The Nose On Your Face (K.Blais)

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My nine year-old asked me an interesting question the other day.

“Mom, did you know that your eyes always see your nose, it’s just that your brain ignores it?”

Why, no, in fact, I guess I didn’t.

I mean, I knew it. I just hadn’t really ever thought about it much. I don’t always look out of my eyes and see my nose I realized, but it was an interesting question which led to some further questions of my own.

Like our nose, how much do we see that our brain chooses to ignore?

It’s like that with people sometimes, isn’t it? You may hear things about someone, but you do the ‘right’ thing and choose to form your own opinion. This itself isn’t a bad thing. It is good sometimes not to take to heart everything that you hear. You may believe whole heartedly in an individual, you are adamant that he/she is a good person, sometimes even to the disagreement of that person him/herself,  you believe in that fact more than anything, only to find out that you just couldn’t see what everyone else saw all along. Your brain chose to ignore the nose on your face.

Sometimes we are blind to the things right in front of us, even the good things. We fail to see those who truly care about us and who are, and have been, there for us in good times and in bad times (because true friends are there in both). We may forget to appreciate those people and to give them the time and respect which they deserve. (Hint: They are usually the ones who don’t demand these things from us; they are standing back silently cheering for us from the sidelines.) We may also neglect to see what in our life is positive and beneficial for our well-being. We may choose, over and over again, to push aside the things which should be priorities. Again, our brain chooses to ignore the nose on our face.

While it is extremely important not to “cut off your nose to spite your face”, (which itself could be a whole different post), we must remember that even though we don’t always acknowledge its presence, our nose is a vital part of us. While it is good to ignore it sometimes, sometimes it is also good to stare at your nose and acknowledge the demanding presence that it is on your face as well.

Fortunately, and unfortunately, we are given daily reminders of how important our nose is. We are sadly and tragically aware of how precious life is and how important it is to hold our loved ones close when we learn of a friend losing a beloved child. We are reminded of how valuable our own health is when we ourselves become sick, or a loved one does, and we need to seek out medical care. We are reminded of the importance of respecting, valuing, and cherishing our friends and family members, especially when their absence leaves a noticeable void in our lives. We may begin to miss things which once were very important in our lives, without even realizing that we had begun to ignore their importance and significance.

Perhaps we can all think of the nose question as a bit of a reality check.

What do your eyes see?

(image used courtesy of All-free-download.com)

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37 (K.Blais)

(image courtesy of Google images)

I recently turned 37. It’s not a monumental year or anything. It’s not like turning 16, 29, or even 35; 37 is a weird age. It’s the perfect definition of old enough to know better, but perhaps still too young to care.

My turning 37 years old means that I am pretty much at the middle age mark. Some of you may agree or disagree with that statement or you may feel, like my beloved aunts who couldn’t believe that I was grumbling about turning a mere 37 because I’m still a ‘young pup’, it’s still quite young. But, it is what it is, or at least what I perceive it to be. Doubling 37 makes it 74, and if you look at the statistics, that is just a few years shy of the life expectancy for a Canadian woman.

I’m not dwelling on the stats though, or even my age, because it really is just a number, but turning 37 made me realize a few things. Perhaps ‘realize’ is not even the right word because I’m sure that I have ‘realized’ these things at more than one point in my life or another. Perhaps the age of 37 has brought me into a more reflective state with certain issues in my life, I’m not sure. But, in all honesty, 37 feels like a turning point for me.

For many of us, there comes a point in time where we come to the conclusion that there are certain changes we may need to make in our lives. For me, the first and foremost necessary adjustment is that I need to start taking care of myself both physically and emotionally. I am a giver – I give and give and give until there isn’t much, if anything, left for me. That needs to change, or at least shift a bit. I can give to others, but I also have to give to myself too. I realize that I have said that before, but this time I really need to start practicing what I preach. A wise friend is also working very hard at teaching me the following: “I do not have to accept everything that is offered to me.” It’s a work in progress but I’m realizing that I don’t have to download and internalize everything that is “dumped” on me. I can listen but not every issue needs to become ‘mine’. Some of you may understand that more than others.

So many of us torture ourselves daily, worrying about what others may think of us. I believe I also need to work on putting myself first in regards to what people think. I often worry, sometimes to the point of anxiety, about what others think of or about me and the decisions that I make. I need to remember this: others are most likely thinking less about me than I am about them. As another wise friend pointed out, the only people whose opinions I should value are the ones who love and care about the real me.

We may reach a point in our lives where we feel the need to step back and reflect on our lives and all that is offered to us. My turning 37 also means that I need to start to really focus on what truly matters to me, to my life I share with my loved ones, and the goals I set for myself. Far too often I get caught up in doing what I think I “should” do and I stop doing what I actually love or want to do. I think I’ve lost sight of who I am and the way I see myself. That is a sad reflection but a true one. I need to remember what makes me, me, and after 37 years I think I need to refresh my memory.

Exactly a week before my 37th birthday and Christmas we unexpectedly lost a family member. This loss hit me hard as I realized that it is not only younger people who feel the depths of despair and loneliness. My heart ached for those closest to my uncle. It is incredibly hard to understand loss – especially loss which is embedded in so much personal sadness. I truly hope that my readers were able to reach out to at least one person who was possibly feeling sad or alone over the Christmas season. Also, all-too-heart-breaking and all-too-recently losing a special pet dear to my heart has saddened me. These losses have made me realize that while we get bogged down in life’s trials and tribulations, we learn to appreciate all that we have when things suddenly change.

We all are fighting our own battles and, at the same time, achieving our own victories. Some of us handle stress, issues, and difficult times easier than others and in different ways. It’s often hard to ‘walk in someone else’s shoes’ and to completely understand what others may be going through, but compassion can go a long way. I think that we all need to be kinder to ourselves and to others, no matter what age we are. We need to take better care of ourselves and our own needs. We need to truly believe that we are the best ‘we’ that we can be and if that’s not enough for others, then that is not our problem. It’s time to focus on what is important to us and there’s never a better time to start than now.

Each moment, day, week, month and year we are given is a gift. I hope to spend my next 37 years truly appreciating that.

 

Immeasurable Loss (K.Blais)

How do we measure loss?

This week our small community was rocked by the loss of another young person, a life cut short, too short, a life full of promise and hope. We ask ourselves why. We search for reasons and an understanding, but we often come up with nothing. There seems to be no measure for loss.

I’ve written several posts on the topic of time, life, and the search for fulfillment and emotional happiness. There doesn’t seem to be a week that goes by where these huge, all encompassing topics don’t somehow filter into my writing. This week I chose to write about loss and how it affects us.

I pause here to note that it affects each and every one of us differently and our own personal reactions to loss are just that – personal. There is no right or wrong way to react to loss, because it is as individual as the loss itself.

As I thought about loss and its immeasurability, I considered the five stages of grief, a hypothesis introduced by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross as she studied terminally ill patients. The Kubler-Ross Model was expanded for use in multiple, different situations in which people experience a significant loss. It is important to note that not all individuals experience all stages of the model, nor do they necessarily occur in the order presented. Kubler-Ross stated that an individual will always experience at least two of the stages. Often the stages will be experienced in a roller-coaster effect – switching between two or more stages, returning to one or more several times before working through the experience itself.

These stages have evolved since their introduction and have been often misunderstood over the past three decades. In an article defending the Five Stages Model, Elisabth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler stated that the five stages were “never meant to help tuck messy emotions into neat packages” rather “they are responses to loss that many people have, but there is no typical response to loss as there is no typical loss.” (www.grief.com/the-five-stages-of-grief/)

Below is a quick overview, restated in my own words, which outlines my understanding of the five stages of grieving and dealing with a loss:

Denial – The first stage which helps us survive the loss. This is the stage in which the world feels meaningless and overwhelming. It is in this stage where we feel numb from the state of shock and denial. It is this denial and shock which help us to cope and to “pace our feelings of grief”. It is our mind’s way of protecting us and only letting in as much as we can handle.

Anger – This is another necessary stage of healing from a loss. Allowing ourselves to feel the anger will help the anger to disappear more quickly. The anger may be limitless – extending to everyone involved somehow in your loss, maybe even to God. Under the anger is pain and perhaps a feeling of desertion and abandonment. Anger may give us strength and act as an anchor or focus for our feelings.

Bargaining – This stage involves bargaining with God or attempting to form some kind of truce to return life back to the way it was. “What ifs” and “If onlys” prevail in our thoughts. Guilt often accompanies this stage as we find fault within ourselves and imagine what we could’ve done differently.

Depression – The depression stage moves our feelings into the present as we begin to accept what has happened. We may feel empty and begin to withdraw from life. These are very natural feelings and are not a sign of mental illness, rather a natural response to a great loss. This stage may seem to last a long time, but that again is individual to the situation.

Acceptance – This stage is often mistaken as the idea that we are “all right” and “ok” with the loss that has occurred, but this is not the case. The acceptance stage is actually about accepting the reality that the loss has occurred and that a new reality is now permanent. This stage is not even about liking the new reality but it is about accepting it and beginning the slow progress of moving forward.

Loss may never be understood. Loss may never make sense to us or seem “fair”. We may even want to try to deny it in our minds. We may lash out in anger towards anyone near us. We may attempt to bargain with God, praying for things to return to the way they were. We may fall into despair and depression, losing all desire for the things and life we once enjoyed.

We will at some point come to terms with our loss and accept that life has changed. This new reality may be approached with reluctance and trepidation but it will come to us.

There is no measure for loss, there is only our own personal grieving process which comes after the loss has taken place. There is no magic cure, no click of a button, or flipping of a switch. There is hope in the certainty that out of darkness there can shine light, however dimly at first. Our love and compassion for one another can bring peace to those who suffer loss. We can listen and be there for those who grieve. No one needs to feel alone.

Loss does not need to be measured. It only needs to be understood.

(photo courtesy of smartcanucks.ca)

(Dear Readers, My prayers are with those who suffer loss – present and past. May you find comfort and peace. Love, ~ K ~)