Great-fully-Grateful

gratitudeIn my book A Journey of Creative Healing, I write that half a century ago my Aunty G’ advised me to ‘always seek the silver lining in any situation.’
Finding the silver lining is one of the six steps that enabled me to return to full health. Today we know it as a practice of gratitude.
Back in the early 1960’s, the double wammy of grief and illness – death of my husband and the diagnosis of an aggressive form of multiple sclerosis — made it unbelievably hard to be grateful. I was numb, I felt like I was in a dark cave, people’s voices came from afar and even the most effective circuit breaker like a smile or chuckle from my children did not reach me.

 Grief is a Process

 But now I see that those fearful dark days did have the nub of silver within. The long months of emotional hibernation had to happen to enable me to process the enormity of trauma and loss. The loss of my champion: our life together as I knew it, and as my sickness gripped harder, the dependence on others for my life.
The biblical metaphor of ‘death’s dark valley,’ fits the lonely dark space that had to be traversed, so change could occur.
As I emerged onto the gentler slopes of acceptance I started to appreciate the smallest things in life. I remember one morning hearing the birds sing, it had been long since I had heard their melodic call. As I listened and delighted in the bird’s song, I became aware of the blue-blueness of the sky. Life was no longer grey.

Determined Practice of Gratitude

Gratitude became a determined practice. I looked for it constantly. I pushed past other emotions like anger and confusion to find it. It became easier and easier to identify and expand that feeling of joy. And becoming more grateful with every passing day, I lost sight of things I lacked.
Scientific studies show how the practice of gratitude improves physical and psychological health, and it allows people to form stronger relationships and become more resilient.
I still practice gratitude today. But I do not say out loud ‘I am grateful for…..’ I do not keep a journal, or lie in bed at night and push myself to list three things that day that gave me a sense of gratitude. It is more a habit of awareness, being present in the pleasure and stretching the feeling so the warmth floods through my body.

I love ………

I love sun-kissed clean sheets on my bed, a garden tended with passion and dedication, a slow dance with my husband and singing loudly, a little off-key, in the shower – ‘I am still standing ……Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid, I’m still standing after all this time ……… ‘

Come on share with me,  what makes you grateful?

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How Open Are You to Possibilities?

I saw a post recently that dumbed down someone’s healing from multiple sclerosis. Several people posted to the effect that the person had been misdiagnosed and the assumption being that his beliefs in being ‘healed’ had no real foundation.
 IMG_4972When I was a young bride in the early ’60’s and a new mother I had episodes of muscle weakness, paralysis, impaired vision, headaches and painful nerve twitching for nearly five years.  This was put down to severe morning sickness, having two babies close together – exhaustion and in pregnancy  – the babies’ lying on the nerve’.  50 years ago there was no MRI, so sophisticated tools for diagnosing MS save a rubber mallet and a pin.  They basically went on the past history and presenting symptoms.  When I was diagnosed my random symptoms like pendulum waves created the perfect event for the first and second opinions of what they called back then ‘aggressive’ MS and that I would be wheelchair bound within a very short time.
But I recovered – full health – and have been in remission for 54 years.  Yes, of course, it could have been a misdiagnosis – but consider that at the time it was extremely difficult to diagnose with the tools available to neurologists.  They would have needed to have the strongest evidence to support their diagnosis.
Nevertheless, to me, it does not matter whether I had had a series of small strokes (as a medical friend later hypothesized) or MS. Simply  I was extremely sick.  Back then there also was no drugs, no medication to help.  Instead, I listened to my intuition and through rest, mediation and focusing a daily creative practice I came back to full health.  The only possible indicator that I had a severe illness is in my feet -peripheral neuropathy – a result of damage to nerves (or could it be simply old age?!)
The point here is what the heck does a label of a disease matter? People do recover from 18053023catastrophic illnesses, life-threatening illnesses. Read Radical Remission by Kelly Turner – visit the Radical Remission Project  FB page or website to see authenticated stories of people healing. In March I received the privilege of being Radical Remission’s Healing Story of the month – amazing being alongside so many who have returned to wellness.
Over the years I tried to tell my story to people who suffered MS but their eyes glazed over, ‘yes, but …..’ so I stopped until I could prove the steps that I had taken ticked all of the scientific boxes only then did I write my story  ‘A Journey of Creative Healing.’  Naturally, I would love you to read it,  but more importantly I want to ask – how open are you to possibilities, or still open after disappointment and disappointment in learning to live with the disease?
 I know the disease is wretched but please don’t close down to possibilities.  My story, like virtually all the stories in the Radical Remission Project records, was no ‘pick up your bed and walk’ miracle, it took time, resilience, focus and a powerful belief that I would recover from whatever ailed me.

In Memory

imagesDo you realise that death is sexy? No? You obviously have not been watching enough daytime television. I’m talking about the surfeit of ads for funeral expense cover. Advertisements with symbolic backgrounds of fluffy white clouds fading into the distance of verdant hills and valleys which feature folk who provide us with a specious ‘neat and tidy’ sense of their loss.  The superficial scripting invariably shows an actor place a forefinger softly to their lips as they stare into the distance, indicating their wistful remembrance of their Mum/Dad/Aunty/Uncle. The lead turns to the camera, pauses momentarily, before they warmly endorse the benefits of the deceased’s choice of funeral plan or funeral home. ‘It made it so easy for us at a time when we needed support.’ Action: a clutch of a lace trimmed handkerchief before once again staring into the distance.

Advertisers like to shield us from real grief, after all there is nothing sexy about raw, gut-wrenching grief is there? Their spin is that caring men and women will not leave their families burdened with the responsibility of their funeral needs. The message re-enforced with the use of strong minded and active geriatric parents in rude good health with images of them hitting a golf ball or driving away with the caravan in tow demonstrating that although they live life to the fullest they will always do the right thing by their families.

The subliminal message from these spin doctors is that death is a natural part of life and if you have done the right thing and organised your funeral plan your loved ones will be free of the burden of responsibility, and hypothetically allow them to manage their loss more conveniently. While those people that don’t buy obviously show no care for their families.

Recently in the mail I received a letter with the headline ‘What would your doctor say if he or she could see inside your arteries?’ It gave me descriptions of four serious silent diseases guaranteed to kill me but if I paid $199 NOW (saving $101) I could save my family heartache and despair. Early detection is vital it said – the same message that is drummed into us with every other scare-mongering health catch that drug companies like to promote.

Yes we are going to die, yes disease may manifest but aggressive marketing such as this is simply causes the vulnerable to focus on the negative. We need to come out of fear and trust in our own ability to act on our health when we think appropriate, not because some company is determined to make its profits from healthy people who may well will be swayed by fear to buy.

Personally I find this type of fear and guilt marketing pornographic. Its single aim is to shame people about the depth of their love of their family. Fear and shame our powerful motivators but we know that love is even greater. I’m sure most families would reflect their gift of love in organizing the last farewell gives them time to assimilate the shock of death and a bridge to the processing of their grief for the dearly departed.