Friday, June 22, 2012

Healthy Mind, Healthy Body

Affirmation: I invite God’s divine healing light into my mind, body and spirit creating a state of total well-being.

One day someone asked me if I liked my body.  I said "no."  Afterwards, I was so disappointed.  I've been affirming for years how much I value my body but my gut reaction to the question in no way reflected my intention. Not only am I an integral part of American society with all the hang-ups presented to us through the media about the female image, I have also had quite a bit of pain, not to mention, cancer.  I haven’t always felt safe in my body, especially after breast cancer.  I mean I was feeling great.  I wasn’t sick and then “boom” and I was now being operated on, chemoed and radiated!

During one of my visits to my Chiropractor our discussion turned to healing one's self. She spoke to me about how the beliefs we have concerning our health have a direct impact on our state of well being, or ill being.  She and her assistant have a practice they use to make life changes.  She explained that not only did she find a phrase or sentence to affirm the desired change, but they also took time to visualize it.  I left with a new found sense of power.  I had been struggling for years with this sense of anxiety about my health and especially with a sore hip and here I was being told, I could change that by thinking differently about it.  I've been practicing affirmations for years but truth to tell, I never thought about re-framing the ache in my hip. 

Then, I was led to re-read John Sarno's book: Healing Back Pain.  There it was again, the same message.  How you think about your body, your health, has a direct effect on its state.  At one point in the book, Dr. Sarno says that you either believe the theory or you embrace it simply because you're so desperate for relief.  I happen to fall into the first category. I know one must be careful believing we are fully responsible for everything that happens to us. It can lead to a blame the victim mentality. But, I choose to think I am responsible for almost everything that happens to me.  However, sometimes forces beyond our control overcome our best intentions. Believing that can be scary but it also takes away the blame.  I read where people who think of themselves as resilient have fewer health problems.  I wonder if they have fewer problems all together.  After talking to my chiropractor and re-evaluating how I visualized my body, I decided it was time to change my thinking and so, I came up with the above affirmation.  Oh, there's much more to it.  I tell myself I am strong, resilient, flexible, and powerful, any words that affirm this body in a positive light.  When I took the time to closely examine how I could feel about my body, I realized I was only focusing on the negative and had totally neglected the positive aspects; like the fact that most of my body does not hurt, or that I have produced the miracle of three healthy children.  My body is a miracle unto itself.  I understand so little of how it operates but it does; most of it is in good working order, miraculously. So, I am making a very conscious effort to value my body, to believe in its ability to heal itself, to be strong and healthy.  I believe it begins by loving it.

An article in USA Today talked about a study done to help women increase their sexual desire.  Apparently there are many many women who are interested in this because this study involved several hundred of them.  As in most studies there was a control group.  This group was told they were taking a "magic" elixir which would do all they would hope it would do.  It was however a placebo.  Can you guess what happened?  Most of these women had a definite increase in their level of desire.  This study took place over several months and their levels did not decrease.  I don't know if they were ever told it was a placebo and for all I know they are all still out there enjoying themselves without knowing it’s all in their minds.  And, that’s just the point. What else is just in our minds?  What else can we change to our benefit by simply believing it is true?  That's the purpose and secret of positive affirmations; say it as if it already is; believe it as if it's already true.  Fake it until you make it!  It's without a doubt a great way to live your life.  Sexy?  Well, if that's one of your intentions, go for it.  If hundreds of women can feel that way by simply taking a sugar pill, certainly it's available to those of us who decide to choose to believe it to be true.

The message is clear.  How you think has a direct impact on how you feel.  So, the next time someone asks me if I love my body I know I will say, “yes.”  I affirm:  "I have an awesome body.  I invite God's divine healing light into my mind, body and spirit; creating a state of total well being." 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Love and Grief

Affirmation: We are spiritual beings having a human experience.

What do you think happens after someone dies?  
It’s interesting that we here in America seem to act like death isn’t a reality.  I often get the impression that most American’s simply avoid the topic.  I wonder if most people believe that as long as they don’t think about it or talk about it, it won’t happen.  

My dad, Frank Grolimund, died when I was 34.  He was 62.  He died from a glioblastoma brain tumor.  At the time, I didn’t recognize how young we both were.  Now that my age has passed his by several years, I am fully aware of how young he was.  The diagnosis was a mystery to us and to him.  They did the surgery and then we had one meeting with his doctor who explained to us that my dad would be alright for a short while and then the tumor would return.  He didn’t explain what that meant but we knew it wasn’t a good thing.  He never told us, “He’s going to die.”  I’m not sure we would have heard him or believed him.  My dad was not in the room for this conference and no one came to offer us guidance about how to deal with all this.  He died about 18 months after the surgery.  His death had a profound effect on my life.  I don’t think I ever stopped thinking about death after he died.  He had such a zest for life.  It was remarkable!  He was my hero and I loved him dearly.  It’s been over 30 years and it still makes my heart ache that he’s no longer on this earth.  

My father-in-law also died of a glioblastoma brain tumor.  It was 20 years later but not much had changed except now we knew what it was and we knew what the doctor meant when he told us after the surgery that it would return.  I, for one, had no doubt about what the doctor was telling us.  My father-in-law, Joe Costa, fought a valiant battle with his wife, Yolanda next to him every step of the way.  He too died about 18 months after his diagnosis.  He too was a remarkable man very much loved by his family and many friends.

Yes, I have many other friends and relatives who have died but these two men were dearest to me.  My father’s death left me with a sense of urgency.  I fully recognized that I didn’t want to miss a thing.  I also don’t put many dreams on hold.  One of the questions in my monthly review is, “What did you want to do that you didn’t get to do?”  I must admit most months I don’t have an answer to the question.  Most months if I had something I wanted to do, I went and did it.  I know there may not be a next month.  That was the gift I was left with after my father’s death.  I was left with an awareness of how important life is today.  I’ve been gifted with the appreciation of the people I love and how fragile their existences are.  

Sometimes there are concentrated periods of time when death is more present than others.  There was one two week period in my life when I received notice of two friends dying, the mother of another friend & the sister-in-law of another.  During that time, I was also invited to sing for our church’s Resurrection Choir.  The funeral was for a 75 year old woman.  I kept it together until the dead woman’s daughter hugged her father and the deceased’s husband of 57 years.  57 years!  That’s a lifetime.  How does one go on?  How do widows and widowers do it?  How do parents who lose a child continue to live?  

I did my Masters in Social Work training at Hospice of Wake County.  I was one of the bereavement counselors.  I had been a patient care volunteer for years and was very excited to be accepted into their organization.  What I observed during my time with Hospice and have continued to see is that people heal from grief.  Some people heal more quickly than others but at some point people get back to living their lives. It’s actually one of the Five Stages of Grief, first introduced by Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross in her book On Death and Dying.  It’s the last stage, “acceptance.”  

In the Irish movie, A Shine of Rainbows a widower is left with the care of a young boy that his wife was in the process of adopting.  The young woman who dies loved color.  She herself had red hair and bright green eyes and she wore bright rainbow colored clothing and decorated her home with lots of bright colors.  One day the young boy comes home from school to a house denuded of all the woman’s things.  The husband has gathered them all together and is burning them.  The young boy runs to the fire and saves his “mom’s” favorite scarf.  They grieved in two very different ways.  One was trying to erase all his memories (which, of course, one cannot do) and the other was trying to hold onto all of them (which, of course, one cannot do).  Eventually, they find healing.  They find it by sharing the love they both have for their dead loved one.  They come full circle and you can see them entering the final stage of grief, healing is taking place.

That was the wonderful part of being a bereavement counselor,  I could see people heal.  It left me with such a sense of hope.  There are so many strong, brave, loving people who have suffered such loss and grief but who manage to continue to live full, rich lives.  It’s inspirational.  

For me, the greatest gift my faith has given me is a belief in the afterlife or perhaps a better phrase is the eternal-life.  I believe we are pure spirit and while our bodies die, our spirits live on.  In The Power of Positive Thinking, Norman Vincent Peale writes, “Another profoundly curative element in the prescription for heartache is to gain a sound and satisfying philosophy of life and death and deathlessness.  When I gained the unshakable belief that there is no death, that all life is indivisible, that the here and the hereafter are one, that time and eternity are inseparable, that this is one unobstructed universe, then I found the most satisfying and convincing philosophy of my entire life.”  I too believe as he does.  While the heartache of losing a loved one can be unbearable, the belief that they are not gone, but in a place I cannot yet be, brings me comfort and with that comfort, acceptance.  

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Who Would You Die For?

Affirmation: I recognize and fully appreciate who and what are important to me in my life.

The story was about Greg Gadson, a lieutenant colonel with the Second Battalion and 32nd Field Artillery.   He was stationed in Bagdad when his vehicle hit a roadside bomb.  He remembers being placed on a stretcher with his severed feet in his lap.  The next time he was conscious both his legs had been amputated above the knees.  The picture in the paper showed a broad shouldered strong looking man with shorts on and two artificial legs.  The story went on to say that he had recently been given a role in the movie Battleship.  His inspirational journey to healing had brought him fame.  But, his journey wasn't just focused on himself; he had a message, a mission statement that he had developed through his challenge back to wholeness and he was sharing it with other service members.  His message is, "Whenever you have a formidable task, instead of looking up, look down.  Literally take it one step at a time.  You'll be overwhelmed by the broader view." I was inspired but I was also surprised by this statement.  It seemed to me that he would be very hesitant to look down.  The article went on to say that this amazing man didn't show one ounce of self pity.  Wow!

I've often wondered how I would respond, who I would be in times of great challenge.  I've always wanted to believe I'd be a heroine, that I would act honorably and bravely.  Certainly, I've had challenges in my life and mostly I've responded with courage and integrity but when I read stories about people like Greg Gadson, I do find myself wondering "what if that happened to me?" There are so many tales of amazing people who have made extraordinary efforts to help others at great cost to themselves, for some it has cost them their lives.  These people are not all past heroes, there are many with us today.  There is so much to be learned from them.

In my Small Christian Community we often discuss the great sacrifice made by Jesus Christ to lead us to a different, broader, more loving perception of God the Father.  Often, the question arises "Who would you die for?" And, I find myself thinking about all our soldiers who have given their lives for us, in most cases for total strangers.

My oldest daughter is an amazing mother.  She's exceptionally young looking.  She's always looked much younger than her years. (I like to think she got that quality from me!)  She was engaged when she was in her early 20's.  One day we went to the local department store to shop for a few wedding accessories.  The saleswoman was shocked when we told her we were there for my daughter's wedding.  She said to my daughter in an indignant tone, "How old are you?" I smiled because I knew she was going to be amazed by the answer, in fact I'm not sure she believed us.  The reason I'm sharing this story is because when my grand-daughter started school, the teacher took a very superior attitude towards my daughter.  She really thought she was a child raising a child but my daughter was older than she realized and much much wiser than she ever imagined.  When it comes to her children, my daughter is like a mother bear.  You do not want to mess with her and I'm really proud of her for that.  Not that she dismisses the concerns of the teachers but she carefully examines their reactions to her children and demands a nonpartisan, professional attitude from them, as she should.  I mention this because most mothers will do whatever it takes to protect their children.

I took a one night self defense class many years ago and was instructed to "bite the nose off" of my attacker.  All the women in the class moaned in disgust.  Then the instructor said "Make believe he's attacking your daughter." The entire atmosphere then changed.  There was not one woman there who wasn't ready to do whatever it took to make sure their child was safe.  I've never watched Sophie's Choice.  I know the premise of the story was she had to choose which of her children would live and who would die.  I can't even imagine such a situation and I don't want to watch someone have to make such a decision but many people are faced with impossible decisions many of which I hope I'm never faced with.

The question not only revolves around "who?" but "what?". "What would you die for?" "What do you hold so precious that you would give up your life?"  The young men and women who serve in our armed forces hold our way of life here in America so precious that they are willing to die for it.  I don't fully agree with all of the wars America has chosen to participate in.  I'm not sure how I would have responded to being drafted to fight in Vietnam.  It was one more decision I wasn't faced with.  But, we have lost so many young, very young, men and women to so many conflicts.  It's heartbreaking.

I was sitting in a waiting room at UNC hospital one day when a young man in uniform walked in.  I watched in awe and with a sense of shame as one of the other women who was also waiting, got up and went over to the soldier and simply said "thank you." Thank  you!  I found it to be such a powerful gesture.  I haven't let a soldier pass me by since then without stopping them and saying "thank you."

What is the message here?  All of us have something or someone we are willing to die for.  And, all of us have something or someone we are willing to lived for.  It's important to know, to take the time to recognize what's important to you.  It's nice to have the luxury of not being in a horrible situation before you find out what or who they are.  Think about it and maybe you'll be able to fully recognize and appreciate who and what are of the greatest importance in your life and be grateful while you still have the time to say "thank you."