Susan Ortolano, M.A., CMRC, PCC
Intuitive Life & Relationship Coach

Archive for July, 2009

You Are Cordially Invited


It is certainly a great feeling to now have some amazing friends. Living with chronic illness means I need to pick and choose who I see, when I see them, where I go. If I’m invited to climb mountains and bungee jump, I’m sorry, but I’m “so” not going.

One of the issues that has come forward for me over the years is the painful task of respectfully declining well-intentioned invitations. I really appreciate the fact that I’m still actually invited to things, given that I have had to care for myself more gently and say no to a lot of things. I’ve missed many family events, weddings, funerals, parties, gatherings, lunches, dinners, spiritual rites of passage, holiday food feasts, and countless workshops that I wish I could have attended. It has been a great lesson for me to understand that “no” doesn’t mean “I don’t care about you” nor does it mean “you are not important to me”. No generally means “I can’t get my ass out of the bed”, “I can’t stand up today”, or “I can’t sit on my ass in the car long enough to even get there.”

Although there have been several occasions where the real truth was “I wouldn’t go regardless” or “who are you again?”, but won’t get into that right now…

There have been several times where I have had to choose between accepting an invitation or going to an event when my body really wasn’t up for it, and staying home, honoring my physical circumstances and being “disowned” (so far, my friends and family have kept me around) or missing something really important to me.

So, how do I decide?

I like to categorize my relationships, which often helps me make decisions when it comes to invitations. I have Level 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 people. Level 5 people would be my postal worker, the check-out people at Whole Foods market, etc. and I don’t think they will invite me anywhere, but it helps illustrate my point.

Level 1 people are my nearest and dearest. They are my inner circle, my go-to people, the ones who really want me to accept the invitation, but truly understand if I don’t.

Level 2 people are dear friends, some use to be Level 1 friends, often have moved on a bit, but still stay connected. Some just never got to Level 1, but it’s mutual. These are people I care deeply about, would love to be able to see them more often, but just don’t always feel moved to do so.

Level 3 people are friends, but generally the ones who are associated with a workplace or organization I belong to. We only really see each other while involved in a common circumstance and are fond of one another, but don’t make much of an effort beyond that.

Level 4 people are people who were just acquaintances in those circumstances and while it is nice to say hello and all, there isn’t much effort made beyond that.

I take this into account when an invitation comes in. Most of my invitations come from Level 1 and 2 people, or Level 1 and 2 family members (family has its own Level 1-5, which I will discuss at a later date). Unfortunately, even in the best of health, I’m not going to say yes to everything and I have to prioritize. Living with chronic illness has me put my well-being at the top of the priority list most of the time and I’ve learned to release the fear that if I say no, people will not like me anymore. I have to be true to myself in any given moment and that means sometimes saying no and allowing people to deal with their response to that. I’m not in charge of how people respond; I can’t control any of it. I am just in charge of being as authentic and loving as I can be, and I have learned some amazing tools to help me release the need to please everyone, so I can be in better balance in my life.

I love my friends, I love my family, and would love to celebrate, share, and be at every milestone event, holiday and gathering, but that’s just sadly not going to work for me, and generally doesn’t work for the healthiest people either.

One thing I can say is thank God for e-mail, texting, and Facebook!

Good Riddance!


Friends have always been an important part of my  life. I’m so blessed at this time to have amazing friends. Throughout my journey with chronic illness, several people have decided to drop out of my life for various reasons. A few people just couldn’t “handle” what was going on with me. They weren’t in a place to be able to offer support; they didn’t want to hear about my illness; or they were more outdoor adventure types who weren’t interested in a friend who suddenly needed to be more home bound. Some just happened to be friends who were only friends based on a common experience, such as work, or an organization I belonged to.

Initially I was truly sad to see people go and took the exits personally. I finally realized that there was only so much of “me” to go around and that my new level of self-care and health circumstances required adjustments in every area of my life. In the area of friends and community, I was able to see that these adjustments were happening “for me” rather than to me. This experience also offered me an opportunity to choose who I wanted in my life. I was able to take a closer look at my requirements, needs, and wants for friendship and really became aware that I was “complete” with those who were exiting my life. Whatever purpose our connection had served for the time we were friends had been accomplished and it was an appropriate time for us to part ways. I could then choose who I really wanted to spend time with, chat with by phone or even email. Through this experience, I felt a new sense of empowerment as one who could be selective rather then one who was obligated to spend time with people I really didn’t fully enjoy thinking I had no good reason to decline.

It’s been interesting to see who has stayed and who has gone. I learned that I could look at it from the point of view of the “poor abandoned me” perspective or I could view it as a necessary “cleansing” of sorts and trust that the ones who left were ultimately no longer a healthy fit for me.

So, if you are living with chronic illness and are watching people walk away from you, trust that it is for your highest good that they leave; bless them and say “good riddance.” You will be happy to know that new friends who are in alignment with your energy and can love you as you are will enter your life. I’m so grateful for the time I had and all I learned from those who have crossed my path. My time and energy are valuable and I ultimately want to spend them with friends who can be with me unconditionally and love me as I am.