Allowing Sad for a day

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I have found at times it helps to just accept sadness as your focus for one whole day.

No happy slogans, no motivational reading, no self talk about look on the bright side, no practice of gratitude. Just sink into sad. Accept it, embrace it and allow yourself to feel all of the aspects  of sad without judgement.

A funny thing happened when I gave myself a sad day. I felt free of responsibility. I felt content to achieve nothing. I felt relieved at having nothing on my to do list.  I did not worry about how Lee felt. I did not consider who needed anything from me. It was almost like a release from all the other days when I pretend everything is great, fine and I have no worries.

I think it would be a better balance to acknowledge sad feelings as they appear on a regular basis. If I were better at allowing feelings to surface and pass along, I might not need a whole day to be just sad. Until I am able to do that one sad day when ever I feel the need to just be sad seems a reasonable compromise.

Give your best effort, one day at a time

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What tugs at my heart more than anything else are the words: ” I feel really bad, I couldn’t get off the couch yesterday.” There is no reasonable response to that statement.

It is now clear that radiation treatments are no better than chemo treatments for the impact on Lee’s system.  Can I help? No. Can I do anything for him? No. Can I fix this? No.

That is my frustration and emotional distress. Can I ask the doctor better questions? Yes.

Can I give him permission to be in charge of how long he does radiation? Yes.

With two brains together we decide he can skip a day and talk to his doctor about options. I am in Florida, but I can be on the phone with them.  I offer up what I do know he can take for inflammation with interfering with treatment. Aloe I have in stock, it does help. Eat easily digestible foods, slightly better.

One day everything seems awful, the next day slightly better, no worse than the rest of this past year.  I think just the idea that he is in charge and has choices helps him decide to keep going.  Use the Aloe daily (thank goodness for market america products), try a different medication and keep checking back with his doctor.

What I appreciated the most was a doctor who asked, Can you keep going? Instead of telling Lee you must keep doing this.  Ending with let’s just take if one day at a time.

Do your best and we will see what happens.  “We”, is such an important word. Asking instead of telling changes your attitude so easily.  Isn’t that good advice for all of us, do your best effort and take it one day at a time.

 

 

 

What am I waiting for?

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Waiting for good news

Waiting for the treatments to be done

Waiting for Lee to feel better

Waiting for the days we don’t get asked , How is it going?

Waiting for the time when there are no bills to sort or call back about

Waiting for the time we can start making plans ahead

Waiting for things that I cannot control to be more predictable

Waiting, Waiting, just waiting

Soon I will stop waiting and focus on living today

Soon I will pay more attention to what I love to do

Soon I will live in the moment

Soon I will move out of the shadow of cancer

Soon I will plan how to spend more time together this summer

Feelings run deep, time stands still while we wait in this quiet space called cancer treatment

Self compassion

Self compassion is a concept I can tell you about, yet I think the practice of it alludes me.

So I am doing an online course on compassion with Brene Brown and Kristin Neff. I like listening to the videos and reading about compassion. I have trouble explaining my own thoughts on the subject. I find it so much easier to be compassionate towards others, recognize their pain and act in a kind loving way towards them. When I need self compassion, I think I am just depressed or stuck and don’t really want to interact with anyone. I would rather withdrawn, be alone, eat cookies and play solitare. It feels like I lack energy for any human interactions or discussions.

I am finding my biggest challenge is learning how to take care of me emotionally.

When fear or uncertainty threaten to run my life, I need to get off that cycle and allow my emotions to move through instead of taking up residence in my brain. It helped me to think of emotions as waves. Some days the waves are big and will knock you down.

Other days the waves of emotions are gentle and will rock you to sleep.

So I am testing a couple actions to demonstrated self compassion.

Sitting quietly with no agenda

Getting outside for a walk

Listening to my self talk. Reminding myself that I am enough. What I do on any day is enough for that day.I think the biggest lesson for me is self acceptance rather than feeling the need to change or improve me. I am enough right now. This is a concept in progress.IMG_1455

 

Negative Best Friends

pict0108What do you do when one of you best friends has negative comments on life?

When this friend would do anything for you, offer up her home, send food, support you in times of need. Yet all her conversation are  viewed through the lens of negativity.

I counted 10 complaints in 30 minutes. This is exhausting to listen to. I am trying to be the observer and not react or fix these complaints. What I have learned is some people view life through this lens of what is wrong, that is what they observe, pay attention to and negative dominates their conversation. Then the next step is my friend is a fixer. If I voice any concerns, she jumps in to fix it or offer solutions, actions, what I need to do. I am calling this the super mom complex, even though I am not a mom.  Are there times in life when you want someone else just to take care of everything for you? Absolutely.

So my lesson, is compassion, observe, not fix, redirect towards the positive and accept the gifts my best friend offers freely. Own my values of positive thinking and not take on someone else’s viewpoint.

I am learning by  just showing up for my friend and focusing on the qualities that attracted me in the first place. We have been through difficult times for each other over many years.

I love this friend for her giving, loving, unconditional acceptance of other people. I trust my time spend with her is teaching me to roll off negative comments and not let them become my main viewpoint. It reminds me to look for the positive in every situation.

You have a choice on what you focus on, when you focus on negative it grows

I choose to focus on positive, so that grows around me

I think you take a friend of many years, just as they are

Caregiver needs vacation time

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A complete change of scenery, location, ideas, thinking pattern and different weather.

All these things take my mind to a calmer, saner , safe place. It is the care giver in me that keeps Lee in the forefront when I am at home with him. I know he is capable of taking care of himself, cooking what he needs, managing the daily tasks, Yet, I do more because I want to make his life easier while he is on chemo. The side effect of being on alert for another person is constant low level anxiety for me.

What I avoid: I  don’t hover-  But I watch

I don’t ask how are you?  But I notice

I let all the little things go- Not really

( Seriously you cannot move the plates from the den to the kitchen?)  OK So I think that and don’t say anything- just pick up the dirty plates and move on. Does that really sound like I am letting things go? Of course not.

Which is why I am on vacation alone in Miami right now.

Because we both know I do too much, more than I have to,  a pattern that is difficult to change while I am there. I need to get out of the house to recognize that anxiety has moved  in with me.

When I am home with him, I am aware of how long he sleeps, if it is a good day on chemo or a bad day that will be spent on the couch. This getting away lets me really let go and focus on what I need today, no one else. Why is that important? It resets my threshold for anxiety when I return home. I am better at showing up for him, without allowing that anxiety to creep back in so quickly.

This vacation is a warm climate, reconnect with old friends and spend time on the water for me. Mini vacations closer to home, us getting out of town together for a day works too.

I choose this vacation to spend time with friends who are purposing taking very good care of me, I am not protesting, just saying thank you. The caregiving circle is complete.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frustration

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Frustration occurs when things do not follow a plan. When what seems to be simple turns unexpectedly complex. I find my tolerance for this to be very low today.

I look for solutions and expect the actions that I take to provide solutions. You know what I mean. When one phone call turns into three with no improvement in the issue, that leads to frustration. When I think a bill has been paid in full and the next notice says you are now in collections, that leads to frustration. Small issues that add up lower my resistance to deal with normal problems. I find I lose motivation to tackle the routine tasks for fear they will become complex and overwhelm my fragile system.

What helps is the awareness that I am not alone. My frustrations with billing, or small tasks are being felt in other homes right now.

Persistence is a skill that takes practice. Take the smallest possible step. Give myself credit for any action, Walk away when I need, before frustration takes over again.

Asking for help is the second skill I am just learning.  Asking about the denial from the air transport company, I learned all is not lost. I have the ability to take an action, ask again for help and this company will help me with the appeal. The uncertainty creates much more fear than asking.

So my lesson today, get over my fear and ask for help. Than ask again.

 

Reflections

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I am not unhappy to see the end of 2016. There has been too much time spent in hospitals, too many days away from home, too many conversations with doctors, too many tears, too much uncertainty, too much focus on cancer.

What I learned in 2016

Life is uncertain

Friends are important

Showing up every day is the way to show your love

Cry in the shower or when outside

Joy comes in small moments when you look for it

What I hope for 2017

That I keep growing my emotional muscles, that I show up every day, that we share moments of joy and sit together in the dark times without having to talk about it.

I hope for Lee’s body to keep on fighting cancer cells and that his mind holds on to hope.

I hope that I am the best person I can be every day for myself, taking care of me so I will be here for the long haul. My words for the year include: gratitude, love, hope and courage.

Mountain Paths

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Mountain paths are by nature rough, tough, unpredictable and require paying attention to your surroundings. I know how to pepare to back pack this terrain, planning ahead, getting into physical shape and being prepared for all what ever conditions you might find.

On this 45 mile trek, I found myself asking myself why I was doing this? Why choose to walk uphill at an elevation that takes your breath away? Why carry everything on your back? Why spend 5 days sleeping outside following this path?

I back path along this Colorado Trail because it allows me to only take care of myself. Every choice is about what I need. I have no other worries or problems to solve.

What I did not know how to plan or prepare for was dealing with cancer.

After a summer of being mentally and physically consumed as a caregiver for my partner with cancer, this trip was relaxing. I was able to go because I was confident that I needed time to myself. It was healing for me and important for both of us.

What I find physically challenging is at the same time mentally rewarding. I thrive when you only have to pay attention to what is around you right now. The choices are simple.

Eat when you are hungry. Sit down when you are tired. Set up camp when you need to sleep. When life can be this simple it frees you up to enjoy the moments and look for small pleasures. My goal is to carry those ideas back from the mountains to my every day path.

Healing is a process and self care is a journey that requires reflection and quality time.

 

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