Wednesday, December 31, 2008

This Year I Resolve To...

My horoscope for today talked about focusing on the future and new opportunities over the next twelve months. It suggested writing a letter to myself to be read a year from now about what I'd like the new year to bring.

So here goes.

Dear Lenore,

I hope this past year has brought you better things than the previous year. I hope you've been able to get back into the working world in a way that allows you to work around your fatigue and not have to give up the comforts that come with having a regular paycheck.

I hope you've cut out the bad feelings or anything that was making you feel bad is no longer doing so. I hope you've been able to move on with your life and let others you've been disappointed by go on with theirs and wished them luck. Maybe someday they will come back to you and want to be the kind of people you need in your life. In the meantime, you know you've always had one person in your life who never lets you down - you.

I hope you are happier now and have achieved everything you wanted to achieve this past year. Hopefully you're feeling good physically and have dropped some of the weight you wanted to lose:) I hope you've made some new friends or maybe reconnected with some old friends, and more importantly, family you had lost touch with. Hopefully everything is going well with all of them, and your relationships with them are good and strong.

I hope you got everything you needed this past year, and that your money troubles were eased.

I hope you are on track to becoming the person you want to be and living the life you want to live.

I know you wish the same things for everyone that you wish for yourself.

Happy New Year.

I think writing this letter has helped me sort out what needs changing in my life and it will help me to keep my resolutions this year. This was a good idea. I think everyone should do this New Year's letter.

My New Year's resolutions:

  • Return to work in some capacity.

  • Eat healthier.

  • Continue working on my blog and finish my other projects.

  • Be happier.

  • Stick to my resolutions.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Finding Inner Peace

We talk a lot about peace. We all want to see world peace. During the holiday season, we often hear it said - "peace on earth and good will toward men".

But as mankind struggles to get along, it seems peace is nowhere to be found.

In general, we'd all like to live quiet, peaceful lives, but all the hustle and bustle of everyday life makes it difficult. We're always running around between home, school, work and errands and coping with work overload and stress.

Where can we find peace?

Peace begins within ourselves. Even though the world around us may not always be a peaceful place, we can achieve inner peace.

We can find inner peace by:

Getting rid of the turmoil in our minds. Throw away all that "mental garbage" you're lugging around - all the thoughts of things that didn't happen for you, all the worries over things you can't control, all the negative thoughts - just pitch it all.

Focus on the things you can control, the realities that you can make happen and the positive, self-affirming thoughts and beliefs you need to get there.

Wiping away anger and bitterness. We've all heard the expression, "I've made my peace with it." If there are people in your life that have angered you, try to reconcile with them. Sometimes you can't reconcile because the person who angered you has passed on. In that case, make your own peace with what happened by releasing yourself from the burden of carrying around that anger.

Don't be bitter over things that didn't go your way or if you didn't get something you wanted. Life doesn't always go the way we want. Focus on being positive and trust that at some point you'll find something else that will make you happy and things will go your way.

Seeking out calm. Stress rattles us and robs us of energy. It may not always be avoidable, but we can control our responses to stressful situations. Take a moment and stay calm. Don't give in to the urge to get worked up.

Slow down the pace and don't make life more hectic than it needs to be. Don't be a slave to your email and cell phone. Set them aside when you're off the clock and go for a quiet walk in the park or on the beach. Spend time taking it all in. Let the sound of the birds singing or the waves meeting the shore replace the cell phone ringing. Breathe deeply. Meditate.

Being happy with who we are. Sometimes we wish things were different. I wish I didn't have MS. I have made my peace with it though, by accepting that it is something about myself that I can't change. It doesn't take away from who I am as a person. It doesn't define me.

Being comfortable with ourselves gives us peace of mind and happiness in life. Accept what you can't change; change the things you can if you need to in order to be happier.

Treating ourselves and others well. Take care of yourself. Develop healthy habits and live well. Show kindness toward others. Give yourself credit for all the good things you do. Knowing that you are a good person and being good to others will help give you inner peace.

If you have peace within yourself, you can be a much happier person and get along better with the people around you. If everyone in the world could find inner peace, the world could be a much better place.

"Nothing can bring you peace but yourself." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Remembering My Grandma

Tomorrow is the twenty-sixth anniversary of my Grandma's passing. I have been thinking of her a lot lately, as I have been struggling with so many things in my life. I know if she were here she would help me, and I would feel so much better.

My Grandma was a very special person in my life.
She was, to me, the very essence of family. As devoted to her family as the day is long, Grandma always seemed to put all of us ahead of herself.

Grandma had a hard life in a lot of ways. She grew up in the Great Depression and later lost two of her children. But I remember she always had a positive attitude, and she was the most giving person I have ever known. She always helped my mother and I whenever we needed anything. I remember she used to babysit me when I was little. She'd carry me around over her shoulder singing "Sack of potatoes". I remember she always used to sing funny old songs.

As a child I liked to play with paper dolls, make up stories and draw pictures. Grandma always encouraged my imagination and creativity and said she liked my pictures (even though they were probably awful.) I used to love spending the night at Grandma's house. We'd watch TV, and I'd fall asleep on the couch. Then in the morning she'd make me Cream of Wheat. Later we'd laugh at my grandfather as he danced the polka around the living room.

My Grandma and I were very close. I felt like I could talk to her about anything. I remember when I got into that awkward puberty stage where you start to like boys and you want them to like you, and you start to worry about your looks. I remember Grandma told me to always keep a little smile on my face. I've had people comment about my smile and say they wonder what's behind it. It's more like who - Grandma.

I learned from my Grandma that family is the most important thing. I was a teenager when she died, and I remember the last time I saw her she was in the hospital, and I remember I just started crying, and I hugged her and said, "I love you so much." She said, "I know." I am so glad we had that special last moment together.

When we are children we have no concept of time moving forward. We are blissfully ignorant of the future and the inevitable adulthood that brings with it greater responsibilities and challenges that we have to deal with on our own.

Sometimes I wish I could go back and be in that time once again when I was just enjoying my childhood. When things were simpler and worries were few. When I had all of my family there for me and could not even imagine them not being there.

I'll always treasure my memories of my Grandma.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Having a Bad Day - Dealing with Negative Emotions

Our emotions can get the best of us sometimes. This time of year we can become emotionally overwhelmed by the stressful holidays or the seasonal depression that often comes around during winter. The current economy has left many of us downhearted and probably even angry that things have gotten this bad. Or maybe we just feel sad, and we can't narrow it down to just one reason.

Having MS can be emotionally challenging as well. The stress and frustration of putting up with all the crazy symptoms can make you just want to scream. Sometimes you can feel very alone in your illness, like no one could possibly understand what you're going through.

Unfortunately, we can't be happy all the time, though we'd probably like to be. For times when your mood is bad or sad, I can offer the following suggestions:

De-stress. Sometimes we just need to step back from whatever is stressing us and take time out for ourselves. I find just putting on my favorite music and relaxing for a while helps me to calm down and renew both my spirits and energy. I also like to go for a drive at a quiet time of day (not rush hour) and clear my head. I stick to the residential streets and let my thoughts meander.

Sometimes it helps to be by yourself for a while. If you're angry, sometimes you need to walk away and collect yourself before you deal with it to avoid possibly saying something you'll regret.
Don't push people away, but let them know you need time to yourself.

Let it out. If you feel like crying, cry. Want to scream? Have at it. As long as you're in a spot where you can let it out, of course. Releasing the pent up feelings allows you to move on and start to heal.

Pamper yourself. Negative feelings are draining. Get some rest, throw on makeup even when you don't feel like it, and get that new hairstyle you've been wanting. Remember, it's better to look good than to feel good. (just kidding) Seriously, though looking your best can help lift your spirits, and there's no sense letting those bad feelings show on your face.

Laugh out loud. Laughter is good for you physically and mentally. It gets your heart rate up, increases circulation and releases those feel good endorphins. It's great stress relief and helps encourage positive thinking. I find just watching my favorite sitcom or a comedy movie really helps take my mind off my troubles and feel refreshed.

Spend time with children and pets. No one can be sad for too long when they're around the natural positive energy of children, watching them play, hearing them laugh. Kids just have a natural ability to make you feel better with their silly little ways.

Pets can pick up on the fact that you're feeling down. They are truly our best friends, never judging us, loving us unconditionally. They are happy just to be around us. Spend some time playing with them and giving them lots of hugs!

Talk to someone. Call up a friend, or talk to an understanding family member or counselor. Get your feelings out in the open and talk about what's troubling you. Getting it off your chest helps immensely.

Above all, being able to think positively and focus on the good things in your life will help chase away those negative emotions.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Coping With The Winter Blahs

The holiday season hasn't even ended yet, and I can already feel the winter doldrums setting in. I usually get tired of winter after the first week. I don't dream of a white Christmas; I actually hope for the snow to stay away.

It happens every winter. At some point the snow and cold become tedious. After the joy and excitement of the holiday season have passed, there's not much else to do. Seasonal depression kicks in for lots of folks, except maybe skiers. Some of us just feel helpless against the weather and shut in with cabin fever.

Sometimes it seems like the only good thing about winter is the end of it.

I used to love the snow when I was a kid. I'd make snow angels and catch snowflakes on my tongue. Now when I see it snowing, I wonder how I'm going to navigate through the the white stuff, both on foot and driving.

It's no fun trudging through the snow when you have MS. I have enough trouble walking without the frozen obstacle. Shovelling snow, brushing off the car, driving along hoping the car doesn't skid - it all gets to be too much sometimes.

Still, in spite of my stiffness and fatigue, I'll plod through the snow every day to fill the birdfeeder hanging off the big tree in the center of my backyard. Then I'll scatter some walnuts for the squirrels. It's become a winter ritual for me, and I do enjoy seeing the birds flying around the feeder and the squirrels bounding through the snow and munching on the walnuts (or occasionally helping themselves to the birdseed).

Simple pleasures like this make winter more tolerable. And even I have to admit a quiet snowfall or the snow glistening in the moonlight can be beautiful.

I don't think I've ever really had what they call seasonal affective disorder, but I do feel more sadness and frustration in the winter, and there is no question the weather is to blame. As the weeks of winter drag on and turn into months, it's easy to get a bit depressed. The days are shorter, the weather is at times unbearable. It seems the only thing to do is look forward to spring.

It's easy to feel trapped in the winter, watching the snow pile up, then having to go out and fight your way through it just to get to work. Or not being able to go anywhere because of a blizzard.

I've noticed on the winter weekends, unless there is a blizzard, the roads are filled with cars. People are out and about, going shopping, doing things. That's the main thing that helps ease the winter doldrums - getting out of the house. Staying home in the winter just makes me more sad. I need to get out whenever possible and get some fresh air and sunlight.

Shaking my fist at the bitter cold wind, I'll go out, brush off the car and head out, hoping I don't get stuck in the driveway, or anywhere else for that matter. By the time I come home, getting back in the warm house and out of my snowy boots gives me such a sense of relief. I made it through the frozen tundra!

Like many other things in life, winter can sure test a positive attitude. It's not easy to fight off the winter blahs. For me, it's the little things that get me through it, like feeding the birds and squirrels, sipping hot cocoa or seeing the occasional snowman when I drive down the street. Sometimes I can't help but smile when I see kids outside riding on their sleds or having snowball fights. It takes me back.

Maybe I'll try to make a snow angel this winter. I'm going to have a heck of a time getting up afterward!

So if you find yourself feeling blue this winter, remember - Spring is coming back!

(And please remember to feed the birds.)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Life's Little Challenges

I remember how quickly and easily I used to go up and down stairs. I didn't even think about it at the time; it was like breathing - I just did it. Now, because I have MS, it takes me a little longer to climb up a staircase and going down stairs can be even more laborious. I definitely have to use handrails these days, too.

Taking the stairs is a challenge for me now. It's not a major obstacle; it's just not as easy as it used to be.

Sometimes when we get hit with a problem in life, a bunch of others come falling on top of it, like candy spilling out of a broken pinata. When we're faced with a big problem, it can also cause a lot of everyday things to become more challenging. These smaller challenges can be the most frustrating, as they are a constant reminder of the larger problem. Just going grocery shopping is complicated these days because of higher prices and tighter budgets in our struggling economy.

When things become challenging, whether it's because of health conditions, money woes, or some other negative circumstance, I've learned it helps to do the following:

Practice patience. I used to be kind of an impatient person, but being slowed down by MS has definitely changed that. Since I already have to have a lot more patience with my own body, it's gotten easier to have patience with others. Things that may have irritated me before, like waiting in line, don't bother me as much now.

Patience is said to be a virtue. It's also necessary when circumstances get tough. Things won't get better overnight. It takes time.

We may feel like we're burdened enough, and then something else goes wrong. Right now on top of the fact that I'm dealing with my MS symptoms, I have a sick cat, a car that needs new brakes, and oh yeah, it's the holidays! I could become impatient because the problems can't be taken care of quickly or easily enough, and I could take my frustration out on someone else, but what good would that do?

Getting impatient doesn't help. It doesn't make the situation go away; all it does is make us tense and irritable.

Relieve stress. Dealing with challenging circumstances is stressful, and that means getting some downtime is a must. Do what you can to relax as much as possible. Try to have some fun and take your mind off the things that are stressing you.

Taking care of ourselves is of the utmost importance. It's easy to skip out on doing things like getting enough rest and taking time for ourselves when we're stressed. I often find myself stressing over situations and then realize I've gotten myself to a point where I am either physically or mentally exhausted. So I take some time to just watch a little TV and relax, or I go for a quiet drive to clear my head.

Find ways to adapt. Being flexible and innovative helps when life throws a challenge our way. If it's going to be around for a while, we may just have to get used to it. We may have to make drastic changes or even call upon the people in our lives for help.

We can always find ways to change how we do things and still keep up with the demands of our daily lives. The current economic woes have brought about a lot of frugality. In dealing with MS of course, I've had to adjust daily activities because of having limited energy to work with. I've learned to prioritize and give myself extra time to do things.

In some cases we have to adapt emotionally. I find it easier now to keep my spirits up when I am hampered by MS. It wasn't always that way, but both time and the realization that there were other areas of my life where I could still find happiness helped me to better handle the situation and develop a more positive attitude.

Dealing with our challenges we may feel anger and frustration, and that's understandable. We just can't let those negative feelings overtake us or cloud our judgement.

Keep your chin up. Whether you're dealing with an ongoing situation like having MS or a temporary setback that makes day-to-day things tougher, it's important to maintain a positive outlook.

In a previous post, Pathway to a Positive Attitude, I wrote more about doing just that.

Life's journeys don't always take us over a smooth road. We do hit some bumps now and again. How we react and deal with them is our challenge. I still take the stairs from time to time because I like a challenge.