How is Your Happiness Today?

Like the hailstone storms that are smattering Dublin setting off car and house alarms, there are some surprises that scupper plans and make us uncomfortable. ‘Happiness’ is like a hail-storm; it arrives all of a sudden in a shower of bliss and then it stops. That’s what I’m used to, a passing phase of happiness interrupted by the black dog of depression. I’ve read many books of how to make the most of life but somehow, I still got used to thinking the same way, comfortable as I remained oblivious. The negative thoughts I was thinking have resulted in bad feelings and those bad feelings are scuppering my moments of bliss.

Croagh Patrick St Patrick's DayCroagh Patrick, St. Patrick’s Day, Ireland

Just stop thinking about being happy

There are challenges in life but being happy doesn’t mean denying those challenges. It’s about focusing on the rest of life, remembering the good stuff – we’ve all had great moments we can tap into that will help us dismiss the negative thoughts. I’ve got some scar tissue in my brain but I’ve got billions of healthy cells with neuro-genesis there too (not my MRI scan)! By focusing on the functional & skipping (metaphorically) over those scars it is possible to get to the wonderful, happy moments of life. Gradually, those moments turn into minutes, those minutes into hours and those hours into a state of being.

So where is The Happy? It isn’t at the top of Croagh Patrick on St. Patrick’s Day ( though I was happy to have gone to the top and back!), it isn’t in the bottom of the pint glass, it isn’t in the bitching you do with your friends or comparing conquests with your mates and it isn’t in being a victim to what people expect you to be, to what you expect you to be. Happiness is not the far away land that maybe someday, with enough reflection, enough head work, determination and maybe even pain, we’ll arrive at the shore.

It is here, now. This reminder to stay present, staying ‘here’ and real from Pope Francis landed at just the right time.  It is thanks to a dear friend who is walking happiness where ever she goes.

“Don’t cry for what you lost, fight for what you have. Don’t cry for the dead, fight for what was born in you. Don’t cry for those who abandoned you, fight for who is with you. Don’t cry for who hates you, fight for what you want. Don’t cry for your past, live for your present struggle. Don’t cry for your suffering, struggle for your happiness. With the things that are happening to us we are learning that nothing is impossible to solve, just move on”. Pope Francis

On this day, this moment, start now. Make the commitment to be happy.

“You have to make a commitment. There is no way to happiness. happiness is the way”, Richard Carlson

© Emma Rogan 2014

What’s your story? Get into the conversation, make your comments and tell us about your quest.

Updated 26th March 2014

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

This piece was first published on the MS Ireland ‘MS and Me’ blog site. It was written with an eye to St. Valentine’s Day.

“It has been a while since I spoke with you all. Much has happened in the winter months that have lead me down different paths into places I never expected. On one of these paths I have re-discovered the joys of friendship and of being renewed through good conversation and company. Those dark winter months when it seemed as though it’ll never get bright again were certainly a challenge. One of these challenges were named when sharing time with friends-I wasn’t truly enjoying my life. I’d been something of a zombie, numbed to the good stuff.

Thankfully, time moved and now, looking out on this fine Spring morning, the calm after the dark storm of winter, there has been a change in the light. The air seems clearer, no longer the muggy grey that haunted the early part of the year. Spring has *Sprung*, more light/time to spend outside enjoying the fresh air and the newness of life in the trees and flowers. The birds also seem to have gone on double-time, sending out their cheery songs from early morning.  It is also, since last month, the time shops and displays have been shouting about love, romance and other such things. I am a little cynical about the stereotypical roses, cards, love hearts and things festooned in red. However, being reminded to think about the people I share my life with is a good thing. . So, what’s love got to do with it? It has every thing to do with a good life. A good friend who knows when to listen and when to talk is a balm for any wound we have.

Living with MS is a mixed bag in our general Toolbox for Life. Sometimes forget about it because it really isn’t a big deal for us and we’d much prefer not to think about it. Or at times, it can be all at once frightening and confusing and all we can think about. As we navigate our way through information about what might be, how it might be and how it will affect us, it is very easy to forget about the rest of life and the people we share it with. If we’re struggling with new symptoms, or grieving the loss of something, it takes extra-effort to look for the good stuff.

Recently, I’ve been revamping my Toolbox and added some things to help me deal differently with challenges.

 Remember to enjoy life and look for the good stuff.

  1. Use 15 minutes in the morning to read something uplifting. If you’re into it, read a Bible/spiritual book, say some prayers. Ponder.
  2. This day and particularly on Valentines Day look for the love and express your own.
  3. Do everything you can to make the most of this day.

 While not everyone will be getting a Valentine card from me this year, I will be making an extra effort to show my gratitude to those who have been so kind and loving to me during the year. And for those I might feel less than loving towards…it is so much better to think with a head of peace than one of animosity.

 As life whizzes past at gale force speed, remembering to remember people we care about and showing our appreciation can slip. Whether it is the unexpected card that arrives in the post, a bunch of beautiful fragrant flowers or the gentle touch of another’s hand, remembering to show our love and gratitude is one of the fine reminders of Valentine’s Day. Whatever way you do it, just do it.

 “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but is the parent of all others”. Cicero

 

© Emma Rogan 2014

 

A Weekend with Shift.MS

It is the words of others, their happiness, their gratitude that contaminates my life for the better. One such human is Art Berg who wrote The Impossible Just Takes a Little Longer.

Some words to start what will be a great week, once we remember that we CAN choose to be content, to be happy.

“I discovered a long time ago that my happiness is not a condition of my circumstances. Rather, happiness is a choice, and I make it every day. While we cannot control the environment of change that is happening all around us, we can control how we respond to it. We can adapt. We can change. And we can still find happiness, no matter how dark the storms are around us.”

When we’re diagnosed with MS, life and our sense of self can fall to pieces. As time passes, we pick up the pieces, find some new ones, throw out some useless old ones and begin, again. Every day we have the chance to begin again. We can adapt. We do change. And we can  find that sense of happiness, no matter how dark life seems to be or what storms knock on our door.

Linguistic Gymnastics and Oppression

How do you know you’re oppressed? Is it the ‘checking’, the wondering about being spotted, the *flinch* when someone looks at you & your girlfriend/boyfriend-then back to you- then sneers/comments/spits/laughs at something that, from your perspective, is not at all funny. Or they don’t really mean to be mean. Or is it all the more obvious when someone else tells you it’s not oppression that you’re experiencing and you must be mistaken and uninformed/uneducated/unaware/unlike them or even so reactive that you misunderstand what’s true.

Etymological gymnastics have been the distraction of choice for some people in Ireland recently. The subject matter, matters (Same sex civil marriage) but who gets to tell people whether they’re being oppressed has really captured attention and has people thinking deeper about what it means to be considered not unequal, but just not quite acceptable nor respected in Irish society.

In fact, many people would know that ball of fear in the belly that comes from the discipline and checking, the punishment of self-analysis. What people live with, can gnaw away at the good stuff. That happy feeling that courses through you when life is going exactly like we want it to, can be tainted by that self-oppression. Sometimes we’re afraid that to be ourselves like we’re undeserving of that same joyfulness. But we can’t let it win. It is vital that we don’t shy away from the good stuff.

So, when I need to be reminded of the good stuff and being true to who I am, I look to my LGBT family. With many others, Panti has eloquently dismantled the silence, named the prejudice by speaking out. We all play a role in helping people realise they are okay exactly as they are and they can be happy in their lovely straight/gay/lesbian/bi/trans skin. We all can name oppression, to call it out. Better to call it out from the dark shadows where it festers and into the Bright Light of Reason where we all can see it for what it really is.

How about you? Does oppression feature in your life-experiences? Whether your gay, have MS or there’s something else that causes that ball of fear, please comment.

A little something from Michel Foucoult to finish off

“…if you are not like everybody else, then you are abnormal, if you are abnormal , then you are sick. These three categories, not being like everybody else, not being normal and being sick are in fact very different but have been reduced to the same thing”

Edited 5th February

The Value of Work ¦ Kanchi Ability Café

Kanchi, an organisation that works to change mindsets and behaviours around disability is holding its first Ability Café of 2014 on Thursday, 30th January, from 8.00am – 10.00am and I’m speaking at the event.
The theme for the morning is Managing Fluctuating Conditions in the Workplace and I’m going to speak about current situations, research and all the options available for people and their businesses.

“Approximately 85% of working-age disability is acquired (source: NDA). A number of acquired disabilities can be fluctuating, these include conditions such as; MS, Parkinson’s and Rheumatoid Arthritis. This means that accommodations or adjustments which employees require can change over time.

As an employer how can you best support team members with fluctuating conditions, adapt to their changing needs and ensure that your top talent can remain in the workplace and deliver to the best of their ability?”

Staying or returning to employment plays a significant role in ensuring people maintain their financial independence, stay socially connected and using their skills. All topics will be up for discussion. If you have any questions for me now, please send a comment or connect with me on Twitter @emmadragon
For more information about the event as well as changing attitudes, please go to the Kanchi Network website

Terrible Twins of Discipline and Focus

I’ve made a list of What I Want To Achieve over this New Year, 2014. It’s long, with a variety things that I know I want to have completed/done/tried in the weeks and months ahead. One of the items on this list is ‘writing more often and regularly’. The question is, what has to happen for that to happen? And for the other items on my list? What do I need to do to ensure I am successful, to have tried something new, completed some tasks or done things differently? How about failing something so *spectacularly* that I won’t be able to help but be spurred into action in the next 358 days or so?

The list is divided into three columns. In the first column Things to Do, I’ve written the ideas swirling round my mind. The next column is how my world/self will be transformed when I’ve accomplished those Things and in the last column, what my first action needs to be to achieve my goal. (Big thank you to Brian Colbert for teaching me the importance of this method).

Usually, ‘Discipline and Focus’ are the Terrible Twins that taunt me when I’m getting active, actually writing. The joy is, by using this method, it is possible to interrupt my notion of the Terrible Twins and actually enjoy the freedom that does come from being disciplined & focused. Once I make them part of my everyday existence, they enhance my life rather than cause me angst.

Added to my use of the three columns to get my mind focused and my subconscious primed for action, I returned to a familiar source of inspiration, Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet. Instead of treading the same floorboards of life every day, he calls on us to go beyond the familiar, to do things differently, to look from a new perspective. I heard somewhere that the only way to become a good writer is to read great writers and actually write. This book isn’t only about whetting my appetite for writing; it is to egg me on to do something I relish, to ensure that when ideas come forth, I use and nurture them. That I create.

“My only advice for you is this. Go within yourself and probe the depths from which your life springs, and there at its source you’ll find the answer to the question of whether you must write. Accept this answer, just as you hear it, without hesitation. It may be revealed that you are called to be an artist. Then take this lot upon you, and bear it, its burden and its greatness, without asking for any external reward. For the creative artist must be a world for himself, and find everything within himself—and in nature, to which he is devoted.”

Paris, February 17, 1903
Letters to a Young Poet

When we write it can seem that every combination of words has already been made and I sometimes feel I’m merely tripping over the remnants of the great renowned when I ponder. No matter. The world is viewed differently by each and everyone one of us and, with a unique perspective, innovation is born.

This is a year of going into the place from where life springs, using that fantastic imagination we’ve all got & relishing the ache of fumbling for that *great* idea we had just a second ago…

Even as we might fumble on the writing quest, all the while we know the expression of our imaginations is as vital as the creative spark.

Enjoy the New Year Folks and thank you for reading my own creative fumblings! I welcome your comments and for Chatter that Matters let’s talk on Twitter @emmadragon

Christmas Wellness List

All Will Be Well: Staying Calm this Christmas

Christmas has been hanging around since Halloween and now… it’s finally here! The brilliant lights, tinselly trees, cards in the post (thanks to all my friends who sent them!), dodgy jumpers and a general sense of joie de vivre fills the air. Or not. Alongside this good feeling can be a weight of expectation; the sense of anticipation is a big part of the Christian Advent season, waiting for something special to happen, the birth of Jesus. Outside of church , there may be pressure as we try to figure out how to make Christmas as wonderful , amazing, as specialas possible. It can be overwhelming- I’ve been upset, very badly, this year as I ponder what I haven’t done, what I haven’t achieved and all sorts of negative ‘what ifs’ that have plagued me, despite the warm seasonal glow. Yet, it is when I ground myself and see the reality and ease up, I recognise this heady mix of ‘what might be-what-if-who’d-I-miss-where-am-I is all part of what makes Christmas, Christmas. In the end, the words of Julian of Norwich are never more true than at this time of year, “All will be well…

 
It all Begins with You

You’re the one who knows what you have to do. Prioritise your energy levels by deciding what parties/gatherings you’ll go to. If I want to fill every waking hour with socializing, get enough quality sleep and take rest when you need to. Feeling empty, sad & uncertain are possible; most things we think of won’t ever happen. Focus on the good, the darkness is pierced by the light of reality.

 
Time with Friends

Make time to be with people you love to be around. Not only does having a good laugh and shaking off your troubles make you feel better, you’re reinforcing your connections with those people you value most.

 
Out and About

Do three things you love every day. Stay in bed a few minutes longer, dive into that book you’ve been wanting to read, meditate (try out DigiPill), enjoy a walk in the local woods (Hill of Tara will be my destination), take the dogs for a ramble. If you can’t borrow a furry friend, ask a human one, they can be just as much fun.

 

Mind Your Body
Take care to eat meals and drink plenty of water. If we’re surrounded with all sorts of food, it can be easy to not take enough of the right fuel in. Sit down to breakfast, munch those snacks, relish the fabulous dinner prepared by many hands, ease into supper with delicious savoury breads and nice fruits. Remember, scoop up those vegetables and super foods in between the bold stuff!

The Hot Stuff
Slowly, gently and in moderation imbibe the whiskey/beer/wine/ eggnog. Alcohol dulls the senses- which we might want for a bit- but it also impacts our decision-making ability. Take it easy.

Gratitude

Reminding ourselves of the good things in life is important; unless we think about what aspects of life to be thankful for, the difficult aspects can overwhelm us. For me, it helps to think about my loved ones, those very special moments that enhanced my life experiences. By bringing them to mind, I’m ‘tapping into’ those good times and recreating the positive emotions tied to those memories. Set adrift on memory bliss whenever you need…

Sometimes we can’t find nice memories or anything to be thankful about. If you need help finding these things that you have, talk to a close friend about what’s on your mind. Make contact with someone in the Samaritans, they’d love to hear what you have to say if you think you can’t talk to anyone else (1850 60 90 90 or email jo@samaritans.org).

This is the time of year when if we’re fortunate, we get to be with friends and family we enjoy being with. Remembering to be ourselves, to be at peace with who we are, are how to make your experiences as good as it can be. Now is the time to restore, regenerate and reflect before moving to the promising adventures of the New Year. This is the time when you can remember the gift that you are and all you have to share with your loved ones. I wish you and yours a wonderful Christmas Season.