Some days we’re sailing along on smooth waters.  Some days the water’s a little choppy.  And then there are days (or weeks!) when it feels like we’re at sea in a typhoon.

This past week has been a bit like that– just one thing after another and none of them immediately resolvable.  But I like to remember the wise words of a surfing friend:  When the big one’s coming at you, head right into it!

Not that it’s easy to do.  “Heading right into it” can sometimes be even more terrifying than the  monster wave itself.  But to continue with the surfing motif, if we turn tail– or even turn broadside– we’re liable to be dashed on the rocks and seriously wounded.  Facing the wave  not only gives us the opportunity to see what’s coming at us but also allows us to present the least vulnerable aspect of ourselves to that tower of water.

So how do we do this?  We face the incoming wave, take a good hard look.  Is it as big as it seems?  Is it as potentially lethal as we think it is?  Is it really unavoidable or can we paddle around it?  And if not, what’s going to be the quickest, safest way to move through it, get behind it, and wait for the next wave– the one we can ride in to shore?

Confidence seems to be part of the answer.  After all, we’ve survived big waves before with only a few scrapes and bruises.  Why not this one now?  And help is always available if we remember to ask.  (I sometimes wonder how many, ancestors, guides, and guardian spirits have followed me through life, shaking their heads at my crazy decisions, but loyal to the end!)

This past week, faced with yet one more daunting challenge and beginning to actually feel sorry for myself, I suddenly thought, Hey– what if this particular challenge means something different?  NOT that I won’t be able to handle it, that I don’t have the resources, but that I actually DO have them and WILL manage?  What if it’s a hint that the very near future is going to bring me exactly what I need to deal with this?  A sort of “pay to play” concept!

It was a Kairos moment– a point in time when one train of thought suddenly collides with another completely opposite one.  I was so surprised I forgot about feeling  overwhelmed and hurried out to the kitchen to share the good news with Lew.

Often when we ask for help we expect the burning bush and ethereal voices telling us exactly how to proceed.  “Thou shalt (or shalt not)… etc.”  (Truth be told, I’ve yet to encounter a burning bush.  But more times than I can remember there have been interventions similar to this recent one.)

As I look back over this event I realize that a key ingredient of successful “surfing” is the inner knowledge that we deserve the help we ask for.  We deserve a good and fulfilling life.  We are not here on the planet to be punished for past misdeeds, to suffer for our own “mistakes,” or to take on the burden of others.  We are here to laugh and to love, to eat good food, to appreciate the beauty of flowers, trees, running water, pure radiant air, and all the creatures with whom we share this journey– to be joyful, to LIVE.  Life is an opportunity to celebrate all that is beautiful about this world.  And strangely enough, when we celebrate (rather than tolerate or even denigrate), more good things begin to happen!

(Photo courtesy of QuinnPuertoEscondido)

Reviving Your Inner Optimist

CrabapplesYesterday morning my husband and I were discussing optimism versus pessimism.  A Vietnam vet with PTSD, my husband tends toward the latter world view, while I’m the proverbial Pollyanna– a trait for which I’ve been ridiculed for most of my life.  The good news about being a Pollyanna, though, is that your life (should you be someone who enjoys life) can be longer, happier, and more productive.  Not a bad deal, is it?!!

I mentioned in my last post that we’d be discussing various physical conditions and their causes and cures.  Depression, it turns out, is one of the major causes of dis-ease.  Not only does chronic depression affect the afflicted individual– it hamstrings his friends and family members as well.  This particular condition is called “compassion fatigue”– or in the words of Anne-Marie Botek, author of a book and website on the topic, “caregiver burnout.”  But there is hope– a bright light at the end of that gloomy tunnel.  Here is an article by Anne-Marie Botek, with links to additional tips.  Although her focus is on elder care, the excellent advice she offers can be helpful to anyone who lives with and loves a depressed person.

3 Ways to Bring Out Your Inner Optimist!

By Anne-Marie Botek,

Optimism; a word associated with sunny smiles and a Pollyanna-ish outlook on life.

But, what does it really mean to be optimistic? And—more important to the stressed-out caregiver—how can you be optimistic in the face of seemingly endless negativity?

Being optimistic does not mean that you have to constantly walk around with a smile plastered onto your face, burying your true feelings and pretending to be happy.

Rick Hanson, Ph. D., caregiver, and author of “Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neurosciences of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom,” says that being optimistic means that you see the world accurately, taking in both the good and the bad. And yes, you can train yourself to be more optimistic.

Pessimism, on the other hand, is an unhealthy obsession with the negative, which can snowball until a person feels completely helpless and totally trapped.

Hanson says that it’s unfortunately pretty easy to fall prey to pessimism because the human brain has a built-in survival mechanism—called the negativity bias—that makes us instinctively focus on the bad or threatening aspects of our environment while ignoring the good.

Caregivers can become so overwhelmed by the bad that it can be nearly impossible to see the good. Hanson offers three simple tips for caregivers who want to teach themselves to become more optimistic:

Think, Do, Be Positive!
How to Stop Being So Hard On Yourself
11 Ways to Stop Depression

3 Ways to Bring Out Your Inner Optimist originally appeared on