Thursday, January 31, 2008

Circle of love

Yesterday, we had a family meeting with my mother's psychiatrist and two nurses from the program she is currently enrolled in. Her nurse said when asked by my sister J. how mom was doing, "She is doing well. She is up here," and she motioned with her pen to a position just in front of her face. "Unfortunately, she'll have a day up here and the next," and her pen fell like a stock market ticker on a bear run. "We'd like to stabilize her moods, up here." And her pen rose again. An uptick in the markets. A rise in fortunes.

The psychiatrist chimed in from where he sat across from my mother on the opposite side of the circle, "That's not going to happen. That's her nature."

It's her nature.

Years ago, I felt compelled to ask my mother to tell me her life story, I wanted to understand. Her life. Why she was the way she was. Why our relationship was so strained. I wanted to be the best mother I could be to my daughters and believed understanding my relationship with my mother would help me. If I could only understand I believed I had a chance of improving my relationship with her. I thought if I changed so would she.

I forgot about 'her nature'.

Later in the session we shared with eachother three things we needed the other person to do to help improve our relationship. When my mother reached me, she asked me to phone her more often. At least twice a week. I agreed and then she said, "And don't say anything negative. You always say negative things to me. I was so proud of you since you came back to us. You are becoming a good person finally. But you still say negative things to me."

That's a toughy. Both for the trigger in her sentence and her request about negativity. For my mother, any comment that focuses on reality is considered negative -- how do I speak without speaking my truth?

I have a tape that runs through my head, "I am the outsider." Like a stream running over rocks, it trips me up with the belief that throughout my life I have been an outsider in my family. In my teens and twenties, I jokingly called myself 'the oddest duckling' whenever I spoke of my family position. In my youth, I thought it was all my fault. I thought I was to blame for the discord around me.

It took years of therapy, journalling, and life experience for me to realize it wasn't about me -- at least not all of it. What was about me were my responses, my triggers, my reactions to my family.

For my mother, her litany of woes concerning me has been part of her story for many years. For a moment yesterday, when she went on to explain to the nurses just how thoughtless I am and how I continually hurt her, I felt the ping of angst, of sadness, of regret. Why couldn't I be different? Why couldn't I be the daughter she wanted?

And then I took a breath. Most of my life my mother has seen me through the haze of her medications. Most of my life has been spent rebelling against not having the mother of my dreams.

A couple of years ago when a girlfriend's daughter told me she thought she was to blame for her mother's drinking, I told her. "Your mother drinks because something inside her compels her to do that. It isn't about her love for you. It's about a lack of love for herself and so much more."

"But what am I supposed to do?" she cried.

"Love her exactly the way she is and get help for yourself."

I need to take my own advice. I need to love my mother exactly the way she is, nature and all, and help myself by turning up for me, and her, in love.

It's time I learned from my daughters again and fall in love with my mother's nature. I need to surrender my fears of never being enough so that I can love my mother with the same fierceness and devotion of my daughters' love for me.

And so I come full circle, connected through love to the powerful bond of motherhood before me and behind me. A circle of love that cannot be broken, no matter how hard I fight against it.

The question is: Who's in your circle? Are you fighting the bonds of love or accepting the nature of their connection?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

For Liseanne

Twenty years ago today my youngest daughter burst into the world. She didn't care that there was a nurse's strike. She wasn't concerned by the weather. It was her time. Her moment. Her destiny. She arrived.

It's how she's lived her life every day since making her first appearance. Filled with exuberance, Liseanne steps into each moment expecting the unexpected.

When I count my blessings, Alexis and Liseanne are golden lights casting a warm glow from the top of my gratitude list like a star shining from the top of a Christmas tree. My life sparkles in the light of their beautiful spirits lighting my path.

Being a mother has taught me more about who I am than any therapy session, group encounter or solitary exploration of my psyche. Being a mother has taught me the meaning of unconditional love.

Becoming a parent is a sacred trust. Holding my new born daughters in my arms filled me with awe, with joy, and with vast amounts of trepidation. What if I'm not 'good enough'? What if I make a mess of their lives? What if....

Like a mystery writer probing the depths of her characters as she reveals the intricacy of the unwinding plot with each turning page, being a mother has revealed for me my strengths, and my weaknesses, with every day of my daughters presence in my life. Being a mother came naturally. Actually after conception, being a mother wasn't a choice. I simply was one. Being a parent however, has been a constant journey of love, and of fear. Being a parent is not natural for me -- and in fact, there are times in my journey over the past twenty+ years with my daughters in my life, when I fought being a parent because I wanted to cling to my childlike belief that someone else needed to take care of business so that I didn't have to 'grow up'!

Fortunately, children love their parents. Unconditionally. From the moment of their birth until our last breath, children love us, in spite of ourselves. I know. My daughters loved me through dark times, happy times, through sad times. The one constant always in my life was their love.

Through their love I have learned to love myself, just the way I am.

Last night, while visiting my mother at the hospital, I sat in on a group session for the patients in her care facility. It was on Building Self-Esteem. One woman said, "It took me thirty years to learn how to love myself. At first, I didn't want to. It looked so big, [loving myself]. I kept hiding in my depression so that I wouldn't have to and then, I got tired of being sad and wanted to be happy with me."

She went on to explain how she broke loving herself down into small portions. She stuck sticky notes on her mirrors and fridge that said, "I love myself". She set goals of how many times a day she needed to say it, first to the air around her and then to her reflection in the mirror.

So many people I speak to struggle with loving themselves -- exactly the way they are. I see it everyday at the shelter where I work. Lives torn apart by self-abuse. And yet, loving ourselves is integral to our capacity to be loved by others.

I used to yearn to love myself. And then I'd do things that didn't reflect my desire.

Today, I love myself exactly the way I am. My daughters taught me how through their unconditional love.

Happy Birthday Liseanne. May your life be filled with the wonder and joy you bring to every moment. May your days be filled with love.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A daily dose of inspiration

She's been clean for 28 months. At 57, it's the longest period in her life since she took her first drink when she was 16.

"Alcohol is not my vice," she told me from where she sat across from me in my office. Her blue eyes are intense. Her streaked blond hair held back from her face in a ponytail at the top of her head. Her face is lined with the wear and tear of life on the street. She is in constant motion. Fidgeting, shifting position, crossing her jean clad legs, unfolding them. "I was addicted to heroin in my late twenties. Replaced it with cocaine and then crack."

She's managed to give birth to two amazing children, now 37 and 35. "I hadn't started the hard core drugs at that point," she said. "Mostly pot. I remember when my kids were in their teens. I used to tell them I couldn't wait for them to grow up and move away." She looks down at her hands. The nails are broken and chewed. She picks at a piece of dead skin along the edge of her thumbnail. "It was the addiction talking. Having them there interfered with my use." She sighs. Smiles slightly. "I've let go of my shame and my guilt. But I still have remorse. I've apologized to my kids for those lost years. I guess if there's a blessing in all of this it's my kids. They don't drink or do drugs. They're good parents."

She pauses. I wonder if she's going to add, 'not like me' but she falls into silence, her eyes lift up, she stares at the ceiling. I wait.

"There are so many people I need to make amends to."

She grows silent again. There's a sheen of tears glistening on her bright blue eyes as she looks straight at me. "An addiction is like a suicide mission. I spent most of my life trying to kill myself. Now, I just want to live without dying everyday."

She's moving out of the shelter where she's been living for the past three months. "You know, sobriety is really different this time." She smiles. "I can walk past places where I used to use and suddenly, they're just places. Some of them are even places I want to go visit in the spring when the weather's nicer. I want to see them through clear eyes."

She describes a park where getting high was part of the experience of being there. "I love that park now as a place of quiet, calmness. A place to just be." Pause. I can almost feel her thoughts turn inward. "I like being sober."

It was a remarkable hour spent listening to one woman's story of life on the darkside of living.

It is what inspires me everyday at the shelter where I work. Individuals waking up to the truth of who they are as they shed the addictions that have kept them mired in the filth of believing they are unworthy.

For Shelly*, that truth is in her commitment to staying sober and to helping others. "Once I'm settled in my new place, I want to come back here and volunteer."

I assure her we'd love to have her as a volunteer. "What are you dreams?" I ask.

Without hesitation she responds. "I want to work with the younger women. The street girls. I want to help them get back on their feet. Stop using." Her words flow in a steady stream. Ideas pour out. She's thought about this a lot. She knows what she needs to do.

"I can't make anyone stop using," she says. "But I can be there for them when they fall. Like this place was there for me."

Twenty-eight months ago she was almost dead. "I had so many drugs in my body I should have died," she tells me. "I remember wanting to die. And then, someone found me and brought me here. A staff member asked if I wanted to go to Detox and I said yes, whatever." She laughs as she remembers those first days of sobriety. "I stayed in Detox ten days instead of five, I was pretty wasted. When I sobered up, I came back to the shelter and one of the counsellors got me a bed in Rehab. You guys saved my life."

Twenty-eight months. Not long in a lifetime, but for Shelly, being stoned is a lifetime ago. "I never want to use again. Don't even feel the urge. Living means too much to me."

From suicide mission to life. She's done her time, served a sentence she never wants to repeat. "My addiction was a prison of my own making," she says. "And now I'm free."

Twenty-eight months of taking one step at a time, one day at a time.

"You know, when I first got sober I went to live in another town, just so I could surround myself with serious AA folks. In the town where I was at, there was a guy who had forty-eight years of sobriety." She shakes her head in awe. "He had a pin with a big diamond in the middle circled by rubies for every five years of sobriety. I don't want anything that elaborate, but I'm going to get me one of those pins."

I believe she will.

The question is: What inspires you every day?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Fired up on dream-inspired action

I had never heard of Wintley Phipps until this morning when an email from a girlfriend included a link to a YouTube rendition of his singing of Amazing Grace. It is in those moments of witnessing someone's magnificence in light that I am humbled by awe of the human spirit.

I had never heard of Wintley Phipps' organization, the US Dream Academy until this morning either. The US Dream Academy helps children of prisoners with their education. "A child with a dream is a child with a future," reads their tagline.

Dreams. I want to dream with childlike wonder. I want to embrace the moment in childlike awe of what is possible when I get out of my own way and instead, create my own way to my dreams come true.

British pastor and lecturer, Bernard Edmonds wrote, “To dream anything that you want to dream. That's the beauty of the human mind. To do anything that you want to do. That is the strength of the human will. To trust yourself to test your limits. That is the courage to succeed.”

Dreams are the stuff that living life on full-throttle, foot to the pedal, full-speed ahead, top down, wind whipping through your hair, laughter rippling through your body, are made of.

Dreams are big stuff.

I want to be a wild-eyed dreamer. Painting my dreams in multi-coloured hues rich in experience, brimming over with excitement and empty of fear. I want to dream big. Live large. Die living.

I know I can. I think I can. I can. Me and Henry Ford. "Whether you think that you can, or that you can't, you are usually right.” I wanta be always right -- living my dreams because I know I can, because I claim my right to live my dreams freely.

I wanta be right. Right on. On fire. Fired up. Up lifted.

I wanta dream. Live my dreams and die exhausted of my dreams lived out living every moment on fire because this moment counted, this moment was my dream come true.

That's me. My Monday morning manifesto. My 'live my life' song of joy fired up on dream-inspired action filling every moment with awe.

The question is: What's your Monday morning manifesto? What dream are you holding close to your chest in fear of setting it free?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Same door. Different perspective.

A new home. New neighbourhood. New patterns of being.

Ellie and I have developed a new routine -- one she is extremely happy with! Whereas in the past, I would awaken, make coffee, write, take her for a walk around the block and get on with my morning, this new neighbourhood has shifted my morning routine.

At the end of our block, much to Ellie's delight, is an off-leash area. Like a siren calling sailors home, the off-leash calls Ellie every morning to come gambol along the hillside. No longer content to just lie in wait for me to finish my morning routine, Ellie paces in the kitchen, her eyes pleading with me to skip the coffee, forgo the computer and instead, start my day with a breath of fresh air as my morning wake-up.

She can be rather insistent, persistent and resistant to my attempts to tell her to lie down and wait. With the tenacity of a kid asking 'are we there yet?', Ellie prances back and forth from kitchen to front door, willing me to pick up her leash. I've decided its best to relent. Wake-up, coffee, walk. Writing comes after. I'm glad I've changed my routine.

Once outside, Ellie is like a kid anticipating summer holidays. Nose lifted, tail raised in full Golden Retriever alert, she prances down the street towards the park, pulling me behind her. Once the off-leash area is reached and she is released from the restrictions of her leash, she races off to sniff and explore all the new sights and smells this park has to offer. And I get to delight in her enthusiasm and in the spectacular views laid out before me.

What a beautiful way to start my day! Smiling. Laughing. In awe of what nature and man has created. Reminded by Ellie's enthusiastic embrace of her freedom of the pure joy of being alive, and free.

From the top of the ridge, I witness the world's awakening. To the east, the sun splits the cloud strewn sky with streaks of pink and gold and umber. A painters palette of tone on tone, texture and colour merging to create a priceless painting that I capture in my mind's eye and hold gently in awe in memory's thrall. To the south, breaking daylight glints off the gleaming glass towers of the city skyline. Each building rises in defiance to gravity, competing with the next to touch the sky. And to the west, the serrated ridge of the Rockies sprawl across the horizon, their crenellated sides and spiky ridges rolling north and south like a sleeping dragon awaiting the sun's warmth to awaken it.

I walked the ridge this morning and took a deep, satisfying breath of cold, crisp air. What an amazing morning to be alive.

Every move, whether from the couch to the kitchen, one side of the city to another, or across the country, or around the world, opens up opportunity for patterns to shift, horizons to expand, opportunities to abound. This morning, as I stepped into my day, I am reminded that in every door closing behind me, I step into a new world of different vistas, new sights and exciting new patterns waiting to unfold. Clinging to old routines when moving into new neighbourhoods keeps me stuck in walking through my day looking for the same results I got yesterday.

Life's too short for same old same old. It's up to me to awaken to the unexpected and leap into my day as if every moment counts 100% towards my happiness. Truth is, it does!

The question is: Where are you stuck walking through the same door, looking for the same sights and sounds?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The present is the gift of peace of mind

My coffee is a tasty, warm treat this morning. Light as air milky foam froths over the top. I am content.

The house is coming into order, or at least a semblance of such. One of my water lily paintings rests on the mantel, creating an oasis of bright and vibrant colour in the living room. Upstairs my desk is set up, though boxes still contain files and the other flotsam that contribute to my home-office life. In my office alcove, Alexis has hung three of her paintings -- my favourite, Monet-inspired scene she painted of a photo from her trip to Giverny. Like two people creating a relationship, the house is coming together into a home where harmony permeates throughout the rooms and the wonder of being part of something new settles into the joy of being two hearts connected in love.

Before I moved in here, I had no set plan as to where everything would go. I had an idea. An assumption. A vision -- but had not laid out a gridded schematic exactly detailing what went where.

Like life. I have a vision. An idea. An assumption that all will go according to plan if I stick to working my plan while being flexible and open to possibility. Sometimes, my plan for living a beautiful life has been somewhat sketchy. Its been obscured by my fear that being too precise will limit the unexpected wonder of life's surprises lighting up my day. When I step into my fear and let courage draw me through it, I act from my best intentions. Suddenly, the unexpected happens and life opens up with limitless possibilities

This house is evolving into a home. There are still more boxes than places to put things. More things than fit -- or are needed. Culling continues as I unpack and merge things from two separate lives coming together.

There is no clear-cut plan as to how that will happen. Just an idea. A vision. A commitment to open, honest and loving communication. A desire to create a future founded on best steps forward today.

It is here, in this place of anticipation that I step wary of triggers from the past. Last night, as I puttered and put things in places and carried out unwanted debris to the garage, I listened to the silence of the house. There were no ghosts whispering in corners. No ethereal spirits looming in darkened alcoves.

There was simply a sense of peace. Of rightness. Of contentment. A feeling of being where I belong, in this moment.

I cannot see the future. I can however prepare a pathway to tomorrow that is clear of obstacles from the past. Acting on my best intentions, I focus on doing my absolute, total best in this moment, right now and fly free of fear.

In my commitment to turning up in this moment, paying attention to this moment and speaking my truth about this moment, I stay unattached to the outcome. The outcome will be what the outcome is. I can't control the future. I can create a present where what comes out of today is the gift of peace of mind growing from my loving heart embracing all that I am and all that is around me.

The question is: Are you committed to turning up, paying attention, speaking your truth and staying unattached to the outcome? Are you committed to being your amazing self in this moment and letting tomorrow come when it will?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Isn't it funny how a number can be so intimidating?

Before my 300th post, I didn't really think a lot about how many blogs I'd written. Now, everyday I see the number and feel intimidated. Where will the 308th come from? What if I don't have a 309th?

Trusting in the process. Giving into fear to find my courage to continue.

This is my 308th blog. Not a remarkable number. Not a momentuous one even. Yet, the number this morning caused a ripple of fear to slither through my mind.

Fear is the opportunity to be courageous.

Fear is also the opportunity to run and hide. To take off to anyplace else other than where I'm at. To go underground. To indulge in self-sabotage.

I must stay awakened to my fear. Wide-eyed. Alert.

I must call on my courage to draw me out of fear and into reality. Into truth. Into my own best self.

Fear has tripped me up in the past. It has undermined my action with its desire to put me to sleep, to tumble me into inactivity. To blind me to my truth shining within me.

American author, Alyce P. Cornyn wrote, "Self-sabotage is when we say we want something and then go about making sure it doesn't happen.”

Last night, while visiting my mother at the hospital, she told me about her troubles sleeping. "I go to bed and command myself to sleep," she said, her crippled fingers clenched into a fist, pounding the bedcovers on which she sat. "I know I shouldn't command myself. But I do. I want to sleep."

We talked about some things she could do to invite sleep to take over her restlessness and she kept replying. "That won't work."

"Do you really want to sleep?" I asked her.

"Yes," she replied. "I would do anything for a good nights sleep."

And then she told me about a recurring dream she'd been having that was disturbing her sleep.

"Perhaps your sleeplessness is fear of the dream reappearing." I commented.

Startled, she sat up. Her eyes widened. "But I can't make it stop when I'm asleep," she said. "It scares me. It makes me unhappy."

"But staying awake isn't making you happier. Why not give into the fear of falling asleep and get some rest?"

On guard against the things I fear most, I lose the opportunity to turn up for myself and tire myself out fighting my fear of the unknown with my resolve to stay stuck in what I know, even when I know it's hurting me. When I let fear drive me away from courage, I give into my worst fears of never being enough.

I cannot be all I am meant to be when I am walking in fear of the world around me and within me.

I cannot step into courage when I am dragging my heals through fear of turning up for me in all my beauty -- warts and all.

The question is: Where does fear keep you stuck in doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Getting up and giving back.

Early morning. Morning's early. Day sleeps beneath the blanket of night pulled across the sky. I awaken to a quiet house. Calm. Serene. Love sleeping in. Love slipping into awakening.

I posted my blog from yesterday on Lovefraud, a site where I am a contributing editor. It never ceases to amaze me how a few words can strike a harmonious note in the minds and hearts of those who have suffered at the hands of the personality disordered.

Before I met Conrad, the abuser formerly in my life, I thought psychopaths were only the Jeffrey Dahlmers and Ted Bundy's of the world. Violent, vicious, cruel and sadistic. After that encounter I learned that 1 in 10 Canadians will have psychopathic traits. I learned that I could meet one anywhere -- anytime -- anyhow.

My daughters often accuse me of seeing psychopaths everywhere. I don't -- I do however, recognize psychopathic traits when they arise. Doesn't mean the person is a psychopath. Just means some of the traits psychopaths have are shared by all of us.

And that's the rub.

A 'little white lie' to a non-psychopath is often used as a means of avoiding hurting someone else's feelings.

To a psychopath, there are no little white lies. Other people's feelings do not fit into the equation of their behaviour. Little white lies are generally part of a string of lies meant to weave a web of deceit around the target.

A couple of years ago I had a girlfriend who continually lied, often when the truth would have sufficed. I don't know why she needed to lie so much, other than that she had extremely low self-esteem, even though at the age of 45 she went back to University, took her undergrad and by 54 had graduated with her Ph.D. That doctorate did not cure her of her habit of lying. Eventually, I grew tired of being lied to and ended the friendship. I couldn't stop her lying. I could stop her lying to me.

Yesterday, I met with a woman whose husband left her at the age of 63 with huge debt, and no income. "He was always irresponsible," she said. "He always ran around and lived the high life. I just didn't realize how much he lied and I didn't think he'd up and leave my life high and dry."

She spent a couple of years clearing up the debt, putting her world back in order. Now a senior, she is faced with the prospect of living on a fixed income supplement that still keeps her living below the poverty line. The husband has re-married a wealthy woman and is living the high life on an island far away.

Her attitude is an inspiration. "I have my days where it does get me down," she told me. "Not about my husband. I can't change that. But, I lost my daughter in 2006. I sometimes wonder why it had to happened. When I go there, however, I remind myself that I can never answer the why and need to focus on the what I'm doing to change my life and hopefully the lives of other seniors living in poverty."

She's organizing a half day conference about Seniors and poverty. She's got guest speakers lined up. A venue set up. Advertising. Flyers. Sponsors.

She's committed to Be. Do. Have.

She wants to make a difference. She wants to keep working and doing and living life as if it's the only life she's got. And she wants to change some of the tax laws around seniors income. She had worked for a six week period and made $3,000. By the time the government extracted its 'fair share', she was left with $200 of her earnings. For her, that incident spurred her on to learn more so that she could do something about what she believes to be inequities in the system. She is giving back to make a difference.

When life gets us down, there's always an opportunity for us to get up and get going. Make a difference. Make it count. Make it happen.

The question is: Where are you sitting back and taking it so that you can avoid getting up and giving back?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

My 100% responsibility

I had a glass of wine last night with a girlfriend who is leaving for a three month holiday at the beginning of February. Where she's going is not important -- except when put in the context of who is at the place she's going. A man. A man she once loved who could not, would not commit. A man who hid behind silence. Who never told her where he was, what he was doing or who he was with.

She spent the first year after leaving him healing her broken heart. And then she started dating. A few months ago she decided to phone the man far away. "We were such good friends. Friends stay in touch and I just wanted to see how he was," she told me.

With that phone call, the game was on. Three months ago she decided to go visit him. "Great!" he said. Now, plans laid, trip organized, her packing almost complete he has stopped calling and stopped taking her calls.

"Why does he do that?" she asked.

"Because he can." I replied.

I also had lunch with a friend yesterday who, after 15+ years of marriage, told his wife on Sunday night that he is leaving. "I didn't tell her I know about her lies, the cheating, the affairs," he said. "I just told her the love is gone. It's time for me to leave." She shed two tears, he said and that was that. And then he told me when he got home last night, she did everything in her power to seduce him. "I love you," she said. "I promise to give you everything you want. Don't leave me."

"Why does she do that?" he asked.

"Because she can," I replied. "Because it's what she does."

When I was with the psychopath, he did what he did because he could, because it is what he does.

While I was with him, I focused my energy on coping with what he did, coping with his lies disguised as truths, coping with my confusion, my fear, my anxiety and avoided, at all costs, coping with the truth -- what he was doing wasn't what was making the biggest difference in my life. I was. By not focusing on my 'doing, I was choosing to live with his abuse, his lies, his deceit, his manipulations.

What I wasn't doing was making the difference between living with abuse -- or not. I wasn't looking at me as the root of my own sickness. I was looking at him continually -- looking for my answers in what he was doing, saying, being -- and not checking myself out against what I was doing, saying, being by remaining in his duplicitous embrace. I continually denied what I knew to be true -- he was lying. I continually told myself, 'it can't be true that he is lying' and instead reminded myself, 'It must be true. He loves me. He wouldn't lie to me."

The lie in that statement was -- I positioned the pain of my existence in the context of his loving me.

The truth is, from hello to good-bye, I love you to I hate you. You're beautiful to you're ugly -- everything was predicated on the lie of what he was doing, saying and being. In my denial of the truth, I bought into his lies and gave up on me.

I never asked myself the tough questions, What do I feel about what he's doing? How does it affect me? What can I do to change my situation? What if I give myself permission to leave without hearing his voice telling me I can't? What if I quit calling his abuse love? What if I quit taking responsibility for his bad behaviour and instead, take responsibility for my own?

If by chance, I did happen to ask myself one of those tough questions, I always completed my answer with -- I can't leave him... and then I recited the litany of reasons he'd told me why I could never leave. In the process, I became very, very emotionally sick. In my ill-health, I never gave myself the cure I needed to rid myself of the disease causing my illness -- I never left him because I kept my focus on trying to figure out him -- not trying to figure out a way to heal myself.

For me, focusing on his behaviours, trying to figure out why he was doing what he was doing, continually looking for meaning in everything he said, and keeping the light fixed on him, kept me stuck in confusion. It kept me from shining the light on my own behaviour. My constant angst around his bad behaviour protected me from having to face my bad decision-making, poor judgement in character -- and ultimately, face myself, with tender loving care.

I feel for both my friends yesterday. Theirs is not an easy road. Both will have to decide to either do what is best and caring of them -- or not. Both will have to give themselves medicine -- or not. Both will have to turn up for themselves and let the other person go -- or not.

Turning up for me has been a constant journey into self-love. It has been a continuous quest for finding my truth within me -- and letting go of looking for my answers out there. Whatever answers I find in someone else will always be best for them. Just as whatever answers someone else finds within me, will always be first and foremost best for me.

In healthy self-care, the person I keep healthiest must be myself. I cannot properly care for my daughters without first taking care of me. If I always jump to their aid, continually do for them and not do for myself, I will drain myself of energy, of passion, of commitment. For in my desire to do for them always, I let go of my responsibility to do for me so that I am strong enough, courageous enough, healthy enough to do for them what is loving, supportive and caring.

Once upon a time, I gave up on me and gave into a man who told me he had all my answers. He was my shortcut to happiness. Lost on that road to hell, I found myself again beneath the debris of his tumultuous passing through my life.

In healing, I have awakened to the truth within me -- I am 100% responsible for my journey. I am 100% responsible for living in the light of love, for turning up for me and living this one wild and precious life as if it is the only life I've got -- it is. It is my responsibility to live it up.

The question is: Where do you let go of responsibility for your one wild and precious life looking for someone else to turn the light on?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Blessings of good fortune

The move is almost complete. We're still clearing out odds and ends at the old house. Fortunately, there's a time limit on how long we have! Alexis and Liseanne are going over today to clear out what was left in their rooms and to start cleaning up the mess left-over from the move -- and I am awash in boxes and papers. Chaos and clutter.

Yesterday, the Internet and telephone were hooked up and I got to the important task of setting up my computer. I now have a new office space to adjust to -- I'm looking forward to filling it with creative thoughts and energy.

Moving is such fun! Honest! Moving provides ample space for creativity to come alive. There's the possibility of creating new spaces. Settling into new routines. Expanding into different comfort zones. Building new places to be at one, and to be together.

C.C. and I are still sorting through his stuff my stuff. Alexis and Liseanne are still organizing their rooms, though Liseanne is much further ahead in the process than any of us.

A highlight of this new house becoming home -- the hot tub complete with DVD player and TV. And, the outdoor skating rink across the lane complete with lights. C.C. and E., Liseanne's boyfriend, have already been out for a pick-up game with some neighbours. The sound of their shots and shouts was music in the air as I waded through -- more boxes.

Have you ever wondered how you can accumulate so much stuff? Four + years ago, I had no 'things'. Now, I've got way too many things and too few places for them -- or time to use them either!

I remember the lightness of being 'thing free' for awhile. There was a sense of anything is possible. Anywhere possible. And then, I bought a microwave from a friend of my sisters who was moving away. She also threw in a box of dishes, cutlery, and an assortment of kitchen gadgets. Suddenly I had things.

I cried. Having one thing reminded me of all the things I had lost until I reminded myself, that was then, this is now and in the now I have so much. I am so blessed.

The microwave and dishes that started the snowball of my acquisition of 'life goods' was given away Saturday to the shelter where I work. They will find a home in someone else's life where they can become the catalysts for a change in fortune in someone else's life.

Moving so many things has reminded me again of how blessed I am. How fortunate. How lucky.

Moving isn't fun. But, the possibilities for fun are endless and the reminders for how blessed and fortunate I am are endless too.

Today, I focus on my possibilities. My blessings are many. My gratitude list is brimming with good fortune.

Today, my body weary, my mind sleepy, I give thanks for this amazing life where I have all I ever need to live with grace and ease through each day -- a warm house becoming home filled with treasures I've accumulated settling beside C.C.'s treasures. I am surrounded by the love of my daughters, family and friends and a man who reminds me every day, I am loved.

I am blessed.

The question is: Are you focused on the stuff in your life or the people? Are you counting your misfortunes or your blessings?

Saturday, January 19, 2008


Short post today. It's moving day -- and Alexis and I are coaching in the G2 component of Choices.

I think I'm pretty clever! Leave the physical moving portion of 'the move' to C.C. and my youngest daughter. How's that for planning?

A girlfriend said, "Are you sure that's a good idea. What if they put everything somewhere it doesn't go?"

"I'll move it or get to like it where they put it," I replied.

Trust. A building block at a time. A choice to be in trust, to be trusting, to be trustworthy. Need both sides of the equation for each block to fit snugly.

Walt Disney said, "All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them."

Last year, when I created my Vision Map, I had a small little picture of a couple walking on the beach. Beneath it, was pasted the phrase, "Invite Intimacy."

At Choices, Intimacy is said, "In-to-me-see". It takes trust to create In-to-me-see. It takes courage. And it takes the dream of believing, I am worthy of love.

Last year I invited intimacy into my life. This year, I'm opening up to In-to-me-see.

Life is a continual opening of dreams coming true through the courage to open my eyes to the possibilities of life beyond my comfort zones, out there in that place where dreams live large and I soar on wings of love.

The question is: Are you willing to trust yourself enough to allow for In-to-me-see?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Gratitude. A simple gift of thankfulness

I had to give blood on Thursday in preparation for having my gallbladder removed. I walked into the Lab, stepped up to the counter and waited. The woman behind the desk, busily kept working. I waited at the desk.

A woman seated in the waiting area called out to me. "You need to take a number."

I looked around and saw a machine that dispenses numbers. "Thank you," I replied, moving over to the machine and pressing the green button.

Nothing happened.

"You have to press harder," the waiting woman said.

I pressed harder. A numbered ticket slid out of the machine.

I smiled at the woman and thanked her again.

"Wow," she said. "You look so well put together and yet, you didn't know what to do."

I laughed. "In the mornings, I start out putting myself together and work through my day pulling it all together."

We both chuckled. She held up a Tim Horton's bag that had been sitting on the coffee table beside her. "I'm waiting to have my test so I can eat my Timmies. I've been fasting."

"It will taste so good when you get to it," I replied.

"Yeah. I'm hoping it's not cancer. I've had an awful past six months. Cancer would just make it worse."

"That it definitely would."

"I'm suffering from PTSD," she told me. "My trailer burnt to the ground last September and I think my neighbour did it but I can't prove it and now he's trying to take a restraining order out on me just because the cops told me to make nice with him and now he's mad I'm not talking to him anymore." She paused momentarily to take a breath. "He's a jobsite thief. I've got the proof and he's afraid I'll go to the police so he's intimidating me but I won't let him."

She started to tell me all that had happened, and all he'd done and what she'd done to counteract his attempts to silence her and then the lab technician came to get her and she ended with a smile. "I'm alive," she said, "and that's what counts." She paused as she stood up, Tim Horton's bag tightly clenched in her hand. "Sure hope it's not cancer though. That would really suck."

"Yes it would," I agreed.

"Well thanks for listening to me," she said as she followed the technician into the Lab. "I really appreciate your kindness."

"Thanks for sharing your story," I called after her.

I sat and waited. The receptionist looked up, glanced towards where the other woman had just disappeared and said, "Boy. She's had a rough go of it. And she's always so pleasant."

Another technician came out from the back to check my file at the reception desk. Statuesque. Burnished skin the colour of deep mahogany. She stood and chatted momentarily with the receptionist. "I have to go pick up my daughters wallet at the bus lost and found. Isn't that nice. The driver found it and turned it in. Thank goodness for honest people."

She turned to me and invited me to follow her into the Lab.

As she finished labelling the vials of blood she had withdrawn from me, I asked, "Do you like your job?"

She stopped. Checked the name on the vial against my sheet and hesitated before replying. "It's a job while I wait to get the one I want," she said.

"And what is that?" I asked.

"I'm a physician," she replied. She glanced around as if to check if any ears were listening. "I just passed my exams and soon I start working," she motioned to the hospital on the other side of the thoroughfare outside the window, "over there."

"Congratulations," I exclaimed. "That's terrific."

"Yes. It is." She hesitated again, trying to decide to add more or just to leave. She chose to continue talking. "I'm an immigrant. I practiced medicine in my country for twelve years and when I came here six years ago I had to requalify. And it's okay. There's always something new to learn and different places do it different ways. Soon, I can begin again to do what I love." She raised an arm and motioned to the lab we were in. "This place has at least kept me in the field I love."

"Do you have an area of specialty?" I asked.

Her smile expanded across her face like sunshine bursting over the horizon. "I'm an anaesthetist.... Why did you ask? No one has ever asked me that?"

"You're very good at what you do," I replied. "I wondered if it was because you love it."

"I love it because it's given me a chance to get to what I love to do again." She finished labelling the last vial. Deftly she applied a bandaid to the tiny pinprick where her needle had pierced my arm. She gathered up her papers and turned to leave.

"Thank you for asking," she said before walking away.

As I gathered up my coat and purse and prepared to leave, I glanced into the room next door and saw the woman from the waiting room sitting on a chair. She smiled and waved. I smiled back.

"You look really nice today," she said as I waved good-bye.

"Thank you." I replied and smiled. "I hope you have a really nice day that tastes as good as that Timmie's promises to be."

She laughed. "I'm just thankful to be able to live today and enjoy it!"

"When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. ~ Tecumseh

Last night, as I sat with my mother in her room at the clinic where they've now moved her for treatment, she opened the journal I bought her last week and read me the gratitude list she'd written that morning. "I'm grateful for this opportunity to get better," she said. "I'm grateful that these people are willing to help me and that my family loves me."

She closed her book and said, "I don't write the same thing every morning. I've so much to be grateful for, I don't want to repeat myself every day."

Gratitude. A simple gift of thankfulness that touches hearts and opens minds.

Today, I am grateful for the women who share their stories of strength, hope and courage. In their sharing they inspire me to learn and grow and to remain grateful for all that I have and all that I am.

The question is: What's on your gratitude list today?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Growing Pains

I have always had difficulty understanding what my boundaries are. The word itself is a boundary for me. Boundaries sounds so harsh. So rigid. So permanent.

Yet, to live a full life, I need healthy boundaries. Perhaps that's where my resistance to the word stems from -- my boundaries have not been too healthy in the past. Never having had great learning around boundary setting, my boundaries have been like the Berlin Wall. Rigid in spots with places where other people could leak over. Because I've sat in my watchtower constantly patrolling my boundaries for no other reason than 'that's my job', I've been erratic, irrational (okay somewhat psychotic) in maintaining my boundaries -- then again, if I didn't really know what my boundaries were, how could I maintain them in a healthy way?

Much of my adult life has been about getting clear on my boundary issues. Since coming through the hell of an abusive relationship, I have learned a lot -- about myself, my boundaries, my lack of self-esteem, my need for approval from others, my unhealthy behaviours.

I have also healed and grown and embraced my truth -- I do enough. I am good enough. I am enough.

As a mother, I am learning how to set boundaries. Okay, so my daughters are 20 and 21 -- it's about time! To be fair, it's not that I haven't set boundaries with them. Just ask them -- I've set tons of boundaries around their behaviour. I just haven't been particularly consistent in my enforcement. They love to tell the story of being 'grounded'. "Oh, my mother grounded me once when I was twelve. It lasted 2 hours before she told me I could go."

'Guilt' is another way to spell, 'mother'. I want the best for my daughters and sometimes, that means having to take a position, stand up and not be railroaded into acquiescence for the sake of making peace and assuaging my guilt over setting a boundary I know I need to do in order for us to be healthy in our relationship.

Putting me first is not part of my mothering lexicon -- I'm learning though!

Last night my eldest daughter and I had a long discussion about boundaries. Having watched me fall into the hell of that abusive relationship, they have some very natural fears that the past will repeat itself in this relationship with C.C. When fear awakens, resistance to change rises.

"Your track record with men is not that good mom," she said at one point.

Now, I hear her. In the past, I did not make good choices. Part of my 'growing up' has been to learn to stand up for me, to make choices that support me, love me and honour me. In the past, I chose men who fed my unhealthy need for completion from someone 'out there' because 'in here' was such a mish-mash of insecurity which I constantly tried to hide behind by finding strength in someone else. In psycho-babble terms, I had a weak 'internal locus of control' and sought my strength through an external locus of control. In other words, someone out there always had my answers for what was ailing me 'in here'.

Today, my self-esteem is much healthier, vibrant and robust. I don't get my value from 'out there'. I know it is a constant river flowing within me. When I stand centered in my 'I', confident, loving and passionate about living life fearlessly, I am complete, just the way I am.

Setting the boundary with my daughter on what is on the table for discussion vis-a-vis my relationship is a challenge for me.

The thing is, my boundary needs to be set lovingly -- and a hammer just doesn't work. Add to that, their resistance of change in the status quo and you've got a recipe for... and I take a deep breath.

It's a recipe for growth. For love to step in and build bridges of understanding. For all of us to expand our understanding of our relationship and to continue to heal and flow into life with grace and ease.

The day after Conrad was arrested 4+ years ago, I pulled out a journal and began to write. The first sentence began, "And now for the hard part." I remember pausing, taking a breath. Next I wrote, "Who says this has to be hard? Perhaps this is the joyous part. The hard part is over -- living that hell -- now it's time to heal. I've got to do this work. Why not do it with love and joy?"

Falling in love is easy. Being in love, living it every day -- that's where the conscious intention comes in.

Becoming a mother is easy too. Nine months, a couple of deep breaths, a push here and there and voila! (Okay, so not thaaat easy..., but it was a lot easier than learning how to parent with bonds of love strengthened with steely resolve to do what is right, not always easy) Being a mother, living with conscious intention to continually do what is 'best' for your child -- even when they disagree (sometimes vehemently!), now that's not always the easy part.

But there is no law that says it has to be hard.

It is my attitude, my thoughts, my resistance that makes it hard.

My daughters and I are entering a new arc in our family circle. As a family unit we were once four. That circle changed -- but the family unit always existed -- it just expanded to include other circles, other dynamics. As we move into this new perspective, we will always be 'our family'.

The strength in family is found in Love. To create harmony out of chaos I must maintain boundaries with love and tender care strengthened with resolve to do what is right -- for me and them. My daughters are fearful -- it is their right to feel what they feel. It is my right and responsibility to embrace my daughters with arms filled with love while standing on the bedrock of my belief in myself.

I've come a long way. And boy, I've got a long way to go before this amazing journey of Love is over. How exciting!

The question is: Where do unhealthy boundaries keep you from expressing yourself lovingly?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I am blessed

We were a small, but noisy crowd. Some were friends of C.C.'s son. Others had come to listen to the first band play. Others to simply listen to the music.

What an amazing night.

T.C. is a gifted artist. He writes, plays and sings his original music and is multi-talented. Last night, he played the acoustic guitar accompanied by a bongo player and a 'drummer'. The drummer played a barstool -- very original, really cool.

As C.C. and I waited for the show to start we looked at the people in the room and laughed. Except for us (we were the oldest by a long shot) the room was filled with 20/30 somethings. They laughed and chatted, their body language animated. Their conversation free.

Johnny Depp said, “If there's any message to my work, it is ultimately that it’s OK to be different, that it’s good to be different, that we should question ourselves before we pass judgment on someone who looks different, behaves different, talks different, is a different color.”

I felt different in that crowd last night. Older, not necessarily wiser, but definitely more war torn, street worn than the youth surrounding us. And it was okay. Different didn't mean I didn't belong. We may have looked different but we were there for the same reason -- to support T.C. No one was judging my right to be there, except possibly me!

Alexis, her boyfriend and Liseanne joined us as well. At one point, I looked over at Alexis as T.C. played and she mouth, "He's good."

And he is. What's also good is my daughters came out to support C.C.'s son. Even though they were tired (the music didn't start until after 10pm and T.C. was the second band of the evening), they chose to do something that they didn't have to do because they believed it was the right thing to do and they wanted to be there for T.C.

There's a lot of info out there about the challenges of blending two families. Even though our children are young adults, there is still risk involved in the process. Yet, like millions of couples around the world, we do it anyway.

Life is about risk. Risking the unknown and the known. We know the dangers. We know there will be moments of strife. Moments of confusion, turmoil, frustration. There will be those moments, but there will also be the moments of laughter, joy, happiness. Moments where we expand into the moment and build bridges of understanding that span the turmoil and confusion and soothe the strife.

When T.C. told his dad about his gig last night he also asked him to tell Alexis and Liseanne about it. His invitation was a gift. In honouring his gift, Alexis and Liseanne demonstrated their strength and character -- they chose to turn up in support of T.C. and they did something to support this changing world dynamic, to support C.C. and me.

Gifts come in many packages. Last nights came in what I learned watching three young people open to the possibilities of a different world. The worlds they've known have shifted. With grace and ease they step onto unknown territory and breathe life into the moment. In their acceptance, I am reminded that life is a constant ebb and flow of possibility meeting resistance expanding into change. When we open up to possibility, we open ourselves up to what can happen when we set our judgements aside and turn up in love.

I am truly blessed.

The question is: Where does your resistance close you off to accepting the changes in your life?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Where love lives.

This is my 300th post since starting this blog on March 10 last year. When I first started this blog I had no intent of writing every day. And then, about a month after beginning, I committed to every day writing.

Goals are important. Without action, they are simply words with no substance.

I set a goal, for ten months I've been making my goal a reality by taking action every morning.

The odd time I have not written here, I have had a reason -- either a choice to take a break, or no Internet action.

Mid-December I went to the dentist and he told me I needed to start flossing twice a day. Since that visit, I have taken action twice a day and flossed.

In both circumstances, by consistently taking action everyday, I have created a new habit -- both fulfilling a dream -- one immediate -- to write every day and create a body of work; the other less tangible -- to have my own teeth when I am old!

Last night, as I sorted through papers and clutter in my desk I came upon an old 'Vision Map' ideas sheet I had created about two years ago. On it was an item I face in the mirror every morning -- lose weight.

Now, I have lost my first ten pounds and I am working on my second ten. Seeing that list, however, gave me pause for thought. I've been carrying this extra weight for awhile. What other excess baggage do I have?

The evidence is pretty clear in my house. In preparation for moving next weekend, I have been shovelling out closets and drawers, cupboards and cubbyholes. I've got a lot of stuff.

I know that's nothing too unusual. We all have lots of stuff. My stuff, however, has only been accumulated in the past four and a half years! On May 21, 2003, when I awoke from the debacle of the relationship with the psychopath, I didn't even own a fork or knife. Now, I'm giving away excess cutlery!

Where does all the stuff come from?

The answer is pretty simple. It comes from the world of excess around me. Why do I have so much of it? That's simple too. Because I am loathe to pass up on a 'steal of a deal', or pass on something someone gave me in the belief I needed it. I too often indulge in the bad habit of acquisition for no reason other than it seems like a good idea at the time, or I'm too lazy to ask myself the tough question: Do I really need this or could someone else benefit from it more than me? What would happen if I just walked away from buying it?

My daughters and I have lived in this little house on 15th Street for 3+ years. It has been a home filled with soothing love, laughter, tears and joy. It has been a beautiful home for us to heal in. To grow together in, to bridge the pain of those years of turmoil when I was lost on the road to hell. And now we're moving on. With our move, our lives are changing. Alexis leaves for Australia in February, Liseanne is completing her second year of college, and C.C. is taking up permanent residence in our midst at the new house.

Exciting times. Scary times. Times of change. Times of reflection. Times filled with new beginnings as endings complete a cycle from the past opening up to possibilities of tomorrow.

It is a time to flow into, flow with, flow through. Time to hang out, hang ten, hang onto those things which matter the most, and to let go of those things which have no value other than as dusty signposts collected in the past when they held much more meaning than they do today.

In this new beginning two lives are coming together, two families connecting. We are like two tectonic plates rubbing against each other. In the first jarring movements, we jostle for position, for comfort, for fit. As we settle into the new order of being, we create a new world order -- hopefully a world of order! New habits will develop, new ways of being together. New views of life as a couple and life as two parents of two separate sets of almost adult children.

One of the habits I am developing for this new world order is the habit of uncluttering. Rather than continually acquiring, I shall focus on disengaging from excess baggage by focusing on what I truly need and want to live a beautiful life. It's easy in a world filled with so much stuff to buy into the myth that my happiness depends on having all of it. I don't need all of it to be happy, I just need that which makes my life more serene, more graceful, more everyday lived in.

New beginnings begin with an ending. This weekend a moving truck will appear in front of this little house on 15th street, and the boxed up evidence of our lives will be moved to another place. In that other place we will begin the process of creating memories based on two lives joining together. Of children growing up and moving on, of adjusting to life as a couple.

This little house on 15th Street has been a happy home, a home filled with love and laughter. My commitment for today and tomorrow is to continue to focus on my habit of filling my home with the one thing that cannot be bought: Love.

The question is: If home is where the heart is, what is your heart full of today?

Monday, January 14, 2008


So, I just got back from the dentist. My appointment was for a consultation but he decided as I was there, he may as well begin the root canal. Probably best I didn't have time to worry about the process -- I am a wuss!

Frozen mouth. Upset stomach.

I'll be back later!

Have an awesome day.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

What's your attitude?

Every morning I love doing the Decodaquote in the newspaper. It's a jumble of letters which, once deciphered, give some pithy quote by some famous, some not so famous, person. There is one clue provided, i.e. Q = D. With that one letter, which often only appears once in the entire sentence, I begin the task of figuring out the puzzle.

Yesterday's quote has me stymied. Not sure why. Not sure why is all that important. The critical issue is I haven't figured it out yet. So, I thought I'd take the easy way out and 'cheat' by looking in today's paper for the solution. I was only going to look at one word for a clue so I could then figure out the rest, but that won't happen. Saturday's solution appears in Monday's paper. Guess I'll have to figure it out on my own.

That's the thing about puzzles. There is a solution. It just takes time, and perseverance, to get to the answer. (Though cheating is also an alternative -- but to cheat, I have to give up, and having been forced to not give up today, I may as well figure it out on my own.)

It's like living in joy. There is no short cut to happiness. (The last time I tried to take one I ended up lost on the road to hell.) Living in joy takes time, perseverance and an unwavering commitment to staying focused on what it is I want to create in my life -- joy or sorrow, harmony or discord, love or war. Happiness is a matter of attitude.

It's not all that difficult. While some days finding the missing ingredient to why I'm feeling down or blue is not all that easy, finding an attitude of gratitude, assuming a happiness stance is a choice I make when I focus on my purpose and ask myself, 'What kind of day do I want to have?' 'What do I want to create in the world today'.

On Friday, someone asked me, "What are you so happy about?"

Had me stymied. Was I happy about something in particular, or was I simply feeling happy because that's the way I was/am/prefer to be?

My eldest daughter was telling me yesterday about a program she watched on happiness. 60% of our happiness attitude is genetic, she said. 10% is environmental and 40% of our attitude we have the power to change. "If we spend a half hour a day consciously thinking positive thoughts, in two weeks there will be a marked improvement in our outlook," she told me.

Hmmm, a half hour a day for two weeks. If I combine that with exercise, my attitude will be sky high and I'll be more physically fit too!

Worth a try.

The question is: What about you? What's your attitude? Life is an adventure best lived in joy or life is a treacherous journey best lived in fear of what might happen if you try to fly?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Don't believe everything you think

Recently, I was scheduled to give a talk on homelessness to a group of police officers. The first time I spoke to a group of officers I anticipated it would be just like all my other talks. I wasn't expecting hostility, which in the case of a couple of individuals in the room, is what I got. That experience shaded my thoughts as I began my presentation to this new group. Having already experienced an adverse reaction from another group of police officers, my expectation was set that the possibility existed the same would/could happen again.

I had a choice -- let my fear masquerading as nervousness undermine me, or acknowledge my fear and let my courage draw me into excellence. I was determined to give my best presentation yet, but as I began to speak, I noticed one man in the second row whose face was set in a scowl. His arms were crossed against his chest, his body leaned back in his chair, away from me.

In the back of my mind a dialogue began while I continued to speak. "Oh no. He's going to be hostile. He's not hearing a word I'm saying...." While my inner dialogue didn't ruin my presentation, I did feel less focused, less fluid than I normally do giving this presentation.

At the end of my presentation, someone asked a question which lead to a lively, sometimes heated, but always respectful dialogue about homeless individuals. Several of the attendees jumped in with comments and ideas and more questions. And still the man in the second row remained silent. I was conscious of him but kept reminding myself -- I can't please everyone. I can't change anyone's mind. At least he's staying silent and not being rude.

At the end of my presentation, I was packing up my computer and getting ready to leave. The man from the second row approached. I steeled myself for the worst. He came up to me, thrust his right hand forward to shake mine and said, "Thank you. You've given me a new way of seeing people I've struggled to help and had given up on. I really appreciate your perspective."

And he walked away.

I expected the worst and got a stunning response.

My perceptions are filtered through my experiences.

Marci Shimoff outlines 7 steps for becoming "Happy for No Reason", in her book of the same name. In Step 3, she states, "Don't believe everything you think."

How true. And what a paradox!

There I was believing this man was hostile when really, he was listening intently.

Scientists have determined that the average person has about 60,000 thoughts run through their mind everyday. For most people, 80% of those thoughts are negative.

Oh boy. Do I have some re-thinking to do on my thinking!

When I began my presentation to the police officers, my thinking had me conditioned to expect hostility. I'd received it once. The possibility of receiving it again was there.

When I saw a man whose body-language said to me, "Hostility", I bought into my own negative thinking. And because I believed my thoughts were right, I undermined myself. I set myself up for failure.

Fortunately, my predictions did not come true because I was confident of my material and myself, I did not let one man completely get me off track. But, I knew it wasn't my best presentation.

Fortunately, that man came forward and gave me insight into my human condition.

The question is: Where does believing what you think is true, keep you from seeing the truth?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Miracles and other choices

Last night I went to visit my mother. As I walked along the corridor to my mother's ward, I passed a small seating area where four people were sitting chatting quite loudly about the trouble with health care.

I think it is a miracle that so many people want to work in health care. They are short-staffed, under-budgeted, under-resourced and under constant criticism from 'all of us'. In spite of that, they remain committed to delivering superior service to every person who walks through the door.

I haven't experienced the negative side of health care. My mother is receiving excellent care. The nurses are supportive. They're helpful and they continually go out of their way to ensure every patient feels comfortable, cared for and part of the going's on in the unit. It can't be easy. It's a lock down geriatric ward. Patients cannot leave without permission or someone in attendance. Some, as my mother says it, 'are out of their minds'.

And yet, the staff remain professional, courteous and committed at all times.

Wednesday, I had a meeting with the Executive Director of the shelter where I work and an advertising agency, to discuss strategies for increasing our 'brand awareness'. Later this month, a group of 20 business executives will be presenting the first draft of their Ten Year Plan to reveal how they believe they can end homelessness forever in our city. In reviewing the work to date, it is evident that this group does not see what we do as having had an impact on ending homelessness. In some instances, shelters such as the one I work in, are considered a significant contributor to the problem.

At the meeting, as we talked about messages. I listened to the conversation and said, "Since the shelter began operation 46 years ago, we have been committed to ending homelessness, one person at a time. It's what we do every day and yet, it's the story we seldom tell."

In health care, we seldom talk about the stories of lives saved. We seldom hear about families who have remained intact because of the miraculous work of the individuals who have the knowledge, and the tools, to heal someone's life.

When my eldest daughter's friend was critically injured by a car on New Year's Day, the prognosis was not good. Today, he's out of ICU and is awaiting a bed outside the Trauma Unit where he has spent the past few days. He's walking on crutches, and as his girlfriend told my daughter yesterday, "T's back. I've been waiting to see 'T' appear every time I've walked into the hospital. Yesterday, he was back. Funny. Quick witted. Positive. He's going to be okay." He has youth on his side to help in his healing journey. He also has superb care, from the EMS team at the scene of the accident and the police sergeant who arrived within moments of the 9-1-1 call being placed, to the Emergency Room staff who fought so hard to save him and the ICU team who wouldn't give up. The care he received saved his life.

At the shelter, we seldom talk about the lives of those who have been touched by what we do. When you're in the business of saving lives, there is no time to spare counting accolades. There's also the issue of privacy. Sometimes, the people don't want to reveal that their lives have been in such disarray. Sometimes, in their desire to leave the past behind, they don't give a forwarding address. And, sometimes, like the health care system saving lives, it's simply that what we do is part of the job, part of our work.

In our work, miracles happen every day that no one sees but us. I received an email this morning from a girlfriend about a young girl who sets out to buy a miracle for her brother who is sick. It's a powerful story with a powerful message about love, faith and life's miracles. "A miracle, " it says, "is not the suspension of natural law, but the operation of a higher law."

In health care, in the care of homelessness, in the police service and public service sectors all over, miracles happen every day. Not because we suspend our disbelief that we can't make a difference, but because we are committed to making a difference in other people's lives. We are committed to working to a higher law, a greater purpose that serves others.

Every day, someone walks away from homelessness into a situation that will pave the way to their living a self-sufficient and productive life again. Every day, someone gets into rehab. Someone gets the mental health care they need. And every day, thousands of lives are saved because shelters like ours are there to provide them a safe place to catch their breath, find their balance and reclaim their sense of direction.

Every day, more people walk into hospitals and are healed than those who cannot be healed. More people find the right treatment, the right help, the right support they need to cure whatever ails them.

And every day, people chat, like the group I over heard in the lobby, about what's not going right, about all that's wrong. They sit on their chairs and complain, and never get down to the business of making a difference.

It's not a miracle so many people care so much they can complain about all that's wrong. The miracle is people continue to make a difference in spite of their complaints. It's not a miracle the health care system works. It's not a miracle public service works. It's hard work, commitment and a dedication to helping those in need by a group of people convinced they can make a difference if they just stay focused on their purpose, and don't get caught up in the rhetoric that would paint them with the brush of failure.

Life is a miracle. What I do with it is up to me. How I respond. How I react to circumstances, to other people, to trials and tribulations -- that's all my doing. When I look at my life as a miracle, I see miracles reflected all around me. So, for today, I shall walk through each moment celebrating the miracle of life in everyone I see, including me. For today, I shall walk through each moment knowing what I do with my life is up to me to celebrate, or complain. The choice is mine.

The quesiton is: Can you see the miracle of you reflected back in the eyes of everyone you meet? Do you see rainbows dancing in the wake of your passing through each moment or do you focus your attention on finding the faultlines that will trip you up today? What choices will you make in your journey today?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Life is waiting

One of my favourite 'gurus', Joseph Campbell, wrote, "We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us."

When I was a little girl I planned a very different life. As an adult, I'm learning to let go of expectations that things will go as planned, and am learning instead to embrace fearlessly and passionately life as it unfolds. I make my plans. Plan my actions and let the outcome be the outcome.

Yesterday, I taught a class in self-esteem to a group of clients at the shelter where I work. It was a lively three hours spent discussing the importance of healthy esteem and what it is that causes us to slide out of esteem. One thing we all agreed on, no one in the room ever planned on being where they are in their lives today. They'd all had plans of life being very different -- no one had planned on homelessness.

The class I was teaching is part of a three week program where clients can acquire work permits in order to find jobs on construction sites, warehouses and such. Each of the seven people involved was taking the course because they wanted the essential 'tickets' to be employable.

"I didn't know I'd also be taking courses like this," one of the participants responded when I asked the class about their reason for being there and what they were getting out of the three week program. "I just thought I'd get my tickets, get out and get a job."

"So, when you heard there'd also be courses on anger management, budgeting, goal-setting, self-esteem, what did you think?" I asked.

"Well," he replied somewhat sheepishly. "I sort of figured I'd half sleep through the sessions. I wasn't expecting to enjoy learning about this stuff."

He had a plan that led him to the world outside fired up with the tools he needed to get the job done. He'll get his tickets. He'll also get a different outcome than expected by journeying into the world inside himself.

We spend an inordinate amount of time learning about the world 'out there', and often shy away from learning about the world, 'in here'. That rich and vibrant, complex world inside each and everyone of us. That world inside which determines how we respond to the world out there.

I had a lot of plans when I was young on how I'd live my life out there. Today, I am committed to being honest with who I am 'in here' so that when I'm 'out there' my world is filled with dignity and grace.

Life is the adventure. It is the journey. It is the destination. Life is filled with unexpected outcomes, surprising vistas, incredible horizons. Staying open to the unexpected, opening up to the unexplored, the unbelievable opportunities of a world of limitless possibibilities is my one and only chance to live this precious and wild life freely and fearlessly.

I have a lot of plans for the future. None of them mean a thing if I don't live my life today as if it's the only outcome that makes a difference to my tomorrow.

The question is: Where do you focus on the outcome and lose track of who you are, what you're doing and how you're being all that you are meant to be in this moment? Where do your plans for tomorrow mean more than what you do today?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Expressing my higher intention

The mind is a funny place -- mine is also a place a friend of mine used to tell me was a very dangerous neighbourhood for me to get lost in alone! He thought he was being cute and clever. I think he was being a jerk. But then, as my middle sister always tells me -- you've got one busy mind!

It's true. My mind is very busy. This morning is a perfect example. I awoke and knew exactly what I was going to write about. I made coffee, read the newspaper, my emails, logged onto a site where I am a contributor to respond to posts on my last article, and in the midst of all that thinking and doing, totally forgot about what it was I was going to write about.

Except -- in writing about my busy mind, it all came back to me!

I wanted to write about thinking.

Aristotle wrote, We are what we repeatedly do. In my book (that's the proverbial book of rules and habits that make up the reference points for my daily living) thinking is a form of doing. I do it every day, pretty well every moment of every day. Thoughts ride into my mind, I think about them, measure them, judge, define, rationalize, sort, log them. I am always doing something with my thinking even when I'm avoiding what I'm thinking about.

What I think about what I'm thinking can become a habit. It becomes my style of self-reference, my habitual thinking about myself that then becomes, in most instances, my limiters.

Take for instance this whole issue around losing weight -- I'm down the first ten. I've embarked on this ten -- but still my mind says -- so, it's taken you kind of a long time to lose the ten hasn't it? How committed are you to doing what you say you want? How real are you getting with living the life of your dreams? And underneath those thoughts is the voice of self-condemnation. You can't lose weight. You're a fat girl. Nobody likes you. You're a loser. You're stupid to think you can lose weight. yada. yada. yada.

That kind of thinking is what has undermined my weight loss in the first place (not to mention my self-expression and my ability to be all I'm meant to be). My habit is to beat myself up over not doing things 'right.' Yet, I lost ten pounds and I've kept the ten off for two months -- that's pretty good in my book! But it's not what I tend to focus on. My habitual thinking says I need to constantly do better, be better, be more (while believing I am 'less than' and that I never measure up) limits my expression of the limitless possibilities of my life when I am being exactly who I am in this moment.

And, because I think I need to know 'how' to do better, be better, get better, I focus my thinking on what I need to do to be better, rather than simply being in this moment all I'm meant to be.

Rather convoluted isn't it?

That's where my busy mind becomes a dangerous neighbourhood. My thinking about what I'm thinking about limits the actions I take to simply 'be mindful'.

Being mindful of my thoughts means I don't measure, judge or criticize and condemn them and myself. Being mindful means I notice the thoughts drifting through without corralling them into my way of thinking. I let them drift on by as I consciously guide my actions by focusing on my higher intentions.

To change my experience, I must change my inner dialogue. To change my inner dialogue, I must be aware of -- what I'm saying to myself that limits me. Awareness doesn't mean I judge, measure, or condemn myself for thinking what I do. Awareness means staying focused on expressing my higher intentions through releasing the thoughts that limit me into thoughts that expand my possibilities with the cheerful expectation that I am a reflection of the magnificence of all that is beautiful, awesome, divine in the universe. I am all I ever need to be. I have all I ever need to live this beautiful life with grace, ease and joy. I have all I need to express myself magnificently through every moment of the day.

The question is: Where does your thinking trick you into believing your life is limited by your experience? Where does your thinking hold you back from expressing your most magnificent self?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

I've come a long way baby

It's one of those mornings. A blank screen glares in front of my eyes. My eyes stare back blankly. It's one of those mornings to trust in the process. To begin writing and be surprised by what happens.

Like life. Full of surprises. Full of unexpected challenges, some not so unexpected. Like love. Full of possibility. Full of hope. Full of opportunities to grow, to retreat, to hunker down, to open up. Full of life in all its wild and precious moments.

C.C. and I have come to a conclusion. We would like our relationship to last the rest of our lives together. Actually, it can't help but last the rest of our lives together -- because as long as we're together, it will be because of love.

"It's what I'm working towards," he said when I told him that I want him to be the last man I fall in love with.

I always wanted to be a Virginia Slims kind-of-gal, without the cigarette. Witty. Worldly. Accomplished. And grounded in reality. When it comes to love, however, I've never done reality well. Like a gumshoe sleuth searching for hidden clues, I've always ventured into love looking for the answers that will fit the pieces of the puzzle that is me together.

Once upon a time, I would have wanted to define love. Pull each facet of it apart to examine it under the microscope of my curiosity. Not one moment would have been safe. I would have sniffed out every ounce of magic to figure out where I fit in the grand scheme of things.

I've come a long way baby.

Falling in love is part mystery, part chemistry and part reality. The mystery part comes when you try to figure out how two people who have known each other for a few years can get together and discover that being together is where they want to be. Stacey Charter wrote, "Life is all about timing... the unreachable becomes reachable, the unavailable become available, the unattainable... attainable. Have the patience. Wait it out. It's all about timing."

The chemistry part is that fissure of energy that flickers between two people, like a filament in a lightbulb, sparking tingly sensations through every nerve ending in each other's body. Sometimes, chemistry is one-sided but when it's not, possibilities explode.

The reality part is in knowing, nothing lasts forever, unless you choose to work at it, keep it vibrant, keep it alive, keep it relevant to your life every day. Love endures. People grow weary. They grow apart. They change directions. They grow distant.

Falling in love is easy. Staying in love. Being in love. Being committed to loving and being loved -- that takes courage. My full attention and my honest intention to be the best that I can be.

Yup. Definitely a long way.

In acknowledging I want C.C. to be the last man I fall in love with, I am acknowledging my responsibility in making that happen, every day of my life. I am acknowledging it's up to me to give my part of this relationship a chance to unfold, in its own time. To 'have the patience'.

To do that, I must stay grounded in reality of who I am, what I want. I must continue to be who I am and work towards making my dreams come true, reaching my goals, building my beautiful life, one day at a time. I need to live up to my highest intentions, and not get down to playing into my lower instincts which would have me run away whenever adversity lurks, or differences appear on the horizon. It's up to me to let the mystery of love do its magic without my trying to force it, bend it, or contort it to fit my expectations. It's up to me to be true to who I am, and to give room for C.C. to be true to who he is without my trying to force him to fit my expectations. I gotta give love a chance to grow.

In C.C. I have found a man who makes me laugh, who makes me think, who hears me, listens to me, sees me. He is a man I want to grow with, learn with, explore and adore. In acknowledging our desire to build an enduring relationship, we have opened ourselves up to love.

What an exciting adventure! What a wonderful day to be surprised by whatever happens.

The question is: Where in the world are you letting adventure slip by because you don't trust yourself to know, the answer is in the leap?

Monday, January 7, 2008

The Hug

"Problems themselves are the highest opportunity we can ever have."
The Diamond Cutter: The Buddha on Managing Your Life and Business, Geshe Michael Roach

Last night my eldest daughter, Alexis, and I visited my mother in the hospital. She wasn't happy. She'd spent a night at my sister's and was back in, 'that place'. "I can't see why I can't go home to my apartment until I move into a lodge," she said. "I've learned my lesson."

Alexis and I both nodded our heads. "What if this wasn't about learning a lesson? What if it was simply about opening an opportunity for change that will lead to more happiness for you?"

"I would like to be happier," my mother agreed. "I have been very depressed."

"I get like that too, Nana," Alexis said, reaching forward to take one of my mother's crippled hands in hers. "And when I do, I don't treat myself very kindly. I talk to myself in ways I would never talk to anyone else. I say mean things to myself. I hurt myself."

My mother hesitated. She took her other hand and pat Alexis' hand where it rested on hers. "That's not good for you, Alexis. You don't want to turn out like me."

"I'd love to turn out like you Nana. You're kind and considerate. You're always doing nice things for people. I once wrote an essay in school about you. The assignment was to write about someone I admire. I chose you."

My mother straightened her back. Sat up taller. Smiled. "You did? That's so nice. Thank you." She turned to me. "I do say mean things about myself. I try never to hurt anyone else. I try always to be kind. But I don't like myself very much."

"What if you were to change your opinion of yourself?" I asked. "What if you were to tell yourself you love yourself?"

Her eyes flew wide open. One hand fluttered up to cover her mouth. "Oh, I could never do that," she said. "That would be too conceited."

I shook my head. "It's okay to tell yourself you hate yourself. It's not okay to tell yourself you love yourself. Why do you think that is?"

"I'm always kind to other people," she repeated.

"Mum, I don't want to debate with you about your kindness. You are a kind woman. You have a loving heart. You care about other people. You are also human." I reached forward to touch her arm gently. "Your intent is never to hurt other people. Just as my intent is not to and Alexis' intent is not to. But sometimes, our intentions trigger things in other people, or get messed up by our fear and worry and habit and self-loathing that when they are expressed, they come out in ways that cause other people pain. When that happens, all we can do then is apologize and commit to living up to our highest intention."

She shook her head from side to side. Tears formed in the corners of her eyes. "But I've never hurt anyone else. Just me."

"What if you have hurt others, even though you didn't mean to? Could you forgive yourself?"

"Of course," she answered quickly.

"And could you love yourself even if you have hurt others?"

She paused. "I hurt myself all the time. I don't eat. I do things that drag me down. I.... It's all my fault."

"What if fault is not the issue? What if you could do it differently?"

"But I don't know what to do differently," she said, her eyes pleading for understanding, help, compassion.

"What if you were to start with telling yourself you love yourself?"

Alexis and I spent a couple of hours sitting and chatting, laughing and crying with my mother. When we left, she walked us to the door of the ward. I gave her a hug.

I don't remember when I last hugged my mother. Sure, I kiss her on both cheeks in greeting and parting. I casually touch her shoulder. But I haven't hugged her in years.

Last night as we parted I wrapped my arms around her frail shoulders. She's lost a lot of height in the passing years. She's grown frailer, tinier, more fragile. But she still has her steely resolve. Her stubbornness. Her strength.

"So, mum," I asked as we were about to leave. "When those troubling thoughts enter your mind and threaten to drag you down with their insistence you are 'bad', what are you going to say?"

She smiled, lifted one arm up from the bar of her walker, her gnarled fingers curled up to as close as a fist as she could get. "I am a happy woman who loves herself." She smiled mischievously and added. "Ooh. La. La!"

We left her standing in the hallway. A tiny French woman whose life has come a long way from the far away land of her birth. Gracefully, as dignified as the Statue of Liberty with whom she shares her ancestry, she stood in the hall and blew us a kiss good-bye as the door closed behind us.

As we walked towards the parkade, Alexis put her arm around my waist and asked, "Do you think you would have had a conversation with Nana like that before Choices?"

"Not in a million years," I replied. "My ego would have been blocking my heart from hearing her fears and sorrow, her regret and her sadness. My ego would have been reminding me of all she's done to hurt me. I would have been so afraid she would say something to 'hurt me', I would have judged everything she said. I would have denied her truth rather than listen to her heart speak her fears."

We walked on, our hearts connected, our spirits lifted.

It was a magical evening. A night of open-hearted listening. A night to be awakened by the mystical power of forgiveness to heal broken hearts and fences and connect three generations of women in love.

The question is: Who do you need to hug?

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Putting Christmas to bed

Christmas 2007 is officially over. Yesterday, I hauled out the boxes and bags, rubber tubs and containers and put away the decorations and lights that had brought Christmas to life in December. The tree was dismantled, the boughs wrapped up, the strands of glass beads carefully stored in their containers.

I love decorating for Christmas. Tearing it apart is not that fun. I mutter and grumble under my breath. I wonder how in just four years I could have collected so much 'stuff'. I wonder where it all came from and how we have managed to place such meaning in its presence. I think about just throwing everything out and starting all over again -- but the expense and the reality of how important each ornament is to our family holds me back from taking action.

I like to put Christmas away alone. Alone I can put everything in place. Alone I am not distracted from my task, or disrupted by someone asking, "Is there a box for this?" or, my favourite "Where does this go?" Hello. It goes in the big blue tub clearly marked, "Glass Tree Ornaments."

Putting Christmas away does not bring out my sense of humour. In fact, it doesn't even bring out my good cheer!

I had almost completed taking down the tree when my youngest daughter arrived home. There were still lots of glass ornaments, ribbons and her favourite, the Christmas village, to be put away. Without hesitating, and without my asking, which when I'm not revelling in post-Christmas doldrums I would recognize as kind of a miracle in and of itself, she started to help out.

"I think we should leave the village up year round," she informed me after hauling the box up from the basement (another miracle. She found the box without yelling upstairs to ask me where it was) and plopping it down in the middle of the living room floor.

"It's not just a Christmas decoration. We could change the scenery to depict different seasons and keep rotating them throughout the year."

Perched on a chair, unravelling the fir bough from a curtain rod, I balanced myself against the window. Good thing the glass was cool. It calmed me down.

Leave up evidence of Christmas throughout the year? I don't think so. By January 6, my official, never to be violated, never to be extended, take down Christmas date, I am ready for the glitter and glitz and clutter to be put away. I've had enough of maneuvering around the glass snow ball with Santa's workshop nestled beneath its dome and having to continually push aside a brass reindeer pulling a present laden sleigh to get into my china cabinet. By January 6, I'm into full, "Bah. Humbug," mode. Christmas. Schmissmiss. I can give it a miss until same time next year. Thank you very much.

But not my youngest daughter. "I love Christmas," she exclaims every year when the decorations and tree come out and we deck the halls with balls and bows and all things bright.

So do I. But even Christmas has a best before date. And the Epiphany is its maximum expiry.

"The wise men haven't arrived yet," she told me in an effort to slow down my exertions yesterday and pack away the village.

"Did you know that in the first two books of the Bible, there was no star and no wise men?" I asked in an attempt to douse her enthusiasm for 365 days of Christmas with reality.

She pondered that fact for a moment. "I like the last two books. When I have a home of my own, I'm going to have Christmas villages all year round."

"Good for you," I replied. "Now help me get this Church into it's Styrofoam container so we can slide it into the box."

She bent down to help in the task, a smile curling the edges of her mouth. "I love you mum," she said as we sat side by side on the floor, carefully placing each porcelain object into its winter bed.

I paused. Gazed at the porcelain figures of a family dressed in turn of the century fashions who every year stand outside the church and watch the activities of the village. A mother. Father. A son. A daughter. Each child holds a beloved Christmas toy. A nuclear family. Different than ours where a mother and two daughters have managed to overcome the traumas of the past and build a home filled with all that is important. In the aftermath of my close encounter with the man who would have destroyed my family, we have built a foundation of love, hope and joy. Every year when the decorations come out, I am reminded of the past, and the power of the present to create new life. Every year as the lights twinkle on the tree, the pretty ribbons shimmer with gold dust and the village lights up a scene of perfect harmony, I am connected once again to the power of love to heal, to create, to inspire.

"I love you too, honey," I tell my daughter as I tuck the little family into the enclosure that will keep them safe for another year.

Some things have a best before date. A due date. An expiry. Some things grow old, grow out of date, out of fashion, out of style. They fade, or evaporate, or expire or drift away.

And some things never end.

Christmas is put away for another year but the memories, the joy, the laughter, the working side by side, the sharing in the big and small moments, the love, they will never fade away. They will never grow old or out of style.

Yesterday my youngest daughter helped me put away the glitter and bows and decorations and I settled into the joy of her presence. As the memory of that moment was safely tucked away into my heart I felt inspired by the magic of the moment to awaken me to the awesome gift my daughters bring me every moment of every day throughout the year. Love.

The question is: Have you tucked Christmas into your heart and awoken your day in love?