Losing a Mind-Set and Gaining a Life

My first post for 2014 considered aim for even as a way to live. I saw it something like this: in every experience I give what I am able to give, mindful that no two occurrences are the same no matter how similar they seem.

Remembering that uniqueness is not easy but is key to maintaining my balance. If I offer more than I am able to give or if I give less than is possible, I miss my mark.

In 2014, I aimed high and low aplenty but by year’s end I found myself more and more in the middle—in balance, even—as I let go of a  mind-set that skewed my aim.

Letting go meant giving up tried and true ways that comforted—at times even protected me—from the chronic pain inherent in my life. The subconscious is not easily dissuaded for it has had a lifetime to fine tune what comforts in order to cope. It’s its own infinite loop.

It would take me most of 2014 to break out of this mind-set. I wrote about it—a lot—on this blog.

Winds of Change 0214

In “The Winds of Change,” I believed I was slowly but surely losing my ability to walk. My response was I would adapt, like always. After all, I have an active online life and a great picture window with a view of the woods.

By September, “Some Awareness My Way Came”  in the form of spinal and cognitive issues. Yet, I would need another warning from my body that old ways would no longer serve. My kidneys sent a short but clear message.

“Only in Expanding My Cone of Habit” did I begin to dismantle the mind-set that had comforted me for decades. I turned to traditional Chinese medicine believing I had nothing left to lose. As I would discover, I had a lot to lose.

Wood Stork 0214

Transformation leaves behind habits of a life lived. There is no “getting my life back.” Life anew is an accumulation of every misstep, every revelation I experience. The stuff of transformation is recognizing that the great teachers in one’s life have always been there.

One of mine is chronic pain. Our relationship has changed completely. I no longer need to cope because I no longer fear pain, emotional or physical. I no longer fear pain spiraling out of control. Rather, I sit with my emotions as my body sends sensations.

I aim for even.

My transformation is far from complete but the changes I am experiencing I cannot explain other than through my new relationship with pain. I walk–slowly–without any limp and am just beginning to take short—really short—walks.

Just beginning 1014

Every day, and I mean EVERY day, I have a level of energy, something I lost decades ago. On the same day, I can complete errands, do some housework, and write–if necessary. Nine months ago, I thought I would live from my adjustable bed.

The pain is not gone but the mind-set is. There is no seeking comfort to mask the pain. Rather, there is the slow movement of yoga and the stillness of meditation, the balance of acupuncture. And there is food that fuels the biological changes taking place in my body rather than inflaming it.

Every day, I aim for even.

As I was writing this post, I kept trying to find ways to impart what aim for even might look like separate from chronic illness. August McLaughlin seemed to read my mind when she posted this graphic in her wonderful blog post.

August resolutions 0115

She captures aim for even beautifully. In giving what we are able to give, no more and no less, we resolve to live life as the ebb and flow that it is. We keep ourselves afloat.

38 thoughts on “Losing a Mind-Set and Gaining a Life

  1. How hard it is to write about this kind of transformation in a way that others can really understand and identify with. You’ve done a wonderful job. Here’s to an energetic, cope-ful, healing and celebrative 2015.

    Like

    1. In a recent discussion, I told a friend, “Transformation is the hard choice.” I think it is also the only choice for me. And you’re right, it is hard to write about–thank you for noting that. I appreciate your good wishes. Best to you, always.
      Karen

      Like

  2. Wow, this is so exciting. Wonderful that you have your energy back and a lovely even to aim for. Also, I loved these lines: “There is no ‘getting my life back.’ Life anew is an accumulation of every misstep, every revelation I experience.” So true. Happy 2015, Karen!

    Like

    1. Every day, my gratitude “grows” for this energy that is now a part of my life. There is so much to explore! Thanks, Cynthia, and I am really enjoying your journal posts.
      Karen

      Like

  3. Aiming for even. Boy, do I ever relate to that Karen. I am so happy for you. I’m glad that TCM and acupuncture has worked for you. I don’t know where I’d be without it. I wish continued success with your health, in turn all your endeavors throughout the year! 🙂

    Like

    1. Thanks so much, Karen. I’m thinking you and I need to compare TCM notes some day. Perhaps we have learned something that would be helpful for others. Wishing you a healthy 2015, Karen!
      Karen

      Like

  4. Hi Karen – another inspiring post, as always! And August’s philosophy of life is just wonderful. Each step we take is, I think, one of learning; and it never stops. I think ‘aiming for even’ may very well produce surprises of itself; we can never know what will unfold with any direction. All the very best for 2015!

    Like

    1. Thanks, Matthew! In my case, “aiming for even” does produce surprises–of all sorts. The Buddhist in me appreciates the unknown unfolding–as you would suspect. 😉 Looking forward to another year of blogging with you. As well, best in 2015 to you and yours.
      Karen

      Like

  5. I didn’t know you were challenged like this, I’m amazed. All through our dialogues in the comments box there was no indication. It’s heroic and inspiring…

    Like

    1. What I have discovered is that “being present” with the pain allows me neither to attach to nor suppress it. In short, I have had to face it and in so doing, I saw that it was my body sending me signals that I had ignored. In sitting with the signals, I found ways to respond rather than react. Certainly Buddhism (Zen, in particular) and yoga are key for me but the third element is traditional Chinese medicine–I am fortunate to have such a skilled acupuncturist and healer–who taught me to combine the three and open to what they have to offer. It’s quite powerful, as you can imagine. .

      BTW, I really enjoy our comment exchanges and looking forward to more this year. Thanks for your kind words.
      Karen

      Like

    1. Ah, Lin, thank you. Reading your wonderful blog has provided me a broader perspective on so many days. Your wit and your heart brighten many of my moments. Thanks!
      Karen

      Like

  6. Thanks for the words I needed to hear as 2014 was a difficult year for me. I hate spending any time in my wheelchair, but am grateful for it when I have to use it. I am determined to go out and pick some camellias today before they freeze next week. I will try not to resent having to sit and rest afterwards… sigh. Maybe I can make it to my Buddha bench. I have not been there in months.
    I CAN DO THIS!
    I know you don’t know me yet I also know you believe in me. That helps.

    Like

    1. I do believe in you, Jan, for your words resemble my heart on many days. No doubt, we have had the same thoughts in perhaps even the same moment. Chronic illness provides that kind of connection, taking us a bit deeper than our connection with the rest of our world. Here is to every time you make it to the Buddha bench or to your flowers. All day long, I remind myself to take a moment–sometimes longer–for myself, a moment just to be. Yes, I do believe in you.
      Karen

      Like

  7. You are supreme inspiration, Karen! I, like surely all of your readers, learn so much from you. I was struck by the bit Maggie mentioned, too. So grateful to share some of this journey with you, thanks to your openness.

    Thanks for the lovely mention! Aiming for even — I so dig that.

    Like

    1. Oh, thanks, Val! It’s not an exaggeration to say that every morning I am simply delighted to wake up to the day and all it offers–and grateful. It’s as if I feel the energy the moment I open my eyes. Again, thank you!
      Karen

      Like

      1. Karen, I am such a believer in yoga mediation and acupuncture. I have seen people transform themselves physically and emotionally. It’s heart warming when you fall in love with life again 🙂

        Like

        1. Thank you, Val, for saying “falling in love with life, again.” You could not be more accurate in what is happening to me. That is the phrase I have been seeking. I knew that I was no longer waiting to die but I didn’t recognize–until this moment–that I was falling in love with life. Truly, I am grateful for this observation.
          Karen

          Like

  8. You are heroic. And wise, and humane, and a gift to this world. I hate that you are in pain. It is a testament to your remarkable spirit and will that you can teach humility, acceptance, and resolve from that place. Much love to you dear friend and teacher.

    Like

    1. Oh, Leigh, such kind and thoughtful words from someone who knows so much about pain. I really feel as if I am healing, truly, and it has to do with changing my relationship with pain. I am understanding the sensations my body sends so I am able to assist rather struggle. We’re working together, finally. There is a healing going on within me–as I will soon write about–that is slow but definitely, my biology is changing. For me, traditional Chinese medicine was the missing piece as I try to put this puzzle together. ❤ My friend.
      Karen

      Like

  9. reading your blog gave me such a good feeling that you are successfully finding a way to coexist with pain. i hope that i am never in that situation, but it’s good to know that it is possible to find a way to live on, and write beautiful blogs and inspire others.

    Like

    1. I did not think coexistence with pain was possible, either. Rather, pain was a battle to be fought and won. Pema Chodron and Zen taught me to sit with my pain in meditation; Peggy Cappy and her DVD, Yoga for People with Arthritis, helped me learn to move with my pain; Dr. Diane Gold and acupuncture are bringing my body into balance so there is battle but rather, healing. It is a process that requires a lot of patience but my body’s biology is changing. And yes, there is another blog post on this coming up. Thanks so much for your lovely comments, Craig. I really appreciate them.
      Karen

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s