55. Never Give Up

Never,  never,  ever give up!  Never.  You never know what will happen.  The extraordinary happens everyday, everywhere.  When I was a kid,  we had a dog,  named Pup.  I was four years old and my family was moving from an older house that my dad had inherited,  to a new house that my dad and grandfather had built.  I don’t know the details,  but for whatever reason,  my parents gave our dog to some friends of my dad’s who lived in a nearby town. Now when I say nearby,  I don’t mean just down the road.  I mean,  several miles away.   For those of you who live near me,  we lived outside of Greensboro,  and the friends lived out past Memorial Park,  in New Castle.  I know that the friends just loved our dog,  and took very good care of him, even feeding him meals of steak instead of dog food.  Or,  at least that’s how the story goes.  I was after all only four years old,  so I don’t remember the particulars,  this is what I was told.  After some amount of time,  our dog ran away from his new home.  He was gone, I believe, for an entire year.  The new owners had searched for him,  but had finally given up.  Then,  one day,  Pup showed up at our new house!  It had taken him an entire year to find us,  but he did it!  I can’t imagine what he had been through in that year!  He certainly must have felt like he would never find us.  He must have thought about giving up (if dogs contemplate much). But, he never gave up, and he made it back to us!  Needless to say,  we kept him with us.  Maybe his new family found another dog.

There are plenty of stories about people who have defied the odds and miraculous things have happened to them,  when they so easily could have given up.  Author,  Bernie Siegel,  has written several books filled with stories of such miracles.  I read many of his books years ago,  soon after my diagnosis of ALS, and those stories kept me going.  They gave me the inspiration to keep going and not give up. They reminded me that miraculous things happen to everyday people,  all the time.  We just don’t hear about those stories on the nightly news.  Sure,  you might hear of one every once in a while.  They have to add in one positive story at the end of the news,  to balance out the twenty minutes of bad news stories.  But,  I know there are enough amazing stories out there to fill the nightly news each and every night!

Whatever it is you want to accomplish,  set your sights on the having of it,  and know that it will happen.  Once you’ve decided what you want,  go on with your life and just wait for it to show up in your life.  That’s not to say you shouldn’t work to try to make it happen,  but don’t stress and worry about it.  Just follow the path presented to you and it will all work out.  It may not happen on your time line.  Meaning,  it may take the Universe a bit longer to bring it to you than you would like,  but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.  Never give up.  Never give up. And never, under any circumstances, face the facts. - Ruth Gordon

 

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53. Focus

Focus.  It sounds easy enough,  right?  Just focus in a positive direction. Focus on what you want. It can be anything at all.  Health,  wealth,  a new job,  love,  etc…  Imagine,  if you will,  a wheel.  Now,  let me just say,  I didn’t come up with any of this.  I am just sharing what I have heard.  Imagine writing in the center of that wheel something that you want.  I don’t mean write down,  I want a million dollars.  Something that you want to improve upon.  I mean write what you really, really want.  If you are like me,  The Spice Girls song is now floating through your mind,

So, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want
So tell me what you want, what you really, really want
I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want
So tell me what you want, what you really, really want
I wanna, (ha) I wanna, (ha) I wanna, (ha) I wanna, (ha)
I wanna really, really, really wanna zigazig ah.

Ok,  got it?  Example.  If you really,  really want to be very, very good at your job,  write this in the center of your wheel.  Then,  you will fill in the spokes of your wheel.  First,  find something that you already believe about what it is that you want.  That is the key.  You should definitely believe it.  So, you would not write,  If I am good at my job, I will get a promotion.  Because,  you most likely don’t believe you will get a promotion.  You might want one,  but you don’t believe you’ll get it.  Let’s say maybe you write,  that you enjoy getting better at something.  Or,  that you like learning more about your job.  Write this on the first spoke of your wheel.  The next spoke might be,  I like my job.  The third spoke,  maybe,  I know I will get better at my job in time (remember,  it should be something you believe).  The next spoke,  may be,  I’m looking forward to improving in my job.  The next spoke,  I’m excited about how improving in my job might lead to new and exciting things.  You go on and on until all the spokes of your wheel are filled with things that you believe about the thing that you want.  You may notice,  as you read through your list,  that you suddenly feel a lot better about the thing that you want so very much.  You may feel like it not so out of reach anymore.  You might notice that you feel better about what you want than you thought you did.

All of this will lead to you feeling good,  and when you feel good about what you want,  and are thinking positive thoughts about it,  instead of negative worrying type of thoughts,  then you will be more likely to end up getting what you want.  Feeling good is really what it is all about.  You can have everything you ever wanted,  but if you don’t feel good about life,  then all of that doesn’t matter.  You can have very little,  but if you feel good about your life,  then you don’t care about what you don’t have.

You can write your wheel down on a sheet of paper, or you can just do it in your head if you want to.  It may take some time.  It’s not a magic trick that works over night.  But,  it works over time.  So, whenever you start thinking those negative thoughts about what you want,  start your wheel, and start feeling better about the things you want!

50. Expect To Live

I remember when the neurologist told me that I had ALS and what it was, and what that meant.  He said there was no cure.  I asked how long I had left, he told me that the typical life expectancy was just 2-5 years.  I was in shock and didn’t know what to think, or do, or say.  I remember my first thought was, if I only had a few years left, I was not going to spend them working 40+ hours a week, I was going to spend my time with my kids and my husband, my family. After some time had passed, I remember being extremely angry that this was happening to me. I remember talking to God about how unfair it was to have two children and to be told that I would not be able to see them grow up. The more I talked and the more I thought about it, the angrier I got. Until I found myself telling God, NO! Not really no to God, but no to the doctors predictions about my life expectancy. I don’t mean a, no, I don’t want this to happen kind of no. I mean a, no, that you feel with every fiber of your being. I refused to leave my kids and miss out on everything! From that day on, without even realizing what a difference it would make in my life, I just expected to live! I didn’t think about the typical ALS progression. I spent any spare time reading stories about people who had defied the odds and survived serious, and even terminal, illnesses. I kept the positive attitude going as much as possible by finding other like-minded people who had ALS.  People who also believed that doctors are not always right. Just because they tell you that you have a limited amount of time left to live, doesn’t mean you have to follow their prediction. People not waiting on a cure,  but looking for their own cure.  Trying alternative treatments,  to help slow their progression and prolong their lives.  

Shifting from anticipating death,  to expecting to live,  was a life altering piece of the puzzle in surviving a terminal illness.  It was the most important piece and the first piece in a huge puzzle that I am still working on,  and will never finish.  But,  I feel like I am straying into another topic,  so back to expectations…

Expect to live.  It will be the best thing you ever do.  When you expect to die, you stop planning for the future.  You stop looking forward to things.  You stop living life, and you start just existing.  Existing is not living.  It is not enjoying.  Don’t wait until you feel better to have a fun and full life. Just like you can’t wait until you retire to have fun,  and enjoy life.  Don’t wait until you are healthy.  Live your life and have as much fun as possible.  I’m not saying it will be easy,  you can still have bad days,  and you may not even feel like getting out of bed,  you may not be able to get out of bed, but make the most of every day, every moment.   Fun for me is just leaving the house, and going anywhere,  even Wal-Mart.  Fun can be having my daughter come see me,  or a friend. Fun can be working on my blog.  Find your own definition of fun,  and start enjoying your life now.  Even if you aren’t healthy,  you can still be happy.

One of Dr Phil’s famous quotes comes to mind, “How’s that workin’ out for ya”? Well, going on twenty years later, I would have to say, pretty well!

46. Do Nothing

At some point you have probably said,  or thought,  that you wished you had a day to just sit and do nothing.  What you really mean,  is to be able to do whatever you want,  not actually nothing.  Doing nothing is a lot harder than you would think.  I do a lot of nothing.  ALS and nothing go hand in hand.

I am currently on vacation, traveling out West in our motor home. Riding in the motor home or a car for me, means a lot of sitting,  not moving at all, and basically doing nothing.  I can’t scroll through Facebook,  no eating or drinking.  No reading a book.  Nothing. Well, with a lot of planning and time spent to set things up, I could probably use my phone, or read, but it hasn’t happened yet. Things are especially arduous when riding in the motor home, because the driver and passenger seats are so far apart.  There is no way my husband can reach me to help with anything when he is driving. If hair blows into my face,  it stays there.  If I get thirsty, I have to wait until we stop. If a bug lands on me, it stays there until it decides to move. There also isn’t much talking going on. Between the noise of the road, my quiet voice and my husbands hearing loss, there’s no chance of a conversation. That being said, I generally do like our motor home. I have found that if I have some music (that I like)  to listen to, I can sit just doing nothing besides listening to the music, for hours on end. Music helps the hours spent doing nothing while my husband is driving, fly by.

I did a lot of nothing when I was young, walking through the woods and fields around my house. I could wander around for hours with my dog doing nothing.

Many people meditate to take a break and do nothing. My dog seems to be quite good at doing nothing. He’s happy to do very little too. It seems much easier for animals to do nothing than for people. I remember when I was a teenager, trying to lay out in the sun to get a tan. There wasn’t much chance of that happening. After about ten minutes, I had to get up and do something, I was bored.

Quieting your mind and doing nothing is good for you in many different ways. It helps your body and mind, as well as your soul. So, do what you can to practice doing nothing as often as you can. You don’t have to buy a motorhome and go on vacation, to do nothing, but I would definitely recommend it!

44. Find Your Happy Place

What thoughts make you happiest?  Which places make you happy?  Do you have a space you can go to that makes you happy?  Find your happy place.  I have a selection of happy memories I can go visit anytime I want to.  A memory of holding my toddler on my lap and rocking her to sleep.  Memories of walking through the field behind my house where I grew up.  I walked through the field and woods with my dog almost every day in the summertime when I was a kid.  When I want to visit a happy place in my mind,  I remember my grandparents house.  I can remember every detail,  from the smell of motor oil wafting through the air as I would turn the brass doorknob to enter the garage,  to the smell of Wrigley’s peppermint gum filling the buffet cabinet where my grandmother kept her purse.  I can remember entering my grandparents house and I can remember the details of every room of their home,  the color of every wall,  and floor,  the sounds of the birds outside that I heard every morning when I woke up,  and the smell of every room.  What are your happiest memories?

Do you have a space in your house that makes you happy?  My chaise lounge chair is where I spend most of my time,  so I have around me some of my favorite things.   From my chair I can see the Jesus statue (my daughter calls him my Hippy Jesus, because his fingers are raised,  she thinks it looks like he’s giving the peace sign), that sat on my grandparents fireplace mantel as long as I can remember.  The clock that my grandfather made,  sits in front of me.  A few of my father’s,  and great grandfather’s marbles decorate the edge of my fireplace mantel.   I can see my bird feeders from my seat,  and the many beautiful birds that visit everyday.  Especially in the summer time,  with my windows open,  I can sit and watch and listen to them,  and smell the fresh air, and feel the warm breeze flowing through my room.  It is easy to be happy in the moment.  You should carve out at least one little corner of your home that you can go to and feel a sense of comfort,  and joy.

How about a song you love?  Or,  maybe music from a particular band or person.  Music has the power to make you almost instantly happy,  or sad,  depending on what songs you listen to,  and what they mean to you.

Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life. ~Berthold Auerbach

Everyone needs a happy place, or happy memory to think about when things aren’t going the way you would like them to.  A memory or place you can go that instantly brings you back into feeling happy,  or joyful.  To feeling good.  When you are having a bad day at work,  or whenever you are,  go somewhere private and think about your happiest memories.  They will make you forget about your problems for a few minutes,  and you will feel so much better.

 

 

 

42. Feel Good Today

Take a break from whatever is bothering you, and feel good today.   Forget about your problems for just one day,  or one hour,  if that’s all you can handle right now.  Even one minute.  Maybe start with one minute and then go for two minutes,  then five or ten minutes.  Work your way up from there.  Just focus on feeling good.  Focus on any thoughts that feel good.  If you have pain in your back,  and you think,  oh my back hurts so bad!  That thought doesn’t do anything to help you feel better, does it?  When you are thinking the thought,  it may feel accurate,  but it doesn’t make you feel better.  But,  let’s say you instead think,  oh,  wouldn’t it be nice if I woke up tomorrow and my back felt better.  Doesn’t that thought,  in itself just feel like a better thought?  Your back probably won’t feel any better in that moment,  but the thought of it feeling better at some point in the future feels good.  Pay attention to your thoughts,  because whatever you are thinking about is what finds its way into your life.  If you are constantly thinking about things you don’t like,  things you don’t like will constantly be introduced into your life.

When you are having money issues,  specifically not enough money.  Try,  just for a couple of minutes,  thinking good thoughts about money.  Did you ever notice how it seems so easy for people with a lot of money to make more money?  Maybe it’s because they are focusing on their abundance of money,  so they are attracting more money.   I know,  it’s easier said than done to feel good about money when you have none,  but that is what you need to do. When you think about how you have so little money and how you wish you could have more,  you are concentrating on your lack of money.  Instead,  try thinking in terms of the positive.  Don’t think about how you wish you didn’t have so many bills,  because you are still focusing on the lack of money to pay the bills,  and the debt.  Instead,  think about how nice it would feel if you had all the money you needed to pay all of your bills off.  Doesn’t that thought,  in itself feel better?

You know if a thought feels good or bad by the way you feel when you think it.  If you’re thinking about how tired you are and how you have so much to do that you’ll never get done,  your stomach may feel a little tight,  or upset,  or maybe you get a pain in your back,  or your head might start to pound a little.  There will be some sign that your body isn’t in love with that thought.   But,  if you are thinking about how great it will feel to get home and see what your kids are doing,  or maybe how great it will be to finish up that project you have been meaning to work on,  how you will feel relieved when you have finished and will feel a sense of accomplishment.  Those are good feeling thoughts,  and your body may feel relaxed,  or you may feel happy,  or content.  You might find yourself excited to get started on your project.  Feel the difference?

Try to take some baby steps in just beginning to notice what thoughts you are thinking.  Replace those negative thoughts with happier,  positive thoughts and feelings.   Always think in terms of the positive instead of the negative.  If you don’t want something to happen,  don’t think over and over again about how you don’t want it to happen,  because you are still focused on what you don’t want.  Instead,  focus on what you do want!  If you wish that you wouldn’t get the flu this year,  but you keep thinking about how you don’t want to get the flu.  You get your flu shot,  and you really hope it works.  You notice when anyone at your work is absent,  and wonder if they caught the flu.  You hear about how many people have been diagnosed with the flu that week on the news.  You think well maybe you won’t get it.  And,  then after two or three months of this,  guess what,?  You get the flu!  Or,  maybe you don’t.  But,  I believe that your chances are a lot better that you don’t get sick,  if you were to simply switch your focus to the hope of being healthy, and feeling good.  Don’t think about the flu at all.  Think in terms of the positive (health),  instead of the negative (flu).

If you have a bad day at work,  and on your drive home you continue to go over everything in your mind that went wrong in your day,  you will continue to feel bad,  even though your work day is over.  Instead,  try to find some happier thoughts to focus on. Maybe you could think about how good it will feel to get home.  Maybe just focus on how good it feels to be driving and not at work.  Maybe you can turn on the radio and focus on nothing except driving and the music playing.  Those would all be better feeling thoughts than thoughts about your bad day.

I recently had a weird freak type of accidental thing happen to me.  I was sitting in my chaise lounge chair with my computer on my table in front of me,  and surfing the internet when the sun hit our truck outside and was suddenly shining directly into my eyes.  I use an eyegaze system to control my computer, and it quit working because of the sun hitting my eyes.  I bent my head this way and that,  trying to get it to work,  and suddenly found myself with my head slumped forward and my chin on my chest.  My neck muscles weren’t strong enough to lift my head up.  I was stuck.  I had my computer right there,  but couldn’t see it enough to type.  I had my phone,  but because my chin was on my chest,  I couldn’t talk enough to ask Siri to call anyone.  My husband was outside mowing.  All I could do was wait.  I could have spiraled into thoughts about how much my neck was beginning to hurt,  and how long I might have to wait until my husband came back inside.  But, I tried to stay positive.  I thought that the situation was the perfect opportunity to try a little meditation.   I never seem to be able to find time for it,  so I gave that a go.  Then, after a full two minutes of meditation (I’m guessing),  I tried thinking about how good I would feel when I heard the lawnmower pull up to the garage.  I thought about the relief I would feel when this was all over.  How good I would feel when I heard my husband open the door to the utility room,  and then the door to the hall way.  I focused on how good it would feel when he lifted my head back up.  Did any of that help to get my head up any faster?   No.   But, you know what?  The time I spent with my head stuck in a horribly uncomfortable position went by amazingly quickly.  It was an hour and ten minutes.  It felt more like twenty minutes.   I also feel like I recovered really well from the whole ordeal.  Normally any fall or accident like that would affect me for days.  This time, not so much.  So, my positive attitude made all the difference.  And,  it gave me a good ending to my blog post!   Try to think in the positive,  no matter what is going on in your life right now,  and see if it makes a difference for you too!

 

40. Life Is Good

Life is good.  My life is pretty great,  except for that bothersome ALS  thing.  I have a wonderful husband,  who I’ve known for over half my life.  I have two great daughters,  and their boyfriends are awesome.  I have great families all in all, on all sides.  Not perfect,  but mostly great.

Life is good.  I always have enough money to do whatever I want (well, within reason).  And,  if I don’t have the money I need,  the Universe sends some my way in cash, or through some other means.  I mean, I doubt I could ever afford a mansion or a yacht or anything, but lucky for me, I don’t really want one.

Life is good.  I’ve inherited an appreciation for all things from Mother Nature.  Including everything with no more than four legs (eek!).  My grandfather was an excellent gardener,  and grew beautiful roses.   I would work in my yard/garden every day,  if I could.

Life is good.  Luckily I inherited an appreciation for the arts (both art and music),  and some artistic ability,  from both sides of my family.   I have a great-uncle who is a wonderful artist,  and who actually began a college of art.  He once owned one of the largest looms in existence,  and was going to give it to me,  but I had no room large enough for it!   I have famous musicians in my family.  They are awesome and I would say that at least one of them is maybe a little eccentric,  as most musicians are, which makes them even more cool.  I strive to be unique.  I hope one day someone,  somewhere will say, “Oh yea,  I remember her,  she’s sort of eccentric.”

Life is good.  My husband and I are at a point in our lives where we just do what we want.  We recently bought an RV,  and are going to start traveling anywhere and everywhere we can drive.  We started with a trip out West last year,  and we’re heading back there soon again this year.

That’s not to say that I don’t have bad days,  or that things don’t go wrong in my life.  If one thing,  like a furnace quits,  you can bet something else will quit too.  Recently,  our generator on the RV quit,  causing the cancellation of a month-long trip to Florida.  Soon after that our furnace quit,  and the transmission on the truck started giving out.  Everything all at once!  But,  I find something to be grateful for, and move on.  This time,  I was grateful that we were not in Florida when our furnace gave out in the middle of the winter.  It would’ve been disastrous to be gone,  probably returning to broken water pipes, and who knows what else.  We also happened to avoid some nasty tornadoes that hit the town in Georgia which we had planned to stay in on our way back from Florida.  Someone was looking out for us!  I think someone,  or a lot of someone’s,  know that I need all the help I can get,  and make sure I get it!

Life can be good,  no matter what is happening to you!  Nelson Mandela spent years in prison,  but managed to remain as content as he possibly could.  This poem by William Earnest Henley,  helped him face each new day with strength.

 Invictus

Out of the night that covers me, 
      Black as the pit from pole to pole, 
I thank whatever gods may be 
      For my unconquerable soul. 
In the fell clutch of circumstance 
      I have not winced nor cried aloud. 
Under the bludgeonings of chance 
      My head is bloody, but unbowed.  
Beyond this place of wrath and tears 
      Looms but the Horror of the shade, 
And yet the menace of the years 
      Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate, 
      How charged with punishments the scroll, 
I am the master of my fate, 
      I am the captain of my soul. 

If you can forget about your problems for even a few seconds,  you will feel much better.  If you can forget for a few seconds,  you can change your outlook and your reaction.

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” – Epictetus

If you need a little push in the direction of happiness,  you can always listen to a great song.  You can’t help but smile and forget about your problems for at least a couple of minutes,  when The Muppets from Sesame Street and The Roots are singing a song!  Life is good!

 

15. Music, Music, Music 

Crank it up! Music has the ability to lift your mood like nothing else, except maybe those cute kitten Youtube videos. It can transport you into the past, to a time when you felt happiness, love, friendship, sadness (just skip those songs), etcetera. Play some old tunes from your high school years, and I guarantee you’ll instantly tap your foot and sing along! Once I learn the lyrics to a song, they seem to be permanently etched into my brain, unlike all those facts I spent so many hours trying to memorize in school.

I think I got my love of music from my grandmother because she loved to listen to everything under the sun, and I do too. I don’t fit into the target audience for Katy Perry or Awolnation, but I love their music. My kids are probably just happy I couldn’t drive them anywhere and embarrass them with my music selections.  Although, I don’t always enjoy the music they choose either.  I remember one day sitting on the porch  supervising my daughter doing yard work and I wondered how many people drove by and didn’t see her crouched down beside the car pulling weeds, and just saw me, heard her music, and thought I was the one jammin’ out to ,”You’re A Douche Bag”.

Live music is the best.  There really is nothing like a concert to make you forget about everything except the music you are listening to.  Singer/songwriter Michael Franti and his wife, Sara, know how much music can affect people in a positive way, and they created a foundation called, http://www.doitforthelove.org which gives concert tickets to anyone who is living with a serious illness.  Depending on the musician and their schedule, sometimes they can arrange for a “meet and greet” with the musician, as well as free concert tickets.  If you are able to donate to their foundation, do it!  I went to an awesome concert to see John Mellencamp last year, thanks to “Do It For The Love ” foundation.  I try catch a concert or two every summer.  This summer, I’ll see Alice Cooper, ZZ Top, and Arlo Guthrie. 

Whenever you are feeling down, give it a try. Listening to your favorite songs or finding new music is so easy now, no CD (or album or 8 track or cassette tape, depending on your age) purchase required,  Thanks to internet sites like Amazon Music, or Spotify (or many others), Just type in the name of your favorite artist or song,
and let the musical healing begin!