Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Hear. Think. Feel.

Someone once said, “Love is saying 'I feel differently' instead of 'You're wrong.'”

At Choices, there is a process called, I Hear. I Think. I Feel. It teaches you how to listen first, ask for clarification through repeating what you heard, and then, to share how what you heard affects you, after having first given it some thought.

The real opportunity for Hear. Think. Feel. comes in those moments when emotions are high, feelings triggered and harmful responses are set to flare like fireworks on the 1st of July.

I Hear. I Think. I Feel, is always spoken in the "I" of the one speaking. Pointed fingers retreat, responsibility and accountability is claimed by both the speaker and the listener. Standing in my "I", I am not at risk of being drawn into the tumultuous winds of misinterpretations and misunderstanding. When I clarify what I've heard, and then share what I think about what I've heard before sharing my feelings, I give my feelings an opportunity to flow freely without igniting my emotions.

Last Saturday, as we worked in Givers 1 (the first weekend after Choices where trainees come back to do their "colors"), a woman asked, after practicing the Hear. Think. Feel. process, "I never have time to think. I just leap right to feeling."

Now, some of that could be related to her colours. A "Blue" person operates through their feelings. Words immediately connect to their heart. For me, my main colour is "Green", words connect with my mind and set my thinking into full gear, often avoiding my heart before I put my mouth into motion.

Connecting to my heart before I speak can be a challenge for me. I'm 'safest' in my mind. It's my comfort zone. I know how to control it. My heart is an iffy zone of messy feelings coloured by emotions that don't always respond with grace and ease to what I'm feeling. Sometimes, especially in those intense moments where I fear being hurt (or wrong) and am confused by what I'm feeling and don't know how to 'name' my feelings, I will speak first, think second and then maybe even listen!

To be able to 'hear' first, I need to breathe. I need to let someone else's words enter my mind as if riding on a breath of fresh air that expands the blood and oxygen in my brain. As my hearing translates their words into meaning, I need to slow down my thinking and let their words flow into my heart, as if carried on the winds of change connecting me to my feelings which then flow back into my mind on a river of heartfelt meaning.

For me, this is a difficult process to put into continual use. Too often, I forget to BREATHE first. In my haste to respond, (and protect myself) I omit the "what I heard you say" part and leap right into, "Here's what I think. Don't worry if what I say makes you feel like you've been wronged. I'm right. Here's why." My mind is made up before I stop to clarify whether or not I have heard what they've said correctly. As the saying goes, "My mind is made up. Don't confuse me with the facts."

For me, the facts are often one-sided. My version of reality divorced from the action of seeking clarity from anyone else.

This is a WOW! moment for me. In realizing where I do not employ this tool effectively in my life, I have an opportunity to improve my listening skills and thus, create more harmonious and balanced relationships with everyone in my life.

In heated discussion, it's important for me to remind myself that "disagreement does not equal rejection". When I truly hear the other person with an open mind and heart, I appreciate the value of the speaker and their words. I remain open to their value being a reflection of who they are and experience the beauty of their hearts revealed through words which can sometimes be painful for me to hear. When I remain open to their value without focussing on my own pain tripping over itself to respond, I open myself up to listening from my heart and hearing their heart speak their truth in return.

My commitment for today is to practice, I Hear. Think. Feel. To employ the power of my listening to enlighten my thinking so that I can hear my heart's desire to create harmony in my world.

The question is: Are you willing to listen first and seek clarity before you respond without thinking? Are you willing to hear your heart's desire for harmony?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Living life for all its worth

Sitting here at my desk, my boundaries are defined by the walls around me, the roof above me, the floor below and the keyboard at my fingertips. Above my desk, there is a skylight. When I look up, I see sky, limitless space soaring into cerulean blue. Scattered clouds drift overhead, a shear voile cloth spread out to the horizon in a delicate lacy skirt.

I raise my eyes to look up into the heavens and experience the limitless possibilities of my life in freedom.

Hungarian poet, Janos Arany wrote, “In dreams and in love there are no impossibilities.”

When I dream big, my possibilities expand. When I love fearlessly, my possibilities are limitless.

My eldest daughter, Alexis, just called from Pattay, Thailand. She arrived on the island last week, spent a few days in Bangkok and is now travelling through the country. "You must come and experience Thailand," she told me on the phone. "It is like nothing I could imagine."

So much of my thinking around what I do in my life is determined by my mind's ability to imagine what I can do. But, my mind's ability to imagine is limited by my experiences, what I know and what I think I know and can't imagine not knowing.

To live in the now means to not imagine the next moment as a better chance at life. To live now is to drain this moment of every ounce of living colour. To peel it back to its essence, arms and heart and mind wide open to the sensations of being free to flow through this time right now.

In Alexis' blog, How I survived myself, she wrote awhile back that she would be homesick if her her soul wasn't expanding with each moment. This morning she wrote,

"Bangkok sounds of a thousand hearts beating. It is spicy on my tongue and silk to touch. It smells of pineapple and smoke. It is a woman with a broken heart and open legs. It is little girls at midnight in a grown up world. It is wet and it is thirsty. It is laughter and flowers and pavement and hope. It is old men with full bellies and hungry eyes. It is a little elephant who made me cry. Bangkok is orange robes in dusty lanes. Roosters crowing and frozen vegetables in my icecream. It is a breakdance to a symphony of engines and applause. It is hot and salty and sticky and sweet. It is wind in my hair and life before my eyes. It is everything for sale to the tune of resilience. It is stretched out on the asphalt with nothing but a smile."

Some of my greatest lessons in life have come through my daughters. In reading what she wrote, in hearing her voice on the phone, I realized that life is limited to the world I know. She is expanding her knowledge of this planet, living in the moment, experiencing life in the now and revelling in the wonder and pure joy of being alive.

Alexis' words reminded me this morning that life is a continuous journey of discovery. Of learning and growing, learning and growing. Continuously expanding into space. Breathing in the sights and sounds and sensations of the world around me, where ever I am, whatever I'm doing.

We live on a great big huge ball spinning through the universe on its orbital arc around the sun. One moment it draws close to the sun. And then, it retreats along its path through infinite space. Like a heart expanding and contracting, earth moves into day, then night.

I breathe in. My lungs expand. My heart beats. Plump, vital molecules of oxygen ripple through my veins. Blood flows freely to the outer reaches of my limbs.

I exhale. My lungs contract. Blood flows. My heart beats. The cycle continues in quiet, peaceful determination.

It's a great big huge world out there. A planet-full of experience. A universe of limitless possibilities.

In my world, my possibilities are as vast as the sky above me. Soaring. Arcing into infinite space.

My possibilities are my dreams unfurled upon a cerulean blue sky calling me ever further into unknown space. Free-falling, I experience the thrill and power of being alive in this moment where I live my life for all I'm worth -- where ever I'm at on this planet spinning through space.

The question is: What's your life worth? What are you willing to give it to live the life of your dreams?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Living with passion and purpose

Yesterday, I helped out in the purpose room at Choices. Purpose is the DO part of BE. DO. HAVE. BE committed to DO what it takes to HAVE what I want. My purpose is what I do, everyday to make my dreams come true.

Trainees are invited to create a statement about their special and unique qualities and how they apply them in their lives. As an example, my Purpose statement is: To share my unique gifts and inspire others to embrace their freedom to live in love, joy and harmony.

Every time I work in the purpose circle, I feel honoured by the trust each individual places in their coaches to guide them through the process.
American essayist and psychologist, Og Mandino, said, “I am here for a purpose and that purpose is to grow into a mountain, not to shrink to a grain of sand. Henceforth will I apply ALL my efforts to become the highest mountain of all and I will strain my potential until it cries for mercy.”

Sometimes, someone in the purpose circle will say, "But I don't have a purpose."

Everyone has a purpose. Most of us are living our purpose without even realizing it.

When we help a friend, shovel a neighbours walk, volunteer at an animal shelter or boys and girls club. When we always have a kind word for someone in need, or take care of a friend's children so she can get her hair cut or buy groceries -- we are living our purpose.

For me, my purpose reminds me that whatever I do, I need to be creating a safe place where others feel inspired to stretch their wings and fly free.

My purpose is a song that sings in my heart creating harmony in my world. My purpose is my passion.

The actual things I do to live my purpose vary. Writing, for me is a big part of my purpose. Coaching at Choices is also an integral element of living on purpose. Sharing my story, giving presentations to women who have been in abusive relationships, or to those working with them, is also part of my living on purpose. Being a good friend. Listening from my heart, touching people's hearts with words of support, gently opening minds with words of inspiration, these too are part of my living on purpose.

Finding your purpose is not difficult -- it just requires quiet time, deep reflection and a commitment to celebrate yourself for all your worth.

Finding your purpose begins with giving yourself permission to 'brag' about your life. Steve Pavalina, at suggests in, How to discover your life purpose in about 20 minutes", that you take a blank piece of paper, ask yourself the question, "What is my purpose?" and write down the first thing that comes to your mind. Keep writing until you get to something that makes you cry. The one that makes you cry, Steve writes, is your purpose.

Tears are the words our hearts cannot express.

When we find a statement that reflects our truth, our hearts open up and tears fall.

In living my purpose, my heart is always open, to tears of joy, of laughter, of love. In knowing my purpose, in believing in me enough to live it every step of my journey, I give myself the gifts of focus, attention and passion in my everyday life.

In living my purpose, I become the best of me, and share the best of me with the world around me.

As Mandino says, I am here to grow into a mountain.

The question is: How high is your mountain growing? Are you growing in leaps and bounds, singing for joy, dancing with abandon? Or, are you standing on the ground looking up and wishing you knew how to climb? Where ever you are on your journey, are you willing to live your life on purpose?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Healing old wounds

At Choices, 80 to 90 people gather in a room and talk about their journey. They learn tools to apply as medicine to old wounds, tools to replace old habits with positive steps. And through it all, they engage in healing.

“When people engage in genuine healing,” Sousan Abadian, A.M. ’87, M.P.A. ’88, Ph.D. ’99 says, “they become more accountable, and in touch with reality. Healing generates compassion and tenderness. To heal collective trauma, you must heal the individual; healthy individuals give birth to healthy institutions and cultures. It’s circular, of course, and ideally you intervene at both macro and micro levels at once.”

Abadian has studied collective trauma and its effects on societies, particularly in North American Indian tribes. According to Abadian, "The most extreme types of collective trauma are sociocultural: it’s not just an aggregation of individual traumas, but disruption of the fundamental institutions of society, and of its ‘immune system’ that can restore people and repair a culture."

At Choices every month, there are always several trainees from various Native nations. My roommate, when I went through Choices as a trainee, was Cree. I've stayed in touch with her since we first met 2 years ago, and in the process, learned much about the impact we, 'the white man', has had on her people. It has never ceased to amaze and sadden me to learn of the prevalence of suicide and violent death on the reserve.

There was a time when I believed that native Indians simply had to make a 'choice' to let go of the past and pick up the reins of self-acctualization to become 'successful'.

In retrospect, I am amazed at how naive I was.

In Trails of Tears, and Hope. "Collective trauma" takes a ferocious toll on human societies—yet there are pathways to healing., Harvard Magazine, Craig A. Lambert ’69, Ph.D. ’78, deputy editor, Abadian is quoted as saying, “The social and economic conditions we are seeing—the violence, suicide, addictions, endemic poverty, alcoholism—are to a large extent the symptoms of trauma. If you attack symptoms separately without attending to the underlying condition, other symptoms will show up. Right now, in many parts of the world, people are doing bits and pieces of what needs to be done to address poverty and violence. But because they come from particular specialties, few take an integrated approach, and almost no one also recognizes the incidence and the effects of trauma. Monetary assistance, housing, better schools, reforming political and legal institutions, are all essential for improving native people’s lives. But all these efforts will fall short if you aren’t also channeling resources into addressing trauma.”

It is what I find so powerful about Choices. It starts with healing old wounds and trauma so that the future can be viewed through the possibilities of peace today; a peace that is the birthright of every human being.

At Choices, I have found peace with the past, and a belief in my power to live today without fear of what tomorrow will bring. Today, I know I am a woman worthy of love. I am a woman capable of loving fearlessly, living joyfully and dancing like nobody's watching.

The question is: What do you believe?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

A story worth telling

This is a Choices weekend. Fast sleeps. Deep thinks. Heart beats talking together, creating harmony and joy.

Yesterday, I met with Mary and Joe Davis, the facilitators, to talk about a project I want to put together. While we were talking, I was telling Mary about Joe's question a few weeks ago after I'd told him about the family myths I've held onto regarding my birth. (I was supposed to be a boy. I was supposed to be born the day before = I am unwanted.)

Joe had asked me, "What has that [buying into the myth] cost you?"

I replied. "The intimacy and connectedness I wanted."

Yesterday, Mary asked me, when we were talking about the conversation and the power of Choices, "What has it given you?"

Yin/Yang. Balance and continual change.

The Tao of our Universal existence. All things are connected to one another.

I cannot deny that believing I needed to prove myself has undermined me in my life --it has also created great value. As an athelete I have never believed I was 'weaker' than men, just different. I've always held it's okay to 'run like a girl'. I am a girl! I may not run as fast as a man; I've always believed I can run as far. I may not do the same things, but those things I do, I do with passion and a commitment to doing my best. I've always believed I can out ski, out play and out cook a man! In my belief that I am not the weaker sex, I have embraced the song, "Anything you can do I can do better," and danced my way along corporate ladders and backcountry trails. The gifts are incalculable. The benefits profound.

In not believing I was part of 'the weaker sex', I always 'did it my way'. Maybe not always with grace, but always with the belief that I am worth fighting for. Because I believed I was supposed to have been a boy, I have fought hard to not be considered weak. Because I related well with men, I drew upon my masculine traits to balance out my feminine side. When it came to business, it was not the fact I was a woman that might have held me back, it was my own inner demons, unrelated to my intelligence, abilities and talents, that kept me from moving forward.

Create value in all things.

Once upon a time, I avoided telling the story of my life because I believed it made me less than who I wanted to be.

I was right and wrong.

It was a story not worth telling because it was punctuated with the lies I told myself about who I was when I was playing a part less than the sum of all my parts. In finding the value in my past, and mixing it with the incredible gifts I have been given, I have found my story worth telling. It is the one where I am the author standing at centre stage of my own life, living large, living fearlessly, believing in me.

Today, I create the story of my lifetime illuminated by the truth of all I'm meant to be, of all I am. This life is a story worth telling. A story that I create everyday. The ending is yet to unfold. Tomorrow is yet to be seen. In this moment, the story is my own personal blockbuster. My own superstar account of getting real with my life and living it for all I'm worth.

In creating value from the past, I have found my balance in the moment, poised to step into the next, confident in my ability to ride the waves of life's tides, committed to being my one true self, joyfully dancing through each moment of this one wild and precious life, free to be all of me.

On the other side of dark, is light. I'm standing in my light, balancing the dark with the wondrous truth of who I am when I tell the story of my life as I want, not as I fear.

The question is: Where do you find your value? On the darkside looking in, or on the lightside, looking out at all you've done, all you've achieved and revelling in the wonder and beauty of being you?

Friday, April 25, 2008

What I resist, persists.

Architect and visionary, Richard Buckminster Fuller said, ‘You never change things by fighting the existing reality.'

As they often say in Alanon, what I resist, persists.

Yesterday, I was a perfect example of resisting to persist. Not to mention the recipient of God's sense of humour in action!

I am the editor of a quarterly newsletter published by the homeless shelter where I work. When I went away for ten days a couple of weeks ago, the Exec. Dir. asked a co-worker to make some edits to the final draft before sending it off to the printers. Upon my return, I discovered the 'few edits' were extensive. The final product was radically different than the one I'd left to go to the printers. Unfortunately, there wasn't anything I could do, the proof was already on the press.

I was angry. My writer's ego leapt into full umbrage. "How dare they..." You know, the self-defeating game stuff of I'm right, you're wrong. You had no right to. yada yada yada.

Bottomline is, I am the steward of the newsletter, not the owner.

When the newsletters arrived back in my office from the printers, I stuck the box in a corner, refusing to even look at it. I felt embarrassed by the changes someone else had made as I believed they detracted from the quality of the product, there were some typos and grammatical errors and too many blank spaces.

And here's the part where God's sense of humour tapped me on my shoulder and asked, "Have you got over yourself yet?"

Normally, I receive about 2 - 3 boxes of extras to use during the next three months when I give presentations.

Yesterday, 9 boxes arrived at my office. The printer had inadvertently over-printed by 1,000 and had delivered the extra copies at no charge.

I had to laugh.

There I was, not handing out the newsletter because my ego was stuck on its, according to me, sub-quality standards, and I receive a windfall of 1,000 copies.

I got the message.

It was time to let it go and get on with doing my job.

I had to change my reality around the newsletter. It may not look and read the way I wanted it to. It is what the Exec. Dir. and the organization wants.

See, my ego was tripping me up. I was into my, "if I can't have it my way, I won't have it at all" game.

In my obstinance, I was undermining my purpose, and my effectiveness at work. I was being the problem. Not the solution.

And here's the tricky part. See, part of me says, But... but... but... If I don't stand up for what's right, then what happens is wrong.

Truth is, I did my best. I put together the best newsletter I could. If it was deemed not the best by someone else who has the authority to do so, -- then I have an option. To hear them, to listen to them, to learn what it is they believe would make it better, OR, I can dig my heals in. Not be open to criticism. Assume the I'm right position and tell them why they're wrong, and face the consequences.

In this instance, there is no right nor wrong. There is simply a newsletter that was changed -- and in the eyes of the individual changing it, changed for the better.

I don't have to agree with the changes. I do have to work with the outcome -- and how I do that is a reflection of me, my professionalism, my maturity, my effectiveness and my ability to turn up and be accountable.

The question is: Where does your resistance cause an issue to persist. Where does your ego create a mountain to climb when all you needed was a ladder to get over your resistance to change?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The colour of life

A co-worker dropped by my office yesterday to check up on a situation that had arisen Tuesday. As we talked about what had happened, and its import from a 'big picture' view, he quoted Stephen Covey from The 7th Habit, "I cannot talk my way out of a problem I behaved my way into."

If I want to change my world, I must change my behaviour.

And change is not always a black and white decision. Do this. This will happen. Do this and oh oh you know what's gonna happen!

Change has many colours seen always from the perspective of each individual involved. In working in a group setting, change is all the colours of the rainbows, including the colours of resistance!

And, what I resist, persists.

At Choices, we talk about the 6 Points of Power and their relevance to daily living. The 6 Points of Power are:

1. Pay Attention
2. Speak the Truth
3. Be responsible for YOUR life (stay unattached to someone else's outcome)
4. Ask for what you want
5. Keep YOUR agreements
6 Create value in all things.

Taken singularly, each point has value. Taken as a whole, the 6 points create a life of value.

Applying these points in my life is a constant journey through focus, paying attention, turning up, speaking my truth -- and staying unattached to the outcome. Even in those moments when I want to rip someone's face off because I think they acted like a jerk!

What I think about their actions isn't the issue. Especially when my thoughts are based on my black and white thinking propelled by my knee-jerk reaction to the pain and not a thought-felt, heart-driven response filled with the colour of empathy.

How I behave, how I respond, is a reflection of me, my values, my beliefs, my principles.

I struggle with this one sometimes. Not because it's hard, it's not. I struggle because my habit is to not 'speak my truth' because I will avoid confrontation at all costs, not take responsibility for my life where possible, and I will not ask for what I want.

All of those responses are fear based. And when I live in fear, my world is dark.

To move beyond fear into my power requires me to turn up in my own life without fear of being less than, other than, or nothing than a ..... (fill in the blank. It requires me to checkout where my talking, which includes my silence, set me up.

For me, living life in technicolour lets me move beyond my fear. Fearlessly I paint my world every colour of the rainbow because my palette includes all the emotions. Anger, (I see red). Sadness, (I feel blue). Happiness, (Walking on sunshine) To live joyously, I must be awash in colour, and not fall into rigid black and white thinking where right is right and wrong is wrong and I'm the only one who knows the difference.

Alice Walker wrote, “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it.”

Personally, I have no desire to piss God off! What I want to create is a joyful world where colour abounds as I dance in the sunshiney hues of love and beauty.

Today, my world is a colourful tapestry of rich and vibrant hue. As I weave a joyful streak through my day, I pull the threads that add value and meaning to whatever I do. They are colourful.

To make a difference, I need to be different. To create change. I need to change.

The question is: What colour is your day? Are you willing to live the colours of the rainbow and change the tones on your palette?

Doing well that which doesn't need doing

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "As long as a man stands in his own way, everything seems to be in his way."

I have stood in my own way too many times to count.

I have stood behind me, pushed, pulled, tugged, beat, and abused me in order make change happen, and always, it was me standing in my own way of change that was preventing the possibility of it happening. Pummelling my psyche into submission does not make change happen. Embracing myself, fearlessly examinining the possibilities of my life, and breathing into my courage allows my reality to shift enough for change to happen organically, gracefully and lovingly.

"Real change changes reality." CZ

A real change I'd love to see today is in the weather. Haha. Ain't gonna happen by my wishin' and hopin', hopin' and prayin'.

It's still snowing here -- how ridiculous is that, it's April!

I can't change the weather. I can change my attitude.

I don't like snow in April. However, railing against it only makes me angry and spoils my day. Ultimately, the universe doesn't care.

It's time I adopted a more zen like approach to the weather. I breathe and remind myself, this too shall pass.

All things come to pass. All things pass.

Weather, like emotions, change.

It isn't the weather that makes the difference, it's how I respond.

It's not my emotions that change my life, it's how I respond to my emotions that makes the difference.

Today, I breathe and let the weather be the weather. I have better things to do with my life than to try to change something I know I cannot change.

A friend said yesterday, "There is nothing more useless than doing efficiently that which should never be done."


I can think of thousands of things I've done well that I never should have been doing in the first place.

Expending energy doing things that don't need doing, no matter how well I am doing them, is a self-defeating game. It keeps me stuck in 'doing' so that I can avoid 'being'.

I do non-confrontation well. Silence is my game when faced with a situation where I know to speak my truth will cause a negative response in the listener. And so, I sit in silence, holding my thoughts in my head as I perfect the art of saying nothing.

In my silence, I am lying. To me and to whomever I'm with.

I had it happen yesterday in a meeting where someone insisted on telling me why something couldn't work. After an hour of listening to them list the reasons why it couldn't work, I chose to leave the meeting rather than disagree.

That is not healthy for me.

My commitment with myself is to turn up, pay attention, speak my truth and stay unattached to the outcome.

I'm way too attached to the outcome when I let fear keep me from speaking up.

It's time to live my contract. -- I am a fearless woman.

The question is: Where are you doing well something that should never be done in the first place? Where are you living a lie?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Changing reality

My friend CZ wrote on her blog, The Narcissistic Continuum, "real change changes reality".

Being the curious type, I went in search of data to support, or not, this hypothesis. In my search, I came across an interesting site, The Bell Curve. At a university thousands of miles away, a geiger counter is set up beside a radioactive source. In the experiment, anyone with web access, and JAVA installed on their computer, can test the power of their thoughts by focusing on the red line at the center of the geiger counter, and making it move, left or right, through their concentration.

I don't 'know' why it works. I do know, the red line moved.

The power of the mind to create real, lasting change, has the power to change my reality.

When I look back to almost five years ago when I awoke from the despair of being lost in my own life, I knew my reality had to change. I knew asking 'why' he did what he did would only keep me mired in what he did. I knew asking 'why' I fell so far from grace would only keep me from moving into grace with ease and dignity.

I had to make a choice. Accept my reality as it was, and then, focus on what changes I needed to make to create the reality I wanted. For lasting change to happen, I had to accept he did what he did, and focus on what I wanted to create in my life, within my mind, my heart, my soul and within my circle of love which included my daughters, family and friends. To focus on the 'why' I was so sick, so battered and bruised, or why I was so lost, at a critical stage of my recovery would have inhibited my ability to create a change in my state. 'Why' would have kept me stuck in the moment of being lost.

In simple terms, I was down. I wanted to get up.

Any thoughts that kept me down, were contradictory to my desired goal of getting up.

By focussing my thoughts on my goal, every step I took brought me higher. And the higher I got, the further away I moved from the abyss of my despair.

With distance, I have been able to look back at those events and understand what happened. In looking back from the distance of healing, I am not at risk of falling back into the despair of not understanding what happened. With my changed reality, I am no longer a victim but a victor in my own life.

Napoleon Hill, in Think and Grow Rich, wrote, "What the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve."

My mind knew I needed to heal my thinking so that I could change my life. My mind believed I could. Today, my thinking is far different than the thoughts of that woman who thought she was taking a shortcut to happiness and got lost on the road to hell. Today, my reality has changed. Where once I wanted to die, today I live in a world of compassion and love. I celebrate my life and dance in a world of joy.

My road is no longer moving in the direction of hell. It moves continuously towards my goal of living life large. Living life, a victor, the heroine of the journey of my lifetime.

The question is: Where does your thinking keep you stuck in a reality that doesn't work for you anymore? Where does your thinking tell you that where you're at is where you have to be, even when you don't want to be there?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Choosing to believe

It's a good thing I wrote about forgiveness yesterday as I tested a friend's capacity to forgive. We were to have met for lunch. I had made the reservation last week -- and I forgot. In the crunch of a long morning meeting, I didn't notice the time until I checked my email later in the day and saw his name. OUCH! I had really messed up. Fortunately for me, he is a forgiving friend.

One of the things I said as soon as I realized my mistake was, "I can't believe I did that." I'd best get over my disbelief because I did do it.

That phrase, "I can't believe...." has plagued me much of my life. My mother used to say it when I was young, "I can't believe you'd...." and then remind me of some transgression. When I'd do something not particularly smart, I'd say, "I can't believe I...." After Conrad was arrested and I had spent some time healing, I said, "I can't believe I...."

For a small phrase it has a lot of power in its ability to pull me from my truth. Three powerful words that don't add up to empowering me in my life.

In Star Wars, Luke Skywalker says, "I can’t believe it." Yoda replies, "That is why you fail.”

The opposite of can't is 'can'. The opposite of failure is success.

Last night, two friends were here from New York whom I haven't seen for several years -- since sometime during getting lost on the road to hell relationship in fact! C.Y. had read my book, The Dandelion Spirit, and commented, 'I can't believe that was you."

Believe it. It was.

To heal. To change. To grow, I must believe I'm where I'm at before I'm able to take steps away from the place that's holding me back from moving on. I must believe I did, am feeling, am doing, whatever it is that keeps me stuck in disbelief.

In disbelief, I can deny the truth. I can deny my accountability. I can deny myself the freedom to change.

In belief, I live with grace and ease, the Serenity Prayer,

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Reinhold Niebuhr

I goofed. I acknowledged my mistake and apologized. I asked my friend what I could do to make amends.

Nelson Mandela said, "The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall."

Denying I fell would keep me lying on the ground.

Rising up keeps me living freely, without fear.

The question is: Where are you keeping yourself stuck in disbelief that you are where you're at? Where are you not accepting you have the power to change your life?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Forgiveness is the gift I give myself

Forgiveness breaks the silos of a disconnected humanity.
Bonnie Wesorick

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies."

Yesterday, I watched, The Power of Forgiveness, an hour long documentary on what forgiveness means and why we need it in our lives, and our world.

One of the scenes that touched me profoundly was when a grandfather and father shared the story of how forgiveness has changed their lives, and the life of the grandfather's grandson who had killed the father's twenty-year-old son over a pizza. The two men have become best friends. They've created a project to take out to schools where they talk about forgiveness and its power to change lives and hearts. The grandson, who was fourteen when he killed the other man's son, is now in prison serving a twenty-year to life sentence. The father of the son whom he killed, stated, I am asking the state to shorten his sentence. Leaving him in prison for his adult life will not create a better man, just a bitter one.

The fourteen year old boy had never truly understood love. His mother was fifteen when she gave birth to him. His father a drug dealer. His father took off and so did his mother, leaving the boy to his own devices at the age of nine. The grandfather took him in, but didn't know how deeply his wounds cut into his soul.

When the man who's son he'd killed forgave him, the boy said that if this man can care enough to forgive him, then he needs to do something to honour that gift.

How much that man's forgiveness affected the young boy was a surprise to the father who lost his son.

Forgiveness, he said in the doc, not only changes you, it can change the world.

Underlying the message of the documentary is the message, We are all members of the human family. We all have inherent worth. A person is more than what they have done -- right or wrong.

Forgiveness is about looking into our hearts and finding compassion for ourselves and the wounded world around us.

Forgiveness reduces anger.

It is not a single moment in time. It is a continuum. WE need to work at forgiveness everyday.

When an angry milk delivery man walked into the Nickle Mines school and shot dead five young Amish girls and wounded five more, there was no doubt in the minds of the community that they needed to forgive the man. Because forgiveness is a way of living in peace, they chose to work forgiveness into the fabric of their healing.

Forgiveness is not about denying that what someone did is wrong. Forgiveness doesn't wash away the right to hold someone appropriately accountable. Forgiveness acknowledges that we feel the pain and hurt of what they did -- and want to move on from it, we want to reclaim ourselves from the debris of the past.

Forgiveness lets me seed the memory of past events with gentleness so that I can let go of the pain in the memory. I will always have the memory, but the memory will lose its control of me when I let go of the anger, the pain, and the desire for revenge. As long as the memory controls me, I am a victim of the past. I have no control in my own life.

Until compassion is born in my heart, I will never forgive.

I have worked at forgiveness, of myself, of Conrad who hurt me and those I love, and of the past. I am not complete. But I am closer to forgiving myself than I've ever been. And, I am forgiving Conrad with every step I take away from the anger and sorrow of what happened as I move with grace and ease into what is true today.

Some mornings, my brain seeks sweet revenge. In those moments, I must listen to my souls hunger for peace. In peaceful surrender I fall into love and awaken to the beauty and joy of the world around me.

Forgiveness is the gift I give myself so that I can love freely, live completely free of the past and step joyously into this moment, free to be a loving, compassionate and caring human being. In forgiveness, I awaken to the possibility of human redemption -- for myself and all the world.

The question is: Are you letting thoughts of sweet revenge keep you from seeding your heart with compassion? Are you hardening your heart and ignoring your soul's hunger for peace? What's keeping you from awakening to the possibility of a peaceful, loving heart?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Truth dances

January in April is not cool. It's cold that's for sure, but definitely not cool.

Snow blankets the city, a mid-winter worthy cold wind blows. The furnace blares heat, the dogs lie curled up on their blankets and I snuggle in my bed, dragging my heels on getting up and at 'em.

Oh where, oh where is global warming when we really need it?

Last night I had dinner with friends all of whom have been through Choices. It was a fun evening of laughter, good food, wine, and great conversation.

At one point, our host asked each of us to share something that has shifted for us in our journey since having the Choices experience. As we moved around the table, I listened to the stories people were sharing and was in awe. The stories were powerful, but even more powerful was the commonality between all of us.

We were born miracluous beings, had lost our spirit somewhere on the road of life and were awakening to the truth of our own magnificence.

As I looked around the faces at the table, I saw life expressed in the wonder we each represented. We covered the growing years. The twenties into the fifies. A continuum of life seen through the perspective of different generations sharing the realization that life is all we've got, we'd best use it up wisely.

There were ten of us at the table. We had all experienced loss of some kind. End of marriage being the most common. One woman's marriage had ended four years ago with the death of her husband of 30 years. One after a four year abusive rampage that left her shattered and broken. One man's marriage ended when he found his wife cheating on him, and another's ended when he came home to his luggage packed and the news 'it's over', his only indication something was wrong.

No matter the circumstances of the lives of the people sitting around the table, however, the topic of converation was not about what had 'gone wrong'. Our conversation focussed on all that was going right, on all that was happening, and all that could happen when we live fearlessly in love with who we are, and commit to being all we're meant to be in love and joy.

It was a powerful evening. A deepening of friendship. A stengthening of commitment. It was an evening where personal truth in all its beautiful, multi-faceted dimensions lit the faces of those gathered around the table, and settled into our hearts like a warm chocolate pudding melting on our tongues.

Truth is powerful. When the human spirit reveals itself and shares its magnificence, truth dances with joy.

Last night I witnessed true hearts sharing without fear of being judged less than, other than, or even more than who they truly are. There was no judging. Last night, truth danced and I leaped for joy.

The question is: Regardless of the travails of the past, are you willing to let your spirit dance? Are you willing to put down the knives of past hurts and dance in the light of life's glorious feast spread out before you, inviting you to eat of its largesse?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

No one has the right to break the law

I wrote the following to clear my thoughts on something that is happening in our city right now. There's a lot of dialogue about laws that result in homeless individuals being targetted because the laws cite behaviours such as urinating in public, feet up on park benches, spitting on streets, etc. as unacceptable. The dialogue has mostly focused on the 'wrongness' of fining someone who can't pay the ticket in the first place and often doesn't turn up for their court date resulting in greater fines and ultimately, criminal records.

My 21 year-old daughter and I were driving through the downtown when suddenly she exclaimed, "Yuck. That's gross."

I turned quickly to look at what she had seen that was so disgusting and saw a man, his bare rear-end facing the street, defecating on the stairs leading up to the back doors of City Hall.

"Yes, it is." I replied, noting that the man looked visibly homeless.

"That's not an excuse," my daughter replied.

She's right. It's not.

Homelessness is a debilitating social condition that zaps the individual experiencing it of energy, will, passion, hope and a host of other emotional and psychological necessities we need to live productive lives. Homelessness can be the result of, or result in, addictions, mental health crises and a host of other negative situations. Homelessness kills.

No matter the exigencies of homelessness, however, it is not an excuse for breaking the law. It is not an excuse for social anarchy. It is not an excuse to defecate in public.

In every society there are rules and laws that govern our daily conduct. When we give permission to those who have lost their way on the road of life to break the law, we give them permission to lose sight of their right to reclaim their rightful place in society.

When you're homeless, it's easy to believe you don't make a difference. When we excuse bad behaviour as part of the homeless condition, we are reinforcing the fact that homelessness is all someone deserves. We are saying, 'You're just one of them homeless. You have no value. You're hopeless.'

Truth is, there's always hope as long as someone is alive. When you're homeless, everything can be changed if you find the resources, the tools and the courage to face your demons so that you can make changes and start fresh.

It's not easy. Change seldom is. But it can be done.

I know. I was once homeless. In that period of approximately nine months where I was of 'no fixed address' but able to hide my homelessness through couch surfing and other debilitating maneuvers, I struggled to understand what had happened to my life. In my struggle, I hurt a lot of people whom I love. I hurt my daughters, my family and friends. And, I hurt myself by excusing my bad behaviour. To make sense of the nonsense in my life, I made excuses for myself and gave into an abuser who told me he had all the answers; he could fix my life.

In that choice to let go of my responsibility for my own life, I let go of my own accountability. I became someone I had never dreamed I could possibly be; a woman who would desert her children because a man told her it was the right thing to do.

Letting go of myself, breaking all the rules that governed my life and letting go of my daughters was never the right thing to do. In trying to make it right, I stepped into a world without rules, without boundaries, a foreign territory where I became so lost I wanted to die.

I was lucky. One spring morning two police officers walked in and arrested the man who had promised to love me, 'til death do us part, but was taking the death part way too seriously. At the time of my release from that relationship, my daughters and I were separated by a gulf of anger and a sense of loss that none of us could understand.

To help us heal I had to become accountable for what I had done. I had to accept my past behaviour was unacceptable and commit to positive change. I had to ask for my daughters' forgiveness, and I had to forgive myself. In healing, I had to face the truth; in letting go of my values and principles, in giving into someone else's assertions that they had the right to control my life, I fell into the lie, 'this is all I'm worth'.

It is not okay that someone is homeless in our city of wealth. It is not okay if someone is specifically targeted because of their social status, race, gender, sexual orientation, or belief. It is also not okay that someone defecate on the steps of City Hall. Nor is it okay when we look away and say, we shouldn't hold him accountable because he is homeless.

Homelessness is not an excuse. It is a circumstance of life. With help and care, through programs and services provided by the agencies working with this population, individuals experiencing homelessness can take steps in the right direction to change their lives. They can't do that if we excuse them from turning up because they've fallen down.

To create change, we must all be accountable for our behaviour. In accepting bad behaviour as acceptable, we are participating in the continuation of the very homelessness we say we want to end. We are tacitly buying into the myth that homeless individuals are not accountable for their actions. When we hold some people accountable and a select few unaccountable because of their lack of fortune or other life mischance, we set-up a two-tiered system where circumstances determine who has to abide by the laws that govern us, and who is allowed to break them.

We are responsible for the contributions we make, to our own lives, to our families and to our communities. Giving someone permission to continue to escape into the despair of the homelessness that has brought them down without encouraging them to become accountable for their behaviour, keeps them stuck on the street, abdicating responsibility for their birthright to be productive members of society. In turn, it keeps us from actively participating in the creation of the kind of society we deserve to live in; a kinder, more generous and giving world where everyone has value and is inspired to live up to their values. A place where everyone makes a difference and is valued for the difference they make.

Friday, April 18, 2008

I am unique

I've been up and at 'em for awhile this morning. I glanced at the clock when I awoke, thought I read, 6:15 and leapt out of bed. Unfortunately, without my glasses on I often mistake the '6' for a '5'. It was actually 5:15.

Outside my office window, dawn begins to filter across a cloud strewn sky.Birds chatter outside while inside, the dogs sleep by the door, eagerly awaiting breakfast. I remind them that it's too early to eat, but they don't seem to know what I mean. I'm up. It's time for breakfast!

Some days, my mind goes blank as I think about what to write. It's the 'thinking' that makes it difficult. When I trust in the process, let my fingers fly across the keyboard, the words streaming without thought, ideas emerge and the writing happens. When I consciously control the words too early in the writing process, the ideas block, become stilted.

It's important to let the words flow without censorship until an idea forms that has teeth, grit, substance, traction -- whatever you want to call it.

Like living in the moment. I have to trust in this moment as the one moment I have to live my life without constraint. I have to trust that this moment is my best moment yet. I can't 'make' it happen. I have to trust that it will happen.

Yesterday, I received an email that asked, "What did you do with your mind yesterday?"

Um... I'll have to think about it.

On second thought, it's a good question.

What did I do with this precious gift? Did I use it to simply process information, think about the past and how I could change it? Or, did I give into the irreistible urge to create?

Ideas are infinite in number. There are 3 billion base pairs in the human genome and 6 billion people on planet earth. That's a lot of capacity. A lot of potential for unique human beings with uniquely different thinking.

The possibilities for creative output are staggering. And yet, too often, we buy into the idea that creativity is the purvue of a few naturally (or unnaturally) talented artistic types, or that the best use of our brain power is to do our job and make money -- and to not expect too much of ourselves or our environments.

I believe the creative urge is a natural force, a force of nature. I believe we are born to be creative and lose touch with our creative natures as we walk the tightrope from childhood to adulthood. In the process we jettison our childlike wonder of the world and step into our adult belief that the world has only so many options for creative expression -- and our unique contributions don't count.

Every creative expression counts.

In a world of infinite and unique genetic possibilities, we need to celebrate individual uniqueness. We need to explore our unique talents.

There's no one in the world like me. And no one in the world like you.

What an amazing gift we are to a universe of infinite possibilities.

The question is: Are you settling for getting the job done because you are using your mind to process information as you focus on getting the job done? Are you letting go of your creative nature and denying yourself your birthright of being uniquely you?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Surrendering what I am

Last night, C.C. and I took Liseanne and his daughter, M.C. to dinner and a play. The Sryinga Tree is a one woman play set in South Africa at the height of apartheid in the 60s. The actor plays 22 characters over a continuous 90 minute dialogue. For props, she has a swing and a well on stage. That's it. And in the process, she portrays her characters without any question as to who she is in any given moment.

Very powerful.

What is most powerful for me about the Syringa Tree, is the statement it makes about change.

See, people are always saying nothing ever changes. And yet, if I look at South Africa, lots has changed. Apartheid was defeated.

In the southern states, segregation was defeated.

Some things stay the same, but many things change. It is inevitable.

It's how I feel about homelessness.

In our city, there are plans afoot to 'end homelessness'. There are those who say, it can't be done.

And yet, if I focus on the impossiblity of doing it, I never see the opportunity of it happening.

Sure, homelessness as an alternative for someone falling into distress in their lives, may always be an option. But, the pandemic issues of homelessness we witness everyday, those can change. Those can be countered with strategies and concrete tactics that will make it harder for someone who has fallen into homelessness, to stay there for weeks and months and years on end.

I don't know who said this, but I find it very powerful, “Change is the essence of life. Be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become.”

To become peaceful, I must surrender my unrest. To become loving, I must surrender my anger. To become happy, I must surrender my sorrow.

Change is always possible. Ending something that isn't working for me requires me to change what I'm doing.

As a society, ending homelessness requires that we collectively look at what doesn't work in our world today -- and surrender our fear of change.

For me to heal from anything, be it an abusive relationship, or an illness, I must surrender my belief I cannot heal. I must fall into love with what I can become in healing.

The question is: Where does your belief that you cannot change keep you from acknowledging that, to become all you want to be, you must give up that which is holding you down?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

I believe

I believe in miracles.

Not the rock your world, holy saints and rising apparitions kind of miracles. But rather, the fundamental, change your life in this moment kind of miracle that takes you by the hand and guides you home. The kind of miracle that awakens you to the truth that this moment is all you’ve got. Those kind of miracles say, you’d better grab it and run with it or lose the miracle of your life forever.

I know about miracles like that. I got one on a sunny May morning when I had given myself up for dead. Well, not dead, dead, but rather, the walking breathing dead kind of living that leeches all energy from your body and leaves you without hope of ever finding a way back to the land of the living.

My miracle appeared in the form of a blue and white police car driving up and arresting a man who had been lying and cheating and manipulating and abusing me for the length of our four year nine month relationship. When first we’d met I thought his name was Prince Charming. I loved the view of the short cut to happiness he promised me and jumped onto the runaway train of his promises of happily ever after. I never expected to find myself lost in hell, in cahoots with the Prince of Darkness and praying for a miracle I never thought would arrive to set me free.

But then, that's the funny thing about miracles. They don’t come looking for believers. They just appear, like stars in a darkened sky coming out at night. It’s not that they weren’t there all along, it’s just lost in the pit of despair, we lose sight of miracles because we are too frightened to open our eyes in the blinding light of day.

It was a miracle the police found us. He was hiding out, trying to escape the country, and I was hiding behind the smile I’d pasted on my face, pretending to be the person he told me to be, or else. The miracle saved me from finding out what the ‘or else’ might be.

Looking back, it was a miracle I was still alive. I had seventy-two cents in my pocket, a few clothes and my faithful Golden Retriever, Ellie, who had travelled that rocky road beside me, faithfully keeping step to my faltering footsteps as I travelled further and further from life as I knew it.

On that May morning, Ellie sat beside me as I rocked in catatonic disbelief that I had just received the miracle of my life. What was I to do?

Well, I knew I didn’t get a miracle to live in pain and sorrow. I knew I got the miracle to live in joy and so, I grabbed my miracle and set out to recover my joy. Step by step. Moment by moment. And, in the process I uncovered the greatest miracle of my life. Me.

I believe in miracles. I am one.

The question is: What do you believe in? Do you believe you're some big cosmic experiment gone awry in one hopelessly lost human being, or a miracle of life, unique and magnificent, a shining example of the best of human being all she/he is meant to be, full of possibilities waiting to unfold in wonder?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Small steps. Big things.

Author, Edward S. Finkelstein, wrote: "Bigness comes from doing many small things well. Individually, they are not very dramatic transactions. Together though, they add up."

My eldest daughter, Alexis, is currently on a 3-month trip, 'downunder'. After a month+ in Australia, she is now touring New Zealand for five weeks. Next Thursday she flies to Bangkok where she will spend six weeks before returning home June 5.

For this trip to happen, she had to do a lot of small things well. Save money, get her visas, innoculations, passport, banking, backpack, etc. The trip was big, but even bigger has been the impact it has had on her. She is seeing how big she can become on a very small planet.

"Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen." Michael Jordan, basketball superstar.

Yesterday, on her blog, "How I survived myself", Alexis wrote, "It seems that in order to come back home to ones self, great distances must first be travelled. I am allowing myself to lift my hands off the handlebars and all comes free!"

Alexis is making it happen. Life. Living tall. Living large. Living free.

When I was giving my presentation on Saturday in Tisdale, Saskatchewan, I said at one point, "Having children is the best thing I've ever done for me in my life." What surprises me about being a mother is, I never intended to be one. The thought absolutely, totally terrified me. I could never know enough to do the job well, I told myself. And, I could never take the responsibility being a parent demanded.

How wrong I can be!

Being a mother is doing a bunch of small things that add up to bigness. Bringing a child into the world is a sacred trust. And, as anyone will tell you who has gone through the angst of living with an adolescent into her teens, raising that child to become a functioning, capable adult is big.

Now, I didn't mean for my daughters to be my experiment in getting big in my own life, but becoming a mother has forced me to grow up, to grow inwardly outward, to grow into all I'm meant to be. Being a parent has taught me about responsibility, accountability, and most importantly for me, connectedness. I can't parent from a distance -- literal nor figurative. Having too much distance between my heart and my head, being too invested in my heart over my head or vice versa, having an empty heart that could never be filled no matter where I went, who I met, what I read, or what I did, were all lethal components that were preventing me from my becoming a 'big' human being. In denying myself my birthright of being 'big', I was teaching my daughters that, no matter how many small steps I took, nothing would ever add up to anything bigger than the empty heart I had.

How wrong can I be!

Truth is, my heart always knew what my head was denying. I am big. I am a fearless woman. I am a woman of worth. But, because I couldn't take my hands off the handlebars of life, my heart and my head were always disconnected.

Taking that eighteen inch walk connecting my heart and my head and letting go of my control, has been a constant journey of one small step after the other. It is predicated upon the leap of faith that states, "My head does not know what it doesn't know and what my heart knows is not always best for me."

See, my head gets caught up in gathering information to make sense of the feelings of my heart. My heart gets caught up in the pain of the past and is continually scurrying around searching for the secret elixir to love that will ease its pain. But my heart has no words. And in the past, my heart only knew fear so, without the capacity to think, my heart repeatedly told my head it had to do the same thing again and again, only with different men, different environments, different words in the misguided belief it was teaching my head how to fill it with love.

Truth is, love is limitless. Love is an action. Love is. And all the men in the world will never fill a hungry heart.

Hungry hearts are filled from within by being open to the limitless capacity of love around me. And from within that place of completeness, of wholeness, hungry hearts learn to love without fear.

My daughters taught me that and remind me everyday as they take small steps into the big world out there. Small steps that take them further from me on the physical plane, and bring them closer to me in my heart.

Alexis is thousands of miles on the other side of this ball spinning through space. Yet, no matter where she is, she will always be in my heart and my heart will always be connected to hers. As I witness her taking her hands off the handle bars, I stand in awe of her capacity to grow, to leap, to live large and be free.

I've done a lot of things in my life, some big, some small. Having Alexis and Liseanne call me, 'mum' is BIG. What they've taught me about loving myself is even bigger. Because in learning to love myself, I have come home to myself, that place where I will always belong inside me, my heart.

The question is: Are you willing to take your hands off the handlebars, fling your feet into the air and sail through your fear of living big? Are you willing to leap into love with yourself and come home to where you belong?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Turning up for me

Learning to love myself, all of me, beauty and the beast, has been a journey into the unknown, a journey fraught with perils -- and a journey I am so grateful and blessed to be taking.

Learning to love myself is a daily adventure.

I still do things that undermine me -- and when I do, I acknowledge myself for having tripped up and make amends.

I have a situation in my life today that I have to fix -- it is part of my achilles heel which is all about me and money.

LOL -- I've always struggled to manage money. There is a pattern here that I need to identify and change.

The best way I know how to do that is to pull the thread, to ask myself tough questions and follow the answers back in time to their source.

One thread I know, have always known, stems from when I was about five and my mother was missing money from her purse. She accused me of stealing it. I remember at the time denying it -- the possibility exists today that possibly I did do it. I can't be sure because my mind has always denied that I didn't. Today, I get to ask myself the tough question -- what if I did steal it?

Does that mean I have to do penance for almost 50 years? Isn't it about time I let myself off the hook for that child's misdemeanour? Whether I stole it or not, I'm paying a fearsome price today -- poor money management.

Money was always an issue in our home. My parents fought about it alot. It's time for me to quit the battle. To put down my weapons of self-defeating games and take up the banner of courage and love to change my own behaviours.

Cool -- I'm liking this. I can do this!

I'll write more tomorrow! Because I am a fearless woman, sharing her unique gifts to create a mystical world where spirits soar free to dance in love, peace and harmony.

I can't create that world if I am holding myself back from turning up for me 100% accountable for every aspect of my life.

The question is: What tough questions are you refusing to ask yourself? what self-defeating game are you playing to keep yourself from being 100% accountable for turning up for you today?

Sunday, April 13, 2008


I was in Tisdale, Saskatchewan yesterday to give my presentation on Victor not Victim, to a group of Victim Support workers from northern Saskatchewan.

I caught an early morning flight from Calgary to Saskatoon and headed east on Highway 41. The sun was already high on the horizon as I followed the long stretch of highway. Curves were few and far between, notable because of their unexpected presence on the ribbon of ashphalt unfurling into tomorrow, just there over the horizon. Winter fallow fields glistened with melting waters on either side of the road, deer grazed on last years grasses and Canada Geese splashed in pools of melted snow.

It was a beautiful, soaring free kind of day. The sky above stretched on into forever, the road beckoned me onward.

I use my experience with the psychopath as the foundation of my presentation. I begin with my blind leap into 'happily ever after kind of loving' where Prince Charming rode in and swept me off my feet. Using the lies he wove through my life as the backdrop to my fall from grace, I follow the trail into hell. I point out the red flags I missed, the disorderly conduct I overlooked, the deciets I explained away, the unacceptable I made acceptable through my denial. And then, I come to my awakening from magical thinking and the reclamation of my life, my spirit, my hopes and dreams upon his arrest and my journey into healing.

As I was finishing my presentation yesterday, one of the attendees asked, "Have you looked for markers in your life, like early childhood events, that would show why you fell prey to such a relationship?"

I smiled. "Absolutely." I replied. "But it's important to remember, we can all be conned by a conman. In my case, when I met Conrad my hungry heart was yearning for solace. I wanted someone, out there, to fix me. I had an external modus of operation, as opposed to an internal modus of control."

We talked some more about childhood events and their impact on the adult and I finished off and began driving back to the airport in Saskatoon, chasing the setting sun's rose-coloured rays expanding across the western skies.

In my work with abuse survivors and workers in the field of abuse, I have often talked about the patterns in my life that kept me mired in self-denial, and ultimately abuse. Those patterns, while not as dramatic as the encounter with Conrad, definitely are apparent to me as I sit on this side of the timeline of that journey and can look at it from the perspective of what was, once upon a time, in my life.

What I didn't see, until yesterday as I drove westward and thought about that woman's question was the familial pattern I had repeated throughout my life. In seeing it, I can change it!

In my family, secrets were important. Outside, out there in the community, we were 'the perfect family'. We kept that image intact, at all costs. No one knew of my father's rages, my mother's depression, or any of the host of problems each of us suffered in our lives. "What will people think?" was the watchword by which we measured our response to every circumstance.

As I looked at my relationship with Conrad, I saw where that watchword, that pattern of behaviour had overshadowed everything I had done in that relationship. I could not let anyone how much pain I was in. I could not tell anyone what was happening in my life, to me, to my daughters. I could not show pain. I could not show fear. I could not be real. I had to hold up my image of perfect, smile my way through each day and pretend like none of it was happening.

It was tiring, taxing, and ultimately numbing and debilitating.

The pattern of not talking about what is happening runs deep within me. In seeing it, in acknowledging its presence, I can look for its ripple effect in my life today.

Truth is, I am really good about sharing the good things in my life. Not so open about sharing my fears and concerns.

To be intimate, with C.C., with my family and friends whom I love, I need to share the good, the bad, the ugly and the not so ugly. I need to share what thrills me, and what pains me. I need to be real. In holding back on sharing all of me, I undermine relationships, I make judgements on what others will see me as, not because I fear their judgements, but rather, because I assume I know their response before I even give them a chance to be real with me.

The patterns in my life are varied. There are threads of patterns that have formed a beautiful tapestry of love and joy and laughter, of sunlight dancing on water, of moonbeams sparkling on waves. There are patterns of wonder, of awe, of blissful surrender to the mystical world around and within me.

And then there are the patterns that hold me back from being authentic. Those patterns of keeping secret my fears, my bumps in the road, my bruises and warts. Of sharing only what I believe will be palatable for others to receive.

When I pull the thread of hiding behind the mask of perfection I want the world to see, I unravel the mystery of why I stayed so long in a relationship that was killing me. In my denial, in my refusal to talk about what was happening in my life, I forced myself into a corner of my own deciet. Trapped by the lies I was telling to keep my world from falling apart, I lost my hold on the truth, and fell into a thousand pieces.

The longest journey begins with the first step. I began this journey of my lifetime just over 54 years ago. Some of it I have taken with eyes closed, teeth gritted, hands fisted in my determination to endure, to get through it, to get over it, to get it done with.

Today, I travel the road, eyes wide open, smiling from my heart, hands extended in love to receive and to give of my spirited truth that I am an awesome woman of worth. I am a unique, magnificent human being committed to do what it takes to have the life of her dreams.

And in my journey, there will be patterns to unfurl, new patterns to weave into the vibrant, multi-hued tapestry of my life today.

I am a fearless woman, sharing her unique gifts to create a mystical world where spirits soar free to dance in love, joy and harmony with the world around them.

I am blessed.

The question is: What patterns are you repeating? Where are the patterns from your past forcing you onto roads well-travelled with not hope of finding an exit to the life of your dreams?

Friday, April 11, 2008


I've noticed an interesting trend since returning from Super Choices Sunday night. While I was coaching at Choices the week before, and then at the retreat for the following seven days, I was very conscious and conscientious about the food I put into my body. I cut out bread, ate no red meat and eliminated as much fat as possible from my diet. What a difference it made.

Upon return home, I've noticed it's harder to keep the bread and fat out of my diet. My willpower struggles to surface above the voice in my head whispering -- it's okay, you can have that cheese bun.

What's with that?

Author and activist, Susan Sontag wrote: “The truth is balance. However the opposite of truth, which is unbalance, may not be a lie.”

In my struggle to find my balance between eating right, and the habit of being lazy about what I eat at home, I must balance what is true from my experience away and what is true of my experience right now. There is truth on both sides of the equation.

Choices is about creating value in my life by understanding myself and my responses to the world around me. At Choices, I have learned tools that help me respond to the world around me from a balanced place within me.

When at Choices, my mind knows I am focussing on the best of me, on doing what is best for me and on being my best.

Out here in the 'world at large', my mind can become overloaded with sensations, thoughts, feelings, experiences. In its satiated state, I am not always conscious of what is going on around and within me. It's easier for my 'critter mind', that voice of unreason within me that would rather take the sloth's route, to over ride my senses with its constant chatter.

In recognizing my critter mind is at work, I can now step forward into that place where I bring my "spirit's breath" to work for me. My spirit's breath is that voice of reason, that voice of power, of truth, of beauty within me. It is the voice that knows, above all else, I am a magnificent human being on the journey of her lifetime. My spirit voice knows, I am responsible for me. I am accountable for my life. It's my responsibility to make each moment count. To create value in each moment and to dance freely with each step I take.

I can't dance and eat cheese buns at the same time.

I'd rather dance!

Here's to a day of healthy choices. Of choices that celebrate my unique self. Of choices that celebrate with each breath the wonder and joy of being all I'm meant to be in this moment. Spectacularly, magnificently alive!

The question is: Where does your 'critter mind' undermine your 'spirit's breath' to live this one wild and precious life accountable for every step you take on your journey? Where does your 'critter mind' keep you off balance?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

For Mickey and N.R.

He was black and sleek. Glittering green eyes, pointed ears and a purr that could rock the coldest heart. He brought joy and warmth, laughter and moments of pure disbelief that a cat could be so agile, so smart, so wiley. He could be mischievious. He could be exasperating. He could even be downright annoying in his insistence that it was your duty to pay attention to him, pet him, feed him, comb him. No matter what he was doing, however, he always brought a smile to my face and warmth to my heart. Mickey was love.

Mickey was my friend, N.R.'s cat. He died last night. Hit by a car on Tuesday, the prognosis for recovery was not good. N.R. had left for a trip on Wednesday morning so last night, my daughter Liseanne and I went to the Care Centre to be with Mickey as he passed from this life to another place.

It was sad. We didn't want him to be alone amongst strangers. We wanted to ensure that his last moments be filled with voices and smells and faces he recognized.

Whether or not Mickey knew we were there was not the issue. Drugged on morphine, his body ratcheted with pain, Mickey was not completely aware of his surroundings.

But we knew. Liseanne and I visited with him for about half an hour before the Vet came in and administered the drugs that would stop his heart and quieten his breathing. We stayed for another five minutes after the Vet left the room. We didn't want to leave him alone in that room. We didn't want to just leave him lying on the gurney, his body still beneath the crocheted blanket they'd placed on top of him.

Eventually, we had to leave and Mickey had to stay behind.

On the drive home, Liseanne asked, "So, if it's okay to euthanize animals, why isn't it okay to do the same to people?"

"Huge question, honey," I replied.

She thought a bit and said, "Think about Alexis and my friend T, at New Year's. The prospects for recovery for him weren't good. In fact, they didn't think he'd survive and if he did, that the brain damage might be extensive. And today, he's walking and talking."

It really is a huge question. It's about free will. About being able to explain what is happening. What is pain. What is recovery and healing. It's about involving the patient in their recovery. It's about being able to understand the pain will end at some point and having the patient know the difference. Sadly, it also involves money. To give Mickey a chance, the cost was over $10,000. Could that be justified when pain was guaranteed and the outcome iffy?

Mostly, however, it's about hope.

For Mickey, my friend N.R. had to make a very difficult, painful and sad decision.

She made the one she believes is best for Mickey. That respects his gentle nature and his spirit.

And, she made the decision she can live with knowing she did her best with love.

To keep hope alive for Mickey meant putting him through painful and extensive procedures that did not have a guaranteed outcome for a joyful life free of on-going pain. There was the possibility of amputation. The possibility of infection. The possibility of a life with limited mobility.

To keep hope alive for my daughters' friend T., meant doing whatever it took to save his leg, to heal his brain. It meant using ever resource available to ensure his care gave him the hope of living life fully again. Ultimately, for T., he also had youth, and luck on his side. Because, he was very, very lucky not to have paid the ultimate price of being hit by a truck on that January morning.

My daughter asked a huge question last night. I don't have an answer other than I know, in the case of human beings, there is always hope until their heart stops beating. And even then, sometimes, hope returns. Because hope, like love, never dies unless we let go of it.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Good enough for me in the here and now.

This is my 368th post on Recover Your Joy.

A pretty amazing feat for me -- to write (almost) everyday in this place. To stay focused on the joy in my life. To create value out of every awakening.

I'm pleased!

If it wasn't a habit to write here every morning before, it definitely is now.

What I have learned in this process is the importance of keeping commitments -- not just ones I make to others, but one's I make with myself.

I made the commitment to write here for me -- I wanted to share my joy, to inspire others to look at their lives through different glasses. I also wanted to inspire myself, to send myself a message every morning that stated, I can do this. I am worth committing to.

And I am.

A piece of feedback I received last week from one of the facilitators was, "I experience you as a woman who will never find a good enough answer for her."

I meditated on that feedback all week. Was it true? Was I searching for answers simply for the sake of answers? Discarding answers I already had in the hopes that there was a better one out there? Not accepting that what I know, who I am, what I have is good enough in the here and now?


Finally, I had to ask myself the tough question: If I don't believe there is a good enough answer for me, how will I ever accept I am good enough for me?

I breathed.

Powerful stuff when I ask myself the tough question and let the answer filter through my denial. Like rain and the heat of the sun awakening spring flowers, the truth awakens in me.

In my quest to become all I'm meant to be, I've searched for the answer as to who I'm meant to be somewhere out there, as well as deep within me. In my quest for the perfect answer, I've missed the absolute truth -- who I am is and always has been good enough. It's my blind searching that's kept me from acknowledging and embracing that truth.

I am good enough for me.

There will always be room to grow. Always be the need to grow to keep expanding my knowledge and understanding of myself and how I interact with the world around me.

Coming from a place of being good enough for me right now, however, means I don't have to search for answers. I can accept I have answers that work for me today. I can dance in my truth today -- I am good enough for me right now.

What a joy to know, who I am in this moment is exactly who I am meant to be. When I stand in my truth, I jettison my need and habit of doing things that undermine me, that deter me from my path of integrity. As I told Mary, one of the facilitators, it's almost as if I can't accept I'm good enough. To ensure I hold myself back, I do something without integrity just so I can pick up another lump of shame.

Leaning over and picking up shame is not working for me anymore.

The choice is mine. To keep doing what I've always done and getting the same result (disatisfaction, dismay and disgruntlement with who I am and discord with the world around me), or to do something different -- to accept to be all I'm meant to be I must act in ways that acknowledge with each step -- I don't need to pick up that lump of shame. The habit of doing it is not working. The habit is making me sick.

Here's to dumping old habits and picking up a new pair of glasses, donning a new robe of freedom.

Time to dance.

The question is: What are you doing that you've always done and getting the same results you don't want? Where are your habits keeping you back from being all you are right now without fear, or shame, or guilt, or sadness, or anger or denial holding you back?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

It's never too late.

How high is contentment?

How deep is joy?

Size is not the issue. Depth, breadth, width, height. They are measurements for bridges and buildings, but not for feelings.

Some feelings are just too hard to describe.

Some feelings are just too deep to measure.

Some feelings are simply too painful to feel.

And yet, we feel them. We witness their impact in the things we do to hurt oursleves and those we love.

At Super Choices, I uncovered feelings I did not know I held within me. Patterns of behaviour that I did not know were directing me into all the wrong places because I was looking for relief from the ache of carrying those feelings around within me.

I do not know what I do not know.

The joy of having discovered these feelings, these emotions, these stories I've told myself throughout my life to keep myself safe from the pain of feeling, is not measurable. This joy is all around me, within me, about me. It is peace.

As I sat by the beach one morning last week, I imagined my birth. I wasn't quite awake enough to be truly present in the moment of my birth, but I've told lots of stories about it simply based on the information I was provided by my family. The meaning and significance I placed on those stories became some of the lies I told myself throughout my life -- I was unwanted. A mistake. Not needed. A misfit.

Truth is, I am a unique woman. There is no other human being on this planet who thinks or feels or sees, or experiences life exactly the way I do. I am unique. We all are.

On that morning last week as I sat on the beach, I created in my mind the memory of my birth I wanted to hold onto. My mother and father lovingly holding me as an infant, cooing to me. Whispering their awe and joy of my arrival into their lives. They told me all the things I wanted and needed to hear. How special I am. How unique. What a joy I am to them. How precious I am. How wanted.

With my image in my mind, I carefully placed the tableau of my birth under a glass, just like a nativity scene under a snowdome. In my mind, I placed that scene in my heart where it continues to resonate throughout my being.

It is never too late to create the childhood of your dreams. It is never too late to create memories worth keeping.

The question is: Are you willing to let go of painful memories from the past and replace them with the song of love and joy you want to sing today? Are you willing to create the childhood of your dreams so you can live freely in today?

Monday, April 7, 2008

Flying free

There is something mystical about being beside a lake, surrounded by soaring peaks, firs and willows whispering in the wind. there is something magical about being with a group of people intent on discovering the beauty within their spirits so that they can share their love and joy freely with the world.

That's what last week felt like. Mystical. Magical. Inspiring. Awe invoking. Healing.

A journey of a lifetime. Inward. Ever deeper. Ever more healing.

I went to Super Choices on a spur of a moment kind of decision process -- well not all that spurring -- I had to trick myself into going. I've wanted to go for 2 years but always used the excuse of cost, no time etc. to stall. Saturday I found out there was space available last week. There went that excuse. I had told myself I would save up the money and go in October. But I actually had the funds and decided that I could continue to think my way out of going as I always have, or I could do something different, commit and go.

I committed and I went.

I am so very glad I did.

Peeling back the layers. Lovingly examining, the stories I tell myself that are not my truth today. Perhaps they are the truth from long ago. But the stories I tell myself about those events keep me stuck in unforgiveness. They keep me acting small in a mystical world of giant proportions.

I am not small. I am unique!

We all are.

The question is: Where do you let your stories keep you from being all you are? Where do your stories keep you stepping quietly through the past, tiptoeing into your future for fear today will not be what you want?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Gone Fishing

I am on a course and will not be posting until Monday, April 7th.

I thought I'd have time -- but this is a very intensive session and I want to stay focussed.

It's called Super Choices.

Looking forward to 'seeing' you on Monday.