Through The Eyes of Others

Version 2Many years ago I suffered the unbearable pain of losing my son. We buried him, and he is now my forever memory. Fourteen years ago after thirty years of marriage, I buried my late husband. In 2011 after a lengthy illness I lay on an operating table, clinging to life. My life was saved and my ostomy, “Percy” was created. As I sit here today, I know I’ve had a lot of experience with major life challenges. And, each time I was compelled to create a “new normal” for myself and my life.

I did not do this alone. There were friends, family, and even strangers who were there as I journeyed to my new normal. Some of the people experiences were negative, and others were positive. Each negative and positive experience played an empowering role for me. My attitude has always been: even amidst a negative, there is always something good, although I may have to look deep and hard for it. Each experience was an instigating factor for spurring me on. I still wish the negatives didn’t happen, yet in spite of myself they were a part of the journey. Life is short, life is precious, and it is the people who profoundly affect our very being and experiences.

Every negative and positive person from the stranger in the store who was rude to us, the generous neighbour who dropped off some homemade jam for our enjoyment, to the child who lights up our heart, each person affects us on all levels. This fact of life for us as human beings, as individuals, and as a group, came to mind for me again this past weekend.

A friend of ours turned 40. His life partner organized a surprise birthday party at their favourite restaurant. When he walked into the room filled with family and friends, the expression on his face was priceless. He had no idea. The rest of the evening was filled with good laughs, special people, and delicious food. He enjoyed the celebration of him, and as he observed the folk in the room, he was reminded as to how special he is to them. I sensed the spark of his aliveness as his glow danced, merged, and became part of the greater aliveness of the room.

Each one of us individually and along with everyone, whether they are family, friends, or strangers, all have an affect on each other. We affect one another through the way we interpret life, and where we perceive our place to be in it. This is the foundation that supports how we live our lives, solve our problems, and how we treat one another. Each of us has our own life story that we blend and integrate into the life story of others. Like a plot within a plot, a circle within a circle, on the grand scale of life, our emerging stories enrich or impoverish us, and those who share in our life.

Since the party, our friend has expressed his gratitude, and the joy that his loving partner would organize such a special occasion to honour him. He is delightfully surprised that so many friends and family enthusiastically participated in the celebration.

As we live each ordinary day, and when we endure significant emotional events due to one reason or another, we are not alone. We journey forward on our personal life path come what may, as the community of friends, family, and strangers join us. We are connected to each other, and we affect one another through our thoughts, behaviours, and actions. Each of us has a story. It’s the narrative of us, our experiences, and the people who by choice and by chance, are part of the experiences. It’s a tale of the amazing you. May your life be filled as you touch the lives of others, and you are touched by them.

Authored by:

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

Ostomate

“Everyone you meet has a story to tell.”

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The Crucible of the Bag

No More Searching…It’s in the Bag

The shift, that moment when I was never going to feel the same again, happened 6 years ago in the moment the surgeon advised us, “I recommend you say your good byes, noSun and roadw”.

I had just been prepped for emergency surgery. The expectation that I would survive the surgery was slim. It was my unplanned moment. As I lay at the edge of the point of no return, I looked into my husband’s eyes and said good bye to my life partner. I later realized I also said good bye to myself and my life as I had known it.

When the surgery to deal with my critical intestinal and internal situation was over with, and the days, weeks and months of recovery, I became aware that I was dodging death. I had traded a body bag for an ostomy bag.

During this time in my life the situation was a severe trial. As I embarked on the healing journey, the crucible of the bag caused different physical and psychological elements to meld, oppose and interact. I was fashioning myself into a new creation in my body, mind, and human spirit. I should have expired, I didn’t. Instead, every day since has become a bonus. I shouldn’t be here, and yet, I am.

The bonus days have afforded me with the opportunity to continue on a voyage of self-discovery, but my approach has profoundly changed. Often when we think of self-
discovery, we believe this is a journey of becoming aware of one’s true potential and character motives, resulting in happiness, awareness, clarity, and maybe even enlightenment.

Looking back as I live on bonus time, I have realized self-discovery has always taken me a lot of time and energy. More often than not, this life exercise has caused an army of thoughts to morph into an emotional battle. Always so many layers of complex past and current experiences, situations, events to be examined, considered carefully, pondered, and contemplated, which then leads to mulling, brooding, dwelling…… I would make a stride, and yet I found I was peeling back yet another layer, like an onion and that I had not really arrived at the core yet. So many of the layers are clouded, complex, and it will probably take a lifetime just to “get it” with even one of the layers. I’ve often felt like a dog chasing its tail, moving, and working hard under the illusion of travelling far, picking up speed, getting somewhere, only to realize I can go in circles for a lifetime. I worked very hard in this illusion for a lot of my life. As I stood at the gate to my bonus lifetime, I decided to ignore the noisy mind chatter, and I began the rest of my life.

The heart is eloquent and I find myself listening to it more often. It inspires my spirit to get up and go. There is no doubt the positive and negative experiences, events and situations of my past have played a significant role in shaping who I am. My approach to self-discovery through insights and my personal evolution has changed.

I find myself creating purpose, rather than searching for it. With this approach I don’t dig deep, the affect of this has caused me to become deeply light-hearted. Purpose has become an exercise in simplicity and minimalism.

I realize my current beliefs and I live by them, while being flexible. I do not lock myself into one belief box and throw away the key.

Without over dramatizing, reliving and over analyzing the past that has a big role in shaping me to this point in my life, I give myself permission to feel fear, confusion, misunderstanding, doubt, and I never go to woulda, coulda, or shoulda. No revisiting
past choices, they are history, finished and gone with my descending colon.

I’ve had a hard knock life, but no more than most others. Everyone is a unique soul. Do I get angry, you betcha I do. But, it is in the moment only, and all I have to do is say to myself, “okay, what is the issue right now”, then I work it out.

I create my own purpose. I guess I also have a destiny and I work at trying to connect
with it. Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”

Knowledge of my upbringing and my past has had its causes and effects. I do not forget the lessons of my life, but for me, they are nothing without applying some imagination to turn them into something useful. This approach unlocks and opens doors.

I haven’t found myself, instead I am something I am creating. I have stopped chasing down and fleeing from my past. I have stopped the search of who I am. Instead I have decided to feel, create, imagine and enhance my awareness of the little things and the big ones.

I notice the breeze on my wrist as I stroll. I hear the tinkle of someone’s wind chimes as I walk by. When the heavy duty life crap happens, whatever has happened, I learn from it, build on it, and move on with my life. I can’t change what happened, I can only change how I deal with it.

In everyone’s life some things that have happened were planned. Sometimes life takes a different path than planned, at one point or another. In my case, the crucible was the moment I said good bye as I was wheeled into the operating room. I was in my 50’s at the time, and sometimes a story told is better when we start in the middle.

As I heal and recover, I see, hear and feel everything for what might be the first time. Good and bad of life is like the dawn and about the dawn, the time when the fingers of light reach out from the dark. The sun is touching me, the ground I stand on, and then the world that surrounds me as I experience my bonus theatre of life.

My approach to myself and my life before and after the crucible of the bag are neither right nor are they wrong. The crucible and so, the ostomy bag was a severe trial causing many different elements of myself and life to interact. All of which have led to my self and my life to be a new and consistently evolving creation. My new approach to life has aroused and inspired my imagination to take the mystical leap over the abyss between life and death, and I landed on another timeline. My spirit is unleashed and I can celebrate the good and the bad until I once again arrive at the point of no return and I must trade in my ostomy bag for a body bag.

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

Ostomate

“Everyone you meet has a story to tell”

jo-annltremblay.com

Family Like Friends & Friends Like Family

Sitting out on our Florida deck, I’m captivated by the manatee lazily floating by in the canal with a turtle perched on her back, reminding me of the events of the past week.Manatee:Turtle

We were delighted when our sister/brother-in-law and furry niece (Bernese Mountain Dog), arrived for a week long visit. Our experiences of magical moments, emotional touches, talking and laughing, are the meaningful gifts that are a part of making life special.

As life did unfold over the week, the friends we are fortunate to have here in Florida embraced our family adventure without hesitation, with enthusiasm and sharing; in birthday celebrations of a friend of ours, a day at the races, a gathering at a back deck campfire of smores (a decadent delight of fire cooked marshmallows sandwiched between chocolate and graham wafter cookies), and so much more. The days, nights and activities, were filled with fun, conversations, camaraderie, and the joy of a community of humanity celebrating family and friends.

Watching the manatee with the turtle on her back reminds me of the differences and similarities that make up each individual family member and friend. The nature of friendships and the nature of family are individually unique, yet, when you  boil it all down, each is an experience of what it means to be close. There is a special connection, and it is the connection of the heart. It is the journey of human souls joined for life.

Friends are like family and family are like friends, is the solid foundation we build our life experiences on, and that helps to keep us where we need to be. It’s amazing when you think of it, that someone else will believe in you, and will trust you with a friendship.

During my illness, the eventual ostomy surgery, and the lengthy recovery when my physical and emotional strength seemed to fail me half way through, it was my friends like family and my family like friends whose care, concern and love, drop by drop filled my heart, mind, and body till I was overflowing.

Mother Teresa said: “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”

So thank you Terri, Murray and Piper. Thank you our dear and generous friends. Thank you all for embracing us and each other.

Reach out to someone(s) in your past, current and/or future, be a friend like a family member, and a family member like a friend. There will be frustrations once in a while and you may have to carry them on your back from time to time, but that’s life too, one sure thing is, you’ll always remember how much they really mean to you, and how much you mean to them!

PS – March is Colorectal Cancer Month. Remember to tell your family, friends and yourself to schedule your colonoscopy, it could save a life.

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

Ostomate

www.jo-annltremblay.com

“Everyone you meet has a story to tell”

The Tapestry of Life

“Plan for the future because that’s where you’re going to spend the rest of your life” – Mark Twain

There is the common thread of life that binds our collective and individual lives and this is the thread of change. 2016 has been a year of many global and individual chanxmas-lights-blogges, and it has set the scene for many more changes to come in 2017.

All People must cope with change, moving from one situation to another. In addition to life’s habit of thrusting change upon us, ostomates and any other folk who are physiologically altered, change and all of its psychological challenges are magnified manyfold.

We want the comfort of staying in a life space that is familiar, but, inevitably and consistently change weaves in and throughout the tapestry of our life story. We can only hope change is a good thing. All changes even good ones, as with the creation of a life saving and sustaining stoma, for most of us, well we just don’t transition smoothly.

Often our minds and our guts sends us strong opposing responses. We have to let go, this is challenging, so we catch ourselves trying to build the missing pieces back in. Of course they no longer exist as we move forward through the changes. What we are really trying to do, is to find the ways and means by which we can balance the conflicting emotions about the change.

The price for balance is often a valuable and burdensome journey that teaches
us about ourselves, our lives, and mostly what is inside of our heads.

Balancing through change is a lonely task, we may be fortunate to have supportive people in our life, but when it comes down to it, it is done alone. This makes us feel isolated, separated from our family and friends. Focus is required, and so, change is stressful for our brain, it becomes overworked, and an overworked brain does not function well. Change can cause irritability when it means we must change our behaviour patterns. Sheesh, ostomates sure can relate to this one!

It’s tough coming to the realization we can no longer accept what we previously had, and we feel dissatisfied. The feeling of being lost before we find our way, is powerful. It’s not easy transitioning and dealing with a whole new set of expectations, emotions and experiences, it is daunting.

Sometimes we feel lost when we are creating a new reality and we’re somewhere new. The thread of change consistently weaves in and throughout our lives. The changes we will experience during the coming year will challenge us and our entire future lives. Life goes on, and as the ancient Chinese philosopher and writer Lao Tzu said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”.

Our destination is tomorrow, plan for what you can, want, and need. Take the step into the changing unknown and may the bright colours of health, happiness and prosperity, illuminate the tapestry of your life throughout 2017.

From our home to yours, may you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

 
Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

Ostomate

Percy Stoma

EOL. Poopology

“Everyone you meet has a story to tell”

www.jo-annltremblay.com

 

 

On The Edge & Close Enough To Kill

A human being is a fragile creature. Life is a test of survival for all. When the circumstances are right, we borderline invincible. When the circumstances are wrong

dscn0227-1

Photo by: Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

we stand at the edge of the abyss and our scream of anguish stretches to infinity. We are a contradiction of strength and vulnerability, we are the hard and the soft.

Everyone we meet in this life at one time or for many times, have and will endure life on the bleeding edge of some form of disaster. Be it physical, emotional, intellectual, and/or an assault on their human spirit. The ghosts of past trauma shift amid the shadow play of light and dark. Always at the back of our mind we hear the whispering of potential future trauma, trauma we hope will never come.

As we stand on the edge and scan the deep within, we wonder if with foresight we can see the signs. Most of the time it’s a matter of hindsight and we feel we should have seen the signs.

Hubby and I have left our home in the frozen north and have arrived in our Florida home to spend our winter in the warmth of the southern sun, and into the welcoming arms of our Floridian friends. The fact of life as an ostomate is; no matter where I am a breach awaits a breath away. A potential intestinal obstruction lurks within. Chronic discomfort as I hold everything inside, gnaws at my very nerves igniting lightning bolts that spark, burn and singe. This is my ongoing challenge. Your challenging circumstances, whatever they may be, will cause a breach in your calm, an obstruction of flow, and an attack on your sensitive nervous system, and it is only a breath away. For everyone, life can turn in an instant for the worse or for the better.

Still, 5 years since my brush with death, a moment or a situation can at times leave me tense like a rabbit in the headlights. The disease and altered physiology I must live with now simmers as a low-grade anger warmed past grief. Trauma like this, or any trauma you have or will experience, can be tackled head-on-bulled-through without looking back. For most of us the trauma lives in layers of angles, colours, and textures, that at a drop of a hat, a familiar moment, a remembered smell, will dissolve us into a trembling heap.

Sitting on our Florida deck looking out upon the inland canal, frothy clouds brush the horizon. A gentle breeze whispers through the fronds of a palmetto brush. Bluie the Blue Heron and Edgar the Egret are fishing at the shore. The park is quiet as the sun sinks past its zenith, the lazy afternoon stretches out and in a few hours it will be the time of the  long shadows. This ancient and earthly ritual plays out every day, no matter our human experiences of the moment.

Painful memories are soothed as I run my fingers, trailing them down the arm of my chair. In this moment of time I’m relieved by the serenity and tinkling of the dancing water beside me. The urge to connect the past to the present is dissolving into the steamy warmth surrounding me.

Glancing back to Bluie and Edgar, our wild neighbours who gave us such joy last year, I’m reminded of my worry for them this fall when hurricane Mathew threatened its windy
terror. Bluie, Edgar and many of the wildlife eking out a living in the canal were in direct line of Mathew and their prospect for survival was precarious. Possibly they knew it was coming. Definitely they took the necessary steps available to them to increase their odds of survival. Then, they must have hunkered down to weather the tempest in a bottle, probably trembling in fear, only to emerge when calm reappeared. They returned to their goal of living full and fruitful, (in their case, fishy), lives. Sunning themselves, hunting and foraging for food, arguing with other feathered, scaled, and furry neighbours for territory and the best fishing grounds. Life in all its fury and calm, back to normal.

Their approach to life is amazing. They emerged from the depths of chaos to not only survive, but to thrive. They were close enough to have been killed, they hunkered down at the edge, they carry the scars, and they have moved back to the centre of their being to recapture and re-experience life. Their way is a powerful true life surviving and on to thriving, example for all.

We have catastrophes that descend upon us once, twice or many times in the span of our lives. If we survive it is imperative that we strive to thrive. It isn’t the easy journey, there are no individualized road maps to follow, there are always bumps on the road to navigate, and we wear the physical, emotional, mental, and human spirit scars. But, like Bluie and Edgar’s example, no matter the circumstances that brings us to the edge of the abyss, although we may feel vulnerable, tense and tingle, we need to muster the strength to transcend our fear as we step forward with the determined certainty to thrive. And, then there are the inevitable days we just need to hold our nose and get on with getting on with, in the hope that tomorrow will be a better day. And as they say, “that’s life”.

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

Ostomate

“Everyone you meet has a story to tell”

 

www.jo-annltremblay.com

 

 

BAGs Around the World – New Book

Step into a journey through experience and transcend the normal limits of everyday life. Join in the intellectual, emotional, and physical pilgrimage to discover the meanings in and of our lives. Be touched by bags-around-the-worldthe spirit of the fellowship of people around the world as we celebrate 2nd chances at life.

Better WITH a Bag Than IN a Bag, introduced Percy Stoma to the world. Another BAG Another DAY, marched to the beat of the recovery drum. Now, the newest book, BAGs Around the World, transports us to the far reaches of our everyday human experiences and life adventures.

Join Percy Stoma and Jo-Ann L. Tremblay, as they explore, muse, and contemplate the life of ostomates and non-ostomates, in our challenging life experiences as humans on planet Earth.

BAGs Around the World, is coming to Amazon worldwide October 2016.

Stay tuned over the next few weeks for more information on how you can order your copy of BAGs Around the World.

Celebrating Life

Wow, 5 years ago today Percy, we began a new chapter in the story of my.

July 2016 Blog

Photographer: Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

Happy Stomaversary Jo-Ann!

To you too Percy. I cannot tell you enough how thankful I am for you my little stoma. You gave life back to me within the numbered hours, and I am grateful. Together we are creating a new life story, where each bonus moment is a life event.

Today we sit quietly and rewind my life to recall the moments of the past chapters which brought me smiles and those which taught me a life lesson. Tomorrow we will live in the now moments and savour the smiles and lessons to come. So, let’s celebrate life by grabbing each present and future moment to live them to the fullest, in spite of it all.

Percy and I would like to thank everyone for sharing in celebrating the story moments of our life. Have a wonderful day, and may everyone’s next year ahead be the best yet!

Jo-Ann!

Yes Percy.

Now that’s celebrating life to the fullest!

It sure is little stoma buddy, it sure is.

 

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

Ostomate

Everyone you meet has a story to tell

Percy Stoma

EOL Poopology

http://www.jo-annltremblay.com