Feb 082016
 

When I flipped to a new tab on my browser this afternoon to perform a Google search, I was greeted by an image of a tribe of monkeys, with each monkey doing its own thing. It strikes me that this is how many of us feel at the beginning of the work week: a little scattered when focus is required, and altogether too busy. Some people refer, jokingly, to the first working day of the week as Blue Monday, especially if they don’t care for their job. Because I don’t fall into that category—I do enjoy my job—I guess I might sometimes refer to the beginning of the week as Madcap Monday, simply because that’s when I find myself juggling priorities to determine what, when and how much will be accomplished during the week.

Image courtesy of TAW4 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of TAW4 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mondays are generally busy days for nearly everyone I know, but I wonder if they might feel less so if we sit back, take a deep breath, and deliberately slow things down. In other words, we might find ourselves becoming more productive by taking a moment to be mindful of something else entirely than the task at hand.

According to Tsh (pronounced Tish) Oxenrider in My break-up with busy, “It’s like we don’t even think ‘busy’ is a unique, situational status in our lives. It’s strange to not be busy.” When our schedules are so full that we cannot even breathe, Tsh does what on the surface seems counterproductive: she takes a walk. I have found myself doing the same at work, to be honest. The building in which I work is campus-sized, and it takes a while to walk from one end of the building and back. When I return to my desk, I have a fresh outlook, a new store of energy, and focus.

It’s not just in the traditional business world that you encounter that phenomenon of being too busy. You can work at home and have so much to do that you don’t know where to begin. That’s when it’s probably best to simply take a break and do something that gives you pleasure. Maybe that means you’ll read for 30 minutes, take a walk, listen to some music while you close your eyes and think about absolutely nothing, or maybe you’ll pull out some colored pencils and color in one of those adult coloring books that are so popular right now. Possibly you’ll take a few moments to water your plants and trim the brown leaves.

While I was recuperating from surgery, John brought me some African violets to tend.

While I was recuperating from surgery, John brought me some African violets to tend.

Whatever you decide to do to beat back that sense of being too busy, you’ll want to give it your full attention. Maybe you will decide to do nothing. So, give nothing your all, and just let the moment stretch out. I have never meditated, at least not officially, but I suspect that’s what meditation is all about.

Possibly your way of taking a proverbial walk is to think about what makes you happy. And that’s what I am going to do in this post . . . I’d like to share with you three small pleasures that simply make me feel calm, appreciative, or glad. You’ll notice that each pleasure involves the senses—sight, sound, scent, and touch—as well as movement or the lack of movement.

Sitting in front of a fire, whether it’s indoors or outdoors, is a wonderful way to practice mindfulness. I like to move my rocking chair close to the warmth, listen to the crackling flames, and allow the wood smoke to drift my way. And then I think about nothing at all. The result is often clarity about some issue or problem, likely because you’re giving the subconscious part of your mind space in which to work things through.

Crackling Fire

For my birthday, my husband presented me with a tin of 72 Prismacolor® colored pencils. I can’t wait to try them out on the designs inside the adult coloring book below. The pencils are butter-soft with rich colors, and blend beautifully. When I color, it’s not just about what I see in front of me, but also the sensation of soft lead pressing into the paper, that makes me feel calm and surprised, by turns.

Coloring

You can practice mindfulness while enjoying flavors. It doesn’t take long to mix up a fruit smoothie, topped off with a ball of vanilla bean ice cream. The first swallow is pure pleasure, so take it slowly and enjoy each sip through your straw. For just a little while, don’t think about anything but the flavors rolling inside your mouth and sliding down your throat. When you’re finished, you’ll have new energy for your next project.

These glasses are a bit overfilled, but they didn't stay that way long. To make two full glasses, blend the following in your blender, using pulse/chop mode: 1 banana, 2 cups of orange juice, and 1 cup of frozen strawberries, and 1 cup of frozen raspberries or mixed berries. Top off with ice cream, and add a chocolate hazelnut "straw" for fun.

These glasses are a bit overfilled, but they didn’t stay that way long. To make two full glasses, blend the following in your blender, using pulse/chop mode: 1 banana, 2 cups of orange juice, 1 cup of frozen strawberries, and 1 cup of frozen raspberries or mixed berries. Top off with ice cream, and add a chocolate hazelnut “straw” for fun.

Whenever you feel overwhelmed, whether it’s at the beginning or the end of the day, take a few moments to stop. Stop shuffling papers, stop taking calls, and stop making lists. Change gears, and just live in the moment, at least for a while. You’ll be glad you did.

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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Jan 192016
 

When I was diagnosed with a form of endometrial cancer a couple of weeks ago, I debated whether I would write about it. Later this week, I will undergo surgery to remove my ovaries, uterus and Fallopian tubes, and then will begin the process of recovery.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Cancer is one of those words in everyone’s vocabulary that no one wants to experience firsthand. I watched my father die from lung cancer while the cancer cells marched insidiously through his body to his brain, and finally inhabited his skeletal system. Throughout that period he maintained his dignity—as much as you can while you’re propped up in a hospital bed and need assistance to eat, dress, shower and use the bathroom. Mostly he tried to ease others’ discomfort about being in the vicinity of someone with cancer by telling jokes. “How do you feel today?” a nurse or aide might ask. “With my fingers, of course,” he would respond. His daily chuckle, I think, got him through each day.

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My own situation is far different from my father’s—hopeful where his was hopeless, treatable and well understood where his disease had progressed beyond the point of return, and painless (at least before surgical intervention!), where my father’s disease left him sensitive to every touch. I am fortunate to have an experienced oncologist surgeon who specializes in women’s cancers of the reproductive system, fortunate to work for an employer that supplies excellent insurance and a partial wage-replacement system while I am on medical leave, and fortunate to have a supportive husband and son.

Image courtesy of KiddaiKiddeeStudio at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of KiddaiKiddeeStudio at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Still, cancer remains That Disease Other People Get. When it arrives on your doorstep, you can wring your hands and ask, “Why me?” or deal with it one step at a time, concentrating on the present moment. When people ask me how I feel, I tell them that no one feels good when cancer knocks on your door, but that I can honestly say I feel reassured by the level of both physical and emotional support I am receiving, as well as by the typical prognosis for the type of cancer I have, when it is treated. “Reassured” is my word of the month. And it’s reassuring, too, to know that so many people are praying on your behalf. Thank you, everyone!

Image courtesy of thepathtraveler at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of thepathtraveler at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of the pieces of advice my doctor gave me was to avoid reading every Web site in the world about cancer. I’m not sure whether he knew that I’m one of those people who eagerly research everything they can, but in any event his advice was sound. You can drive yourself crazy, reading about all of the potential detours your disease can take. My doctor pointed out that most Web sites offer general information, while every cancer is unique—just as every patient is unique. This becomes obvious when you hop from site to site, reading post-surgery advice about what you should eat and what you shouldn’t. One Web site encourages you to eat a high fiber diet, while your doctor may tell you, at least initially, to avoid such foods. Another site warns you about potential weight gain, while the next site is populated with testimonials by women who have lost weight.

Image courtesy of Master isolated images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Master isolated images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

While I think it is irresponsible to go into any surgery and subsequent recovery period without doing any research at all, or by not asking your doctor questions, it is equally irresponsible not to be selective about the sources you research. I like to visit www.mayoclinic.com, for example, for reliable medical information, at least as a starting point. And then I ask my medical staff lots of questions.

My goal, these days, is to live in each moment, and to not dwell unduly about the what-ifs. Worrying is wasted time, effort and energy. I’ve joined the C-Club, a membership that is far greater than I ever imagined. There is comfort in knowing you’re not alone, but also a bit of reticence about keeping your membership. The goal is to become cancer-free and healthy, and to leave that membership behind you.

Image courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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