The Turbulence Playbook Pt 1. 5 Tips To Manage A Crisis

Corners Please

As cycle 2, week 3 kicks in, we find ourselves at a Mexican standoff, this Dragon and I. The good news; results post cycle 1 showed an almost 75% decrease in Dragon strength. The not so good news; the cumulative effects of all these unimaginably strong drugs are beginning to take their toll. So much so, that I find myself increasingly reliant again on the Turbulence Playbook. Hard-fought wisdom, and a collection of tried and tested battle tools, compiled throughout the saga of the last few years.

In Peace & Bar Fights

It wasn’t a conscious intention to create a Playbook per se. It just occurred to me back when this unfortunate duel first started, that keeping a note of the things I read and tried, along with the advice other people shared, might be an interesting thing to do. Moreover, potentially useful both to myself and others in times of future scuffles.

Turns out I wasn’t wrong (which is rare by the way. I often excel, quite charmingly so, at the art of the ill-informed judgement calls), particularly on the usefulness front. As I edge myself closer to finally channelling this experience and information into a something with more of a professional polish,  I’m frequently surprised at how much of it I can use to help people living in times of relative peace. Just as much as those who find themselves bar-fighting with their own Dragon.

The Big 5

I’ve wrestled a lot with whether or not to share certain parts of the Playbook. Some of it is quite personal, and most might only be relatable for people in, or at least heading towards, turbulence. And yet not too, would defeat its purpose.

One of the most important truths we should live by is that of unchartered personal context. The irrefutable fact that each and everyone one of us is impossibly different, magically individual and living out our own unique stories. So who am I, who is anyone for that matter, to say who will and won’t find some of it useful? Now, or in the future.

There’s no real hierarchy to the Playbook, however, in terms of how quickly they provide support and transformation, these Big 5 below are a pretty good place to start.

1. On Life & The Question Of “Do You Want To Live, And Why?”

Ooooohhhhh. Straight out of the blocks.

Bare with me as we roll it back a bit.

A few days after my diagnosis back in 2014, I asked a friend of mine to do some Reiki. I was really struggling emotionally and needed – as my daughter affectionally calls it – some magic hands.

Before we started, she sat down, looked me in the face and asked simply: “Christian, before we start, I need to know; do you want to live?”

Neither I nor anyone else had ever asked me such a profound question. Under normal circumstances, I would have replied instinctually to the affirmative.  However given where and how I was, it shook me to a remarkable, and at moments terrifying place of reflection.

It took me a while to answer properly. Several days in fact, as I realised that to answer it with any real value required a wider understanding of why not just if, I wanted to be alive. And that’s the hidden wisdom of the question.

I knew I didn’t want to die. Death, for most, is terrifying. Unimaginable even. Yet despite its enormity, simply not wanting to die isn’t a good enough answer or reason for wanting to live. There’s deeper territory that needs to be ventured into.

In terms of the Playbook, getting this out in the open and upfront is paramount; an important prelude to much of what follows. Getting clear and connected to your deepest reasons for wanting to be alive is phenomenally empowering; healing and motivating.

2. Get Calm & Make It Your OS

I am of a pretty ardent belief, that Calm is the parent of wellness. I don’t mean superficial calm. The old count-backwards-down-from-10 with-deep-breaths-type calm. I mean deep, inner-calm. Calm as your default operating system with which to face the good fight.

The opposite of calm is stress, anxiety and at times, panic. When the body is sick, the last thing it needs is the hormones that these things release. It needs Dopamine, Oxytocin and (to a lesser degree) Serotonin. Crucial, healing wing-men to support the fight.

How do you get Calm?

This deserves and will get a dedicated post. But here’s a summary for now:

1 – Think and get clear

Get clear – brutally so – about what causes you anxiety and turbulence. We’re all different. All a bit bonkers. And a bit vulnerable.  So throw off the pride, any fear of judgment and get clear on what is that unsettles you. Both in internally (thoughts, beliefs, fears etc..), and externally (money, pain, suffering, people, work, football : – )

Start on your own, and then ask trusted friends and family. They’ll likely have insights about you that won’t be able to see. Get it all down in writing. I guarantee you’ll be surprised by what comes up if you really take the time to think it deeply enough.

2 – Prioritise

Try not to start with your most intense cause of turbulence. Start with the ones you feel most frequently. If they are one and the same then ok, but try and free yourself first from the things that unsettle most often.

For me, it was unfortunately almost everything to do with hospitals. The smell, the squeaky wheel of an incoming meds trolley, the fear of pain, needles, blood etc..you name it. I was a nervous wreck. Prior to being bed-ridden for those 7 weeks, the worst I’d had was a blood test and a few spells in an MRI. There was no way I was going to get through it unless worked out how to defuse the situation and calm myself down first.

3 – Smooth them out 

Once you have it down and prioritised, do whatever you need to do to smooth them as much as possible. From the superficial, like cranking up an oil diffuser to mask the hospital smell  (hey, it worked, I still have it https://amzn.to/2s0ubfn)  to the stuff that might need a more professional touch; counselling, hypnotherapy or even an IFA to help with money. Whatever you need and whatever it takes.

Clarity begets calm. Calm is the parent of wellness. And knowing is half the battle.
3. Gather Your Corner

Almost everything you read on the topic points towards human connection and friendship as the single most important factor in health and wellness. I think it was the John O’Donaugh that wrote: “Human presence is a creative and turbulent sacrament, a visible sign of invisible grace” Never is this sentiment more vital than in times of turbulence.

So gather your corner…

..you’ll need them! 3 insights here:

  1. Allow as close as possible, the people in your life that make you feel most alive. Happy. Understood. People who make you laugh, and in front of whom you can openly express yourself; feelings, fears and vulnerability.
  2. Keep an eye out too for people that come into your life unexpectedly. There are forces in this world that are beyond our comprehension. All of us are drawn at some point in our lives, quite unexpectedly, to the light of a person or situation. So if someone shows up, let them in. Or at the very least, give them a chance. You’ll never know the message, gift or support they may have for you.
  3. On the flip side of this, you might find that there are friends, who for their own reasons, need to move away from your situation. Despite how close you are. And this ok. Remember the rule of uncharted personal context. For reasons that they probably are not even aware of, proximity to the suffering of a cherished friend, and the environments that go with it may be too uncomfortable. Let it be ok. Expectation is compost for disappointment and negativity. Especially expectations of our friends and loved ones. Do let it be ok. Keep in touch remotely and let them know they’re welcome in whatever capacity, whenever they feel ready.
4. Move

Do whatever exercise you can, and do it as regularly as you can. If that’s a 10-minute walk twice a day, then that’s 2hrs 20 mins walking per week (ever read The Sligh Edge? If not, get it, it’s brilliant!)  And if you can do more, great. But try and move.

Aside from the all the obvious physical benefits that support the fight, the emotional and psychological lift is invaluable. It’s warrior mentality and gives a sense of dominion over your antagonist.

If you’re unsure, or anxious about what you can and can’t do, loop back to no 2, and ask for help. I was confined to bed and on my back for 7 weeks. My physical health was one of my main causes of stress. Eventually, I got a physio to show me a 15-minute routine I could do twice a day. Granted, it and I looked slightly ridiculous – something akin to a large seal rustling about in a sleeping bag –  but it gave me something extra to fight back with every day.

Yoga, stair walks, gardening, dog walking, swimming etc..choose something, and try and do it every day. It will be ‘The’ most important habit. Caveat – probably avoid any of this nonsense…

5. Go Pro With Your Nutrition

The emergency nutrition pivot. Ironic that we wait until we get sick yo finally get serious about what we put into our bodies. I am as guilty as the next person, but hey, better late than never. But here’s the thing – go pro.

Sure, do your homework and get smart, and make the remedial changes that probably should be there any way (less booze, zero sugar etc..). But at some point, seek out a pro, and get serious. We mindlessly pay for almost every other professional service. I can count on one hand the number of people I know who see a regular nutritionist. Crazy.

“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food” Damn, damn straight.

If you want food to be a part of your corner (and you 100% should) then level-up and go see a pro. You may only need 2 or 3 sessions, and if you can find one that specialises in whatever it is you’re dealing with, even better.

Next Up

The Big 5 are intentionally designed to get the inner-you cleaned up and in the best possible condition and mindset for whatever you may have ahead of you. The mind-body connection is inestimably important to the healing process, as well as providing the emotional support to make the whole thing less of a drag.

Next up, digital tools for a physical fight. The apps, content, web resources and digital hacks etc.. that helped, and continue to help me through it.

Until then peace and calm

CB

*** PS ***

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The Bar Fight Resumes

The dragon’s back.

It stirred for a while. We seemed to have an understanding. But something woke it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Something’…what pain and suffering we could relieve from the world if all the money, committed and scientific zeal would finally reveal what ‘something’ actually is.

And so the bar fight resumes. Tis’ my lot. I have learnt to bare the adventure. Although it is a curious and altogether different experience this time around. I wasn’t prepared last time. But am I better prepared this time? Let’s see.

I’ll be using Medium as a platform to share the journey. Deepest thoughts. Ideas. Suggestions for other bar-fighters. And maybe the occasional cry for help. Indulge me. It’s part of my playbook.

“Writing breeds clarity. Clarity begets calm. Calm is foundational to wellness”.

A Short History

Said Dragon is how I have chosen to cast my life’s most pernicious antagonist, Multiple Myeloma. Cancer’s village idiot. Bone marrow based, with a firework display of complications if allowed to go unchecked. Incurable thus far. Although entirely ‘smote-able’ with the right balance of unimaginably strong drugs and unimaginably strong positivity.

It swooped in during the lazy summer of 2013. Completely undetected. Embarking on a slow yet brutal incineration of a sun-drenched life we’d worked hard create.

You can read the first half of that story here. The rest will take the form of a grown-up book, early next year.

We lost everything (material)

We gained everything (that matters)

We held on

Mobbed up

Launched everything mad and magical that modern madness could muster

We smoked dat’ fool!

Ran for cover (tack, Svierge)

Have been rebuilding ever since

Alas, it stirred. And then something woke it.

Round 2

It was made very clear to me by one or two particularly emotionally unintelligent doctors that I would always be dealing with the When, not the If of the Dragon’s rematch.  Despite hoping deeply to the contrary, prophecy became reality as I slouched out of UCLH’s wonderful McMillan Cancer Centre on the afternoon of April 13th, clutching my brown takeaway bag full of unimaginably strong drugs.

Over 3 years of remission came crashing to an end, and with a flick of a pharmacists pen, I found myself back on sadly familiar territory.

The good news, because there is always good news if you look hard enough, is that this time around we felt the fight brewing early.

5 years ago, the dragon stole a significant advantage. By the time I was able to put up any sort of a fight, I was supine in hospital, unable to walk (the dragon turns bones into chalk) and emotionally flat spinning out across the Gulf Of Arabia.

5 years on;

MRI’s revealed no bone damage

Bone marrow biopsy (yes, it’s as bad at it sounds) revealed progression but not rampant

Blood counts and immune system stable

In the kingdom of the chronically unwell, one finds gratitude for even the smallest, most ridiculous of mercies“.

And patient (or is that contender?) wiser, emotionally stronger and ready.

The less positive news, however, is that of my professional situation and the commitments I have to balance and continue honouring. These weren’t necessary the first time around. Back then, various stars aligned (along with a 100% chip cash-in) that enabled me to put everything not related to bar-fighting, self-healing and my family, on complete hold.

Not a practical possibility in these time of Dragon 2.0. Bills need to be paid. Past mistakes need fixing. Growth needs nurturing.

Familiar Territory. New Terms

One month into treatment and so far so good. Way too early to tell, but confidence is high.

This is familiar territory after all. Lest the dragon forget. As we boxed it out the first time around I was blessed with the wherewithal to take game notes, and develop my playbook (aforementioned book, part 2) in the event that we should have to go again.

Needless to say; we are. And I’m ready.

However…

…while the territory may be familiar, the terms of this new fisty-cuff are very different. Terms represented almost entirely by those professional commitments, and everything that goes with them: focus, planning, deadlines, admin, travel, thinking critically, thinking creativity, selling, writing etc.

In peace times, on this stuff I thrive. During times of battle and chemotherapy, they’re already starting to pose some difficult questions.

Fatigue, pain, nausea, the occasional bout of depression and those moments of profound vulnerability. None of these are welcome teammates to someone still trying to (re) build a life around a freelance consulting business.

But I’ll write more on this later.

Day One

I’m about to end the first of an ongoing (and indefinite) series of 3-week-on-1-week-off cycles of treatment. I needed this cycle to benchmark. Settle back into regime and routine, and adjust my retreat to The Other Room so as to be less isolating (than last time). In fighting terms, get my jab in and the measure of what I’m up against.

Tomorrow (14.5.18) is Day One. I’ve got a lot to say, and a lot to share. And I’d be super grateful for any support or advice you might lend me along the way.

Until then, and in the words of the almighty Apollo Creed “Ding. Ding”

via GIPHY

 

 

The Importance Of Rolling

(Somewhere halfway through a less enjoyable day than yesterday)

“Rarely are the first steps in a journey anything like the final ones, either in direction, pace or grace. So believe me when I tell you that none of those things are even half as important as the fact that there are steps at all. And by the time you’re really rolling, it will be in a direction you cannot now even imagine. So please, for the time being, just roll…

How To Prepare For A Dragon

It’s a dragon, Jim. But not as we know it.

This is the game that life plays with us. It sends us dragons. And these dragons come to test us. Physically, emotionally, mentally.  Sometimes all three.

They can be self-inflicted, sure. But most – and the worst –  swoop in unannounced, asking questions of our strength and resolve. Often razing hard built lives to the ground.

Ah such an ‘un-virtuous’ circle these dragons create. Good days and bad days, without rhyme or reason. For me personally, my dragon wears the marque of the evil C.  There are good days. During which I am gifted an unusual sense of urgency to get things done and make things happen. But then there are the bad days.  When best laid plans get shelved. People let down. Meetings chalked off.  And worse, you don’t really want to tell the truth – as to some, an injured wolf is a poor bet – so opportunities dissolve. You fade.

Damn these dragons. But, as hard it may be, we must try and use their invasion, to learn and grow. So when a dragon snarls, what can we do to give ourselves the best possible chance? For levity, growth and survival?

Here are 10, tried and tested ways to make dragon time more bearable. No matter what form it takes.

  1. Be honest and open with those you trust. You’re being pushed into a terribly hard journey, don’t make it harder by having to duck and weave. Transparency is Light.
  2. Expand your view of what is what. Bad to be poorly, good to be alive. To share. To teach. Gratitude is oxygen.
  3. Give yourself a break and listen to your body. Biology is consciousness.
  4. Take an audit of what you can do from home. What you may do if you feel alright, and what you need to 100% put on hold. If people don’t like it, then they’re not worth your time. Or your courage.
  5. Is Money an issue? Look for help, speak to friends and family, doctors etc..the support is there. Money has two faces. Don’t assume it’s an enemy. There is always a way. Always.
  6. Stay positive and focused – if you’re relapsing, then it means you’ve beaten it once. You can do it again – but you need ‘you’ on your side. More than anyone else.
  7. Get clear. On everything – what’s worrying, what’s good, what’s odd, hopeful, scary – everything. Write it down. Talk, share and then understand where you need support.
  8. Outside of medicine, build your back up team – healers, mentors, friends. And create a physical environment that supports what you need. Make it warm. Make it healing. Safe. Honest. Supportive.
  9. And know, above all else, that everything will be ok. Everything will be ok.  You are not broken. You are simply human. And to be human is a wonderful thing.
  10. Try and embrace the dualism of life. The balance, the perfect balance that exists in all things. No one thing can exist without its polar opposite. And so we can remove labels and find the deep calm in allowing ourselves to be expressed by and through nature.

There is a time for everything. And this too, will pass.

[And breathe]

Rambling (unedited free flow of thought)

christian-burne-coaching

(Unedited thoughts from the long grass)

A dear and trusted co-pilot once told me; ” just write. write and don’t look back. don’t check. don’t edit. just get it down…”

We shared several Hendricks & Tonics in between the black notes of a Soho dusk. It was sound advice.

One learn’s a lot about one’s self during the inhales of a ramble.

This is a ramble. I’ll be sharing a few.

No doubt it will be littered – Carnival weekend littered – with grammatical car crashes and pitiful spelling. But one will learn a lot about one’s self during the inhales of a ramble. So I’m trying to not care.

This, is a ramble. (I do care, but I’m trying not to.)

So I find myself (slouching towards another birthday ) caught in the tension of a spirit vs science stand-off.

Biochemically, the dragon stirs. With menace.

The highs and lows are getting shorter.  The bell curve, shaped with less forgiveness.

And yet the spirit fights on. Pushing back hard against dem’  numbers.

The binarism of science versus the ambiguous and serial subjectivity of my Truth. My delicate, precious and yet profoundly empowering Truth.

(This, I must teach you, darling).

For now, treatment remains a suspended shadow in the dark corridor to the left. Yet the tension seems to tighten, daily, down the corridor to the right.

And then there’s grief.

For what’s been. But more confusingly, for what’s to come.

Or for what’s to be lost? I get confused.

The things that scare me most are not the things that will happen, it’s the things that won’t. Or at least will, but I may be forced to miss.

But it’s foolish, isn’t it? Being human is a fucking train crash sometimes.

I am of a strange and perhaps slightly contentious belief, that those who are chosen to endure nature’s cruelty, do so with a responsibility to share what they learn or are learning along the way, with others.

To teach. Seed hope. Help. Soothe. Lest others may one day find themselves in similar plots.

But I struggle with the balance. How about you? The balance between drawing from experience to teach, versus simply wanting to talk and be heard. Understood.

Loved?

When does this type of teacher become a victim? And when does is he become annoying? Are there rules here?

Neutral is hard. But reality is a mess.

(This, is a ramble. I’m trying not to care).

I wrote half a book once. You may have a read it.

I have so much to say, and I think, so much to teach. And yet it turns out, whilst the Melphalan was able to stall dragon, it couldn’t smote the fear.

Of Judgment. Ridicule. Rejection. But then there’s that responsibility. Sense of duty.  Even, dare I say, Purpose?

Being human is a fucking train crash sometimes.

I can’t bring myself to write the other half. And yet that is where the teaching is. Survival against the odds unveils our greatest wisdom and most edifying lessons.

Is this the work, Charlie? Is this the corridor we need to walk.

(Listen, the biggest tragedy is not that we are never loved, because we are always loved, it’s that sometimes we grant neither permission not access to the deepest parts of us that need it most.)

So this, was a ramble.