Sharing the lessons along the way…

Surgery Anniversary Week

Jaycee's Birthday Present from Gramcee

Jaycee’s Birthday Present from Gramcee

“If you have already lost everything and made your way through it, what do you have to lose by trying to create something new?”

I have asked myself this question nearly every day for the past eight or nine years.  This question was part of a discussion or three that I had yesterday.  Because of that, I found myself thinking about just how critical it was to what happened next in my life.

It certainly became a valid part of moving outside of my comfort zone after illness, homelessness, nursing home…This shift got me out of isolation, guardedness and fear.  It allowed me to create a better quality of life, develop a social support network of quality people, and restored my faith in humanity in general.

This shift made room for growth in every area of my life.  I stopped fearing the risks.  I was empowered and more confident in my own ability to cope with whatever might come next.  Even through the last few years of pump drama, I felt confident I would figure out how to manage eventually.  I felt confident that I had many cheerleaders lifting me up to do just that.

My deepest fear was a repeat performance of losing everything, and I was often struggling with letting go of that fear.  The day I realized that it could never get as bad as it once was, and took back my own power, was the day I let that fear remind me of my strength.

Yet another pivotal shift in thinking that accelerated growth, allowed me to move through the pump drama, and ultimately the pump’s removal, to see the other side with more clarity.  It certainly isn’t perfect over here either, but it is lovely just the same.

This week, it has been a year since the surgery to remove my second baclofen pump.  While I continue to feel frustrated with limitations, pain, and such, I continue to move forward.  I continue to grow.  I continue to take risks, even when it would be far easier to not.  I continue to work, and I continue to feel grateful for a life that is overflowing with blessings.

It is almost as if I am finally growing into the very shoes I was meant to wear in this life.  There is a sense of quiet contentedness in being who I am; more so now, than I can ever recall.  It feels comfortable without feeling stagnant.  It feels like home, with the understanding that new paint on the walls and rearranging the furniture will always be necessary to improve upon it.

There is not anything in particular I am searching for anymore.  It was here all along just waiting for me to stop resisting, to stop fearing long enough, to look within to find it.

What do you have to lose by taking a risk?  The better question is really what do you have to gain?






Mirror Epiphani-ette


Years ago at a professional conference, the presenter suggested that those we meet in our lives serve as mirrors of ourselves.  I was ok with that suggestion until she went further to suggest that even those characteristics we found in others that we disliked were also within us to some degree.  After initially resisting the notion that day, I did come around to seeing that she was right.

Over and over again since then, I tend to see new interactions as opportunities to see something new in myself reflected back—good, bad or ugly.  I may not always enjoy it, but at least I know there is some opportunity.

The times that get my attention most are when there is a negative characteristic (or forty) being reflected in the mirror.  Those seem more obvious in terms of growth opportunities, so naturally I try to look closely at those.  I do this by seeking to better understand the human mirror’s negativity, so that I may better understand such a quality in myself.

Then, a few days ago, I had an interesting epiphani-ette.  It occurred to me that I rarely notice the positive reflections.  I am surrounded by and continue to meet some brilliant, talented and loving humans beings.  I celebrate that fact, and am grateful for those within my support system on a daily basis, but it is interesting to me that I never thought about this concept applying to the mirrors.

I call it an epiphani-ette because it wasn’t earth shattering or even memorable when it occurred to me.  I thought about it over several days and couldn’t even tell you which day it first occurred to me.  Full-blown epiphanies have to be shared immediately with someone, if not here in my blog so it isn’t forgotten or lost!

With this baby epiphany, I hope to start to notice a more balanced mirror image and at least remember that I have as much to grow in recognizing the good characteristics, as I have to grow in the less than stellar ones.


patienceAfter writing my last blog, I called up a sounding board to process it further.  I came to a few very important, and perspective shifting realizations that I want to share you.

The first one was the catalyst for picking up the telephone for a sounding board.  I realized that between working at HEP, volunteering, and teaching my classes for Phoenix, that I had been far surpassing full time hours for at least a month.  Doh!

The second one happened toward the end of my sounding board conversation.  Since my students turn in their assignments on Sundays, I generally try to have everything graded and feedback returned by Tuesday evenings.  I have done it for six years, even though I technically have six days to complete it.  I have my varied reasons for doing it this way, but realized it isn’t serving me right now.  Therefore, I don’t have to break my neck each week to do it.

In light of the first thing, I was reminded of several things from my sounding board.  The first was that there were four—yes four—funerals I have attended in 5 or 6 weeks.  The fourth was a suicide and required a great deal of emotional energy for a variety of reasons.  In addition, I had three relatively traumatic dental appointments in a row, a bad cold and another treatment resistant infection within that same time period.

Of course I am still tired in spite of the changes I made in recent weeks.  That is a lot of stuff to happen in a short time frame for anyone—never mind for someone whose central nervous system is overactive.

To boot, I am adjusting to two new positive additions to my life.  The changes I have made are positive and likely will yield more restful for me.  I have to be patient and allow my body whatever time it needs to get itself back to balance in the meantime.

Here I was, all too ready and eager to accept that I had missed something I could be doing better to feel better.  Perhaps I could better pay attention to the time spent volunteering since it never occurred to me to pay that much attention in terms of energy expenditure.  I can rearrange my grading too.  But, being patient was the only thing I was missing.

I am so grateful to have sounding boards who can remind me of just how much I tend to minimize the amount of energy I exert on various things in my life!


Sometimes when I say I don’t have time, what I am really saying is that I don’t have the energy.  While time lately has been a bit scarce for anything except dogs and work, I am not sure I have the energy for much else either.

My quality down time is still missing, although I have increased it from a month ago.  I think by the time I get that down time, however, I am in so much pain, or am so fatigued, that it doesn’t have the same quality. By that point, it isn’t restful or regenerative.  By that point, it is not even restorative.  Even the extra sleep loses its quality.

What I cannot quite figure out is at what point in my week it crosses over that line, since that does seem to vary widely from week to week.  It also varies widely on how well I separate other people’s expectations of me, from what I am actually able to do.  I am often unable to make this separation when I know that meeting my needs may well not meet someone else’s needs.

The way I see it (when I am not too tired to see it in a wonky way) is that I am responsible for meeting my needs and no one is going to do that for me.  Each of us have that responsibility on our own.  We reach out for help when there is something outside of the stuff only we can do, but other than that, we each are responsible for our own needs.  When I am tired, I get that all mixed up and operate as if I have to do everything—not just my own everything, but everyone else’s.

Most of the time, I am clear on where my stuff ends and yours starts.  It is when I am overly tired and missing out on quality time to meet my needs that it all gets wonky.  I cannot continue to expend energy reeling myself back from that wonkiness.  I simply don’t have it.

Energy conservation and self-care have to be the two most significant variables in balancing our lives, but especially a life with a chronic illness.  I say it all the time because I know it is true.  I generally do fairly well at practicing what I preach, but do indeed struggle to maintain the balance.  There is no formula or routine that works every single day or every single week.

I cannot control whether or not my need to say “no” hurts someone’s feelings.  Only they have control over how they perceive the “no”.  What I can control is my own follow through on doing what I need to do to function at my best when I do say “yes”.

This isn’t a new struggle.  I have posted many blogs about it at various points over the years.  I struggle differently with it under different circumstances, but the bottom line remains exactly the same as it always has.

We all start our days with a limited amount of energy and time.  We all have to figure out how to work within those limits to do what needs to be done first, and if anything is left, well then that is a blessing.




Greatest Strength

tea bag love

Some days, some weeks, and some months we lose sight of our strengths because we are mighty busy focusing on the limitations and weaknesses.

The other day was one such day and the other week was one such week.

There were many things I wanted and needed to do, but found my body to be uncooperative with my wants.

Enter the message from my tea bag…

Sometimes a small reminder of what I do have to offer, regardless of anything else, is enough to shift my thinking.  Perhaps it will help you today, too.

ruby is home

Ms. Ruby has arrived into the household of Duke and The Tawny!

While the dynamics are quite different from those between Duke and Amore, it has been a relatively challenge-filled weekend for me.  I didn’t realize just how emotional it was going to be for me to bring another dog into the house after Amore.  Fortunately, by the time the long drive back home from Hardee County was over, I was more focused on the logistics of things than the tears that wanted to fall.

Mom seems to have her commands mixed up because some of the commands Ruby learned in her prison training aren’t the same ones I learned when Duke and Amore went through basic obedience.  Bless Ruby’s heart, she did the best she could on our first walk with Duke and I, given that I likely totally confused her.

Today was our second walk (the heat in FL right now is ridiculous) and we all did better.  After our first short walk since Duke can’t really go far, I took Ruby by herself and she was pretty awesome with her commands.  I am pretty sure I used the correct ones and studied up on them again before we headed out.

All of this newness have me thinking about all the other things I have had to adjust to in the past six months or more.  It really is no wonder I feel as tired as I do, quite frankly.  Fortunately, I started out the year making sure that I simplified and streamlined as much as possible.

It really is the simplicity of the basics in this life that make everything else better.   Healthy food, quality sleep, quality down time, and quality social time certainly set the stage for better balance in my life.  All of this also sets the stage to better adapt to change while managing a chronic illness, two jobs, and now again two dogs with different needs.

My problem is that I often deviate from those simple basics and forget that all of them are necessary.  I have been forgoing the quality down time and replacing it with social, and the two are simply not interchangeable for a person with an overactive central nervous system.

While attempting to catch up on dental and other health concerns, I have also forgone the quality down time with appointments in addition to the social.  It hasn’t really served me well, particularly as I embark on a new adjustment at home.

I have given myself some leeway in the past several months to test out the limits of interchanging these basics.  It was a necessary part of my process of figuring out how far I can push before my body begins to reel me back into its necessary balance.

I have learned a lot from the process, but also have learned that it takes me a bit longer to restore this balance once I reel it in.  I have been reeled in for nearly three weeks now and am still not quite back to where I would like to be.  There is some work to be done for sure!  But isn’t that always the case?



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