Posts Tagged With: happiness
When I was six years old, I was spilled into the deep end of the Y pool intentionally during swim lessons. They wanted me to catch up to the other kids and tread water. It did not work. I had to be pulled from the water by my younger brother. As a teenager, I was taking a tippee test at Camp Tahepia on Georgetown Lake and was pulled from the water by our lifeguard. I was going down again.
Since then, I have not been in the water any higher than my chest and never when I could not touch the bottom of the pool or lake. I have always been afraid of the water.
Until today …
On Monday morning, I got into this water at the Grand Velas Resort in Puerto Vallarta and spent an hour learning to swim. I discovered that I was struggling, even when the water was able to hold me. I found that I stopped breathing which made me sink faster … which did not help me to swim. I learned how to stand without scrambling for the bottom of the pool. I floated on my back, breathing, eyes open, enjoying the sun’s rays and the last glimpses of the moon. And I swam. For the first time in my life, I swam. On Wednesday, I returned for a further lesson. I am thrilled to report that I swam! On my back! On my front! Alone! And I have played in the water a number of times since… and lived to tell of it.
What I discovered is that my six year old self’s brain patterns were very successful in helping me avoid shock and loss … when I was six. And I found that I could alter those brain patterns. By shifting my breathing and my actions, my brain followed suit.
I am so thankful formy friend Christine Arbor for her patience and compassion as I worked through all of it. It is so shocking to me that after all this time, I could overcome my fear. Thanks, my friend, for opening up 70% of the planet to me.
What fear shall I conquer next?
Three short years ago, a doctor said words I never expected to hear. “You have a clean bill of health.”
After more than seven years of dealing with doctors, labs, blood draws, medication, therapies, treatments, shots, IVs, patches, and other things that I have thankfully forgotten, I was free. I was free to live. I was free to create. I was free to thrive.
During the past 36 months. I have marveled at the resiliency of not just the human body, but of the human spirit. I made my first trip to the gym in April of 2011. At a fundraiser for a local junior high trip, I won a year’s membership and ten sessions with a trainer at Fuel Fitness. On my first visit to the gym, I met my trainer, Brian the Brave (not his true name) who quickly told me I needed to get some endurance with the machines before he could start working with me.
The gym is about 8 minutes’ drive from my home, and it was common for me to spend more time driving one way to the gym than I was able to spend exercising. I use the term “exercising” loosely, as it usually meant riding the recumbent bike for five minutes or doing a few reps on a couple of the band machines. On more than one occasion when I was pedaling the bike, the machine would read “Paused” even though I was pedaling as steadily and quickly as I was able. In retrospect, I can only imagine that it was a little entertaining to the staff to see me arrive and leave in less than fifteen minutes. And, I kept going. Every day, six days a week, I kept going. By the end of July, Brian and I agreed that I was ready to start working out with him. By then, I was spending at least twenty minutes doing some cardio (bike, treadmill, or elliptical.) With Brian, I added weight lifting. My thirty minutes training session would be paired with at least twenty minutes of cardio, each day, five days a week. It became my habit. I was reliable for getting there every day, doing the work, and taking nothing for granted.
Also in April of 2011, I started participating in the Landmark Wisdom Course. My friend Ann Peterson had arranged for me to participate in the course by Webex, as she knew I was unable to travel or to sustain the time and energy of being in the course in person. By participating from the comfort of my Lazy-Boy, I was able to be fully engaged and still get the full benefit and impact of the course.
In August, I had the privilege of attending a vacation course in Sonoma, California (See? I was traveling!) I had the opportunity to look at failures in my life and see the opportunity for transformation. During the first days of the course, I got to see that I was well, and experienced for myself that well-being is a function of participation. I considered myself well at that moment.
I learned a few important lessons.
ELIMINATE ANYTHING TOXIC IN YOUR LIFE. I started with the easy stuff ~ the toxins under the sink, the bad food, and the harmful chemicals in some of the soaps I may have been using. The tougher toxins involved relationships, choices, and incompletions I had tried to sweep under the figurative rug. By completing and resolving those toxic things with love and compassion, first for myself and then for those I have loved and cared for, I was able to ‘cleanse’ my space. I learned to eliminate anything toxic in my life.
ILLNESS BEGINS WITH I. WELLNESS BEGINS WITH WE. Only when I allowed myself to receive the contributions of others was I able to return to life. The social commons held exponential opportunities that I could never amass myself. In the words of Groucho Marx, great American philosopher. “Learn from the mistakes of others. You won’t live long enough to make them all yourself.” I was learning, through struggle and effort, that I could gain strength, healing, and power by sharing and receiving. This is a game changer for me. Illness begins with I. Wellness begins with we.
WHEN YOU CAN’T AND THEN YOU CAN, YOU NEVER WANT TO NOT AGAIN. Many times during those first months, I was asked why I kept going back to the gym. It did not appear that I was getting stronger, slimmer, or healthier. Some days, it probably looked like I was struggling. The truth is I did not know whether it would ultimately extend my life or improve my health. What I did know is that I was not too far removed from having to use a cane to walk, nor from being unable to walk more than three minutes without sitting down and resting for ten minutes. Up to that point, I had taken for granted walking, dancing, and functioning in any way physically. Once I was able to start moving again, I knew I could not take it for granted. I learned that every day is a gift, and to use the gift to its greatest and highest benefit, I needed to do whatever I could. I learned that when you can’t and then you can, you never want to not again.
You are the reason. You are the gift. You are the possibility of a life well lived. I thank you for sharing yours with me ~ and I look forward to what we create next. What shall it be?
In honor of the beauty of the fall and after returning from London where I participated in “The World is Your Stage” I knew I had to take on something great! October 2, 2014, I took on a new challenge. In keeping with this Eleanor Roosevelt quote, I am seeking something to do each day that scares me. So far, it has been fairly simple to find those things.
Making unusual requests of people covered the first couple days. On the third day, we held our Board Summit, a first in some time for our Kiwanis club, and I asked questions and invited feedback that scared me. And we all lived ~ thrived, in fact!
The next few days, I invited my mom (then my sisters, then my brothers) to attend the annual dinner for the Silver Bow Butte Kiwanis where I would be installed as president. Used to be that I would do things and then tell my family, somehow embarrassed to tell them what I was doing. Mom and my sister came, bringing my nephew Thommy, a sweetheart and hugger! My niece said yes and came to be with us. My brothers were busy ~ and I may have had something to do with them not being there. I always worry what they think and what they might say ~ we can be a tad sarcastic in the family.
Thursday, the day of the dinner, I took a leap of faith and had my hair and makeup done. Now, makeup is a big dang deal for me as I rarely do more than a cursory blush of makeup. The makeup involved something I have never done before ~ additional eyelashes. While it was awkward to sit quietly for so long, I was happy that I tool the risk.
The weekend brought a new and highly anticipated risk. I travelled to Missoula for a volleyball tourney, not really a risk, and clearly an unplanned excursion. On Saturday, I took another leap ~ getting a proper fitting for a bra. I have been talking about doing this for a few months and have been embarrassed ~ and concerned that I would make a fool of myself. I could not have been more wrong.
The fitting was easy ~ and even though the shop was packed with shoppers, I was so cared for by the staff, getting right into a dressing room, making comments, making changes, changing my mind, changing it back, and ending up at the counter with a collection of products. Then, as if to endorse the risk, I got discounts, bonuses, and even a voucher for my next purchase. To my pleasant surprise, I now have proper undergarments that need no adjusting after I put them on in the morning! (This will also be a relief for those who spend time with me during the days!)
Admitting mistakes publicly, acting even when I am unsure of my steps, and being willing to ask for support seem to be the underpinnings of my scary acts so far. Since I have some 80 days to go, I suspect I will learn much more about what scares me.
Perhaps you have a suggestion for something that may scare me. Perhaps I will take it on. Leave your suggestions here. Maybe it will bring me closer to you.
Who knows? Wanna play!?
My Facebook news feed is filled these days with those in need of support. Some are looking for volunteers; others are raising money for a cause. Still others ~ and the ones I have on my mind tonight ~ are those in need of prayer.
How on earth do I remember all those I promised to pray for, send white healing light to, dance for? What prayer can I possibly offer that will accomplish what they have asked and what I have promised?
As a child, each night I would recite those folks by name: “God bless mommy and daddy, Tommy, Laureen. Michael, Robert, Colleen, Timmy, Maureen, grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles, cousins and all my little friends, and make me a good girl,” That list set a habit in place for me. It was soothing, giving me a place to lay my head at night and to clear my mind of those I had been thinking about during the day. It was a great habit ~ and one I took for granted and did not think about until a couple months ago.
One day, while I was doing a particularly difficult workout with my trainer, someone for whom I had been praying came into the gym. As I watched her, I realized that what she was dealing with and how she was handling those dealings was inspiring and inspired. The exercises I was doing were challenging to my strength and endurance. They were not threatening my life nor my well-being.
I began my next set of repetitions of the difficult exercise and started saying her name to myself … and that’s how it started. I thought of all the people for whom I offer prayers. And I said their names. I lose count when I am repeating their names … and something remarkable has happened as a result.
For the past two weeks, I have been able to complete exercises that I had not been able to attempt in the past. As I said each name and thought of each face, my body responded with such peace and power that I was surprised myself. I am not a doctor ~ and I don’t play one on tv. And I do think that if we were able to study my body chemistry during those workouts when I am thinking of others, we would find an increase in oxytocin and endorphins, the body’s way of letting our brain know it’s happy. (While that statement may have little scientific proof, it conveys my experience. Indulge, me, won’t you?)
Praying for others while exercising? Is that okay? One of my favorite stories from a Jesuit during my law school training at Creighton explained it this way. A young seminarian asked if it was okay to smoke while praying. The spiritual adviser replied, “I’m not sure. I do know it’s okay to pray whilst smoking.”
So when you see me at the gym mumbling through my reps, join me in offering a little prayer for those who have asked for your support. Who knows? Maybe we can create an abundance of oxytocin (happiness) in our lives and our world.