Responding to “How are you doing?” from a State of Chronic Pain

Pain is a part of my daily life. It’s not a consistent level, but ebbs and flows. Most people only know about the periods of higher levels, believing the rest of the time I feel “normal.”

“How are you doing?” and “Are you feeling better?” inquiries have me perplexing over how to reply. I’m not one to lie, unless I know that’s what they want to hear so they can check off their good deed for the day, thinking this qualifies as loving their neighbor.

Some people have proven their inability to handle the truth, based on their panicked stare upon receiving it. Being faced with someone who deals with chronic pain challenges some people’s belief that life should be fair. They can’t grasp having a perspective of life that includes the unfairness, so it’s easier for them to gloss over it and continue living in denial. I’ve learned how to respect that. I view my “Fine. How are you?” reply as nothing more than a returned greeting in passing.

I don’t want my reply to sound like a broken record titled “Pessimistic Pity Party” by The Martyr. I don’t want a sob story to be my life’s story. I’m not trying to garner up sympathy and sad expressions. It’s depressing and hopeless, which aren’t characteristics I want to exude.

I cringe inside when people ask when I will get better or if surgery will fix it. I don’t want to tell them that short of a miracle, I’ll only get better when I die. Unless they catch me on a day that includes extra pain meds and I’m particularly sarcastic, then the death reply is pretty funny 😉

The best one-line response I’ve determined so far: “God is good.” This perfectly encompasses what I feel, believe, and want to communicate. It’s on what I chose to focus. It’s not about me. It’s not about my pain. It’s all about my hope in God and that above all else, He is good.


Self-defeating Thoughts During Workouts

Self-defeating thoughts have no place in any part of life, but are especially unproductive during workouts! What contrast between these positive and negative actions, making clear the reason behind exercise’s high failure rate. Beginning an exercise program is an ample challenge, so how can anyone find success when the challenge is compounded with toxic thoughts??

Exercise provides physical health benefits, and the additional endorphins give a mental boost. However, in the same way exercise can’t make up for a poor diet, the endorphins can’t make up for poor thoughts.

When I am aware of my inner dialog and choose to speak kindly to myself, my workout is easier! A mental weight is lifted when I banish negative thoughts.

Negative thinking is a habit, and habits take effort to make and break. To retrain the brain, create new thoughts or mantras that specifically target the typical stream of negative thoughts during exercise. Reviewing your music choices is a good idea also, because tunes and lyrics feed the direction of the mind. Envision the encouragement you would give a friend during his/her workout, and lovingly speak those words to yourself!

What is one self-defeating thought you can identify? What is an uplifting phrase you want to believe instead?

Have a happy workout 🙂

Week 10 Habit: Weekend Routine

I love Mondays. I hate weekends. I use to anyway, but I don’t like hating them and am changing my sentiments. It should be easier for me to start loving weekends (in addition to Mondays) than for Monday hating people to change!

Part of me needs variety to prevent boredom, while another part finds comfort in routine. The Monday through Friday workweek provides a structured environment, and life feels consistent. I complete more of what I want to accomplish on my to-do list when I have structured day, rather than during the weekend freedom. Being busy, but not too busy, gives me focus.

I find structure to be therapeutic for depression and anxiety, so I feel more energetic on workdays. The distraction of planned, weekend activities helps, but it’s a temporary fix. Most of my weekend activities aren’t consistent from one week to the next.

Packing my weekends full doesn’t seem to be the answer, seeing as how being overly busy is stressful. As a morning person, I’ve tried waking up at a set time on weekends and starting my day with new, weekend habits. Nothing major…I’m talking about washing dishes or vacuuming! There’s something about the habit of being productive, first thing in the morning. It sets the tone for the rest of my day. I understand most people prefer to relax and sleep late, so everyone has to do what works personally.

Even though I know sleeping late leads me into depression and anxiety, that’s typically what I do. If it’s like other habits, I have to rewind the series of events to determine a more effective time to implement a change. For instance, I could make Saturday morning plans earlier than when I’m in bed on Fridays. On worknights, I pack my food and gym bag so I’m ready to brush my teeth and walk out of the door in the morning. I don’t have to think about it, I just wake up and do it. A similar Friday night habit could trigger the same result.

So, my homework for this week’s habit is to go to bed at a decent time tomorrow (Friday) night, with running attire chosen for an early morning workout!

What about you…do your weekends need more structure or fewer commitments? What are you going to do about it??

Week 9 Habit: Prayer Rituals

I’ve been unfocused in my efforts to write this week. My thoughts pull me in random directions, and I can easily use the distractions to veer off course of writing (and a myriad of other intentions). When I found myself starting a third topic change for this week’s habit and still dealing with excuses for waiting until later, I decided to begin my writing sessions with a prayer.

My internal dialog includes God 24/7, but I want pre-writing prayers to be specific and focused. I obviously don’t keep my eyes shut all day when I’m conversing with God, but thought it would be a helpful action for these prayers. I closed my eyes (and even covered my closed eyes with my hands), I prayed for clarity and inspiration, then my mind wandered to thoughts of why people close their eyes to pray and how that habit originated.

The “why” behind the “what” always intrigues me, like a mystery to be solved! Why do we close our eyes to pray? Why do we fold our hands, bow our heads, sometimes kneel, begin with “Dear Jesus” and end with “Amen,” and pray before meals and bedtime? I should add workouts and de-frizzing my hair to this list! I’m not saying any of these are wrong, nor do I believe any of these actions are requirements for communication between us and God.

Curiosity is a tool to question habits and heighten our awareness of what we do. I like Googling questions to research, so I tried “why do we close our eyes”…before I finished typing “when we pray,” it auto-filled three options: when we kiss, when we pray, when we sneeze. I resisted the urge to be distracted and decided to go back to a search for kissing and sneezing later!

Determining purpose is important to me, which is why I need to know the reason for rules. Even when it’s a tradition or ritual instead of a rule, I start with figuring out the point, then decide if and how it applies to me. Prayer is talking with God, and that’s the point of it. Since the Bible doesn’t have required physical positions or times to pray (other than praying all the time), I should follow what works for me and what I’m personally led to do. Adding requirements to myself and others in an attempt to classify prayers as credible or not is being legalistic. It’s missing the point.

Time to Google kissing and sneezing…

Week 8 Habit: Perspective

I didn’t sleep well last night because my shoulder injury is aggravated; I’ll probably have to have surgery. I made it through my morning workout, but it seems pointless since I’ll become a pile of mush when I’m recovering from surgery. I always intend to use downtime as a recovery phase and to scale back accordingly with my diet, but that never works and I bet I’m going to gain more weight.

I got a work email from the Human Resource department that I wasn’t selected for the job I interviewed for a couple weeks ago. I just got an email from HR last week that I wasn’t even selected to interview for a job I applied for recently. I’m not qualified for anything! If I ever lose my current job, I don’t know what I’ll do. It seems like everyone else in my department is getting promoted or new jobs, but not me. I may as well not even try anymore. I had to work late today, but I overheard someone talking about being so bored he was just surfing the net. How unfair.

Since I had to work late, I hadn’t brought enough to eat. I drove home hungry, and traffic was horrible during rush hour. I barely had enough time to change clothes and eat before leaving again for a group trail run. It was raining lightly, but wasn’t supposed to rain very long. I parked where the group was supposed to meet and text the leader since no one was there yet. He text me back that the rain showers were predicted to turn into thunderstorms, and he’d posted a rescheduled run date on Facebook. I missed seeing it. Traffic was bad again driving home and I just knew with today’s luck that I’d get into an accident. I didn’t, but wouldn’t have been surprised if I had. I wasted an hour of my time for nothing and could have been home relaxing!

***The above description of my day is coming from a negative perspective, a belief that God and the world are against me. Below is the same day, but experienced from a perspective where I believe God loves me and I’m looking for purpose and positives!***

I opted for extra strong tea this morning, and the caffeine and antioxidants helped combat getting less sleep last night! I tore my shoulder several years ago and may have to have surgery at some point. It’s only been bad the past couple weeks. Maybe it’s just a random flare-up, but I’ll make an appointment with my doctor to go over my options. I’ll talk with a physical therapy friend for suggestions on exercises. I can be creative and cautious when I workout so I don’t make it worse. If I end up having surgery, recovery will be quite an adventure since it’s my right shoulder and I’m right-handed! I’ll ask for lots of help and be very humble and patient. I’ll learn how to type and work with only my left hand. Maybe I’ll blog my way through recovery and become famous!

I like my job and my boss, but I’m always open to new job possibilities. I’ve gotten some interview experience recently, but God must have something different planned because I’m still in my same job. I’m curious to see where I’ll be a year from now! I’m going to talk with my boss about options for change in my current role.

I worked later than I planned, and found myself without a healthy, afternoon snack. I was pretty hungry by the time I got home, but was looking forward to running on a new trail with a group. I’ll start keeping a non-perishable snack in my desk at work for future emergencies. I missed a Facebook notification that the group run was rescheduled due to lightening, so I drove back home after seeing no one was there and calling the group leader. He made a smart decision to cancel!

As I drove home thinking about all that happened during my day, I was amazed what a difference perspective makes! With a negative perspective, I would have ended the day by binging on lots of food to numb my heightened feelings. I would have labeled the day as being a bad one. It can’t be the day or a situation that’s bad though, not when a change of perspective changes my feelings about the day. I can chose to have the latter above scenario as my perspective! I did choose that option, by the way 🙂

I use to pray for patience, thinking God would change my stressed, impatient feelings into peaceful, patient feelings, or just make my life easier. I’ve since learned that asking for patience means I’ll be provided with opportunities to exercise my choice of having a patient perspective! I’ve also learned that anticipating these opportunities helps me not be caught off guard, and I’m better able to deal with life. It was honestly pretty cool as I looked back at my day, to see evidence I’m maturing.

Changing your perspective requires repetition for it to happen with less effort. It’s a habit. As soon as you catch yourself in a negative pattern, change it! It will get easier, and you will enjoy your life so much more, being free to spend that extra effort elsewhere. Please tell me about a before/after situation where you chose a positive perspective!!

Week 7 Habit: Identify Priorities

Last week’s habit was to identify thoughts, which brings a sense of awareness to autopilot living. When I recognize I’m talking to myself in such a way I wouldn’t dare talk to anyone else, I’m able to choose caring thoughts instead of ones that are self-destructive.

Identifying priorities is this week’s habit. I’ve been gaining interest in several volunteer and business opportunities, and I don’t have enough time to pursue each as intensely as I want. When I entertain thoughts of coordinating everything into my schedule, all my time is consumed with planning instead of doing anything. It feels very jumbled and cluttered without direction or purpose.

As much as I’d rather wing it instead of writing down a plan, I know having a plan is necessary. Plans don’t have to be complex though! They just have to provide direction. The level of detail is at the planner’s discretion.

I’m writing a list of my current and desired hobbies and activities, figuring how much time needs to be devoted to each, prioritizing the list, then deciding what will fit into my schedule and what I need to save for later.

Life doesn’t happen as planned on paper, but I’ll find myself unchanged unless I have a direction toward which to move.

Do you have a hobby or volunteer position you’d like to pursue but haven’t yet taken action? What is preventing you?

Week 6 Habit: Identify Thoughts

My previous habit was to make weekend plans early in the prior week, because having something to do usually means making advance plans. Waiting until the last minute or thinking friends will magically appear isn’t best. I made plans to hike with a friend last Saturday morning and we had a great time! I was mentally prepared in case she had to cancel or was late, but it turns out she shares my values of honoring my word, dependability, and punctuality 🙂  We’re also both morning people, and enjoyed our super early start! I joined a trail running group and am going to the group run on Saturday.

This week’s habit is to identify my thoughts. I’ve been tracing back unwanted feelings of resentment, frustration, and being withdrawn to the thought behind it, and found myself stumped. I eventually figured out that the sticking point was because I’d incorrectly identified a certain thought.

“This isn’t fair” is a thought I identified, referring to a situation at work.  During today’s session with my life coach, I wrote my thought on paper and realized the full thought is, “This isn’t fair, and I need to make it right.” Clarity came once I saw the complete thought, and I recognized two errors.

If someone treats me unfairly, it’s reflective on the other person, not me. Unless it’s an abusive situation, I don’t have to take action to change it; this brings a feeling of freedom. I can choose what thoughts I entertain, which will affect how I feel and act toward the unfair treatment. It’s an error to think I have to make it right.

A situation may be unfair if perceived within a finite increment of time, but I believe God provides justice when the timeline is expanded to include eternity. Temporary blips of unfair moments can be viewed as opportunities. If my life maintained a steady stream of perfectly fair events, it would be very difficult to empathize and connect with anyone going through challenges. My experiences shape my perspective and character, and I’m able to mature. It’s an error to think “unfair” is defined with a single circumstance.

Instead of dwelling on an unfair situation, I am choosing to think about the path of my life. I’d rather spend my energy on pursuing my passions than trying to change a situation that doesn’t hold infinite significance.

When you tune into your inner thought dialog, what do you hear? Do you like what you hear? I’d like to hear about any changes you want to make!

Why Not Giving Thursday, as in, Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving became an official United States Federal holiday in 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln declared a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” He went on to call the American people to show God’s tender care to widows, orphans, mourners, and sufferers (Lincoln). Thanksgiving originated as a day centered on being thankful to God and giving to those in need.

Giving Tuesday, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, was founded in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y. It was created as an organized effort to celebrate giving, in response to the commercialism and consumerism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

After previous days of gorging and shopping, Giving Tuesday has a misplaced priority by coming in last. It has a spirit of penance, not a heart of giving. ME! ME! ME! ME! Okay, now I feel fat and guilty, so let me find a credit card I haven’t yet maxed out and I’ll throw a few bucks to a charity so I feel better. I’ll post about it on Facebook and all the Likes I get about my good deeds will help me feel better. Selfless giving can only be classified as such when it’s done selflessly, not when it’s scrounging up leftovers with the driving motivation of easing a guilty conscience.

President Lincoln already covered the topic of giving in the established purpose of Thanksgiving. Instead of tacking on another day to give, five days after the original day of thanks, it would be truly selfless to put the “give” back in Thanksgiving.

My point is not to bash the intentions of Giving Tuesday or to use guilt to motivate giving, but to restore the original meaning of Thanksgiving. What would it look like if we chose to give out of a heart full of thanks and abundance? What if some of the time spent with family and friends on Thanksgiving was devoted to conversing about giving?

I am thankful for the blessings God has given me, enabling me to give. We are all equipped to give, and it’s beautiful to do so out of a grateful heart. Here are several organizations I support, giving my time/money: LifeChurch, The Chalmers Center, The A21 Campaign, Amazon Smile, Project Linus. When giving stems from my heart, my heart receives in return.

Giving shouldn’t be motivated by guilt on any day of the year, whether on Giving Tuesday or Thanksgiving. I would like to suggest tapping the breaks to deactivate the autopilot mode of living, taking a moment to think about the motives and reasons behind your actions (your core beliefs), then choosing the corresponding actions to live your beliefs with integrity.

I’m concluding with a challenge for you to answer these questions: Are you going to live your life with a heart of giving? How? What choices will you make on Thanksgiving, the following Tuesday, and all of the days that follow? I’m interested in reading what you have to share about your current giving habits or new giving habits you plan to implement!

Week 5 Habit: Making Plans in Advance

The issue weighing heaviest on my mind this week is the consuming feeling of being socially excluded. The feelings are a barrier to the creative flow of my mind. I don’t want these feelings to corrupt me and to be an infection in my soul, but I seek to find purpose and meaning in them.

I was born an introvert, but have morphed into an extrovert. I use to be recharged from solitude, and find I’m now drawn toward gaining energy through meaningful, social interactions. It’s easier to be alone, as there isn’t any planning required, so I now have to put effort into planning to be social. If I passively wait until the weekend to make plans, my invitations for hanging out are met with people’s busy schedules which hold no room for last minute additions.

Facing a weekend void of social activity is depressing. Negative thoughts of rejection swirl around in my mind and I want to hide, yet hiding from the outside compounds the problem. What message could God be sending by allowing my loneliness? What lesson could God be communicating when I experience the pain of feeling like a misfit? For now, the ability to empathize and the desire to connect with others who share this pain are my answers.

A life that is lacking creates a passion for change. It’s an opportunity that would likely be otherwise overlooked if my life held the satisfaction and security of an abundance of friends. I can choose to find my strength from God, and use that strength to show God’s love to others who are also seeking connection. Maybe I’m being prepared for a life where I need an extraordinary ability of living without the approval of others, or even with the opposition of others. Choosing to have this perspective brings meaning into a time of hurt.

My practical application for implementing this week’s habit of being social: have weekend social plans made by the middle of the week prior, and allow a few weeks in advance of making plans for a bigger event.

Do you find it easy to fit in and make friends? If not, what have you done about it? If so, are you able to recognize people who feel socially awkward and do you attempt to include them?

Week 4 Habit: Daily Doses

Last week’s habit was to drink apple cider vinegar (ACV) everyday. I didn’t remember everyday, but figured out it was easier if I put the bottle in my bathroom cabinet by my toothbrush. Seemingly meaningless habits are useful to developing the skills to implement habits that stick. Making and breaking habits is in and of itself a habit. I want to explore this further in a future post.

I feel like quitting. I feel like hiding instead of writing. I know why. I have been struggling with depressive thoughts, and I haven’t been eating healthy, which leads to more depressive thoughts and guilt. I can’t quit though, because I know these feelings are just part of the process of change and growth. Working through them is the choice I’m making. Some moments require more effort than others, but it’s still possible to keep moving.

Even when I feel down, I can still make choices to take small actions that help me stay afloat. Another reason for seemingly meaningless habits is to prevent drowning and stay focused on my goals and dreams. Previous habits: I will use people’s names when I tell them “hello,” so I focus outward and connect; I will identify my feelings so I stay in tune with myself; I will drink a swallow of ACV daily, because it’s healthy and is a habit of positive intention. For this week’s habit of daily doses, I will remember to take my daily meds/vitamins and start taking a few herbal/spice supplements for the same reasons as the ACV. I will also remember my daily dose of connecting with God, including the daily verse on my YouVersion Bible app and the Air1 app.