When you are experiencing life as normal (whatever that is!), you can work the BARE program in a way that can feel light and fun, giving yourself time to really dig into the principles and take days to soak up pleasure or make leisurely lists of new things to try. But what I want to show you is how incorporating the BARE program into an extremely stressful time can be just as life-giving. Sometimes, it can be a lifeline. 

At least, that is how it’s been for me these past few months. 

My parents are sick. Both of them. And when I say sick, I mean VERY, VERY SICK.

My 85 year-old Mom has been under hospice care for the last seven weeks.

My 88 year-old Dad has been in the hospital for three of those six weeks. He has had congenital heart failure, pneumonia, kidney failure, and a blood disorder.

My sister and I live on the east coast but we have spent much of the last 6 weeks with our parents in Pittsburgh.

Staying committed to my process of constantly working the 7 Principles of BARE has helped me to remain grounded as I navigate one of the hardest times in my life.

#1 Environmental Detox

My parents live in a small apartment that is crowded and disorganized. 

My sister and I stay in a little room with two twin beds that have polyester sheets and pillows that are as flat as pancakes.

Starting with Step #1, I asked myself, “What is one little thing that I could do to make my environment feel better?”

And the answer was easy: Make my bed more comfortable.

So off I went to Marshalls, and for $30 I bought 100% cotton sateen, pretty pink sheets, and for $20, I got “the world’s most comfortable pillow!”

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Ahhhh...much better.

#2 Add Pleasure to your life.

At first I asked myself where I could possibly find pleasure during this very stressful time? The answer is outings to some of my favorite places in Pittsburgh.

My favorite shoe store in the whole world, Littles, happens to be in Pittsburgh! So far, I’m averaging a shoe purchase a week (one pair for every week I’ve been here so far!)

A little excessive, I know! But I’m okay with that! Desperate times call for desperate measures!

And then there’s Pamela’s, which happens to make the best pancakes in the world. Don’t believe me? Ask Barack Obama! He and Michelle have been Pamela’s enthusiasts since his first visit to Pittsburgh in 2008.

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I have been sneaking away for a pancake breakfast whenever I can, and have savored every bite.

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#3 Move with Love

Every day, before I deal with the day’s medical issues, I ask my body what it needs, what would feel like love?

Usually it answers, “Going for a walk would feel like love.” Sometimes it says stretching. Other times a few minutes of a strength workout is what feels most loving. 

I ask. I listen. I do.

#4 Eat with Attentiveness

This has been the toughest for me, but here is what I can tell you.

I now look at food in terms of power and pleasure/comfort food. Some days I absolutely eat way more pleasure/comfort food than power food, but here is the good news:

I don’t beat myself up for it. 

I get that it is serving me in the moment, and I acknowledge that with acceptance and love.

I eat it slowly, with attention, which allows me to stop eating after only one serving.

I pay attention to my stomach, and stop eating when I am full.

When I do have a day that is filled with too much pleasure food, I tend to eat mostly power food the next day.

#5 Closet Detox

In the little room that I share with my sister, there is a dresser and every drawer in that dresser is stuffed with old things that my parents never use.

The closet is jam-packed and the clothes are hung on a collection of mismatched hangers, many of which are old bent-up wire hangers. 

I emptied two of the drawers creating space for some of my things.

Then I moved on to the closet and took a bunch of my Mom’s fancy outfits, outfits that she will never wear again, folded them up, and put them in the corner of the closet. This freed up about 3 feet of space to hang up my clothes.

I went to Marshalls and for 10 bucks I got 25 felt hangers.

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Ahhhh…space. 

I can breathe a little better now.

#6 Mind Detox

This step is my #1 Lifesaver.

Every morning, as soon as I wake up, I make a cup of coffee, and sit down and write.

I allow space for every single thought, every single worry, and every single fear.

I release it all onto the paper.

Then, I go through every one of those thoughts, and turn them around so that they serve me, I neutralize them, I look at them from a different perspective, I separate facts from stories that I make up in my mind. I help myself to feel better by challenging my own thoughts.

#7 Make a Scene

Every single day, I use my voice to advocate for my parents. I am polite, yet assertive, as I consult with hospitalists, nephrologists, hematologists, cardiologists and gastroenterologists for my dad, as well as nurses, caregivers and hospice workers for my mom.

I’m in a place where the 7 Principles of BARE are making the difference between barely surviving and having the energy to continue to be the bravest and most confident version of myself, no matter what is happening around me.