Monday, March 29, 2010

Appreciating The Humor, Even When The Joke is on You

I was kind of disappointed this month because St. Patrick's Day came and went so fast, I couldn't get my post about good fortune fleshed out in time to write it here. It occurred to me that April Fool's day is nearly upon us, however, and it seemed like the perfect time to write something about humor and laughter.

April Fool's is a holiday for kids (and kids at heart). I don't remember any of the April first pranks from my childhood, but once in a while I'll recall a funny thing that happened in those days. Like the time I had to chase after my two-year-old little sister as she ran naked down our driveway. Or the time my friend and I were in my mom's car waiting for her to come out of a store, and the car started to roll backward. Just remembering my friend frantically trying to get the car door open still cracks me up! (The car stopped, and no one got hurt.)

Little kids' laughter is the best. It sounds so cute, and they will laugh at pretty much anything. Once when I was outside with my nephew (he was three), my cat ran past us and I said, "Look at her go," and "sang" the theme from Bonanza. The kid broke into peals of hysterical laughter, and I couldn't help but laugh as he kept giggling away.

It's easy to laugh when someone falls victim to a prank or does something funny, intentionally or not, but it's important to be able to laugh at oneself as well. In living with MS, it especially helps to be able to make light of the way this condition can affect you.

MS is full of "I meant to do that" moments. Little stumbles, falling over, dropping things. If you are able to laugh at yourself, it shows the world you have a positive attitude.

At my last MS treatment, two other patients and I got to talking about our symptoms and such. I mentioned my walking troubles, and the male patient joked about how he hopes he never gets pulled over and asked to walk a straight line. We talked about how early symptoms can appear, and I mentioned a bout of double vision I had as a kid. "Tequila has that effect on me," he quipped. "Well, this happened when I was six," I said, laughing. It's good when you can find a little humor in something that isn't particularly pleasant to have to deal with.

While it may not be the cure for what ails you, laughter truly is the best medicine. Sometimes, even when I don't feel like laughing, my cat will do something silly, and I'll crack up. Or I turn on my favorite sitcom, just out of habit, knowing that even the show can't make me laugh, I feel so bad. But I end up being wrong. It's so great that we respond naturally to humor by laughing; it's like self-medicating. And afterward, you feel better.

It's funny how some of the best moments in life can have you laughing so hard it makes your belly hurt, and even makes you cry.

Life sometimes plays some mean jokes on us. If we can't laugh at our own expense, at least being able to laugh about something, to distract ourselves for a while from whatever is going wrong in our lives, is just too good an opportunity to let pass us by.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Little Spring in Your Step

I saw a robin a few days ago, and today I noticed the little green shoots popping out of the ground where the bluebells and daffodils will soon be - both signs that spring has arrived!

As winter makes its slow exit, I find myself looking forward to the wonderful fragrance of the lilacs in bloom and being able to leave the windows open all day. Spring means a new beginning. Our spirits are revitalized as the warmer, longer days find us all coming down with spring fever. It's time to enjoy. To put away the heavy coats, and trade boots for sneakers or just bare feet. Soon the grass will be a lush green and the sound of lawnmowers and kids playing will fill the air.

This is the time of year to recharge, and get things done. I've already started my spring cleaning. It feels good to catch up on some of my little projects and get organized.

Spring also seems like a good time to do a little cleanup in other areas besides the home. It's a good time for cleaning out the mental clutter and dealing with any "messy" areas in your life as well. It's hard not to feel a renewed sense of positive energy this time of year. It makes you ready to tackle problems, start a new project or work on self-improvement goals.

Spring is the time for letting go of negative feelings, the winter "discontent" if you will, a time of moving forward with a positive attitude and making new beginnings.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Leave Me Alone! (Spending Time With Yourself)

With all of the ways we can connect with each other these days, and since we can't seem to live without our "phone", it makes you wonder, how can we ever really get time to ourselves? People can track us down wherever we are via phone, text, tweet. Sometimes we just need to get away from it all.

Spending some time alone is essential for contentment and stress relief. We need time to decompress after a hard week at work or just dealing with all of life's little everyday stresses. Having some time to be alone with your thoughts and relax is a must to improve your mood and re-energize yourself. In order to really be alone for a while, you have to:

Remove all distractions. Push everything and everyone away for a while. Okay, I have my house to myself, I have an advantage. There are no kids or husband to send away, but sometimes I just have to let the cats go play outside for a while! Turn off the cell phone and computer. Don't give in to the demands of your ringtone, email, or that stack of bills waiting to be paid.

Find a quiet spot you can have all to yourself, your own personal retreat. It could be as simple as your deck or your bathtub. Just take some time to relax and enjoy your stress-free oasis. I like to put on my favorite music to help me unwind, maybe light some scented candles or do a crossword puzzle.

Getting out of the house and spending time in a place where you can be surrounded by nature are also great stress relievers. I find the park or my backyard are great places to spend time alone and reflect. I also like to just get in the car and go for a drive around my favorite neighborhoods.

Whether you want to hit the mall and do some shopping, treat yourself to lunch at that new cafe, or spend an afternoon wandering through a museum, just make sure you leave the techno-gadget in the car, so you can truly have time to spend with yourself.

The things we need to do won't go anywhere if we go off by ourselves for a while. And just because we have phone and internet we can take everywhere, that doesn't mean we have to.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Embracing Changes

Some of the changes in my life this past decade have not been good ones - like being diagnosed with MS, losing my mother and having to stop working. I am not a big fan of change.

I tend to be set in my ways - sticking to a routine with little variation. Sometimes the predictable makes us feel safe. But it can get boring, and we can find ourselves feeling like we're stuck in a rut and craving a change.

There are times when changes can be frustrating. It's hard to accept changes we didn't decide on and don't want. Your department at work runs like a well-oiled machine, and then there is an upheaval when the people in charge decide to make changes. Or maybe you lose your job altogether.

Sometimes the change can turn out to be a good thing. Maybe being resistant to it is a natural response, but things can still work out. Maybe things at the office could run smoother after all, or a lost job could lead to your getting a better one.

There are always those changes that we welcome. Winter gives way to Spring. Your favorite sports team makes a good trade. I personally can't wait to break open my new box of hair color and get rid of these gray hairs!

Seriously though, I am learning to embrace change. Part of having a positive attitude is seeing the possibility that changes can be good. I am looking forward to doing something new with my life (now that I think I finally know what it is I'd like to do).

Sometimes they are for the worse, sometimes for the better. Sometimes we don't see them coming, and other times we can't wait for them. We wish things would change, or we dread them changing - either way, change is always bound to happen.