Friday, February 29, 2008

Giving it 100%

Every morning when I awake I make choices -- What will I wear? What will I have for breakfast? Even, what will I write?

The most important choice I make however is, what thoughts will I collect today? What thoughts will I let in? What thoughts will I let go of? What thoughts will I carry with me to sustain me, to nourish me, to create my best day yet?

In the bed across from me in the hospital last week was a tiny 81 year old woman. She'd been there three weeks after doctor's discovered a 'freak' occurence within her body. Her appendix, which had been removed when she was a teenager, had somehow grown back -- okay so that's not the scientific definition but that's how she described it. Major surgery and a long recovery had left her weakened and discouraged. The doctor's were recommending she not live on her own anymore because she couldn't breathe properly without oxygen. They were also suggesting she quit smoking.

"No way," she asserted. "I'm 81. I'm expected to not have as deep breathing as other people and at this age, if smoking hasn't killed me yet, something else will eventually."

She was an interesting roommate. Ascerbic. Critical. Feisty. She had an opinion about everything. A stance to take on pretty well every issue. One morning, a nurse asked her how she had slept.

"How do you think I slept?" she asked. "You gave me a diuretic before I went to bed. I had to pee all night long. Someone came and checked my oxygen levels every two hours. A tech came and took my blood at 3 am. I slept lousy. Can I go home now?"

The nurse smiled and said as she checked her vitals, "Not until your oxygen levels come up to a sustainable level without assistance."

"Like you care," the woman replied.

"I do care," the nurse said. "We all do."

It's all in how you look at it. From the woman's side, the constant attention was irritating, frustrating, annoying. From the medical staff's side, the attention was part of good care. Part of their 100% effort to help her heal.

The question is however, what is the woman's 100%? To fight back? To criticize and complain, to keep smoking? To accept low oxygen levels and their resulting lack of energy, difficulty breathing and inability to climb stairs comfortably as her norm or to do everything possible to assist the medical team in helping her live a healthy, comfortable life?

I had my gallbladder removed and stones were left behind. When the 81 year old woman across from me commented that that was just typical of our health care system, I replied, "I believe everyone involved is giving me their 100%. The surgeon gave me 100% of his attention during my surgery. The nurses have given me 100% of their best care possible. My condition is a risk factor of this type of surgery. I happen to be one of the 20% for whom the risk became reality."

We hear and read so much these days about the issues and problems within our health care system that we carry the thoughts of the shortcomings with us where ever we go. Yet, on Sunday morning when C.C. wheeled me into Emergency, the system leapt into action without a moment's hesitation. At the triage desk the man waiting in line before us stepped aside to give me precedence. The triage nurse quickly took my vitals and said, "Give us five minutes and we'll juggle some beds and get you in." Once in, I was seen without delay and quickly given a prognosis of my condition as well as details on what they needed to do to remedy my situation. My care was superlative and effective. It was provided by people who obviously had my good health at the heart of their concern and who didn't let the flaws within the system give them an excuse for not doing their 100% to ensure I received the care I needed.

And so, back to my thoughts for today. I know there are flaws in the world around me. Issues abound. Problems exist. Crisis lurk. Cracks widen. Potholes deepen. Pitfalls open.

I can walk timidly and tentatively through my day, my senses on amber alert, every fibre vibrating in anticpation of the next disaster, or I can breathe deeply and know, amidst the flaws, within the crisis, potholes, pitfalls and cracks of every day living, there is always beauty to celebrate, wonder to behold and awe to befall me.

For today, I shall move with grace and ease into celebrating the wonder of my world, the joy of my life and the utter bliss of knowing, this is my one, wild precious moment to live it up for all I'm worth. I may as well dance.

The question is: What thoughts are you holding onto today? Are you navigating potholes and tripping over cracks in your thinking or filling your senses with the wonder and awe of the world around you?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Setbacks, Upsets and Setting Up!

So.... not feeling well on Sunday landed me back in hospital. Seems, they took my gallbladder out but a few recalcitrant stones lurked behind. Rather surprising to end up having what felt like a gallbladder attack knowing I didn't have one to attack me! Needless to say, they had to do another procedure to remove the stones blocking my intestines.

Which, put me in hopsital for a couple of more days and kept me out of commission.

Home again and on the healing path.

There's a lot to be learned when setbacks and upsets appear -- The biggest one being, I can't change the circumstances of why I was in the hospital. I could focus on dealing with the circumstances with as much grace and ease as I could muster so that I could feel peaceful, and give myself the peace of mind to heal.

For me, this recent setback was another opportunity to learn patience -- all over again!

I'm not very patient with myself. My tendency is to say, "Okay, enough snivelling, get on with it. Get over it. Get over yourself. Quit lying around. Get going."

What I'm discovering is, my body has a separate agenda. It wants to be heard. Listened to. Acknowledged. It wants to be treated with tender loving care.

Hmmm.... Perhaps it's time I embraced B.K.S. Iyengar's teachings in, Yoga: The Path To Holistic Health. He wrote, "The body is your temple. Keep it pure and clean for the soul to reside in."

In cleaning up my psyche, I have created an imbalance within me by not giving my soul room to breathe freely. My body over the past couple of years has taken second seat in my thinking. Time to get it front and centre so that I treat it with the respect it deserves. Time to give my soul a home worthy of its magnificent beauty.

Motivational speaker, Jim Rohn, said, "Take care of your body. It's the only place you have to live."

I can't live 'out there' in the world. I can only reside 'in here' with me. Taking care of body, mind and spirit is a sacred trust. It is my responsibility, my duty.

For today, I commit to refreshing my body with loving, tender care. I commit to treating myself with respect -- inside and out. I commit to taking care of this valuable body that carries me through each moment.

My medicine for today will be to sleep as needed, to meditate, to relax and to love myself, even in my tiredness. And I'm going to give myself some inspirational medicine by reading one of my favourite books: The Generosity Factor by Ken Blanchard and S. Truett Cathy. It's short. Easy to read and very inspiring.

The question is: Are you treating your body with tender loving care? Are you giving yourself the medicine you deserve?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Sunday, February 24, 2008


Every so often life serves up a setback. Like healing from surgery. I go along swiminingly and then, wham, a setback.

Today, I'm feeling gross. I know it's because of the muffin I ate for breakfast. It seems to be stuck at the bottom of my esophagus. But it's really uncomfortable.

So, I breathe. Took a nice warm shower. Am going back to bed and will let the discomfort pass as I know it will.

On a good note, Alexis blogged from Australia -- if you're interested in keeping up with the journey of a 20 something around the world with just a backpack and no hair straitener, her blog address is:

She's having a great time -- building character too she says as her camera broke and the bus pass is unexpectedly expensive. She's using her Choices tools and not letting the negative get her down. Cool!

Me, I'm just happy she's safe! And having a good time. Her sister is consoling herself in Alexis' clothes closet, draping her body with the clothes she's left behind!

Life lesson: Setbacks are inevitable on the road of life. How we deal with them determines our journey.

The question is: Are you letting a setback hold you back from giving yourself medicine, or from breathing through the pain into the healing?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Living a heartfelt life

Day two of back to business.

Funny how a break -- whatever the reason, can interrupt my flow, my commitment, my habitual tasks.

Before the surgery, writing here every morning was a joy. This past week, I dreaded it. And now, I understand why.

I am not in the habit of giving myself medicine. Yesterday, I went to assist in the Contract room at Choices and people continually asked me how I felt. And then one man mentioned his wife had had her gallbladder out a couple of years ago. "It's a good thing it's no longer such an invasive surgery. Recovery isn't as prolonged as in the past," he said. And then he looked at me and smiled. "I have a feeling it wouldn't be prolonged with you anyway. You seem to be recovering remarkably past."

I laughed. "That isn't how I feel," I replied. "I feel frustrated that I still don't have my normal level of energy."

"Patience, grasshopper," he said.

Patience. He must have been speaking to C.C. and my daughters. It is a favourite topic of discussion between us -- my lack of patience -- especially where I'm concerned.

Arnold Glasgow said, "The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.”

When it comes to my body,I still try using a hammer when loving tender care and a gentle touch would do! Just get going, my mind screams as my body calls for rest. Don't give in. Don't quit. Go. Go. Go.

Yesterday, I stepped into the Contract room at Choices and breathed deeply. There was medicine in that room for me -- as there always is when I am at Choices. It is what I find so powerful about the process and the people.

I have always dreamt of being 'just me' in the world. Of being authentic. Of being my true self.

At Choices, I can be, 'just me'. I can live in my heart, move from it, be it.

In my every-day life, I fear living in my heart. My 'tapes' tell me that it is not safe. I am at risk of being wounded, ridiculed, shunned, they tell me.

So often, to survive in the everyday world, or at least to feel safe, I don a mask to protect myself from the slings and arrows that inevitably come from living in the hustle bustle of a world where wounded hearts abound -- not because someone, sometime, intentionally set out to wound us, but rather because we never had the tools to live a heartfelt life.

Choices is about heartfelt living. Choices is all about making Thelma Box's dream, the founder, come true. Her purpose is To Change the World One Heart at a Time.

I feel revived today. Healed. My body isn't clamouring for rest. My mind isn't pushing away from being here, or anywhere. I am at peace.

And that is the medicine of Choices.

The question is: Where do you live? In your heart, or in your head, fearing that your heart is at risk if you let it shine? Have you found a place where you can safely be your authentic self? Do you know your authentic self?

Friday, February 22, 2008

The medicine game

It's been a week since I've posted. A week of healing, a week of rest and above all, a week of change.

Alexis, my eldest daughter, left Wednesday evening for a 3 and a half month journey through Australia, New Zealand and Thailand. Big change. Big distance. Big event.

It is her first trip far-away. Her first time away from her sister for any period of time. Her first journey around the world.

At the airport, we gathered around her to say good-bye. She's traveling with her best friend from pre-school (they were 2 and a half when they met) and her friend's brother. Throughout the years, we have spent time together as families. Her girlfriend has been my 'other daughter', accompanying us on our annual sojurn to Tofino every spring. They've shared sleep overs, tears and fears over the years. Like sisters, they sometimes fight, they always make up.

It is an experience to watch my eldest daughter spread her wings and fly away. It is hard to believe she's gone. Yet, I know, where ever she is in the world, she is doing what she must to be the most incredible young woman she is. Her warm and loving heart, her vibrant smile and her sweet angelic voice will light up the world where ever she is.

There were a lot of lessons to embrace this week. A lot to learn. A lot to understand.

I have never been particularly patient, nor kind, to my body when it is in distress. I've always adopted the attitude, "I'll get over it if I just keep pushing through it," when it comes to healing. The strategy has served me well in the past -- though it has always taken a toll on me.

This time is no different. Because there was so much to do, I got busy. Alexis needed help organizing her packing. She had last minute chores to do. Things to buy. I went with her.

Tuesday night we held a farewell get-together for her. Thirty people turned up at the house for dinner. My concession was to not 'cook from scratch' the meal. I bought frozen Lasagne and Caesar Salad and had friends bring other ingredients for the meal. I let my friends help prepare and serve and clean up and mostly sat back and let it happen.

On Wednesday, Alexis had to finish up her chores and I helped out.

Thursday, I was beat. Spent the day in bed. Had absolutely no energy to move.

Friday, I awaken to the lesson. Just because I think I can, doesn't mean I should. I need to give myself medicine in order to be able to take care of others.

I'm still tired. Still feeling the after-effects of the aneasthetic. But I'm recovering. I was telling a friend the other day how I don't understand why I'm so tired when this wasn't even 'major' surgery.

"What's not major about it?" she asked. "You had a general aneasthetic. They poisoned your body to put you to sleep. It's the closest you get to death while you're alive. You don't think that's major?"

"It's not that," I replied. "It's just, when I had a C-section with Alexis, I was jogging within three weeks. I climbed a mountain when she was six weeks old. I feel so tired this tim and my body hurts."

She laughed and patted my hand. "You forget. We're getting older."


Getting older. The body doesn't bounce back as quickly. Skin doesn't lose sleep lines. Character lines are permanently etched upon my face. The edges of my body relax, hold less definition.

She's right. But, if I'm getting older, how come I'm not wiser? How come I still think I can do it all and sleep it off to do it another day?

A rhetorical question. My habit is to not listen to my body. Instead, I tell myself, 'get over it', and get to it.

I'm learning.

Yesterday, I stayed in bed. Today, I'm relaxing. Taking it easy. This afternoon I'm going to go help out at Choices for a couple of hours. My concession this week was to acknowledge I could not coach for the entire five day session. The days are long and I knew my 100% would not sustain the energy required to be present in the training room without restraint.

I'm learning.

And I'm growing and accepting that in my growth, I get to take care of me so that I can take care of others.

The question is: Where do you let go of taking care of yourself and give away your energy without first giving yourself medicine?

Monday, February 18, 2008


I've been away for a few days. Saturday morning, pain woke me up. A quick ride to the hospital, a diagnosis, and later that day, my gallbladder was removed.

I just got home and will write about my experience tomorrow. But for today, I'm going back to bed!

All is well. I'm healing and my gallbladder won't be bothering me anymore!

See you tomorrow.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Hope lives

I awoke yesterday morning, my head a cotton ball of fuzziness, stuffed up with cold and flu. I lay in bed and contemplated sleep for just a couple of more hours.

And then, I caught a glimpse of the news as a PR nightmare unfolded before my eyes. There on the screen was one of the satellite shelters we manage. A police car and ambulance, with flashing lights, sat in the driveway, exhaust billowing from their mufflers. A reporter talked about one man critically wounded, another in custody.

I put my fuzzy head aside and took a shower. It was going to be a busy day.

And it was.

Every few moments of every day in this million+ city, someone dies. And someone is born.

Every day, events unfold that draw the attention of media like alley cats drawn to investigate a bad smell emanating from a garbage can.

And everyday, beneath the sound bites and the opinions of neighbours and passers-by and politicians and experts, there is the human tragedy.

It is tragic that a man died at the shelter in what police are calling, a 'suspicious death'.

It is tragic that a homeless shelter resides anywhere in this city.

Yet, the reality is, it does. It must. If not my neighbourhood then whose? If not my backyard, then whose?

The shelter in question is down the street from a senior's housing complex. A resident, once very vocal in her disagreement with its establishment as her neighbour, appeared in the news coverage of the event to say she was once again worried. This is what I feared in the beginning, she claims. And now I fear it once again.

Good neighbours build good fences.

I think of a closely knit seniors community and wonder what they did to support their neighbours.

My mother loves to bake. It is her passion. Most of what she creates in her tiny apartment kitchen is given away. Shared with neighbours, friends and family. It is her statement of love. Her gift she willingly shares.

I wonder how many batches of cookies have been baked over the past eight years that the shelter has peacefully co-existed in that neighbourhood have been shared with the neighbours, friends and families of those living in the senior's complex?

I wonder how many have been shared with the men in the shelter next to them?

I work in a world that reveals, every day, the cuts and bruises of the underbelly of lives in disarray.

I work in a world where people with nothing scrap to gain a tiny foothold of sanity amidst the madness of their lives.

I work in a world of contradictions. Where one man with nothing takes the time to share whatever he's got, even if it's only the butt end of a cigarette, with the man next to him.

I work in a world I sometimes don't understand.

Everyday, I witness the parade of human frailty played out on the tapestry of homelessness.

I witness a man, his breath reeking of Lysol, his clothes reeking of foul odours, gently supported by a friend as he struggles to stay seated on a chair. We discourage people lying on the lobby floor of our building, but on this occassion, I hear a staff say to the friend, "You're best to just let him lie on the floor. He'll only fall off the chair again."

There is no judgement, no condemnation. Just a simple acceptance of where this man is at and what is best for him in the moment. Counselling, intervention, whatever other care is needed to help this man find some solace in his life today, will come later. For the moment, it's best he lie on the floor and sleep it off.

As I help serve lunch on the second floor, I put a plate of food in front of a young, handsome black man whose face is blistered with crack sores. His eyes are bleary, the whites enormous, the pupils dilated. He nods his head as I put the plate in front of him and mumbles a quiet, Thank you.

I walk through the lobby and a toothless, grinning native man stops me. He always smiles at me. Always jokes with me as I pass. "Wanna dance?" he asks as he does every time I stop to say hello. "I couldn't keep up with you," I reply as I do every time he asks. "You'll never know until you try," he jokes, his head nodding, his bloodshot eyes bright with laughter. "I'm ready when you are."

"Maybe tomorrow," I joke with a smile as I move on.

Every day I am part of the tapestry of despair and hope woven together in the lives of people who are lost and frightened.

And every day I wonder where our humanity has gone.

Not one person at the shelter had a dream long ago of being homeless, or of being an addict or afflicted with schizophrenia or a host of other mental health and physical disorders that affect them.

Not one person ever dreamt their lives would lead them to this place where fear is ever present and all they have is what's on their bodies or inside their veins.

A man died yesterday in our shelter and with his passing, all hope died that he will ever find his way home again. His family will never again see his face smiling, never again hear his laughter. His voice has been stilled for ever more.

At the shelter, if we do nothing else, we keep hope alive for the hundreds of people who have lost all hope of ever finding their way home. We keep hope alive for the families who feel the living loss of their mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, neices, nephews. We keep hope alive for those looking and waiting and praying and hoping for their loved one's to come home.

Yesterday, hope died for one man and his family.

Today, hope still lives for those who continues to struggle beneath the sorrow and pain of whatever is happening in their lives to take them so far from home, so far from their human condition.

Today, I live with the hope that someone, somewhere will awaken to their truth and walk away from despair into the light so that they can claim their right to live up to their magnificence.

Life at the shelter is a struggle. Yet, every day hope alights in the eyes of those who recognize falling down on the road of life is not a death sentence unless you lie there forever.

Until that day, hope lives on as we continue to provide a place for those who have fallen so hard on life's journey they cannot yet look up and see the light.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Valentine's Day dawns and with it love awakens, love embraces, love abounds.

Also on this Valentine's Day, tragedy strikes. A life ends upon the violent thrust of someone else's bad intentions.

Valentine's Day. A day like every other. A special day to celebrate love and most importantly, life. A day to be grateful for all I have. For all I feel. For all I am. For all I'm worth.

Valentine's Day. Some of us will go seeking for our love out there, somewhere, standing on a street corner waiting to be hit by Cupid's arrow. Anticipating the thrust, the push, the pull, the pulse of love's spark.

Some of us have found love. right here. Right now. In this moment.

For others, love will be the slow blooming of a rose unfurling beneath spring's rains, summer's heat. Love will blossom. The bloom may leave the rose, but the love will endure, rooted in the fertile soils of two people's commitment to love each other in sickness and health, in sorrow and joy.

Happy Valentine's Day my friends.

May your day blossom with laughter and joy. May love carry you through each moment with tender loving care.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

My thoughts today create my world

ABove my desk I have a picture frame my daughters gave me for Christmas two years ago. It's comprised of four separate frames stacked together to create a 'scene'. In two of the frames, the girls each placed a separate photo of me with them as infants. In the other two frames, they each wrote a verse for me about our relationship. It is one of the very best gifts they have ever given me.

Beside that frame, there is another picture of both of them performing a dance routine they choreographed for a dance competition about three years ago. Every time I look at that photo of them linked together, not just by blood and the sisterly love that binds them, but also by an unbreakable friendship, I smile. What amazing young women.

After visiting my mother at the hospital last night, Alexis and I went to a play. It was a 'date'. A final chance for just the two of us to spend time together before she heads off next week for her three and a half month journey around the world.

Long ago, I dreamt of having a relationship with my mother where we did things together because we enjoyed each other's company, shared a common ground, a bond beyond the constriction of our mother daughter relationship where I was the difficult child and she was the misunderstood mother. Long ago, I realized I would never have that with my mother. Not because she didn't want it, or I didn't want it, but rather, because neither of us were committed to Be. Do. Have. Neither of us were willing to give up our separate positions in order to find a common ground.

I am blessed.

I may not have had the relationship of my dreams with my mother, but I have created the relationship I've always dreamt of with my daughters.

I am blessed.

These two amazing young women are symbols of all that is possible, and all that can happen when love is given free rein without fear of never being enough. Our relationship is a testament to the power of forgiveness to heal wounds, bridge discord and create harmony in the lives of everyone it touches.

Our relationship is also a testament to the power of our thoughts to create what we want in our world.

I was not committed to doing what it took to have the relationship I wanted with my mother. No matter how much I told myself I wanted 'more', my thinking always focused on the lesser aspects of our relationship. There was always the fear that the past woudl be the present dooming the possibilities of a different future to the scaffold of the cross of regret.

With my daughters, there was no past relationship upon which to doom the future. I knew with each of their births that our relationship would be a reflection of my committment to Be. Do. Have. To have a great relationship I had to BE committed to DO what it took to HAVE the relationship I wanted. My mind had to conceive of that relationship so that I could take the necessary steps to create it.

I didn't have to have a great relationship with my mother to create one with my daughters. What I needed was the thinking that stated -- This is what I want. And with that thought held firmly in my mind, I had to set out to create what I wanted, not what I didn't want.

The mind is a powerful and creative tool. My reality today is an outcome of my thinking yesterday. My reality tomorrow will be an outcome of my thinking today. My actions, my words, my deeds are all inspired by my thinking.

It's up to me to fill my mind with thoughts that create value in my life so that I can take actions that reflect the value I put into my world.

Emma Curtis Hopkins said, "The world in which we live is an exact record of our thoughts."

It's up to me to record my life with thoughts that celebrate my world.

The question is: Are you celebrating the wonder and joy of you today? Are you thinking about YOU in the light of joyfully living your one precious and wild life?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Let it Be.

Every day is different. Every day presents wide open opportunities to fly, or, to trudge along the ground, stepping gingerly, watching for potholes.

This morning, I awoke, weary. Darkness loomed,the day lurked gloomily on the horizon.

You get the pic. My mood is dark, my spirits heavy.

Not for any specific reason other than a restless night of interrupted sleep patterns. Moving from the bedroom to the living room, the bed to the couch and back again.

I have this sore foot -- and it seems to take great delight in hurting most as I snuggle in to fall asleep! Wham! I awaken.

So -- not too inspired this morning. I've decided to let it rest. To let my sleepiness lift naturally, in time with the sun rising.

Lots to do today. Lot to get done. Must slowly enter the universe. Treat myself with tender loving care -- and remain vigilant. When tired, it is easy for me to fall into negativity. To be edgie. Sharp. To lose my compassionate response to situations that would normally not cause me ire.

This morning. I must remain alert. Conscious.

Today is an awesome day to stretch. To use my tools. To 'Let it Be' in times of trouble so that I can be all that I am meant to be.

My watchword for today will be, the Beatles Song, Let it Be. (Lennon/McCartney)

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
Let it be, let it be.
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

The question is: Are you willing to let it be so you can be all you're meant to be today?

Monday, February 11, 2008

On wings of love

A sunny day. A day to awaken with joy lifting my heart and filling my spirit with love.

A day to live.

But then, everyday is a day to live. Is there ever a good day to die?

Death entered my mind this morning. Not the soulful, sorrow-filled, sorrow-laden kind of loss-filled death of someone we love. But rather, the night has died upon the morning, death has lead to rebirth today, let's awaken at get to singing a song of joy kind of morning.

Yesterday, while emptying a box, I found a dragonfly's body. Perfectly preserved. Transparent wings forever stilled by death's untimely arrival. There was no good time to die for this creature. It landed in a light fixture and was stilled forever more. When C.C. removed the fixture to replace the bulb, the delicate carcass fell onto the box below where it awaited my uncovering of its memory.

I wondered about this tiny winged creature's passage through time. How long did it stay on this earth? What did it bear witness to on its journey?

Secrets die when wings are stilled.

My father died a silent death 13 years ago this March. He never spoke again after the pain that struck him down stilled his fiercely beating heart. He was conscious for those final two days of his life, but silent.

We gathered around his bedside, my mother, sisters, and brother. We gathered round and told stories, sang songs and cried. His was the passing of a man whose voice could only be silenced by death.

My father was loquacious, but I knew very little about him. He seldom spoke of his life, only of those things that interested him. He had many opinions and was fond of sharing them. He was not fond of sharing his past.

Birth and death. Part of the same continuum. Bookends for life.

We share ourselves, we share our thoughts, our feelings, our dreams, our hopes. We share in the hope of finding someone who shares a similar view looking out through an open heart at a landscape filled with wildflowers whispering in the breeze and delicate winged creatures flitting in the sunlight.

The body of a tiny, delicate dragonfly landed in a box and awoke my mind to the fragility of life.

No matter if we believe in reincarnation or that this is our one kick at the can, while we live this life, it is up to us to make it the most wild, precious and passionate journey we will ever take.

In life, my father had a heavy hand, a loud voice and a hearty laugh. In life, he loved to bake, to share his edible delights with others. He loved to entertain, to sit at the head of the table and pass judgement on a host of subjects and people he often found wanting of better attitudes. He was a poet, a writer, a troubled man. In passing, it is only the love that remains. It is what brought him into this world, it is what he carried with him as he left, it is all that he can leave behind.

Like a dragon fly whose gossamer wings have been forever stilled, we must tread lightly and leave our footprints delicately embossed, as light as air, upon the hearts of those we love.

The question is: How delicate are the wings of your love?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A woman of worth

Every morning when I awake I take a moment to breathe in the quiet of the house. To breathe in the beauty of the morning. I go downstairs, fill the kettle, grind coffee beans. Ellie paddles her way into the kitchen, sniffing out the possibility of breakfast.

There is a quietness, a routine to my mornings that comforts me, wraps me up in a warm blanket of well-being, of peacefulness.

It is a feeling I want to carry through my day, and sometimes miss as I hustle about trying to 'do' what needs doing without always staying grounded in being all that I am meant to be every moment of my day.

Yesterday afternoon Alexis, Liseanne and I spent a couple of hours browsing through IKEA. I always think of these times spent together as a gift. They are times of joy, of laughter, of sharing, of being connected.

Yesterday I had an email from an amazing woman who, like me, once upon a time was involved with a man with a disorderly personality. Something she wrote struck me deeply. "I've come a long way and I've still got a long way to go."

How far will I go to happiness?

Happiness, like life, is not a destination. It's a state of mind, a sense of well-being, a choice. For my friend yesterday, she has spent a year healing from the after-shock of that relationship. She's come a long way.

How far does she have to go? How far do any of us have to go to find the happiness we seek?

For me, it's right here, right now when I make the commitment to see my blessings in the gifts of everyday.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon with my daughters, enjoying the moment, thrilling in the time we shared. We weren't 'doing' anything profound, simply living the moment together.

That's happiness.

On those days when I look behind and see how far I've come, I am often tempted to try to discern how far I have to go to get to where I want to be. My emotions are not a destination -- how far I have to go is not about living my life fearlessly and passionately in the moment.

I cannot see the future.

I can live in this moment right now and know, I am giving it my best. My best is good enough.

To be happy tomorrow, I must choose what makes me happy today.

To be peaceful tomorrow, I must choose what makes me peaceful today.

To love tomorrow, I must be loving today.

Once upon a time I fell into the arms of an abuser and lost my way. Freed of his deceit, I am free to fall in love with who I am, right now, in this moment and love myself, exactly the way I am, beauty and the beast, perfectly human in all my imperfections.

A very courageous woman often reminds me, "I am a woman of worth".

She's right. I am a woman of worth. Today. Right now.

It is my choice to believe the truth today, rather than wait in anticipation of it dawning on me tomorrow somewhere down the road.

I awoke this morning and was embraced by the joy of my blessings today.

They are many because I know my truth. I am a woman of worth.

The question is: What's your truth today? Do you recognize your worth, or are you planning on getting to it someday in the future when you're far enough down the road to step away from the past and into the beauty of this moment today?

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Doing nothing: the antidote for doing too much

I have an internal alarm clock. No matter what time I go to sleep, it wakes me up between 5:30 and 6 am every weekday morning. On weekends, it lets me sleep in until 7.

Sometimes, I love my alarm clock. Cold, crisp winter mornings like this, I wish it would take a break and let me stay in bed, snuggled under the covers longer.

Alas, it ain't that obligin'!

Sort of like the weather. I want it to be warm like it was last week. It has other ideas.

So this morning, I awoke as always, snuggled with C.C. for a few moments and then arose. I get restless, antsy if I stay in bed too long, not to mention Ellie becomes rather annoying in her insistence that it's breakfast time, time for me to get into action and quiet the rumblings in her tummy.

I love mornings. The quietness of the house. Making coffee, gazing out the kitchen window at dawn's awakening. I love baking muffins as I did today, and the walk to the paper box with Ellie.

And I love the feeling that for today, I have no priorities, no must do's, no gotta get to's. I don't have to be anywhere by any specific time. I don't have to see anyone at any specific time. Today is unscheduled. A day of opportunity without demands.

Sure, there are some things that need to be done -- there are still a plethora of boxes around the house that need attention. But if they don't get unpacked today, the world won't end, the giant Hand of Responsibility will not descend upon me and whack me through the Gate of Inaction into rabid activity.

Yesterday, I met with the organizers of an annual Christmas event for clients at the shelter where I work. We chatted about what went well, what went not so well, and what we can do better next year. At one point, one of the men commented that he was so exhausted by the time Christmas came that he took ten days off and did absolutely nothing.

"I feel kind of guilty," he said. "I sat at home, read books, played with my kids, watched movies and did nothing else."

"That's not nothing," I replied with a double negative turning it into the positive. "That's something. Spending time with you and your family. Stoking your heart, re-booting your energies. That's important. And really needed in today's hectic world."

We chatted a bit about our concept of 'doing nothing'. Why so many of us feel we need to make excuses for time spent reading a book or sitting watching clouds float by, or simply listening to the sound of the wind in the trees. Why do we feel we must apologize for not being 'busy, busy'?

Actress Ava Gardner said, “I don't understand people who like to work and talk about it like it was some sort of goddamn duty. Doing nothing feels like floating on warm water to me. Delightful, perfect.”

When I first became a mother one of my greatest pleasures was to lie on the bed with my infant daughter on my chest. The warmth of her tiny body. The rise and fall of my chest as she rose and fell with my breathing. The delicate sounds she made as breathed. Her gentle stirring of her body nestled against me. The soft downy feel of her hair beneath my hand as I stroked her head.

I could lie like that for hours. And often I did.

I wasn't doing nothing. I was surrendering to the moment and falling in love.

The question is: Where does your need to get to it keep you from being at one with the moment you're in? Where does your list of must do's over-power your enjoyment of doing nothing but experiencing the wonder and joy of being alive in this moment, right now?

Friday, February 8, 2008

Defining Moments

The first time I remember feeling the bitter sting of being judged harshly I was eleven years old. We had just moved to a new city. It was my first day at my new school. Grade seven. Because of the move we were a week late for the beginning of classes. I walked into the schoolyard that morning feeling like an outsider.

I stood alone, waiting for the bell to ring inviting us in. Not far from me stood a group of girls. I could feel them looking at me, eyeing me up and down. I wanted to say Hi. I wanted to be part of the group. I wanted to make friends. And then, I overheard one of the girls say to another as she glanced at me. "What a snob."


I remember feeling the sting of those words. I remember thinking, "But you don't even know me."

It was a defining moment.

I'm assistant coaching at Dale Carnegie. Last night was the first session in the twelve week course. As a Group Leader (GL), I was asked to provide an example of a two minute speech on a defining moment from a time when I was a child, 15 or younger.

I'd had some time to think about it. John Fisher, the facilitator, had called me earlier in the day to give me direction. Good thing. There isn't a whole lot of my childhood I remember. And as to defining moments, those points in time where my character was forged on the fires of fortune or misfortune, I hadn't given them a lot of thought in the past.

That's the interesting thing about taking a course like the Dale Carnegie course, they give you a chance to find those moments in time that created value in your present.

For me, that moment was all about judging people and being judged. About making quick judgements based on limited information, without delving beneath the surface to understand who the person is inside.

When I was eleven, I had a choice to make. Let their judgement of me become my truth, or not. I could retreat behind a wall of resentment and attitude, or, I could step out and be known for who I am, not who others perceived me to be.

I stepped out.

That girl who made the comment became one of my very best friends. We are still in contact. Last year she came to Calgary and we spent a four day weekend catching up on thirty years of living. We had a blast.

The defining moment was in understanding the importance of seeking first to understand and to let my judgements be based on people's actions, not on who I perceive them to be on first impressions.

I experience that every day at the homeless shetler where I work. If staff were to judge people on their appearance, their smell, their wealth, or their level of sobriety, we would never be successful in helping people find their way back home. We would never inspire anyone to step beyond the limits of their life today into the possibilities of their lives tomorrow.

Years ago, I experienced the sting of being judged simply because I was an outsider, a new kid in the yard, a pretty girl creating waves in the status quo with her unexpected appearance. In that experience I was given the gift of insight into a value I hold true today.

French author, Honore de Balzac wrote, “The more one judges, the less one loves.”

My happiness comes from loving, not judging. My love comes through being an open, compassionate human being who seeks first to understand, and then to be understood.

And the funny thing is.... The less I judge, the more I am buoyed up with light to live, love, laugh my way through every day!

The question is: Where do you stand in judgement because you fear coming down from your pulpit? Where do your judgements keep you from building bridges of understanding instead of walls of indifference?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Cory Johnson: Turning disabilities into possibilities

I had lunch yesterday with an amazing young man, Cory Johnson. I have his permission to use his name as Cory's mission in life is to inspire people. He sure inspired me!

The affects of Cerebral Palsy that Cory was born with affected the left side of his body. At age 11 he suffered a stroke that affected the right side of his body.

Cory has encountered some pretty tough situations throughout his 26+ years. Cops often think he's drunk. People on the street will often give him a wide berth, or share choice words as they drive by, because his unsteady gait makes them suspicious of his sobriety. For some reason, they think their suspicions give them the right to be rude. Yet, no matter what's happened, Cory always uses the opportunity to turn his disability into possibilities.

Cory tells the story of being at a hockey game sitting on a bench drinking a pop waiting for a friend. A cop approached, grabbed his drink, pried the lid off and sniffed it. No hello. Just grab and sniff. Cory figured it was a good time to help him understand what Cerebral Palsy is and... to get the name of his supervisor.

In Cory's vision, it's never too late for anyone to learn about the disabilities they possess. "That cop's attitude disabled him from seeing the truth about who I am," he said. "I'm not a drunk. I'm Cory."

Today, Cory is a professional speaker and is about to publish his first book.

Having lunch with Cory yesterday reminded me about the power of humour. When he talks, there's always a ripple of laughter running throughout the conversation. "It's only other people who see me as someone with a disability," he told me as we sat at a copper topped table in Main Dish, one of my favourite bistro's in Bridgeland. "I don't think of myself as disabled. I think of myself as someone with possibilities." And with those words, he waved his fork in the air and the potato on the end went flying. "Ooops," he laughed. "Must be a disabled potato. Can't stick to the fork." He paused. "Or maybe it was looking for better possibilities for life at another table."

Perhaps my disability is not being able to find my sense of humour about living. If I look at it as a disability, I'm open to the possibility of finding it.

I had a lot of fun yesterday. Lunch with Cory. An afternoon teaching a class on self-esteem to clients at the shelter where I work. One of the attendees wrote on his evaluation, "I learned a lot and it was fun!"

Hey! I'm starting to get the drift of this humour thing. Author, actor, Mary Hirsch said, “Humor is a rubber sword - it allows you to make a point without drawing blood."

Yesterday, I used humour a lot to make my point in the classroom -- no one can steal your self esteem if you never knew you had any to begin with. They sure can squash your ability to claim it, however, if you make their opinion about you count more than your own.

One of the things we talked about yesterday as well was how people with low self-esteem often tend to use perfectionism as an excuse not to do anything.

This morning, I had forgotten that I made a commitment to write funny -- I was going to be all serious and stuff about lessons learned yesterday. And then I started to write about my lunch with Cory. Humour is an integral component of time spent with Cory -- and the power of laughter to keep things light. If I want to find my sense of humour, I need to learn how to do it, to practice the art and to keep doing it.

Day one on learning to write funny. I'm learning to see the lighter side of living one word at a time. When I know better I do better. As I learn to step lightly onto the page, I shall increase the presence of humour lifting me up to inspiring heights.

The question is: Where do you take yourself so seriously you lose sight of the light?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Laughing at myself

Ask my daughters and they will be quick to tell you -- I'm not a very funny person.

Okay, so I like to believe I'm funny. In fact, I think I'm so funny I tend to remind people how funny I can be. After saying something I believe to be particularly witty I will often state, "I'm so funny!".

Denial is my middle name. Truth is, being funny is not my natural state of being.

I take life seriously.

Time to find the funny-side of living.

This morning, I've made a commitment. I'm going to write funny for a week. Not funny as in words spelt backwards or bad grammar. No. No. That would never do!

I mean funny a la Robin Williams or that nationally syndicated guy, Barry or whatever his name is who writes a column every week in the newspaper.

Okay, so maybe I've set my sights too high. Maybe I just need to think of funny as in gentle rain falling, not a hailstorm of laughter.

That's it, I'll write as if spring is here and birds are tweeting and the rain is gently falling all around.

Let's see, what was funny about my day yesterday?

Oh. I know. C.C. and I went to listen to his son, T., perform at a band competition. When we walked in a woman waved from the other side of the room. It was C.C.'s former wife. We wandered over and chatted for a moment. She was gracious, vivacious and friendly.

And that was what was funny about last night-- actually it wasn't funny ha ha, it was just really nice. The interaction didn't feel forced, or uncomfortable. It felt relaxed. Calm. Respectful.

We were there to listen to and support a very, very talented young man perform at his best. We weren't there for ego-tripping or into the past dipping.

Watching T. on stage is inspiring. He's comfortable, natural, relaxed. He is a reflection of the love and commitment of his parents to support him and applaud him -- where ever he's at, not based on where they're at.

That's inspiring and refreshing. It also gives me hope.

If I have one regret, a little pit of sadness within me, it is that I am not on friendly terms with Alexis and Liseanne's father. Where at the beginning of our separation (12 years ago) we had dinner once a month with the girls, spent special occassions together and took an annual ski and hiking trip as a family, even after our divorce, our relationship is now based on discord, not harmony.

Not the way I want it to be for my daughters. Not the way I believe they deserve to have their parents interact.

Perhaps if I can find my sense of humour around my lack of relationship with their father, I might be able to find a creative route to building a bridge we can both cross-over.

See, whenever I do run into their father, my anger and sorrow over our inability to find common ground where our daughters are concerned, tends to run before me. A sort of tidal wave of emotion sending out waves of unease like blips on a radar scope tracking a lethal weapon heading towards its target.

I become so intent on connecting, I see him as my 'target' and explode into action while forgetting all about the art of communicating with grace and ease.

Take the recent past where I ran into him at the funeral of a friend's mother. After the service I saw G.M., my daughters' father, standing by himself at the side of the room.

Aha! My mind declared, this an opportune time to corner him to talk about resolving our lack of communication and how it affects our daughters.

Talk about bad timing and misguided direction! The missile of my friendly hello backfired as I promptly followed it with my lame attempt at humour. "Too bad the girls aren't here to see their parents can be in the same room together without fighting."

See, that's what happens when I try to be funny about something that's really serious.

I believe that for children to survive their parents divorce, the adults in the relationship must put their own differences aside and build bridges of understanding not walls of resistance between them.

I worked hard at the beginning of our separation to do that with G.M. I thought I'd succeeded. Unfortunately, I was kidding myself. Living in denial. Walking blindly through his anger, pain, turmoil I didn't stop to ask him -- what do you want? How do you feel? What's your insight into helping our daughters cope with our divorce?

Instead, I acted like I had all the answers. I took action before taking heed of his needs. When he met a woman who was uncomfortable with our relationship, he quickly took up her call to break off all communication. Not because he thought it was the right thing to do (maybe he did). Mostly however, I believe it's because the way we conducted our relationship after the divorce was based on what I wanted. I didn't ask him what he wanted, I told him how it should be. It was a trend that had permeated throughout the fabric of our marriage.

Divorce is a family affair. Regardless of the differences between the adults, however, divorce does not have to destroy the common ground of parenting for the sake of what is best for the children.

And that's what I found refreshing about last night. Whenever C.C. talks about his wife it is with consideration and respect. Last night when we saw her, they greeted each other warmly. She greeted me the same way. When we left, they hugged and we said a friendly good-bye. T.C. came over to the table where the three of us were chatting, gave me a hug and was comfortable with the dynamics of the grouping.

Now that's not funny -- it's awesome.

There was a funny part to the evening too, however! The performer before T.C was a really solid acoustic guitarist, singer, songwriter. He wasn't, however, a comedian, even though he tried at one point to be funny. He told a joke, nobody laughed. He decided to laugh at his not-so-funny joke himself, and the audience laughed with him. See, he said to the room, if you tell a joke and it flops, laugh at yourself and people will laugh with you.

Today, I'm laughing at myself. In taking life so seriously, I often forget to hear the laughter rippling beneath the surface of my focused intent to be all that I am meant to be.

I'm with Halle Barry who said, “Any time you get to laugh at yourself, that's a memorable moment, and that's what I got to do today.”

Gotta get going. Gotta get laughing at myself today. I'm so funny!

The question is: Have you laughed in the mirror today?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


Beware of angry octogenarians.

I visited with my mother last night. When I left I made one of those silly vows I know I'll never keep -- I'm never going to visit her again, I whispered to myself as I left the care facility where she's at. I know it's not true.

She's my mother. She's 85. She's in hospital. She needs some kind of peace of mind, some kind of serenity in whatever time she has left to spend amongst us.

I know I will go back and visit and work to maintain my balance, my calmness. I know I will struggle against lashing out. Against railing up against what I perceive to be the injustice of her judgements of me. I know I will hide my tears, my hurt, my anger until I've left her presence and can let it out when I'm alone in the quiet of my car.

I feel these feelings of sadness washing over me and I grieve. Perhaps it is that I had such hopes of what we would have, of what we could share when she was free of the haze that has enshrouded her.

Perhaps I am using the haze of her self-medication as an excuse for her bad behaviour? Perhaps I am unwilling to do what it is I accuse her of not being willing to do -- face the truth of my own thoughts and feelings.

Guilt. Why can't I be a better daughter? Why can't I just let her words wash over me? Why do I have to question her when she makes statements that rankle, that niggle away at my well-being?

It was one of her comments about how mean I've always been to her that gave rise to my question last night.

"Now that you've quit yelling at me and being mean to me I'm much happier," she said as we sat in her room chatting about her day.

I slipped and stepped in to defend myself. "I don't yell at you."

She gave me her, 'don't be ridiculous, of course you do look.' "You have always yelled at me and been mean. Even as a teenager." She paused. She wasn't looking at me. She was looking straight ahead at the wall beside my head. "But it's okay. Now that you've come back to us, you're a nice person. You're not as mean to me as often," she said.

I know I should have left it there, walked away, taken a breath. Instead, I took the bait and bit down. "What's in it for you mum to believe I am always mean to you? Why is that important?"

"It's not," she replied. "I'm just saying the truth. I have to speak the truth. They've told me here that keeping the truth inside is what hurts me."

There are some truths best left unspoken.

"Do you know it really, really hurts when you say those things mom. When you tell me over and over what a mean person you see me as."

"I told you. I don't think you're as mean now. You're a much better person than you used to be since you came through all your troubles." She sighed. She still wasn't looking at me. "I always felt so sorry for you. You had such a hard life."

Now, there's one thing that pushes my button. It is to be pitied.

Fortunately, this button is readily acceptable to my thinking. I've had lots of practice dealing with it when in communication with my mother. I remembered to breathe.

"I don't look at my life as hard. I look at it as a wonderful adventure filled with opportunities to grow and learn and become all that I am meant to be. I feel blessed to have had the life I've lived."

"Don't be ridiculous," my mother hissed. "It was a horrible life."

And that's when it hit me. My mother wasn't speaking of me, or my journey. She was speaking of her own life. Her pain. Her sorrow. Her sadness.

For most of my life I have distanced myself from my mother. To be close, I had to trust her not to lash out -- and I didn't trust her. I knew that no matter how sweet and kind she was in this moment, there would come a time when her need to 'feel bad' would cause her to dig into my psyche and inflict pain. It is her way.

I know this and still it hurts.

I breathe again. She is my mother. I examine my accountability for what transpired last night.

I was tired. As I drove towards the hospital I reminded myself to breathe, to stay calm, to stay centered. "You're feeling off-centered, Louise. Don't give into the pull to step out of your light."

When I arrived at the hospital my mother was in a session with a group of women. She saw me, waved and I motioned I would go to her room and wait.

I waited. The impatient thirteen-year-old in my head, the one who likes to act out when I'm in my in my mother's presence, began to stir.

Five minutes. Ten minutes. Maybe I should just leave her a note and go?

Fifteen minutes later she wheeled her walker into the room. "I couldn't leave when you came," she told me. "It was coming up to my turn to speak."

Little alarm bells started clanging in my head. I could hear the voice of my 13 year old whining inside, clamouring for a say in the conversation. "When do I come first? When do I become more important than telling your story to anyone who will listen?"

The 13 year old is ever present when I am in my mother's presence. Over the years I figure I've done a good job of getting out of the five year old stomping foot and pouting mouth position I used to regress to when in contact with my mother. I've advanced 8 years!

Unfortunately, it's not far enough.

My mother is who she is. It's not up to me to change her, or to try to make her see my POV. Empathy is not high on my mother's list of favourite attributes.

It's up to me to turn up and be the adult. To reassure my 13 year old that my mother can't hurt her with her words. That she is safe within me.

Gotta go visit my teenager and apologize. I slipped up. I regressed.

Not the end of the world. But the ennui of having left myself open to my mother's attack burns.

To ease the heartache I need to centre myself once again in my truth. I am a fearless woman touching hearts and opening minds to set spirits free.

I need to look at myself in the mirror and love the woman I see reflected back in the wonder of my eyes. I am a woman of worth. A woman of substance. A woman deserving of love.

She is an 85 year old woman looking for someone to explain why she is in the place she's at. She is moving out of her independent living. Giving up everything, as she reminded me last night. "I'm willing to sacrifice my wine, my freedom, my baking, everything I do to make you and your sister happy. I'm willing to do this for you and still you don't trust me. You'll never trust me."

There is so much my mother cannot face. Cannot deal with. She has had a lifetime struggling to deny her problems. She is frightened and scared.

"What if you were to accept the things you've done, good, bad and indifferent and simply forgive yourself?" I asked her.

"I'm not ready to forgive myself," she replied.

Fearful of facing a past she cannot escape, she cannot forgive herself.

I can. Forgive her. Forgive myself. And move with grace and ease into love.

She is my mother. The woman who gave birth to my life. She did the best she could. She gave it all she had.

If it isn't enough for me today -- I need to go look in my mirror. She is not responsible for my life today. I am.

I breathe. The sadness, the grief, the sorrow flows quietly away into the river of love that bouys me up. Feelings of sadness pass. Love endures.

The question is: What are you clinging to because you're afraid to face yourself in the mirror and love the wonder you see reflected in your eyes?

Monday, February 4, 2008

Time for a day of wonder

I'm late this morning. Actually slept beyond my normal 5:30 wake-up. I wanted to stay in bed. Stay cocooned from the light of day for just a little while longer...

Morning requires my attention. My day demands my intention.

What will it be?

If I focus my thoughts on the negative side of waking up and getting out of bed, I will stay beneath the covers.

Focused on the positive values of the day, I arise and greet the morning with anticipation.

It is all in my attitude.

It may seem like a small thing, but attitude is a mighty force. Carlos Castaneda said, "The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves happy. The amount of work is the same."

This morning, I didn't want to get out of bed. I chose to emphasize the value of greeting the day with an open mind and willing heart and my day unfolds with enthusiasm.

It's one of the reasons why I write here. It opens my day up to examination. Anticipation. And, it helps me enter my day with intent.

My intent is to inspire. Myself. Anyone who stops by and reads. My intent dictates I keep my thoughts focused on what I want to emphasize -- living life with grace and ease, making every moment count as the best one yet.

The question is: What's your intent for the day? Have you chosen at least one step you can take to create a day of wonder?

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Living on the brightside of my thinking

I missed writing here yesterday. I awoke to a gallbladder attack which took my focus off what I intended to do as I coped with what I needed to get through.

Funny how pain can sidetrack me. Once it had subsided I felt sluggish, sleepy. I went back to bed and awoke later eager to get on with my day, to clear up the mess from Liseanne's birthday party the night before, to unpack a few more boxes, to step lightly through a glorious winter's day.

Lance Armstrong said, “Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.”

When I was in an abusive relationship the pain was overwhelming. I quit trying to get through it and gave into it. I quit and felt like it would last forever.

"Nothing lasts forever - not even your troubles" so said psychologist, Arnold H. Glasgow.

Trouble is, when I'm in trouble I 'always' think in absolutes, like never and forever. When I'm in never and forever land, I tell myself tomorrow is too far away to even bother caring about what happens today. I tell myself to quit moving through the turmoil because it is a forever deal. I'm never going to get through it.

I couldn't see the possibility of freedom when I was mired in my denial of what was happening in my life. I couldn't see that I was the architect of my distress. Caught up in the despair of believing 'the pain of loving him' would last forever, I convinced myself to quit trying. I told myself there was no freedom for me, just this ennui of dying more and more every day.

I had a friend email me after I wrote, My Rant, to tell me he disagrees. There are people, he believes, who 'receive with the expectation they should receive and see no merit in contributing to the very institution or the society that gives them succour'. While I understand his point of view, and on the surface acknowledge there is some 'truth' to what he says, I also understand what happens to an individual when they become so lost they see no hope of ever finding themselves again.

In all of us there is a dark-side to our psyches. That place where light cannot find a foothold in the quicksand of negative thinking that pulls us down. Some will never trip over their shadows, some will never fall so far from grace they lose sight of the light. For those who do, however, darkness will fall as they plummet into the despair of believing they will always be lost to the light. Devoid of hope, they will not open their eyes to the possibility of letting go of never and forever being there.

My life with Conrad was like that. I fell into the dark-side and quit trying to swim to the shores of sensibility. I gave up on me and gave into him. The pain of my existence, of being me, of having to walk around in my own body was overwhelming. I wanted to die and thus did everything I could to make it possible.

Conrad was my escape from living. He was my own personal suicide mission.

I see it happening everyday at the shelter where I work. People on suicide missions with a destiny they fear will never come.

And yet, despite the bleakness of their outlooks their human spirit keeps struggling to survive. To rise above the cesspool of negative thinking that inexorably pulls them into the vortex of their despair.

There is no easy cure for pain. Yesterday my gallbladder flared up and for a moment I felt as if the pain would last forever. I knew it wouldn't and so I breathed deeply. Let the tears flow and waited for it to subside. It did.

Like all pain, it disbursed, eased, backed-off and was replaced with something else. In my case, a refreshing sleep from which I awoke to a beautiful blue sky-day filled with love and laughter. A walk with the puppies and a wonderful friend. A shopping trip to one of my favourite stores with C.C. to scope out storage solutions and a birthday dinner for one of my dearest friends.

It was a day that started with pain and ended with love and laughter. The pain subsided, its memory but a distant reminder I must watch more carefully what I eat. The love and laughter, they live on, forever and a day, to remind me to never give up on living my life on the light-side of my thinking.

The question is: Which side of your thinking will you live your life today? Which shadows will you push away with the brightness of your laughter?

Friday, February 1, 2008

My rant

I ran into Jack* at the local grocery store. He was seventy-three when homelessness struck him down. He had an apartment, routine, a life. And then one Saturday morning the wrecking ball arrived with a knock on the door. "Why are you still here?" the deconstruction manager asked the twenty-four tenants of the little three story walk-up in an older part of the city. "We're about to tear this building down. Weren't you informed?"

No. They weren't. The apartment manager conveniently forgot to give them their three month notice and couldn't be found. He'd taken off with their last month's rent. No one knew what was happening and those who suspected didn't want to believe the truth.

Within twenty-four hours, Jack's belongings were put in storage and he took refuge in the only place he could afford in a city of spiralling rents. A homeless shelter. It was a humbling blow for a man who once served his country in Korea. Who stands every November 11 at the foot of the Cenotaph, medals carefully pinned to his chest as he sings 'O Canada' in his off-key voice.

He stayed at the shelter for nine months. Staff struggled to help him accept the nonsense that had become his life. They struggled to help him find a place to live that he could afford. Finally, a counsellor secured him a bed at a senior's residence. He moved out and after six months, Robert found his own place -- and a new wife. He's been married for seven months, and life according to Robert, couldn't be better.

I believe him. When I saw him at the grocery store he looked like a new man. He didn't shuffle his feet when he walked. His back wasn't stooped. There wasn't a permanent scowl on his face. And his words didn't drain out of his mouth in a constant stream of complaints. Gone was the torn and tattered red down jacket he always wore. His face no longer bore a scraggle of unshaven beard. His eyes were not watery.

He gave me a big hug when he saw me, the padded down of his new winter jacket a soft pillow between us. He laughed and joked. Showed me his full shopping cart piled with groceries. "I like being able to do my own shopping," he said. He winked and added with a grin. "I got married seven months ago. Found me a good woman. Life is as it should be."

Life is as it should be.

When living at a shelter, life is not as it should be. But for the countless thousands who pass through our doors every year, this is life as they know it.

This week, a 10 year plan was released that promises to end homelessness in our city. A laudable goal.

In it, the architects have described the thousands of affordable housing units they will build that will end, 'the disgrace', as they call it, of homelessness.

Homelessness is a disgrace -- but not because of the people who find themselves lost in its despair.

Homelessness is a disgrace because its origins are not found in individual lives, but rather in the collective fabric of our society. The crisis of homelessness is man made.

In the 10 year plan they talk of treatment beds and supported living and housing first models. All criticial and essential components of changing the face of homelessness. They talk about the cost to society if homelessness is not stemmed. They talk of the business case and all the proactive things they will do to end it -- but they don't talk about the essential changes needed to the economic drivers that contributed to the crisis we face today.

When profit motives drive economic growth, homelessness is a natural outcome. In our city, the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede needed land for growth. The outcome was the displacement and disenfranchisement of hundreds of people who called Victoria Park home. In the name of progress, those individuals and families who resided under the shadow of the Stampede's expansion plans, lost their low income housing. In a city of exorbitant rents, they had nowhere else to go.

In other areas of the city, building cranes tower above the skyline. Concrete is poured and pilons erected upon the distant memories of the homes of those who once lived on the ground beneath their skeletal structures. In building up, we dream of a magnificent skyline soaring towards the clear blue skies above the great city we have created. This will be a model city of the future we tells ourselves as we applaud the intiative, entrepreneurial spirit and pioneer drive of our business leaders.

"We will never implement rent controls," government heads state vehemently. "It is not the Alberta way," and they shift gears to talk about the free market finding its balance, about market dynamics shifting gears. They don't talk about the toll in human capital. The children sleeping in cars because the market is in overdrive. They trot out band-aids to help the under-privledged, the working poor find affordable places to rent but they never roll-out solutions to curb the insatiable greed that drives families to the brink of despair.

Addictions, family violence, mental disorders, crime -- they all contribute to homelessness, one person at a time.

Policies, economic forces out of control, they affect entire segments of our society. They drive homelessness from the safe distance of pundits chair's over-stuffed with well-fed bureaucrats and wealthy executives who are committed to doing what it takes to end 'this disgrace'. They will also do anything, whatever the cost, to ensure their right to protect their shareholders stake in the ground upon which their company's were founded, is never shaken.

In our drive for better we have created a world of worse for thousands of people.

We can build affordable housing, open up rehab beds and create a database upon which to carefully track those who enter homelessness. We can close the front doors leading to homelessness and open up the back to their re-entry onto mainstreet but, until we look in the mirror of our social conscience, we will never see the toll our need for more has taken on those who have less than we can imagine.

As we build prosperity on the bedrock of the tearing down of our past, homelessness will continue to be driven forward upon the backs of those whose pasts keep them mired in the despair of knowing, they will never have enough to be part of 'the Alberta advantage' unless someone is willing to give up a part of 'their fair share'.

*not his real name