Making Peace With 2010

Peace, Victory, Two Fingers - from the origina...Image by \!/_PeacePlusOne via Flickr

As I woke this morning and looked out the window, the puddle of water on the top of our hot tub is evidence that it rained at some point during the night. The rain explains the nagging headache that has bothered me for days, since my migraines are largely attuned to barometric pressure changes. I can only pray that it is now at its peak.

Nevertheless, a migraine is not first and foremost on my mind. No, it is the end of 2010 that is a mere two days away, and I, along with many others in this country, around the world even, are in a race. A race to choose our intentions for the new year to come.  The choice is not taken lightly. Some agonize, and ruminate over the decision to the extent that an outsider looking in would swear that a life or death decision is surely being made.  In reality, what happens year after year is that we look upon this time as another opportunity to get it right; a way to ring out the old and ring in the new, but the fact remains that as Jon Kabat Zinn says “wherever you go, there you are.” A new year is a new beginning of sorts, but  in many instances, our life pre-2011, still haunts us.  How then do we reconcile with 2010 so as not to carry our old issues into the new year. 

Of course, there is no one answer to our dilemma. In perusing the web,  I found an article on the Huffington Post by Dr. Cara Baker. In the article, Resolving What Really Matters: 7 Practices For A Fresh New Year, Dr. Baker recognizes our quandary:
The truth is this: We simply do not know where we will be one year from now, much less tomorrow. This being the case, what do you want to make of today so that you feel great about yourself? I’m not talking about adding stress or taking on a mad-dash attitude! The last thing either of us needs is one more thing for the to-do list. No, I’m thinking more about what you’d like to drop from your life that would improve your sense of gratitude. For example, what “accounts” do you need to close in order to live freely? How could you do so simply? Dare I say it: how could you lower the bar to what’s been unrealistic? . . . . What if we were to revise our standards, giving ourselves more slack? 
She goes on to offer 7 practices  that allow us to make peace with 2010 and to go into the new year, and the new decade, with a sense of peace and purpose, as well as an idea of what may be important to us. They are listed below.
  1. Recall the gratitude you have for what others have given. 
  2. Recall the personal challenges that have helped you grow. Find compassion for the simple expressions of good that have come your way.  Tell those who’ve assisted your unfolding.
  3. Recall moments of beauty. Beauty comes out of chaos. (Share the memory with someone you love. Ask them theirs.
  4. Recall the new people, places and things you discovered that touched you most. ( Write a thank-you notes in three sentences or less, and send them.
  5. Recall the dreams that have continued to stir your heart, pressing your spirit to express them while you still can. Ask someone you love about their current dream, and share your own.
  6. Recall the unexpected moments of encouragement you’ve found in nature, in the stillness, or in a glance or look from another living creature that have reminded you that connection lives, and that life is richest when appreciating the simple things.
  7. Recall one favorite moment from this year that touched you deeply.  Thank whomever needs thanking. 
These practices apply as the year, and a decade, come to an end. There is no question that for many of us, 2010 has been a year of change, upheaval and turmoil. (When we factor in the preceding 10 years, it is mind boggling to think of the change, both good and not so good, that we have encountered!) It is little wonder that one would have the “don’t let the door hit you in the back” mentality towards this year. Dr. Baker offers us a way to view the positive aspects of the year, instead of focusing on the negative.  By doing so, we close out 2010 acknowledging its many challenges, but also making peace with it by remembering the joys and blessings that came our way.  I encourage you to read the article for yourself here

Happy New Year, Happy New Century. 

Blessings, Peace & Joy  to you and your family, Lydia

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Lesson From A Eulogy

224/365Image by CR Artist via Flickr
As a lover of books, there are tons of them on my “read someday” list.  Last night, I choose a book from that list and within the first 10 pages, I knew that it is one of those books that will stay with me forever. I will  come back to it again and again for its’ many lessons. Unfortunately, I am, as my Mom used to say, “hardheaded” and it takes me numerous attempts to accept even the most integral lesson. If you are interested, as I am, in living your life to its fullest, perhaps this book can offer you some wisdom. I encourage you to buy or borrow this beautiful and inspirational book. 

By now, you are probably thinking, “What book?” The book is Patricia Digh’s “Life is a Verb: 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful and Live Intentionally.” Ms. Digh intends the book as a guide to “living each individual, glorious day with more intention,” however many days you have left in your life. The book reminds us that we are meant to be active participants in our lives, not passive bystanders watching our lives flash before our eyes. Who among us, couldn’t use such a reminder every now and again? But, what insight did I glean within the first ten pages? It came via a eulogy. 

Ms. Digh wrote about a dear friend who was told that he had only a year to live. All that we know about how he lived that year is through a, seemingly close, friend’s eulogy. As an attorney, I should jump up and shout, “Your honor, that is double hearsay,” but this is not the courtroom, this is the real world and for personal reasons I can assure you, this passage left me deep in thought. I can imagine the speaker, standing before a large group full of people, saying these words about his recently departed friend:
“He continued to live the very life he had been leading before his illness. This was his life. His account of his days, his heart of wisdom, lay in the very passions and commitments which he embodied daily. Day by day, this determination not to run away from his life took more and more courage. The pain increased. The exhaustion mounted. And yet, just three nights before his death, [he] was still in the classroom, still reaching out to others, still using every bit of his energy to make the lives of others better.”
The passage was so striking to me, because it was so contrary to how I handled my own illness after I had to stop working over six years ago. Before I get to the after, perhaps I should explain how I came to stop working.

Fibromyalgia caused me to halt my active litigation practice. I believe that I’ve had fibromyalgia since 1996, so it has been with me for quite some time. For those unfamiliar with fibromyalgia, it differs from one person to another. 
“In trying to explain fibromyalgia, the American College of Rheumatology uses an effective analogy. They say that for the person with fibromyalgia, it is as though the volume control is turned up too high in the brain’s pain processing areas. Consequently, they endure chronic pain across much of their body, despite no evident source of that pain, in addition to a wide range of other symptoms including chronic fatigue and muscle soreness.”

If you are interested in more details about fibromyalgia, please refer to “What is Fibromyalgia” link on  the home page.

By 2004, the pain became such that enduring it one day at a time became, after a while, one hour at a time. Later when that too became too onerous a time frame, my mantra became “if I can just get through one minute at a time.” The pain was unrelenting, and none of the doctors, medications, or alternative therapies were of any benefit. There came a time when one minute was far too great a goal to meet, so “one second” became the new target. Of course, it goes without saying that my time finally ran out, and I could no longer hold on. I had to stop working. In hindsight, that is the day that I stopped the fight and surrendered to fibromyalgia.

The man from the passage in “Life is a Verb” died, but he died as he lived, participating in his life, not running away from it.  I, on the other hand, though in comparison, blessed to have a chronic illness and ever more fortunate to live through a recent diagnosis of a bilateral pulmonary emboli, can I say the same about me?  The answer is a resounding “no.” No, I ran away from my life thinking that doing so would distance me from this illness, from the pain, but as Jon KabatZinn aptly states “wherever you go, there you are.”

The eulogy provides me a framework for living life in spite of my illness. To my knowledge, there is nothing in the “Dummies” series on how to deal with illness. Fibromyalgia has been an anchor around my neck for so long and I’d allowed it to drag me to the deepest, darkest depths of the ocean, far away from life as I knew it.  For me, the meaning of the eulogy is clear, living a full, intentional and meaningful life and illness are not mutually exclusive. It is possible to have both. I am ready to live my life, illness and all. I am not running anymore. I’ll be right here.

If we remain open to them, the opportunity for a lesson learned may well be found in the most unexpected and unlikely of places– even a eulogy.

Life Is a Verb: 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful, and Live Intentionally

Wherever You Go, There You Are (ROUGH CUT)

TAKE NOTE: Links to Amazon go to my affiliate account, which means I make a small commission if you purchase the book through that link.

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