Episode XII: The Small Things: Part One

Episode XII

The Small Things: Part One

 Today’s Words of Widsom:

 “When it Rains, it Pours.”

-Unknown… and apparently 50 Cent

 The Foda’s Take: Yes, this can sometimes feel true. But often, it’s just a result of being pushed over the edge by the small things. And the small things in life, the every day things- those are what make or break us.

 It is cold as Hoth today! The persistent arctic chill in our area has seemed to settle into my bones. However, it has also given me justifiable permission to wear my R2D2 robe all day long- something the UPS delivery man really seemed to get a kick out of.

While I sit down with some coffee, trying to get warm, I start to reflect. The past week has been really hard. It reminds me of the expression: “when it rains, it pours.” Well, it is really pouring on my family right now. It seems like one by one we’re being struck down by sickness, medical bills, and countless years at high-alert that never seem to end, all which seem to coincide with my latest dip in the journey to health. I sat on the couch yesterday after receiving some more bad news, and thought: how does this keep happening to us? I grew up with sickness; it’s no foreign concept to me. While I was lucky to be healthy most of my life, my family has been hit with cancer, auto-immune diseases, and other such trials to deal with. When people asked me how I dealt with it, I used to shrug and say it’s my childhood- I never knew anything different. But now I do. And it seems like we just never get a break.

So what’s a Foda to do? I sit on my couch in the same place I sat 24 hours ago when I got the phone call- the one that started with: I have some bad news. And I think. And think. And I come to realize that we, as humans, are fighters. We see an obstacle, a wall, and we get out our hooks and handsaws and find a way over that darn wall. The big stuff- that’s not the hardest part. We handle it. We have to. It’s the small things that trip us up- the thorns on the wall that come out of nowhere and push us over the edge. After all, they say it was a straw that broke the camel’s back- not a boulder.

So if it’s always something small that breaks the camel’s back- why can’t it be the small things that bring us the most joy?

I remember being on tour in Scandanavia in college with a singing group. Everything went wrong that trip. Our travel planner- a fellow member of the group- failed to plan ahead, and we wound up with no hotels, staying in seedy parts of town, getting kicked out of train stations with no place to go, and living on loaves of bread and nutella from the Swedish equivalent of a SevenEleven for days. But through it all, I was okay. Until one day, I thought I lost the necklace my boyfriend at the time had given me. It had fallen through a hole in the lining of my purse, but when I thought it was gone, I burst into tears. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I could handle sleeping on cardboard in an unlocked school basement with an AA meeting going on just beyond the accordion-style door- (true story)- but I couldn’t handle losing my necklace.

So again I wonder- if it’s the small things that push us over the edge- why can’t it be the small things that also bring us the most joy?

I’m not going to wake up tomorrow and be back to normal. It’s reality; I’ve accepted it. My family is not going to all of a sudden be perfectly fine. That’s the big part. So the small part, perhaps, is retraining my brain to see the small things- the daily things- and love them for the goodness they bring into my life.

As my mother says- oh, let’s call her…. Professor Momgonagall- that’s Gratitude.

So this is a topic I’m going to dig into over the next few posts. I invite you to join me in thinking about: what are the small things in your life that give you joy?

Gratefully yours,

The Foda

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Episode XI: Trapped in the Pit of Carkoon

Episode XI

Trapped in the Pit of Carkoon

 Today’s Words of Wisdom:

“Thank God I found the GOOD in Goodbye.” 

-Beyoncé Knowles

 The Foda’s Take: Most human beings HATE change they didn’t choose, especially if the change is painful. It can take years to discover the good things that came from being in that proverbial pit you were stuck in for so long- but there’s always a payoff. You just don’t know what it is yet.

 Have you ever heard that song… you know, the one that goes And on that tree… there was a branch… the prettiest branch… that you ever did see…Oooh, the branch on the tree and the tree in the hole and the hole in the ground and the green grass grew all around, all around, and the green grass grew all around! 

And on that branch…..

There was a leaf…..

Etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera.

This is a great song to sing on long car rides. (Or, at least, it was before cars had TVs and various smart devices built right into them.) Why, you ask? Because it never ends. You can literally continue to build leaves, squirrels, dust mites, a whole ecosystem on that darn hole if you want!

What is my great life analogy with this, you ask? (You rascally little reader, you know me so well!) Well, when you first start this song, it’s fun. It’s a hole in the ground where green grass grows all around. It’s a blank slate, full of imagination and possibilities! But by the time some smart-aleck adds a Bonobo chimp to the speck of mold on the unicorn’s tail… it can get a little old.

Chronic illness is the same thing. At first, it’s a puzzle. And while it’s certainly not approached with the same fresh-faced excitement as a car-ride sing-a-long, at least it’s approached with stamina and an open mind. But, like this song, it can get overwhelming VERY quickly.

I used to count the days since I’d been well. I used it as some sort of ruler, like by saying it had been x amount of years, I was reminding the universe that I karmically deserved the pendulum to swing back in my favor sooner rather than later. But then someone who had dealt with a debilitating illness that lasted many years told me:

Stop counting.

But… but… if I stop counting how long it’s been, won’t it mean that…

What. I won’t get better faster? I won’t fight harder? I won’t continue to do everything in my power to get well? What?

Wow. Fine. If you wanna be all logical and practical about it.

You know what? I think I do.

Fine!

Fine.

(Sidebar- don’t you just love being privy to my little cranial conversations?) The point is, sometimes life gives you a hole in the ground, much like the Pit of Carkoon- resting place of the all-powerful Sarlacc! And when you (and not a tree) are in that hole, it can feel like all you can do is scratch off the days like Edmund Dantès did in The Count of Monte Cristo during his imprisonment in the Chateau d’If. But once the scratches on the wall get more and more numerous- it can feel less and less likely that you’re ever going to get out. But as I said before in Episode VII– this is a feeling, not a fact.

So stop counting. The past is not a predictor for the future. The hole is not a prison; it does not have a ceiling- there is blue sky above, even if you’re too far down to see it now.

But to those of you who are deep in the hole right now, I hear you, I feel your pain and your impatience and your cries of being wrongly locked away. It’s not easy, but stop counting- I promise, it feels so good to let go. (Just be forewarned- letting go is not an act you do just once. You have to continue to choose it again, and again, and again.)

And if you can’t do that, at least I’ve given you a really, really long song to sing while you’re down there.

Happy humming,

The Foda

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Episode X: Han Shot First

Episode X

Han Shot First

 Today’s Words of Wisdom:

Han: “That’s ‘cause droids don’t pull people’s arms out of their sockets when they lose. Wookies are known to do that.” 

C-3P0: “I suggest a new strategy, R2. Let the Wookie Win.”

Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope

 The Foda’s take: Sometimes being smart means knowing when to let well enough alone. And that includes knowing when it’s counter-productive to blame others for your lot in life. (Although I like to think R2D2 is scrappy enough to hold his own in a Wookie fight.)

 Welcome back, friends of Foda! So, I have a rather embarrassing confession to make. For years, I’ve seen T-shirts and other such Star Wars paraphernalia with the graphic reading “Han Shot First.” And I- the great fan that I am- did not know what it meant. That is, until a few days ago.

Apparently, when they digitally remastered the original Star Wars movies (translation: the GOOD ones), they altered the scene in the Mos Eisley Cantina where Han has a shake down with the bounty hunter, Greedo. In the original version, Han shoots first. In the remake, however, perhaps as a ploy to make Han seem more moral and like a “stand-up guy”, Greedo shoots first.

Now, I wouldn’t give this another thought- until you realize that this has sparked a world-wide consumer franchise based solely on the playground argument of:

“He-started-it!”

This led me to question- why is it so important that we know who-dun-it?

Sure, if there’s a murder mystery, we wanna find out who did it- so that justice can prevail. If a box of cute size 7 ballet flats show up at your doorstep- (hint, hint, husband- who, by the way, I shall forevermore refer to as….. Mandalf! Tee-hee, naming people after SciFi/Fantasy characters is so fun!)– Well, in any case, you wanna know whom to thank for knowing you so well! (That’s you, Mandalf!)

But what if…. what if the point of origin- the person, place, or thing that “shot first” is something that cannot be reconciled? No justice, no retribution, do not pass go, do not collect $200. (Mandalf! Does Star Wars Monopoly exist? Because if so, scratch the shoes!) But I digress. My point of origin? A tick. (Ugh, I hate even writing that word.) More than one, in point of fact. And as much as the fairness police inside me wants these creatures who bit innocent-frolicking-through-the-fields me to pay, I will never have that moment. My infectors will never sit on a stand while I point and yell “It’s not my fault! They started it!” They won’t go to jail, so that they can never hurt another human being again. It doesn’t seem fair- and this makes sense.

It makes sense why it took me 3 years to be able to say out loud that I have Lyme Disease, instead of saying I had a “condition” or “illness.” It makes sense why it took me so long to reconcile with the fact that while I am battling this illness, I am not the illness. Since I had nothing tangible to blame, I, inexplicably, blamed myself.

In this world, we want to know whom to blame. It makes us feel better, maybe even sleep better at night, knowing it’s not all our fault. But sometimes, it’s good to accept that whoever or whatever started it- it’s you who will finish it. And that, at least, is something good.

But if anyone wants to Force electricity-blast the buggers Emperor Palpatine style, be my guest.

Until Next Time,

The Foda

Okay, alright, one more quote….. just because it’s kind of awesome:

 “When you blame others, you give up your power to change.”

– Robert Anthony

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Episode IX: Jedi Mind Tricks

Episode IX

Jedi Mind Tricks

 Today’s Words of Wisdom:

 “These are not the droids you’re looking for.”

– Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars IV: A New Hope

 The Foda’s take: Um, yeah. They kinda were.

Sidebar- This droid kerfaffle never would have happened if that stormtrooper was a Hutt. Take that, Palpatine, and your stupid rule against enlisting alien species into your ranks!

 I think my cat is the reincarnation of Jabba the Hutt. Why? Because Jedi Mind Tricks don’t work on him. I’m serious. I’ve tried. He lounges regally across the soft faux fur blanket a-top our couch, his head cocked to the side, watching me pensively. He is thirsty and in need of libations. I try to offer him water in his very own, gleaming glass dish, brimming with fresh water. He blinks and looks away. I have offended him. I set the bowl down on the ground and jingle one of his toys next to it. He hops up, prances over to the toy, and after capturing it safely in his jaws, brings it back with him to his perch upon the throne. I tap the edges of the glass rim with my fingernails. While the sound is pleasing to him, he denies my offering thrice. Finally, I give up, grabbing my own water bottle, swinging it jauntily from my fingers as I glide to the kitchen faucet. I flip on the PUR water filter, and stand patiently as the crystal clear stream of water flows into my canister.

THWACK! 

And there he is, my furry friend (who is, ironically, actually named Yoda- but more on that later.) Anyway, there he is, swiping his padded paw under the stream of water, shoving his little face over top of my bottle, trying to push the liquid onto his pink lapping tongue.

I hurry to get his water bowl, and place it in the sink, letting it catch the water. Finally, I think, he’ll think he’s “found” fresh water and drink from his bowl! When the bowl is full, I turn off the faucet and back away slowly, barely daring to breathe as I watch. And wait.

He looks at the bowl. He looks at me.

I arc my hand over the bowl like a rainbow and say: “This IS the water you’re looking for.”

He blinks. And walks away.

Now, you may be asking why I’ve dedicated today’s posting to the pickiness of my cat. It’s because oftentimes, we try and trick ourselves into accepting things we don’t want because they’re right in front of us. And sometimes this is a GOOD thing- accepting when we have no control over something is liberating and healthy, and allows us to move on. But when we DO have a choice, why accept what we have when our minds are capable of speaking Huttinese?

(And just so you know, we didn’t name him Yoda- he had that name when we rescued him at 7 weeks old. They called him that because he was a bottle baby- found in a basement in Brooklyn without a mother- and was so tiny he slept in a teacup. When we entered the shelter, he ran out the door, and the volunteer scooped him up and put him in my arms. He’s been with us ever since.)

Our minds are strong. We have a choice over what to put in them. And yeah, it can feel unnatural or really hard. Someone once told me, our minds are like a radio station. We have a default station we naturally tune into. (Mine is called ObsessiveFM.) But, like my cat, we have a choice to look at what’s in front of us, blink, and walk away. Change the channel. Make a different choice. Do it for long enough, and it will become your new “default.”

Change the channel.

If you did, what would it look like?

And yes, I did just advise you to take life lessons from an enormously obese slug.

May the Force Be With You,

The Foda

P.S. If you’re appalled at the whole Hutt metaphor… I’m also fairly positive you can’t Jedi Mind Trick a Jedi… will have to re-examine that in my Star Wars library….

Episode VIII: So Fresh and So Clean, Clean: 2014

Episode VIII

So Fresh and So Clean, Clean: 2014

 Today’s Words of Wisdom:

 If you stumble about believability, what are you living for? Love is hard to believe, ask any lover. Life is hard to believe, ask any scientist. God is hard to believe, ask any believer. What is your problem with hard to believe?” 

– Yann Martel, Life of Pi

 The Foda’s take: BELIEVE: Everyone should make this their power word of the year at some point or another. To believe in the future you want- the future you resolve to have- without proof or a crystal ball? That’s hard. It’s one of the hardest things we can do.

 So it’s New Year’s Eve. I’ve been having a particularly rough stretch of days, but I’m PUMPED because I’m going to spend some time with the fabulously phenomenal friends from the good ol’ days of Yore. Also known as college. Sigh. Best days of my life. Anywho, I’m routing through my closet, trying to find something New-Years-Eve-y to wear, and I realize how hard it is to find the right ensemble. Mainly because this is the outfit I will be wearing when I usher out the old and welcome with open arms the NEW NEW NEW! And truth be told, this will not be the first New Year’s Eve I’ve spent eagerly flinging the past sickness-filled year into the the garbage disposal in the hopes that this will be MY YEAR. I sit down on my bed, amidst piles of soft jersey dresses, colorful cardigans, and riding boots (because the world is just better in a good pair of stompin’ stormtrooper boots) and realize, I am super sad.

What if this year ISN’T my year?

Well that’s just too depressing to give it even another moment’s thought. So I grab my favorite black drape-y dress, throw a honey gold cardi over it (Zoe Deschanel was so right when she said you can never have too many cardigans) and zip up my favorite Timberland riding boots over black textured stockings. Throw on a maroon, cream, and olive green gauzy scarf, and I’m good to go!

Okay, it was so not supposed to snow tonight. Five minutes after getting on the highway en route to the party, my husband and I see ten cars go off the road, and decide it just isn’t worth it and turn around.

Sidebar- you know it’s bad going when your Buffalo born-and-raised hubbie tells you not to hold the metal spoon you’re eating with in front of you- you know, in case of a collision. Who knew air bags can push spoons into you on impact? Always looking out for me, that one!

It’s okay. I was feeling pretty badly, and we were only going to stay a couple hours anyway.

So we come home, and I spend the NYE making gluten-free, dairy-free, low-glycemic muffins (because that’s how I roll) in my pink and red striped pajamas with my beloved new R2D2 robe over top. (A Christmas gift from my husband who knows me so well. Diamonds? Cliché. Novelty Star Wars one-size-fits-most robe that swims on my haven’t-grown-since-I-was-10 frame? BRING IT.)

I wake up the next day, still sick, and it hits me again. What if this year ISN’T my year?

But then again- what if it IS?

So, dear friends, I’d like to share with you my 2014 resolutions. I usually don’t make resolutions- I always thought that if you want to do something, you should do it, regardless of what time of year it is. But this year, inspired once again by my favorite lady Fumbledore, I’m giving it a go.

Sidebar- if I fail, you are SO not allowed to judge me.

My resolutions are threefold: (Hehe I just love using that word. Threefold. Classic.)

Resolution #1: I will say the following mantras every day:

  1. I can have the things that I want
  2. I am powerless
  3. Be in this moment
  4. Show kindness and love to all creatures

Resolution #2: I will write 1,000 words a week, either as the Foda, or as Amy Wells, the main character in a SciFi novel I’m working on.

Resolution #3: I will publish this blog. (As of this moment, I’ve been writing posts for months without publishing them. This blog started out as a project for me. I didn’t know if I wanted to share it with the world, or keep it just for myself- but as the original Yoda says, “Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no Try.” So seeing as my entire premise is based off of this wickedly wise character- I figured, hey. No time like the present.)

Happy New Year, friends.

This year, whether it’s going to be your year or not, I invite you to believe.

Yours Truly,

The Foda

Episode VII: The Ewok Under the Bed

Episode VII

The Ewok Under the Bed

 Today’s Words of Wisdom:

 “Don’t spend a lot of time imagining the worst-case scenario. It rarely goes down as you imagine it will, and if by some fluke it does, you will have lived it twice.”

– Michael J. Fox

 The Foda’s take: “Fear, powerful though it may be, is just a feeling- it’s not a fact.”

– The Foda, circa 2013

(Just in case you wanted to quote me. Admit it. You totally want to.)

 Greetings, friends! Come in, step quietly, make sure the door doesn’t slam behind you…there. That’s better. Why so quiet? Oh, sure, I’ll tell you. After all, you’re in here with me, too.

There’s a monster under my bed. I don’t know what he looks like- I’ve never actually seen him. But I’m sure he’s terrifying. How do I know? Because I’m terrified of him! And I assume that the level of my fear must be equally proportional to the level of his scariness. Wouldn’t you agree? Oh. OH. I see how it is. You think I’m being foolish. You think I should crawl down from the safety of my little ball on my little bed and have a LOOK? Are you MAD?

Sigh. Okay, I’ll look. But first let me tell you how I know he’s going to be a blood-thirsty monster. First of all, bad things happen to me. I’m young, supposedly in the prime of life, and I’ve been unable to just stand up and walk out my front door without worrying how far I’ll make it in years. And I used to be a marathon runner. And now I set the timer to try and make it 5 minutes. So wouldn’t it make sense that more bad things are going to happen? Aren’t I just being realistic and preparing myself for it? You don’t think so? You still think I should look? Okay. FINE. But if I’m mangled and bleeding on the floor, promise- < ugh the floor is cold! >  you’ll tell my family-  < oooh this is soooo stupid >  that I lo—.

Oh.

It’s an Ewok.

Would you look at that.

Just because you’re scared something bad will happen, or will continue to happen, doesn’t mean that it will. Fear is not proof of fact, it’s living in the past, or the future- basically focusing your energy on any moment but right now. And it’s really easy to be scared of horrible events in your past, and horrible things that could happen in your future. And, mind you, I say all this with the utmost humility, because I do this ALL THE TIME. And it needs to stop. So if you, like me, find yourself scared of the unseen monsters under your bed- join me in adding this mantra to your life whenever you find yourself curled up under the covers, unsure of what to do-

Be in this moment. 

One moment at a time. 

I promise, it feels so good to let go. Because you deserve to be happy. And happiness, like fear, is not just a feeling- it can also be a choice. It just may not always FEEL like one.

Yub, yub,

<Ewok speak>

The Foda

Episode VI: Words, Words, Words!

Episode VI

Words, words, words!

Today’s Words of Wisdom:

 “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me.” 

– English Nursery Rhyme

 The Foda’s take: Yeah. If you’re a robot.

 Greetings, friends! Foda Here. Today I’d like to explore the conundrum of words. Harmful words won’t show up on an MRI or CAT scan, but they do damage just the same. Anyone who’s ever been teased, ridiculed, or unfairly persecuted knows this- which is pretty much everyone alive EVER. Words may not rip your arm off Wampa-snow-beast-in-Hoth style in the literal sense, but they can rip your heart out. (Figuratively.) So when you’re dealing with a chronic illness, discouraging words from other people can seriously mess with your head… but in my opinion, it’s the words we speak to ourselves that can hurt us the most.

Now I know what you’re thinking… I know worrying and stress is bad for me so I try to stop, but then invariably, I worry anyway, and then I beat myself up for worrying because it’s stressful, and I’m causing the stress by worrying, so then I worry about how my worrying is making me sicker! Yeah, that’s a killer. Or in more elegant prose: “Ah! There’s the rub.” (Love. Shakespeare. Such a bawdy rascal.)

So, what do we do? Welp, it’s kind of like trying to fall asleep. If you lie in bed at night wanting to fall asleep and trying really hard to relax so that you can fall asleep, chances are, you’re not falling asleep any time soon, because your brain is so busy trying to relax that you can’t, in fact, relax. Like when you try not to think of a purple elephant. (Try it. It will be ALL YOU CAN FOCUS ON.) So, again, what do we do? I’m a big fan of self talk, but I also recognize when the self talk can spiral into that nasty quagmire of endless questions and worry. So now that I’m aware that I do that, when it’s no longer productive thought, I do a few things:

Number One: Pick a few mantras and say them over and over to yourself. You’re more likely to believe something if it’s in your own voice. My favorite is: I can have what I want. 

Number Two: Focus on something you love. I feel best about myself when I’m creative, so when I start to spiral, I pat myself on the back, and nourish my soul by thinking of/working on projects that make me feel proud.

Number Three: Sing a song. Music Therapists use this technique all the time. It is almost impossible to continue worrying when you’re singing a song. (Earth, Wind, and Fire is a guaranteed mood lifter.)

Number Four: Let Go. You have good reason to be stressed and to worry. Trying to shut it down will only make it worse- like a giant T Rex looming over your head, its freakishly tiny arms waiting to pull a snatch and grab. (By the by, did you hear of new research that suspects the T Rex looked more like a chicken? Or maybe my friends are just lying to me about that….) Anyway, the point is, sometimes you have to allow yourself to feel the way you do. Oftentimes, I find that if I just acknowledge what I’m freaking out about, and tell myself I have every right to be freaking out, I stop freaking out. Odd, I know, but it works- because then, when I’m ready, I can let go.

And if I can’t, there’s always carbs.

Namaste,

The Foda

Episode V: Gratitude

Episode V

Gratitude

 Today’s Words of Wisdom:

 “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” 

– The Bible… and then Abraham Lincoln

 The Foda’s take: Before you jump into the ring to fight- look very carefully at what it is you’re fighting. And then watch the barn raising scene from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers for a perfect visual (and musical!) example of what this quote means.

 Happy Thanksgiving, friends of Foda! As I begin this day of thanks slowly sipping some piping hot micro-roasted organic coffee, I’ve been pondering… what am I thankful for? It’s not so easy a question as it used to be. For the past four weeks, I’ve had a devastating relapse, and have spent the vast majority of my day on the couch, trying to keep my mind positive, active, and fulfilled while my body can’t travel. Anyone who’s ever had brain fog knows this is no easy task. The natural result is, of course, frustration, anxiety, and- let’s be real here- depression. But it wasn’t until I went to a doctor who sagely discerned that I was disassociating myself from my body that I realized how much I sometimes refuse to “live” inside my own tiny shell.

Grandstand Announcer: Step right up, ladies, and gentlemen, for the fight of your lives! Here, in one corner, is the Fabulous mind of Foda. Facing off in the other corner, feast your eyes on the fearsome Foda form – ooooooh, she looks mad! At the sound of the bell, they will attack each other with all of their might! Ready? Ding ding ding! 

Child: Mommy? Why do I only see one person fighting?

Parent: Because she’s fighting herself, Billy. 

Newsflash to me- I’ve been fighting myself this whole time? I thought I was fighting my disease! Turns out, somewhere along the way I began associating my uncooperative body with my disease, and my mind with the “real” me. How awful! How did I not realize I was doing this?? (Fumbledore says she totally told me I was. Apparently it didn’t sink in until now. Brilliant cunning vixen.) But I digress.

The point is, I am grateful for my body- flawed and weak though it may be. It has four working limbs, just waiting to be strong enough to morph back into the marathon runner I used to be. It has an expressive face, which made me (briefly) consider becoming a mime. (Very, very briefly.) It’s really good at being short and fitting into small places. And although I sometimes hate it, it’s really good at looking normal so that so long as I’m sitting down, I can pretend I’m just the same as everyone else.

My body is not good at healing itself as quickly as I would like. If you’re reading this, perhaps yours isn’t either. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t good at other things. Like- today- enjoying a delicious Thanksgiving dinner with the supportive and loving family I’m so very lucky to have! So have a wonderful day of gratitude and thanks. I am thankful that you read my words of wisdom and allowed me to share with you what I am most grateful for.

Party on,

The Foda

Episode IV: Power

Episode IV

Power

Today’s Words of Wisdom:

 “Take it, Cronk. Feeeellll the poweeerrrrrrr.” 

-Yzma from “The Emperor’s New Groove”

 The Foda’s take: I have a theory that most of what we do in life is through the pursuit of finding what empowers us. The odd part is that when we go looking for things that will make us feel powerful, it’s not always where we think it will be.

Power. Anakin Skywalker craved it, and look how that turned out for him: wife gone, offspring hidden, and yeah, he walked around in a hunk of black plastic and metal for the rest of his life. That’s because he tried to find his empowerment in the WAY wrong place. (The Dark Side. Taking names since… a long, long time ago…..)

Sidebar- does anyone else understand why Star Wars took place in the past when spaceships and aliens are in the token “future” camp?

But I digress. What got me thinking about this was actually the lovely lady known to you as Fumbledore, first introduced through the Wise Words of Episode II. In one of her own blog posts, she spoke about a Harry Potter shirt with a lightening bolt and the words Expecto Patronum on it that makes her feel very powerful when she wears it. This brought me to think about where I’ve looked for empowerment as a woman in today’s society… and realized it was all a lie! Lies, I tell you! Falsehoods issued by a socially constructed media frenzy of what a powerful woman looks like! This is why young women wear low tops and short skirts! This is why we break our backs in skyscraper heels! This is why… this is why…. this is why I am only now realizing that I feel more powerful in a pair of flat riding boots that make me feel like a stormtrooper than a tight dress.

What this all comes down to is, when we’re kicked down and we feel like life is out of control, the one thing we want more than anything in the world is to feel powerful- like we can kick this problem to the curb with one big hiiiiyyyyahhh! But when you’re on your last straw with a longterm problem, it may feel like your power source is dryer than a Jawa’s tunic. This is why it’s so important to really think about what makes you feel powerful- even in the littlest way- to help boost you up when you need it. Maybe it’s a funny T-shirt. Maybe it’s reading a book to your one year old nephew using silly voices that make him laugh. Maybe it’s a pair of name-taking boots. Or dorky stick-it-to-the-man feety pajamas. (Want. Those. ) Or perhaps it’s a gratitude stone you hold to remind yourself of the good things you have. Whatever it is, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, find it, and go to it when you feel powerless. Just… don’t find power in kicking cats or something twisted, okay? Because the Foda does NOT condone that tom foolery. So I ask you: what makes you feel powerful?

Until next time,

The Foda

Episode III: Feeling Alone

Episode III

Feeling Alone

 Today’s Words of Wisdom:

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.” 

-Thumper from “Bambi”

 The Foda’s take: While this is all well and good for a Disney movie, the problem is when people feel unequipped and don’t know what to say. Because sometimes not saying anything when a friend is in need is way worse than saying the wrong thing. After all, one can lead to a discussion- the other leads to isolation.

 Welcome back, everyone! I’m feeling a little stronger today, and ready to dig into this delicate issue. For all of you who have been combating any kind of long-term illness, life upheaval, or emotional trauma, you know that “How are you doing?” can be one of the hardest questions to answer. Either you tell the truth or wave your hand and breeze past it as quickly as a T-16 shooting womp rats on Tatooine. My favorite combination is to admit when I’m not doing so well, but then immediately put my own bright spin on things so I don’t have to deal with any of the countless cliches people dig out when they don’t know what else to say… keep your chin up, stay positive, it is what it is, etc, etc. This type of response? Does NOT feel like people understand. It feels like they’re giving me advice on how to best deal with this, when they likely have no idea what this is like- which is even more isolating. Now, mind you, this does not make them bad people- they just don’t know what else to say. (And, note of humility here- when I’m feeling angry or resentful over my current condition, I recognize that I’m really not getting mad at them for triggering me- I’m mad that I have to struggle through it at all.)

However much these responses may frustrate me, though, it’s much better than allowing someone to see what’s really going on and then having them avoid you like the plague because they don’t know what to say at all. If you’re blessed…or cursed, however you want to look at it…. to have an illness or any kind of personal trauma that ravages your insides but leaves you looking relatively normal on the outside, it can make social interactions rather difficult. When I first got sick, some people treated me horribly because they didn’t understand why I couldn’t take on extra responsibilities, and eventually had to stop working because I couldn’t stand for more than a few painful minutes. They knew I looked tired, but had no idea what I was combating internally. For others, when I admitted some of the things I was dealing with, they got that deer-in-the-headlights look and forevermore avoided future conversations. You’d think I actually was a hairy-eared green alien!

So how SHOULD people respond when you’re brave enough to give an honest answer when asked? My favorite is a supportive response that offers no unsolicited advice and no judgement, such as “That must be really tough. Is there anything I can do?” or “Wow. I don’t want to pretend like I can truly understand what you’re going through, but I’m here to listen if you need to talk.” This opens a safe place where the receiving party can divulge as much or as little as they’re comfortable with without worrying about being judged or compared to a statistic. Most times, people dealing with chronic illness or trauma don’t necessarily want help, they just want to feel like they’re not going through it alone. In this Foda’s opinion, this means I don’t want you to try and fix me through buck-up, camper! cliches or relate to me with horror stories about that “friend” you have who went through something similar. (Hard lovin’ coming your way folks: Just because you know one person who went through it does not mean you know all people. The last thing I want to hear about is your cousin’s friend who had a horrible experience with my illness. It will NOT make me feel like you understand me. It will make me feel like Bantha fodder.)

Instead, validate this person’s difficult journey. Relax, knowing you don’t have to personally understand or relate. Empathy is just good listening without putting yourself into the equation. If you don’t know what to say, ask. People are naturally afraid of what they don’t understand. As kids, we’re taught that it’s okay to ask questions. As adults, we’re often ashamed to ask questions, feeling like we should know already. So just ask! Or if you’re uncertain the person wants to talk about it, here’s an oldie but goodie: “What’s up?” This casual greeting invites conversation that can go in any direction the recipient chooses, as it’s much more open ended than “How are you doing?” or the more direct “How are you feeling?” This way, I can choose to tell you how I’m physically feeling that day, or start a dialogue about the wickedly cute yet devastatingly impractical Star Wars printed heels I found last week on Etsy. 

It’s amazing how sometimes all you need is to feel connected to another human being to feel better and more positive about the future.

Go Green,

The Foda