Sometimes You Don’t Need Solutions, You Just Need To Be Heard

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
~  Leo Buscaglia

 

Ben and I met a close girlfriend for coffee yesterday. We’re each going through quite a lot with our families right now. We have family members confronting serious illness, and our friend has elderly parents in poor health – her Dad’s had a series of strokes and is in care, and her mum’s across town in another hospital after a hip replacement failure and major surgery to repair it.

Life is like this sometimes. It all happens at once. Big things, small things, out-of-the-blue things all raining down upon us.

Our friend cried as she told us of her dad’s worsening dementia and how heart-breaking it is for her to see him in this place of loss and confusion. I cried a little too as we updated her on our family, and on some of the other heart-breaking issues I’m helping a few of my clients through.

None of us had answers for each other and we didn’t even try. What mattered was that we could talk about our feelings, we could be honest about all the things raining down upon us, and the things we’d stuffed up as well as the things we’d handled well.

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We didn’t just talk about the hard stuff. We laughed a lot. We reminisced. We held space together as friends. We held each other’s hands. We sat in silence when silence was called for.

Sometimes that’s all we need. Just a safe space where we feel heard – where we can unbottle all of the things we’ve held inside.

If you have a friend or family member going through a tough time right now, don’t feel that you need to have a solution for them. One of the most precious gifts you can give them is time, friendship and a non-judgemental space where they can talk about what they are going through.

Know that they may also prefer to talk about every other thing than their cancer, their husband’s depression, or the terrible thing that happened/is happening.

Life will give all of us hardship or difficulty at one turn or another. Friendship, a shoulder to cry one, someone to make you laugh, someone to remind you that you are not your illness, someone who truly listens – that’s what helps us to get through the hard bits.

Wishing you smooth sailing or good friends today.

Know that you are ever in my thoughts and prayers,

Much love, Nicole <3 xoxo

Image from quote addicts

Image from quote addicts

 

Where’s Your Focus?

Image from reddit.com

Image from reddit.com because, well, pirates! And you know how I love pirates. 🙂

“Very occasionally, if you pay really close attention, life doesn’t suck.”
~ Joss Whedon

On Friday I posted about a beautiful ordinary day, and how much I had enjoyed such simple things as a trip to the farmers’ markets, clean sheets on the line, sunshine and crisp ripe apples.

After that post I received two emails, extracts of which are below:

That might be fine for you, Nicole, but not all of us live in Byron Bay. Not all of us have a beautiful life.

and

You obviously aren’t that sick, although you say you have lyme. No person with a chronic illness could enjoy the kind of life you have.

I guess that I need to be honest then, and admit that not all of my day was what you might consider beautiful. In fact it was downright ordinary. But I omitted those details from my Friday post.

I can list those things here:

  • As a result of my current course of drugs I have neurological urinary incontinence. I wore an adult diaper to the markets.
  • As a result of the drugs, the bacteria dying, and my poor liver not coping with increasing levels of toxicity I was covered head to toe in a fierce rash and weeping eczema. Agonising, and ugly too.
  • I was plagued by a sense of impending doom – the kind of feeling a psychic gets when they know something is about to happen, over which they have no control, but by which they will be impacted.

Here’s a photo of me a week ago, just before my last round of IV drugs. It was the best I’d felt in months and I was teaching myself how to take a selfie so I would have a picture of me for my new website. It was fun. I put on lipstick, and wore a jacket that made me look dressed for going out. I like this photo. I have clean hair, I’m standing in my garden on a bright autumn day, and it’s a headshot, so you can’t see my pyjama bottoms or my big-girl pull-up incontinence pants. About four photos later I worked out how to look into the camera instead of at my hand…

Nicole Cody

And here’s a couple of me taken last Thursday in Brisbane. Just before beautiful ordinary magical Friday. Here’s the rash that began to creep up my limbs and made me want to claw my own flesh off my bones.

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Here’s my face, which was covered in blotches. I won’t share the photos of the weeping, bleeding rash behind my knees, under my arm and right across my chest and left breast. My face went that way too, by Friday morning.

Why am I sharing this? I have lived with chronic illness and daily misery for thirty years. That thirty years has taught me a lot. Once upon a time I would have been the person who sent plaintive, judgemental or whiney messages to others, whom I felt had no idea how much I was suffering and no right to say that life was good, when it plainly wasn’t.

But that kind of thinking ruins any chance you have of having a rich and satisfying life.

So I adjusted my focus.

No matter how crappy my day gets, I look for beauty. I look for the small pleasures, the tiny details of comfort and joy, the things that will make my day memorable, or at least tolerable.

It’s become one of my superpowers. And it could easily become one of yours.

We can’t always control what happens to us, but we can control how we react, we can control our thoughts, and we can control our focus.

On Friday I didn’t focus on my distress and discomfort. In fact, I worked hard to not focus on them and to look for the beauty around me.

As I ate my dinner in front of the fire early on Friday evening I reflected that it had indeed been a very beautiful ordinary day. That’s my secret. I know that every day can be a beautiful day, or at least have elements of beauty hidden within it, just waiting for an observant eye and an open heart.

So, I have to ask you…

Where’s your focus?

Image from quotesicons.com

Image from quoteicons.com

How to Connect with Unexpressed Grief and Emotional Pain

Image from weheartit.com

Image from weheartit.com

“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.”
~ Sigmund Freud

 

It’s never healthy to swallow our grief, to stuff down our pain, to ignore our heartache.

And I also know that sometimes you just can’t fall afford to fall apart in the moment. You might be a care-giver. Or there’s no-one else to support you. You have to get to work on time. You got the bad news on a bus. There’s so much going on and it’s just one hit after another. You need to pick up the kids or keep going until you get through your final exams. One of those things. All of those things.

I understand.

But honey, it’s not healthy to bottle all that stuff up. Eventually those feelings need to be felt.

I have a prescription that works well, and it can be taken at a time that’s convenient to you.

Give yourself a decent length of time. It might be a night. It might be a weekend. It might be a week. You’ll know what feels right.

Get yourself ready by making sure that you’ll be on your own at home. Find some DVDs that you KNOW tap into your emotions and help you to truly feel and to cry. They will allow you to find a way back to your own repressed feelings through the journeys and stories of others.

Have some tissues on hand. Some food. Clean sheets, pyjamas, things that will comfort and nurture you.

Then sit on the couch and watch those movies.

Play the soundtracks that reduce you to tears.

Cry. Wail. Howl. Sob. Blubber like a baby. Scream with grief and rage. Storm around the house in despair and futility. Cry some more.

Get it all out.

Then sleep.

Go again.

Do this until you’re done.

You’ll know it because you’ll feel an easing. Sunshine will begin to pour into that space that’s been cramped and dark and musty. You’ll feel lighter somehow. You’ll come to a space of peace.

Feelings need to be felt.

Maybe it’s time to feel yours.

I’m holding that space for your healing.

All my love, Nicole xx

Image from tumblr

Image from tumblr

Three Key Strategies for Dealing with Life’s Hardships

Image of ship in a storm from Vintage Everyday

Image of ship in a storm from Vintage Everyday

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether 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 in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
~ Haruki Murakami

A friend of mine is doing it tough right now. She’s lost her home and is relying on the kindness and largesse of her friends until she gets back on her feet. In the middle of all of that, thinking that she should be counting the blessings still evident in her life, she instead felt momentarily overwhelmed by her situation.

A client of mine  is nursing an adult child who has been reduced to the functionality of an infant through a violent head injury. Her husband died in that same car accident. This all happened right at a time when their last child had left home, and when she and her husband were about to travel. Now she’s grieving and working out where to go next as she cares for a son who will forever be dependent. The strains upon her are enormous.

Both these women are strong and good, and they’re facing really big challenges.

So the last thing they need is to guilt themselves out about not feeling happy and grateful enough in their lives.

Life is hard sometimes. Fact is, no matter how kind others may be, and how much you know you can be grateful for, and how many blessings are in your life – where you are can still suck.

It’s okay for things to not really be okay. If life’s hard, well, that’s just where you are.

If you’re homeless and wanting your own nest, if you now have a child who’ll be forever dependent on you… Who doesn’t get weary when they have no true solitude for themselves, no respite, no retreat that is theirs alone?

If things aren’t going so well for you, I have some advice.

Your job, and mine (as I heal from chronic Lyme), is to accept what is, to do our best to get through any way we can, be honest about the moments when it gets on top of us, to seek help when we need it, and to keep focused on the outcomes we want for ourselves.

Image by Penkdix Palme

Image by Penkdix Palme

Gratitude is an important coping mechanism and life skill. It helps us to focus on the things in life that ARE still good and worthwhile, no matter how hard life may be. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know how much I advocate an attitude of gratitude.

The other thing that helps us to cope, and which gives us power is action. For me, as I fight to recover from this wretched illness, it’s to keep on writing, to have enforced rest, to stay in contact through facebook, to keep planning retreats and workshops, to keep taking my drugs, and to constantly remind myself WHY I am doing this.

If your life is not going to plan right now, here’s a three point plan for coping:

  1. Work out an end goal, or at least something to strive for that will get you past the place where you are now. Then keep your eyes firmly on that place instead on the mess you’re in. For me, it’s an end goal of being well, with my Lyme Disease in total remission. For my girlfriend, it’s meaningful work and a home of her own. My client is looking to get a compensation payout to help support her son’s ongoing needs, to employ some help, and eventually to find a home that can accommodate her son for that time when she will no longer be able to meet the demands of caring for him. If you don’t know what you want, this might help you get focused: Making My Life Work For Me
  2. Let yourself honour the feelings of frustration, pain, misery, grief, anger or whatever else comes up for you. You don’t need to dwell in them but you do need to be honest with yourself. Life is what it is. Don’t let yourself feel guilty or weak for acknowledging the difficulties you face, and that this might get you down sometimes. It’s not natural to be 100% positive all the time! You might also find this post helpful: Sad Unicorns – OR Is your New-Age Thinking Positively Unhelpful?
  3. Practice gratitude, even in the place of this current hardship. Life is still filled with everyday kindness, moments of beauty and wonder. When we look for these energies, no matter how small or fleeting, we are tuning ourselves in to an energy that can fill us back up when we’re empty. More on this here: Embracing the Small Things – An Antidote to Despair

Everything changes. That is the only constant in this world. When life gets hard, hold on and do what you’ve got to do to get through. Most importantly, be kind to yourself.

Thinking of you, and sending love ♥ Nicole xx

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Sometimes You Just Need to Take a Deep Breath…

Deep Breath by Tomas A

Deep Breath by Tomas A

“You have to just relax, calm down, take a deep breath and try to see how you can make things work rather than complain about how they’re wrong.” ~ Tom Welling

 

We’ve all been there.

Disappointments. Things that don’t go to plan. Endings we weren’t expecting. Futures that don’t conform to what we’d been led to believe. Judgments against us. Misunderstandings. Our body misbehaving or breaking. Hopes and dreams that end up in tatters at our feet. Grand ideas that tank. Injustices. Broken promises. Wrongs.

Sometimes life just knocks the wind out of our sails.

Or that’s how it feels…

One thing I’ve learned about life’s hard knocks is that although we may get winded, if we can just take a good deep breath, then pause and take another, we often find things aren’t as bad as they first appeared.

Sometimes, of course, it really is that bad. No matter. Breathing helps. Taking a good deep breath centers you; it calms you down, puts you back in your body, and helps clear your head. Then you can better see your way forward.

We are, all of us, stronger than we know. And it’s usually not until we’re really tested by life that we ever find this out.

Tree of Life by Sharon Cummings

Tree of Life by Sharon Cummings

I have recorded a twenty minute Guided Meditation for helping you to deal with stress and overwhelm. It uses breathing and visualisation to help reduce tension in your body, so that you come to a place of calm and better flow of thoughts, feelings and energy.

All you need to do is make sure that you won’t be disturbed, and then sit or lie quietly and follow along with the sound of my voice.

Nicole Cody’s Guided Meditation for Reducing Stress

In endings and difficulties are always the seeds of a new beginning. I’m intending support, healing, connection, guidance, positive flow and direction for you.

All my love ♥  Nicole xx

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Sad Unicorns OR Is your New-Age Thinking Positively Unhelpful?

Sad Unicorn by theGREENER on flickr

Sad Unicorn by theGREENER on flickr

“Great heroes need great sorrows and burdens, or half their greatness goes unnoticed. It is all part of the fairy tale.” 
~ Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn

“People are afraid of themselves, of their own reality; their feelings most of all. People talk about how great love is, but that’s bullshit. Love hurts. Feelings are disturbing. People are taught that pain is evil and dangerous. How can they deal with love if they’re afraid to feel? Pain is meant to wake us up. People try to hide their pain. But they’re wrong. Pain is something to carry, like a radio. You feel your strength in the experience of pain. It’s all in how you carry it. That’s what matters. Pain is a feeling. Your feelings are a part of you. Your own reality. If you feel ashamed of them, and hide them, you’re letting society destroy your reality. You should stand up for your right to feel your pain.” ~ Jim Morrison, The Doors

*Warning – The following post is not all puppies, rainbows and unicorns…

1uni

If you are a regular reader of my blog you’ll know I’m all for cultivating an optimistic outlook, for practicing gratitude, kindness and counting blessings. I also believe that thoughts are things, and that what we focus on and attach strong emotion to tends to manifest in our lives. Positive thinking and self-love bring many benefits.

So what I’m going to say next might sound like a contradiction, or even come as a shock…

I think that some of this Positive-Thinking Law-of-Attraction stuff is getting dangerously out of hand!

Emotions just are. They are human and useful, and part of the scenery as we journey through life.  No point in being too attached to them – they change all the time, based on how much sleep we’ve had, our current health and relationship status and a myriad of other factors.  Emotions are mostly transient, but haven’t you noticed that there is a big push lately for us to be enlightened enough to somehow stay happy and calm and in a permanent space of unconditional love, which we then beam out from us to others to help them feel happy, calm and loved too?

This same train of thought suggests that all those ‘lesser’ emotions, those ‘negative’ ones, are there merely for us to transcend, and it is a sign of our awareness (and for some, spiritual superiority!) to no longer entertain negative thoughts or emotions in any situation.

'Angel Melodies' by Josephine Wall

‘Angel Melodies’ by Josephine Wall

I disagree! It is NORMAL as a human to experience anger, pain, sadness, depression, guilt, shame, fear and regret at different times.  It is APPROPRIATE to feel these emotions in response to certain situations. I also believe that it is unrealistic in these circumstances to expect ourselves to easily and readily ‘snap out of it’ and be all Love and Light.

There is also a New-Age belief that by feeling negative emotions or thinking negative thoughts we are then creating further negative energy in our lives.

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You’re thinking people, so I’ll ask you to draw your own conclusions about the following scenarios:

A beautiful young woman rang me yesterday, utterly distraught.  She has a four-year-old son, and an eight-month-old daughter, whom she is still breast feeding.  Both children were conceived through IVF, and shortly after she became pregnant with her daughter, this woman’s husband of ten years left her, and began a new relationship.

She and everyone else had thought it was a happy marriage. It was a complete shock. One day he was beside her and the next he was gone. Her husband had tied up most of his assets in protected structures, and there was no money available.  A protracted battle was entered into. The man has told his ex-wife that he wants nothing to do with her or their children (he has never seen his daughter, and has had no contact with his son since he walked out) and he says he will let the courts decide what minimum he has to pay toward their upkeep. The young mum ended up moving back in with her parents as she had no income of her own, her health was poor and she was completely devastated by the unexpected end of her marriage.

Of course this has been a stressful time for this young woman.  Her husband deserted her, she went through a difficult pregnancy entirely without him, and she was anxious about the future of her little family. On top of that she had ongoing problems with a hot, sore breast during pregnancy and, later, severe mastitis.  No matter what she tried it just didn’t get any better, and she consulted several nurses and doctors.  Finally one of them sent her for some tests.  She was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer, so advanced that there are no treatment options available.  All they can do is provide palliative care. She has weeks left.

And here’s the saddest part.  In a desperate attempt to prolong her life this woman went to a respected doctor who is also an alternative medicine practitioner. One of the first things the doctor said, upon taking this woman’s recent medical and life history, was that the young woman’s anger and negative emotions towards her husband had most probably caused her cancer.

Really?

Can it be as simplistic as that? And if so, why isn’t everyone else going through great life upheaval and trauma suddenly manifesting life-terminating cancer for themselves?

So here I have this traumatised young mum sobbing into the phone, wracked with guilt that her recent pain, anger and depression have manifested a cancer that will now deprive her children of their mother.  Over and over she said to me, “I’m so sorry. I just don’t know how to fix it. I truly didn’t mean to do this.”

She wanted me to help her have a sparkly-clean mind, filled with love and rainbows and unicorns and hope.

Somehow, if she could get a mind like that, miraculously she would heal…

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Another friend has long suffered with serious depression.  It was brought about after an incident that would change anyone’s life; the death of her younger sister and brother in a car accident (not her fault! – they were slammed by a drunk driver at nine o’clock in the morning just outside their school) when she was a newly licensed driver. It left her with a legacy of physical pain and disfigurement too.  She has battled to get out of the hole, and truly it has been less than helpful when well-meaning friends and even health practitioners kept telling her to ‘get over it’, and that her happiness is a choice.

Their words implied that she was to blame for the place she was in, and she was left even more guilt-ridden and shamed over her inability to get unstuck. Truly, she was trying, but at that time she didn’t have the tools she needed to start turning things around. Every time she posted positive affirmations around the house, or repeated them endlessly, she felt more and more of a failure, as she measured the disparity between her current situation and where the affirmations told her she could be. Positive thinking made her feel even less worthy and deserving of help, change and even life itself.

This beautifully illustrated journey through depression from one of my favourite blogs, Hyperbole and a Half, explains this place so well:

Adventures in Depression

Eventually my friend found her way back to a place of balance. She is a counsellor, working with others, and her life has meaning again for her. There’s even laughter and happiness.  Sure, she still has hard days but we all do.  That’s life.

Life is a crucible that forges us through fire, and it is our trials and troubles which often truly enable us to grow and transform, more meaningfully and more lastingly, than any amount of positive thinking.

It belittles us, and it cheapens the human journey, to use trite phrases about positive thinking in the face of real struggle.  Life is wonderful, and at times heartbreakingly sad, hard and just plain awful. Sometimes we are helpless and powerless in the face of our own pain, or the suffering of another.

The magnificence is in finding something within us that enables us to keep going, even if we bumble and fumble and drag ourselves along, until we get from that place of darkness back into the light, forever changed.

Every decent book I ever read had a hero or heroine who faced disaster, betrayal and every other form of hardship. The way they travelled that difficult road is why we stuck around – so that we could be inspired, cheer them along, learn from them and eventually watch them grow into the sorts of people we desire to become ourselves.

There is a place for positive thinking, and for wanting to manifest our future by aligning ourselves with a vision of abundance that makes us feel good, and excited about what’s yet to unfold.

But there is also a place for experiencing the fullness of emotions created by being in the now. And sometimes that now will be paved with pain rather than rainbows.

The rainbows come later, after the rain. After you’ve ridden out the storm.

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Just this moment…

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“I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.” ~ Groucho Marx

It started with a twinge. Just a twinge. So insignificant I might have missed it, if not for the telltale flutter, like a moth caught under my ribcage.

I stopped in the middle of the empty moon-bleached sand and put my hand to my chest.  Hello heart, I said, is there a problem? But like a shell held against my ear, all I heard in response was the gentle sigh and chuff of the ocean.

It changed the end of my holiday, and my days since. Back and forth to doctors, hospitals, specialists.  Endless opinions and possible courses of action – none of them especially palatable.

I’m good with it, whatever happens. I have become a master of managing overwhelm. In fact yesterday I was able to look at a bright-eyed doctor, flushed with the excitement of my case, and whom had just enthusiastically declared me (not me as a person, me as a collective assortment of organs and symptoms) fascinating, and NOT slap his face or take offence. Instead I felt like an old, wise Nana, smiling indulgently at a child who’s been given a challenging puzzle and who is boasting about how easy it will be.

My heart’s misbehaving. But it’s still beating, and I’m still here. (Did you hear that Universe? I’m making a declarative statement!)

No-one knows what the future looks like. All each of us can do is live in this precious moment.

Someone asked me recently what to do about the feeling of time speeding up and life slipping by. While I don’t recommend a life-threatening illness, I do know that living with your attention on what’s happening RIGHT NOW gives time a lustre and a depth that cannot be had while your mind is back in the past, or racing into the future.

Life is beautiful. Life is precious. And all we ever truly have is this moment. Don’t waste it – breathe in, satiate your body with the sights, sounds and smells of the essence of your current reality. Live it, before it slips too quickly through your fingertips. Life lived this way can never be ordinary. YOU will never just be ordinary.

Trust me on this one – the magic is in the Moment – starting right NOW…

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