Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Perfectly perfect in all my imperfections

Life continually delivers up opportunities to grow, to learn, to shift my perceptions, to experience new things, to embrace new ideas, to let go and let change happen.

Yesterday, I stayed late at the office trying to get our newsletter put together so that I can take time off next month to go out to Vancouver and finish writing a cookbook I've been hired to produce for a restauranteur.

It was dark by the time I got home, but the house was lit and welcoming. C.C. had come over earlier to feed the dogs and when I entered he was busy hanging the toilet paper roll holder in the bathroom. The old one had fallen off some time ago and I had not gotten around to replacing it. A delicious aroma of food cooking permeated the air and on the stove a stir fry simmered. The dogs raced to the door to greet me, C.C. gave me a welcoming kiss and I had nothing to do but come in, take off my coat and sit down to a delightful dinner.

I mean, what could be more perfect, a handyman and a chef all in one waiting for my home-coming!

Some experiences are so delicious they need to be savoured slowly. After dinner I took the dogs for a walk while C.C. listened to the hockey game on the radio and then left to go play a game of his own.

Coming home to a man who is doing things for me is a unique experience. I am generally the doer. The one who tries to cram everything in, continually taking care of what needs to be done so that others can enjoy their time. To have someone do that for me is a new experience. A new sensation.

And sometimes, that can be scary.

Consciously, I know the past is not the future -- unless I make it so. My subconscious, however, doesn't always keep time with my heart beat in the moment. Sometimes, my inner voice, that beast inside who gets scared when I step out of the narrow corridors of its comfort zone, whispers disruptive comments like, "Uh. Uh. And why is he doing that? What's he want? Don't trust this sensation. You've never experienced it before. It can't be trusted." Sometimes, the beast can be even more strident, blaring alerts like a submarine warning sailors about its imminent dive. "Alert! Alert! Batten down the hatches. Hang on. Get your head down. We're going under! These waters are too dangerous."

Sometimes, there's a lag between what my mind perceives and my heart knows. I know, that was then, this is now, but my subconscious is still terrified of having the past repeat itself as it perceives me to be busy daydreaming about a different future. Like a soldier who has come back from war with hyper-sensitive responses to any sudden sound or noise, my senses are on hyper-alert, continuously scanning the horizon for signs of disorder and disruptive behaviours that may or may not be a precursor to danger.

I breathe.

Sometimes, things are exactly as they seem. So are people.

I have known C.C. for three years. In that time he has always been a kind, caring, thoughtful, honest and honourable man.

How I perceive him to be is how he is.

My fear is not of him. It is of me. Of trusting in myself, and my feelings. Of trusting that I am safe within me. Of knowing that no matter what in the world happens, I can trust myself to listen to my intuition, to be confident in my heartbeat and know it beats steady, sure and true because I am always safe within me.

That was then. This is now.

In the past, I did not know what I know today about me. About who I am. About how I am. My hungry heart drove me places I dared not go, but went anyway.

Today, my heart is full. Today, I love myself, exactly the way I am and accept myself, warts and all, as the perfectly awesome human being that I am, because the truth is, I am perfect in all my imperfections.

Long ago, my fear of never being enough, of never having enough, left me exposed to the attentions of those who were untrue.

Today, my courage keeps me breathing freely as I step surely and confidently into unknown territory. My fear is the opportunity to be courageous. My courage is the gift of love I give myself when I open myself up to having all that I want, and all that I deserve in love and life and living freely.

The question is: Are you willing to let go of 'what was then' so that you can step into 'what is now' without fear of the past haunting you. Are you willing to let go of what someone did back then and step into the truth that you are capable of doing what is right and true and loving for you right now?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Spheres of influence and other orbits

Darkness lingers in the morning later and later. Winter hides around the corner, yet, for today, the temperature will remain higher than normal. Last week's snow has melted. Autumn leaves litter the ground. The world continues to turn.

Long ago I tried to to demonstrate orbital paths of the planets to my youngest daughter. I picked up a grapefruit in one hand and an orange in the other. "This is the earth," I said, holding the orange up high in my right hand. "And this is the sun," I said placing the grapefruit a couple of feet away in my left hand. And then, I began to rotate the grapefruit around the orange which I held steady in my right hand.

"Uh, mum," my eldest daughter quickly interjected. "The earth revolves around the sun. The sun never moves."

"Ooops," I laughed, quickly reversing the rotational process. "You're right."

Sometimes, I don't get everything right. Sometimes, I make mistakes. (Just ask my daughters!)

Making mistakes is not the end of the world, though, had Alexis not corrected my orbital disaster-in-the-making it might have put an end to her sister's passing grade in Science that year. Making mistakes is human. It's part of learning. If I do everything perfectly, then I'm not learning how to do it, I'm simply doing it.

Yesterday I started working on my recap of the event I helped organize from last week. I had met with the Exec. Dir. and administrator to discuss the event earlier in the morning. Seven pages later I had a series of recommendations for next year that will ensure the event is more successful than this year's. It's part of learning -- not necessarily from mistakes, but from what went well and looking at ways to turn it into something even better.

That's hard. I'd like to think the event was perfect -- it wasn't! We didn't raise as much as we'd hoped. There were weaknesses in the format.

I know the weaknesses. I can see them, yet, so often, it's easier to just become defensive. To block out criticism and entrench myself in, "What do they know,"

"What do they know," thinking does not get me more of what I want in my life. It does not make me a more competent, empowered and effective human being. It doesn't reflect my greatness. It only speaks to my potential to think small.

Something I am learning to embrace is the fact that no one has all the answers -- even if they tell me they do. We each have a portion of the answers, parts of the equation, segments of the total picture as perceived from our vantage point, our perspective, the sum of which I determine in my own life. It's up to me to create the value from the world around me.

Like the earth revolving around the sun. Every day brings night. Every night leads to morning. There is nothing I can do to change the earth's orbit -- even with an orange and a grapefruit. There is tons I can do to effect change in the orbit of my own little world. Tons of different steps I can take today that will create greater value from what I learned, what I did, what I experienced yesterday.

In writing up the recommendations for next year's event, I had to let go of my ego and look at the greater whole. What were we trying to achieve? What is the purpose of the event? Did we reach 100% effectiveness this year? Where did we go off target? Where was the focus of our attention off kilter? Where did we pull out of orbit with the intention of what we were trying to do and careen into another idea floating in someone else's orbital path?

Alexander Graham Bell said, "Concentrate all your thoughts on the task at hand. The sun's rays do not burn until brought to a focus."

To be a better person. To be the best person I can be, I need to focus my thoughts on doing the best I can in every moment. I need to burn through my self-defences, my fears, my self-defeating games, my inhibitions, and let my light shine on the task at hand -- being all that I am meant to be.

Sometimes, I make mistakes. Sometimes, I take my focus off the task at hand and get busy carving a path through someone else's orbit, on someone else's plane of influence believing that if I can effect what they're doing, I'll do what I'm doing better.

It never happens.

To be the best me I can be, I need to keep my focus on what I'm doing and let the distractions, the meteorites of ego-propelled interference pass me by. I need to stay focused on creating a sphere of influence that reflects my purpose and passion. I need to stand in my own light.

The question is: Are you standing in your own light creating a brilliant sphere of influence that is a reflection of the best that you can be?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Ending with love and forgiveness

I am always amazed when I awaken and sit down to write this that words actually do appear on the screen! It really is a miracle some mornings as my mind feels as if it doesn't contain a single thought worth sharing -- that's the thing about trusting in the process. As long as I sit down to do this, the words will appear. If I don't, they won't.

Like love. When I turn up, love appears. When I don't, it can't -- doesn't mean it isn't there, love is always there. It just means that when I'm busy protecting myself, holding myself back, looking elsewhere, I'm not available to feel its power to move me, shift me and expand my world.

Yesterday, my eldest sister called to tell me about her visit with my two nieces last week. We haven't had a great deal of contact since my brother and his wife died in an accident nine years ago. In fact, my eldest niece has had no contact with our family at all, and my younger niece, who just turned 29, has visited once. For the longest time we didn't even know where they were as they terminated all contact with both sides of their parents' families.

Very sad. They were just 17 and 18 when their parents died. Under normal circumstances, that would be a devastating event, in the case of my brother and sister-in-law, there were other factors involved that weighed heavily on my nieces as they were, by law, adults, and could not be shielded from the harshness of the circumstances preceding the accident and some of the legal issues that needed to be dealt with afterwards. The trauma and pain must have been overwhelming to them.

Which brings me right back to where I need to be, standing with a forgiving heart in the love that has been always there, even when it was hidden behind my anger, confusion and fear.

I remember at the time of the accident, my mother was overwhelmed with grief. We all were. Unfortunately, my mother has never been adept at handling reality, and the passing of her only son, so shortly after her husband of fifty-two years had died was debilitating. My two sisters and I were hard pressed to focus on my nieces given our concern for my mother's health. Add into the mix my sister-in-law's family's behaviour and all the other drama that was going on around the time of the accident, there was little energy left to focus on my nieces.

And that is where I need to forgive myself.

I wasn't there for them. In focusing on my mother, in letting her needs override the needs of these young women, I didn't do anything at the time to help them. I didn't turn up for them to help soothe their fears and tears, to be there as a pillar of loving, calm strength.

I know that was not intentional on my part, nor on the part of my sisters, but, to my nieces, it was devastating to have to deal with the after-shock of their parents' death without the steady, calm presence of their aunts who loved them and had always been there for them.

In re-writing history, there are so many things I could have done differently. In knowing what I know now, I could have quit playing my self-defeating games like: Hiding behind judgements; Blaming; Getting them before they got me; Criticizing and condemning.

Instead, I could have turned up in love with an open heart and listened to my own words and lived by them -- At the funeral, when my eldest niece told me she did not want to talk to my mother because she believed he'd had a heart attack while driving because he'd fought with my mother and was really, really upset, I had replied, "You mother and father would only want to leave you with love. They would not want you to carry their anger, their fears. They would not want you to have anything except love, it's all we can leave behind when we leave this world." I could have held true to my belief and turned to the limitless power of love to heal broken hearts and troubled spirits.

I could have held onto the love my brother and sister-in-law left behind as their legacy.

Re-writing history, however, is futile. There is though, lots I can do today to create a loving change in our relationship. Before we can build forward I must acknowledge how I let them down. I can apologize for my behaviour back then and commit to making amends now. I can turn up in love and ask for their forgiveness.

When I know better, I do better. Back then, I was caught up in the drama of what was going on and lost focus of what was important, what was the right thing to do. There was so much more I could have done.

Back then, I believed it had all ended badly. Anything that ends badly isn't over yet. In reaching out to my nieces, in sharing her story of what happened with them, my sister has awakened me to the truth that everything is meant to end well, it's the way of the universe.

I can't change what happened to put an end to all contact with my nieces, but I can affect what happens today so that we can build a loving, caring relationship into tomorrow. I can take responsibility for what I did back then that hurt them, and help my nieces heal today by acknowledging that once upon a time, I wasn't there for them. I can be there for them today, in love.

The question is: Where do you hold onto pain and anger and ignore the love that is waiting to embrace you? Where are you stuck in believing you got a 'bad ending' and hold yourself back from finding the ending that will leave you filled with love and forgiveness?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Forgiveness and grieving

I am always amazed at how emotions ebb and flow, rise and fall. Not that I should be. I mean, emotions just are. They're there. Part of me. They don't make me who I am, but they sure can affect how I am, how I encounter the world, how I move through my days.

These past couple of weeks have reminded me that my emotions can sometimes get out of sorts with my reality. That I need to continuously take a break and breathe, breathe, breathe.

At Choices a couple of weeks ago, Thelma Box, the founder, said something in one of the sessions that reverberated throughout my being. I'm not going to repeat what she said simply because it isn't her words that count, it's how I responded. I felt tears prick the back of my eyes, sadness permeate my being. I left the room so that I could collect myself without disturbing the group and later spoke with Thelma one on one.

"My father died 12 years ago," I told her. "Today is the first time I allowed myself to miss him."

"For some of us," she replied, "grief takes longer to work its way to the surface."

I've never grieved my father. Never let myself acknowledge that regardless of what he'd done, I love him and miss him. He was an angry man. He was also a poet. A silent, thoughtful man who in between his outbursts loved to entertain, to take long walks, to cook and to read.

For most of my life I have worked at forgiving my father for not loving me. What I heard that day from Thelma was, my father always loved me, even when some of the things he did were not very loving. They were to him, an act of love for he could only love me in the only way he knew how, in relation to how much he loved himself and had been loved in his life.

What I realized that day was, I was forgiving my father for the wrong thing. He always loved me. Forgiveness needs to focus on what he did that I carry today as the scars that hurt me and keep me from embracing the beauty of my life today.

Twelve years ago, I thought it was over. I convinced myself that some things just don't end well, and one of them was my relationship with my father. But, in this universe of abundance, in this place where love is and all things end well, even when they appear not to, it's because they're not over yet. In accepting my father loved me, the pain and sorrow die and the story ends well today. I forgive and I grieve.
A big shift. In my understanding of his love, I can let go of the anger as I step with joy and a peaceful, forgiving heart into love. My father loved me in the only way he knew how, and today, I love myself in the best way I can -- with acceptance of all of me, beauty and the beast as I move with grace, ease and dignity through love. Today, I grieve the loss of my father, the man who planted the seed that became the beauty of my life today.

The question is: What sad endings are you hanging onto in the belief the story didn't end well? Where are you refusing to see, it's just not over yet because all things end well. It's the way of the world.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Speaking my truth is up to me

I thought I'd written here yesterday -- and then realized I'd hadn't!

It was a hectic week. On Thursday night we held a function, an art show and silent art auction fund-raiser for the shelter where I work.

We put our heart and souls into doing things. Often, we over-extend ourselves to ensure something happens, and when it doesn't, we blame ourselves, or others for what didn't transpire.

It's human nature. The nature of the beast, or as Bill Watterson, author and creator of Calvin and Hobbs says, “The problem with people is that they're only human.”

Yesterday, I met with my boss to talk about the function. He mentioned that the principle from the art studio who had sponsored the event had spent 45 minutes talking to him about me and what a terrible job I'd done working with her on organizing everything.

My initial response was, Hello? The evening went off smoothly. All the guests had a wonderful experience. They laughed and chatted. Enjoyed themselves. The room was filled with 250 people wandering through the art her students had created. She had two television interviews, the event was on several radio stations and there was an article in the newspaper. And she took time out from the celebrations to talk about her disappointment? What is wrong with this picture?

Well, there's lots wrong, but her stuff isn't about me. My stuff is.

I attended this event last year when the art studio held it on behalf of another organization. The principle of the studio wanted to work with our organization this year because... and she listed a host of reasons why the other group did not do a good job of making the event a success.

Red flag and I chose not to pick it up.

I knew the group from the other organization. They did their best. And the event was a success. When someone criticizes others about something that to everyone else is successful, perhaps that individual can only see what went wrong in eveything. If everything appears to have gone right and someone thinks it all went wrong -- can anything ever go right?

Last year everyone agreed, the venue was awesome, the food superb, the wine great, the art beautiful. The major criticism by everyone who attended was that the opening bids for the art were too high. The high entry bid prices discouraged guest participation. When I discussed this aspect with the woman from the studio, she was adamant that she would not let her artists' work sell for less than it was worth -- and she determines its worth based on a standard system used by the industry.

True -- however, in my experience, if the event is meant as a fund-raiser, then the value of the works needs to encourage participants to bid -- not discourage.

Huge lesson for me here.

I stayed silent when we discussed this critical aspect of the event.

Well, not completely. We talked about it briefly, mostly 'around' the issue as she was adamant, firm in her belief that she was right in doing it her way.

In my silence I let go of the opportunity of doing the right thing. And, in not doing the right thing, I undermined my enthusiasm, my passion and my sense of accomplishment.

See, it wasn't about the price of the art -- it was about my ignoring my 'inner knowing'.

An issue for me is always how do I deal with conflict. My foray into talking about this issue with her demonstrated to me that to push the point would result in conflict. I backed down -- in spite of all my knowing, I let it go.

In letting the issue ride, in not standing true to what I believe in, I let myself down.

The owner of the studio was adamant that she wanted television media before the event. I promised to do my best -- she felt I didn't.

And that's about me. Not her.

I did get television coverage for the day of the event. And that was successful -- but it didn't meet her expectations. Hence, her disquiet.

What an awesome experience for me. In looking at my role in 'underperforming', I can see the flaw in the picture and recognize it for what it is. No amount of media coverage was going to encourage people to come out and bid thousands of dollars on art that is produced by amateurs -- no matter how beautiful the art -- unless we were upfront about the issue in the first place.

Because I didn't voice that truth early on, the issue festered. To justify my lack of performance with getting media out before the event, I fell into a couple of my self-defeating games, acting arrogant and condemning, "Doesn't she know how media works? They're not about to do a story on an art studio before the event. It speaks of self-promotion and advertising. yada. yada. yada."

My silence can be deadly. It is a huge issue for me. One I'm continually dealing with. In recognizing the truth today, I know what I need to do to speak up.

When my boss and I discussed the event yesterday we agreed it is a format and an endeavour we'd like to do again -- whether or not we do it with this studio will be dependent upon our post-event meeting next week. To have a successful postmortem, I need to ensure all the issues are on the table -- and I need to get my ego out of the way. Sure, it annoys me she would spend time out from the evening telling my boss what a poor job I did, particularly when there is some truth in it -- but not from the perspective she is talking -- her stuff is about her. For me, the poor job I did isn't about the work I did around the event. That work was actually okay. No. The poor job I did was in communicating clearly, respectfully and honestly with this woman. And that's all about me.

What I need to be clear on is what's my responsibility, what can I learn and what can I do differently -- and the major issue is -- not being silent. I need to breathe. Trust in my knowledge and my abilities to stand up and state, without fear of the outcome, what is true. I also need to stay clear of my core tape -- which is that negative voice deep within me that believes, "It's all my fault."

I made mistakes. We all did. And it is not all my fault if she is unhappy.

I take a breath. I know my truth. It's up to me to speak it.

The question is: Where do you hold back on speaking your truth for fear someone won't like what you're saying? Where does your fear of confrontation keep you mired in silence?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

What is normal?

It is very seldom that I awake and want to pull the covers over my head and go back to sleep. I love mornings! But, this morning, I wasn't too keen on arising... It's the weather, you know.

It snowed last night. It was beautiful -- but, it snowed. How could it have snowed? It was 20 degrees Celsius during the day. (68F) I rode my bike around the reservoir at 5pm wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Is this normal?

Whoopi Goldberg, comedian, actress, activist once said, "Normal is nothing more than a cycle on a washing machine."

Well, I feel like the weather has put me through the wring cycle! Do you think I'm taking it a bit too personally?


And then I breathe. Yup. It snowed. Only weather. Can't change it. Can't move it. Can't make it disappear. It's weather. And having weather is normal. Complaining about it is normal -- but useless. When I complain about something I can do nothing about, I am putting myself through the wash cycle, tossing my emotions into the tub, scrubbing and scrubbing and never getting my complaints all washed out.

Like memories.

Everyday, I encounter situations and sensations that enter my mind as forms of energy through my five senses and are immediately transformed into patterned activity of sensory neurons that my brain can make sense of. Depending upon whether or not my 'lower brain' figures I've 'been there, done that' before, the information will be acted upon, escalated or stored for future reference.

Within me live millions of memories. Some are carefully stored in quadrants of my brain that help me deal with my emotions around the memory, particularly if they are trauma-based. I cannot know what memory will trigger with each sensation or experience I encounter during my day. Asking the question, is this real for me today, or are my emotions around this experience stemming from past traumatic events, helps me regulate the temperature at which I express my emotions -- and the damage I cause in the world around me.

But, and there's always a but....

How do I maintain my balance in a world of chaos?

It was a windy, blustery evening riding around the reservoir with a girlfriend last night. Whitecaps tossed themselves with gay abandon across the water's surface, dark clouds boiled in angry defiance against the mountain ridges. As we rode, we spotted a sailboat in the middle of the lake. It tipped. Once. Twice. We could vaguely see a couple of figures scurrying around but couldn't quite make out what was happening.

"Should we call 9-1-1?" my girlfriend asked.

"Can't really tell if they're in distress," I replied. "Let's keep riding and watching. Looks like they're taking down their sails."

By the time we rode around the end of the lake, we could see the occupants of the sailboat standing on a buoy as another sailboat approached. Someone had already called emergency services and police, EMS and Firefighters were all standing on shore watching the drama unfold in the water. It was a spectacular feat of sailing by the man in the other sailboat. He whipped around the buoy, picked up first one person and then retreated, rejigged and returned to pick up the second. As he pulled into the dock the emergency crew and their water rescue boat were just pulling up. Nobody was taken away by ambulance and it appeared that other than perhaps a wet dunking and bruised egos, the survivors were fine.

"Wow!" exclaimed my girlfriend as we stopped to let an emergency vehicle cross in front of us. "We should have called a TV station and got them in on the drama. That was exciting."

"No sense calling after-the-fact," I casually responded as I got back on my bike to pedal on.

"We should have thought to call during the excitement." She picked up on my silence and nodded her head. "Oh wait. You must see drama like this every day at the shelter. Guess it's not as shattering to you."

I wondered about her question. Is that true? Have I become inured to high-stakes drama and thus, less likely to dial 9-1-1, even when it's necessary?

The brain is an amazing, miraculous and incredible place. It sorts, sifts, organizes, measures, repositions and tabulates information at incredible speed, every second of every day. Perhaps that's why sleep is so important. The brain gets to take a break from being constantly bombarded by sensory perceptions that need transformation and regulation.

But, as science has proven, extended periods of exposure to stress decrease our coping abilities. They de-sensitize our ability to consciously discern between friend and foe. They inhibit our ability to take appropriate action.

Within my brain are the memories of those 4 years 9 months I lived in emotional terror. With each day I move away from the trauma, my memories become less vivid, less front and centre in my thinking.

But, they do exist. Memory never goes away. It is always there. It's just our ability to access it, and how it is accessed that changes.

Yesterday at the shelter where I work, a frontline worker got into the middle of the fight and ended up breaking her elbow. It wasn't intentional. One of the combatants fell backwards and landed on her, shoving her into a wall.

Fights are not unusual occurrences at the Drop-In. Staff are not generally the targets, but it does happen.

In working in that environment everyday, my fight or flight senses have become overloaded. My ability to discern between what is real fear and what is imagined is being affected on a daily basis.

My girlfriend's comment yesterday that I must see this kind of drama everyday disturbed me. Not because it's untrue, but because it is.

I don't know how to minimize the effects of my work environment. Most days I am balanced between believing in the absolute necessity of what we do and the belief that what we do makes a difference. Most days I walk with optimism and hope that what we do is necessary.

What I don't often look at is its internal effect on me.

Today, I'm thinking about it. It requires a more thoughtful approach. A more considered, measured response. I need to breathe. I need to let my mind begin the process of assessing, measuring, evaluating and stimulating my thinking.

The question is: What is normal? Do you routinely shoot from the hip and then ask questions, or do you ask yourself after every unusual occurrence, "Is this normal for me behaviour? Am I responding to reality, or to what I fear? Are my fears real, or are they perceptions based on past experience clouding my reality today?"

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The power of prayer

We were a group of about 20 women standing in the sacistry of the church holding a slim white candle in our hand. Most stood with heads bowed, rosaries slipping through their fingers as we said aloud the five decades of the rosary. Five Hail Mary's. One Our Father. Five Hail Mary's, One Our Father.

The quiet of the church surrounding us. The candles flickering on the altar. The light of the candles flickering on the faces of the women gathered in prayer. Stained glass windows interrupted the plain wooden walls at regular intervals, each depicting one of the twelve stations of the cross. The soaring pillars of the roofline arched up towards a skylight high above through which only the darkness of night could be seen.

Mystical. Humbling. Powerful.

I drifted back to a time when I was a child and my mother would bring me to the church with her to help with the vases of flowers around the altar. I had loved those quiet evenings when along with her and a couple of other women I helped. I was doing something needed. Something for God. My job was to pick the deadheads out of the old bouquets. I was responsible for saving as many flowers as possible.

I liked my job. I felt important. Part of something greater than my six-year old world. The women They always began with saying the rosary, the women's voices pure and strong as they repeated again and again their prayers -- for world peace, for the poor and hungry, for soldiers fighting on foreign soils, for children and mothers, for families. I loved the ritual. The hushed sound of the women's voices, the candles flickering at the corners of the room.

The church from my childhood memory was more ornate than this one in which I stood with the women in a circle. It had whitewashed walls, gold leaf and filigree work decorated the walls and ceilings. There were statues of Jesus and Mary and all the Saints tucked into alcoves in the corners. As a child, I feared the sight of Jesus on his cross. Blood dripping from his side. I didn't like looking at him. I didn't like to see the evidence of his pain.

I was at this church last night to give a talk about homelessness. I had arrived late after getting lost in the sprawling northeast section of the city. I walked in as the priest invited his parishioners to come forward to receive, the Body of Christ. I sat at the back as a double line of parishioners walked along the centre aisle, silently waiting their turn at the altar.

Even in the brief moments I participated in the final prayers of the mass, the familiarity of my surroundings settled into me with the comforting warmth of a child's blanket in the night. I don't go to church every Sunday -- at least not a Catholic Church. I have let go the rosary beads that circled me as a child and moved into freedom to believe in what I believe, how I believe. And yet, the intonations, the voices chanting, the words, the sights, sounds, candlelight burning, the priest in silken robe, arms spread out wishing his flock Godspeed into the night transported me back into a meditative state. A quiet space. A peaceful place. A place of gratitude and remembering.

And then the women invited me to join them in saying the rosary.

There is power in prayer. Power in a circle of women joined together in common song, voices raised in supplication to God, asking for blessings on those in need.

There is power in the repetitions of words, again and again, beseeching a Mother on-high to bless families below, to heal their wounds, to heal their broken hearts, to bring peace to troubled minds.

No matter your faith or belief, there is power in prayer.

It was a magical beginning to an evening spent talking about something I'm passionate about with women who in whatever way they can, want to make a difference.

"You make a difference in many ways," I told them at the meeting when we'd finished saying the Rosary. "You make a difference with the donations you gather up, the sandwiches you make and send to us, the volunteering you do. And, you make a difference with your prayers."

Sometimes, all we can do for those who are lost on the road of life is to hold them lovingly in our thoughts and pray they find the end of the road before it kills them.

Sometimes, all we can do is not forget them.

When I was lost on the road of life, love kept me alive. My love of my daughters kept me from taking my own life -- it was the one truth I clung to as my world spun into a web of lies I could not unravel. The love of my friends who did not give up on me, even though I had given up on myself. Love held me fast to this world, even though I wanted to get away.

It is frustrating to watch a woman disappear into an abusive relationship. Frustrating and painful. We want to rail against what she is doing. We want to rant against his abuse.

Sometimes, all we can do is love her and wait with open arms for her to awaken to the truth.

No one deserves to be abused.

Like the countless people who wander into the shelter where I work, lost and afraid, worried that this is the only life they deserve, sometimes, all we can do is hold them in our thoughts and keep them as safe as we can until they awaken to the truth. This is not the life they deserve.

There was power in the rosary last night. Power in the prayer of the women collectively asking God, the Divine, the Higher Power to watch over those in need as they continued to do the whatever work they could to support them.

There was a presence in the room greater than me.

The question is: Are you using the power of your voice to make a difference?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Tough day yesterday. During the night, C.C. wasn't feeling well. By early morning we were both concerned. I drove him to Emergency where we spent several hours waiting as he underwent tests. They ruled out heart and lungs and determined the cause. It will need some attention -- but it's not as life threatening as we both feared.

Strange thing fear. It permeates my body, consumes my thinking, runs like a river of disquiet coursing through my veins, disturbing my peace of mind, disrupting my serenity.

I awoke around two this morning. Couldn't sleep. Moved to the couch. My mind was on fast forward. Into hyper-drive around 'what if' thinking. Leaping from one disaster to another, I quickly became consumed with the fear of what didn't happen, and am confident won't happen. But my mind was on a tear. It was having a grand time jolting me like a pinball through the pillars of its jarring insistence I acknowledge its presence and look at what I fear.

I do not fear C.C.'s health. I fear my feelings. I fear caring about him. I fear he will leave. He will disappear. He will not care back in return. I fear feeling exposed, open, vulnerable. I fear love.

Tough to face that one. The little voice whispers, isn't this what you want? Isn't this what it's all about?

Is it, I wonder, even though I know it is.

Fear is pernicious. It saturates my senses like a too heavy perfume drowning out all sensation of the world around me. Cloying. Destroying. Fear weighs me down.

I breathe.

Acknowledging my fear is key to letting it go. I can't change it, rearrange it, or even blow it up. I have to give it room to evaporate with each cleansing breath of reality

I let it flow through my veins. Breathe in. Breathe out. Imagine each inhalation drawing pure clean air into my cells. Imagine each breath drawing in the beauty and joy and love of the world around me. Imagine each inhalation transforming the fear into love. Imagine the chemical make-up of my fear being exchanged for love. I am the alchemist transforming my fear into what is real and true of my life in this moment.

Exhale. Imagine each exhalation filling up with pure, sweet, love. Imagine each breath flowing out of my body filled with fear transformed into energy -- positive, invigorating, live-giving.


I know fear. Always have. What I didn't know was how to move through my fear into peace of mind and calmness. I used to believe fear was what I was meant to hold onto.

Now, I know different. Today, I know the truth.

Fear just is. The opportunity to be courageous. The medium for change. Fear is an emotion. It is simply a conduit to my feelings. To what is real. To what is meaningful in my life today. I let it flow and as it flows I reclaim my sense of balance, my well-being.

I know fear. And I know, love is greater. Love is the sum of my courage, my fear, my knowledge, my awareness. It is all I need to move with grace, ease and dignity through fear into this moment where I am all that I am meant to be.

The question is: Where do you let fear keep you stuck in believing what might be, actually is? Where does fear keep you from letting go and claiming your right to be the magnificent human being you are meant to be?

Monday, October 22, 2007

When triggers are pulled, the shot is fired

On WON, a private site I belong to, CZ, the manager posted an article, Why do abused women often stay, rather than just flee the situation? by Brenda Branson. It's a clear, reasoned look at how public opinion has changed over the years, and how our understanding of abuse and its many facets affect a woman's psyche.

In the article, Branson suggests that asking 'why she stays' continues to victimize the woman. We don't ask, why isn't he in jail? Why does he abuse her? -- even though he's the one doing the abusing.

It isn't the why of her staying that makes the difference. It's her not leaving that keeps her in the abusers arms and in harm's way.

As a woman who was in an abusive relationship, I made choices that kept me there. Don't like admitting that. Hurts. Was I really that weak? That disbelieving of what I deserved? That self-absorbed I couldn't see what he was doing was hurting me and those I love?


In accepting that truth, I can heal. When I continue to focus the reasons for my staying on the affect his abuse had on me, I continue to keep myself in the victim's role.

I cannot stop an abuser being who he/she is. I can stop abuse in my life by being who I am meant to be. Courageous. Honest. Loving. Passionate. Fearless. Committed.

I am in relationship again. It's a wonderful journey -- at times fraught with triggers from the past. It is up to me to stay conscious. To be aware. To be my best self.

Yesterday, triggers abounded. While C.C. unwittingly had something to do with those triggers being pulled, they were not of his making. What he was doing had everything to do with him. My responses had everything to do with me.

I had to get honest, get real, get moving through my triggers. I didn't want to talk to C.C. about them. I don't want that relationship back then to be part of my relationship with him. And yet, there are moments when the triggers become so real, I start believing the voices in my head. As I told C.C. yesterday, "I need to talk about this because the conversations in my head are really unhealthy."

It was a powerful moment. In being honest with my insecurities, and my fears, we were able to talk through what was happening. We were able to be emotionally intimate.

For C.C., he was able to hear me without trying to fix me. He gave me room to express myself, without trying to rationalize, justify or even explain away what he had done that ended up being a trigger for me.

And in the end, we were able to grow closer.

Pretty powerful stuff.

In all of us, there are memories, triggers, events from the past that haunt us. Sometimes, it's a simple as a song on the radio reminding us of a love lost long ago. Other times, the haunting is more insidious, more pervasive. Like me with my triggers over the past few days, until I face what is disturbing my peace of mind, the trigger will continue to disrupt my efforts to be intimate.

When the trigger is pulled, it is my chance to step through my fear into courage. It is my opportunity to face what ails me so that I can be free of the past without fearing the future. I can't know all the triggers within me, but, when they're pulled, I feel their angst, their discord, their disruptive force unearth me from my center. Sometimes, like yesterday, I have to feel the tears before I can identify the source of my angst. In relationship, my tears are not about what he's doing, they're about what I fear.

In any relationship, one person will always have the capacity to do something that they don't realize will affect the other person adversely. Unless we're the personality disordered, it is not our intent to harm someone. It happens -- we cannot know everything about the other until they reveal it. And that's where true intimacy happens. In telling C.C. about my trigger, we were able to have an honest, and loving, conversation. One that brought us closer. That helped both of us heal, and build bridges of communication, trust and love.

The question is: Do you walk away from triggers? Or, do you feel their pull and step into the shot, searching for answers to your discord? Are you willing to 'look bad' in order to feel good about yourself once the trigger is pulled, the shot is fired and you are free to heal the wound hiding behind the pain?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Perfectly perfect or perfectly human?

You can tell a lot about a person by how they are in the kitchen. Last night, C.C. and I had friends for dinner. I cooked the main dishes, C.C. made the soup.

It takes a brave man to put on a flowered apron and not feel silly -- and if he does, to laugh at himself. I'm not a big apron wearer. The only one I could find was one my mother gave me last Christmas. It reminds me of the 'putzfrau' who used to come and clean our house. Sort of something you'd see on Coronoation Street. A smock-like thing with red roses on a blue background. Very attractive! C.C. laughed at himself and kept on cooking.

One of the 'rules' at Choices is to "Not take yourself so seriously."

A flaw of mine. I take myself and most things seriously. It's time to get out of my rut and into the flow of laughter that abounds when I let go of searching for the importance in the moment and slip instead into living my lightness of being in the moment.

This morning I have to be at a Church to give a talk about the shelter where I work. I checked my Calendar online, expecting to see the details of where I need to be. They're missing. I'm normally pretty consistent about putting in all the details -- for some reason, this time, I didn't. Rather than beat myself up about having messed up, I've decided to let it go. I'll leave a bit early, drop by the office and pick up the info I need from my notebook. I know I wrote it down (which is a good thing) as unfortunately, I can't remember the name of the church where I'm supposed to be at 10:30!

In staying in the moment with lightness and intent, I let go my anxiety of not having all the details, confident that the information I need is at my office and I will still make my appointment on time.

I slip back into the moment. The house is quiet. The sky outside still dark. The world slumbers on as I type in the soft glow from my desk lamp pooling upon my fingers.

All is well with my world.

The question is: Where are you taking yourself too seriously? Where are you missing the joy in the moment because you're holding yourself pinioned to being perfectly perfect rather than perfectly human?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Where hope lives.

It was a tough day yesterday. When I got to the shelter where I work, the roadway was closed off with crime scene tape. Police cars, firetrucks, an ambulance littered the road. Clients and other passers-by stood outside the tape silently watching.

A man had been stabbed. He's going to live. But it was dicey for awhile.

I felt the ennui all day. The seeping away of energy. The sadness. The sense of futility, of why bother thinking, of what's the point questioning.

The point is, I care. Working at the shelter is important to me. Recently, someone asked me, why are you so passionate about working with homeless individuals. My answer, "because I believe it's important to help those without voice find their voices. It's important to give voice to the things that steal our voices."

Once upon a time, I lost my voice. I gave it up. Gave it away. Gave it over to someone who told me they knew my voice and had the right to speak up for me.

I was wrong.

No one can take my voice -- unless I give them the right. When I give them the right, I abdicate all responsibility for my life.

And that is wrong.

When individuals turn to the street, to drugs and alcohol to soothe the pain raging in their minds, they are giving up their voice, their truth, their song.

And that is wrong.

I cannot right a wrong. But I can make a difference by helping those who have been wronged by their actions and the actions of those around them to find their courage, their strength, their belief in themselves so that they can give voice to their dreams once again.

Antoine de Saint-Exubery, author of one of my favourite books, The Little Prince, wrote, "If you want to build a ship, don't herd people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea."

Yesterday, a man was stabbed outside the shelter and I felt hopeless for awhile. I saw the sea of futility, of hopelessness of despair and lost sight of the immense capacity of man to change.

When I give up hope, I give into the voices who would say, "they deserve what they're getting." "Let them die on the streets." "It's their own fault." "They chose to be there."

No one chooses an addiction -- addicts are not that discriminating. No one as a child dreamt of being homeless, or an addict. No one dreamed of the day they would crave a drug so badly they wanted to die, they believed they would die without it.

And, regardless of the circumstances of their lives, no one deserves to be stabbed. No one deserves to have their life threatened, or fingers chopped off because they didn't pay up for their drugs (as has happened to three clients over the past week).

While I don't agree with drugs and other addictions and I don't agree with the 'high risk lifestyles' of many of our clients, I believe until such time as they can see that the life they're living is killing them, they need my help and the help of others to keep hope alive long enough for them to see the endless immensity of the sea of possibilities for change.

As long as someone is alive, hope is alive. But when they die, hope dies with them. At the shelter where I work, we keep hope alive. If we do nothing else, keeping people alive, and as safe as possible, is essential in the battle against addictions, poverty, violence, and crime. As long as we continue to do what we do, we will have an impact. We will keep hope alive. With hope, there is always a chance for someone to put up their hand and say, "This life isn't working for me anymore. I need to make changes."

Yesterday a knife ripped through a man's body and anger ripped through me. In my anger, I wanted to give up. I wanted to turn away, to take the easy route, the safe path.

Today, my anger has abated and I feel hopeful again. I can't change someone's life. I can change the feelings of hopelessness that pervade their lives when they give up hope of ever being different, of ever having a different life. I can hold onto hope as they hold onto their lives desperately searching for the answers to the question they are afraid to ask, and too afraid to confront.

I can't stop someone from being stabbed. I can't stop anyone from picking up a needle and shooting poison into their veins.

I can keep hope alive until they find the courage, and the strength, to start asking themselves the tough questions that will lead them away from the life they/re leading back to the homes and the families who love them.

I can keep hope alive until they find the courage to stop and look and listen to the world around them so that they can see there is always a possibility for change. I can keep hope alive long enough for them to believe they can do it differently.

The question is: Where does hopelessness keep you stuck in believing nothing can ever change? Where do you give up hope of doing it different as you tell yourself, this is the only way my life can ever be?

Friday, October 19, 2007

My perspective shifts. The past slips away.

Yesterday, I had lunch with a girlfriend. We both left our marriages within a year of eachother about twelve years ago. Since that time, we've both had a couple of relationships. One of mine actually doesn't belong in the category of 'relationship', as much as the 'things I never want to do in my life again' category. Though the gifts from having had that experience are many, the need to repeat it is gone. Being in relationship, however, being in love, loving another passionately, being intimate is something I continue to move into, grow with, and embrace.

Over lunch we talked about being in relationship today, or not. My girlfriend shared a dream she'd had where she watched a couple and their baby happily walk down the street. The husband treated the wife and child like they were the most precious beings in the world. They were so together, so connected, she said. Tears formed in her eyes. "I had that once," she whispered. "But I let it go."

"Did you really have it?" I asked. "When I was married, I never felt treasured. Special. Like I was a precious object held in loving hands."

"Neither did I," my friend replied.

"Then what did you let go?"

My friend hesitated before responding quietly, "The dream of having it."

Long ago I dreamt I would be in relationship with a man where I felt treasured, special, precious.

And then, I treated myself with disrespect, with disdain, with disregard. I trusted the untrustworthy. I accepted the unacceptable. I didn't love myself.

Today, I know I have value. I know I am worthy of love. Today, I treat myself like the miraculous gift I am. I am precious.

It's all in my perspective.

Long ago, I filtered my life through eyes focused on the past. I feared the past would be my present. I feared the past would repeat itself.

And it did. Sure, there was different packaging on the men, but the situations were very familiar. It's why I kept throwing myself into the arms of men looking for what I was missing. I believed they held the secret formula that would fill my hungry heart. I believed they held the holy grail of my fulfillment. Ultimately, it didn't really matter who the man was, what mattered was my hungry heart felt less empty in someone else's arms.

Today, I fill my heart from within. Today I embrace the possibility of love and loving and know, no one can fill my heart with love -- it is already full. Today, I expand into the joy of loving because I love myself enough to love without giving myself up for the sake of being loved.

When I let go of one perspective to shift my point of view, the past takes on a different hue. It becomes less front and centre, less all defining of this moment. Shadows lift, move back, light filters in. As I shift my perspective, the past becomes less threatening, my thinking becomes less all or nothing, as what happened yesterday becomes simply the backdrop to where I am today. It adds value without determining the light through which I see the present. Without the past darkening every moment, I am free to see my future in a different light.

C.C. and I have been dating for two months now. It's been a comfortable, relaxed relationship. Two people getting to know eachother. Two people learning about what makes the other tick.

Sometimes, my perspective of my relationship with C.C. is clouded by the triggers I carry from the past. Sometimes, my responses to 'in the moment' happenings, are filtered through my memories of someone else, something else, other than what's happening between us. Ghosts of partners past cloud my thinking, just as they can cloud his.

The gift in living consciously is the ability to recognize what is my stuff today, versus, what is stuff from yesterday masquerading as truth in this moment.

When I shift my perspective into the moment, I let go of seeing myself as a victim of the past as I firmly plant myself in this moment where I am all that I am meant to be in love.

The question is: What's your perspective? Is it rigid like a mountain range blocking the view to the other side? Or, is it a broad and sweeping plain, filled with limitless possibilities stretching beyond the sky above you as you step outside the narrow corridor of 'that was then and will always be' thinking into this is my one and only life. Are you willing to embrace yourself and your life with love so that you can step freely into being all that you are meant to be in freedom from yesterday?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Breathing into the moment

I live surrounded by beauty.

Yesterday morning, I had to drive to Canmore, a mountain town one hour west of the city, for an 8:30 meeting. As I drove westwards, the sun began its journey through the dark, bruising the sky with shades of purple and rose. Rose streaked clouds scurried across the sky, like children playing tag, dabbing the next closest cloud with colour and then the next as the ink black darkness softened into indigo then blue with the rising of the sun. The Rockies lumbered across the horizon in front of me, the serrated edges of their backs piercing upwards, touching the sky, looming closer and closer. Horses galloped across the rolling fields spread out around me, Canada Geese flew in formation through the morning drenched sky.

Beauty is all around. And yet, some days, my thoughts block my eyes from seeing the wonder of the world around me.

I finished my meetings around 2 pm and took a back road that led me up and over a mountain pass into a deep quiet valley before returning to meet the highway further to the east.

The air was cooler. Snow iced the peaks around me with a delicate filigree of white cutouts decorating the solid black mass of the mountains with the grace of lace tablecloth against mahogany. The gravel road skirted a mountain lake, it's gunmetal grey surface whipped up by the breeze blowing through the valley. When I reached the top of the pass I stopped and pulled into a lay-by and got out of my car. I walked along the lake's perimeter and sat upon a huge black boulder at the water's edge. Waves lapped at my feet. The peaks surrounded me, a protective amphitheatre, solid, immovable, permanent.

And yet, nothing is permanent. Time and weather wear against the mountains' mass. Snow, ice, avalanche, wind will tear away pieces of the rocks and change their solid presence. Nothing is permanent, yet to my eyes, nothing changed in that moment as I sat in silent wonder.

Sitting by a mountain lake, I felt the presence of the Divine, of God, of a universe deep with meaning. I melted into the awe and wonder of the world surrounding me as peacefulness and gratitude flowed through my spirit.

It isn't about the permanence of my surroundings. My journey is about my presence, about the value I create in everything around me, in every moment I breathe, in every step I take, thought I hold, or let escape. When I race through each moment, I miss the true value of what is around me, the true significance in each insignificant moment through which I pass. To walk in appreciation, to live with gratitude filling my heart, I must stop and look and listen to the world unfolding around me and settle into being 'at one' with all creation.

In the beauty of the mountains surrounding me yesterday, I felt the significance of that moment in time and breathed joyfully into the gratitude rising within me. I am alive. I am.

The question is: Do you see the significance of the backdrop of the world around you adding value in your life? Are you willing to stop and look and listen and feel its beauty unfold as you breathe into this moment, as you say a prayer of gratitude, I am alive. All is well in my world.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Watch Your Language

Last night I was invited to participate as one of 9 professionals in a "Speed-dating" event for students of the University's communications and PR programs. Sixty students turned up to interview 'the practitioners' for ten minutes each.

It was fun, challenging and inspiring. These 20 somethings all have the fervour and the desire to make their mark in the world of PR. They believe in their ability to take on the world and create change -- very cool.

Something I noticed was their language -- it's actually not just their language, everyone does this.

To be in my 'power', I must use powerful language. When I disassociate from my 'I' through use of the word, 'you', I am not claiming my place at centre stage of my life.

Last night, pretty well every student, used 'you' language. Language that kept them from claiming their power as they spoke of 'you do it', not, 'I do it'.

Here's an example:

When I sat in the room with all the students last night, I was in awe of their energy. When you've been in the business a long time, you get kind of jaded and tired. It's discouraging when every day you hear the same old same old. You know, when you think you've got a brilliant idea on how to get the media to an event, and you get someone saying, You can't do that. You let their opinion talk you out of doing what you know is right. They want you to buy into their pessimism and yet, you want to be true to what you believe.

In that example, see where my 'I' shifted to the less powerful 'you'.

Here's how I could have said it:

When I sat in the room with all the students last night, I was in awe of their energy. I've been in this business a long time and I can feel somewhat jaded and tired at times. There are days when I feel discouraged. I here the same old same old and then, when I do think I've got a brilliant idea and someone tells me I can't do it, I don't stand up and say, Yes I can. I let their opinion talk me out of doing what I know is right. I buy into their pessimism even thought what I want the most is to be true to what I believe.

Speaking in the 'I' is big. Watching your language, catching yourself speaking in the you is the key to claiming your 'I'.

Try it. Listen carefully to your language and to the language of those around you. Do they disassociate from their feelings? Do they step back from claiming their 'I'? Do you?

The question is: Where does your language undermine your power? Where do you let yourself of the hook of accountability by not standing in your 'eye'?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Perfectly human in all my imperfections is perfect for me

I didn't have Internet when I signed on this morning. What a bizarre feeling. Scary almost. To be so dependent upon technology that not having it changes my state of mind. Weird.

I started to write my blog in Word. Not the same. Something was missing. The screen looked different. The connection felt different. I kept slugging. Kept writing. Opted to move out of 'blog thinking' to book writing. Not a bad idea! It forced me to look at my morning through different glasses. To shake it up a bit with a different way of doing things and to get some much needed writing done.

Like people. Sometimes I meet someone with whom there is no connection, or the connection is not what I think it should be. Sometimes, I get the sense that we are on the same page but looking at different angles. Sometimes, I think we must be on completely different planes going in opposite directions. Sometimes, our connection is only through our pain.

This weekend at Choices, I had to connect with a woman who's had very similar experiences with men to mine. I didn't want to. In fact, I wasn't sure I was the best person to do it as dealing with her issues meant putting myself back into mine at a point in the Choices process where I needed to be completely focused on this woman. I was scared. Could I stay connected to her process without connecting to my own story blocking my hearing?

Mary Davis, Thelma Box's daughter, came up to the circle where I was standing with this woman and said to her, "It's no surprise Louise Gallagher is standing right across from you in this circle," she said, her voice soft and loving. "But, I think she might need my help here. Do you mind if I step in?" she asked looking directly at me. I nodded my head quickly in confirmation. I needed her help.

With Mary's guidance we got through the process. It was a big moment for this woman. Her smile at the end was a huge reward.

But the tapes were still firing in my head. Why couldn't I stay connected without getting caught up in my own issues? I should have been able to do it. I should have been strong enough to let go of my story so that I could focus on hers.

Not true.

Mary and I chatted later. "You looked pretty scared when I walked up to the circle, I figured I'd best step in and see if I could help," she said.

"I was," I replied. "But I was too afraid to admit it."

Mary took both my hands and peered deeply into my eyes. "You don't have to do everything perfectly. Sometimes, there are issues we simply cannot deal with in this setting. I have circles I do not enter as they are too close to my own triggers. The gift we give people here is to hear them and not our tapes. Your gift may not be in standing toe to toe with someone who's path has parallelled yours. Your gift may be in the books your write. The articles you publish that guide people through their pain into healing. You don't have to handle it all."

Not do everything perfect? Hello. Of course I have to be able to handle it all. The entire world depends on me! I have to have all the answers. Without the answers I might be... And the tapes in my head reel in horror. Not know it all? Oh my. Let people see I don't have answers for them and me. Horrors of horrors.

Now, I'm smiling as I write this, but in the moment of standing in that circle, the fear of not knowing how to connect safely with this woman was terrifying to me. I was 'supposed' to be able to do it. I was supposed to be bigger than my own fears. I was supposed to know.

Fear is the opportunity to be courageous.

In letting Mary into the circle, I found the courage to face the truth. I do not have the answers for anyone. And sometimes, the most powerful thing I can do to help someone else is to acknowledge my fear by asking, "Is there anyone else better able to help?"

Sometimes, the gift isn't what I have. It's in what I don't have. That day I didn't have the distance to not connect in a way that made it safe for that woman to take the steps she needed to take. I had to step back and give her space and give someone else the room to step in and help.

This morning I didn't have an Internet connection. It wasn't the end of the world. Simply a blip in cyberspace. I worked around it, kept going, kept looking for different answers, asking different questions. Doing things differently until I got what I needed to be 'in here' writing.

I don't need to be perfect. I do need to be perfectly honest with myself. When I connect too deeply to someone else's pain and/or story and confusion, I lose sight of what is most important. The circle we were in was not about me finding answers to my fear. It wasn't about me finding a way to do it all. The circle was about that woman finding the answers she needs to give her a tool that will guide her forever in her quest to be the most remarkable, amazing, awesome woman she can be. In opening up the circle to someone else's questions, I opened up my mind to the power in my heart to step beyond my fears.

I don't need to do it all. I just need to be all that I am meant to be when I live fearlessly in love with all of me, warts and all. When I step with courage through my fear of not 'knowing it all' I breathe life into my dreams of creating a world where women and men are empowered to stop abuse in their lives because they know it's not what an abuser does to them -- It's what they do with their lives that makes the difference.

The question is: Where are you being blindsided by your belief you should know better? Where are you holding onto being perfect because you fear being perfectly human? Where are you dishonouring your beauty by letting someone else hold you back from connecting with your truth?

Monday, October 15, 2007

I am love

There has not been a time when I have stepped out of the Choices seminar environment where I have not felt as if something within me has opened up, released, given way, shifted, changed, moved, been revealed. It is a powerful experience that inevitably changes my life in a profound way.

This time was no different.

A friend asked me, "Let me get this straight. You give up five days of your life. Take time off work. Give up sleep, work long hours and hard and you do it for free. As a volunteer. I don't get it. What's in it for you?"


Yesterday, as I was standing watching the trainees go through the next to final process, I stood beside Joe, one of the key facilitators. Joe's wife Mary is the daughter of Thelma Box, the founder of Choices. He's stood in the training room thousands of times and yet he continues to be in awe of the process.

"Who could believe that you could take 69 strangers, put them in a room on Wednesday and have them end up best of friends by Sunday?" he said, his Texas drawl purring in my ear as we watched two men give each other a big hug. "Who could believe that those people who sat in defensive postures, attitude oozing out, barely able to look each other in the eye on Wednesday would end up four and a half days later hugging each other like best of friends, their faces transformed with smiles, their eyes alight with love."

I gotta believe it. I've seen it happen. It's true.

Even beyond the connecting in a real way with strangers, however, the Choices process is about finding the best friend I will ever have -- Me. Myself and I. Sure, all of us who go through the training connect with the people in the room, we form new bonds, new friendships based on doing things differently so we don't keep getting the same old, same old. Sure, we see people transform. We see marriages saved, lives turnaround, families reunite. Most importantly however, we experience an opportunity to move into our hearts and be free.

What an amazing gift.

I had some amazingly profound moments this past week. I will be processing and writing about them in the days to come. But for now, what I need to affirm is, I am love. I am loved. I am loving. I am a fearless woman, touching hearts and opening minds to set spirits free.

The question is: Who are you? Are you playing small or are you living large? Do you love all of you, or do you hold back pieces in fear others will not love you, warts and all? Do you keep your heart enclosed in a glass cage, or do you set it free to soar, to take you places you never imagined but always dreamed of being?

Saturday, October 13, 2007


I am still coaching at Choices. Long days. Short nights. Fast sleep.

I will be back on Monday, October 15.

Look forward to seeing you then!


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Something to think about

My eldest daughter, Alexis, and I are coaching at Choices this week. Which means, early mornings, late, late nights. Last time, I still managed to write. This morning, I"m late.

I made the mistake of having a Chamomile tea before going to bed last night -- the mistake because, I have a reaction to Chamomile tea that causes my heart to start beating waaay too fast. Which, keeps me awake.

With 3 hours under my head, I chose not to get up at 5 as I'd intended.

So -- I leave you with a quote to think about: "Some people want it to happen, some wish it to happen, others make it happen." Author Unknown.

The question is: Are you wishing and waiting for your dreams to come true? Or, are you willing to BE committed to DO what it takes to HAVE what you want? Are you into your BE. DO. HAVE.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

My mother's gift

I have always struggled with my relationship with my mother. I've always felt that we were on different sides of our perspectives on life. And yet, I've always wanted my relationship with my mother to be different, to be more fulfilling, closer, more intimate.

I gave up on it ever being different many years ago. The frustration, the pain, the angst of trying to communicate in a way that honoured both of us just felt like too much work. I had a ton of excuses, a ton of little voices whispering in my ear that 'she will never see it my way anyway' and 'why bother, she's who she is and I'm who I am. Accept it will not change.'

At the Dale Carnegie course I'm taking, we were asked to make a commitment to work on one relationship in our lives that we wanted to improve. Using one (or more) of the first 9 principles of his teachings, we were asked to do something different.

I committed to working on my relationship with my mother.

Now, I have always judged my mother -- and she has always come up short in my judgements. Not because she is an awful person. She's not. My judgements were always based on my perceptions of her inability to meet my needs. They were always filtered through my sense of wanting and needing more than she could give.

Truth is, I am an adult. She cannot meet my needs. That responsibility is mine.

Carnegie's first principle is: Do not criticize, condemn or complain.

I've done a lot of that with my mother. And so, I decided to not criticize, condemn or complain about her, to simply let her be who she is.

My mother is 85. Her inherent nature is ... and as I start to write the word 'sad', I realize that perhaps that isn't true. Perhaps her nature was sunny, sweet, kind and gentle. It's just as life has battered her down, as she has succumbed to living in a world she does not understand, as she has struggled to deal with her losses, her changing circumstances, sadness has permeated her being.

On Monday night, my mother was at Thanksgiving dinner with us. I wasn't consciously doing anything different, but I did realize my 'edge' wasn't there in talking to my mother. I consciously employed another one of Carnegie's principles: Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely.

Last night my mother called me. "I wanted to thank you for treating me so nicely last night," she said. "I felt loved by you. And I realized that if you could put energy into treating me differently, I could do the same."

Now, my first reaction was to look for the 'catch'. Okay, so where's this going, what's she up to? I remembered Carnegie's first principle. Don't criticize, condemn or complain.

What if I simply accept her words at face value and don't go looking for ulterior motives? What if, I let my judgements go and simply accept her words as the compliment they are.

My mother's first language is not English. Sometimes, she says things in ways that come out backwards, or that negate what she said. In her appreciation last night, she had stated one sentence that really irked me. That phrase had the potential to wipe out her words of gratitude.

My normal response would be to focus on that phrase and ignore the sentiment behind her words.

Last night, I chose to ignore my ire and focus on the sentiment. My mother had done something she's never done before. She phoned to tell me something positive about the way I treated her.

That's a gift.

I accepted the gift and let the rest go.

It is my choice. I can be gracious and choose to create harmony, or, I can take umbrage and choose to create discord.

The question is: What do you choose to create in your life? Where are you closing the door to possibility through criticising, condemning and complaining about the world around you?

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

I am complete

Morning hesitates, somewhere on the eastern horizon, waiting for the right moment to burst forth and spread light upon the sleeping world. My coffee tastes extra good today. Divine. Warm. Liquid honey.

We shared Thanksgiving dinner last night at my sister's. My daughters, their boyfriends, my sister's husband, my mother, and C.C. He had arrived back mid-afternoon. He'd caught an earlier flight than he'd originally booked, but still later than the crack of dawn one he'd thought he'd catch before the wedding celebrations he'd attended led him into tasting Scotch late at night with a couple of buddies.

Old friends. New friends. Hellos and Good-byes. Wedding bells and new beginnings. Something old. Something new. Something borrowed. Something blue. We both had weddings this weekend we needed to be at. We both met up with old friends, new acquaintances and then we met each other at the airport.

Airports. The opening scene of "Love Actually" shows families and friends, children and old folk greeting one another at an airport. It's one of the most beautiful scenes of friendship and love I've ever witnessed created in the medium of film.

Meeting C.C. felt like that. A coming home. A slipping into. An anticipation. A surprising feeling of having missed someone enough that when you see them, your spirits lift and the world brightens with a momentary flash of recognition. A kiss. A hello. A welcoming.

Life changes every day. Someone walks in and space widens up to encompass their presence. It's not a making room so much as a fitting in, a shifting of time and space to embrace the possibility of what can be when two people recognize that indefinable presence within each of them that awakens at the sight of the other.

In Plato's, Symposium, the dinner guests are invited to tell a story about love. He tells the story of the world at the beginning of time when humans were androgynous beings connected along their spine's, one half looking forward, the other looking back, always in balance, always weighing equally which direction they would go. One day, the humans decided to topple the gods. Zeus, hearing about their plot, sent Apollo to earth to rip them asunder. Ever since that time, writes Plato, we humans have spent our destiny searching for our missing half, our soul mate, the other part of our beings.

When we meet someone special, there is always that wondering, are you him? Are you my missing soul mate? Are you the part of me that was torn asunder long ago?

Yet, speculation and wondering of who are you in my life, can keep me from seeing who the other person is in his or her life. It can blind me to who they are without the filter of my perceptions making them into who I want them to be. The truth is, when I look for another to complete me, I am always at risk of meeting someone who will want to finish me off on the dark side.

No man can make me complete. No man can fulfill my missing parts -- not because it's an impossible task. But rather, because, I am whole. I am complete, exactly the way I am. My flaws are part of my beauty. My weaknesses are part of my strengths. Accepting who I am, exactly the way I am, leaves me free to be all of me, with or without a man in my life.

With C.C., I am learning to stay whole in relationship. With others, I always gave away big parts of me to fit into their lives, to make myself fit someone else's needs. Because my needs were not clearly defined and my wants went unexpressed, I lived in the shadows of someone else's life. This time, I get to live in the light of my light sharing the glow from someone else's.

I'm growing. Shifting. Expanding. Learning.

What a wonderful gift on a Tuesday morning the week following Thanksgiving. I am complete, exactly the way I am. I am grateful.

The question is: Do you recognize your completeness exactly the way you are, or are you searching for missing pieces, somewhere out there, without seeing the truth within you? Are you missing seeing your beauty, warts and all?

Monday, October 8, 2007

The gift of a smile

Alexis, my eldest daughter, and I went on an adventure yesterday. We drove south of the city into the foothills of the Rockies. She wanted to go shopping for a pair of shoes. I wanted to spend time with my daughter, and take the pooches for a romp in the hills. We both got what we wanted.

In the back seat of the car, Ellie and Mollie eagerly watched the scenery roll by, visions of running through the hills and splashing through the river filling their canine minds with hope. They got it all.

It was a great day filled with laughter and chatter, each moment laced with a sense of gratitude. For our time together, the two pooches running freely through the long prairie grasses, the beauty of this place where we live and the wonder of the day.


After we got home and Alexis went off to dinner with her boyfriend and his family, I headed down to the shelter to help serve Thanksgiving dinner. I was a bit concerned about how dinner would progress. We were anticipating about 1,200 people for dinner, and on Friday, there hadn't been enough volunteers signed up to help out. I needn't have worried.

Over the past few days both radio and TV have promoted our Thanksgiving dinner. By the time 6pm rolled around, over 30 volunteers had turned up to help out and lend a hand serving the meal. Normally, we do not allow young children into the shelter to volunteer. But, one family really wanted to help out with their three young daughters and so, came in anyway.

What a gift the children were to staff and clients. They added a 'lightness of being' to the evening. One client commented as I walked passed, "This is great. Everyone's watching their language!" And it was true. Where normally clients don't think much about the words they use, the room became filled with courteous words as everyone made an effort to be on their best behaviour for the sake of the children. Clients quit bickering amongst themselves and staff stretched their attitudes to encompass our youthful guests at a mealtime that is often fraught with stress as they juggled keeping an eye out for trouble makers and ensuring everyone got fed. It was a beautiful meal.

As the children worked with their parents to carry each plate filled with turkey and all the fixings to our guests, they concentrated on not spilling a drop. When they reached an individual, they each looked up, gave a shy smile and said, "Happy Thanksgiving". As each guest received the meal held out in a child's hands, they stopped, smiled back and said, "Thank you." Some whispered a gentle, "God Bless," others, simply nodded their heads in gratitude, their emotions too strong to give voice to. But, in their exchange recognition of the human spirit that connects us all was lit and hope awoke in everyone's heart.

Last night serving dinner, I watched faces transform, hearts break open and minds open up to possibility. Those shy smiles plucked heartstrings. For some, it set off memories of Thanksgiving dinners past, for others it opened up the possibility of dinners to come, hopefully in better times, better places.

A smile is such a simple thing, and yet, such a precious gift. The smiles from those young children will live on in the hearts of everyone at the shelter last night. Dinners will come and go, but those smiles will continue to ignite spirits to the possibility of change. Those shy smiles will continue to keep hope alive.

I left the shelter last night filled with gratitude. For the families who came out to help. For the staff who do such an amazing job day in, day out. And, for the clients for whom a child's smile carried such a blessing. Their lives are not easy, but, they keep getting up in the morning and starting over again. Some will be there for awhile. Others will move on quickly. No matter how long their stay, their hope that one day life will be different gives me hope too. I can't change their lives, but as those children reminded me last night, I can share my smile, willingly, freely. Sometimes, it's all I can do. Sometimes, it's all I need to do to acknowledge their presence on my journey as we touch eachother's hearts with gratitude.

As the volunteers left, they walked down the aisle between the tables where satisfied diners sat back, their bellies full, their lives perhaps a little less bleak. As the volunteers passed through, the clients clapped in gratitude. The volunteers were a bit taken aback, embarrassed, except the young boy and his brother. They raced along, chasing each other down the aisle. To them, this was just another part of life they'd never experienced before.

Cindy, the chef on duty, stood at the bottom of the stairs to thank each volunteer for their contribution. One little girl, her kitchen-helper hair net still in place, stopped in front of Cindy, put her arms up and gave her a hug. "Thank you for letting me help serve dinner," she said.


It doesn't matter what side of the street you're on, gratitude is a force that can change lives. I am so very grateful for my blessings, for my life today, for my freedom. May your life be a plentiful banquet of good friends, love and laughter. May gratitude fill your heart and open up the limitless possibilities of your life today.

The question is: What are you grateful for today? Have you made a gratitude list and counted your blessings?

Sunday, October 7, 2007

She said. He said. I do.

The bride wore white. A long sheath of satin, the bodice studded with delicate pearls, a row of satin buttons sliding down her back to pick up the train that earlier in the day had swept regally behind her as she sailed down the aisle on arms of her mother and father towards her destiny standing at the altar. Her long blond hair was pinned up, curls cascaded down her back brushing along her bare shoulders and the three strands of pearls that circled her neck. She was beautiful. And this was her night to be the centre of attention.

My friend Dave and I watched the party swirl around us, family and friends gathered to celebrate the union of these two young people. We were friends of the bride's mother.

They looked so young. So fresh. So full of promise.

As we drove home Dave asked, "So, do you think they'll make it?"

How long is making it in a marriage today? Mine lasted ten years. Dave's lasted 20. At some point in time, we both thought we had made it. And then the marriages that we thought we had made turned into something we hadn't planned on making.

Is youth for or against this young couple who walked with such joy down the aisle today? Is time on their side? Will the strength of their love today carry them through the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of tomorrow?

Who can see the future?

Sailing into this marriage, they bring with them their happiness, and their pasts. Can they turn their love for each other into a love that binds them forever more? All they can do is the best they can do today. French essayist and biologist, Andre Maurois, suggests that to have a successful marriage you must ensure your marriage is, "rebuilt every day."

I wanted to find an appropriate quote on marriage. Something to soothe my jaded senses over the efficacy of wedded bliss. Unfortunately, when I went looking, I came upon more anti-marriage quotes than pro. That saddened me. And yet, it also inspired me. Pundits and philosophers have so little good to say about marriage and yet, we keep entering into the fray. What a testament to the human spirit to be in union with another.

Why do we keep doing it against apparently daunting odds?

Seems, the reason we keep getting married is because married people are happier than singles. And, they're happier than those who co-habit. (Stack, Steven and J. Ross Eshleman (1998). Marital Status and Happiness: A 17-Nation Study. Journal of Marriage and the Family 60(2): 527-536.

No matter the outcome, marriage makes for happier people. Perhaps it's time I quit looking at my marriage as a failure and put it into the perspective of my happiness today. When I was married, my unhappiness had nothing to do with my spouse, and everything to do with me. I was searching for something he never could give me. I was seeking my completeness.

In having had the experience of marriage, in having given birth to two amazingly incredible daughters, I created the pathway to finding my happiness within me. My former husband could never do that, because, like me, he too was searching for something I couldn't give him. I didn't hold the holy grail to the answers to what ails him. He thought I did. So did I for awhile.

Truth is, we were two individuals using the bonds of marriage to create a bond that didn't withstand the test of time. Didn't make us failures. It also means, the marriage wasn't the cause of our unhappiness. We were.

Yesterday, I witnessed a young couple commit to the vow to love eachother for better for worse, in sickness and in health, for the rest of their lives. Forever is a long long time, and they were willing to make that commitment.

Good on them! Gotta love their faith, their spirit and their willingness to publicly commit to loving one another in a time when forever love is deemed a remote possibility.

The question is: How committed are you to doing what it takes to find happiness in your life today? With or without marriage, are you committed to experiencing happiness within you?

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Giving Thanks

This is Thanksgiving weekend in Canada. A time to reflect. A time to give thanks. A time to be grateful. I am grateful for the blessings in my life. They are many.

Yesterday, I did a mini-survey at the homeless shelter where I work. I asked clients, staff and volunteers what they felt grateful for this weekend. For some, it didn't matter if they were a client or staff, there was a momentary hesitation, a thoughtfulness that caused them to take pause and ask themselves, What am I grateful for? For others, their response was automatic. I am grateful for my life.

In a place where plenty have little, gratitude and thanks abound. While a home is not on their list of gratitudes, clients were grateful for having a roof over their heads, a bed to sleep on, food in their bellies, people who watch out for them and protect them and friends to keep them company. They are grateful for the place that shelters them from the cold and warms their spirits.

For staff, having a job that excites and challenges them, and being able to work with great people topped the list. Having a home to go to at the end of the day, being alive and free, and having choices in life were the top attitudes on their gratitude lists.

Family, friends, being alive, waking up breathing - as one man answered, being sober, were commonalities amongst clients, staff and volunteers. The simplicity and sincerity of the responses demonstrates, it isn’t our differences that connect us but our humanity.

Author, Melodie Beattie, wrote, "Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."

My heart is brimming over with gratitude. I am grateful for my life, this body that carries me through each day, for the experiences that brought me to this place of giving thanks for all that I have received.

I am grateful for my daughters, the love that binds us, the love that sustains us, the love that gives each of us wings to fly without fear of falling. I am grateful for my family and friends, their support carries me through life's hurdles and eases me over the bumps in the road, their love fills my heart with laughter. I am grateful for C.C., he is teaching me how to be me in relation to another without fear of losing myself.

I am grateful for my many gifts, my creative spirit, my caring heart. I am grateful for work that fulfills me, passions that enliven me and opportunities that drive me through my fears. I am grateful for my cup of coffee in the morning, the pooch lying beside me, her breathing a steady reassurance that all is well in my world. I am grateful for the quiet of the morning, my daughters sleeping safe and secure in their beds. I am grateful for the day breaking outside my window, the birds pecking at the seed in their feeder, the cat sitting on the fence watching, anticipating an opportunity to pounce -- they make me smile and rejoice in the beauty and rhythm of life.

I am grateful for this moment where I write and words appear on the screen. I am grateful for the people who read my words, somewhere in the world, and connect me to the awesome power of this medium to span the distance between us so that we can share our hope, strength and courage.

I am grateful that my fingers move effortlessly, my body and mind are at ease and I have the ability to do things in my life that I had never imagined. I am grateful for the sound of the fridge humming in the background -- I have electricity, I have a fridge with food, I have plenty.

I am grateful for the plentifulness of my life. I am rich beyond my wildest dreams, my life a vibrant tapestry woven through with love and laughter, tears and sorrow, a brilliant painting of my life unfolding as I breathe deeply of the air around me and filled my heart with love.

I am grateful.

The question is: What's in your gratitude bouquet? Is it light as air, a joy to carry filled with thanks and gratitudes, or is it loaded down with resentments? What do you give thanks for?

Friday, October 5, 2007

What's your meaning?

In one of the most important books I ever read, Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl wrote, "We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."

Last night, at the Dale Carnegie course I take, I was in awe of my co-workers ability to choose the graceful path through man's inhumanity to each other. The majority of the 30 people in the class are front-line workers, individuals who work with clients on a daily basis. What they experience is sometimes beyond comprehension. One woman had her nose and cheek broken by an angry, intoxicated client. Another man was punched. And yet, regardless of how the clients were acting out, these individuals chose to act with grace, dignity and kindness.

Very inspiring.

Viktor Frankl survived three years in a concentration camp. When liberated in 1945 he wrote Man's Search for Meaning which was published in 1946 -- he didn't waste much time!

To Frankl, there were two types of human beings -- decent and not-decent.

I work with a lot of decent people. And, the people we provide service to are by and large, decent human beings. They've just lost their way and are searching for the meaning in their lives.

Often, on mainstreet, I meet people who have lost their way too. They're just not as visible in their distress. When I was with Conrad, even though I felt that so much of the meaning in my life was lost, there were values I upheld and could not let go of. One day, as we exited a grocery store, Conrad lifted a bottle of pop from the display outside the store. "Put it back," I told him.

"They won't miss it," he replied and ignored me.

I couldn't let it go. When we got back to our room he offered me a glass of pop. I wouldn't drink it. No matter how much he yelled, I could not drink that pop.

It is still amazes me that I couldn't get angry about what he was doing 'in my life', but I could see what was wrong with what he was doing outside my life. I couldn't stop myself from submerging my personality into his but I could hold my ground on going over to the 'darkside' by embracing his overt attempts to bring me down.

I was making choices to separate myself from him, I just wasn't making the big choice to look at what I could do to walk away.

That was then. This is now.

Today, I'm with Frankl. No matter the circumstances around me, I choose my path. I choose my attitude, my state of being. Today, I choose to surround myself with people who exemplify the qualities I admire and strive to embrace every step of my journey. Dignity. Honesty. Integrity. Kindness. Joyfulness.

The question is: What's your choice? What meaning do you place in your daily pursuits? Do you walk with grace and ease, regardless of the winds blowing around you? Do you choose harmony over discord to create a world of caring all around?