Breaking the Rules

One morning, I was meditating and afterwards this short piece below came to me… a good reminder that sometimes we just have to do things our own way!

“Learn what you need to know and then break the rules – the ones you want to.

Don’t try to fit into the mold and lose yourself by beating the same drum everyone else does.

The world thirsts for innovation…new ways of thinking, doing and being to make sense of its complexities.

You will never be like everyone else. Celebrate your uniqueness and revel in your power to control it!”

I hope you find something meaningful for yourself in these words.

Simplicity

In today’s world, it’s easy to get lost in the complexity of our society. Our life can become a whirling mass of chores, things, people, responsibilities and places, leaving us feeling lost and joyless.

When that happens, take some time to make yourself a top priority. Decide what really matters to you…your well-being and peaceful existence. Eliminate as many of the “shoulds” as possible, and let go of unnecessary things and people. Take some time to do what makes you happy and clears your mind. Relax and go with the flow of life; don’t complicate it with overthinking. When you return to what you absolutely have to do, you will approach it more lovingly because you’ve found time to nurture yourself and relax back into yourself.

My favorite go-to place locally is without a doubt, Cape May, NJ. The beauty of the ocean and rhythm of the waves relaxes me and helps to clear my head. The same is true to some extent for writing and genealogy although those activities can at times be bittersweet. 🙂

Do you have a special place or activity that allows you to relax and free yourself from your routine?

The First Day I Went to Jail

Six months after I graduated from Rutgers with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, I began my first “real” job as a social worker for New Jersey’s Bureau of Children’s Services.

“I want you to visit this seventeen-year old in the jail up the street,” said my supervisor.  “Her father signed an incorrigibility complaint—again.”

“Sure,” I said  as I tried to dismiss the thought that I’d accepted the wrong job. Coming from a conservative middle-class background, I had never seen the inside of a jail, let alone visited an inmate.

It has been more than forty years, so I don’t remember many of the details. What I do recall is being startled by the deep voice that came out of nowhere when I first entered the building, asking me why I was there. He buzzed me in after I responded, and I was led back to a room where I spoke with Janet (not her real name, of course).

This tall, dirty-blond young woman was amused by the fact that I was only a few years older and promptly called me “Granny.” I didn’t mind the nickname and as she talked about her life, I came to see a free-spirited girl who had been toughened by her experiences but who still managed to be kind and funny despite her dysfunctional family. I genuinely liked her and admired her compassion for others.

Over the next few months, we spent a few more times discussing her problems. It wasn’t long, however, before Janet turned eighteen and aged out of the agency system. I felt relieved of my responsibility to her, but at the same time concerned about a future with unsavory friends and no high school diploma. I never saw her again.

A couple of years later, a news article came to my attention. Janet’s murdered body had been found on the township dump—a young life tossed aside like a piece of trash. I wondered  if I could have helped her in some way avoid this ending, but came to realize that a few sessions with a young social worker could not have had a profound effect on twenty years of living in an environment of neglect, poverty and ignorance.

I can only hope that our times together helped in some way. Perhaps she made a couple of better decisions, or perhaps not. One thing I do know is that the experience of learning about a life so different from my own left a lasting imprint on mine.

What Are You Grateful For Today?

There’s always something to appreciate if you think about it. Even on dark, gloomy mornings, the fact that you woke up to see it, is a blessing. Life is something to be thankful for, and as tough as it may seem now, things change and the road levels off.

I find my own life goes more smoothly if I focus on gratitude at least once a day. Before going to bed is an excellent time to be reflective of the day just lived. I know, some days you’d like to forget. We all have those days. Bad things often happen to make room for new opportunities and growth.

If you can’t find the silver lining in that day, then look around at the people in your life. No doubt many of them love you more than you will ever realize. Love is always something to be grateful for. If there are no friends or loved-ones there, it’s an invitation to step outside your comfort zone—join a group or get involved in a charity or church group. Reach out to a neighbor, co-worker or a stranger who needs help. There are plenty of them around.

Some people keep a gratitude journal. While that doesn’t work for all (me included), it’s easy enough to say outloud five things (events, people, objects, feelings, etc.) you are grateful for each day. Be sure to actually feel the gratitude as you think about each one. Can’t do five? Start with three.

We frequently take people and things for granted. Remember to search for the joy in whatever and whoever is in your life. As the saying goes, tomorrow is promised to no one. Make the best of each day and remember that the more you appreciate your life and the people in it, the easier it will be for more good things to come your way.

Yikes! Retrograde Mercury

This is an updated reprint of an article I wrote seven years ago…

It’s the uh-oh time of the year, astrologically speaking that is. Three or four times every year the planet Mercury slows down in its journey around the Sun and appears from the Earth to be moving backward. Actually, it still is moving forward, but this three-week change in motion can create a bit of havoc with life on Earth.

Mercury rules mental processes and communications. You may find that appointments get cancelled at the last minute or you forget that you have one. Letters may get lost in the mail or you may finally receive one that was mailed to you three months ago. Cars and other equipment break down more easily or old problems may resurface.

The bottom line is that things are more likely to go wrong or get confused. Naturally, life goes on and you can’t avoid living through these aggravating periods. However, if you can, avoid planning a trip because something may come up that prevents you from taking it. Try not to buy anything new, especially a car, because the odds are increased that you will later regret your purchase. Don’t sign a contract, but if you must, make sure you or your attorney examine it thoroughly.

On the positive side, it is a great time to finish up something from the past. Clean out that closet you dug into a while back or finish writing those letters or emails you left uncompleted. It’s fun when you run into someone you haven’t seen in a while or when an old friend contacts you to get together. It’s also a favorable time for writers because the mental processes are affected in a way that enhances creativity.

We are currently in one of these retrograde Mercury periods. The good news is that the current one which began February 17th is over on March 10, 2020. Other periods to watch out for during 2020 are: June 18-July 12 and October 14-November 3.

For several years, I worked as a professional astrologer. Although I encountered some persons who were skeptical, once they began following these cycles of Mercury, there were few left to deny the mischievous effects of retrograde Mercury.

So how about you? Have any of you found the last week stressful because of mixed communications or things breaking down? Or perhaps, something lost or delayed returned from the past? So far for me, I was delighted to finally receive an email list of like-minded women I met last July at a writing workshop.

Coping with the C-Word

    Feel free to reblog or share this article in its entirety.

Coping with the C-Word

             Shirley P. Sorbello, MSW

“The biopsy results showed cancer cells,” Dr. Wilson said to me matter-of-factly.   I glazed over upon hearing those words, that took me to a level of reality where I had never ventured.

“Oh, no,” I said, thinking at the same time this couldn’t be happening to me. No one ever believes it could happen to them.  People think that somehow it’s everyone else who gets cancer.

At least one in three people in the United States will hear this diagnosis at some time in their lives. Even though advances in early detection and treatment have lessened cancer’s effect as a death sentence, a diagnosis of cancer can still rock anyone’s world as it did mine.

Here are some tips that might help you or a loved-one cope more effectively.

Share Your Diagnosis with Those People Closest to You:  It’s normal to feel shock, numbness and denial at first. While you are trying to get your bearings, you need to share some information with people who love you.  It’s important for you to feel their love and support as you begin to navigate through this crisis.

Although it can be extremely helpful to talk about your feelings, be cautious about sharing this information with everyone.  You may get some unwanted advice and hear horror stories as well.  Be aware that not everyone will react to your news in a similar way.  If it’s not the reaction you were expecting or hoping for, it probably says more about their hang-ups than how they feel about you.  Don’t be hurt or discouraged by it. You will find that most people will offer a listening ear and physical support.  You may even be lucky enough to have a friend who went through what you are going through.  His or her input can be extremely reassuring. If you have any serious questions or concerns, don’t ask your friends, ask your doctor.

Remember, however, that while interacting with others can be helpful, you are your own strongest support. If you can’t talk about it, perhaps you can write about your thoughts or feelings in a notebook or journal.

Make Necessary Appointments:  Whether you need to see an oncologist, surgeon, radiologist, or need more testing, don’t wait to do it.  Sometimes it takes a while to get an appointment.  Procrastination can increase your anxiety. Looking back, you will be glad you didn’t delay. Follow your gut feelings when it comes to getting a second opinion or making decisions about treatment.  Something inside of you knows what is best for you.

Take someone with you when you first go to a surgeon or oncologist. That way, you won’t feel as alone as I did when a bald patient came out of the office shaking her head. I could only imagine the scary news she must have received, and then I worried more about what I was going to hear about myself.

Be Kind to Yourself:  It’s important to nurture and take care of yourself at this time. Do the things that make you feel happy.  Go for that massage you’ve been wanting, see a movie you’ve been thinking about, or buy a new purse or book that will perk up your spirits.  Get your sleep, eat healthy and spend more time with people you enjoy being with.  Remember it’s your turn now to put yourself first.

Continue with Your Normal Routine:   Doing normal things keeps you from obsessing or worrying about what’s ahead for you.  As much as possible, adhere to your regular schedule or go ahead with any special plans you have.  I had been looking forward to a short trip before I was diagnosed.  I choose to go through with it even though it meant I didn’t return until the day before my surgery.  Looking back, I am glad that I went, as it helped to occupy my time with enjoyable moments.  I undoubtedly went into surgery with a more relaxed, positive attitude than I would have if I had been sitting at home worrying.

Stay in the Present Moment:  As much as possible, refrain from “what if’s.”  Take one day at a time.  Tomorrow is promised to no one. Worrying about things that may never happen is useless and will stress you out.

Seek Spiritual Comfort:  If you are religiously or spiritually inclined, you may find comfort in speaking with your priest, pastor or a friend who shares your spiritual perspective.  If your present spiritual perspective does not seem to be serving you adequately, perhaps it’s time to explore some new avenues.  Visit your local bookstore and see what attracts your attention.

Both meditation and guided imagery are spiritually-related practices that are excellent for your health.  If you’ve never meditated before, this is probably not the time to begin as it does require practice and concentration.  If you have meditated before, then you might benefit from returning to a regular practice.  With guided imagery, you need only to sit back, relax and listen to a calming voice on a CD or the internet that leads you on a healing journey of images and positive feelings.  I found that listening to guided healing imagery on the internet prior to my surgery helped me stay calmer and more centered than I would have otherwise been.

It’s Okay to be Afraid: It is normal to feel some degree of fear or anxiety when facing a diagnosis of cancer.  It’s okay to cry.  Acknowledge your feelings, for they are genuinely your own, but don’t neglect to look for that pillar of strength that resides inside of you.  You’ve been through tough times in the past.  What sustained you then?  It’s still there.  Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and you will feel your strength deep inside.  I promise you it’s there.

Think Positive Thoughts: People with the most positive outlooks generally do better with cancer treatment and recovery.  Think about your life.  What are you thankful for?  Perhaps it’s a relationship, your children or your career.  Being thankful for the good things in your life has been shown to decrease depression and elevate mood. Make a habit of thinking of everything you are thankful for and feeling a sense of appreciation about it at least once a day.

Affirmations can be helpful too.  They are positive statements about “what is.” Look into your mirror in the morning and at nighttime, and say a few times out loud something positive like, “I am radiantly healthy and cancer free.”   Or, make up something that is meaningful to you.  The important thing to remember is to speak as if it is already happening now, not as a future event.

Creative visualization is another useful tool.  Sit down, relax and take a few deep breaths. Close your eyes and picture yourself healthy and doing well in life.  Imagine a neighbor saying to you, “You look well,” and you replying with a smile, “I feel great.”  Picture a visit to your doctor.  He is saying, “You are doing really well.  I am really pleased with your test results.  Keep up the good work.”  Feel the joy!

Most importantly, use this whole experience to look at where you are in your life.  What matters to you?  What is working and not working?  What is it time to let go of?  What haven’t you done, that you’ve wanted to do?  This glimpse of your own mortality can lead you to a richer, more fulfilling life…one that you truly value and love.

www.shirleysorbello.com

Change

     The necessity of change is difficult for many of us to accept. There is no doubt that sudden unexpected change such as the death of a loved one is devastating. Some are able to integrate loving memories of their dear one into a life that moves ahead. Others lead limited lives by failing to accept the unwanted change in circumstances.

     It’s often easier to accept less tragic, more gradual change, especially if you are younger. If you’ve lived more than a few decades you’ve seen numerous shifts in culture, ways of thinking and lifestyles. When we are young it seems easier to flow with these changes. As we age, however, flowing with change tends to become more difficult. When we get older, we sometimes nurture a desire to return to the safety or “sanity” of the childhood years, or the beauty and agility of our younger glory days. Too many past thoughts blind us to the present, and we fail to see and appreciate all that’s worthwhile right in front of us.

     A fully lived life necessitates a reasonable degree of adaptability. Accept the idea that nothing stays the same. It’s the only thing that’s certain in life. Learn to accept what you can’t change. If you have no control over the circumstances, there’s nothing you can do about it. You can’t change other people, only the way you react to them. Moreover, if you are unhappy, take the necessary steps to make the changes you can control. Don’t allow anxiety and fear to dominate your actions.

     If you seek more peace and fulfillment in your life, remember to live in the present moment. Every second is precious; don’t waste time reliving the past or dreaming too much about the future. Being grateful for all the good things in your life presently, will bring you even more reasons to be grateful down the road. Flow through the rough spots and live each day fully. You can’t move ahead, or live your best life, with your head stuck in the past.

Creativity: The Doorway to the Soul

Do you have a hobby, or better yet, a profession, that you can joyfully lose yourself in for hours? The keyword here is “joyful,” as in follow your bliss. Something you enjoy that takes you out of your left brain, conscious mind and puts you in contact with the right brain, unconscious mind, invites soul communication.

The soul speaks to us through dreams, strong emotions, gut feelings, music, beauty in all forms, intuition and symbols. When we disengage, even partially, from our conscious mind, it allows us to open the channel to the soul as we put the right brain to work, occupying our time with an activity we love or are inspired by.

It doesn’t matter whether it is art, music, photography, or poetry. The road to the soul is one that stimulates the imagination and takes you out of your logical, left brain. Watching a colorful sunset, sitting in a wooded forest next to a babbling brook or even reading great fiction while it paints pictures in your mind are all soulful activities.

Why is communicating with the soul important? The more you tune into what your soul wants to share, the sooner your life experience changes from back and white into shades of color. You are utilizing both sides of your brain for a richer life experience. Your soul knows what’s best for you and so will you.

Getting It Back

This is an article that I wrote as a guest blogger for Gilda Evans in April 2014. In today’s busy world, it is easy to lose oneself…to get so caught up in daily activites or the lives of others, that we forget what is most important – ourselves! A strong sense of self will guide you down life’s pathway to your goals and give you the strength and resilience to be available to others in a loving, healthy way.

The relationship with yourself is the most important one you’ll ever have. At birth, we know nothing other than to be our true selves and have little awareness of our surroundings as we begin to bond with those who care for us. Soon, however, we slowly begin to learn that we are not the center of the universe—that all of our actions are not acceptable and that not all of our desires get fulfilled.

Our self-image is gradually molded during our formative years. In childhood, parental demands and expectations begin to chip away at our self-concept. When we become teenagers, the desire to fit in often supersedes our desire and ability to be our true self. Some of us spend a lifetime trying to reclaim this birthright—the ability to be genuinely ourselves and to feel good about it.

Getting it back means taking a good look at yourself, pros and cons, and fully accepting “you” exactly the way you are. Recognize that you don’t need anyone or anything else to make you whole. Of course, this is easier said than done because we do need to have relationships with others. Too often, however, these relationships take too much away from us, and we lose more even of ourselves.

A healthy relationship is one in which two individuals, who are whole and complete in themselves, come together to delight and share in each other’s lives. These relationships are honest, supportive and loving whether they be friendship or romance. The fact is that you cannot be in this type of relationship fully with another until you first have it with yourself.

For those who need a little help, here are some tips to get you there:

1. Buy a journal or notebook and begin to write about your hopes and dreams, your feelings, your experiences during the day, etc. This is an excellent way to get to know and understand yourself better. You might even try writing a few love notes to yourself.

2. Make a list of your pros and cons without judging. Accept that this is the way you are and begin to love yourself unconditionally. Everyone else has their own pros and cons—no one is perfect. Stop comparing yourself to others; no one is better or less than another, just different.

3. Take note of what makes you unique and different from others you know. This is the treasure that you are meant to give to the world. Focus on developing and sharing more of your special qualities.

4. Take five minutes a day to look at yourself in the mirror and say positive affirmations such as, “I love and accept myself just the way I am.”

5. Remember to treat yourself as kindly and lovingly as you do the person whom you love the most. Take time out to be good to yourself. Make a date with yourself to do or buy something special.

Waiting for Twilight

Those of you who have followed me for a while know that one of my favorite local places is Riverwinds, in West Deptford, NJ. It’s a place where I go to relax, think and renew my spirit as I stare at the Delaware River flowing by.

Across the river is the busy Philadelphia airport, far enough away that only occasionally are my thoughts interrupted by the sounds of a jet engine.  In the last photo,  the warm glow of sunset has faded, and night is descending on the city of Philadelphia as the lights begin to come on.

It’s important to have a go-to place when we need a little clarity in our lives. There’s nothing like sitting by the water to give life a little perspective (for me at least).

 

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