Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The anatomy of hope . . .

What gets you out of bed every morning and gives you enough energy to make it through the day ever since the day you were born?  What feeds your spirit so you make plans for the future, go grocery shopping, plan your next meal, and face the adversity that every day holds for you?  In spite of the difficulties that you face each day, what is it that makes you fall in love again, adopt a pet or plan a vacation?  To feel a whole array of emotions each day, including pain and anguish and yet get on your feet again and move forward takes energy that hardly exists for people with fibromyalgia, but you do that day after day.  That miraculous spirit that resides within us all is hope.  When hope ceases to exist we no longer have the energy to move forward in life and that leads to stagnation and a downward spiral.  Hope is a critical energy force that we cannot survive without and hope must be guarded carefully or our life force and spirit will begin to fade.

Many people don't spend much time thinking about hope until they are faced with life changing events that put their coping skills to the test.  Anyone that has lived to 90 years old understands this concept only too well, because sooner or later everyone loses physical abilities and energy, and most likely they don't feel well either.  Since hope is critical to survival it is one of those innate components of our spirit, but as we face more and more difficult life challenges hope can begin to dwindle and fade.

Taking good care of our spirit and the hope that feeds it is an essential activity every day.  Cultivating an optimistic outlook requires a commitment to problem solving and the belief that defeat is not an option.  We may have some temporary set backs, but we must have the fortitude to never stop moving forward.  When you have a temporary set back rely on help from your family or friends to get you back on your feet again.  I have found inspiration from perfect strangers that are willing to share their stories about overcoming obstacles in their life.  These stories are meant to give us emotional support rather than serve as a personal challenge to meet expectations of others.  The most powerful force in eroding hope is the feeling that we are alone and no one understands.  We are a gregarious people and we need each other.  Some people find solice and hope through their religion and their church.  Others find the renewal they need from nature.  We are all different in how we fullfill our common human needs.  Focusing on positive things in your day while minimizing the negative things provides a beneficial boost to hope.  The belief that we can overcome anything because we are fibro warriors gives us the energy to meet life challenges and preserves hope.  We cannot afford to allow negative thoughts to creep into our head -- that is counterproductive.  Avoid a victim mentality:  spending time blaming others for anything in our life leads to stagnation and a downward spiral.  Cultivate self-responsibility and accountability and you will feel empowered in your life.  Feeling as though you have no power or control over anything in your life leads to depression.  Find things in your day that bring you joy and enthusiasm for life.  When you smile, do it for yourself and not for other people.  When you smile you feel better.  Develop friendships with people that are happy, positive and have enthusiasm for life.  Their energy and spirit are contagious and will help you keep your spirits up too.  The mind is a powerful tool -- if you believe you can or if you believe you can't you're probably right.  Spending too much time complaining about the state of things can sabbotage your efforts to maintain a positive attitude and safe-guard hope.  It isn't beneficial to maintain relationships with people that bring you down.  You know who those people are because you can feel them sucking the energy out of you.  In addition, listen to your body and care for yourself.  When you have a flare, pamper yourself and don't fight it.  That doesn't mean giving in to it.  Make a conscious decision to do nothing but care for yourself.  You are number one, you know.  So know how to say "no" and look out for yourself.  You are the most important person to you.  And it's okay to cry sometimes.  Experiencing all of our emotions is important to emotional health.  It's what you do with those emotions that really counts.  If you find that you are crying more than smiling you may need to see your doctor and a counselor to treat depression and anxiety.  We are all able to be mentally strong, which doesn't mean that we don't need help from time to time.  Be sure that when you need help you ask for it.

Twenty years ago I lost hope.  I had a life altering injury with severe chronic pain.  I was in a chronic pain program and I was participating in a guided imagery meditation.  The meditation led me through a forest glen along a bubbling brook and then to a clearing that had opened up to a beach with a sea that ebbed and flowed up onto the beach and then retreated back again.  There was a treasure chest on the beach and when the chest was opened there was a beautiful glowing ball of light inside.  I reached into the chest and picked up the ball of light and rolled it over in my hands amazed at its beauty.  I suddently realized this beautiful ball of light was the hope that I had lost and it was now found.  That was twenty years ago and I still cry when I think of that moment.  That was the lowest point in my life; I never want to be in that place again.  So I spend every day mindfully guarding my hope and I do whatever it takes to keep that spirit alive and well.  My daily plan is to laugh a little more, to see humor all around me, to love more and to have empathy for others.  I am more aware when someone doesn't mean me well and I immediately cast those people out of my life.  It is also important to be kind with ourselves and others every day, because we are all dealing with life challenges.  Oh yes, I'm more forgiving too, because after all we are only human and that's a good thing to be.  Blessings and peace to you as you find hope every day and never ever give up!
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