The importance of planning for everyday joy

by Carolyn Thomas      @HeartSisters

When my mother was already showing early signs of her vascular dementia and had to move into an assisted-living apartment, she hated it. The staff reminded our family that “having something to look forward to” every day would help her feel more settled. They were so right. The move had been scary and overwhelming for Mom, but even knowing that after lunch she’d be playing cribbage or watching a favourite movie could bring a smile to her face.

We didn’t call it this at the time, but what Mom was doing, in the middle of all of her angst and fear, was planning joy.    Continue reading “The importance of planning for everyday joy”

Life before diagnosis: not as perfect as we recall?

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters  September 1, 2019

Like most of us, my time on this earth has been bookmarked by a number of important “before” and “after” experiences: the way I lived my life before key events occurred, and the way my life changed after they occurred. Before and after I got married. Before and after I became a mother. Before and after I ran my first half-marathon. But one of the most profound changes has to be before and after the fateful day in the ER when a cardiologist told me,“You have significant heart disease”.

Many of us living with a chronic and progressive illness like this often view these periods of life as two parts: the normal and wonderful times before the traumatic diagnosis, and all the not-wonderful days that have been happening ever since.     . Continue reading “Life before diagnosis: not as perfect as we recall?”

Choose your listeners carefully

 by Carolyn Thomas    @Heartsisters    August 25, 2019

I once heard the late author Dr. Leo Buscaglia tell a conference audience his story about how he grew up equating caregiving with love. When he was a little boy, for example, his own mother seemed cold and distant  – except when he was sick. During those times, she would sit at his bedside, stroke his fevered brow, spoon-feed him homemade soup, fuss over every painful twinge, listen carefully to his every word, and become the kind of loving mother he rarely knew when he was healthy.    . Continue reading “Choose your listeners carefully”

“Life is amazing. And then it’s awful…”

by Carolyn Thomas   @HeartSisters     August 17, 2019

“Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and the awful, it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.”

This reminder about the amazingness of life from author L.R. Knost has always rung true for me.(1)  And so do these words of a local Kindergarten teacher who tells her kids: “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset!”

But we do get upset. Really upset. Especially when we observe that we’re getting not nearly enough “amazing” and way too much “awful” . Continue reading ““Life is amazing. And then it’s awful…””

Scope creep: when NO means maybe, and maybe means YES

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters     August 4, 2019

I’ve been grappling with a wallop of personal guilt lately. I don’t feel guilty because I’ve done something wrong, but because I finally had to say “No!” to a friend I’d been helping for a long time.

During my public relations career, we called this phenomenon “scope creep”. For example, you happily agree one day to a project with clear parameters, but over time one thing after another gets piled on top of your desk, until the project is suddenly so unwieldy that you wonder how this even happened.

It happened because of scope creep. And your inability to say No!”  to keep the whole thing on track as you went along.  And the way things change. Continue reading “Scope creep: when NO means maybe, and maybe means YES”

Who is in charge of you?

by Carolyn Thomas   @HeartSisters     July 21, 2019

And you thought YOU had a lot of medical appointments. . .

Writing on her blog, Sick With Optimism, a Canadian patient regularly sees three nephrologists from three different clinics, two hematologists, two rheumatologists, a cardiologist, her GP – “as well as so many interns, inpatient doctors and fellows, I can’t even count!”

I was profoundly moved by her story about how one of her many recent doctors’ appointments evolved. . .

Continue reading “Who is in charge of you?”