Desire and Discipline

This week, I had a meeting of the Mastermind group I belong to with three other health coaches. Last summer, we participated in a visioning retreat in which I unearthed this creative itch that needed to be scratched and it manifested as the desire to engage in creative writing. The coach I paired up with during the retreat noted how passionate I was when I spoke about writing…and so I decided it was time to do something about it.

To make a long story short, I spent several months last fall diving into the writing process. I compiled all of my ideas and inspirations into one notebook. I choose one of the story ideas and I started writing. I blocked time on my calendar each week to do so. I was going strong for a while and then things slowed down over the holidays. Things picked up again for a short time in January after one of the other health coaches turned me on to Masterclass.com and I signed up for the writing class with author Judy Blume. I was inspired by her story and appreciated her advice about the writing process. But gradually over the next month or so, I found myself devoting less and less time to writing. There was always some other pressing project or assignment that needed to be worked on and I stopped making time in my schedule for writing.

I shared my lack of progress with my Mastermind group this week and lamented the fact that my writing had pretty much ceased, although I was not ready to give up on it completely. I questioned though how something for which I had displayed so much passion last summer could fizzle so quickly. One of the other coaches gently shared with me that in her experience with creative professionals, including writers, it takes both desire and discipline to accomplish their creative pursuits. And that it is the discipline that keeps things going when the desire may be lacking.

Ping! The light bulb went off and I realized I had completely lost the discipline when it came to my writing. I was not carving out protected time to devote to this endeavor. In fact, it made me realize that I have not been doing a great job in general with time management, particularly on the days when I don’t work at my part time job. Those days are supposed to be for my other professional pursuits, including my private wellness business, my writing, and my Nia practice. I had started to let personal appointments and errands creep into those days instead of waiting until the weekend. Fridays, which are typically open for me and a great day to devote to creative pursuits like writing, had gradually started to look like Saturdays. I might catch up on email and perhaps draft a blog post, but I’d pretty much call it a day by lunch time and essentially waste the rest of the afternoon tooling around on social media or watching reruns of Friends with my daughter after she got home from school. Not that spending time with my daughter isn’t a good thing, but the TV could wait until after I finished my work.

What I am essentially trying to say is that when I take a good, hard look at my schedule, I have the time to focus on my writing. I just haven’t made it a priority. I have been letting the desire (or recent lack thereof) drive the process, rather than building in the discipline to help sustain my effort regardless of whether the desire is present or not. One of the suggestions I have seen is to write every day, even if it’s just a bunch of gibberish or a stream of consciousness. Oftentimes, we may not feel motivated to work on a task but once we get going, the inspiration comes.

The discussion about my writing was a good wake-up call for me. I am going to take a step back and re-evaluate how best to use my time in order to accomplish all of the things that I have said are important to me, including writing. It may be that I am trying to do too much and if that is the case, I will need to reprioritize and choose the ones that mean the most. Or I may find that there is ample time for all of my pursuits once I establish a little more structure to my schedule and remove some of the “time sinks” that have derailed my efforts in the past. Either way, I am feeling renewed excitement about the possibilities.

 

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It’s really not that bad…

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month and I am writing today to try to convince those of you who have been putting off your colonoscopy that it is really not that bad. It is a relatively simple procedure that could save your life – the minor inconveniences involved with the prep will be worth the peace of mind if you are able to prevent or catch colon cancer in its early stages.

A few quick facts about colon (or colorectal) cancer:

  • Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of death in men and women.
  • One in 20 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
  • One in three people are not up to date on their screenings.
  • Family history is a strong risk factor.
  • Colon cancer is preventable and treatable if detected early.
  • If you are at least 50 years old with no symptoms, your screening is normally covered by insurance.

(Source: https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/colorectal/pdf/no_pocket_brochure.pdf)

Personal experience

I will be 46 in June and have already had three colonoscopies, so I am speaking from personal experience. My first one was at age 34 and came about as a result of some concerning symptoms (blood in my stool) and a family history of colon cancer (maternal grandfather). I saw my primary care physician first and given the above factors, she sent me to a gastroenterologist. Both physicians suspected that it was just hemorrhoids, but my GI doctor recommended a colonoscopy due to my family history. Sure, I was a little apprehensive at first, but I wanted to be sure that it was not something serious.

I’ll spare you most of the details but as you’ve probably heard, the prep is the worst part. You have to avoid certain foods a few days prior to the procedure and then fast starting around noon the day before your procedure. Then you have to drink a large volume of the prep solution over several hours to help clear out your system. I can say that the manufacturers are working to make it taste better – the solution I used for my most recent screening last year was the best of the three that I have had. They are also working to make the prep easier – there are several options including oral medications and a “split” prep process where you drink some of the solution the night before and finish it the next morning.

The colonoscopy itself is rather simple. Most patients are sedated for the procedure – the anesthesiologist gives you a nice dose of propofol or similar sedative in your IV and you are out before you can count to five. Next thing you know, they are waking you up and bringing you to the recovery area. Your gastroenterologist will likely provide you with a procedure report including some pictures of your colon (I personally think it’s kind of cool to see what it looks like inside!). If there were any polyps that needed to be biopsied, you may need to wait a week or so to get the results back.

Most people need a colonoscopy every 10 years, but it may depend on what the physician finds. In my case, I was advised to come back in five years after the first one as I had some benign polyps (and the family history risk factor). The same thing happened after my second one. But at my last one in 2018, I was polyp free and thus, can wait 10 years before my next one (unless of course I have any symptoms or warning signs that would warrant coming in sooner). As much as I might fuss about the inconvenience of the prep process, it really is worth it knowing I am doing everything I can to help prevent colon cancer or increase my chances of survival if I were diagnosed with it.

A quick note about your colon cancer screening options:

There are stool-based tests that are non-invasive and do not require any special diet or bowel preparation. These tests are usually recommended for people who have an average risk for colorectal cancer: no personal history of pre-cancerous polyps, no colorectal cancer that runs in the family, or no other risk factors. However, if the test shows abnormal signs of blood or a possible cancer or pre-cancer, a colonoscopy will be needed anyway to confirm the result and to remove any abnormal findings or polyps. Thus, it might be best to skip the stool-based test and just have the colonoscopy. Bottom line: consult with your health care provider to determine the best screening test for you.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go remind my husband, who just turned 50 at the end of February, that it is time for his annual physical and a referral for his first colonoscopy!

 

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