70. Have Fun!

Whatever is going on in your life, don’t forget to have fun!  Fun is really what it’s all about.  Well, not totally, but I believe it’s meant to be a big part of your life.  Somehow fun gets lost in the midst of all the learning we do in school, and in the midst of the myriad of rules we learn to follow as we grow up.  What better time of the year to have fun than in this time of so many holidays, in December.  I’m sure there are more, but here are just a few of the days that are celebrated in December:

  • Saint Nicholas Day (Christian)
  • Fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Mexican)
  • St. Lucia Day (Swedish)
  • Hanukkah (Jewish)
  • Christmas Day (Christian)
  • Three Kings Day/Epiphany (Christian)
  • Boxing Day (Australian, Canadian, English, Irish)
  • Kwanzaa (African American)
  • Omisoka (Japanese)
  • Yule (Pagan)
  • Saturnalia (Pagan

Everything in life should be as fun as possible.  Yes, everything!  I may not love having to go to the dentist or the doctors office, but I do love seeing my dentist and doctors.  I mean, checking in with them, to say hi for the year, and talk with them a little.  I make it fun, by rewarding myself for going with a trip to Starbucks, and maybe to a restaurant on the way home.  I guess that started when I was a kid.  If I went to the dentist for a check up and had a good report of no cavities, I got to go pick out something small I wanted at the store.  Usually, that would be a new outfit for my Barbie doll.  To have no cavities at my dentist was rare.  I found out years later that the first two dentists in my life were not the most reliably honest practitioners.  But, I do remember getting quite a few Barbie outfits, so maybe the rules of getting a present were not all that strict.

Everything should be fun, including work.  I mean, sometimes work is just work, but if you love what you do, then the bits you aren’t fond of will not be so bad.

Just because you don’t feel well, doesn’t mean you can’t still have fun.  Your idea of what’s fun might change, it might change drastically, but you can still have fun.  I think it’s fun to go to Wal-Mart now, something I only did out of necessity in years past.  I can have fun just sitting inside my house in my chaise, covered up and warm in the winter time, listening to Christmas music playing through my new Echo Dot, and working on my blog with the help of my eyegaze computer system (thanks Team Gleason).  A new thing I’ve discovered that is fun, is my Echo Dot.  I may never get everything figured out that it does, but I am having fun trying.

I have a friend who seems to have more fun the older she gets.  She has so much energy,  the fun never slows down for her!  I have an aunt and uncle who seem to have more than their fair share of fun, traveling every few months to some sunny destination!  They are doing things the way they were meant to be done, finding fun whenever and wherever possible.

Having fun makes your life less stressful.  You don’t worry as much about the troubles of the world when you are busy having fun.  It’s not that you don’t care, but you don’t worry.  Life seems just a little bit, or a lot, better when you are having fun.

What does this weeks video have to do with this blog post?  Nothing.  I just love the new album by John Prine.  Music is fun for me.  I inherited a love for it, and maybe even a little talent.  Find what makes your life fun, and enjoy it everyday!

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65. Unplug, Wake Up

Unplug.  Put down your phone,  close your laptop,  turn off the TV.  Unplugging is especially hard for someone who relies on technology for everything.  I can’t write this blog post without technology.  There are many people I know who can’t even talk to anyone without the use of their computer.  It’s much harder these days to take a break from electronics and just do nothing.  It was so much easier when I was a kid,  and I would just go for a walk for hours at a time.  I was lucky enough to live out in the country,  where your nearest neighbor was at least a quarter-mile away.  I had never heard of meditation,  but,  especially in the summer time,  I probably did a form of it everyday.   My dog and I would go for a walk almost everyday.  We would walk all through the fields and through the woods,  for hours.  We would pick flowers (well, one of us would).  We would pick berries (yes,  both of us).   Nowadays,  even when I try to meditate,  I use a computer or an app on my phone, or computer, with a guided meditation.  It’s called, Headspace, and I’d really recommend it, if you need a little help in that area.  I often find myself thinking of more things,  when I try not to think.  Does that make any sense?

In a world where multi-tasking is viewed as a positive attribute, unplugging can provide a much-needed break.  I used to pride myself in my ability to do many things at once,  and it especially came in handy at work.  Now,  I realize that it’s not necessarily a great thing.  Multi-tasking causes stress and migraines,  and leads to over working. Slowing down your brain is a good thing.  It leads to calm and peace and quiet.

If you can unplug for even a short amount of time, you will feel like you are more awake!  The things you have no time to notice are suddenly there again.  The world will look a little brighter.  The air might smell a little crisper.  Just take a tiny break.  See if you notice a difference.

63. Find Your Bliss

One thing a serious illness will do, is help you get your priorities straight.  The more serious the illness, the faster you figure out what you want to spend your time doing.  When I was diagnosed, I think it took me all of 10 minutes to decide I didn’t want to spend 40 hours a week working.  I turned in my two weeks notice almost immediately. That all changed though, after I had spent several weeks at home.  After working 40 hours a week, running errands, managing a household, taking care of two young children, etcetera, suddenly having an extra 47 ½ hours (work hours,  plus commute time) a week was a tough adjustment.  So, after realizing how much I enjoyed my work, when the opportunity to work 20 hours a week came along, I went back to my old job.  As my illness progressed, and things changed, so did my work schedule.  I was lucky enough to have a job where I could work part-time,  and fortunate to work for a company who eventually set me up to work from home.  That was back when working from home,  online,  was not such a common occurrence.  In the last few months of work, I worked as a consultant and just checked in weekly.  Finely leaving for the second time, five years later.

You will hopefully find yourself spending the minimal amount of time possible doing mundane everyday tasks. Maybe having a perfectly spotless house won’t seem so important anymore.  You might find yourself doing things you would probably never have done before.  You might just walk through the rain shower to get to your car at the back of the parking lot, instead of running through it.  You may discover that you enjoy the time to yourself as you mow the yard.  I found out that I really didn’t mind cleaning my house, but also didn’t want to spend all my time doing it.  Many people who are diagnosed with serious illness, especially one without an easy fix, start searching for alternative treatments,  which generally takes up a lot of time.

Find your bliss.  Do what makes you happy.  While we all have to the mundane everyday chores, don’t spend all your time on those tasks.  If you dread Monday’s because you don’t want to go to work, maybe you need a different job.  What’s that saying, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life”?  It’s true.  Dragging yourself to a job you hate day after day can literally drag you down. That means more sick days, and the chance for serious illnesses to creep into your life.  I think that’s why it’s possible for the barista at your local coffeehouse to live such a happy and healthy life, while the president of the local bank is dragging themselves out of bed and into that coffeehouse for a jolt of caffeine just to make it into their job at the bank around the corner.  They may be making more money, but the high stress job is making them unhappy.

The moral of this story, is that you don’t have to wait for an illness to strike before you take stock of your life and how much you are enjoying yourself.  Don’t wait.  Do it now.  Make changes if you need to, before you have to.    Follow your bliss.  The rest will take care of itself.  Just be happy, that’s really the most important thing there is in life.

56. Surviving

You know you are a survivor when it is the anniversary month of your diagnosis,  and you suddenly realize that you had forgotten all about it!  Happy Anniversary to me!  I was diagnosed with ALS 20 years ago this month.  I was supposed to have kicked the bucket, so to speak,  somewhere between twelve and fifteen years ago.  Needless to say,  doctors are not always right.  Don’t get me wrong,  I love my doctors (and I have several),  but they don’t know everything.  Just because you’re terminal doesn’t mean you can’t live a happy,  longer than expected life.

“At first I was afraid, I was petrified…”.  This snippet of the popular song by Gloria Gaynor must be read as if she was singing it to get the full effect.  A few days have made me think of this song,  the day I was diagnosed with ALS,  and the last inauguration day are two that come to mind.  That is one good thing about living with a serious illness, things that may have once seemed horrible or insurmountable, are no longer that big of a deal. Because, if you can live with/survive a serious illness, then you can easily live with/survive anything!  Not only will you survive, but you can be happy as well,  because being happy is a choice and has very little to do with what is going on around you.  You can’t know what you want,  until you know for sure what you don’t want.  Sure, you can think you don’t want to be ill,  but believe me,  once you are,  you really, really realize what you don’t and do want!  Not only in terms of what good health means,  but what is important in your life.  What you want to do for work.  Who you want to spend your time with,  etc… 

This blog post may be unusually short,  because this time I am keeping it short and sweet.  You can survive, whatever life throws at you,  and you can be happy doing it!  I am proof.  You’re welcome.

 

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!

52. It’s All About The Journey

Life is all about the journey.  Every time.  In every situation.  Whatever you are doing, the path to get there is always more important than the getting there.  What happens on your way is always more fun than the destination.  Or,  at least it should be.

I love,  love, love Christmas!  It is by far my favorite holiday.  I start the gift buying, usually in the summer.  Just one gift here and there,  whenever I run across something someone would really like.  I start decorating early.  Soon after Halloween,  I get out a few Christmas decorations.  I totally skip Thanksgiving.  I mean,  we celebrate Thanksgiving,  but aside from a family dinner and putting up a fall wreath,  I move right onto Christmas.  I really enjoy anything and everything about Christmas.  The music,  the decorations,  shopping for gifts, baking special Christmas cookies,  etc..  I used to love going to church on Christmas Eve (it’s hard for me to go out in winter now), because I loved the Christmas hymns.  I mean, I loved the whole evening, getting to see friends,  and hearing the message of Christmas,  but I especially loved the music.  However, when it’s the middle of December, the closer Christmas actually gets,  the more I want to slow it down,  because I know it will all be over in one short day.   It’s the journey that I enjoy so much,  not Christmas Day.

When you watch a movie or a television program,  it’s the figuring out of the who-dun-it that you enjoy,  not the actual answer to the mystery.   When you go on vacation,  you should enjoy the entire trip,  not just the beach,  or the museum,  or the restaurant,  or the tour you took,  but the entire trip.

So,  if you’re not enjoying yourself yet,  you should probably start really soon.  You can’t wait until you retire to start enjoying life,  or wait until you get the job you want,  or the house you want.  If you are sick, you shouldn’t even wait until you are feeling better to enjoy your life.  Start right now.   Slow down, and notice life.  Pay attention.  It’s easy to get so caught up in the busyness that is your life that you forget to have any fun.   I must admit that I used to be like that.  Married, with two young children and working forty hours a week at a job with a round trip commute of 90 minutes every day,  I was always on the go, and never slowed down enough to even think about what I was doing,  let alone enjoy myself.  Well,  I’m sure that’s not totally true.  But, looking back, life was a bit of a labyrinth that I seemed to go through without a lot of thought or reflection.  Until ALS entered into my life, and brought it to a screeching halt.  At least at first.  A serious illness has a way of bringing life to a stopping point,  whether you are ready for it or not.  It somehow makes you stop and pay attention to everything a little,  or a lot,  more.  Actually any sort of tragedy,  not just an illness, has a way of making you stop whatever you are doing and pay attention to life.

So,  try not to wait for a tragedy or illness,  stop and pay attention to life before something forces you to.  When I was a kid,  I lived in a haunted house.  That’s not that big of a deal,  it just meant that my great-grandfather who used to live there,  still either lived there,  or visited often.  But,  what that led to was a lot of talk amongst my parents about things like,  did you see that light just go off when we drove into the driveway?  And,  conversations about odd things that happened.  I didn’t really understand any of it,  but I came up with my own theory that if I believed in ghosts,  one would not find the need to prove their existence by showing up in my room late one night.  So,  if I didn’t want to see a ghost,  all I had to do was believe in them.  I didn’t realize at the time,  that the older gentleman who I saw standing at the end of my bed all the time,  checking in on me,  could have been called a ghost,  but that’s another story.

Maybe a similar approach to health and avoiding tragedy would work.  Don’t wait for bad health or tragedy to strike,  don’t wait to be forced to slow down and take a break.  Enjoy today.  Stop and smell those roses!  Really, just enjoy the journey!  That is what it’s ALL about.  If you aren’t having a good time in your life,  you are doing it wrong.  No worries though!  Just change it up!  Change whatever you need to,  to enjoy yourself.  Start anytime.  If you make a change and that doesn’t work out for you,  try,  try again.

Slip slidin’ away,  slip slidin’ away

You know the nearer your destination 

The more you’re slip slidin’ away 

These lyrics from a song by Paul Simon remind me to enjoy the journey of life.  It’s easy to get caught up in your destination,  whatever that may be, health, or the perfect job,  or a certain amount of money,  whatever your goal.  It’s easy to let your quest take over.  Before you know it, it has become all about the destination and you have forgotten about the journey.  Life is all about the journey.  We have to remember that.  Don’t wait to live your life after you accomplish the goal.  Don’t wait to be happy after you get better.  Don’t let life slide away from you, enjoy every slippery minute!  

49. Ch Ch Ch Ch Changes

 

Changes.  They are everywhere.  It seems that no one likes change,  unless you are talking about some nice change,  like a bonus at work, or winning the lottery.  But,  let’s face it,  changes usually involve something more along the lines of a health problem,  or maybe the transmission in your car goes out,  or some such extremely expensive thing.  Your significant other may move on without you,  you might lose your job, or something else similarly earth shattering happens.  Those are the changes we expect,  and receive with all too much regularity.  Sometimes those big changes that we hate the most,  end up being the best for us.  I have a friend who got divorced,  and while she had all kinds of mixed emotions about it at the time,  I think now, she would say it was the best thing she ever did,

But,  what if you try to embrace the change?  Can’t change be a good thing? Without change,  life would end.  Nature has it all figured out.  Nature embraces change,  or at the very least,  goes along with it,  as we all should.  What’s the point of going along kicking and screaming,  it’s going to happen anyway,  so you might as well find a way to accept it.  David Bowie had it figured out.  He said,  we should turn and face the strange.  Yes,  that’s right,  he said strange,  not change.  Aren’t changes all unusually strange at first?  Then,  as we begin to accept them and get used to them, we become okay with them.  Guess what happens next?  Yep,  another change!  Bam!  Over and over.  You would think we would get the hint after a while,  but we seem to be slow learners in general,  because we humans do everything we can to hold onto our traditions and stay in our patterns.   We do whatever we can to prevent change in our lives.

Changes.  Life might just go along a bit easier if we accepted change with a little more enthusiasm.  Nobody hates change more than someone with ALS.  Change for us usually means losing another muscle,  another ability gone down the drain.  But,  I try to go with the flow,  so to speak,  by coming up with some of my own changes.  I might do something,  like move all my furniture around,  or take a month-long vacation,  or something,  anything to shake things up a bit.  It won’t stop the changes I don’t want to happen,  but it might make it easier to accept change.  I know, it doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things,  but,  it’s a change.  What can you do to experience change on your own terms?  Try a new food?  Try a new hair style.  Learn a new language,  and then visit a country where they speak that language.  Switch jobs.  Do something different, anything different.  Start small,  and work your way up to the big changes.  Face the strange, and accept the changes.

45. Don’t Get Caught Up In This World

It’s so easy to get caught up in this world,  and all of its problems.    This song,  which I heard Sarah Guthrie sing last year,  was written by her grandfather,  Woody Guthrie.  It reminded me of the troubles of the world.  Some problems of life are inevitable.  We are living here, for the time being,  and have to find a way to get money and have a place to live, which usually involves a job of some sort.   Jobs come with people who you must learn to get along with, and office politics,  and doing things you really don’t want to do.  Spouses,  or significant others,  often lead to kids, which lead to schools,  teachers,  and PTA meetings,  and a world in itself.  Spouses and kids often lead to houses in the suburbs,  where rules exist about what color your house can be,  and how many cars you are allowed to have in your driveway, what type of mailbox you are allowed to have, etcetera.   And, you are expected to have kids,  and have kids who behave,  are well-rounded,  play sports,  learn to play an instrument,  and get good grades.  If you don’t,  then you must be doing something wrong.  When it comes time to vote, people expect you to pick a side,  and vote for that side,  and stand up for your side.  You are expected to keep up with the world’s news,  and what country is invading their neighbor,  and who won those elections you voted in,  and which politician has quit,  or been fired,  or done something they shouldn’t have done (hint,  all of them).  While you’re at it,  keep up with the local news and what product was recalled last,  and which school was just locked down, and what the nightly news headlines are.   Which church will you go to?  What religion will you practice?  Whatever one you pick,  you must abide by their teachings.  What is the latest new thing in social media?  Have you logged on and checked your messages today?   You must check your Facebook messages,  and your email every day!   Which new movies are coming out?   What celebrity couple just split up?   On,  and on,  and on,  and on it goes,  it will never stop,  that is what everyone knows.   It’s a wonder we aren’t all mad as a hatter!  No offense to anyone in the millinery industry.

If you don’t keep up with the world and all of its issues,  you are labeled as someone who doesn’t care.  Or if you don’t keep up with the tragedies of the day,  but focus on the good,  you are a Pollyanna, which somehow is a bad thing to be according to the general population.

Life makes it hard to believe how there could be anything else important outside of this world,  let alone remember that is so.   Unless we receive a reminder.  I received one the other day.  My grandfather stopped by to say,  Hi.   That wouldn’t be such a big deal,  except that he died years ago.  I was up late one evening,  as usual,  and noticed my clock chimed twelve times at eleven – thirty.   I looked at the picture of my grandfather sitting on the table next to me and thought to myself,  “Grandpa, can you fix your clock,  it’s messed up again”.  The mantel clock I have that my grandfather made,  has the unusual ability to set itself right whenever I forget to have someone wind it for me.  I kind of just assume that my grandfather fixes it for me,  because clocks don’t just reset themselves.  But,  I hadn’t forgotten to have it wound this time.

Well,  later that night, I was lying in bed and it occurred to me, that maybe there was nothing wrong with the clock,  but it was just my grandfather saying,  hello.  Just as I had the thought, I noticed that the power light on the bottom of my TV started flashing off and on.  It did this for several seconds (I have never seen it do that again).  It was as if  my grandfather was trying to say yes,  that’s it,  you got it right,  I’m just saying hello.  If I needed any more convincing,  I also noticed that my mantel clock was back to chiming at the proper time the next day,  without anyone touching it.

Somewhere out there,  is a whole other world where it doesn’t matter if you make enough money,  or what country you want to live in, or the color of your skin.  You will never feel bad,  or too tired to do anything.  You won’t have a care in the world.  You won’t have to do anything you don’t want to do,  and will have fun every day, all day.  Somewhere,  where it’s all good.  I’m in no hurry to get there.  But,  it’s nice to know it’s there,  and a bit of that world is right here with us all the time,  even if we can’t always see it.  Try to remember that,  and watch for the reminders,  they are there for everyone. We just have to slow down enough to notice them.