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Are We Ever Old Enough to Die?

 

Author Barbara Ehrenreich has decided that she’s done with routine health screenings. That’s because at age 76, she feels she’s old enough to die.

Ehrenreich writes in a thought-provoking article that she is in good health, and she does not wish to spend whatever time she has left in labs and waiting rooms, being poked or prodded or feeling anxious about false positive test results. Many of the recommended screenings, she feels, are unnecessary, and are ordered not with the patient’s actual health in mind, but with the goal of making as much profit as possible for the healthcare establishment.

While her contemporaries tweak their diets and try new exercises routines, monitor their cholesterol levels and sign up for colonoscopies, Ehrenreich opts for a more simple, less faddish lifestyle of eating reasonably healthy and staying moderately active. She concludes, “As for medical care: I will seek help for an urgent problem, but I am no longer interested in looking for problems that remain undetectable to me.”

When I read this, I was really intrigued that someone would consider herself old enough to die. While I’m not afraid of dying, as I see it as a rather natural (and inevitable) aspect of life, I certainly wouldn’t welcome it any time soon!! And I think a lot of people ten, twenty, perhaps even thirty years my senior might feel the same way! And why wouldn’t you welcome a test that could detect a major disease like cancer way before it was “detectable”? Whatever you decide to do with that information, isn’t it true that knowledge is power?

Now, is it possible to drive ourselves nuts with chasing the latest health craze? Certainly. Could we make an argument that, say, a 95-year-old woman probably doesn’t need to subject herself to a mammogram? Or that if a 95-year-old were diagnosed with cancer, it might be an acceptable option to forgo medical intervention? Yes, of course.

And, most assuredly, a 76-year-old has the absolute right to make that same choice. We all draw the line somewhere. 

I’ve heard people complain about doctors ordering tests that seemed completely over the top. (Is it because the doctors get some kind of kickback? Is it to cover their butts so they won’t get sued?) Sometimes patients comply just to be safe, and sometimes they refuse. Sometimes it depends on whether their insurance covers it.

On the flip side, I’ve seen clients devote so much energy to such a strict discipline of “natural” remedies (usually in order to avoid what they consider “unnatural” medical treatments) that to my way of thinking, the time and expense and inflexibility of it all actually diminishes their quality of life.

But that’s just me. I draw the line somewhere in the middle, I guess. I want to live a long, healthy life, and I want to use the best of conventional medicine and complementary remedies to achieve those goals without making myself miserable.

Wherever you draw the line, I do strongly encourage people to self-advocate. When a doctor recommends a test or a procedure that doesn’t make sense to you, ask questions! Feel empowered to get a second and even a third opinion. Do thorough research on trendy recommendations or any alternative therapy that you’re not familiar with. Do what you feel is best for you.

I support whatever path people choose in their wellness journey. Even if they decide they’re old enough to die.

Source:  Literary Hub (lithub.com): “Why I’m Giving Up On Preventative Care: How Contemporary American Medicine Is Testing Us to Death,” by Barbara Ehrenreich. Excerpted from her book: Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer

Category : Blog &Health

Tell Me What’s Good

The other day, a client I see monthly greeted me and asked how things had been since our last session. “Tell me about your month,” she suggested, “what was good, what was bad… start with the bad.”

I guess she knew from the previous month that my family had been dealing with some challenges, and I briefly gave her a quick status update. 

The way I was really feeling: the list of “bad” things could have gone on and on. I probably could’ve rattled off half a dozen things or more that had been occupying a lot of my time and mental energy. 

And maybe it’s because I’d been preoccupied with life’s challenges that they were top of mind the day I saw this client, but I’m embarrassed to say that I almost struggled to respond to her follow-up prompt, “Now tell me what’s been good.”

We’re all healthy, at least physically. Business is really good. I told her how well my garden is doing, and how I’m delighting in a squash plant that popped up out of some compost I used around a new flower last spring. The vine has taken over a large portion of the butterfly garden with meandering branches that split to veer around other plants. The leaves are beautifully variegated and as large as my two hands put together. It hasn’t produced a squash that survived to maturity—yet—but I have high hopes for the most recent sprout. Either way, it’s been fun to watch it grow, a happy accident that it is.

Weirdly, that was the one story uplifting enough to make me smile. 

Of course, we all hit rough patches in life, and it’s OK if there truly is not as much “good” in any given month. Goodness knows, some days we have our hands full and we can’t fit much more in.

But, was that really my situation? Did I really NOT have that much “good” going on? Or was I just so focused on the “bad” that I lost my balance and forgot to see, or keep track of, the good stuff?

After all, I HAVE carved out some time to spend wonderful quality moments with friends. I’ve fully “moved into” my art studio in the office and I’ve created a number of collage/assemblage pieces that I’m quite happy with. I started painting my kitchen cabinets a dark eggplant purple color and I love how it’s turning out. 

I probably could’ve thought of half a dozen things or more that had brought me joy, but I was taken aback by how hard I had to think about it to compile that list. 

Starting today, I’m renewing the practice of writing down something I’m grateful for and three things that went well. Apparently, I need to do this because left to my own mental devices, I will not remember. 

Now the next time someone asks me to tell them the good stuff, I will be able to easily and happily share because THAT is what will be top of mind!

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

Happy Independence Day!!

This 4th of July, may we remember our love of country and love our fellow Americans. 

What I think would “make America great again” is civility, compromise, cooperation with respect and compassion.

John F. Kennedy said: “So let us begin anew-remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate. Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.”

Maybe today he would say, “Let us never negotiate out of anger, and let us never be too angry to negotiate.” I hope we can truly remain the UNITED States of America, with liberty and justice for ALL. 

I wish everyone a safe and happy holiday!

Category : Blog &Personal Growth

Where Does the Time Go?

 

While June 21st marked the first official day of summer, school has been out locally for almost a month. We’ve blown through Memorial Day and are looking squarely at 4th of July. And just like every year, it feels like yesterday when we were saying “I can’t believe it’s 2018!”

Within the past few years, I’ve let go of some of my extracurricular commitments. I’m no longer in Rotary; my jewelry is not in a local gallery. I’ve said “no” to a good number of opportunities for socializing, I don’t do as much volunteer work as I’d like, I’ve decided not to adopt a dog at this time—all in an attempt to make life simpler.

I guess I’m hoping that if I slow down the pace of my life, it will feel like time itself is slowing down as well. That I can savor my un-busy moments and stretch out my days just a little bit more. 

But in the blink of an eye, the year is almost half over.

One day recently, 2 time-related headlines popped up on my Facebook feed. The first one said, “Stop saying you don’t have enough time. We have time for things we make time for.” And the second one said, “We’re almost halfway through the year. Are you ahead of your goals?”

I felt almost anxious! Am I ahead of my goals? No? Why am I NOT ahead of my goals? What ARE my goals? 

Well, some of my goals are health related. They seem very important to me, so I really “ought” to be able to make time for them. For example, I schedule time for exercise—goals that I think are very achievable. Just 30 minutes of cardio at least 3 time a week, daily stretching, and weights/resistance other days “as able.” But many weeks I fail to meet that goal.

I intend to make time to meditate every day, or at least “nearly” every day—even if it’s only for 5 minutes! But, I find I’m not consistently making time for that either.

I endeavor to eat healthy—carve out the necessary time to shop for fresh ingredients, do the necessary food prep and cooking, and sit down to eat with utensils at every meal. It is challenging to make the time for this, even though I know it is really important.

And in a good week, when I’m eating healthy and exercising and meditating and business is good, when the family is functioning well and there are no emergencies, I still don’t make enough time to read, journal, create art, spend time with friends, call relatives, and other things that I consider to be quite important. Can you relate?

The days, the weeks, the months fly by, and I am not ahead of my goals. I am barely keeping up, and I am often tired.

So, perhaps the most important “goals” are to try to strike a livable balance, and to embrace the imperfection. To accept that I am doing the best I can and that my best effort is enough. I am enough. You are enough, too!

Some weekends I even add “rest” to my to-do list. I make time to sit outside and enjoy my butterfly garden, looking at a magazine or simply daydreaming. I guess even in those moments, I am accomplishing something that’s important to me.

Because once a while, doing nothing is a virtuous goal, and worth devoting some time to.

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

Why You Need to Learn CPR

Do you know how to administer CPR?

You should! The more people who know CPR the better, and here’s why.

CPR stands for Cardiopulmonary resuscitation. According to the Better Health Channel, “if the heart stops pumping, it is known as a cardiac arrest. CPR is a combination of techniques, including chest compressions, designed to pump the heart to get blood circulating and deliver oxygen to the brain until definitive treatment can stimulate the heart to start working again.”

We never know who might need emergency help. The American Heart Association says cardiac arrest “disrupts the flow of blood to the brain, lungs and other organs [and] is a leading cause of death. Each year, more than 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur in the United States.

“When a person has a cardiac arrest, survival depends on immediately getting CPR from someone nearby. Almost 90 percent of people who suffer out-of-hospital cardiac arrests die. CPR, especially if performed in the first few minutes of cardiac arrest, can double or triple a person’s chance of survival.”

A new technique has been developed called “hands-only CPR.” Doing chest compressions, even without mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, keeps blood flowing through the body. It’s less off-putting to the average person willing to help a stranger, and it’s far better than doing nothing! 

Chest compressions take over pumping blood when the heart cannot. But here’s the thing—it is very tiring work. CPR is most effective if it is done continuously until an ambulance arrives. But one person may not be able to keep it up for more than a few minutes.

We all need to be trained so we can help each other out. If you see someone administering CPR and you know how to do it, you can offer to take over for a few minutes. Then, the original person, or someone else with training, can take a turn. 

Hands-only CPR is easy to learn. Classes are offered locally through the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross. You can even arrange to have a class taught onsite at a civic organization or community club.

Please consider learning CPR. We always hope we’ll never have to use it. But I know if I needed help, I’d be eternally grateful for any Good Samaritan who helped save my life!

Resources: St. Johns County offers classes through the First Coast Technical College. For a link to that and other courses simply go to www.google.com and search for learn CPR near me.

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

Acknowledging Our Positive Influencers

 

Many years ago I worked for a publishing company, and my boss—the best boss I ever had—was a British fellow named David.

David and I reconnected some time ago via Facebook. Today he posted about the anniversary of his moving to the US with his wife. He wrote, “If you are reading this, thank YOU for what you have done to create this magic existence we all share together. Because of you, our lives are loaded with rich relationships and experiences, and we are extraordinarily lucky.”

Back in the day, David was accused of being a “cheerleader,” insinuating that he lacked discernment in being unrelentingly positive when it came to fighting for something he felt his staff needed (getting a project approved, allocating more money to cover expenses, buying more time when needed, etc.). He was definitely our champion. He was the most genuinely cheerful person I have ever known. He and I used to get completely off track at work talking about music and life, and abstract ideas like what would the color blue sound like.

In life, David would do things like rent a lake cottage each summer and welcome guests with little kids, helping them catch their first fish and showing them how to make a fish print with it on a T-shirt to keep as a souvenir. As I’ve followed him on Facebook, I’ve enjoyed his perspective even more as he’s retired to live in lake country full-time, still with his wife hosting friends and their kids and their kids—still catching fish and going for hikes or giving tractor rides, and absolutely loving the simple pleasures in life and the insights they provide.

I commented on his post today that I was so grateful to have met him, that in being even a small part of his journey my life has been enriched as well.

It felt so nice to be able to tell him I appreciate him. It almost brought a tear to my eye as I reminisced and reflected on how much this person has meant to me.

I hope as he reads all the comments on his post, he realizes what a truly positive influence he’s been on a great number of people.

And I realized that it takes very little to reach out and tell someone how much they mean to us! And yet, how often do we make the effort? I would not have told David about my gratitude and affection if he hadn’t initiated the opportunity with his post.

I challenge myself and anyone reading this blog to make more opportunities to tell people thank you, I love you, you mean more to me than you know, your kindness made a world of difference in my world, your influence is greater than you think.

Cheerfulness and positivity come so naturally to David—even in his post about his own anniversary, he turned it around to thank others for their contributions to his time here. The world could benefit from more of us being cheerleaders and champions for others, don’t you think? At the very least, we can let people know that we appreciate them.

 

Category : Blog &Personal Growth

Writing Therapy

 

Have you ever engaged in writing for healing? Psychologists have long known that writing can help clients sort through and process their emotions. Now researchers are finding that writing can provide insights that help us do better physically, from boosting our immune system to functioning better with things like asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. [More info here: http://www.apa.org/monitor/jun02/writing.aspx]

Writing as therapy is great because it’s accessible to us all the time, and it doesn’t cost anything! Whether you like to write longhand (and for some this more tactile approach is especially beneficial—for example, it’s been proven that writing things down helps us remember them!) or using a computer keyboard, there are many types of writing that can be therapeutic.

Free writing. This is a very open-ended style of journaling—you can literally write about whatever comes to mind. I do this mostly when something is bothering me and I need to spend some time and energy quietly processing what is really going on or what I’m supposed to learn from the experience. Don’t edit yourself; just write what comes to mind. Sometimes you’ll get great insights!

Expressive writing. This is more of an exercise in which you pick a specific event, usually something troubling or traumatic, and you deliberately write about deeper and negative feelings to find meaning in them. It can be difficult, but this process has helped people stop ruminating about things that bother them. It can yield real healing, both mentally and physically. We can look for a therapist to help us with this type of healing process if we need to.

Reflective journaling. This is when we write about a specific experience or event, like a class we took or a project we participated in, and we write about what happened, how we feel about it, and what we learned. How did it help you grow as a person? It’s best to write shortly after the activity, and it’s fun to look back at previous entries to see how far we’ve come!

Keeping a gratitude journal. At the end of each day, or at least once or twice a week, it’s a good practice to write down what we’re grateful for. Research has shown that counting our blessings has a positive effect on our subjective well-being (reducing depression, for example). It also helps us sleep better and generally take better care of ourselves.

Letter writing. If you have unfinished business with a someone hanging over your head, writing everything you want to say in a letter can be extremely cathartic, even if you never send it.

Writing poetry. When we write a poem, we draw from our life experiences to really express ourselves in a creative way. Sometimes people have been able to use poetry to find meaning and perspective when dealing with a serious illness at the end of their lives. I imagine that it could be therapeutic to write a song or a short story based on our life experiences and viewpoints as well.

These are some of the ways to use composing to heal. Do you have other ways to use writing to sort things out, let things go, or reflect on the meaning of your experiences?

Source:https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/can-you-really-use-writing-as-therapy

Category : Blog &Personal Growth

Reflecting Before Sleeping

Much has been written on the benefits of contemplation first thing in the morning—setting intentions for the new day ahead and enjoying a calming ritual before rushing into the demands of the waking hours.

But what about introspection at bedtime—could we set the stage to have a wonderful night as well? 

Consider this 3-2-1 countdown strategy by Krista O’Reilly Davi-Digui, who writes for ALifeInProgress.ca.

3. Think of three things you are grateful for today. Even if we had a challenging day, we can find three things to be thankful for, however small. If you need help, there are many books on developing a practice of gratitude, including “A Simple Act of Gratitude,” by John Kralik. Here’s a link to the top 5 recommended by the Positive Psychology Program: https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/gratitude-books-oliver-sachs/)

2. Remember two things you did well today. Most of us have no problem identifying our shortcomings or “areas needing improvement.” It really is important to counter self-criticism by giving ourselves credit for our strengths and acknowledging where we shine! The benefits of self-love include building confidence and resilience.

1. Ask yourself, “what is one thing I would’ve done differently?” Some nights, our answer might be “nothing.” But sometimes, if we acknowledge with self-compassion that we could’ve handled something better, we can encourage ourselves to make that choice next time. This is not meant to be self-condemning; but rather, a step toward living the best version of ourselves.

In this way, we get to choose who we want to be, and how we want to live fully according to our goals and values. Taking a few minutes to think purposefully before we retire can bring clarity and peace that will not only help us sleep well, but set us up to have a better day tomorrow.

Source: “Pillow Self-Talk: Three Questions to Ponder Before Sleeping,” by Krista O’Reilly Davi-Digui, “natural awakenings” magazine May 2018.

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

Is Tidying Up Really a Joy?

I read a funny, but also kind of defensive, article by Jennifer McCartney, the author of a book entitled, “The Joy of Leaving Your Sh-t All Over the Place.” She feels that the bestseller “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” is ruining us by commanding that we maintain impossible standards of minimalism. 

McCartney feels that being messy is humans’ organic state and that by honoring our true nature, we actually enjoy more benefits than we would achieve by struggling to preserve a perfect, zen-like order. 

There is some research that confirms messy people are more creative. People in a white, sterile environment were more likely to order familiar menu items, while people in a disorderly environment were more likely to be adventurous and try something new. Similarly, when asked to come up with ways to use ping pong balls, people in an uncluttered room listed conventional uses, while people in a messy space came up with more ingenious ideas (like using them as ice cube trays, or on the bottoms of chair legs to protect floors).

McCartney also asserts that disorderly people are actually more organized than they appear. According to David Freedman’s “A Perfect Mess,” the piles of things we have lying around can be a pretty efficient storage system. They have a chronologic order to them—we know how far down we have to dig to find just what we’re looking for.

And perhaps most importantly, being a bit messy is just more authentic. Is it sustainable to keep everything photo-ready at all times? Or, does trying to keep everything impeccably tidy add stress to already stressful lives?

I think for most of us, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. I had a friend who used to justify her, um, “authentically comfortable” home, and say, “Well, it’s all right—the photographers from ‘Better Homes and Gardens’ aren’t coming today.”

And it’s true, no one’s home needs to be “picture perfect” all the time. If minimalism isn’t your thing and it doesn’t bring you joy, isn’t it OK to let go of trying to achieve that particular life-changing magic?

Having said that, I can admit that I am a pile maker, and it doesn’t always serve me well. I do file some stuff and store things in an orderly fashion when I can, but there’s a lot of junk that I’m not sure what to do with—piles of it. Each pile is temporary, but whenever one is resolved, another pops up to take its place. I set things down to deal with “later,” and they stay there somewhat indefinitely. Sometimes I can put my finger on what I need immediately, but I have to confess that I waste way too much time searching for things because I can’t remember where I put them.

What McCarthy doesn’t mention in her article is that there are benefits to being tidy, too. Those folks who were in a clean room were almost twice as generous in giving money to charity, and they were more than THREE TIMES as likely to choose an apple for a snack over a chocolate bar. And while a messy environment might help us feel creative, a tidy environment might help us do tasks that require “adherence to rules and a conservative approach,” such as filling out an expense report. In that way, experts think we might be able to “engineer” our productivity by creating the right setting.

I also believe that our individual preference is pretty deep-seated in our basic personality profile—whether we’re more visual or more tactile; whether our Chinese element is earth, water, fire, wood or metal; where we fall on the DISC or Meyers Briggs Assessment tools. I hired a consultant to do a color analysis for me years ago. It was fascinating! I learned that I’m a “winter.” I was in her home looking around at all the accessories and layers of curtains and fabric and decorations she had everywhere. She saw me scanning and she said, “This room is probably too busy for you, isn’t it? Winters don’t like having this much stuff around.” And it was true! It almost made me a little bit uncomfortable. The room seemed “fussy” to me.

But for her it was perfect. For some of us, simplicity is bliss. For others, a having our sh-t all over the place is the good life. I say, to each his own! One person’s mess is another one’s magic.

Sources: https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/why-minimalism-is-bs

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/heres-something-neat-being-messy-has-its-benefits/article14485250/

Category : Blog &Personal Growth

Has the “Mystery” of Reflexology Been Solved?

 

In my reflexology training, we learned a few things that we know for sure about how reflexology works. It is relaxing; in fact, it’s one of the very best ways to engage the part of the nervous system that is responsible for calming things down (the parasympathetic nervous system—the opposite of “fight or flight,” also known as “rest and repair” mode). 

We know that reflexology stimulates the circulatory system, responsible for bringing fresh oxygen and nutrients to all the parts of the body. We know that reflexology also stimulates the lymphatic system, responsible for carrying away all the wastes that the cells are ready to dispose of.

But we also know that there’s more to it than that. Some people refer to a “life energy,” like Qi in acupuncture or prana in Ayurvedic tradition—a somewhat mysterious force that we believe exists (sort of like to the biochemical and electromagnetic energy in our bodies), but that we haven’t quite been able to explain in concrete terms.

This inability to explain makes some people uncomfortable, skeptical. If you can’t demonstrate empirical evidence if you can’t explain something with science, how can it be valid?

Some of us are OK with not knowing exactly “how” reflexology works—the “evidence” is in the positive outcomes enjoyed by millions of people over thousands of years.

But, for those who are unable to embrace the mystery, there’s good news on the horizon. We may be able to explain HOW reflexology works, with science. 

We have been making great strides in studying connective tissue, specifically, a tissue called fascia. You may have heard of fascia only in the context of someone having pain in their feet—the bottom of the foot is the “plantar” surface, “itis” is the suffix for inflammation, so “plantar fasciitis” is inflammation in the fascia in the bottom of the foot.

If you eat meat, specifically if you’ve ever cut up pieces of chicken, you might be able to envision the thin, whitish, almost sticky membrane around some of the meat. This is fascia! It is all around and in between layers of our muscles, organs, etc.

When medical scientists first started dissecting human cadavers, they used to cut this tissue and move it out of the way to get to the “important” stuff beneath it. We figured out it was a matrix that helps give muscles their shape and generally holds us together, but we had no idea how critical this connective tissue really is. 

Once we finally started studying the fascia itself, we realized that it is an important network of dynamic tissue in its own right. We learned that it can have it’s own adhesions, for example—and so sometimes when people think they have “knots” or aches in their muscles, the root cause of the issue could actually be the fascia. We learned that fascia has “planes” that can affect mobility and balance and posture and more.

Then experts wondered, could fascia also help signals travel faster from one part of the body to the others? Think of the reflex arc that orchestrates multiple movements instantaneously. If you step on a tack, for example, or touch a hot stove—you step back, you lift one hand and lower the other for balance, without even thinking about it.

Scientists were pretty sure that fascia facilitates that. But we weren’t really sure how, until recently. And now, what we’re learning about fascia that explains how it expedites the reflex arc described above, might also explain how reflex points in our hands and feet communicate to all the other parts of the body. 

With modern technology, we’ve been able to study living tissue and not just cadavers. We’re learning things we missed before because we couldn’t see it in dead tissue!

Remember that diagram of a cell that we all learned about when we were kids—the one that sort of looks like a fried egg: kinda flat with a slightly irregular membrane and a yolk-like nucleus in the middle? When I was in massage school, we learned that each cell has to “decide” what substances will stay in the cell and what will pass through the membrane, and we didn’t even clearly understand how things travelled through (except in the case of electrolytes, where positively- and negatively-charged molecules dance back and forth across the membrane to offset each other—hey, that’s energy!). 

One of the presenters at the conference of the Reflexology Association of America I just attended in Chicago showed a graphic of a different model of a cell—a 3-D version that is much more lifelike. 

It’s been discovered that each and every cell in our bodies has a cytoskeleton, a structure of microtubules and various filaments that spread out through the cytoplasm. We know now that everything in our body is interconnected—from each cell’s nucleus through the membrane to the connective tissue between cells. It’s very easy for cells to communicate! They can pass information—and energy—to each other through these fluid-filled microtubules and filaments. It’s a highly ordered structure, literally from head to toe. And from the innermost parts of us to the outermost—the skin.

So, by touching a reflex point on the foot or hand, we can connect with any cell in any part of our body. Information—as evidenced by our self-preserving reflex arc—can be spread very efficiently. 

And because the energy in our body vibrates (as all energy in the universe vibrates), as we use alternating pressure in our reflexology technique—using the right pressure at the right pace will produce the right frequency to encourage repair and optimal functioning in our cells/tissues.

Mystery solved?

Category : Blog &Reflexology