The 2012 Act Three Journey of an Actress/Coach/Writer.

Archive for January, 2012

Day 31 Persistence

Posted by themirrenlee on 31/01/2012

Persistence scores me a bullseye for my blog so far!


Here it is: the end of the first month of my Commitment to blog every day this year. It was easier than I thought it would be, especially given my erratic health issues. But the schedule I’ve set myself is probably the thing that is helping my consistency and discipline the most. I wait until the end of the day and then, when all is quiet, I write the blog every night from anywhere around 10pm onwards. We all have our own bio rhythms, and I’m at my best, energy wise, from about 9pm until about 3am, while at 6am or 6pm I could go into a coma!

So now it’s all just a matter of Persistence with this blog, not to mention setting up the website the way I want, and writing my other projects.

Persistence, and how to achieve it, is a huge subject. For tonight, I’ll just share with you one of the most inspirational quotes I’ve ever been given. I got it when I was a young actress just starting out, and actors, of all people, really need to remember that things don’t happen overnight. I had it laminated and have always had it mounted where I could see it. It was written by Calvin Coolidge, a President I never considered particularly inspiring, but ironically, when you read his quotes, many are pretty spot on! I think ol’ Calvin was a bit of a hidden treasure, motivationally speaking.


TALENT WILL NOT:     Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.

GENIUS WILL NOT:     Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.

EDUCATION WILL NOT:    The world is full of educated derelicts.

PERSISTENCE and DETERMINATION alone are omnipotent.

The slogan PRESS ON has solved, and always will solve, the problems of the human race.

I hope you find that as useful as I have. The Talent part is what I always argue with actors about. There are tons of talented people we’ll never hear about because they give up before “making it”.

Evidently, sharks, in order to survive, never stop swimming. So obviously, you have to be more like the shark: never stop doing whatever it is you have to do, in order to get what you want. There are no shortcuts; just keeping on keeping on.

I’m just persistin’ …

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Day 30 Plans

Posted by themirrenlee on 30/01/2012

Are you failing to plan, or planning to fail?


John Lennon lyrics:

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

Jim Rohn writing:

“I find it fascinating that most people plan their vacations with better care than they plan their lives. Perhaps that is because escape is easier than change.”

Robert Burns poetry:

“The best laid plans of Mice and Men often go awry.”

Howard Duff saying:

“It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark.”

The subject of Plans is a huge one because it involves Goals (or as I prefer to call them, Commitments). If you’re serious about a Commitment that you want to achieve, then you must make Plans for it.

Some people are flexible with Plans. If things don’t go as they had hoped they would, they regroup and make other Plans. Then there are those of you who go apeshit at the mere thought of altering a Plan in the slightest! If it was made, it must be followed through, is what you live by. NO…MATTER…WHAT.

I’m in the first group. I believe flexibility is a key component of getting what you want out of life. If you are too rigid, then there is the danger of breaking – either your own sanity or the sanity of those around you.

This is where language becomes interesting. Rigid people say they can’t “break” their plans, when in actual fact if they were more flexible, then the plans wouldn’t be broken at all, they’d just be adjusted to the new circumstances or Commitments that might have come up. Sometimes when a plan has to change, it ends up being for the better. Maybe  a time frame needs to be moved around, or you get new new information (“It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark.”).

If you hate plans to change you probably fear change in general, and that is a huge block to getting the most out of your life (“… escape is easier than change.”).

One of my ex husbands thinks that my gypsy lifestyle is just appalling (I like constant change, and to move a lot). He told me after he bought his new house (with his new wife) almost 20 years ago that he would stay in that house forever. He would never, ever, ever leave it. However, the Universe has a rather black sense of humor, and so, being challenged thus, instead had the house leave him! It literally started to fall down around his ears, as the foundation sank, and he had to tear it down and build a new one in its place. Life happened to him while he was making other plans.

I make lists for my Plans. I like to tick them off as I accomplish them. I have to make sure that I run my lists, though, and they don’t run me. Otherwise, I overwhelm myself with the amount of tasks I put on a list for one day, and then have to consciously not beat myself up for “failing” to accomplish them all (“The best laid plans …”). I knew a girl once who was so compulsive about her list making, that if she did something that wasn’t on a list she’d write it on afterwards just so she could have the satisfaction of taking it off!

Lists are important because they help you to build a foundation for your Plans, which lead to achieving your Commitments. They can also free up memory space in your brain because then you, in the words again of Jim Rohn, “Don’t use your brain as a filing cabinet.” However, be flexible with both Lists AND Plans, and you’ll find the road to achieving your Commitments a lot easier.

Then there are the people who say, “I never make Plans. I just go along in life and see what happens.” Anthony Robbins calls this “Niagara Falls” thinking: you’re in a boat, heading for the Falls, just bumping back and forth against the banks of the river, and because you have no oars (Plans) with which to control where you’re going, you’re pretty much stuffed! (When I hear people talk like this, I always wonder if they would build a house with no architect’s plan – just start constructing it and see how it turns out?!)

I’m writing about this today because I am really getting into top gear with my lists and Plans. I have so many Commitments I want to accomplish this year – being organized is very important to me. Yet I had a frustrating time leading to what I call a “lost” day. It wasn’t really – I managed to get about half the tasks on today’s list accomplished – but it felt like it because I wanted to do so much more. I have the daily challenge at the moment of coping with a flat being renovated across the hall from me. They start at about 7:30am. I go to sleep at about 3am, so it’s the middle of the night for me. They’re in the noise stage: sawing and grinding – it’s like living in a dentist’s office. So I end up tired and headachy, with my Plans being cut down to accommodate my energy level.

That’s a good example of something coming up that is making me alter my Plans: one of which is to accomplish most of what I do from the afternoon onwards, bypassing mornings completely, which suits my health issues better. I’m now left with two choices: change my sleep routine, or change my environment. Since the routine I’m in makes me the most productive (I’m a night person), I’m going to have to change my environment. Moving into a friend’s place until the worst of the noise is done with seems the best solution.

I believe we should make Plans, but I don’t believe we should be attached to our Plans. Flexibility is as good for Plans as it is for our bodies!

I’m just plannin’ …

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Day 29 My Birthday

Posted by themirrenlee on 29/01/2012

Celebrate your life!

My Birthday. 

Yes, it’s today. Along with Oprah Winfrey and Germaine Greer, two women I admire tremendously, for very different reasons. Tom Selleck, Heather Graham, Ed Burns and Adam Lambert are also blowing out candles today, along with over 700 people listed on – the movie data base that lists who’s having a birthday when you are.

The reason I mention it is because when I was growing up I thought that January 29th was such a boring day, not like say April 1st or February 29th. Now those are interesting birthdays. And I never met anyone who had a birthday remotely near mine. Then, strangely, once I became an adult, I started meeting or noticing people who were not only fellow Aquarians, but also shared a birthday with me. In fact, I began to think my birthday was almost too popular, because my eccentric Aquarian nature never likes to follow the pack.

So I am now 61, which is the new 41, coming out of over 5 years of feeling like 81! The biggest present I got this year is a new lease on life, a strong sense of hope things are going to be better health-wise, and the belief I’m going to get my life back as “me”. I’ve been a Type A Personality living a Type Z life, and that has really sucked.

I asked my family not to do anything this year for me, but let me spend the day alone, in peace and quiet, doing whatever struck my fancy. I just wanted a whole day of “Time Out” (see Jan. 17th Post), and that’s what I had. I read, played games on my computer (Farmville and Words with Friends are my weakness), put some things up on eBay, ate chocolate, read some more (my passion), and napped. It was wonderful. I feel happy and refreshed.

No commitments, and a break from having to “relate” to anyone, are bliss for me. I am easily exhausted by people because I get too involved with their emotions. I have a psychic streak in me, and it’s made me a tad too empathetic for my own good. I have discovered that some people are harder work than others – have you noticed that? – and some are downright toxic. Those are the ones I avoid now, rather than trying to “help” or change them. It’s not really possible.

As I look over the years that have led me to this day, I am grateful for the lessons I have learned and the experiences that have shaped me. There is a Buddhist Prayer of Gratitude I just love, and recite every day, to remind myself that bad experiences/people lead to positive changes and strength in us. I’ll post it in full another day.

I’m not writing much because not working too hard is in itself one of my presents to myself today. But I can’t go without telling you, in case you don’t know, that legally you can’t sing the “Happy Birthday Song” now. Did you know that? It’s protected by copyright, and they started cracking down on people using it, which is why you’ll see shows with birthdays in them where the song being sung is something else. I first noticed it when my grandson used to watch “Bear in the Big Blue House” (now finished), when they’d sing a strange song for birthdays and I asked why. When I found out the reason, I felt it was like the Grinch Who Stole Birthdays. I think it’s sad and ridiculous. It’s those kinds of illogical, petty rules that make my Aquarian need for change want to fight it, but, of course, I also know you have to pick your battles wisely. You don’t want to waste your energy on trivial things in case you need it for the big issues. However, I have to ask: were the song writers really losing so much money all those years we were singing Happy Birthday to each other, in person and in our media? I don’t believe it. Judge Judy’s words again: “If it doesn’t make sense, it’s not true.”

By the way, for those of you who freak out over birthdays: DON’T! It’s wonderful watching yourself go through the ageing process, as long as you do it well. By that I mean, with grace and humor, and an understanding of how important the wisdom is that you’ve accumulated, along with a wealth of experiences and insights into life itself. Age is not something to be feared or ashamed of, and if you buy into those feelings, ones that seem to permeate our society, then you’re part of the problem yourself. Be part of the solution, showing the world how fabulous a person can be at any age.

I was so chronically ill as a child with asthma that I never thought I’d even see my adult years. Then a very bad “psychic” told me in my 20s that I had a short lifeline and would probably make it only to about 56 or so. So for me, every single day of my life has been a bonus. And now that I’m starting to function again, the days feel not only like bonuses, but much wanted gifts.

Whenever your birthday is, whatever age you are, embrace them both with passion and gratitude. You’ll enjoy them so much more if you do.

I’m just celebratin’ …

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Day 28 In Neutral

Posted by themirrenlee on 28/01/2012

In Neutral.

That’s where I am today. I mentioned in yesterday’s post “Ups and Downs” that I would suffer today because Fibromyalgia has a “one day on, one day off” pattern with many sufferers, of which I am one. I know the pattern by now, and arrange my life around it. I’m sure those of you who face the same challenge (and it could be with any condition) know what I’m talking about. You “normal” people will pack a lot into a day, and then the next day you might find yourselves feeling a bit tired. We Fibromyalgics feel like we’ve been hit by a truck; it’s like waking up with the world’s worst hangover after taking a beating in a bar brawl! I used to actually look for bruises on my body – I figured that much pain must leave a mark somewhere. But nope, that’s the problem: no one can see it, and yet we can really, really FEEL it.

The great news for me is that I’m bouncing back much quicker than I used to. Before I started sleeping properly again (in December!), I could go into a full on Flare that would last for days, or even weeks, if I was extremely unlucky. Luck does play a part in it only because we have no real control when a Flare might come, or how long it might last. We can only do our very best to prevent them (or at least not prolong one) by being as careful about nurturing ourselves as possible. Getting deep, unmedicated sleep goes a long way to helping the whole condition (especially when it’s accompanied by chronic fatigue, which is the norm); without it, well let’s just say it’s a very useful form of torture for anyone so inclined.

So even though I overdid it yesterday, and am suffering a bit today, I don’t regret doing it because I had a nice time. More importantly, I now feel more in control than ever of what I know the consequences might be. That is a MAJOR fresh start for me this year.

However, one of the consequences is harder to control than the others because of my sinus issues, and that is a headache. Aren’t they awful? I know you sufferers, particularly of migraines, know what I’m talking about. They feel like they take you over from the top down, and you can’t think or function properly. Depending on the severity, you either want to do very little, or simply lie in a dark room with a cold cloth on your face.

Mine has hung in there all day, laughing at any drugs I throw at it, scoffing at the cold cloth, and clamping vice-like slowly and steadily across my head until I can hardly think. So we come to being in Neutral. Yesterday I talked about my idea of life being a roller coaster – a series of ups and downs. Being in Neutral is what happens when the roller coaster comes to a standstill for a moment because you’re not doing much of anything.

I used to get so anxious and guilty about being in Neutral because of any illness/injury/condition (will be made clear when I write about growing up – not “allowed” to get sick) that the stress emotionally was worse than whatever was happening to me physically.

Now, however, I’ve learned the best thing to do when faced with forced Neutrals: treat them as “Time Outs” (See January 17th Post for some ideas of what to do to take advantage of these.). It only took me a few hundred years of counselling to be able to do this! (And I still struggle if it feels like a Neutral is going on too long.) Don’t beat yourself up, get frustrated/depressed, or go all negative on yourself. Do what you can do (better than that, what you want to do), nurture yourself as much as you need to, and tell everyone who cares about you what’s going on. If they really do care, they’ll understand that you may not be able to do what you had planned before you went into Neutral. If they don’t understand, then they don’t really care, so be your own health advocate and say, “Fuck ’em.”

Notice I say you’re in Neutral, you’re not stalled completely. The engine hasn’t died. You’re just conserving your energies until you can put yourself in Drive again. It’s kind of funny to say a car (or a person) is “busy idling” because of course that’s an oxymoron. But that’s what you’re doing: busy allowing yourself to do nothing.

I know it’s okay that I’m in Neutral today because tomorrow’s coming (in fact, it’s my BIRTHDAY!), and I’m always excited about seeing what it will bring. I hope I’m back in Drive mode again, but if I’m not, that’s okay, too. Even dealing with the Neutrals is riding the roller coaster, and that’s what life is all about. How well we handle it determines our level of happiness, because “it’s not what happens to you, it’s how you react to it.”.

I’m just idlin’ …

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Day 27 Ups and Downs

Posted by themirrenlee on 28/01/2012

Whether going up or coming down, just enjoy the ride.

Ups and Downs.

In the movie “Parenthood” (worth seeing, by the way), one of the characters talks about how life is a roller coaster, with all the ups and downs that goes with the ride. Sometimes it’ll be a huge struggle just to get up the Problem Hill and deal with whatever challenge is facing you, while sometimes you can just sit back and enjoy the thrilling race down the slope to the finish line, the challenge effortlessly falling away behind you.

Today was a mixture of both for me. After spending 3 days in the house working on all the commitments I’ve set myself for 2012, I decided it was a day to get out and spend some time doing errands and shopping. As usual, I’ve overdone it, and I know the Fibromyalgia will make sure I feel it tomorrow. But it was worth it, as I got a lot of things done on my lists. And the good news is, I’m bouncing back now much faster than I used to. The power of sleeping again!

I’m a compulsive list maker, which is not necessarily a good thing. It makes me constantly feel I never get to the end of the things I have to do! However, the late Jim Rohn, motivational coach extraordinaire, said we shouldn’t turn our brains into filing cabinets. Write everything down you need to remember so that you have more room left over for creative thought. I’ve followed that advice every since I heard it; it really does free up your brain space, AND help your stress levels because you forget far less. Just don’t be a slave to your lists. Make them smaller rather than bigger, breaking your errands into smaller chunks so you don’t daunt yourself with how much your lists say you have to do!

So today I want to share with you one big thing I’ve learned that helps control my stress levels: how I feel today is not necessarily how I’ll feel tomorrow. Today I might feel like I want to stick a fork in my head – tomorrow I might feel like I want to kiss everyone I see.

Sometimes I feel up, sometimes I feel down. And that’s okay. That’s normal, healthy and part of being human. We’re supposed to have a good cry on a regular basis because it releases endorphins, which makes us feel calmer and more relaxed. I think crying is of such importance that when I find out someone hasn’t cried in a long time (I’ve had people tell me years, some NEVER!), I tell them to go to a sad movie. If that doesn’t work, try to find something, anything that will make you let go, weep heartily, and release those endorphins (without exercise, which feels like a different kind of endorphin release).

We seem to have become a society that’s afraid of emotion. We want to medicate it all away. We’re uncomfortable with the sight of grief, feel the need to offer a pill when someone feels anxious, depressed (I repeat, not organic depression, situational depression), or even simply discouraged/frustrated, and tell people to get a grip if their emotions are strongly expressed. “Oh, don’t be SO … passionate, angry, frustrated, fed up, aggravated,” etc. to infinity. (Hell, who wouldn’t feel any of these emotions just reading the news!)

We don’t even want people to feel strong positive emotions. Too excited, too happy, too optimistic. People like that are considered hyper and get Ritalin, with the former group getting antidepressants, while women in general (and more men every day) want to get Botox injections so they can’t show the emotions that they’re repressing inside. All slightly insane to a person like me, who loves emotions. I’m uncomfortable with people who don’t express them. That’s too zombie-like for me; I want to see your life long ups and downs expressed in your face.

As all my counsellors have said to me: sit with your emotions, allow them to just “be”. Feel them, enjoy them if they’re good and let them pass through if they’re bad. Because they will – when tomorrow comes you’ll probably have forgotten what you were so upset about!

Don’t fight the roller coaster of life. It’s going to go up and down, every day, whether you want it to or not. That’s what life is, an up and down ride of good/bad experiences. The alternative is to have the ride go ’round and ’round on a flat service, like a luggage carousel. Blech, that’s not fun! Do you want to be a suitcase, or a human case? If it’s the latter, then hold on and go with it. If you really think you might prefer being a suitcase, well … I’m sorry, but … I don’t speak luggage.

I was up today – can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings. Whatever it is, I’ll paraphrase the “education” saying: “Life is a journey, not a destination.”

I’m just ridin’ …

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Day 26 Australia Day

Posted by themirrenlee on 26/01/2012

Sydney Harbor, with the Opera House and Bridge, is a wonderful background for fireworks. No wonder it gets all the New Year's Eve attention!

Australia Day.

Today is Australia’s day to celebrate itself as a country. I can hear the fireworks going off in the distance, and smell the BBQs all around me – the traditional way Australians celebrate anything is by having a “barbie”, pronounced “baabie” (like the sound a sheep makes).

Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a problem holiday for Australians, fraught with minefields of political correctness and sensitive feelings. Even what it’s commemorating is not something noble, such as a glorious battle for independence from tyranny, which is what makes the Fourth of July and Bastille Day so moving. No, it is simply marking the day the First Fleet landed in 1788: 11 ships inadequately provisioned to start the settlement of a brand new country, bringing with them boatloads of convicts. (Beating the French at the mouth of Sydney Harbor by only a few hours. If the weather had been better, Australians today would be speaking French!)

These poor wretched souls were kicked out of England in order to start a penal colony far away from the Empire itself. This was necessary because America had defeated the British in its War of Independence, inconveniently making itself unavailable as a possible place to put the “human refuse” (of whom many were convicted for stealing a ribbon or a slice of bread – not exactly heavy duty gangsters).

The history of the whole thing is quite fascinating, although most Australians don’t know anything about it, and in fact think it’s quite boring. It’s anything but, as I discovered when I did the research needed to create a show many years ago called, “Hysterical History”. It was devised using Theater Games, and we toured it around dozens of schools, as well as performing it for history teachers, hoping to inspire them to make it more entertaining for students! Today, Australian History is not even a required subject in high schools. That both astounds and saddens me.

I learned so many interesting facts, and got a whole new respect for a country that really SHOULDN’T HAVE SURVIVED! The English were so inept, so arrogant, so rigid about how they set the country up that there were famines, rebellions, and cruelties as a way of life. Then, of course, there were the stories of the convicts themselves – who, ironically, in the midst of great hardships often ended up having a much better life in a new country free of England’s restrictive class system.

Reading the seminal book, “The Fatal Shore”, by Robert Hughes (now an American art critic!), gives one new respect for how anyone DID survive those early years, much less flourish and prosper. I recommend it highly. Wikipedia also gives a pretty good overview of Australia’s origins, as well as the timeline of how we came to have an Australia Day at all – it has gone through many name and date changes, and there is still debate going on about moving it again. Can you imagine that happening with the Fourth of July or Bastille Day?

Australians have an ongoing identity problem that includes which day they should celebrate their creation, whether they should have a new flag that gets rid of the Union Jack, and who they should actually identify with, i.e., are they still part of the British Empire or are they now part of the whole Asia-Pacific region? Both the flag and location issues divide them about whether or not they should “get rid of” the Queen and become a Republic. Their identity issues are so chronic, and at times acute, that they haven’t even been able to create a successful tourism ad campaign since Paul Hogan told you to “put another shrimp on the barbie” last century!

The really controversial part is that Australia was established on the backs of the Aborigines, the natives indigenous to the country at the time. (Curiously, to me anyway, the word Aborigine means “indigenous native”, so it’s always seemed redundant to refer to them by both titles.) The black humor comes in when one finds out that England claimed Australia for itself under the terms of “terra nullius”, or a country that is uninhabited and therefore up for grabs! And it wasn’t like the Aborigines were hiding – the English just didn’t “see” them.

No wonder Aborigines refer to Australia Day as “Invasion Day”, or “Survival Day”. If you read their history, you’ll be appalled at their treatment, from the beginning to the current day. At least the Indians in America started getting casinos as some compensation!

So that’s Australia Day. A conflicted holiday, at best. Even the shops close for only half a day, so it’s not even really a total holiday. Never mind, any excuse for a barbie, a few beers and some lovely fireworks in the evening. It also, like America’s Labor Day, marks the end of the summer holidays, with most students going back to school next week.

Read some history about Australia; it really is fascinating. A taste: Australia’s first female doctor, Constance Stone, was not allowed into medical school here because she was female, so she got on a ship (a big trip at the end of the 19th century), and got her qualifications in America, Canada and England, and then went BACK to Australia (I would have said fuck ya’, I’m staying where it’s not so hard) just in time to be allowed to practice. Most Australians know nothing about her, even though she had her own stamp once, and yet I see the film version so clearly in my head, with Emma Thompson as Constance (whose first name was actually Emma!). I’ve done a lot of research about her, but come up against many brick walls of information gaps because of the inexplicable apathy about Australia’s history.

Of course, the really important thing about Australia Day for me is that it’s 3 days before my birthday!

I’m getting a whole new fresh start to my identity this year. That’s what I think Australia needs, too, don’t you?

I’m just wonderin’ …

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Day 25 Directions

Posted by themirrenlee on 25/01/2012


Every single day, we’re all going in various directions. Some we choose, some choose us.

So often Questions give us the Answers.

As I approach the end of the first month of my commitment to blog every day this year, I’m now considering which directions I’ll be going in with this website, as well as exactly what Categories I want to set up, and the schedule for each of them. That means I have to decide, for instance, which ones will get daily contributions, which weekly, which when something comes up I want to talk about, and which when I just feel a whim coming on!

The first thing I will do is shorten my daily blogs, so that I’ll have more time to write for the other Categories. I am especially keen to start my family history Category, called “A Different Kind of Normal”. All my life, when I’ve related stories to people verbally the negativity falls away and the (often very black) humor causes delightful convulsions of laughter. I want that same feeling to come through when writing about it. In so many ways it was a nightmare, but now that I’ve come through it (and thanks to a great deal of counselling), I see how it has helped me to become the person I am today, and that’s not a bad thing. It also gives me great insight into other people’s family problems, and sometimes even an ability to help because of the perspectives and experiences I’ve gained.

The main thing I’ve learned about Directions in Life is: no matter what they are, no matter how big or small, they must be YOUR CHOICES – no one else’s. Often your family, friends, even complete strangers (!) will have strong opinions on which Directions you “should” go in. I find this to be especially true with Hot Topics, like “Career Choices”, “Settling Down”, “Starting a Family”, “Education” and “Spending Your Own Money”, to name just a few.

My daughter, Sarah, who will be 25 in March, is encountering this with her travel plans. She has a good job, a wonderful relationship, and is incredibly employable due to her intelligence, personality and experience (she got her first part time job when she was 13). Everyone thinks she should be going to University. Instead, she wants to quit her job at the end of the year and go travelling again. She has already spent a couple of years travelling through Britain, Europe, the U.S. and Canada, where she stayed and worked for about a year. Where does she want to go now? She’s not completely sure yet – all she knows for sure is that she wants to visit the friends in Europe, England, Canada and the U.S. that she made the last time she went. Sarah is incredibly lucky because she is “multi passported”. My American background gives her an American passport, she has an Australian one by birth, and her Father’s Lithuanian side is now going to get her a Euro passport! This, of course, means she can work around the world. She’s also lucky that she has a wonderful boyfriend who shares her lust for travel.

I mention her as an example of how people try to influence your Directions because she has been put under a lot of pressure to go to University, being told that she’s “travelled already”! Those of you who have been bitten by the Travel Bug know that you never want to stop, and besides, why should she NOT travel? Wonderful, broadening, life changing experiences await those who are willing to lose sight of their own horizons. Whey would people want you to “trip up” over your travel plans?! (Sorry, couldn’t resist. Besides, I like puns.)

I am glad that she is not bowing to the pressure. I taught her years ago that being stubborn can be a strength, and passed on a lovely quote I read about not listening to other people but instead, “going where my pig is headed.” I’m happy to report that she took it on board and lives by it. I hope maybe the quote speaks to you, too.

Why do people pressure other people in their choice of Directions? I believe it usually comes from fear. The fear that they won’t be able to handle what might happen to you if what you’ve decided doesn’t work out. The fear that maybe you’ll succeed at something they wish they had the courage to try, and they’ll have bad feelings they won’t be able to handle. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter why. All that matters is that you follow your own pig, and leave them to follow theirs.

Advice is okay. Input is welcome. Ideas to help me follow my own sense of Directions are gratefully accepted. But don’t pressure me to go where you want me to go. I have my own destiny to fulfil, my own lessons to learn, and they may be in completely opposite Directions to yours. I hope you’re not letting anyone pressure you into Directions you don’t want to go. If you are, stop it! Find a way to get back on your own path, whatever it takes.

Trust me, I’ve followed both Directions, and the ones of my own choosing make me happier and more fulfilled.

I’m just followin’ my pig …

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Day 24 Flare

Posted by themirrenlee on 24/01/2012

Not the good kind of hot, baby!

I’m having one. What is it? A hot flash (or “power surge”/”short trip to Hell”, as I like to call them)? Or maybe it’s a flare of inspiration? Or maybe a sharp burst of anger?

No, it’s none of those, although it does fill me with anger I try to control because that just makes it worse. Any Fibromyalgics out there know what I’m talking about. A Flare is a Flare up of our pain levels, often accompanied by extra fatigue, just to make the whole experience a tad more miserable.

They can last a few hours, or a few days, or even a few weeks. Every part of the body becomes more sensitive, more fragile, more painful.

Mine don’t last very long now – a day or two at the most, usually – so I’m luckier than those who go through repeated bouts of long attacks. I actually know what is causing this one now, which will help me to get out of it sooner.

It’s these blogs! Sitting for any length of time, now that I have the added pleasure of some osteoarthritis in my lower back, causes my muscles to cramp badly, even through to my abdomenal area. I’ve been writing for longer and longer – I MUST keep these blogs shorter! – and getting so lost in the process (and so used to distracting myself from pain) that it isn’t until I’m in the “red zone” that I realize I’d better lie flat immediately. I have exercises I can do, a wonderful electric massager with a long handle that reaches all the way down my back, medication to take and creams to apply, not to mention my hot water bottle (but that’s pretty unusable right now because it’s summer in Australia).

It doesn’t take long before the pain starts to subside and all is bearable again. However, Fibromyalgia has a residual pain component to it, and I feel it the next day – sitting in my body, muted as if the volume of the pain were turned down, but the hum is still there in the background, and I feel tired.

Then, after a few days of this, the cumulative effect is that my body might say, “Enough!”, and Flare up into a pain level that can’t be ignored. Like what’s happened now.

The only answer when pain raises its volume to the maximum level is to listen and respect its power. I now, in this wonderful New Start of 2012, have more ability than I’ve ever had before to turn the volume down. However, I can’t think about what I need to do, I have to actually do it. I need to be able to turn it down low enough so that I can’t even hear it when I’m at the computer.

I am going to listen to what my body wants. I know it will involve both nurturing and strengthening. I have to pace myself if I want to follow through on my 2012 commitments, including setting this website up properly and doing all the writing that requires, not just a daily blog.

With that in mind, I will close now and hope that any of you out there who are not listening to your bodies, whether you have a chronic illness or not, will start to do so now, before the volume rises on your pain, or stress, or anxiety, or depression, or negativity, or whatever devils you fight, to the point where you can’t even hear what you need anymore to make it better. It’s called Burn Out. It happens when a Flare of any kind is allowed to get out of control.

Prevention is so much easier than cure.

I’m just flarin’ …

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Day 23 ShouldaCouldaWoulda

Posted by themirrenlee on 23/01/2012

Shoulda. Coulda. Woulda.

We all look back at decisions we’ve made and wonder, “What was I thinking?”! (I’m telling you, look up the song with this title that Christine Lavin wrote and performs. It’s just hilarious, and so true.)

What we have to remember first – always – is that hindsight is 20/20. What we know now we didn’t know then, so if we had it to do all over again we’d probably do whatever it was exactly the same.

But that doesn’t stop us from beating ourselves up about it, does it? Especially when a different decision would have: saved us pain/gained us money/put us on a better path/helped us fulfill an ambition/improved our health, etc. to infinity.

That happened to me today. I am going to explain it in terms of a health analogy, but those of you who don’t identify with health problems (do you know how lucky you are?!) might want to stay with me here anyway because the analogy applies to anyone who has experienced “What Was I Thinking?” (which would be anyone human).

I have mentioned my Fibromyalgia here, but I haven’t mentioned another health issue I’ve also been battling for several years: my sinuses. I have crippling allergies that affect my nasal passages (as opposed to food ones), such as pollens, dust and so on. I had a deviated septum operation 5 years ago that helped a lot, plus I’m now using a nasal spray called Avamys, which is expensive but so worth it. It stopped my nose sensitivity to the point where I almost forgot I had the allergies. Spring passed and I hardly noticed!

Unfortunately, about 3 years ago I started having the most horrible, chronic post nasal drip (or drowning in mucus, as I call it – I hope you’re not eating). My doctor didn’t know what was causing it, and my only idea was first, that it might be a reaction to some drug I was taking (which seemed strange and unlikely), or second, that the septum had deviated again. (My black humor lobe had me imagining my septum out on the streets, having gone off the rails and deviated into a life of sin and mucus.)

One thing chronic conditions do is lower your ability to fight them because you get so tired and discouraged you believe nothing will help anyway, so why bother. I didn’t ask for a deeper investigation into what was happening. My doctor didn’t offer to do so, either – in retrospect, not like her, but then again she was fighting my health issues on so MANY fronts at the same time that I can’t blame her. I “coulda” taken charge of my own condition and asked for it. Instead, I started suffering through debilitating sinus infections every 3 months or more. That meant constant antibiotics, which as we all know is not a good thing. Not only can regular use stop them from being effective, but many Fibromyalgics have IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), as I do, and so they can cause great discomfort intestinally.

But that wasn’t the worst of it. The drainage was so constant and so thick that I found I could only try to sleep in one particular position, or I would start choking. I don’t have many fears or phobias, but choking is one of them. My childhood was filled with severe asthma, and until I was 12 years old – in 1963 – the standard treatment response was, “It’s all in her head; get her to a psychiatrist”, because it was believed to be a mental condition. (Ironically, it sounds a bit like Fibromyalgia!). Hard to believe today, I know, but from 5-11 years old, I had no puffers, no pills, no anything to help open my airways. When my lips started to turn blue, I was given a shot of adrenaline, and then, later, ephedrine. In 1963, my mother discovered one of the first allergy specialists to appear; I was diagnosed with allergy induced asthma, and the desensitizing injections, followed by the invention of Ventolin, started my ability to control the attacks.

Notice I said when I would “try” to sleep, because remember from my other posts that, until last month, I hadn’t been able to sleep for over 5 years. So the sinus issue was an added agony.

Two years ago, after I had moved to Melbourne from Sydney and was seeing another doctor, he suggested a CAT scan, which showed what I was told were maxillary cysts in both sinus cavities, and the septum back to its nasty deviated ways. I was told I would need surgery to fix it, which I couldn’t afford. We have free medical care in Australia, but with conditions. One is that if it’s not emergency surgery, a person has to go on a waiting list to go through a hospital clinic. This can take years. So a year ago, I went on the list, and finally got an appointment for this February 3rd.

All the time, I’m thinking, “Why didn’t I push for a CAT scan earlier? What was I thinking?” The question I shoulda asked myself is, “Why in hell didn’t I go straight to an ENT specialist about this from the beginning?”

I had been given a list of ENT specialists to ask if they would “bulk bill” me – another option we have here, if the doctor chooses to participate. They can bill the government instead of the patient, but usually don’t get what their regular fee is, so, as a result, many refuse to participate. This is especially true with specialists, which, of course, is what I needed. I was so discouraged by it all that I talked myself into believing that ringing anyone on the list was useless.

Ah, but here we are at the start of my Third Act, my Fresh New Journey, the 2012 New Year that I am determined will see me get my life back. So I decided to stop being so negative and called the first doctor on the list. “Yes, no problem, we can bulk bill you.”

Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda. Boy, did I feel stupid. And grateful.

I saw him today. Guess what? I was unfair to my poor septum – it hasn’t become a deviant at all. It’s still as straight and strong as it was right after the operation. There are no cysts – just a slight thickening of my sinus walls. I … don’t … need … surgery. Even what I thought was sinus discomfort on the left side of my face is simply my usual TMJ problems (temporomandibular joint, or jaw hinge) from the Fibromyalgia, exacerbated by teeth clenching with the constant pain.

So what in hell was with all the mucus? Well, it seems that the average person produces and swallows about a litre (just over 4 cups) of what is technically called “catarrh” a day (that’s a pretty disgusting thought, isn’t it?). I am just producing tons more, and it is simply AN IRRIGATION ISSUE! A simple, clean-out-my-sinuses-with-a-special-liquid-twice-a-day issue with a simple, albeit not very pleasant, solution. Why do I produce more? Who knows? The doctor didn’t really venture an opinion, but it’s probably connected to my hyper sensitive sinuses that caused me to live on antihistamines before I discovered Avamys (and yes, I’ve tried every spray on the market – this one is a winner). I “shoulda” been cleansing my sinuses years ago. Maybe I “woulda” if I hadn’t felt so sick and discouraged. But I “coulda” if I had done what I talk about in my post “Reasons vs. Excuses”: stopped making excuses and calling them reasons.

Now comes the part for everyone:

I don’t need to beat myself up about it. You don’t need to beat yourself up about “WouldaShouldaCoulda”s that you’ve done. (And everyone has done them. It’s part of being human.) As I said, we all probably would have made the same decisions again if we had the chance for do-overs, because we can only act on the information we have/the way we’re feeling at the time.

I have been very determined, persistent, creative and courageous in my health battles. However, I have also made numerous mistakes – ones that have caused outcomes that didn’t help me. I am going to be more vigilant from now on about not doing that. No matter how tired, discouraged, sick, stressed or depressed I feel, I am going to keep searching/asking questions until I get the answers that satisfy me. Otherwise, I have no one to blame but myself if I find I’m not making measurable progress in reasonable time towards what I want.

Now apply the above paragraph to life in general, substituting “life” for “health battles”. It’s a pretty good affirmation to repeat to yourself, isn’t it?

The important lesson here is: to learn the lesson. And that lesson is to examine exactly WHY we made the decisions we did, so that maybe in the future we won’t make the same mistakes, which is very tedious. (It’s much more interesting to make new mistakes.)

Of course, I cancelled the clinic appointment. What a wonderful feeling to say, “I don’t need it, thank you.”

Will the treatment work? I’ll let you know. But I’m convinced it will because of what Judge Judy says: “If it doesn’t make sense, it’s not true.” Since this makes sense, and Judy is never wrong, I’m sure I’ve found the answer!

It’ll also work because it feels right. It feels like part of this whole journey of new health solutions that started this year for me. I hope with all my heart that anyone else out there who needs this boost is getting it.

Just don’t be passive about your journey in life. Say “ShouldaCouldaWoulda” as little as humanly possible.

Now, excuse me, I have some sinuses to clean.

I’m just irrigatin’ …

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Day 22 Tired

Posted by themirrenlee on 22/01/2012


I’m very tired today.

Fatigue can be a good thing: it’s the body’s way of telling you to take a break, just like pain is the body’s way of telling you to fix something.

However, when fatigue and pain become chronic as a result of whatever condition you may have, they don’t feel good or useful. They feel relentless and depressing.

Luckily, I know how to control my condition now, so I took the day off from leaving the house. Instead, I paced myself and managed to get several chores done while still allowing my body to rest when it needed to.

What I have is called Fibromyalgia, as I’ve mentioned before, but after lying dormant for years as an unknown condition, being called simply fibrositis to give the symptoms some kind of name (until they figured out there’s no inflammation associated with it, which is what “sitis” means), all of a sudden (as research established that it is actually a real health issue) we are being bombarded with terms all meaning the same thing (except that, of course, they’re still not entirely sure what that “thing” is): Fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue syndrome (a lot of people are not happy with this one because they feel the “fatigue” word trivializes it, and not all fibromyalgics get chronic fatigue), myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), myalgic encephalopathy, chronic rheumatism, myalgia, muscular rheumatism, myofibrositis (again, a misnomer), spinal irritation, and several others. It’s getting quite ludicrous. It feels like someone is sitting in a room saying, “Well, damn it, we may not know much about whatever this is but we’ll sure as hell get an impressive name to describe it!”

It really starts to take on the characteristics of black humor when one considers that most general practitioners still don’t know much about it – no matter what it’s called!

Not to get all feminist on you, oh wait, yes, I want to get all feminist on you – it’s been considered a “woman’s disease” because about 80% of women get it as opposed to about 20% of men (the figures vary, but not by much). Plus, they’re usually women over the fresh bloom of youth, starting from about middle age. Well, we all know what the mindset is about “older” women who get unusual/unexplained/unexplored/unfamiliar conditions: they must be imagining it.

I have spent over 25 years on this journey, the last five in a nightmare of escalating symptoms because “The Hell of Menopause” made it worse. If you have Fibromyalgia and it’s getting worse, please don’t doubt what you’re feeling. I say this because the accepted school of thought is that this is not a condition that progresses. It most certainly is, and to say otherwise is to call anyone experiencing this progression a hypochondriac. That really pisses me off. Especially since I’ve had to fight all these years to have my own pain and fatigue taken seriously, so I know what it’s like.

Anyway, back to tired. The good news is I know how to control my fatigue so that I can live with it.

The other good news is that I am also sleepy. That may not seem like much to you, but until just before the end of 2011, I hadn’t been able to feel sleepy or get to sleep without heavy medication for over 5 years. I had a choice of not sleeping at all, and being a zombie, or taking medication that bombed me out, and being a zombie! I suffered chronic fatigue AND sleep deprivation AND Fibro Fog (a Fibromyalgia symptom) AND medically induced “don’t operate any machinery or try to have a life” zombiedom. I hardly remember the last 5 years.

I was told it was probably because of menopause, and it would probably get better. If it had been happening to me in a torture chamber, I would have told them anything and sold out anyone they wanted, just to get some real sleep.

Then in December 2011, I stopped taking Cymbalta. It’s an antidepressant, and they have been used for years in small doses to help with pain relief. However, Cymbalta is the first antidepressant that has been recognized specifically as an aid in cases of Fibromyalgia pain relief (through double blind studies). And it did help my pain levels. But I wanted to see if the pain was still bearable without it, and get off at least one drug if I could, especially since it is highly addictive (by that I mean if you miss a dose you start to feel quite ill).

I took it for over 3 years. It is HELL to come off of, and the withdrawal symptoms are so extreme – physically, mentally and emotionally – that there are entire websites devoted to people talking about this. It took me 3 weeks of unbelievable discomfort to wean myself off it (along with really horrible emotional ups and downs), and then another week to finally stop having any physical effects at all. (Luckily, I found that my pain levels had gone down and I’m not missing the Cymbalta, so I can stay off it.)

After the dust settled, something unbelievable happened. I started to feel sleepy at night – and then I slept!!! Without medication!!! I never wake up feeling refreshed – that is an expected part of Fibromyalgia/Chronic Fatigue – but I felt like I’d had enough sleep to get up, and I didn’t feel like a zombie!

I don’t know if it was coming off the Cymbalta, or that suddenly menopause released a bit of its grip on me. I don’t know and I don’t care. All I know is that I can now sleep and it’s changing my life. I’m steadily regaining energy and find I can manage my pain levels better.

Mentally and emotionally I now feel better because I have hope. I had begun to think that I would never be able to function at any sort of unzombie-like level again, which meant that basically my life as I knew it was over. I was starting to experience a serious sense of depression, asking myself, “What’s the point of trying to do anything?” much too often.

I want to encourage any of you out there who are plummeting into the same mindset because of struggles with chronic conditions: keep trying to find the answers that will help you.

Don’t     Give     Up.

Don’t     Stop     Looking.

Keep asking questions until you get the answer(s) you want. Like in my post yesterday (Unacceptable), you may just need to find the right person to help you. Or you may stumble across the answer by accident if you try enough options.

So I don’t mind being tired, because now I’m sleepy, too. I know I’ll lay my head down on the pillow and go to sleep (still getting up several times a night due to other conditions, but I can cope with that). The thought of that is absolutely blissful. Who knew that the ability to go unconscious could be such a joyful relief?

Good night.

I’m just sleepin’ …

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