How to tame your Dragon / Part 3 of 10

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I confess that writing this part of the series is challenging for me. Like so many of you dealing with chronic illness, I’ve been feeling very overwhelmed and my morale has taken a dip lately. Fortunately, I had these wellness coaching techniques planned out from my previous professional life and I am adapting each step to enhance our unique abilities to face the dragon and find insights to lift our spirits and general wellness.

Each new step really does take us forward on the path of healing although it may not seem that way at first. Let us explore together these simple notions and questions so that 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 when it comes to knowing exactly what’s in your heart.

 

Real problem #3: Confusion

This is a feeling that you are lost and pretty much unclear about what you’re supposed to do next. It is the distinct impression of having no idea of what to prioritize. The sense of being overwhelmed seems to greet us every single day! Time flies by before I get around to brushing my teeth, I run out of clean clothes, food is running low in the fridge, no competent doctor in sight, sick and tired of all this pain, exhaustion and isolation. I have to get help, but where? And so on. And so on. Confusion spins around in my hurting head and eats away at my very limited energy. It just seems that if I do nothing, maybe things will get sorted out. Somehow. Sound familiar?

I don’t know about you, but that does not work for me. The only person who can help us make some sense of our life is our self. And here’s the next step!

 

Dragon taming step #3: Responsible choices

I consider myself pretty responsible but I could scream when some well-intended person implies that I am sick because I’ve done or am doing/thinking something wrong. You know, those lovely folks who are convinced that you’re guilty of wanting to be sick! That’s when we get defensive. That’s when we explain that if we wanted to be sick, we’d choose an illness that gets some medical attention and does not condemn us to a life we wouldn’t wish on anyone.

So why is it that making responsible choices is important to us? Well, because even if we are guilty of something, – and who isn’t? – that does not give us a free “give up on your life path” ticket. This may not be the way you envisioned your life but you are now living differently and that requires a new direction and different ways to actualize your vision. This is where you take out your notebook and begin to map out your path:

  1. Make a list of your values; all of them. Take your time and don’t leave anything out. What makes your life worth living? Love? Family, safety, comfort, honesty? What core human values are most important to you?
  2. Go over the list of your personal values. Maybe you’ll cross some out or add a couple. Now, sort them in order of priority; take your time to make sure this list resonates for you. Choose the first three values. (You can continue with the others at some later time.) For each of your first three values, write one concrete action, no matter how small, that you can do to embody that value; map out a plan to introduce those actions in your life one day at a time.
  3. Your life is your own. You can align yourself with your moral compass, choose your direction and do something extraordinary for yourself and your little corner of the world. As you move forward on your own path, confusion will fade away as you manifest what really matters to you.

It is important to remember that thoughts, words and deeds are all actions. Taming a dragon can be done one breath at a time. I will have seven more steps to share in the following months. I believe they will help you – as they help me – find ways to render your dragon more manageable without having to fight it. Just 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

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P.S.

I ask for your help in liking, commenting and/or sharing directly on my website (it now has a link right at the top to like, follow or comment on my FB author’s page.) and also on WordPress. Every like, share and “follow” of each blog (Here too!)  is an important factor in making our cause more visible by attracting traffic to the issues that matter to us. The more followers I have (on Twitter as well), the more people can get introduced to my work. I am not a businesswoman so I count on those who believe in what I’m doing to circulate my message of inner peace and joy.

We never know when a small gesture reaches someone who needed it just at the right time!

All the links are on mariannegranger.com to keep it simple.

Thank you very much for your continuing support.

Love and Light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How to tame your Dragon – Part 2 of 10

 

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This series explores ways to manage chronic illness, i.e. the Dragon! You can go back to part 1 if you missed it.

If you’d like to become a dragon tamer – you probably are already on your way -, then follow me as we take small steps to empower ourselves. Please keep in mind that I too, am learning as we go along because each of us is unique and we are all works in progress! So, do remember to be kind to yourself and do what you feel is right for you at your own pace. I will post each month with the next part so you have time to experiment with these simple but effective techniques. You will need to take notes so you can map out your progress. That’s it!

 

Real problem #2: Fear

This emotion can be described as a distressing feeling that everything is going to go really badly, that you will fail, that you will be humiliated or dismissed.  Fear has taken an ever-increasing role in our life since the times when it was a reaction to actual, impending danger such as running away from a flesh-eating predator; something our early ancestors encountered now and then. Unless you live in a war-torn country or wild jungle, unless you are in a violent environment or swerving to avoid hitting something or someone on the road, fear is probably not serving you in every day situations.

The fact is that fear does more harm than good in most situations, not to mention the havoc it creates in our body. When I look back on my life, I must admit that almost every bad decision I made was out of fear.  As imposing as your dragon may be, you can face it fearlessly in order to live in peace instead of living with the dread of impending doom. I know just how challenging it is to live with a mysterious illness and fearing the worst but I also know that fear is not my friend.

Dragon taming step #2: Humor and curiosity 

I’ve often noticed that humor occupies an important place in online support groups. There are even groups dedicated to laughter as a means to help members make it through another day. I confess that I can’t get enough silly kitties’ videos and I am always grateful to see or read something that makes me laugh or that intrigues me. We’ve all heard that laughter is the best medicine and there are many scientific studies to support the fact that a good belly laugh massages our organs and fires neurons that trigger beneficial hormones throughout our body, making us feel good for a while. Curiosity has the brain searching for new information that can enhance our sense of wonder and endless possibilities.

Even for those of us who must struggle with chronic illness, our every day life situations are rarely a question of life or death so, there is room for humor and curiosity! When faced with heart-pounding fear, take a time out to calm down and then ask yourself these questions; write down your thoughts with as much detail as you can:

 
1. What is the worst, most terrible thing that could happen right now?

Go ahead, let your imagination run wild and write every possible apocalyptic scenario that comes to mind. Get that off your chest!

 

2. What is the best thing that could happen?

Dare to let out your hidden dreams and aspirations; describe your perfect moment, your perfect NOW.  Feel the joy of opening your heart to hope and faith and clarity.

 

3. What are you learning at this moment?

Every experience has a valuable lesson at its core. Look at what you’ve just written and try to extract that precious nugget of wisdom and make it your own, bring it to light. Listen and trust your heart to show you the signposts leading to peace of mind.

 

4. What is it that you could do if you were NOT afraid?

I know that when I remember my life lessons, I make different choices. I can choose to be calm, to trust my body, to take care of it and thank it for doing the best it can. I make deliberate choices that bring me joy. I let go. I don’t want to be more specific so you can go ahead and be precise in describing the actions/thoughts/words that you could choose to manifest if you were not afraid.

 

Taming your dragon takes time and some effort. Most of us have quiet time to spare, and the effort needed may simply be to remind our self to come back to the present moment. One breath at a time. If you experience an “Aha” moment please share it with us as we go along or if you have questions, feel free to comment and perhaps I, or someone participating, can help out.

I will have eight more steps to share in the following months. I believe they will help you – as they help me – find ways to render your dragon more manageable without having to fight it. Just getting through the day is a struggle; we deserve to be gentle and kind to our self. We deserve peace.

See you on the path of healing and beyond,

Marianne

 

Photo by David Marcu

How to tame your Dragon – Part 1 of 10

No FairThe image of a Dragon came to mind a couple years ago when I was searching for a colorful metaphor that could represent the enormity of space that long-time illness occupies in my world. I live with a dragon. This presence has been in my life since 2001. It is a composite of losses, sorrows, fears, aloneness, guilt, anger and all the physical exhaustion and pain that have triggered and fostered those emotions over the years. For quite a while, my dragon and ego got along famously as they worked together to convince me that I am useless, worthless, helpless, less, less, less… So much lack that I could hardly keep track as I tried unsuccessfully to lift myself out of this pit that my life had become!

But all that has changed since I decided to tame my dragon. Let me make this very clear: Fighting a dragon is an exercise in futility that will leave you completely deflated, so, it is not to be confused with taming one. This kind of project does not require an arsenal. It requires focus on your commitment to tame your dragon the way a cat focuses on a mouse hole – he knows he will succeed and nothing will deter him; he is patient.

If you’d like to become a dragon tamer – you probably are already on your way -, then follow me as we take small steps to empower ourselves. Please keep in mind that I too, am learning as we go along because each of us is unique and we are all works in progress! So, it’s a good thing to remember to be kind to yourself and do what you feel is right for you at your own pace. I will post each month with the next part so you have time to experiment with these simple but effective techniques. You will need to take notes so you can map out your progress. Here we go!

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. It could be being bed-bound, housebound, or barely functioning in the outside world. But those are not the real problems.

 

Real problem #1: Tunnel vision.

We humans have a tendency to focus on the problem we are called to deal with at any given time. When we do that, it is through the lens of painful emotions that we see our situation and that makes it seem much worse, much more complicated than it is in reality.

Dragon taming step #1: A new perspective

This gives us one of the most powerful means to transform the thought patterns that keep us down when we’re feeling low and make it impossible to see what really matters. It is imperative to change our self-defeating inner dialogue in order to have a new, healing and uplifting perspective on life.

When something upsets you, take a time out to calm down and then ask yourself these questions; write down your thoughts with as much detail as you can:

  1. Will this particular situation be as important in 6 months? Do I know for sure that nothing will have changed? What are the possibilities open to me?
  2. How do I create situations that are making me sicker with stress and in an ideal world, what would I like to do to make things better for myself? Focus on those little steps you can take right now to improve one situation at a time.
  3. What makes me special? Don’t be modest and write down your qualities, talents and vulnerabilities. Focus on what makes you, YOU and use your inner resources to make peace with yourself, to appreciate all that you are.
  4. Ask yourself what are the things that are going well in other areas of your life, and write them down. Nourish your soul from that well of gratitude residing in your heart and let your cells feed on its powerful energy.

 

Taming your dragon takes time and some effort. Most of us have quiet time to spare, and the effort needed may simply be to remind our self to come back to the present moment. One breath at a time. As you are shifting your thought process, you may feel angry or sad until you find your balance. You may think this is useless. That’s OK; give it a chance anyway and you’ll find that you really can get to a better place. If you experience an “aha” moment, please share it with us as we go along or if you have questions, feel free to comment and perhaps I or someone participating can help out.

I will have nine more steps to share in the following months. I believe they will help you – as they help me – find ways to render your dragon more manageable without having to fight. Just getting through the day is a struggle; we deserve to stop putting our body and ourselves down. Our body is doing the best it can and it needs our kind, new perspective to help the healing happen.

See you on the path of healing and beyond,

Marianne

 

Image from the painting No Fair, by Donni Lockridge.

For this month’s blog, I chose my favorite image of Donni’s work. It speaks to the isolation we so often feel as the world seems to enjoy the things we are unable to do. I wonder where that dragon is hiding…

 

How I found myself through illness

light path

As I sit in my recliner looking at the cursor of my laptop, I am wondering how I can succinctly describe the ways in which this 16-year journey through chronic illness has deeply impacted the person I’ve become. Sure, on the surface, personality-wise, I’m still that same feisty, talkative, organized, well intention-ed and fiercely loyal woman I’ve always been but, I used to be a perfectionist and that pretty much went out the window along with my declining income, hygiene capabilities and social life. I still have a critical eye and can spot a dust bunny across the room but dust of any kind in my home no longer defines my sense of worth.

Before I became ill, I thought only I could do things “the right way”…my way. I valued my accomplishments at work, as a mom and at play. I’ve always been an avid reader and student of the literary/dramatic arts and human sciences, so I was convinced my opinion was stellar and could not possibly be wrong. I loved a good debate on any subject because I was usually right and could show it by whatever means it took, because my ego was that fragile.

Today, my personal space and world has shrunk so much that I can better see what’s really important. I am calmer and don’t need to prove myself right about anything. I know that what others think of me doesn’t change who I am. I am grateful every single day, several times a day, for life coursing through my being and for the blessings of marriage, family and friendship. I have learned to let things be what they are. Same for people, including me. I catch my ego when judging or feeling sorry for my self and I say to my brain: “Change!” This is my new cue to get back in the present moment and let it be what it is. I’ve let go of expectations and feel so much freedom from that. I feel at peace.

It seems that most humans must go through hardships in order to open their eyes and heart. Although it may not be so for everyone, it was for me. In spite of having been through very ugly situations throughout my life, I have never lost my enthusiasm and deep seeded joy. But I also carried in me a huge load of anger, fear and sadness well hidden under my aforementioned personality. So how did I get to where I am now? I have the illness to thank for that.

Having been striped of everything that I thought made me “me”, my self-imposed mask became obsolete. All these hours spent alone, spent in bed away from the rest of the world afforded me the time to look elsewhere for myself. I had nowhere to go but inside. And there I was. Just me. Over time, I marveled at how strong and courageous I could be. I found that innocent little girl inside and I made her feel cherished and safe. I forgave those I needed to forgive, including myself.

I am grateful for my Dragon (as I call chronic illness) but that doesn’t mean that I let it have its way with me. I feel empowered to manage it and my life through all the ups and downs. I know who I am now and I think I like this person just fine as she is.

 

See you on the path of healing and beyond,

Marianne

 

Letter to my doctor

Dear doctor M.,

I am the woman who has visited your office once or twice a year for the last five years. You know, the one with Myalgic Encephalomyalitis, which you like to call Fibromyalgia because M.E. remains foreign to you in spite of the mounting medical documentation available worldwide. This illness has taken a horrendous toll on my life for the past 16 years. I live the life of an elderly person; in fact, many of them are in better shape than I am. I receive Meals-on-Wheels from folks much older than myself. Pain and lack of energy are my constant companions 24/7, 365 days a year.

Walking into your office I can sense, although you seem sympathetic, that you are as uncomfortable as I am. There is nothing much you can do for me and although I sometimes express my frustration, I do understand why you can’t provide the help I need. I know that:

  1. There is no cure for this illness
  2. Treatment is trial and error
  3. M.E. specialists are very rare
  4. You only know the drugs you know
  5. You’re not comfortable prescribing medical cannabis because the College of Medicine makes it a bit complicated for you to do so
  6. Doctors are no longer allowed to refer patients to ophthalmologists (Waiting lists are years long)
  7. Physical therapy is given in order of priority: Accidents and operations first, then all the others (I’m told it’ll take years for me to have access to PT)

And because I cannot afford to go to an expensive private practice for any of my required medical care, I sit in your office in the hope that this situation will one day change. You prescribe all kinds of stuff but that’s it. You are my drug guy…and although you disagree, I refuse to take those drugs I know will make my condition worse. How does that make you feel, I wonder. I’m guessing you feel pretty lousy about it. Doctors like to fix people and you can’t do that with me. So we go through the motions. You give me a quick physical and I go home with my pain, exhaustion and frustration while you go on to the next patient that you can more likely fix. By the end of the day, you’ll probably feel better. I won’t.

Within our Canadian health system which is the envy of many countries, I can’t help but wonder why I am left to my own devices to treat, if not the M.E., at the very least the resulting conditions that are treatable. Why do I have to take on the “system” by my self to make sure I don’t lose my eyesight, the use of my arm, and the health of my already mortgaged kidneys and arteries? I am losing ground and feel I have no choice but to begin a long and complicated journey of writing attention-getting letters to health services institutions, newspapers, ombudsmen and elected representatives.

This weighs heavily on my already weakened body. You’re just human and flawed like the rest of us; I know that you have to work with a health care system that doesn’t always make it easy for you to do your job. I wish I could do more to help you help me. Really.

See you on the path of healing and beyond,

Marianne

 

Image from the painting Weight of the World, by Donni Lockridge

Why Happiness is Overrated

Counting Roses... Again

Most of us live in a culture that encourages the pursuit of happiness in a way that often creates a sense of pressure to conform to that aspiration. Happiness is generally believed to be found in professional success, health, material possessions, leisure, comfort, harmonious family relationships and an active social life, among other things. Failure is seen as a guilt-ridden inability to achieve happiness because we have not reached our, oh so important goals. And so, we learn to fear failure. We also fear success, perhaps because of an unconscious knowing that it doesn’t come wrapped in lasting rapture.

We have been brought up to think that a less than blissful life is not worth living. We feel ashamed and frustrated that happiness always seems to slip away just as we thought we had a shot at it.

These beliefs need to be challenged! Our brain is not hardwired to “pursue” happiness but strives for our survival and when essential needs are met in order of priority, it will seek pleasure. The notion of happiness is a fabrication of the ego, or made-up intellectual little “self” that tells us we must have more to be forever in La-La land. More, more, more ……… fill in the blanks and then, we’ll be happy. Right? The question then would be: Why are most people unhappy? Although they go to great lengths not to show it, most of the wealthy, healthy, pretty and popular are miserable. Why?

Did we leave happiness in our past? If not, then does it wait for us in the future? We have no way of knowing that; the future can be a scary concept but that’s all it is, a concept. The past does not exist today, right now. Neither does the future because when we get there, it will be another now. So where to look for happiness? I submit this to you: Nowhere because it does not exist. It is an illusion.

What we are looking for is in reality a conscious joy and peace that resides in only one place, and that is inside of our very being. When can we experience this? NOW. Yes, even when we are faced with pain and sorrow, emotions that we equate with unhappiness, it doesn’t mean that we are unhappy people. It simply means that we are dealing with a difficult life situation. Those we perceive as “happy” folks are people who can allow life’s challenges to take their course, managing the best they can with an understanding that things are as they are in the now. They don’t dwell in the past nor do they wait for the future to fix their life.

You may ask how one can feel joy and peace when everything seems to be going wrong. To find the answer, we have to STOP, take a few deep breaths and ask our real self (as opposed to our panicky ego) if there is one thing right, right now. Of course there is. We’re breathing, aren’t we? The list of what is right in our life is surprisingly long when we stop frantically looking for bliss. Even when we’re in the middle of a challenging/difficult situation, with a little compassion for our painful feelings, we can gently bring our focus to the moment and be consciously present as we manage those life events. We can allow the present moment to be. And the good news is, we don’t have to be happy about it!

See you on the path of healing and beyond,

Marianne

Image from the painting Counting Roses…Again, by Donni Lockridge

Looking for Space

Mountain lake

When faced with varying degrees of pain and exhaustion every single waking moment, there are times when I feel hopeless. After years of struggles and heartaches, I am mighty, yes, but I am also very vulnerable to indifference from people who treat me like I don’t matter, sometimes like I don’t even exist.

Interactions with others are precious few when one lives in forced isolation and these contacts with the outside world are all we have to get a sense of belonging to the human race, if not to a community or a family. We notice people’s attitudes toward us probably more than the average person because we drink-in the interactions. Many people are kind and many are not.

I went for blood tests the other day. I carry with me a note from my doctor that says I have ME/CFS and that I am to be considered a priority, i.e. I cannot be kept waiting long on a hard chair in a room crammed with people. This usually gets me taken care of quickly enough but on that morning, the woman at the reception practically threw the note back at me and told me to take a number like every one else. They don’t do “priorities”, she said. I tried to explain my situation to no avail. When I told her I couldn’t sit vertically for more than a few minutes, she grudgingly offered a gurney for me to lie on in the back room, lit with bright fluorescent lights and freezing cold. As I waited there shivering and feeling totally miserable, I started feeling sorry for myself.

I got up and turned off the light and tried to get warmer by lying in a foetal position. I listened to the numbers being called and felt helpless. Then I remembered my mindfulness training and began to breathe consciously: In breath, I “allow” the situation to BE. On the out breath, I exhale the resistance that makes me feel so lousy. I give my feelings of sadness, anger, frustration, etc. a space inside of me: I’ve created a beautiful place on the shore of a crystal blue mountain lake with waters so still, they seem like a mirror. Breathing in and out for a minute or two and I’m there, and suddenly I’m at peace.

Before I knew it, my number was called.

The next time you feel bad, give this a try and with a little practice, you’ll find that beautiful space inside where you are at peace. Here are the lyrics to a wonderful song that has inspired me for many years; it clearly shows that this man knew all about the struggles of the human condition. As do we.

 

Looking For Space (by John Denver)

On the road of experience, I’m trying to find my own way.
Sometimes I wish that I could fly away
When I think that I’m moving, suddenly things stand still
I’m afraid ’cause I think they always will

And I’m looking for space
And to find out who I am
And I’m looking to know and understand
It’s a sweet, sweet dream
Sometimes I’m almost there
Sometimes I fly like an eagle
And sometimes I’m deep in despair

All alone in the universe, sometimes that’s how it seems
I get lost in the sadness and the screams
Then I look in the center, suddenly everything’s clear
I find myself in the sunshine and my dreams

On the road of experience, join in the living day.
If there’s an answer it’s just that it’s just that way,
When you’re looking for space and to find out who you are.
When you’re looking to try and reach the stars.

 

See you on the path of healing and beyond,

Marianne