The Value Of “Acting As If…”

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When life takes an unexpected turn, as often happens, it is important to recognize we are lost. It is important to take the time we need to find our way through whatever the detour might be and deal with whatever consequences come from the experience.

Often these twists and turns are filled with a spectrum of emotion. Getting lost is sometimes fun, an adventure. But it can also be scary. There are times when unexpected changes on the journey through life, leave us feeling vulnerable, weak, frightened, timid and alone.

There are times these changed circumstances make us feel so overwhelmed, we don’t know if we will ever feel normal again. The path we find ourselves on does not feel safe anymore. Our sense of calm has been stripped and we are left adrift in the unknown.

When this happens to me and I cannot see my way to clarity and fear grips me, I do one simple thing. I start acting like I am okay. I start acting like I know where I am going. I start acting like getting lost was part of the plan all along…even if it wasn’t.

I simply start faking it. I am scared but I don’t act like it. I am uncertain but I project confidence. I am sad but I smile. I don’t want to talk to people or be in the world but I go out. I socialize. I move forward even when I feel frozen inside.

And eventually, the uncomplicated act of projecting the belief it will be okay begins to pay off. I start to feel better and a feeling of safety returns. The road ahead begins to straighten. I am still uncertain where the path might be going but I begin to again accept that adapting is part of life. And, in order to survive life and maybe even thrive, we have to be open to life’s unwanted revisions.

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Is Knowing Always Better?

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It has been said that knowledge is power. Sometimes it is. Knowledge gives people options, changes perspectives. Knowledge teaches us how to process new experiences and adapt accordingly. Knowledge can be enlightening, giving us opportunities to grow in our thinking.

But there are times when I wonder if knowledge really is power or if it can sometimes be the fuel for our pain, our worry, our fear and our doubt. I wonder sometimes if knowledge actually creates problems rather than solves them. Perhaps there is something to be said for living in happy oblivion.

I think it was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “Knowledge is knowing that we cannot know.” I think nothing better can be said about knowledge.

Even when we are given information, we cannot always know what will come of it. This is weighing heavily on my mind right now in light of recent news about my puppy’s serious life threatening health condition but it really can be applied to so much of the information we receive.

Here are some examples.

We were given the knowledge that our happy puppy has a serious health condition that could shorten her life, that could even end her life in sudden death. We were also given the news that putting her on beta blockers could slow her heart rate enough to allow her to live a normal life.

So we were given a lot of data about her condition but we still don’t really know anything. Yes, the argument can be made that if we hadn’t known what we know now, and she died suddenly, we would have wondered if there was anything we could have done for her but, all in all, we are left mostly with uncertainty and more uncertainty brings more worry. More practice with learning acceptance.

When my mother died suddenly of a brain aneurysm, I didn’t feel an overwhelming need for more information even though a decision was made to conduct an autopsy. Having the diagnosis of her death confirmed, did not change the fact that she died and knowing didn’t bring her back. I suppose from a genetic standpoint, the information is important but knowing really didn’t change anything for me. It brought me no comfort.

Someone I love dearly was told recently that he has a brain tumor. It’s not cancer and it’s not in an operable location. The doctors don’t really know if or when the tumor might grow or if or when it does what damage it could cause. He now lives his life knowing he is a walking time bomb.

I think there are probably times when knowing is better. Knowledge helps ease worry and concern but this only happens when the news brought from that information is positive. When the news is not positive or when it does nothing to change the end result, it leaves a person in a state of confusion, sorrow, regret, denial or dread. And, how is being left feeling this way really giving someone power?

So, is knowing always better? Maybe it is. Maybe bad news, helps us make better choices. I’m not always sure though especially when there is nothing that can actually be done as a result of what is learned. It is certainly something to think about.

It was Khalil Gibran who said, “Faith is knowledge within the heart, beyond the reach of proof.”

I like this quote because faith, no matter how you come to it or what it means to you, is what pulls us through the darkest of times. And it is faith that helps us find light again when the news is not good and when knowing doesn’t feel like the better thing.

The Burden Of A Heavy Heart

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Here I sit with swollen eyes and tear stained checks, looking at a blank page, unsure of how to structure my thoughts. I feel overwhelmed and insecure by the uncertainty of life today. I am finding it hard to appreciate the small moments that make up a day.

Today, feels like a tidal wave of sorrow. Today feels empty of purpose. My mind is a jumble of disorganized worry. I don’t know how to make letters into words that make any sense and I’m not really sure it would matter even if I did.

So, today I cry. I feel a deep sadness that life can be as cruel as it can be kind. Instead of feeling freedom because of my powerlessness, I feel frustration. I don’t like that life teases us in the meanest of ways, that our faith is tested, that once and awhile we may actually be given more than we can handle or that we are made to feel this way.

Empty is how I feel today. Lost is what I am today. Uncertain is my path. Uncertain is always my path, but today I am disquieted by that reality. I am unsettled in the knowledge that life does with us what it wants. We have no real sway over its authority.

I ache today. I am sorrowful today. My heart is wounded. My heart is heavy.

This is grief. This is part of life.

This too shall pass.

To Breed Or Not To Breed…The Question Has Been Answered

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If you regularly follow my blog then you know I have two Old English Sheepdogs, who are my pride and joy. My younger one, Abby, will be a year old in a few days. We had been thinking about breeding Abby but she has a heart murmur. We’ve always been told it is mild and that she would likely out grow it, but she hasn’t.

As part of our preparations for breeding her, we wanted to get the murmur further evaluated, so we took Abby to a doggie cardiologist this week. We wanted to find out if breeding her with a murmur would have a negative impact on her health. We also wanted to have the murmur genetically evaluated because it would be irresponsible to breed her if she might pass on this trait.

So after an ultrasound of her sweet little heart, we expected that we might hear breeding Abby was not a good idea and we have been preparing ourselves for that reality. What we actually heard was far more disheartening.

Instead of a mild murmur, Abby apparently has a very serious condition called sub aortic stenosis which is a narrowing between the left ventricle and the aorta causing the left ventricle to work harder, making it difficult for blood to get out to the body. She is also at risk for the left ventricle to build up scar tissue predisposing her to problems with arrhythmia and possible sudden death. Her condition is genetic.

She is not a candidate for heart surgery to repair the defect because of its location. And, we wouldn’t have been sure we would want to put her through that anyway. So, we are going to put her on a beta blocker. The beta blocker will reduce her heart rate, thus reducing how hard her heart has to work. We also have to limit her exercise. She will require annual cardiac evaluations and her condition may or may not have a negative impact on her life span.

Needless to say, she is not a candidate for breeding. And, at this point, that is the last thing on our minds. All we want now for our dear Abby, is a happy life and hopefully a long one. But I cannot deny that I am full of fear for her and sad beyond words.

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If It Was Your Last…

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What would you do if you knew this was the last day of your life? It’s an interesting question because you hear people say that we should live like this every day but we don’t and we don’t because it’s not practical to do so. We have daily worries and responsibilities that we cannot ignore. We have families to attend to and chores to complete and it’s not realistic to act otherwise, at least not every day. But it’s still an interesting question.

What would you do if you knew today was the last day of your life? Would you still complete your “to do” list? Would you act as if it was just a day like every other? Would you spend it lamenting how little time you have left? Would you cry over lost opportunities? Would you rejoice that you’ve had a beautiful life?

I honestly don’t know what I would do. I know that I have had a beautiful life. I have little, if anything, to regret but I can’t help but think that a part of me would still be sad. It’s hard to think about leaving the people you love even if you believe you will one day see them again.

So, what would you do if today was the last day of your life? Would you spend it dancing or would you go to the park? Would spend your time wondering if today would still be your last day if you had taken a different path? Would you be sour because you can’t go back and do it again? Or would you know in your heart you lived as well as you are able?

Maybe it’s not practical to live every day like it’s your last. But, maybe once and awhile, it is a good idea to stop and take inventory your choices, of the things you’ve done and left undone and make new choices now before you can’t or make amends  before it’s too late. Maybe it’s not practical to live every day like it’s your last. But, maybe once and awhile, it is a good idea to take stock in the gifts you’ve been given.

Life is like a living organism and like all living things, it needs to be nurtured and fed and loved and tended to in order to grow. So, if today was your last, what would you do?

A Nap Won’t Fix It And I’m Not Depressed

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Depression is a very real thing and many people suffer from it. Many people with chronic conditions suffer from it. Depression on its own can be a chronic condition. I am not minimizing the importance of being evaluated and treated for depression.

However, I am not depressed. What I have are bouts of unrelenting fatigue and fatigue is one of the most maddening symptoms of my disease. The kind of fatigue I sometimes feel can be very hard to describe. It feels like every muscle is weighted down by cement. It feels like trying to run a marathon through waist high mud. It feels like being smothered in a thousand wet blankets.

While fatigue is often a very common symptom of depression, fatigue is also a very common symptom for a multitude of other health issues too and should not automatically be chalked up to depression.

When I am fatigued, my brain sometimes feels disconnected from my body. I might want to move but I can’t or if I do, it’s in slow motion. Sometimes I am also in pain but a lot of times it is just that my muscles are too thick and it becomes burdensome to make the effort. And, when my body is empty of all energy, my brain also moves like a sloth. Thoughts do not come easily, words are mixed up or forgotten. My brain and my body are engulfed in a hazy, dense, sticky, fog.

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To survive my fatigue, I have to be mentally strong. I have to be patient. I have to wait it out. Rest might help some, but a nap doesn’t fix this type of exhaustion. It comes and goes at will. Sometimes it is predictable. I will always experience it if or when I over do it. Other times, it just comes on out of nowhere and blindsides me.

Sure, there are things I do to combat it. I eat a healthy diet. I avoid processed foods, sugary foods and caffeine. I stay hydrated. I exercise. I walk most days. I make sure I get enough sleep. I listen to what my body needs. Fatigue is just part of my disease. One of many symptoms I have to live with.

But despite how frustrating my fatigue is physically, what frustrates me more, are the stupid things people say to me about it and the way I know I am sometimes judged for it. If you’ve not experienced the kind of body stopping, mind blowing fatigue I am talking about, then you cannot possibly begin to understand it. So don’t tell me to go take a nap and I’ll feel a lot better. And, please don’t automatically mistake what I experience for depression.

Don’t judge me for it and don’t assume you have any idea what I am going through because if you have not felt this type of exhaustion, you have no right to assume you know better than I do how to handle it.

Sometimes fatigue is just fatigue.

Wisdom…

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The thing gained from painful mistakes, making us smarter as we age, leaving our youthful ignorance behind us.

The reward for our wrongs, providing us meaningful insight for better living.

What is sought through a journey of self discovery that some take and others either miss or refuse.

The unexpected good fortune of life’s missteps, giving us serenity otherwise lost.

The profit of time’s healed wounds.

What helps us make better decisions as life continues to throw us one detour after another.

The product of a lifetime of learning and one of the only few advantages of growing older.

What can only be gained through an open mind, a willing heart and a humble ego.

What heals us or ruins us depending on the choices we make as a result of it.