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

Archive for September, 2009

Finding Beauty…

bigstockphoto_Colors_Of_Love_2457177Size-wise, I was never really a “twig” but always maintained a thin frame, worked out and ate consciously. I was not what our culture considered ‘gorgeous’, but was considered attractive to many people. I have always loved using make up and even though I have unusual (actually more like possessed) hair, I always tried to do my best with it.

 One of the things that happened to me with the illness was I put on close to 30 lbs. of swelling and inflammation and had a red rash over part of my face. It was hard to find clothing that was loose, attractive and comfortable, and even more challenging to find shoes. The worst of it for me was the fact that I had little control. Here I had all of this extra weight on me and I hadn’t even earned it!! If I had eaten my way to the weight gain, I could deal with that, but having it have nothing to do with my food intake and no way to control it, I just had to work with the feelings that came up and learn to deal with what I saw in my own reflection. Although I’m blessed to have a wonderful husband who finds me beautiful at any size, I was having trouble seeing it myself.

 Being ill is just not quite an obvious pathway to feeling beautiful and sexy. There were so many moments of frustration, tears and sadness when I felt I had lost my “time” to look youthful, shiny and attractive. Aging was also setting in and I felt I had missed out on some of my physical “prime” way too soon as I was in my 30s when the illness began.

 With no control of the situation, I had a couple of options. I could be miserable about it (and there were days when I actually chose that route) or I could work on letting go of what I learned through our cultural programming and learn to see the beauty in the reflection staring back at me.

 Here are some questions I would ask myself:

What do I see when I look in the mirror?

What thoughts and feelings come up around that?

Could I let go of those thoughts and feelings? (that sometimes take a while)

What about my reflection do I like and appreciate today? (even if it’s just a little bit)

What beauty can I see when I look in my eyes?

 After a while, I began to see beauty beyond the physical body. We all have it and when we look deep enough, we can see it, feel it and own it. It’s an inner beauty, a spiritual beauty and one that emanates through the soul. I was stunned by that discovery and have learned to look deeper, especially on days where my physical look isn’t what I hope for. I now can enjoy carrying it with me knowing it is always there.

 I’m grateful I can look beyond the “sagging, bagging and dragging” and learn to see the beauty that is ever present and never changes. When we can really see our own beauty, we can see it in other places as well.

Ebb and Flow…

 bigstockphoto_Stream_160947                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      As a Coach, I work with people living with chronic and life-changing illness and help them to learn to love life again. I used to believe that it meant I had to put on a bright shiny happy face every day and I was no longer allowed to be angry. And, if I got angry, I had to work it through as quickly as possible so I could then present shiny happy Susan again.

 I also thought I really wasn’t supposed to have issues anymore or think any negative thoughts because a Life and Relationship Coach is supposed to be happy and positive all the time. I even thought, as a spiritual person, I had to be “blissed out”, and always calm and cool, completely fine with however the world was, is, or might be.

 So here’s the thing. I do have a life I love, however that doesn’t mean I don’t want to shift a few things, that I never get angry about anything, or that I don’t have old issues to heal.

 I can still love my life and be mad that my phone lines weren’t working today, that Whole Foods didn’t have the dark organic chocolate bar that I wanted, and that I have something on my face that wasn’t there last year or that my leg was really hurting yesterday.

 In order to really let go of something and allow it to release, sometimes I just have to let it be there first, for as long as I choose. Sometimes I do want to swear at the guy who cut me off on the freeway, or don’t like how my meat was cooked at the restaurant or even get frustrated if I didn’t get a good night’s sleep and feel that lack of sleep icky feeling.

 What is important is that I allow it all to be, give it its moment and then use the wonderful tools I have to release the energy. I also have learned to look at how I respond to whatever is going ok; what thoughts and feelings are triggered up in that moment; and know that those issues are really coming up for healing.

 I have learned that all is unfolding for me, for my highest good and the first step is to allow myself to embrace it. I’m grateful that although I still have my “stuff”, I’ve noticed I clear it out and release it all much more quickly than before and am present to peace, gratitude, and joy much more than ever – and that is a true blessing.

Even as a Coach, I’m allowed to have my ebb and flow and still know that I love my life.

For those who crossed my path on those darker days, my sincerest apologies. I also know that whatever came up on your end was divinely perfect for you, too!

Bon Voyage

bigstockphoto_Sandals_And_Flowers_On_A_Hawai_5086794 Ain’t travelling grand! People get so excited about going places, taking trips, having adventures. Europe, cruises, bungee jumping off some cliff in Mexico, visiting some Shaman in the rainforest, enjoying skiing in the Swiss Alps, lying on a beautiful beach in Hawaii, even enjoying the crazy inner child fun of Disneyworld are all exciting vacation ideas… The world has so much beauty to see!

With chronic illness, it can be quite a different scenario.

 Once I was able to get around locally, the next step was to see if I could travel beyond Los Angeles County. It had been about 3 years since I had gone anywhere and my Mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She lives about 7 hours away, and it was important for me to be there for her. There wasn’t much that would keep me away from her given her circumstance and I somehow gathered the strength to go. It actually was a great triumph for me because I made it through the trip. It was difficult getting there, but once I settled in, my pain lightened up a bit and I was able to focus on helping my Mom. As I search through the memory of my experience, I remember my time with her, helping her wash her hair as she couldn’t lift her arms, spending time with her, my Step-Father, and other family members who had gathered, and not as much about my level of pain.

 In 2007 I was on an upswing and we went on 6 trips! Wow! I could not have imagined 6 trips in one year! I have to say it still wasn’t so graceful but I was determined to make it work each time as we prepared to leave. There was so much to pack as I need to take a lot of things with me for medical support and by the time I finished packing, I was exhausted, never mind that we then had a 6-hour car ride or a flight to catch. Fibromyalgia affects my legs so walking and sitting up for me has been very painful. I remember my Dad wanting us to come to see him and my Step-Mom and saying to me “but it’s only a 5-hour drive.”  “That’s the problem” was my response as he didn’t realize how painful it was for me to sit up in a car without my legs elevated.

 Most of our travels have been to Sedona Method and Release Technique retreats in Monterey, family visits/events, and a Palliative Care conference for my husband. I was so excited that I seemed well enough to go and although it was very difficult for me, again, it was a triumph. Once more no matter what kind of pain I was in or how difficult the travelling was, when I search my memory, what comes forward is the experience I had beyond the pain. In Sedona, I was mesmerized by the beauty of the red rocks, the feeling of the spiritual energy that permeates the vortexes, and the insights and clearing I had at the retreat. In Monterey, I was taken by the sounds of the waves and the stillness of spirit in the air and the connections we made, the oneness we felt with all of the people there. In New Mexico…ok, so it was all about the jewelry, but so much damn fun to shop! There was always fine dining, laughter, and gratitude. Visits with family meant time with my nieces, lots of food, and more laughter.

 These are the memories I take away with me.

 In 2008, I had the appearance of a relapse and became bedridden for a while again, and this meant no travelling for me. It was very hard to then say no to my family, cancel another retreat we had planned, and say no to even some local events. Earlier this yearI began to improve and just recently, went away to see a friend get married. It was challenging physically for me, quite painful in fact, but the memories I have are of my friend and his beloved taking their vows on a lovely beach as we were all moved to tears, dining with lovely people during the reception, and watching folks act crazy on the dance floor.

 I have a strong vision that I will improve again and be able to make longer treks, but in the meantime, family, friends and the beauty that life has to offer are all always right here, right now just where I am, at home and in my heart.