What is the End of the World, anyway?

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”~ Dr. Seuss

Image Source:www.timeanddate.com/calendar/maya-world-end.html

Image Source:www.timeanddate.com/calendar/maya-world-end.html

So – what is the end of the world, anyway? What does the end of the world as we know it mean?

These questions have been flying around as the legendary end of the Mayan long-count calendar approaches, which falls (according to north american “experts”) on December 21, 2012.

Personally, I think the end of the world has come and gone many times over, and will come and go many times over in the future. I believe it is also highly personal. And I believe what can be the end of the world as we know can mean a brand new beginning and a new world to discover.

Just looking at this 2012 year exemplifies that for me.

A friend lost her child when a pre-natal check-up showed no heart beat – the world as she new it ended that day. Couples divorced, fighting bitter battles over child custody or money – the children’s worlds ended as they knew it. Someone gets officially diagnosed with a chronic illness like MS – the world ended as they knew it that day. A maniac kills innocent children and adults for some unknown and whacked-out reason – the world as the families of the victims ended as they know it that day. Militants, rebels, and corrupt governments fight endlessly, killing civilians and military personnel – the world as they and the people around them know it ended, repeatedly.

On the other side of the coin, there is a new beginning. But that new beginning is not necessarily always easy or painless. The person diagnosed with a disease starts a support group and sees a new beginning and a new life managing and coping. The results of the maniacal killing spree of a whacko spurs a new beginning for better and safer gun laws and restrictions. I married my best friend, lover, hero, and the most wonderful man I have ever met; that day the end of the word as I knew it occurred – and a brand knew world began for me.

As human being, we seem to always search for the “end of the world” somewhere. Do we really need to look for the end of the world in things we cannot control, big or small? I say “Stop”. Look a little bit closer to home…and appreciate what you have around you. Appreciate the little endings, the little beginnings – the world around you. Don’t try to control what you simply cannot. Don’t panic about things that have no basis in truth.

The world changes every single day. Be grateful for the world as YOU know it.

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.” ― Robert Frost

(See you on the other side of the End of the World. ;)

Namaste

Carolyne

Serenity in the Challenge and the Chaos

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” ― Helen Keller

Whew – life can get chaotic sometimes, can’t it? I think of my own life right now – talk about chaos! Sometimes I am exhausted just thinking about it: a new marriage; long-term things coming to a head at work; moving an entire household; taking on a new cause and awareness raising initiative; raising teenagers; and staying on top of my health management. Keeping balance through our chaotic times can be a challenge in itself.

Life can be full of challenges in periods of chaos. And – sometimes challenges can bring us adventure – and sometimes that very adventure brings us serenity and inner peace.

Even with all the “busy-ness”, I have been feeling more “me” than ever before in my life. Part of it is that I married my life partner, BFF, and soul mate. Part of it is that I am “able”, despite my health constraints. But a big part of it has been facing a huge challenge and taking a little slice of “me” back from the constraints of my chronic illness – in this case, by getting back into the water.

Synchronized swimming is back in my life – and, boy oh boy, did I ever miss it and hadn’t even realized it! I am a water baby at the core – always have been. I am never more relaxed mentally, spiritually, and emotionally than when I am in or near water. My personal challenge is to be fully active and even competing in the Masters Synchro world by my 50th birthday. That is not that far off. The biggest challenge was getting back in the water itself – knowing that a seizure in the water is a dangerous thing.

You see, I want to raise awareness for the Stigma against Seizure Disorders as I travel this journey I call my life. (Look for a facebook page down the road. Yup – more to keep me busy and challenged!) Raising awareness means being transparent to a large degree. That is, in and of itself, a challenge. It means disclosing (repeatedly) that I have a seizure disorder – but that I don’t let it stop me from living my life to its fullest potential. It means telling each lifeguard what I need them to watch for and do. It means making sure that my coach knows what my “deal” is – and making sure she is comfortable with it. It means facing the fear every day. It means working every day to keep motivated, no matter what.

But these very challenges are the fuel that fire my inner peace. Knowing I may help just one person by sharing my experiences fuels that fire, and brings me a sense of serenity. Knowing that I have the courage to face a fear and break the social assumptions by getting back into the water, despite all the warnings about the dangers – that brings me a sense of serenity and inner peace. (Being underwater in the cool blue – that alone brings me serenity.) That’s what works for me. That, currently, is my daring adventure!

Finding serenity and inner peace – that is a personal journey, and each individual defines that for themselves. Serenity and peace in the challenge and chaos – I firmly believe it can be found…if you allow yourself to see it and recognise it. What does it look like for you?

“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled.  For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” ~ unknown

Namaste

Carolyne

Rest: We will Return after These Messages…

“Sometimes the most urgent thing you can possibly do is take a complete rest.” ~ Ashleigh Brilliant

Two Sisters – Ah…Savasana in the sun….

Summer sun – is there anything more wonderful? The warmth? The heat…the baking heat…frig, it’s hot.

This summer, with much of the continent affected by recorded breaking temperatures, there have been many people seriously affected by the heat. I myself am also experiencing the MS effects of heat more than I ever have in my history with MS. For example – my legs gave out twice on me while out and about in the Rockies. My hubby-to-be, Mike, actually had to catch me in one of these episodes as my legs simple “let go”. (I happened to be on the cliff side of a hiking trail…so I am glad he caught me!!)

I am, as many MS’ers may be, experiencing big flare ups of my symptoms due to the summer heat. So – I am going to rest for the next few weeks, and simply take a break from my “busy-ness” by purposely being less busy. Believe me – that’s not easy for a type-A personality like me! I gots things to do, places to go, people to see, blogs to write…the list is endless. But I mentally, emotionally, and physically need to do this.

“I know exactly what I want. Everything. Calm, peace, tranquility,
freedom, fun, happiness. If I could make all that one word, I would – a
many-syllabled word. “- Johnny Depp

So – see y’all in September. have a great summer – and remember to rest!

namaste.

Carolyne

On My Mat: Life’s Journey is Not about a River in Egypt

Tell a man there are 300 billion stars in the universe and he’ll believe you.  Tell him a bench has wet paint on it and he’ll have to touch it to be sure.  ~Murphy’s Law

I have traveled the river of denial (get it..de-Nile…ok, bad joke) a few times on my journey through life. One of the reasons that I love this artwork above (not only because it is a beautiful work of art from my son’s lovely girlfriend of which you can see more at http://www.facebook.com/caitsart ) but because of the emotions and awareness that it evokes in me. I love, love, love this piece of simple evocative art.

When I look at this picture, I see myself. I see my friends. I see my family. I see the strangers around me. What do I see? I see the highly personal and individual struggle we all travel on our own life journeys. Sometimes that struggle can cause us to deny what we see in front of us, hide our faces…and peek out between our fingers only when we think it is safe again.

As I was lying in the bliss of savasana one day on my mat, happy to have realigned my body, and I began noting thoughts about denial and what it means. I, for one, can be really good at denial – though as I have aged (and theoretically gained vast amounts of wisdom) I have learned that facing the scary parts full on is really the best way I have found to handle anything. Denial usually comes as a result of fear – and our own unwillingness to face that fear. Hence – we develop our own states of denial. (It’s kinda like putting your hands over your eyes when you don’t want to see something, or your hands over your ears if you don’t want to hear something.)

Here is an excerpt from Dr. Sanity about denial and what it is (Dr.Sanity Blogspot):

Denial may be conceptualized as an attempt to reject unacceptable feelings, needs, thoughts, wishes–or even a painful external reality that alters the perception of ourselves. This psychological defense mechanism protects us temporarily from:
-Knowledge (things we don’t want to know)
-Insight or awareness that threatens our self-esteem; or our mental or physical health; or our security (things we don’t want to think about)
-Unacceptable feelings (things we don’t want to feel)

I have learned over time that the moment I recognise that I feel fear (of anything) is the very moment that I have to take the hands off my eyes, turn around, and face that fear head on. If I don’t, then all I am doing is denying the existence of my fear, and of the source of that fear.

When it comes to dealing with a chronic illness, this applies too. For some of us, our chronic illnesses can be a constant source of fear and denial. How many of us deny symptoms; hope symptoms will go away on their own; just take the doc’s word at face value – with no questioning? I know I did, and sometimes still do! (I often call it pure stubborn-ness – but really, it can often boil down to simple denial…ok, I am facing that. :)

“Facts sometimes have a strange and bizarre power that makes their inherent truth seem unbelievable.” ~ Werner Herzog

Namaste

Carolyne

On My Mat: Seeing The Bittersweetness of Change and Transition

Human beings must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it. ~ Albert Einstein

Change. It is the one true constant in our world, isn’t it?  However, dealing with change requires transitioning – and that often takes determined effort.  Sometimes people think: “well, transition is just another name for change. Right?” Wrong.

Change is fast. Transition is slow. Change can be forced on us. Transition is the key to accepting that change – and it takes different amounts of time for different individuals.

Whether we are healthy, or have a chronic illness to manage, change and transition are a part of living in this world. How comfortable we are with change, how resilient we can be, usually determines how we transition through that change.

Recently, I have been dealing with a fair amount of change…and I have been taking the time to truly feel the bittersweetness of it as I transition into a new way of being. I have been using my time on the mat to really feel what’s going on within me. Change can be small – like a new symptom that makes a slight modification to daily routines necessary. (Spontaneous tears for me recently is an example – irritating for me, but amusing for friends and family.) Or, change can be huge, and affect you inner core to a large and evening surprising degree. For example: My children are transitioning through from adolescence to young adulthood – so I have myself been dealing with my own transition from “Mommy” to “Mom”, from being the centre of their world, to not being the centre of their world anymore. Bittersweet. The bitter part comes from knowing I must let them fly free – that it is the natural way of things. The sweet part comes from knowing that I have done a good job as a mother – because these kids are eager to fly and take on the world in their new adventures. This allows me more time to focus on me – because my identity is changing.

You’d think that would be easy, eh? I can remember many a time over the years when my kids were young that I lamented “Oh, to just have some time to myself!” Now – I have more time on my hands. But my identity as a mother is challenged – I must transition from Mommy to Mom, flying by the seat of my pants as I do so. But isn’t that exacly what parenthood is all about? Flying by the seat of your pants as you try to raise these little beings in your care. Throw in a chronic illness, and periodic emotional lability due to either the illness or the meds for that illness…well, it leads to some pretty memorable moments!

So how do you not fill that free time to excess work or “busy-ness”, and make sure the transition does not negatively impact your health? My remedy? YOGA! I say: take action – do yoga and meditate (whether a walking meditation, relaxing meditation – whatever floats your boat!!)

Yoga can give us the strength and insight we need to navigate change in our lives. Your yoga practice can serve you well during times of change, big or small.  Yoga won’t necessarily keep you from feeling scared, overwhelmed, or confused. But it can help you sort out your feelings, letting you see  what’s happening from a position of non-attachment to guide you through those feelings so that you don’t get lost in them.

Here are some of the key things to keep in mind when dealing with change:

  • Recognize that change is an inevitable part of life. Change is the only constant!
  • Try to see change as an opportunity – an opportunity to try a new way of living. Or maybe open doors to new people. Or maybe just an opportunity to get to know yourself better, and develop your self awareness.
  • Attitude matters!!!
  • Take action of some sort – baby step by baby step. It might be something as simple as taking that first step into a yoga studio, or cracking that new cookbook to begin learning to cook. Have the courage to take that first step.
  • Be willing to let go. If you keep looking back and keep hanging on with a tight grip, you’ll never actually move forward. Stop thinking in “if only’s” – they keep you anchored in the past and keep you from moving forward. Being willing to let go—moment by moment—can by itself be the inner key to navigating change.

When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our
courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no
point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we
are not yet ready. ― Paulo Coelho, The Devil and Miss Prym

Namaste.

Carolyne

Back in the Saddle: Keeping Life Balance Despite the Challenges

“Never too old, never too bad, never too late, never too sick to start from scratch once again.” -Bikram Choudhury

Sometimes, the stresses of life can throw you off balance in unexpected ways! I myself have been “off my game” for the past few weeks, basically suffering from “home-office-presenteeism-itis”. What does THAT mean? It means that sometimes the stresses associated with working at home (as per my health accommodations) can take up residence in the sanctuary of my home and continue the stress that normally I would LEAVE at work. That is the tricky part of working at home as a way to accommodate your health – figuring out how to keep them separate, while still being passionate about your hobbies and other life-balance tools. And no matter what – your health factors in as a very high priority issue!

You see, my home office includes my official work station, but it also includes my personal connection station to the world (including this blog, etc). In recent weeks, the stress at work due to cutbacks has become so high and so toxic that is has leaked into my home sanctuary. In order to deal with the stress of the office, I closed my door by the end of the day on Fridays, and just could not face even the idea of going back into that room until the following Monday. I spent my weekends recovering from the stress and the toll it took on my MS and overall health, including the worry that the stress load could trigger a major seizure event. (Thankfully, so far so good – no seizure!) Good strategy, right?

Yes and no.

What that shutting of the door meant was that I was shutting out the workplace stress. But the secondary effect was that I could not muster up the desire to come in and sit down to write my blog – which a positive tool in my life. It meant that part of my coping mechanism for managing my health became “inaccessible” to me – because I just needed to be away from the “work” part. I worried that I might become a full-on practitioner of presentee-ism in my blog if I chose to write when I could not stomach the idea of being in the office area. What is presentee-ism? Lemme tell you…here is a definition:

Presentee-ism: When employees come to work not mentally present due to an illness, extreme family/life pressures or stress, they are not giving themselves adequate time to get better.

While I do not consider my blogging a chore in any way, the thought of being in my office over the weekend hours considering the amount of work-stress faced daily during the week was just not something I was/am willing to tolerate. I just could not stomach the idea of being in my office, my place of work, on my personal time. I needed an emotional rest on weekends away from anything work-related – because the idea of going into my office made me physically ill. But this in itself caused stress, because blogging is a joy for me – so my joy was being affected! Catch-22!

So – what to do about it? Well – I have decided I need to re-organize my time in a better way so that my joys can be protected from the toxic spillover of stresses from my workplace. Work stress is a fact of life. Chronic Illness such as MS is exacerbated by stress – and boy, have I felt that in recent weeks. Establishing a balance is critical, especially at these times of extreme work stress – working from home can make that balance even more of a challenge to find, and even more of a challenge to maintain!

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” -Mary Anne Radmacher

So – I will keep trying to find the balance, and keep on blogging about this and other life challenges and successes. Life is a series of ups and downs…and there is ALWAYS something to learn!

Namaste

Carolyne

Seeing Through the Loneliness

Remember we’re all in this alone. ~ Lily Tomlin

Recently, someone asked me to write more about the loneliness that can come with living with a chronic illness. Whew – that’s a tough subject, eh?

Loneliness is more of an emotional state consisting of a hollow emptiness and profound unhappiness. It is not a voluntary condition like solitude might be. Loneliness can affect us all at different times, in different ways – whether it’s a fleeting feeling or a constant state of disconnection or isolation. For people with chronic illness, this can sometimes play a significant role in managing their lives.

Unfortunately, the reality of managing a chronic illness is that sometimes you have to make decisions about what you can handle physically at times – decisions that sometimes conflict with family functions (such as Easter Celebrations), or social functions, or physical challenges. Sometimes this can be a really bitter pill to swallow – especially if you have prepared ahead of time the best way you could, and your health takes a different turn, forcing you to cancel plans. At times like that, loneliness can hit like a sledge hammer, especially if you are possibly bed-ridden or otherwise hampered from your usual activities,

It is difficult to experience loneliness, and all the emotions it comes with. At times like that, it is very important to be kind to yourself; be gentle with yourself. Do things that get you to feel more “connected”, such as social media like Facebook or Twitter – it make all the difference in the world when it comes to dealing with loneliness.

Sometimes, no matter how much a person tries to cope, there is the need to speak with a professional. A counselor can help you manage negative emotions that seem to be a part and parcel of loneliness.

Personally – I find I crave solitude at times, but sometimes even the solitude can trigger bouts of loneliness. I find though that those bouts of loneliness are usually triggered by periods of forced solitude (such as an empty nest scenario) combined with deep fatigue or pain caused by my illness. As long as I keep my non-attachment perspective and can see the loneliness for what it really is, I am able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

In our deepest moments of struggle, frustration, fear, and confusion, we are being called upon to reach in and touch our hearts. Then, we will know what to do, what to say, how to be. What is right is always in our deepest heart of hearts. It is from the deepest part of our hearts that we are capable of reaching out and touching another human being. It is, after all, one heart touching another heart. ~ Roberta Sage Hamilton

Remember – you are never truly alone. Just reach out. Reach out to family, friends, bloggers. Find the courage within yourself – it could be the biggest, most courageous step you will ever make. Reach out and touch another heart. They may be just as lonely as you – and suddenly, two feels less lonely, three feels even less lonely…

Namaste.

Carolyne

The Summer of Challenges – Facing Fears and Pushing Boundaries

The scariest moment is always just before you start. ~ Stephen King

This spring and summer I will be facing some fears, adjusting to changes, and pushing my own limits. I decided it was time – because I was noticing that I was falling into a fear-based place that I was increasingly uncomfortable with.

The persistent one was about getting on a bicycle again for the first time in years. Not scary for most of us, right? For me – it came about due to my inability to drive anymore due to my seizures, and the docs’ recommendations to stay on quiet streets if I decide to get on a bike again. Not being able to drive any more has often left me feeling somewhat trapped – and that was exacerbated in recent weeks when our local transit service went on strike for a number of weeks. So, recently, when I reached a breaking point of “trapped-ness” I bought a bike  that I found on sale at a local store. I decided it only made sense to ride it back home, especially since I was contemplating joining an MS Bike team at work.

What a fiasco! I more or less walked my new pretty bike home with spurts of riding it…with periods of breathing that sounded like I was coughing up a cow!! Bikes have really changed since I was last on one, and just getting used to the gearing was a challenge. But I made it home…and promptly collapsed on the couch – marvelling that I had not killed myself! My butt was aching and sore – so apparently all those years of biking in high school and university didn’t “keep”! Go figure, eh? And muscles that I forgot I even had were screaming at me. But I loved the rush of success. I did it – maybe not stellarly – but I did it. And the success of it has stuck – so I committed to riding with the MS Bike tour team at work. (Oy – this should be too funny over the next weeks as I “train”…I’ll bring my camera!)

The experience reminded me of a lesson I learned long ago: Feel the fear, and do it anyway!

So I am committing myself to a number of fundraising challenges this spring and summer, including the MS walk and MS Bike tour, as well as a couple of others (like the Blue Nose Walk/Run with the team at All Yoga .)

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”T.S. Eliot

Namaste

Carolyne

Toxic People are also Toxic for your Health!

Live or die – but don’t poison everything. ~ SAUL BELLOW

Have you ever been stopped in your tracks by the negativity of someone around you? Blinded by their own negativity, they are prevented from seeing the good around them.  I definitely have been affected by toxic people at times in my life – and it drains you of valuable energy – energy we need to keep healthy and promote our well-being.

Recently I had to spend about an hour or so with someone that I typically avoid because of the negative energy he continuously exudes. I had braced myself for the necessary time – but sure enough, within the space of about 75 minutes he had managed to insult me, a number of my colleagues, and even my mother!! Because I refuse to engage with such people at their level, I simply kept a peaceful smile (my yogic smile) on my face and made no comments to his roiling negativity, as to engage with him, even if only to point out the positives, would be about as useful as banging my head repeated against a brick wall. But the moment I was able to get away from him, I did so.

Even so, I was completely drained of energy and had developed a pounding headache. It just re-enforced to me what I already know: toxic people are toxic for one’s health! It took me a good part of my evening to slough the negativity residue off me…by doing some yoga and watching comedy. And it highlighted once again to me that part of managing one’s health is also managing (where possible) how much, if any, exposure you allow yourself to people of a toxic and negative nature.

The best way of removing negativity is to laugh and be joyous. ~ David Icke

So – laugh. Enjoy the sun. See the positive around you – really see it. And walk away from chronically toxic people whenever possible. It’s called self-preservation!!

Namaste

Carolyne

The Funny Side of Real Life – Catastrophic Comb-overs and more!

And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years. ~ Abraham Lincoln

Life is really funny sometimes. As we age, I think it gets even funnier, personally. From memory issues to coming full circle with kids, there is more and more to smile and laugh about.

I spent much of the past weekend in teh emergency room. This time however it was for my son, not me! (Do I say “yay”, “Aw”, or “Huh?” ) My oldest boy hurt his leg, and we spent a while waiting for xrays and doctor consultation. During that time, I got to spend precious moments with my young adult son – and loved every minute of it! That boy is funny! We ended up in tears of laughter (despite his pain) as we listened to someone in another berth complaining endlessly about the quality of cheese and crackers at the emergency fascility and the lack of “real” food. For some reason, it struck many of the patients on the floor as hysterically funny, and some even called out for more cheese and crackers themselves, and this made my son and I laugh that much harder. I must say that now, cheeese and crackers will hold a special memory for both of us – even from a not so fun situation.

Another situation that I found funny recently was surrounding memory – and not just my own spotty one! As we age, we realise that our memories can be wonky and full of gaps. Think of how many times you have walked from one room to the next and compltely forgotten what you went there for; or when you head to the store for a particular item, and get all sorts of things but completely forget about getting that particular item you needed to begin with. I don’t have enough appendages left to count how many times this has happened to me!

In that vein, I find it quite humourous lately that my peers are also experiencing such memory issues – so I know it is not just my medical situation! Recently, a couple of my work colleagues and I figured out we had been in the same physics program at university, but we could not remember each other from class. We can remember vividly a particular class in which the prof, who had a notoriously greasy and shabby grey comb-over, dropped his chalk on the floor while discussing very important aspects of modern physics, and bent to pick it up. When he stood upright to continue on with his lecture, his comb-over stood flipped off to the right of his head, like an open lid – and it stayed that way the entire lecture!! We all remember the lecture, remember where we sat in the classroom - but none of us have any memory of each other (nor of the specific topic of the class because we were all trying so hard not to burst into laughter).

This kind of “funny side of life” laughter is a powerful coping tool for everyday stress, or deeper stress. It allows you a moment to breath, let go of the seriousness of life, and release into the humour surrounding us.
If it’s not fun, you’re not doing it right. ~ Bob Basso

What makes you giggle in the life you live? Embrace it!

Namaste
Carolyne