Friday, November 30, 2007

The fight

I went to a hockey game last night. I was invited by a client who's corporate name stands ten feet tall on the building. Needless to say, the private box was spectacular. Food, wine, careful attention to our every need.

I'm not much of a hockey fan -- but sometimes it is fun to go and experience life on the other side of opulence. That rich, phat place where anything is made possible by the unlimited supply of the coin that fuels our economy.

Quite the polar opposite of the environment in which I work. That place where there isn't enough money in the world to mend the broken psyches of those who have fallen so completely on the road of life.

Money doesn't heal addictions. Money doesn't mend broken spirits.

Only people can do that.

And for those who have lost their footing on the cold hard pavement of the facts of life with no coin, money has no value except to buy you more of the poison that drips into your veins with the incessant monotony of a tap that will not quit dripping.

At a couple of points last night, two players whipped off their protective gear and got to the business of pummeling each other out. The fans went berserk. Screaming. Hollering. Yelling. Cheering the pugilists on, the crowd rose as one. Arms punched the air. Feet stomped the concrete concourse. The arena went crazy.

I've seen behaviour like that at the shelter where I work. Two men duke it out. A crowd gathers goading them on.

In the hockey arena, the referees step in after an appropriate time has passed when they consider the crowd's hunger for the drama unfolding on the ice has been satiated. The players are sent to individual boxes to cool it off. When their time is up, they get back on the ice and go at it again, confident that their untempered display of aggression will be rewarded by the crowd should they go at it again.

In the shelter, the staff step in as quickly as possible. Sometimes, the police are called and the fighters are arrested and sent to individual cells to serve their time, until such time as they are released to go at it again. They have no confidence it won't happen again. Theirs is a violent world. A world in which the only thing they carry is their attitude and the aggression they hold up like a shield to fend off anyone who dares to question their right to go at it again.

There's a world of difference between the men who got out on the ice and fought last night, and the men who fight in the real, hard world of getting by day by day in a shelter. Two separate worlds. Same humans.

In one, the human beings are compelled by their nature to assert dominance in the field, on the ice, in the arena of life where their actions become part of the excitement that fuels the game. In the other, the men are acting out the same drive to be dominant, to protect whatever turf they can mark, to defend their position -- right or wrong. They are morally condemned by the same world that condones fighting in the hockey arena as a socially acceptable tradition of men being men. One ends up in the penalty box and earns a million bucks. The other ends up in an 8x8 cell and earns a record that's criminal. Go figure.

The question is: Where on earth do we get off on rewarding fights in the arena and penalizing those who fight in the arena of life where every toehold is a hard won battle of spirit over the drive to numb the pain of living on the edge of desperation?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Dancing into wonderful

I awoke this morning wondering what magic the day had in store. And then I read this quote in my Inbox from English author, JB Priestley: "I have always been delighted at the prospect of a new day, a fresh start, with perhaps a bit of magic waiting somewhere behind the morning."

Fresh starts.

Last night C.C. and I had a long rambling discussion about life, relationships, feelings, being, seeing, doing....

I'm always challenged in those situations to stay in the moment, to listen to hear and understand, to be present.

I want to jump to conclusions. To assume he's saying he's walking away. To leap into the ending before we've ever begun.

Defense mechanisms. Tapes. Self-defeating behaviours.

I asked him when we got home if he realized how many times I had to talk myself out of not getting up from the table, putting my coat on and walking home. "I didn't realize you even wanted to do that," he replied. And then he added, "I'm glad you didn't."

Why would he know my fear mechanisms were kicking into high gear? I didn't tell him. That was the dialogue going on in my head while he talked about his perceptions of relationship, life, and all that jazz.

For me, relationship is a scary dance -- realize it more and more as I move deeper into being 'in step with him' as opposed to simply being in the dance.

This morning I awoke and thought, the world is filled with some kind of wonderful, what wonderful will I create in it today? I may be scared, but I'm still moving forward, moving inward, moving into this dance where two people slowly reveal their inner selves, their inner knowing, their inner fears.

I'm still dancing into wonderful. Still looking for magic and being the catalyst of my creative blasts of joy.

The question is: What about you? Are you up to creating a blast of joy in your day today? Are you dancing into wonderful?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Jail house rock

He's back in jail.

I don't want to care. I don't want it to make a difference in my life, to have any meaning.

But it does. And I do.

Not in the, I care what happens to him, kind of way, but rather, in the 'good place for him to be' kind of thinking way. My daughters were relieved to hear the news. "Good," said Liseanne without hesitation. "He belongs there."

I'd heard the news at dinner last night. C.C. and I had gone over to some very dear friends for pizza and the hockey game. In a lull during the play, the husband suddenly said, "I've got news. I was out with the boys the other night and guess what. Conrad's back in jail."

Now, there's a lot of serendipity in this relationship. One of the 'boys' lived with Conrad's ex-wife. He unfortunately died recently, but the others are still in contact with her -- hence the updated information.

When I heard, my immediate response was to say, "I don't care." But it's not true. I do. I care that he is now not anywhere on the radar. I care that he is someplace he can't keep hurting others. And, I care because it affirms -- I didn't make the whole thing up.

That's the weird part. There is a little part of me that thinks, 'Oh Louise. You're just over-reacting. Making something out of nothing. He wasn't that bad.' It is the same part of me that was unwilling to believe he could be so evil, so untrue when I was locked within his embrace. It is the part of me I must embrace with the truth -- he was that evil. He was that untrue.

It is a challenge after a relationship with a psychopath. No matter how long the relationship was, the abuser spent an inordinate amount of time trying to convince you that you were the one with ALL the problems. That you were the one who was crazy. In fact, you end up spending an inordinate amount of time wondering if it is true. Are you losing your mind?

Post-relationship, reclaiming your mind, your thoughts, your life is a challenging and arduous process. As you journey from despair to joy, the fear that maybe he was right, maybe you are nuts, niggles at the back of your mind. It takes great character and strength to still the voices of self-doubt, of self-denigration and disbelief. In time, and with loving care, the voices of dissent quieten as you begin to accept -- you are free to think clearly. You are free to claim your own peace of mind.

And then, a thought, or word, or comment of him leaks in. For one brief moment the voices clamour for attention. "Hear me. Hear me. Ye of little faith, back off. It's time for discord to prevail." And in those moments, the voices rise and drown out common sense, leaving you with the anxious thought that all's well that ends well can never be because he will never leave your peace of mind alone.

In the aftermath of that relationship, I have claimed my peace of mind. I have claimed my place under the sun. I don't think about him a lot -- at least not from the perspective of trying to figure out why he did what he did, what it all meant. I don't spend a lot of time worrying about where he is or what he's doing. He doesn't make a difference in my life today.

But, in hearing of his incarceration, the little voice inside leapt up and shouted with glee as she danced joyfully around my head, "YES! YES! YES!"

Don't like that voice. She shouldn't be so happy at someone else's pain. Why can't she just turn away in disinterest? Why does it have to make a difference to her? As a friend of mine said. "She's only human. And he is scum. He won't be missed."

He won't be missed. Truth is, knowing he's in prison again gives me 'some kind of wonderful' feeling that what I believe to be true, is. He is the lie.

And I am free to live my life without fear.

There is no question for anyone other than myself today. And that question is: Am I willing to let it go? Am I willing to breathe? To let each breath enter my body and be transformed into energy that inspires me, motivates me, moves me? And with each breath I exhale, am I willing to accept all that I can release into the world around me is a reflection of the love that supports me through every moment of my day? Am I willing to leave him in the past, leave him where he now is as I journey into my day without regret, without judging each step against steps long ago that led me here to where I care enough to set myself free of the past?

The answer is: Yes.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Some kind of wonderful

"Something wonderful wants to happen by means of you today."

I read that line in an email this morning and thought, Yeah. That's right. Something wonderful wants to happen through me today. What will it be?

How often have you started your day with the thought, "I wonder what will happen today?" And then ducked your head just in case the happening wasn't some kind of wonderful?

What if we were to think instead, "I wonder what wonderful things I can make happen today?"

Yesterday, I received an email from a beautiful woman whom I know through Choices who, after hearing about the desperate need for support for homeless shelters in the city, sent out an email to her entire contact list asking people to support her in collecting funds for mitts, hats, socks and other winter essentials for homeless individuals in our city. Thinking she would possibly get a couple of responses she excitedly phoned me to say that, in less than one day she had raised $800 -- and the calls were just starting to come in.

She set out to make something wonderful happen. And she did.


Committed to Be. Do. Have.


A wonderful gift!

If I want to have a wonderful day today, it's up to me to set out to create wonderful happenings in my day. The universe doesn't deliver wonderful on a plate all sizzled up with sparklers and all that jazz. We create wonderful in our lives when we live with the full potential of our creative spirits alive with all that jazz committed to being all that we can be.

For me, I'm setting out today to create wonderful in my life. I'm committed to the Be. Do. Have. of my existence. I'm committed to being spectacularly alive so that in all my words, thoughts, actions, and interactions, I create a wonderful difference in my world and the world around me.

The question is: What about you? Are you waiting for some invisible hand to serve you up a plate of wonderful, or are you grabbing the day in both hands and adding all that jazz you possess to create 'some kind of wonderful!'?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Stepping into in-to-me-see

It never ceases to amaze me when a trigger erupts and, taken completely by surprise, I buy into its power to blow away the here and now as it catapults me into the then and there way back when.

Yesterday morning, C.C. and I had a conversation about something around our relationship. The issue isn't important. What happened within me is.

The night before I had asked a question that had put him on the defensive -- because I wasn't thinking about what I wanted to create with him, I leaped into my 'green' sweet spot of questioning to gain information, not listening to gain understanding. The next morning when I mentioned the conversation, he listened quietly, responded and that was that. Conversation over. In his mind, the issue was resolved.

For me, it wasn't quite so simple! I have a tendency to worry at issues, make them more complex than necessary, to drain them of all meaning -- it is one of my self-defeating games. Unfortunately, the game kicked in, the trigger was pulled. I felt like he was shutting me down, closing himself off, tuning out.

In that instance, I shut down. Smiled sweetly (don't ever let your opponent see you're hurt!) and went about emptying the dishwasher. Feeding the dogs. Making coffee. And all the while I was stuffing my feelings down, trying not to cry, trying not to show I was upset.

Inside my head, I could hear the voices of reason struggling to rise above the tapes hammering away at my peace of mind, but their attempts to be heard were pretty futile against the pull of my self-defeating behaviours grasping for a foothold in the grubby soils of past pains and hurts.

"Why bother," they whispered. "Just quit. Forget it. There's no hope for a meaningful relationship here. Leave before he does. Nothing is worth this. Relationship takes way too much work. You're much better off alone."

I wanted to quietly slink out of the kitchen, go into my bedroom, slam the door and scream! LOL -- I wanted to make a scene so that I could be the centre of attention. Boy, he'd know then how he hurt me! How dare he!

Now, for me, feeling like I'm being shut down, closed out, is lethal. That's where the tapes come in. It's also where awareness helped me understand what I was feeling had little to do with what had happened between C.C. and me and everything to do with the past.

As the battle of past hurts raged within, the voice of awareness began to unravel the then and there from the here and now.

"This isn't about what just happened, Louise," the voice said. "You're feeling the fear of the past repeating itself. You're breathing life into what happened way back then with G., and losing sight of what's going on right now."

I knew the voice was right. When I was married to my daughter's father, G., I felt like I was hammering futilely at his walls, trying to find some entry into his emotions. G. had often said that emotions were not worth the energy. Better to stay unemotional in every instance. I have a litany of things he did to demonstrate it, and they all wanted to come out yesterday morning and dance in my head to remind me that 'Intimacy is not safe."

Choosing emotionally unavailable men was a self-defeating game I played all the time back then. By being with someone emotionally unavailable, I could appear to be working hard at relationship, all the while knowing that what I was really doing was acting out my script that said, "Men don't have feelings. Men always hurt you."

Not true.

Men do have feelings. Men do not always hurt me.

Yesterday morning, as I worried away at the problem and busily pushed my tears back while emptying the dishwasher, C.C. stepped towards me. He stilled my hands, put his arms around me and said, "I'm sorry I upset you."

The tears started.

Not because of what he'd done before that I had taken on as a 'hurt', but because he had done something different, something no one else had ever done. He'd stepped towards me even though I was upset. He'd opened himself up to feeling my tears and not closed himself off.

The words rushed out in a river of tears. "I spent 11 years of my marriage desperately trying to get my husband to see me, acknowledge me, and to let me see him. In that moment this morning, I felt the fear overwhelm me that the past was once again the future." I took a breath. "I know that was then, this is now. I know you want what I want in relationship and that you are willing to work to create it with me. Thank you for stepping towards me."

"That's what two people do when they care about each other," he said.

We talked some more and then went about our days. I had a meeting with a producer who wanted to hire me to write a screenplay (she did!) and C.C. had to meet with a CFO he was hiring for his company. Later in the afternoon, we met up and spent a wonderful evening watching the football game at a local pub, laughing and enjoying the antics of the group of rabid Roughrider fans at the table next to us.

All in all, a day well spent. A day filled with intimacy opening up time for in-to-me-see. A day of opportunity, growth, love and laughter.

The question is: Where do you buy into the tapes that would tell you the past is always present? Where do you give into the lie history repeats itself with your refusal to step into the truth that you have a choice to do it differently?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Seek first to understand

I have always believed in the need to understand who I am -- not just in context to my physical boundaries, my role in the world, but also from the perspective of what makes me tick. I have also been limited by my belief that I need to understand who I am, because it has held me back from being free of 'who I am' so that I can become who I want to be when my habitual behaviours hold me back from seeing how who I am on the outside is hurting me and holding me back from becoming who I truly am within me.

Hmmm, sounds rather convoluted doesn't it?

When I went through the program, Choices, last year, I found a whole new world of understanding opening up before me. I learned to accept my 'being', and gained tools to focus my 'doing' so that I could have the opportunity to build the life of my dreams.

One of the most powerful aspects of that experience was the permission to be who I am in a deeply loving and caring way, without fear of never being enough. Through going through the processes, and continually scanning my world for those areas where my internal tapes (those annoying, critical voices that whisper in my head about what I can, can't do, be, can't be) and my self-defeating games limit me, I have been able to expand my life to encompass all of me, warts and all, with love and joy.

What a gift.

Last week, in the Stephen Covey, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People course that I took, I was strengthened in my resolve to continue to grow and learn as much as I can about how I can be a more effective human being, doing what it takes to create a world in which I have a sense of community, commitment and caring. Not just for me, but rather to create a world of beauty in all my relationships.

The processes outlined in Covey's work are very similar to what I learned at Choices. The biggest difference is the 7 Habits program focuses primarily on my professional life -- though Covey is very clear that who we are in our personal lives is who we are in all areas of our lives. The 7 Habits deepened my appreciation of the power of the tools I've learned at Choices, and gave me more tools to put them into action in my life on a daily basis.

Life is a journey. Not a destination. How I respond to events along my journey is predicated upon my ability to shift my paradigms to allow for more information to filter through the fog of my resistance to change my beliefs that the world is as I see it, not as it truly is. In shifting my paradigm, I open myself up to new opportunities, fresh insight and a whole new way of doing things.

I noticed the change yesterday. I had asked my eldest daughter how her course went yesterday. Her response was immediate. "I don't want to talk about it," she said. "We did some really emotional work." (she's taking an acting for film course)

My natural response would have been to ignore her desire to not talk and ask her a question, to grill her on what was so emotional about the work and to tell her that talking about it was the best way to get through to understanding. Instead, I remembered what I'd learned last week about 'empathic listening'. I wanted to engage in a conversation with her. I wanted to HEAR her and learn what was true for her, not tell her what I believed I knew to be true for her.

Rather than jump in with a question, I paused, and thought about the 5th Habit -- Seek first to Understand. "It sounds like it really affected you," I said to my daughter as I put my arms around her and gave her a hug.

"It did," she said and began to share her insight about the day and what it meant for her.

As a mother, I always want to tell my daughters what to do with their lives -- doesn't mother know best?

Truth is, when I tell them, I disempower them. When I listen to understand, I make space for them and me to deepen the intimacy of our relationship. And, they have the opportunity to find out for themselves how powerful they are.

The question is: Where does your belief in what you know limit you from hearing what others need to say to be heard?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The world as I see it is not always the world that is

What an exciting and invigorating three days!

It started Wednesday morning with my being half an hour late for the opening comments of the Stephen Covey, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People course I took this past week! Which also supported one of the comments in the 360 degree feedback I received from my co-workers as part of the Benchmark measurements they gave me to assist me in the course. I tend to be late for meetings.

Now, I'd like to deny it. Excuse it because... Well, actually, whatever my excuse, being late is not behaviour I like. The challenge is, can I accept the feedback without becoming defensive? Can I shift my version of reality to encompass this information?

I think I see the worlds as it is, when in reality, I see it as I am.

I tend to be late even though I like to believe I'm always on time.

Where's the truth in that statement? Where ever I chose to put the emphasis.

For me, being late is a sign of disrespect for those I'm meeting. Do I want to be disrespectful of others? Absolutely not.

The answer, therefore, is simple. The feedback I received from my co-workers is valuable information that will help me treat them with respect and improve me!

I need to commit to being on time and let go of my misconception, I am always on time.

See, I can be 'right', and insist I am punctual. Or, I can be happy with knowing I am doing the right thing by acting on the feedback others have given me. Whatever my perception, believing I'm punctual isn't making my world a 'happier' place. It's only keeping me stuck in not accepting the world as it is, rather than just as I perceive it to be.

Viktor Frankl, in his seminal work about his experiences in a concentration camp during WW2, Man's Search for Meaning, wrote, When we can no longer change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.

In receiving feedback from my co-workers, and by looking at my behaviour on the first morning of the course (and at other times in my past), I have some pretty powerful evidence that my reality is out of sync with the world. It's up to me to change myself so that I can be more congruent with my world and thus create greater harmony in my life.

The question is: Where in your world are you acting on your belief the world is as you see it, not as it truly is? Where do you ignore feedback from those who care about you and hold yourself to a belief that is not in step with the world around you? Where are you refusing to challenge yourself to change behaviours that are not working for you?

Friday, November 23, 2007

I am intelligence in action

I'm still taking the Covey course - very powerful and I'm looking forward to debriefing here with you!

I wanted to share this quote as it speaks to the power in all of us to rise above our problems when we shift our paradigm from powerlessness to powerful attention.

"Shift your attention from your concern with the problem, and give this same amount of thinking and feeling to the awareness of yourself as Intelligence in action."

~ Raymond Charles Barker, The Power of Decision

The question is: Where's your attention? Are you caught up in your concern to figure out the problem without engaging your inner knowing? Or, are you connected to taking action through your limitless Intelligence?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Believe it. It's true.

I am on a course for today and tomorrow. It started yesterday actually. -- Stephen Covey's, The 7 Habits of High Effective People -- It's filled with really great learning and the opportunity to expand my understanding of myself, the world around me and what makes us all work together, and sometimes, apart.

It also means, I'm on the run. The course starts at 7:30 -- much, much earlier than my normal 9 am start.

So, for today and tomorrow, I will leave you with a quote that I hope provokes your thinking.

I particularly like this one by Stuart Grayson, author of Spiritual Healing, "We believe what we experience, but we often forget that we experience what we believe."

If I believe I am clumsy. I am clumsy.

If I believe I am incompetent. I am incompetent.

If I believe I am not very good at public speaking. I am not very good at public speaking.

If I can change my beliefs, I can change how I experience the world, and how the world experiences me. I can change my life.

The question is: What beliefs do you have that you are unwilling to change because you tell yourself you can't?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Accepting who I am

Last night a friend gave a presentation to the group at Project Forward -- a personal development, goal setting course I give at the shelter where I work.

One of the things he said after talking to the group about his experience of learning to love himself was, "It's easier to learn self-acceptance than self-improvement."

Interesting thought.

I like the idea of self-acceptance more, that's for sure. Self-acceptance means accepting me where I'm at and learning to love myself, warts and all.

Self-improvement is linear. To me, it feels like a map with a clearly marked out trail, complete with sign-posts and most importantly, a destination.

Life is not a destination. It's an event. I can make it a joyous event filled with moments worthy of popping champagne corks and confetti, or I can make it a dirge, a constant travail of darkened windows along a dusty road strewn with discarded teddy-bears with sawdust hearts.

It's up to me.

In self-acceptance, I make a choice. To be who I am, as I am, not as who I want to be -- but rather as who I know myself to be in this moment, completely, joyously, lovingly.

In self-improvement I make progress towards an ill-defined goal I know I need to reach, but am often unsure what it looks like. Self-improvement begins with an idea that I'm broken, messed-up, in need of brushing up, brushing off, brushing over.

French author and essayist, Andre Gide, wrote, "Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore."

In self-acceptance, discovery comes from looking at myself, exactly the way I am. From taking my eyes off the horizon and moving into the deep and mysterious seas of self. In self-acceptance, I let go of measuring myself against the world, out there, and embrace the measure of my spirit where I'm at.

For today, I will move into accepting myself, just the way I am as I embrace the truth, I can always learn and grow and change through focusing on what works in my life and what doesn't work.

I can improve on what I do by making the events of my life a joyous celebration of all that is great in me. I can't improve 'on me', I can improve my actions, my commitment to doing all that I can to be the best me I can be. Once I accept the awesomeness of my spirit, right now, in this moment, I have the power to do anything my mind can conceive. I have the power to be magnificent. To shine brightly. To be centre stage of my very own, one and only life.

The question is: Are you focused on improvement out there, or do you accept you have all you need to be the magnificent human being you are, right within you?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I deserve a life of joy and wonder

Yesterday I had an email from a woman I met online when I first began the healing journey away from abuse. She too had an encounter with a psychopath. She too was lost and hurting, wondering what on earth had happened to her life.
Finding what was lost, claiming what we deserve is a continuous journey in love.

Healing from these encounters takes time. Yet, we have a tendency to believe we should be over it, done, finished with the hurting. As if healing from an emotional rape has a timeline and can be accomplished by following the direct line from A to Z.

There is no alphabet encoded path to healing. No step by step process that states do this and in 23 days you will be healed.

I used to hate the word, 'organic'. As in, the process is organic. I've learned to love it. Healing from abuse, any kind of abuse, is an organic process. It begins within you. It moves within you. It changes within you so that outside you can live the life you've always dreamed. The life you deserve.

One of the most difficult aspects of healing that I have encountered with many many people is embracing the belief, I deserve to heal.

So often, abuse leaves a trail of shame and self-blame. Like Hansel and Gretel looking for a way back through the forest, the abused drops grains of self-respect along the path leading to their abuser. Caught amidst the deceitful web the abuser must weave to keep the victim trapped within their embrace, the seeds marking the path back to self lie like fallow fields of grain, never to be reseeded.

To heal, I had to believe I was worthy, deserving, able to heal. I had to choose to believe I could heal.

That's hard.

The wounds inflicted by an abuser run deep. They run wide. They run wild within our psyches. Choosing to believe I could heal was the first step to healing.

Taking action that supported me in healing was the next step. That included writing, therapy, exercise, healthy eating, loving self-care. I had to take positive actions that affirmed my belief I could heal. It was up to me.

One of my mantras in healing became, "Never say never."

It is often instinctual to say, "I will never .... Heal. I will never trust another human being. I will never love again," after an encounter with an abuser.

Truth is, we have no idea what the future holds in store. All we can do is our very best today. All we can do is be true to ourselves in this moment so that the next is a continuation of our very best.

When I say, "I will never trust again," I am saying, "I choose to set myself up today so that I will not be trusting, or trustworthy in the future."

When I say, "I will never love again," I am saying, "I am terrified the past will repeat itself. I will avoid at all costs loving anyone -- and that includes myself, because love hurts and I don't want to hurt like this again."

Saying 'never' is lethal in healing. Never is the dam holding us back from claiming our right to live the life of our dreams.

There is no straight line in healing. There is only the choice to do what is loving, caring, healing -- or not. The path to well-being is winding and circuitous. Four+ years after that encounter, I still find corners of unease -- not because of him, but rather because the tapes in my head fire off messages that undermine me, disturb my peace of mind, unsettle my well-being.

Those tapes were there before I met him. Some things haven't changed! What has changed however is my awareness of them and my ability to navigate rough waters, to walk through rocky terrain, to be determined and convinced of my right to live my most beautiful life today.

I can't unwind the tapes from the past. I can limit their playing continuously in my head today by living free of the belief I don't deserve to heal, I don't deserve a life of joy.

Truth is. I absolutely do deserve a life of joy and wonder. We all do.

It's up to me to live it up and be magnificent! This is my one and only life.

The question is: Do you believe in you? Do you believe you deserve a life of joy and wonder? Or, do you keep yourself stuck in the belief bad things happen to you because you deserve them?

Monday, November 19, 2007

The riddle

I love riddles. Always have. When I was a little girl, my father used to give me all these riddles to figure out. I could spend hours trying to find the answers. In the end, especially with the harder math ones, he'd tell me the answer and I'd have to figure out how I didn't figure that one out!

Yesterday on the radio, I heard a riddle I hadn't heard since I was a young girl.

Three men go to a hotel and book a room together. The room costs $30, so they each pay $10. After they've gone upstairs the desk clerk realizes the room only cost $25. He gives the bellhop $5 and tells him to return the money to the men. The bellhop figures he can't split $5 evenly, so he pockets $2 and gives them each $1 back. That means they each paid $9 for the room. Which means they paid, $27 total. But, if you add the bellhops $2, it means there's only $29 -- Where did the extra $1 go?

Ultimately, the answer is, it's not a math question -- it's a case of misdirection. The riddle asks us to follow the money trail. It mixes money paid with money received and money returned -- not the reality of the original monies paid.

When I was in relationship with Conrad, I lived a riddle. I followed his misdirection. I focused on what he was saying 'would happen', not what was actually happening. He continually asked me to ignore the facts, and focus on his lies. And I did. Not because I'm stupid. I'm not. My attention was diverted into the lies, into believing his truth was what he was speaking, not what he was doing.

I love riddles, I love trying to figure them out -- and that entire relationship was a riddle to me. He connected into my curiosity (amongst other things) and I got duped into thinking I needed to figure out what was happening, instead of following what was happening to the inevitable truth -- I needed to run as fast as I could away from him!

It is a common trait amongst those of devious intent. Like a husker shifting the cards rapidly before your eyes, you try to follow the action of his hands and never see the trick unfolding. Mislead into believing the truth is waiting for you under the card you've been following, you lose sight of what is happening to the cards around you. You focus on them, and not on yourself and lose sight of your world around you.

I still like riddles. I just don't get caught up in the need of having to figure them out so badly that I lose focus on who I am and where I'm at in my life today.

Knowing the truth about who I am, what I want in my life, and my responsibility to live my life with integrity, grace and honesty, I must always stay true to my values, moral, principles -- not the truth someone else tells me or wants me to believe is my reality.

My truth is this is my one and only life. It's up to me to live it, breathe it, experience it -- no holds barred. It's up to me to be the best me I can be so that I can fearlessly live the life of my dreams.

Life is filled with riddles. But, the riddles do not make my life because my life isn't a riddle waiting to be discerned. Life is what I make it. It's up to me to make this my best day yet so that I can live the life of my dreams. No one else can tell me my dreams. No one else can make my dreams come true.

The question is: Are you living the life of your dreams, or are you following someone else's misdirection in the hope it will lead you to the truth of what your dreams really are?

Sunday, November 18, 2007


They were three women. Native. A family. Grandmother, daughter/mother, granddaughter. The daughter/granddaughter looked to be in her mid twenties. The mother huddled with her daughter behind the wheel chair where the grandmother sat wrapped in a worn blanket. Between them, they passed a bottle of alcohol. Deep blond. Golden liquid.

I was a woman walking down the street. Walking from a meeting I'd attended downtown towards the shelter where I work. Warily I watched them as I moved closer. I couldn't cross the street. They were in direct line with the shelter, at a point where the roadway curves upwards onto the fly-over out of downtown. I didn't want to cross the street anyway. I knew I had nothing physical to fear from them. It was my thoughts I feared the most.

I felt sadness permeate my pores as I saw the bottle move from one grimy hand to another. Daughter to mother, mother to grandmother. They laughed and chortled. The mother held the bottle out towards her mother, the grandmother. The grandmother looked furtively around. For a brief moment she watched me walking towards them. She laughed. She turned back to her daughter. She grabbed eagerly for the bottle, knocking her granddaughter's hand away as she tried to tuck the blanket back down into the side of her grandmother's wheelchair. Both hands gripping the bottle, the grandmother tilted her head back, took a long swallow. She smiled toothlessly. Smacked her lips. Quickly tucked the bottle beneath the dirty blanket wrapped around her shoulders.

I kept walking by. I didn't know where to look. I looked ahead. They ignored me.

Three women lost on the street. Three generations of abuse. Of loss of pride. Loss of dignity. Three generations with little hope for a better tomorrow.

I carried on.

I wanted to stop and tell them to stop. I wanted to take the bottle away -- not because it is illegal to drink on the street. Not because the sight of their drinking in public made me angry. I wanted to take the bottle away because I know it's killing them. Destroying whatever hope they have of a better tomorrow. Eating away at their internal organs. Tearing apart their minds. Ripping apart their family circle.

Those three women have haunted me since I witnessed that tableau early last week. I want to go downtown and find them. Talk to them. Plead with them. Coerce them into looking at their lives.

And I can't.

I haven't earned the right and, they cannot hear me.

They are lost.

It is perhaps the hardest part of working at a shelter. Every day I see human beings lost, desperately hiding their pain and fear beneath the drugs and alcohol they abuse in order to forget their pasts. In order to forget themselves.

I cannot take away their pain. I cannot erase their pasts. All I can do is accept them exactly the way they are, without judgement. Without condemnation. And work to keep them safe until they find their courage to face the demons that haunt them. It's what we do every day at the shelter where I work. We keep hope alive for the mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, nieces and cousins who have been lost to the street and cannot find their way back home.

Do I agree with what they're doing? No. But that is irrelevant. What they are doing is nothing compared to what happened to drag them to this place where all they crave, all they believe will help them, is a bottle tucked beneath a blanket, surreptitiously passed around the family circle.

It is tragic. It is sad to watch three women stand exposed on the street, their pain visible to the naked eye.

Helpless. Frustrated. Frightened. Abused. They guzzle greedily from the bottle in a desperate attempt to mask their symptoms beneath the golden elixir flowing into their bodies washing away the dreams they once had of a life far different than this.

No one chooses to live with such indignity. To live with such sorrow. By the time the degradation takes hold, they are too lost to see what might have been had they not taken that first sip, that first toke. By the time the bottle becomes their best friend, they've lost the ability to recognize it has become their enemy.

I can't change their lives. I can change my perceptions of what they are doing. I can change my point of view about them. I can be less righteous and more forgiving.

The question is: Can you?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

I am a reflection of what I attract

Love is a many splendoured thing. Or so the song goes.

Like cells attract the cells they need to create. The cell doesn't know what it's creating nor can it name the cells its attracting. It's limited, focused intelligence tells it what to do -- not why. Like embryo cells. The purpose for certain cells is to create a heart. Others lungs. They do their work and life is born.

In love, we often don't know why we are attracted to someone. We just know the feelings are there. Sometimes, one person feels the attraction more than the other. Sometimes, hopefully most of the time, two people feel the same attraction and a relationship is created.

Long ago, I had an attraction to a man that was not healthy. The relationship became a reflection of the state of both our unhealthy psychologies. On the surface, I appeared to have a healthy goal of desiring connection with another special human being. On an unhealthy level, deep within me, was the need to be treated with disrespect so that I could feel validated in my sense of unworthiness.
That unhealthy need had been germinating in my life from long ago as a child when I translated what was happening to me into being about me, because of me. When I made abuse mine. Through therapy, writing, self-reflection, I had been working at my unhealthy needs so that I could enjoy true relationship based on my goal to live with peace and joy and surrender in my life. But, the power of his unhealthy personality, triggered my core unhealthy belief into taking action -- and I became lost in the belief I was in love with him when what I was really trying to do was fulfill the goal of my unhealthy psychology.

One of the most difficult aspects of coming out of a relationship that is abusive is to let go of the belief "I love him". Stepping away from the belief that I loved him, allowed me the grace to move into loving myself enough to acknowledge that what I had with him was not about love, it was about fulfilling my unhealthy need to prove I was unworthy.

Today, I know the truth. I am worthy of a life filled with joy. I am worthy of loving myself for all I'm worth and, I believe I attract into my life those who reflect my joy and my love of life. I am a creative soul. Like the heart cell attracting the cells it needs to live its purpose, I attract joy in ever-expanding circles of love.

Love is a many splendoured thing. When I revel in its splendour, life becomes a spectacular journey filled with limitless opportunities to express my creative soul where I am a reflection of the loveliness surrounding.

The question is: What do you attract into your life? Is it a reflection of your goal to create a life filled with love and peace and joy and wonder? Or, is your life reflecting back your inner disquiet?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Taking care of the details

My Internet connection was down for a day. I didn't do anything about it at first -- Don't ask me why but I was sorta hopin' it would reboot all by itself.

Guess what?

It didn't.

Had to call my provider and they remotely rebooted it for me. Took all of five minutes and voila! Cyberland on my desktop once again.

What is it with taking care of the little things?

Now, there were two things going on here. One was, the fear of being on the telephone for hours wishing and hoping some robotic voice on another planet would respond whom I could understand and who could understand my problem enough to fix it. The second was, I dislike the idea of being so addicted to something I can't live without it.

I admit it. I'm a cyber-junkie. I check my emails throughout the day. Check into my 'favourites' off and on during the day. I will use email over the phone any day. And, I feel naked without an online connect feeding me a plethora of extraneous information throughout the day. I'm unclothed without my knowledge source.

As if everything I read online is the whole and complete truth.

What is true is not having Internet access changes my process. Which means, this morning I'm late.

As soon as I did get access back I had to do some housekeeping duties I've been putting off. On Sunday night, I went to pay my bills online (does anyone write cheques anymore?) and found my bank was doing maintenance and my bank account not accessible. I put it off. Yesterday morning I went to do it, and my access was not working. So..... this morning I did what I was supposed to have done -- x2.


I inadvertently paid a couple of bills twice because I wasn't paying attention to what my computer was saying back. Like -- CONFIRM -- is this what you want to pay? Yes. The amount was right. But I didn't read the payee information.... and voila! I've now double paid a couple of bills and had to go in and pay the ones I'd thought I'd paid in the first place.

One good thing is -- I won't have to pay heating and electricity for two months! The not so good thing is, I've got less money than I intended!

See, paying attention to the little things is not my forte. And, because I don't pay attention, I make mistakes. In my mistakes I create good and bad -- and I add stress to my everyday living that doesn't need to be there.

My commitment is to take care of the little things that can add up to big stressors when I avoid them.

Avoidance strengthens fear.

I know I have an irrational fear of authority -- this is self-awareness I've had for quite some time. Paying bills = authority. In my fear and self-defeating games, I constantly undermine myself. I avoid dealing with authority -- it's sort of a convoluted thought process that says, if I avoid this, I'll feel better (for a short while) and everything will just take care of itself.

Sort of like my Internet access. I didn't phone in the hopes it would fix itself.

Misguided thinking on my part. A whole bunch of denial. And unnecessary anxiety.

My goal is to limit my anxiety by turning up for me in all areas of my life -- and that includes taking care of the small things.

The question is: What about you? Are you avoiding doing the things that need to be taken care of in the hopes they'll take care of themselves? Are you willing to get truthful about your behaviours that are undermining your peace of mind?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The sun within me

Recently, astronomers and NASA scientists confirmed that somewhere out there in a far corner of the galaxy they have found what they believe to be a solar system twin to ours. Originally thought to contain four planets orbiting around a sun, they recently announced they found a fifth planet orbiting what is actually a close pair of neighbouring stars collectively known as 55 Cancri that lie in the constellation of Cancer 41 light years away.

Yup. The possibilities of space are limitless.

Which made me wonder about the space around me and within me. How limitless are its possibilities?

The heavens above are filled with stars and planets, known and unknown. It took astronomers 12 years to find this solar system after 18 years of continuous observations at Lick Observatory. To date, they've discovered 260 planets in our solar system. These planets and stars have been there all along, (well, at least long enough to count) we just didn't have the technology to see them.

I've been on this earth 50+ years, and a lot of that time has not been spent in continuous observation of me. In fact, much of it was spent doing stuff 'out there', and avoiding looking at the world within me. Yet, I've always had the technology to see within me -- using it has been another issue!

What if I took my power and started focusing it on the universe inside me? What if I use the technology of my mind and start opening up to the learning within my heart? What if I quit looking for light out there, and let my light shine from the inside out?

Imagine the possibilities!

I believe within me exists a world of discovery. Taking the journey inward uncovers the mystery and the power of being me. It exposes me to the great reservoir of joy I possess that sustains me every moment of my life, regardless of the turmoil and trials of the world around me, regardless of where I'm looking. Tapping into my reservoir of joy, allowing it to flow into deep sustaining pools of well-being, exposes me to my innate ability to embrace the wonder and awe of my being. It frees me up so that I can venture far into the galaxy exploring the limitless possibilities of being the star at centre stage of my very own life.

Within each of us exists a vast unexplored universe of untapped treasure. Nothing keeps us from experiencing the joy of being who we are, except our minds, the self-defeating games we use to distract ourselves from our greatness, and the tapes we play about who we are and why we are that keep us from exploring the wonder and joy of being the magnificent human beings we are designed to be.

The question is: Where on earth are you looking for the joy that abounds within your being? Where do you keep your sites set on the stars in some far corner of the galaxy and miss the wonder and awe within you?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I can only imagine

This morning I took a different route into work. C.C. was flying out to Vancouver to attend his nephew's memorial service and I opted to drive him to the airport. It was going to be a tough day and I wanted to share my hope, strength and encouragement with him as long as possible. And, I wanted to be there tonight when he steps off the plane and needs a warm, loving smile to greet him.

As we drove north towards the airport, traffic streamed, in rush hour fashion with bumper to bumper intensity down the highway in the opposite direction. We sailed through to the north.

It was a different story coming south again.

My drive is generally a ten minute journey along not too clogged up avenues. What a difference traffic makes. I could feel my calmness evaporating. My 'centredness' escaping.

I took a breath.

So often we forget the value of breathing. Forget the importance of focusing on the one thing we can do that brings us peace of mind. Breathing.

Slow. In. Out. Measured breathing.

On the weekend while coaching at Choices, I worked with a first time coach. She was very nervous as we entered into the process of working with trainees to develop their 'purpose' statement.

"Breathe," I suggested. "Breathe in and with each breath in, imagine the air being transformed into energy infusing your body with spirit. As you breathe out, imagine each exhalation carrying your love and passion for life out into the world. Where ever you go, you are creating a force field around you filled with love and passion. Breathe."

Later, one of the women in our small group couldn't stop crying. Not because of the process we were engaged in, but rather because of some memories that had flooded in on the words of the pastor giving the sermon at the spiritual service earlier that morning.

"I can't stop crying," she wailed.

"What if you didn't think about stopping your tears, but rather, thought of your tears as the pain running out of your body. As the pain flows out, it flows into the river of love that supports you, lifts you and carries you through your day. What if the pain just flows into the river and is washed away by the limitless love of the river that is your life?"

It's all in our perspectives. It's all in what we imagine. In what we allow ourselves to imagine.

So often I think -- I can't stop myself.

Truth is, if I can think I can't, I can think, I can.

So often I tell myself, it's not my fault.

What if I could imagine I am 100% accountable for my experience. What if I allowed myself to imagine I was powerful beyond belief, rather than powerless in my belief to change my life?

What if whatever I can imagine is a possibility?

The question is: Where do you imagine yourself locked in, locked up, locked out of experiencing all that life has to offer? Where do you limit your life by imagining you can't do whatever you can that will make a difference in your life today?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

What I fear

Some mornings, I wake up and wonder, "what on earth am I going to write?"

My mind feels blank. My thoughts as ethereal as a ghost. But I know, if I can trust in the process of writing, of putting my fingertips on the keyboard and letting them move, words will appear and thoughts will begin to spill out.

Some mornings it's easy to trust. Others -- not so easy.

Like with people and circumstances.

Yesterday morning, I went into the office to give a presentation to a group of teachers on a Personal Development day. There were 16 of them, and one of them was late. We sat in the boardroom chatting while we waited. One woman's cellphone rang. It was the missing teacher.

"Come to the building and ring the buzzer," the teacher who answered the phone said. "That way you won't have to park across the street in the parking lot and walk to the building alone." And she went on to give precise instructions on what to do and where to go.

Now, that walk across the street from the parking lot is in full view of the building. It is monitored by cameras. It consists of walking out the gate of the parking lot, ten feet to the roadway, crossing the road, and walking through the gates to our building and up the 50 feet of driveway to the front doors. Staff and volunteers do it every day. We have never had an incident of a staff or volunteer being accosted on that short walk.

I was curious. "What is it you fear might happen to her if she walks from the parking lot to the building?" I asked.

"Oh, I'm not really afraid," she replied with a smile. "It's just scary to walk across the street by yourself down there."

"And what makes it so scary?" I probed.

"Well," and she hesitated. "Look at the people around. Who knows what might happen?"

"What do you fear might happen?" I asked again.

She replied that old stand-by, "I don't know."

Most times, we do know. We're just afraid of saying, or facing the truth.

I know what this woman feared. She feared her friend might be raped or or knifed or murdered crossing the street to the shelter. She feared her friend would feel fear crossing the street. Whether or not the fear is real, the feeling of it is scary. I asked her if that was the case.

"Well.... It's possible." she replied.

"Absolutely," I agreed. "But can we talk about what is the fear you're feeling in this instance? It is ultimately, part of what my presentation is all about."

The woman graciously agreed.

"Who are these people you fear?" I asked the group. Several people spoke up and said, "But I don't fear them."

I disagreed (politely). "You walked to the building in a group and when one member came alone, you made sure she didn't have to walk across the street alone. I remember the first day I walked into the building for an interview. I was terrified. I stood in the lobby and wondered what on earth am I doing here. This is a scary place."

"Oh, I'm not scared being in the building," the woman with the cellphone said. "I just don't like walking into it."

"The people inside are the same people who are outside," I replied. "What's the difference?"

"Well, there's no staff out there. Anything could happen."

"Yes. Anything can happen. Who and what are you to trust? Your instincts or your fear of the unknown?" I looked around the group. "And what I want to do today is challenge your thinking so that we can dispel your fear of the unknown. Who are the homeless?" I asked.

The words came out. Addicts. Mentally challenged. Runaways. Working poor.

"Those are all labels," I replied. "The labels help us make sense of something we don't understand. The labels help us separate from who 'those people' on the street are, and ourselves. They help us maintain our difference. But, if we peel away the labels, what do we have? We have mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, nieces, next door neighbours, the old guy down the street who spent his life savings caring for his wife and lost his home. Peel away the labels and we have everyday people lost on the road of life."

Yesterday, I trusted myself to ask tough questions of a group of people who came into the shelter to learn about something they didn't understand. To do that, I had to ask them to question their fears, to confront them and to step into them.

That woman was afraid of having her friend cross the street, not because of the people, but rather, because of her fears of the unknown.

Now -- I don't think it's a good idea to walk in that neighbourhood after dark. And I do believe it's important to be vigilant. But, to fear simply because, is not healthy. We expend too much energy fighting the unknown and lose our ability to recognize when our intuition kicks in warning us of people and circumstances we need to fear.

Yesterday, 16 people walked away with an understanding of what they fear. As I told them at the end, "What separates us and people who are homeless is an address. What we share is fear. We fear them. We fear what has happened to their lives. We fear the street. They fear the street too. Fear is the predominant emotion on the street. Fear is real. It's up to us to stay real with our fears and not give into our imaginations desire to drive us into fear when we are safe."

This morning I awoke unsure of what I'd write. I trusted my instincts and let the words pour out. Is it right? Is it wrong? It is neither. It was what was in my heart blocking my mind from hearing and seeing what is real. I carry with me all sorts of preconceived ideas and notions about what I need to fear -- or not. It's up to me to challenge those notions and get real into the moment of living fearlessly.

It never ceases to amaze me, on those days when I feel like what I wrote was drivel, how someone will email and tell me what a difference my words made to them. I fear somedays looking stupid when I wrote. The truth is, I'm not. The truth is, I am courageous because I do it anyway, in spite of my fear. In doing it, I grow and learn and live on purpose.

The question is: Where do your fears hold you back from stepping into reality? Where do your fears keep you tethered to limiting your life?

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Proud Canadian

I am a first generation Canadian. My mother was born in Pondicherry, India, a city on the south east coast that was a French colony until India claimed its independence in the 1950s. My father was born in London, England to Irish parents who upon their divorce when he was nine, shipped him off to boarding school in Gravelburg, Saskatchewan.

My Canadian roots are not very deep.

When my father was sixteen, he ran away from school and joined the Air Force. After the Second World War ended, he brought his war bride to Canada where they stayed until after I was born. By the time of my birth, my mother's family had moved to France. She wanted to be closer to them and so, we moved to England, then France, then Germany where we lived except for eight years we spent in Canada when I was a child. I was 22 when I came back to Canada after having spent the majority of my life on foreign soils.

I have always wondered what it means to be Canadian. I could never quite grasp the depth of my Canadian heritage or dig into the meaning of the land of my birth.

Yesterday, I caught a glimpse of the power of my roots.

In my teens, we lived in Lahr, Germany where there was a Canadian Forces Base. Every day, I walked to and from my parents' home to the high school on the base. At the gate house commanding entry to the 'Kaserne', there was a large mirror affixed to the side of the guard house. Above it, there was a sign that read, "The person you see reflected in this mirror represents Canada. Behave accordingly."

I walked past that mirror every day for the four years I attended high school in Lahr. And every day I wondered, How am I supposed to behave as a Canadian?

Yesterday, I got my answer.

With pride.

Yesterday, while attending the spiritual service at Choices where I was coaching for the weekend, I heard Jill Younghusband sing, The Proud Canadian Soldier, written by Jay Willis, she recorded it with the Royal Canadian Artillery Band in 2006. (If you go to the website you can download the song.)

The song is a powerful testament to the honour and valour of Canadian troops who have served and continue to serve Canada around the world and who have lost their lives in the battle to create lasting peace.

I do not agree with war. I do not believe war creates peace.

But, that's easy for me to say. I sit here in my safe, secure home in a city where war has never fallen from the skies. I sit here, far from the sound of guns and the fear of each moment being my last. I sit here not having to defend my right to call myself Canadian.

It's easy for me to say we don't belong in certain places when I'm not the one putting my life on the line.

It's easy to be a critic.

Not so easy to stand up and support those who are willing to give their lives to defend the value I take for granted -- freedom.

Freedom comes at a price. For those who are willing to put their lives on the line, for those who carry the banner of their Canadian heritage where ever they go, I apologize. I have not treated the country of my birth with the dignity and respect it deserves. I have not worn my Canadian honour with pride.

I have spent the past thirty years putting down roots in this country and have struggled to understand what it means to be Canadian. I know what it doesn't mean in context to not being American, or French, or German. But what does it mean to be Canadian?

I'm not sure I know the answer. Perhaps there isn't one answer -- and that is the answer. I am free to be Canadian however I choose to express it.

My daughters are Canadian. I want them to be proud of their heritage. To know that being Canadian means more than not being some other nationality. It means honouring and upholding the right to be free. The freedom to celebrate unique traditions, faith and heritage. It means having the freedom to speak my mind without fear my words will be the death of me.

Yesterday, I listened to Jill Younghusband sing and speak about her experience as a member of Canada's Armed Forces and I felt her pride, her sense of honour, her fierce commitment to defending her right and my right to be free.

Yesterday, I accepted my responsibility to stand tall and claim my right to be free because I am a Proud Canadian.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Poet Boy

I wrote the following for Remembrance Day last year. I share it today in honour of my father and the boys and men who fought to give us freedom.

When the poet boy was sixteen, he lied about his age and ran off to war. It was a war he was too young to understand. Or know why he was fighting. When the guns were silenced and the victors and the vanquished carried off their dead and wounded, the poet boy was gone. In his stead, there stood a man. An angry man. A wounded man. The man who would become my father.

By the time of my arrival, the final note in a quartet of baby-boomer children, the poet boy was deeply buried beneath the burden of an unforgettable war and the dark moods that permeated my father's being with the density of storm clouds blocking the sun. Occasionally, on a holiday or a walk in the woods, the sun would burst through and signs of the poet boy would seep out from beneath the burden of the past. Sometimes, like letters scrambled in a bowl of alphabet soup that momentarily made sense of a word drifting across the surface, images of the poet boy appeared in a note or a letter my father wrote me. For that one brief moment a light would be cast on what was lost and then suddenly, with the deftness of a croupier sweeping away the dice, the words would disappear as the angry man came sweeping back with the ferocity of winter rushing in from the north.

I spent my lifetime looking for the words that would make the poet boy appear, but time ran out when my father’s heart gave up its fierce beat to the silence of eternity. It was a massive coronary. My mother said he was angry when the pain hit him. Angry, but unafraid. She wasn’t allowed to call an ambulance. She wasn’t allowed to call a neighbor. He drove himself to the hospital and she sat helplessly beside him. As he crossed the threshold of the emergency room, he collapsed, never to awaken again. In his death, he was lost forever, leaving behind my anger for which I had no words.

Last Remembrance Day, ten years after his death, I went in search of my father at the foot of the memorial to an unnamed soldier that stands in the middle of a city park. A trumpet played “Taps”. I stood at the edge of the crowd and fingered the felt of the bright red poppy I held between my thumb and fingers. It was a blustery day. A weak November sunshine peaked out from behind sullen grey clouds. Bundled up against the cold, the crowd, young and old, silently approached the monument and placed their poppies on a ledge beneath the soldier’s feet.

I stood and watched and held back.

I wanted to understand the war. I wanted to find the father who might have been had the poet boy not run off to fight “the good war” as a commentator had called it earlier that morning on the radio. Where is the good in war, I wondered? I thought of soldiers falling, mother’s crying and anger never dying. I thought of the past, never resting, always remembered and I thought of my father, never forgotten. The poet boy who went to war and came home an angry man. In his anger, life became the battlefield upon which he fought to retain some sense of balance amidst the memories of a world gone mad.

Perhaps it is as George Orwell wrote in his novel, Nineteen Eighty-four:

“The very word 'war', therefore, has become misleading. It would probably be accurate to say that by becoming continuous war has ceased to exist... War is Peace.”

For my father, anger became the peacetime of his world until his heart ran out of time, and he lost all hope of finding the poetry within him.

There is still time for me.

On that cold November morning, I approach the monument. I stand at the bottom step and look at the bright red poppies lining the gun metal grey of the concrete base of the statue. Slowly, I take the first step up and then the second. I hesitate then reach forward and place my poppy amidst the blood red row lined up along the ledge.

I wait. I don’t want to leave. I want a sign. I want to know my father sees me.

I turn and watch a white-haired grandfather approach, his gloved right hand encasing the mitten covered hand of his granddaughter. Her bright curly locks tumble from around the edges of her white furry cap. Her pink overcoat is adorned with little white bunnies leaping along the bottom edge. She skips beside him, her smile wide, blue eyes bright.

They approach the monument, climb the few steps and stop beside me. The grandfather lets go of his granddaughter’s hand and steps forward to place his poppy on the ledge. He stands for a moment, head bowed. The little girl turns to me, the poppy clasped between her pink mittens outstretched in front of her.

“Can you lift me up?” she asks me.

“Of course,” I reply.

I pick her up, facing her towards the statue.

Carefully she places the poppy in the empty spot beside her grandfather’s.

I place her gently back on the ground.

She flashes me a toothy grin and skips away to join her grandfather where he waits at the foot of the monument. She grabs his hand.

“Do you think your daddy will know which one is mine?” she asks.

The grandfather laughs as he leads her back into the gathered throng.

“I’m sure he will,” he replies.

I watch the little girl skip away with her grandfather. The wind gently stirs the poppies lining the ledge. I feel them ripple through my memories of a poet boy who once stood his ground and fell beneath the weight of war.

My father is gone from this world. The dreams he had, the promises of his youth were forever lost on the bloody tide of war that swept the poet boy away. In his passing, he left behind a love of words born upon the essays and letters he wrote me throughout the years. Words of encouragement. Of admonishment. Words that inspired me. Humored me. Guided me. Touched me. Words that will never fade away.

I stand at the base of the monument and look up at the soldier mounted on its pedestal. Perhaps he was once a poet boy hurrying off to war to become a man. Perhaps he too came back from war an angry man fearful of letting the memories die lest the gift of his life be forgotten.

I turn away and leave my poppy lying at his feet. I don’t know if my father will know which is mine. I don’t know if poppies grow where he has gone. But standing at the feet of the Unknown Soldier, the wind whispering through the poppies circling him in a blood red river, I feel the roots of the poet boy stir within me. He planted the seed that became my life.

Long ago my father went off to war and became a man. His poetry was silenced but still the poppies blow, row on row. They mark the place where poet boys went off to war and never came home again.

The war is over. In loving memory of my father and those who fought beside him, I let go of anger. It is time for me to make peace.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Bumps in the road and other hazards to joy

Every morning Ellie and I have a ritual walk before I leave for work. As part of our routine, when C.C. is here, we stop at the paper box and pick him up a hard copy of the newspaper on our way home.

Yesterday, I put my $1.50 into the slot, grabbed the handle and pulled. Nothing happened. The door wouldn't open. Hmmm, I thought. Perhaps I need to put another quarter in. (No idea why I thought another quarter would make the difference but it seemed like a good idea at the time). I inserted the extra quarter and Surprise! I got the same result. Entry denied.

Muttering under my breath, complaining vociferously to Ellie, I turned my back on the box (and applauding myself for not kicking it) I started walking home.

Across the street, a woman stood waiting at the bus stop. She had witnessed the entire incident of the box that stole my money. I smiled sheepishly at her. Muttering all the while. "It stole my money."

I think she might have been concerned I was one of those crazies who, after losing her money into an inanimate metal box, took her anger out on the world around her. I saw her hesitation. Her slight stepping back as I walked by. It wasn't a huge movement but I was sure I perceived it.

"Oh. Too bad," she said. Warily watching me walk by.

As Ellie and I kept moving she relaxed and said, "You look really pretty. I like your coat."

What on earth did my coat have to do with losing $1.75 to a newspaper box? I kept walking, but my upbringing kicked in automatically. Always thank someone for a compliment.

"Thank you." I replied. And continued on.

A block later, I started to laugh. Why should $1.75 disrupt my day? Why should a big white metal box steal my joy? I'd just received a very nice compliment from a stranger -- and I was letting a stupid piece of steel steal my frame of mind.

I picked up my steps, lifted my spirits and walked home. Without pause, I grabbed my wallet With Ellie joyfully bouncing along beside me, happy for the extra time to be outdoors, I walked back towards the newspaper box.

The woman was still standing there. "Thank you." I said as I walked by. (I didn't want to scare her by stopping and confirming I was one of those crazies who took out their anger over inanimate objects on strangers). "I appreciated your compliment. You changed my day."

And I kept walking.

Ellie and I had an extra ten minutes added to our walk. I picked up the newspaper at a convenience store, along with a jug of milk which we needed at home.

When I left for work I was satisfied. The newspaper was waiting for C.C. and Alexis to read when they awoke. There was milk in the fridge for cereal and Ellie was contentedly sleeping on the foot of the bed.

What a great morning.

The question is: What do you allow to rob you of your peace of mind? What little bumps in the road disrupt your joy?

Friday, November 9, 2007

Living in love

I read the following yesterday in an email written by Rev. Carol Carnes, a pastor with Religious Science International.

"When we speak about people doing wrong, we really mean they are doing it the wrong way. We are all trying to get our good and some do not know how to get it or worse, where it is. The thief thinks your money is his good. He does not know that his own mind can create prosperity without stealing from someone else. The drug addict thinks peace of mind comes from a substance. He does not yet know that peace is a natural state which can be cultivated with the mind. The approval seeker longs for love. She hasn’t discovered the truth that love lives within her own being and can be activated by her attention to it."

Long ago I sought love through the approval of others. I believed love was something out there I had to go get from someone else. I believed someone else could give it to me. I was looking for that which could not be given to me in the wrong way.

Truth is, no one can 'give' me love. Love is not a dinner plate piled high with food set down before me to dig into and digest. Anything I get from someone else can be taken from me. When I search within myself for that which I seek, when I acknowledge the love within me, when I honour it with my passion, my truth, my every word and action, it cannot be taken from me. It is mine to live with, move with, share and enjoy.

Love is.

Love is not something I 'give'. It is something I live.

Yesterday, a reader wrote that love is 'an action'. Is it? Or are the actions we take demonstrative of the love we feel for ourselves and someone else?

I love my daughters and know they love me. When they were born, they did not hold their arms out and cry and say, "Here's your love mommy." Rather, I looked at them, held them, thought of them and knew love. Felt it. Lived it. Breathed it. Tasted it. I was immersed in love -- still am. They are miraculous human beings. My love for them knows no bounds. My love for them also dictates that I must separate from them, let go, encourage them to spread their wings and fly.

The Greeks had words for four types of love: Agape -- spiritual, love of God; Storge or Familial -- love of family; Filial -- 'brotherly love' or love of friends (pets too!); Eros -- love of another.

For me, love never begins. It never ends. My choices, however, can determine how I express love, how I live it. When I am 'in love' with my world, I treat myself and everyone and everything in my life with loving care. I take actions that state, I love you.

When I am out of love, or out of esteem, with myself, I take actions that denigrate the gift of me, that undermine the awesome spirit with which I was born and made to celebrate.

Once upon a time, I came through an abusive relationship. It was hell. For me, for my daughters, my family, my friends -- for everyone whom I love and loves me. That relationship, was devastating. It didn't happen by accident. It wasn't fate teaching me a lesson, or the cosmos lining up against me. It happened because I didn't honour the truth within me. I am love. Everything I want and need is right within me. The wrong way to get what I wanted was to look at him and believe he possessed the love I was searching for. To believe that he had the answers to my dreams.

Conrad held answers. In fact, some of his answers seemed to be the right ones for me. But, they were only temporary. Fleeting. His answers for me were temporal, not spiritual in nature at all. Conrad did what he did because it's what he does. I was his target -- doesn't mean I had to make myself fit into the kill zone -- though I did try.

The reason for my compliance to his deadly schemes on me was because when I met him, I believed his love would make me whole. I believed his love would complete me. By the time I awoke to the truth, I was too far gone in the evil machinations of his design to recognize I was lost. I fell into his lies and fought to make them my truth. I fell out of love with me, a love I had never fully embraced, in order to have the love he promised come true.

Truth is, he never held my answers. His love could never complete me. I am complete. I have everything I need right here within me.

Loving another is not about filling myself up with their love and making me whole. It's about letting the limitless love of the universe flow with joyful abandon as I flow with it in love with my world. It's about letting myself live in the dazzling grace of gratitude and choice that reflects the magnificence of who I am in the world around me and celebrates the magnificence of who you are in your world too.

Loving one special person is a gift I give myself when I stand without fear in the truth of who I am, knowing that the truth of who they are is the gift they bring into my life. It is honouring the magnificence of their spirit as I celebrate the beauty of mine.

The question is: Are you looking out there for what lives within you? Are you seeking answers from beyond the limitless possibilities within?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The power to control my fall, and my flight

A blanket of darkness covers the sky. I awaken, slip from beneath the cocoon of my covers and begin the process of organizing my day.

Coffee. Email. A glance at the newspaper. A headline catches my attention. Strong loonie raising alarms. The reporter talks about economics, exports and trade. The strength of the loonie in relation to our biggest trading partner, the United States. These are heady times. Concerning times. As one economist states, "We wonder if our loonie may be flying too close to the sun."

The parallels between our rising loonie and growing concern over relationships south of the border, and the rise in my anxiety as my relationship with C.C. grows, do not escape me.

A girlfriend wrote the other day to remind me that falling in love is joyful -- particularly when I've learned so much and am so much more aware and stronger than in the past (thanks CZ!).

She's right.

But the voices of descent clamour for attention. They want to have their day in the sun to block the rays from warming my heart. They fear the light. They fear I may get burned.

Recently, my mother had a fall. She wasn't hurt, but she sure was scared waiting for someone to come help her off the floor of her bedroom. Her fear was real. Her arthritic wrists are too weak to help her up. Her joints too swollen by the insidious nature of her disease to be of any help in giving her a purchase to get off the floor.

A couple of days later she mentioned how she'd been so scared, fearing no one would come, that she would have to lay there all night. "Perhaps the fall was a lesson from God reminding me not to brag about how well I've been doing," she said when I went to visit her. "Just last week I was telling someone I was doing really well and now this happens."

There is no quid, pro, quo with God. The Universe only wants the best for us.

"God is more benevolent than that," I reminded her. "He wants you to do well. He wants you to dance. I believe when you tell other people how well you're doing, you inspire them to dance too."

Falling off the bed was not an act of God. It was the forgetfulness, a momentary weakness of an 85 year old woman who sat on the end of her bed and slid off the silky fabric of the duvet because her thigh muscles are not strong enough to hold her in place. I helped her place a chair at the end of the bed so that she would not forget again and sit on dangerous perches.

Falling in love is not an act of God, it is my choice. It is my choice to forget the pain of the past as I carry with me all I've learned. It is my choice to step into this moment where I am strong because I know, I am safe within me. Safe within my boundaries. Secure within my knowledge of who I am. This is a place where love is real, feelings count and being vulnerable is a decision I make to let someone into my sacred space as I move closer to theirs.

Falling in love doesn't burn. Being in love doesn't hurt.

People do that. When they are untrue. When they deceive and lie and manipulate.

Falling in love is not an invitation for the past to repeat itself. It's not a taunt at fate to come and get me, cut me down or cut me off at the knees.

Falling in love is an acknowledgement of my humanity. Of my humanness. Of my human nature, or, as Dr. James Wilder writes it is a reflection of my desire, "to be the sparkle in someones eye".

C.C. is not a man from the past. He is real. He is sincere. He is in the here and now. It's up to me to keep the then and there from the past from tainting what is real and true today.

As children, we naturally sought relationship. As an adult, I have avoided relationship, or at least, avoided being real in relationship. Not because I consciously chose to be 'unreal', but rather, because I wasn't making choices that created secure attachments. My 'love wiring' was faulty.

Fortunately, I am not hard-wired for failure. The brain is a plastic-like living organ, malleable, teachable, reprogrammable.

When I was a child, I learned a lot about love -- not all of it healthy. As an adult, I have the power to make choices that unlearn the things that hurt me. I have the power to rewire my thinking so that I can thrive in love and not just survive another love affair gone bad.

The loonie rises. It hasn't seen these exalted heights in decades. We fear its rise and talk about ways to curb its flight. In our fear of the light, we seek to fall and escape our fear of flying.

My fear rises and with it my courage. My heart beats, I fall in love and spread my wings. I learn to fly.

The sun beats down, my heart expands and with every breath, with every motion of my wings I fly closer and closer to the sweet, delectable nectar of loving another without fear of losing myself or getting burnt. I am powerful enough to control my fall, and my flight.

The question is: Are you confident in your strength to hold you up? Are you willing to spread your wings to keep from falling? Do you recognize your power to control your fall, and your flight?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

We were only four at Project Forward last night. Two clients. A volunteer and me.

One of the clients is a man in his late twenties. Tall. Slim. Like so many other clients, homelessness caught him by surprise. He's a father. A Licensed Practical Nurse by training. But the sudden onset of 'cervical dystonia' a neurological disease believed to have been caused by a reaction to the drugs he was taking for bi-polar disorder caused the basal ganglia in his brain to mis-function. Where once he could lift a 180 lb. patient with ease out of his wheelchair, suddenly he was weak, unable to control the activity of his limbs. His speech became slurred. His neck twisted, his head tilted down towards his shoulder and spasms rocked his body.

"My bi-polar disorder was causing me to do bizarre things," he said, his head tucked into his chin, his hands gripping the arms of his chair to keep them from shaking. "It was awful for my wife and kids and then, when I started taking the drugs, this happened. She asked me to leave a few months later and here I am. I can't work. I've applied for government assistance but I can't get it until I see a neurologist. I can't get an appointment with a neurologist for two years. My family want me to come home but my kids are here. I don't want to leave them and so I wait. Here." He looks at the room around him, gazes out the large plate glass windows where we sit in the boardroom. The view is of the river valley. Lights twinkle on the hillside beyond. The sky is indigo blue. Deep. "The view sure is beautiful up here at night," he says with a smile.

He always has a positive thing to say. "It's all I've got," he says when I mention his attitude. "If I don't keep thinking positive I'll drown in this place. I can't let that happen."


French philosopher, Voltaire, wrote, "Life is a shipwreck but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats."

For this man, life became a shipwreck because of a disorder he did not choose, did not ask for, did not want.

Yet, he's singing in his lifeboat. Smiling every day as he sits on the second floor, working as a volunteer, talking to people, trying to lift their spirits with a joke, a warm look, a listening ear.

"I always like seeing you when I'm on the second floor," I told him. "You make me smile."

"It's your smile that makes me smile," he replied. "Guess it's true. Smiles are contagious."

The question is: How are you wearing your attitude today? Are you hiding your smile behind grey clouds or are you singing in your lifeboat, sharing your joy no matter the stormy weather tossing the waters of life?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A time for every purpose under heaven

Life's moments fill in time passing by. Moving on. Flowing along. Moments shift. Edges curl up along the pages of time unspent in one man's life. A page flips. Turns over. Time flows along, never standing still. Stunning news fills in a blank, pushes out what was there, waiting on the edges of the pages to happen. Waiting for the right time that will never come again. Time moves on.

C.C.'s nephew is gone. Nothing can change that. Nothing can bring him back. Nothing can fill in the spaces where he once had a place in the lives of those who loved him.

We breathe in. We breathe out. Time shifts. Our perspectives adapt. We begin to accommodate what has changed. To realign our thinking to encompass this new information. These new circumstances. This new place where time once held a different meaning. Where the ending was a distant horizon not yet arrived on this plane in time.

Nothing can change what has happened.

A man at the shelter almost died. He was tucked away in a washroom. Hiding his activity from prying eyes. Staff found him. It wasn't too late. Time had not yet ended for him. And now, time continues on unmoved by his circumstances. He will move on filling in the moments of his time here. Doing what he does. Or not. One day perhaps he won't be so lucky. One day, perhaps, it could be the last time for him. Or, one day, perhaps, he will make another choice. One day he might change direction and do something different, change how he fills his time. One day he might find the time has arrived to live his life with meaning, filling in his time well spent with something other than the drugs that are robbing him of the time to live his life on purpose.

Benjamin Franklin said, "Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of."

Time is the measure of the moments we have here. Time has no value. It can't be spent like money at the convenience store. Or banked like money in an account gathering interest, waiting for a better time to be spent. But time can be squandered. Indiscriminately. Thoughtlessly. There is no right time to begin filling your time wisely. There is no better time than now.

Thing is, it's time. That time. The time. Time to make the moment count. Time to fill it in before it's too late. Before it's gone, lost, used up. It's only a matter of time before we take our last breath. Before it's our time to turn a page that will never be written with us in it. It's time. Once upon a time, Pete Seger wrote Turn Turn Turn for the Byrd's:

To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep
To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

The question is: What on earth is your purpose?

Monday, November 5, 2007


C.C.'s nephew was murdered on the weekend. The news didn't take long to travel a thousand miles. One phone call and sorrow descended in a wave of inexplicable pain.

"I don't know how I feel," C.C said late last night. "Mostly numb. I think I should feel more. I'm angry that I don't."

"We don't come with a guidebook mapping out how to deal with something so tragic," I replied. "What if you don't judge yourself for not feeling something you don't know what to feel? What if you simply let the numbness guide you?"

His sister won't talk to anyone. She won't answer the phone. Take calls. In her grief she has shut down. Perhaps she believes if she doesn't talk about it, it won't be true. Perhaps she has fallen into the first step of grieving and is using denial to shield her from the enormous pain of her loss.

I want to help. I want to do something. Change something. Help somehow. I too want to deny this is possible. I want to believe it cannot be. I want it to be a miscommunication. A lie. I want to tell C.C. it's not true. I want to ease his pain but cannot lie.

Violence has ripped through the delicate filigreed network of leaves sheltering the family tree. The inconceivable, the unbelievable has happened. Violence, in all its brutality has settled in the branches. Impersonal. Without feeling. Without conscience. It is filled with malice. Riddled with disease, it claws at the roots of humanity, grappling for a footing in the story of the lives that have been intertwined since the moment of their birth.

Violence does not discriminate. It does not take sides. It sucks the air from around it, leeches out the sweet clear breath of the morning rising upon the dawning of a brand new day. It over shadows the joy of awakening, the peacefulness of sleep. Violence kills the life around it.

There is nothing that can explain why. Nothing that can take away the pain. That will happen in time. For now, tears must fall, hearts must break open and time must stand still before it can begin its work of easing the pain through grief and sorrow.

A young man is murdered a thousand miles away, and time shifts, the earth tilts. A life has ended and sorrow descends upon those left behind.
I have no answers. I want to ask, 'how can this happen?', but I know I can't. It has.
All I can do is be the arms of love that tenderly hold this man for whom I care so deeply, as he struggles to come to grips with something no one can ever understand.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

I forgot about Daylight savings time today. I'm normally an early riser, regardless of what time I went to bed. This morning I awoke late and was impressed I'd managed to sleep in -- except Daylight savings stole one of my hours!

Be thankful for small mercies. I did get an extra hour in there!

Looking outside at the snow falling, I think I may just go back to bed and cuddle up for some extra zzzz's.

Last night I went to watch C.C's team play hockey. He coaches PeeWee's -- 12 and 13 year old boys who are starting to come into their prime as players. As I watched the kids skate onto the ice I was impressed by their prowess, by the silky movements of their bodies gliding across the ice. There was such grace, such fluidness in their movements.

Throughout the game, they skated backwards, forwards, in circles. Edges sharpened, they'd grind to a sudden stop, quickly change direction, their sticks constantly in front of them, searching for a chance to grab the puck from their opponent. They kept their eyes alert, their heads up as they raced back and forth in a constant dance spread out across the ice searching for the right moment to score a goal.

Poet, Alice Abrams wrote, “In life as in dance: Grace glides on blistered feet”.

For those kids skating last night, it has taken a lot to get to where they are able to effortlessly move across the ice. It's taken practice, practice, practice, drill after drill, repetitions and repetitions of moves and shots and plays. It's taken a lot of falls. It's taken a tone of hard work.

Do you remember the first time you learned to skate? I loved it from the get-go. I loved the feeling of being free, of being able to move with such speed across a frozen sheet of water. The feeling of the wind against my face, the air parting as I slid through it. I loved jumping, spinning, leaping.

I was never an expert skater, but had enough confidence in my body to respond to my demands, to be able to manage mild figure-skating maneuvers without falling down too often.

But I did fall, especially in the beginning. In skating, falling is acceptable. It's the only way to learn. It's part of the game.

In life, falling, like blisters, are part of the process of learning to move with grace and dexterity through the air.

Today, I'm celebrating my blisters. They are a sign that I have worked hard, played hard and given it my all.

The question is: What about you? Do your blisters hold you back from stepping forward? Do they keep you on the bench, sitting on the sidelines watching life skate by?