Friday, March 25, 2011

Bucket List

A friend of mine got to scratch an item off of her bucket list yesterday and I'm very, very happy for her. A bucket list is simply a list of things you'd like to do "one day" in your life. They can be lifelong dreams, hopes and aspirations that you write down without censorship. Writing a bucket list is a very important time investment for your "Me" because it give voice to the inner child in you that is not afraid to dream big and hope one day to see that dream come true.

A typical bucket list. Handwritten is always better because it lets your personality shine.

But here's the thing: writing the list is only step one. Once you have written the bucket list, then you owe it to yourself to put action to words and tackle the items one at a time. In our busy every day life, it's easy to put dreams and aspirations aside in order to deal with the now. The problem is that if you let the every day swallow every moment of your life, you will never get to scratch off an item of your list, and realize, too late, that you dreams will never happen. If you really want to make your "Me" happy, then you must take some time to make sure that every day becomes an opportunity to make your dreams come true. Doing that also gives you a lifeline to remember that going through the motions of the every day is not all there is about life. It reminds you that amidst the daily chaos, there is a silver lining of opportunity to make the every day purposeful and to making your life an objective to achieving all that you desire.

The best part of making a bucket list? Getting to scratch off the items one by one and knowing that YOU are the reason behind this accomplishment. Fulfillment, happiness and confidence can only soar higher when you set out to make your dreams happen, and you live to tell about it. After all, you've just proven to yourself that anything is possible, and that if you believe firmly in your dream, you can overcome any obstacles that might stand in your way.

So grab a piece of paper and write down everything you're hoping for in this lifetime. There is no right or wrong dream. The point of dreaming and making a bucket list is that anything is possible. So go ahead and write it down. Once you are done, put your  bucket list in a place that you will see everyday and that is easily accessible so you can add to it, or better yet, scratch items off. Then choose one thing that is most important to you and make a commitment to make it happen. If it seems overwhelming, break down it down in steps and tackle one step at a time. Give yourself a deadline! Without deadline, we are only driftwood floating without objective or direction. Or in other words, a deadline is a friendly kick-in-the-butt that keeps us focused and on track. When your dream is about to come true, soak every moment in and live it fully. One thing my friend also remembered is to live the experience without expectations. Just go and experience it for what it is. Take lots of pictures for posterity. You might also want to create a bucket list scrapbook and dedicate a page to each item on your list. You can add pictures and favourite moments.

Take some time for yourself today to start thinking about your bucket list and write down some items on it. It will make you happy just knowing that having a dream and making it happen is something that will make your "Me" very, very fulfilled.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Want to make your "Me" happy? Stop taking things personally

The kids and I were having lunch today when I announced to them that from tomorrow until Sunday, Daddy will be taking care of them because I'm taking a 3-day workshop. As soon as I told them the news, the kids broke out in cheers and applause. "Yay! Daddy's going to take care of us!" they said, followed by Logan's comment of "It's not that we don't like you Mom, but we love Daddy a little more."

Years ago, this type of comment would have crushed me. I mean, after all I've done for these kids, you'd think I'd have the upper-hand in the love department, right? Not so! I have realized that I take things way too personally and sometimes without any reason. It's my interpretation of the events, not the events themselves that are causing me grief.

Take my kids for example, when they state that they like their daddy more, I know why they feel that way. Daddy's fun. Daddy isn't home all the time, so when he is, his presence is exotic. It's not that they don't appreciate me being around, but I'm around so much, I've become part of the furniture. I've come to terms with this and I now know that when my kids say they like Daddy more, it doesn't mean I'm not important to them. It's a different kind of love and I no longer take it personally.

How often do you take things personally? I think people who take things personally are people who are extremely kind and sensitive and try their best to always do the right please others or to prove to themselves that they are worthy. Taking things personally can be a sign of great vulnerability and lack of confidence, but you know what, there is no shame in that. What you have to realize is that most often, the people who intimidate us or who we're most worried about offending for fear they won't love us or appreciate us, actually don't necessarily think about us at all. And that's the key thing here. As my very good friend Julie once told me, "What makes you think you're so important that people will actually take some of their precious time to think about you at all?" This was one of the best statement I had ever heard because the reality is that I'm not so important to these people's lives that they would actually think about me, or what I had done that much. Most of the time, their reaction is based on something that's happening in their lives and has nothing to do with you at all. I would actually bet, that in most cases where we take things personally, it's never really about Me at all, but simply about them. Our ego has a hard time accepting that one!

The problem is that when we take things personally, we're only hurting ourselves. Self-doubt, anxiety, anger, sadness, betrayal, hurt, are painful emotions that get triggered when we take things personally, and the culprit in all this? Not the person's message or words, but our own (false) interpretation of those words. Even if those words are true, we still have a choice: either we take them personally and give the words the power to hurt and hammer us, or we choose to stand up for ourselves and ignore the words that were spoken. So what will you choose for your "Me"?

I'd like you to choose to stand up for yourself and try to no longer take anything personally. Your happiness depends on it. If you're having a hard time not taking things personally, here are a few things you can do:

1. Make sure you truly understand the message: I often find that a lot of hurt is caused by miscommunication and misunderstanding of the situation. Clarifying what was said so you really understand the cause of the criticism or comment will sometimes help you realize that it has actually nothing to do with you.

2. If you get the message by e-mail, text or other electronic devices (Facebook), ignore it until you can speak to the person face to face. I've heard many stories of people being taken aback by e-mails they received when it turns out that the author of the e-mail was in a hurry and didn't pay attention to the way the e-mail was written. Always clarify in person or over the phone.

3. Sit with it. If you are taking things personally, before you do anything, take some time to analyze your reaction. Ask yourself: "Is it my perception?" "What makes me think this is something I should take personally?" "Am I right?" and most importantly, put yourself in the other person's shoes and see if this is about their life situation, and not at all about you.

4. Remind yourself that you can choose to focus on this and make yourself miserable, or you can choose to let it go. It's hard to let it go, because deep down, we really want to know if it was about us. We want to know if we did something wrong but we're really hoping we didn't and that the person actually thinks we're great and wonderful. By choosing to let it go, you are demonstrating to yourself that you are worthy and wonderful and you don't need anyone's validation to prove it.

Finally remember that there are times in your life when you are more sensitive because you're stressed, tired, anxious, etc...When you're vulnerable, you're more likely to take things personally when there is no reason to. So be aware of how you are feeling, and if you think that your "Me" is not feeling great, then give yourself permission to nurture yourself back to feeling good before you address the situation again.

It's hard not to take things personally, but it's really important to try your best not to. It's the best thing you can do for your "Me".

What have you done for your "Me" today?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Glorious Spring days make "Me" happy

I've been in kind of a slump lately, hence the lack of blog posts. I love blogs. Reading them makes me happy. I have my favourites and check them daily. Reading blogs make me feel connected, less lonely sometimes, and normal, in the way that perfect strangers' lives ressemble my own. And they make me laugh. So much. I would love to be as prolific a blog writer as some of these women are, but right now, it's not a reality. I often marvel at the way these bloggers seem to write effortlessly, always coming up with new material, while I struggle to find something to write about. I marvel that some of these bloggers have become so successfull and so read, that they can make a living out of their blog. I find it incredible, in a very good way.

Rather than putting myself down for not being that kind of a writer (something that I would have done a lot in the past), I'm just choosing to use these writers as an inspiration. Instead of dwelling in envy and comparison ("I wish I were as", "I wish I could .... as well as ...."), I use the coveted attributes of the people I admire as catalysts to set goals for my own self-development. It's a work in progress, but all is takes to move forward are baby steps.

I'm also learning to let go of expectations. Expectations seem to always set you up for failure and disappointment. When you choose not to expect anything, you allow yourself to live in the moment, as it is, and to enjoy it for what it is, no strings attached. That's the approach I have chosen for March break, this week. I use to struggle when the kids where on vacation with expectations of what should or could happen. Lately, I've just let go of that. Instead, I'm just letting every day unfold on its own. I know I won't be able to do much work and I'm ok with that. I don't have a plan. The kids and I will wake up each day and decide what we will do. No imposition, no expectation, and that makes me feel peaceful and happy.

Over the last few days, I have been touched, as many, by the images and stories unfolding from the Japan Quake. This natural disaster has a very personal twist for us as my brother-in-law lives in a suburb of Tokyo. Though we know that he survived the quake and the tsunami, fear of radiation from the nuclear power plants is prominent in our mind and we pray that all will be well in the end. Jason was with us two weeks ago and parts of me wishes he had decided to stick around here a few more days. He arrived on Thursday in Japan, a day before the quake.

To know that so many are experiencing this tragedy is humbling. Our daily dramas certainly don't seem like a big deal when confronted by such a slap-in-the-face perspective. If we could only live every day with the knowledge of how fortunate we are and how little some of our "problems" truly are, I'm sure we'd smarten up a little about our daily dramas and we would end up being happier for it.

What have you done for your "Me" today? With March break, it might be harder to have some Me time, but today, my Me time was actually a combination of moments during which I simply gazed at the sky and magnificent sunshine, felt the warmer temperatures, and thanked the universe for signs of the upcoming Spring. Have you noticed there are more birds singing, snow melting and house plants thriving? The addition of one glorious hour of daylight is enough to boost my happiness quotient through the roof.

Have a great March break everyone.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Incredible "Me"

Joyful. Happy. Jubilant. Over-the-Moon. Excited. Euphoric. Triumphant. These are just a few adjectives I can think of to express accurately how I feel today about my incredible "Me". Truth is there are no words that can truly describe the magnitude of how incredible I am feeling right now.

Yesterday, I turned the page on a chapter of my life that, although painful, stressful, and scary, taught me so much about my incredible "Me". Three and half year after I was diagnosed with 6th-nerve palsy, and almost three years to the day that I started rehabilitation, I am finally cured, and my left eye is back to normal. And I am in awe at the strength and resilience of the human body.

It began in the August of 2007 when I started to experience daily headaches. In early September, I had made an appointment to see my doctor and on my way there, in the car, I started seeing double. I pulled over and realized then that this was more than simple headaches. My doctor perplexed, sent me to the hospital where Iwas given very powerful drugs. The docs were thinking the headache was causing the double vision. When the headache was gone and the double vision remained, the look on their face said it all. They said "Cat-Scan" and I realized they thought something was wrong with my brain. I immediately thought brain-tumour and spent the next few hours being more scared than I had ever been before. Thankfully, the cat-scan showed nothing and I was extremely relieved. They sent me home, not knowing what else to do. I went back a day later, when my left eye froze and wouldn't move from the middle of the eye to the outer corner. I could move it from the middle inward, but not outward. Once back in emergency, I had an MRI, which showed nothing again thankfully. I was diagnosed with 6th nerve palsy then but the cause wasn't known yet. Eventually, I received a spinal tap, and the resident in my care, said "you have pressure in your brain." He said the spinal tap showed intracranial pressure, and that extra pressure caused the optic nerve to compress, which caused the 6th nerve palsy. He was thrilled, gave me so pills and told me, you'll be good in a few days.

Soon after the diagnosis. My left eye, which is on the right side, froze and pulled inward.
Shortly after we got home, I started feeling really sick. I had the beginnings of what would be the most painful headache I would ever experience, and which would result in being brought back to the hospital by ambulance to treat the spinal headache. I was given morphine and was assigned a new doctor, who said that the spinal tap had been done wrong, that I did not have intra cranial pressure, and that we would need to explore the cause of the 6th nerve palsy more. It was a process of elimination of potential serious diseases such as lupus and MS. A year and a half later, my 6th nerve palsy was deemed "Idiopathic", of no-known causes, and that was the end of my neurology appointments.

The diagnosis of idiopathic causes, though good news in the sense that it wasn't any of the big, serious diseases, still left me unsettled. There is a part of me that wants to know why it happened, because maybe if understood why it happened, I could prevent it in from happening again in the future. I've learned since then that I don't have such power, nor much control and I just have to accept that. I have a theory that the palsy was caused by a medication I was on, but the gods of medicine have ignored my theory.

Living with the 6th-nerve palsy was difficult in the beginning. I had to wear an eye-patch so I could see in single vision only. Seeing double all the time is disorienting and disabilitating and my double vision was so severe that only the eye patch made me able to function. I had to learn to drive with the eye patch as well.

My first eye patch was a simple gauze taped over the eye
The next generation eye patch (or ipatch 2...that would be catchy wouldn't it?!)

The physical adjustement to wearing the eye patch wasn't too difficult, but the emotional adjustment were. It gave me a greater appreciation for how people with disabilities cope under the eyes of others. Knowing that you are looked at, or stared at, because you look different, is hard to swallow. It made me feel self-conscious, and less worthy, and there were many times when I felt I wanted to become invisible. At that point, I didn't know if my eye would ever go back to normal, so I had to adjust to the fact that this might be my normal now. It was extremely difficult, and the pirate jokes stopped being funny very quickly.

In November 2007, two months after my eye froze, it started moving again. Slowly at first, and then normally. Hope swelled in my chest when my eye started moving again. I was still seeing double, but my eye was moving and this was the first sign that maybe I could heal.

In May of 2009, I went to see an optometrist about doing some eye rehabilitation. From that first appointment, my healing took another step forward. I was given some prism glasses which would slowly train my eye muscles to work together again. The eyes are supposed to move together in exactly the same way in order to have single vision. If there is a slight deviation, double vision occurs. My deviation was huge. Thankfully, technology has allowed for the creation of film prisms that just stick to the glasses, a much better alternative to the coke-bottle look.

The prism glasses. You can see vertical lines on the glass, one for each prism.

From that first appointment until now, we have slowly decreased the amount of prisms in the glasses, and my eyes worked with us to make the therapy successful. My left eye worked really hard, especially. And here we are today, close to three years after therapy began and I am healed. Fully, fully healed. I may not know for sure what caused this glitch in my brain, and the palsy to freeze my eye, but I have been given the full proof of how strong, resilient and fabulous the body is at healing itself. I am amazed and so grateful.

I have a deeper appreciation of health, a better perspective of how lucky "normal" really is, and how quickly one can get from "normal" to life-changing and debilitating. I am one of the lucky ones, because I've been given a second chance. I was given the gift of healing. I could just as quickly have been given the other diagnosis, the permanent one, the other side of the coin that doesn't heal. When I start feeling sorry for myself, I remember that perspective. And I smarten up and count my blessings.

Take good care of your "Me" today, and be grateful for all that it is right now, in this very moment. Your "Me" is worthy of being celebrated, yet we often neglect it. Try and spend a moment each day to appreciate the gift of life, the gift of health, the gift of simply being "Me".

What will you do for your "Me" today?