Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"Optimism Area"

Sunday, my friend Kristen gave me a blog award for gratitude. As it fits nicely with the ideas spinning around in my head today, I saw it fitting to acknowledge and accept. :-) Here it goes (I am changing the rules because I don't have anyone to nominate to pass along the award, hehe):

The Rules of Accepting and Sharing this Award

1. Put the logo on your blog or post.

2. Send the link to this post to the person who nominated you for the award.

3. Tell us how you've come to have an attitude of gratitude.

Lately, I have been suppressing and expressing a abnormal amount of negative emotion: over-analyzing and critiquing Dave, being impatient with classmates, letting my brain tell myself mean/untrue things... It has even mildly encroached upon my ability & desire to do some of the things I love doing. So, I have been mulling over the potential causes. Today, I believe I have arrived at a philosophical answer, and I am so grateful.

After school, I went to the park, picked a lovely spot under a shade tree, and plopped my blanket down in the middle of a huge patch of tiny purple flowers. I really wish I had my camera.... I had not written in my journal since October 5, and in many ways I was dreading it. But I knew I needed to get things out on paper to clear my head and move past this patch of negativity. So, I wrote about my grandpa's heart attack, time in the ICU, and subsequent death. I recorded memories that soothe me when I am sad and missing him. I realized that the weather is gorgeous, the plantlife is budding and thriving, I am in love with the perfect man... AND I am less than 2 weeks away from finishing a semester of school that I almost didn't start and from moving out of an apartment with roommates that squelch me. What else could I possibly ask for?!? After writing that journal entry, I was left feeling magnificent. So I picked up the non-school book I've been reading to spend some more time relaxing: My Stroke of Insight, Jill Bolte Taylor.

At the end of the first paragraph I opened to, I read: "...and most remarkably, I learned that I had the power to choose whether to hook into a feeling and prolong its presence in my body, or just let it quickly flow right out of me." This is an amazing concept, which hit me with its stark simplicity: I have control over my emotions!!! I kept reading and I realize I desire what the author desires: to be surrounded by "beautiful people" who have "confidence in my ability." I have abilities, but right now I doubt them - I am learning so much but not practicing and reinforcing on real live people. I am not making the difference in people's lives, currently, that I desire and that I am training for... This is discouraging and I often lose sight of the end result among my daily studies. Then, because the author is recounting her recovery from a massive left hemisphere stroke, she includes several chapters about what she has learned about the personalities of each cerebral hemisphere. Having lost the function of the left for a prolonged period of time, she has experienced a rapid shift from a left-dominant perspective to right-dominant... I will briefly summarize each hemisphere:

Left - most of us use this one most. It is responsible for reasoning, logical thought, pattern recognition, language, mathematics, organization, sense of urgency, judgement, assigning the labels of "right" and "wrong", etc.

Right - This hemisphere is responsible for empathy, compassion, non-verbal communication, emotion, peace, creativity, etc.

SO, here are my thoughts/self-analysis. Day in and day out, at school I primarily exercise my left hemisphere - learning gobs of information regarding Physical Therapy and practicing the application of this information. Rarely do I have time to indulge my needy right hemisphere. It longs to display it's creativity, it's appreciation of the "chaos that is the first step in the creative process", it's empathy and compassion... I truly think this is the answer. I long to influence people's lives for the better because I care, and right now I am not treating patients regularly and satisfying this desire of mine. Also, I am generally a very creative person who enjoys expressing myself via a variety of crafty avenues. I do not take the time to let my right brain tendencies exercise themselves, so I am left with inner tension which spills out into my interactions with others. Now that I realize these things, I think I am good to go.

Here is another paragraph that I loved reading from the perspective of a neuroanatomist who recovered from a major stroke: "I define responsibility (response-ability) as the ability to choose how we respond to stimulation coming in through our sensory systems at any moment in time. Although there are certain limbic system (emotional) programs that can be triggered automatically, it takes less than 90 seconds for one of these programs to be triggered, surge through our body, and then be completely flushed out of our blood stream. My anger response, for example, is a programmed response that can be set off automatically. Once triggered, the chemical released by my brain surges through my body and I have a physiological experience. Within 90 seconds from the initial trigger, the chemical component of my anger has completely dissipated from my blood and my automatic response is over. It, however, I remain angry after those 90 seconds have passed, then it is because I have chosen to let that circuit continue to run." Very interesting and true. I am grateful for this control, my ability to acknowledge it, and my willingness to practice it.

AND to top it all off, as I was leaving the park, I noticed that a sign indicated the area I was in was called "Optimism Area" ... how cool is that?!?

1 comment:

  1. So glad you were able to reflect on how you were feeling and start to get some things sorted out. I think that a big key when we are struggling is like you said, figuring out why we are struggling. :)