Friday, May 29, 2009

Dancing in the light

Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress. Alfred A. Montapert
When I was a little girl I had one of those heavy plastic rocking horses that was attached by coils to a metal base that kept the horse grounded. I could sit on my horse, bounce up and down, sideways and front and back. I loved that horse. The motion. The joy of sitting and bouncing and riding.

My rocking horse never made any progress in the physical sense of getting from Point A to B, but I sure could make it ride across plains and continents, oceans and skies. Every time I rode I experienced some new and exciting adventure. I was Annie Oakley, the Lone Ranger and Tonto all dressed up in one. I moved around the world, saving children and dogs and civilisations from sure destruction. I was all powerful.

My rocking horse was my escape from the world in which I lived. The world around me which I didn't understand, or didn't make sense, or simply was too complicated to grasp.

As I grew, I had to let go of my rocking horse. My body became to big for it. We moved too far away to take it with us. Without my horse, I had to find some other way to escape the world around me -- escape being the operative word. I never wanted to get off my horse, so I created a mighty steed within my mind who could transport me away from the world in which I lived into a world that made sense to me. A world that ideally suited me. A world in which I had control. I had power. A world where I was all powerful because, well, I was writing the script. I controlled every scene, every word, every action. I determined who was there, what they did and said and what happened. Cool!

Now, I loved my imaginary worlds when I was a child. They were fun! Problem is as an adult, escaping into scripted scenes within my head is not an effective way to live my best life yet. Scripted scenes where I control the people, places, actions, scenes and words are not a reflection of the world around me. They are a reflection of what I want to have happen, what I believe could happen -- if everyone and everything in my world did what I thought was best, or right, or simply acceptable to me!

And that just ain't the way the world works because often, the rocking horse world in my mind becomes a wild ride upon my high horse of self-deception. Armed with my quiver of judgement filled with arrows of complaint, criticism, and condemnation I take aim at gentle hearts and opening minds and pierce balloon's of possibility with my conviction that I know what is best for the world around me.

I must admit, I have clung to many a high horse in my adulthood and run roughshod through many a delicate blossom of life unfolding. I have sat upon my mighty stead trampling other people's feelings and perceptions with the heavy footed destruction of King Kong stomping through New York.

And always, when the ride was over, I have fallen off my high horse in a fit of embarrassed consternation that so much destruction could be created in such a short, wild ride.

High horses, like rocking horses do not get me anywhere other than where I don't want to be. Eating sawdust in the not so OK corral of my mind, grovelling in the mud of guilt and disappointment.

The good news is. Dismounting from my high horse of yesterdays, I am progressing. I see the progress I've made. I celebrate my empty quiver of judgement. My arrows of criticism, complaints and condemnation are sheathed and I expand into the moment, filled with the joy of fearlessly embracing who I am when I let go of clinging to the neck of my high horse and dance in the lightness of my human being.

I am at peace in my heart, my mind open to the wonder and beauty of the world around me.

In my wide eyed wonder of being all of me, I see all of you.

You are beauty. You are light. You are a magnificent human being.

The question is: Are you riding roughshod over the world around you, or are you dismounting from your high horse, peacefully embracing the wonder and joy of the world around you, dancing in the lightness of your human being?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Zero Tolerance

If you deny yourself commitment, what can you do with your life? Harvey Fierstein
His life was in shambles. Broken. Penniless. Hopeless. "I'll do whatever it takes to change my life," he said.

"Are you willing to quit smoking?" she asked.

"No," he vehemently replied.

"Then you're not willing to do whatever it takes."

"I am, but just not that," he said. "I can't do it. Won't do it. I can't lie to you."

The stories we tell ourselves when first we practice to deceive ourselves.

Susan Scott, in Fierce Conversations writes, "I am successful only to the degree that who I am and what I am living are in alignment."

If I am unwilling to 'do whatever it takes' to be free of an addiction, then my success will be measured against who I am in my willingness and unwillingness to do all things necessary to be free of my addiction, to have what I say I want in my life.

How success manifests itself in my life came as a huge insight for me yesterday.

I had been speaking with a staff member about a client who was struggling with their addiction. I knew of an instance where they had been asked to commit to quitting smoking. "Anything but that," he had replied.

"Then you're not willing to do whatever it takes," the facilitator had responded.

"I am," he said. "Just not that." And he had gone on to explain why not.

In his permission to not do that, he gave himself permission to not do other things too, or to continue to do those things that were harming him, even though he said he wouldn't. Because in his mind he knew he'd already not committed to doing one thing, every time he lit up, his psyche was saying, 'see, it's okay. Nothing bad happened.'

And then the slide begins.

It is a game I often play with myself.

"I'll do this, but not that."

In my negotiation, I leave the door open to slipping through the crack of what I will tolerate, permit, accept.

We get what we tolerate.

In my case, I get to weasel out of losing weight because I refuse to commit to doing whatever it takes to have what I say I want.

Truth is, if I want to lose weight, then I must be willing to commit to doing the hard things I am unwilling to do.

To change my eating habits, I must be willing to let go of the habits that are undermining me. Negotiating with my habits leaves me room to maneuver out of committing 100% to my success.

Zero tolerance.

For the man who wouldn't quit smoking, when given the opportunity had he committed to doing it, he would have had to hold himself accountable to his commitment. It wasn't about quitting smoking. It was about being true to the commitments we make to ourselves.

On one level, he was being honest. He knew he wouldn't keep the commitment and refused to lie.

But on a deeper, more emotional/spiritual level, his lack of commitment was the escape hatch he needed to slide into more destructive behaviours when the going got tough.

And he did.

I do too.

Time to stand up. Time to quit denying myself commitment. Time to teach myself I can keep a commitment with myself -- and be stronger, more successful for that commitment.

Time to align who I am with what I am living.

Time to be the success I want to achieve.

The question is: Where are you letting yourself off the hook of being successful by scrimping on your commitments? Where are you slipping through the crack of what you're willing to tolerate?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Flying is not just for the birds

It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that things are difficult. Seneca .
I love my job. Doesn't mean everything is perfect in it. In fact, there are some things that are decidedly 'unperfect'. But, I love what I do. Love the feeling of accomplishment, of making a difference, of contributing something meaningful to our society

And then I have days like yesterday. Days where time is of a premium. Where time at my desk is minimal. Where the pile of 'things to do' grows larger as the "Done" never changes.

Actually, it wasn't that yesterday was such a bad day. In fact, it wasn't. But the tiredeness from the human interaction side was draining. Give me time at my computer, a blank screen, a fresh idea and I'm happy! The value in yesterday however, was in the lessons learned in relationship to other people. The lessons are profound.

I am reminded everyday that 'we are all human'. That we have strengths and weakensses, triumphs and trials, dreams and fears, truths and untruths, beliefs and myths, willingness and fears. That we carry masks and stories. Habits that strengthen us. Habits that pull us down. That we will step out and take a risk. Pull back and run away.

And everyday, I am reminded that in our human condition, we want to believe we are doing our best. Sometimes, our best may not meet someone else's standards. And sometimes, our best is not what someone else wants. But we want to believe it is our best. How else can we explain where we're at if where we're at is not where we want to be? We are doing our best, to change, to move, to get along. We are doing our best, we tell ourselves, it's the world lining up against us, holding us back, keeping us down, pushing us under. That's the problem. Not us creating the problems in our lives.

In a building with hundreds of people struggling to find the best in themselves, and believing they're doing they're best at finding, doing or being it, I am sometimes challenged to accept that as their truth. I want better for them.

Better is a relative term. Just because I 'see' someone as stuck in self-pity, doesn't mean my truth is a truth they want to see, or can see, or need to see. Doesn't mean it's the best for them to tell them what I see that they don't see. Sometimes, the best is to let them be where they're at without trying to move them along, change their state or shake them up. Sometimes, if their truth is they're pulling the ground out from underneath themselves, my best is to give them the opportunity to 'hit rock bottom' without cushioning their fall.

And that can be tough. Because in the process of letting go, I have to let go of my ego's need to be right, be important, be somebody with the answers.

I don't have anyone else's answers.

I only have my own.

And so, I come full circle back to 'my best is good enough'.

In meeting with three clients last night to discuss a project they're involved in that is not going very well at the moment, my best was to 'lose it'. To get emotional and 'talk straight'.

After being accused of not 'standing by them', I shook my head and said, in my ever so eloquent way, "Bulls..t. Perhaps it's time to go look in a mirror and see who's not standing by whom. Are you turning up for yourselves? Are you staying true to your course? Living up to what you believe in? Or are you blaming me and everyone else for what's happened in your lives? My goal here is to turn up and give my 100%. I can't make you do it. I can't make you turn up. If you choose not to, that is your choice. My life doesn't change. I love my life. Turning up here can change your life. It's up to you."

And then... before I started to cry full force, I said. "I have given you forty-five minutes to talk about what you want and all we've talked about is what went wrong. I don't have more time for this conversation. I have another meeting at 7 and I need to get myself centered." And I walked out, my mind chattering. "That was a mistake. What did you lose it for?"


Getting emotional in a conversation and crying is not something I like to do -- it puts we way outside my comfort zone of controlling my emotions. Reality is, it was the best I had to give in that moment. I was feeling frustrated, disappointed, angry and upset. My best was limited by my attachment to my emotions and to the outcome of that meeting.

Whenever I'm attached to the outcome, I am making it personal. In my attachment, I am at risk of being swayed by my emotions making more of the situation by bringing it full circle back to my desire to direct the outcome.

Ah, the tangled webs we weave.

I don't know the outcome of that meeting. I said my piece, in all its awkward, disjointed and emotional state. It's my choice to let it go, or not.

I choose to Breathe. Open up to expansion. Soften my heart and centre my being in love. As my heart softens, I feel love flow.

And I smile.

I learned a lot last night. Learned that people really do try their best -- it is my expectation of what is their best that undermines my ability to accept it for what it's worth.

We get what we tolerate.

In my emotional state, I opened myself up to my own truth and came front and center with my lack of tolerance for other people's human condition.

I wanted to change their state, alter their condition.

Can't do it. Not that powerful.

All I can do is be my authentic self. And for me, that means being aligned with my values, holding true to my belief in the magnificence of the human spirit, and setting myself free from expectation that the world will unfold according to Louise.

The world is constantly unfolding. It's not my 'job' to set it straight. Life is full of curves. All I can do is unfold my wings, spread them wide and fly -- even when I'm having trouble getting off the ground. In my struggle to get air, to be free, to fly high, I share my courage and strength. I share the best of me. And that's when I have the greatest impact.

The question is: Are you learning from your mistakes or letting them ground you in the belief, flying is for the birds?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I am enough.

We don't go running away from our values. We go drifting away, and one day wake-up in a place we never meant to be, drifting in a direction we would have never chosen. John Blumberg
We had a meeting yesterday with a young man, a client at the shelter where I work, to inform him that his transitional bed had been closed. He has not followed through on any of the commitments he made to 'get his life on track'. And, in the process, has been blaming others and threatening another client with physical harm. He is still welcome to access the building, and the Emergency sleeping quarters, but he has lost the privilege of the more private sleeping area for ninety days.

Earlier in the day I was speaking with our Executive Director about the chaos in the lives of the guys involved in the recording of Stand by Me. "I've been taking it too personally," I told him. "I've attached myself to the outcome and keep wishing they would become accountable for themselves and stand up for themselves."

"In my forty years in this business," he said, "I have seen this happen time and time again. The cycles in people's lives keep repeating themselves. You work to create opportunities for change, and people's fear of change limits their opportunities."

In my angst over other people's choices, I was making bad choices for myself. I was losing sleep over things I had no control over, and giving up peace of mind in the process.

What I put my attention on grows stronger in my life. In focusing on my angst over what 'they' were doing, I was losing focus on what I was doing. My attitude was creating anxiety in my life.

The things we tell ourselves, become the things we believe. In the process of watching these individuals crater, I was telling myself I needed to do something different.

I did -- but it wasn't the different I was thinking about. I was thinking I needed to do something different to 'reach' them.

In reality, the different I needed to do was to reach myself, to reclaim my peace of mind.

Earlier in the day when I'd been talking to Alexis, my eldest daughter, about my angst, she had reminded me, "You are good enough. You do enough. You are enough. You give your 100% mom. Other's are responsible for what they do."

Wise advice.

One of my core values is to not give up. To not walk away from someone in need. Not giving up doesn't mean, giving into bad behaviour. It doesn't mean accepting the unacceptable as acceptable.

It means, making possibilities available, providing the tools to step into the possibility of more, and letting people make their own choices based on the new possibilities they've experienced and information they've received -- and to let them be accountable for the choices they make.

Lost in the throes of 'fixing lives' I began to drift into the belief I actually could, that I had the answers for other people's lives. While my ego would like to believe I do, reality is, I don't. I only have the answers for me. And when I live my life centered on my core values, I stay unattached to 'how' people live their lives and focus on what I am doing to live mine with love and truth and beauty and joy and compassion and kindness as my watchwords.

When I live my life by my values, I do not drift into the belief other's should play by my rules, uphold my truth, live my dream.

We are each accountable for how we live our lives, for what we do, for where we are at and where we take ourselves. I can hold a space for dreams to awaken. I can open a door to possibility, but I cannot force anyone to latch onto a dream, or step through a door to somewhere they are not prepared to venture into.

I can turn up in my own life. Be all I'm meant to be and fearlessly share my joy and love and compassion and bounty. I cannot force someone else to turn up for themselves or turn up for me.

I am not powerful enough to break someone's heart or destroy their life. I am not powerful enough to heal someone else's broken heart or life.

I can do my best. Be my best. Give my best.

I am good enough. I do enough. I am enough.

The question is: Are you holding onto the belief you are powerful enough to change someone else's life? Are you turning up for others and avoiding turning up for yourself?

Monday, May 25, 2009

No Texting please. I'm human.

The advantage of modern means of communication is they enable you to worry about things in all of the world. Dr. Laurence J. Peter
It is one of my favourite things to do. Walk through a conservation area here in the city with Ellie and both my daughters and share our stories and thoughts and ideas on life and living and being alive. It was the perfect day for it. Sunny. Not too hot. Mid-afternoon.

We walked and laughed and chatted. The girls occasionally bickered over some trivial aspect of who's who and who's not in the zoo. Ellie tugged at her leash, desperate to be set free to explore the environment. We couldn't let her off. It's a Dogs On Leash Only zone. But, she knew that soon we would veer off the beaten path, onto a tributary, walk deeper into the woods to a spot where we could access the river. Far from passersby, she would be allowed to have a swim and so, she tugged me forward. Faster. Faster.

As we walked along the path, people going in the opposite direction smiled and said Hello. We smiled back, Ellie straining to have her say as well. At one point, a guy whizzed by on his bike. We could tell he was talking from quite a ways away. His voice carried on the air towards us faster than his wheels could cover the distance. As he approached, it was easy to see the cellphone wire dangling from his earpiece. Buried deep in conversation, a frown lining his forehead, he was oblivious to anyone and anything else on the path.

Duh. Let's enjoy the great outdoors. But don't let yourself be disconnected.

Another guy followed not far behind. One hand on the handlebars. One texting on his cellphone.

And then another.

The girls and I laughed. "OMG," Alexis said. "What is with everyone? Can't they just take a break and enjoy the day without texting?"

Sad thing was. Another bicyclist passed by, his cellphone in hand, his fingers nimbly texting too.

At C.C's daughter's grad dance later that night, amidst the pomp and circumstance, cellphones also made an appearance. At the table behind ours, a bevy of young beauties sat chatting and laughing, sharing stories of the night. They looked like fairy-tale princesses. Their gowns frothy confections of taffeta and tulle of rich vibrant hues. Their hair rolled and permed, make-up artfully applied. I listened in on their conversation and laughed to myself. 'No matter how times change. Some things don't change.' They talked of boys and 'OMG did you see Elspbeth? What is she wearing? Someone should tell her.... And what about Jane? Why on earth would she come with that guy? He's such a.....' Girl chatter permeated the air borne high on teenage hormones racing into overdrive.

But, there was a difference from when I remembered sitting on that side of the generational gap. Way back then, cellphones were not the fashion accessory of the day.

As the girls chatted, one young girl sat, her upswept hairdo adorned with a diamond tiara and her slim body envelopped in a beautiful deep blue gown of silk and lace, her pearl white cellphone in one hand, busily texting. I watched her as she deftly clicked away, never missing a beat in the conversation, nor the excitement of the activity around her, nor a keystroke on her phone.

Connections. We are a society of perpetual connection of the binary kind. No matter where you roam, no matter how far you go, by boat or plane or camel, someone will be beeping you, calling you,texting you. It's cheaper to text, don't you know?

In the evolutionary mix of continuous regeneration and modification of every lifeform, the art of listening is slowly dying. How can I listen to what you're saying when I'm busying texting on one hand, pulling the top of my dress up with the other (which seemed to be the action of the evening amidst a room of strapless ballgowns) and sipping on a glass of punch as someone else is busily telling me about so and so's new boyfriend?

Perhaps texting is to mankind today what fire was to our neandrathal forefathers. Where once fire led the way out of the dark, texting is leading us back into the cave. Scientists in eras to come will finally have understanding of 'why' we developed the opposing thumb. And in its ascendence to the top of the evolutionary dog pile they'll have proven once and for all -- we really are no better than the chimpanzees.

Sad thing is, it may be cool to text while dancing -- or riding a bike for that matter, but in our attempts to prove the supremacy of our opposing thumbs, we've lost the art that brought us to the forefront of evolution. The ability to communicate and understand each other in deep, meaningful ways.

I used to be envious of my daughters and their friends ability to text.

Now, I'm dropping my opposing thumb envy and donning my' No Texting please. I'm human', t-shirt. The ubiquitous cellphone may be here to stay, but my opposing thumbs will never supersede the dexterity of all my senses, including my fingers. Let me hear, think, feel, touch and smell the connection between us. Let me listen to the sound of your voice whispering sweet nothings, or anything, in my ear. Let me awaken my senses with the art of communicating in 3-D and let me never succumb to the desire to "Text you" where I'm at.

I'm right here. Listening to what you have to say. Eager to communicate.

Give me a voice. A real human contact and I will give you....something to talk about.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

In love and light

Meditation is the tongue of the soul and the language of our spirit. Jeremy Taylor. Anglican Bishop 1613 - 1667

I didn't know his wife very well. Had only met her a few times when I went to their house to work with him in his film editing studio. When I did meet her she was always warm and welcoming. Serene.

Last night, I went to her memorial service. I wanted to honour her journey and support my friend.

The service was held in a temple on the other side of the city. A small, former church, the space has been converted into a meditation space. Clean white walls. No ornamentation other than the altar at the front where pictures of Yogi and Saints, including Jesus Christ, line the wall of an alcove. Candles burned. Incense infused the air with its sweet, pungent aroma. Soft sitar music played. People sat in chairs in silent meditation as I quietly entered and took a seat. At the centre of the altar alcove, a picture of D. sat framed by a red and white rose on either side. A vase of roses sat on the floor on either side of the table, one red, one white.

Simple. Serene. Beautiful.

Other than my friend, I didn't know anyone there. But during the ceremony I felt connected to each of them. Connected to an energy that flowed peacefully throughout the room. The service began with an Opening Prayer and a chant. An ancient Vedic Aum. Each reading was punctuated by a period of meditation. The evening ended with our arms outstretched, fingers at eye level as we chanted seven Aum to send with her spirit on its journey home.

It was a beautiful, heartfelt and loving celebration of one woman's home.

As I drove home, the sun was setting beyond the ridges of the mountains to the west. Light filtered through trees in amber hues. Sparkles danced on the river. Shadows lengthened into velvety darkness.

A verse drifted through my head.

I am Spirit
into the river
of life
tumbling down the mountainside
cascading joyfully
into my soul
with the infinite calmness
of bliss exploding
into The One.
I am One
You are One
Thou and I are One
becoming One with the Spirit.

God Speed your journey today.

Blessings on your path.

In love and light.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Time passes.

You have to start by changing the story you tell yourself about getting older...The minute you say to yourself, 'Time is everything, and I'm going to make sure that time is used the way I dream it should be used,' then you've got a whole different story. Diane Sawyer
Yesterday, I experienced, with C.C., his daughter's High School Graduation. Three hundred and seventy-five graduates walked across the stage to receive a handshake and their High School Diploma.

In the Valedictorian's speech, the young man presenting told of an assignment he did in Grade 6. Each student was asked to write 'a letter to self' which was to be opened upon their Grade 12 graduation. B.W. stood on the stage and held up his letter. "It's in the original envelope," he said. "No tricks. I haven't opened it before." And he opened the envelope and read the contents of his letter.

In Grade 6, he wanted to be a Geologist. He now plans on taking his Masters in Psychology.

In Grade 6, he liked hockey and basketball. Still likes team sports but he is also a musician and actor.

In Grade 6, he liked a girl named Tess. And he hoped she liked him.

In Grade 12, he likes C.C.'s daughter. And he knows she likes him.

Between likes and dislikes and dreams and schemes of what to do with his summer, a lot of time has passed since he wrote that letter. But as he mentioned in his speech, the core values, the fundamentals of who the person he is, were already set by the time he wrote that letter when he was 11. The difference is only time.

If I remember back to Grade 6 I see a young girl who loved her cat and dog and loved spending time lying on the grass gazing up through the leaves of a tree and day dreaming. She loved to walk in the rain without an umbrella. She loved splashing in mud puddles.

I remember a young girl who was frightened of becoming a woman and who relied on her older sisters to guide her through the confusion of what was starting to happen to her body. I remember a young girl who liked to spend time with children. She baby-sat whenever she could, and was fascinated with what made people tick. She read and read and even at age 11, Psychology Today was one of her favourite magazines. And she also read those True Love magazines that she is so embarrassed today to think she actually read them.

She believed in love. In fairness. In taking care of others. She believed the world needed her to help make it different. She believed she could make a difference. She believed everyone could.

She had a best friend named Marilyn. She didn't like boys. Yet. She loved walking the long way home from school with her sister and was always excited to see Pepi, the family cat, running across the field towards them. He'd jump into one of their arms and start to purr.

She was fascinated with watching people. With observing how they did things and she'd often try to figure out why they did what they did, said what they said.

She believed in magic. She believed the world was a wondrous place. An adventure waiting to unfold just for her.

She believed in being kind. In not hurting others with her words. She believed there was an answer to everything. She just had to look hard enough to find it.

She did not like violence. Did not like meanness. Did not like thunder and lightning. She still doesn't.

Today, she still believes in magic and is always amazed by the wonder of the world around her. She still likes to lie on the grass under a tree and look up at the sky through the filigree of its leaves. She still likes walking in the rain and splashing in mud puddles. She still likes watching people.

She still believes in love and she still believes she can make a difference. That everyone can.

Today, she is still that kind, caring, gentle young girl she was back then. The differences today are found in the lessons she's learned through time's passage.

The story of her life is different than she'd imagined it to be at age 11. It's better. More solid. Complete. Richer than she could ever have imagined back then, lying under a tree, daydreaming in the clouds above.

But who she is. The core person. The values and principles. The beliefs. Those haven't changed very much.

What's changed is her conviction. Her commitment to living true to her values, principles and beliefs.

She doesn't compromise on those anymore. She doesn't short-change herself and the world by scrimping on her truth.

Time taught her there is no value in being untrue to herself. There is no value in trying to fit in to someone else's story.

Her story is the only one she has to tell. She lives it, day by day, with the intent of making it her own personal best-seller.

She lives it as a gripping adventure of life lived way beyond the edges of her comfort zone, out there in the land of living true to herself. She lives it like there is no other life for her to live.

And, she's right. There isn't any other life for her to live. This is the only one she's got to experience right now.

The only life we each have to live today is this one we're living right now. This one where time passes, regardless of what we do to stem its flow.

Time passes. It's up to each of us to make a difference in how we pass the minutes flowing by.

The question is: Does time pass you by? Are you a passer-by watching it flow or are you in the flow of making each moment count? Are you stepping beyond the edges of your comfort zone, flying free in that place where you live your life being true to who you are, uncompromising in your commitment to be all you're meant to be in this moment, right now?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Living it up

The marvelous richness of human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome. The hill top hour would not be half so wonderful if there were no dark valleys to traverse. Helen Keller
Six years ago today, at 9:14 am two police officers walked into the room where I was hiding in fear of the man they arrested. In that moment of release, I was given the miracle of my life -- the chance to find myself amidst the devastation around me, and reclaim my place in the sun.

Yesterday, I spoke with a friend whose wife passed away in his arms less than two weeks ago. "I don't know why this has happened to me," he said. "But I do know, time heals. Yes, time heals."

Sometimes, there is no 'why'. Sometimes, the only thing we can do is accept, this is life unfolding in its own time.

For my friend, the pain is fresh. The sorrow deep. And yes, time will heal the wound. He will smile again, laugh again, leap for joy again. For the moment, he will feel pain and hopefully treat himself with tender loving care.

"We don't come with a roadmap to healing imprinted under our skin, ready to be unfolded as events such as this occur," I told him. "We make the map up as we go along. We do what feels right in the moment of passing through the pain. What soothes are aching spirits and eases the pain in our hearts."

"I am being gentle with myself. I even went for a hot rock massage yesterday," he said. "I couldn't conceive of doing that before. I was too busy. Too involved with making things happen."

My friend and his wife were prepared, as best one can be, for what transpired. But nothing could prepare him for the sense of loss, of pain and sorrow he is experiencing today.

This too shall pass.

We don't get to direct the universe. We only get to do our best to act out our role as human beings.

Six years ago I had no idea that morning would hold the watershed moment between my living or dying. Six years ago, I had no idea where I'd be today. What I did know, even in those first few minutes and hours of freedom was that I had been given a miracle -- it was up to me to cherish it. To use it or lose it as the saying goes.

In the course of my journey since that morning, my daughters and I have spoken a great deal about the events leading up to that moment of release. We've talked about the pain and turmoil. The fear and angst. The sorrow and grief. The horror at what happened.

And we have all three come to appreciate the lessons learned, the growth and the freedom we have experienced since that morning six years ago today. In accepting there was nothing about that journey we can change now, we accept the gifts we have received. And dance in the light of being free.

We have been blessed.

Life is a journey that ends with our passing from this earthly realm into a place beyond our wildest imaginings here on earth. We cannot change that one irrefutable endpoint. For each of us, it will come in its own time.

For my friend, his wife was ready. She didn't want to go, but she couldn't stay the course of fighting against the disease that was eating away at her well-being.

Life doesn't ask -- are you ready to go? It asks, are you ready to live it up in the here and now?

Life isn't about being ready to die. It's about being alive in each surrendered moment, filling it up with all the love you've got to give and taking from it all the love there is to be taken.

That's life.

And when we have lived in the rapture of being alive, we can go whenever it's time without fearing something we've left behind will come undone.

Today, I salute the courageous men and women who battle everyday to stop the onslaught of cancer in our lives. I salute those who seek cures, and those who give so much to help those suffering from the disease.

The question is: Are you 'living like you were dying', making each moment count as if it were your last? Are you riding high on the waves of living, filling each moment with all you've got, loving yourself enough to give your best? Are you afraid of living or dying?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Stop. Think. Assess

Every path hath a puddle. George Herbert
Six years ago today I was in the final throes of the relationship that almost killed me. I didn't know at this time six years ago that this would be my last night of living that horror. I didn't know that the next morning a blue and white police car would drive up and set me free. I only knew, I couldn't live like that any longer. I didn't believe the angels heard me anymore. I didn't believe God even knew I was already dead. I didn't believe.

And then, I awoke and life took on a brand new day perspective.

What a miracle. What a gift from the Divine.

My path away from that pain filled place has not been smooth sailing -- but it has been joy filled. Because no matter where I was stepping, my heart was filled with gratitude. Gratitude for my life. For my knowing. For my being able to make amends and reclaim all that was lost, and so much more.

Throughout the course of these six years I have journeyed with a grateful heart. A heart filled with thankfulness for the many blessings on my path -- including the puddles.

For it is in the puddles that I often come face to face with my reflection. With the self-defeating games I play to keep me stuck in the mud of resistance, denying the truth of my freedom -- to choose, to be, to become and to have all of this and anything better.

My puddle right now is filled with over commitment. I've had to back out of one commitment I made simply because I wasn't doing it justice and was letting the other person down. No sense in pretending I'll 'get to it'. I don't have the time to devote to give it what it needs to be done properly.

I'm quite familiar with the over commitment puddle. I've muddied these waters before. And every time, I promise myself to stop, think, assess before committing.

My commitment is to do that now. To stop. Think. Assess -- my time, my resources, my energy, my ability to achieve the desired outcome given my other commitments.

And for now -- I commit to not committing to any new projects until I complete the one's already on my plate. I commit to re-visiting my passion card and realign myself with my top 2 passions to ensure I am not over-extending myself.

I am grateful for the love I carry on this path of joy and healing. I am grateful for the limitless opportunities... and the puddles. They remind me to stay grounded in the reality of what I have right now, to the bounty of my life, the joy of my existence -- and to the reality of the time I have to give to others. To accept surrendered moments are passe. The only time I have to be grateful for and joyful in, is right now.

It is up to me to spend it wisely. To surrender with grace.

The question is: Are you over-extending yourself by committing to too many projects? Are you keeping yourself stuck in the muddy waters of filling time with things you don't want to do, or can't get to, because you are not stopping to think and assess before you commit?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Mouse Capers

When you are through changing, you are through. Bruce Barton
There is, in my view, very little more humbling than a mouse. For such a tiny creature, they sure can pack a mighty scare.

Last week, our dishwasher sprung a leak in the outtake hose. C.C. pulled the machine out, unscrewed hoses and cords and drove around the city looking for the right replacement. Amidst expletives and scraped arms and fingers, he reassembled the whole thing, plugged it in and voila! A working dishwasher.

Until Saturday morning when it sprung a leak in the hose, again.

Same procedure, this time with a couple of extra trips to the hardware store due to the wrong size of hosing and two days of dishwasher parts spread out across the kitchen floor. Yesterday, after several hours of maneuvering, the machine is once again assembled, and operational.

This morning, while making coffee, I thought I heard water dripping in the cupboard between the sink and the dishwasher. I opened the door to check and a tiny black figure scurried out of view. I screamed. Slammed the door shut and raced into the bedroom where a sleeping C.C. lay oblivious to the drama unfolding in the kitchen. Ellie watched from her mat at the foot of the bed, impervious to the seriousness of the situation.

"Eeek!" I screamed. "We have a mouse."

C.C. raised his head from the pillow. Ellie, took the opportunity to jump up on the bed and lie down.

Both of them eyed me and did nothing.

"Aren't you going to get up and look?" I asked C.C.

"Did he scurry away when you screamed?"


"Then they'll be nothing to see."

Ellie continued to eye me in the hopes I wouldn't make her get down. "You!" I said pointing my finger at her. "You're supposed to be the mouser. Go get it."

She looked at me with disdain. "I am a dog. Not a cat," she seemed to say, her face as smug as a Buddha sitting on top of a mountain.

When C.C. had first pulled out the dishwasher he suggested there could be a mouse in the cupboard. I had vehemently insisted it was impossible.

This morning, the impossible is evidently possible and I am humbled.

And now I have a dilemma. I don't like mice. I don't like killing anything. And nothing is going to change about the mouse in my cupboard until I change my attitude -- except of course that I will not be opening that cupboard until something changes about the mouse in my cupboard!

It is, only a mouse. But that mouse has a purpose in this universe. It has a reason for being here -- perhaps to teach me that all creatures, big and small, need care. Personally, I would prefer if it were living its purpose outside my kitchen. Somewhere in the back yard, perhaps, or on the other side of the fence... in my neighbours yard!

In the interim, I'm going to have to give my mind a shake. Loosen up my thinking on how to take care of the mouse in the cupboard.

I can't kill it. C.C. said he's going to buy a mousetrap today. I'll not enjoy my kitchen if we kill it. I'll always know it was there and died while there.

But.... mice carry disease and what if that mouse has some weird strain of Swine flu that will kill all of us? What if that mice is actually a descendant of Popo Gigio, the rarest of mice, a talking mouse with a sense of humour and a six figure income? What if he is the bread winner of his family and only came into my kitchen because the recessionary times have dwindled the supply of food in his world too and he's searching for sustenance the only way he can -- he did look kind of skinny in the two seconds I saw him flash before my eyes!

Oh my. What to do? What to do?

Change my attitude. Change my thinking. Change my glasses.

There are many ways to catch a mouse without killing it.

Or, I can just let it be and let C.C. take care of the whole situation so that I can pretend I had nothing to do with its death!

Or, I can dress Ellie up as a giant mouse stalking cat and put her to work.

Ahha! Now that might work...

No questions today. Just a lot of confusion of what to do with the mouse in the kitchen. What to do with my conscience and the realization that I can take myself rather seriously sometimes! But then, killing another creature is a serious situation. If everything I do causes a ripple effect, what kind of ripple am I sending out if I contribute to the untimely death of a tiny mouse.

Then again, if it were a mosquito would I experience the same angst?

Monday, May 18, 2009

My way only

We can always choose to perceive things differently. You can focus on what's wrong in your life, or you can focus on what's right. Marianne Williamson
Every morning I like to do Patricia Ryan's "Decodaquote" in the newspaper. The Decodaquote is a quote where each letter in the phrase(s) is consistently represented by another letter. i.e. R O C D -- when properly replaced could mean WHEN. Every time an R appears in the Decodaquote of that day, it is replaced with 'W'.

Usually, it only takes me a few minutes to figure it out, but Saturday's was different.

To decipher the code, I look for sequences that appear within the phrase. For example, if X L D X appears twice it's pretty safe to bet X is T, L is H and the word is THAT, especially if X L appears in a 3-letter combo such as X L P -- THE.

On Saturday however, there were no recurring themes other than one word that had repeat letters in almost a palindrome -- H K M K H C. To decipher it, I tried all sorts of combinations but kept getting stymied because the H was also the first letter of another word and the last of another. Finally, I came up with 3 possibilities. REFERS. LEVELS. ROTORS -- if it was Refers, then the next two letter word had to be 'TO'. If it was Levels the adjacent two letter word was probably 'by'. Using the code, I replaced the letters I knew in the other words of the phrase, but nothing was making sense. That's because the K was not an E -- it was an I. The word was none of the one's I thought -- it was DIVIDE.

See, I began by thinking the word had an S on the end of it. And that thought limited all my other thinking. That thought predicated how I solved the puzzle based on what I thought it 'should' be versus what it possibly could be if I expanded my thinking to include other possibilities.

Sort of like life. When I 'think' something should be some particular way, I limit my thinking to how it would work if it was that way and only that way. In my attempts to make it work according to my way of thinking, I eliminate other possibilities that might actually work or fit better.

As an example of how our belief something should happen one way, let's test how many triangles you can draw on a blank piece of paper.

Pull out a blank piece of paper and pencil -- do this now. On that piece of paper draw as many triangles as you can in thirty seconds.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Finished? How many did you draw?

Now, turn the page horizontal. Draw two parallel lines about an inch apart from the left to the right of the page. Put your pencil at the upper left hand corner between the two parallel lines and, at an angle, move to the bottom line, then up again. Continue across the page in a zig zag format until the two parallel lines are filled with triangles.

You probably got double the number of triangles on the page.

See, we 'think' that when instructed to 'draw' triangles on the page that the only way to draw a triangle is with three separate lines, and then the next triangle, and then the next.

In the second method, we weren't limited to 'how' we drew the triangles, only that we needed to draw as many as possible.

Just a different way of thinking that takes us 'outside the box' into a new way of doing it.

Often our perspective of what can be done is limited to our belief there is only one way to do it. Like me with the Decodaquote. The word 'had to be' one of the three possibilities I limited my thinking to because I thought it was a five letter word with an 's' on the end. I did try possibilities -- like the last letter could be a 'y' or a 'd', but 'y' didn't fit with the word that began with the same letter and the 'd' didn't have enough room to work because it would have had to have been an 'e' before it -- and that didn't make sense given the letter combination. I never thought of a six letter word as the solution.

Hindsight gives us the gift of perception that is missing in the moment when we contain our thinking to the narrow corridor of what we perceive to be true, versus what can be true if we get out of our perceptions of our reality.

The Decodaquote was a good lesson for me. Stuck in my way of thinking, I couldn't see the truth.

The question is: Where does your thinking limit you to perceiving reality as you want it to be not as it can possibly be true if you weren't looking at it only your way?

Saturday, May 16, 2009


The distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success. Bruce Feirstein
Have you ever said to someone when they've told you their plans, "Are you crazy? Why would you even think that's possible for you to accomplish?"

And then, when they do, think they're brilliant?

On May 21 it will be six years since the police walked in and released me from the relationship that was killing me. It seemed crazy to think I could or would write a book about an experience that was so devastating. But I did.

Yesterday, while at my chiropractor's office, one of the women who works there said, "I think your book should be mandatory reading for every young girl. It's not about the details of what happened to you, but about finding yourself after you fall down and living true to yourself."

I wrote The Dandelion Spirit for several reasons. 1) To share my story in the hopes it would touch someone else's pain and open them to the possibility of healing from an abusive relationship. 2) To write it out. To get it out on paper so that I could be freed of carrying 'the story' with me, so that I could make room for a new story. 3) To inspire people to stand up after they've fallen down and step freely into being all they can be when they love themselves for all they're worth and live true to their values, principles and beliefs. And 4) Because I wanted to. Believed I could. And believed it would add value to the world.

I've been blessed. Since it was published three years ago, The Dandelion Spirit has affected people's lives in very positive ways. It has added value. It has created possibility in lives where none existed before.

It's time to move beyond that first step and take it to a new level.

Recently, I was given the name and contact info of a publisher in New York to send my book to. I haven't done it. Yet.

What's with my hesitation?

Well, I could trot out a long list of excuses but the reality is -- I haven't done it. I am the length of rope keeping me tethered to my fear, my anxiety, my lack of will to 'get it done'. I am my own invisible, and visible, fence.

Doesn't matter the reason. What matters is the realization that it is me, myself and I holding me back, fighting with my success.

The question is: What do I want to create in my life and the world around me?

I want to create a world where spirits dance free in love, joy and harmony. I want to inspire people, to touch hearts and open minds. I want to make a difference.

And I can't do that sitting on my duff doing nothing with my book.

One thing I've learned, the Universe doesn't drive up in a golden Cadillac and say, here's your successmobile, get in.

The Universe expects me to open the door while it's parked in front of me. If I don't it will continue to flow, to drive on.

The Universe doesn't stop being full of possibility and opportunity. The Universe doesn't stop.

I do.

I wonder how many people need to come to me and say, "Louise, your book saved my life." "Thank you for sharing your story. You gave me the courage to get out of mine." "Wow. What a beautiful writer. I love the poetry of how you write. I love the courage it took to share. You inspire me."

I wonder how many people I need to hear that from before I take it seriously? Before I say, "okay, time to do what it takes to have what I want."

It's up to me.

The question is: What do you want to create in your life and the world around you? Are you willing to BE committed to DO what it takes to HAVE what you want?

Friday, May 15, 2009

What's your story?

You know what would make a good story? Something about a clown who make people happy, but inside he's real sad. Also, he has severe diarrhea. Jack Handy

When my daughters were younger we used to play a game as we drove along city streets. "See that man over by the bus stop? The one walking slowly with his shoulders hunched," I'd ask. "You've got sixty seconds to tell the story of what's happening in his life."

Quickly, one of them would 'write' the story of his life. "He just came from the doctor's office. He's worried because the doctor wants him to go for some tests and he's scared about what they'll find. Tests always scare him. Even as a kid, he hated tests. 'Someone's judging you no matter what you do,' his mother used to say. 'Tests just confirm other people's bad judgement of you,' she'd add before marking up his homework with her bright red pen. The doctor told him he doesn't think it's cancer. He wants the test to rule it out. But the man didn't hear the 'not cancer', all he hears is, 'I've gotta get a test for cancer'. And he's convinced he'll fail."

And we'd drive on with the story weaving itself until we spotted another person who inspired a different story.

Outside my office window the world unfolds every day. The man comes out of a white house across the street, walks to his red car, unlocks the driver's door, opens it and climbs in. His walk is purposeful. No time to check out the grass. To listen to the birds. He's got places to go. His wife exits the house, locks the front door, hurries towards the car. She takes tiny steps, balances her coat, two large tote bags, one red, one black, and a purse between her hands. She reaches out for the passenger handle behind the front seat and quickly throws her bags into the back seat. Slam! she shuts the door, opens the front passenger door, climbs in and they drive away.

Their yard is pristine. I often see them outside raking, cleaning up debris, tidying up flower beds in the hope of spring's bounty. When the snows were melting, they lifted off the piled snow and spread it across the lawn. Snow they'd piled up during winter's snowfall. At first I thought, "How fascinating. All that work of shovelling snow only to spread it out again." And then I realized, "How smart." They're spreading the moisture across their lawn in preparation of the grasses need in the spring. Using nature's bounty wisely.

A woman walks past my window every morning. She's on her way to work. Dress pants. Coiffed hair. She has a happy step. A lightness to her gait. She steps onto the heels of her feet, rolls forward and bounces up. Her arms swing. The hem of her 3/4 length dark blue coat with shiny brass buttons swings. The large bright blue bag she carries over one shoulder swings with her.

She walks away and the space in front of my window is filled with a woman walking her Cocker Spaniel on the other side of the street. She too is dressed for work from head to ankles. White running shoes encase her feet. She walks as quickly as her old shambling dog can shuffle. He always stops at the corner where the walk from the white house of the man and lady with the red car meets the sidewalk. He always sniffs. She always waits a moment then tugs gently on his leash to get him moving. He pulls back. She bends down to ruffle the fur behind one ear. He moves on. Her walk is slower. More confined. She keeps her head down, her eyes facing the sidewalk in front of her. The memory of winter's treachery still in her mind, she watches for patches of ice waiting to trip her up.

A man jogs by. Tall. Heavy built. I can see the shadow of his nighttime beard. His gait lumbers. He runs from his hips. Long stride. Feet planting heavily, heel to toe on the sidewalk, no bounce. Hips jerk side to side. His shoulders are tight. His arms swing from the post of his upper body like a washing machine rotating clothes. Two jerks to the left. Jerk. Jerk. Pause. Two jerks to the right. Jerk. Jerk. He keeps his eyes focused straight ahead.

An elderly lady walks by. Bright pink coat. Milk white hair spilling out from the edges of her cream coloured hat. It forms a halo around her face as she steps into the sun streaming towards her from the east. She walks quickly. A purposeful stride. Morning exercise to stem the flow of time eating at long lost youth, curbing ages erosion of her well-being. She's committed to good health. Good eating. Good living.

Outside my window, the world flows by. I can make up stories about how it's flowing, about the people in the flow of life and create wonder in my world about all the stories around me. Or I can sit and pretend the world is confined to my keyboard in front of me, the screen flickering in the early morning light.

I imagine the story in the white house across the street with the organized couple. Their tidy life unfolds with the precision of a Swiss watch. They are content. Satisfied with life. Their retirement planned. No surprises expected. But surprises happen anyway. They take them in their stride. Little need for discourse. It's just life.

Expect the unexpected and you won't be disappointed.

Expect the unexpected and greet it with surprise and you'll always be excited.

Yesterday, I expected to spend several hours of my day working on a report due for Tuesday. Yesterday, the unexpected kept popping into my office. An unscheduled meeting detailing some changes at the shelter where I work that, while anticipated, are unfolding in an unexpected way, sooner than expected. Some great opportunities for change. A phone call asking for help on a committee. Unexpected honour declined. A donor coming in to drop off a cheque, stopping in my office to offer her services to set up a literary program. A welcome intrusion. An unexpected gift that took an hour out of the expected unfolding of my day. A happy surprise.

That's life.

Can't make up for spent time. It's a non-renewable resource. It evaporates with every passing second. I count the minutes in my day. Add up the column of things accomplished. Subtract the total of items left undone.

The value isn't in the difference between accomplished and undone. The value of my day is the worth I brought to each moment. The joy I sprinkled on each encounter. The story I wrote as I passed through time's continuum, in stride with the world around me, taking detours. Passing road blocks. Leaping tall buildings. Falling into anticipation. Soaring into jubilation.

Watching the people pass by my window, I take pleasure in witnessing their stride through life, that brief moment of seeing them in my view and the moment of a story born, fading away as they pass by.

Life is in the journey. The journey is comprised of the stories we tell that fill up the time of our lives.

I can make up a story for anyone, but the real stories that make a difference in my life are the one's I tell myself that make a difference in how I pass the time of day.

The question is: What's your story?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Invisible Fences

There is only one cause of unhappiness: the false beliefs you have in your head, beliefs so widespread, so commonly held, that it never occurs to you to question them. Anthony de Mello
To train an elephant, a keeper chains one leg of a baby elephant by a rope to a tree trunk or some large object that it cannot move. No matter how hard or much the baby elephant pulls, it cannot move the object. Eventually, the elephant gives up trying to move the stump and the keeper can move the elephant anywhere it wants simply by attaching the chain to a small piece of wood. The size and strength of the elephant is irrelevant. It believes it cannot move beyond the length of its rope. It is limited by and to its belief.

When I was in an abusive relationship I believed everything I did was limited to what he told me I could do, say, think, feel, be. In my belief that he had the right to control me, I was limited in my ability to move beyond his abuse. In my belief that I was powerless to change what he was doing in my life, I was chained to his abuse.

When I was born, my possibilities were limitless. As I grew, I became defined by the limits of the world around me, my family of origin, my environment, my inherent personality traits. Those limits confined me to believing I could, or could not, do certain things.

These limiting beliefs are like invisible fences. They confine us to the living, doing, being who we 'think' we need to be, limited by our fear of living, doing, being all that we imagine.

Invisible fences are like an electric pet fence. You can't see it, but try to cross the line and you receive a big shock. The initial shock forces you back. Again and again and again. Dogs don't believe they can get through the shock of crossing over, so, they quit trying.

Humans have the capacity to know that the fence shock is not strong enough to kill you, it's meant to deter you from breaking through. -- you can get through. It's just a matter of will.

But, too often, we give up, give in, give into the belief that this line, this invisible fence is our limit. We tell ourselves, "I can't take anymore. It's too much for me. I can't do it. I'm too short, too tall, too thin, too fat, too stupid, too old, too young, too weak."

Do something every day that you're afraid of doing.

Cross a line. Push beyond a limit. Drive through a barrier. Overcome a fear.

Speak up in a meeting when you usually stay silent. Make a phone call you've been avoiding. Write down your goals. Tell yourself "I love me" in the mirror. Wear a red hat. Wear mis-matched socks. And don't explain yourself! Don't excuse yourself for 'being different', for doing it different or for shaking yourself up. Do it. Don't excuse it!

Don't let 'I can't do that', or 'that's just not me' thinking hold you back. Break out! Break through the invisible fences that would keep you confined to the safe and narrow path of your comfort zones.

They're not comfortable! In fact, they're down right uncomfortable, you're just used to them.

Untether yourself from the belief you cannot move beyond the length of the limiting beliefs of your past. Set yourself free to live and do and be all that you imagine.

It's your human right. It's the gift of your brilliance.

Shed some light on the darkness of your fears and get shining!

The question is: Are you like the elephant? Are you willing to use your will to move you beyond the length of the rope keeping you tied to your limiting beliefs?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Beneath the surface

You must learn to be still in the midst of activity and to be vibrantly alive in repose. Eric Allenbaugh
There is a story about a man walking down the street who comes upon a hole and falls into it. He eventually climbs out and continues on his way. The next day, he walks down the same street, sees the hole and alas, falls into it again. The following day, he walks down the same street, sees the hole, stops, and in the process of avoiding it, falls in again. The fourth day, he walks down the same street and takes a wide berth of the hole and misses it. On the fifth day, he walks down a different street.

When I was a little girl I was filled with wild enthusiasms, sparks of imagination and bursts of creativity. I was seldom quiet, was in constant motion and asked questions continuously.

A favourite game was to time me to see how long I could stay quiet without asking a question. I usually lost.

In an effort to gain peace from my constant chatter, my family chided me for being so noisy, so bubbly, so chatty. Dinner table talk centered around my father's opinions and my brother's counterpoints. There wasn't much room for a girl to butt in, though I tried. Inevitably, I'd end up swallowing my tears, forcing a smile upon my face and pretending I wasn't bothered by their ribbing.

Smiling, swallowing and staying silent became a habit. A not particularly healthy one, but one that kept me feeling 'safe', even when stepping into danger.

Breaking childhood habits, reordering traits, and rearranging responses is a prerequisite of a happy adulthood.

It's also, at times, hard work.

You can take the childishness out of the adult but you can't make the childhood disappear.

My pattern of dysfunction around 'criticism' leaped into the forefront of my mind the other night when Liseanne, my youngest daughter, and I went to a reading that her sister, Alexis, was participating in. After the reading, I was goofing around, pretending to mimic Alexis' character in the play by speaking in a funny accent. As we walked down the stairs from the rehearsal hall, I chattered away. Alexis, conscious of the people on the stairs below us, hushed me up. "Mum. That's rude." she said.

My response was triggered by a long ago pattern of feeling less than, of feeling hushed as a child. I shut up. I sulked.

Not a pretty pattern. Not a particularly constructive nor productive behaviour.

Awareness is the first step in changing any habit, in breaking patterns.

I am aware that my response to any criticism from my daughters triggers my feelings of childhood angst, of feeling belittled and mocked. Of being silenced when all I wanted to do was laugh or play or talk.

Has nothing to do with the circumstances I'm encountering today and everything to do with the trigger points within me.

Martial arts master Sang H. Kim suggest we, "Practice change. Change your hairstyle, change your breakfast cereal, change your jogging route."

Changing how I perceive criticism begins with practicing accepting criticism in an open state. To be open I must Breathe and ask to be open. To expand, not contract.

Coming down those stairs I let down a wall that was holding me back from being all I desire to be. In my push to 'be funny' I was doing the very thing I had experienced as a child -- ridiculing the efforts of the people I love. Alexis worked hard on her role in the reading. This was a big opportunity for her. In my teasing, I was mocking what she did. And, I was embarrassing her by offending strangers with my imitation of the language of the play that happened to be part of their cultural heritage.

I don't have that right.

On the surface, the pattern here is not my response to Alexis' criticism. It is my effort to 'be funny' and feeling like I was not allowed to 'be me'. Beneath the superficiality of 'being me' is a deeper, darker need. My desire to be seen, heard, witnessed, honoured and cherished.

As a child, I acted out to gain attention.

As an adult, I sometimes do the same.

Time to break the pattern. Shift it up and switch it around. Time to act in ways that honour who I am and what I want to create in the world around me. As my friend CS often asks, "What's the ripple you're creating with that?"

It's time to quit throwing stones into the calm waters of life and start sitting quietly in the stream of life flowing in and around, over and under me. It's time to be become the stream, let go of damming up the flow and become vibrantly alive in the repose of being me, exactly the way I am, without fearing no one 'sees me'.

The question is: Are you conscious of the habits that create your ripple on the surface of your life? Are you digging deeper into the flow to find the patterns that create the ruffled surfaces in your journey?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Breaking out

Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way. Edward de Bono
Eggs break. Ice breaks. Hearts break. Dawn breaks. Robbers break in and convicts break out. Cars break down. Business breaks even. We break out the good crystal and break up fights. We break off relations and break through barriers.

In a world of seeming permanence, we are constantly breaking. Open, into, up and down. Breaking out of situations we never imagined possible. Breaking into laughter. Breaking down in tears. Breaking.

Einstein said he was so fascinated with science not because of science but rather because he wanted to understand God. He wanted to break open the secrets of the Universe to be closer to God. In the process he broke open the vault of impossibility and made the impossible happen.

Every morning I drive to my office along my standard route. Some mornings I remember to keep my eyes peeled for the unusual, the beautiful, the moving on my journey, but generally, I get into the routine of driving to work, always taking the same route.

Yesterday morning, I decided to shake it up. To travel a different route -- without worrying that it would take me three whole more minutes than my standard path. Where normally I would drive straight, I veered to the right, followed the serpentine road under the freeway into the downtown core and turned left then right to take the route that follows the river.

The flowing water sparkled in the sunlight. Ducks bobbed on rippling waves. Trees blossomed, their fragile buds creating a filigree of green against the blue sky above. Birds fluttered in every branch. At one point, an oncoming car and I had to stop to allow a Canada Goose to waddle across the road between us. We both smiled and waved as the Goose cleared the intersection and we continued on our way in opposite directions.

Two people lifted up by the theatre of the absurd in a Goose Crossing.

As I pulled into our parkade I felt lighter. Less focused on my day ahead but rather content in the moment I was experiencing.

I had broken out of a pattern of driving and being that I had unconsciously assumed some months before. Get in car. Back out of driveway. Drive down lane way. Turn left where it meets main road. Turn right at intersection. Continue north to 26th ave. Drive east. Blah blah blah blah blah.

I was driving to work in autopilot. My mind sifting through things to do, places to be, people to speak to in the hours ahead. In my autopilot I was locked into a way of being that was restricting my movement. I was missing the joy in the moment of being on my path.

The question is: Are you willing to break out of your established patterns to see the world from a new perspective? Are you willing to break open your box to get to the other side?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

On being a mother.

It is not until you become a mother than your judgment slowly turns to compassion and understanding. Erma Brombeck
I never had the intention of becoming a mother. After two failed attempts, and doctors' assurances that motherhood was not in my physiology, my then husband and I committed ourselves to our lives as DINKs (Dual Income No Kids). So it was with mixed heart that I received the news in 1985 that I was pregnant.

How could it be? I was commuting from my office in Toronto back to Calgary every weekend. I was training for a marathon and training myself for the impending singlehood that appeared to be looming like a dark, ominous cloud on my wedded horizon. My marriage was straining at the seams, both of us searching for an answer to what was keeping us apart over and above the physical distance of my 3,000 mile weekly commute.

Pregnancy changed all that. Particularly, this one.

Convinced I was having a third ectopic, we raced to the hospital one night only to discover, surgery was required. "It appears to be a cyst," the doctor told me after the operation that gave my belly another smile.

"I believe I'm pregnant," I told him.

"No. You're not."

I love it when I'm right.

With womb in motion, and risk factors high, I was confined to bed for three months. My girlfriend with whom I'd been staying in Toronto packed up the few belongings I'd transferred to her home and shipped them back to Calgary as I settled into my marital bed.

"Oh my," everyone said, aware of my Type A personality. "Bed rest! This will drive you crazy."

"It could if I let it," I replied and promptly decided that if I was to be in bed for three months I had one of two options. 1) To hate it. 2) To relish the opportunity to rest and nurture the tiny seed of life growing within me.

It was the most amazing three months I had experienced to date. I indulged myself in bed. Reading, writing, watching movies. I borrowed every book the library had on pregnancy, child birth and child rearing. I bought books on mother/daughter relations and how to heal the past to be the best mother today. I devoured every book, making lists of ideas to remember when my child was one and two and twenty-three. I marked passages in yellow highlight for my then husband to read. And while he opted not to delve into the copious notes and treatises I highlighted for him, he did humour me by watching chick flicks late into the night and ensuring I had an endless supply of Caesar Salad, which happened to be my biggest craving throughout my pregnancy.

Through it all I worried. What would I be like as a mother. I feared I wasn't ready. I wasn't old enough, (at 32 who was I kidding?) I wasn't wise enough. Mature enough. Stable enough. As the tiny seed within my womb took root and grew, I worried I wasn't capable of being entrusted with such a gift. As tiny feet beat a delicate tattoo against my abdomen, I worried I didn't have what it took to be a mother. As my womb swelled my fears grew that my fractious relationship with my mother would carry-over into my daughter's life. The medical pundits hadn't confirmed I was carrying a girl-child, but I knew within my heart that she was a she and I worried that I would mess up her life just as I had messed up mine so many times in the past.

Before I became a mother, I never imagined being one. I didn't think I had what it took. Pregnant, I would stand in the mirror and search my eyes for an iota of maternal instinct, bemoaning its absence, continually seeking some sign that would say -- it's okay, you're meant to be a mother.

Women would tell me it would come. That nothing could prepare me for the moment of birth. That in that instant I would feel it, know it, be consumed by it.

And I never believed them. Scoffed at the idea that I would succumb to the folklore of their telling.

And then she arrived. A tiny precious miracle of life and in one instant I went from being an almost mother with no maternal instinct, to being deeply, completely, totally in love, my entire being consumed with this child. Like a tale from the body snatchers my mind was taken over.

And everything changed. And I didn't care. In one instant I could not imagine not being a mother. With one beat of my heart I became the mama bear. Fierce. Ferocious. Protective. Committed to caring for this vulnerable, helpless infant who lay in my arms.

Twenty-three years after the birth of my first daughter, I know that becoming a mother is the most important thing I have ever done in my life. I know that no amount of money, education, success, or possessions could ever compare to the absolute truth of motherhood. In becoming a mother, I have become the woman I have always wanted to be. Raising my daughters has challenged me, confounded me, frightened me, exasperated me. It's caused my hair to turn grey (okay so age has also helped). It's given me sleepless nights and countless episodes of indigestion and heartburn. Having worried I wouldn't have what it took to be a mother, I've worried whether or not my daughters would love me as their mother.

And, amidst all the turmoil and the angst, I've been granted the gift of sight. The ability to see into myself, to forgive myself, to strengthen myself and to love myself so that I can be all that I am meant to be.

It is the dichotomy of motherhood. You are never free of your children, yet, to be a good mother, you must become free of fearing your enslavement. You must become courageous enough to be the woman of your dreams, so that they can grow up to be the person you always dreamt they'd be when they became exactly who they want to be, not who you want them to become.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Angels Share

Of course, all great whiskies have some kind of magic to them, and who's to say that this doesn't come from the angels?... It would no doubt be possible to make a container the angels couldn't get into, but you wouldn't get anything like the same result.
Last night C.C. and I attended a Scotch tasting event hosted by my daughter's boyfriend, Jesse. I've never been to a whiskey tasting before. Never been much of a Scotch aficionado for that matter. But Scotch is one of those drinks that connects me back through time to my childhood, to my father of the deep passions and dark poetic soul. Of Gaelic roots, Scotch was my father's favourite drink.

Whenever someone came to our home to visit, how they 'took' their whiskey determined the whiskey my father served them. "You don't want to waste the good stuff on someone who's going to mix it," he'd say, reaching for the (as he called it, 'pedestrian of Scotch's') Johnny Walker Red Label. He didn't mind adding a wee drop of water, but Coca Cola? Sacrilegious! My father liked to quote Mark Twain who is attributed as having said, "Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over."

Legend has it that when the Scotch is aged, it is the angels who consume the 2% that evaporates every year from the casks.

I wonder if the angels fight over whose whiskey they get to enjoy? Do the more experienced angels get the higher quality brands? Do the newbies have to tuck in their wings as they settle into a vat of 'pedestrian' Scotch?

It was a fun and enlightening evening. I was one woman amongst twelve men but never felt overwhelmed within the circle of testosterone surrounding me. I thought of trying on my Mae West persona and disarming 'my boys' with my wicked lustful joy, but opted instead to simply sit back and enjoy the wicked lustfulness of the Scotches arrayed before me. Wise choice. The lustfulness of each drop ignited my senses and stirred my Gaelic soul.

We sat around the oak table in the tasting room of Bin 905, a local wine shop where Jesse works, the tabletop covered with baskets of bread, carafes of water and strategically placed glasses for spitting out the Scotch. In front of each of us, six crystal snifters shone, a 'wee drab' of Scotch in the bottom of each. Jesse enthralled us with his knowledge of the drink and its rich heritage, ensuring every moment was filled with the tradition that embues the spirit with its Gaellic charms and lusty lore.

I can understand how the Angels could not resist the lure of what has been called in days of yore, "aqua vitae". The aromas wafting around me were irresistible. Smoky bogs and peat moss burning on the glen. The sweet scent of heather strewn meadows and honey suckle intermingled with salty brine of casks aged upon rocky shores in fresh sea air and sherry notes topped with vanilla and caramel.

I've never considered there could be angels flying high in their cups -- but after last night's tastings, I can no longer scoff at the possibility. Scotch is the nectar of the spirit world. The gods may have consumed their mead but higher up the ecclesiastic pyramid of potables, the angels flutter their wings in anticipation of a wee drab of nature's bounty.

It is in the smallest of moments that the angels open their wings and sigh in contentment. In their expansion our beings resonate in harmony, opening our heartstrings to possibility.

Last night, after the tasting was over, the delicacies of the cheese tray consumed and chocolate bites quit melting on grateful tongues, C.C. and I sat and chatted with two men who had stayed to linger. It was a moment filled with satisfaction and the sense of joy that comes from having shared in something special, in something beyond the realm of normal every day.

One of the gentlemen is the principle of the school where C.C.'s daughter attends high school. We started talking about the art and theatre event she'd held at the shelter where I work and one thing led to another. His compatriot at the tasting is an artist, a former instructor at the art school here, and keenly interested in giving back to the community.

"Why don't you drop in and take a look at our art studio?" I asked him.

And so, a new alliance is formed. Business cards exchanged hands with the heartfelt and fully intentioned commitment to be in touch and the angels smiled from on high.

Possibilities open. Horizons expand and life continues to weave itself through the gentle warp of living in the realm of wonder of the world around me.

As David Daiches wrote in Scotch Whisky in 1969, "Proper drinking of Scotch whisky is more than indulgence: it is a toast to civilization, a tribute to the continuity of culture, a manifesto of man’s determination to use the resources of nature to refresh mind and body and enjoy to the full the senses with which he has been endowed."

I enjoyed myself to the fullness of my senses last night. It was a grand event where even the angels got their share of wonder.

Friday, May 8, 2009

A question of beauty.

Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart. Kahlil Gibran
Today is, "We'll Show You Beauty Day." Created in 2000 by New Moon Magazine in response to People Magazine's publication of the 'world's 50 most beautiful people', We'll Show You Beauty Day celebrates the beauty within all of us. We'll Show You Beauty Day asks each of us to celebrate the beauty beneath the surface by bringing it out and letting it sparkle in the light of day.

I thought it appropriate to celebrate today as yesterday, my eldest daughter, Alexis, and I had a long discussion over lunch about beauty. How it affects us. Its perceived gifts and burdens.

Alexis is a beautiful young woman. Clear, alabaster skin, delicate features, deep dark eyes, petite frame. No matter where she goes, someone inevitably will say, "Oh my, you are so beautiful."

"But someone could also say, 'you're ugly'," she told me yesterday over our favourite pear and Gorgonzola pizza at Cilantro.

"Who has ever said you're ugly?" I asked.

"A girl in school once told me that," she said. "She told me I was stupid and ugly."

"Then she didn't 'see' you," I replied. "She only saw what she wanted to see."

Ultimately, someone else's opinion of me is none of my business. Just as, whether or not the world thinks I'm beautiful is not really all that relevant to my life -- Am I beautiful in my heart for me? Am I sharing my essence with love and grace? Now that's important and relevant.

Growing up I was often told I was beautiful. It was an uncomfortable position. Being beautiful didn't sit very easily on my skin nor my psyche. In my family of origin being beautiful was almost a curse. "Don't be vain," was the oft spoken admonition from my mother if one of us spent time looking in the mirror. Other than my brother of course who out of the four kids, (3 girls, 1 boy) spent an inordinate amount of time fussing about his appearance in the mirror.

Beauty was a double edged sword in our home. We all had it. But the fear of others taking it from us abounded. "Boys only want one thing," my mother would remind us. "Just because you're pretty doesn't mean people like you."

My eldest sister won several 'beauty pageants' in her teens. My parents held those photos in great esteem, displaying one in particular on the living room wall for years. It still hangs in my mother's apartment fifty plus years later.

Today, my sister is still beautiful, but her beauty doesn't come from a crown of tiny fake diamonds on her head or a ribbon strung from her shoulder. Her beauty comes from within. From her caring heart, her gracious ways, her generosity and kindness.

Alexis is beautiful to behold. It cannot be denied. As a young actor, beauty, like youth, is a great asset. She didn't ask for her exotic looks. She didn't ask to be beautiful. It is just part of her. An appendage which, like an arm or leg, plays a role in how she moves through her day. It's up to her, to me, to all of us, to use our gifts and talents and our appendages, to create value in our world, no matter in what regard the world holds our face. It's up to each of us to create beauty in everything we do and say, in how we are in the world. It's about how we look at life and treasure our journey, not how we look while travelling along the road.

As a young woman, I struggled with my beauty. Did people see me? The person? The being beneath the pretty face, the big brown eyes and perfect smile? Did they actually care about the me inside or just the fact I was easy to look at and looked good to be around?

In my struggle to figure out how people saw me, I spent a lot of time thinking about what other people thought of me and not enough time being who I wanted to be. In my fixation on other people's thinking, I limited my ability to be me. I bought into the myth that how I look is more important than how I behave or who I am within me. I kept looking for my value in what other people thought or how they treated me. People didn't undermine my sense of worth, I did.

It's the challenge of being considered, 'beautiful' beyond the norm of everyday life. To acknowledge it is to be thought conceited. To deny it is considered false modesty. I had no tools to carry it with grace.

Growing into my face has taken a lifetime of building up of character from the inside out. Today, my beauty appears on my skin in delicately etched lines that speak to the life within me and the life I've lived. My 'character lines' express the beauty of my character within me. They show the laughter that has lifted me up and the tears that have spoken the words my heart did not know how to speak.

Beauty is not heavy when it radiates from a heart that is broken open in love. Beauty is simply the value I create when I stand true to all I am and share with open arms and loving heart all that is wondrously divine and inspiring in my world today.

In the wise poetry of Rumi, I find my answer, "Let the beauty we love be what we do."

Let me love myself enough to be beautiful in all I do.

The question is: Do you judge yourself in the mirror, looking for something you're not or denying something you are? Are you willing to be the beauty you want to create in the world?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Listening without judging

There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception. Aldous Huxley
Yesterday, I gave a talk to a group of police officers. It's a 'sensitivity training' program designed to open dialogue about homelessness and to bridge the gap between their perceptions and the reality of homelessness from the service providers perception.

The concept of this training program came through my work with the police service towards building bridges of understanding, to create a more -- we are in this together perspective versus the 'us against them' position we often assume.

The first time I went to talk to officers my goal was to inform them about the services we provide at the shelter where I work. I walked in expecting the presentation to be just like every other presentation I've given -- open, caring people wanting to learn about the shelter and the people we serve.

I was quickly disabused of that notion. The officers were vocal, strident and almost hostile in their attitudes towards homeless citizens.

I was, to say the least, surprised. Couldn't they see these individuals through my eyes? The anger, the frustration, the hopelessness they felt concerned me. How could I reach them if their belief system about who 'the homeless' are is so different than mine?

I quickly learned, the best way to understand was to open my mind to hearing what they had to say. Dousing them with my facts, my reality, my beliefs was not effective -- they didn't want to hear what I had to say, they wanted me to listen to them.

So, I shut up and listened.

From that first meeting I have learned a great deal about the value of acknowledging someone else's position.

A police officer's encounters with homeless citizens is not based on the 'how can I serve you model' of care givers. Often adversarial, often performed under the worst of circumstances, when individuals are either acting out or breaking the law, their encounters are fraught with the reality that they carry a firearm - and they must under all circumstances protect their gun.

An interesting concept I had not considered until yesterday when we were discussing the benefits of the officers walk-throughs of the shelter. Some months ago we had invited the police service to send officers in to the shelter to get to know our staff and clients better. Our goal was to deter drug dealers from infiltrating the building by having random walk-throughs that would discourage their trying to do their business on site.

"I feel it is one of the most dangerous places for me to be," said one of the officers.

I was surprised. Dangerous? We generally have a staff to client ratio of 1:50, or 1:75. Our staff wear vests and, other than a radio and 'panic button' which immediately sounds an alarm in security if they are under duress, carry no weapons. We have very few instances of physical violence.

"Dangerous? How so?" I asked.

"We are two officers amongst two to three hundred people, the majority of whom are not happy to see us there or simply don't like us. If we are swarmed, we must, at all costs, protect our firearms. And I sure don't want a gun fight in the shelter. Someone will be hurt. "

"If someone were to get my gun, the reality is, we're no more bullet proof than the other guy," added his partner. "No matter how much we pretend to be."

I had never considered the walk-throughs as 'life or death' situations.

"I often feel like staff resent us being there and would like to thwart our walking through," another officer chimed in. "They'll tell us we can't go into the men's washroom on the second floor or that we can't stay. I wonder why we even bother to go in?"

A case of miscommunication. Of different perspectives not seeing the same thing.

To our staff, the officers have walked the measure of the law in their walk-throughs but have done little to create 'warmer' relations between staff and clients. We can't figure out why they're so 'stern' and/or unfriendly when they come through.

I'd never considered the aspect of their fear of 'crowd mentality' or the danger of being so outnumbered as part of their psyche.

It was a good lesson in the value of asking questions to understand, not to judge. With that information I now have an opportunity to open our staff's minds to a reality they too have not considered -- that police officers feel at risk on both personal and professional levels when coming into a crowd that generally holds hostile feelings towards them. That, their coldness is not based on a mentality that says -- I've got the gun. I'm boss. Show me the criminals and I'll get them out of here, but rather, from a sense that they're not wanted there in the first place.

The question is: Where do your rigid beliefs about what someone else is doing hold you back from testing your perceptions against their reality? Have you asked questions to understand what's going on for them? Have you opened your mind and listened without judging?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Happy, just because.

It isn't what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about. Dale Carnegie
I was surprised to read some happiness facts this morning that got me to wondering -- why are so many people in the world unhappy?
  • Americans consider happiness more important to them than money, moral goodness, and even going to Heaven.* King. L. A. & Napa, C. K. (1998). What makes a life good? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 156-165
  • On average, Americans are only 69 percent happy. Seligman, M.E.P, 2002, Authentic Happiness, New York: Free Press
  • The world population is, on average, less than 65 percent happy. World Values Survey, 1995-1997
  • 37 percent of the people on Forbes list of Wealthiest Americans are less happy than the average American. Diener, E. Horowitz, J. & Emmons, R. A. (1985). Happiness of the very wealthy. Social Indicators Research, 16, 263-274.
  • Fourteen percent of the nations on Earth are less than fifty percent happy.
    Deiner E., Fujita F., & Sandvik E. (1994) What subjective well-being researchers can tell emotion researchers about affect. In N. Frijda (Ed.). Proceedings of the 8th meeting of the International Society for Research on Emotions (pp. 30-35), Storrs, CT: ISRE Publications

Thousands of years ago, Aristotle wrote, "Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence."

It makes me happy just thinking about the fact that something someone wrote so long ago still exists in our literature today.

It doesn't take a lot to make me aware of my happiness.

  • Lying in bed listening to the birds twitter outside the window.
  • Rolling over and seeing C.C's sleeping face beside me.
  • Hearing Ellie's footsteps, where ever she is in the house
  • Knowing Ellie is sleeping on her mat at the end of our bed
  • The smell of fresh ground coffee in the morning
  • The blue sky up above
  • The feel of cool cotton sheets against my skin
  • The smell of clean sheets
  • Opening the front door and finding the newspaper on the doorstep
  • The site of a black squirrel hopping across the grass outside my window
  • The silence of the house at sleep in the morning
  • The laughter of my daughters
  • The sound of T.C. playing his guitar

and the list goes on....

The benefits of increased happiness are substantial. Researchers have found that people who are happier are more likely to live longer, have more rewarding and successful jobs, be more cooperative, sociable and charitable, have stronger immune systems and experience less depression, suicide and paranoia... to name a few!

Happiness levels can be adjusted. To 'be happy' we need to adjust our attitude. Shake up our thinking. We need to focus on what makes our life rich and vibrant versus what detracts from feelings of goodness throughout our day.

So, here's my invitation to you today. Stop and think about your happiness. Are you feeling, happy or sad? If you're sad, remember to Breathe. Open yourself up, do not contract. Breathe. Be aware of what's going on in your body and Breathe.

Keep a list during the day of things that make you happy.

C.C. just woke up and came into my office to give me a good-morning kiss. That makes me happy!

Ellie padded along behind him, butted his thigh when she didn't get her attention too! My smile makes me feel happy.

A bunny just hopped across the road, bounding off to some agenda I have no idea about.

See, in just a few moments of sitting at my desk, happiness infused my being.

Start your list. Keep it with you all day long and get in touch with your happiness. If your thoughts turn to monkey chatter, "I have no idea what makes me happy. How can I feel happy when I just lost my job. What's there to be happy about. What a silly idea. I don't care about being happy..." make a note of your distress, and smooth it over with a happy thought.

Don't let the unhappies rob you of the gift of joy.

We all deserve to be happy. And if we're not, we're still 100% accountable for our journey through life. I'd rather my contribution to the world around me be filled with love and laughter than sorrow and tears. If I'm unhappy, it's up to me to do something about it, because, whatever I'm feeling, I affect the world around me.

My prayer today: Let my impact be a wave of joy that resonates in the lives I touch creating ripples of well-being throughout my day.

Here's to a day of budding happiness. Of overflowing cups frothing with abundance, sprinkled with joy and infused with love.

The question is: Are you willing to do something about your mood today? Are you willing to claim joy as your state of being and if necessary, change your state by bringing your awareness to what's good in your world today?