Menu

Nella Coiro

Blog posts : "Welcome!"

Smiles

Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy." —Thich Nhat Hanh

Do you know that when you smile, your brain releases particular neurotransmitters, which are natural stress reducers? These include serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins. Endorphins are natural pain relievers, while serotonin acts as a natural antidepressant. 

It’s interesting to note that if we smile at someone, not only are these neurotransmitters released within our own brains, but the people that we are smiling at also have the same chemicals being released in their brains. (Now, how cool is that?)

Some research suggests that we can actually lower our heart rate by smiling. Furthermore, if you fake it till you make it, by feigning a smile, it will have the same effect.

Besides this, we all know that smiles can be infectious. If someone smiles at you, there’s a very good chance that you’re going to impulsively return that smile. It’s also interesting to note that when someone smiles, it can really warm our hearts. 

Smiling can make us appear younger. When we smile, our wrinkles are less noticeable, giving us a more youthful appearance. This fact alone is worth flashing those pearly whites!

Sometimes, when I’m not feeling well, despite my best efforts, my mood can easily become irritable and acrimonious. Trust me, when I find myself falling down this rabbit hole. I don’t even want to be in my own company for more than five seconds. A couple of times while in this frame of mind,  a simple smile was instrumental in helping the crankiness to melt away. And it doesn’t have to be from someone I know. The smile could be from a complete stranger. The source of the smile is irrelevant. There is just something very powerful and healing contained in this simple gesture.

Cortisol is another brain chemical, that is classified as a stress hormone. When we experience stress and anxiety, this chemical is automatically released. However… This is fascinating when the feel-good endorphins are being released, thenthis prevents the cortisol song from being released. Interesting? I thought so!

The cortisol hormone actually increases our uncomfortable, negative, cranky feelings.  Therefore, by lowering the cortisol levels, we can also decrease of the negative feelings.

By now you might  be wondering where I’m going with this topic. Also me to explain. Since early in 2020 nearly everyone on the glow is wearing a mask to contain the outbreak of the pandemic. We wear facial masks to protect ourselves and others, , and and I am 100% in favor of this. In fact, I believe that we have a moral obligation to do so.

In lieu of this new normal, however, every potential “smile” is being obscured by a mask. Are you wondering if this has any impact upon each of us?  If so, is there any way to work around it? I have some ideas. 

Since we can’t show our pearly whites at the moment, we can still say the words that could bring a smile to someone’s face. 

Just the simple tone of your voice can share the same sense of warmth and compassion equivalent to a big, happy grin!

For now, let’s learn to improvise. Smile with your heart. Smile with your energy. Smile with your love. Speak words of compassion that will bring a smile to the other person’s face. We just need to get a little creative, and making our smiles a little bit differently right now.   

Go Back

Emerging from the Covid-19 Storm

 

“Once the storm is over you will not remember have you made it through, how do you manage to survive. You won’t even know or be sure that the storm is really over. But there’s one thing for certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walks into the storm. Once the storm is over, you will not remember how  you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t know know or even be sure that the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked into the storm. And... that’s what the  storm is all about”. ~ Haruki Murakami
 
This week, I chose the above quote as the focal point of this blog, since it seems to reflect our global journey concerning the Covid-19 pandemic. Long after this storm has passed, each one of us will be forever changed.
 
There will be changes in society that we can only I anticipate, & we e will live with  new normals. Nothing will revert back to exactly the way it was before. And, long after the dust has settled, we will still be experiencing some aftermath. We now have an entire new vocabulary like social distancing, PPE’s, N95’s.
 
 
Amazon and other online outlets made tons of money, and some people will continue to purchase their products online. This might eventually lead to the closure of many retail stores and shopping malls. What was a blessing for Amazon and online businesses was a disaster for other companies. Education will change as people continue to take online courses, and many will not go back to living on campuses again.
 
The aftermath of the pandemic storm has a snowball effect, and an undetermined duration. How long will it be before people go to a movie theater, sports events, restaurants, any social gathering? How long will it take before we can be around other people without feeling afraid? No one really knows.
 
Some cultural norms will change. Some might be temporary, until people begin to feel more comfortable, or until a vaccine is created. Others norms might become permanent, depending upon each individual’s comfort level.
 
What about the ways in which we interact with one another? In the past, there was always subtle peer pressure to conform to traditional greetings, and non-conformity was met with judgement. For example, there are many cultures, including my own (Italian-American), where we greet one another with hugs or cheek kisses. In fact, in some families, it is considered disrespectful not to do so, especially in greeting elders. How will we greet each other now?
 
Even simple social graces like shaking hands will bring about anxiety. How comfortable will you be with shaking someone’s hand right now? Yet, before the pandemic, we didn’t give it a second thought.
 
Personally, I’ve always preferred the “Namaste“ Indian greeting with the folded hands in the front of us, and no physical contact. Try doing the above in an Italian-American family gathering, and see what happens. It should be interesting. Let’s face it, like it or not, we usually conform to the cultural norms consistent with our upbringing. 
 
In Catholic religious services, there’s a part of the mass where the congregants offer each other “the sign of peace”, which includes handshaking. How comfortable will people be with this now? How safe is it? How will this affect romantic relationships and social interactions? As you can see it gets complicated.
 
What have we learned? In general, although some people are selfish and “clueless, most people follow the CDC guidelines. Sadly, others follow our current enempt leadership and those  who know nothing about science.
 
We will come face-to-face with the fact that we have no idea what’s going to happen tomorrow. We need to live with uncertainty, live with the unanswered questions, and we’re powerless over everything except our own behavior and attitudes. 
 
regardless of the circumstances however we are going to survive! I always do!
 
 
 

Go Back

Coping During these Difficult Times

We are currently living in an atmosphere of unparalleled global fear, suffering, illness,  and death. Like you, I have been trying to wrap my head around all of this, isolating, praying that the virus declines, praying for the health care workers, those who are ill, and those who have lost loved ones. I am also praying that a vaccine is created very soon.  

It can be extremely difficult to feel God’s love and protection during a time when our world is overwhelmed by a deadly pandemic. Globally, over 210 countries and territories are have been effected by this pandemic, and countless people have already died. It’s terrifying and mind-boggling!

Families are grieving the loss of their loved ones, and others are heartbroken that they were not allowed to be with their sick loved one during their final moments, and sadly, these people died without the comfort of having their loved ones near them. Besides this, all of us must remain isolated and distance ourselves from each other at a time where we might need a hug and human contact the most. The overall global pain and fear is intense and palpable. 

We are suddenly faced with our mortality and how tenuous life actually is. Tragedies like this create heroes, and those working in healthcare are nothing short of heroic and selfless. Suddenly people are kinder to one another, and yet, at the same time, afraid to be near other people who might be carrying this virus. Our mixed feelings can be confusing. 

During times of great tragedy, some people will blame and walk away from God, while others will draw closer to their Higher Power. When we are immersed in a terrifying global pandemic like this, it’s hard to see beyond our fear, even though we know that the threat will eventually dissipate, and a vaccine will be created.
 
I’m in a high risk situation because I’m on dialysis and immune-compromised, and this adds to my anxiety. My dialysis clinic is using every precaution, all patients are screened before entering the building, and the nurses are amazing. Still, three days a week, when I must leave my house and go to dialysis, I’m terrified by the remote possibility of exposure. I’m surviving kidney disease, a day at a time, as well as other health challenges, and I surely don’t want this virus to be the cause of my demise!

So, how am I able to cope with the stress and fear created by this situation aside from prayer? Meditation, mindfulness, writing, and reading words that comfort and inspire me. I also limit the time I spend listening to cable news!

I have found the 23rd Psalm, has been particularly comforting. This particular psalm focuses upon walking through a period of darkness, yet feeling comforted by God’s presence and protection. Here’s The Passion Translation of an excerpt from Psalm 23:

The Lord is my best friend and my shepherd.
I always have more than enough.
He offers a resting place for me in his luxurious love.
His tracks take me to an oasis of peace, the quiet brook of bliss.
That’s where he restores and revives my life.
He opens before me pathways to God’s pleasure
and leads me along in his footsteps of righteousness
so that I can bring honor to his name.
Lord, even when your path takes me through
the valley of deepest darkness,
fear will never conquer me, for you already have!
You remain close to me and lead me through it all the way.
Your authority is my strength and my peace.
The comfort of your love takes away my fear.
I’ll never be lonely, for you are near.

If you would to share some ways that you are coping, or simply say “hi” , I welcome your comments. Just click on the word “comment” below, on the left, then write your message. Stay safe.

Go Back

Coping with Covid-19

I haven’t written a blog in a few weeks, but in light of what is happening on a global level in terms of the Covid-19 pandemic, I would like to share some ideas and words of comfort and hope.

None of us expected that a virus would immobilize the entire planet. Usually this genre is the topic of horror movies. To say that it’s frightening would be an understatement.

This threat can best be compared to ibeing hit with a bucket of ice water, and it impacts upon every single one of us. This is especially true for those of us who have illnesses that make us immune-compromised.  Three times a week, I must go to the dialysis center for treatment, and even though they are taking every precaution, it still makes me feel uneasy.

Further, we cannot retreat in a comfortable psychological state of denial, because there’s no where to escape. We are inundated by the terrifying numbers of sick people and deaths. You can’t turn on the TV or go online without hearing and reading about this virus. 

Globally, we are experiencing the epitome of powerlessness, and quite frankly, it’s horrendous! Each of us is called upon to walk the talk. As the saying suggests, “Talk is cheap.” It’s fairly easy to be philosophical when our very existence is not being threatened. It’s far more challenging to rise above our fears and pull ourselves together in this atmosphere.

I think that technology has contributed to tone of self-centeredness. People would rather text than to talk on the phone, or God forbid, face-to-face. This focus has echoed  a social atmosphere that emphasizes a self-absorbed mentality  of “me, me, me” and “me first.” We have lost our ability to be patient, because computers have trained us to expect instant gratification and lightning-speed results.

But now, fear has changed the way that many of us see life. We are afraid, insecure, and we realize that we’re all in this together and we need each other. Fear can do that. Suddenly all of our petty differences have become irrelevant. Within the blink of an eye, our priorities have changed. We see that what we once thought was so important is now looked upon as irrelevant nonsense. In fact, many people who have not prayed for years are now looking to God for comfort and help. 

Since this virus is insidious, no one is completely safe. Even those who are wealthy cannot buy their way out of this situation. Illness is the great equalizer because everyone, rich or poor, are at risk, and the fear of death is universal.

Sadly, human beings have been  accustomed to wars. It’s so easy to defeat perceived enemies when they are visible and we have weapons to protect us. It’s not easy when we feel that we’re at the mercy of an enemy  that is invisible and deadly. We really don’t like the fact that our knowledge is so limited, and we don’t feel comfortable with the feeling that we’re basically unarmed.

When this epidemic is over, every one of us will look upon life and relationships quite differently. We will be reacquainted with how valuable life is. Hopefully , we will not
focus upon silly differences, and recognize that we far more in common than we have ever  realized. I hope that this happens. 

Sadly, many lives will be lost, and many will suffer the pain of these losses long after the virus subsides and becomes a distant memory. So, I hope that you are safe and healthy. If you’re a health care worker, thank you so much, and may God bless you and keep you safe. 

Stay strong and let’s pray for one another. We are all in this together. This too shall pass.

Go Back

Weathering the Storm

There is an adage that my mother would sometimes say, “When it rains, it pours.” This illustrates that often when adversity and troubling situations come at us, they are usually accompanied by other negative situations that seem to happen simultaneously, or in rapid succession. This past week, I have experienced the full meaning of this wise, timeless aphorism. More about that, coming up…

 

There’s another quote that also involves the metaphor of rain and struggle. However, it presents a very different way of looking at life difficulties. It reads, “Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass. It's about learning how to dance in the rain.” (Vivian Greene)

 

Therefore, like everything else in life, we have two different ways of how we can view and approach similar situations. Honestly, it took a few days before I was able to move from the horrible feeling of fear and powerlessness, to a place of acceptance and inner strength. How did I move from feeling helplessly rained upon to “dancing” in that downpour? Mindfulness, meditation and prayer. 

 

Allow me to expand a bit... mindfulness is about clearing our thoughts of disastrous projections and staying in the moment we’re in – the now. Is this easy? Heck, no. It takes work, and requires vigilance, but the payoff is tremendous and can be life-changing.

 

This week I devoted all of my focus and energy on practicing being in the present moment (mindfulness), and setting aside time (between several appointments) to meditate and pray. I’m not specifically talking about a particular religion, but rather a spiritual connection and conversation with the God of my understanding. I define prayer as communicating with my Higher Power. 

 

The power of prayer works for me, and if I didn’t have a strong spiritual connection, I would not have been able to survive this past year. Daily mindfulness and meditation is a winning and powerful combination.

 

In this past year, I was inundated by an enormous amount of unrelenting rain… my health situation took a hit, which brought me from 13 years of kidney disease to dialysis, because my kidney function suddenly and rapidly declined. Now, I have a rare complication with peritoneal dialysis, so I will be undergoing a second surgery, so I can switch to hemodialysis.
 

I have had some other non-medical setbacks and what appeared to be tragic losses. However, in hindsight I was able to see that these were probably blessings in disguise. It was simply time to shed the shackles of inordinately toxic relationships.

 

The year wasn’t totally horrible, and there were joyful moments too. I wrote two books that are selling quite well (and I’m working on a 3rd book.) More importantly, I’ve received so many messages from readers sharing that my books have helped them. I’m so honored and humbled that my words and experiences have helped others… that’s priceless. I’m also lucky to be married to someone who is supportive, loving, and understanding beyond what I can adequately express in words. Again… priceless.

 

Over the years, I’ve learned that when I’m having a challenging or a difficult time, it also helps me to balance the scales, by looking at my blessings, and getting off the “pity-pot” as quickly as possible, weathering the current storm, and reminding myself of another cliché that an ancient Persian Sufi poet once said: … “this too shall pass...”

 

Go Back

Miracles

“Don’t give up a minute before the miracle happens.”

Several years ago, I heard the quote cited above, and these words of encouragement have dwelled in my heart ever since. I have carried these words with me through many experiences, challenges, and tribulations, and they have helped me through many difficult moments. 
 
My life experiences, as well as continuous and persistent determination, tell me that I am a survivor. It’s probably in my DNA. Even when I feel weary and overwhelmed, I can still muster up increments of resilience.
 
Even when I might feel initially devastated by unexpected obstacles, the idea of giving up has never been a choice. I think Nietzsche’s quote sums it up nicely, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” So, as far as giving up is concerned... with God’s help...  it’s not gonna happen.
 
Concerning the second part of the quote… what exactly is “the miracle” that happens? Volumes of books have been written about the nature and the various aspects of miracles. One explanation that I particularly like comes from A Course in Miracles, which defines a miracle as a change in perception. This shift in perception melts away our fears and allows us to see a situation from a broader scope, and in ways that previously eluded us. This miracle also has the capacity to open our eyes and see the hope of infinite possibilities.
 
When you think about it, this expanded insight is miraculous in so many ways. It opens new doors, and gives us an opportunity to change our lives. Or, as A Course in Miracles asserts, “They (miracles) undo the past in the present, and thus release the future.”
 
Imagine walking into a dimly lit room. There are many things that we can’t see, but they are still there. Then, suddenly, a bright light emerges to illuminate the darkness, and we are shocked to see everything that, just a second ago, was invisible. New insights fill the room!  When our   perception is shifted, this changes things, including our choices and our future. And... that’s huge!
 
So, regardless of what’s happening in your life... never relent... stay strong... and keep your focus on the upcoming miracle - it’s only a moment away ...

 
 

 

Go Back

The Fire of God’s Wisdom

“At each and every sunrise you will hear my voice as I offer my prayer to you. Every morning I lay out the pieces of my life on the altar and wait for your fire to fall upon my heart.”  (Psalm 5:3 The Passion Translation)

This beautiful psalm captured my attention because it spoke to my actions every morning when I wake up. I talk to God about whatever might be troubling me  – “the pieces of my life.”  Then I say this prayer: “Dear God, please help me to remember that nothing can happen to me today that you and I can’t handle together.“ If it’s a particularly difficult day, I need to repeat this prayer throughout the day, to remind myself that I’m not alone, and God is walking with me on my life journey.

Sometimes situations approach us at 100 miles an hour, and with no forewarning. When we’re blindsided by events that are  unexpected, we become fearful.  Since this describes my week, I was reminded of a quote that I heard decades ago: People make plans, and God laughs. We can try to plan ahead, but it helps to remember that life is filled with uncertainty and surprises, curve balls and unexpected obstacles. There are times when our future plans can disintegrate before our eyes, and so it’s wise have a backup plan.

Acceptance

Once we can fully accept our powerlessness over external circumstances, life gets a lot easier. If you’re like me, you are familiar with the acceptance dance of moving forward toward acceptance, then taking a few steps backwards, and grabbing the steering wheel once again. It’s difficult to let go of our need to control situations, and it’s usually fear-based. Yet, we have all done this at one time or another, even when we realize that we don’t have the power to alter circumstances. 

Author M. Scott Peck asserted that “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, on… It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult - once we truly understand and accept it - then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

The Power of the Now

If we use mindfulness skills and try to stay in the present moment, it is easier to manage these unplanned hurdles. When I am presented with upsetting news, my gut reaction is to obsess about catastrophic outcomes. Through much personal growth work, I have learned that I can’t stay in this negative mindset for too long. After spending some time with negative projections, I move forward and explore Plan B and other options.

The Fire of God’s Wisdom

Besides acceptance and mindfulness, clarity of mind and taking action will help us to deal with our unexpected challenges. This brings us to the second part of this psalm, where we wait for God’s fire to fall upon hearts – wisdom, peacefulness, hope, and solutions. As this happens, the murky fog begins to dissipate and help us to move forward with strength and determination.

Acceptance is the first step that lights our path. As soon as we accept our circumstances, everything else will fall into place. Therefore, as 12-step recovery groups contend, “acceptance is the answer to all of our problems today.” 

 

Go Back

Unexpected Road Blocks

“Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road. Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go. So make the best of this test and don't ask why. It's not a question, but a lesson learned in time.”  (Good Riddance – Time of Your Life ~  Green Day)

This week I want to talk about the unexpected roadblocks that we encounter in life. I chose to share the above lyrics because they eloquently capture the topic in this week’s blog. 

None of us can completely escape the occasional setbacks that jump in our path, sometimes without forewarning. When I was younger, I was overly concerned with analyzing and trying to understand the reasons why.

As I’ve matured, I began to realize that this was a futile waste of time, and I became better at accepting that often we have to live with unanswered questions. The mantra, “Why me?” will never take us to a good place or bring about a clear resolution. It will just frustrate us.

In the last few weeks, I have been bombarded with some unexpected and stressful health challenges that were quite unnerving. In hindsight, I took a closer look to see if I could identify any new insights. So, here goes…

If life is throwing stones at us, we have a few choices. We can see these stones as weapons, and allow them to assault and defeat us, or we can collect them and build a house. There’s a choice. We can choose to use them to our advantage rather than allowing them to cause our demise. 

Some health challenges force us to face the fact that we have zero control, and it can be frightening to come to terms with this reality. It might feel as if we’ve just been hit with a bucket of ice water. And then… suddenly… the world... and our place in it… looks completely different.

Once we’ve moved past the lament of “Life isn’t fair,” (and this might take a while), we can take a closer and clearer look at our circumstances and how we choose to interpret them.

In Man’s Search for Meaning, Dr.Viktor Frankl sums this up nicely, asserting these observations:

  • When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
  • Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – the ability to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
  • Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. 
  • In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

I am not suggesting that this is easy. In fact, you might vacillate back and forth for a while. In my experience, mindfulness helps.

What road blocks are you currently facing? How do you handle them? What insights have you gained? I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Go Back

The Wisdom of Yoda

I have always loved the character, Yoda, the Jedi Master from the Star Wars movies. Even if you’re not a Star Wars fan, you might enjoy his words of wisdom. Let’s take a look …

1.  You must unlearn what you have learned.

How true is this? We’re all creatures of habit, but sometimes our habits aren’t serving us well. What then? According to Yoda, we need to unlearn our bad habits and replace them with more positive ones. Sometimes it can more difficult to unlearn a habit than to learn something new. It takes some work.                    

2. Do or do not. There is no try.

Have you ever said “I’m really trying to (you can fill in the blank) But is trying the same as doing? According to Yoda, the issue is black and white. 

This implies that trying is not doing. It’s more of a half-hearted effort.

3. Named must be your fear before banish it you can.

We can’t fix what we haven’t acknowledged. Once we face our fears and challenges, we can work towards correcting them.

4. Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.

This is a basic tenet in all of the eastern spiritual traditions. Simply, when we obsess upon a thought, we give it  power. Anger is the defense mechanism that we often use to hid our fears. When we feel angry or resentful, we usually suffer more than the target of our anger. We are also giving the other person control over our lives.

5. That is why you fail.

In a memorable scene, Luke Skywalker became frustrated, by hi inability to conquer a task. Feeling feeling that the task was impossible, he says, “I don’t believe it”. Yoda’s response is simply, “That is why you fail.” We have to believe in ourselves to succeed. Once we convince ourselves that we can’t do something, we have already failed.

6. The greatest teacher, failure is.

Another interesting quote about failure… We seem to learn more from our mistakes than our accomplishments. Experience is the greatest teacher.

7. A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind. This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away…to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing.

It takes a lot of work to keep our thoughts in the present moment. We’re usually thinking about yesterday or tomorrow. This disperses our energy and weakens us. Here, Yoda is telling us to focus all of our energy in the present moment. Stay in the now.

8. When you look at the dark side, careful you must be. For the dark side looks back.

This quote has always intrigued me. What does it mean? One interpretation might be that the “dark side” (negative energy) can be alluring and take on a life of its own. Your thoughts?

9. To be Jedi is to face the truth, and choose. Give off light, or darkness, Padawan. Be a candle, or the night.

We all have choices in life. We can light the way for others and be “a candle”, or we can be darkness, live in darkness, and dwell in negative energy. 

In closing, these beautiful quotes are my favorites, and I am sharing my humble interpretations. If you like, I would love to hear your interpretations and thoughts.

Go Back

Bending and Breaking

In both of my books, I cite a powerful scene from Fiddler on the Roof, where Tevye talks about his inner conflict and his struggle to forgive his daughters. Briefly, his first daughter refused to marry a man through an arranged marriage because she was in love with someone else. This caused Tevye to feel humiliation and turmoil. Yet, eventually he forgave her. Then his second daughter married a revolutionary, and although he struggled again, eventually he forgave her too. 

However, when his third daughter eloped and married outside of the faith, he could not get past his internal struggle, saying,  “Can I deny everything I believe in? On the other hand, how can I turn my back on my faith? If I try and bend that far, I’ll break!”  Then he pauses and says, “On the other hand…”  He pauses again, and then he shouts. “No! There is no other hand!” And so, although it was upsetting and painful, he simply could not forgive his third daughter. 

Likewise, there are some people who are so toxic that they can push us to the breaking point. Moreover, if these toxic people are family members, we will usually tolerate more dysfunction or abuse than we would if the person was not related to us. 

In an effort to maintain harmony and avoid conflict, we might ignore offenses, or relent and apologize, even if we were right. In doing so, we begin to lose pieces of ourselves. This position is unsustainable, and is physically and emotionally unhealthy. 

No relationship can survive with ongoing drama or one-sided compromise. More importantly, if we keep relenting (bending), we sacrifice our self-respect. Therefore, we need to take a good look in the mirror and ask ourselves why we are allowing others to disrespect us. Why are we clinging to a situation that is hurting us? 

Dr. Phil often says that we teach people how to treat us. If this is true, then when we don’t establish clear boundaries, we are part of the reason why these individuals are treating us poorly. Moreover, it’s possible that toxic people might interpret our compliance as weakness or stupidity.

Concerning family members, if there is a shared troubling family history, then this further complicates things. This is especially true if we have moved past the dysfunction, while other family members might not have done so. Then there’s a good chance that they are just continuing the same unhealthy, toxic patterns. 

I often hear the cliché, “Be the better person.” On the surface, that sounds like good advice. However, we must ask ourselves: Are we sacrificing our self-respect under the guise of being “the better person?” It is really wise to “take the high road”, when it’s to our detriment? Is our compliance teaching people to hurt or disrespect us? 

Unfortunately, there are times when forgiveness cannot include reconciliation. There are some situations where we can only forgive and let go of our resentment by ending the relationship, especially if we are dealing with someone who is unreasonable and unapologetic. Then, exiting the relationship might be the only healthy option.

If we don’t take this stance, then we will continue to accumulate resentments, as our self-respect continues to melt away. As Tevye asserted, sometimes the solution is clear - we need to remove ourselves from the situation, and “No. There is no other hand,”

Go Back

Maintaining Calm in Stormy Seas

“The cyclone derives its power from a calm center. So does a person.”
Norman. Vincent Peale

In life, it’s impossible to avoid obstacles, and we are going to have our own personal storms. Life can drastically change within the link of an eye – an unexpected illness, untimely deaths, loss of a job, misunderstandings, harsh words that cannot be retracted, difficulties in forgiveness - the list is endless. 

Life happens, and it can easily push us from our calm center into the chaotic turmoil of the  whirling cyclone. Other times, we can inadvertently get pulled into someone else’s tornado. And for a time, we feel helpless and barely able to conquer the storm unscathed.

This is when we when we need to remember our mindfulness exercises that bring us back to our calm center. On an intellectual level, we know what we need to do. However, when we dragged into the storm, sometimes it seems as if our emotions have taken control, and our ability to practice restraint and mindfulness have gone on vacation.

When this happens, we need to regroup. Our first impulse is usually fight or flight. We either want to run away, or we want to give into our anger and engage in battle. Neither choice will help to calm the tidal waves. 

Carl Jung said, "What we resist, persists.” Resistance is like quicksand. The more you struggle, often the deeper you sink. We can only survive our storms by moving back to our calm center, gracefully accepting what we cannot change. Then, after careful thought and perhaps prayers for spiritual guidance, we can relax, ride the wave, and navigate our minds toward calmer shores - changing that which is within our control… our attitude and our perspective. And, remember the words of a wise Persian poet, who once said, “This too shall pass.”

Go Back

Mindfulness and Solitude

“In solitude the mind gains strength and learns to lean upon itself.”

~ Laurence Sterne

Generally speaking, solitude is often associated with loneliness and sadness, and is looked upon as a negative state of being, and something to be avoided. There is a social stigma about being alone. This stems from the misconception that if we are alone, then we are not able to maintain friendships and relationships.

When we practice mindfulness, however, solitude takes on a different meaning. Intentional solitude can be a peaceful and relaxing state-of-mind, filled with positive components and possibilities. From a mindfulness perspective, solitude greatly differs from loneliness. 

When we are lonely, we’re focused on the negative aspects of our life and what we long for, yet lack. We miss having others around us and we feel loss and emptiness. We might even cringe at the idea of being with our own thoughts without the benefit of distractions.

In contrast, when we are practicing mindfulness, we enjoy and look forward to alone time. In this state of being , we can relax and clear our minds of the clutter and restlessness of everyday life. We lack nothing. We desire nothing. We are content and comfortable being in our own company. We long for nothing outside of ourselves.  We are enough. With practice, we often feel a deep feeling of serenity within our solitude.

Life is filled with distractions and external stimulation, and very often, the noise in our heads prevents us from contemplating and reflecting. It is within the silence of solitude that we are able to recognize our inner strength, and our ability to access inner wisdom. Solitude creates clarity and allows us to become comfortable and appreciate who we truly are. Finally, in solitude, we can contemplate, reflect, or simply enjoy being with our own energy and our inner core.  

So, if you’re feeling restless, agitated, or overwhelmed, take some time to sit within the quiet space of solitude, and give yourself the gift of nurturing your soul.

Then, watch what happens...

Go Back

Cultivating Resilience – “Still, I Rise”

Do you ever wonder why some individuals seem to handle adversity better than others? Given the same circumstances, why do some people give up, while others stand and fight, overcome the challenge at hand, and emerge stronger?

This week, I would like to blog about how we react when we’re presented with challenges or adversity, and ways that we can cultivate resilience. Below, I want to share some insights that I’ve learned over the years that help me. 

Learning Lessons  

Every difficulty or challenge is accompanied by a learning opportunity. In the midst of adversity, even though it can be difficult, we need to step back and ask ourselves: “What’s the lesson here? What am I supposed to learn from this?”

In order to rise above fear, we need to keep our focus on the learning opportunity rather than the obstacle at hand.  And, it’s not always easy. However, One of the most important truths that I learned in life is that if we don’t learn the lesson the first time, it will just keep repeating itself until we do so. The situations might be different, but the core lesson to be learned will be the same.

Hope

Regardless of how dark the road might seem, it helps to focus on the glimmer of hope. Hope is powerful. We can live without water for 2-3 days, without food for about 4-6  weeks, but I don’t think that we can survive very long without hope. There is simply no motivation to forge forward if the only thing that we see is never-ending darkness. Conversely, if we have a strong sense of hope, we can survive just about anything. At least, this has been my experience.

Hope is a optimistic frame of mind, and it is cultivated by the thoughts we choose to focus on. When we have hope, then we believe that we will overcome any challenges or obstacles in our path.

Although we don’t always have control over our circumstances, we have complete control over our thoughts, and we can re-train our minds to shift our focus and redirect our thinking. 

Spirituality

I’ve learned that if I draw upon my spiritual connection, somehow God/the Higher Power, gives me the strength to deal whatever is presented to me. Every morning, I save this prayer: “Dear God, please help me to remember that nothing can happen to me today that you and I,  together, can I handle.” 

Acceptance

In 12-step recovery groups, accepting (what we cannot change) is paramount. In fact, the “Big Book” of A.A. asserts that: “… acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation – some fact of my life – unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God's world by mistake… I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes."

The tricky part is the ability to discern situations that we have the power to control versus those that are beyond our control. Moreover, we will not be able to attain inner peace until we can gain “the wisdom to know the difference.” (The Serenity Prayer – Niebuhr.)

Impermanence – Everything Changes

The Buddhists believe that all of our suffering is caused by our desire to cling to things in our physical world. Since everyone and everything is impermanent, we suffer when we lose that which we cling go. If we recognize that everything is impermanent, we will accept change and loss with pain, but without suffering. Pain is transient, but suffering is ongoing and lingering.

My father-in-law was a serene person. He did not react to the drama and disruption created by others. He went with the flow, and he lived in a state of peace. So, it’s not surprising that his favorite mantra was: “This too shall pass.” To this day, his influence and these words still help me through every difficult moment in my life. Everything changes. More importantly, every trauma passes. 

Finesse’ and Grace

Regardless of what happens to us in life, we always have the power to control our reactions. Although we might be carrying particular burden or obstacles, the way in which we choose to carry that burden (our attitude) will make all the difference. It’s so inspirational to watch someone handle adversity with grace.

I’m a big fan of Dr. Maya Angelou, and I particularly love her poem “Still, I Rise” because I believe that it eloquently expresses the essence of resilience. When I encounter personal obstacles, I repeat these words cited below, and they always strengthen my heart and lift up my spirit:

“Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise.”

Go Back

Appreciating Our Intangibles

“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye… The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with the heart.” 
- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

 

I think that you’ve probably heard the phrase, “Is your glass half full or half empty?”

When you look at your life, do you pay more attention to the gains or the losses?

On the 4th Thursday in November, in the USA, we are reminded to focus on what we are thankful for. However, this message is often obscured because we are busy and distracted during this time of the year. 

So, for a few moments, let’s move our attention away from our cumbersome to-do list, and bring it back to where it belongs – Giving thanks… Being grateful…

Too often, we think about what we lack and what we would like to have. These are usually material possessions. On Thanksgiving, however, we are reminded that we should be grateful for the blessings in our lives. If we look into our hearts, our greatest blessings are usually the intangibles, and their value cannot be measured in dollars and cents. 

Every day, we are presented with valuable intangibles that escape our attention. These are the blessings that we can’t physically touch, but those that can be felt with our senses and our hearts… a kind word, a smile, a sympathetic ear, the kindness of a stranger holding a door for us, a hug from someone we love, or simply recalling a heartwarming memory. 

Every morning, my two hounds greet me with the abundant love and enthusiasm of a long lost friend  – tails wagging, as they dance around me! They’re so darn happy to see me! You can put a price on that!

If I look at the half empty part of my glass, my focus would primarily be on health issues that resulted in some major lifestyle changes. However – and this is important: I’m still standing… and have become a stronger woman, both because of, and in spite of, these challenging changes. I do believe that everything happens for a reason, even if the reasons currently escape us. 

If I look at the part of my glass that is half full, I am abundantly grateful for all of the blessings I’ve received this year. Although each day has more challenges now, when I open my eyes in the morning, I am grateful for a new day, with new possibilities, learning lessons, choices, and the opportunity to grow as a person, and do my part in making a difference, even if only in a small way.

There is always something to be grateful for, especially the intangible blessings, because these give us a daily dose of inspiration and joy. So, let’s keep our focus on our intangibles.

Oh, and by the way, have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving! And remember to keep your heart open to your daily dose of tangibles too.❤️

Go Back

The Buddha said, “Let that sh*t go.”

 I thought it would be fun to write this week’s blog with some humor and banter, so here goes! 

Are you having trouble letting things go? I totally get it! When we are offended or we feel that we been treated unjustly, our first impulse is the desire to retaliate. If  we don’t get a grip on this impulse, we are essentially “cutting off our nose to spite our face. “ In other words, we are so obsessed with vengeance that we don’t care about  negative consequences. Not smart!

Let’s be honest: contrary to what we would like to believe, none of us are saints!  And, the last thing we want to hear is “simply let it go.” - Come on! Seriously? 

Often,  our  innate reaction is the desire for malicious glee.   We want to feel the satisfaction of watching the offender feel the same pain which they caused us.  We believe this will sooth our pain. And, although it might provide some temporary emotional first-aid,  in the long run, it can backfire like a cannon stuffed with cement.

The old cliche’, “The best revenge is to live a happy life”might sound good on paper, but when we want instant relief. The time it takes to “life the happy life” will require a level of patience that we don’t have when we feel deeply offended and hurt.

Harboring a resentment or plotting revenge won’t help us to feel better either. First of all, it requires a lot of energy.  Why waste it on B.S.? 

Okay, then what’s the solution?  Hmm...

Get to a point where you don’t give a hoot. Become Teflon.  Yes, I said Teflon. Don’t allow the words and actions of others to “stick” to you.

In 12-step programs, the mantra is, “How important is it?” And, if you’re making it important, that’s on you! 

The Serenity Prayer summarizes “letting that sh*t  go” nicely. Here goes… hope you don’t mind my commentary, LOL.

“God, grant me the serenity to except the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” 

In other words, God, please help me to exercise restraint, chill-out, and not bombard my offender’s house with eggs. Give me the courage to become Teflon and learn how not to give a hoot. Help me to discern what I can and cannot do, in terms of  my own best interest. - i.e. avoiding life’s karmic boomerangs!

Eleanor Roosevelt said that no one can make us feel inferior without our consent. So, if you are giving the offender the power to control your mood, feelings, or (God forbid) actions, guess whose fault that is? 

Get a grip! Count to 100, take a few deep breaths, and ask yourself this question: “How important is their opinion, really?“ 

And so, once again, The Buddha has given us a learning moment… “Let that sh*t go.”

 

(I hope you enjoyed my tongue-in-cheek blog about letting go. I enjoyed writing it!)

 

Go Back

Daily Life on Dialysis - Lessons Learned

Throughout this past week, and especially today, I have been thinking about what it means to live with chronic kidney disease, and the stamina and patience that this requires. Therefore, this is the topic of my blog today. 

Every morning I must go through several rituals before I can actually begin my day. Since I’m on peritoneal dialysis and use a cycler, I do the following: 

1. Set up my supplies and solution.
2. Put on a mask.
3. Wash my hands for one minute with special soap.
4. Close the door.
5. Clean the transfer set for one minute.
6. Detach catheter from machine.
7. Put a new cap on the transfer set.
8. Write down data from the machine.
9. Go through steps to close machine.
10. Discard solutions and other supplies.
11. Weigh myself and log that data in a book.
12. Take my blood pressure and log that too.
13. Take medication.
14. prepare materials to clean the exit site. Bandages, gauze, dilution.
15. Wash my hands again.
16. Remove bandage,
17. Take a shower.
18. Clean exit site and put on new bandage.
19. Get dressed.
20. Brush my teeth.
21. And now I can begin my day.

Then, some time during the day, I have this ritual:
1. Gather my materials.
2. Wash my hands for one minute.
3. Open solution bags and begin set up.
4. Wash hands again.
5. Put on mask.
6. Complete the set-up.

Then, at bedtime...
1. Set up supplies.
2. Put on mask.
3. Wash hands one minute. (I must have the cleanest hand in my town!)
4. Hook myself up to the machine.
5. Then I can go to sleep.

In addition, once a month I must also do an inventory and order my supplies.

Whew!

It’s tiring enough to write this down, so you can imagine how it feels to actually carry out these steps? EVERY SINGLE DAY? And it isn’t a choice. If I don’t do all of these tasks, I will not live for very long. It’s as simple as that. Eventually I’m hoping to get a transplant.(The waiting list is about four years.) So, I also have the anxiety of surgery hovering over my head every day. Being kept on a transplant list also requires some rituals, but I won’t bore you with those details.

I see myself as a warrior, and I am not alone. Millions of people go through these rituals and anxiety every day, and they are also warriors. They all have my respect. It’s a rough road. But, I’ve lived long enough to realize that everyone has a story, and no one is completely immune from suffering. And, as the slogan says, “It can always be worse.” 

Now -  the plus side, LOL. Haha, I bet you didn’t see a silver lining in this cloud! Here are the benefits. As weird as this sounds, I don’t believe that I would have experienced these “benefits” if I wasn’t in this situation.

•    Physically, I feel better than I did prior to the dialysis, and I’m grateful for this. In general, I have more gratitude in all areas of my life.

•    I’ve learned about more about life in this past year, than in all of the previous decades I have lived. Admittedly, I am still “a work in progress.” Most of us learn in increments, and the greatest lessons are usually learned through experiences and blunders.

•    I use time more wisely, and I am more motivated and purpose-driven than ever before.  A serious illness forces us to face our mortality. We become acutely aware that we have “an expiration date”, and this helps us to appreciate the concept of time. So, I don’t procrastinate anymore. 

•    My spirituality helps tremendously. I’m not talking about a specific religion and man-made rules... it’s much bigger and more profound than that. I recognize and feel the presence of a Higher Power in my life, and I believe that my relationship with the “God of my understanding” is giving me the strength and stamina that I need to walk this new, challenging path.

•     If you are familiar with my writing, then you know that I’m a big fan of the 12 steps of recovery. I believe that every person can find value and wisdom in this philosophy. Many of those  tools are helping me in this journey. Living one day at a time is precious and healing. Sometimes it’s difficult, but it can be done. We can do anything for one day. We will become overwhelmed if we say to ourselves “OMG, I have to do this the rest of my life!” There are days where we need to take life an hour at a time, or a minute at a time. That’s okay too. Whatever works.

When my doctor gave me the unpleasant news that I needed to be on dialysis, I was devastated and upset. However, he said four words that continue to bring me comfort: “We’re in this together.“ There is comfort in knowing that we have support. 

In closing, it seems that everything in life can be seen as either a disaster or a learning opportunity. How we frame the experience depends upon how we choose to perceive it. We have complete control over this. If we see it as a disaster, we will feel like helpless victims. If we try to find the learning opportunities, we will grow as people.

If you’re struggling with adversity or challenges, I hope that you can find your inner warrior, your spiritual connection and the stamina and patience you need. If I can do it, so can you!  

I’ve always lack patience. Now, life has presented me with an opportunity where I’m forced to develop patience. Life has a weird sense of humor!

 

Go Back

16 Blog Posts

Search

 

 

Contact Me

Comments