Family Visit: Thankful Thoughts- Week 6

I spend a lot of time alone. My illness limits my ability to get out of the house, which means that I am often home by myself. And much of the time, that’s OK. I’ve learned to take advantage of the time spent by myself, when I have the freedom to make my own plan for the day.

Still, I thrive the most when I can be with other people. There’s a big part of me that needs to interact, encourage, and “just be” with the people I love. I am a people person– there’s no doubt about that. When I was able to work, I chose jobs that focused on building relationships with people and helping them improve their lives. I feel most alive when I am invested in purposeful relationships. 

This week I’ve spent time in Illinois with my husband’s family. We don’t have extravagant plans, and I like that. There’s very little pressure to do anything in particular, which allows me to do whatever is realistic. After spending most of my days alone (until S gets home from work), I am thrilled to spend my days with loved ones for a while. It surprises me what all I’ve missed as I’ve adjusted to spending most of my day by myself. This week, I am soaking in each conversation and enjoying every shared meal. I’m enjoying cookies baked by my 11 year old brother-in-law, sipping on peppermint tea from my sister-in-law, and savoring the Orange Julius and latte made especially for me. I am grateful for the time spent teaching my younger sister-in-law how to knit on the loom, trips outside of the house (despite the cold weather), and for one-on-one time with some of my husband’s siblings.

IMG_20150217_09591520150218_131046I think it’s important to acknowledge the good things in our lives and to soak in the beauty that is found in building relationships. None of us can make it through life alone. We need each other, even if it’s difficult to admit sometimes. We need hugs and smiles and laughter. We need loved ones to comfort us when we cry and celebrate with us when we succeed.

So today I am challenging myself to look for reasons to be grateful. I am asking for help when I need it, and I am looking for the goodness around me, even when I am in physical pain. Because the goodness is there; it’s always there. I just need to choose to embrace it and enjoy the time I have with people I love.

Advertisements

Being Present

My illness has taught me to soak in beautiful moments and to be grateful that I have so much goodness in my life. The 2014 holiday season was one of my favorite so far. That may seem odd, since it’s my first holiday season with a chronic illness, but I assure you it’s the truth. I was fully present while celebrating with loved ones. I didn’t spend much time worrying about what I should do or how things could be better. Instead, I focused on the beauty to be found in my messy, imperfect life.

There is a peace that comes with letting go of the future I’d expected. I have to do a bit of “letting go” every day.  During the holidays, I was reminded that it’s not easy to need a wheelchair to make it through a holiday display. But once I accepted my new reality, I could focus on having fun instead of being upset that I depend on my chair. There are dozens of moments like that each day for me as I learn to live a full life with an illness. And each of those moments present me with the choice to either think about how things could be or to be grateful for the goodness to be found in my new way of life. 

Krohn Conservatory 2014

(Touring the holiday show at a local conservatory with my mom)

I believe that it’s all about perspective. The way I approach life affects what I see. When I think about the time spent with my family as precious and important, it’s much more difficult to spend that time angry about the things I can’t do with them because of my illness. I’m too busy paying attention to someone’s funny story or hugging a loved one to think about what could be. I am present in the moment, even though there are new limitations for me. I refuse to spend unnecessary time focusing on my frustrations, because doing that causes me to miss out on the relationships around me.

I was able to make it through two different trips away from home over the holidays, which is great progress for me! Thanks to my mom and my husband, both of the trips went as well as I could hope. I am currently unable to drive, but I was still able to spend some great time with family. One of the brightest parts of my holiday season was the time I spent with my nephew. I got to cuddle with him, rock him to sleep, and play with him. It was delightful! S and I soaked up all the time we could get with the little guy.

20150103_10581820150103_091033

(Spending time with our nephew was wonderful!)

I realize the excitement of the new year has just about worn off, but I’d like to encourage you to make a 2015 goal for yourself. As for me, I’ll be focusing on being present for the beautiful moments that make up my messy, imperfect life.

Thankful Thoughts, Week 3

We just finished up the Thanksgiving season in the US. I had a memorable, wonderful Thanksgiving! I hope you did too. I firmly believe that gratitude is important to practice year-round, and I encourage you to take some time to make a gratitude list of your own. There is no “wrong” way to make a list of what you are thankful for in your life, simply out some paper and start writing.

I’ve made some great memories this week with family members, and I am thankful for the moments that make my life beautiful. Here is my gratitude list:

Rupsis Farkle game 2014

  • My husband’s family made a 4 hour drive to celebrate Thanksgiving with us in Indiana. They came full of joy and energy, ready to help in an way they could. I directed some of the preparation, but other people made the meal. I was able to listen to my body and rest when needed (which is difficult for me, especially when I am hosting people in my home). We played a game of Farkle, ate lots of pie, and had a great time!
  • I saw my nurse practitioner on Friday because I was having terrible pain on my right side. She was able to fit me in quickly and she even stayed late to help me. I am grateful that she believes I know my body best and that she trusts me to be honest. My neck, back, arm and leg alternated between being painful and numb, which had never happened to me before. I was somewhat scared because it was so unrelated to my typical symptoms. My NP found that I have a pinched nerve, likely due to muscle strain in physical therapy. It should heal in the next few days, but right now I am focused on taking pain relief medication and resting. I am glad that I was able to get an answer before the weekend, because it would have been much more difficult to deal with the pain without guidance from my NP.

10805704_10152380366610755_8055679038872681681_n

  • My sister-in-law, her husband, and my nephew came to visit us during their Thanksgiving travels. I adore my nephew, but I haven’t been able to see him much because he lives in Illinois, and I can’t travel that far right now. S and I got him a small gift, and we had so much fun opening it with him! My pain and POTS symptoms were manageable during the visit, and I was tremendously grateful.

In this holiday season, I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on the joy in your life. I recognize that there are troublesome things happening everywhere, but I think the best way to face them is to look for goodness.

I have new ideas that I’ll be bringing to the blog later this week, so stay tuned! And please let me know about the goodness in your life 🙂

Beauty in the Ordinary, Thankful Thoughts– Week 2

This past week has been full of beautiful moments. My illness has cooperated with my plans more than usual, so I’ve been able to do more outside of the house. I’ve gotten to spend time with dear friends, and it’s been glorious. Practicing gratitude helps me remember that sacred moments happen as we go through the motions of “normal” living. There are not trumpets that start playing right before a precious memory is formed and there aren’t announcers to let us know that something special is coming. We have to look for those moments ourselves, and the more we look for them, the more beauty we see.

There is a quote I’ve been ruminating over this past week. It’s one of my favorite reminders to look for goodness all around me, even in the ordinary moments.

The ordinary acts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest. -Thomas Moore

Our routines and chores can be looked at a few different ways. They can be seen as necessary tasks that must be completed before “more meaningful” things can be done, or we can look for the goodness in time we spend doing them. We can spend that time being grateful for the house we need to clean and the clothing that needs to be washed. I’ve seen what life can be like for people who are in need of clothing and housing, and it is tough to go without. I am not suggesting guilt-tripping ourselves when we become bored doing a task for the hundredth time, but I am encouraging us all to look for opportunities to be grateful in the little moments. Because there is meaning in folding laundry for family members, in making the bed, and in doing the dishes. And there is beauty in all of the little moments that add together to make a life. We do not need to look for grand, perfect moments because there is so much goodness in the imperfect, small ones.

Here are a few of the things I am thankful for this week. I hope you take the time to reflect on the goodness that can be found in the ordinary parts of life.

  • I went to the annual Christmas parade for my city last night. It was cold, so I bundled up in my transport chair and drank hot chocolate with friends as we watched our neighbors kick off the holiday season. I enjoyed seeing children wave from their floats with smiles on their faces. I looked around and saw dozens of people around me supporting the good things that happen in our city, despite the cold weather, and it was wonderful.

IMG_20141110_210749

  • My husband went out and bought a new cabinet for the upstairs bathroom, and our sweet cat Lily Rose watched him put it together. She spent at least an hour watching his every move and “supervising” him while I laid on the floor because of a POTS flare. Lily Rose has a pretty short attention span, so it was surprising to see her so invested in building a cabinet. The cat was adorable, and even from the floor, I was proud of me kind husband who works hard to make our home even better.

IMG_20141114_133432

  • I have a wonderful friend who has visited me at home when I have not been well enough to go out. This week, we were able to go out to coffee at Starbucks! It was so much fun for both of us. I took a picture of myself (above) before leaving to document the occasion.

Please take some time today to consider the beauty and goodness that can be found in the ordinary parts of your life. There is always something to be grateful for in our lives, even in the tough moments.

Thankful Thoughts– Week 1

I’ve been taking a class entitled “The Science of Happiness” through EdX.org. It has been a great experience for me, since I can learn from home at no cost. EdX’s goal is to make high-quality education accessible to everyone. There are a variety of courses that can be audited for free, and schools like Harvard University, Berkeley, and Dartmouth provide them. “The Science of Happiness” course focuses on how psychology, biology, and social factors affect the ability to be happy. I enjoy the video lectures the most because I can listen to them, even on days when reading is impossible due to brain fog. Each week there is a suggested practice for increasing happiness, and this week’s practice is gratitude.

I believe gratitude is an important habit, and it has truly made a difference in my life. It has been great for me to learn some of the scientific reasons that gratitude improves quality of life. I am starting a recurring feature on the blog that focuses on the goodness I’ve experienced during the past week. Practicing gratitude is a simple, effective way to improve happiness, and the best way I can show that to readers is to model that on this blog.

So here’s to Week 1 of my Thankful Thoughts feature:

IMG_20141104_173051

  •  Physical touch can be a powerful healing tool. On days when I am feeling low, our cat Cali always comes to snuggle with me. She did that a few times this week, and it was wonderful! The isolation that comes with chronic illness is a real issue, but she makes such a difference with her warm presence.
  • Some family friends went on a trip to Germany for a few weeks, and they returned this weekend. S and I went over for dinner last night and got to hear all about their travels. I’ve never been to Germany, so it was quite interesting to me. Plus, sharing a meal with kind people is always good for the soul.

IMG_20141106_171321

  • I practiced self-care this week and it made a real difference for me. I drank coffee almost every day, just because I felt well enough to have it! I’ve been keeping my nails painted, which makes me feel more put-together. Right now I’m wearing Plum’s the Word from Sally Hansen. It’s perfect for Fall.
  • I reached out to a friend after feeling beaten-down by a tough week. She made time to come over and just listen to me. Sometimes we all need to be reminded that we are not alone and that love always comes, even in hard times. I also read a great blog post called One Brave Way to Heal Our Relationships, Our Hearts & the Internet. It was just what my heart needed.

I hope that you are able to practice gratitude today, wherever you are. Spending time writing down and acknowledging the goodness in our lives really does make an impact in how we see the world.

For more information about the benefits of practicing gratitude, click here.

Following My Dreams (with POTS)

Danielle Oct2014

*A happy photo of me going to a wedding (before the craziness of this week began)*

After surviving a week of the stomach flu in our household, I am very ready to put my energy into being grateful. I’ve found a grateful heart to be a powerful weapon against the gloom that comes with chronic illness (or any other issue).

First, let me give you this week’s recap. S came down with the stomach flu late Saturday night. It was terrible for him. He had to rest for a few days after his symptoms improved so that he could return to normal. He went back to work on Tuesday, which is when I started to get sick. Since I wasn’t able to hold down meds or fluids for a while, my POTS symptoms took their toll. My resting heart rate was elevated the whole time, but I finally started to feel better after two or three days. Then, I somehow spilled water on my pill minder, and it got my pills for a few days wet. I’ve done my best to take my medications, despite their bitter, powdered form, but it’s been rough. Last night I failed miserably and I ended up getting sick right after attempting to take them. So needless to say, it’s been interesting around here the last few days.

But there is always goodness to be found and I remain grateful for the life I’ve been given. I know that my choice to cling to hope on rough days has made my life better. This week I was able to muster up the courage to submit three of my blog entries to HelloGiggles.com, a light-hearted website with articles written by women, for women. Just sending in my work is an accomplishment for me. I am proud that I stepped out of my comfort zone this week!

Lately, I’ve become inspired to work toward my dreams (and even form new ones). It’s not as easy to live with passion when my medical condition can be unpredictable, but I know it’s possible. I’ve walked through some dark places in my life, and I am still here. I am a fighter. I refuse to let something like POTS define me. I am still a joyful, kind, life-filled, quirky woman who loves coffee and baked goods. Now I just have an extra set of obstacles.

When I look into my heart, I see that my greatest hope is to show love to people who may not see it very often. I tend to be  comfortable with people who are ignored or marginalized. It’s challenging and lonely to be different than the status quo. But you know what? Everyone deserves to feel loved. Everyone deserves to feel heard when they share their story. I spent my teenage years trying to rewrite my life experience. I wanted my journey to be straightforward and simple. But now I realize that the most beautiful stories are those of redemption. My life has been brought from hopelessness, fear, shame, and pain into a place of joy, hope, and gratitude. I choose to live an abundant, full life because I remember the pain of living an empty one.

Today I choose to love the people around me. I choose to let them be who they are, where they are. I don’t ask others to change to become someone new. I allow them to be flaw-filled and broken. I encourage them to walk toward healing, whatever that means for them. Today I choose to remember where I am now and celebrate the progress I’ve made. I shut out my negative self-talk and I accept myself. I embrace the chaotic, glorious mess that I am. I listen to my soul. Today I choose to dream. I decide to live life as passionately as I can, even if it looks different than I’d planned. I make an effort wave to my neighbors and I take the time to notice the kindness around me. I dream of bringing joy to the people around me. I dream of a community where people listen more than they judge. Today I look past the difficult moments and I see the goodness around me. And I am grateful.