Saturday, November 30, 2013

It's Silly, but I Believe

“Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to. Don't you see? It's not just Kris that's on trial, it's everything he stands for. It's kindness and joy and love and all the other intangibles.”
-Miracle on 34th Street

Just a silly story to begin the holiday season...

I love the movie, Miracle on 34th Street. Not the new version. The old black and white version with Maureen O’Hara and Natalie Wood. Since childhood, I watch this movie at the start of every holiday season. For those of you who haven’t yet seen it, it is a story that begins on Thanksgiving and ends on Christmas. Santa Claus is on trial and a little girl struggles to truly believe in him. A heart warming tale that leaves me in happy tears, no matter how old I get. 

In keeping with tradition, I watched this movie a few days ago. I honestly can’t remember which day I watched it, because the days all seem to run together during these holiday weeks and weekends. That’s kind of the joy of this season...time stands still for a moment and days run together. I am kind of a sucker for this time of year and even though I don’t want to decorate this year because of all of the renovations, I still switched out all of my candles and hand soap to scents like, Vanilla Bean Noel and Hot Buttered Rum and Citrus Holly Wreath. Oh the dreams that run wildly in my head for next year. Luckily, I have an entire year to plan my first holiday season in my first home. But, back to the story...

So I watched the movie with my usual preparedness. A box of tissues in hand and my dog sleeping on my legs. Though, this time, the lines rang a bit differently, they struck a new chord. I couldn’t quite figure it out at first, but about halfway through the movie, it hit me. 

Recently, I learned the power of positivity and dreams and imagination. I always thought these were things kids posses naturally, without practice, and then adults, naturally, cling to realism and so goes life. But, the more I read, the more I learn, the more I grow, the more I know for sure the imagination holds so much power. It is a place of freedom and expression and bliss. I work on honing my dream and imganitation skills constantly. I just assumed this was new to me...until I watched Miracle on 34th Street for the umpteenth time. 

There is a particular line in the movie I love, have always loved. “It’s silly, but I believe.”

Young Natalie Wood says this over and over and she tries to trust her friend, Kris Kringle. She says it kind of haphazardly, which I adore. I kind of love repeating lines of movies and television shows. I do it quite a lot, sometimes without realizing it. And, as silly as this is to admit, in the past thirteen years since my accident, I find myself repeating this line too, haphazardly. Just the other day when I thought I hit a road block with my health, instead of allowing my head to venture off into negative land, I switched gears, looked in the mirror and repeated, it’s silly, but I believe. The line just turns my thoughts to hope instead of despair. That’s all. Nothing too complicated. What I learned, though, as I watched this movie, is that I repeat this line all of the time. And not just in the last thirteen years. As a child, any time I was said or feeling down, I would look in the mirror or utter softly to myself, it’s silly, but I believe. I’ve probably been repeating it for thirty years.

What I do know now though, is I never say it or said it because I needed convincing Santa Claus is real. I say it because it is a short statement or affirmation, as my new self-help lingo calls it, of hope. Plain and simple. A quick reminder to focus on the dreams and images of a better day. Basically, in one quick sentence, it says, I believe in a better moment. I believe in a better tomorrow. I believe in a better time. I believe in those lovely intangibles called kindness and joy and love. It’s silly, but I believe.

Just think, I could have saved all of this time and money on self-help books and just watched Miracle on 34th Street. Clearly, I joke, but how eye-opening to learn I always practiced my affirmation. 

That’s all for now. I spent the day with dear friends at a brunch that lasted well into the afternoon. None of us noticed the passing of time, just kept talking and eating and enjoying. Now, I will end this day with The Godfather. I know, quite an extreme opposite of Miracle on 34th street. But, hey, I’m all about taking the good with the bad. I look forward to a sunny river walk, with Belle, tomorrow morning. And to cap off the weekend start of the holidays...I will watch Homeland with Kelly and eat appetizers for dinner because we can. It’s the holidays. Not a bad start to a season of joy...especially for an introvert like me, right Steph, Jenni, and Jos? A lot of down time peppered with meaningful moments shared with true friends and loving family. Here’s to joy...‘Tis the season.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A bit of praise

Now, more than ever before, I understand my life is a game of chance. I surrendered to this truth a long time ago. Yes, there are some aspects of my life I can control, like my perspective and my attitude, but the day to day happenings of my health and my condition, well I am certainly spinning a roulette wheel. One day I might feel empowered by this fact when I find solutions to challenges I once though insurmountable like laundry or grocery shopping. And then the next day, I feel defeated by the spinning wheel of chance. I might be dressed and ready to head out and a wheel pops or I feel nauseated and lightheaded and must stay home against my will which leads me to swirl the drain of negativity. Frustration, negativity, and anger only cause me further resistance. I am not a person who responds well to any of these things. In fact, I shut down rather than fight when confronted with negativity. 

The past few weeks proved especially difficult. Right now, I spend a majority of my time on my health. And not the good for my soul eating well and exercising kind of time. I spend time coordinating nurses, sitting through nursing visits, emailing about nursing visits, going to the doctor, and lugging around a machine that is part of my treatment. And if any of the help or services I set up happen to decide not to show up, well I must email and coordinate all over again, which takes hours and even days. This way of life is grueling and exhausting. In the midst of all of this, I desperately try to stay on my own personal schedule. I try to fit in what I love like eating well, walking Belle, and meditation, and praying, writing, and reading, and even watching Real Housewives. I rarely get to the last one, but I try. The items on this list most important to me are the hardest to skip. Instead of a shrug of the shoulder, I can easily spew negativity in my own direction. And then the cycle continues, I feel like a failure and continue to fail. I resist instead of cooperate.

The funny thing is, I know this method does not work. I know, from many years of experience, this method does not work on children. I cheer children on with words of encouragement and excitement and find positivity far more rewarding and know it produces for more and far better results. I easily and fervently cheer for other people. And just when I was thinking about this quandary of negativity I seem to swim in, when I feel like the world is conspiring against me, I am smacked right in the face with a lesson. And a lesson from my dog, no less.

Today, as we walked our river walk, she taught me a huge and important lesson. I wear this negative pressure machine right now. It sucks out the bad stuff, while healing the good. It is a little box, attached to a tube that attaches to my body. The box is about three inches thick and about five by seven inches in size. When we walk, I wind up the tubes and tuck them behind my back and hook the strap of the machine to a bar on the back of my wheelchair. This way I don’t have to worry about it falling off of my lap and disconnecting from the force of the fall. Occasionally, while we walk, the machine slides down the bar, and rubs against my tires. It makes an awful grating noise that Belle just despises. The noise freaks her out, to put it lightly. She stops cold and ducks her head as if she was just hit with a brick. She does not enjoy the noise one bit. Belle then resists the walk and just decides to stop. I can see her fear every time I adjust my legs or my sunglasses. Instead of these simple adjustments, she thinks I reach for the machine and it will soon grind against the wheels. She cowers, digs her paws in the ground, and refuses to walk any further. I remain determined to keep her moving forward because I don’t want to instill fear or cause her to associate the river walk with fear. 

Today, she stopped right at the path’s entrance. I practically dragged her for the first ten minutes of the walk. I tried everything to get her moving, but nothing I tried worked. I tried to look forward and just keep moving, hoping she would follow my direction. I tried to keep picking her up and moving her along so she would see we were continuing the walk. Nothing worked. I grew frustrated and became a bit agitated and stern. I actually thought my refusal to back down might work. Instead, all it did was make her more scared. She isn’t used to sternness or frustration or anything of the sort. She is used to silly voices and kisses and cuddles. Then I had a thought. Instead of resisting her resistance, I chose to adopt the sweet, high pitched voice, she seems to lure out of me, and encourage and cheer her along. And what do you know, she trotted along side of me with the smile and happy prance I am so accustomed to on our walks. The more I encouraged and cheered her along and said good girl, that’s my girl, such a sweet girl, the more she walked and forgot about the evil machine. And as this moment continued, I felt my eyes well up with tears and that all too familiar lump in my throat. The kind of lump and tears that alert me to an aha moment or a lesson learned. 

I need to be a bit kinder and a lot more gentle to myself. I need to instill a softer voice full of encouragement and praise. When I don’t feel like I am doing enough or living up to a standard I have for myself and want to halt and give up, I need to speak lovingly and adjust my thoughts. I need to extend this energy to my thoughts and my inner self. I need to recognize I, too, am doing the best I can to do what I can, when I can. As easy as it sounds to ease up on myself, well it isn’t so easy. I create a bit of resistance because I am so hard on myself sometimes. It is far easier for me to be kind and forgive and encourage others, but I am worthy of the same treatment. So tonight, as I drift off to sleep, after I practice gratitude and joy, I will practice a bit of praise. Praise that I woke up and faced the day and continued to move forward, no matter where the roulette wheel landed. I am worthy of praise and encouragement, just as I am. We all are. 

The river walk and the path that reminds me to keep on moving.

And sometimes, along that path, it's okay to stop, drop, and roll in the grass and leaves. 

Friday, November 8, 2013


There is a bit of a fog I enter while I decide I will heal my body. I focus only on what is necessary. I seem to bow out of life for a bit. My email responses are poor, I send text messages less, and I tend to let go of the things I love to do most. It is kind of an attack mode, or as my doctor calls is, a full-court press. He loves sports analogies. I don’t always understand them, but appreciate the enthusiasm. 

The thing I learn, while in the midst of the full-court press, is gratitude and joy are practices. I can easily fall into a funk of why me or why is this happening, yet again. Believe me, even now, when I understand the questions should really be why not me and why do I deserve any kind of a break from illness, the falter can happen in the blink of an eye. And just when I am about to miss the step and fall into the darkness, I remember, quickly and almost magically, it is time to practice. Time to practice gratitude and joy. 

The first time I heard these things, gratitude and joy, were practices, I thought it was absurd. I always assumed gratitude came with many blessings. Assumed joy was found in others, fantastic vacations, or evenings out, or concerts, or holidays. But, neither of them truly stem from such things. Not even a little bit. Sure, I can practice them while at a concert or on a vacation or out with a group of friends, but the emotions, the graciousness and the joyful heart, they come from hard and fast practice and ritual. If I practice them enough and hold onto them enough, then I can easily access both gratitude and joy, when it is easy and, most importantly, when it is most difficult. 

Through television, radio, facebook, twitter, and the world swirling around us, we are taught to believe someone, somewhere is having a fantastic night, loving every moment, and absolutely living life to the fullest. She in a beautiful hall lined with vintage, knotty wood floors, flooded with twinkly lights, with the most radiant people, and they are laughing out loud and dancing all night long to the pitch perfect music. I don't mean to sound like a pessimist, but, seriously, these magical nights just do not happen. I can twist an evening, a day, or a vacation to sound like the best ever and leave out all of the icky, not so fun to tell parts, but really, the entire story is made up of fantastic and not so fantastic moments. Every story is, even Cinderella. 

The trick is, where the practice comes in handy, is to be able to recognize the sparkly moments, jump on the carriage made out of a pumpkin, and ride off into the night. And if one of my shoes falls off, well it falls off and is left behind, only to become part of the story later on and make it whole. Cinderella wouldn’t be much of a story with out the ugly step sisters and the glass slipper and the coach made out of a pumpkin. It would just be a story of a pretty girl who meets a prince and marries him and, well, that is just plain boring.  I digress, but you get the picture. While I can’t wallow in the bad and the misfortune, I also must learn find the carriages made out of pumpkins and the fairy godmothers along the way. 

So, this time, as I ventured into the world of I must heal this latest infection, I decided to really, really exercise my gratitude muscles. For the past several years, at the end of each day, I recall at least three things for which I am most grateful. Even if I repeat the same three things for an entire week and they are things like, I am grateful for my dog, for this warm bed, and for food to eat, I express them. This time around, I increased the list to five expressions of gratitude and three expressions of joy. But the change was, I had to find them during the day, not just before I fell asleep. I still said the three out loud, before I finally closed my eyes, but I challenged myself to pause and notice the moments where I felt joyful or full of gratitude. The moments where I said, hey this isn’t so bad and I’m actually glad to be alive. It can also be a bit painful to marinate in these joyful moments. The assumption is always, uh oh, something is going right, something bad must follow. But, the truth is, the bad will happen. There isn’t a magic answer that ends all suffering. A trick does not exist that eliminates the sting of pain. What the practice teaches, however, is that among the pain and the suffering, there are moments that shine brightly, moments that turn the corners of the mouth upward, and, sometimes, even force a bit of laughter. 

True joy, true gratitude come from within. This I know for sure. This truth is simple, this truth is real. Because even in my most feared situation, another infection, I find them both. Yes, I must undergo this dreaded treatment a bit longer, but that is because it is working, it is effective. There was a long, long time where nothing worked, where everything failed. So this time, I am grateful for what works. I find joy in the chance to be alive longer, to experience another season, and the joy found in the hope of many more seasons to come. And yes, sometimes the shoe falls off, sometimes I leave my glass slipper behind, but instead of a prince returning it to me, I turn around, pick it up, and put it right back on, hoist myself back into the carriage, and ride off guided by the light of the moon.