Have You Listened to Yourself Lately?

Cee and I have done a lot of our own grief work over the years. We’ve gone from grieving, to surviving, to thriving. It’s a wonderful feeling. But for all of that, we found ourselves stuck in a funny kind of way. We were stuck in what I will call the Habit of Grief. When we do or think or say anything for too long, for too many times, our brains become hardwired, becoming what  we call our reality.

With Cee, we were always looking over our shoulders, waiting for another round of near-death struggles. (You can read her story here.) Even when we were as sure as we could be that she was beyond that, every time she coughed too much (Lymes had a lung component to it) or was too tired (as chronically ill people tend to be), we’d get ready for disaster. But disaster didn’t come.

We’d heave a big sigh and get on with things, all the while still subconsciously looking for the warning signs. Life was a constant repetition of breath holding followed by a big sigh then more breath holding. It’s not a fun way to live.

Now she’s healthy and we don’t need to do that. But how do we get out of the habit? By pivoting and practicing something new until it becomes old and “normal”.

Here’s a practical example. When someone would ask Cee how she was feeling, she’d say, “Not bad”.  Not bad. That implies not really good, either. Isn’t it at least one notch below “good”? Yet when I asked her what was wrong, she couldn’t find anything.

Me: “So, that means you’re good, right?”

Cee: (Reluctantly) “I guess so.”

Me: “So why not say that? Why not say you’re good?”

Cee: (Mumbling) “I don’t know.”

The reason she wasn’t able to say she was good was because she was used to saying she was bad. She was just used to it. It had become a mindset, a hard-wired-in-her-brain mindset. It had become her reality and she wasn’t even aware of it.

We’ve made it a practice to change those two little negative words, “not bad”, to a positive life-affirming word, “good”. It’s made a huge amount of difference in how she views her world.  Now she’s proud to announce with a big smile, “I’m healthy.”

Hugs and peace,

Chris

 

44 Comments

  1. Language is powerful, and mindset is perhaps called that exactly because it is ‘set’ in our mind … And yet … our minds are malleable. A child I worked with some time back, and who suffered all manner of difficulties including chronic pain, would always pause a second when asked how she was feeling, and ‘check in’ with herself. More often than not she’d beam “Good,” though I knew this did not mean it might change to “bad” in 10 minutes time (or hadn’t been “in pain” 10 minutes prior), only that at that moment she was okay, and she was able to communicate that. She taught me a lot about being in the moment without losing sight of the bigger picture, and I am sure, to this day, that this attitude allowed her to hold on to joy even while going through unimaginable hardship.
    Here’s to health!
    Na’ama

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  2. Well perhaps you’ve explained a bit WHY I feel as I do … that no matter how ‘good’ things are, there’s something horrid waiting to pounce right around the corner. Right now in my life that awful thing is a reality. And I find myself thinking it’s never going to be better for me. Maybe I really don’t want it to. I’m just heart and soul sick and maybe warmer weather will improve my attitude. I guess I’ll find out. Thanks for starting an affirmation blog like you have. I reblogged you (and Cee) on Share Your World this week and I hope a lot of folks can find some answers here.

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    1. There is something to the winter blahs. One thing that has really helped Chris and I with the “reality” is we’ve stopped watching the news and reading the paper. We did this almost 30 years ago now, and someone we have found out about the significant things we need to know. It takes a lot of stress about “reality” away. Thanks Melanie for sharing.

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  3. I’m afraid if I say I’m good, that it’s a jinx and it will go away. I know that sounds silly, but I live in terror of comments like “How much worse could it be?” with life promptly saying, “Here, hold my beer.”

    But I’m good too. I’ve got issues that won’t ever go away, but I haven’t been in the hospital, needed surgery, or had a medical emergency in THREE YEARS! Nearly four years, actually. That’s the best it has been in a really long time. I can’t make the arthritis vanish, but I can get more sleep and that actually helps. I’m taking some different vitamins that might help other parts of me and maybe finally end my long run with anemia.

    But it IS hard to say “I’m good” when you have a paralyzing fear that saying so will bring on the bad. I know it’s not real, but the fear is.

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    1. Ah, “tempting fate”. “the evil eye”, all that stuff. I don’t know if it’s silly superstition or just plain old good sense to worry about jinxing yourself when things are going well, but I can certainly understand it.

      There are things I won’t talk about just because I don’t want that kind of energy in my world. Period. It’s like answering my door when I’m not expecting anyone. It’s probably a salesperson and why should I get up and engage in a conversation when I can just ignore it? I don’t need to answer my door.

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      1. I don’t answer my phone. Same reason. But that jinx thing is scary. This has been the longest period in 20-years that I haven’t had a medical emergency or some insane surgery. I’m never going to be young again and arthritis won’t go away. But I don’t feel like I’m half dead, either and although I’m not moving very fast, I AM moving. And I’m still doing it on my own feet and that’s not so bad, all things considered. Some of us are just glad we actually got to this point and we are still alive. When people ask me how I’m doing, I usually say: “So far, so good.” So far, so good. Maybe it’ll even get better. You never know.

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  4. I should mention that I’m often afraid to even talk about my health because I’m afraid just TALKING about it will trigger some kind of I-don’t-know-what. When you’ve been sick a long time with many different issues, it does get kind of hard to relax. I think it’s not just habit. It’s fear of reprisal.

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    1. Hi Marilyn, I know exactly what you mean. I know what I did for a long time and still do … is say right now I’.m feeling good or healthy. It is only guaranteeing this moment in time. Then I slowly started realizing I’m having a lot of feeling healthy moments. Then I could start saying, today I have felt healthy, or this past week I felt good.

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      1. My cardiologist says “so far so good.” But I need two more specialists — the pacemaker specialist so I can set up to check by phone thing (isn’t that cool?) — and someone who specializes in valve issues. Also, he wants my son to check for “hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy” and I have it written down. The poor kid lost one parent to heart disease and I narrowly escaped so he’s a little nervous about heart issues. At least now I know what to have him look for. This is a new doctor and it’s the first time in 5 years I feel like I’ve had an actual examination. The other guy would ask me how I felt and I ‘d say fine and then we’d chat and I’d go home. I was getting a bit twitchy about it, so it was nice to have someone actually run tests and everything.

        But — it looks good. The EKG was good. The pacemaker is still working and in about 5 years, I’ll need a new battery. He says the technology has not changed at ALL and I’m not missing out on improved technology. I was wondering about that.

        So far, so good. The next bunch of tests will be in the middle of March, but he does not expect anything negative because everything sounds great. My blood pressure instantly dropped.

        So I really AM better, at least as far as that piece of me goes. I have the oncologist and neurologist mid-March. So if I can get the anemia to drop away … that will be about as good as it can get for me.

        I love hospitals. If you think you aren’t getting enough exercise, hospitals are great. LONG hallways. Long walks between buildings. Long walk from the valet parking. I feel very exercised and I’m making shrimp for dinner.

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          1. I’m exhausted. UMass has one building which is for all office visits. BUT. That building number is actually four big buildings — all having the same number. So, of course, we went to the main building, but it wasn’t the cardiology. That was on the other side of the campus. It’s an enormous complex. It includes a medical and nursing school, multiple research facilities, as well as several specialized surgical buildings. Actually, the entire hospital takes up half of the city of Worcester. Even when you are IN a building, it’s a lot of schlepping.

            We’ve got another appointment tomorrow and another one or two (I think one is mine, one is Garry’s) next week and a whole bunch in March. For me, it’s because I had a lot of surgeries this time of year, so all my annual check-ups show up in March unless we’re getting a foot of snow. In which case, April. I turned down the one on my birthday. I’ve spent three birthdays in the hospital. I’m not inclined to spend yet one more! I always feel very brave when I say no to a specialist because those appointments can be really difficult to get.

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  5. So true. And the Bible has been telling all of us this truth for centuries. It’s amazing that people don’t think the Word of God has application for today. When the Lord, in Romans chapter 12, admonishes us to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds,” He really does know what He’s talking about. He also tell us in James chapter 3 that whoever controls the tongue controls the whole man. And He really puts the lid on things with Proverbs 21:18 by explaining to us that “death and life are in the power of the tongue.”

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