Tag Archives: breathe

Present Emotions Included

28 Jan

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Most of the books piled up on the side of my bed fall under the category of Self-Help books.  There are so many amazing ones out there.  I could fill an entire book just sharing what I learned from some of them.  I’ve referred to the idea I call “recycling the light” in previous blogs that I have written.  I try to pass along things that I’ve read, heard or learned that might help others. I almost always include an inspirational quote with my pieces, because there are millions of wise people who have said things so much more eloquently than I ever possibly could.  A great deal of what I read focuses on being present, staying positive and living your life as your authentic self.  Wonderful concepts in theory, but often much easier said than done.

Books like The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale, Change Your Thoughts,Change Your Life and The Power of Intention by Dr. Wayne Dyer, and The Law of Attraction and Ask and It Is Given by Jerry and Esther Hicks helped me understand that we can change our lives for the better by simply focusing on the positive and raising our vibrational level to attract what we desire.  The Secret by Rhonda Byrne took the world by storm a decade ago with the concept that by simply envisioning and believing that we will receive what we want will result in it ultimately manifesting itself.  I could go on….but like I said, great in theory but difficult to always stick to.  How do you stay positive and believe when life gets really tough?  Should I just sing that song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin and pretend all is well?

A woman whom I greatly admire and am honored to call a friend, Maimah Karmo, recently said “More so than my successes, it was the times of struggle that showed me what I was made of.” I had the pleasure of participating in Maimah’s “I Manifest Online Soul Summit” and doing a podcast with her called “How to Overcome Hurt by Being Present in Your Life”.  As an alcoholic, I was anything but “present” for so much of my life.  I used alcohol to escape reality or numb feelings I didn’t want to feel.  So “overcoming hurt by being present”?  Yes.  Facing your demons head-on. Using your tools to resist the urge to escape, numb or run away from reality.  Staying in the moment instead of beating yourself up and dwelling on the past or constantly investing in the wreckage of the future.

But back to Maimah’s quote. It’s easier to stay positive and be present when things are going well and we can celebrate our successes. Times of struggle show us what we are truly made of.  It’s when the shit hits the fan that we are really tested.  When faced with difficult challenges, Bobby McFerrin’s isn’t the first song that pops into the song chart in my head.    Maybe a little something heavier, like Depeche Mode’s “Blasphemous Rumors” perhaps.  Oh, no wait –The Smiths.  Morrissey is always great for wallowing in self-pity.  I digress.  My point is this:  bad things will happen in life, whether you are sober or not.  It’s how you deal with them and how you move on that shows what you are made of.

Not only are there zillions of Self-Help books out there, there is an entire movement happening that is bringing people to meditation, living in the present moment, and understanding our universal connectedness.  Some of the most popular downloaded apps these days are for mindfulness and meditation. There are countless workshops, retreats, seminars, webinars, conferences, etc. that focus on spirituality, emotional and physical health, and overall mind-body wellness.  I had the pleasure of attending an event last week at a local concert hall which has attracted some of the biggest names in the music business over the years.  But instead of music, the featured act was a man named Kyle Cease—a former stand-up comedian now a transformational speaker who incorporates his humor and personal evolution for an incredibly entertaining and inspirational evening.  Kyle emphasizes that “when you embrace your pain, fear, and vulnerability instead of pushing it away, you will discover an authentic creativity and power that is truly unstoppable.”

Embracing your feeling when you are being present is not easy, especially when that feeling is fear or pain.  But if we can somehow train ourselves to sit with being uncomfortable, embrace it and then LET IT GO, we can move on.  Life will have ups and downs.  As hard as the downs can be, I truly believe that it is better to be present for them rather than numb or escape them.  Experiencing the downs, although incredibly difficult at times, allows us to not only truly appreciate and treasure the ups, but hopefully learn something and take away a lesson that will help us in the future and ultimately make us stronger. I’m always grateful to my dear friend who teaches me to find the silver lining in all situations. Things could always be better, but they can always be worse too.  All we truly have is the present.  Don’t get caught up in the past or waste time worrying about the future, which is never guaranteed.  Breathe. Smile. And live.

“It’s not ‘When something happens, I’ll be happy.’  It’s ‘When I’m happy, things will happen.’” -Kyle Cease–Evolving Out Loud

 

 

 

 

Menace to Sobriety

20 Oct

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Menace to Sobriety

I just wrapped up a huge work event that has consumed my time over the last several months. Between that and coming off the heels of being very sick for over a year, I haven’t written much.  Feels good to start typing.

The work event was the Third Annual Walk to Bust Cancer, which benefits the National Breast Center Foundation, of which I am the Executive Director.  This year’s walk drew over 700 people and far surpassed our fundraising goal of $75,000.  I was incredibly blessed to work with an amazing team of volunteers on this event; most of them breast cancer survivors who just want to give back.   The walk is a giant undertaking, with an inordinate amount of logistics, man-hours, details and, yes, stress.

Being sick for over 14 months, without answers or a diagnosis, also created a great deal of stress. Endless trips to doctors, hospitals, specialists, labs, etc. with no concrete results.  Finally, two different doctors came to the same conclusion: fibromyalgia.  An answer, but one with a great deal of mystery and uncertainty surrounding it.  While much is still unknown about the disorder, and the extremely long amount of time it took to diagnosis it left me beyond frustrated, I am relieved and grateful that the medicine that they put me on to treat it is helping immensely. Interestingly enough, one of the worst things and triggers for fibromyalgia?  Stress.

We all have stress in our lives.  At some times, greater amounts than others.  And some people are better at dealing with stress than others.  There are those who go to yoga and meditate and are able to successfully keep their stress at bay.  Others who work out intensely and release endorphins to combat the pressure, anxiety and tension in their lives.   And many others still who pour that glass of wine or scotch or whatever to take the edge off.  I was one of those.  So what does one do to combat stress when he or she can no longer reach for the numbing effects of alcohol?

2336 days ago, when I accepted and admitted the fact that I was an alcoholic, I made a firm commitment to never reach for that glass of wine again.  Well, not “never”, just one day at a time.  But whether it was to celebrate something or to drown my sorrows, or yes, to battle whatever stress factors were attacking me at the time, I knew that booze could no longer be my go-to. Not unless I wanted to continue the downward spiral and destructive path that my disease had me on.

There will inevitably be periods of stress in our lives.  I mentioned some healthy ways to deal with them: yoga, exercise, meditation. But how do we remember to do those things when we are so stressed out? Or how to we make time for them when time constraints add to our stress in the first place??   It’s so clear to me now that I am sober how awful drinking was for trying to combat stress. While it provided a very temporary reprieve, when I threw caution to the wind and simply enjoyed the buzz, the resulting hangover and usual aftermath almost always somehow increased my stress level.

I often spent the morning trying to piece together what I had done the night before, sometimes having no recollection whatsoever. I missed appointments, commitments or meetings because I was too hungover to keep them.  I often had to lie, either to cover up idiotic, drunken decisions or behavior, or to try to hide how much I was suffering from the effects of my drinking. Many times, I would act extra chipper on those mornings when my head was pounding and I fought the feeling of having to throw up.  I didn’t want my husband, children or work colleagues to know how badly I was hurting. Does lying contribute to stress? I’ll let you answer that.

Fast forward to today. During the long period of feeling like absolute crap this past year, now explained by my fibromyalgia diagnosis, many people commented to me about how amazed they were that I managed to stay so positive and keep a smile on my face (definitely not always, but I tried).  I relished in the miracle that throughout all the anger, frustration, exhaustion, illness and disappointment, I had learned, and I knew, that a drink would not make it the least bit better.  In fact, I finally understood that it would have just the opposite effect.  Because it wouldn’t be just  “a” drink.  It would be many.  Once I open that can of worms, it would be all downhill from there.  All the hard work, out the window.

So I am slowly making my way back to yoga, which helped me immensely when I first got sober almost 6 ½ years ago.  I’m better at listening to my body and taking it easy when I have to.   I have also incorporated a daily meditation practice into my routine, which has made a huge difference in how I handle and manage stress. Frankly, a huge difference in how I handle life in general.  Very grateful to a dear friend who encouraged this and walks the walk beautifully.  I’m gradually getting back to the gym and trying to exercise.  All of which will be huge factors in combating my fibromyalgia.

But my one, consistent fall-back and most powerful weapon against stress is the Serenity Prayer. Is it something I can control or do something about?  If it isn’t, I remind myself to let it go.  To turn it over.  And it never hurts to have that simple, powerful reminder:  breathe.

“Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure.” —Oprah Winfrey

 

 

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