Try, Try, Try. Period.

“If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. But, by all means keep moving.” ~Martin Luther King Jr

Sometimes it takes digging deep – really deep – to keep getting back up and trying. Has anyone else noticed that?

I have been going through an exacerbation of my MS symptoms, with old symptoms returning with a vengeance. To complicate matters, my peri-menopausal flare-ups are adding new symptoms that I am trying to wrap my head around, as well. Combine the two – and well, we have a pretty fatigued and worn-out Carolyne on hand.

Last week was a particularly busy week at work, and I had to be on-site at the main office for most of the week. My MS symptoms were flaring pretty badly before the week had even started, with MS Hug episodes taking my sparkle down to a dull “splat”. Then, the 2nd day into the busy week I was hit by what I am now calling the dreaded peri-menopausal period. My fatigue and pain got so bad that one of the days I actually left the room full of people I needed to be with, headed to my office, shut the door, and lay there doing the yoga “legs up the wall” pose for 20 minutes…just breathing and trying to meditate to reduce the pain and fatigue and brain fog. (I think someone may have come into my office during that time…but left when they saw how busy I was!)

My synchro swimming was also affected in that my coach could tell right away that something was not right. She could see my fatigue and my balance was way, WAY off.

SO…this peri-menopausal period stuff seems to be becoming quite the deal-breaker for me lately. Cramps worse than when I was a teen. Fatigue like a sledge hammer. Brain fog galor.  Is this normal for someone with MS, or for anyone?? I really don’t know. Doctors don’t like to say anything for sure, though some websites do mention that hormonal changes can affect MS symtoms. I am here to say that when my period comes these days, it is like I have been hit with the Fatigue Hammer of the Gods! Holy crap! I can’t think straight; my pain levels skyrocket; and my fatigue takes me down to the ground. So…seeing as I am my own science experiment…I would say that my observations are telling me that my peri-menopausal menses and symptoms are prone to exacerbating my MS symptoms greatly. And I don’t like it!!!

But – no matter what, crushing pain or no, I have a family to take care of…so I gotta push through the pain, fatigue and brain fog and just keep tryin’. When I came across the song and video by Pink, it resonated with me…and to me, it inspires the will we need to keep trying.

“But just because it burns
Doesn’t mean you’re gonna die
You’ve gotta get up and try try try
Gotta get up and try try try”
~Pink

So that’s what’s been going on with me. I am getting up. I am trying. Period.

So what’s going on with you?

Namaste.

Carolyne

Seeing the Light at the End of the Tunnel: Builiding your Resilience

“Continuous effort—not strength or intelligence—is the key to unlocking our potential.” ~Winston Churchill

http://www.babaloud.com/2011/05/amazing-inspirational-quotes/amazing-inspirational-quotes-16/(Photo Credit: http://www.babaloud.com)

Sometimes it can be tough to see the light at the end of the tunnel. That’s where personal resilience comes in. Resilience can help you know that even if you can’t see the light right now, you are confident that you will at some point.

If you google resilience, a Wiki definition comes up for resilience as:

Resilience in psychology refers to the idea of an individual’s tendency to cope with stress and adversity. This coping may result in the individual “bouncing back” to a previous state of normal functioning, or using the experience of exposure to adversity to produce a “steeling effect” and function better than expected (much like an inoculation gives one the capacity to cope well with future exposure to disease).[1] Resilience is most commonly understood as a process, and not a trait of an individual.[2]

Resilience is different for every person. When dealing with a chronic illness, resilience can mean the difference between life and death sometimes, or so it would seem when you feel like you have hit rock bottom. Resilience is what helps you find the strength to get back up one more time, try again once more, reach for the rope that you know is somewhere just out of sight.

Sometimes, people surprise me by saying to me: “How do you cope with it all? Shouldn’t you be a basket case by now? Why do you keep pushing forward? How do you do it?”

Honestly – I could not tell you the details of how I bounce back all the time, for the most part. Statistics often can say that a person who has dealt with multiple childhood traumas and multiple health issues should be having a really tough times surviving and living a good life. I just know that I do bounce back – to me there is no other logical choice but to keep trying, no matter what life throws at me. When you are down, rest, but look for the silver lining somewhere – no matter how small. Baby steps at times; sometimes, big leaps of faith.

My youngest son noticed this “bounce back” ability and surprised me one day by saying “Mom, no matter what happens, you are always happy and positive. Most people aren’t happy – but you always are. You are a very positive person. That’s interesting.” He noted it because he found it interesting that he does not think the same way as me, but that his older brother does more so, in terms of positivity and jumping in with both feet. (Both of my sons are absolutely brilliant, but my youngest is particularly deep, and often sees things in life in a very unique and clear way. He fascinates me!)

So how does one build resilience, if it is not instictive? Here are some tips…(reference source: Mayo Clinic)

  • Get connected. Building strong, positive relationships and support networks. Do volunteer work, get involved in your community, or join a spiritual community.
  • Make every day meaningful. Do something that gives you a sense of accomplishment and purpose every day. Set goals to help you look toward the future with meaning.
  • Learn from past experience. Think back on how you’ve coped with hardships in the past. Consider the skills and strategies that helped you through rough times.
  • Stay hopeful. You can’t change what’s happened in the past, but you can always look toward the future. Accepting and even anticipating change makes it easier to adapt and view new challenges with less anxiety.
  • Take care of yourself. Exercise daily. Get plenty of sleep. Eat a healthy diet. Practice stress management and relaxation techniques, such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing or prayer.
  • Take personal control – Be proactive!  Don’t ignore your problems or try to wish them away. Instead, figure out what needs to be done, make a plan and take action. Although it can take time to recover from a major setback, traumatic event or loss, know that your situation can improve if you actively work at it. This is one of the biggest keys to building your resilience, because perceived control is critical.

Once of the biggest helps to build your resilience is your perception of control in your own life. That’s where changing your perception to be proactive, and take control of the things you can, can make all the difference in the world. There are many things in life that are totally out of control – but take control where ever you can to help improve your situation in some small way. Many small steps eventually get you down the road, too.

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” -William James

namaste y’all!

Carolyne

Related Posts: “The Value of taking Time for Laughter and Rest”

Balance in all Things – even your Passions!

“To think in terms of either pessimism or optimism oversimplifies the truth. The problem is to see reality as it is.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh

Balance. It’s all about finding the right balance even in the weirdest circumstances.

I have recently been giving a lot of thought to what exactly defines my personal balance, especially in appreciating the hilarity of my “new” medical status: fascinating, complicated, and unusual and confounding.

I saw my new seizure specialist, who works with my MS specialist, and they ran my case file in front of their monthly hospital specialists case presentation (House team equivalents). They are all stumped by my medical situation – I likely do have MS, but on the other hand my “brain mass” is deeply embedded in my left temporal lobe and hasn’t changed so it may be mild or benign MS. My spinal tap shows MS signatures – but even that test is not a specific test to “prove” MS. The brain mass may or may not have been in there all my life, but it’s too dangerous to biopsy so we’ll likely never know. Even with all the tests I’ve had, apparently it could have been “missed” by earlier technology. My seizures have epilepsy signatures and the placement of my “brain mass” in my temporal lobe is often a typical cause of seizures, but I also have signatures of something called non-elliptical attack seizures disorder (NEAD – which medical science does not understand at all right now). I endured severe childhood abuse, which is a factor lending to NEAD. They want to keep monitoring me until they can figure out what my diagnosis “should” be. Is it MS? MS and Seizure? MS, seizure and something else? All or none of the above?

My doc’s recommendation: stay the current path of MS & seizure disorder balance. In other words – keep doing what I am doing with teleworking etc; avoid stress as much as humanly possible; keep doing yoga; stay on the seizure meds – and keep an open mind! Because I have no warning he said I will likely never be able to drive again (unless they can actually diagnose me or discover an actual trigger). He also recommended I do not take baths (showers only) and that I do not handle power tools (WTF??).

That is the part that made me laugh until tears poured down my cheeks – My son already says “Mom, step away from the drill”. Now he has a doctor’s recommendation: his mom is not allowed to use power tools! (Hmmm…that could be a really good thing… do “power tools” include a stove for cooking dinner? :)

There is always humour to be found – even in the seemingly darkest parts!

One of my seizure triggers may be a delayed reaction to overwhelming stress – overload of either positive or negative stressors. So for me – I really need to stay aware of my personal balance. The people who know me, generally see me as a very positive person who takes on life with enthusiastic passion. Sometimes, in my enthusiasm and passion, I take on too much. I push myself to accomplish more, keep commitments that I made despite my personal energy levels: do, Do, DO. Even if the endeavors are completely personal and fully enjoyable – it can lead to a seizure if I do not monitor my fatigue levels.

Balance. It’s all about finding the right balance even in the weirdest circumstances.

“Life is a process of becoming. A combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.” -Anais Nin

Namaste

Carolyne

It’s all about Communication

“More important than the quest for certainty is the quest for clarity.” -Francois Gautier

Communication (noun): Intercourse by words, letters, or messages; interchange of thoughts or opinions, by conference or other means; conference; correspondence.

Communication. Such an amazingly simple concept, yet an amazingly difficult thing to achieve. We are a world surrounded by so many means of communicating…but is anything being heard?

I was recently reminded of how fragile communication can be. Communication fragility comes in many forms, such as when an e-mail is misinterpreted, leading to a hurtful misunderstanding between old friends; or when a text message is sent incompletely, leaving a confused recipient wondering what that was all about; or when there is no information at all shared, and communication is stopped, leaving a void to be filled with false assumptions, hurt, and resentment.

Sometimes, the misunderstanding can start from the perception of a simple phrase or word. Take the phrase “Good for you”, for example. To me, that phrase indicates support, well-wishing, and positivity. I recently ran across someone for whom that phrase meant insult, criticism, and implied a condescending intent. Whoa! How can two people see three little words so very differently? The answer, my dear: Personal perception…

Personally, communication is a big passion of mine – good, clear, open, honest communication. Unfortunately, sometimes my own MS cognitive impacts kick in, and communication can become quite an interesting endeavor! Words become difficult for me to find, and sometimes I substitute other words in my search – not always with the intended results! Luckily, when I am speaking to someone face-face, I can throw my hands around while I search for missing words, and the people who know me can fill in the gaps when I can’t find the word. I have learned that humour makes these cognitive lapses much easier to handle – for everyone! (Especially if I am in the middle of a situation where I really need all my faculties, including my ability to clearly communicate, such as on stage or in a board meeting!) Unfortunately, this does not translate as well in written forms of communication, such as e-mail. I have noticed that incomplete sentences and the wrong choice of words can lead to un-intended misunderstanding and confusion, rather than understanding and clarity. Oops. My bad!

“Be gentle first with yourself if you wish to be gentle with others.” -Lama Yeshe

When managing a chronic illness, such as MS & seizures or anything else…communication becomes critical, in that the medical team needs a full, clear picture of what’s happening in my life to be able to treat me in the best way possible. I personally have no problems being open and transparent in life, mainly because I grew up with so many hidden secrets in my family that I abhor any form of “skeletons in the closet” mentality. Not everyone is like that, I know. But I have found, especially with the medical teams over the years, that you have to be willing to mention the “unmentionable” sometimes, or they don’t have the big picture and cannot accurately treat you. For example – if you suffer from pain on a daily basis, but out of pride won’t admit to any pain or minimize how deeply the pain is affecting you, for fear of some kind of perceived judgement, your doctor cannot know how to accurately help you. Or if you suffer from depression, but neglect to mention to the psychologist that you are going through job-loss or marital break-up, well the doctor can’t make a correct assessment and advise you properly. Or, if you are experiencing sexual difficulties, but never bring it up – well, you can end up with more than just sexual difficulties! I still remember the first time I brought up sexual symptoms of MS to my neurologist, and was faced with a very uncomfortable doc and no clarification. Later however, an MS & Sexuality seminar was created by that doctor’s clinic! What does that mean? It means that enough people asked the tough questions so that the need for information was clearly communicated, and the need was filled by clearly communicating to patients via the seminar.

When it comes to sharing and communicating with family and friends, that is a critical part of managing any chronic illness – they are your primary support system. I am not talking about a daily whining session, complaining all the time about what’s not working. Nor am I talking about taking out frustrations by unproductive rumination over perceived losses. I am talking about sharing personal truth, in as positive a way as possible – openly, honestly, non-judgementally, including the good, the bad, and the ugly, in an effort to maintain clarity and authentic understanding. I am talking about clearly communicating any necessary information to enable them to help you, and vice versa.  I am talking about being vulnerable, and listening to not only your own words, but the words of those you love.

And when you do have instances when your communication skills were not as polished as you would normally like – that’s ok. You are only human, after all! Learn from the experience, remedy or change what you can when possible, and move on.

“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others. ~ Tony Robbins”

Namaste

Carolyne

The Trials and Tribulations of Getting Diagnosed!

“Worry never robs tomorrow of it’s sorrow. It only saps today of it’s joy.” -Leo Buscaglia

Navigating the medical system while getting diagnosed with anything can be an interesting journey into the trials and tribulations of worry, anxiety, fear, confusion, and uncertainty. Even when you get a diagnosis, you sometimes get un-diagnosed then re-diagnosed when you see new specialists! For some wild examples, see my previous blogs about being undiagnosed by a different neurologist then re-diagnosed…then again this year…my MS diagnosis was questioned by a new specialist, and re-confirmed by my regular neurologist.

You see…I have MS – no, now it’s a brain tumour. No, wait – Now it’s MS. No, wait – now it’s possibly MS and more, maybe still a brain tumour, maybe a genetic tumour disorder. No, wait – Now it’s MS and a seizure disorder…but it’s complicated.

Frankly, I feel blessed that I have a scientific side to me that allows me to question doctors and medical specialists with no fear, no apprehension, and all the confidence of a know-it-all science geek. Geeks rock, eh! A lot of that confidence I have learned through some pretty hard knocks over time, and some very real frustrations, but that is part of this journey we call life.

Recently, I had the dubious pleasure of undergoing a sleep study to determine if I am having nocturnal seizures. Quite the experience to be hooked up to electrodes and straps and clips, then “tucked” into bed as you are plugged into the wall. Then a quick “nighty-night” and the door is closed, leaving you staring in the dark at a little red light – the camera that is watching you. (I swear, if anything weird turns up on You Tube…)

Will that help further my diagnosis? Well…maybe. Maybe not. Right now, my epilepsy neurologists think I might not have MS due to my atypical brain scan, but that I do have a seizure disorder and maybe something else that looks like MS. Meanwhile, my MS neurologists say “P-ffft” to that…that I do indeed have MS as confirmed by the spinal tap results, symptoms, and brain scan. (A possibly quick way to let the docs settle the academic question of MS or not MS would be to let them biopsy my lesion…but, I think a needle in the brain is a bit of overkill for academic reasons, don’t you?)

I don’t care whatcha call it – just let me get on with my life, eh? I’m busy living here!

You see – that is often the hardest part of waiting for a diagnosis: getting on with your life. I have learned over the years to just let the medical teams battle it out on their own while I get on with the business of living my life. Whether you are awaiting a diagnosis for something small or big – the wait can be very difficult.

How to get through the long Diagnosis:

1. Know that no one is better qualified to know about you than you.

2. Gather your own information. Read. Surf the ‘Net. Knowledge gives us a sense of personal control – if nothing else that helps you manage your reactions.

3. Practice patience. There will be set backs, successes, frustrations, little glimmers of light at the end of the tunnel.

Yes – doctors know alot of stuff. But doctors are only human – and they are just as prone to human foibles as the rest of us, including making mistakes or incorrect assumptions.  Nobody knows you better than you do. Keep that always at the top of your mind. Be willing to ask the uncomfortable questions, both of your medical team and yourself. The answers may surprise you.

“If you worry about what might be, and wonder what might have been, you will ignore what is.” ~Unknown

Namaste

Carolyne

How to Seek Clarity to calm the Confusion

“If you worry about what might be, and wonder what might have been, you will ignore what is.” ~Unknown

When was is managing a chronic illness, sometimes the confusion is overwhelming. The antidote is clarity.

I love this picture of my old pup, Nickster. When I look at it, I see my doggy companion of over 12 years, reveling in the calm and clarity open before him. In his wake, the ripples and chaos of churning water are left behind as he continues to move forward through clear waters.

I absolutely love clear calm waters. Most people would agree that calm clear waters can translate to calm, clear minds as we sit and absorb the peace surrounding them.

Turbulent waters have a beauty all their own – but sometimes it is harder to appreciate the beauty. Sometimes fear can spike, if waters are too turbulent, and you are not sure about what may be coming at you, or if you can withstand the strength of the turbulence. If you focus on the fear, you will only be able to see the churning waters…but if you step back, and focus on one aspect at a time…the waters become clear again in areas – despite the strong forces that may be churning them.

Whew – I seem to be on a water metaphorical streak, eh? I wonder where the heck it is taking us?

How to Find Clarity when you feel lost in Confusion:

1. Knowledge is power, as the saying goes.

Clarity comes in many forms – but one of the most powerful methods of gaining clarity when managing a chronic illness is through knowledge. The internet can be an amazing reference source for gaining new insights, new coping tools, a-ha moments…all with the goal to bring some clarity to a state of confusion or chaos.

2. Practice Non-Attachment in the confusion.

Sometimes we can be too wrapped up in something, and not see the forest for the trees. At times like that, it is often best to take a step back, breathe, rub your eyes (figuratively or in reality) and then take a fresh look. Coming at something from a different angle might help you see things you missed before. Observe without judgement.

3. When in doubt, ask. Don’t assume.

It always amazes me when I am talking to people how many times I hear “Oh – I was too nervous to ask about that. I did not want to bother Mr. X about it” or “I didn’t want to look stupid, so I didn’t ask” or some such thing. Ask, people, ask!!! If you have questions or concerns – you are the only person who can voice them. Ask! Seek the clarification directly. (Remember that other old saying – Don’t assume. It makes an ASS out of U and ME.)

Clear as mud yet?

“The truth you believe and cling to makes you unavailable to hear anything new.” -Pema Chodron

Namaste

Carolyne

Finding your Life Inspiration…and Acting on it.

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.                 ~ Jack Layton (1950-2011)

Recently, as Canadians and many people internationally know, our “beloved Jack” died, after a fight with cancer. I spent much of Saturday watching his life celebration and state funeral, crying the entire time…simply overcome by grief. Grief for a man I never met, but whose integrity, class, and courage I admired greatly. I voted for the man, and genuinely hoped that he would become our next Prime Minister one day.

Why was I crying for someone I didn’t know? Good question…I wasn’t. I was crying for the sudden loss and the grief his family must feel. I was crying for the inspiring depth of his words at a times when his pain and his family’s pain would have been greatest. I was crying for his struggle, my struggle; his losses, my losses; his family, my family; his disease management, my disease management. I was crying for the awareness that life is so short – and there is no time to take life for granted. I was crying for the realization that we are not so different from Jack – we all have battles we must face, and time does not always work in our favor, no matter who we are, nor how much privilege we may or may not have.

For me, in my family I have seen short lifetimes and family members lost too soon…a grandfather to cancer at age 50; an uncle at age 54 to cancer; a mother at age 56 to stroke; an aunt at age 53 to cancer. I have experienced my own “near misses” a few too many times for comfort, and worried about my sister’s health as she ages. So, I was crying also for myself – my own fears and worries about dying too soon, and leaving my family alone. One of my biggest fears has always been leaving my boys without a mother…even writing this makes me shake. Given that my grand mal seizures come on so suddenly and dramatically, and in potentially dangerous places sometimes, it is unfortunately not an unfounded fear. My boys are everything to me – and the thought of “abandoning” them by dying unexpectedly is terrifying at times. Rational, maybe not…but a fear nonetheless.

When a vibrant person such as Jack dies at such a relatively young age…it simply highlights how precious everything is; how fragile; how tenuous…and yet how solid. But it also inspires. Jack’s struggle and death, and his amazing final words to Canadians, resonates so deeply within me, that it solidifies my own personal inspiration to keep moving forward, keep being optimistic, keep choosing happiness every day.

When one is struggling to manage a chronic illness, be it MS, seizures, depression, etc… maintaining that personal inspiration is critical.

How to maintain personal inspiration and optimism in the face of your chronic illness:

1. Make a conscious choice every morning to be positive and optimistic. Choose to see the glass as half-full rather than half-empty.  Over time, you won’t even have to think about it – you’llsee it as half-full.

2. Be consciously grateful everyday for the little things in your life. All the little things add up … and there is a lot to be grateful for, if you are willing to see.

3. Invest yourself in something you are passionate about. Be willing to be vulnerable in sharing that passion.

4. Find a mentor, teacher, or guru to model – someone that inspires you, and whose approach to life resonates within you. Allow yourself to be deeply inspired and moved. This can be a personal friend or family member, or simply a celebrity you follow in the news… it is your choice.

Thanks, Jack – your life has re-ignited my own personal inspiration. RIP.

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.” Albert Einstein

Namaste

Carolyne

How to Deal with Stigma or Bias against Chronic Illness


“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” ~Unknown

Sometimes having a chronic illness can be like walking a lonely road…especially when people react to you in negative ways because they do not understand your illness.

I find myself these days often between two extremes: some on one end, over-protective and treating me like I am a helpless victim, ready to break and fail at any moment due to fragile health; and at the other end, some who are stressed by my very presence to some degree, because they fear what may happen if I have a medical emergency at some point while with them (read: seizure fear).

In the middle is me, just quietly plodding on and struggling to re-establish my personal balance, physically, spiritually, and mentally. The one end makes me feel suffocated, misread, and trapped, while the other end makes me feel like a burden, misunderstood, and something to be kept isolated for fear of causing stress. Both extremes create stress in me, and cause me personal emotional pain and frustration. The catch-22 is that this very stress reaction created in me can actually manifest the health crises these two ends of the spectrum fear they will see in me.

So – how do we deal with these extremes? Frankly, I wish I had a magic recipe for this. (Hmmm…I wonder if Hermione Granger is available to consult??? Maybe I should call up J.K.Rowling to ask.)

Here are the ways I have found that help me deal with the stigma and bias caused by chronic illness (especially seizure disorders):

1. Cultivate your compassion.

Be compassionate with yourself as well as the person creating the stress by their reactions. That person may not understand how their behaviour is affecting you. Choose to recognise that the person has a fear, and their fear is their issue – not yours.

2. Remember, you are NOT your illness.

Remind yourself that you are not defined by your illness, no matter what anyone may think, say, or feel. Only you can define who you are and what you are capable of achieving.

3. Practice non-attachment.

Keep a smile on your face and turn the other cheek. Do not allow your ego to become attached to anyone else’s fears or labels. Listen with an open heart where possible and remain true to yourself, non-attached to others’ issues.

4. Walk away if need be.

If the situation persists and creates increasing stress in you, you can walk away. You are not defined by other’s fears – don’t allow them to take hold. Choose to walk away.

“Believe nothing no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and common sense.” ~Buddha

Namaste.

Carolyne

Finding your Balance between a Rock & a Hard Place

“Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.” -Pema Chodron

(Can you believe I held that Crane pose for 4 seconds before falling? Yipee-yahoo! Balance achieved – of a sort…)

I recently found myself struggling to find my balance regarding a number of things, from being shockingly emotionally shut down completely by someone on one end, to struggling to make sense of rapidly changing circumstances in someone’s life and its ripple effects on mine on the other end. In the middle, there was and is all the daily balance struggles to deal with – health, children, work. Whew! Frankly – balancing in Crane Pose on a rock in the middle of a cold Rocky Mountain lake seems simple by comparison, sometimes!

In order to find my personal balance again, I have been focusing on becoming un-invested while remaining fully engaged. Basically – I am focusing on taking my ego out of the equation, and being present, truly present, in whatever moment I find myself. I am finding this to be more of a struggle than I anticipated because my ego is more active and insistent than I realized! For instance, giving advice should have an intent of aid, with no intent of receiving gratitude nor accolades in return. That’s where the ego comes in, because if you find yourself getting frustrated with the advice receiver, then your intention is not true and you are allowing your own ego to get invested in that person’s journey. Another example: if someone shuts you down completely from discussing a topic through deep emotion, it is usually their issue and not a reflection on you, so focusing on keeping emotionally engaged while keeping your ego out so it doesn’t get un-necessarily bruised is the balance needed. So I am focusing on listening more, reflecting more, and taking in more information…and speaking less while keeping my inner witness calmly in the forefront, keeping my own personal ego needs in perspective. Takes a bit of fine-tuning, lemme tell ya!

Since my double seizure episode in the Spring of this past year, I have been really struggling to re-define my balance, physically, emotionally, and mentally. I have had emotional ups and downs due to drug reations, illness, and MS symptom flares…and my motivation has been really flagging.  On the physical side, things keep changing with MS symptom flares, drug reactions and interactions, wacky peri-menopausal symptoms and plain old lack of personal motivation and engagement. It is starting to piss me off, because I have not quite found my personal balance again yet. But, with persistent forward movement, no matter how slow, I will rediscover my new balance…whatever it may be. (The type-A in me wants to snap my fingers and “Make it so, Number One”…but reality is never that quick and easy.)

Funnily enough, this fine balancing act is almost visibly personified as my oldest son and I re-define our relationship now that he has moved on from high school to university and is a young adult. He still needs his Mom’s love and advice…but he doesn’t need me to hold his hand anymore. Jeez – he finally becomes really fun to hang out with, and he’d prefer to hang with friends and get out and enjoy his new life than hang around with his ol’ Mom all the time! Go figure, eh?! (The balance? He has been successfully raised to responsible adulthood!)

Generally, when I start to get frustrated at my own lack of forward motion, it spurs me on to new heights…so here we go! Motivational Boot camp, anyone? Anyone?

“If you lose today, win tomorrow. In this never-ending spirit of challenge is the heart of a victor.” -Daisaku Ikeda

Namaste

Carolyne

Laughter through Tears

“Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow.” -Swedish Proverb

Image from http://valentineswallpapers.blogspot.com/2010_04_01_archive.html Have you ever noticed that sometimes you can laugh so hard that you eyes tear up? Have you ever noticed that the reverse is also true – that when you are deepest in grief and tears, you will find yourself laughing and smiling and the most absurd things?

My oldest son and I recently shared a moment of poignant vulnerability and laughter through tears of sadness and loss. We recently had to say our final goodbyes to our kitty of almost 13 years – and it was simply awful. This cat had been my son’s study buddy, confidant, watch-cat, and all-round companion since my son picked him out of the litter at the age of 5 when the kitten was 5 days old.  My son and I held each other as our companion passed, crying in each others arms, reminiscing about what a wonderful pet our kitty had been, and laughing over his junk food habit and other little quirks. Saying goodby was painful – but sharing the vulnerability and laughter through tears with my young adult son was precious. I feel genuinely blessed to have such a close and wonderful relationship with both my sons that we can cry and laugh together, openly and with mutual compassion and respect.

Laughter through loss and grief is a coping mechanism – one that can help us through some of the most trying and difficult times, be it death, divorce, job loss or chronic illness. Stages of grief are well known to most by now, as outlined anywhere if you google it. But little is mentioned about laughter during periods of grief. Often, people feel guilty if they feel any joy or laughter when they “should” be feeling sad.

Bah-humbug, I say to that. I will give you a personal example of how laughter helps us work through our grief.

When my mother passed away a number of years ago, my cousins flew in to be with me and help me make arrangements for the funeral. They stayed with me while my aunt stayed with my father. My cousins were always a riot to be with – and their ability to make me laugh was priceless. When I was sleepless, we would lie in our beds and they would tell me jokes and stories about our childhood, featuring my mom, and made me laugh so hard through my tears that my stomach hurt.

When we came back from the funeral, the director handed me my Mother’s ashes in an urn, which was placed in a canvas beach bag emblazoned with the funeral home’s name and logo. We silently got into my car, as I gingerly placed the bag holding my mother’s urn on the floor behind my seat. As I started the car, I began to giggle uncontrollably at an absurd thought that popped into my head. I shared this thought with my cousins, and within seconds, the three of us were gut-laughing through tears of grief…and it lasted for a full 30 minutes where we could barely breathe from the laughter. The absurd thought? I had turned to them and said “Next time I come visit you, we can go to the beach and I’ll make sure to bring this great canvas beach bag they gave us – so we can remember the good times we had, eh? Good times, good times!” Morbid? Definitely! But the absurdity of the situation struck us…and the gut-busting laughter helped reduce the intensity of the deep grief we were feeling at Mom’s loss. I don’t have the bag anymore, but to this day, I look at canvas bags with a bittersweet memory and pang. I remember my mother and my cousins fondly, and feel warmth and love – no more grief.

Embrace your grief. Embrace your joy. Embrace the laughter you find within both and in the zone in-between. Accept the laughter through your tears…there is a reason for such a priceless balance.

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

Namaste.

Carolyne