Reflections

In the here and now..

Is it Friday yet? Is it summer yet? Christmas decorations before Halloween? Easter eggs before Valentines?

Call it human nature, forward planning or wishing our lives away, it's something we all do without even knowing it.. and then we wonder why time goes by so fast?

Mindfulness is one of those fashionable lifestyle choices we've been hearing a lot of recently. We've all seen the usual insta-posts and motivational quotes trying to inspire us all over social media, but could you remember the last one you scrolled past?
Nope, me either.
The concept has been on my radar a while now, but when I had a doctor sing its praises to me recently, I figured there must be something beneficial to this thing. 
He obviously knew I had a bit of recovery time on my hands and a capacity for over-thinking, and saw an opportunity. And who am I to disobey doctor's orders?

Turns out, it's a pretty simple concept really, but it does take a bit of focus and perseverance. Shouldn't be a problem with 'stubborn' being my middle name. 

Now, I'm not claiming to be any kind of expert here, but I do think the simple action of bringing focus to the present moment has saved me from myself a number of times these past few months. 

Smell the roses

Someone with a bit more mindful experience described using the process with the simplest of daily activities, like making coffee or eating raspberries. 
Not the usual to-go coffee mug in one hand, iPhone in the other and a mouthful of raspberries, but a conscious effort to enjoy and savour the moment. 

Image from Mndfulness Ireland on Facebook

Being mindful at breakfast can mean using all the senses to notice the aroma of the coffee, the colour of the berries, the taste of the different flavours etc. 
I don't even know if coffee and raspberries are a good combination cos I don't like either, but I think you get the point!
Come to think of it, breakfast isn't the best example to begin with either as it takes a bit of time, maybe use your lunchtime cuppa instead?

Yin or yang?

Anyway, the point of it all is to stop and notice where you are, right in the present moment. It can be helpful if you're prone to a bit of worrying - coming from an expert with a mind rarely secured in the present! 
These past few months have given me many an opportunity to concoct some 'if-only' or 'what-if' scenarios, with a lot of sitting around 'taking it easy'.  
Mindfulness Ireland

If taking it easy includes Netflix binging or instagram scrolling, it gets old after a while! 
The envy of strangers' wardrobes/adventures/make-up collections/weight loss transformations will eventually set in, and that's not gonna help with anyone with taking-it-easy!  If giving up social media altogether is just too big an ask, (if???), it can help to try step away for a while and look for something good in your own life every day. 

One example I'm using is the loan of an exercise bike to use until I'm allowed back at the gym - not quite the same endorphin hit, but at least it's a way to take back control for the moment.
I'm pretty sure my muscles are a bit happier already. Sure, this is my first return to blogging since my last surgery, so something must be working, right?
Next thing you know I'll have a social life up and running again!

My home gym!

Anyway, having waffled on long enough, I better get back to practicing what I preach. 
If anyone's looking for me at the weekend, I'll be on a long distance cycle through my living room, iPod in hand, with a gob full of raspberries. Nah, make that blueberries, just to shake things up a bit.. 

If you've any tips or suggestions for staying present, do share in the comments, the more the merrier :-)

See yis later,
E
x



It's the little things


As I approach my next round of physio and rehabilitation treatment, I’ve been thinking back on the early days and the profound effect it has had on my life.
                                     
In most cases, being in hospital is seen as a negative thing, but the rehab experience can be quite the opposite at times.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m fully aware of the struggles and obstacles people are facing during their treatment, but I’ve always been surprised by the sense of mutual support among the patients during my time there.
Kinda helps to put life in perspective, and encourages you to reflect on personal challenges and goals.

Sometimes in life, we need to focus on the little things that make us feel good, and I think when life gets complicated, we need to enjoy those things that might seem trivial to others, just to give ourselves a break.
                       www.nestle.com                           
Being in hospital is no exception to this, and one of my most vivid memories from a few years back might help me to explain why.

Beside me in the ward was a young girl, a young mother of two children, who was recovering from some very serious injuries. She was coming to the end of her treatment and preparing to adjust to life back at home after a very long time in hospital and rehab.
Because of her injuries, she wasn’t able to visit her family at weekends like other patients, and this made the time in hospital feel even longer.

She had a lot to deal with, both emotionally and physically. And you know what? She was the most active and social of all the patients in the ward.

In the middle of her struggles and challenges, she found ways to have her fun.  Though I’m not sure the staff saw it that way.

She enjoyed her music. Guru Josh at 1 a.m. to be exact. Every night.

She loved her fashion and gave us all her shopping lists for Penneys at the weekends.

And she could be found (eventually) socialising downstairs until lights out.  And sometimes after.

When the sun came out, she was off out to the hospital garden – her Juicy Couture tracksuit bottoms cut up into shorts.
Physio could wait.
                                                 
In the evenings, the ward could be mistaken for a salon – hair was straightened, or curled, and nails painted.  Even the fake tan came out.  And then off, on the sheets.

I guess what I’m trying to describe here is how she used the little things that she enjoyed to cheer her up, to help her feel more like herself and less like a patient.

And she’s not the only person I’ve seen do this either.  My own personal style icon, my mother, has been given presents on many an occasion, for her efforts that cheered everyone else up too.

They say no matter how you feel, you should dress up, show up and never give up.
Created on polyvore.com

And she certainly followed this motto.  Like the tea adverts advise, we all need the little moments to bring us back to ourselves every now and then, and probably even more so in a hospital situation.
                                       
Of course, people have other priorities in such situations, and I’m not saying a bit of make up or new sports gear should take priority over medical treatments.

But as coping techniques go, sure it can’t do any harm.

What do you think? What little things would cheer you up in hospital?


What are you lookin' at?

The unfortunate side effect of growing up with a visible physical disability is the regular every day issue of the glaring eyes of passers by.  Sure, we’re all human, we all have our positive and negative features.  We’re all attracted to difference, we get curious, we observe others around us.  It’s only natural.

Call it what you will, whether down to interest, curiosity, empathy, sympathy or just plain ignorance, the end result is all the same – to the recipient, it doesn’t feel too good.

Turning heads due to a show-stopping fashion or beauty choice is one thing, and considered positive by many.  But it’s another when you’re just going about your daily business with what can sometimes feel like the eyes of the world upon you.

These may be fleeting glances from one out of four people passing by, but the effects over time can be lasting.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that one would get used to these situations over the course of a lifetime, but believe me, that’s easier said than done.

We all know how hard it can be to get through teenage life unscathed and come out the other side as a self-assured, confident young adult.  Throw in a few negative comments, disapproving glances or even bit of bullying and you’ve got yourself a whopper of a hurdle to get over.

Obviously, I realise there are worse things in life to deal with than the opinions of random strangers, but for a child or teen in the process of figuring out their identity, these negative vibes are an extra hindrance we could all do without.

Having dealt with my share of these situations over the years, some I managed to shrug off and put down to experience, while others remained in the background to surprise me every now and then.  

So frequent were the incidents during those troublesome teenage years, it was not uncommon to hear my sister or a friend coming to my defence.



So regular, in fact, said sister bought me a pink (of course) t-shirt to do talking for us – “what are you staring at?”.

I’m ashamed to say this well-worn piece of fashion history is still lurking somewhere at the back of my wardrobe.  The fact I no longer wear it, may indicate either a change in attitudes or a lessening of the impact they have? Jury’s still out on that one.

I guess what I’ve been learning over the years is that there will always be situations we can’t control.  We can’t change how others behave, but we can control how that behaviour affects us.

So, if people are going to stare, we may as well give them something to stare at.  So whether that is a co-ordinated outfit, statement accessory, or pair of bright purple crutches, these small details can allow us to express ourselves and maybe remind those doing the staring that there is more to us than meets the eye.



Ah, the good ol' days

Pigtails secured with baby pink ribbons.  Brown leather cross-body handbag.  Multiple pastel pink beaded necklaces.  All to complement a lemon jumper and brown trousers complete with an ice-cream pocket motif – lemon and strawberry, naturally. 

Can you picture it yet?

I guess this is where my journey started, and I have my ever stylish mother to thank for setting me off on my colour co-ordinated path.  

Let me clarify -  there is one small component to this outfit that I’ve omitted so far – the dreaded leg braces.  Or calipers to those in the know.  With their hideous brown laced-up boots attached.   
You see, the pastel-hued outfit was a well-planned distraction conjured up by aforementioned stylish mum to prevent another five-year-old tantrum at the prospect of even one more day in these less-than-stylish contraptions.   

And you know what? It kinda worked! Well, it reduced the frequency of the tantrums  anyway.  Still didn’t stop me pining for the latest magic shoes – you know the ones, white, with the secret lock and key – and any other fashion fads that came along, but what I lacked in shoes I more than made up for with handbags.  No change there then.

Moving on a few years, ahem, and I still get comments from the physiotherapists on my colour combinations (more often than not featuring pink or purple, or both).  Only now, I’ve branched out a bit and broadened my range of accessories to include crutches.  Purple, of course. I've yet to choose the most versatile shade of pink for my current wardrobe.

Ok, so you’d be correct in thinking that life with a disability surely has more pressing issues than the inability to wear a platform heel with crutches, but there’s a lot to be said for that boost one gets from a new image, be it an updated outfit, hairstyle, or accessory.  And we’re all entitled to feel good about ourselves, don’t you think?

So, from those early days of caliper cover-ups, began a lifetime attempt to embrace fashion while accepting disability.  No easy task at the best of times, with many mistakes along the way, but sure nobody gets it right all the time...

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