Family is Family

Family is Family

She must be in her mid-thirties, I thought. Kids – it looks like she has kids. She was well dressed, with a pleasant, kind face. Everyday Mom – a person who is easy to like, a person next door who everyone wants to be friends with.

Just right now though, she was spouting angrily, full of righteous indignation.

“And just to think that they could have easily killed him, I just could not believe it.” Her eyes were flashing. “I told them right then and there, I will never take him back to this doctor. He almost died and ended up in the intensive care for DAYS!”

The reason for the outpouring, my new patient, was sitting quietly, fondly looking on as she continued. He looked to be around eighty, which I knew was about 10 years more than his actual age. Recently diagnosed heart failure, stroke last year – this would make anyone look older.

The daughter was at the end of her rant. “So, we just decided to come straight here and find another cardiologist.” She pulled out a large binder. “Here are all his records – we want you to take over now.”

Usually I try to be understanding of my own profession and not be quick to join in the blame game. After reviewing these records, however, it was difficult not to be blunt in my judgment. Her father’s case had indeed been poorly handled – he was prescribed two medications at the same time with predictable life-threatening interactive side effects. His daughter’s diligence likely saved his life – when his mind started slipping, she had checked his blood pressure, found it extremely low, and immediately called for help.

After some painful experiences in my career, I had learned that instead of pronouncing judgment, it was best to find things to praise.

“You are quite lucky to have such a devoted daughter, sir,” I remarked. “If you are not aware, I can tell you – research shows that men with daughters live longer, so you have an edge there.”

The patient smiled. His daughter looked pleased.

*************

As I was going through his medical records, I was relieved that this new patient had been scheduled into an hour-long slot – there was a lot to cover. Making notations in the chart, I asked follow-up questions – what other medical problems he had, what were his habits, when was he first diagnosed with heart disease. The daughter answered most of the questions – not unusual when the patient is elderly; younger people tend to have better memories.

Working through the records, I noticed a condition the daughter had not mentioned.

“So, the prostate cancer – when did you have that?” The daughter looked confused for a moment and then turned to the older man. “When was that, Dad? This must have been a long time before I met you.” They started discussing the possible dates – the patient did not have the best memory.

This snippet in the conversation caught me off guard. First I thought I had misheard the word ‘met’. Surely one would not use that word for one’s own father? Should I ask? Social history is an important part of the medical exam. Also – let’s face it – I was curious.

“That was an unusual word choice,” I started carefully. “So, I assume you are adopted then?”

“Oh no,” the woman answered cheerfully. “As biological as can be.”

The utter confusion must have shown on my face. She decided to have pity on me.

“Well, of course, I didn’t know who he was.”

…. That did not make things any clearer.

“My Mom refused to tell me who my real father was – so after she died, I started looking for him. Went through as many genetic tests as I could – and I finally found him!”

There was an unmistakable triumphant note in her voice.

The patient just smiled and continued looking at her fondly.

She went on. “So, then I asked him to come visit us last year. That’s when he had the stroke. Of course he would be better off here, so I just asked him to stay and he lives with us now.”

I tried not to react. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t sure how one would react. The commitment she described was flabbergasting… and to a father who had never been in a picture. This woman had taken a virtual stranger into her home and into her life and acted not only as a forgiving daughter but as a caregiver to an elderly man with multiple medical problems.

“Family is family,” she announced. “I am so happy I could finally be with my Dad.”

*************

I must confess that there was a small suspicious part of me wondering if she will stick to it. The old man was not healthy and with the recent stroke needed a lot of help. After the initial euphoria of having a father wore off, would she think it too much?

On the next scheduled visit, the daughter was there, with the same updated binder. The father was looking better – the combination of optimized medications and stable home care had done wonders for his health.

On the visit after, the granddaughter had joined them. She was a bright-eyed little thing, curious about everything and intently looking at her new grandfather’s heart pumping on the ultrasound screen I was showing them. The daughter was making notes about medication changes. While I talked to the her about the home care, the granddaughter was trying to talk the grandfather into playing a game once they got home. The whole visit had an atmosphere of care and contentment.

*************

I never asked more questions about their history. Why had the mother refused to talk about the father? What skeletons were in that family’s closet?

She probably would have told me. But it was not my place to ask. As a physician, I was happy enough that my patient had good social support.

Family is family. In this case, family that almost wasn’t.

 

 

STOP! DON’T STOP! The quandary inside of us when deciding to take medication

Everyone says “Hi” to my dog, Timothy… Way more than to me. Silence.

Is it the springy fluffy hair, I wonder? They walk up, even speed, out of an unseen shadow without inhibition and rub him down. He is pleased every time, to say the least. Do I regret all the painful laser hair removal treatments I got years ago? Hm. I am half Lebanese after all and few really know how much fur I really came with.

(Curly-cue.)

Steve came looking for help. I spied him in the hallway before clinic. That’s always a little awkward for some reason. Running into someone out of context. Like we both are caught out of costume and the curtain just pulled up. (Gotcha!)

His strings pulled in, an inner tension, apparent even then. He looked susceptible to emotional or physical attack when we caught each others eye. I could see him wondering if this was “her”, his psychiatrist. What was he expecting?

When patients come in for treatment, it’s comparable to anyone acting on a realization that they’re vulnerable, asking help from a stranger. It can take immense courage.

Part of this understanding is what contributes to the awkwardness of meeting in the hallway, out of context. We are both a little undefended there.

So what would bring a person to do this to themselves? It doesn’t sound pleasant when put this way – vulnerable, asking help from a stranger.

Steve had a wife, kids, a job, a house, and a pet. Inside this bubble, Steve didn’t think he had reasons to feel the way he felt. He looked for them and felt stupid because everyone told him how good he had it. Nor did Steve see reasons to behave the way he behaved. He described his story, a rolling out of his life, like that of a hand stitched carpet. In it, we saw together that he had anxiety then, and then, and then. He had coped well mostly, until he hadn’t. Then he would spend some time falling out of circulation and incurring losses. Then he’d recover and forget. He’d forget that worse patch and redefine the lines around the man. Then again the lines would smudge, he’d get anxious and irritable beyond “control”, grapple within the darkness of the white noise, which panic brings, grapple for reasons why the anxiety came again. His identity would be so threatened, the suffering, the feedback from everyone around him would pull on him, that the lines of his person frightened him into treatment.

There Steve was. Timothy at his feet with his puffy furry head in Steve’s lap. Steve asking for help. At the same time as asking for help, he would also refuse, stating caution.

“I don’t want to change myself.

I like being the person who gets things done so well.

I like accomplishing things.” (He thought it was his anxiety that allowed him to do this.)

It reminds me of the, “Stop! Don’t stop!” that I’d tease my brothers with when we were kids.

People think that taking medication changes who they are. Understand that in order for this to be true, that would mean medication changes DNA code.

“Doesn’t it change my brain chemistry?”

Let’s say that were true, that medication changes brain chemistry. Still that isn’t changing your DNA. The DNA is what gives a person “personality,” or, what many of us say, “Who I am.”

After getting laser hair removal, I didn’t change my DNA, but I don’t have as much hair. When my kids were born, I checked, and sure enough, DNA…. They’re gorgeous! Wink. (That’s done with one heavy cluster of eyelashes around my dark Lebanese eye.)

Question: What are your fears about taking medication?

If you have taken medication, how did you see it affected your identity?  What happened to who you call, “Me?”

Please SPEAK! We need to hear you. Keep on!

Self-care tip: Self-care means taking care of yourself even at the biological level. It starts with “Me.”

 

Live Imperfectly, Dad is dying, and I Have no Power.

wilted flower

Living with someone like tomorrow might be their last is much harder to do when it is actually the case.

My dad told me, after my nine-year old niece died, that a parent should never outlive their child.  When I look at my own children, I know that is true. But with my parents aging process, my dad’s long and difficult past twenty years, and now near end of life condition, I just don’t know how I’d order things, if I could, between us.

When God, (Morgan Freedman,) told the complaining Bruce Nolan, (Jim Carey,) that he could have all of his powers, the audience of “Bruce Almighty” projected both a positive transference and a schadenfreude. Bringing the viewer into the character’s identity is every actor’s aspiration. And we went there. Up. “Yay! Bruce can answer everyone’s prayers with a ‘yes’!” And then down, down, down. The multidimensional disaster’s created by misplaced power, power without wisdom, love, or altruism, was just painful to watch. Power does not God make.

My Dad is dying. Not likely from cancer. Not likely from a failed liver, floppy heart, or baggy lungs. He is just dying.  He’s confused on and off. His spine is failing so he can barely walk. He has repeated blood clots. And he’s recently risen out of a deep depression. Rison right into a confused grandiosity, full awkward, awkward like pants ripping when you bend over type of awkward, and inter-galactic soaring thought content.

The first “word” Dad played in Scrabble last week was “vl.” He explained, “vl, like vowel.” …Okay? For thirty minutes Dad played without playing one actual word. I started crying when he finally stopped connecting letters. The letters floated on the board like California will look after the “big earthquake” finally hits and it falls into the ocean. (We’ve all been waiting.) Now he tells me he called and spoke to Obama and Magic Johnson. Reference point. This is bizarre and out of his character.  He’s been delirious with waxing and waning level of consciousness for a month and a half. He’s dying. Sheez.

Living well while Dad dies is not easy. Would I use power to restore him to his healthy twelve-year old self, like Elli’s seventy-year old grandfather did, in “The Fourteenth Goldfish,” by Jennifer L. Holm? Would I use power to change the order of death? Would I do anything more or less or different, while my dad is dying?

Power does not God make. I am not God. (Ta-da! It’s out of the box now.) But both of us are watching Dad die. I trust that She, with the power, wisdom, love, and altruism, is living with him well, during this time.

In Life and Other Near-Death Experiences, by Camille Pagán, Libby Miller decides to live, just live, rather than die perfectly.  And maybe that’s my answer to this unasked question. Living with someone dying will not be perfect for me.

Self-Care Tip: Live imperfectly to live well, like this is your, his, or her last day.

Question: How do you “live well?”

Keep on!

Entitled to Understand – NOT

Please do not state the obvious, thanks :)

Please do not state the obvious, thanks 🙂 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We, many, share the not so friendly distorted belief that we are entitled to understand everything.  Bull bullhorn in hand, supported by the scaffolding round our personal renovations, we trumpet our oppression per the noncommunicating swine we once called our relations.

“Isn’t it our job to try to understand?” you ask.   Well, no.  The duty to understand starts with Me and ends with Me.  (I think I just felt a poison blow dart pierce my flesh!  Stop that!  Is this being received well!?  Hello?  Anyone?!  Ouch!  Not another dart!)

Motives too easily change to build a case against each other rather than reconcile or to account for our Me.  What does someone owe us, if not to let us understand them?  Nothing.  Sounds harsh?  Or maybe, not so harsh.  Not as harsh as being victimized.  Not as harsh as spending one’s bank on illusive control of what isn’t ours to control.  Not as harsh as the crescendo anger swells into when a child watches her parents behave poorly.  Not as harsh as watching your beloved friend “un-choose” you.  No.  Claiming title to the thoughts and behaviors of others is generally and commonly done with little insight, but it can only be policed by the individual on either end.  After all, everything starts and ends with Me.  (Plink!  Hear the pennies dropping?)

We deserve as much as the value of our own self.  Understanding others will come perhaps or perhaps not.  But it is as deserved as any other gift.  That is to say, not.

Question:  How do you stay in your space, when you are grieving the behaviors of those you love?  How do you keep your entitlement to, “Me,” where you have title?  Please tell me your story.

Self-Care Tip:  Something as easy as remembering, “They don’t owe Me anything; even understanding,” can be friendly.  Keep on.

Is Religion A Barrier In Your Friendship With Yourself?

Hello Friends.

I’d like to introduce to you, my pastor, John K. McGhee, Ed.D., Ed.S., M.S.P.H.  

We met about ten years ago in Boston, and worshiped together there for no more than a couple of months.  In contrast to how quickly I chose him, I’ve been very slow about letting him go.  He lives around the globe, talking about health, Love, God and individuals.  He has been and continues to be an important presence in my life and although I sit in other churches, he’s my pastor.  May God continue to bless him, his family and his work. 

Guest post by Dr. John Kenneth McGhee.

Dr. Sana’s blog is persuasive, and possibly life-changing.  However there may be some spiritually inclined conservative Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestants who may be uncomfortable with her emphasis on self-care as a vital first-step to healthy interactions. Isn’t it quite selfish and rather ungodly to focus on self-care?  Don’t the great monotheistic faiths teach that people achieve their greatest potential when they unselfishly focus on serving others?

I wonder what God thinks about self-care?  Probably it is impossible to know with certainty.  Who can know God’s thoughts?

However, one can find ample evidence from the Holy Books to support a few principles about self-care.

1.  Self-care is promoted in the Torah.  Genesis 1:28 – 2:3   clearly identifies that God told Adam and Eve to have plenty of sex, and babies; eat nutritious food; and enjoy a delightful weekly rest.

2.  Self-care is promoted in the New Testament.  3 John 2 clearly identifies a principle stated by the human being who was one of Dr. Jesus Christ’s closest friends.  “Beloved I wish above all that you would prosper and be in health.”  Here we recognize God’s concern with finance and health care on a very personal level.  The language implies that there is a direct action involved by God’s friends that they would become financially viable and do what it takes to remain in good health.

3.  Perhaps the most concentrated teaching on self-care is given by Paul who mentored Timothy so effectively.  In I Timothy 4: 7 – 16, I find the following direct commands:

  • Train yourself in godliness – this requires time to read, time to pray, time to think, time to do acts of kindness;
  • Don’t let anyone put you down because you are a young teacher – this requires time to nourish a healthy ego, time to know who you are, time to build character;
  • Do not neglect the gift(s) you have received – this requires time to write; time to develop musical or other artistic talents, time to share gifts with others in a faith fellowship community;
  • And finally Paul counsels Timothy, “Pay close attention to yourself.”

Questions:  What conflicts do you have in becoming your own friend with your religious beliefs?  Is religion a barrier to you being friendly to you?  Or, how has it been otherwise?  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip:  Be aware of barriers to friendship with yourself, even religion.

Science & Sensibility » Research Review: Maternal Metabolic Conditions and Risk for Autism and Other Neurodevelopmental Disorders

Hello friends.  Here is the link to my recent entry on obesity, autism and some of how to be a friend to yourself in the on-line Journal, Science & Sensibility.  Thank you for sharing space.  Keep on.

Science & Sensibility » Research Review: Maternal Metabolic Conditions and Risk for Autism and Other Neurodevelopmental Disorders.

Owning Our Choices Is Self-Care Even When It Feels Painful To Do

Repost.Take that for a grimace

Self-Care Tip – Own your choices, even when they feel painful.

She was leaving after twenty-two years of marriage.  Eva married young and says that about one or two of those years were pleasant.  The rest of the time she disappeared in her service to her husband’s ever-growing list of needs.  Although he was employed, she considered him otherwise disabled by choice and mental illness.  It was the choice angle that hankered  to bleeding in her and she wasn’t going to tolerate it any longer.  Or maybe she would.  Stay, leave, stay leave.  She’d been straddling those for several years although she didn’t realize it until recently.  And that’s when she told him she was done.  But was she?  …They both decided to give it one last try.

How many of us have sabotaged ourselves like this.  The sabotage hides in the bit that says things like,

I’m sorry, but….

Or,

I have to do these things!  If I didn’t he couldn’t function!”

We are naturally self-preserving and it’s not a moral issue when we try to defend ourselves.  It just happens.  However, we are misperceiving what is in our best interest.  We misperceive what is self-reserving.  We misperceive what we need to defend ourselves against.

The self-sabotage Eva was doing came out more clearly when I echoed her, asking if she had chosen to give her marriage one last try.

You’d think the answer would be as easy as, “yes” or, “no.”  But in Eva’s marriage, she was using points of action, outside of herself, to explain her emotions and behaviors.  Eva had the gift of freedom right in front of her, wrapped and unopened.  Her freedom was hers however, whether she chose to take it or not.  Eva’s freedom to self-care is one of the natural laws.  It doesn’t change with her perception of what is real.

I am, but I’m not sure about him!  We’ll see!

I asked her if she heard the barely hidden way she was justifying her current limited engagement in their “last try.”  The “but” behind her emotions and behaviors was sabotaging her friendliness towards herself.  She was stuck, because of it, in her victim role.  This decision to stay or leave was not evidently her choice but rather the choice of her husband, she was saying.

We talked some more about this and when I asked her if it made sense to her, this freedom of owning her choices fully, she slowly and quietly said,

It does, but I’m not sure if I’m willing to do that.

When thinking about Eva’s self-sabotage, it’s reflexive to say that it was because of her ambivalence (i.e. two strongly felt opposing forces.)  Ambivalence may not be helping, but the real damage to herself is done with her victim role.  She is free to choose or not to.

I’m hoping that this discussion will also hanker in her – put up a little fight for space against the other hankering bleeds she’s got flowing.  We’ll go at it again when or if she comes back in to see me.

Questions:  What was it like for you when you started owning choices (any) that felt painful?  How do you see this as self-care?  Please tell me your story.

The Holidays and Lonely Me

The Holidays and Lonely Me.

Easter’s a-comin’, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, laundry day, everyone gets a day…  Can invoke loneliness though the intent is to draw company.  Oxymorons doing there thing.

I reposted this to celebrate.  Keep on.

Discover Your Sweetness – Value, That is To Say

English: Casimiroa edulis, White sapote fruit ...

Image via Wikipedia

My kids look at fruit as if they are inspecting a diamond for flaws.

Is this a good one Mommy? 

My daughter was pointing at a blemish that comes from fruit grown outside in dirt and not genetically engineered.

My huffing sounds are barred by something almost like maturity, just in time.  I pick up a different White Sapote with broken skin and beak marks where it is half eaten by whoever got there first.

After spitting out the seeds, I remembered bits of my filthy self as a daddy-chasing kid.  The words dusted off and important to me again, I heard Dad say,

Pick the fruit that the birds have pecked at.  They know what’s good better than we do.  Here Sana.  Take this one.  This is really sweet.

The fruit turning in my daughter’s hand, the cast-offs still in the basket, her anxiety about finding the best and my dad’s words came at me like the sounds between Broadway and 42nd Street.  And out walked Jean.

Jean was a patient I had known, particular to me despite common problems.

Abuse since at least my daughter’s age or younger.  Neglect.  Disgusting trauma survived.

Jean who, after getting picked on for the first thirty years of her life, came to me, insisting on living.  She resisted being a White Sapote in a bowl on the counter, inspected by passerbys.  Her community had tried to declare her value, her second chances and hoped to cast her off.

Pick the fruit that the birds have pecked at.  They know what’s good better than we do.  Here Sana.  

Jean’s face was in my memory.  Her white scar on her black skin shocked me; a large keloid.

Take this one.  This is really sweet.

I gave my daughter a squeeze and told her what Papa had said.  I’m so glad my daughter reminded me about this in we who have been hurt.  (Okay.  That’s all of us, see it or not.)  The way Jean grew, looked for light, the courage she answered to, the newness that came out of used up and shabbiness – Jean was teaching me about value.

Even when we are not behaving well, when we don’t look good and when we drop the market price, we have value.  Somehow, being chosen for life is more important than being chosen to suffer.  I wish I could explain why and how better but it’s just something each of us will have to experience for ourselves.  We will have to in humility and wisdom, like Jean’s or my dad’s wisdom, find the sweetness in Me.

Questions:  What is it about you that is particularly sweet?  Do you perceive your value?  Per what measure or qualifier? Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip:  Discover your sweetness.  Be a friend to yourself

Related Articles:

Purposefully Harness The Power of Social Influence

A piece of chocolate candy.

Image via Wikipedia

Hello Friends.

I’m starting the 4-week detox for sugar addicts.

I know I’m more empowered with your company, so join in if interested.  And because it is friendly to you/Me too, spread this around to others.

(#Obesity – Abstract of article: social influence affect #weight loss http://bit.ly/xn1Bjq #selfcare #community #service.)

This is my list of reasons re: my choice today as part of step 1:

Reasons why I am cutting back on sugar

  • inflammation,
  • clarity of thought and subsequent depth of experience,
  • #obesity and related illnesses (comorbidities,)
  • appearance and social stigma,
  • social influence,
  • self-esteem,
  • quality of life and
  • longevity

If you choose to participate, and are interested in what the power of social influence can do for you, please post your own reasons here.

Looking forward to connecting with you. Keep on.

Self-Care Tip – Deliberately and purposefully harness the power of social influence in becoming a friend to yourself.

Self-care is Not Selfish But You Might Feel Alone

Social circles of Influence

Many times I feel like a stranger because I don’t want to do what they want.  

Pilot was perplexed and sad. 

This is familiar to me.  There are lots of these times.  When I was a kid I didn’t know to call feeling like a stranger, “normal.”  I didn’t know I wasn’t alone.  I thought feeling like a stranger was qualified bad.  In the older Me, part of Me knows.  The rest of Me is conflicted.

Talking about self-care is like that sometimes.  I don’t know yet how to consistently teach others without hurting them.  

Self-care is not selfish, I say, but it doesn’t make sense.  

They hear me and the long anticipated enemy they knew would come suddenly wears my face and uses my mouth and voice.  People look at me in horror.  I watch their faces blanch and despair, as if they know they are holding a fork and knife to defend against magic and they will die a martyr’s death.  

No.  It’s not like that, I say.  

But they don’t hear more.  They crouch in a thicket.

Researcher, Jennifer Walters, describes how social influences such as team-based competition leads to a healthier BMI (basal metabolic index) and weight loss.  We may say, “Um, yah!?!” as if everyone knows that from Biggest Loser.  But just like holding an apple looks like crunchy food to Mary, John see’s a projectile.

It must be researched.  It must be said.

We don’t believe that taking care of Me is selfless.  We are scared.  To love ourselves means being alone and feeling the stranger.  Taking care of others “first” intuitively tells us that we are connected and right. This is a distortion.

I argue that this intuition to care for others first is not our friend.  The intuition to care for others first is not friendly when it is driven by fear of being alone, fear of being the stranger.   At some point in the timeline of selflessness to selfishness we find that we cannot.  We have ruined and thereafter cannot care, serve or do much for anyone but take. Now we, without getting consent from those same others, are in a place of being served.  We didn’t ask our loved one(s.) 

Would you like to take care of my wasted self?

We didn’t ask if it was ok with them that they be put in the position of now being our own caregivers. To answer their wants before our needs is a trick on them, an exchange for us taking care of them now for them taking care of our needs later when we cannot.  But we didn’t ask. We didn’t make a transparent negotiation.  If they knew we were taking care of their wants before our needs or wants, if we knew, would we un-crouch, step out, hear and consider?  However, we responded before we felt alone.  We gave before we felt the stranger.  We didn’t ask, we didn’t consider and now we cannot.

Growing healthy involves the sometimes happy journey towards a knowing that giving to self long enough becomes someone who gives to others; long enough a stranger to grow familiar.  And it isn’t selfish.

Caregiving for others starts with caregiving for Me.

Question:  How does becoming your own friend separate you from those you want close?  How do you survive feeling alone long enough to know that you are not?  When the stranger becomes familiar, does it make that time and difficulty worthwhile?  Please tell me your story.

Self-Care Tip – Remember, self-care is not selfish, even when you feel alone.

How Your Indulgence Improves Your Friendship With Yourself

Ann Morgan Guilbert as Grandma Yetta.

Image via Wikipedia

I remembered my grandma’s hair today.  She had this little vanity.  Used to roll it up at night and put her net over.  In the morning she was careful about it.

She had good hair.  In her 80’s it was still pretty full and it was white.  Really white like forgiveness.  Something about it carried a message.  “Here is a woman who has beauty.”

When my grandfather died, I am told that there were men who wanted to marry her.  Men with farms, a business or something to offer.  Grandma, when she thought the time was right, would introduce them to her four sons.  Big sons, with big bones and the quietness from working in the inconsiderate conditions of nature and element.  Sons who had a father once but lost him, like a ring that slips off your finger in the water without you knowing it was gone.  Worse than that.

It’s important to have a message when you live under working conditions, where horrors happen.  A little sister burns to death in front of you.  Your finger gets twisted off in a washing machine like a bottle cap.  You canned.  Canning was never a hobby for Grandma but I never had the sense that she disliked it.

What made Grandma’s hair stand out so for me and my brothers was that it was her indulgence.  Why an old woman with no teeth, in a wooden farm-house sleeping next to a man she didn’t marry for love, (although she loved him), would roll her hair every night as if she was going to have family pictures in the morning – just has to make you smile.

She used to leave her dentures in a cup of water by her bed and her mouth would leak a little when they weren’t in.  How good her kisses were.  I’m glad I didn’t know to think they were gross.  Even when Grandma got really old, smelled like medicine and her rotting insides, I didn’t think so.

Mom would go in and roll Grandma’s hair for her because her fingers turned at odd angles.  She couldn’t do her hair and she couldn’t play piano.   Later, when moved into a nursing facility, there was a beauty contest.  My mom found out about it and enrolled my grandma without her knowing.  She told Mom afterward that she won because of her hair.  I had never heard Grandma talk about her hair like that, even though the rest of us had, and my brother’s and I laughed until we cried.  And then we cried some more.

Question:  What is your indulgence?  What is the message in it from your secret self out to the world? What does it bring to your ability to be your own friend.  Please tell me your story.

Self-Care Tip – Celebrate your indulgence, acknowledge its message about you and see what it brings to your ability to be your own friend.

The First Premise of Being A Friend To Yourself. Me.

What is being a friend to yourself?  As long as we have been talking about this, we still wonder.  Although a dynamic concept, we have a premise that doesn’t change.  Everything starts and ends with Me.

Seated in any test, laid aside any stressor, blocked by a wall of most threatening construct, being a friend to yourself begins here.  We have that to guide us and will never ever have to ask again, “Where do I start?”  We never will lose ourselves to the confusions around us of looking for our home; our point of reference and direction.  There is immense usefulness in this.

Question:  How has this starting point helped to reorient you, to decrease negative climax and increase presence in your life?  How has starting with Me been friendly and/or how is/will be starting with Me be friendly?  Please break it down and tell us your story.

The Vanishing Point

Image by Roger's Wife via Flickr

Self-Care Tip:  Start with Me to start being a friend to yourself.

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Oxygen Masks and the Big Easy

Guest Post, by Wendy Young, LMSW, BCD

In the unlikely event of an emergency, put on your own oxygen mask first.  It’s a saying that’s standard for air-travel and has become a common cliché for life in general.

Taking care of ourselves is often associated with getting more sleep, eating less of the wrong kinds of foods and more of the right ones, moving our bodies to our personal limit, finding the right work/leisure balance, considering our kids’ needs as well as our ownmanaging our reactions to things, and sometimes doing things that are not so fun.  Not so fun at all.

Or maybe it’s just that they aren’t so “easy”.  We like “easy” much better.  “Easy” is quicker.  “Easy” is familiar.  And “easy” keeps us stuck.  I suppose as long as we are comfortable, we’ll keep choosing “easy”.  Don’t be fooled into thinking that “easy” doesn’t give us results, though.  It always does.   Not usually the ones we say or believe we want, but “easy” always bears fruit.

Do you like what “easy” has done for you?  Or, is it time to give “easy” the boot?

A Fond Farewell

Sometimes our better judgment starts to crowd “easy” out.  Those of us that are lucky get wake-up calls that help us bid a fond farewell to “easy” as we usher in a new relationship with the real work of self-care.  Cultivating this new relationship can be difficult or not.  It’s entirely up to us.

Bidding adieu to our habits, even though we know they are counterproductive, is often difficult.  Our brain craves consistency.  It wants us to do what we’ve always done.  Change requires that we desire a different result, one that can only be had by doing something different than we are used to doing.  It has been said that when the pain of doing what we have always done starts to become great enough, then we will change.  Sometimes, we can withstand a lot of pain.  And then some.

The Voice is a Choice

That voice in your head can tell you “I hate exercise!” or, “My body enjoys each new move that brings it toward health!” Likewise, that same voice in your head can drone, “This is never going to work!” or, “I’m sticking with this because I’m worth it.”   This is where the rubber meets the road.   Are you ready to do the real work of self-care, or do you just like the idea of it?

That voice in your head is a choice.  It is your own and you direct it.

Proverbial oxygen masks are easy.  Doing the real work of self-care is not necessarily so easy at all.

Have you been holding out on yourself?  Is it time to come “un-stuck” and be more intentional with the voice inside your head?  What do you need to change-up?

Self-Care Tip:  Be intentional about getting what you want from yourself.  You can start anytime!

Wendy Young, LMSW, BCD, is a mom of three school-aged children, a Child & Family Therapist (practicing in Michigan), and the founder of Kidlutions: Solutions for Kids, because kids have problems, too.  She blogs at Spin-Doctor Parenting {and teaching} and is the behavioral health expert for momtourage.com.  She monitors the voice in her own head and works to get herself “un-stuck” just as sure as everyone else does. She smiles through it all, because she can, and because it’s her favorite thing to do! 

Get You Some Support Where You Are Weak

Prunus armeniaca (Apricot) branch with fruit. ...

Image via Wikipedia

If you’ve ever lived where there is dirt, not New York City or downtown Los Angeles, some place with unpaved hills and bugs, then you’ve seen how fruit grows.  Maybe not exotic fruit.  Maybe nothing from the Amazon, but you’ve seen an apple or an orange most likely, dangling from a stem, light caught in a dew dusted curve around its belly.  Maybe a pear.

You’ve seen a tree, perhaps, on a “good year.”  It was heavy, bushy in all it’s productivity and weighted down with what it was designed to do in life.  If you have lived in a place where your home didn’t require an elevator to get to, you know that fruit can be beautiful just in its waiting-ness to fall.  So beautiful, it feels personal.  The season turned as did your admiration into impatience for picking time.

If you have woken up early to the opening day where air and hour and the absence of sound work on you like a special promise, you have known what it is like to put on your creased and cracked boots, to call your happy dogs and start out into your long work.

You know that every tree has potential and every tree has limits.  You remember when you first came upon the brokenness, the fractured limbs, the long fresh splinters cutting through the morning just so.  Too soon.  “Too soon,” you think and repeat out loud to your tree, trying to explain.  Too soon, fruit still holding the branch like they are drowning.  The last clutch in death.  Oh, shame.

If you have lived where branches so full of fruit break under the weight of their life’s work, you have lived to learn that to be productive, to sustain that kind of strain, to endure, a tree and her branches need support.  You have known forever after to put two-by-fours fashioned into braces under those loads and hope the big winds don’t loose their grip.  You can’t forget the loss.  Sometimes you have even thinned the clustered fruit, maybe peaches, reluctantly pulling out one of three, two of three.  You’ve done what it takes.  Dropping them and knowing that the others will grow. Your fingers, bitten with cold and regret, move between the leaves giving yourself and the tree hope.  You give yourself and you give the tree what is needed to produce well and to live.

In those deciding moments, if you have worked with these trees, you have learned that we also break and lose what our life would put out for the world.  If we could.  If we had support.  If we were buttressed.  No one can put out for long without it.  Not Me.

And so now, we look to see where our hopes have increased.  We identify where to tend, where we habitually, that is to say, or where we have on many other occasions been known to come apart.  Oh, the loss.  The memory with the knowing fear dances like a hologram until we simply or not so simply, this time, acquire help.

Questions:  How are you working to build up support where you are weak?  How do you find support?  What have you seen come out of your life when you have?  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip:  Get you some support where you are weak.  Be a friend to yourself.

The Holidays and Lonely Me

Feeling anxious about Christmas, or whichever December holiday celebrated?  We are not alone.  We think we are.  We worry about the in-laws, parents, money, gifts for our kids, keeping the romance, abandonment, alcohol abuse, anniversary-grief of loved ones lost, and on and on.  I’m thinking now especially of our dear blogger-friend, Lisa, who is spending this first Christmas without her mom.

Lisa, we are standing with you.  We are weeping with you.  You are not alone and we value you.

In this precious sum of days, “the holidays,” going into the space that holds our fear seems almost morally wrong.  (Do we really have the responsibility we perceive we do to be “festive?”)  The smiles and joy appear to occupy any organ-cell(s), from the lowest creature to our neighbor, who doesn’t deserve more than a broken shoe in his stocking.  We think,

How can this be?  Why don’t I feel joy or care?

Even when our mind knows the true answers that we are not chosen to suffer, we are not alone and that we are safe to be in the space of our fears – even then, we don’t perceive it.  In the cold environment of our lonely selves, white breath condenses, freezes and, made heavy in winter-thought, falls to the ground before the “knowing” has a chance to reach the rest of us.

There are no universal-tips to dispense, cups of warm cocoa or four-sided tickets, except this.   Remind any part of us that can hear our friend, that is to say Me:

We weep together.  

We are present with our suffering.  This does not take sincerity away from the things we actually do still enjoy and feel pleasure with.  Inversely, feeling pleasure does not deny the grief or other negative feelings.  

We will make it past this.    

We love ourselves and see our flaws as tools to use towards furthering our efforts in self-care – potential assets.  

We claim our freedom to choose to start over at any time, to choose not to be a victim and to go where our intuitions wrongly advise us not to – our fears and shame.

We take our medication, despite stigma. 

We account to ourselves, despite what has happened in our lives.  

We keep it basic when things complicate.  We return to the home of Me whenever our view  of where we are in time films over.

Keep on my friends.  We are persons of courage and value.

Questions:  What fears complicate your holidays?  How are you friendly to yourself during this time?  Please tell us your story.

Take Care of Yourself And You Will Be Taking Care of Others – “Care-Givers”

Caregiver is a name that many of us own.  From basic parenting scenarios to families complicated with end-of-life, spinal cord injuries, congenital diseases or employees of group homes – care-givers is the generically applied term.

Is it difficult to ID care-givers that “did it right.”  Seeing them is a muscle that operates better by practicing the magical and material skills of empathy, doing rather than saying, so to speak.

By the way, I’m on hold right now with the service provider for our currently nonfunctioning internet.  The hold-music is so bad that I had to put the phone in a closed drawer to muffle it.  #selfcare.  Much better.

There are many people who have cared for me and do care for me.  You for starters have cared for and do care for me in your reading, your time, your thoughts, and comments, you are my givers of care.

I am cared for, and you know I get all fluttery when I start talking about you so I’ll stop before you throw-up.  Unless it’s too late.

There are others who gave and give care, obvious names like parents, spouse and friends. And there are many less obvious names – my dogs talking to me when I get home, the lady who came up to me in the 99-cent store and handed me $20.00 to buy treats for my kids, my psychotherapist who told me to “grow up.”  All these and more have and do care for me.

But do we call these people, (or other living creatures,) caregivers?  Is that a name for what you do for me? Not traditionally but it really is.

The differences are found between those who believe they take care of others when they don’t take care of themselves and the inverse – those who take care of themselves, and as part of that effort to be their own friend see caring for others as a natural maturation of their own needs(Remember, agendas again.) In any other design, taking care of others when we don’t take care of ourselves is not sustainable nor congruent with our intentions.  We become the hare who lost the race to the turtle, angry and confused by our results.

Care for the Caregiver Day
Image by Christiana Care via Flickr

I agree that this attempt to share space with the angels who so lovingly nurture and give to those who can’t give to themselves can be perceived as arrogant, ignorant and other names – creep, idiota, a– h—, pompous, fools, bigots, oblivious, uninformed, (this is fun), benighted, blind, old gum under the picnic table jerks.

Be that as it may, please believe that we speak of caregivers without malice.  And if we are ignorant, please let our flaws inspire you to grow us as empathically as you would like us to grow you.  I know it takes a lot of love to deal with someone like us and it is much easier to walk away.

Questions:  Where do you find yourself in the care you give to others?  What helps you remember your intentions to love yourself when stigma or guilt bang you upside the head?  How do you see that caring for yourself is consistent with your goals to serve others?  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip – Care for yourself and you will see yourself giving care to others.

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What We Will Do For Brain Health – Looking For Heroes

Death and the Maiden #2

Image by CapCat Ragu via Flickr

My dad is turning seventy-seven tomorrow folks.  He could have died a gazillion times before now, but it is the tumbling of those near-deaths into big life that teaches and recruits me.  He makes life feel like open space, warm skin, color and lyrics.  Now his spine is crumbling, his legs are weak, his lips are always moving in and out like a rabbit and he’s almost too hard of hearing to comfortably socialize with.  Still, it is the life, the interest he has, the way he doesn’t stop growing that somehow dims the many times he might have died.  Why does the one time he will die seem impossible to juxtapose against any future then?  Where will life go, if he is not there to infuse us with his humble will?  I think it may fall asleep with him but I know it will not and I cannot imagine it otherwise.

These past few posts we have talked about “special efforts” for brain illness.  We asked, “Is there any treatment you think is too extreme to consider to get brain health?”  We have not said the reason we cannot fairly answer.

I don’t know how life will be without Dad; we never know how life will be when our brain is bad and then more bad.  It’s hard to tell.  We can only imagine and usually our imagination will be wrong anyhow.

Any answer to this question, “Is there treatment you think is too extreme to consider to get brain health?” is shaped by our understanding of what “extreme” means.  It changes shape and margins with the degree of brain illness.  With each turn, as our disease process exacerbates, so progresses our willingness to believe what is reasonable versus what is “extreme.”

Many of you have told us of your own specifics in your fight for brain health.  People do heroic things and I’m thinking you and I might have a bit of a living hero in us.  In part, it is the inherent unknown in growth that testifies to life itself.

“Is there treatment that you think is too extreme to consider to get brain health?”  I imagine my answer would be, no.  Please tell us more about yours.  Your view from your degree of extreme helps.  Keep talking.

Self-Care Tip – Let the hero in you speak, grow you and testify to life.

Get Your Hunting On – Insight is Empowering

But

Because of

He makes me

Finding insight can often feel like going on a bear hunt. There’s a children’s classic that tells this story about our journey towards self-discovery well with this title. You Tube even has a catalog of animations for it. One of my favorites is by Michael Rosen. This guy has a face made for story-telling.

We’re Going On A Bear Hunthttp://bit.ly/uItL6P YouTube

Sometimes when we venture out on our personal journey, a bit of the spirit of Columbus, a musketeer or a little boy with a stick in his hand. We have courage.

The screenplayer

Image by Darkroom Daze via Flickr

We are made beautiful by the courager; wind in our hair, weapon girded and travel pack filled with trail mix. And then mid-stride, mid-journey or in-process of anything our hand starts to shake. We remember more of our flaws rather than our merits. We remember abuse and encounter more of it. The tall grass becomes tangled around our ankles. We stumble often and start talking about why we cannot. We fear what we find or may find on the great hunt of accountability for our lives.

Words can be part of the tripping power over us. Words that point to all the power outside of us; over us. Words that erase our memories of what we have inside.

I am depressed because I have so much stress at work.

I hit him because he was being so rude.

I’m sorry but I wouldn’t cry all the time if you cared.

All the “reasons why” hover around us like angry weather, darkness or spooky caves.

I’m not forgetting the obvious. Hunting bears is dangerous. It is just a metaphor. Hunting for ourselves is less dangerous and more rewarding. We find that when we find our “bear,” and stay in the space of that fear for long enough over and over, it loses its power over us and our fears dissipate. We are safe and see that we have power.

Self-Care Tip: Get you some bear. You have the power and are not a victim.

Question: What keeps you from insight? How do you get past all the in-between that keeps you from seeing yourself and taking accountability for who you are? Please tell us your story.

A Bit Dull – Update.

Winter the Dolphin

Image by dbr Atl via Flickr

A few more dollars in the Family Money Jar.

My daughter asked me if I’d ever seen moldy boogers.  (We had just “learned” that often cheese she eats is “moldy” or “aged.”  Somehow that brought her round to boogers.)

Spent over $200 on groceries today.

Ate my weight in theater popcorn watching, Dolphin Tale with a crowd of children.  I was all weepy, popcorn imbedded in my sweater and the kids kept asking, “Why did they cut off the dolphin’s tale?”  During the movie I texted my cousin, a specialist in orthotics and prosthetics at Shriners Hospital for Children, and it turns out he provided the first prosthetic for one of the actors in the movie.  He is one of my heroes.  Somehow, I suddenly felt even more intimately connected with that darn dolphin.  (Follow that if you can.)

Some so-so reviews from work-related stuff.

Off to go ride the bike.

Thankful for you.