Ten Years. I am grateful.

IMG_3959May 21. To everyone else, it is just a day.

To me, it is cause for celebration. Reflection. Gratitude.

Ten years ago today, I was given the miracle of my life. Ten years ago today, I was set free from a relationship that was killing me. A relationship that, had the police not walked in on this morning ten years ago today, I would not be alive to celebrate today.

I am grateful.

I was thinking about this date yesterday as Ellie, the wonder pooch, and I shared a walk along the path that skirts the reservoir. It is one of our favourite walks. On the ridge, walking east, the city stretches out to the north, the towers of downtown just visible between distant trees. Walking east, we look out over the water, towards the south shore where two apartment towers look back. At this time of year, the waters run low, the alluvial plains leading into the reservoir exposed. Soon, spring run-off will begin to race down from the mountains, filling the plains, submerging the willows and alders that are rooted in their silky soil. For now, the water runs in snaky rivulets towards the basin that is held in place by the damn at the far eastern edges of the reservoir.

IMG_3954When we turned and walk westward, back towards the mountains, the city disappeared behind us, leaving wilderness and snow-capped peaks in our view, and a sky that soared into infinity where clouds and sun frolicked in the evening breeze.

I used to run this path when ‘the man who shall not be named’ held thrall upon my being. I would run and keep my eyes peeled for errant cars following me, for men in dark shirts and black pants whose eyes sought out where I was, where ever I went. When I ran these paths ten years ago, I had no eyes for the beauty, no senses to fill with the smells and sights and textures of my environment. My entire being was filled with fear and loathing. My heart was cold, my body colder. Ten years ago, when I ran these paths, I knew only the yearning to die. I longed to erase my presence from the world. To wipe out all memory of my having passed this way. I wanted only to set my daughters free of remembering me so that they could carry on their lives as if I had never happened. I wanted to die.

IMG_3955Yesterday, as Ellie and I walked along the ridge, I felt the spring air upon my cheeks. I revelled in the warmth of the sun against my back. I smelt the green grasses, the hint of sage, the earth coming into bloom. I listened to the sounds of children laughing, of families sharing a meal around a picnic bench. A game of tug-o-war. A boy riding a bike with training wheels. A skateboarder. A rollerblader. More bikes. More families. Laughter. Voices. Many languages. People walking. A sailboat on the water. A seagull swooping. A robin hopping in the grass. A deer walking through the foliage. There was life unfolding all around me and I was part of its majesty, mystery and miracle.
Yesterday, as Ellie and I walked, my heart knew only joy. My senses only wonder. Yesterday, as I walked, I felt life stirring all around me. I saw the beauty and the wonder of the day. I treasured the air, the sun, the wind, the joy of being present in that moment, simply because, I was present in that moment.

It has been ten years.

IMG_3965Ten years of wonder, of joy, of growth. Of sifting through the pain and sorrow to find the beauty and awe and miracle of my life today. My life filled with love, with family and friends, with thoughts of tomorrow, with wonder for this moment. Ten years of living beyond the past, free from abuse, free from fear and loathing, free from wanting to die with every breath. Ten years of knowing, I am Alive and loving every breath I take.

It has been ten years.

I am grateful.

Namaste.

Dig. Plant. Water. Wait.

IMG_3970 I gardened yesterday. Hit the garden shop by 8am. Loaded up my car with all sorts of goodies and was in the backyard by 9:30, digging into dirt, moving pots and replanting flowers and all that jazz.

I had a blast and now, my deck is set for summer, all decked out in pots and flowering plants. Herbs waiting to be plucked. Flowers waiting to be enjoyed.

It still looks skimpy though. The Lobelia has yet to cascade over the edge of its containers. The parsley has yet to leaf out.

Patience grasshopper. Patience.

IMG_3971It is the thing about gardening. Dig. Plant. Water. Wait.

Like dreams. Dig. Plant. Water. Wait.

Shift. Move. Water some more. Change.

And then…

Revel in the beauty and the wonder.

At one point, C.C. came out to the deck and told me how he’d watched me from behind the kitchen window. “You didn’t know I was watching,” he said. “But I could see you treating the whole thing as a canvas you paint. Moving pots. Changing textures. Shifting patterns of flowers and light and colour.”

IMG_3974Like life. Dig. Plant. Water. Wait.

And Shift. Move. Water. Change.

And always, revel in the beauty of the act of creation.

I had a wonderful day creating yesterday. Of feeling life growing between my hands. Of digging into the dirt, revelling in the pure joy of being part of nature’s relentless quest to create beauty in our world.

I had a wonderful day of seeding dreams, living life in the sea of beauty all around.

 

Carry On!

Sometime ago I signed up for a daily “Message from the Universe“. This morning’s message reads:

Everyone’s scared, Louise.

Few carry on.

Keep calm,
The Universe

PS – I mean really carry on, Louise, as if it were your reason for being.

 When I was young, the Carry On movies were big. Farcical British humour that poked fun at… well, just about everything. I don’t remember much of the particulars of the movies, all I remember is that they made me laugh.

And laughter is good for the soul.

As I was writing this post this morning, however, I thought I’d do a quick check on the Carry On series and discovered — there were way more of them than I remember! From the time the first Carry On movie was produced in 1958 to the last in 1992 a total of 31 of the low budget were released. 31. Oh my. Who knew there could be such silly humour in the world?

I was curious what it was about the films that made them so appealing and decided to watch a few clips. Mistake. They’re not really all that funny — just rather slapstick and still, they do make me laugh, or at least smile. And perhaps it is a sign of my ‘age’, but I find their sexist outlook and low brow humour a tad tawdry!

Harumph. Maybe it’s my attitude that needs a shift.

Maybe, I need to take myself a little less seriously!

The other day, driving down a hill from a girlfriend’s house, a man leapt out from the sidewalk onto the road and started swinging his arms and yelling at me. At first, I thought there was an emergency, that possibly something was wrong and he needed help. I slammed on my brakes, intending to see what I could do to help, but he kept screaming and yelling until I realized, there was nothing wrong. He was telling me to slow down. I laughed. I was driving at 41 km/hr. The speed limit was 40. I knew my exact speed because moments before I’d driven past a large lit sign that flashed my speed as I drove past.

Harumph. Maybe he needs to take himself a little less seriously — especially as he might have caused an accident had someone been directly behind me when I hit my brakes.

On Sunday, my mother and I were just finishing up at the Farmer’s Market and rather than make her walk all the way back down the market to the side where we were parked, I told her to sit by the door where we were and I would bring my car around. When I drove up to the entrance, there was a woman sitting on her walker seat right in the middle of the pick-up zone. As I was only going to be a moment to get my mother and her walker, I parked in the first available handicap spot. As I got out of my car to get my mother who was walking slowly towards the doors, the woman yelled at me. “You can’t park there! You’re not handicapped.”

I smiled and replied, “True. But I’m just picking up my mother and couldn’t park in the loading zone because that’s where you’re sitting.”

“I’m waiting for my cab,” she replied.

And I helped my mother get in the car, wished the woman a good day and drove off.

Harumph. Maybe she needs to take herself a little less seriously.

If I could fix the world, maybe that’s what I’d do — make everyone watch all 31 of the Carry On movies just so they can see how ridiculous we humans can be in our insistence that we are the only one’s who get it right and need to tell the rest of the world how to do it.

Now, I know that man on the side of the road was doing what he was doing because obviously they must have an issue with speeders on that roadway. And I know the woman on her walker was only trying to ensure I wasn’t abusing a handicap parking spot because they often do get abused, yet, I wonder, if there isn’t a better way to create change.

Patrick Lencioni in The Advantage, talks about the 10-70-20 principle. Spend your time supporting your 20% he says. Don’t divert your energy to those who are not your most ardent supporters. Don’t spend your time trying to convert your detractors. Focus on making your 20% shine. When your 20% shine, others will want to bask in their glow.

And so, I come back to what I’ve always known. Rather than ‘harumph’ my way through moments of discord, I shall simply return to what creates more of what I want in my life and world — joy, harmony and love.

“Bless them. Forgive me.” I chant my mantra calmly, peacefully, lovingly.

And I begin again.

What a glorious day to awaken to this morning. Blue sky. Trees are budding, Birds are singing and life is a beautiful banquet of opportunity waiting to be devoured.

Letting go of harumphing my way into my morning, I spread my wings, lighten  my spirit and Carry On! Bravely. Joyfully. Peacefully. In Love. With Gratitude.

Message received loud and clear. Thank you Universe!

 

UEP: I am excited.

because-uep-bannerI am excited. I got to spend last evening with a group of young up and cominger’s looking to make a difference in our city. They are engaged in the United Way of Calgary’s BeCause initiative and its Urban Exposure Project. Last night, I got to engage in conversation around photography, and story-telling, and the exploration of the stories they want to tell of what ‘more’ they want to create in our city through the photographs they are taking of our what makes a difference to them and to Calgary.

I want to inspire people to know that together we can make a difference, said one young man who shared his ideas for how through the agencies he’s visited with UEP he’s seen the impact each agency is making on creating change in our city. He wants to inspire people to take action, or, as another young man suggested, encourage people to be bold. Believe. Get involved.

It was inspiring. Uplifting. Energizing and I came away, as I so often do after engaging in conversation with ‘the next generation’, I felt reassured. I know the world is in good hands. I know that there are those who care, who want to create the change they want to see in the world. Those who are willing to step out of their comfort zones to see and feel and share and learn.

When I asked one young woman what moves her, what change she wants to see in the world she replied that it’s all about community. What does community mean for you, I asked. And she shared how visiting the agencies who support people in need, the homeless, the disenfranchised, youth at risk, she realized no one can do it alone. Change is a community undertaking.

Get clear on the change you want to create, I challenged the group. Ask yourself, what change do I want to create in my city? What do I want more of in my life? What values/characteristics are important to me.

And then, tell your stories through the lens of what you are passionate about. Speak through the voice of what it is that’s important to you. What do you want to see more of in our world?

It’s not a head or belly kind of question. It’s all heart. What is that I want to see more of in the world? In my life? What do I want more of?

And what am I willing to do to create it?

Am I willing to take the path of harmony, not discord? Am I willing to give up drama to create peace? Am I willing to let go of the story I tell myself why I can’t, to accept that I can?

Am I willing to surrender and fall into Love?

As we explored the stories and ideas the group shared, I was reminded of how fragile, and beautiful, and delicate the human spirit is. I was reminded that we all have dreams. We all have the need to connect, to find a sense of meaning in our lives and to feel part of something bigger than… just ourselves going through the motions of living day to day.

We are beings of light. We dream. We fly. We fall. We leap. We have moments of doubt. We have moments of bliss. We have times when all we can do is put one foot in front of the other in the hope that each footstep will lead away from where we are, that place we don’t want to be, to where we can and do feel connected to eachother, our communities, the world beyond the sphere of our knowing.

I had a conversation with a group of 20 – 40 year olds last night. Men and women seeking to express what it is they want to see in the world through stories they tell with the photographs they’ve taken of our city.

I am excited.

I am hopeful.

The change we want to see in our world is possible. The love, joy, beauty, community, spirit, connection, kindness, acceptance — it’s all here. It’s all possible. BeCause, there are people engaged in making it happen. There are bright, shining stars willing to do whatever it takes to be the change they want to see in the world.

Yup. I am excited.

RPS — seriously? It ain’t all random.

Let me begin by saying, this is not the post I thought I would write today, but….

then I dropped into Megan Willome’s beautifully designed new website and read her post, Rock-Paper-Scissors and I had to share!

Let me also say, I had no idea. Seriously. I did not know there is a world federation for those who compete in Rock Paper Scissors. Now that I think about it, I didn’t even know there was a way to compete at RPS. Imagine. Hundreds of people world wide competing in what I thought, but now find out as not to be the case, the randomness of RPS.

Yes folks. You heard it here first. Or maybe somewhere else but what the hey!  I’m tellin’ you now — RPS is not a random game. Nor is it a game for sissies!  But seriously, we humans are not random. We are predictable. We seek patterns. We seek the deliberate.

Huh? Seriously? It’s not all random?

Dang. And here I thought all those life-changing decisions I made playing RPS with myself were answers founded on solid evidence and research. And heck,  my answers always surprised me — and if they surprise me, they must be good answers right?

I mean seriously, when trying to decide between wearing the red dress or the black pant suit, I play RPS with myself and always wear whatever my left hand says. Of course, sometimes, and don’t hate me for this, I mighta cheated just a little bit. I mean, I don’t own a red dress so really, it was kinda predictable what my left hand would choose.

I know. I know. Self-defeating behaviours but really, I wanted to spice up my morning just a little bit and thought, I could fool my lefthand into choosing the red if I told it I had a choice.

How hard we fall when the one we are fooling is only ourself.

But honestly, it seems to me that always, the left hand knows the answers. Heck. It’s not as well-used as my right hand so it must have extra energy to make these life-changing decisions, right? It can ‘see’ better than my right hand which is always busy taking care of cutting, chopping, driving, drinking, eating, earning, fishing, fixing… you get the picture. My right hand is my dominant useful hand. My left has much more time to just laze about and ponder life’s dilemmas. Which is why, when I play RPS with myself, I hold fast to my conviction that the left hand knows.

And now, I discover after reading Megan’s post that maybe, my left hand has been playing tricks on me. Maybe its decision-making skills are not that random, not that sound. Maybe, it really is predictable just how and what it will choose.

In the spirit of true confessions, I must acknowledge that I have broken one of the cardinal rules of RPS — Rule no. 3. Always establish what is to be decided or whether the match is to be played for honour. 

I sometimes know what I want the answer to be, and tell my left-hand what the right-hand is going to choose.

I know. I know. Cheater/Cheater. But honestly, sometimes I just don’t want to go for Chinese. I really do want Greek. And the right hand will always take the easy route out, especially when everyone else is looking to eat chinese. So, surreptitiously, I tell my left hand to go for the scissors, ’cause I know the right will always vote paper when the stakes are about food.

Sigh.

No more.

Another game toast on the playing fields of life. Another bubble burst in the illusions of every day.

The left hand knew all along what the right was doing.

It wasn’t random.

It was all a big act.

Sigh.

Back to the drawing boards. Gotta go find me another game to play.

(and yes, this entire post was inspired by Megan and my horrifying realization that all along I’ve been playing RPS by myself when really, I could have been playing it for fame and fortune! ‘Cause seriuosly, I’m that good at it!  🙂 )

find out how you can dominate the world of RPS, HERE, at the World RPS Society website — and yes, they do have tips on “How you can beat anyone at Rock Paper Scissors” — hint… it’s all about manipulating your opponent into not choosing one element, like rocks, because, so they say, we humans are terrible at trying to be random. We just ain’t so.

 

 

Come, let’s dance!

Alexis, my eldest daughter, wrote on her blog yesterday about her struggle to come to grips with her inner voice mocking her for the fact that to heal from an eating disorder and depression she needed to use antidepressants.

And in the world millions and millions of voices rise up and say, Thank you. Thank you for the courage to speak up, speak out, speak of this thing so many do not acknowledge — that sometimes, to survive a day we need help. It is in our willingness to reach out that we find the courage to learn how to shine.

As I wrote on Alexis blog, it is the courage to surrender and let go that gives us the strength to get back up and fall in love. It isn’t how we get there, it is that we get there that makes the difference.

Years ago, when I was in therapy recovering from a relationship that almost cost me my life, I asked my psychiatrist what it was that kept driving me to take these big experiential steps to get to where I wanted to be in life. “I like where I’m at,” I told him. “But did I need such a big experience to get here?”

He laughed and told me that there were 1,000 paths to where I wanted to be. This was just the one I happened to take. It’s judging the path that was the problem. Not the route I’d taken.

That made sense to me. Especially because I was an expert self-judgment hurler. No matter the judgment others might throw at me, I always knew I could out-do them. I was my own worst enemy.

I had to give it up. Give up judging my path. It wasn’t the path I’d taken to get to where I wanted to be that made the difference, it was my acceptance of every part of my path that changed my direction and turned me around to face myself in Love. Because, in my acceptance of all of me, however I judged myself — good, bad or indifferent — I was making choices to love myself, or not.

And so, I chose to accept who I am and to let go of my judgements about how I got to be where I was at, or where I am. Here I am is what matters. Do I like where I’m at? Am I feeling grounded, centered, free? What choices am I making to love me as I am, where I am? Do my choices celebrate me and the world around me? Do they send out ripples of harmony and love, or discord and unrest?

I have spent much of my life fearing the beauty within me. Today, I know the truth. No matter the path I took to get here, I am magnificent. So are you. We all are — because that is our birthright. Magnificence.  That is the gift of life we are given when we come into this world to celebrate every step of our  journey.

In my journey, I have learned to dance with the sun and the moon. To dance at the edge of the waters of life ebbing and flowing upon the tides. I have learned to dance in the rain and under the blanket of night. For in my dance there are a thousand steps, and everyone of them is a dance of Love. In love, I have learned to express all of me — the joy and sadness, the laughter and tears, the love and sorrow I feel ebbing and flowing with every breath I take. for no matter how I dance, I am and always will be magnificent.

And I am grateful. In my daughter’s dance with darkness, she has found the light of Love shining ever brightly. And in her courage to reveal her path into the light, she shines magnificently for all to see their way through the darkness. How beautiful she is in her dance of life as she calls out to each of us….

Come, let’s dance!

 

A Mother’s Day Poem from my daughter.

It was a weekend to remember. To celebrate. To dance. To cherish. A weekend like no other, but then, this weekend never happened before, and will never happen again, because like today, it was unique, different, one of a kind. Special.

The art show was fabulous. It was more than just the fact I sold 5 paintings. It was all about joy and experience and sharing and being part of something I never before imagined, and now wonder why not! But that’s the thing about what we ‘cannot imagine’. We have to let go of our belief we don’t know. We have to move above the line of telling ourselves that not experiencing what we don’t know keeps us safe. We have to breathe into the purified air of falling into the wonder and awe and joy of living beyond our comfort zone to find what it is we don’t know that we have yet to experience. We have to cast our ‘knowing’ into the wind to free ourselves to fly out there where we are living it up, living large, living beyond our wildest dreams in the rapture of now.

I had lots of affirmation of  my artistic abilities on the weekend. Lots of feedback on what and how I was doing which was lovely and affirming and gave me a sense of wonder — it is nice to know the beauty I paint is seen as beauty in the eyes of others. And, in the process, lots of opportunity to share with other artists the joys, and perils, of putting yourself out there, onto the canvas.  One man, he came to see the show and bought one of my paintings, is an artist who makes his living through his painting. When I asked him if he teaches (I want to paint horses and he showed me some photographs of his horse paintings, and they are stunning), his reply got  me thinking. “I don’t teach because I don’t know what I’m doing. I just paint what I see.”

Paint what I see.

When I heard him say that, the voice inside my heart whispered, I paint what I feel.

It surprised me that voice, but it felt so true, so right, so real. I paint what I feel.

What a lovely thing to know and be immersed in.

And then, yesterday, I spent the late morning, early afternoon with my mother. I took her to the market. We had one of Phil and Sebastians to die for coffees, wandered the aisles (did I mention she’s a speedo with her walker? Crazzzy fast!), checked out the wares and bought each other flowers. And then, I took her to one of my favourite little restaurants in Inglewood, Jacquelin Susan’s. It was a delightful time to spend Mother’s Day and to celebrate the woman who gave me birth.

Later, my youngest daughter along with my step-daughter, took me for dinner at our favourite restaurant. Lele brought me flowers, and together we celebrated, life and living and loving and being part of this amazing thing called family. C.C. came to join us for dessert and we spent another hour laughing and sharing in the joy of our connections.

It was late when we got home so I waited to read my eldest daughter, Alexis’, blog.

I’m glad I waited. My heart needed time to breathe so it could savour the beauty and spirit of her words.

When Alexis was a little girl she used to write torrents of poetry she called, The Mommy Poems. Usually, these poems were written in the angst-filled moments after an incident where she felt particularly unheard, unseen, unknown by me. They were always dramatic, heart-driven, deep emotional poems filled with the honesty only a 5 or 8 or 12 year old young girl can create when she is so connected to her heart her lungs do not have room to breathe. They were also very raw. And, did I mention, emotional?

After whatever the altercation, Alexis would stomp off to her room, scribble away and then, after an appropriate period of time to allow me to stew in the wrongness of whatever I’d done or said, she would appear and promptly inform me she had a Mommy Poem to share. Often her sister would be there too and Lele and I would desperately try to keep straight faces as Alexis performed her poem for us. It’s not that they were funny or that we were making fun of her. It’s just that they truly were creative and deep and so over the top in drama-filled angst that it was hard to believe they really were her thoughts and feelings — and they were. All her.

Unfortunately, many years later, Alexis discarded her Mommy Poems. I always thought they warranted keeping and possibly pulling together into a book.

I’ve always missed Alexis’ Mommy Poems and this Mother’s Day, Day 132 of her amazing The Wunder Year blog, she has honoured me with one of her poems.

I am blessed. I am touched. I am speechless. My heart cries for joy, my body yearns to wrap my arms around her slender form and whisper the most powerful prayer in the world – Thank you.

Thank you my darling daughters for being you. Thank you for the gift of your light, your love, your being. Thank you both for sharing your beauty and your grace.

Love you more than all the words that will ever be spoken.