Thursday, May 31, 2007


Yesterday I had a meeting with one of my favourite people who works in the homeless sector. Just by typing that phrase, I should mention, I am contributing to something we talked about yesterday in our meeting. The labelling -- the homeless -- to define certain people in our society. Individuals are not 'the homeless'. They are experiencing homelessness -- but using the term 'the homeless', while convenient for me, is pejorative to those I apply it to.

One of the issues we discussed was NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) and how to decrease it, or at least to limit its affects on efforts to build affordable housing, shelters, treatment centres, etc., in neighbourhoods. NIMBY, like The Homeless, is a pejorative term, and one often bandied about in conjunction with issues of homelessness and affordable housing -- or any change within a community that is not 100% supported by everyone.

Take for example the case of the temporary shelter set up in the former Brick Building this past winter in Calgary. Community members were pretty unanimous in their support of the need for the shelter but split in their opinions about its location. Heated discussions, in which the 'against' camp's concerns were lumped into the NIMBY basket resulted in shame, guilt, and anger being dumped on the heads of the nay-sayers. In the end, the shelter was opened, the supporters walked away feeling good about themselves and their contributions to helping those in need, while those whose concerns had been shouted down, walked away feeling unheard.

Ultimately, any debate around the location of homeless shelters, treatment centres, halfway houses and affordable housing results in accusations of NIMBYism. You're either for us or against us. And if you're against us, there's only one reason, NIMBYism.

Applying NIMBYism to the actions of those who do not agree with a proposed change or new development is a simple way for the proponents of any avenue of change to drown out the voices of those who speak out against their plans.

What if the opponents are not thinking about NIMBYism as much as speaking out about their fears; their concerns for the safety of their families within their community and fears of the breakdown of the social network that creates value in their lives and in their community.

What if we were to look at people who oppose a shelter or a treatment centre or any other social service in their community not as NIMBYs, but simply as an opportunity to reach out to create stronger community? For NIMBYism to be present in the debate, both sides must draw a line in the sand, a demarcation zone where the 'fors' are the moral right, and the NIMBYs end up dead wrong.

People whose views differ from mine are not wrong in their thinking. They simply come with a differing point of view. To reach accord, we need to both be heard, honoured and respected. We need to ask questions to understand, not to judge, and we need to listen with our minds and hearts open to possibility, not closed to the impossibility of change.

NIMBY, like most labels, is a convenient term that allows us off the hook of being accountable for how and what we do when making decisions involving someone else's life. We may live in the same communities, but if my decisions affect you adversely, to ensure you are presumed wrong, I will label you with NIMBY, which means even before we discuss our differences, you are on the defensive and I am on the attack.

Take "the Brick" shelter for example. Anyone who stood up and spoke out against it was immediately dumped into the bucket of NIMBYism. With one acronym, they were labelled lacking in social conscience. We didn't have to ask questions as to their needs, their fears, their concerns. We didn't even need to find out if they gave service to their communities or to other people. We knew it all. They were narrow-minded, alarmist, lacking in compassion NIMBYs. Why bother to try to talk to them? They weren't going to change. But, seeing as we're not NIMBY's, even though our minds are made up, let's give them a chance to speak. Let's have a meeting where both sides of the argument can speak up. At least they can't say we didn't give them a forum to voice their concerns.

In our morally right condescension, neighbours were alienated and and a rift opened up in the fabric of the community. Rather than creating a community built on cooperation, compassion, shared values and a commitment to understanding what makes a community rich, what makes a civil society work, we built fences. Walls. Us and them. Your side. My side. Winners. Losers.

What if those who spoke out against the Brick shelter were compassionate, caring, open minded individuals with a different opinion? Whose concern for their community gave them the courage to stand up as they struggled to understand what the shelter meant to their community, to their lives?

What if they turned up to the meetings without the label NIMBY? Would we have heard them differently? Would they have spoken differently?

What if we'd listened without the label of NIMBY at the forefront of our minds and instead walked in with open minds asking questions to understand not to judge, but rather willing to hear differing points of view, different ideas, different perspectives.

Then again, what if we treated those who are different than us, those who have different points of view, without the labels we attach to people we do not understand? What if we saw every experience as the opportunity to create more of what we want in our lives? What if we saw other people not as 'different' but rather as people who like us have needs, goals, dreams, ideas, issues, concerns that manifest differently than ours, but are no less right nor wrong. They're simply different.

What if we experience people without the label of 'the homeless' defining their place in our society? What if we saw them as people needing help, individuals in distress, human beings struggling to make sense of where they got lost on the road of life? Rather than judging what brought them down, what if we asked what can we do to help them get back up?

I heard an awesome quote the other day. I can't remember who said it but I want to share it, it speaks to a different point of view of how we spend our time here on earth, "Service to our communities, to other people, to society is the rent we pay for the space we take up on earth."

Service is the rent I pay for the time I spend on earth.

Hmmmm.... Like it. Works for me!

Have an awesome day everyone. Be of service. Open your minds to new possibilities. Look at people and encounters through different glasses and find value not just in the events of your day, but in all people as well. They're worth it and so are you.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Telling stories on myself

On Saturday I stood in front of an audience of victim support professionals and told the story of my descent into hell of an abusive relationship and my journey into well-being. When I was standing in front of the audience I told them that I was revealing myself through my story to inspire others to stand up and find their voices.

Telling our stories without fear of being judged or feeling 'less than' takes courage. It takes a strong convinction that in the telling I will not be harmed or dragged through the hell of the memories of that relationship again. If I tell my story and am emotionally connected to the events, then I am still emotionally at risk. If I tell my story without tears clogging my throat, and my eyes becoming misty, I am confident in myself, and assured that my story is not being told to garner pity or to hurt myself, but rather to help others heal. Make sense?

In life, we are always telling stories on ourselves. Think about the last time you told a story about yourself. It could be as simple as the story about the guy who cut you off in traffic and then promptly drove into the back-end of a Hummer. Or, it could be the time you stood in line at the grocery story and the mother spanked her little boy and you intervened.

Telling stories is a natural part of our daily lives. Some of us are more adept at painting word pictures while others are more adept at creating emotional connections. Regardless of how we tell our stories, there are two main reasons we do so:
  • To protect ourselves
  • To reveal ourselves

When we tell a story to protect ourselves, we use the events of what happened to paint a better picture of ourselves. Generally, we focus on making ourselves look good in the re-telling of what happened by making someone else look bad. Now, this isn't a vicious attack on someone else kind of story-telling. It's often just the slight adjustment of the events to put a better spotlight on what we did versus what they did. You know, the adding into the retelling of the story the things we wished we'd said intead of what we actually said at the time.

Like, when your boss comes in and tells you your sales report is late. At the time, your response was a I know. I know. I'm working on it. But, in the retelling later that day over drinks with your co-workers, you add that you told the boss the five things wrong with the product, marketing, the sales plan and how it is impossible to meet the targets because..... Everyone at the bar nods their heads in agreement followed by a heated conversation about what's wrong with the company and how you are all victims of bad management.

In the retelling, you've added elements to protect yourself so that you don't have to be accountable for not getting your sales reports in on time. You've enhanced the story to take the spotlight off your late sales reports by encouraging their collusion in finding fault with management. That way you don't have to find solutions to your lagging performance. Protecting the ego through tearing down the cause of the 'fear' becomes more important than building up self-esteem through achievement.

The other night, my friend and I came back to my house after dinner to continue our conversation. When I walked in I realized I hadn't checked my phone messages for a few days as I'm stilling house-sitting my friends' dog. Without thinking, I picked up the phone and checked my messages. One message was from the mother of the young man who had been staying with my daughters. He had been 'kicked' out of his home and had no where to go. The girls decided they wanted to help him out and after asking me if it was okay, they let him stay for a few days. I asked my friend if it was all right if I quickly called her back, and he said yes. A quick phone call turned into a longer conversation about her son and the situation he's in.

At one point, my friend motioned he was leaving and I realized what I'd done. I ended the conversation and apologized to my friend. He was gracious enough to accept my apology without settling into defensive anger and we sat and chatted for awhile longer.

After he left I thought about what I'd done -- I'd hurt my friend. I'd been rude, and not very compassionate. I also learned a valuable lesson.

Paying attention in the moment means I'm doing what is right and honest and caring of those I'm with. When I slip out of the moment into other places, I risk hurting people I love. I walked into the house, picked up the phone to check messages and disregarded the reason my friend and I had come back to chat. I promptly wrote my friend a note of apology and gratitude. He'd helped me awaken to where my behaviour was inappropriate and where I could do better.

I told that story to reveal myself. When I did what I did, I didn't look very good! In fact, I looked like an inconsiderate, selfish, thoughtless -- lol -- you get the picture! In looking at my actions, I was able to see what was true for me in that situation and to acknowledge what I'd done so that I could apologize and make amends.

Now, if I'd told that story to protect myself I would have cushioned what I'd done with justifications of why it was sooooo important that I phone that woman asap. I mean, really, she was desperate to learn about her son and his where abouts. I'd wanted to phone her ever since her son had come to stay at the house but had committed to him that I wouldn't as he was in contact with her he told me.... Bottomline, to protect myself I would have used excuses for my bad behaviour. There is no excuse for being rude. I made the first mistake when I walked into the house to continue a conversation with a very dear friend and chose to check my phone messages -- I could have waited until after he was gone.

When I tell a story to reveal myself I am accepting my human condition, warts and all, and am open to learning from every experience. When my friend told me that what I did affected him adversely, I was given the gift of an opportunity to grow. Had I responded with excuses, I would have damaged our friendship, and created distance, rather than closeness between us. I want closeness with my friends. It is up to me to do the things that create more of what I want in life and less of what doesn't. When I do those things that take me away from my goal, it's my responsibility to take action that reverses my direction.

A wonderful lesson to carry on my journey today so that I can continue to do better in my life!

Cause, when I know better, I do better!

Telling stories on ourselves is a great way to gain clarity and understanding of what we're doing. It's important to contain those stories to what we're doing, and leave others responsible for their words and actions. Embellishing our stories, tweaking them just that little bit to ensure our excuses for bad behaviour or inconsiderate actions means we're protecting ourselves from the truth. When I'm protecting myself from the truth, I'm moving through fear. I'm letting fear drive me into defensiveness and not allowing my courage to draw me into love.

Life is about the stories we tell -- on ourselves, on others, on what happens ever day. Sometimes, we only tell our stories to ourselves. We repeat again and again in our heads the events and happenings and in the process, remind ourselves of our failures, not our successes. When we add in what we wished we'd said, or wished we'd done, we are undermining our ability to deal with what is real, so that we can grow and learn and do better with our knowledge.

Staying in the moment, staying true to myself means I am accountable for everything I do and say AND think. Embellishing my story to position myself as the victim and others as the perpetrators of my anger, discomfort, unease, pain, even if it's only in my head, means I'm lying to myself because I'm afraid of me.

Think about the stories you tell and commit to revealing your true self through your story telling. Story telling is a powerful tool. When we use it to create more of what we want, to create opportunities for honest sharing and growth, we are contributing our strength, our courage and our experience to the world around us. In our honest sharing, we create a world where more is possible and better is always achieveable.

Today, my goal is to be better than I was yesterday. My goal is to take my learning from yesterday and use it to create more of what I want and less of what I don't want.

Through my stories, I am committed to revealing myself, warts and all, so that I can continue to learn and grow and along the way, inspire others to uncover their wings and fly free.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Breathing into the space around me

My will shall shape the future. Whether I fail or succeed shall be no man's doing but my own. I am the force; I can clear any obstacle before me or I can be lost in the maze. My choice; my responsibility; win or lose, only I hold the key to my destiny.

Elaine Maxwell.

Last night I had dinner with one of my dearest friends. He is a man of quiet humour, a devilish smile and deep compassion. He is courageous, adventurous and curious. He is a man of quick wit, deep insights and quirky traits. He is perfectly human.

Our friendship dates back to a time when we were both married, both believing our lives as they were determined our lives as they would be today. We were both right -- but not in the way we thought at the time. Our marriages, relationships, choices, issues determined our lives today -- in our minds, back then however, we both agreed, we thought we'd still be married today.

That's the thing about the future. It is not something that can be corralled like a calf, lassoed up, tied down and held still for 7 seconds until the flag drops, the judge nods it's safe to let it go and we step back to see what happens. There is no point when it's safe to let go of today so we can unleash tomorrow. Tomorrow happens in its own sweet time. Today is all we've got. Whether we live fully in today, or skate into tomorrow knowing we left unrequited moments behind, tomorrow happens without our intervention. The value in tomorrow lies in the value we place in today. When we find value in every moment of today, tomorrow becomes a reflection of all we've given to making today the best day of our life to date. Every second counts.

Today is the first day of the rest of my life. I'm going to fill every second up with the wonder and joy I feel when I awaken to a brand new day waiting to unfold in all its exciting mystery and adventure. I won't tie myself up in knots waiting for the day to happen, I'm going to release myself into the moment and let myself run free.

Years ago I thought I'd be married forever. Today I know that's not true. Doesn't make the past or my decisions wrong and my choices bad. Simply means that in the passing of time I made choices that brought me to where I am today -- there were a thousand choices I could have made, I made the ones I did. My responsibility is not to judge past choices to prove myself wrong -- but to find value in the journey taken. My responsibility is to ensure that my choices today strengthen me, bring me closer to my goals, add value to my life and fill my heart with love, gratitude and grace.

When I chose to separate from my husband years ago, I was not coming from love, I was thinking through fear. My fear of who I wasn't, who he was, who we were in comparison to who I wanted to be, who I wanted him to be and how I wanted our marriage to be different. I couldn't find the right words to make it happen the way I wanted, so I walked away. In those steps I changed the direction of my life -- and the lives of my daughters -- it is my responsibility to make each of my steps count so that the space between us is not burdened by the past, but filled with the love that supports us in the present.

Today, I know I cannot make anyone or anything act in ways that conform to my truth. I can only act in ways that honour what is true for me while honouring what is true for you. When I allow room for your truth to co-exist beside mine, without having to make mine yours and yours mine, I breathe life into the space between us. In our truth we share what is our best and let go of the rest.

For today, I breathe into the space around me and know that I am perfect, just the way I am. My choices are perfect for me because they are a reflection of all that I am and all that I am meant to be when I live each moment filled with grace, dignity and love.

May your day be filled with the wonder of you as you reflect upon your beauty, grace and love.

May you find joy in this moment knowing that your are perfect, just the way your are.


Monday, May 28, 2007

May your heart be filled with peace.

I was reading the other day about how our emotions are felt in various parts of the body. Scientists have determined that there really is a close link between worry and the stomach -- butterflies in the stomach, rumblings in the tummy. Grief is associated with the lungs (crying), kidneys with fear. Think about it, if you're frightened enough you can lose bladder control. The expression, "that galls me"? speaks to our anger, which has a close connection to our liver functions. The heart is connected to self-esteem and self-worth, which is why 'broken hearts' have such a devastating effect on our lives.

What's amazing is that while scientists today are studying the mind/body connection, over 5000 years ago, the acupuncturists who created Traditional Chinese Medicine "discovered" these relationships. There is nothing new under the sun!

What about our positive emotions? Love is also associated with the heart. A broken heart is an open heart and an open heart is a loving heart. If we pour love into our hearts, we fill up the cracks and ease the pain of our broken heartedness.

When we are crying, what do we do? We need to breathe. Deeply to find peace and calm. Filling our lungs with oxygen dissipates the grief.

There is so much we know, but sadly, in our knowing often forget, we don't know what we don't know.

Yesterday, I was listening to Paul Brandt, (yup -- of C&W fame) talk about his volunteer experiences with World Vision. He described a trip he took to Cambodia in support of World Vision and their work to alleviate child prostitution. Karma is a big factor in how the people of Cambodia can ignore the suffering of a five year old child sold into prostitution -- it is her fate. In some way, their belief in Karma dictates that she has not lived a 'good' life before this life and thus, deserve the fate she is given.

We don't know what we don't know.

For Cambodians, their belief system supports letting these children be abused and ultimately, to die. They don't know any different. They don't revere the innocence of a child. Is what they're doing wrong? In our eyes, absolutely.

In theirs? Depends upon their 'enlightenment'. For the peasant scrounging a living off inhospitable soils, trying to overcome the war torn years of Pol Pot and trying to piece back their education system, their intellectual and arts society -- what is one child?

Recently, the town of Cloverdale, just outside Vancouver, banned steer wrestling and calf roping from its rodeo. I listened to an Alberta rancher interviewed on the radio who decried the move because it just 'weren't right'. Steer wrestling and calf roping have been part of the rodeo circuit for a hundred years. They're part of the tradition of the rodeo. They're part of Western culture. His red necked response to the Cloverdale rodeo organizers was from his place of not knowing that history does not make something right, longevity does not justify its existence today.

Child labour used to be allowed. It is no longer so.

When it was permissible -- it was because we didn't know what we didn't know. We didn't know the impact upon our society, our psyches, upon the health and well-being of the children involved.

We are capable of learning so much in our lives. And of sharing our knowing -- but when we do it in anger and fear, we create broken hearts that gall the people within whom we are attempting to create change.

I listened to Paul Brandt yesterday and felt anger sere through my body. I wanted to get out and STOP THEM.

And then I remembered. I cannot stop other people from doing what they do by using force as my instrument of peace. I can, in the words of Mother Theresa, be the peace I want to create, but killing my enemies won't create peace. It just doesn't work. For every mother's child killed by a bullet a seed of anger and fear and sorrow is sown that will bear fruit in future generations.

I listened to Paul Brandt yesterday and felt his pain as he described the suffering and sorrow he witnessed on his journeys through war torn countries and AIDS riddled Africa. For an instant, I was overwhelmed by the enormity of the problems, of the broken heartedness of our world. I wanted to crawl back into my little world and be ignorant and uneducated about what on earth is going on in the world. I wanted to fold up my wings and stick my head in the sand so that I could ignore the world around me.

Knowledge is power. I have learned a great deal about abuse, about standing up for me, about being true to my values, principles and beliefs. In my knowing, I cannot sit back and do nothing. I must be an agent of change that creates peace and harmony in my world.

Let it begin with me.

When I move into a peaceful place, when I move through my day with grace, ease and dignity, I am contributing to the peacefulness of the world around me. When I imagine myself to be like the pebble dropping into a pond, the circles of my peacefulness radiate outwards, further and further, touching upon other circles of peacefulness. As we touch, the magnitude of our circles of peace expand and we begin to affect change where ever we go.

I cannot change the world. I can change my peace in it.

I was an abused woman. Today I am a woman who believes, who knows, I cannot stop abusers from doing what they do. I can stop abuse in my life. And when I live my life with the conscious knowing that all things are connected to all things, I am inspired to be an agent of change in which my heart is filled with love and in which I participate in an ocean of change beating in the hearts of all whose lives I touch and am touched by as I move forward in harmony with the world around me.

Be an agent of change today. Choose to move through your day with a peaceful heart and mind. In those moments when anger erupts, choose peace. Your peace will radiate and create more peace and more peace and more peace......

May you be filled with peace and harmony today. May broken hearts be healed by the love of your touch and my tears flow freely into joy with every breath you take.


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Doing it On Purpose.

Yesterday, I gave my presentation -- Victor not Victim: A woman's journey away from abuse -- at an International conference of victim support workers. As I stood confidently on stage, my powerpoint ready, my heart steady, my mind at ease, I breathed into my truth -- I am a fearless woman touching hearts and opening minds to set spirits free.

After my presentation, countless people came up to thank me, to congratulate me, (one man called me 'a blessing'), to tell me how my words touched them --not just as victims advocates but as human beings. One woman came up and told me she has been carrying anger, resentment, regret, about her divorce for five years. "It's time to forgive," she told me. "How do I do it?"I handed her a Choices brochure ( which I happened to have in my bag!

Later I went to hear Brian Willis of Winning Mind Training ( give his presentation on Ostrich or Eagle/Victim or Victor -- An examination of victim thinking in today's world. Fabulous presentation -- Brian is one of the most dynamic presenters I've met. I've heard him several times and every time I come away inspired.

In his presentation, Brian quoted William Jennings Bryan (former Speaker, Lawyer and Presidential Candidate) who said,

Destiny is not a matter of chance; it's a matter of choice.
It is not a thing to be waited for; it is a thing to be achieved.

Yesterday, as I stood and gave my presentation, I was On Purpose. I had given up on chance and stepped into the choice of achieving the life of my dreams. What an awesome feeling. To be there, on purpose, because I had made the choice to claim my place at centre stage of my own life. With each word, each slide, each gesture, I knew why I was there. I was confident in my abilities, my self. I was focused, passionate, impassioned. I was there to inspire. I was committed to Be. Do. Have.

This morning I awoke and before I got out of bed a thought popped into my head with a zing of excitement -- I'm passionate about me!

What about you? Are you passionate about you? Are you on fire with your life? Eagerly awakening in the morning, knowing that this is your best day yet because today is the first day of the rest of your life. That today you are living your life with engines geared up, your energy stoked, your passion ignited.

Brian also quoted Aristotle when he was describing -- Eagle Thinking:

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation.
We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence,
but rather we have those because we have acted rightly.
We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence then is not a single act, but a habit.

What's your habit? To get out of bed bemoaning another day. To stumble through each moment anticipating your next cigarette, the time of day when you can have a drink or take a break as you fall into bed at the end of the day knowing tomorrow will be just like yesterday?

Or is your habit to leap into the morning anticipating a day filled with adventure, new possibilities, new horizons. Eagerly sailing into uncharted waters as you set your sails to take advantage of the breeze, confidently tacking into the wind, assuredly navigating all kinds of weather because you know that you've got what it takes to be a victor in your own life and soar like an eagle.

What's your habit?

Are you living your life passionately on purpose?

If not, ask yourself -- Why not? What's in it for me to stay tethered to the ground when my eagle spirit is calling?

There's no sense in holding back -- except the sense you give it. There's no value in staying stuck to the ground, roiling around in the misery of 'another day' -- except for the value you create in it.

The choice is yours.

Me. I'm standing up for the victor in me, living on purpose and soaring with the eagles!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

My best is good enough

This morning I'm getting ready to give my presentation at the conference. I picked up my registration packet last night, checked out the room, met with the organizers, and said hello to some of the attendees. I've got the copies made, the presentation prepared -- and I still want to make changes! What is it that compels me to keep tweaking, keep working on it? The drive for perfection or the fear of never getting it right? Either one, I take a deep breath and know -- my best is good enough.

Last night, after dropping by the hotel, I visited with one of my very best friends (an amazing woman with great heart and soul). She showed me the flowers on her deck, the flowers she'd put throughout her house and said, "I read your blog this morning and realized I had to get out there and LIVE! Thank you."

I felt honoured and inspired. To know that my words have touched someone, motivated them to create beauty in their lives is very humbling and affirming.

When I deliver my presentation this morning I carry with me the voices of my family, friends, of the strangers who have written and shared their stories. It is not just my story I tell today. It is all our stories because your words strengthen me. Your words count. You make a difference.

Thank you everyone for being part of my journey. Thank you for your love and support. As I journey fearlessly into being all that I am meant to be I am lifted up by your love and energy.

And now, I've gotta run! There's still one more slide I can tweak. One more word I can change to get this thing just right.

Just kidding.

I'm going to take the puppy for a walk in the sunshine and watch the light dance on the river's surface. I'll dream about the fairy dancers at the water's edge whose stories I used to spin for my daughters when they were young. I'll revel in the beauty of the day and know,

My best is good enough.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Alive and dreaming

Tomorrow I am giving a speech in front of over 100 people. They are victim support workers, psychologists, police, parole officers, volunteers for victim support.

Today, I am giving a speech to a graduating class of 8 people. They are individuals completing a three week career training initiative at the homeless shelter where I work.

In both cases I will be speaking about, as Joseph Campbell calls it, The Hero's Journey.

In the introduction to, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell writes, "A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man."

Today and tomorrow, every day I write here, in everything I do, I am coming back from my mysterious adventure, filled with the wonder of what I encountered and the knowledge that I have won a decisive victory for life. My life. In eagerly sharing what I learned, in continually learning from those with whom I share, I am creating the life of my dreams.

Taking our wisdom, our knowledge, our learning and increasing it through sharing it with others -- to inspire, to explore, to validate each other's journey -- is a gift. For me, it is vital. It is my purpose.

When I first got my life back on May 21, 2003 I didn't know where my journey was headed. I just knew I was alive.

Four years later, I have embraced the truth. It is up to me to determine where my journey takes me. It is up to me to map my path so that it heads towards my goals, leads me into more of what I want in my life so that I live every day fulfilled, complete, in awe of the wonder and beauty of my life.

In the past, I have been a passive voyageur on this journey of life. I let the winds of time, of fate dictate my direction. I was like a dandelion puff, letting the wind blow me where ever it wanted. Stopping briefly to plant a seed before carrying on. Directionless. Visionless. Without a dream.

I never thought in terms of "What kind of life do I want?". "What do I need to do to make my dreams come true." In fact, I was afraid to dream. To put down my vision for my life, lest I fail.

In my distorted thinking, I saw not dreaming as a way to keep me safe. I was wrong. It left me at risk -- of being swayed by other people's dreams (or nightmares), at risk of being continually uprooted, pulled in many directions without a clear idea of who I am, what is important to me, my values, beliefs, principles.

The failure was in never dreaming. In never creating a clear and distinct picture of my ultimate life. Of never giving myself goals, of never attempting to reach them.

Life is about having a dream, and creating a map that will guide me so that I get to where I want to go. Living life is about being all that I am meant to be. Of being filled with integrity, truth, honesty. Of being authentic, unique and my one true self.

Living is about knowing that dreams come true when I give substance to my life by following my dreams and and living my dreams every moment of every day. I am imminently capable of making my dreams come true -- but first I must have a dream to unfold.

If you are keeping your dreams folded up in the back pocket of a pair of tight fitting jeans, give your butt a wiggle and pull out your dreams! Unfold them. Give them air.

Let your dreams see the light of day so that you can create a map that will take you to where you are going.

Confucius said, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step."

Take a step towards your goal. Look at your dreams. Breathe life into them by creating a picture of what they are. Imagine your life filled up with your dreams. Imagine your life a living, breathing, walking testament to your dreams. Take one step and that step will lead to another.

I remember a time when I was terrified of taking that step. When I would tentatively edge my way towards the gate post leading from yesterday into my future, never daring to stop to see where I was going today. When I would peek around the corner of destiny and try to see what the weather was like on the other side of fulfillment of my dreams, closing my ears and eyes and all my senses to what was thundering around me today.

I was fearful of opening my eyes to the possibilities of my life when I allowed myself to live my dream, each and every day.

Because I was afraid, even when I took those tentative steps forward, I would fail. Not because I wasn't trying. Believe me I was trying! No. I failed because I didn't believe in me. I didn't believe in my dreams. I didn't believe I was worthy of living the life of my dreams.

I failed because I tried -- I didn't do.

Be. Do. Have.

Be committed to do what it takes to have what you want.

For me, that is a life filled with opportunities for speaking, writing, inspiring others to be their most magnificent selves.

It's a life in which I am financially secure. A life in which I awake in the morning, leap out of bed and explode into the possibilities of my day.

It is a life worth living.

Give your dreams some air today. Parade them around you. Hang them out in the sunshine. Let them breathe.

Surprise yourself. Get up. Dance. Laugh. Leap.

Get alive and dreaming.

Step into the journey of your life time confident in your ability to bring your dreams alive. You are awesome. You are perfect. As Mariane Williamson writes, it is not your darkness that frightens you, it is your awesome light. Let it shine!

It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
A Return to Love
Marianne Williamson

Be your most magnificent self and live the life of your dreams today. Let your light shine and illuminate your world for all to see.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Powering up

I awoke this morning to snow! And no electricity. Funny how something I give such little thought to can cause such a panic when it disappears. Fortunately, as it's late May, there's lots of natural light. Getting around the house was easy -- which is a good thing because I couldn't find a flashlight!

I'm still house-sitting at my girlfriends. I don't know where things like flashlights and matches are stored. Have to go on a hunt today.

What was interesting was how my morning slowed down without electricity. I have a routine. I get up, put the coffee on, let the puppy out for a little walk, come back in, pour myself a cup of coffee and then check my emails and begin to write. This morning, without electricity; no coffee, no email. The puppy still needed his walk, but once I came back in, I went back to bed and meditated and wrote in my journal. There was a quietness to the house, a deep silence. It seems the entire quadrant of the city was without power, so even the streets were devoid of noise. I love the silence. The deep calmness of it. The silky fluidness of the air around me. Silence is golden.

As I wrote, I felt the pen in my hand, the coolness of the paper against the side of my palm. I heard the nib of the pen moving along the page. I could hear myself thinking. Sometimes, the electronic devices that connect our lives to the things we have to do take up too much energy. Sometimes, melting into silence is the very gift I need to restore myself, to power myself up so that I can leap out of bed and greet the day eager to explore the treasures around me.

There was no electricity this morning, but my energy was flowing -- even with the snow outside. This much snow at the end of May, by the way, is unusual. Even for Calgary. When I went to bed last night, it was raining -- I figured the weather man had gotten it wrong. He'd said it would snow last night. I just didn't realize he meant in the middle of the night!

Awakening to a white blanket covering the world around me was unexpected. For a moment, I was angry. I'd told the skies I didn't want snow! As if I had the power to affect nature.

I don't. Have the power to affect nature -- or someone else's nature for that matter. There was a time when I thought I did. A time when I believed I was the cause of someone else's dark moods, angry outbursts. I thought I had created the monster who abused me.

I was never that powerful that I could create someone else's disorderly conduct. Yet, because I could not claim my power for myself, I abdicated responsibility for my power to someone else, and got lost on the road to hell.

It is a common belief for those who come through difficult relationships, particularly one where the other individuals nature is to lie and deceive. We reach a point where the only explanation has to be the one he/she tells us all the time -- it's all our fault. If we're to blame for everything that's gone wrong, we're also the one's who created the monster raging before our eyes.

Since being released from that relationship, I have learned to take back my power, to plug myself into my own orb and to use my power wisely, not to try to disown it by indiscriminately shedding it like a shaggy dog shaking water off its body.

Our power is the precious energy that ignites our thinking, our doing, our being. Our power is the energy that inspires us to leap out of bed in the morning and greet the day with an excited, "Yippeee! A brand new day!" And, it is the force that keeps us strong, that keeps us moving with grace, ease and dignity throughout the day, regardless of the weather outside. There is no external source to my power. It rests within me. It is the deep, quiet pool of being at my core. It is the cool, gentle breezes of my thinking when I am connected to me and the power within me.

I awoke to a snowy day without electricity. I journalled for an hour and stoked the flames of my energy within me. My power is on!

Whatever the weather outside. Whether or not the electricity is flowing to the electronic devices that fill our days, plug yourself into your own power source and let the juices of creativity flow. Get brewing up exciting plans for your day -- get excited.

This is your one and only life. It's up to you to live it with gusto. To create a life that reflects the wonder and beauty of you. Use your power wisely. You can't change what the weather's doing -- but you can change how you see the day and step into it. Powered up or powered down. What's your choice?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

My Ultimate Life

This morning I awoke to the limitless possibilities of my life. I stretched, looked at the day outside and wondered, 'what kind of day will I have?' Well, one thing’s for sure, it’ll be rainy. Sullen grey clouds hang low today. The sun has disappeared behind the elements, the world is saturated with misty rain.

Regardless of the weather, my day is filled with possibilities. It’s a perfect day to be alive. An exciting day. I don't know what adventures await me, but I do know that it's my responsibility to make it the perfect day for me. I won't get where I'm going living the day on the edge of possibilities. I've got to get out there. Get dirty. Get involved. I've got to leap off, take the risk of not knowing what will happen when I explore unknown territory, uncharted waters regardless of how fearful I am about leaping into the void. Fear is the opportunity to be courageous. When I step off, I won’t know what’s out there, but if I never step, I’ll always be stuck in the same place doing the same thing.

As they say at Choices, if you do what you've always done, you'll get what you'll always gets.

For today, I choose to find a new avenue to ignite my passion for life. In fact, as of today, I commit to writing the 3 things I will do today that will move me closer to my goal of having my own business as a speaker/motivator/coach. Which means, I need to think clearly, see my goals distinctly, completely, in living colour.

In the past, I have muddled through life, with unclear goals, ill-defined purpose. No more! In my life there is no room for trying and all the room in the world for doing. I am committed to do what it takes to have what I want. I am committed to living my perfect life today with passion, fearlessly leaping into the unknown to explore how high I can fly in freedom.

Why not join me? Why not spread your wings and fly? How about starting a daily practice of writing down three things you can do to reach your goals -- of course, you'll need some clearly defined goals to do that. Do you have them? If not, let your mind explore uncharted waters. Think about your Ultimate Life. About what you would love to have in your life, but don't. Is it a book you want to write? A business based on your love of knitting? A new home? A trip around the world? Whatever it is, write it down. Describe in very detailed words what your perfect life would look like. Are you living where you are now? Are you living on the south coast of France in a vineyard that you own in a beautiful stone home that you are lovingly restoring?

You get the picture, write out your Ultimate Life in living colour with all the details. Smell it. Breathe it. Feel it and know, it is possible. The only thing between you and your perfect life is – taking action. Can you imagine the steps it would take to attain your Ultimate Life? Create a ‘day in the ultimate life of……’ story. Write out what that day entails. Do you get up at 6 am with the birds or do you lie in bed, luxuriating? Do you have toast and jam and coffee served on beautiful china beside the pool of your island retreat, or do you sit in the breakfast nook of your Manhattan pied a terre reading the New York Times? Start from the picture perfect day you've created and work backwards to today. What do you need to do to make the ultimate life reality your dream come true? Break your ultimate life down into near term, middle term and long term goals. Divide it into categories – family, health (mental, physical, spiritual), leisure, work.

Why not make your Ultimate Life a tactile experience by creating a Dream Board? Cut out pictures from magazines that show your life in action. Paste them onto a large piece of bristle board. Be creative. Use pictures and words to describe you and your life. Cluster the visual representations into the elements of your life – family, health, leisure, work. Paste your Dream Board up on a wall in your home office, your bedroom, somewhere you’ll see it every day so that it reminds you to stay focused on your goals.

Measure everything you do against the question – will this take me closer to my goal or away from it? If you spend 4 hours a night watching TV, ask yourself, is this a goal getter or a goal taker? Keep a list of the things you do that are goal getters and goal takers. Think of ways to strengthen your goal getting activities. If TV is a consistent goal taker, why not unplug the cable? This is your life. If you aren’t working towards your goals, you're working against them.

There is no status quo in living! Change is the name of the game!

All things are possible. We just need to get creative about making them happen. Don't think about why it can't happen, or isn't possible. Think about what you need to do to make it happen -- and get doing!

Me, I'm excited. The skies are grey but my spirits are sunny! I'm inspired by my perfect life today and the steps I'm taking towards my Ultimate Life. I'm eager to get into my day, into doing the 3 things I need to do today to step me closer to my goals. Gotta go!

Have an awesome day filled with the limitless possibilities of flight as you soar into your perfect day, gliding on the jet stream towards your Ultimate Life!


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Learning to fly

I awoke this morning to blue skies, sunshine and a gentle breeze. The world is green, dappled sunlight dances on the leaves and I am Alive!

In the first few weeks and months after his arrest when anyone asked the simple question, "How are you?" without pausing I replied with a huge smile, "I'm alive."
It took people back. Hello. Of course you're alive, you're standing here. Those two simple words, however, had great meaning for me. Having just come out of that pit of despair and terror I'd fallen into, I was relieved, and surprised, to be alive.
What a wonderful way to live.

Last year when I went through Choices ( Thelma Box, the facilitator talked about how many of the people in the room were the walking breathing dead. I could at that time confidently say, I wasn't one of the people she was referring to. With his arrest four years before, I had given up my WBD status and claimed my right to be joyfully, passionately alive.

Now, many people tell me that they have too much pain, too many burdens to carry to give up their card-bearing membership in the WBD Club. I disagree. It isn't what we carry that makes the difference, it's the choice we make to either carry it for another day or to put it down.

When I came out of that relationship, I had a lot of garbage to carry, a lot of pain to delve through -- but I also knew I had received a miracle. I knew that in that moment of his arrest I was given a choice -- life or death. Which one do you choose? -- I chose life. If I was going to live, then I was going to do it with joy and wonder, not tears and sorrow. Which meant, I had to set aside the burden of the past so that I could move into the possibility of today. Sure, in those first weeks of freedom, I was pretty beaten down. But I knew, it didn't mean I had to stay down. Rather than cling to my despair, I chose to recognize I was in the healing process, a time of treating myself with tender loving care, a time to rejoice in what I had, not what had happened. I didn't have a lot -- I'd lost everything through that experience, including relationships that had meant the world to me. But, I had my life, so when people asked me how I was doing, my answer was clear and unequivocable, I am alive! Yippeee!

In my healing process, I nourished my spirit, fed myself with life-giving ideas, food, and love. I shunned any thoughts that would bring me down, and if they snuck in, I would lovingly embrace them and let them go. I imagined them to be clouds on a summer's day. They drifted in, they drifted out. I did not need to hold onto them to turn them into stormy thinking. There was no room in my life for negativity, I was too wounded, too battered to have a strong defense system against negativity, so, I chose to not give it fertile ground to grow within me. I stayed conscious to my thinking, to what I did, to what I said, to my feelings. In that process, I breathed deeply, chose to be grateful for my life and embraced the wonder and joy of being alive.

Three years later, I was living with my daughters again and had published a book about my experience, (The Dandelion Spirit). My life was golden! And there was still so much room for growth. Shortly after my book was published, I went through Choices. Those five days, and every susequent day since, have expanded the light and air in my life even further. What amazes me is how far I've come even in the year since going through Choices. When I went through that program -- and for those who haven't, Choices is a personal development seminar that challenges each person who goes through to explore the meaning of their life and to get busy living it with eyes wide open with a heart full of love, it was one of the most clarifying, enlivening courses I have ever taken. Both my daughters have since gone through as have several friends. We all agree -- Choices makes sense. In a world filled with opportunity, we tend to live in our safe little quadrants, doing the same things we've always done, getting the same things we've always got, wondering why nothing ever changes.

I am my agent of change. I am my very own catalyst.

Ray Bradbury once said. "Go the edge of the cliff and jump off. Build your wings on the way down."

I love that idea of living. Constantly stepping into the void of possibility, stretching myself and learning to fly as I soar from the edge of the cliff.

Bradbury also said, "Don't think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It's self-conscious and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can't try to do things. You simply must do things."

For me, that typifies my writing every morning. Don't think. Do. This blog began as a commitment to myself that I would write every morning. I don't generally think about what I'd going to write before I start. I trust in the process and start writing. A word or phrase comes to my mind as I turn on the computer, make my coffee and as soon as I hit the keyboard, the words start to form. I don't 'try' to make them appear, I let them flow.

Two months later, I'm still writing, still keeping my commitment -- and in the process teaching myself a valuable lesson. I am a woman of her word. When I make a commitment I keep it. Not that I didn't believe myself -- but there have been times in my life when I made commitments I didn't keep. Times I let myself off the hook of self-responsibility, self-accountability and took the easy way out -- and usually, when I did, it was my thinking that got me in trouble.

Ooops! Like losing weight -- still trying which means, I'm not doing.

Time to get back on that particular horse and step out of my comfort zone so that I make the choices that support me, not undermine my commitment to myself.

And that's the beauty of today. I fall down. I get up. I step off the edge of the cliff, two things are possible. I will either fly, or learn to build my wings in flight -- either way, eventually I will come to the ground again, wiser, more accomplished, more confident in my ability to fly. It isn't the fall that kills me, it's how I land -- confident in tomorrow, or convinced it will be the last step I ever take.

The choice is mine.

What's your choice? To step off the cliff and build wings as you go, or to step off the cliff and tumble to the ground because you never stretched your wings out?

Yup. We all have our reasons for staying stuck in fear. Ultimately, our reasons are simply the things we tell ourselves to keep us stuck on the ground. You can tell yourself you can't fly. Or, you can tell yourself, I've never flown and now's my chance to do it.

As Henry Ford said, whether you say you can or you can't, you're right. Give yourself the chance to be right about something you don't know about yourself today. Give yourself the opportunity to learn something new about you today. Just do it!

Have an awesome day filled with the knowing that you are a vessel filled with limitless possibilities capable of learning to fly into the unknown.

Monday, May 21, 2007

I am blessed

I'm house-sitting for friends for three weeks, taking care of their dog. It's a vacation in the city, a time away, a quiet time, a restorative time, a time for me. My daughters are at home with our two puppies -- Ellie, the wonderful Golden Retriever who journeyed through the relationship with the man who came on as Prince Charming and was revealed to be The Prince of Darkness four years ago today. And Mollie, a girlfriend's Bichon Friese who came to live with us for a short time two years ago and has never gone home.

Talk about going to the dogs!

This little vacation in the city is an opportunity for me to prepare for a presentation I have to give this weekend about my book (The Dandelion Spirit) and a chance for my daughters to stretch their wings of independence without me hoovering beneath them, trying to protect them from falling (while in actual fact, when I constantly try to catch them I'm inhibiting their flight!).

It's four years today! My eldest daughter called me earlier to say, "Congratulations Mom. Four years of new life! Well done."

It is four years today since the miracle of a blue and white police car rolled up and took away the man who promised to love me 'til death do us part -- and took the death part way too seriously.

Four years of stretching and healing and growing and learning. Four years of claiming my beautiful life, of stepping onto centre stage of my very own existence without fear that I am not enough to stand in the spotlight of myself.

Four awesome years of claiming all that I'm meant to be. Of sharing my joy, my passion, my fearless commitment to living live with no holds barred.


In my daughter's call I felt the wonder and the awesome joy of knowing that in these four years we have healed and grown closer together.

I am in awe of my daughters. I gave them birth and because of them I am alive today. While I was with the abuser, there was a time when I desperately wanted to end my own life. And yet, there was one truth I held onto that prevented me from taking the step that would have changed their lives irrevocably. That truth is a sacred trust I embraced from the moment of their conception and it is the truth I desperately clung to for fear I would drown beneath the terror and sorrow of what had become my life while I was with the abuser. That truth was and is, I love them.

In giving into the abuser I gave up on me. I let go of my truth, my sense of self and gave into his lies. But I could never give up on the truth that I love my daughters. To take my own life would have meant aborting that truth with the lie of my death.

And I could not, would not do that.

In healing, my love of my daughters is what carried me through those first days and weeks and months of sorting through the devastation of my life and trying to find meaning in my journey away from abuse into my life today. In loving them I knew I had to heal, to accept the present exactly the way it was without shirking from the truth of what had happened, while being willing to accept my power to stand in today without fear or shame holding me back from becoming all that I am meant to be. It is my love of my daughters that gave me the courage to face myself in the mirror every morning and forgive myself. I was accountable for what I'd done to hurt them -- I could not change the past, but I could see it in a different light so that I could stand in the beauty of today without fear of the past becoming my future and theirs.

It is because of my daughters that I knew that to heal I had to treat myself with tender loving care every step of my journey so that I could help them heal and grow and learn and prosper.

So, when I awoke this morning and got the call from my daughter congratulating me on four years of healing, I cried.

What an awesome gift. To have fallen so hard on the road of life and to have been given the opportunity to heal with those I love by my side. I am blessed.

Not just my daughters have travelled with me on this journey. My family and friends have also been there for me. They've reached out, given me a hand, a shoulder to lean on, an arm to support me when I've been too weary or frightened to step alone. They've helped me grow and through their love and kindness I have been rewarded with the ever-lasting gift of friendship and a chance to reclaim myself and to build a new life.

Today, my life is more than I could have imagined even before Prince Charming rode up and swept me off my feet. Today, I walk with my feet firmly planted on the ground and my mind open to the limitless possibilities of my life in freedom. As long as I stay committed to my own true self and walk without fear of stepping into someone else's make-believe, the past will never be my future and today will always be a journey in love.

Today I know that there is no greater gift I give myself than to be open to the magnificence of my human state and to share myself lovingly and willingly with the world around me. With grace, ease and dignity I journey through each moment confident in the truth that the world is a reflection of who I am. When I am magnificent, the world is a magnificent place to be!

Thank you to everyone who has made this journey a never-ending story of love, peace and joy. Thank you for your vitality, creativity and constant supply of support, kindness and caring.

May we continue to journey together reflecting back the magnificence that illuminates our souls when we share our light and joy. May our paths be lit up by the magnificent human beings we are when we are free to be all that we are in love.


Sunday, May 20, 2007

Eyes wide open to my heart

When I was younger I loved the poetry of e.e. cummings. One of my very favourite poems was his story of archy the cockroach. At the time I first read it, we were living in Metz France. Cockroaches were a part of life in a French apartment. At night, whenever I had a sleep-over, my friends and I would quietly sneak into the kitchen in the dark, quickly flick on the light and watch the cockroaches scurry back down the kitchen drain. Inevitably, one of them would flip over onto its back on the smooth surface of the sink. Without human intervention, it would die as its legs were designed to grab onto twigs and grass, not stainless steel sinks. And so, fork in hand, arm outstretched to keep as much distance as possible between me and the dastardly beast, I'd flip the cockroach right side up so it could hurry away to join its friends. My stomach would flip over in disgust and I'd let out a squeal of horror. I didn't like cockroaches, but I hated the thought of killing them even more.

Every so often, the 21 storey apartment building we lived in would be fumigated. From the top down. We'd have to vacate our apartment in the morning when they were fumigating our floor. In the evening we were allowed to return. For a few weeks, the cockroaches would be gone, only to return again, crawling out of the drains in the dark of night when the game of scaring them away would begin again. A mystery that stays with me today, however, is where did those dead cockroaches go? My fertile imagination used to wonder if the floorboards and walls were filled with little cockroach graves. If the building had a zipper and someone opened it up, I imagined the dead bodies of millions of cockroaches spilling out.

Fortunately, before the building ever split open, we moved from France to Germany where in my misguided youth, I believed cockroaches did not live. I quickly learned the errors of my thinking. It wasn't long before the apartment we were living in had to be fumigated and we had to move out for the day. I was older, however, more mature, and thus the game of cockroach scaring did not have as much appeal. In fact, I started to refuse to go into the kitchen in the dark, and on those occasions when I did, I'd stand at the entryway, close my eyes, turn on the light and count to 10 before opening my eyes so that the pesky rodents would have time to disappear into the crevices from which they came. Eyes closed couldn't however, block out the sound of their little legs scurrying across the kitchen counters to the sink. But at least I couldn't see them! And if I didn't see them, they didn't exist.

Believing something's not there if I close my eyes is a trait I seem to have carried over into adulthood like a child playing peek-a-boo. If I can't see you, you don't exist.

Tomorrow morning at 9:14 a.m. it will be four years since the police walked in and dragged the psychopath no longer in my life away. Pesky critter! He stuck around for 4 years 9 months in the hopes that I would never open my eyes to the truth. He almost got me! Throughout that relationship I refused to see the truth dancing in front of me. I refused to hear the lies I knew he was telling, because I believed if he said it was so, it was. And if I kept believing him, I wouldn't have to face the truth of what was happening in my life!

Not so anymore.

Today, I live in my light, walking through the truth, whether it's good, bad or indifferent. Whatever my truth, I breathe life into it and let myself flow. Recently a friend told me I have relationship issues. As if I don't know! I do. That's why I've come to the realization that growth for me is in relationship, not out of it. Relationship with myself, with others, with someone special. In relationship, I find myself and in myself I find my path.

To be nobody but yourself -- in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else -- means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.

e.e. cummings

It is in relationship that I fight the battle of retaining my identity while walking beside someone else. A girlfriend and I were talking about that issue last night. How to be in relationship without losing yourself. I suggested the challenge is to not resist, or to set up concrete boundaries that make impossible for someone else to get close, but rather to flow into, to embrace, to move into the relationship while standing in my own light. As e.e. cummings wrote, Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.

My goal is to reveal my spirit as the perfectly imperfect human being that I am. To let my curiousity and spontaneous delight create a beautiful life that reflects the wonder and joy I feel every time I open my eyes and see the beauty around me. My goal is to walk through each day, eyes wide open to the song in my heart as I reflect the glorious sights of living in my magnificence.

The world doesn't reflect what I want, or need, it reflects who I am.

When I am in my magnificence, I see the world as a magnificent place to grow.

When I am fearful, the world becomes a fearful place to be.

The choice is mine how I see the world.

What's your choice?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

In honour of a life well lived

I went to the funeral yesterday of a man I'd never met. By the end of the 45 minute ceremony at which friends and family told stories celebrating this man's life, I wished I had known him. I wished I'd had the chance to spend some time with someone who had the ability to convince another party-goer to exchange clothing so that he could dress up as the woman and she could be the man -- just because he knew it would make people laugh. Or, who loved to do the splits at the drop of a hat and organize events so that he could spend time with friends and family doing what he loved the best -- laughing, having fun, sharing good times, playing poker, making sure everyone involved was having a good time too! I wished I'd known him.

The funeral was for Alain, the partner of a co-worker. A few months ago, Alain suddenly became ill and rapidly slid downhill as his disease took over his body and zapped him of life. In the three months that he was ill, I watched my co-worker struggle with coming to grips with shifting reality, fighting against the truth seeping in, pushing back against the inevitability of a diagnosis he didn't want to know. And then it happened. Last Saturday, his partner, the love of his life, died.

After the funeral there was a party at a pub they used to frequent every Wednesday night. Normally frequented by a predominantly gay crowd, that afternoon those assembled in the pub were a mix of gay and heterosexuals. Men and women, regardless of sexual orientation, age, or social status, stood in solidarity to support my co-worker as he struggled with his grief so that he could celebrate his partner's life with those who will miss the laughter and joy that gave out with Alain's final breath.

I stood in their midst and thought about the life of someone I never knew touching mine in this moment. On a television screen suspended from the ceiling in a corner of the room, scenes from Alain's life played in a continuous loop. At one time a professional dancer on a cruise ship, there were shots of him entertaining smiling audiences, hiking in the mountains, standing on foreign soils, reclining on sandy beaches and relaxing at home. I watched the images slide past and couldn't help but smile at one of Alain dressed up in women's clothing, obviously playing the role of 'vamp' to the hilt.

He looked so alive. So vibrant. So at peace with himself, his life, his place on this earth. In those few moments where I watched the panoply of scenes running through the course of his 52 years flit past on a television monitor, I thought about the words of love I'd listened to at the earlier ceremony where his friends and family described his life well lived. I was in awe of the obvious joy and passion this man brought to life.

In his life, Alain taught everyone he knew how to squeeze joy from every moment. In his passing he has reminded me that life is for the living.

Live it up. Live it large. Live it in full technicolour. Fill each moment with the wonder and joy of being alive. Laugh at every opportunity. Be silly. Be bold. Be brave. Be your most incredible self.

Alain has passed on. In his passing through my life, whether in the here and now, or after the fact, the joy and love that lives on in those whose lives he touched so delicately and so lastingly, inspires me to stand up tall, to laugh, to find the ridiculous whenever possible. To quit taking myself so seriously and to live until the day I die. Without fear. Without regret. Without letting one moment fade into the next in silent sorrow and without letting laughter bridge the gap between the here and now and ever after.

I didn't know Alain, but in the brief time I spent hearing his story, I have been touched by the sacredness of a life well lived and inspired to live mine in joy, love and laughter.


Friday, May 18, 2007

Life at the juxtaposition of living

The other day while driving along an avenue parallel to the homeless shelter where I work, I was stunned by the juxtaposition of lives in action.

Stopped at a red light, I looked to my right and saw the busy patio of a downtown restaurant. Surrounded by city skyscrapers and riotous hanging baskets filled with colourful flowers suspended from poles lining the edges of the deck, people were laughing, chatting, sharing a drink and a meal, sharing their lives. It was a happy scene. A scene of vibrancy of life unfolding.

I turned my eyes away and looked further to the right beside my car. Tucked away at the side of the building, out of sight of the patio, a young man lay sprawled on the grass. He lay so still, I wondered momentarily if he was alive. I wondered if I should get out of my car and check. And then he moved his arm. It lifted into the air as if in slow motion, as if an invisible puppeteer from on high was pulling a string. His arm lifted up. It hung suspended above his head, the hand forming an arch, its fingers hanging lifelessly towards the ground. I wondered if he was waiting for a basket of flowers to be suspended from his hand so that he could be part of the patio scene. And then, his hand and arm fell down in one quick crumbling motion back to the ground beside his inert body. The movement must have surprised him. He struggled to sit up. Propped himself up on one elbow. Blearily looked around and then surrendered himself to gravity. His back gave way, his elbow folded beneath him and he fell back to the ground.

The light turned green and I drove on leaving behind the busy scene on the patio and the lone body lying on the grass.

I saw the young man again later that day when I was on the second floor of the shelter. He was sitting at a table, surrounded by friends who were laughing and talking, swapping stories, hanging out. The young man sat in their midst oblivious to their activity as they in turn were oblivious to his benign presence. His eyes were open but didn't seem to be taking in much of his surroundings. His elbows were propped up on the table top, his body hunched over, leaning into his hands which were holding his head up, keeping it from hitting the table top.

As I carried plates to the tables a young woman approached me and asked if she could take a plate to the young man. "He's coming down and we need to get some food into him fast" she said.

I handed her a plate and said, "Please give him this one."

She thanked me and quickly set the plate down in front of the young man. "Here," she said. "Eat."

The young man looked at her. He glanced down at the plate. Looked back at her. He shook his head as if to clear it. Picked up the fork and quickly started eating.

I passed on, carrying plates to other tables, other people, as life went on.

I saw him again later that day. He was sitting at the same table. Laughing. Talking. Interacting with the people around him. He looked so together. So, 'normal'. So alert. Young and handsome, so full of life. And yet, the scene of the young man lying on the grass was there too. It forms part of his life. It is part of his reality. So sad. Such a loss of human spirit.

I wondered what it is that can take such a vibrant young man and drag him into the ugly world of drug induced highs and lows? What is it that keeps him falling into despair when right around the corner, sitting on a patio, life awaits?

How different is he from me? How many times have I aimlessly drifted through my life without a direction, without purpose, without vision? How many times have I let some invisible hand pull the strings while I danced to unheard music that trapped me into believing someone else's beat drummed out the possibilities of hearing my own heartbeat so that I could dance to my own unique rythm?

I never used drugs, but like that young man, I often anethasized myself from reality by stepping into someone else's arms, someone else's drama, using whatever means I could to keep myself from facing own self-made drama.

I can't change that young man's path. I can't affect what he does today and if he'll survive until tomorrow. All I can do is be true to me. My life. My journey. My beliefs, principles and values.

Four years ago I lay broken and wounded on the ground. I was very fortunate. My sister and her husband reached out, took my hand and helped me up. They gave me space and grace to catch my breath so that I could learn to walk freely, without anyone else pulling my strings.

I am grateful.

For that young man, just around the corner waits a new beginning. Maybe. No one can force him to step free. No one can force him to make different choices. Whatever drove him to this place, he is free to step away, to step cleanly into a direction other than the one he's taking.

Will he?

I don't know.

I do know that everyday I witness lives in despair. Lives that have tumbled far from where they were into a place no one wants to be. And yet, here they are.

And everyday I witness lives in action. The actions may not be a journey I understand. They may not include facets I would choose. And yet, they continue to be in motion. And, they continue to change. To make choices that take them in new, healthier directions -- some day.

One day, someday, maybe, that young man will choose to walk around the corner and step onto the flower strewn patio where life is different than what he knows it to be now.

Will there still be troubles? Problems. Issues. Yes. I'm sure that not everybody on the patio that day was living the life of their dreams. I'm sure there were people in stress, under duress, coping with grief and sorrow, break-ups and breakdowns, put-downs and put-offs.

It isn't what's happening in my life that determines my journey. It's what I choose to do with the happenings. How I respond. If it's raining, I use an umbrella. If it's sunny, I use sunscreen. Regardless of the skies above, I am responsible for determining the tempo of my journey, for ensuring I am safe on my path, that I take steps that lead me towards where I want to go and not pull down to where I do not want to be.

On a street corner the other day I witnessed the juxtapositions of life and wondered if a young man was alive or dead. He's still breathing. Perhaps one day, he'll breathe freely.

For me today, I take a deep breath. I feel the energy enter my body. I feel my spine straighten, my shoulders push back and down. I feel my heart lighten and my spirit lift as I remind myself that I am free to make choices that support me, love me and take care of me.

Today, in freedom, I love myself exactly the way I am and accept myself for all I'm worth. I am priceless.

May you be free to make choices that say, I love me. May you see the amazing value you bring to your world and know, you are priceless. A rare and beautiful treasure of immeasurable worth.

You are awesome.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Free flight

This morning I volunteered at Inn From The Cold. The Inn is a church based program that houses homeless families every night. Approximately 75 city churches participate with any one of 3 churches housing from 15 to 25 people a night.

It is not an easy go for families. Small children sleep in different beds every night. Single women, husbands and wives cart their family belongings with them every day to a different church, a different quadrant of the city, a different bed. While buses take them to their night's destination and return them to the downtown in the morning, their children never have stability, consistency, a place to call home.

It's not an easy go.

Volunteering at The Inn is good for my soul. It reminds me that I am fortunate, blessed, lucky. I have a roof over my head. A job I love. Friends and family. Stability.

It wasn't always so.

When I was with the abuser, I wound up homeless. Everything I owned was lost. My pride, my sense of purpose, my belief in me decimated. Next Monday, May 21 will mark 4 years since his arrest and my release from the 'valley of the walking dead'. What a difference time makes.

On that morning of my release I sat on the bed in our rented room and cried. I was catatonic. Hysterical. Lost and alone. I didn't know what to do, who to call, where to go. I had no money, no direction, no prospects.

I called my sister who lived an hour away. Like my daughters and friends, my sisters and mother did not know where I was for those final 3 months of that journey. They only knew I'd disappeared with 'my lover'. For the few months before I vanished with him, they had watched in silent horror as I emotionally erased myself from their lives. It was a horrendous experience for everyone.

Yet, 4 years later we are together again. My life is richer, more fulfilling, more complete. Not because of that experience, but rather, because of the steps I took after it ended. That experience, however, was the catalyst for my growth today.

Years ago a friend jokingly said, "Louise, you're an experiential learner. You've got to do to learn."

Shortly after my release from that relationship, I asked my therapist why I had put myself through it.

She asked me, "Are you unhappy with where you are today?"

"No," I replied. "I love my life today. It's where I chose to be. It may not be perfect but it's mine."

It was far from perfect! I was living 1,000 miles away from my daughters. I had not yet journeyed back to this city where it had all begun. I still didn't have a home of my own and I still had lots of triggers and issues around the abuser who was still in prison. Nonetheless, I felt my life was perfect for me. I was healing, doing the work I needed to do to rebuild -- and I was treating myself with tender loving care.

My therapist replied. "There were a thousand routes you could have taken to get where you are today. It isn't the route you took to get here that's making the difference in your life, it's what you're doing on your path today."

I am an experiential learner -- using my gifts, talents, wisdom to create the life of my dreams so that I no longer have to live the nightmare of sleep walking through my days.

Life is filled with ups and downs. Highs and lows. Backwards and forwards. Ins and outs.

Life is a journey. Regardless of how dark the night, how stormy the weather, how treachorous the road, I determine my journey. I determine the tempo of my steps, the lightness of my footprints.

I also determine what I drag with me on my path.

Letting go of the horror of that journey into abuse, and tapping into my spirit has given me the courage and the strength to step freely into today. I believe that in today I am my best me when I ardently and passionately embrace all there is about me as I surrender and fall in love.

In my history I have often faced into the wind and screamed at the fates, fortunes, destiny. I have often bemoaned what was happening 'to me' and not accepted responsibility for what I was doing.

That journey enlightened me. I was a passive voyageur in my own life. Quietly blaming life for my circumstances rather than taking responsibility for my life.

Today, I am an active participant. Eagerly and passionately squeezing every ounce of joy out of the moment, draining every day of all my life has to offer.

Where are you? Passionate in your desire to step fearlessly into the void, willingly surrendering ego to fall in love?

You determine the tempo of your journey. Be spirited. Be active. Be committed to passionately embrace who you are in this moment, and let your wings unfurl so that you can fly freely into this moment of being all that you are meant to be.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Passionate about me


There was a time when I thought passion was reserved for lovers. That only people involved in an intimate relationship knew what passion was.

I love it when I'm proved wrong!

Passion is what I strive to step into every day -- even on days like today when a cold is holding my head in its grip!

Passion is the force behind my dreams. It's the energy behind getting the most out of my life, every moment of every day. It's my life source.

Passion keeps me committed to awakening every morning with a song in my heart. It lightens my spirit and drives me to courageously step forward throughout the day asking myself in every thing I do, "Does this create more of what I want in my life, or less?" Passion fires me up.

Recently, while creating a dreamchart of my "Ultimate Life", I asked myself, what can I do in this moment to inject passion into my dreams.

The answer was easy. Remind myself of my purpose -- to touch hearts and open minds to set spirits free. In a nutshell, to live an inspiring life right now. That means, to quit looking at tomorrow as the time I'll be perfect, or have everything I want or need. It means, to stop thinking about doing it tomorrow -- but rather -- getting to it today!

When I'm passionate about me, I'm passionate about my life and everyone and everything in it. I live, breathe, exude my passion.

When I'm on fire, my world lights up and I take off and soar through every moment, confident, positive, convinced in my right to claim this place, right where I'm at, as my rightful, deserving place under the sun.

When I'm passionate about me, I step into the moment of being all I'm meant to be and let go of wishful thinking, yearning and pining for a better tomorrow. When I'm passionate about me, I live in this moment being completely, absolutely committed to who I am because I know, I'm one powerful woman living the life of her dreams, right now.

Do you know your passions? Are you passionate about you?

Some questions you can ask yourself to understand your passions are:

1. What do I love to do for other people?
2. What is it people tell me about me that makes me feel proud, happy, that makes my heart sing?
3. What do I do that makes time stop? Makes me lose all sense of time?
4. What do I love doing most in the world?
5. Am I happiest helping people or creating things that help people?
6. Do I have special gifts or talents that I love to share? What are they?
7. If I can't think of any special gift or talent I possess -- if I did have one, what would it be?

Sit quietly, ask yourself these questions and write down your answers. Don't judge what you write, just write down what comes to you. Let the answers flow. Don't worry about punctuation. Grammar. Spelling. Just write it down. Don't let your inner voice stifle your creativity. Flow.

Once you've completed the questions, look for the pattern in your answers. Look to find what speaks to your heart.

For me, I love to help people find their purpose, their passion, their inner beauty.
I love it when people tell me I inspire them.
Time stops for me when I'm writing, and painting.
Anything creative makes time stand still as I immerse myself in the joy of what I'm doing. I love writing, painting, creating.
For me, I'm happiest creating things that help people, bring joy to them. I love creating words that sing to people's hearts, that ease their pain, and ignite their thinking.
I love to share my writing. My words. My spirit.

See, it's easy. Go for it. Let your thoughts flow. Let your imagination soar. Get creating.

Everyone has passion. Everyone has a purpose. Everyone has dreams. Living the life of your dreams is the gift you give yourself when you free your mind of the garbage that would keep you from being inspired by the beauty and wonder of you!

Dream big. Live large and be inspired to create the life of your dreams.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Life ebbs and flows

Life ebbs and flow. Every moment a constant pulse of energy. My heart beating in time. For the past few days, I have struggled to keep my energy up. To feel excited. Joyous about my day. I wonder, what's wrong? Why do I feel so tired? So enervated?

Is it because next Monday is the four year anniversary of the ending of that relationship? Is it because my body is remembering those terminal gasps of air as I struggled to keep my head above water while my body gave into the undertow of fear and depression that was pulling me down for the third and final time? Am I stalking the fear and terror giving into the sadness from those days that linger in the cells of my being like an unwelcome guest feeding from a wedding banquet storing bonbons and crab legs in his pockets?

This morning I awaken to a sore throat and running nose. It is not memory stirring and dragging me back. I have a cold.

Years ago I did breath work to move through some of the pain and sorrow of a childhood that was stolen when I was five and lost the innocence that was my right. The therapist told me that the memories of those events were stored in the cells of my body. Breath work would help release the pain and sorrow.

It was hard, tiring work. As I lay on my back on a mat on the floor, my knees propped up by a pillow, I breathed hard and fast. In and out. Faster and faster. I cried and wept and mourned for that little girl who did not understand that what happened to her was not her fault. She was not bad. She was innocent.

It took several weeks for the pain to leave my body. For my fingers and joints to loosen up and let go of the sorrow. But then, one morning I did the breath work and my body didn't hurt. My joints didn't scream out when I moved them. I felt light, my movements effortless.

I haven't thought of that time in many years. This morning, the memory awoke as I typed and reminded me of the power of breath to carry life, to loosen feelings, to release pain and joy so that I may flow freely.

When I am feeling run down, let down, deflated, my resistance to negative ions floating in my body is weakened. Rather than give into the dark thoughts that jar my peace of mind with the harsh ping of a pinball rattling through the metal gates, I wrap myself up in a psychic blanket of warm loving thinking that carries me through the moment. As I turn m inner eye into my love, I feel my spirits lift, my mood lighten.

Life is ebb and flow. Thoughts drift in. Drift out. My energy ebbs and I awaken to the awareness that I am my thoughts and emotions. No matter my physical state, I am responsible for every thought, every feeling. I can let them pull me back into despair, into sadness, into the turmoil of the past. Or I can choose to let them flow freely through me. In. Out. In. Out.

This morning I awoke with a cold, my energy ebbed and I stepped into the love that sustains me through every moment of every day. I pull back the curtain hiding my feelings from me and embrace the sadness that rides in on the morning tide and awaken it with joy.

I have a cold. It is also the anniversary of a time when I was dying. I had given up on me. Given into him. Given away my power and plugged into his lies so that I could unplug myself from the life force within me.

This morning, as the sadness of those final days wafts through me like a morning mist rising on the sun's awakening, I breathe into the memories and let them drift freely into the dawn.

I cannot change the past. Cannot reconstruct the story of a time where the breath of memory keeps it alive. I breathe into the memory of that time. Draw fresh, reviving, life-giving air into the cells stored within me. I feel them expand. Come alive and quietly slip back into place in time. Into a time in the past where I was not alive to the limitless possibilities of my life in freedom.

This morning I awoke to a cold and felt my energy wane. This morning, I consciously stepped into my power to choose what supports me. Love.

I cannot change the past. But I can change my point of view. This morning, I embrace all that I am, beauty and the beast, light and shadow, yin and yang. I embrace all that I am and step free of memory's thrall as I quietly, gently, lovingly step into myself.

The cold will pass. The day will break. Dusk will draw near. Life will continue to ebb and flow and I will lift myself up onto the crest of the wave and flow joyously into my day. With grace, ease and dignity I will dance. Confident in my one and only life, I freely become all that I am meant to be.

Monday, May 14, 2007

In this breath I breathe.

Every morning when I sit down to write I wonder what will appear on the page as I type. It's a process of trust and release. Trust in the universe, believing the words will appear as I type, and release of my preconceived notions and ideas, my desire to control the process from the get-go and make it into something it's not.

For those who have read The Secret, this process is about the Law of Attraction. I believe the words will appear. I start to write. The words appear. But they're not just 'words'. They're ideas, thoughts, observations pulled together through the funnel of my daily life, plopped onto the page through my belief that, I have something to say... that someone is interested in reading what I have to say.... that I have a unique voice.

This morning I had an email from a friend who three months ago delivered her first child at home. She sent me the link to her blog which includes her firsthand account of the process, as well as accounts written by those in attendance. Her husband, sister, a dula and a midwife. What an amazing story. What an inspiring woman.

As her son grows into the world he will be blessed with a mother who was courageous enough to trust in her body to deliver a healthy baby boy while lying in a bathtub at home.

One of the aspects of her story that struck me the most were her comments around the visualization she used to carry her through the pain of labour contractions. As the labour progressed, each round of contractions intensified. As the intensity mounted, she trusted her mind to bring forth a new visualization in order to provide her the strength to ride the pain without having to 'think'.

It wasn't what she had planned. Originally, her idea was to use a beautiful scene of a mountain, lake, tree as her inner point of contact. After a few hours of contractions, the realization awoke that the mountain, lake, tree was too benign. It required too much thought to stay focused on it, and so she shifted her inner focus to imagine something more in keeping with the intensity of her contractions. Through each wave, that image shifted naturally, without being force-fed by her thinking, into an image that reflected her beliefs, principles, values. Each cascading wave of pain carried her into a deeper place where her inner voice spoke up and helped her deal with what was happening to her body.

As I read A.C's account of her labour and the birth of her son, I was awestruck by the beauty, power and wonder of the event. She was so in tune with her body. With the child within struggling to journey outward.

In my life, I have journeyed inward to find my child so that I could be free of the pain and turmoil of the past and its hold upon my present. In that process, I have given birth to the miracle of being me today. It has not been a process without pain. Without its struggles. Without sadness and sorrow. Like A.C.s birthing process, however, it has been a process which has resulted in my life today. A place where I feel the power and the awe of being alive every moment of the day. A time where my inner voice is free to speak up and be heard so that I can find my own unique voice every morning, here in front of my computer, or out there in the world at large.

Each of us has a unique voice. For many of us, it is a germ of an idea, a tiny seed gestating into a wondrous, amazing, magnificent human being as we learn to set ourselves free from the pain of yesterday into living life fully conscious today. Like a woman giving birth, using the power of her body and her being to carry her through the pain and the wonder of creating life, our journey outward requires a deep understanding of our principles, values and beliefs. It requires our commitment, and our faith. It requires our love.

As I struggled to find my unique voice, I often covered up my pain and sorrow with the pretty picture of what I thought the world needed to see so that I would be safe from feeling. In that process, I avoided sinking into the emotions of my life. I avoided letting myself slip into that inner place where I am at one with my body, mind and spirit. For many years, I held my breath in the belief that if I didn't breathe too deeply, I wouldn't feel the pain. I was wrong.

A.C. gave birth in a bathroom at home. As the waves of pain contracted through her body, she breathed into her pain, drawing strength from a place deep within her, a knowing place, a wise place, a place where her answers appeared -- not because she was searching for them, but rather because she trusted in them to support her.

As I journey through my day, I shall breathe. In and out. No matter what happens in my world, when I use my breath to sustain me, support me, and guide me into myself, I find my knowing within, so that I can live -- fearless, passionate, committed to being the best me I can be.

As I breathe. In. Out. In. Out. I imagine each breath filled with energy, with light, with love. As it enters my body, it is transformed into a life force that explodes through every cell in my body, awakening every muscle, every tissue, every organ feeding me everything I need to sustain life. Rich. Complete. Vibrant life. As I exhale, I imagine each exhalation carring my energy, light, love back out into the world around me. In each breath, I am connected to the universe. In each breath, I am renewed. In each breath, I give birth to the possibility of this moment as I journey freely through my day, connected through my body, mind, spirit to the world around me. Alive. Passionately, fearlessly alive.