Over a 12 year period in my life, I lost 11 close friends and family. They all died of different and unrelated causes, the youngest 19 a close friend died in a car accident, my stepfather 43 died of heart failure and my uncle 41 died of meningitis. I lost so many people I loved and cared for I often wonder how I survived that time with my sanity in tact. I guess I learned to be more mindful and accept as much as I am able the impermanence of this life. I am now able to stop and be in the moment for a short while. For example, my favourite flowers are Daffodils they flower for such a short period during the year that when I see them I always stop to appreciate their wonderful vibrant colours, their somewhat simple but beautiful form, the way the dance delicately in the wind. For a moment I am lost in the present totally absorbed and totally alive, not living in the past or future, just enjoying one single moment. The impermanence of the lovely bloom somehow enhances its beauty, as I believe it does with life.
This practice has kept me sane. However, I realised this week that I don’t apply this thinking to my life generally. I am waiting for my back to be better or the house I am renovating to be finished before getting on and living my life. I have been suffering from sciatica for eighteen months and I have been renovating a house for over two years, in part due to the slow pace necessitated by my pain. Two years are a long time to put my life on hold. Past experience tells me that there are no guarantees that I will be here next year, next week or even tomorrow. Ok so I am often in significant pain and I have very little money or time due to renovating a house.
I wondered where I got this from and realised I have probably always thought like this and those around me with the best intensions encourage this kind of thinking. My father always told me “when you finish university you can…”, my partner tells me “when we have more time you can…” and I have told myself “once I get a better job I will…” but when does it stop. When do I get to the point that I can live my life, because once I finished university I needed a job and then a better job and then more time and now my back to get better I realised I want to live my life now. Not just in some fanciful day-dream of a future that is in reality always just out of reach because the goal posts shift. Life isn’t perfect but it is my life to live now.
The problem is I’m unsure how to live my life now, whilst still managing everyday tasks and planning for the future. I think the problem is how I define ‘living’. ‘Living’ means living a perfect vision of how I want life to be. The trouble with ‘perfect’ is it’s unachievable, so my ‘living’ stays always just out of reach. I put things off until they can be perfect. For example, I thought, I will only write my blog once I can write regularly. Granted with my current commitments I will be able to write less often than I would like, but that still going to be more often than waiting for circumstances to be perfect. Yikes, this is my most familiar flaw – all or nothing thinking. I didn’t see that one coming; I should have! Also I don’t fully appreciate what I have. I have started to feel resentful that I have to spend so much of my free time stretching, just to keep my pain manageable. This is bizarre I have always enjoyed stretching or yoga as a way to calm my mind and body and in reality I should be thinking that this is an excellent excuse to spend a lot of time on me. Or perhaps that’s what’s making me uncomfortable, spending time looking after me, instead of achieving some goal.
Having realised some of what’s keeping me from living my life now, my action plan is to stop putting things off until the situation is perfect, or I’ll never get anything done. And, and it’s a big and, I am going to be mindful of when I am feeling guilty about spending time and effort on me.
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Posted in Random Ramblings, tagged Chronic Pain, Emtional Health, Healing, Health, Life, Mental Health, one of those days, Self-help, Thought on January 16, 2012|
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Last Friday, I had an awful day, one of those days that starts bad and gets worse, the type of day where everything that can go wrong seems to go wrong. Or did I?
I have been suffering from significant pain in my lower back and hip for almost two years and it has been getting progressively worse over the last year. I take quite strong painkillers to help me manage the pain and remain in work.
Friday morning I decided to wait until I got to work to take my painkillers. However I forgot to take them with me. My first thought on realising my error was “this is going to be a long day”. My suspicions were confirmed when before lunch I took a call from an extremely abusive client. Just before leaving for the day I received a call from a suicidal client who wouldn’t identify herself. Finally having arrived home, I realise I didn’t have my wallet. I couldn’t be certain I had left it in work, so I couldn’t leave it until Monday just in case it was lost or stolen, in which case I would need to report it missing. As we had guests my partner couldn’t take me back to work, and ordinary having took painkillers I wouldn’t have been able to drive myself. Thankfully, I was able to return to work and retrieve my wallet without too much disturbance to our evening plans because I had forgotten to take my painkillers with me that morning.
On the drive home it occurred to me what a lucky coincidence it was that I had forgotten my painkillers. I started to wonder if there were other ‘lucky coincidences’ that I had failed to see today as I had been stuck in my belief that it was a bad day.
Returning to the abusive customer, a colleague overheard the conversation and was able to advise me that in the future I could refer a general enquiry, not related to a specific case to our help line. This is useful advice for the future. I wasn’t able to identify the potentially suicidal client however a colleague whom she had spoken to earlier in the day recognise the situation she had described and was able to identify the client. This was especially lucky as that member of staff usually leaves early on a Friday. This allowed my manager to deal with the situation appropriately. Finally, the 40 min round trip to return to the office and home provided me with the much-needed quiet time to reflect on the days events.
What a Day!
So, was it a good day after all? Probably not, but it occurred to me that my belief that it was going to be a bad day made me focus on the bad things that happened and made it seem like an awful day. This reminds me of an exercise someone once asked me to do. I can’t remember when, where or why but it does seem quite relevant.
Take 60 seconds to look around the room you’re sat in and memorize as may red objects as you can. Try this now before you read on. How many red objects could you remember? Now without looking around again how may green objects can you remember. I bet it’s far fewer than the number of red objects you remembered. Are there really less green objects than red objects in the room, or is it just that you remember what you were focusing on. Have a look around I suspect there are a lot more green objects than you remember.
Perhaps this is really how the ‘law of attraction’ works. Does it really have anything to do with ‘positive vibrations’ or is it simply that if we focus on positive things we notice more positive things including the opportunities that present themselves to improve our situation and create more positive outcomes. Compare this with what I was doing which was focusing on the negative, and therefore seeing only the negative. If I do this everyday it is likely I will also miss and opportunities to improve my situation as I am not looking for them. In my post ‘A New Years Resolution’ I talked about how I have been practicing focusing on my successes no matter how small, and I think this change in attitude has allowed me to view my ‘bad day’ in a more realistic light. From now on, as well as focusing on my successes I will also look for the good things that happen in my day. The more I look for them the more I will notice and the better my days will be.
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Posted in Random Ramblings, tagged Chronic Pain, Emtional Health, Healing, Health, Life, Mental Health, New year resolution, Self-help, Thought on December 31, 2011|
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I came across some really good advice a week or so ago and would love to share it with you. Prosper where you are planted! Basically in order to succeed we need to start from where we are right now, not where we used to be, where we think we should be or where we want to be, but from where we are.
The problem I had was I didn’t really know where I was. I sat and reflected on my life as it is now (maybe you’d like to take some time to do the same) and what I found was I had a long list of negative points, all the things I would like to change about my life: I’m overweight, suffering from chronic pain and recurrent depressing, I’m in a dead-end job which may not even exist in two years time … (it was a long list). I hadn’t listed one positive thing! That made me think, was I really that bad, was I totally hopeless or was it just some sort of twisted thinking. Did you do the same?
I sat down to reflect again, only this time I was determined to find some positive points. That was quite difficult and very uncomfortable as it’s not something I’m used to doing. I did manage a small list: I’m determined, I’m a good problem solver and I enjoy learning new things. If you took the time to reflect on your life and like me found yourself listing only negative points I would really like you to think of some positive points.
It occurred to me after doing this exercise that the first thing I need to work on to improve my life is my habit of focusing on my failures. I decided that I will focus on every tiny little success. For example, instead of mentally beating myself up for not completing all my ironing I praise myself for completing half my ironing. I am being kinder to myself and I am starting to feel more positive and in control. Admittedly it isn’t always easy and I find myself annoyed because I haven’t noticed any successes. I remind myself to be gentle, that I can’t change the habits of a lifetime in a couple of days. I have started to create the successes, instead of feeling horrible because I haven’t done any exercise, I get up and do a single yoga pose, admittedly a very small success but its better than doing nothing.
I have also committed to list all the things I have achieved no matter how tiny and all the things I am thankful for each night before I go to sleep. The list normally begins with being thankful for a nice warm bed. Instead of lying in bed thinking of all the things I haven’t done, needed to do or shouldn’t have done, over and over, I think of what I have achieved and what I’m thankful for, if it’s a short list I just repeat it. Admittedly I often find myself slipping into my old habits but each time I notice I’m doing that, I just let the thought go and return to thinking about what I have achieved and what I am thankful for. Thinking over and over positive things certainly makes for a better nights sleep than thinking about all the negative things over and over. If you are feeling down or overwhelmed I would urge you to try this, it takes practice but it is simple and I have really noticed I feel better about myself and my life.
I have resolved to do this each day for the next year, to focus on my successes and be thankful for what I have, no matter how small. If I can change my thinking I can change my life. If you give this a try I would love to hear about your experience.
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