Tuesday, October 16, 2018

THE IRONY OF LONELINESS

In my private practice, I often see clients who are struggling with feelings of loneliness and isolation. Many state that, if only they felt less lonely, they would be able to experience more in their life, and they would be happier.  People feel lonely for different reasons.  Some may experience loneliness because they are without a significant other, while it can seem like the rest of the world is coupled up.  Some feel lonely because of a lack of friends and social support.  Some feel lonely because they actually do have a partner, or a large social network, yet they still feel separate and alone, despite this social connectedness.  Whatever the cause of one's loneliness, the irony of it is that we all feel lonely at one time or another.  Loneliness, which makes us feel separate from others, is actually the emotion that unites us all together.

Like most people, I have known different kinds of loneliness. I've known the unique loneliness of temporarily living in a foreign country and having everyone I know thousands of miles away.  I've known the more common loneliness of being in unhappy relationships.  Being in a bad relationship can often make people feel more lonely than if they were actually alone.  I've also known the loneliness of losing friendships, of not seeing my kids every day, and of battling medical issues without family or a significant other around.  Most importantly, I have known that, regardless of these life challenges, the feelings of loneliness are temporary and changeable.  We are all connected by the universal human experience of feeling lonely.  It is ironic that, when you have times that you feel all alone, you are actually experiencing the same feelings shared by many others.

Loneliness and social isolation not only challenge our emotional well-being, but threaten our physical health as well.  Research has found an association between loneliness and increased risk of mortality.  This may be due to many factors. For example, social connection is associated with positive health behaviors, such as eating healthy, getting exercise, and receiving medical care.  In contrast, loneliness can influence people to engage in behaviors that are not good for their health, such as smoking, drinking, drug use, and weight gain. Relationships can make people feel accepted and cared for, and thereby reduce the impact of stress, whereas loneliness can have direct negative effects on the immune system.  There have been increased studies in recent years on the association between loneliness and health problems.  These include conditions such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's disease, depression, suicide, cancer, and obesity.

Today's world of technology and social media certainly plays a role in the issue of loneliness.  There are several ways of thinking about this. We can view it as a remedy to social isolation, as it connects people all over the world.  For example, if you are struggling in some way, there are websites and chat rooms to find support and feel less alone in facing challenges.  If you are looking for friends or a date, there are apps to connect you to others looking for the same thing.  However, social media can  have its drawbacks.  Social media tends to create an atmosphere of increased social comparison that might not occur to such an extent without the internet.  We can see this to be true especially for teenagers.  If you can see that all your peers are at a party without you, or that you're the only one who didn't find a date for the dance, or the only one who didn't make the basketball team, then social media can increase feelings of aloneness.

If you are feeling lonely or socially isolated, there are steps you can take to change this. Try volunteering for a cause you believe in, as helping others can bring a sense of community.  Join a club or group where you can meet like-minded people and spend time doing activities you enjoy.  Make a phone call to that longtime friend or family member whom you haven't spoken to in years.  Even spending a few minutes talking to a stranger standing in line with you at the grocery store can make you both feel more connected to the social world.  If loneliness becomes chronic for you, don't hesitate to reach out for professional help.  Speaking to a psychologist can help you identify negative thinking and behaviors that may impact your feelings of loneliness, as well as take steps to feel more connected and less alone.

Friday, June 22, 2018

BATTLING THE STORM

In recent weeks, the media has been inundated with stories of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, two beloved icons whose lives each came to an end by suicide.  Since then, I've had numerous clients tell me that their reactions were shock, disappointment, and fear.  Many have questioned that, if these two people who had fame, fortune, and success were suffering so much that they needed to end their lives, then how can that bode well for the rest of us? If these two people who seemed to have had it all could not get through their pain, then what is the likelihood that the average person can? It is important to realize that their deaths do not have to be a sign that things are hopeless.  Rather, it shows us that life can be hard, no matter what one's circumstances are, and that mental health challenges can be part of the reality of being a human being.  However, psychological difficulties do not have to lead to the end of a life.  Hopefully, if nothing else, these tragic events have opened up more discussion about mental health issues, and the resources available to people who are struggling with them.  With more openness and less stigma regarding depression and anxiety, more people can receive the help that they need, and precious lives can be saved.

Kate Spade, who died at age 55, was a successful handbag designer and a loving mother to her daughter.  Her husband had moved out ten months before her death, on a temporary break intended to help them work through resolving the problems in their marriage.  Articles that have been written about Kate Spade following her suicide have reported that she had a history of anxiety and depression.  Her friends were quoted saying that she probably never realized how loved she was or how much she touched the lives of other people.  That is a reminder that we should always make sure to tell the people in our lives how much they mean to us, because they may not realize how much they are valued.  Like Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain appeared to be living a successful and rewarding life.  He died of suicide at age 61, within days of Kate Spade's death.  He had traveled all over the world, inspiring people from all walks of life. He was an executive chef, a talented writer, and television celebrity.  However, despite his success, it is reported that he struggled with depression, and formerly struggled with drug addiction. He had an 11 year old daughter, a girlfriend, and a previous wife from whom he was separated.

It appears that for the most part, both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain lived a life surrounded by friends and loved ones.  They seemed to have had the kind of lives that many people envy.  However, they were struggling with inner turmoil, which they seemed to have kept fairly private matters.  It should be noted that there is no shame in opening up about one's struggles. There should be no stigma associated with mental health problems such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, etc.  By opening up to others about these challenges, it can bring much needed hope and support.  For example, last night, my twelve year old son and I attended the Imagine Dragons concert.  Not only was it an amazing show, but the lead vocalist Dan Reynolds took the opportunity to talk to the audience about his own battle with depression. He spoke about this prior to performing the hit song "Demons".  I commend him for his goal of encouraging people to seek mental health services if they are struggling, and for being open about his own experiences.  Reynolds talked about the stigma of mental health problems in society and how it is hurting us, especially our youth.  He stated that there is nothing shameful about having depression or anxiety. He told the audience that he has a therapist, that he thinks everyone should have a therapist, and that needing help does not make someone weak or broken.  He reminded the audience several times that they are not broken, that life is always worth living, and that things do get better.

Some people struggle with chronic anxiety and depression, and others may only experience it once in awhile.  Either way, I think it can be useful to think about it as a storm. When we are in a depressed cloud, or an anxious cloud, as I often refer to it, we can't see what's beyond the storm.  The cloud takes over and colors our perception of everything around us.  We don't realize that tomorrow the sun may come out, and that the clouds might disappear.  Through therapy, and in some cases medication, it is possible to battle and overcome the clouds.  It is easy to get lost in the pain of a single moment, or even days or weeks of painful moments.  However, therapy can teach us how to better navigate life's painful times, manage negative moods, and provide us with coping strategies to diminish anxiety and stress. It can help us see that things can in fact get better, and that when the cloud lifts, one's world looks like a very different place.  Please don't allow yourself to get lost in the storm clouds of anxiety and depression. Reach out and ask for help.

The CDC reports that suicide in the U.S. has gone up by more than thirty percent between 1999 and 2016.  Anxiety and depression are the leading mental health problems with which people struggle, and both have been associated with a risk for suicide.  Similarly, things like substance abuse, social isolation, financial difficulties, and relationship issues are all factors that can impact someone's ability to cope.  If you struggle with anxiety or depression, please contact a professional who can help you learn strategies to fight back against the storm.  If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please text "home" to the Crisis Text Line at 741741, go to the website suicidepreventionlifeline.org, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Saturday, February 24, 2018

KINDNESS IS KEY

A friend told me recently that one of the things he respects and admires about me most is that I am kind to everyone, even those that don’t necessarily deserve it.  I had to stop and think about this for a minute, as there are many pros and cons to being that way.  In our ever-changing,  competitive, and at times, violent world, kindness certainly seems to be becoming more scarce.  I was flattered by my friend’s comment, as I take pride in the fact that I try to be a kind and decent human being.  Yet, in different areas of my life, I have also experienced the many downsides of being this way.

Perhaps kindness is what makes me successful in my career.  As a psychologist, I need to be able to empathize with another person’s feelings and perspectives.  I believe that my clients feel understood and respected by me, which allows them to trust me to be able to help them with their struggles.  However, in my personal life, it has often put me at a disadvantage.   I have had countless friendships in which I have given more than I received, which eventually came to an end. I have had more than my share of romantic relationships in which I took second place to a slew of other priorities of my partner.

Yet, despite these negative experiences, I can’t help but believe that it is kindness that is the key to happiness.   Think about it. If every time someone were to be kind to a person in need, the world could be a very different place.  Potentially, things like bullying, suicide, and discrimination could on some level be diminished.  If every time people reacted in kindness to those in need, our daily lives might be very different.

So, why is it that we can’t be kinder? What is the reason behind that? I believe it is selfishness.  People tend to put their own needs before everyone else’s.  If they don’t, they believe they will be at a disadvantage. Look at all the movies and television shows that are about competitiveness as a necessity for survival.  Whether it be a reality tv dating show, or a reality show about human survival, it is competitiveness that decreases kindness.  Why not be happy for others’ successes, while at the same time still striving for your own? Or better yet, help someone else to be successful! I don’t think people should be kind because they think it will benefit them, such as bringing good karma or recognition.  I think we should be kind because that is exactly what the world needs!

There is nothing like becoming a parent to teach us about the need for kindness.  I remember when my oldest child was a newborn.  I started to believe that I was not my own person, as every waking moment was about making her comfortable, happy, and secure.  Hours upon hours would be spent holding and soothing her, until her colic settled down and she was able to not rely on me for every single thing.  To this day, I believe that my sensitivity to her needs (in other words, my kindness), is part of the reason she has turned into the amazing individual that she is today.  Likewise, although my son didn’t have the same struggles as a newborn that my daughter did, I still had to put kindness first when he was born. I am certain this has had a positive impact on who he has become as well.  (Now that they are a teenager and a pre-teen, I sometimes wonder where all my kindness/patience has gone, but that is for another blog entry some other time! ;)

Kindness does not make you weak.  Kindness does not make you a pushover.  Kindness does not make you undesirable.  Kindness does, at times, put you in harm’s way, as there are many people who will try to take advantage of it. Nevertheless, kindness enriches your life by giving you the power to make a difference in someone else’s world.  As the famous quote reads, “To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.” I will never give up trying to be kind.  I am fully aware that it has its potential drawbacks.  However, I can only hope that the people in my life see and appreciate the kindness inside me.  I can also hope that they will take their cues from me and work on doing the same.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

ROCKY BALBOA AND MY INNER STRENGTH

I have a picture in my bedroom that states, "You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have."  A friend gave this to me after I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013.  Since then, the words have applied to so many life events besides cancer.  Reading it has helped me in many ways.  It is a reminder that I am strong and can face whatever comes my way.  However, I suppose the alternative way of looking at this statement is that you do in fact have a choice.  You can choose to try to be strong, or you can choose to give up.  When life throws its punches (and let's face it, we all know it does), you have the choice to stand up and fight, or to take yourself out of the ring.  Rocky Balboa taught us that "It ain't about how hard you hit, it's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward."  These are words that I have remembered since my diagnosis.  Perseverance in the face of any kind of adversity is essential to one's well-being.

When I became a breast cancer survivor, I vowed never to give up my strength, no matter what the circumstances.  We've all had to face obstacles, both big and small.  Mine are not uncommon.  Over the years, they've included things like divorce, single parenting (particularly challenging when my kids were babies), family all in other states, getting my education and establishing my own psychology practice, death of loved ones (especially my mom), multiple health challenges, multiple moves, two-faced friends, cheating partners, etc.  So many things in life can tear down one's strength! The goal is to grow from the challenges, rather than give in and let them suck away your power.

While working with clients facing all kinds of hardships, I try to help them see how much stronger they have become as a result of these events.  Whether teenagers, adults, or couples, my clients are one step ahead because they have decided to fight back against whatever obstacles they are facing.  Sometimes people come to see me feeling they are "weak" or "broken" from whatever adversity they are fighting. However, I don't view it this way.  They are there, in my office, making efforts to improve themselves and their situation.  They are not taking the easy way out, or giving up.  They are warriors!  Ernest Hemingway said, "The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places." It's those people who stay in the boxing ring of life, that don't give up the fight,  that come out stronger.

When life, people, and things all challenge your strength, remember who you really are at your core.  Remember your strength.  Remember your own power.  In the past, I have been challenged not to give up on what I know to be true, despite the negativity around me.  I am a kind, honest, caring, intelligent woman.  I've devoted my career to understanding and helping others.  I am a single mother who puts my children first.  I am a cancer survivor.  When people and events around me threaten to take away my inner strength, I remember in my heart who I really am, and what it is I stand for.

This year, let's all try to strengthen each other, not tear each other down.  Its easy to get caught up in what other people are doing or saying, or to allow others negativity to wear us down.  Be the one who stands by others and helps them feel supported.  When someone you know wants to step out of the ring, because the challenges have become too much, be the positive voice that helps them to not give up.  One of the greatest challenges of life is feeling like you are alone to battle obstacles.  Over the years, I've learned what that is like, whether it was battling cancer, battling gossip, or battling any other hardship alone.  In this new year, when adversity strikes you or your loved ones, let's all remember the words of Rocky Balboa, "Going in one more round when you don't think you can, that's what makes all the difference in your life."

Sunday, September 17, 2017

HURRICANES, HEALTH, AND HAPPINESS

Last weekend, for many people living in Florida, time suddenly stood still.  Trivial decisions, such as what to watch on television, or where to go for dinner, no longer mattered.  Daily challenges that had previously occupied a family’s attention seemed to disappear, unless they were directly related to survival. This was true for my immediate family members as well, as they suddenly found themselves in the direct path of Hurricane Irma.


There is nothing like a natural disaster, even if not directly affected by it, to remind us of the fragility of life.  There are so many things in life that are out of our immediate control, and a hurricane certainly highlights this fact.  When I learned that my family members were choosing to remain at home, rather than evacuate, I was concerned. I felt helpless to do anything, as I certainly cannot control a hurricane (or for that matter, my family members’ minds once they decide something). Safe in my home a thousand miles away, I realized there was nothing I could possibly do about the situation but wait.  When I tried calling my father in the early morning hours the day after the hurricane, he didn’t answer.  I then reached out to my brother, who also lives in Florida. My brother stated that his own family was safe and that if we didn’t hear from my father by the afternoon, he would drive over to his house an hour away to check on him.  As it turned out, that wasn’t necessary. I was able to reach my stepmother, who assured me that my father was home, safe in his bed, catching up on his sleep.    


While the anxiety brought on by a natural disaster can be overwhelming, it doesn’t take a hurricane to cause many people to worry, sometimes in debilitating ways.  Most of the clients I see in my psychology practice are attending therapy sessions in order to learn how to manage their anxiety. Whether it be generalized anxiety, social anxiety, health anxiety, post traumatic stress, panic attacks, obsessive compulsive disorder, or phobias, they are all hoping to learn techniques to minimize their worry, and to be able to accept uncertainty.   


Anxiety is a powerful thing.  It can rob individuals of daily happiness.  Despite rational, logical thinking, it can convince people of the most negative outcomes they can imagine.  I often refer to it as a “Worry Bully”.  Bullies don’t stop until they get what they want.  For individuals with anxiety, worry can be relentless.  It can feel like being powerless in the path of a hurricane.   One of the approaches I take with my clients is that if they can take productive action of some kind to decrease their worry, then they should do so.  It allows one to exert control over a situation.  For example, many people evacuated their homes to try to increase their chances of staying safe during Hurricane Irma.  My family chose to stay rather than to evacuate.  They took a different form of action, by preparing themselves with supplies for their homes and gas for their cars.  However, there was not a single thing I could do for them. So, I didn’t do anything, including attempting not to worry.  Worrying wasn’t going to keep them safe.  Some of my clients have expressed that worrying is comforting because it seems like a way to protect themselves from bad things happening to them.  However, worry doesn’t protect us.  Rather, it depletes us of the energy we need to successfully navigate challenging situations.


Last weekend was difficult, and the proactive approaches that could be taken were limited. Next weekend, however, is going to be an opportunity for me personally to be proactive for a different kind of issue.  Next weekend, during the high school varsity football game, I will be participating in a halftime processional which will honor both victims and survivors of breast cancer. As a survivor, I feel it’s important to take actions to increase awareness for this common type of cancer. Participating in this halftime event at the football game is my small way of taking action for a cause I believe in. In the past, I have been a survivor speaker for the Relay for Life, as well as a participant for several years in the Making Strides for Breast Cancer walk.  I will continue to try to do my part to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research and treatment.

Whether it be health or hurricanes, we must accept that there are many things in life that are beyond our control.  There are things like natural disasters and disease that can be more powerful forces than we are.  Yet, that shouldn’t stop us from doing what we can to be happy, and try to make the most out of our daily lives.  Rather than make us worry, the uncertainties in life should motivate us to make every day count. Tomorrow is not promised.  As the Dove chocolate candy commercial tells us, “Live Each Day As If It’s The Only One.”

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

LIFE LESSONS FROM TRAVEL BASEBALL

As my son's travel baseball season comes to an end, I can't help but reflect on what I have learned this year.  He has one more tournament left before our weekends will once again become our own. My son has been playing baseball for several years, and has been on a travel team for the past two seasons.  I have to admit, when he first started to play, I did not know much about the game.  Today, I know a lot more about baseball than I ever did before.  Yet, the most important things I have learned have not been about the game itself, but rather, lessons about life in general.  Here are some life lessons from baseball. 

1.  IN BASEBALL, AS IN LIFE, YOU HAVE TO SHOW UP.  Every day.  Every inning.  Even when you don't feel like it.  Even when you have other things to do.  Even when you're injured. At one time or another, we've all had setbacks that have made it difficult to bring our A game, whether that be to work, to our loved ones, or even to ourselves.  Thats ok, but we still need to try. We owe it to our teammates, our co-workers, our children, and our significant others to be present.  Showing up and making an effort is a requirement.  Recently, there was a situation in which a player did not make it to the first day of one of our tournaments. (Ok, so he happened to be my kid.) Had it been my decision, I would have made sure he was there, but in this particular situation the circumstances were out of my control.  In any case, as a result, the next day my son was benched for the first inning, and placed last in the batting order.  I supported that decision, as the coaches felt he had to have some consequence for not showing up the day before.  In baseball, as in life, if you don't show up, you are less likely to succeed. (It also tends to piss off a lot of people who are relying on you.)  

2.  THERE WILL ALWAYS BE CONFLICT, ON THE FIELD AND IN LIFE.  IT'S HOW YOU            DEAL WITH IT THAT MATTERS. 
Coaches don't always agree, and sometimes they give conflicting advice to their players.  Similarly, parents don't always agree, and often parent their children differently.  In life, there will always be people who disagree and think that their way is the better way.  When this happens, you have choices. You can handle it with grace and dignity, or you can escalate the conflict. In baseball, there are often times when coaches, parents, and players all think the Ump has made a bad call.  I've seen parents and coaches lose their cool during these times.  Some yell, some curse, and some silently stew. There will always be different perspectives.  It's how we handle this that is most important.  While my son was at a baseball camp for a few days this summer, the baseball trainer gave him different advice than his own coach.  When he told me about it later that day, he was upset, because he felt he was doing exactly what he had been taught to do, but was being criticized for it.  After talking with him further, he began to realize the value of hearing contrasting opinions.  In the end, I encouraged him to respect the trainer's advice while he is at his camp, and if he still doesn't agree, then to discuss his concern with his own coach.  That way, he can better understand where each person is coming from and determine what his best course of action would be.   

3.  CONFIDENCE IS HALF THE BATTLE.  If you think you can, you very well might.  However, if you think you can't, you definitely won't.  Sports psychology has taught us the importance of positive thinking and visualizing success.  Confidence seems to be a trait that is an asset in many areas of life. Last season, my son was last in the batting lineup.  At some point early on, he began to lose his confidence.  He was last because his skills at that time were not good enough to be placed closer to the top of the lineup. This seemed to reinforce his lack of confidence, and consequently, his performance. This season, however, we worked with a trainer on hitting and pitching.  From his hard work, my son improved his skills, and his confidence, and he was moved up in the batting order. While he had to earn his right to become one of the first several batters, once he did, getting placed higher up in the order further increased his confidence, and improved his performance.  He went from feeling criticized about his skills last season, to feeling like others finally believed in him. Like they wanted him there.  Like he had earned his right to be there.  Have confidence that you will improve, and you are more likely to do so.  No matter how much criticism comes your way, never give up on yourself.  

4. SUPPORTING YOUR TEAMMATES IS A MUST.  I love when I overhear my son telling his teammates "good job" or "don't worry you'll get it next time" etc.  The support that he gives his buddies is priceless.  It is a necessary effort to make the whole team stay motivated.  Whether its a spouse, a friend, a co-worker, a coach, or a teammate, its important to feel like someone has your back.  Optimism, encouragement, and enthusiasm is essential to succeed in the game of life, and to help others do so as well.    

5.  EVERY INNING IS A CHANCE TO CHANGE THE OUTCOME. In life, or in baseball, the game is always changing.  Nothing is permanent.  Every day is another opportunity to live your best life. Every inning is another chance to get the homerun.  I've often heard one of the coaches say "Its a brand new ballgame boys," once the game gets tied up after we have been losing.  Every day, and every inning, is a new beginning. (Yes, I realize that rhymes.  It should make it easier for you all to remember this lesson!) 

6.  A BAD ATTITUDE AFFECTS EVERYONE.  At home, in the workplace, at school, or on the baseball field, one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.  Enough said.  
   
7. DON'T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF. 
We've all seen parents and coaches get riled up over something happening in the game. We've all seen players' frustration grow when something does not go the way they had hoped.   In baseball, and in life, when things don't go our way, we need to be able to let things roll off our back.  You tend to see this with pitchers a lot.  It seems helpful when their team reminds them to let it go, and to focus on the next pitch instead. (For more on that, see #4 above, Supporting Your Teammates Is A Must.)

8. AS BABE RUTH SAID, "YESTERDAY'S HOME RUNS DON'T WIN TODAY'S GAMES." Never stop giving it your all. You can't live off of yesterday's success.  Neither in baseball, nor in life. You have to keep working at it.  If it is important to you, then you will put in the effort.  If it's not, then this will show. In life, for example, relationships take consistent effort.  When you stop making the effort, the relationship suffers.  I used to be in a long term relationship with a boyfriend who would tell me that this was all the time he had to give me right now.  Yet, had I been more of a priority to him, he probably would have made more time for me to be part of his life.  People make time for what's important to them.  With the couples I counsel, I often see how lack of effort in relationships leads to conflict, disappointment, resentment, and often the end of a union.  You can't keep a relationship going solely off of past effort. Likewise, previous accomplishments in baseball don't win you today's championship game.   







Sunday, May 21, 2017

STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES...BUT MAKE SURE YOU SEE THEM FIRST

Today, as I sit here writing this blog entry, I can barely see past my computer screen.  I had cataract surgery in my right eye last week. My vision is currently 20/100 in this eye, until I am able to get eyeglasses made with my new prescription, at which time I will be able to see 20/20 again.  While it is currently very difficult for me to see, it is still a vast improvement from my uncorrected eyesight before the surgery. My uncorrected left eye, which will have cataract surgery this coming week, is now much different than my right eye.  Therefore, until both eyes are corrected, I am only able to see with one eye at a time.  This is because my nearsightedness has been so severe, that my brain can't reconcile the differences to allow me to use both eyes together.

People tend to take for granted the things that they don't have to work hard for, or that are given freely to them.  Eyesight tends to be one of these things.  I am fortunate that, since I was in elementary school, I have been able to wear eyeglasses or contact lenses to correct my nearsightedness and astigmatism.  It is easy to forget that these are luxuries not everyone is able to experience.  Having cataract surgery, and struggling to get through this past week and all of next week, is a simple reminder to me that something as precious as the gift of sight can be lost.  There are many people in the world who are completely blind, or who have the use of only one eye. I know friends, family, and acquaintances who have, or who have had, visual impairments.  Unless you are one of them, it is likely that you, like myself, have not given much thought to how precious sight truly can be, or what it might actually mean to lose it.  

We've all heard the saying "Stop and smell the roses."  I have always been a believer in doing so.  If you've read any of my other blog entries over the past four years, you will see that this is a common theme.  We need to be aware of, and appreciate, all of the positive things in life, no matter how big or how small.  So, in the weeks preceding my first cataract surgery, I spent a lot of time intentionally stopping to smell the roses...or rather, to see them.   I would literally stop to think about the positive visual moments I was able to have...seeing a smile on my children's faces, or a beautiful sunset, or the way the rain would fall on my window.  The thought of the possibility of losing my eyesight crossed my mind, and it was not a pleasant one.  Prior to my cataract surgery, I had received laser surgery on my retina to strengthen weak areas that could potentially lead to retinal detachment, and subsequent blindness. People keep asking me why, at age 44, I have cataracts.  Statistically speaking, it is not the norm. The honest answer is, I don't know why.  Nobody else seems to know either.  Maybe it is my extreme nearsightedness, maybe it is bad genes, maybe it is my cancer medication side effects.  Whatever the case may be, the reasons why are not as important to me as the wonderful fact that I can do something about them!

In a few days I will have my cataract removed in my left eye.  Even now, without being able to see clearly, the removal of my right cataract has allowed me to view the world differently.  I see colors brighter than before my cataract was removed.  The moment I became aware of that, I realized that I may have been seeing the world differently all along. Think about that. What if the reality you have always known, the way you've visually perceived the world around you, is incorrect? I'm talking about vision in this blog, but the idea can just as easily relate to almost anything. We've all had lightbulb moments where we realize in hindsight that something was different than it appeared to be.  To put it simply, whether its cataracts or life, we can't see clearly...until we can see clearly.

So, when the days become hectic, and the pressures of children, work, relationships, and life get overwhelming, please remember the following:  Always take time to stop and smell the roses.  Don't let life's precious moments pass you by unnoticed. The world is a beautiful place, as long as you are willing to "see" it!