Thursday, June 28, 2012

Are these the"Good Old Days?"

I remember about three years ago I was at Cheetah gym and I believe it was a holiday because for some reason all of my gym buddies were there at the same time. This was unusual because certain of my gym friends only came on the weekends and others were normally there only in the early morning. Whatever the reason was that caused us all to be there simutaneously, I remember a smile crossed my face.

I smiled because I knew this would probably not happen again, if ever, for a very long time. I knew these feelings of well being were fleeting moments in a world of ever changing events and I wanted to savor it and consciously focus on remembering it. I am smiling as I write this because sure enough it never happened again and I am so glad I paid attention to the uniqueness of those moments.

Another favorite memory of mine was the time I was in Provincetown with Bill about 6 or 7 years ago. I walked out onto our balcony late at night and I was awe-struck by the magnificence of the star lit sky. Never before nor since I have seen such a star filled sky, the beauty of it took my breath away. All I could do was stare at the beauty and vastness that presented itself to me. I thought to myself I want to take a mental picture of this beauty and this moment to indeliably etch in my memory. The feelings I felt were ineffable.

You may be wondering why I am rambling on about these memories. It is because these particular memories I had made at the time of their occurance, a conscientious effort to place them indeliably in my memory. There have certainly been other occurances previous and subsequent to those two particular events, however, rarely did I take time to place a bookmark in my memory so that I could readily and easily recall it not only visually but also recollect the mental feeling of well being also.

So much of our lives pass us by without real consciousness of the circumstances surrounding some really great events. If we pay attention to what is going on around us, particularly if it is something fun, exciting or new, we can recall it in the future much more vividly. Why would we want to do this? Why wouldn't we?

There are so many hills and valleys we pass through and over on our journey of life. Sometimes when we find ourselves in a valley, we can recollect events in our lives that were happy and joyous, and those reminiscences will help us climb our way out of the valleys of life.

I know it may sound ambiguous to those of you who have read my words about the importance of staying present and yet if we can grasp some happy memory of our past that can make unpleasant ongoing present circumstances more bearable, than we should do it.

The real difference is that we are not living 100% of our present, reflecting on the past, we are consciously reflecting on the past to make the unpleasant present more tolerable at this given moment . Does that make sense?

I think some of the lyrics contained within  Carly Simon's old song, "Anticipation" are true. "These are the good old days."

Often times when we are living our present lives we only complain about what is not going well, and yet when we look back at these times our minds seem to filter out a lot of the unpleasantries and remember the good things. It is like self preservation, remembering happy events and forgetting many of the unpleasant details, thank goodness for that.

Similarily, five years from now, when we look back at this time we will feel these were the good old days.

Bookmarking  important, particularly happy events in our memory, not only makes them easier to recollect but also those memories are more vivid and filled with more of the details that composed that memory.

It is possible and I feel healthy to live in the present, while at the same time being cognizant of the happy events of our past.

Who knows maybe those pleasant memories we are recalling happened in the first place, just so we could call their memory forward when we needed them most.

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Friday, June 15, 2012

The "Short Leg" Saga Continues

At my regular Wednesday morning physical therapy appointment with Chris, Jason, my prosthetist also joined us. Chris, my physical therapist, had just returned from a conference in Tampa with Kevin Carroll, the man who developed the "Short Leg Graduated Protocol" program I am currently undertaking.

Chris had texted me after returning from the conference saying in her text, "we gotta push things." I knew right then and there that things would become more intense.

As I have mentioned before, I have problems with endurance and after having had a doctor's appointment with my vascular surgeon, Dr Chad Jacob's Physician Assistant, Melissa, it was determined that in all likelihood the endurance issues were not vascularly related, and  that was a relief.

That leaves one of two possible issues, one: I need to strengthen my hip flexor muscles and/or two:  adjustments need to be made to my "short legs."

Even though I exercise daily, including exercises specifically for developing and strengthening my hip flexor muscles, more needs to be done. What strikes me as odd is that I see videos of people who walk much better than I despite the fact they are ostensibly in worse shape physically, some being older than I and most being overweight.

Jason, always cutting edge and direct in his approach, demonstrated some exhausting excercises that should help me develop my hip flexor muscles. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever get to be where I want to be?

Chris said that she had spoken to Kevin Carroll specifically about my case. Kevin said to her that every time I sit back down in my wheelchair, I am undoing all that I have accomplished up to that point. I'm not sure I agree with that statement, I may be prolonging the accomplishment set before me, but I don't feel I am "undoing" it.

The point is they want me to try to not use my wheelchair at all, to spend the entire day walking with the short legs, taking rest periods in regular chairs or the sofa as needed.

Consequently, I find myself in a can't win situation, my endurance level is such that I find it difficult, if not impossible, to spend the entire day walking on these short legs and by not doing just that, I am allegedly "undoing" all that I have tried to accomplish up to that point.

It's like which came first the chicken or the egg, which came first, the endurance to walk on the short legs through exercise, or walking to increase the endurance?

Chris, through no fault of her own, added more fuel to the fire by saying I need to step outside more. I thought she meant, be outdoors, which delighted me as long as it was  in a controlled enviroment. However, what she meant, or what Kevin Carroll meant was, to step outside into the world and use the short legs in public places.

As we know I have made significant progress regarding allowing myself to be seen by people other than those in my inner circle, which is not to say that I have the wherewithal to go to a restaurant, a store, or even walk down the sidewalk wearing the short legs. Would you be able to do that?

As time goes on I wonder if I have what it takes to accomplish what is set before me? Is there any truth to the fact that if I wanted it badly enough I would do what it takes?

You can well imagine how I am feeling right now, a little beaten down by it all.

I hope and pray I find renewed ambition and vigor that will carry through my journey. Sigh.......

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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Putting Yourself in Another's Place

As much as we might want to try to empathize with another person's plight, we will always fall short. We fall short because we live our lives from our own personal experience and prospective.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to actually put ourselves in another person's position. We may try to understand where another person is coming from, but our ability to do so is hampered by our own personal judgments and an inability to truly feel what another person is going through.

All we can do is try to be there for the other person in whatever way we see possible. We can offer our support and in so doing,  show the other person we care about what they are going through whether we understand it fully or not. This show of support in whatever form, is the humane way of letting another person know they are special to you and that you want to help them to best of your ability.

Through my leg loss scenario,  I have sought and received  a lot of help and support  from others. It is not always easy to ask for and graciously receive help from others, in fact it has been especially difficult for me. Sometimes I feel as though I have not shown my appreciation enough, something I have written about previously. This is a self created paradox, that if left unaddressed, can lead to feelings of guilt.

If we are not careful, we can begin to feel guilt for the situation we find our lives in. Guilty because we may feel, on some level,  we caused or contributed to our predicament. I must admit there are times when I feel  a little guilty about how I got to where I am. When faced with these feelings, I remember that no sane person would knowingly contribute any action that would result in the loss of their legs.

I am not saying that one should completely absolve one's self of all contributing aspects of bad things that may happen, however, more times than not a person does not deliberately set out to to harm one's self.

On those times when feelings of guilt should arise, I try to realize that affixing blame to one's self or feeling responsible is counter productive to moving life forward in a postitive direction. Guilt is not unlike anger in that they both produce emotions that are harmful both to one's self and others envolved. In short, those emotions accomplish nothing and can lead to depression.

I am sorry things have changed in my life with respect to my leg loss, however, I do not feel sorry for myself. Feeling regretful that our lives may have taken a unexpected or unpleasant turn for the worse, does not mean we are relegated to a life of  self pity.

It is our responsibility to ourselves to strive, sometimes against seemingly impossible odds, to prevail and attain personal happiness.

I remember not too long ago, after changing clothes to go out to dinner with my friends Marguerite and Paul, I said to Paul, "getting dressed for me is like dressing a life-size Barbie [or in my case Ken] doll." Paul said we (people in general) just don't understand what it takes for you, do we?

Paul's question resonated with me because it typifies what he and so many others really don't understand, nor should anyone understand who has not been in my situation. It would be wrong of me to expect people to understand what I go through on a daily basis.

I  can't begin to tell you how many people have said to me over the last few years, "I can't imagine what you go through." It is true they can't imagine.

By the same token I can't imagine what they, or anyone for that matter goes through, none of us can.

You are you, they are them, how would anyone of us, in any circumstance, possibly hope to feel what another feels. We cannot, as the saying  goes, walk a mile in another's shoes, that is particularly difficult for me because I have no feet.

Understanding each other to the best of our ability is all that we can hope to do for each other, and I am thankful for those who do just that, as I attempt to do the same myself.

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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Happiness in the Present

When faced with challenging situations or circumstances, we search for answers. How do I fix this problem or how do I change these circumstances to more desirable ones?

What I try to do is visualize what I want my life to be like, bearing in mind that some things, like the loss of my legs, are beyond our control. And yet there is one thing that is always within our control, ourselves.

No matter what your particular life circumstance may be, there are others whose circumstances are better and others whose situation is worse.

Remembering and reminding ourselves of the blessings we have in our lives help to keep things in their proper perspective. Focussing on the good things we have in our lives allows us to have hope, hope for a better day, hope for a better tomorrow, and hope for our future.

Whenever we focus on the negative aspects of our lives we are robbing ourselves of the happiness we all deserve. For example, I am sitting on the sundeck (surprise surprise), surrounded by a blue sky, puffy white clouds and a  cooling breeze. What a wonderful thing.

Right now at this very moment all is right with the world for me. I am writing this blog, free to write whatever I choose, free to share my thoughts and feelings with you.

If we concentrate on life as it comes, moment by moment, not plagued by events in our past, or worried about what will happen in an hour from now, we can find hapiness. Happiness occurs only in the now. We only have this very moment to experience true happiness.

We could waste our time worried about what we did or what was done to us in our past that caused our present predicament, or we could accept that what has happened is over, it is finished, it is time to move forward with our lives.

No one knows what the future holds and I for one am glad. I certainly at the age of say 40, would not have wanted to know that at the age of 50,  I would lose my right leg and everything else that followed. Life is designed such that we should be happy now, because now is the only predictable  moment we ever have in our lives.

Everyone, including myself, is guilty of living either in the past or in the future instead of staying present in the moment.

Staying present in the moment brings with it clarity of mind, a thankfulness that can only be attained at this very moment. I have been trying to stay a little more present and a little less nonpresent.

It is not easy to stay in moment,  especially if the  moment is unpleasant, and even if we aren't present most of the time, those moments when we think about it, we are actually being present. The act of thinking, or in this case writing, about presence brings presence itself.

We miss out on a lot in our lives when we live them in the past or spend the present thinking about the future.

We should all try to concentrate a little more on living in the present. I think the present moment is the only true happy moment we ever experience ..

Try it and let me know what you think. I hope it brings you the clarity and happiness you are seeking.

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