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Nella Coiro

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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,”

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Maintaining Calm in Stormy Seas

But never have been a blue calm sea, I have always been a storm.”
Stevie Nicks

 

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.”

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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...

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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.”

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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.❤️

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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!)

 

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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!

 

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