A little humble pie never hurt anyone!

 

See you on the path of healing and beyond,

Marianne

How to Tame your Dragon/Part 8 of 10, Self Doubt

Snoopy et Woodstock

I think it’s important to once again, make the distinction between life situations and real problems: We can’t avoid life situations; everyone’s got one after another all through life.

Most people believe that if only they would solve the problems in their life, all would be wonderful. For some it’s lack of money, lack of time or lack of communication in their relationships that stand in the way of their happiness. The list is long. For those of us living with chronic illness it’s likely that our issues are being unable to take part in a work we enjoy, a social life, a love life, engaging with our family or anyone for that matter. They could come from being in pain, bed-bound, housebound, or barely functioning in the outside world.

In the past few months, we’ve looked at some real problems that we can overcome because they are within. These real “problems” (i.e. opportunities for growth) and the solutions I suggest are ideas for you to consider as you strive to lift your spirit and general wellness.

 

Real problem #8: Self Doubt

When we doubt our self, we keep our true nature hidden for fear of being exposed as incompetent or worse, as a fraud. I’ve received a couple of unkind comments after publishing Higher Maintenance in 2016 and since beginning these self-help blogs. One person asked me how I could call myself a Life Coach. She wanted to know what right I have to tell her how to live her life since I had no idea what her life is. Although I explained that my (pre-illness) professional work never involved telling people how to live their life and even gave her my credentials, she was very critical of me. Although constructive criticism is always a good thing, one can sense when it’s just plain unkind.

This type of experience is often a trigger for our insecurities confirming that, in fact, we’re not that good at what we do or do not do. In those times, I find that I have difficulty affirming myself and can’t find the courage to take action or to go on with what I thought was right for me.

Have you noticed how adept we are at questioning our own abilities, our talents, our opinions or our behavior? That little voice asking: “Who do you think you are?” can be persistent and over time, we may perceive its rants as truth.

 

Dragon taming step #8: Take Action

What makes you special? Well, for one, thing, YOU are the #1 expert on your life. You call the shots.

When I start to doubt my self, I take some time to think clearly about what my talents and strengths are and I make a list. Am I perfect? Of course not. And I don’t need to be!

What are you good at? We will all make mistakes and what we choose to do may not be award worthy but if it brings us joy, peace or any sense of wellbeing, then it is nothing short of fabulous! There’s no reason for taking any comment personally, no need to judge our accomplishments. We will anyway…but that’s OK as long as we just take action, continue, keep going.

You can start small and as the famous phrase goes: Just Do It!

There will always be lessons to learn when we choose to take action. Our inner wisdom can guide us toward a life that reflects who we truly are and brings us a sense that we shine, even if it’s only in our little corner of the world.

 

See you on the path of healing and beyond,

Marianne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to tame your Dragon Part 7 of 10 / RESENTMENT

jul18 image

I have adapted each step of this series to enhance our unique abilities to face the dragon and find insights to improve the quality of our life. Each new step takes us forward on the path of healing although it may not seem that way at first. By exploring these notions and questions, each of us can find our own answers. After all, when it comes to you, there is no one as brilliant, smart, astute, deserving or as good at knowing exactly what’s in your heart.

 

Real problem #7: Resentment

This is the essence of anger carried inside every cell of our body for a long time. It is a refusal to let go of anger because we feel justified in hanging on to the harm done to us, whether it be real or imagined. There are some who spend their entire life convinced that they are victims and their outrage is constantly triggered by the slightest wrong done to them. They subconsciously dwell in the terrible events of the past.

Resentment is a lethal poison that saps one’s life force. You’ve heard of the adage made popular by Carrie Fisher: “Resentment toward someone is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” As you read these words, you can see that resentment will hurt you more than you can imagine. It will rob you of your joy and, no doubt about it, your health! Can you afford it? I know I can’t.

Dragon taming step #7: Letting go

This expression may have become a cliché for many of us who have so much to deal with that we forget just how powerful and healing letting go of resentment really is. Life certainly does not always seem fair and people often behave badly, so, how are we expected to get free of toxic feelings when someone has hurt us deeply or betrayed us? It is not easy but it can be done!

Once you know that holding on to anger and feeding it for years is simply not working for you, you can change course and begin to focus on your well-being. Here are some ideas to consider. They may very well help you develop a new perspective that will set you free.

I will again bring up the notion of ego. What is the ego? There are many definitions in the realm of psychology but I prefer to keep it simple. We can all recognize our ego: It is the voice in our head that won’t shut up! It keeps us up at night and fills us with fear and worries. It sees problems to every solution. It feeds all of the pain we have ever experienced. What follows will challenge the ego.

  • In the grand scheme of things, you and only you are responsible for ALL of the events in your life. This is likely to be the one notion that your ego will object to, violently! It will find a million ways to try to convince you that whatever pain you experienced, it was not your fault, but someone else’s. If, for example, someone is rude toward you as you remain calm and courteous, you certainly can’t be at fault. But if you look at the big picture, who knows? There’s no need to look for a guilty party, so feel free to drop judgment on yourself or anyone else.

Our responsibility lies in the belief that we are travelers in a vast universe beyond our comprehension and that the only person whose actions we are responsible for is our self. Every day, we can make choices that will either keep us prisoners or set us free of the past.

  • Guilt and responsibility are two very different things. Letting go of resentment requires that we understand this distinction. Feeling guilty of having somehow manifested pain and sorrow in our life is totally useless. It keeps us chained to the demands of the ego that wants to feel superior and outraged by feeding sentiments of worthlessness. “I must be bad if this happened to me” or “I must be bad if I can’t let go” are two of the biggest lies we are told by the voice of our ego.
  • The ego in itself is not bad, it just needs to follow and not lead…your heart shall lead you! Yes, that is where you feel pain and every other emotion but all emotions originate from the brain. And who resides there? Yes, our ego. It is up to us to decide and make our intention clear: “I choose to be at peace, so, I will not let you, dear ego, dictate what I should feel. I am not made of glass and will not shatter because I feel pain.”

It is in the light of intent that we are present to our self, that we take full responsibility for our emotions. It is in that knowledge that we can take a big breath and begin to open our heart in order to forgive and to release our self from the bonds of resentment. This we do for our self!

Forgiving is not forgetting nor does it mean that whatever harm was done to us is OK; it means that we are breaking the bond of pain that keeps us tethered to someone else and to the past. It is an act of LOVE. Pure and simple.

This process takes some time. Perhaps you can practice with smaller issues and strengthen your intention as you go. Getting through the day is a struggle; we know better than anyone that we deserve to be gentle and kind to our self.

See you on the path of healing and beyond,

Marianne

* Stock illustration: Shutterstock

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