Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Change one thing

Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action. Benjamin Disraeli
I am feeling happy this morning. The sky is blue. Birds twitter and tweet in the pine tree outside my office window. Ellie is lying on the rug behind my desk. The morning unfolds and I awaken in its embrace opening me up to possibility.

Happiness. That sweet nectar of life flowing in my being. Joyful. Peaceful. Replete. I feel happy. My happy thoughts create a sense of well-being around me.

We each have a 'happiness set-point' that is genetically imprinted on our DNA. According to the American Happiness Association, (AHA), in a study by Tellegen and associates conducted comparing twins reared apart and together, this set-point was attributed to account for 50% of our happiness disposition(1). Life the cup half-full or half-empty, our set-point, can be raised by our actions, thoughts and the world around us.

Want to be happier?

Get busy doing things that make you feel better about yourself, that make a difference in the world around you. Get thinking about yourself in ways that honour your beauty, get thinking about yourself in love.

Yesterday, I loaded the video of Ben E. King's Stand by Me, which we created at the shelter where I work. Working on this project made me happy. It also made everyone we worked with happy too, including the director who had lost his wife of twenty-eight years to cancer during the filming. "This project was a God-send to me," he told me one day as we sat in the editing suite. "I feel better listening and watching it. It has given me something positive to focus on at a time I desperately needed it."

Last night I sent the you.tube link to all our staff at the shelter, as well as to people in my contact list. It was wonderful to hear back from people I don't communicate with very often. It made me happy!

Last night, my daughters invited me to join them for yoga. It made me happy to spend time with them doing something we all enjoy. In my gratitude of time with them, and time meditating in yoga, I felt happy.

In a newsletter published by AHA! they suggest, if you are not feeling particularly happy in this moment -- Change one thing.

If your face is feeling tight. Smile.

If your body is tense. Consciously relax.

Make a list of things you like to do and ask yourself, am I doing enough of this? If not, what's holding you back? Can you fit it into your day today? If you like gardening, can you go out and water your plants every morning before going to work? If you like walking, can you go out for a ten minute walk every morning before starting your day?

If the news makes you unhappy, turn off the news for a day. Don't watch TV. Don't read the paper.

If you lie on the couch every night watching two or three hours (or more as is the case in most Canadian homes), turn off the TV and go for a walk with your loved ones, or play a game. Do something different to rev up your happiness set-point -- and your intimacy level with those you love.

Is your bedroom closet cluttered? How about de-cluttering? Put on some wild and crazy music -- Liseanne my youngest daughter used to clean her room to opera music blaring -- dance and clean at the same time. Get wild.

Do you love to bake? How about baking some cookies and taking them to the senior's residence down the street, or sharing them with a neighbour? The act of baking married with the goodwill of sharing will raise your happiness set-point.

Change one thing.

Look at your life today and ask yourself -- what one thing can I change that will raise the bar on my happiness today?

And then do it!

Happiness is a state of mind that is strengthened in our gratitude for all we have. If all you can do today is make a gratitude list, Do It Now! Write a list of five things you are grateful for.

This morning, my gratitude list is:
  1. I have a computer I can type on, the ability to write, and people I connect with through my writing.
  2. I have a warm cup of coffee -- yummy!
  3. I have a job I love to go to.
  4. A man I love who loves me.
  5. A family who are outstanding!
  6. Two daughter whom love to spend time with me.
  7. A painting I'm working on that brings me joy.
  8. A home of my own.
  9. A car to carry me around.
  10. Good health and well-being.
  11. Eyes to see the beauty of the world around me.
  12. An email from a friend I haven't heard from in awhile.
  13. Friends who are incredibly giving and kind and caring.

And I could go on. Get the picture? Gratitude is the starting point of all that makes me happy. As my friend Joe wrote to me yesterday, I believe that expressing gratitude - to ourselves and to those around us - may be the perfect expression of self love. Wouldn't it be wonderful to live there all the time?

Yes, it would. Living there is a choice. Gratitude is the road we walk to get there.

The question is: What's one thing you can change today to raise your happiness set-point? Are you willing to let yourself be happy by being the change you want to have in your life?

(1) Tellegen, A., Lykken, D.T., Bouchard, T.J., Wilcox, K.J., Segal, N.L., and Rich, S. (1988). Personality similarity in twins reared apart and together. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 1031-39

Monday, June 29, 2009

Gratitude

Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude. Denis Waitley
When I give talks to schools about homelessness and working at a shelter, I always ask, "Who here wants to make a difference in the world?" Hands go up and we talk about what it means to make a difference.

I believe we all want to make a difference. Big or small, we all want to believe that what we do and who we are has a significance in the world around us. While we may not have the power to change the world, we can contribute in positive ways to the world around us, adding value to our environment by cherishing each moment as a gift of time to be filled with 'love, grace and gratitude'.

On Friday, a client walked into my office just as I was leaving for a meeting. "I don't need much time," he said as he closed the door and stood in front of me. "I just want to say thank you. I got the cheque. For my taxes. The money's in my account. I stopped by a travel agency to ask about a flight home for Christmas. She told me to come back in August 'cause the sales should be on by then." His eyes were bright. They glistened with tears. "If you hadn't kept pushing me, I wouldn't be here. Thank you."

My eyes were damp as well. I reached forward and gave him a hug. "Always remember. You didn't give up on you."

"Neither did you," he whispered.

Gratitude.

I am blessed.

Much of this weekend I spent painting. We had a housewarming to go to Saturday night and I wanted to give the hosts something special. I hauled out my paints and canvas and set to work finishing a painting I'd started months ago.

I was grateful for the gift of time and space and supplies and the passion that always awakens when I paint. I love mixing colours. Creating tones on tones, varied hues of colours and textures that dance upon the canvas to create a perspective of the world that is uniquely mine. I love being part of the process of creating a piece of art.

Gratitude.

Yesterday, I went out to my car and it wouldn't start. No amount of coaxing and cajoling would make the battery turn over and so I had to let go of my plans. Rather than going to the country, I came back inside and continued working on a painting I'd started earlier in the morning. Everyone was out. I had the house to myself -- except for my faithful sidekick Ellie. Amidst the flowing colours I found an inner peace that had been evading me with the awakening of my monkey mind chatter earlier in the day. When my youngest daughter Liseanne got home late in the afternoon, she invited me to go to yoga with her. Joy and tranquility descended. I spent time with my daughter and immersed myself in the serenity of meditation and movement. I connected to my spiritual nature flowing into the higher power all around me.

I am blessed.

Taking time to appreciate small significances in my day makes for big differences in my attitude.

With a grateful heart I am filled with joy. My mind eases into peacefulness as I move away from discord into harmony.

My attitude makes a difference. It is not of small significance. When the client walked into my office, I could have discarded his compliment with a, "It was nothing." My choice was to gratefully accept his acknowledgement by connecting his gratitude to mine. Together, we made a larger difference -- a difference that resonated in his life and in mine. A difference that resonates with each move we take throughout our day.

By making a difference in my attitude, I create a world of difference around me. In gratitude, I immerse myself in the beauty and love around me. In gratitude, I create space for others to make a difference in my life too.

I am grateful.

The question is: Are you counting the small significances in your life and adding them up to create big value in the world around you?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Going for a home run

Life isn't fair. It isn't going to be fair. Stop sniveling and whining and go out and make it happen for you. Nick Butler
So, if life isn't fair, why do we keep looking for fairness? Why do we keep believing there's gotta be some fair and equitable way to balance what I want with what you want when what we want is different -- and both of us believe its fair to get what we want?

Remember when you were a kid and somebody took your toy, or got the best seat on the bus (always), or got to be the room monitor every day? It just wasn't fair. I mean, you deserved it just as much. You worked just as hard. How come she always got to pick first? How come he always got to sit at the front?

'Cause contrary to popular belief, life isn't fair. And it ain't gonna change.

Yesterday, I walked onto our second floor day area and chatted for a bit with an older client. A nice woman, she's always pleasant, always helpful, volunteers constantly, is always looking for things to do that will keep her busy. When she came to the shelter two years ago, she had a sad story of a life continually lived on the margins. After twenty-five years in a common-law marriage, her partner had died and his kids were claiming everything for themselves. Their apartment was rented. She had no money to pay the rent and was evicted. She ended up at the shelter, confused, frightened and alone. We did our best to get her legal aid and to get her pension issues straightened out. Even found her an apartment of her own -- and that's when fairness took a back seat to the reality. Reality is, she had underlying mental health issues and an addiction that kicked in as soon as she was on her own and feeling isolated from the larger community at the shelter. Within weeks, we had to move her belongings into storage and find her a bed once again at the shelter.

Life isn't fair.

This woman deserves a place of her own. But, life hasn't handed her the tools to deal with whatever is going on within her so that she can live independently. And, the social network has too many holes for her to fall through to be able to catch her and hold her in safety. A shelter isn't the ideal solution for her, but, it is the only solution that is keeping her from harm.

Life isn't fair.

Later, one of our counsellors walked into my office to ask me to help a client who had come to see him with a tale of woe about being robbed and beaten and left to die on a journey that wound its way around the globe from Mexico to Panama to the Philippines and back to Canada, the land of his birth. "He's got some talent as a web-designer," the counsellor said. "I checked out the website he sent me to. Is there anything we can do to help him get back on his feet? Do we need any help with the website or is there anyone you know who might give him a job?" It was a wild story that sounded too weird to be true. "Let me check it out," I said. "But first, give me his name so I can check out his story."

Sure enough, upon investigation, the man has a track record as a conman. Several websites caution anyone from having anything to do with him. There's nothing fair in what he's done to trick others out of their money. And there's nothing fair about him coming to a homeless shelter to try to con those who are trying to help other's get back on their feet out of their time and energy.

Life isn't fair. And we as humans don't always act in fairness to each other.

So what's with our quest for fairness?

I have struggled most of my life to avoid dealing with reality. To face what is without yearning for what was, or what can never be. It has been a bumpy ride getting to this place where I can step up to the plate, look life squarely in the eye and say, "Throw me your best shot. I'm ready to deal with whatever you've got, not what I wish you'd throw."

In facing reality, I let go of my ego's last bastion of self-defence. I let go of my need to manipulate what's going on into some palatable bite I can chew off. Today, I'm chomping down on reality, filling my plate with all life has to offer. I'm gnashing at the bit, raring to get going on dealing with what is -- whether it's fair or not, it's what's on my plate. I'm giving up being a picky eater and chowing down on life's delicious course of endless possibility. My challenge is not to make it fit my worldview. My challenge is to make the most of it fit into my cup of abundance flowing over with opportunity.

Sometimes, we just gotta spit out our disbelief and face reality.

This is life. It ain't always fair. It is what we've got to deal with. It is what we make it.

The question is: Are you reeling in disbelief, trying desperately to manipulate what is into something that it isn't? Are you willing to stand up, face life square in the face and call out, 'throw me your best shot. I'm making life happen right now. I'm ready for a home run, whatever you thow.'

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Give peace a chance

Hate is not overcome by hate; by love alone is hate appeased. This is an eternal law. Buddha
I work in a world where hatred of those who do not conform, who live outside the box of normalcy, who abuse there bodies and minds with drugs and alcohol, runs deep. Intolerance is bred through ignorance, disgust through fear. And yet, I cannot hate those who do not support nor understand why we serve the people we do, why they need our help. To hate them would be to breed more discontent. We've got enough of that to last a lifetime or two.

I had a call from a man who was frustrated because we had made an outcry about a ticket one of our clients received. "He broke the law," the man told me. "Everyone else uses a washroom to urinate. Why should he be so special?"

The man of whom he was speaking is in his sixties. Needs a walker to get around and has diminished mental capacities -- partly due to his lifestyle, partly due to an inherent condition he's carried within him all his life.

He had urinated against a fence that borders the property and the construction zone that is the East Village where the shelter is situated. He had gone for a walk and couldn't get back before the call of nature overcame him. He'd maneuvered his way to a corner of the fence and relieved himself. There is no traffic. No walkers by. No one to witness his act -- except for a by-law officer who was standing by to impose the law upon shelter clients in the area on a day when we had closed so that we could hold an all day workshop for all our staff.

The ticket was worth $360.

I sat in my office listening to the man on the phone and wondered about double standards. Just the day before, I'd driven by the construction site and witnessed a worker relieving himself at the far edge of our property where dirt movers are digging into the earth to lay a new road that will completely block access to our property from the north side. There was no by-law officer to ticket him. No public outcry over lewd and lascivious behaviour. No phone calls complaining about the people we serve.

Just an old man with diminished capacities and no prospects. And a ticket for $360.

Hatred will not change the opinion of the man who called me. His hatred will not abate without an invitation to lean into tolerance and understanding. And that invitation can only reach him if it comes through love.

It is the challenge for every person who carries the label homeless. It is the challenge for all of us who work in the sector. How do we convert hatred to love when intolerance and judgement stand between us on both sides of the fence?

We surrender and fall in love. We surrender our anger, our hatred, our intolerance of intolerance and embrace our detractors with love, peace and understanding.

We may not change their conviction that they are right, but our journey will be less fraught with peril, our minds less consumed with anger and our hearts less unsettled with angst.

Hatred does not overcome hatred. Only love has that power.

The question is: Are you holding onto anger and hatred in the belief you'll come out the other side in love? Let it go. Surrender and fall in love. Can you give peace a chance?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Soaring pride and spirits

Nothing builds self-esteem and self-confidence like accomplishment. Thomas Carlyle
Thomas Carlyle must have been prescient when he wrote that statement sometime in the 1700s. He must have known what would happen last night at the Stand by the DI concert when client musicians stood on stage and sang and played their hearts out. He must have known the glow on their faces and pride in their step would keep them awake throughout the night reliving their moment when they shone brighter than the 1,000 watt spotlights beaming down on them.

videoIt was a night to shine. A night to feel proud. A night to remember.

Over 500 people gathered in the beautiful space of Knox United Church to celebrate the excellence of the performers who gave so graciously and generously to this project. They sang and played and enchanted the audience with talent that, as one audience member said, "blew me away. It is absolutely incredible to think that there is such wicked talent in this city and what a treasure to be able to experience it all in one night."

Such wicked talent all in one night.

From set-up to tear down, there was not a moment of the evening not worth re-living. Every thing seemed effortless. So smooth. So sincere. And then, at 9pm Mr. Ben E. King walked on stage to join the musicians who had recorded our cover of his iconic treasure, Stand by Me. Microphone in hand, he walked into their midst, his bluesy voice joined with theirs as magic descended.

It was sublime.

Over fifteen performers on stage. Professionals and client musicians standing together with a legend of R&B. Standing together to honour a song that has touched millions of people around the world and a man who has left a lasting imprint on our hearts. Standing side by side in support of those who give so much to so many, day in, day out, with grace and ease here at the DI.

I stood along with the audience and clapped and screamed and cheered as smiles lit up the faces of the performers as the realization of the import of the moment sank into their souls and lifted their spirits. Voices soared high into the lofty rafters above us and pride and joy abounded throughout the church. Its magnificent stained glass windows glowed with the rays of the late evening sun and the entire sanctuary glowed with the awe that befell everyone who had the privilege of being part of the moment.

It was a night that inspired each and everyone of us to stand tall and stand together. Together we are strong.

Last night, every heart found its home in the beauty and spirit that permeated the evening and left us sated. Last night, every heart was safe as dreams awakened and spirits were set free to become all that we are meant to be.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The next scoop

Age does not diminish the extreme disappointment of having a scoop of ice cream fall from the cone. Jim Fiebig

It seems, no matter how old I become, I continue to be awed by our human potential in action. Tonight is the concert I've been working towards for the past several months. Yesterday, in support of it, a local TV Breakfast Show invited myself and the band to come in and talk about the project and to sing Ben E. King's iconic, Stand by Me. Three client musicians and two of the supporting local musicians turned up to sing and chat about the project and I was, as the saying goes, gobsmacked!

When we began the Stand by the DI project, it was with an idea of creating a piece of music that could be used for our Television and Radio ads. What we've ended up with is an exciting and innovative cover of a classic -- Stand by Me (King/Leiber/Stoller) -- a piece that moves people to tears, as happened yesterday when the director showed it to two clients from the US. "You've got to get this on You Tube," the male client said. "Give me a copy and I'll get it to Fox. This is outstanding."

Lewis Levin, the Producer/Director and I have worked on the editing of this piece for the past few weeks. No matter how many times I've seen it, I continue to get chills watching it. It was good to hear that I was not alone -- as I knew my bias could stand in the way of my objectivity!

Yesterday, when I got back to the shelter with the guys from the band, clients and staff kept coming up to tell them, "Wow. You guys sounded great." "That was amazing." Earlier, staff had turned the TVs on in the day area so that everyone there could watch and listen to the interview and performance. At the end of it, the band got a standing ovation, hoots and hollers and calls for more.

What awed me was the change in the three musicians. As the realization that the praise they were receiving for a job well done was sincere sank in, their shoulders straightened, their chins lifted and their smiles broadened. All things seem possible when supported by people who are standing by with honest to goodness words of congratulations.

One of the challenges of working with individuals who have been marginalized and beaten down is that their negative self-talk can sometimes corner them into playing self-defeating games. (Then again, it doesn't matter where we stand on the socio/economic scales. Our negative self-talk can always tie us up in self-defeating games.) Through the course of recording and rehearsals, one of the band members has fallen away as his anger and limiting beliefs propelled him into isolating himself from the group. Last night, as I was leaving the building, I went in search of him to make one last effort at encouraging him to turn up at the concert tonight.

"I don't really care to be part of it," he told me when I found him on one of the smoke decks. "I'm kinda flat about the whole process."

"Is this a self-defeating game?" I asked him. "To not complete something you started. Something you added great value to and something you said was very important to you."

"There's a whole bunch of hurt feelings here," he said. "Some people weren't very nice to me."

"Can you change the past?"

Pause.

"What do you want more of in your life today?"

Pause. "If I did it I'd only be doing it for you." He wasn't looking me in the eyes. He kept his head downcast.

"What if you did it because you're part of it. You're in the video. Your name is on the program. You deserve to be on that stage as much as anyone else."

A longer pause. He lifted his chin and looked me in the eyes.

"I really loved it. Being part of it all. I really want to do it."

"Then what if you simply decide to do it. Turn up. Complete it."

"You'd let me?"

"This isn't my decision. It's completely yours. You can choose to turn up for yourself and be proud of being part of something very special. Or not. Your choice."

He's promised to be there. He works all day and as soon as he's back at the end of the day he's coming to the dress rehearsal.

"I've committed to you that I'll do this," he said. "I keep my commitments."

"I know you do," I said as I left, his quiet, "Thank you for not condemning me for behaving like an a--hole," trailing behind me.

For this man, not turning up was the only option he could envision. He's not been to any rehearsals. Not participated in any of the television or radio interviews like the other band members. His shame and self-talk have negotiated him into the corner of limited options where, "I don't care," has become his mantra. Truth is, he cares. A lot.

For this man, turning up is vital. The ice cream may have spilled from his cone, but in turning up, he's ladling on another scoop and dipping into the rich, creamy deliciousness of possibilities that open up when we STOP our negative self-talk and tune into the melody of life unfolding when we stand up for ourselves and step in harmony with the world we are creating. He's tasting the joy of forgiveness and giving himself a chance to enjoy a 'make-over'.

It's never too late to take a step in a new direction. It's never too late to dish up a new scoop of ice cream.

And when we do, it's astounding how the world stands-by and supports us, cheering us on as we get into the flow of being the most awesome, amazing, incredible human beings we are meant to be.

The question is: Has your ice cream slipped from the cone leaving you crying over its loss? Or, are you digging your scoop into the rich, creamy abundance of all the world has to offer when you turn up and take another lick of life?

For those in Calgary, tonight's concert will feature a guest appearance by Ben E. King.

7pm. Knox United Church. 504 4th St. S.W.

Tickets $15 -- at the door.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A values based life

The quality of events surrounding you in any given moment in time may be reflecting specific beliefs that you hold in that moment of time. Gregg Braden
Last night my eldest daughter, Alexis, and I had a long talk about life and love and what's really going on. It was one of those conversations that, as a mother, I cherish. Throughout our relationship this is what I have wished for, hoped for, worked for, and ultimately, am so grateful for having created. A relationship where we talk of heartfelt things, a connection that is built on shared experiences where our unique perspectives have value and our values are honoured.

At one point in our conversation I suggested to her that she might want to sit down and ask herself, "What are my values?" Those core beliefs that direct her choices and energize her decisions into positive action.

"I value truth, integrity, kindness, equality, wisdom, authenticity." I told her when she asked for clarification. "What do you value?"

It is an important question. If I don't know what I value, how do I value my decisions? How do I measure up to living the life of my dreams?

Understanding my values has been a life long journey for me. When I was in my teens, I valued the wisdom found in books, particularly where they pertained to the mind and psychology. Ayn Rand was my favourite author when I was thirteen. Psychology Today my favourite magazine. In my twenties, my search for the truth about "Who am I?" lead me to make some tough decisions, and yet, lead me forward on my quest to understand the truth about me.

When I became a mother, being authentic was an imperative for me. How could I model authenticity for my daughters if I was living a lie? Who am I when I am authentic was a question I continually asked myself as I struggled to align the life I was living against the values I hold true.

Looking back on my journey, I can easily see those times where my lack of understanding of my values or my willingness to compromise on my values lead to decisions that undermined my personal worth, hurt those I love and kept me from living with integrity.

Living a values based life is imperative if we are to live in harmony with the world around us.

Living a values based life gives me the power to face life's challenges confident in my ability to make decisions that are based on the right thing to do -- without fearing that I'm doing only what's right for me because it's the easiest thing to do.

In my quest to live a values based life I have had to jettison beliefs that do not work for me any longer or that limit my ability to live the life of my dreams. For me, some of those beliefs stem from childhood experiences that were integrated into my thinking -- not because they were true, but because as a child, to comprehend what was going on, I had to make up a story that would help me live with my experiences. Some of those stories shortchange me as an adult. Stories about my lack of self-worth, or my limitations. Stories that would keep me believing I don't deserve love, happiness, peace of mind, a beautiful life. Those stories don't add value to my life -- and they definitely don't align my spirit with the values I embrace today.

It is one of the watershed moments of my life, that place where I stand up for myself, stand true to what I believe in, what I value and say, "Enough letting myself off the hook of being a woman of integrity. Enough giving myself a break in the truth department. Enough giving into my baser elements. It's time to turn up for me and value myself enough to stand true to my beliefs."

Living with integrity is not always the easy thing to do. People and circumstances bombard me with opportunities to give into, compromise or simply appease someone else with what they want to hear, see, do, believe. Giving into someone else's values pulls me from standing in the centre of my 'I' into the winds of change forcing me to bend and give up standing true to myself. When I stand true to my values, I am not at risk of being pulled into the winds that would pull me from my course into someone else's way of being. If we do not share common values, doing it their way will only undermine my sense of worth. And I have had a lifetime of undermining my value. It's my time to value myself enough to live true to who I am without fear that who I am is not enough.

It was a wonderful talk last night. A chance to be open and honest and loving and kind. To be connected to a young woman of great worth and to connect to the values we share, and to find value in our differences. It was a time to honour what makes us great and to celebrate the greatness in each of us.

It was a time to feel blessed by the love we share and to breathe deeply in the value of having created a relationship I have always dreamed of with my daughters.

The question is: What are your values? Are you willing to stand up and be counted for what you believe in? Are you willing to value your worth by doing the right thing, no matter the cost?

Friday, June 19, 2009

The hero in me and you.

Success rests with having the courage and endurance and above all the will to become the person you are, however peculiar that may be. Then you will be able to say, “I have found my hero and he is me." George Sheehan
Twenty-three years ago today my eldest daughter, Alexis, burst into the universe, her tiny fists clenched, her rosebud mouth open to let out a piercing cry.

And I felt my heart melt.

I heard her cry even before she was out of the womb. It was a c-section. I was awake and under an epidural. Before the doctor had even cut into the protective casing of my womb, her cry could be heard.

I have never felt such an overpowering feeling of love as I did in that moment of hearing her first cry.

In the course of our twenty-three years together, there have been other cries. Other moments where love washed over me and I felt helpless under its overwhelming power to humble me. But none of those moments have been so completely devastating as that first cry. In that cry the truth of our life together was revealed. In that cry I knew, no matter how much I wanted to, there would be times I could not stop her tears, could not ease her fears, could not make it all 'okay'.

It was a fearsome and humbling moment. I lay on the gurney in the sterile enclosure of the oeprating room, nurses and doctors busily going about their business, as I listened to the cry of my child as she was lifted out and up into the world. I lay there and I felt helpless. I lifted my arms and reached for my child and her tears eased for just a moment and I felt love wash over me as my heart broke wide open.

A broken heart is an open heart and an open heart is a loving heart.

Since that first cry there have been many tears, many bursts of laughter, many smiles and gentle touches, many hurtful outbursts, many words and moments of admiration, joy and celebration. There have been moments when I had to watch her struggle to step beyond the point of where she believed she couldn't go. There have been moments when I have had to pull her back from going where she was not yet able to go. And there have been moments when I have held her after a fall and applauded her after a soaring leap into her dreams. There have been many moments filled with enough emotions to blanket the sky in every colour of the rainbow.

And always there is love.

There is a constant heartache in being a mother. A continuous tug at maternal apron strings that want to tie your child to your side as they unravel the strings that bind. There is the constant pull of your need to want to keep them safe from falling rubbing against their need to test gravity's hold upon their spirited will to step out into thin air and fly.

In falling, we learn to trust in gravity.

I didn't know twenty-three years ago that with that first cry I would fall so completely, utterly, totally in love with another human being. I didn't know that my heart would soar, and sometimes my stomach would drop and my arms ache for her as she struggled to unfold the beauty of her wings. I didn't know that loving another meant letting them leap from the nest so that they could learn to spread their wings and fly.
I have written often about my daughters and my awe of their beauty, spirit, kindness and grace. Today, I celebrate having had the gift of their presence in my life, the gift of their incredible courage to become heroes in their own eyes.

I celebrate the amazing grace I have experienced through loving someone else enough to know I cannot live their lives for them, I can only show them that by becoming the person I am, no matter how peculiar, I have found the hero in me. In my discovery, they have the freedom to find the hero in themselves.

And in the end, after the tears and cries and laughter and falls, to become a hero in our own lives sets us free.

I celebrate my daughter, Alexis, today. She is a beautiful spirit learning to fly above the binds that tie her to the ground. She is a hero in her own life.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Rewind. Stop. Play.

Many attempts to communicate are nullified by saying too much. Robert Greenleaf
Yesterday, I had a conversation with a woman who, in my judgement, (and sometimes I just gotta judge someone else!) is one of the most difficult people I've had to deal with. I must deal with her, it is not an option as she is integral to a project I am working on. There's no getting around her, no taking another path to success without her involvement. And while I limit my conversations with her to the very bare minimum and use email as much as possible, yesterday I had to bite the bullet and call her.

And I said a silent prayer. Bless her. Strengthen me.

Recently, I caught this woman in a lie. It was a big lie and proved that her drama was not based on fact, but on reality as she saw it, or, possibly chose to see it to validate her position of being right. The gift of finding her lie gave me the opportunity to disconnect from trying to point out her accountability in the situation. It's not my job to make her accountable. It's my job to find a way to work with her that doesn't undermine my well-being or the outcome of this project.

In my 'opinion' -- and I have lots of those, this woman is invested in being right. Reality is, I made a mistake at the beginning of our working together. And part of that mistake was based on my silence when I needed to speak up. In normal circumstances, that mistake was easy to remedy. That mistake triggered something in her that I cannot fix. In her unhappiness over what in her estimation, was the distress I had caused in her life, she needed to be right. Regardless of what the truth is.

When dealing with someone who's objective is to be right, regardless of truth and fact, there is no sense in pointing out their lies. They won't believe you, even when they truth is sitting next to the fact of their lie in writing. Knowing that truth gave me the opportunity to let go of picking up any of the blame and shame she had to dump on me. Didn't make it any easier to deal with her, it did make it easier not to become engaged in the game of "you're wrong, I'm right".

The drama of it all isn't what it's about. In the moment dealing with someone as dramatic as this woman is not my biggest challenge. I will stumble and trip. Say too much. Not say enough. Say the wrong thing at the wrong time, the wrong thing at the right time and the right thing at the wrong time. The drama is not my issue. Turning off the conversation in my head, after the phone is hung up, ahhh, now that's another matter. That's my biggest hurdle.

My mind wants to mull over the conversation, change what I said, what she said, how it went. My mind wants to re-play the tape of our discourse to create a better outcome, a more respectful exchange -- You know, that place where she admits her lie and apologizes and I am exonerated. And that ain't gonna happen anytime soon so why waste my precious energy on trying to make it happen in my mind?

It was what it was. I did my best. Throughout this project have given my 100%. I have made mistakes. I have done some things really well. Ultimately, the project isn't about me and it's not about her. It's about something much bigger, grander than either of us.

And in the grand scheme of things, when the project is over, it will have been what it is, become what it does and both of us will continue on with our lives. In our continuing on, we will have a story to tell -- and that story will be whatever we make it. I can make it about having had to deal with a difficult person, or I can make it about having been part of something that touched lives in ways I could never have imagined.

I choose the touching lives in ways never imagined.

To get there, I have to let go of the story of how she was soooo in the wrong and how I was soooo in the right. I have to let go of my need to feel the drama stirring within me and fall into the grace of living in the silence of knowing, I give enough. I do enough. I am enough.

Bless her. Strengthen me.

The story is just a story. As time and distance separate me from the minutiae of getting this project completed, the drama will ease up as I move with grace and ease into knowing, I did my best. My best is good enough.

I can ease the burden of the angst by simply letting go of my need to play the victim to someone else's bad behaviour. We are each accountable for how we behave, for what we say, how we react to circumstances and events that don't go according to plan.
In the silence between each breath, I find grace.
In time's passing, the impact of what the project means in the lives of those who have been moved by its power to touch hearts and open minds will be the gift that keeps on giving.

And the gift that keeps on giving is Love. Always has been. Always will be.

The question is: Are you replaying conversations in your mind, making someone else wrong to your right? Are you willing to take your finger off the REWIND button and press, STOP and then get to work playing your best life yet? Are you willing to fall into the grace of living in the rapture of now knowing you are 100% accountable for how you turn up in your life today?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Monkey mind chatter

Silence will save me from being wrong (and foolish), but it will also deprive me of the possibility of being right. Igor Stravinsky
Yesterday, while in a meeting, I settled into silence to avoid speaking up. Challenge is, when I am silent to avoid speaking up, my mind is anything but silent. The chatter of my 'monkey mind' is incessant. It chirps and cheeps, squeaks and squawks, constantly talking about what I am not talking about.

When the monkey mind is at play, I am ill at ease.

In those instances, truth is silenced, tyranny prevails and I fall into the trap of believing everything I think. In my belief that I am right to be silent, I inhibit the possibility of turning up and creating value. In undermine my value by internallizing the conversation, keeping myself stuck in justification of why it's best not to say what I believe needs to be said.

In my silence I create an endless circle of self-defeating games.

When I was married to my daughters' father, our relationship was filled with silence of the dulling, numbing kind. My fear of speaking up, kept me from being truthful and honest in our embrace. My fear of his response to what was true for me, kept me from opening up into intimacy. In my silence, my agile mind had plenty of time to weave and warp its way through every conversation, twisting and turning every comment, every glance to drain it of its last ounce of meaning all of which left the truth silent somewhere within me, far from the playing field of our relationship. The scripts I wrote in my head were convoluted tales of woe where I was the victim of his misunderstanding. In my silence, the distance between us widened as I moved myself further and further away with every word unsaid.

In my silence, the golden moment is lost. In my silence, anger builds as I stuff back the words I leave unspoken. In my silence, I devalue myself and those around me.

I am learning to speak up. Learning to lovingly share my truth without fear that I will be hurt, or that in my words blame, shame, and condemnation will drive someone else into silence too.

In my morning ritual, silence is the well-spring of my inspiration. As I meditate, I let myself sink into the beauty of that silent space within me where all is aligned, all is at peace.

In my awakening, to retain that balance within, to silence the monkey chatter, I must speak up, speak out. I must give voice to the words within me that are aching to be released.

Silence can be my friend or foe. It is up to me to drive through my fear by drawing my words out with courage.

The question is: Is silence your friend or foe? Are you stilling your mouth while giving reign to the monkey mind chatter within? Where is your truth?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

In the rapture of now

I think happiness comes from self-acceptance. We all try different things, and we find some comfortable sense of who we are. We look at our parents and learn and grow and move on. We change. Jamie Lee Curtis
Happiness is not that elusive a butterfly when I sit still and breathe into the rapture of the moment. When I stop the constant chatter in my mind long enough to hear my heart beating in time with the moment.

Happiness is not elusive at all when I let go of my need to fill time with constant doing and fall into the grace of my being aligned with who I am in all that I am doing.

Happiness is a peaceful heart, a morning filled with birdsong and the smell of the lilac bush outside my kitchen window. Happiness is Ellie sleeping on her mat at the end of our bed, the house a peaceful hum in the early light.

Happiness is, my acceptance in the moment of my arising that this is a brand new day. A day to create anew all that I want, all that I dreamed of, all that I can achieve.

Happiness grows as I grow into the change I create in the world. The change that reflects my higher good spreading out across the circle of my influence, gently affecting the world around me with undulating ripples of love and joy, kindness and caring, smiles and laughter.

I don't need a reason to 'be' happy. I simply need the desire to choose happiness.

I believe how I experience life is based on my choices. I didn't choose to be Louise Gallagher, 5'2.5". Dark brown hair turning white. Big brown eyes with laughter lines etched deeply into the corners. I didn't choose to have the parents I have, the childhood I had, the places we lived in, the journeys we took as a family. I didn't choose any of it when I was a child -- and how I experience it today is all my choice.

The experiences I had as an adult, many of them are based on my past experiences as a child. The choices I made were predicated upon the wiring of my youth, some of it functional, some of it pretty faulty. And still, how I experience my memories of my past is all my choice.

Like the relationship with the man who lied and cheated. I have a choice in how I hold onto the pain and sorrow, the tears and fears. I can let them keep me stuck solid in a fearful place where I hold myself under the silent waters of grief. Reflections of a woman's heart held fast to the chilling memories of time past. Or, I can let them flow freely in the river of forgiveness and set myself free to fall, as my daughter Alexis describes it, into the pool of love that awaits me at the end of the waterfall.

Water doesn't flow backwards.

Neither does time.

Yet, I can choose to hold myself under the thrall of time past by not letting go of what I had to make room for more of what I want in my life today.

It is always my choice.

This morning, I awaken to my choices. My choice how I greet the morning. I choose a loving heart filled with gratitude and a rising spirit of joy.

With my attitude of happiness settled softly in my heart, I move forward in my day anticipating all of this and everything better.

It is my choice.

The question is: What is your choice? To fill your mind with stories of how the world has robbed you of happiness, of your birthright of magnificence? Or, to fill your spirit with the joy and gratitude of being rapturously alive in this moment unfolding in all its limitless possibilities. Your choice. What will it be?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Toiling in the soil of love

Gardens are not made by singing "Oh, how beautiful," and sitting in the shade. Rudyard Kipling
And a beautiful life is not made by sitting back and thinking about all that you could do. A beautiful life is created by actively becoming involved in the creative process.

I know.

I have sat back many a time and bemoaned the lack of, excess of, scant reference to what I want or don't want in my life. I have sat on the teeter totter of my happiness and lowered myself to the ground with my thoughts of 'why am I so unhappy?', 'what's wrong with me, or him, or her or them?', 'where's the beef?'

Sitting back in the shade is good for a hot day after toiling in the garden dirt, weeding out errant stalks of discontent and planting seeds of beauty. Sitting back in the shade doesn't create more of what I want when it's performed with nary a muscle strained or back bent over the garden hoe.

I want, love, passion, joy, beauty, commitment, openness and intimacy. I want a relationship where I feel cherished. I want a relationship where I am actively engaged in the creation of a beautiful life.

To be actively engaged I must strain a muscle, stretch an arm, bend a little. I must engage to be engaged.

Which is why it always comes as such a rude awakening when I come up front and centre with my own 'schtick'. You know, that game of, 'if only [insert name of other person here] would....'. That place where we'd be happy if [insert name of other person here] would quit, do, become, say, think, be....' different than who they are.

See, that's the thing about a loving relationship. For all my thinking about what the other person should quit, do, become, say, think, be... I am the only person I can affect. And when my thinking is all about what the other person is doing, saying, being, then I am sitting in the shade not shovelling anything but angst and self-denial.

Yesterday, C.C. and I got into the swing of the the push/pull, shove/bend of our relationship. We skirted issues, fenced around our feelings, dug into the topsoil of our discontent. We weren't getting much of anything other than a whole pot full of 'you said, I said,' until we decided to dig in and unearth what was at the root of our discomfort.

It's then I saw my best lying fallow in the soils of 'why can't you just open up and be more like me'. Over the years I have ploughed up my angst, and pulled out lots of weeds of discontent. I've churned up the soils of history, laid seeds of happiness in many areas of my life. But, in relationship, I was still mucking about in the pastures of 'it's not my fault I'm emotional. If you would be more open I wouldn't get so... [fill in the blank].'

I create what I fear.

In my fear of being hurt, I was creating acres of rich soils for hurt to take root.

It was a rich and productive conversation. I have been guilty of sitting in the shade waiting for someone else to toil in the garden of love, wishing for beauty to spring up with just a look or glance or touch.

I cannot create beauty in my life without my becoming actively engaged in its creation.

It's the law of nature.

The question is: Are you sitting back in the shade expecting someone else to do the dirty work? Are you willing to get mired in the muck of your own creation and dig deep into whatever it takes to create the life of your dreams?

Friday, June 12, 2009

The web

Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric. Bertrand Russell
I am late writing this morning. Computer/Internet angst interrupted my morning flow. It was a surprisingly good change. Gave me a chance to focus on other things, to look for other ways, opportunities, ideas.

On Tuesday, we had a seminar at the shelter where I work on the Relational Rennaisance. Dr. Jean LaFrance presented his format for discovering new ways to solve problems. It reminded me of 'web writing' -- no, not online missives, but creating a web for story ideas to evolve from.

IN web writing, you write a word or phrase in the centre of the page and circle it. Branching out from the centre circle you draw a line to a circle and in it write a word or phrase that is spawned by the centre idea. You keep drawing circles around words you write until your page is full or you have run out of words. There's no judging the words. No, 'that one doesn't relate', or censoring of your ideas. The object is to get all the words down on paper first -- and then categorize, organize, shape the web into coherent thoughts. From the page you might come out with five or six even ten distinct thoughts. From there, you begin the process of linking those ideas to thoughts on the page.

In relational based practice, you link ideas through first of all, writing down a problem in the centre of the page and then webbing from that centre point what you know about the 'current reality'. The sub-text to the problem statement that elaborates on the issue. From there, you create a map leading you to the question, "What do I want to achieve."

It was a powerful process for me. I realized as we discussed issues around staff/client utilization that often my perception is based on what I hear -- and when I don't investigate through free-thinking, I am limited in my ability to create solutions that are innovative, practical and effective.

Try it.

Pick a problem in your life. Something that is a recurring theme -- like, I don't have enough time. Write it in the middle of the page, and begin to web. Free associate to the thought of 'time', what does it mean, what is the sub-text to the thought?

And then, start letting the ideas flow. Be creative. Be eccentric.

You get to choose -- is this an idea worth keeping, or not. Does believing' I don't have enough time' create more of what I want in life or less? What are some creative ways I can change how I look at the problem -- what's the subtext.

The question is: Can you let eccentricity create new and exciting opportunities in your life. Are you willing to get outside the box and web away?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The power of love

Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: the potential for greatness lives within each of us. Wilma Rudolph
I have always believed the greatest lessons I have ever learned are from my daughters. Through being their mother I have learned the true meaning of 'giving is receiving'. I have learned what it means to love unconditionally, myself and others. To be responsible. To be a role model. To be true and honest and steadfast.

This morning, I read my daughters blog and felt the power of love wash over me in all its infinite facets. I felt its power to heal and to nurture and to create life. And I felt the gift of its forgiveness.

I want to share what she wrote with you. It is a powerful lesson in love and gratitude and beauty and most importantly, forgiveness.

http://alexismcd.wordpress.com/2009/06/10/love-lessons/

Nameste

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

All mankind's inner feelings eventually manifest themselves as an outer reality. Stuart Wilde
We are who we think we are.

I think today that I am very different than I was five or six years ago. And very different than who I was before the relationship that catapulted me into the self-destruction that led to my re-birth.

In the process of becoming who I am today, I have acquired knowledge of my divine essence and divested myself of limiting beliefs that were not working for me. In the process, I have embraced all that I am, the good, the bad and the not so pretty. In my wholeness I have transcended my belief that I am limited to my thinking about who I am. I am so much more than I think. I am powerful beyond my wildest imaginings -- and, at the same time, am limited in my imaginings by my thinking I am only who I think I am.

It's quite a conundrum.

I am who I think I am -- and who I think I am is limited by my beliefs and feelings about me, myself and I. And those thoughts are founded on my experiences with the world around me and how I process them. See what I mean? Quite a conundrum. Accessing my higher goodness is only possible when I let go of my need to know who I am within the box my conscious mind creates to understand the technicalities of my being. Who am I outside that box? Ahh, now that's a question worth pondering.

There was a time when my inner feelings were filled with the angst of wondering, am I good enough? Do I measure up? Do I even matter?

In coming through the hell of self-destruction, I have unleashed my thinking so that I no longer believe everything I think. I no longer limit myself within the box of my judgements. "A good girl would do A. I did 'B', therefore I am not a good girl." In my re-birth, I allow my conscious mind access to my preconscious mind, that reservoir of memory that connects me to not only my human condition on this plane, but the pre-conditions of my foremothers and theirs before them that I carry on a deep cellular level into this world with me.

Somewhere in my preconscious mind there are thoughts swimming in a sea of possibility that I have not yet tapped into. My conscious mind wants to regulate my access to the preconcious. My conscious mind wants to measure, tape, allocate the limits of my thinking to the technical data it likes to process. I am woman. I am female. I am five foot two and one half inches tall. I weigh -- okay even my conscious mind's belief I must tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, is going to make me fess up to that one!

My conscious mind likes 'the data'. It likes to know how things fit together. How they are ordered. How they work. It likes to understand why I am the way I am based on the knowledge it contains within the box of its limited measurement of my journey through time.

My preconscious mind likes to meditate on the archetypes of my being. On the prototypes of the stories my conscious mind creates to make sense of why I am the way I am, why I do what I do.

When I take the time to allow myself access to the preconscious, I gift myself with the bigger story of my being human. In that bigger story, I connect to the archetypal antecedents of my being who I am. No longer is the Sun just the largest planet at the centre of the solar system, the Sun also holds a significance as representative of the Ego. It is the archetype for masculine energy. Fire, heat, a lifeforce. In its archetypal representation, I connect to that masculine force within me. That force that is the Yin to my Yang. Light to my darkness. And in that archetypal story, I find the antecedents of my make-up. The story behind the story of who I am.

Life is the stories we tell. The stories I tell myself are founded in my conscious mind's ability to make sense of what I am doing, what's happening around me, and how I feel about the circumstances of my life today.

Creating new stories to tell is founded on my willingness to tap into my preconscious minds' ability to think outside the box of my limiting beliefs.

Thousands of years ago, Socrates wrote, "the unexamined life is not worth living." A couple of thousand years later, Mark Twain countered with, "The unexamined life may not be worth living, but the life too closely examined may not be lived at all."

In the dissonance between examination and contemplation and getting stuck in the stars of naval gazing, I find myself living my best life yet. It's all in my thinking.

The question is: Are you living inside the box of your thinking or are you exploring your options beyond the limits of what you know in your conscious mind? Are you willing to let yourself go?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Winning is not everything.

Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday. Wilma Rudolph
Remember when you were little and parents and teachers told you, "Be a good loser." And then, in the next breath, they said, "Don't cry." Why not? Losing hurts.

It's important to let the pain out. To clear the senses to find the truth of where you're at.

I felt like I had lost a battle last Thursday with a woman who believes she is absolutely, completely, totally in the right. When I spoke to her Thursday, there was her truth, and only her truth. I know there's both her truth and my truth in this situation, and that somewhere in the middle there is a common ground where the truths overlap into something resembling a win/win. She didn't want a win/win. Winning isn't important to her. Not losing is.

Finding a solution is important to me. I had to find a common ground. To reach it, I accepted 100% accountability for my role in creating the mix-up and asked, "How can we make this right."

"You can do what you said you would do in the first place," she replied.

Ahhhh. Now there's the problem. I didn't commit to doing what she believes I did. I took a breath. There was absolutely no benefit in trying to convince her she was 'wrong' in what she believed to be right.

"I hear you say this is important, and the reasons you gave as to why it is make sense. We are a charity. We can't afford to do what you ask, however, if I can find someone to donate what you need, I will make sure it happens. All I can promise is that I will do my best. I can't guarantee I'll be successful, but if I can do it without it costing the agency additional monies I will."

The outcome that she controls is significant for the homeless shelter where I work. Being right is a luxury I don't need. What I need is to have a successful outcome with what we need from this woman.

I got to work and found someone to donate what we needed. In organizing its receipt, however, I found her lie. It is a big one. Significant. In fact, in that lie lays the truth of why she is so upset about this situation and why she is so adamant that I am 'wrong'.

I hadn't gone looking for a lie. I was looking for a solution and had phoned an organization to see if they could help. And there it was. The lie. Big. Fat. Juicy. And oh so beautiful to see.

I hung up the phone and almost did a dance of glee. I hadn't committed to what she said. I couldn't have, given what she had already done.

And that's when I had to be a good 'loser'.

See, I wanted to phone her and call her on her lie. I wanted to slam the truth against her forehead and nail it to her brow and then stomp on her toe for good measure. But that would not have gotten me more of what I want. That would not have gotten the shelter what it needs. And because I knew the enormity of her lie, I also recognized her for what she is: The lie. There is not sense in trying to make sense of what a liar does -- they're not interested in truth. They are only interested in protecting their ego.

I looked at my options. Exposing her as a liar at this moment in time is not one of them. I put the question out into the universe. "What can I do to create a win/win?"

The next morning I had my answer. I crafted an email to this woman asking for a resolution to the situation her lie had created. I didn't call her a liar. Didn't accuse her of anything. Just laid the facts out in one concise paragraph and let it go, explained how I could not proceed with what I needed to do to get what she had asked for until she cleared up what she had done.

I sent the email and awaited her response. Gleefully. I mean, I am only human. I love being 'right'.

Yesterday, I got her response. I didn't have to unmask her. Her 'character' is revealed in every word she wrote. And in her email, she made it possible for me to not do what she had insisted needed to be done to make the situation right. She cannot change what she has already done to make it possible.

In her response, however, she wrote paragraphs about what had gone wrong, giving timelines and details. It is distorted. The details manipulated to paint the picture she needs to be 'right'.

I wanted to refute everything she wrote. It is not necessary, nor effective. She is the lie. I am not powerful enough to change a liar. I am powerful enough to stand for my truth and to stop her lies from undermining my worth.

I took a deep breath and wrote back my response. One sentence. I dealt only with what I needed to do to ensure the agency got what it needed.

I can't change her. I can, however, cushion the impact her lies have on another human being. Her lie has serious consequences for another individual. I don't know this person but I do believe they would not want to be represented by the lies she has formulated in this situation.

What to do? What to do?

Yesterday afternoon I got my answer in the form of a phone call from an old friend. Because he was involved in the same business as this woman for years, I had called him for advice. He confirmed my suspicions. The person in the middle would not want what this woman is doing or saying to be connected to them. He gave me some ideas on how to approach both the individual and the situation.

I have my win/win.

See, at first blush I felt like I had lost. In accepting 100% responsibility for my role in this situation, she had projected it to mean I was 100% in the wrong. I didn't like having to be silent but knew I was dealing with a situation where right versus wrong battles would always end up with nobody winning. As she is the only person who can provide us what we need to meet our commitment in this situation, I had to keep in the dance with her.

I didn't like looking like I was 'giving in' to her manipulations. My ego wasn't happy. I could limit the impact of her untruths on me and the agency by limiting my contact to only discussing the business at hand, not the personalities, not the past, not the 'truth' as she perceives it to be.

And that was okay. I wasn't losing my integrity, my self-respect nor my truth.

She was. There is no better way to lose integrity, self-respect, dignity and your self-worth than to lie.

It is my experience with Conrad, the man who loved me to almost death, that taught me that.

And through that experience, I was able to see this woman for who she is, without getting caught in the trap of wondering about 'who am I?' and without getting caught in the dance of her drama. Her drama is, her drama. I can't change who she is. I can affect how who she is impacts me.

I don't have to accept her truth of who I am as being my truth. I can leave it sitting between us, let her dance around it, because in her view of who I am, she believes I am stupid. I don't want her to know the truth.

Because she needs to believe she cannot lose, there is nothing I can say or do that will appease her need to be right. Losing to her lies means nothing to my life. I learned that with Conrad. His lies only had a hold on me when I believed they were about me. When I accepted his lies as my truth I was lost.

Today, I stand tall. I stand proud. I don't have to lose everything to win in this situation. All I have to lose is my need to 'be right'. Dealing with a liar has nothing to do with right and wrong. It has everything to do with holding my integrity sacred.

It was a good lesson yesterday. A great opportunity to take all that I had lost in the past and turn it into winning today.

The question is: Are you willing to learn from those places where all appeared to be lost so that you can win today with your integrity, self-respect and self-worth intact?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Grace under fire

Three things that never come back: the spent arrow; the spoken word; the lost opportunity. Willam George Plunkett
The weekend is over. People have come and gone, and in their passing through I have been touched. I have grown. I have learned.

I discover new things about myself every day and this weekend was no exception. It was a colourful weekend!

Givers 1, the first weekend trainees come back to seminar after having gone through the five days of Choices, is about discovering your 'colour'. Based on True Color personality typing, the Givers 1 weekend culminates with a five hour workshop on determining what is each individuals foundational colour type, what are the attributes of that particular colour and how do they manifest themselves, both as strengths and stressors, in our lives.

My first three colours are very close -- Green, Blue, Orange. My Gold is somewhere on the horizon but quite distant from the other three.

There are strengths in each colour, and, as with all things in life, my greatest strength can become my greatest weakness.

I am always scanning, always analyzing. As a strength, that means I can see the 'big picture', discern how it impacts a situation and/or person, and determine creative solutions to minimize any negative impact, to move situations and people from one pole to another, to reach outside of the box to discover alternatives that open up new possibilities.

The weakness is -- I have a natural tendency to be arrogant. I believe I know the 'best' and 'right' way to handle a situation -- even when I am pretending to let you believe you are right!

It was my arrogance that leaped in to trip me up this weekend.

I am Team Captain of this group. Which means, I am responsible to ensure the Coaches are on task, focused and working cooperatively. It also means, I am charged with ensuring any situations that arise are dealt with effectively and speedily.

To be effective as a Team Captain, I require a great deal of Gold -- the organized, planner who is prepared for any circumstance and has all the bases covered.

I can be 'gold'. What I struggle with is grace and ease in Gold. And, because my Green has a tendency to be extremely uncomfortable with new situations where I don't have the information I need to understand what's required, and I don't like to admit when I don't have the answers, I can resort to arrogance when under stress.

Yesterday, we had a situation that required speedy and delicate handling. It ended up being nothing serious, but in its unfolding, it appeared to be 'out of control'. In my uncertainty of how to handle the situation, and the information I had about what was going on, I was abrupt and unkind with another of the coaches.

Someone pointed out my abruptness and I realized it was true. I had been unkind.

Doesn't matter if I was attempting to control the situation or not, I do not like being unkind.

I acknowledged what I'd done to the coach and apologized. She graciously accepted and said, "I was a bit taken aback. Mostly because it was so unlike you. And then I thought, 'Oh, she's just being gold,' and realized, it wasn't about me. You weren't even thinking about me. You were thinking about the situation and trying to keep it under control."

Control. Love it. Hate it.

To be in control means to believe I am powerful enough to control people and situations.

To be out of control means to be reacting without thought to people or the situation.

In my attempt yesterday to control, I was out of control. On either side of the equation, I was acting without grace under fire.

Grace under fire.

The ability to remain loving and kind while holding a space for a situation to unfold without becoming distressed over whatever is transpiring.

It was a big growth day for me yesterday.

In my awkwardness I discovered it's imperative to remain soft and loving without resorting to arrogance to ensure no matter the situation around me, I remain true to my principles, beliefs and values.

I do not like being unkind. I do not want to be unkind. I can be unkind.

In the dissonance between how I want be and how I am living in the moment, is a field of grace. It is on that field I need to stand to balance my strengths and weaknesses in harmony. It is in that field I need to live to ensure I am living my best life yet, being my most loving, gracious and creative self. When I ease myself into grace, I ease up on demanding people conform to my way. I let go of the need people do what I say and live up to my expectations. In grace, I make room for other's to be who they are without fear of being pummeled by my way of thinking.

We are all human, being all we can be when we let go of the expectation that everyone else can see, think, feel, hear and do it our way.

Reality is, in our being human, we cannot see, think, feel, hear or do it any way other than how we perceive the world to be in the moment we are living right now. My response to any situation is always predicated upon my experiences leading up to that moment and how much of the stress I carry with me as residual muck messing up my ability to be flow in the field of grace of my being.

In my awkward handling of the situation yesterday, I could only do my best given my lack of awareness of my tendency to be arrogant and abrupt when under stress.

In my knowing today, I can be aware next time an unexpected situation arises -- and they always do! -- that causes me to slip from my field of grace into the murky waters of not knowing what to do. Next time I go for a swim in the tumultuous seas of uncertainty, I can bring myself back to calm seas by reminding myself, regardless of how much information I do or do not have, I am not powerful enough to control any situation. I am powerful enough to control how I respond. It's my choice to be surrounded by grace, creating harmony, even when the sky appears to be falling down.

When I am exercising grace under fire, I am living up to my highest good, being all that I can be. In my being all that I can be I limit my creation of discord and fall into the harmony of being true to who I am.

My growth this weekend was to realize, when I am 'out of control' I am creating discord. When I let go of control, I allow harmony to rise up and be present, regardless of the situation. It's not being in control that caused me strife, it was my fear that I was out of control that bit me.

The question is: Are you standing in your field of grace, breathing love and harmony into any discord rising up around you? Are you willing to exercise grace under fire by becoming 100% accountable for yourself?

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Frosted up.

It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness. Charles H. Spurgeon
This is a Choices weekend -- which means fast sleeps. I'm off and running this morning to coach for the day.

My two daughters, Alexis and Liseanne, have been coaching all week in the main seminar -- I'm in Givers 1 this weekend.

It is the first time they have coached without me and even though I'm not in the room, it is awesome to be around to hear what people have to say about them. You know, a mother's dream come true, everyone thinks your kids are amazing -- and they credit you. :)

When I watch my daughters I am always in awe of their beautiful spirits. They are such an incredible example of how to live your life in the fire of your passions. How to be kind and caring, compassionate and loving while being strong and forthright. They are always doing life for their highest good.

One of the coaches who had been in the room with the girls last night came up to me last night and said, "I am in awe of your daughters. I feel so blessed to have your daughters in my life. They inspire me."

Ahhh, my beating heart was swelling up!

I too am blessed. I too am inspired every day by them. I am rich beyond my wildest dreams.

It is a wonderful thing to know that no matter how painful their journey was, they have had the courage to let go and surrender and fall in love.

Have a wonder filled day. It is snowing here in Calgary. Yup. Snow in June. My flowers are looked a little wilted. They do not appreciate this at all!

Reality is, the snow will pass. While it passes, it is up to me to adjust my attitude to ensure I am not frosted off by its presence.

My choice! It is a beautiful day to be alive.

The question is: Is your attitude frosting up your window? Are you feeling the chill of your disdain for the world around you?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Running through the pain

Beware that you do not lose the substance by grasping at the shadow. Aesop
In the ebb and flow of life, there is always that place where water meets land, land meets water and the sands are stirred.

Yesterday, as I drove to a meeting I was thinking about the turmoil in my life, about the ebb and flow of my emotions, beliefs and behaviours. About the stirring up of my thinking where it washes away the residue of my disbelief that I can have the life of my dreams, right now in this moment, by living up to my highest good and letting go of my fixed belief it has to hurt if it's worth anything in my life.

Several years ago I ran a marathon. Twenty-six miles (plus some odd feet which were apparently added on many years ago to accommodate the finish line passing before the Queen's box). About six weeks before the race, I pulled a hamstring. Ouch! Having spent months training I was determined to complete the run, and I did. My hamstring was not happy. I was. It was a great accomplishment for me. However, the cost was significant, it took several years for my hamstring to heal and my running days were inhibited.

What struck me yesterday as I remembered my determination to complete that race was the fact that to do it, I had to, as they say in runner's circles, 'run through the pain'.

What if, my mind wondered, I am constantly living that belief? Continually running through the pain, looking for 'the wall' every marathon runner inevitably hits somewhere in their career.

What if in my belief there's always a wall to hit, I am limiting myself to a life of pain?

What if I wash away my limiting belief and stir up my thinking to embrace a new belief system? It's not about proving I can run through the pain, it's about running the best race of my life in this moment. There's no 'wall' to hit. No pain to be gained. Just beautiful thin air to move through with ease and grace.

What kind of a difference would that make in my life?

See, I have a belief system that says, "I can do anything." Question is: Do I want to? Must I? Is it necessary. Best. Right?

I can BE committed to DO what it takes to HAVE what I want -- but when the attainment of what I want on this physical plane does not align with my highest good, I am creating pain to run through as I hit the wall of my spirit's resistance to being less than its birthright.

The universe is filled with limitless possibilities. It is eternal bliss.

In my scrambling to make it happen by proving I can run through anything, I have inadvertently put walls up around my inner peace and happiness by causing myself unnecessary pain.

Inner peace and happiness are my birthright. They are eternal states of bliss. It is my struggle to attain them that separates me from living within their flow. Accepting what is in this moment, breathing deeply into my spirit, moving with grace and ease through 'the now', eliminates the need to hit the wall of my resistance to living freely, surrendering my ego and giving into love.

The question is: Are you constantly looking for the wall, running through the pain to find your happiness on the other side? Are you willing to move with grace and ease with the ebb and flow of this moment washing into the next?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

What would love do?

Here is the test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished: if you're alive, it isn't. Richard Bach
I had a long conversation with my friend M. yesterday about 'love'. Is it a verb or a noun, he asked.

Hmmm. Good question. And you know how I love questions -- good or bad!

As a Noun, love is described in The Free Dictionary as:

1. A deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection and solicitude toward a person, such as that arising from kinship, recognition of attractive qualities, or a sense of underlying oneness.
2. A feeling of intense desire and attraction toward a person with whom one is disposed to make a pair; the emotion of sex and romance.

As the Verb, loved, loving, loves, the definition provided states:

1. To have a deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection and solicitude toward (a person): We love our parents. I love my friends.
2. To have a feeling of intense desire and attraction toward (a person).

What if it is neither Noun nor Verb. What if it is all noun and verb?

What if love is the answer?

What if....

Love is.
I am.
We are.
One
In love.

My lovely friend C.S. sent me a passage from a book she is reading, Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsh. The 'voice' is God's. He/She is speaking to the author as they engage in a long and loving conversation throughout the book.

“Yea, let all those who have ears to hear listen. For I tell you this: at the critical juncture in all human relationships, there is only one question: WHAT WOULD LOVE DO NOW? No other question is relevant, no other question is meaningful, no other question has any importance to your soul.”

What would love do now?

When I respond to that question to create my highest good, I emit a ripple of goodness that effects the world around me. When I am the best me I can be, when my choices are predicated upon celebrating the best in me, I create the best for me and around me.

When I respond to any situation from a place of selfishness, of worrying about 'what's in it for me', 'how can I protect myself from getting hurt', 'how do I not lose face, back down, back away without giving in', I am not in love, I am fighting love, investing in fear. In my fear, I fight to control the world around me as if I am separate. I am the only one.

I am the only one that matters to me. The only one I can change, live up to, share -- it is my responsibility, and the purpose of my journey, to choose for my highest good in all things. In my choices, I create the highest good around me.

So often in my life I move through each moment thinking of myself as separate from the world around me. I act as if I am a drop of water stopped up inside a bottle cast upon the seas. I maneuver my way through the seas of life, trying desperately to direct its ebb and flow washing over and under and around me. In my misguided belief I am separate, you are separate, we are not connected, I convince myself I am safe within my bottle. That that is the way life flows into freedom.

Truth is, love is all around me. When I remove the cork. I wash out into the sea. The sea washes in to embrace me. I become one with the sea and the sea becomes one with me. As one, what happens to me, happens to others. What I create. Others feel. Let my creation be for the highest good in me.

We are all One.

In love.

The question is: Are you a drop of water or are you part of the great sea of life swimming in love?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Love conquers all

Fill what's empty, empty what's full, and scratch where it itches. (on the secret to a long and happy life.) Wallis Warfield Simpson, Duchess of Windsor
I don't know who makes these days official, but June 3 is, "Love Conquers All" Day -- at least according to an email I received this morning with the above quote. And if it's on the Internet, it must be true, right?

I've often wondered about the idea that 'love conquers all'. Is it true? Just because you say it, does it make it real?

Truth is -- love conquers all.

It is we as human beings doing what we do that complicate it.

A girlfriend mentioned that to me last night when we met for a glass of wine. "Don't complicate things," she told me. "Ask yourself -- What do I want? What am I willing to do to have it? What am I not willing to do? Focus on you. No one else."

And thus, love conquers all.

When I am 'in love', all things are possible. In love, I move with ease and grace through my day.

When I am 'in angst' or 'in fear', all things are possible too -- just not necessarily with the ease and grace of my in love state and not necessarily with an outcome I want to explore.

Therein lies the conundrum. All things are possible. I determine the state of their unfolding in my life. I cannot control their unfolding. Only how I respond to their appearance in my life.

If life is viewed as a continuum, and love is the foundation of everything I do, as I move away from the centrepoint, I become out of balance, walking a delicate line where each footstep must be carefully measured to not tip the scales in one direction or the other.

In the centre, balanced on the solid foundation of love being all that I am and all that there is around me, I do not worry about tipping the scales. I focus on breathing deeply into the moment, feeling the air around me moving against my skin as I move with grace and ease through the moment.

In life, there are events that will trip me up, tip me over, tie me down. In life, love keeps me from falling into the trap of believing, the trip ups, tip overs and tie downs are what matter.

What matters is -- Am I being all I want to be in the moment? Am I creating opportunities for more of what I want to grow in my life?

As I lay in bed this morning, thinking about trigger points and all the stuff going on in my life, I realized that I was feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of some of the tasks at hand. Last night, as C.C. and I were walking with Ellie I commented that some days, the sheer number of wounded people I witness walking through our building, is overwhelming.

I work in a world where lives are continually out of balance, off kilter. I witness people doing things that hurt them. That abuse them. That destroy them.

And I cannot stop them. (Just writing that phrase causes tears to push up against my eyelids. I want to stop them. I know I can't.)

I can only bring my best to bear and hold a space for them to find themselves, where ever they're at. Sometimes, all I can do is hold out a plate of food in the hope that it will nourish their bodies and their souls.

In love, all things are possible.

I have fallen out of love with serving others. At least, from the perspective of doing it without wanting to control the outcome, change their lives.

I am powerless to change someone else's life. Powerless to force them to wake up, to get up, to get going in some other direction.

I have fallen into the trap of believing what I do is futile. That people will continue to destroy themselves -- and nothing I do will change that.

Truth is, people will continue to do things that will destroy them. I can't change what they do. I can change how I struggle with that truth.

I can let go. Surrender and fall in love.

I can move back to the centrepoint of my continuum. Balanced in love, knowing that whatever I'm doing, when I focus on creating more of what I want in my life -- love -- I let go of having to make other lives fit my creation. When I let go of being attached to the outcome, I turn up in love and trust that all will unfold as it's meant to be. My job is to experience the moment -- whereever I'm at. However I'm at in it.

Love conquers all. It's me trying to conquer the world that creates the problem.

The question is: What do you want? Are you willing to surrender and fall in love with where ever you're at to have all that you want in life?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Curing back on myself

Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option. Unknown
Mark sent me that quote yesterday. It resonates.

So does my friend C.Ss comment to me: Do you ask so many questions because you're scared you're missing something? Some vital piece of information that will make it all make sense?

It goes right up there with Thelma Box's observation: I experience you as a woman who will never find an answer good enough for her.

Questions and answers. Always more questions than I can find answers for. Always more questions waiting to be answered.

But do I wait for the answer? Do I even want the answer?

Or, am I looking for questions to keep me from accepting what I know and feel and experience today?

Good question.

And the circle goes on turning.

This morning, the pain in my thumb has abated. I spoke with my sister yesterday and her sigh over the phone was filled with sadness. "Oh dear. Sounds like arthritis. It happens to me a lot."

Oh dear. She's probably right.

I know there are homeopathic remedies to curb the flow of arthritis. I must dig them out and put them to good use. My good health is my responsibility. Osteo-arthritis is a hereditary disease. It flows in my mother's body with the sharp edges of brittle ice cracking within a glacial crevasse.

What to do with my aching heart? Has emotional arthritis curbed its ability to beat freely? Has emotional arthritis inhibited my ability to breathe?

I breathe.

I see myself standing waiting for an answer. No one can give me my answers. They already exist within me. It's up to me to open up to my own truth -- not look for it in someone else.

The gift I see in C.C. is the mirror of my own fear. His hesitation, withdrawal, ebbing forward and back mirrors my own tentative stance.

I distrust love. I distrust my ability to be safe in love.

Those are my fears. Not his.

In my effort to assuage my fear, I give him lots of opportunity to feel incompetent in love. With my constant questioning of 'why do you do that?', "what is going on?', I limit the opportunity for love to 'go on'. I limit my opportunity to simply be together, 'in love'.

My stuff. My shtick.

Questions and answers.

A lot of questions.

Time to start feeling, living, breathing my answers.

I love.

I am love.

Love is.

A circular journey back into the centre of my being all that is, love.

Curving back on myself I create again and again. Bhagavad Gita

I release my fear and curve back into myself become the exclamation of all that I love. I create that which I want most in life. Love.

The question is: Are you hiding behind the questions avoiding living what you know? Are you willing to uncurl the question mark and become the exclamatory statement of your life lived in love?

Monday, June 1, 2009

When you can do nothing.

Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get. Dale Carnegie

I am always amazed at how one little part of my body can affect the whole. The part that is causing distress is -- my thumb. Hmmm.... perhaps I shouldn't have written about giving up my opposing thumb! Because, it is not happy!

I didn't type this weekend. Had to give my thumb a rest. While only a minor player in the typing game, minor or not, any movement was difficult and any movement of my hand affected the thumb and any movement of the thumb affected the whole and around and around we go.

Like life. Everything is connected to everything. How I do one thing is how I do all things. Who I am in one thing is who I am in all things -- even when I don't want to be, I am being me being me in all things. And sometimes, I am not my best.

Which must be why I am struggling with staying true to who I am, who I want to be in my relationship with C.C. As with all things, nothing stays the same. Every day changes. C.C. mentioned he is struggling with relationship. I become angst ridden.

Relationship for me can be tough. I scurry behind my fears. Barricade myself behind my angst of what if's whenever I feel myself slipping out of control. What if the past is the present. What if there is no straight line to success?

I am not a very patient person. I always want to fix it fast. Fix it now. Let's get going.

Sometimes, doing nothing is the best recourse.

As the Zen Koan asks, "When you can do nothing, what can you do?"

I can get out of fear and leap into courage to be who I am in the moment. I can BE committed to DO what it takes to HAVE what I want in my life.

For me, that doesn't mean, 'having C.C.'. It means living the truth of our relationship where truth and honesty, dignity and respect are the foundation of love.

In my angst of wanting to control what's happening, I barricade myself behind the wall of fear I create when I cannot control the outcome of a situation. Attached to the outcome, I do not see the beauty of a human spirit unfolding and trusting me with their truth. Instead, I see and hear and feel and sense my own fear rising -- my fear that the truth is, I am not good enough. I am not cherished. I am not worthy. I am undeserving.

To love someone means to accept them exactly where they're at. To love someone else, must I first love myself? Or, in loving someone else, do I learn to love myself?

In love, as in life, there are no concrete answers. No definites. The reality is, every day is a gift. It is up to me to treat the present of time with loving care. To love another, I must be true to who I am. Bring the best of me into the relationship. When I am my best, the best is all I can give.

Like my thumb, one small comment has affected the whole. One comment has shifted my perspective away from seeing the beauty of truth unfolding into seeing only my fear of being less than, unworthy and unlovable. Rather than look for the value in where we're at, I'm searching for the negative value in whatever is before my eyes. I am closing myself off from love and locking myself into fear.

Fear is the opportunity to be courageous.

And I am a fearless woman.

And a fearless woman in this situation would say, "I hear you. I see you. I know you. I love you. Thank you for sharing your truth. My truth is, I am committed to being the best me I can be, to bringing the best of me forward, to looking for the best in you. I want the best for me. I want the best for you."

Time to grow up into my fearless woman and be all I'm meant to be -- even with an opposing thumb causing me angst!

The question is: Are you hiding behind a wall of fear, fearful of letting your light shine upon the truth of who you are? Are you holding back the best of you for fear you will not be enough?