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Is your Heart Chakra Optimistic?

2.3.20

February makes me think of my heart chakra!  And, for the month of February, I am contemplating the meaning of OPTIMISM.  I am thinking, optimism is like abundance – it is something that appears everywhere in my consciousness.  I am optimistic about school, about my health, about the possibility of changing (even radically) who and how I am. 

Optimism is evident in my conversations with others – even when I am discouraged, I tend to be positive in my belief that things could change, improve, turn around.  I am able to see myself as a “work in progress” because I have optimism and to be compassionate with myself when I’m not “perfect” as a result.  Hopefully, this compassion can extend to others and emanate from my heart chakra as a positive force for good in the world, optimistic compassion (believing the best about others – especially those who would ordinarily annoy me).

Optimism is a state of mind.  It permeates my daily endeavors – it allows me to say, “life is proceeding just as it should – everything is in its rightful place and time” and to believe it.  Optimism can be present as I put the dishes away and clear the kitchen; it is available when I’m working out in my simple and halting way; it can get me through a day of internship coaching even when I am admitting my errors along the way.  Optimism allows me to believe all can be well, even if, in a given moment, I am not.

Change is possible, and this alone is enough to make me optimistic.  My heart chakra is open and optimistic, it is radiating and receiving compassion.

Change what you can; Accept what you can’t change. . .

1/11/20

The only thing about finding yourself in a place where you don’t want to be (physically, emotionally, spiritually) is that you can either feel sad and stuck or view it as your starting place to where you want to go instead.  It’s okay to be discouraged momentarily but if you sit in that discouragement, you’re essentially telling yourself and everyone else, that this is how it is going to be, from now on. 

And, the truth is, it doesn’t have to be that way for very long at all. You can change. You have the power to choose something that will make a difference, even if it takes a while for that change-effect to be evident. Simply by choosing to change, you’ve done something inside yourself and completely for yourself that no one can do for you, and no one can take away from you. 

Today, with some new technology available to me, I saw a 3-D image of my body like I’ve never seen myself before.  I was horrified!  No details, no features, just a complete outline with every roll of fat, every slope of poor posture and every possible flaw usually covered by clothing was made visible.  It made me sad and discouraged, but it also made me mad and motivated! 

Now, I realize that there are elements of this 3-D representation that I cannot change (in this life).  I will not become suddenly taller – although that could solve a lot of the disproportion issues.  I will not likely discover tight, taught skin revealed when my weight-loss goals are met.  There will be droopiness and sagging to deal with even when my ratio of body fat declines.  It’s always something, isn’t that what Gilda Radner said? 

So what CAN I change (you remember that wisdom to know the difference)?  Well, I suspect I can work on two things, replacing fat with muscle, even if that makes little change on the scale. And, I can use stretching and other lengthening moves (like Pilates, yoga, etc.) to strengthen and tone the muscle I add. Both would serve me well and potentially change that 3-D silhouette that troubled me so when I first saw it. Either would be better than sitting around complaining that I don’t like my body!

In our house, we’ve turned a corner…

12.29.19

It has been a long month. I guess I’d call this our “new normal” – we’ve turned a corner, for sure.  I just don’t know how to describe the new territory.

My DH’s 88, he’ll be 89 in April 2020.  His Alzheimer’s diagnosis came in 2013 (a few years after symptoms). And, we’ve coped pretty well with all the usual losses that accumulate over time.

On December 5th, he had a stroke.  It was preceded (the week before) by two transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) or mini-strokes.  Each of those lasted only 5-10 minutes and he quickly recovered.  This stroke was bigger and its effects more long-lasting.

I found him near the bed, limp like a pile of laundry on the floor, he mumbled, “I can’t get up!” – and that was true, he couldn’t.  The paramedics got him off to the local hospital where we waited 8 hours in the emergency department for a bed on the neurology floor.  During the wait, and really, not 4 hours into it, his strength returned and he was doing fairly well on the gross measures of neurologic capacity.  Coordination was much slower to return. He spent 4 nights in the hospital, and thankfully, Medicare afforded him a stay in a local transitional care unit (TCU) for rehabilitation therapies, OT, PT & Speech.

He followed the program with amazing compliance and actually ate better than he would for me at home, gaining 7 pounds in December!  He came home on Christmas eve afternoon, not back to his “old self” but doing fairly well.  There’s some residual damage and, what I know for sure is that with the next stroke, there will be more.

It was (as the neurologist explained) neither a clot nor a bleed – the common forms of stroke.  It was a “luminal” stroke – the lumen of the blood vessel narrows, closes off, and the lack of blood-flow does its damage. Then, in time, it may open up, if perhaps to a lesser degree than before the stroke, and blood-flow is restored, as is function – at least some of it.  It is not the kind of stroke that medical experts can treat or cure.  They increased his daily aspirin from 81 mg to 325 mg – that was the only change they prescribed.  What is clear is that this sort of stroke will repeat itself and each time, he will recover less completely; it is all related to age and tends to increase in people (men especially) over 85.

For me, the month was endless – the TCU was only 12 miles from home but, visiting almost daily left me exhausted.  It isn’t the kind of tired that comes from hard work but, the kind that you experience from jet-lag, that stressed, pressed to your limit, sense that you may never quite catch up with your life or make up for the time you lost in mid-air. 

He’s been home with me for five days.  I’ve spent the time stewing over what his needs are now.  I figured he’d need a sitter/companion anytime I left the house.  Could I go to my yoga class and leave him alone for an hour?  Could I work my mini-shifts (3 – 7 pm) doing health coaching which I would miss because it affords me time to practice my craft and focus on the needs of other people, not just us? Could I train him to use the stairs with supervision, not on his own, anytime he wanted to explore another floor?  I stewed a lot.

Now it is Sunday and he’s been up and down the stairs twice, pretty much on his own.  He’s watching football and fussing with the TV remote like he always does (it persistently confuses him).  He’s eating fairly well, walking with some lack of coordination in his right leg, and wondering why I seem so weary.

I am weary. We’re in a new normal. I’m making it up as we go along.  My intuition tells me this is the beginning of the end and, while it is perplexing, I’m okay with that. I’d rather lose him to a big stroke (or a series of smaller ones) than to Alzheimer’s disease.  We’ll see what the future brings – I don’t have a crystal ball handy – but I’m blessed to know that we’re okay and between us, we’ll make this work, at least until it doesn’t.  Stay tuned, my dear friends.

Ask for what you need, it increases the probability you’ll get it. . .

12.19.19

This is an adage offered to me by a mentor over 30 years ago. Since then, I’ve learned never to be bashful in asking for what I need, nor am I reluctant (anymore) to offer what I have to contribute.  This is how relationships work and grow and develop – people offering to help other people who are able to articulate their needs. 

This week, I took my own advice; I asked for help!  My husband is coming home (having suffered a stroke and achieved an amazing level of recovery!) and I know, life in our house will not be “business as usual” once he is home.  I don’t know exactly what I will need, or precisely what he will need by this time next week, let alone how those needs may change in the coming weeks or months. What I do know is that I cannot manage this alone! 

In my book (published last summer) I wrote about our lives, “I am not with him all day, every day, and certainly not his sole, 24/7, caregiver. There are others on our “care team” who shoulder some of the load. As his needs increase, this team will change and grow. I recognize that it is not a job I am able or even willing to do alone. Like so many things in life, it takes a village” (Forte, 2019, p. xx).

One of the things any family caregiver must do is recognize condition changes that need to be addressed. And, when we do spot changes that need to be made, we must NOT assume we need to tackle them alone. Realizing this, I reached out to my network of friends, my correspondents with the Universe, who, together know so many more people than I do alone.  I asked for their wisdom on finding one or more caregivers who will help me manage the many situations to come. 

In the space of five days I received ideas and leads, names and possibilities so quickly I could hardly imagine so much help might be available! It is yet another reflection of the abundance that surrounds us all, if we only acknowledge it, ask for it to visit us and recognize it when it arrives!  I will need many helpers in the weeks and months ahead, my world is changing quickly, but I am confident, when I ask for what I need, it manifests in front of me with reassuring bounty!

What are you asking for as 2020 approaches?

Reference:

Forte, P. (2019). Self-Care Strategies for Family Caregivers. Xlibris, Indianapolis, IN.

Even if know what’s coming, you have to roll with it. . .

12.9.19

Over Thanksgiving week, my hubby, who already has Alzheimer’s disease, had two tiny strokes; they are called TIAs, Transient Ischemic Attacks.  These events came and went very quickly. He lost his balance and his right side went weak, his speech slurred momentarily and, within five or ten minutes, he was back to being his old self each time.

What I know about strokes is this, one stroke begets another.  So, watching him suffer these two tiny attacks told me that something bigger was on the way.  The thing about strokes, especially in the very old (people over 85), is that you can’t really prevent them and you can’t predict exactly when they will occur.  Knowing all that, I was not surprised when I found him on the floor last Thursday, his right side completely useless and his speech sounded like he had a mouth full of marbles.

Emergency crews came and off he went to the emergency department at nine in the morning.  He spent four nights at the hospital where he got a lot of function back but because he still needs physical and occupational therapy, he went to a transitional care unit (TCU) today.  I have every confidence that he’ll get back his strength and his balance and hopefully be home by Christmas, assuming he doesn’t have yet another stroke – and of course, he might.  There’s no predicting when the next event will occur!

So, I’m thinking this week has been a metaphor for life as we frequently experience it – when you least have time for it, room for it, energy for it – $%@# happens!  And, you can either throw a tantrum or trust that the Universe has your back and roll with it.  That’s what we’ve done this week, roll with it.

No, I don’t have time for this – it’s the holidays! No I don’t have room for it in my life, especially when you add snow! And of course, I don’t have the energy for it, but I guess I’ll sleep in tomorrow, now that he’s settled in his new space. 

There are no guarantees that life will go smoothly, no promises that we won’t hit a snag or be thrown a curve.  What we can count on is that life will test our patience, ask us to trust our instincts and show us what we’re made of!  We’ll be reminded we’re human and frail, our bodies betray us and break down when we least expect it. But, we’re also tougher than we think and more resilient than we knew, and ready to be surprised by all the amazing pieces that actually do fall into place if we stay out of the way!

Thankfulness & Gratitude. . .

11.28.19

It’s Thanksgiving Day, the one day each year we set apart to be particularly mindful of the many blessings in our lives and to express our thanks to others who grace our lives with goodness.  We gather with friends and family around tables overflowing with culinary bounty, exotic new flavors and old family favorites.  We eat too much, often drink too much, overdose on football games and sometimes struggle to stay on our “good behavior” as the day wears on.  We’re human and this is Thanksgiving in America.

But what does it mean to be truly thankful for all the bounty in our lives?  I separate Thankfulness from Gratitude because I believe one is an action (the act of giving thanks) and the other is an attitude.  We give thanks, or say “thank you” for a kindness, a gift, a gracious act or some sort of gesture made toward us.  It is an act of response after we’ve received something.  All too often, in our Mid-western culture, we say “thank you” automatically, without even thinking about the words.  We’ve been taught to say “thank you” even for gifts we don’t appreciate – it is the polite thing to do.

So there it is, all too often giving thanks in today’s world is a societal gesture, the thing you say when someone gives you a gift, a compliment or shows you a courtesy; you return the favor with a word of thanks.

Gratitude, on the other hand is, or can be, a way of life – it is an attitude which, if adopted, can alter your perspective on everything else in life.  It is the capacity to acknowledge blessing with each breath.  It is the realization that the gifts that grace our lives are everywhere – the sun’s warmth, the moon’s brightness on a winter’s night, the affections of our pet who nuzzles into your lap just when you’re feeling lonely.  Gratitude is a way of life; it is a lens through which the ordinary becomes extraordinary and the common becomes amazingly uncommon and astounding.

So, for today, I wish you a day of thankfulness. I wish you joy at every good thing that comes your way from the glowing smiles of friends to the glistening drumstick of the turkey.  I also wish you a day in which you can find gratitude for the more common, and every-day things of life.  I wish for you the realization that gratitude can permeate every part of life and make us appreciate even the perplexing things of life that confuse us and give us pause.

Gratitude enables us to trust that the Universe is out there blessing us, not just on this one, special day but every day, all the time. Gratitude permits us to reflect on the gifts that surprise us, the moments that inspire us and the realization that many blessings, sometimes disguised, touch our lives each day.

Baby, Its Cold Outside!

11.6.19

Have you noticed that everything shifts as the temperature gets colder? Your energy, your mood, even your self-care needs are shifting as the weather gets more and more chilly. And, if we don’t pay attention to those changes, we’re likely to do something unintentionally harmful merely because we’re not being mindful of the changes we’re feeling.

Joints are tighter and dryer – more “snap-crackle & pop” can be heard in the yoga class this time of year. And hydration is as essential as ever (maybe even more than in the heat of summer) because the spaces we occupy are so very dry and the temperature changes from outdoors to indoors are more dramatic.  So, while movement is essential, this maybe the time to ease into a gentler practice and certainly take time for adequate fluids and rest between sessions.

Concentration may be sluggish – as your brain adjusts to the darkness at the start of your day and the darkness at the end of your day, it is easy for our thinking to feel like it isn’t keeping up with demand.  Add to that the opportunity for many of us to experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) it is important to check your Vitamin D levels (commonly obtained from sun exposure) and your mood in general – could you use a little time in front of a light box (full-spectrum light) or maybe a little more sleep?

Appetites for comfort foods may be in hyper-drive.  It isn’t that we’re hibernating mammals, but some days it feels like it!  We’re craving those high-carb, high-fat, comfy flavors that our friends the brown bears are searching for before their long winter’s sleep.  We don’t get that prolonged sleep and we don’t actually need the additional calories that comfort foods supply, but we may feel (emotionally) like we do because the weather feels harsh, and we need a little love.  Unfortunately, love is actually not available in food (no matter what your mother taught you!).

So what are the changes you’re noticing?  Are you tired, grumpy, sleepy or feeling like another of the Seven Dwarfs?  Be sure to notice those changes, take care of yourself in a responsive and mindful way. Recognize that we’re creatures of habit and also creatures who need care and compassion (including self-compassion) especially at those critical times when the seasons of our life are changing!

Bundle-up and take care!

Courage

10.25.19

“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” ― Brené Brown

Remember when they told you that“80 percent of success is just showing up”? Well, that was just half of the Woody Allen quote, the rest says, “20 percent is what you’re showing up FOR!”

So, I’m with Brene on this one. Showing up is only part of the action we need to take, the other part is making ourselves VISIBLE, willing to be seen – sometimes standing alone in our truth.

What’s the truth you are afraid to make visible? Are you thinking that no one can see it so you’re “safe”? Are you hoping that no one will know, so you don’t have to talk about it, justify it or explain it?  Guess what, that’s not courage. . .that’s cowardice.

That’s where I find myself when I’m making excuses for NOT showing up. . .

  • At the gym because my shoulder hurts and I’m only going to be able to do a wimpy work-out anyway.
  • At the community center pool because my thighs are made not of cottage cheese, but of plaster of Paris that’s shifted south and isn’t coming back – (can’t let that be seen!)
  • At the yoga class where I know they’ll want me to kneel, and I can’t, so there’s no use in going – right?
  • At the support group where someone will surely see through my “I’m fine” and press me for what’s really going on in my life.

Courage requires that we show up and hold ourselves to the standard of visibility – being seen for who we are, how we are, what we are – especially in our moments of pain or discomfort or embarrassment. After all, we’re HUMAN; we’re flawed, imperfect and yet amazingly capable of so very much!

What are you hiding today? Can I come stand beside you in the honesty of your truth?  Can I tell you mine without being laughed at?  I hope so – because not only is that the beginning of courage, it is the beginning of love.

Goals – the challenges we create for ourselves

10.17.19

Are you setting goals this season? Many of us save our goals for January and claim them as New Year’s resolutions only to find ourselves loosing steam by February and back into our old habits by March.

In the fall, with so much change all around us, the outdoor environment may provide some motivation for our own choices to change.  We’re approaching what one of my clients this week called the “eating season” that stretches from Halloween all the way through New Year’s Eve.  A season in which we’ll encounter many, many opportunities to add calories to our usual consumption – and often empty calories in the form of candies, desserts, pastries and other sweets.  Saying no to the bounty that shows up can be difficult.  As a result, it may be a harder time to practice restraint – especially if you’re inclined to set a weight-management or harder still, weight-loss goal this fall!

What helps when you set and meet a goal?  Three things come to mind: 1. Shaping the environment to help you manage behavior; 2. Planning your time, so the goal is woven into your agenda for the day; 3. Tracking your progress toward the desired outcome.  Let’s tease these apart. . .

1. Shaping the environment to help you manage behavior. This can mean anything from packing your gym clothes and putting your gym bag by the door, or even in the car the night before.  It might mean clearing your kitchen pantry of your worst temptation foods and stocking it with healthy choices. Or it could be as simple as clearing a space for your yoga mat, so you aren’t discouraged when you’re ready to add some stretches to your morning!

2. Planning your time, so the goal is woven into your agenda for the day. We’re pretty good at keeping our business appointments but, we wimp out on ourselves when it comes to promises we’ve made for our health and well-being. So why not make appoints for yourself WITH yourself?  Put them right on your calendar, just as you would an important call or visit you’re expecting.  Honoring yourself in this way elevates your goal to “business” status – and isn’t that what the business of life is all about?

3. Tracking your progress toward the desired outcome. There is no one way to track your progress.  If you’re minding your eating then tracking your consumption may help you notice any mindless snacks that sneak into your day.  If you’re tracking your balance, it may be about having a clock or watch handy so you know how long you CAN hold tree-pose on each leg by counting the seconds.  If you’re hoping to re-shape your sleep experience, noting when you actually darken the room, turn off all the screens and lie down for your night’s rest. You may even want an electronic tracker to help you, so you can track not only the length of your sleep but the quality of your rest as well!

Don’t be afraid to set goals this fall – change is in the air and it can be part of what you choose for yourself as well, if you’ll put just a little time and attention into it!

Fall, in all its glory!

10.9.19

Today we took a little ride mainly to see the gorgeous landscape of autumn in the mid-west!  On other years, we’ve driven to Hastings or La Crosse for our “fall leaves excursion” but this year, with a winter storm positioning itself to the North-West, it seemed we needed to get this done or we might not get to go at all!  The day was lovely, 73-degree temperatures and relatively sunny skies!  We drove to Lake Minnetonka and toured along the shoreline and surrounding suburbs just long enough to get our fill of reds and oranges and yellows brightly set against the deep green pines and remaining trees that either haven’t yet turned, or never turn at all.  It was a splendid way to spend a few hours this afternoon.

One cannot go out and enjoy fall in the mid-west without having a deep appreciation for CHANGE, since that is what the season is all about. Changes in the foliage colors is perhaps the most stunning of the autumnal changes but others are certainly apparent. The temperatures are dropping, the days are shorter and the nights are cooler. Dew-points have all but disappeared and soon, the lawn will be strewn with all those colorful leaves. 

It makes me reflect on all that is changing in my own life – several things leap to mind. . .

  • Relationships are changing – in my house, that’s largely because my husband is losing nouns.  It’s all part of his Alzheimer’s disease but, that doesn’t make our conversation any easier. And, this week I learned the neighbors are moving (they’ve lived next-door for 16 years!). They’re  headed to a senior-housing center that’s currently under construction.  Finally, we attended an October wedding (the daughter of an old friend) and now, I watch my friend re-arrange her parenting style; two daughters “launched” – one to go.
  • Priorities are changing – here, that means clearing out all the potted plants on the deck and preparing for the winter’s snows. Putting things away, packing up the colorful summer cushions and anchoring anything that might want to blow away once winter’s winds kick up, the lounge chair, the folding umbrella, and even the plastic urn that held the petunias all summer. What was important in April is superfluous in October – time to pack up the summer and settle into fall. 
  • And, I have to admit, I’m changing, too – I’m watching my cholesterol inch up above the 200 mg/dL level so, my diet is quickly becoming more Mediterranean and even plant-based in response.  I’m watching the pool schedule at the recreation center as temperatures outdoors drop and the nights come earlier – I’ll want somewhere safe (and warm) to get some exercise in the months to come.  Finally, I find myself contemplating the end of the year – a mere 84 days away! What will the new year bring? What will it mean? How will I find myself as a full year of retirement comes to an end? 

I hope you’re taking in all the changes that surround you – the beautiful ones, the stark ones and even the changes that may give you pause (climate change; stock-market fluctuations; vaping deaths). I hope you’ll ask yourself, “What will the new year bring? What will it mean? How will I find myself?” as a new year appears on the horizon of your life as well.