“We are the champions of the world. We will keep on fighting till the end…” (Queen)
Over the last few weeks, as I have tried to make sense of my life in light of my seemingly endless medical problem list; I have had plenty of time for introspection as I lingered around the house in my pajamas watching movies when not in pain, nauseated, or having fever and chills. My favorite movie genre as of late are those based on real life. In my moments of feeling better and not having to see a doctor or get yet another test done to figure the conundrum that is my illness, it occurred to me that in life the most beautiful things usually come out of the darkest and most painful times our life’s.
Throughout history we are reminded time and time again that the things that inspire and endure the test of time are those that arise from the ashes of near annihilation.
I love the story of the thorn bird legend, although believed to be purely mythical, is the perfect embodiment of a notion that greatness can only be achieved by walking through fire or standing in the lion’s den. The Celtic legend, upon which the story is supposedly based on, says that there lives a “bird that sings more sweetly than any other on earth as he dies that even God in heaven stands still and smiles.” While dying he rises above the agony of his pain caused by being impaled on the sharpest thorn. Such examples of greatness can only emerge out of the fiery ashes. The outcome of such struggles of the soul, if we are courageous enough to stand and fight, typically bring forth redemption, self-love, understanding, and compassion which permeates throughout in the same fashion in which the light casts its warmth upon a dark cold room when the window is open to let sunshine in. A small light can illuminate even the darkest of rooms but a dark room can never overpower even the faintest of lights. So keep on fighting even if you feel like you don’t have the stamina to go on….
The greatest feats and gifts to mankind have been borne out of despair, hopelessness, uncertainty and loneliness.
Beethoven composed his 9th symphony “Ode to Joy” when he was totally deaf. Van Gogh painted “Starry Night” in the midst of a mental asylum cell, the apostle Paul wrote his most powerful letters while imprisoned and our salvation was bought at the ultimate price of pain and agony on a rugged cross.
What will my legacy be to this world and my children be? I wonder. Will my life be an example of courage and triumph? What will yours be? Will you wallow in your pain and stay a victim? or will you like many before us have the courage to conquer and not be defeated by our present circumstances?
As for me: through the grace of God I have discovered courage in the midst of my never-ending battles with physical illness along with a renewed sense of purpose and hope.
So I sing to myself… “What a wonderful world!”
Will you sing too with a new sense of purpose?
I love to hear your stories …would you share with me and others so we can all gain courage and strength by knowing we have been able to overcome thus far.
Many Blessings to all on this beautiful day.
All rights reserved by Maria de Leon
For those of us who live with a chronic illness like PD by now I am sure you have discovered as I have that stress whether physical, emotional, or physiological can have a detrimental effect on our mood and on our symptoms. It is for this reason that many people with PD feel as if they have fluctuating symptoms on a daily basis despite the fact that Parkinson’s is a slowly progressive neurodegenerative disease.
Learning to deal with stress and finding ways to prevent it in a healthy fun way can lead us to a happier more balanced life. Subsequently, by managing our stress we may be able to experience less ups and downs with our already complicated illness.
The first thing we can do to improve our tension levels is listening to music – but not just any music. A specific type of music like baroque which is characterized for the most part by 60 beat per minute tempo also known as ‘larghetto’ not too fast and not too slow – in fact just right.
This coincides with the rhythm of our hearts at a calm state because in fact some scientists believe that a heart rate of 75 and greater, which was considered within normal range in the past, carries a higher risk of having a heart attack.
Not only will this tempo relax us by calming and synchronizing our breathing with our heart rhythm but will also improve blood flow to our brains. Subsequently, this may be one of the reasons listening to this type of music increases our concentration. As we all know, poor concentration is a big issue in those of us with Parkinson’s – part of it could be that we are so run down we don’t even process the information around us. But being totally stressed can also play a major role. Multiple studies have shown that music with 60 beat per minute causes an immediate sense of well-being and even boosts our IQ levels. This was seen on subjects tested while listening to baroque music. Moreover, when we feel relaxed, we are more prone to have a positive outlook. A positive outlook on life is everything, I always say. When we have a bright outlook makes more likely to consider all the alternatives giving us more sound judgement avoiding rush decisions. I know personally when I am tired or in pain, I don’t want to be bothered with details or complex decisions. Sometimes when I find myself in these situation, I tend to rush to an answer without considering consequences fully leading to more problems down the road. I have learned not to make any important decisions including filling out paper work which is vital. However, if baroque music is not your cup of tea then find music that appeals to you but with similar tempo.
Secondly, laughter is a great stress reliever. We have all heard that laughter is the best medicine. Not only does laughter strengthen our immune system but is a great coping mechanism to relieve pressure. I often say that I laugh because it beats the alternative. Because laughter plays such a crucial role in healing, many scientists have looked at laughter to assess its benefits and effects on tension. Interestingly, laughter decreases stress differently in men and women confirming once again that gender is a crucial topic we must take into account when prescribing treatments for various illnesses. In men laughing actually decreases the stress directly by dissipating the distress. However, this does not occur in women, rather by laughing we women gain insight into a situation which then helps us cope better with the stressful factors. Despite differing mechanisms, the end result is the same – we both feel better with a good laugh. Go ahead find some friends and laugh or simply learn to laugh at your own mishaps as I have. You will feel better, I guarantee.
Thirdly, painting– I have never been much of an artist. However, even though I still am far from considering myself as any good at painting I have discovered that you don’t have to be good at something to derive pleasure from it. You don’t even have to paint your own art work rather simply fill in the colors of someone else drawing to feel the benefits. I think that this is why coloring has become so popular. We remember the pleasure coloring as children, well as an adult I have regained that same sense of accomplishment when coloring a drawing turning into my own masterpiece. Art therapy in all is forms is something I have fully embraced over the last decade as a useful alternative therapy to dealing with neurological diseases for many reasons. One of which is a sense of empowerment one achieves through the use of colors, and creativity. Moreover, painting and other art therapy can not only provide a momentary distraction; but it also relaxes the mind when you set everything else aside and focus on the task at hand. Besides being fun, it is a great coping mechanism through which emotions can be effectively worked out releasing anger, anguish, and frustration with a few strokes.
Fourthly, enjoy nature / green – when I was a young girl living in Mexico, my grandmother always used to say to my grandfather that she needed to go out to the woods to look at the trees and the greenery around. She would get so excited every time she saw how green everything was. Well, it turns out my grandmother was wiser than most. Subconsciously, she knew that seeing green or being surrounded by nature provides an excellent calming effect on the brain and body. Since green is a color reminiscent of nature, spring, growth, peace, and financial prosperity is believed to diffuse anxiety and have a calming effect by producing a harmonious sense of well-being. Being surrounded by green forests, trees also improves concentration and clarity increasing creativity by actually improving our brain waves. Improves reading ability …perhaps that’s why I and many feel so alive in spring when everything is blooming. I guess, I inherited my grandmother’s intuition because my writing room is green (pale yellow greens and beige greens are the most soothing). In 2010, a study in Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine found that a stroll in the woods versus the same time spent strolling in the city had a greater impact of decreasing stress hormones like cortisol and lowering blood pressure. This simple fact, maybe why I like Central Park strolls or near parks in the city and in the woods like my grandmother.
Go ahead start decluttering your life and getting rid of unwanted tensions and preventing worsening of symptoms due to stress by using one of these simple methods of relieving tension in your life. I have celebrated a huge milestone in my life this last week for which I am forever grateful to my God. As such, what better way to be reminded of His grace in my life than to feel His presence admiring the beauty of creation surrounded by thousands of giant sequoia trees.
These threes have not only stood the test of time but weathered many storms losing a branch here or there but never lose its hope it will stand for another 100 years.
Stress relief from laughter- it’s no joke. Mayo clinic
psychological effects of forest walking in healthy adults
All rights reserved by Maria De Leon
“Nothing comes ahead of its time and nothing ever happens that did not need to happen.” Byron Katie
As I sit here fighting another bout of bronchitis, yet again; I am inclined to feel a bit sorry for myself. But, all I have to do is stop and look at all the road I have covered over the last year to quickly shake this silly notion.
I have never been a very patient person especially when traveling. I like to zoom, zoom. I am a highway kind of girl. I remember the first time my husband and I took a trip toghter as newly weds to visit his family, he thought it would be nice to take the Natchez Trace Parkway. I nearly lost it; it seemed we had travelled for an eternity at a turtles crawl (can’t travel faster than 45mph). Had I been driving, I would have probably gotten several citations or found a way to get off faster than immediately.
At the time, I was not interested in the beautiful sights we encountered along the way nor in the fauna present. I simply wanted to arrive at our destination. This was the state of my life at that time-pretty much rush, rush between work, family, commitments, conferences, etc.. I was always looking ahead at the next destination never really enjoying the moment for the most part until Parkinson’s decided to pay me a visit and make its self at home. Suddenly, the breaks came screeching on putting a stop to all my senseless running around.
Over the last decade, I have had to learn to enjoy those backroads and not be so concerned about the destination. We all know that living with a chronic illness like PD permeates into all aspects of our lives affecting everyone which comes into close proximity. thus, more than ever we have to learn to find a balance and enjoy each moment as it comes and not be paralyzed or fearful of what might happen next. Living with PD is truly unpredictable day to day and even hour by hour. Friday was another perfect example of this. I woke up feeling great attended a GO Red luncheon for women with my friend. We had a blast but by the time I got home in the afternoon, I was out of commission screwing up all the evening and weekend plans.
Instead of worrying about reaching some obscure destination, or fretting over the plans that have been ruined (these days I prefer calling it altered rather than ruined). I have come to enjoy those unexpected detours along the way which may lead to unexpected finds like an old wooden bridge or a beautiful waterfall. These sometimes brief other times extended detours through backroads and scenic routes has helped me discover myself, my true friends, my family and many other people who suffer chronic illnesses which I might have not gotten to know otherwise. This weekend I got to enjoy the company of my daughter and husband although from a distance since I did not want to contaminate them.
When I find myself feeling restless and impatient like today, I remind myself that those eternally winding back roads are helping me build a bridge to my ultimate destination. As we know some bridges are short and some are much longer.
Those bridges took years to build some even had to be rebuilt. Meantime, i keep moving forward even if I feel it’s only one step a day. Someday my bridge will be completed and it will be a grand architectural monument just like those magnificent bridges, I love (e.g. Sydney Harbor Bridge, the London Bridge, and the Golden Gate Bridge to name a few). My life like those grand architectural structures will stand as a testament of a victorious life which conquered adversity and overcame big odds to bring beauty and function to others.
Thanks to my illness, as my favorite poet Frost once penned, I have taken the road less travelled and this has made all the difference…
I hope today wherever you may find yourself, you find the strength and courage to enjoy those unexpected detours in life and beginning anew building those magnificent bridges.
all rights reserved by Maria De León
“It takes a glacier about a year to move, but eventually it carves out canyons.” Perseve(red)
Since the time of Ancient Greece, a life full of passion was one worth living well. Whether or not the ancients had eulogies at funeral is unclear. However a man’s life might still have been measured on what drove him- the amount of passion or ‘pathos’ he possessed – that which made him go all in. In other words, what is it that makes us fearless in pursuit of what sets our souls on fire? For me, I have 3 passions God, my family and Neurology in particular working with those who live with Parkinson’s in their lives.
In the last few weeks my love for PD has been fueled as I have traveled north to drop off my niece at college. I got the opportunity to meet various Parkinson’s advocates like Chris and John from Philadelphia who graciously opened their hearts and their homes to me and my family for an enchanting evening of conversation and entertainment. I also had the great pleasure of meeting two wonderful people Kate and Chris part of a great social media medical community of Health Union who not only have shared their passions with me but granted me an opportunity to continue my passion for writing about the things I love while helping the PD and migraine communities. Plus, I am super excited that my Spanish book on “living beyond PD” (Viviendo más allá del Parkinson) will finally be making its debut in the next 4 weeks. Plus, I am always completely at awe and stoked to be able to come to you in this humble way to share my life with you so as to provide a ray of hope and sunshine because no matter how strong we are we all need to be loved and cared for. We need each other because we all have days when all the digging and struggling only makes us more muddled.
However, as I have fallen many times flat on my face and risen again to fight another day, I have confirmed once again that having and living with a chronic illness like PD does not have to decrease our interest for living, succeeding and dreaming. Life is what you make of it -weather we live with an illness or not have Parkinson’s or something else we all have struggles, hardships, and traumatic events which can propel us forward to a better tomorrow or crush us if we let it. I have been given the opportunity to travel to South Dakota to do a weekend retreat at an abbey for those who care for someone with Parkinson’s as well as for PD patients which will include exercise classes, and educational classes to teach other the skills of living well beyond their own limitations brought on by the disease.
Please don’t let the shock and pain you are experiencing g today make you numb for the rest of your life. Even if you got nothing left, find your purpose maybe start by reaching out to your neighbor or friend who has less than you. The storm brings forth character, integrity, honesty especially when comfort is removed. The first step in sorting g over or getting back up is up to us. So, don’t wait for others to rescue you first, rather make your first step in improving your situation and others will join in to help. Remember none of us can do it all alone or know it all. But everyone knows something, can contribute something to our lives. So go ahead and start small. Who care how it looks? Ask for help when needed. When I first began this journey I could not even walk had to use a walker then a cane. I needed help to do most activities including dressing myself. This is not a race or a competition but it is about being empowered and finding yourself as you push through the darkness into the light as you find your purpose, your own passion that will make you defy all the odds and come out victorious. But the driving force can’t be just anything – it has got to be BIG enough, strong enough and powerful enough to propel you forward.
What drives you today to keep moving? Do you have the passion to go all in and fight as if your life depended on it because it does?
Be Inspi(red): words of Hope and courage 2007 by Hallmark Licensing Inc.
@Copy right 2017; all rights reserved Maria De Leon