The Fighting Spirit

(image came from here, a lovely read by the way.)

I’ve been thinking about this post for a while. You guys, I had a *super-fun* phone call yesterday with a new podcast guest! His name is Carl and he’s a firefighter. The first installment will be posted on Tuesday (the 10th) and the second part a week later, on the 17th. Watch for the release or better yet, subscribe through itunes or stitcher on your smart phone to get it automatically on your device the second it releases J

Carl wrapped a little bow on a blog post idea I’ve been mulling over for a few weeks, and I’ll get to that. First, a little context:

December notwithstanding, I’ve been eating pretty well. I’ve still been gaining weight. It’s ridiculous. I’m probably going to lock it down again and just go mostly vegan except for lean protein, because while my body seems to be in wolly-mammoth-in-wintertime mode, it can only do so much with healthy veggies, lean protein, flax / avocado, and no flour, sugar or dairy. I always miss dairy. But as much as I love it, it does seem to be a part of the problem Every. Darn. Time.

Meanwhile, having seen my urologist in January I’m being passed along to another specialist in pelvic pain in Vancouver. Having completed the ultrasound and the bladder scope, now I can finally follow up with my naturopathic doctor in Victoria, who I’m feeling optimistic about. She specializes in women’s health and hormones, and I suspect there’s a cortisol / estrogen / progesterone factor in here that isn’t being flagged in the regular blood work.

Before anyone out there gets excited and tells me I should do the elimination diet before seeing this next specialist, relax. I have. Diet is the first place I go to heal myself. Of course it is. Alas, despite all the messaging out there, there truly is not a cure-all that works for everyone, and I haven’t (so far) found a diet that’s sustainable long-term without causing some sort of imbalance, leaving some need unmet. Not yet. One day I will, I’ll just keep working on it. I admit, I’ve been feeling a tad sorry for myself, and the December exception to my dietary efforts to heal myself has, of course, not made me feel any better in the long run!

But here’s the thing I’ve been telling myself, all through this particular health-challenge. It’s all okay as long as I work every day to make myself a little bit better. Every day I do my exercises. I think about what I can do to replace the vigorous walking I used to enjoy and can’t tolerate right now – so I replace it with yoga core-building exercise, and I’ve added some weights into the mix. Maybe I can’t power walk, but I can certainly lift. And I can ABSOLUTELY eat the best diet possible, and track it, so I have something to tell the doctors when they give me dietary suggestions.

For me, visualizing my ideal self doesn’t motivate me as it seems to motivate others – it’s discouraging. I work best when I focus on getting a little bit better every day – doing something EVERY DAY that is positive and will put energy into the healing track, rather than the illness / victim story. I have to do this *regardless of the outcome*, because honestly, all I can control is what I do today.

I’m writing about this because you guys *know* I love to buck the trends in the new age world, and the messaging out there is if you find an affirming mantra, if you do the intention-setting and the visualization, you *will* get there. Or you must at least *believe* you will get there, because if you don’t keep the faith you will SURELY fail, and in that case, you have only yourself to blame.

Does anyone else get that message, or is it just me?

Well, personally, I don’t find this strategy to be helpful in the long run. My Sweetie finds it helpful, and I can appreciate that. It does work for her. For her, she can do the “right things” and see actual encouraging change! For me, it’s a bit soul-crushing. If my motivation for positive action is dependent on a time-sensitive outcome, when that deadline comes and goes without the outcome I was hoping for (like 8 weeks of following the nutritionist’s plan ending in a “sorry I can’t help you” conclusion) what my brain does with that information is spiral into a hopeless and helpless puddle of self-pity. And that doesn’t help, does it?! Brains are funny. It’s not a logical conclusion that this thing didn’t work so I feel like giving up (I didn’t give up, of course, but I FELT like giving up) but for some of us, that’s what our brain does with this intention setting agenda. It’s too great a risk when you have a brain that likes to self-flagellate.

Carl said something awesome to me yesterday. He said, “Pain is a benchmark for greatness.” I’ve heard this before, in different forms. I have a friend who gets supremely excited when she hears from a new client in spiritual crisis. She *loves* working with people experiencing a “dark night of the soul” because she has seen the amazing transformations that can happen in dark places.

The key, the vital key to it all, is to never give up.

You don’t *have to* be attached to the final outcome. In fact, if we want to get Buddhist about it, attachment to a *specific* outcome could enhance your sense of suffering. But the embrace of the struggle, the affirmation that pain is just a benchmark – this is a sign post on an amazing journey of triumph – a triumph you may not yet fully understand, but a plan and a path that has purpose in this world – well that shifts everything.

I’m writing this for the folks reading who have chronic illness (physical or mental), or just undiagnosed chronic pain. People, you’re so not alone! I was listening to a podcast recently where the author of “Kicking Sick” was saying as many as one in three adults in the US suffer from a chronic illness. By the way, I think it’s a great book. It does of course have a focus on diet, but the information in there is also key to organizing your own care, and building a team of support people to help you. I’ve solved mystery health issues in the past using these strategies. I takes patience and persistence. It is tough when you don’t know how long it will be before your team finally clicks, and you start making some serious headway.

Now that I think of it, maybe I’m ready to try another nutritionist. Sometimes it’s about getting in front of the right people.

So that’s my mantra for this New Year, and my resolution. Every day, I promise myself, I’m going to be a little bit better. At 10 am every morning, I’m going to think about what I am going to do that day to improve my health, including what I’m going to eat to affirm my health, where I am in my exercise plan to improve my body, and where I am this month in my business goals.

I encourage my friends to do this too. If the grand New Year goals are motivating for you, AWESOME. Do it. But if you’re starting off the year feeling discouraged, and the emails I’ve been getting are telling this is a pretty common sentiment at the moment, just affirm to yourself that you will make a plan today. Every day, you are going to embrace the benchmark of resistance and pain – and welcome it not as a sign of futility, as your tricky mind might be tempted to frame it, but as a sign post. And promise yourself that you will read that sign post and answer it with a fighting spirit!

For me, that fighting spirit was a missing piece. I’m not a fighter. I’m a watcher. I’m a listener. I’m a comforter. I’m a helper. I’m a healer. But I’ve never identified with the feeling of fighting. I can be competitive, sure, but it’s always non-confrontational.

Talking to Carl, a guy whose job has “fighter” in the title, I realized that I *need* that firefighter spirit in my emotional toolbox. I like to be chill about things. I like to accept people where they are, and I practice kindness and self-care. I practice compassion to myself and to others. But I don’t really fight. I’ve been taught *not* to fight, actually.

But sometimes, you’ve GOT to fight. I don’t know how I missed this, but fighting, I realize, is a fundamental state of being! We don’t want to be fighting all the time, sure, let me explain:

I think there are fundamental states of being we agree to / sign up to experience when we incarnate on earth. These fundamental states are the universal experience, experienced not just by humans, but by all life forms on earth (and on other planets, I’m sure!)

There are also fundamental lessons in incarnation as a human and experiencing a deep deprivation of one or more of these states, and a part of our spiritual goals may become to learn HOW to experience these states later on in life.

Love, for example. Everyone should experience love in some form or another. Not everyone does, sadly, and sometimes people learn how to love, or accept love in adulthood. Some people *struggle* with love, being loved, loving others. But whether one has experienced it or struggles with it, love is a defining state of being on earth. Your relationship with this state of being becomes pivotal in your life review (your total incorporation of you life’s choices and experiences into your lasting spirit consciousness.)

Anger. Again, we all experience it. We grapple with it. We learn from it.

Fear. Fear motivates, fear can paralyze and imprison. Fear can define entire lifetimes, whole generations, and great chunks of history.

Joy / Euphoria. Different from love. Some people chase euphoria their whole lives, and they find it in different places. I think that “god moments” fall under this category.

Compassion. Nurturance. We all experience it, and we are all faced with a lack of it in some way or another. It can define who we are and how we face life.

So far, these may look like simple emotional states, but emotion plays a more important role than I think is generally accepted. Extreme experiences can make us feel vulnerable, and so extreme emotions can be conflated with weakness. Which brings me to the next state:

Strength and Weakness. Nothing makes us feel our mortality more than weakness, regardless of the form. In our moments of great strength, we can feel indomitable! Nothing can stop us! Until it does. Then we feel weak again. If a guy like Carl can come on my podcast and talk about his moments of weakness – despite that weakness being during a time of recovery from an injury gained ON THE JOB, for him, it’s still weakness. That can still spark a downward spiral, a dark night of the soul.

What’s great though, is, Carl knows how to fight. So does his little dog, by the way. You guys are going to love Mr. President. Carl credits his little dog for helping him on his road to recovery, but I also think there’s a part in all of us that has to engage or give up. Sometimes if you’re going to engage, you *have to* fight. It feels like fighting. You have to dig, embrace that you don’t want to do this thing, and then do it anyway – whether it’s lift those weights for one more set, or fight against a mental illness, addiction, or cancer.

And this is not to disparage anyone who has fought and lost. We have all lost fights. That’s why they’re called fights – the stakes are high! You could lose. It’s part of life to fight and sometimes lose.

That’s what make me realize that Fighting is something we come here to do. We all have to. We grapple with it. We have to engage in fights sometimes. So embrace your fights. Channel the adrenaline that our bodies and brains give us for fights. If you get knocked down, or lose a fight, just raise your head enough to wink at that sign post on the road – that benchmark to greatness, because even in losing a fight, you’ve made it further along the road that you ever would have if you’d never tried.

And that, my friends, is the whole point, isn’t it? We’re not here for stasis. We’re here for change. For challenge. So let’s help each other as much as we can along the way, because everyone has to fight sometimes. Let us be thankful for our struggles; for each struggle is a teacher in our practice.

4 thoughts on “The Fighting Spirit

  1. I simply wish I could speak with half the passion you write. I loved when you said: “You don’t *have to* be attached to the outcome.” I find that so true myself.
    You have been through so much and yet take the time to help others; that is a person that on any day, I am proud to say I know.
    I’m forever indebted to you for taking the time to speak with me, Kate. But I must go, I’m in the middle binge listening to your podcast lol.

    Much love


  2. You and your eerie timing! After years and years of undiagnosed chronic pain (which I attributed to the Lyme Disease I had when I was a kid), I was recently diagnosed with a rare genetic condition called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, which affects the body’s connective tissue and basically explains all my symptoms. As much of a relief as it is to finally know why I’ve always felt this way, I’m definitely still in the “patience and persistence” phase of this fight, as you say — because it’s an uncommon condition, there aren’t many doctors who know very much about it (and the specialist isn’t free to see me until March). In the meantime, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the meaning and purpose of pain…and the words “pain is power” keep coming to mind. I’m not sure what that means yet, and I’m wary of going down the “suffering as virtue” path (as someone who was raised Catholic, I’m all too familiar with the dangers of developing a martyr complex), but I think this is something different…anyway. Thank you for this post, which was, as usual, exactly what I needed when I needed it!

    Liked by 1 person

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