Grace Michaelson

Obsessions? Or gods?

Apr
17

I’ve been thinking a lot about obsessions lately.  For instance, my son has autism, and because of that he obsessives over topics all the time.  What if we start obsessing over things, though, and don’t have an excuse like autism?  I think obsessions are a fact of being part of this world.  Sometimes people struggle more than others, putting them into a class that has a label, like “Autism Spectrum Disorder”, but sometimes we’re just normal and have strong interests we think about all the time.

I’m not trying to belittle illnesses that have obsessions.  My daughter struggles with OCD.  Many people like to claim this for themselves because they’re anal or a perfectionist.  However, true OCD is a fear that is beyond anyone’s true understanding unless you have it.  Your obsessions become things you fear.  Then there’s the son with obsessions because of his ASD.  I’m not trying to belittle that, either. Believe me, I’ve been at that place where I have heard about everything there is to know about one of my son’s obsessions and he’s still talking!

What I’m thinking about are the little things in life that grab our attention until our focus is off of what it should be– such as God, mindfulness, and others.  For example, I have been dealing with asthma.  Unfortunately, this time it came with chest pain.  By the third day of chest pain, that was all I could think of.  Praying, being in the moment (mindfulness), and other people were the last thing I was thinking of.  I’m disappointed in myself for this.  If I continually allow things to distract me from what is important, I’m no use at all.

So, can obsessions become little gods in our lives that take our focus off the important?  I believe so.  I think the Bible even talks about this:

Luke 16:1-13, “Jesus told this story to his disciples: “There was a certain rich man who had a manager handling his affairs. One day a report came that the manager was wasting his employer’s money. So the employer called him in and said, ‘What’s this I hear about you? Get your report in order, because you are going to be fired.’

“The manager thought to himself, ‘Now what? My boss has fired me. I don’t have the strength to dig ditches, and I’m too proud to beg. Ah, I know how to ensure that I’ll have plenty of friends who will give me a home when I am fired.’

“So he invited each person who owed money to his employer to come and discuss the situation. He asked the first one, ‘How much do you owe him?’ The man replied, ‘I owe him 800 gallons of olive oil.’ So the manager told him, ‘Take the bill and quickly change it to 400 gallons.’

“‘And how much do you owe my employer?’ he asked the next man. ‘I owe him 1,000 bushels of wheat,’ was the reply. ‘Here,’ the manager said, ‘take the bill and change it to 800 bushels.’

“The rich man had to admire the dishonest rascal for being so shrewd. And it is true that the children of this world are more shrewd in dealing with the world around them than are the children of the light. Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your earthly possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.

“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? And if you are not faithful with other people’s things, why should you be trusted with things of your own?

“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

This passage is predominately talking about serving God instead of serving money.  However, it says:

Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your earthly possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.

So could that mean God is telling us our focus should not be on our worldly resources, dare I say struggles?  Our focus needs to be on others and on God.

“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

Could we exchange “money” for something we think about all the time and that replaces those things most important.  Anyway, this is what I’ve been thinking about lately.  What would you say?

 

Stick-with-it-ness! (How to hang in there in a new lifestyle change)

Jan
09

First off, let me point out how much easier it is to make a bad habit than it is to make a good habit.  Our brains are hardwired to do the easier thing.  Some call it “sin nature” (that’s me and my faith), some call it laziness, whatever your choice for calling it, it’s just plain easier to make a bad habit.  To make a good habit is much, much harder.  My blog is about trying to empower you to make the choice to make those good choices to get you on a better path, whether you struggle with Depression, Anxiety, and Fibromyalgia like I do, or you just want to start fresh this New Year.

Today I want to give you some information about making a new habit.  First off, I just want to teach you a little about your brain.  Your brain, to dumb it down a whole lot, is kind of like a ball of play dough.  As you give it thought processes, it’s like you are drawing lines in the play dough.  The more you think about one thing, the deeper you draw the line.  Let’s take Chronic pain for instance.  If you go to the doctor you are drawing a line in your brain’s “dough”.  If you talk about your pain with your friends, deeper goes that line.  If you get up in the morning and take a moment to scan your body for pain spots, deeper goes that line.  Do you see how it goes?  But what is the best thing about play dough?  If you mess up what can you do?  Squeeze it together and start over.  Well, obviously we can squeeze our brain together and start over, but there is something our brain is and that is called Neuroplastic.  The Neuroplasticity of the brain allows it to “heal” the neurons we form that have “taught” it that it will “never get better” and teach it a good habit, such as “I can have a good life despite my pain.” Please understand that I am not saying that someone who has chronic pain is not in pain.  Pain is very real and is not “all in your head” like many doctor’s will tell you.  What I’m saying is, that if you allow yourself to form good mental, physical, and spiritual habits, your brain will heal to the point that you can have a happy life despite your chronic pain. Please watch this video below.  It’s a simplified explanation that explains fully what Neuroplasticity is.  Again, this doesn’t solve your chronic disease, what it does is give you a chance to live a good life despite it.

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/tJ93qXXYRpU” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

OK, so now that we’ve gotten through the intellectual portion of why we want to form a good habit, let’s talk about why it’s so hard to keep a good habit and some things we can try to keep our good habits going.  First of all, you need to know that it takes 21 days to form and stick to a good habit.  So, if you give up on day 19, you’re selling yourself short.  A good way to try to keep a habit forming is to have a calendar in your possession, and I’m not talking about a iThingy.  I’m talking about something you can touch, feel, and use a pen or pencil on to scratch off the days.  Choose the good habit your wanting to perform and check off the days.  You will find that after you reach the hump on the 21 days it will slowly get easier and easier to be consistent on doing that which you are trying to do.

So, I just gave you the first key:  Use a calendar to mark off the days on your habit.  That way you can see the success you’re making and not stress on the failure.

Here’s your second tip:  Don’t give yourself 20 habits to form in one 21 day span.  Choose 1.  The one I’m working on this 21 period is organizing my house.  Not just organizing my house, but keeping it organized.  I have people harping on me to exercise, and do my relaxation, and all this other stuff.  I am doing those things, but my primary concentration is on my house, and if the other things fall away, I’m not beating myself up.  One. habit. at. a. time.  This is called moderation.  It’s OK to acknowledge you have 20 things to change, but don’t ruminate over them.  You get to list them once, then put them away in a deep dark place where you don’t get to pick them up again until after you feel you are comfortably handling the habit you have just formed.  Twenty-one days is the minimum needed for a habit to form, for you it may be two months.  Be kind to yourself.  Take it easy.  Simplify yourself and don’t stress.

So the second key for today is:  Moderation

Finally, Be kind to yourself on a Difficult Day, or a Plan B day.  We all have Plan B days.  Those are the days when your illness, or your work, or whatever your “issue” that brought you to my website is driving you the most crazy.  I recommend to everyone to make themselves a Difficult Day Box.  I got this idea from Mayo Clinic when I was there for treatment.  They have their patients make a Difficult Day Box because inside it you put things to encourage you.  Like your favorite quotes, a letter from your favorite person that encouraged you, a $5 gift card to your favorite coffee shop, or whatever you can think of that will help you get through that day.  On that day, do half of what you do on a regular day.  The point is, do something.  Don’t give up.  Don’t stop.  If you give up and give yourself the right to sit on the couch or lay in bed all day, you’ll feel like crap and you’ll give up on your habit.  A give-up day like I just described is a start-over for the entire habit, but a “Plan B” day is just a step back, not a failed habit.  Remember, kindness to yourself is the best attitude.

Final key:  Handle your Plan B days by still doing half of what you normally do.

Now, after you’ve mastered your new habit, and you feel you’re stable and good to go, go ahead and add a habit, but remember the same rules apply.  Don’t be surprised if the first habit take a hit.  Just remember, you did it the first time!  You already have one success under your belt.  You can do it again with two habits.  Simplify, Moderate, and be kind to yourself on “Plan B” days.  You can do this thing!

Here are some good habits I recommend for people dealing with chronic illnesses:

  1. Grow Spiritually
  2. Relaxation Techniques/Diaphragmatic Breathing
  3. Exercise, starting from 5 minutes a day working up to the recommendation your doctor has given you.  Only exercise if your doctor has given you a go ahead.
  4. Good Hygiene
  5. Good Sleep Hygiene
  6. Drinking 1/2 your weight in water.  If you want to drink something else, fine, but don’t include it in your water intake.
  7. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Counseling
  8. Talk to your doctor about medication interactions
  9. Avoid refined sugar
  10. Avoid Caffeine/Alcohol/Nicotine
  11. Find yourself a “Quiet Room” to retreat to on a “Plan B” day
  12. Make a “Difficult Day Box”

Buggy, No Bug Backs!

Jan
06

Do your kids play the Buggy Game?  This is where they see a Volkswagen Bug they slug you in the arm and say “Buggy!”?  Yes, well, I thought I would be smart and start slugging them back when they did this.  Well, guess what?  Now there’s “No Bug Backs”, apparently.  What really gets me is that I never see the Bug they slug me for until well after the slug.  Sometimes I never see the Bug.  Yet, my kids alway notice these damn Bugs all over town!  How do they do this?  I don’t know.

The point  is that I am obviously not mindful enough to notice the Bugs that tootle around town.  I’m so busy rushing to this appointment, or that dinner, or off to go visit that friend.  My mind is rushing through my day, or busy reflecting on that conversation.  I may be ruminating over the finger I got from the freak in the car I passed four cars back who was going so slow there was no way he had anywhere important he had to go.  Right?  Then bam! “Buggy, No Bug Backs!”

My friend and I were visiting this afternoon and I got two calls in like twenty minute from a gal from a doctor’s office because my son and I were having back-to-back eye doctor appointments at the same office.  She hadn’t noticed that we were in the same family and it was the same phone number she was dialing and the same name she was going to talk to.  Again, that mindfulness thing.  My friend and I had a good laugh over the matter, but I began to think about how much our culture doesn’t practice mindfulness.

We are a listen-to-respond, rush-to-get-there, work-a-holic, technology-hungry, socially-crippled society.  I honestly don’t think any of us could handle more than 24 hours without our phones or iThingy.  We cling to them more than we cling to human touch.  Mindfulness is a forgotten art.  To sit and actually listen to someone without already formulating your response while someone is still talking is a forgotten art.  Sitting and inspecting a raison – just because you want to – an art for the grandparent who has Alzheimer’s.  Maybe it’s time to learn from those who have Alzheimer’s.  There was an article on CNN that just sunk into my brain because it showed people posed with their phones around tables or in their beds, but the photographer had taken away their phones.  It shows how disconnected and unmindful we as a society have become.  You can find CNN’s article here.

I’m not an anti-technology person.  I personally own a iPhone, iPad, and an iMac. Each of my kids have their own iPhones because I want to be able to track them with “Find my iPhone” if they break curfew. lol.  Technology has it’s place and is a wonderful asset.  What I am saying, though, is that mindfulness is also a great and wonderful long-lost asset and should be taken seriously.  People who can see the Bug tootling down the street instead of fuming because the stupid kid gave them the finger for getting around them have it made.  People who can notice the family groups and save themselves an extra phone call are ahead of the game.  People who are polite enough to listen all the way through your thought before starting to formulate their response are awesome.

One way to start becoming more mindful is to become a little more old fashioned.  Instead of using your visa/debit card for everything, start using cash.  You’ll notice you’ll have a better handle of your budget.  There is just something about the touch and feel of cash leaving your wallet that makes you spend less.  My friend just told me another way I can be mindful.  I’m always forgetting appointments or being late because I forgot I was supposed to be someplace because I didn’t put it into my iThingy’s.  So he suggested that I go old fashioned.  He told me to buy myself a Day-Timer.  He said there is something about carrying a calendar around and writing it down by hand that helps you to keep your appointments.  I think I’ll try it.  Something about feeling and touching that helps take ownership.  Mindfulness.  Bringing things into the plain of the senses.

Thankless Job

Sep
10

Today I was at the local hospital picking up something at the pharmacy. An older gentlemen named Burt was there to open the door for me. I said, “Hi, Burt, how are you?” Then I stopped and waited for his answer. He became very confused and asked me, “Who are you?”

I realized that he was used to people not saying his name and just calling out a speedy “Thank you,” if that, or maybe a “Hi” as they sped off to their appointment in the building. He was anonymous. To have someone acknowledge his name, ask him a personal question, and wait for the answer was abnormal. Of course, I’m pretty abnormal anyway, so that doesn’t bother me.

This post has come out of that experience. I realized that that meant a lot to him when I left. He patted me on the back as he opened the door for me and he told me in a gentle voice, “You go and have a really nice day.” I’m asking myself how many people have thankless jobs like Burt? They open the doors for people invisibly, or park people’s cars invisibly, or check people in to the hospital or doctor’s visits invisibly. They have name tags, but their names are never acknowledged. They are invisible, but invaluable.

Take the street sweeper: what would happen if they stopped cleaning our streets? Yet, instead of waving, many of us curse them. What would happen if people stopped repairing the roads? Yet we curse road work every day for being inconvenient. How about the next time you inch by the road workers you give them a smile and a wave? Or what about the fast food worker? We’d never get our Big Mac with Extra Fries if some invisible worker wasn’t flipping burgers behind the counter. What about the person wearing the name tag sitting in front of you checking you into your next doctor’s appointment? What if you had to check yourself in with an automated system instead of seeing her smiling face? What is her name anyway?

What would happen if you read the front desk lady/man’s name tag at your next appointment and said, “Hi, _____, my name is _____, I’m here to see _______. How are you?” Then wait for their response. I guarantee you will get either suspicion or shock the first time, but if you continue (if you’re a regular) they will begin to look forward to seeing you because you are a spot of kindness in their lives. It’s time for us to be aware of people around us and start listening to hear them instead of listening to respond to them.

True kindness and acknowledgment of people’s presence seems to be the thing of the past these days. Yet, couldn’t it make a return? This post is for all of you who feel your job is invisible and unimportant. Just think what would happen if you weren’t there? The office, street, sidewalk, electricity, sewer, or whatever you are doing, would be an absolute mess right now! You are important! I acknowledge your name and your importance today. How are you? I hope you go and have a really nice day.