Knock on Wood!

Superstition and fate tend to take the power out of our hands.
Hope is the action-taking when we chose a positive future.
*Word/Phrases of blue and underlined are links to further information on the topic.

I don't view myself as superstitious. But, I've been known to say, "Knock on wood," now and then when I want to stave off something bad after declaring something good.  As I've explained, my mom who had bipolar drilled into me at an early age that just as things are going well, life/fate will slam you with something equally not good. When I was a child, and actually now and then still now, I felt that there was someone watching over me, guiding me.  That inner voice of mine always letting me know the choices I should make. Writing this blog comes from that inner voice, and I feel it's there that my resilence through hope began.

Last Saturday, as my husband and I sat and ate our dinner out on the deck in unusual peace, he brought up that he noticed I had been doing really well the past few weeks (not pleading for massages or whimpering in bed).  I agreed.  As written about in my last post, I really was feeling great.  I got up with energy and didn't have too much pain. I was able to participate in all that I had planned and able to fall asleep at night. I didn't even take Bayer Back and Body!  I had really been this way for a good 3 weeks.

As I responded, I said, "Yes, I'm really doing well-knock on wood." However, there was no wood on our composite-planked deck or in the glass and metal outdoor table and chairs.  I gave a little laugh as I knocked on the metal armrest.  A little bit of doubt or even fear flashed in my mind. (The saying knock-on-wood came from the long-ago belief that spirits lived in the trees; the first knock was to say your wish and the second for thanking the spirits for granting it in advance.)

Much I have read about the brain, indicates that when there is despair about the pain and symptoms of fibromyalgia, the pain lives up to the expectation, and when there is hope that the pain will go away, the pain tends to subside. "Belief and expectation -- the key elements of hope -- can block pain by releasing the brain's endorphins and enkephalins, mimicking the effects of morphine. In some cases, hope can also have important effects on fundamental physiological processes like respiration, circulation, and motor function," explained Dr. Jerome Groopman's in his book The Anatomy of Hope. I don't know if that tinge of doubt took over in the night, but Sunday, I woke up brittle and pain-filled.

Since then, I've had more pain than those three weeks.  I can't really put my finger on the cause. Most likely, being I had less pain, I didn't do the stretches and breathing as much as I had been doing.  So, I'm back using my strategies of hotpad, hand massager, slow stretches to get out of bed.  Then, yoga class either at the studio or at home using Gaia.com. Breathing consciously is a constant practice during my day, but I am taking time now and then to do the actual breathwork by lying done for 15-60 minutes while listening to my William Ackerman station on Pandora, which is one form of meditation.

My pain reminds me to take care of myself.  I don't do it naturally. That's been a huge lesson in my Fibromyalgia journey.  And by taking care of myself, I'm then able to be there for my others.  What I do know is that I continue to have hope that I can live my life.  I can make a difference in my path even while life gives me variables that seem to be roadblocks. This is a part of my resilence that has been a part of me as long as I can remember.  I always knew my future would be better.  (That inner voice that I felt looked out for me.)

In the article How Hope Can Help You Heal, Dr. James Lopez, psychologist and researcher states, "Hopeful people conjure a vision that sustains them, that causes them to show up for the hard work and accept setbacks...They make an investment in the future that pays off in the present: in the way they eat, exercise, conserve energy, take care of themselves and stick to their treatment plan."

The article goes on to state that hope is not wishing.  Wishing is passive.  Hope takes steps:


• Maintaining identity by continuing to participate in activities and relationships that help patients retain a sense of self outside diagnosis and treatment.
• Realizing community through formal and informal connections that help patients understand they are not alone in living with disease. This community is made real through conversation, visitation, consultation, and participation in daily activities.
• Claiming power by taking an active role in treatment by setting goals, self-advocating, monitoring and maintaining one's own health.
• Attending to spirituality, activated through religious, spiritual and other contemplative practices.
• Developing wisdom, which involves both gaining pragmatic, medical wisdom derived from one's own experience and finding ways to "give back."
I would add one more, taking note of the daily small moments that bring you joy- taking time to be grateful.  Many have heard about starting the day with a gratitude journal.  I have made lists in the past.  But that can get a bit automatic and repetitive, maybe insincere.  For me, I'm working on stopping (like when I do my conscious breathing) and noticing the moment, relishing in it and acknowledging how blessed I am within it. The moments like while driving with my daughter, reaching over and holding her hand because she shares her deepest self with me.  Or when my cat Scout, comes in the darkness of the early in the morning to lie down in the space next to my face, purring contentedly. Or when my granddaughter sits on my lap, cuddling us both in our softest blankey, to read a book or watch a "kitty vs balloon" video on YouTube. Or when, in the middle of the night, my husband and I both turn in the same direction in a wonderful synchronization. I want to take time to stop and purposefully notice these "little" blessings.  They bring me hope.

Last week, my husband and I helped our daughter paint the outside of her house.  I used the medium height ladder for my sections.  I would move it down the line as I progressed.  Now and then, I would need something like the spill rag or my water bottle which would mean walking under the ladder would be the easiest way to get it.  I found myself debating, Do I want to chance it?  The first few times I chose to go around the ladder. Seriously, thinking, Why tempt fate? But then, I chided myself that I was being ridiculous. So, I decided to throw caution into the wind and walk under the ladder.  To me, that is one step in having hope vs wishing.  Fate does not have the end say.  I will continue to have active hope.



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