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    Hi K,

    I am intimately familiar with your situation. I understand your suffering completely. As a person who has had my own past issues with a sister whom I love and wish for nothing but her happiness but have no contact with by her choice, I hope you find some of what I counsel helpful.

    As difficult as it may seem, maybe try to take the labels away from this relationship and view each other as just human beings. Part of the issue here is that she is your religious and conservative sister. While labels may be intrinsically true they are obstacles that can stop one from objectively seeing another being. You both are beings on this earth, you both are suffering, and you both desire happiness. While these are three truths, how you approach suffering and happiness is an individual experience and we are only capable of choosing for ourselves how we do this. Her beliefs and boundaries are her own and although we may not agree or like them it is not up to us discount them.

    In my sister’s and my case I don’t agree with her choice but I respect that it is her choice. Years ago I let this decision invade my life on a regular basis. I let it tell me I must have done something to deserve this and then swing to anger for her “ridiculous” beliefs and then be sad because I felt like I lost my sister and then be resentful for her trying to nasty to me when I was being kind in return. I gave the whole situation too much power and let it fester. I know now that I let it control my feelings about myself and others in an unhealthy and negative way much more than I would have believed.

    When the hurt is recent it can be difficult to let it go, however it is already in your past. The past will not change no matter how much we dwell on it and more often the dwelling has negative effects on your present state. When you find yourself dwelling on a negative situation try stopping for just a moment and breathe. Inhale and exhale for a few repetitions. From here there are any number of ways of handling the negativity. First you can internalize gratitude. Be grateful for the breath and the moment you are in. You were never guaranteed this moment and yet you have it. Gratitudes are a tremendous way to replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts. It helps to bring peace and calm to you. Secondly, try to be compassionate to yourself. Recognize that you are suffering and truly want to alleviate it.

    Let go of what you believe others think about you and believe that you are worthy of loving and belonging. Keep your thoughts and words kind first to yourself and then to others. Know that there is nothing you need to change to make your self acceptable to others. Learn what you desire within you and not what anyone else wants you of you. Make your choices with compassion, tolerance, and in peace and you will nothing but true to yourself.

    A final thought; Although it is difficult to just let things be that is probably the best thing to do. That is my suggestion but of course you will ultimately have to make that decision.

    I hope you can find peace,


    I recognize that you have had many significant events in your life recently that are difficult to process. Your sadness and feelings of loss are obvious. I hope I am understanding your dilemma and can offer some words of support.

    Your past has had some difficulties but it also appears you hope for a better future. It also seems as though you believe some force out side of yourself has led you to this point and you believe you had/need to change. A few things on these perspectives that I would counsel as I see it.

    First, your past is your past. I know that sounds too simple but think about this. It happened, it will not change, you dwelling on it will not change it, and most likely dwelling on the past does nothing to help you today. It only causes disruptions to your ability to find peace. If it is not having a positive effect on your life right now then it is a negative influence. Unfortunately, negativity seems to take very little energy to gain strength and disrupt peace. I am not saying you need to be happy all the time but not to dwell on the past that has negative effects. Where you can, accept the apologies that you never received. Also, when you meditate try to focus on gratitudes. Gratitudes fill us with happiness. Practice being grateful for the simple things. Be grateful for this moment, your breath, mobility, or intelligence. You were never guaranteed these things and yet at this very moment they are happening to you and you are alive and here to enjoy them again at this moment.

    Also, she can not see what you want her to see because it is something she has to do. We can not change anyone. The only person we can be responsible for is ourselves.

    The person you are today is probably not that significantly more different than who you were in the past, possibly more aware and hopeful, but the same? I also look at changes more as obstacles. To me obstacles in life are merely lessons that shape my desires, intentions, and efforts. I am presented new opportunities, challenges, and choices everyday and how I choose to respond directly effects the outcome. I strive to chose compassion, tolerance, and peace, and when I find myself responding in another way I simply refocus myself and go back to myself and try it again. There is no failure or wrong way. Simply re-attempts and refocusing. If you are practicing this everyday then the “changes” you want her to “see” will be known.

    I hope this has been helpful.




    While I can sympathize with your confusion, frustration and suffering, I also believe Mark has given you some good advice.

    Sitting down and breathing and bringing yourself to the present will help tremendously to calm your being. The only person you can truly help in this situation is yourself. You are the only person you can change. The past has happened and no amount of focusing on what has happened is going to change that. To also sit and dwell on a future that you envision will happen is only a fantasy. You have no guarantee that what you believe to be perfect in the future will be especially when you are projecting others into this vision of the future.

    Also, as you sit and breathe, notice what thoughts come to mind. If it is not positive then try to let it go. Reliving what you believe someone did to you? Accept the apology you never received. Insulting your self for actions of the past? They can not be changed. Be aware and resolve to not repeat. Also think of these negative voices/ideas as something separate from yourself. Would you continue to listen and hang out with someone who talked to you this way all the time? If your answer is no, then replace those negative voices and ideas with something positive.

    I find the most basic way to develop a positive attitude is to have gratitude for my breath. When a I breathe, I know I am alive at that moment. I was never guaranteed this moment and yet it is a gift life gives me. I am grateful for my breath. I am grateful for this moment. I am grateful for living. Try replacing some of your negatives with this gratitude. Be grateful for mobility and intelligence. They are tremendous gifts.

    I hope this is helpful and you find your peace,


    I can understand your frustration and sadness in this situation. One thing I would like to say, which I believe you have already touched on, is that you can not control other people or situations. The only person you can change is yourself.

    It is worrisome that you appear to be living in a “toxic” situation. This type of situation is not good for anyone, even the bully. If you are not living in a positive environment then it is a negative environment and negativity needs little to be nourished especially if it has become a habitual behavior.

    Only you can make the decision about what is best for you. Your options seem to be simple in idea but either are difficult to put to practice. Either way you need a support group or person outside of your situation to help guide you.

    First,know that you are all beings, you are all suffering, and you all desire happiness. You can practice compassion for yourself first and then for others. Recognize you are suffering and then find something to be grateful for. It can be something as simple as “I breathe right now and I am alive. I was not guaranteed this momemt and yet I am experiencing it.” It is a most basic feeling of gratitude that anyone can practice. When you feel like you are losing your calm or peace, refocus on this gratitude. Smile and find your happiness at this moment. Eventually you will be to also internalize their suffering as well and still be able to find your own peace. This does take great amounts of practice. It is not something that occurs overnight. Sometimes this practice can change the dynamics between people.

    Second, would be to remove yourself from the negative situation. Unfortunatly, no matter how much you are willing to try, accept, learn, and forgive the only possible route is to leave. This is especially important if you are being bullied regardless of whether it is emotional or physical. You must be compassionate to your situation and what should be done for your well being.

    I will hope the best and a calm and speedy solution.


    Hi Daniella,

    I regret to read that you are having such a difficult time. I have also spent many years with anxiety, depression, and attending counseling. I was also on anti depressants for about four years along with my counseling, and while I may not have been bed-ridden or institutionalized, I was not happy. I am not saying that you should not take anti depressants or not seek counseling; Only that I could not rely on them to “cure” my depression or more accurately, bring me happiness.

    When I read your post two things spoke to me. First I read and see primarily mention of the past and future; Secondly, there seems to be negative voices/thoughts invading your mind. What I hope is that the following will help both.

    Take some time in your day to sit down, slow down and or meditate. While you are sitting focus on a natural and peaceful breath. As you are comfortable and breathing naturally think about that exact moment when you inhale and exhale. That moment was not guaranteed to happen and it did. Try to think about that and to be grateful it happened. Then when that is through, try this again with the next breath you take. Doing this may help to bring your attention to the present. It may take some practice but will become easier each time you try. This is also taking the time to fill your mind with a positive voice/thought. By replacing the negative with something positive it allows peace and happiness to come to the surface.

    I believe we all have peace and happiness inside of us that lives in the present moment. We all must find the way to that spot as it works for each of us. Be kind to yourself. You are amazing and once you see this many others will also.



    All of your comments have been absolutely helpful. It is a tremendous comfort to read the support and kindness you have all extended towards me and knowing that you are all coming from a place of compassion.

    At the moment I was replying last night I was feeling hopeless about our relationship. It was very late and a simple request for some display of kindness after being treated indifferently all evening ended with him mockingly saying what would really make him happy is if I would actually clean out the laundry room. At that moment I was just doing everything I could do to concentrate on my breath and where I was sitting.

    This morning I sat down to continue reading “The Art of Happiness”. I was at the part where the interviewer had just lost it in Delhi at the cab driver and the ah-ha that resulted when I had my own ah-ha! Just because I don’t believe me cleaning the laundry room will give him true happiness does not mean that it won’t. It does me no harm to do it and it is something that needs to be done. I got up, collected my cleaning supplies, got out the boxes for sorting out all the old clothes and shoes that needed to be donated and got to work, cheerfully. I felt like a weight had been lifted. He expressed a little interest in what I was doing but for the most part acted like he didn’t even know I was doing anything. I had even pulled the dryer out and disconnected to vent hose to make sure it didn’t have a build up of dust when he came to the doorway and stood there for a moment. I asked if he needed something. He said he had looked up movie times and thought we could all go see Frozen but I would need to get ready now if we were going to make it on time. I said ok.

    Although the afternoon was pleasant but not affectionate, it happened, which is unusual now days. I am not fooling myself into believing that this is the turn around but at this moment it is a start. I was also able to work into a conversation about the death of his friend and my cousin, both which happened not to long ago and at our ages now, on the way home that I am able to find happiness at nearly any moment because I am grateful for each moment as it happens because we are not guaranteed the next and how from that gratefulness I find happiness. I told him that it was only an idea that occurred every so often a year ago but now I find myself thinking that way most times. He didn’t say anything, but he also didn’t ridicule me or belittle me, which I was prepared to receive.

    One moment at a time, I will continue to breath and be grateful. I will find the right path and I believe it will be revealed with clarity. As for today it is still foggy but I am ok with that.


    Thank you for your response. I do mostly just try to demonstrate by actions because conversation is cyclic and draining for me. As I was telling Chris above, I have tried to explain that I would appreciate attempts at kindness and given examples.

    I have also talked about how we as beings can not base our happiness on our perceived actions of others because we can not control what other people do. He told me that happiness is something that only happens once in a great while and that no one can really be happy.

    One of his great leaves is that we have a cat and two dogs. Our extended family members have given myself and the boys numerous joyous occasions in our times together. I know we would not have laughed near as many times if they had not been here. My husband is not an animal lover and he says every time he sees them he thinks that the money he works for is being wasted on their food and he can believe that I would ever allow more than one animal into our house after I learned how much a waste of time he believes them to be. I asked if he could maybe just consider to replace that negative feeling with the thought that these animals bring laughter in to my home more often than not and to please try not to let it make him angry. He snorted, “why would I do that”.

    I keep believing that if I can forgive, find peace, and the way to be kind that he can too. I suppose that since I am to this point where I am reaching out I am probably looking for someone to tell me what to do although I know in my heart I have the answer.

    Is it compassionate to walk away from such a long marriage? I have spent half my life with him. We have already raised three sons who are on their own and are beautiful and intelligent souls. We have one son, our big surprise-you-are-parents-again, left at home.


    Thank you for your two cents. I believe part of the problem between us was that the relationship we have lived was based primarily on both our conditioned and learned behaviors. It’s just that when faced with something that seemed insurmountable I happened on a way that brought me some peace and clarity.

    We are both atheists although we were both raised in God fearing families. While I do have respect for others beliefs and right to believe what they choose he views it as an ignorant weakness.

    I have spoke to him about attempting to be kind and he says he is not being unkind. I have stated my perception of the difference in this statement and given examples of what I consider to be kind (ie., I’m going into the kitchen. Would you like me to bring you something to drink?, I saw this at the store and thought it looked like something you would like.) and that doesn’t even mean that he has to do something but to maybe consider to not say something negative even though he is thinking it. His response was, “Well, I don’t know what you want me to do or not do, say or not say.” I honestly don’t believe I can be clearer.

    I do feel he has no desire to change. I guess it is difficult for me to accept that this is a real possibility.


    Wow! Is right. Beautifully written and poignant.

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