As I write, I'm in bed where I will be even longer than if I hadn't pushed. So today I'm going to pull back the curtain and explain the difference between my baseline and being in a flare.Read More
Today celebrates week five of our resilience tool box discussions. Tool Five is faith, and for me it is the linchpin that holds everything together. You can't function without faith in something. I see faith, like your body's skin, the largest organ in your entire body and without it the rest of your body would fall apart. Faith holds you together no matter the success or trauma, faith goes with you everywhere and just like your skin, it can't be separated from the rest of you. It is in every part of your life.
I find when my faith life is working, everything is working. I heal faster, tolerate the intolerable, and live better when I take care of my faith life first.
When I speak with my tribe, I inevitably ask them all the same question. "How is your spirit?" The answer offers insight into so many areas. It provides me with what I need to know, which is: "How are you, at your core, how are you living?" When your spirit is wonky, your faith life and the rest of you are too. If you want to be the healthiest you, have a rock solid faith life. It just makes all of you, work at your best.
I have had some dark times, sometimes when my health was teetering, when I had lost confidence in myself, didn't trust my body. Even during the darkest times, I still held onto my faith, because I knew that even in the worst of times, God was with me and making my path.
The Divine is revealed to us all a little differently and one needs to be open to the path that lies in front of each of us. The hardest part is understanding that you may not like the path that is being paved for you. Hello, California?! Even when we share the same faith tradition; we both will meet the Divine in a different place. It is the greatest mystery, how the Divine is revealed to each of us. What that revelation is for each of us is different, but what we share is that we are all called to do something in this life, to find what our unique talents and gifts are and then to use them the best way possible.
We all have folks in our life who try to hide from their faith. Who think that they don't need a faith journey or who question why the rest of us have one. But, the friends that my heart hurts for are the ones who say, "If I walked into a church, God would laugh at me or the walls may fall down because; I don't belong in that place." It is often said tongue firmly planted in cheek, but the intent is all the same. They claim that it is not the place for them.
Why? The Divine is waiting for you. Patiently sometimes, often not not so much. The Divine provides us opportunities time and time again. All you need to do; is listen to the invitation and come along. Perhaps you misunderstand how the Divine is calling you. I find comfort in Church. In a community of folks who share similar comfort in the order of celebration that I call home. How you meet the Divine is up to you, do you meet in your meditation, in your contact with nature, or in your art? Do you meet the Divine in others? All of these are acceptable, but my question for you is how are you strengthening that relationship? It takes practice and dedication, to have the fluidity to meet the Divine. As with any relationship it requires time and attention.
I have found in my travels that the folks who seem the most at peace are the people who have a titanium inner core of a faith life. Are they good people? Sure. But in addition to being good folks they have a peace that only comes from an active faith life. It makes sorting through the difficult somehow tolerable. I have found my home in the Catholic church, by no means does it need to be yours. But, what I have learned, is that my dedication to this path, has provided me the quickest connection to the Divine. And to be able to hear what I'm being called to do. Yours will likely be different, but I encourage you to find the right one for you.
So the final question, how does it make you resilient? If faith is the skin that holds you together, then your faith life keeps you together when the world falls apart around you. It enables you to get up, get dressed and move on. Maybe it's the trust in a universe bigger than you... Or maybe it's just understanding that you are never alone and that a more Divine being is looking out for you.
Whatever the case may be, it works for me.
And I hope it works for you, too.
photo credit: Sonnenstrahlen via photopin (license)
|Wrapping Up Love...|
Let's begin with the exercise:
You need to create a few mental images. I think we will call it, "day dreaming for adults!" Easypeasy. To begin, image yourself alone in a quiet and beautiful space. This should be a place you feel peaceful, safe and loved.
Where are you? The beach?, or maybe it's simply your living room? Or a mountain top in Hawaii? A tulip garden in Holland? A quiet lavender field in France? For some it may be a place of religious significance.
The key is that it should be the most sacred and calming place that you can imagine, the place you feel most peaceful and connected with yourself.
Got it?... Good!
Next, I want you to imagine your LOVE. All the love that you have in your being. Do you have it? Good. Scoop it all up into your arms. You need to imagine it in an inanimate physical form. Maybe it's a heart, maybe its the word love carved in a stone, or just scrabble letters of L-O-V-E , or a piece of red paper cut into a heart, a charm from a necklace, or a vessel of some kind that can hold all your love. Just get a physical image. I imagine love as the word. The letters carved in little rocks that I can fit into my hand. Now place that object, your "love" in a box. Let's be clear, you are not losing love, you are for lack of a better description, cloning it. A strange idea, I know.
My LOVE, I put into a beautiful square box. The box is cream and I have some airy cream ribbon to make a beautiful bow.
So imagine yourself, holding your box of love. You are sitting in this beautiful space you have created. In this place you are positively beaming, you never have been more relaxed, happy, safe, secure, practically giddy, just you and your box. I would have a glass of champagne, because well it's a celebration of me and my big O' box of love.
Now, turn and look around. You have company. You are not alone. Next to you is the Divine. Yep, the Divine...
How great is that. Right?!
So let's talk about your image of the Divine. Who do you see?
Do you see George Burns from the 70's movies? Do you see an old wise fatherly figure? Or Morgan Freeman? Some will see Jesus, others will see a woman. Some may see some sort of super angel. I'm fine with whatever physical form you use to meet the Divine. I feel strongly that the Divine comes to all of us a little differently, so what you imagine is perfect.
Keep in mind, that you are not nervous, you are at peace sitting with your Creator. The Creator that knows you intimately, that created you in the image and likeness of the Divine. So bask in the attention. You are home. It's the BEST.
Great. Now hand over that beautiful box O' love to the Divine.
So you give this gift of love to God. Now what--right? Hang tight for a second.
Why are we doing this exercise? I know for sure that God is in all of us--each and everyone of us. Sadly, sometimes we tune God out. If we agree that love is how we connect to one another and to the Divine, then it may be worth considering how we use love. Should we use it a little bit more? Do others need to stop treating love as a toy?
Recently, I have needed to remind myself that there are three of us in every relationship; you, me and the Divine. I can't claim to have a relationship with the Divine and not acknowledge that you do too. So the folks who push my ever loving last button; they are in the same relationship with the Divine that I claim to have.
Imagine you just gave the Divine your box O' love and said, "Could you help me with this love business?" Would your relationships look different? If you let the Divine direct you a little bit, how would the Divine use your LOVE with others? Would the Divine steer you away from some relationships, and shine you in a new direction? Would the Divine, push you out toward some folks, and give you great insights into others?
This my fellow Pilgrims is the very definition of our fourth tool: Vulnerability. The definition is simple: It's the ability to give and receive love in its most honest form. Vulnerability is a two way street. In order to share where you are on your journey, you have to be willing to let others share with you. As I like to say, love is messy. Being vulnerable means you are saying, "yes" to the messy. You peel back that protective layer that we all like to keep covered. Will others think my messy is too much? Will they discover that I'm a hot mess or too broken?
All fair worries.
You are risking that someone you have given your trust to, may hurt you.
Is it a risk?
Will you be hurt?
Perhaps. But I have found that for all of my hurt in this life, the true members of my tribe far outweigh the few trolls who have hurt me on my journey.
Honestly, I have found that the better I use the tools, the more likely I am to find someone who is a perfect fit for my tribe, not an imposter!
So how does vulnerability allow you to be resilient?
Being vulnerable allows us to walk away from unhealthy relationships and toward healthy ones; which is a key component of resilience. Choosing what is best for ourselves and our spirit. Vulnerability allows us to find others who "get-it," who will ultimately make up our tribe. As you continue to build your tribe, your ability to use the tools improve. The tribe members hold you accountable and you them. You create a safe-haven of trust, where you share and grow, you learn, listen and you get stronger in your own truth. When you peel back that layer; you create a space for vulnerability. It's only when we are in this place (of vulnerability) that we connect on the deepest level and it's then that we see the Divine in each other.
If you are using your tools as keys to resilience; you can look with a loving eye at all your relationships. You may find that perhaps the healthiest place for you is in fact not with the person you have chosen. If you are in love with someone who has over time turned the Divine out; you may need to love yourself more and let go. Loving yourself means that you recognize that the Divine created you as a most precious beloved gift. Love doesn't mean that you are trampled; love means you are treasured.
Which brings me to this question for you: How well are you using your love? How well is your loved received? How much of your love do you share? How willing are you are to trust and be vulnerable? Do you give your love away haphazardly?
Here is the kicker: Would the Divine use your love the same way?
Really think about this: Take a few minutes to really consider it. We know that no one is better at loving than the Divine. So how would the Divine use your love in your life?
Please carry that question around this week. Own it, consider what that means to you and where you are meeting not only your tribe, but the Divine on this portion of the Pilgrimage.
So tool number four is vulnerability, check. You are doing great, really. And I love you!
Can't wait to hear how it works for you this week.
I love hearing from you, and I miss it when you don't reach out! So leave comments below, connect with me on instagram at PilgrimageGal or on facebook at PilgrimageGal or send me a private email by sending me a note in the form in the sidebar.
photo credit: PixaBay/blickpixel
|Well done. I love you more...|
Week three of our Pilgrimage on the road to Resilience. We have covered Humor, and Love, and today we will spend some time on Community and Tribe. Community for me is your larger world, your acquaintances and friends. Your tribe is your close and core group. People can move in and out of these circles over time.
If you accept the concept that living well is a direct correlation to how well you love. Then those who you love best and most authentically will organically become your community and tribe. The size of your circle is a direct result of how open, vulnerable and truthful you are about yourself. I hear often from folks that they aren't good at making relationships. If you find your circle lacking, you need to ask yourself some tough questions. Since it's almost Spring and we are working through Lent, perhaps it is time for a Spring cleaning of your emotional house.
Here are some questions to ask yourself. Some days we are better at these than others. I guess the real question is; in the last month can you feel good about more of these answers than not?
How free are you to love? Are you positive in your world view? (ie: The world is filled with more good people than bad?) Are you tolerant of differences of opinion? Do you judge first or love first? Do you enjoy the company of people who have a different worldview than you do? Are you willing to try new things? How willing are you to sacrifice your wants for someone else? Are your actions more thoughtful? How easily do you let go of other people's failings? Do you expect perfection in others? Do you forgive? Do you listen? Do the rules apply to everyone, but you?
A sobering set of questions... I know. None of us are perfect and I certainly know this list of questions makes me acknowledge that I'm a work in progress. The questions are designed to make us stop and think.
Real relationships require balance; and the better your balance; the better your tribe.
Relationships that matter may require work; there is always some heavy lifting. Often in this world of instant gratification we forget how to be thoughtful and kind. Simple kindness of a note in the mail (something I stink at doing) makes people's day. For the record, basic thoughtfulness goes a long way.
If I had a dinner party of the twenty most influential women in my life (and it would be tough to limit it to 20), the table would be very eclectic. The table would include grade school friends, teachers, high school girls, some family, several soul sisters, folks met while working, some girls battle tested by my health foolishness. My tribe is diverse; some share my catholic faith, others don't. I have friends that aren't so sure about this God business, too. I love that my female tribe members are all over the political spectrum and the world. Are they different? O'my, yes. Beautiful, honest, funny, battle tested, willing to call me on my foolishness, each one has a special spark that stops me in my tracks. Each and every one makes me better, pushes me to be a better version of myself.
I'm thinking I need to have this dinner party!
What I know about my tribe, is that you need one quality to join. Only one. You have to be able to share your truth with me. I need to know who you are; who you really are; not who you want to be, not who you think I want you to be; you need to be yourself. And everything else will fall into place. Every woman at the table could tell you my truth, as I can there's. I hope that each one would say that they always know that they are loved completely by me and they love me likewise in return.
Everytime I end a call with someone in my tribe, I say the same thing, "I LOVE YOU."
Because I always want them to know, that they are loved. I never want that to be in doubt.
To some, my circle of friends seems to be random. I make friends easily. True. Why? I think partly because I'm interested in other people's stories. Who are you, where are you on your journey? I'm drawn to people who are honest, who are willing to not give up, who have that titanium inner core, who see the world as beautiful and full of promise. My tribe gift is simple, I don't forget your truth. I carry it always, I know your soul and you know mine.
So your tribe may be wider than you think. Your circle may involve more facebook or long distant chats then you know. I thought the move would be devastating in my relationships. I was worried about the lack of daily contact. But what I'm learning is that the depths of my love for my nearest and dearest is likely even stronger. I carry them with me in the grocery store and when I make dinner. I look at my watch and know where they are, I pray more directly for these loved ones than ever before. And that is what your tribe is, the ability to connect in the world with love for the ones who make you stronger, wiser, deeper in your faith, whatever your tradition. What we need to ask ourselves is why we don't extend our arms as wide as we can? To love more, to love with more intention, to speak our truth to every ear. Why do we skirt the tough conversations instead of saying what is really in our hearts? You can have the difficult conversation if you do one thing, put others first. It's not about you, it's about them.
What is the one quality that you need in your tribe? Once you know that quality, that truth, your tribe will blossom and bloom. Just like you...
Life is better when you have someone (or a whole tribe) to walk on your pilgrimage with you.
So how does this help you become resilient? It's simple.
You are never alone when you have your tribe. Your tribe dusts you off, helps to pick you up, sometimes they carry you. Your tribe helps you get back on the path when you make a wrong turn. Your tribe holds you accountable along the journey, loving you and wanting only the best for you. But best of all, your tribe is there to celebrate the joyous moments, the happiness of the journey, the triumphs of this life.
To drink the champagne with you. To hold their glass high, toast and say, "Well done. We love you."
And to my tribe, you know who you are... I love each one of you, more than any words on this page today or ever could say. Thanks for walking with me, always.
I raise my glass to you and say, "Well done. I love you more!"
Till next week my Pilgrims, make your tribe a little stronger this week. Spread some of that love around.
Photo credit: http://pixabay.com/en/users/Holgi-5825/
Happy first Monday of Lent 2015
As promised, here is my first post in my Lenten Series. I have never done anything like this before; and to be honest, it's hard. I like to remind myself, you have to make yourself uncomfortable. You have to push out of your comfort zone. So Eeek, what nerve it takes to say, "I've got my life all figured out and I'm going to tell you how to fix yours." Anyone who knows me; knows I really don't. I'm just like you. Truthfully. What I have been told consistently is; Jeffrey and I share skills as a couple and as individuals that have allowed us to live a beautiful and happy life, in spite of our struggles. We don't often get down and when we have problems, we have the ability to right our ship. We of course maintain that a big piece is due to our faith life. We are resilient as individuals, as a couple, and as parents.
Along with an active faith life, I think the most important skill we try to teach is resilience. We need to own this and teach it in our daily life. We choose how we are walking in this world. We tell our Beauties daily; life is flipping hard and you have to have tools and skills to make it through the tough times. That's resilience.
As we work through the Lenten season, which traditionally is a time for reflection and sacrifice, maybe it's also a good time to share my/our ideas on compiling the tools to live in this big old crazy world and make you and yours more resilient.
What tools do you need in your tool box in order to build a resilient life? Over the next few weeks, I will share my thoughts on several of the tools, including; Love, Community/Tribe, Faith life, Sense of Humor, and Vulnerability. I will do my best to keep the posts topic based. But, this is new for me, so we will see how it goes. Let's start with the most important tool:
We are built to love. Hopefully, you do it daily without much thought, to be honest. But, often it is just on the surface and superficial. We need to dig a little deeper.
We know in scripture there are four types of love: The Greeks they love BIG. A quick review includes the following types of love:
Storge: Brotherly love, familial love.
Agape: Unconditional/selfless love.
I'm not an expert in Greek; I'm not trying to offer a new thesis on the biblical uses! We are going to keep with the simple; Us Weekly/People magazine worthy definitions. Nothing heavy here! I'm good with easy. I'm not looking to footnote with scholarly definitions. I'm not even going to go into each one. I just ask you to consider how do each of the four touch your life? And I don't think you need to have all four; what I do believe is that you can never have too much!
No one dies thinking I wish I had loved less... I think everyone wishes that they had loved more.
That leads to the first series of questions:
How do you LOVE?
Are you a consumer of love or a generator of love? Do you make room for love? Do you close yourself to loves' invitation? Are you not good enough to be loved? (that is the lie so many say to ourselves.) Do you love yourself? Your imperfections, your weaknesses and strengths? Do you surround yourself with lasting relationships that include love?
There are no wrong answers here. It's the opportunity for a wee bit of self reflection. There is no scale at the end to rank your "love quotient".
Also for this reflection, please take Eros off the table and the Agape form of unconditional love for your children. If you have it, more power to you. But, you don't need it to live well, to have fulfillment or frankly to love fully. Keep the Agape in your heart and mind for the Divine's love for you, though.
The relationships that include service to others; that is Agape too. When you give of your time and talents to others, you serve, you are knee deep in others, wanting nothing in return. It is this ability to be selfless that fills your love bank. It does the heavy lifting in good times.
You have to put your money where your mouth is. You have to work on filling your love bank on the sunny days. When you are at your best. Do you send that text, do you call when you have five minutes (or 2 hours) when you're needed? I try my best, but can always do better.
I got one this week. I got a text that told me to "call me when you get up!" It was all that I could do not to call immediately at 1 am EST. Do you have folks that can count on you?
One of the most important lessons I have learned is that in my darkest, darkest times. There was ALWAYS someone who had it worse than me.
And that is the grocery store moment. Have you ever been in line at the grocery store at 5 pm on a weeknight gritting your teeth for the one flipping item you need to pull dinner together. Have you ever looked around at the folks surrounding you? Everyone has struggles, some are big and some are huge. For the love of all that is good in the world... Stop judging people. It's the surest way to cut an enormous hole in your love bank. Everyone has a "cross." Be grateful that you don't have theirs. And when you can, reach you hand out and offer it to another. It will make all the difference; I promise. Because no matter what my trial; I have always had someone who could take my hand and walk with me. Who loved me, even with all the Kathryness of it all. And that makes the journey so much more beautiful.
I have held out my hand so many times to find someone else holding mine. Just this week, I've been worrying about the blog. Is this really what the Spirit wants me doing. I guess you could say my love bank was running a little low. I don't feel my best, my Jeffrey is traveling. And what do I have to offer? Does it really resonate with anyone? And that's when the email appeared in my in-box; the email that made my heart sing, the one told me that I helped them, that my words "resonate FULLY" and that my writing is a "blessing to them." Now that is some good love and it was just what I needed at that moment.
So that is what this post is asking: How well are you loving? How well are you allowing love into your life? Who are you holding out your hand to? And have you welcomed, accepted and allowed yourself to feel the glorious light of someone elses love? I promise it makes all the difference.
When you love, it keeps your scales balanced, it keeps you giving and receiving love, and with a little love everything's easier. The good days are great and the tough days are tolerable because you can feel the love and you've got a whole bunch of folks holding you up!
If you feel that your "love bank" is more than half full, then take a second to pat yourself on the back. That's the first step to mastering this crazy thing called resilience.
Till next week...
photo credit: Love via photopin (license)
Looking for balance, finding peace...and walking with the Beauty.
It seems only appropriate that with January done, I spend a little time talking about my health. It was the primary reason I started writing this blog, my chance to explain and define for everyone where my life had taken me! So I call this post my
Medical State of the Union
. It's something about being from DC, every January means the State of the Union address. My friend, Andy a couple of years ago told me I needed to "speak my truth" about my health. My first reporting was the hardest most gut wrenching post I have ever written. (
Two years later, I'm blessed and amazed to see how far I have come, to realize that my life is so much better. I'm happy to report; this State of the Union, won't be hard. Not that my life is perfect, but my health is far better, my life happier, lighter and full of more joy.
Officially, I have called Santa Barbara home for just three months; while I'm still unearthing boxes, we have certainly started to feel like we are "settled". The holidays were filled with tons of entertaining, Jeff's entire family is here in California, so we hosted the West Coast family for several dinners and celebrations. My mom visited during this time from DC and it was wonderful to have my slice of home here a midst the celebrations and chaos. As we settle into the "Winter" filled with sunshine and 75 degree days; my life has quieted enough to really offer some news on where my health finds me.
First and foremost, I'm better than I was a year ago. That is for sure. My doctors at NIH are always asking me to describe, "how much better?" I find that impossible to really quantify. What I feel comfortable saying is that moving West has been the best thing for my health. Simply... it's warmer. Do I still have cold events? YES. Still almost everyday? YES. But my drug regime coupled with the constantly warmer temps have changed the quality of my life. The warmer weather has kept me from having the issues with anaphylaxis that haunted me for years. I didn't really realize till I arrived that I have forever been cold, in my bones, possibly in my soul. I find myself sitting outside as often as possible for the Vitamin D and just the ability to feel the warmth. While it may be hard to describe to people who don't suffer from this disease, but imagine if you just walked around taking a cold shower all the time... It's that chill, where you can't get warm that has been my struggle. Since arriving, my cold attacks aren't nearly as severe. Small attacks that would have had me coughing and wheezing now seem to have the effect of a bee sting: itching, hiving and uncomfortable but without the follow on nausea, aches, coughing and inability to get out of bed the day after.
I still have had several nasty attacks, just not with the frequency or intensity of the East Coast versions.
Which gets me back to where I should have started. No, I'm not in remission. No, I'm not even close. I have a serious, currently better managed; at time life threatening disease. This is mine and I can't change it. But what I have done is not let it define the outcome of my life.
Sheer will should be my new mantra.
Many people have contacted me to ask, "How do you do it?" My simple answer is: I don't have a choice. Or after more thought, I think it is more than that. Basically, I don't like the other options. And I doubt you do either.
We manage our health, with our choices. I think every week, what is the most important thing I'm doing, where do I need to be? Can I call in, can I miss this, can someone else drive me if I need meds?
We tell our Beauties everyday, "You can't do it all." AND if we are being honest, if we don't do as we say, what message does that send to our children? Why are we killing ourselves for activities, organizations and events that are not critical or crucial to our happiness?
Or as my dear friend Mick (OK we have never met) reminds me: "You can't always get what you want... But if you try sometime, you find.
You get what you need."
So that is my message to all of us: my fellow chronic disease warriors, my loves with mental health struggles, medical issues, my other dear ones battling other challenges that we just flipping didn't see coming.
You have to own this struggle, whatever yours is, be it this disease, this challenge in your life, you don't have to like it... HELL NO; but you need to own it and not give it the power to own you. Manage it, keep an eye on it, treat it, but don't let it overtake you or define you.
And for the record, SHEER WILL will only take you so far as the men in my life are apt to remind me.
I thought when I moved, the two most influential men in my life would be separated. My husband and my doctor. But, they still manage to conspire even in their separation.
My dearest Doctor, aka Harvard, always shakes his head when I tell him I struggle with balance... "You think!?" After all these years, he can tell if I'm behaving by my voice on the phone, or when he would see me in person, just one look at me, drop his head and say, "Please take it easy."
Harvard reminds me in a text message just this week, "Jeff, Ian and Norah need you healthy not sick."
Fair point. Well said Harvard.
Jeffrey is a little more direct and always challenges me when he sees me burning the candle at both ends. He reminds me, "You know where this is going, you can either slow down; climb in bed with the remote and take it easy; OR you can keep this up and your body will decide for you. And we both know when your body decides, you like that even less."
Or even this morning, I didn't wake and Jeffrey didn't wake me, I woke with a start hearing the Beauties heading out the front door for school. What Mom oversleeps when her Beauties are headed to school? This one does apparently, when she is exhausted! I jumped out of bed, raced for the door, standing like a sleepy toddler with my bad breath and bed head, all that I was missing was a stuffed animal under my arm... while the Beauties each gave me a quick hug and all suggested I return to bed! Which I did for another three hours!
Balance... I'm working on it...
These two men are so flipping smart it's IRRITATING. That they are correct, yet again...
(This post is going to be printed and laminated and held over my head for a lifetime!) These two men in my life...
So there you have it, the State of the Union is super strong! Balance aside, more great days than lousy! I'm happy, healthy and eager to report on my good news! As you review your State of the Union, please keep in mind that you are the center of you family's world. And while we may have different struggles, I hope you see the take a ways are the same.
We are all works in progress; we all have struggles; and many of us are working on finding just the right balance. The journey continues....
Photo credit: Mr. PilgrimageGal
photo credit: Courtney Dirks via photopin cc