Small Steps and A Pep Talk For Hard Days

“Small steps may appear unimpressive, but don’t be deceived. They are the means by which perspectives are subtly altered, mountains are gradually scaled, and lives are drastically changed.” 
~  Richelle E. Goodrich

 

As most of you know, I am recovering from illness right now.

I’ve just finished two months of bed rest and am slowly easing myself back into life again. Luckily I’ve found my sweet spot. About three hours of work a day right now is all I can manage. Three hours gives me enough left in the tank for a walk on the beach, for cooking healthy meals, for meaningful connection with my loved ones and for self-care.

Any more than three hours and exhaustion creeps in. If I overdo it and go crazy at my desk I am useless for the next two or three days. Pacing myself is essential. And it is for you too, my friends.

The first six months of this year have been intense. They have required so much from us as we unstick ourselves from the mud, face what needs to be faced, heal what needs to be healed, and attend to all the things that have been holding us back. Because that’s what growth is all about. Sometimes we have to clean up the mess first before we can really start on new things on earnest. The only way you can do that is to put one foot in front of the other.

On January 1 this year I chose a tarot card as guidance for the year ahead. The card was Prince of Disks. The wisdom of this card is all about how taking small steps matters, even though small steps may seem decidedly unsexy and unimpressive when viewed in isolation. But of course, over time small steps add up to big shifts forward. (You can read more about my forecast for 2017 here. )

The energies of the second half of this year are much less intense, much more expansive and creative and allowing. But the small steps rule still applies.

You may feel like you’ve done nothing this year. Perhaps in relation to your bigger goals, dreams and projects that’s true. I can guarantee you though that you’ve been working anyway. Clearing the mess. Dealing with life’s dramas. Sorting out the priorities life has put in front of you. So don’t despair and don’t give up. Use July as your fresh start. Start over. Begin your plans again. Pick up whatever you had to put down when it all got too much. Keep making small steps. Small steps are all you will ever need. (more on July energies here)

As to pacing yourself?

If your life is so crazy that you have no time for yourself, if you are exhausted all the time, if you are resentful of any more demands being made of you – even by loved ones, then it’s time to pace yourself. Work out your sweet spot and stick to what you can manage. It’s always a diminishing return anyway once you move past happily productive and into exhaustion.

If there’s no way to slow down then seriously consider getting off that particular merry-go-round. Life is too short, and you are too precious to work yourself into an early grave for no good reason.

Above all, lovelies, be gentle with yourselves. You’re recovering from a great intensity too. Kindness and self care are magical medicines for care-worn souls.

Much love to you from my little sanctuary here at the farm, Nicole <3 xoxo

Don’t Isolate Yourself When the Going’s Hard

“No person, trying to take responsibility for her or his identity, should have to be so alone. There must be those among whom we can sit down and weep, and still be counted as warriors.”
~ Adrienne Rich

 

I’ve noticed a worrying phenomena lately. People are going to great lengths to make their life look incredible for social media, while behind the scenes they suffer alone and unsupported.

What happened that suddenly we can only talk up the good stuff, instead of living truthfully in the world?

As our extended family structures break down, and we become more and more remote from our neighbours and communities, we become more emotionally isolated.

We stop inviting people through the door. We stop sharing the small everyday details of our lives. Instead, we carefully curate our instagram images and facebook feeds.

There is a power to living vulnerably and being able to be open about our feelings and our lives.

Of course I advise using your intuition and discretion. Not everyone is a safe pair of hands. But with so many people stressed and overwhelmed by life, with rates of anxiety and depression and chronic illness escalating, with many of us caring for children with special needs, or single parenting or caring for elderly or ill loved ones, all of us need that extra boost that caring human connection can bring.

Image by Black-Avenger on www.deviantart.com

Image by Black-Avenger on www.deviantart.com

It can give us a powerful injection of hope or resilience to find that someone else has experienced our situation or feeling. We become less isolated. Our problem becomes more a condition of life than some shameful thing to be hidden away behind the posts of artfully photographed meals or ‘effortlessly gorgeous’ glamour outfits.

My Nana always used to tell me that a problem shared is a problem halved. As a young girl that never made much sense to me, but I can see the wisdom in it now, and I agree with that wisdom entirely.

Sometimes we genuinely do need to pull back to recalibrate our sense of centre, but please don’t isolate yourself entirely. Find ways to reach out, to ask for help, to sit in the company of others, to be able to share or smile or laugh or cry with people who welcome you into their space and allow you the freedom to feel (rather than hide) your emotions.

If you know someone who is going through a rough patch, reach out to them. Let them know that they’re not alone. Ask them if they’re okay.

We’re all in this together, and no-one’s getting out alive. Let’s all practice kindness for self and for our fellow journeymakers and make life’s journey better and more real and supported for everyone.

Sending so much love your way,

Nicole <3 xx

Sometimes You Don’t Need Solutions, You Just Need To Be Heard

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
~  Leo Buscaglia

 

Ben and I met a close girlfriend for coffee yesterday. We’re each going through quite a lot with our families right now. We have family members confronting serious illness, and our friend has elderly parents in poor health – her Dad’s had a series of strokes and is in care, and her mum’s across town in another hospital after a hip replacement failure and major surgery to repair it.

Life is like this sometimes. It all happens at once. Big things, small things, out-of-the-blue things all raining down upon us.

Our friend cried as she told us of her dad’s worsening dementia and how heart-breaking it is for her to see him in this place of loss and confusion. I cried a little too as we updated her on our family, and on some of the other heart-breaking issues I’m helping a few of my clients through.

None of us had answers for each other and we didn’t even try. What mattered was that we could talk about our feelings, we could be honest about all the things raining down upon us, and the things we’d stuffed up as well as the things we’d handled well.

i-LOVE-coffee-coffee

We didn’t just talk about the hard stuff. We laughed a lot. We reminisced. We held space together as friends. We held each other’s hands. We sat in silence when silence was called for.

Sometimes that’s all we need. Just a safe space where we feel heard – where we can unbottle all of the things we’ve held inside.

If you have a friend or family member going through a tough time right now, don’t feel that you need to have a solution for them. One of the most precious gifts you can give them is time, friendship and a non-judgemental space where they can talk about what they are going through.

Know that they may also prefer to talk about every other thing than their cancer, their husband’s depression, or the terrible thing that happened/is happening.

Life will give all of us hardship or difficulty at one turn or another. Friendship, a shoulder to cry one, someone to make you laugh, someone to remind you that you are not your illness, someone who truly listens – that’s what helps us to get through the hard bits.

Wishing you smooth sailing or good friends today.

Know that you are ever in my thoughts and prayers,

Much love, Nicole <3 xoxo

Image from quote addicts

Image from quote addicts

 

Where’s Your Focus?

Image from reddit.com

Image from reddit.com because, well, pirates! And you know how I love pirates. 🙂

“Very occasionally, if you pay really close attention, life doesn’t suck.”
~ Joss Whedon

On Friday I posted about a beautiful ordinary day, and how much I had enjoyed such simple things as a trip to the farmers’ markets, clean sheets on the line, sunshine and crisp ripe apples.

After that post I received two emails, extracts of which are below:

That might be fine for you, Nicole, but not all of us live in Byron Bay. Not all of us have a beautiful life.

and

You obviously aren’t that sick, although you say you have lyme. No person with a chronic illness could enjoy the kind of life you have.

I guess that I need to be honest then, and admit that not all of my day was what you might consider beautiful. In fact it was downright ordinary. But I omitted those details from my Friday post.

I can list those things here:

  • As a result of my current course of drugs I have neurological urinary incontinence. I wore an adult diaper to the markets.
  • As a result of the drugs, the bacteria dying, and my poor liver not coping with increasing levels of toxicity I was covered head to toe in a fierce rash and weeping eczema. Agonising, and ugly too.
  • I was plagued by a sense of impending doom – the kind of feeling a psychic gets when they know something is about to happen, over which they have no control, but by which they will be impacted.

Here’s a photo of me a week ago, just before my last round of IV drugs. It was the best I’d felt in months and I was teaching myself how to take a selfie so I would have a picture of me for my new website. It was fun. I put on lipstick, and wore a jacket that made me look dressed for going out. I like this photo. I have clean hair, I’m standing in my garden on a bright autumn day, and it’s a headshot, so you can’t see my pyjama bottoms or my big-girl pull-up incontinence pants. About four photos later I worked out how to look into the camera instead of at my hand…

Nicole Cody

And here’s a couple of me taken last Thursday in Brisbane. Just before beautiful ordinary magical Friday. Here’s the rash that began to creep up my limbs and made me want to claw my own flesh off my bones.

lyme rash hand

Here’s my face, which was covered in blotches. I won’t share the photos of the weeping, bleeding rash behind my knees, under my arm and right across my chest and left breast. My face went that way too, by Friday morning.

Why am I sharing this? I have lived with chronic illness and daily misery for thirty years. That thirty years has taught me a lot. Once upon a time I would have been the person who sent plaintive, judgemental or whiney messages to others, whom I felt had no idea how much I was suffering and no right to say that life was good, when it plainly wasn’t.

But that kind of thinking ruins any chance you have of having a rich and satisfying life.

So I adjusted my focus.

No matter how crappy my day gets, I look for beauty. I look for the small pleasures, the tiny details of comfort and joy, the things that will make my day memorable, or at least tolerable.

It’s become one of my superpowers. And it could easily become one of yours.

We can’t always control what happens to us, but we can control how we react, we can control our thoughts, and we can control our focus.

On Friday I didn’t focus on my distress and discomfort. In fact, I worked hard to not focus on them and to look for the beauty around me.

As I ate my dinner in front of the fire early on Friday evening I reflected that it had indeed been a very beautiful ordinary day. That’s my secret. I know that every day can be a beautiful day, or at least have elements of beauty hidden within it, just waiting for an observant eye and an open heart.

So, I have to ask you…

Where’s your focus?

Image from quotesicons.com

Image from quoteicons.com

Balancing Act

Image by Dave Dugdale

Image by Dave Dugdale

“Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralysed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds’ wings.”
~ Rumi, The Essential Rumi

 

Occasionally things happen which give my world a good shake up. Sometimes it’s a gut punch. Sometimes it’s the most incredible blessing that I never saw coming.

I’ve learned to appreciate these paradoxical moments. I now see that one is less without the other. You need both, in order to have the contrast which makes each experience more meaningful. More honest. More real.

Both grow you.

Both help define you.

It’s a balancing act.

Image from Andy Groleau

Image from Andy Groleau

No point giving in to the pain. No point surrendering to the beauty.

There’s a balancing point somewhere in the middle.

When you find it, you realise that it’s all okay.

You see that love is the answer to every question.

Whatever you’re going through right now, look for that balancing point. Use your heart to orient you to that middle ground.

Keep feeling.

Keep breathing.

Keep loving.

Everything passes. Everything changes.

Love remains.

Sometimes Resting IS Progress!

Image from 1ms.net

Image from 1ms.net

“Most of the things we need to be most fully alive never come in busyness. They grow in rest.”
~ Mark Buchanan

 

I’ve slept away another day.

Perhaps I’ll do the same with this day too.

But that’s okay.

Resting begets healing. In repose we consolidate knowledge and even our muscles use the time to store memories. Resting rebuilds strength. It allows us to rally so that we may press on with renewed vigour. Rest creates that quiet receptive space where we can pay attention to our Muse when she whispers wisdoms and inspirations in our ear. It is while we rest that we more easily hear the voices of Guides and Angels.

How long have you been fighting this urge to slow down, to pace yourself, to stop for a moment and catch your breath?

Pushing on when you are exhausted just leads to more chances of something breaking, and that something might be YOU.

If this resonates for you, maybe you need to read this post:

The Broken Robot Repair Shop

Resting restores. My wish for you today is that you find some time to pause and just BE, if only for a minute or two.

Maybe it’s time to give yourself permission to slow down, or even to stop for a while. Outer Work might cease while you rest, but so much Inner Work can get done. That’s important progress too. Some might even say life changing!

Let Harry and Bert show you how it's done!

This pic was taken just on a year ago. My, how Harry has grown since then. These dogs have mastered the art of resting. Let Harry and Bert show you how it’s done!

Three Key Strategies for Dealing with Life’s Hardships

Image of ship in a storm from Vintage Everyday

Image of ship in a storm from Vintage Everyday

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
~ Haruki Murakami

A friend of mine is doing it tough right now. She’s lost her home and is relying on the kindness and largesse of her friends until she gets back on her feet. In the middle of all of that, thinking that she should be counting the blessings still evident in her life, she instead felt momentarily overwhelmed by her situation.

A client of mine  is nursing an adult child who has been reduced to the functionality of an infant through a violent head injury. Her husband died in that same car accident. This all happened right at a time when their last child had left home, and when she and her husband were about to travel. Now she’s grieving and working out where to go next as she cares for a son who will forever be dependent. The strains upon her are enormous.

Both these women are strong and good, and they’re facing really big challenges.

So the last thing they need is to guilt themselves out about not feeling happy and grateful enough in their lives.

Life is hard sometimes. Fact is, no matter how kind others may be, and how much you know you can be grateful for, and how many blessings are in your life – where you are can still suck.

It’s okay for things to not really be okay. If life’s hard, well, that’s just where you are.

If you’re homeless and wanting your own nest, if you now have a child who’ll be forever dependent on you… Who doesn’t get weary when they have no true solitude for themselves, no respite, no retreat that is theirs alone?

If things aren’t going so well for you, I have some advice.

Your job, and mine (as I heal from chronic Lyme), is to accept what is, to do our best to get through any way we can, be honest about the moments when it gets on top of us, to seek help when we need it, and to keep focused on the outcomes we want for ourselves.

Image by Penkdix Palme

Image by Penkdix Palme

Gratitude is an important coping mechanism and life skill. It helps us to focus on the things in life that ARE still good and worthwhile, no matter how hard life may be. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know how much I advocate an attitude of gratitude.

The other thing that helps us to cope, and which gives us power is action. For me, as I fight to recover from this wretched illness, it’s to keep on writing, to have enforced rest, to stay in contact through facebook, to keep planning retreats and workshops, to keep taking my drugs, and to constantly remind myself WHY I am doing this.

If your life is not going to plan right now, here’s a three point plan for coping:

  1. Work out an end goal, or at least something to strive for that will get you past the place where you are now. Then keep your eyes firmly on that place instead on the mess you’re in. For me, it’s an end goal of being well, with my Lyme Disease in total remission. For my girlfriend, it’s meaningful work and a home of her own. My client is looking to get a compensation payout to help support her son’s ongoing needs, to employ some help, and eventually to find a home that can accommodate her son for that time when she will no longer be able to meet the demands of caring for him. If you don’t know what you want, this might help you get focused: Making My Life Work For Me
  2. Let yourself honour the feelings of frustration, pain, misery, grief, anger or whatever else comes up for you. You don’t need to dwell in them but you do need to be honest with yourself. Life is what it is. Don’t let yourself feel guilty or weak for acknowledging the difficulties you face, and that this might get you down sometimes. It’s not natural to be 100% positive all the time! You might also find this post helpful: Sad Unicorns – OR Is your New-Age Thinking Positively Unhelpful?
  3. Practice gratitude, even in the place of this current hardship. Life is still filled with everyday kindness, moments of beauty and wonder. When we look for these energies, no matter how small or fleeting, we are tuning ourselves in to an energy that can fill us back up when we’re empty. More on this here: Embracing the Small Things – An Antidote to Despair

Everything changes. That is the only constant in this world. When life gets hard, hold on and do what you’ve got to do to get through. Most importantly, be kind to yourself.

Thinking of you, and sending love ♥ Nicole xx

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