Wednesday, December 31, 2008
She fell yesterday. Turned to get her walker as she was leaving her apartment and tripped over one of the wheels. Went down hard. Hit her head on the edge of a table and had to be taken to hospital by ambulance. She's okay. Just shaken up and sore.
Me on the other hand. I'm not so sure.
My mother and I have a fractious past. I want her to be someone else. She wants me to leave her alone to be who she is. It's not a good mix. I carry with me the child's need to be seen. She carries with her the need to be heard born from a lifetime of living with my father who seldom heard anything but the sound of his anger pushing him to call out. In that place where our needs collide and remain unmet, there is turmoil, strife, discord.
I spent the day with her yesterday at the hospital. Normally, my eldest sister would be there. She is my mother's main source of care. Unlike me, her past with mum's instability is more recent. Her memories of mum's sharp tongue less acidic. Until a few years ago, when I consciously distanced myself from my mother, I was the target of her discord whenever she fell into one of her 'moods'. One of those dark places where she needed to know she was needed, wanted, visible, valuable. Without me on the scene to lift the dark curtain of her despair, she has taken to targeting others, namely my eldest sister who does so much for her; the one who takes her shopping and to the bank and doctors. The one who calls her everyday, is always there when she needs something, always answers her call for help.
I don't make a good nurse. My bedside manner sucks.
"What if my hip is broken?" my mother asked, pain etched across her face as she attempted to shift her body into a more comfortable position on the emergency room bed.
"We will deal with that after we know the results of the x-rays," I told her. "Worrying about it now only eats up energy you need to keep yourself calm."
"I need to phone your sister and apologize. Where is she?" "she cried.
We'd known her mood was shifting as the holiday season approached and the cold weather descended. Christmas is a tough time for my mother. Her heart aches for the loss of my father and my brother. For my nieces absence from her life. Her body yearns to break free of the arthritis that cripples her at the best of times. Housebound with winter's harsh arrival, her arthritis fires up, searing her joints with pain, grating upon every breath like ice crystals edge the air on a bitter cold day. In her winter fugue, my mother slips into the darkness of sorrow and sinks into despair. In despair, she strikes out to ease the pain, to lift the burden of her sorrow by creating chaos in the world around her, a world she often does not understand. It is her pattern.
"You can phone J. later mum." I took a breath. A deep one. I knew that in her cry for my sister's aid my little girl was waking up. Look at me. Look at me. I'm here. Aren't I good enough? An edge of reason slipped away as I tried to calm my fears. "J needs some time to get over her anger. She was really hurt by what you said."
She turned her head away. Looked at the curtain on the other side of the bed. "This is God's way of punishing me," she whispered.
I sighed. "God doesn't work that way. He doesn't make you fall. Accidents happen, they're not part of some celestial plan to get even with us earthlings."
I was raised in a Catholic household. A home where the giant, unseen hand of God could come crashing down out of the heaven's above to punish me for every little transgression. I lived in fear of God's unseen hand. Lived in fear of turning my back on the slightest shadow in case God was lurking, watching, eyeing me up for some future punishment for a transgression I had yet to enact. I feared God and lived with guilt as my constant companion. I was not a perfect child. I grew to accept the back of my father's hand, my mother's brush as a reminder of my imperfections.
My mother eyed me from the pillows. Her white hair was streaked with dried blood. The paramedic had wrapped white gauze around her head. It sat upon the top of her head like a crown. He'd affixed a bright pink sticker to the gauze. It had a picture of Jasmine from the Disney film Aladdin on it. "Now you're a princess," he'd said.
She shook her head. Jasmine danced upon her forehead. "This is how I must pay for my sins. I must thank the Lord for this pain and pray for His forgiveness."
I took another deep breath reminding myself to go slowly. I didn't want to start hyperventilating and be in need of medical assistance of my own.
I am always amazed when my child comes hurtling out of the past pleading for a voice. Pleading for my mother to acknowledge me, see me, hear me. Amazed but not all that surprised. It is the one area of my life where I continue to struggle with claiming peace of mind as I hurriedly put up boundaries within my psyche to keep myself safe.
Perhaps the lesson in this is to not put up mental barricades but rather to let them down, to open my heart and mind to the one thing I know I share with my mother, love, in all its Divine perfection, in all its human peccadilloes.
Earlier this year, when I was at Super Choices, a personal development course that looks at family of origin issues so we can identify their patterns and how they manifest in our lives today, I realized that my memories of my childhood, particularly infancy, were not all that affirming. The story in our family is that my father lost a case of beer and twenty dollars because I was a girl. My mother wanted me to be born on December 8, the day of the Immaculate Conception. I burst into the world a few minutes after midnight on December 9. Growing up, that story was oft repeated. To make sense of it, to find the humour in it, I internalized the idea that I was a disappointment, unwanted, not needed in our family. I told myself I could never do anything right that pleased my mother and so, I lived up to my beliefs.
Now, it was just a 'story', but it crystallized into an internal messaging system that leaped across the synapses of my brain, re-wiring my inner belief in the birthright of my magnificence to one of profound disappointment in who I was as a human being. Butting up against the discomfort of that belief, I acted out, railing against its inequities as I constantly fought the notion that I was impaired at birth, destined to be a disappointment in life.
Throughout my adult life I struggled to rid myself of the yoke of those limiting beliefs, and in most areas of my life, have succeeded. I know deep within me that I am a precious, loved and loving child of God-- until I spend time with my mother and the little girl awakens to the child's yearning for a mother's love. A perfect, idealized, unrealistic love of my imaginings, a love beyond the capacity of my mother's human ability.
It is one of the gifts of spending time with my mother. I come front and center with my insecurities, my human foibles acting out in my being less than who I want to be, less than who I am meant to be.
Time with my mother is a lesson in humility.
The gift is, I get to awaken once again to the joy and knowledge that I am not that needy child. Not that wounded heart searching for a mother's love perfect beyond the human realm.
Divine love is unconditional. Human love not so pure. I know my mother loves me. And I know that I love her -- it's the unconditional part we both struggle with. In our human form, we place conditions on how we love, on how we interact, on who we are. In those conditions lie the patterns of our past, the familial boundaries upon which we dance.
My mother gave me the gift of life. She is the womb through which I was born. In reality, she is a human being with needs. An old lady who yearns for peace. In her quest to create it, she finds herself lost in the past, a past that was not always loving, a past in which she struggled to find the love she so desperately needed.
The gift I can give my mother today is to let go of my anger. To let go of my need for her to see me as I see me, and to accept she can only see me through her eyes. Her eyes are growing weaker. The harder I rail against my need for her to open them to my truth, the harder she fights to hold onto the one thing no one can take from her, memories of her past, her memories of herself as a mother who loves her children beyond all else. Truth is, she does.
In accepting her truth, I let go of my need for her to acknowledge my truth as the only truth there is. There are many truths within us, between us, around us. When I let go of my need for my truth to be the only truth, I give into the truth that love is the foundation of all that we are, all that we mean to each other, all that we share.
The past is history. We cannot change it. My mother wants it to rest in peace. I want it to be acknowledged so we can create a different today.
Neither of us is right. Neither of us is wrong.
In our human condition, we love each other and struggle to see each other through eyes of love, not of fear.
My mother fears that when I look at her, I see only the imperfections of the past. And I fear that when she looks at me, she sees only the imperfections of the past.
This morning, I let go of the past and step into this moment where I am all I'm meant to be, living fearlessly in love with myself, passionately in love with the world around me.
I can't change the past. I can change its hold upon me today.
The question is am I willing to do what it takes to create a world of peace? Am I willing to let go of the past to give into love embracing all my human foibles.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song. Chinese ProverbThe world is silent this morning. A deep blanket of snow muffles sound. The air is still. The quiet hum of the furnace pulses in the silence of the house, my fingertips tapping on the keyboard are the only sound I hear. Within me, my song awakens.
In the quiet of a winter's morning, no birds sing. Yet their song is alive, waiting silently for dawn's break upon the horizon.
Within each of us is a song. Unique. Melodious. Passionate. Often, we cannot hear our song in the hustle and bustle of the day. But it is always there. Waiting. In the quiet of the morning, that time between night awakening and dawn breaking through the dark blanket pulled across the heavens above, it calls to us, like a Siren beckoning from the rocks, luring us away from dreaming, into the mysterious world beyond our imaginings where all things are possible, where passion awakens.
I awoke this morning with a song in my heart, a note of passion lilting through my dreams, awakening me to the possibilities of this day -- the possibilities to dance, to leap, to sing out loud. The possibilities to live with wild abandon, to fling back the covers and leap into my day, arms wide open, heart beating fast as I greet the day, passionate, on fire.
Within each of us, there is a song. Of passion. Of love. Of life.
Within each of us there is the possibility to fling back the covers, to dig out from beneath winter's snows and sing for joy. To let go of seeking the answers to questions we've never asked and the one's we can only imagine. To find the answer we need, right here, in this moment resonating in each note of the song of joy we sing to welcome in the morning.
It is a brand new day. A brand new morning. A brand new kind of living this one wild and precious life in love with the beauty within us as we joyfully greet the big, wide beautiful world around us.
It is a new morning to feel the passion. To know the joy of stepping fearlessly into the day, letting go of fatigue and weariness, donning a cloak of many colours, vibrant hues of passion come alive in the song of the morning awakening.
It is a moment for renewal. For speaking our vows to live as if there is nothing else in the world worth living for but this day. There's no other day like it.
The question is: Are you willing to find your voice and sing for the pure joy of hearing your song breaking in the morning light?
Monday, December 29, 2008
The future is not some place we are going, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made. And the activity of making them changes both the maker and their destination. John SchaarNew Year's eve approaches and the Boxing Day frenzy continues. Mark-downs, discounts, slashed prices lure shoppers into stores with the elixir of bargains galore. Slimmed down Christmas wallets stretch to encompass that one thing 'Ijust can't resist because, I mean, really, I just saved $50 by spending $100' as credit card companies gleefully rub their hands together. Credit crunch? What credit crunch?
I have resisted the stores this year. Resisted stepping out and picking up more stuff. Who needs it? In my future, the one I'm creating where joy abounds and love expands with every moment, I don't need more stuff. Stuff only clutters up my path. Stuff only makes it harder to see my destination, to create the life of my dreams.
Gotta love it. Got lots of it!
Writer, Ray Bradbury once said, "We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out."
When I fill my cup with 'just stuff', I become bloated on excess and lose my will and desire to tip myself over. I can't see beauty waiting amidst the clutter cluttering up my mind and space with its exponentially increasing ability to expand continuously into space, taking up more and more time, energy and money.
Clutter is... well, clutter. It fills in space without leaving room for beauty to rise to the top. Laden down with all that stuff hanging about, beauty settles to the bottom, quietly resting until I get around to tipping myself over, someday soon, maybe.
I'm thinking about stuff today, because right now, stuff is cluttering up my office. In the frenzy of organizing for Christmas dinner, all the stuff that had no place to be, came to find itself resting on the floor and every surface in my office. Where once I walked into a space of serenity, I now trip over boxes and bags, unhung paintings and Christmas decorations.
I've got too much stuff!
And so, I'm going to make a New Year's resolution. It's different then my commitment to meditate on a word a month, that one's for my spiritual well-being. This resolution balances out my world. Creates harmony in my physical environment and peacefulness in my mind.
This year, 2009, is my year to create more of what works in my life, and less of what doesn't. To focus on being more of who I'm meant to be, and less of who I'm not meant to be.
More exercise. Less eating.
More saving. Less spending.
More listening. Less talking.
More reading. Less TV watching.
More discernment. Less jumping to conclusions.
More love. Less discord.
This is my year of more. More tipping myself over to set myself free of what doesn't work in my life so I can create more of what does. More letting my cup runneth over, with love.
The question is: Are you willing to fill yourself up with more of what works in your life? Are you willing to tip yourself over and let what doesn't work flow free?
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I'll try again tomorrow. Mary Anne RadmacherIt is snowing this morning. Large fluffy flakes drift down from a laden sky wrapping the earth in a padded white cocoon, soft as a baby's breath upon my neck. The streets are quiet. Sounds are muffled, like being inside a giant marshmallow. It is a beautiful morning.
In the quiet of dawn's awakening, I reflect upon the past year and count my blessings. They are many. In my world, all is well. I know love, peace and harmony. I know fulfillment, of living my dreams, of creating more of what I want in my life. I know the joy of being at one with another human being, of being in love with another spirit walking beside me. I know the peace of watching my daughters spread their wings and fly free. I know the harmony of spirits resonating to the beauty of their true selves awakening, no matter where they are in this world, knowing they can find their way home again.
In moments of discord, I breathe deeply and restore my balance with love. Love of myself. Love of those around me. Love of this planet upon which we orbit around the sun, forever in balance with the axis upon which we turn each day.
In reflecting back, I see the growth, the changes, the expansion of all that I am meant to be as I become ever more fearless in living this one wild and precious life passionately in love with all of me, Beauty and the Beast.
In reflecting back, I know the places I've been are nothing compared to the places I'll go as I loosen the tethers that bind me to the past, and keep me from leaping free, soaring into the void and flying higher than I ever imagined.
In reflecting back, I know that if I stumbled today, I can still live my best day yet by loving each moment I'm in.
In reflecting back, I know now is the best I've been, and better is always possible tomorrow.
In standing still in this moment, I surrender and fall in love with all I am, all I am meant to be and all I will become in my spirit's dance to know the meaning of life on earth.
May you know the joy of this moment. May your wings spread far and wide, may you soar higher than you ever imagined as you leap into the unknown, your courage high, your confidence billowing out around you as you fly free of your fears into the joy of being all you're meant to be living your best day yet!
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Making resolutions is a cleansing ritual of self-assessment and repentance that demands personal honesty and, ultimately, reinforces humility. Breaking them is part of the cycle. Eric ZornIt is that time of year once again. Endings and beginnings. Fresh starts and new possibilities. New hopes. New sights. New expectations. And along with shepherding in the New Year with glitz and glamour, or quiet and solitude, there are the inevitable, New Year's Resolutions.
20th Century, editor and writer, Ambrose Bierce, in The Devil's Dictionary, defined Predilection as, "n. The preparatory stage of disillusion."
In the past, I had a prediction every January 1, to disillusion myself of my ability to keep my resolutions. This year, my I am determined to be more successful in resolution and less inclined towards my predilection to disillusion my resolutions with the cynicism of my belief, 'I'll make the resolution and never keep it'. I have a memory box full of resolutions I never kept, of disillusionments I latched through my predilection to make the resolution without any heart, without any belief I would keep it. (Whew! Now that's a mouthful!)
Not because my resolutions weren't worth keeping. They were. Lose 10 pounds. Write a new book. Drink less wine. Workout every day. Those were all worthwhile resolutions -- but they didn't speak to the heart of my resolve to be my most magnificent self, to be the most divine human being I can be -- living the life of my dreams, being all that I am meant to be when I live from the core of my spirit's desire to manifest love in human being.
So, rather than create a three page list of things I resolve to do this year, I will be making a different kind of resolution. A resolution that is sparked by my spiritual being's desire to know its one true self, to embrace all that is beauty and the beast within me.
This year, rather than create a "List of 10 things I plan on doing in January so that I can break them in February (or by the third of January as the case may be)", I will commit to my resolution, "To meditate on one word a month". Not just any old word, but a word with divine relevance for me. A word that embraces me and adds meaning to my spiritual journey on earth. A word that deepens the divine values of my life as it creates a heartsong that resonates throughout my being.
Words like, humility, unconditional love, inner peace, joy, gratitude, respect, forgiveness, awareness, healing, alignment, knowing, honesty, integrity.
My commitment is to meditate each morning on one word for the entire month, and to journal about that word every morning.
I've had enough of focusing on the outer resolutions to be better, do better, have more, create more, to maximize my undertakings, minimize my output. This year, my resolution journeys inward, to the soul of my being all that I am meant to be.
From time to time, I will write here about my discernment, about how my meditation aligns with my being my one true self. I will be exploring the divine feeling within each word and how it has strengthened my resolve to give up old patterns and beliefs as I move towards creating harmony throughout my world.
I'm looking forward to this year's resolution. It will be a journey of a lifetime. A voyage into the beauty and wonder of my spirit's human being.
I invite everyone to take this journey with me. To join together as we delve into the divine feelings of being at peace with who we are in a world of wonder and joy.
The question is: Are you willing to resolve to be your most magnificent self? Are you excited about your spirit-led journey here on earth?
Friday, December 26, 2008
Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement. Golda Meir
Two and a half years ago I started an art program at the homeless shelter where I work. This Christmas, one of the artists gave me a present. A beautiful gift wrapped box containing four ceramic serviette rings painted by a Yukon artist. "Here," he said, casually putting the box in my hands. "You do so much for us. It's for you."
I glanced down at the red ribboned box in my hands. I was surprised. Taken aback. Moved. I felt my heart stir. A gentle note of gratitude plucked. A ripple of harmony awoken. A gift? I opened the box and gazed at the beautiful serviette rings inside. Primary colours. Vibrant, Eskimoo scenes. "She's a fantastic artist," he told me. "I thought you'd like her work."
I glanced up at Joe (not his real name), the artist who so graciously shared what little he had with me. I saw a tiny spark of possibility burning brightly. A creative soul awoken.
I am blessed. When I first started working at the shelter, I saw limitless possibilities without knowing much about the impossibilities. I stepped in with my 'beginner's mind' and didn't think of all the reasons why it wouldn't work, or even what it would become in the future. I simply saw possibilities for inner sparks to fly.
In two and a half years, those inner sparks are burning with possibility. A world of achievement has been ignited as the artists continue to grow and change and expand.
As the end of the year 2008 quickly approaches, I think about all the inner sparks I've set off, ignored, challenged, tampered down, and ignited in my life. The possibilities at the beginning of the year were endless. Today, they present themselves with a more finite conclusion. A more refined appearance. Some of the sparks I've ignited continue to flame, moving into the rarefied air of achievement, as 2009 approaches. Some are burning out.
What happens to my inner sparks is up to me. I can fan the spark of possibility or let the embers die as I face the impossibility of believing in a dream, a thought, an idea and give into not taking action, not moving forward, not holding onto my dreams.
For Joe, two and a half years ago when he first came to the art program, he barely spoke to me. Sat in a corner by himself, worked quietly on his art, seldom looking up from the canvas in front of him. Last week, he talked to me about the challenges of this time of year, the sadness, the loneliness, the disappointment of being so far from home in a place he never before imagined. He talked about the journal he's writing in -- "I'm not a word kind of guy," he said. "But I'm working on this play with the guy from the University and he insists I keep a journal." He paused. "I kinda like it."
For Joe, the spark of possibility burns bright. He is moving ever closer to a place where the changes within him are transforming into a sense of achievement in the outer world. He is holding onto the possibility of change, and finding himself connected to the idea of letting it happen. In his own time. In his own way. In whatever way fits him.
Ultimately, the choice of what change happens in his life will be his. My job and the job of everyone who works at the shelter, is to keep the doors to possibility open. To hold the light up high so that those coming in from the dark can find their way back home again. So that they can welcome home the realization that they have the power to step free of the darkness that grips them. So that they can see the spark of possibility lighting their way back home.
The question is: What are you doing with your inner sparks? Stomping them out or igniting them, fanning the flame with the fresh air of possibility?
Thursday, December 25, 2008
May all your dreams come true. May your world be alight with wonder and joy.
Thank you for being part of my journey. For your words of support, your encouragement. You are all a beautiful light in my life, illuminating my path in love.
I shall be back tomorrow with good tidings and joy and a story about a most unexpected gift.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Procrastination is the thief of time. Edward Young
It's the night before Christmas and all through the house
I'm searching for the presents, weren't they under the couch?
Christmas Day looms. There's nary a gift under the tree.
Oh mercy mercy, what will become of me?
My children will riot, my guests will disappear
and everyone will wallow in a vat of bad cheer.
I lie in my bed with my head in the covers
Telling myself, it's okay, I've got time to recover
But up on the rooftop, a thump makes it clear
Santa's arrived with his eight tiny reindeer!
I leap from my bed and exclaim with a gasp
Hold on! I'm not ready! He's here much too fast!
The cupboards are empty, no giftwrap awaits,
and I still haven't bought any (blank, blank) scotch tape.
I holler to the heavens, "What happened to the time?
Doesn't anyone realize there's been a big crime?"
The silence is deafening. The evidence is clear.
Time kept on ticking even though Christmas drew near.
I know. I know. I had months to check off my list.
But why can't Santa grant me my wish
And give me another week to get it all done?
Perhaps I need an eggnog loaded with rum.
I'm sure it will make everything all right
and fill my Christmas will all kinds of delight
I search in the cupboard and find last year's bottle,
It's empty! Oh my, is it Santa I should throttle?
Or is the thief that silly little word
That peppers my Christmas like tiny reindeer turds
And causes my heart to beat in trepidation
as I realize I've been visited by the Ghost of Procrastination!
Merry Christmas everyone. Feliz Navidad. Frohe Weihnacten. Joyeux Noel.
Whatever your tongue, whatever your faith, where ever you are in the world, may this special time of year fill your heart with love and joy. May your cupboards be laden. May your table groan beneath the weight of nourshing food and laughter. May your family tree sparkle in delight and may you be joined with those you love as you celebrate the wonder of your world all wrapped up in the spirit of Christmas.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
It is the time to celebrate all that is miraculous in being human, all that is wondrous in our world. It is the time to heal wounds, to bridge gaps, to reach across divides that separate us from those we love. It is the time for human beings to stop and take a breath. To let go of what is keeping us apart and connect to what holds us together, as family, as friends, as fellow human beings on the journey of our lifetime. It is the time to connect through our human condition to all that makes us magnificent.
I love the sights and sounds of Christmas. Twinkling lights and festive bows. Crinkly paper and mysterious boxes shimmering in the lights of a fragrant fir festooned with decorations. Tires scrunching on snow. Jingle bells ringing. Carollers singing.
I love the spirit of Christmas. The camaraderie. The fellowship. The good wishes. The warm, Merry Christmas of the shopkeeper, or Happy Holidays depending upon her political correctness, as she wraps your purchase in a brightly coloured bag. The cards that arrive in the mailbox, the unexpected emails from friends afar wishing you and yours a blessed holiday season. The phone calls, the smiles, the gifts exchanged over laughter and a tender look.
I love the smells of Christmas. Fir trees and spruce boughs. Cinnamon and apples. The cookies baking. The turkey roasting. Fragrant aromas that awaken my senses and stir my memories of Christmases past where we sat around the family table, arms linked, hearts joined in a circle of love that can never be broken no matter how far we roam from the family circle.
And, I love the feelings of Christmas. Those warm, toasty, wrapped up in a velvet blanket feelings that embrace me and nurture me. That raise my spirits and open my eyes to the wonderment of a world awakened to love, peace, and joy.
It is Christmas. A time to rejoice in a child's birth over two thousand years ago. A child who gave birth to this wondrous time of year. A time when peace on earth reigns as a possibility and goodwill amongst men a reality for families far flung across the globe as they gather together to celebrate love that cannot be broken.
This is the time to connect. To reach out. To pull in and gather round a blazing hearth and surround yourself with friends and family. A time to open hands and minds, to still quarrels and soothe aching hearts with kind gestures, gentle touch and loving words.
This is the time to commit to creating peace in your world. The time to cherish those you love and to extend a welcoming hand to those who need to find peace with where their journeys have taken them.
It is Christmas. Snow covers the ground. Boughs hang heavy. The air is crisp and clear. Within my heart a song rises up. It is a song that gives birth to the possibility of peace on earth, goodwill amongst men. It is a song we can sing together. And in our voices we can raise up the hope that the fellowship and love this time of year will live on throughout the days to come as we stand together and sing out a song of peace.
I pray for peace. I pray for fellowship amongst mankind. I pray for a world of good tidings and joy. I pray for love for each and everyone of us in a world united in peace.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Burnout is nature's way of telling you, you've been going through the motions, your soul has departed; you're a zombie, a member of the walking dead, a sleepwalker. False optimism is like administrating stimulants to an exhausted nervous system. Sam KeenOn the weekend, I was giving into false optimism. My list of To Do's was stretched out longer than Pinocchio's nose. I was lying to myself that I could 'get it all done' before the jolly old fat man squeezed through the chimney in a cloud of soot because I'd forgotten to have it cleaned out.
'Something's gotta give before I cave in' was the litany dancing through my head all muddled up with visions of sugar plums and fairy queens riding on a frosty white sleigh with flat tires being dragged through the mud by eight tiny reindeer.
I tried asking Christmas to wait. But, wouldn't you know it? The calendar pages are immune to my exhortations to flip back a few weeks so that I could have a 'do over' and get done the things I should have done six weeks ago if I wanted the Martha Stewart Christmas of my imaginings. Inexorably, the calendar pages kept flipping. Another day and another, constantly bringing 'the big day' closer as I checked over my list and found more to do than time to do it in.
At this busy time of year, it is easy to lose sight of 'love and joy' as the pressures of getting Christmas in order take over my remembering to be filled with goodwill towards men. I could feel burnout encroaching upon my well-being. I was testy. My sense of humour flagging. And, I was taking myself waaay too seriously.
I needed some healthy self-care. Christmas may be fast approaching, but I was taking the joy out of its arrival.
And so, with my list unattended, with presents to buy and things to do, I did the only thing a woman can do when faced with too much to do. I took to my bed for a day of indolence. Yup. Admidst the hundred and one things yet to do, I gave into the need to take care of me and curled up with a good book. Okay, not that good a book. Rather than read one of the countless 'must reads' that stand on my bedside table reminding me of all the things I need to learn to become a 'perfect' human being, I tucked into a good ole' spy novel. Me and Jason Bourne. We're like, soulmates. I dig him. He can save the world 'from sin and toil', and pave the way to 'tiding's of comfort and joy' without messing a hair on his head while disarming nuclear bombs and women of dubious character all in one deft slight of hand.
Sam Keen said, "We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly."
I surrendered and fell in love on Saturday. I had been looking at my world through its imperfections and coming up wanting on my list of what's working and what's not perfect in my life. I was looking for perfection and missing out on the beauty of my own imperfections and the imperfections of those I love. Just ask C.C. I wanted him to be perfect even though I fell in love with him and all his imperfections. They're so human. So endearing. So loving.
After a day of allowing myself to wallow in a good dose of self-pity (and Jason Bourne's baby blues) I awoke yesterday morning fired up. I hit the grocery store at the crack of dawn (did you know it's open twenty-four hours a day right now?). Was home by just after nine and had my mince meat tarts in the oven by 11. By evening, I'd baked another batch of Shortbread, had four vegetable dishes in the freezer ready for Christmas dinner, and had cleaned the house. I even managed to hang a couple of paintings, C.C. hung the new towel racks in the bathroom and put up a table in the kitchen for all the Christmas goodies. And, I did it all with a smile on my face and a song in my heart.
Sometimes, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do. I may not have the front steps adorned with ice blocks filled with the words Love, Faith and Joy created out of holly and ivy, or tiny hand-crafted origami placecards ready by Christmas dinner, but what I do have is a heart full of gratitude and eyes wide open to the beauty of the imperfections of those I love.
Reality is, in my imperfect way I will create a perfectly loving Christmas surrounded by the one perfect thing in my life. Love.
The question is: What are you filling your heart with? Tension and stress over what's yet to be done by Christmas morn, or love and joy for all there is that fills your life with wonder of the beautiful imperfections around you?
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Goodwill Amongst Men
Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat. Mother TheresaI am working in retail for the first time this Christmas. At a store whose contents are on many a wish list. I am witnessing a side of this season of giving that I’d rather not see. Holiday shopping is in full swing now, there is a level of pandemonium as moms and dads desperately try to find that size six pink hoodie that their little angel will just die if she doesn't find under the tree. Boyfriends awkwardly attempt to pick the most inoffensive size for their beloved and people drop piles of cash so that their receivers will know just how much they’re loved.
Yesterday I asked a woman if she wished for me to put a sticker over the price on the pants she was buying for her daughter. “No” she said between pressed lips, “I want her to know exactly how much I’m spending on her”.
This is the lesson she’s teaching her child about Christmas? And yet, I know that there is a part of me that has the same feelings of entitlement that this woman's daughter might also share. I have been blessed to always have had a luscious evergreen pregnant with a mountain of gifts. In fact, since I was seven I’ve had two. And while I spend a great deal of Christmas day plagued with western middle class guilt, I think I might have a very violent vendetta against the man in the red suit if ever my stocking were ever filled with coal instead of gift certificates and socks!
Last week, after a day of Christmas chaos and gross overspending, I met up with my sister and a few close friends at a place of a very different kind of chaos. A place where people argue over beds instead of the last size 12.
We had been asked by another friend to come down to the DI to help out with The Christmas Wish List. A website that shares the stories of homeless Calgarians in the hopes of connecting them with a personalized gift made possible by the generosity of more fortunate Calgarians. Our job was to interview the clients so that their stories and wishes could be posted to the site.
As we gathered in the little office awaiting our instructions, I was unsure of what to expect. I wasn't sure how some people might react to some of the questions and if I would be able to connect with the interviewees. I was handed a stack of forms and given a place at a table. On each form were a series of questions. Name? birthdate? How long have you been homeless? What are the reasons you are on the street? What are the biggest stresses of being homeless? What are your interests? What gives you hope? What would lift your spirits? What would you like for Christmas? And then a list of acceptable items: Work boots, phone card, transit passes, jackets, etc.
A long line of clients waited at the door as staff guided the first in line to an available volunteer. My first interview was with Donna* (not her real name). A blond woman in her forties. Beautiful, in a hardened way. She spoke of the relationship that ended, leaving her with nothing five years ago. About her 18 year old daughter. Her angel. She doesn't like her coming down to this corner of the city. Its too dangerous for her here. They arrange for times to meet. Her daughter will call and leave a message. Sometimes Donna doesn't get them. It hurts that she can't be there for the girl whose name she has tattooed across her shoulders. A permanent reminder of the gift she is in her life. What gives Donna hope? The dream that someday she will be able to have her daughter over anytime in a place all of her own.
A young man sits down next. He's 21. Born a year after me. We are both Gemini. Unlike my friends and I, the light is missing from his eyes. He has lost contact with his family. Made some poor decisions. “What would lift your spirits this Christmas?” I ask him. “A gift from somebody…Anybody.” is his reply.
More men sit down. One with a black eye and a quiet smile who wants nothing more than to see his kids this Christmas. They are in New Brunswick. It's a long way home. I get no requests for gift cards or fancy electronics. The requests are simple. Boots, overalls, a back pack-if possible a new one that doesn't have holes.
An older gentleman sits down. I ask his birthdate. 1955. He looks nearly 70, his face weathered and cracked by the years slipping by. He was attacked 12 years ago and made legally blind. He made his living driving machines. He can't have a licence now. He is thankful everyday for the eye doctor who gives him hope pro bono. I ask what would lift his spirits. His voice cracks and tears well up in his eyes as he manages a quiet “peace on earth and goodwill amongst men”. He shrugs as he concedes to the fact that that won't happen anytime soon. He marks down an am/fm radio. The music takes him away from this place. As he gets up to leave I ask him if I can give him a hug. He is speechless. His hand goes to his heart. He nods a silent yes.
Mother Theresa said once, that if there is no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to eachother. As we stood in an embrace in the midst of the chaos on the second floor, we belonged to eachother and if only for a second, I hope that that man felt some of the peace and goodwill he so desired.
The interviews gathered to a close and my friends and I made our way out of the shelter to a restaurant where we were able to share our stories over a meal that we got to choose from a menu. We recounted the jokes we had swapped, the moments we had witnessed, the things in our lives that we are grateful for.
It doesn't need to be said that I am grateful for a roof and for food. That goes without saying. On that night as I looked around at my sister and my friends and the memories we have shared together I felt more thankful than I’ve ever been. For being wanted. For being loved and cared for. For not being forgotten.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
A person isn't who they are during the last conversation you had with them - they're who they've been throughout your whole relationship.” Rainer Maria RilkeIn every conversation, there is emotion. In every human being, there are emotions waiting to flow, emotions flowing freely, emotions damned up, or jamming up. Hot or cold, lukewarm or tepid, the temperature of our emotions will affect the conversation, and the relationship, with the one with whom we're engaged.
In Crucial Conversations, authors Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler suggest that the conversation is the relationship. A crucial conversation, they write, is "a discussion between two or more people where (1) stakes are high, (2) opinions vary, and (3) emotions run strong” (p. 3) and the outcome greatly impacts their lives.
Now, in my lifetime, I've had some crucial conversations. Sometimes willingly, more often unwillingly. When a simple conversation turns crucial, I'm usually not prepared. I'm usually busy trying to get my point of view across, and then, whammo! There's something crucial on the line. Someone else has a differing opinion butting up against my POV. Suddenly, like a cold front swooping down from the north meeting up with a weather system from the west, our two perspectives collide over the prairies and dump a wet and wolly blanket upon the ground. Temperatures drop. Visibility disappears and frigid weather ensues.
Typically, my favourite way to hold an emotionally charged conversation is to avoid it. Fleet feet are my favourite mode of transportation when the temperature falls and emotions rise. In those emotionally charged moments, I might take a moment to reflect on the situation, reminding myself ever so gently that, disagreement does not equal rejection. Unfortunately, before the truth of that reality settles into my mind, my Nikes are knotted and I am set to hit the road. With the speed of Apollo throwing thunderbolts from the sky, I don my habit of getting the hell out of there and wrestle thoughts of rationality to the ground. Why bother to stretch outside my comfort zones when I'm perfectly comfortable with disengaging before I embrace someone else's POV.
This morning when I awoke, I was feeling blue. No particular reason. My normal too early on a Saturday afternoon to wake up but there I am anyway. Tiredness. Another late night. A party at friends. Outside, frigid air continues to envelope the city in a cold, cold blanket.
The emotion was unbidden, but there it was. In that state, I know my best defence is offence. I mean, really, it's a time worn path I've beaten out of many a relationship and it's always worked for me in the past! Yeah. Really!
In that state of ennui, little things are at risk of becoming mighty objects in my mind. A casual word spoken at the party last night takes on new significance as I nurse the embers of my imaginations early morning ruminations over, "What did he mean by that? Why did he say that?"
Suddenly, 'sometimes' becomes always, 'maybe' becomes never and I fall into a place of 'what's the use of trying?'. That victim place of neediness and want. Of lack and negativity. That place where my spirits desire to fly freely is hampered by my minds desire to 'poke the beehive'. Mired in the muddy waters of the backwaters of my tired thinking, I don't see clearly to the beauty of the rising sun on a brand new day.
Imagine it! Nobody was even awake in the house but me! Even Ellie still slept on her pillow at the foot of our bed, curled up into a giant furry ball, snoring peacefully and there I was wallowing in a vat of self-pity ready and armed to fight the fight for who knows what for goodness sakes.
Spiritual leader, Bagwan Shree Rajneesh, once suggested that, "When sadness comes, just sit by the side and look at it and say, “I am the watcher, I am not sadness,” and see the difference. Immediately you have cut the very root of sadness. It is no more nourished. It will die of starvation. We feed these emotions by being identified with them.”
There was no reason for my ennui this morning. Sure, there are things that need to be discussed, crucial conversations that need to be held. They are simply part of the ebb and flow of relationship, of two people moving closer together, of two people deepening the roots of love and affection. Good thing C.C. is a sound sleeper. Had I tried to hold one of those conversations in my tired, dispirited spirits of early this morning, the outcome would not have been pretty.
Fortunately, I did as Shree Rajneesh suggests. I sat back. Took a breath. Wrote in my journal and moved away from 'being' the sadness, to observing it move through me. Like a cold front moving through, the emotions of my early morning musings flowed into dawn's awakening. In their passing, the way is made clear to a day of sunny prospects beneath a clear blue sky.
In the wash of those emotions moving on, I am once again breathing deeply. The crucial conversation I needed to have this morning was with myself. Not with anyone else. The person I was avoiding meeting this morning was me, not someone else. I've had a relationship with myself, all my life. Deepening that relationship requires letting go of the last conversation I had with myself so that I can once again, surrender and fall in love.
The question is: Are your emotions running your conversations into the ground, leaving you high and dry on the rocky shores of disagreement? Or, are you holding yourself steady in the lifeboat of your peace of mind, letting your emotions flow freely around you as you surrender and fall into the waters of love?
Friday, December 19, 2008
Happiness depends more on how life strikes you than on what happens. Andy RooneyI am happy this morning. Happy and tired. Last night a group of Calgary musicians got together to hold a Christmas fundraiser for the shelter where I work.
It started with a guy named Lester. He came into my office one day and said, "I want to make a difference. Can I pull some musicians together and put on a concert for you guys?" And he did.
While the weather outside was frightful, the sounds and spirit inside the pub where the event was being held were delightful! For awhile, we were concerned we would barely raise $100. The weather was an inhibitor. The roads were treacherous and holiday spirits were wearing out on the last few shopping days 'til Christmas.
We wanted a better turnout. But, as it was, the concert had raised $675 by the time I left shortly after midnight -- and there were still two bands to go. I wanted to stay and listen to the final two, but after midnight is not my best time of the day!
And this morning I'm happy. I was part of something last night that transcended the every day. It was a community spirit of giving. A sense of belonging to something filled with possibility. Lester kept coming to me and saying, "Next year will be even bigger. I've already booked the venue and the night."
It was a night filled with giving back to receive the gift of making a difference. Every musician came up to thank me for making it possible for them to support the shelter. They had all volunteered their time and were grateful for the chance to give back. When I invited them to contact me if they wanted to come into the shelter to put on a show, they all jumped at the opportunity. "Hey!" one guy said after hearing he was welcome to come in and play for clients. "I've been there. Down and out. Without my music, I'd still be down. It's the least I can do if it might help someone else get out of that place of feeling like the only place you got to go is down."
The gift of empathy. The gift of caring. The gift of giving.
It was an evening filled with the joy of being human. It was also an evening to witness the human condition struggling to find itself somewhere in the chaos of a bar. A place to see the parallels of life on the street played out on the bar room floor.
Late in the evening a tall, skinny man, clad head to toe in black walked into the pub. Black hair. No hat. No scarf. His face had a tight, pinched look. I smiled at him from behind the podium where I was seated at the door. A stack of brochures about the shelter sat on the counter top beside me. A cash box, lid closed, rested in front of me.
"What's this?" he asked pointing at the cash box. A confused look on his face at the realization that I was there for a reason.
"It's a benefit concert for the homeless shelter." I told him. "You mean I have to pay to get in?"
He hesitated. Eyed the stairs towards the exit. Glanced at the bar. "I..." He stopped. His shoulders lowered, his head dropped forward, his chin touched the collar of his black leather coat. He shook his head. He let out a big sigh. "Great. I shoulda known. It's my birthday. I just want a drink. I'm not here to listen to music. I'm fighting with my boss. He wants to cut my pay. He keeps saying I'm lucky to have a job and with the economy..." He took a breath as if to continue on with his tale of woe.
"Happy Birthday!" I smiled and said quickly. "Giving is an option. Have a nice evening."
He stood in front of me for a moment. Confused. Someone else entered and I turned to greet them. He slid away to the bar and ordered a drink. He turned his back to the musicians on the stage, hunched his shoulders over a beer and stood by himself, a solitary figure in black. Lonely. Sad. Lost.
He reminded me of many of our clients. A well worn path to the bar, their minds filled with the story of why they're where they're at and will never get to where they want to go, if only they knew where that was. They can't see the story on the other side of opening up to possibility and lose their sense of direction. Stuck in where they're at, they cannot find a way out. For that man, finding a reason not to give is all he can give. Perhaps one day he'll give himself the gift of a new story of his life, but for now, he's where he's at. All I could give him was a smile and an invitation to come in from the cold.
Sitting in that bar, being part of the energy and excitement of the night, I was constantly reminded of how similar the activities of the patrons were to some of what I see everyday at the shelter.
A young man stumbled across the floor, his body weaving from side to side. He wasn't with anyone. He didn't have a drink anywhere that I could see. And still he stumbled. Another patron brushed past him. The young man stopped. Scowled. Stared after the other man who was oblivious to their brief encounter. His face scrunched up in thought. Did he want to fight? Duke it out. Call out, "Hey man. You pushed me." As quickly as the encounter happened, the young man turned around as if he'd forgotten something. Perhaps where he was. He stumbled up the stairs and disappeared.
An older man sat at the lottery machine behind me. Sixties. Perhaps seventy, he plugged the machine with coins and sipped on a drink. He sauntered over to me, one finger pointing and shaking in front him. "You're so pretty," he slurred. His grin was toothy. His eyes watery. He reminded me of some of our older clients at the shelter. The only difference was, this man has a home to go to. His clothes were clean. He obviously had cash. But the behaviours were the same. The loneliness that pervaded his being, the need to belong, the desire to connect, I see those things every day at the shelter.
We are all connected by the human condition of our lives. We all have a story to tell, a reason for where we're at, an excuse for why we cannot give and receive. Last night I was struck by the parallels of the street and the bar.
This morning, I'm happy to have been part of such an amazing event. Part of giving and receiving. Part of the human beings celebrating creativity, no matter the condition of our spirits.
The question is: What strikes you? The beauty of your day, or the story about why you cannot receive the joy around you?
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Subject: grade 3 student wants to help
Hi. We are studying the topic of 'homelessness' in English language arts, and 'global citizenship' in social studies. I have realized that small gestures can make a difference in another person's life. I am doing extra chores around the house to earn extra money for the homeless right now. What can I do with this money? Should I get blankets, mits or hats? or something else? Is there anything that I can do that will make a difference? Please let me know as soon as you have a chance.
I responded and thanked him for his kindness. You make a difference by caring enough to want to make a difference, I told him. Mitts and socks are most welcome, I added.
He wrote back and said he'd be buying socks and mitts, since that is what is needed. He also wrote, I am working hard, and my Dad said he would match every dollar I earned! So now I need to work even harder. My mom said my gramma would probably do the same thing. That a pretty good idea because sometimes people dont know what they can do to help but they can by doing even little things.
He came in Tuesday afternoon with his mom, two little sisters and a stuffed dog named Ethan which one of his sisters clutched firmly in her mitten covered hands. I brought the family up to the administration floor to take a picture of him presenting his donation to our Executive Director.
Proudly, he pulled his backpack off his back and opened the zipper. His face beaming with a toothy grin, he displayed its contents. Socks. Warm winter gloves. Hotshots and a bag of chocolate Hershey kisses.
He'd spent $37 on socks and gloves from the money he'd earned and his father had matched. His gramma had donated an additional $100. He proudly presented me with the cheque tucked inside his backpack along with the change from the $40. "You can't keep the backpack," he said. "I need it for school."
As he emptied the goodies into a box he pulled out a large sheet of card stock paper. The top half had tiny round perforations. Shyly, he passed the card to his mom, his chin tucked into the puffy collar of his blue ski jacket.
She passed the card over to me. "He's legally blind," she said. "I translated the Braille on the bottom half of the card he wrote."
I swallowed hard. I ran my fingertips along the perforations. Slowly, I read his words which his mother had printed beneath the Braille.
Dear Louise Thank you for helping me make a little bit of a difference. Thank you for all you do to make a difference, too.
Inspiration comes in many forms, shapes and colours. On Tuesday afternoon, inspiration came in the form of a small eight year old boy with a backpack full of winter essentials. With his limited sight, he saw into the heart of the matter. He knew that he could do something, and that whatever he did, it would make a difference. No matter how small, he knew every bit counts.
What that young boy did is no small matter. In his determination to do his chores and raise the money to buy things we needed, he taught each of us the value of the difference we make when we each do something, no matter how small, to help carry the burden for those who need our help.
His backpack was filled with more than just gloves and socks, a cheque and some change and Hershey kisses. His backpack was filled with the possibilities that open up when we look at what we can do when don't limit ourselves to doing nothing because all we see is what little difference we make.
The question is: Do you see yourself making a difference? Are you willing to do some small thing to make a difference in someone else's life?
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
As you become more clear about who you really are, you'll be better able to decide what is best for you - the first time around. Oprah WinfreySeveral years ago, after I was freed from the man who loved me in such unloving ways I almost died, I asked my psychiatrist why I took such a difficult path to get to where I was. Healing from that relationship has been the most powerful journey I've ever taken. At the time with my psychiatrist, we were talking about how happy I was, how satisfied I felt with where I was in life, "But I took such a difficult and painful route to get here," I told him. "Wasn't there an easier way?"
"Perhaps there was," he replied. "There were probably a thousand routes you could have taken to get to where you are. This is the one you chose. You can't change how you got here. You can only change your attitude towards the path you took."
My attitude about my journey at that time was relatively healthy. But, if I look at my concern over why I took such a difficult path, I realize that my attitude was tinged with regret and dismay. Regret I had to make it so difficult. Dismay that my journey could have been different, but it wasn't. In my regret and dismay, I was ignoring a very important fact. I was where I wanted to be. I was happy with me.
How I got here doesn't matter now. That I'm here is what counts today.
Underlying my choices that took me upon that painful route was a search for 'me'. The quest to understand who I am, what makes me me. My choices were founded on a faulty belief that I was unworthy. Undeserving of love and attention that nourished me in healthy and fulfilling ways. I knew I didn't feel good about me, at least not in the way all the self-help books I consumed told me I should feel about me. I wanted to feel better and so, tired of the slow process of uncovering myself through time spent with me, I went searching for my answers to 'me' in someone else's arms. I tried many arms that were unwieldy, kept making choices that took me in confusing directions, until I came upon the arms that held me in such terror I had to make a choice. To live or die.
For a long time, I chose to die. To let myself slowly sink into the quicksand of despair that sucked at me with the inexorable pull of gravity drawing me under, erasing every breath from my being, rubbing out every footprint I took upon this planet.
And then I was set free. I had to make the choice. Live or die?
I chose life.
It was that choice that led me here, to where I am today. Because in that choice to live, I had to choose how I wanted to live. In love? Or sorrow? Harmony or discord? With forgiveness or regret? With contentment or resentment? I had to choose to 'do it differently'. To love myself exactly as I was. As an abused woman. As a woman who had hurt the one's she loves. As a woman who had hurt herself. Who had lied and cheated. Deceived and denied. I had to love me as me, not as I wanted to be.
And then, I had to be committed to be the woman I want to be. Filled with integrity. Courage, truth, strength. I had to become myself without the protective shield of someone else's arms wrapping themselves around me, keeping me from finding me amidst the voices clamouring inside whispering I was 'the Beast'. I wanted to be Beauty. I did not want to be, The Beast.
In coming through that darkness, I awaken to the light of who I am. Beauty and the Beast. I am yin and yang. The light and the shadow.
In embracing my duality, I know the Beast lurks. I know he cowers in the dark, waiting to trap me into believing I am frightened by the light. That the path to easy is lined with someone else's footprints leading the way on a shortcut to happiness. I know he looms up when I am frightened of stepping out, of leaping beyond my comfort zone into the possibilities of limitless space to be all I've ever dreamed of. I know the Beast is confused by Beauty. Fearful for her well-being. Fearful she will make a mistake.
I know the Beast is there, frightened and insecure. I know him. I see him. I love him. He is part of me. I am Beauty and the Beast.
In knowing who I am, I make choices that love and support me, first time around.
It is the gift of having been where I was so that I could come home to where I belong, in love with me, Beauty and the Beast.
The question is: Where are you? Searching for answers out there somewhere, hoping that this path will take you where you want to go even if you don't know where that is? Or, are you finding your true self within you, loving yourself to well-being as you give yourself the gift of knowing, who you are is who you are meant to be when you love yourself in the light of beauty holding the beast in love.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
NOTE: I wrote this piece just for fun! No hidden message. No serious content. I was just having a good time -- which is actually the theme for today. Enjoy yourself! Time is on the wing. And as 'they' say, Don't take yourself so seriously!
One day soon the Gillette company will announce the development of a razor that, thanks to a computer microchip, can actually travel ahead in time and shave beard hairs that don't even exist yet. Dave Barry
Websters' defines 'communication' as 'an exchange of ideas or knowledge'. To a computer hacker that definition is lost in a technological vortex of bits, bytes and baud that Websters' never thought to define. The technology driven information revolution has not only invaded the workplace, it has completely redefined our vocabulary and our ability to communicate; assuming that these days we communicate person to person and not with some technological device acting as intermediary.
How we communicate has become more important than what we say. "Stay in touch" used to mean writing an occasional letter. Now it is impossible to get out of touch, even for a moment. Planes and boats and trains may take me away but I can always be reached, no matter where I am. Once havens of relative quiet, the car, boat and jet have become mini communication command posts allowing me to beep, transmit, send and receive messages from around the world faster than you can say, "Supercalifragilisticexpeallidocious" - and I'd best not forget to call home - someone may be trying to reach me.
Simple face to face conversation has been replaced with machine talking to machine as the once innocuous game of Tag! You're it! is supplanted with directions to leave a message at the beep. Where once the sight of someone talking to themselves as they walked down the street would have been cause for concern, it has become commonplace. Inevitably the person holding the conversation is speaking into a tiny, barely discernible microphone hanging around their neck or protruding from their ear like some Star Trek warrior on a mission to save Planet X. I'm always amazed when they don't suddenly disappear with a shout of, "Beam me up, Scotty."
Cellphones snuggle in the hip pocket and Gucci knock-off bag of every Generation A,B,C to X,Y,Zer. Ipods hum a zillion tunes. Mini-movies adorn the screens of hand-held devices while the names of these tiny devices defy logic. Pearl. Curve. Jack. Razr. Bold. TouchPro WiFI GPS. Diamond. Crazr. and if you can't make up your mind, try a Pay as You Go.
Go where? I wonder? Oh well, if I'm lost, I'll just ask my cellphone for the answer to that ubiquitous questions, "Where am I?" It's sure to answer.
Common English has been replaced with a thesaurus full of buzz words and techno babble that promises to keep it simple but requires a 5 lb manual to explain the inners and the outers of working with any given device. No wonder we're a stressed out, maxed out society. The instruction manual we were handed at birth didn't include batteries! You did get your instruction manual? Right? If you didn't, don't worry. Just google the question, "Who am I?" and some unseen algorithm will prioritize an evaluation of your question and parse the language to give you 1,372,000 possible answers in declining order of relevance.
Yup. It's a complex world we live in, Master Jack. And getting stranger by the nanosecond.
It's becoming a little bit intimidating when my computer and my cellphone are on the same wavelength and I can't figure out what they're doing. Perhaps they should get married? As it is, my computer answers my calls, FAXes my response and updates my files without even turning the lights on. Who cares if we're on the same wavelength? As long as my machines are compatible I'll never have a breakdown in communication.
It's a challenge to keep things in perspective when the old phrase, "I'll call you" needs to be clarified with technical dissertations on baud rates, mailbox ID and software compatibility. Remember when incompatible meant two people did not get along? These days it can indicate a host of technological problems from Trojan horses to worms. "Help! My data's being eaten by a worm and I'm infected with an unpronounceable disease!" Let's keep the lines of communication open takes on a whole new meaning when first you need to shield yourself from infection.
In the Bible it is written that, "Evil communications corrupt good manners," but who can say what is good or bad manners when face to face is usurped by baud to baud. If Emily Post ever heard of terminal sex it wasn't a virtual reality scenario as much as a real, life and death situation. I doubt she ever had to face the question of whether or not it is good manners to have computer sex before or after your terminal is turned on. In the 'good 'ole days' courtship was simple. Boy met girl, they dated, they married, they had a family. Dating, however, takes on a whole new meaning when two strangers meet in the comfort of an online dating room where face to face interaction becomes a question of which social utility network they'll use to interface. "Hey! Should I Facebook or Myspace you?"
Technology has irrevocably changed the communication process but we seem to be missing the messenger. All the technological advancement in the world cannot replace face to face conversation. A disembodied voice whispering sweet nothings in your ear will never replace the feel of someone's warm breath tickling your earlobe and tears lose their emotional context when filtered through the plastic arm of the receiver.
The Greeks had it easy. The gods hurled thunderbolts that shook the earth and got the message across. If the news was bad they killed the messenger. It is difficult to kill the messenger, however, when the messenger is a satellite orbiting the earth at lightening speed, its transmissions searching out targets like heat seeking missiles and invisibly radiating data across the globe. Good or bad, messages are anonymously received by electronic devices incapable of emotion and devoid of any charm.
We appear to have been hoisted upon our own petard. But our nemesis is in the form of integrated circuit boards quietly humming their way through space as we continue to FAX, phonemail and mailbox drop our way across the universe.
Space may be infinite, but the earths' atmospheric capacity to beam up, process and redirect tiny bits and bytes of information must have a finite scale. As the mass of messages spinning their way across the skies thickens, our ability to absorb the data is thinning like the ozone layer.
Perhaps someone should invent a microchip to translate communication transmissions into ozone. We could patch up all the holes and get rid of global warming. The planet would be healthier and we would not have to find the place nor time to process, save and delete all those bits and bytes of information we don't know what to do with in the first place.
In the meantime, let's have our answering machines exchange daytimers and set up lunch. Maybe they'll fall in love and you and I can watch them ride off into the sunset on a wave of technological advancement making them obsolete before they ever get to the question of how to turn eachother on.
We can sit and reminisce about the good 'ole days when love was an emotion and communication an art. But then again, maybe we can just eat eachother's owner manuals. At least we won't have to worry about whose turn it is to pick up the tab.
The question is: Will that be a WiFi or a broadband? Do you even care who your cell phone is talking to?
Have a great one!
Monday, December 15, 2008
The ability to invent a desired future is directly dependent upon the willingness to break with the past. Robert J. KriegelMorning lurks upon the eastern horizon. Night clings to its woolly blanket, pulling the covers over its head in one last futile attempt to keep darkness in, day at bay.
Morning awakens to a fresh new dawn of possibilities. What happened yesterday is done. Gone. Part of the past. What could happen today is unknown, a mystery, an awakening. All I have is this moment. Right now. Filled with possibilities. Steeped in potential. This is my moment to step into possibility, to prepare a course for the future, to open the door to fresh thinking (though at -30C that might be risky!) and to leap into the unknown of a new day breaking.
I have a vision of my future. An idea. A dream.
In the past I had dreams. In the past I hesitated on working on making my dreams come true. To create the life of my dreams today, I must let go of old habits, self-defeating behaviours and limiting beliefs so that my dreams can come true today. I must free myself from what was, to create what is possible when I live up to my full potential, when I embrace my creative possibilities and quit listening to the incessant chatter of my 'monkey mind' thinking so that I can focus my attention on energizing this day with all I'm worth.
Soygal Rinpoche, in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying compares our negative mind chatter, or 'monkey mind' to a beehive. It's constantly swarming with thoughts and ideas on the negative, the impossible, our doubts and fears and anxieties. It's like a beehive, he writes. We can poke the hive and provoke the bees into chasing and stinging us, or, we can choose to leave the beehive alone and focus our attention on energizing our goals.
In the past, I was an expert beehive poker. Constantly listening to my monkey mind chatter away about this or that. I was letting my perceived worries and doubts divert my attention from what I needed to be doing to energize my goals. By constantly worrying over all the things that I had little or no control over, things that did not add value to my actions, I didn't get to the actions I needed to take to reach my goals and make my dreams come true.
Today is a brand new day, filled with potential. The root of the word potential is potent. According to the Free Online Dictionary, the definition of potent is: Possessing inner or physical strength; powerful.
Today holds great potential for me. I possess inner and physical strength. My potential is powerful!
Today, I'm letting go of yesterday, stepping into the moment, confident in my potential, assured of my ability to make things happen! I'm turning off the mindless chatter and tuning into the energy of my goals. I am awake and conscious. I am the master of my destiny, the creator of my dreams come true. I am unblocking the future, unlocking the vault of my creativity and leaping into my potential. I'm on fire!
The question is: What about you? Are you listening to your monkey mind chatter away about all the things that could go wrong, all the things that might never happen but could if you take a step away from holding onto the past? Are you willing to light a spark of creativity in your thinking, let go and get going on living the life of your dreams?
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Now, some of you might say, "Hello? Don't you think you're a little late?"
But I'd ask you, better late than never, right?
Panicked as the reality of the jolly ole' red fellas imminent arrival seeps into my addled brain, I do a quick recce of my Christmas list. Gifts to buy. 25. Gifts bought. 0. Best have a sip of holiday cheer to lift my flagging spirits. Sipping blissfully into denial of how much is yet to be done, I haul out the cookbooks, thumb through the well-worn, dried-up sugar crunchy pages searching for my favourite recipe for Fruitcake.
Now you're positive. I'm the fruity one. Starting Fruitcake less than two weeks before its eat me now date? Or possibly, you may be wondering why I'd bother making fruitcake in the first place. I gotta be a nut to foist such an inedible indelicacy on my loved ones.
But it's the tradition! The time-honoured memory-laden tradition of serving up rum-soaked cake to my daughters just to hear their collective sighs of disdain. "You've got to be kidding? Me eat fruitcake? No way."
Fortunately, I have very tolerant friends who accept my cakes with a gracious, "thank you" and never tell me what they do with it behind closed doors.
For my daughters, there is a way for them to have their cake so that I can make them eat it too. This year I've found a recipe for Chocolate Berry Fruitcake that promises to pass itself off as anything other than a fruity cake of the dark variety, unless I tell them!
How perfect is that? Combining a Christmas tradition with a fruitcake knock-off that no one will be able to discern. I can hear the collective groans of slumping fashion empires gasping at the thought of yet another Prada-esque attempt to create a taste-a-like that looks and feels like the real thing but was actually made from the hides of plastic trees of indiscernible pedigree!
And that's Christmas. Memory laden family tradition soaked in a vat of spirits doused with that extra something special to fool even the pickiest of holiday eaters into tasting yet another delicacy of the not too sure what it is kind. With admonitions of "I promise. You'll like it!" they slip a fork into the mysterious concoction laid out before them and pray the dog is waiting under the table for his seasonal pay-off.
Even if the dog doesn't like it, it doesn't mean I can't be of good cheer. It's Christmas. That time of year when humbugs fall unheard in evergreen forests and high spirits take to the air, not to mention my tummy!
With a mighty Ho! Ho! Ho! and a couple of sips of Eggnog, I stir and whir, chop and dice my way into holiday mode, even managing to get a bit of the spirits into the pan. I may be late on starting my baking, but I'm never late for celebrating this special time of year with a little bit of holiday Cheer!
Saturday, December 13, 2008
I've always believed society is defined by how we deal with our weakest links. The best of America is when we take care of the less fortunate. Peter SamuelsonWinter has blown in with a howl of frigid Arctic air swooping down from the north. Snow piles up along roadways. Traffic crawls, inch by inch. Crunching tires. Spinning wheels. Baby, it's cold outside.
Tucked inside my office, peering out at the snow-laden trees and covered sidewalks, I don't care what the weathers doing outside! I'm cosy in my office. If it weren't for the fact we're out of milk, I might not venture forth at all today!
I have the option to stay put, spend my day quietly reading, painting, doing whatever I want to pass the time of day.
At the shelter where I work, the option of what to do is not filled with appealing alternatives for the 1200+ people who crowd into the building, seeking respite from the biting winds of a prairie winter. Their options are limited. They can wander the streets to get a break from the crowds huddled into the shelter and risk freezing a finger, a toe, their nose or ears, or they can sit amidst the sea of humanity trying to ignore the constant ebb and flow of conversation, the noise and hum of over a thousand people trying to get by in the depths of winter.
Last night we had our annual Christmas staff party. Lots of people didn't make it. The weather blew in and blew out any hope of some people finding their way through the blowing snow to the hall where the party was held. For those who did, the festivities were a warm tribute welcoming the end of an arduous year of ending homelessness, one person at a time. At one point, the President of our Board of Directors got up to give a speech. "Until I got the stats this week, I didn't realize we were in line with McDonald's," he said. "We served over one million meals this year."
That's a lot of meals. A lot of people looking for a link back to the homes they lost. A lot of bellies to fill with hope of getting a next meal and a next.
See, that's the thing about homelessness. We must care for 'our weakest links' if we are to keep hope alive in a land of plenty for those who have lost everything, including hope. We must hold out hope to those who have lost their way so that they can find their way back to where they belong.
It's cold outside. Inside, I am warm. And I am filled with hope. Winter's chill will ease away into warmer climes. Spring blossoms will appear sometime in the future. In the meantime, Christmas promises to be white. A welcome respite from the normal brown and grey tones of the past few years.
And hope lives on. It lives in the minds and hearts of all who care for the weakest links in their families. Who shore up the crumbling walls of someone they love. Who deliver a steaming bowl of soup to someone who has nothing but the clothes on their back and a dream of someday finding their way back home.
Hope lives on as long as we care enough to reach out for those who have reached the end of the road and don't know where to turn to next.
No questions today, just a wish that all of you find the courage and the strength to reach out, with open arms, outstretched hands, to give and to receive -- in hope, anticipation, and above all else, love.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Happiness depends more on the inward disposition of mind than on outward circumstances. Benjamin FranklinIn the forward to Daniel Gilbert's bestselling non-fiction book, "Stumbling on Happiness," he writes, "The mistakes we make when we try to imagine our personal futures are also [like optical illusions] lawful, regular, and systematic. They too have a pattern that tells us about the powers and limits of foresight in much the same way that optical illusions tell us about the powers and limits of eyesight."
When I was a little girl I imagined myself as many things when I grew up. No matter the profession, no matter which stage I was on, or in, I always imagined myself 'Happy!'. Not the angst driven, where is my life, what have I done? kind of happy, but rather the blissful, living the dream, living it large kind of happy of mythic proportions of my childhood thinking. In my childhood imaginings of 'the future me' there were no bumps in the road, no knocks in the dark and no darn prince of darkness hiding behind a prince of the charming kind.
As I aged, my imaginings of my future self, had to get in line with reality. I never did become a star of the silver screen. Never even tried to get there. I never did marry Prince Charming, though I did try to get there! Doesn't seem to make a difference though to my happy quotient today. Today, I'm happy being me, whatever stage I'm at.
Who I am today is not who I imagined myself to be when I was a child. Back then, I never thought about my happiness being based on contentment or peace of mind. I always imagined it being founded on what I had and what I was doing in my life. I imagined it came wrapped up in the mansion, spread out over thousands of feet of living the life with servants and chauffeurs and a career that had my name plastered on movie theatre marquees around the globe.
So, it's a wonderful feeling to wake up and know, I'm Happy. Doesn't mean I don't imagine my future filled with prosperity, love, joy and little trauma. Nope. My happiness is of the inner variety. A deep contentment, a satisfaction, a knowing that I am being all I'm meant to be. I'm giving my all, sharing my unique gifts in a way that will create the life of my dreams, that will add value to the world today. I am happy because I know I don't have to be making a difference to make a difference in my world. I make a difference by being me.
Happiness isn't a destination, nor an illusion. It's an inner way of being. An attitude. A belief. Happiness is a bowl full of gratitude served up on a platter of love sprinkled with toasty laughter smothered in smiles and hugs.
The question is: How are you measuring your happiness today? Are you eyeing the future, dreaming about some day soon when you will have it all, know it all, be all? Or, are you measuring up to yourself, counting your blessings with a belly full of laughter and a cup running over with love?
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Helen KellerNo is the first word most two-year olds use to differentiate themselves from others, especially their mother. It's no wonder it's one of the first words they use! They hear it often enough.
If you're a parent, think about the number of times you've said no to your child. Its initial utterance was, most probably, a means of keeping the child safe from touching dangerous objects or hurting themselves in some way. Electrical outlets. Glass ornaments. Hot stoves or dishes. Running at the pool. Running across the street. Jumping off the roof. Jumping into hot water.
As the child matures, No becomes a statement of independence. When asked a question, a teen's emphatic response will most often be, "No." "I will not go to church." "I will not take the garbage out." I will not listen to you." "I will not do what you say..."
Playing safe never got to second base with one foot on first.
Helen Keller said it well. "Security is mostly superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure."
Saying YES! exposes us to the possibilities. It exposes us to the willingness to check out options, to give ourselves permission to try new things so that we can learn and grow. YES! doesn't hear 'mistake'. YES! hears, "What can I learn from that experience. How can I grow?"
YES! cuts off alternatives to failure because YES! is about succeeding, no matter what we do. There's no 'trying' in YES! There's only success.
YES! is about willingness. The willingness to do something, see something, be something beyond the limiting beliefs that would have us believe we can't. Being willing is a state of being. It is something you possess. It exists inside you, it is part of you and can never be taken away.
YES! opens the door to our willingness and never slams it shut in our face with the vehement negativity of "No way!" Instead, 'no way' becomes the beginning of the journey leading us forward, leading us into the possibilities of life beyond our comfort zone, on the other side of maybe. "No way will I let this get me down." "No way will I stop." "No way will I be defeated." "No way will I give up on my dreams."
I like YES! YES! is my watchword for today. YES! I can. YES! I will. YES! I am.
The question is: Are you willing to let go of No and step into the limitless possibilities of YES! Are you willing to claim your power?
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Hope is faith holding out its hand in the dark. George IllesThey arrived in the dark of night. Their yellow school bus twinkling with Christmas lights. Amidst a flurry of colour, twenty-five yellow caped angels disembarked and swarmed into the loading dock area of the shelter where I work. Some wore Santa hats upon their heads while others wore glow-in-the-dark halos that bobbed and weaved as they unloaded Christmas gifts from a large truck that had pulled into the driveway. All of the angels were wearing big, wide smiles. All of them were laughing.
They are, Angels in the Night. A team of mortgage and insurance brokers from Invis Financial who for the past several months have been raising funds to purchase much needed winter essentials for homeless citizens across Canada.
It was their sixth year coming to the shelter. The sixth year of sharing the wonder and the joy of Christmas with people in need of their support. In their wake, they left behind over $5,000 worth of winter apparel and footwear, underwear, towels, blankets and sweaters.
Last night, they also left behind a birthday cake for me!
When Lynne, the organizer, had told me the date for their arrival I had laughingly said, "What a wonderful birthday gift!" She hadn't forgotten.
Theordore Roosevelt once implored a nation to remember, 'the forgotten man'. Last night, Angels in the Night reminded everyone at the shelter that even those living on the fringes of our society, those whose lives are beaten down, will be remembered. No one will be forgotten.
Sometimes, all we can do is let people know, "You are not forgotten. I see you."
Last night, Angels in the Night arrived and shared their belief that even those lost on the road of life will not be forgotten. As long as they are taking a step, where ever it leads them, they will not be left behind. Because as long as they breathe, there is always hope.
It was a magical evening.
Amidst the laughter and the singing, the pranks and the high fives, the serious business of caring for those who cannot or will not care for themselves was taking place. A floor above the loading dock where Angels in the Night had formed a conga line to the clothing centre so that they could transport their gifts with ease, clients were moving up to the sleeping floors, settling into their beds, claiming their little corner of the world for the night.
In the first floor lobby, clients were lining up waiting for the opening of our Intox sleeping area. By the time the doors opened, over 200 people would stumble in and claim a mat on the floor, a safe shelter away from the bitter cold and biting wind that accompanies every step of homelessness. These are the lost souls. The ones who have forgotten they deserve more than this life of degradation. Numbed by the addictions that cloud their thinking and clog their veins, they have forgotten who they once were, who they were meant to be. All they remember today is the disappointment of who they are wandering the streets in a fog of alcohol or drugs.
We cannot forget them. We must remember for them.
Last night, Angels in the Night arrived and I remembered why I do what I do. Because I can.
This morning, my memory is strong. I have the capacity and the ability to remember hope for those who believe there is none. I can carry hope with me where ever I go throughout my day, and I can carry laughter and share a smile. I can share the magic and the wonder of what I saw last night, of what I witness every day and hear throughout the shelter.
Because, throughout the shelter, hope lives. Hope is in the caring words of a staff member who, upon examining the jacket of 'Joe' and finding the zipper broken said, "You can't stay warm like that Joe. Wait here. I'll get you a better jacket." The staff member is 30 something. Muscular. Burly. A giant of a man. Tattooed arms and buzz cut hair. The client, an old man of 60+, missing teeth, dirty hair sprayed out around his weathered face, scarred and leathered hands, broken nails and broken dreams. Yet in the words of that staff member, in his caring for a man who has nothing, dignity is restored. Hope is renewed.
Yes Virginnia, there is a Santa Claus. And his name is Hope.
Hope is in the difference we make when we remember those who have forgotten how precious they are. Hope is in a gentle touch, a caring word, a kind gesture. Hope is in the Angels in the Night who share so generously their abundance so that others may remember, "We see you."
The question is: Are you carrying love and laughter and joy throughout your day sharing your smiles with those who have forgotten that no matter the weather, no matter the circumstances, there is hope as long as we remember to see each other through caring eyes?