Sharing the lessons along the way…

Posts tagged ‘surrendering’

Let it Rip!

photo (22)Since I live close to the Gulf of Mexico, I often hear rip current warnings issued.  In a rip current, the water current is so strong that it pulls you away from shore as you are trying to move forward toward it.

I have never been caught in a serious rip current, but experts say you are supposed to relax and go with the flow of the current instead of fighting it.  Many people panic, fight against it, and drown from exhaustion.

Saturday, nowhere near the water, I had my own rip current experience.  It came without any warning whatsoever.

Since Wednesday, I hadn’t really gone many places and when I did, I made sure I wouldn’t have to go far using the cane.  I found myself not wanting to because it was too hard to get around.

But Sunday I had plans.  I was very excited to take my friend to watch my little brother play ice hockey, so after finalizing the details I was really looking forward to going.

Oh crap.  Ugh. I remembered that I couldn’t walk far, and that my arm hurt walking any distance using the cane. It seems like a simultaneous wave of panic shot through my body with this reality.

What if it is too far to walk?  What if my arm just can’t do it?

The panic was short-lived, and in its wake was a sense of sadness.

I have watched my little brother play hockey from a wheelchair before, years ago, when I was unable to get out of the chair at all.  There are elevated stands up the stairs, which is where most people sit.

Some people stand along the side of the rink to watch, and if you are in a wheelchair, that is where you are too.

As if a wave of water came crashing down on me,  I remembered exactly what it felt like, smelled like, and sounded like for me to sit down there by myself watching the hockey games.

It was lonely down there.  And I couldn’t see any action on the rink over the three-foot boards either.

These memories and emotions came upon me just like a rip tide sneaks upon a swimmer in the ocean.

So much drama generated inside my mind and my body as a result.  It nearly zapped the excitement of right out of me.

At least it zapped it until I was aware of what had just happened.  My rip current took no more than one full minute to experience, but it certainly knocked me off my feet.

Once the current lost its grip, I reminded myself, “This is not like then. This will never be like then.”

The plan and its details were already set to go watch my brother play hockey, so I was going.  I opted not to take the manual wheelchair along, although it would have been helpful, and I would have been less limited through the day.

I will make a different choice for HEP today.

My dry land rip currents are likely to continue to happen as the symptoms return and mobility becomes more challenged.  These emotional currents, tied so closely to my physical abilities, are pulling me away from the present when I only want to stay as grounded as possible.

My plan this week is to expect to have rip currents as I revisit what was so traumatic for me the first time around.  That way, I can do better at relaxing, not fighting the current, and flowing with whatever comes along.

Do you have your own rip current experiences to share?

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Misery is Optional

photo (19)

A while back while having lunch with friends, I said something like, “The misery and struggle part of this story is optional.”    We were discussing my difficulty “wasting” energy wondering what each reduction in dose of baclofen would bring, along with my various attempts to change that.  I had only had a couple of reductions at the time, but I heard what I said and have repeated it to myself often.

When I made the difficult decision to remove the intrathecal baclofen pump, I wanted it to be on my terms.  I made the decision in the absence of fear, but knew the process of slowly reducing the dose would be a challenge.  I am also very aware that not having the pump itself will be a challenge.

I made several other decisions along with the major decision as well.  I decided that I would handle this change in mobility with more grace than I did when the illness first caused the rapid decline.

I decided that no matter how much I felt the need to resist what was necessary in this process, I would do everything I could to surrender instead.  I decided to cooperate with my fears and anxieties while not allowing them to limit me.

Misery and the perception of a struggle as I experience all this are optional.  I can choose those, just as easily as I can choose to surrender to the is-ness of the experience.

Perceiving the struggle has been my modus operandi most of my life, so changing that is taking a lot of work on my part.  I am making great progress because I am continuing to remind myself—and you—that we have a choice in the matter.

I find that being miserable or appearing miserable serves no purpose in this or any other process.  I am allowing myself to grieve the losses each week, but that doesn’t mean I have to be miserable about those losses.  I am allowing myself to be sad and anxious, while moving through it without letting it limit me.

Early in the pump drama, I made a statement that I could affect more change and make a greater impact in the world with the pump.  I don’t believe that now.  I think those limitations were perceived and not real.  I could let the absence of the pump limit me.  I certainly have that option.  I do not intend to choose that, however.

Since proclaiming that misery is optional at lunch that day, I have not misused as much energy each week on what ifs.  So far, I think I am balancing the need to surrender to what is necessary for safe mobility pretty well with the need to continue to try to rehabilitate each week.  I am quite proud of my efforts so far.

Flying the White Flag

white flag bandiera bianca

(Photo credit: portobeseno)

Lately, my mind keeps going back to thoughts like, “everything is temporary” and “consciously surrendering has to be the key” so I would like to share where this thinking led me this morning.

Life is not like a game show where you must come up with a final answer once and then the game is over.

In life, we can always change our answer because our lives are only limited by what we perceive to be our limitations.

Not only do the questions change, but also the answers change.  All things are temporary in real life.  Change is constant—it is the nature of the universe.

Whatever idea we may have about how our lives are supposed to look is inevitably going to change.  At least it should since everything around us is constantly changing, right?

While this can be frustrating for those of us who like to anticipate, control and hold on tightly to our ideas, life really can be viewed as a beautiful flowing work of art in progress.

My life would look much like an incomplete abstract Salvador Dali-like painting.  Some days I am able to see the beauty in the flux of life.  Other days, I find myself attempting to anticipate, control outcomes, fight with what is and become frustrated with the flow.

The Dali Atomicus, photo by Philippe Halsman (...

The Dali Atomicus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today I decided to wave the white flag of surrender and cooperate with the flux that is our lives.  I vowed to fight no part of this day.

I took care of most of what I was supposed to take care of and surrendered to all disruptions and interruptions.

I worked with my pain and other physical symptoms and embraced whatever I was feeling at any point in my day.

When I wasn’t doing some part of this, I gently reminded myself that, just for today, I was surrendering, so I was able to fairly quickly bring myself back to it.

For today, I consciously surrendered to what is.  I plan to read this again in the morning and hope to be able to do it again.  This is not my final answer to the topic of surrender—just today’s.

Revisiting Surrender?

In my waking hours, I am the self-proclaimed master of shifting my perspective 95% of the time.  I have shared in blog posts before of my ability to find gratitude somewhere within a situation.  No matter how fearful, painful or ominous something may appear, I can spin it into a growth or learning opportunity.

The problem is that my sleeping/unconscious mind does not seem to be buying into these heroic shifts in perspective that my waking/conscious mind is working so hard to create.

My conscious attempts to reassure myself work pretty well or else I would imagine I might be a lot less functional in my daily life (bonkers, perhaps) than I am, given the events of the last couple of years.

But, how much more functional could I be now if I could get my unconscious to get with the program?

I have been doing my share of surrendering over the course of 10 years with PLS, but wouldn’t it seem like I am still resisting if I am waking up from my sleep with tears or anxiety?  The last couple of years have “encouraged” me to surrender on a new and different level than before and I have worked really hard to consciously surrender.  I have been grateful for the opportunities for the most part.

While I do not mean to diminish my efforts and successes toward these acts of surrender, I see today that I must be missing something important in this surrendering process.

Clearly, these “acts” and “moments” of consciously surrendering are not enough for the sleeping Tawny.  Perhaps if I can continue to string enough of them together, it will become the “lifestyle” of my unconscious eventually?  I am hopeful that I am on the right track, but would love to hear your thoughts.

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Fear Reflected

In my fear series, I talked about working cooperatively with fear.  To do this, when fear comes knocking on our door, I suggested we invite her inside for coffee or tea.  While having tea, I suggested we seek to better understand what fear has to tell us.

Working on my Tea Time with Fear guided imagery exercise for my blog provided me with a better understanding of the first time I met with fear.

Lately, fear has been knocking on my door quite frequently.  I believed I understood her.  I believed I knew why she was here.  Until today.  After all, I am the one who keeps suggesting we all work cooperatively with her.

Like the fears I shared with you when I wrote Lessons from the Pump, my current fear is rational.  I have reminded myself of the Fear Series. I am reminding myself how I came to the understanding that fear was here to help shed some light on my journey.

I am reminding myself that things go more smoothly when I surrender to what is, rather than resisting or fighting the is-ness.  I am reminding myself that I cannot lose the lessons I have learned throughout my journey with this illness.  Most of these lessons I have shared here in my blog, and just finished writing about in my manuscript.

Fear is my guest, and I have continued to be a gracious host and not a hostile one (most of the time, anyway).

This morning, I reminded myself that things can never be as bad as they once were.  I even wrote this on my bathroom mirror in red (honestly, it was the only dry erase marker I could find in the house).  I know this is true, but I do find reminders helpful.

My bathroom mirror!

This evening, as I washed my face and looked at these words written on my mirror, I asked again what possible purpose fear could be serving still here as my house guest.  Seriously, how much tea do we have to drink?!

My answer came in the form of a question:  What if fear is here to remind you of your strength?

Is that powerful to anyone else or is it just me?

Reflections on Stillness

Reflections of stillness.

In a world as fast-paced as our western society tends to be, it is nearly impossible to find stillness.  Even when we make ourselves physically still, finding stillness in our minds continues to be a challenge.  There are so many external expectations of us—some we are consciously aware of and others we try to meet without much awareness of them.

The biggest lesson I learned through the rapid progression of my illness was the value of being still.  I did not come by this lesson willingly, however.  I knew it was important, but could not imagine myself ever being able to achieve it in this lifetime.  That is, until it was forced upon me.  I was always busy.  Even when I wasn’t busy, I would create busy because being still was scary to me most of my life.

Not being able to walk, or to even move the manual wheelchair far on my own, seemed to me to be an awfully harsh way to teach me to be still.  Once I stopped fighting it, I could see it was invaluable.  Of course, just because my body was not able to move much or far, didn’t mean my mind wasn’t still spinning around.

I paced in my mind.  I was fearful about my health, my housing,  my job, my dogs, my future.  The pain and seemingly daily symptom progression in those early months, taught me to be more present and slow down the pacing.  I only had the moment, and each moment was packed with necessary decisions, adjustments and problem solving about meeting my basic needs.  I could not afford to not be present in the moments to take care of what needed to be taken care of next.

By the time I did lose everything material, I understood stillness both in my body and in my mind.  This new ability helped me through the rest of the nightmare in ways that I could not see as clearly until recently, when I was writing the manuscript.  I cannot imagine what the rest of the experience, living in the homeless program with my clients and in the nursing home, would have been like without this basic lesson.  

When the pool therapy and later the intrathecal baclofen pump allowed me to increase my physical activity, I worried that I would lose the stillness lessons.  Through the pump drama of the last couple of years, I had to work hard to find my space in stillness in my mind.  It was the ability to be still that I knew would help me to get through whatever was to happen next. 

Being still has to be a conscious choice for me now.  I have to make an exerted effort to find the stillness that will help me to shift my perspective, surrender if that is what is needed, decrease my resistance to what is, and remind me that whatever happens next will be ok.

Outside of the stillness, I feel victimized and everything bad is happening to me.  I lose my personal power.  I feel like hiding under the covers or waging a war.  And, I certainly cannot see beyond what is in front of me to trust that I will be ok no matter what.  I have to return to the stillness for this perspective.

What is your experience with stillness?  How do you find it or how do you think you might find it without having to be forced into it? 

 

 

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