Saturday, April 23, 2016

Find Your Happy Place - From Bliss to "Trouble"...and Back Again

Last week officially earned the title of “Best Week of Our Lives” as a family.  As far back as my son’s memory goes I have been “sick.”  Though it has presented gifts as well, he has missed out on a lot because of it, and one of the things he had never known is the experience of a true family vacation.  For a long time I just wasn’t strong enough or well enough, and then there were all of the new allergies and sensitivities to consider.  What about food?  What about chemicals and environmental triggers?  Could my body handle a flight?  Could I stay in a hotel room?  So many uncertainties, so much doubt, but I held on to the dream that my son would experience Disney World and that I would be there to see it.

About a year and a half ago, at the urging of my health coach, I made a “Vision Board.”  I know that there is a lot of evidence that envisioning yourself well and doing the things you long to do as a fully healthy person can boost healing, but it can feel unrealistic and far away when you can’t even get out of bed.  However, I did it.  I vividly remember placing a picture of Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World on my board and then cutting out a family picture to paste in front of it.  As we stood in front of the castle last week FOR REAL, it was not lost on me that what I had envisioned for myself, and had hoped and dreamed of, actually came true.  I cried many tears of joy and gratitude throughout the week.  I felt like an Olympian who had repeatedly envisioned their best performance winning them the gold, now standing on the podium in victory.

My "Vision Board" from 2014

My first "surreal" glimpse of the castle!

The nitty-gritty truth of it is that eventually I got myself to a point where I just said, “This may be as good as I get…enough with my life being on-hold.”  I took a chance, took a leap…and I started to plan a trip to Walt Disney World in August of 2015.  Between the time of that decision and actually leaving last week there were many ups of excitement and anticipation, as well as downs of doubt and worry about it being a potential disaster.  The result?  BEST.DECISION.EVER!  It was literally the best I have felt in many, many years.  I set myself up for success…talking with the dining department beforehand, and asking the resort to use gentle (low chem) cleaners in our room.  We opted for a room with a full kitchen and made a Whole Foods run as soon as we landed.  We also shipped some necessities to our hotel in advance.  All good ideas if you have health challenges and want to optimize your chances of doing well on a new adventure.  Still, that doesn’t account for everything.  I do all of those things, and more, at home and still feel horrible sometimes.  Add to the equation that I walked countless miles, in mid-80 degree Florida heat.  So what gives?  I truly believe that joy can trump a lot of things.  All of the walking and the natural Vitamin D from the sun probably were big contributors, but the happy change of environment, the fun, and the laughter, all while being with my loved ones, were truly the healing medicines.  I also had people praying for me, which you can’t underestimate the power of, either.  The big message here?!  FIND YOUR HAPPY PLACE!

We got home last Thursday night, completely exhausted, but still on a high.  It was the good kind of tired…the result of a life well-lived, the feeling of “I did it” coursing through my body and mind.  Then Sunday morning arrived, and my son had a fever, sore throat, headache, body aches, and threw up.  Not totally surprising after airplane travel, not to mention being on-the-go from 9:00AM to 10:00PM every day of our trip, and add to that some different foods than he usually eats.  It's a lot for an immune system, even a strong one.  Long story short, he spent six LONG days hovering between 101 and 102 temperatures, exhausted and uncomfortable.  Like I always do, I pulled out all of my “holistic healing tricks" and went into full-time “Nurse Mommy” mode, but by day four, with nothing changed, off to the doctor we went.  No strep throat…and no answers beyond that.  It could be “the flu” or some other random virus, and if it wasn’t better by the weekend we should go back to see the doctor.  Something I have really struggled with in life (and especially with my own illness) is wanting answers, wanting to figure everything out and connect the dots to complete the picture, so I can come up with a solution and fix, fix, fix.  Also, seeing my son sick is very triggering for me.  As an empath, it hurts me to my very core.  However, this time, perhaps still carrying the joy and “can do it” attitude from Disney, I did what I could do and let go of the rest.  I was able to take a bit of a leap again.  I seized the opportunity to get more snuggles and play more games (like endless rounds of “Trouble").  I replaced my worry and toil with love and fun.  I even used it as an excuse to try some new products (which I always LOVE to do and is why I started this blog in the first place)!  I treated myself to a luxurious new hand lotion bar due to the fact that I was washing my hands raw (check it out - such a cool company).  Again, I found a small “happy place”...this time in the middle of a less-than-ideal situation.

L to R: My favorite smoothie/almond milk company - Jubali's healing mixes; Wedderspoon Lozenges; My favorite digestive bitters-making company (from my home state of Vermont!) - Urban Moonshine's "Immune Zoom" ; Moon Valley Organics Lotion Bar; Trouble Game :-)
You see, anytime we choose to take a leap, trust the process, let go, or search for the positive, we aren’t guaranteed that it is going to work out the way we want, but it makes the journey more enjoyable and helps us learn to be more and more comfortable with the fact that we are never really in control.  Many things could have gone wrong while I was at Disney, but they didn’t…and I would have stayed in my “safe place” and missed out on absolute bliss.  If I am honest, I have had plenty of reactions and miserable times in my “safe place,” and taking the chance to branch out not only brought me joy while I was there but is still unfolding its healing powers as I carry the message “I can” deep in my being.  I have drawn on those memories and how good life can be many times this week while being stuck inside, getting my son through a tough time.  I feel like we spend a lot of life fighting the current, trying to control every little (and big) thing.  This is exactly what keeps us from building resilience, finding peace, and being at ease in life.  Do what you can, and then let go of the rest.  This is not the same as giving up!  When you take constructive action, trusting your intuition and doing what you know to do, then it is easier to accept the flow of what comes and goes.

Take all of that energy that was used for “controlling” and use it for positive waiting and natural momentum.  I can say with absolute conviction that if you want to find health, happiness, or make some other shift in your life, you must have dreams, aspirations, goals.  You need to be as specific as possible so you can “see” it clearly in your mind, and that also makes it measurable so you are able to know when you have made it a reality.  I am not suggesting you do something major and way out of your comfort zone, because sometimes our restrictions (like special diets, etc.) keep us safe and healing.  You need to do things on your terms, and in your time.  I would not have been ready for this a year ago, so the outcome may not have been so profound then.  Just take note of where there is wiggle-room in your life, and how much of what you are doing (or not doing) is out of fear and stories you have told yourself along the way.  Just like a lighthouse provides a guiding point to head toward in the fog, we need something positive to focus on, up ahead.  Otherwise we can get stuck going ‘round and ‘round in the same circle, without even realizing it.  Sometimes for years.

So here is my “travel guide” for finding your HAPPY PLACE in life (no matter where you are right now):

1. Make a goal/aspiration/“Vision Board” - simply put, list some things that you would like to do and that would bring you joy (look at the list/board - and/or meditate on them- regularly), and update as necessary.  I can't tell you what this would look like, because it is ALL up to you and only you!

2. Change/break your routine (even if that means something as simple as putting your left pant leg on before your right) - Switch it up!  It sends a message to your brain that you CAN change.  For me, after years of compromised mealtimes, due to working around a strict medication/supplement schedule, I am moving back to eating at more reasonable times (with my family), and eating when I am hungry instead of waiting for the “perfect” window.  This = a sense of freedom and flexibility again!

3. Change your environment/visual cues - waking up somewhere other than the same four walls and ceiling that I spent years staring at while sick in bed was wonderful!  I realize that not everyone can take a trip, but you can change the pictures hanging on your walls, rearrange your furniture, paint the walls a different color, organize a messy room, or take your meal out on your patio/lawn…you get the “picture!”

4. Get sunshine on your face - even if it means sticking your head out of a window because you can’t leave your house.  DO IT.  15-30 minutes each day!

5. Move your body - sometimes my attempts at exercise have set me back, but the constant movement while walking around the Disney parks almost felt like an “unwinding” of my body.  The more I moved, the better I felt.  First, my left hip got a little tight and achy, and then it popped and the discomfort moved to my left knee temporarily, and then my knee popped, and I felt better than ever…able to do more and more.  It was like by giving my body the movement it was created for it worked itself out.  Walking, yoga, and dance seem to be the best for me and my needs.  I may never be a runner or “Cross Fit” person, and that’s okay.  Even if all you can do is wiggle your toes or pump your ankles from bed or your chair, start there.  Our bodies crave movement, even if it feels like they don't.

6. Spend time with loved ones - this is pretty straightforward, and there is a ton of scientific evidence stating that positive social ties are the most important piece of a healthy life.  To read more on this topic...The Mystery of The Rosetan People & Is The Internet Killing Us? Let's Create Local Soul Tribes That Heal.

7. Take action & let go of the rest (as explained above) - learning to develop and trust your intuition helps with this one!

8. GRATITUDE - acknowledge all victories, big and small.  Don’t let them slip by!  Take a good amount of time to celebrate and honor them, and then set your sights all over again.

MORE THAN ANYTHING, find something exciting, joy-making, that gets you out of bed (showered, dressed, teeth brushed, hair combed, whatever...) each day.  Realistically I know that can’t be exploring a Disney Park every day, but I am working on building something for myself (in addition to being a wife, mother, etc.) in to my life that makes me really excited to show up and participate in life each day!  Maybe ultimately going back to school?!  Who knows?!  Stay tuned...

"Until next time!"  On to our next HAPPY PLACE!
How about you?!  I want to know!  Keep me posted in the comments section below.