Dare boldly

Inspiring acts of grace in everyday living


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New Attitude

It’s back.

Yup.

It was starting to loosen up, to feel less tight and stiff but after a long, stressful day at the office with too much computer time and too many meetings, my neck is once again stiff and sore.

Ugh.

Wh’aazz’up wid dat?

I’m not complaining (or whining, honest) but I am expressing my frustration so that I can get through to the other side of self-pity to get a new attitude!

I got plans! Know what I mean? And a stiff neck is interfering with my ability to achieve the goals I set for myself this week — like spend some time in the studio (hard to do when my neck won’t bend and turn easily). Get back to yoga — time to rethink that one. Start spending more time training Beaumont on the leash. Not going to happen right now. He still tugs and pulls, and even with the waist leash system, the constant strain is too much.

So… as my Auntie Maggie would say…. What to do? What to do?

I have a massage booked for 10am. Yes!

C.C. set up the traction device I am to use twice a day to see if I can relieve some of the pressure on my neck.

And, after getting the news earlier this week that one of the main sources of the discomfort is degenerative disks, I have forwarded the x-ray report to my doctor and will go see him about alternatives.

So, self-care. Check. 

What’s next on my list?

Right. Time in the studio.

I have a drafting table as a work surface. I can raise it to a greater angle so that my neck doesn’t need to bend as much. Oh. And I can set the timer on my phone to ring every fifteen minutes to remind me to stop and stretch and change position.   Check.  

Hmmm… walking Beaumont. Well, this will delight him I know. Instead of on leash, he gets to stay off leash!  Walking is good for both of us and off leash is his favourite!  I just won’t be throwing the ball but that’s okay, he just likes to be outside (me too) having fun. Check

And, as to yoga. Well, some simple gentle stretches will have to do and more deep-breathing and meditation, Check

Okay. So that’s not too bad.

Hmmm.. speaking of being outside. I think C.C. and I just might go invest in some snowshoes this weekend and head for the mountains for a day. The weather is stunningly beautiful and spending time outside is good for my soul, not to mention my body and head (neck included).

Okay. Got a plan and, a new attitude! Check 

I’m all set.

To celebrate, here’s one of my favourite Patti Labelle tunes to lighten up your Friday! Doesn’t it just make you want to leap up and dance? Go for it! I am!

 


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Mental illness is not a death sentence

A boy walks into his high school in a town on a remote northern lake and starts shooting. He kills four people and injures more.

A man starts firing a gun into his neighbours’ homes and is eventually shot dead by police.

Guns do not discriminate. They kill. Left untreated, left to its own devices, so can mental illness.

A gun cannot kill someone unless someone pulls a trigger.

Mental illness does not carry a death sentence unless untreated.

So let’s be clear. Millions of people with mental illnesses live rich and full lives. It is not the mental illness that kills. It is the lack of care, the lack of treatment, awareness, knowledge, that makes the difference.

There are many reasons someone with a mental illness does not receive treatment. One of those is the lack of available resources, something every government and community needs to address. Immediately.

Another is, shame.

My eldest daughter writes a lot about the shame of mental illness, its ability to eat away at your belief in your own human goodness, to destroy your sense of self and and your capacity to live strong, live free, live.

I have learned a great deal through my daughter’s journey. At times, it has felt like riding a rollercoaster with no straps holding me in. Just the rails, the car careening along the tracks and me holding on for dear life hoping I don’t let go and in letting go, lose her forever.

And then, there were the lull times. The periods where we floated for awhile in the valley of each descent where I thought maybe, just maybe this time, we had reached the end of the ride.

And then, it would begin again. And in its ascent, I’d grit my teeth, breathe deeply and hold on. Tight. Because at the end of every up, I knew there would be the crazy, speed-charged, out of control descent yet to come.

Roller coaster rides don’t end on the high. They end somewhere near the bottom where the tension in the tracks is not so great. Where the brakes do not need to be applied with such force.

Sometimes, for someone living with a mental illness, the tension becomes so great they cannot reach the brakes. They cannot stay on the tracks. They have to release the tension long before the bottom comes.

Which is why I know the other reason mental illness can spiral out of control and have devastating effects is because we, those who love the one whose life seems controlled by a fire-breathing, out of control beast we cannot see, cannot reach, cannot touch, do not understand what’s really happening. We do not know the seriousness, the depth of the darkness, the pain and confusion and self-loathing and the consequences of so much tension on the human mind and body.

I know I cannot turn back the pages of time. I know I cannot change the past, but if I could have done anything differently, I would have learned more, talked about it more and beyond talking I would have moved heaven and earth to get my daughter the help and support she needed, earlier.

I am grateful. My daughter has always been an amazing, incredible, loving, vibrant human being. She feels deeply. Cares deeply. Loves deeply. And sometimes, it is the depth of her feelings that pull her down. Sometimes, it is the depth of her caring that hurts her most. And sometimes, it is the depth of her loving that consumes her, pulling her out of the light, into the darkness.

Which is why those of us who surround her, love her and cherish her presence in our lives, must always hold space in the light for her to find herself anew. It is what I learned most as my daughter travelled through depression and an eating disorder. To always hold onto hope. To never let go of the light and to never stop loving.

Today, my daughter is an amazing woman who lives a rich and full life. She still has mental illness and is able to write about it with passion, compassion and conviction. Today, my daughter has tools and strategies to help her through her darkest times. And always, she has people who continue to support her, love her and believe in her.

And most of all, she knows she is not alone. Even in her darkest moments when the beast is screaming inside her, telling her she is worthless, or calling for her to let go of the light and give into the darkness, she knows she is not alone.

Because no matter how dark it gets, we are always holding her space in the light of love.

Namaste

 

 

 


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What colour is your prejudice?

I am waiting for the C-train to arrive when a woman and a young child walk past me. She is pulling on the child’s arm, trying to hurry him up. He is running/hopping to keep up while also looking up at a bird sitting on the lamppost above. “Why didn’t he fly south, mommy?” I hear him ask.

I smile and watch them walking and my mind leaps into judgement without a second thought. “How nice to see an aboriginal mother and her child looking so normal,” I catch myself thinking prejudicially.

It is there, just beneath my skin, those thoughts that keep me mired in us and them thinking. That separate me from you because the colour of your skin, your heritage, your belief, is different than mine, or what I have been conditioned to think of as ‘the norm’.

I feel it when a woman in a burka floats down the street. I admire the grace of her garb but thoughtlessly judge the choices she makes to cover herself up in public.

I catch it when I see a police officer trying to pull an obviously inebriated and homeless man into a sitting position from where he lies on the sidewalk. Can he not be more gentle? More compassionate?

It is there as I judge passers-by for giving the man on the ground scathing looks of disgust.

It is present as I ride the C-train and another passenger is talking loudly on their cellphone. Where are their manners?

It is everywhere.

Judgement. Discrimination. Prejudice. Fear.

You are different than me. You behave other than how I do. You worship at a different pew. You talk in another tongue. You were born in a foreign -to me- land. You see the world through different eyes.

Why can’t you be more like me?

The better question is, Why am I always judging? Because it’s always there, my judging. Measuring. Gauging. Your words and looks and actions against mine.

Is it that I fear you will take from me what I hold dear? My position of self-righteousness? My place of privilege for having been here first? My belief that you would rather be like me than you?

Is it that I do not want to let go of what I have for fear you will have more than me? That you will be better than me?

Is it a habit?

Why don’t I just stop judging so you can be you and I can be me?

In that place of neither of us judging one another, we can meet somewhere in the middle, on the common ground of our shared humanity knowing, it is our judgements that are keeping us apart, not our differences.

I caught myself in judgement.

To create the world I want to live in, I must stop my judgements from creating a world of us and them to see the light in each of us shining as brightly as it can, where ever we are at. And in our lights shining, we connect on the common ground of our humanity knowing, we are one human race, one planet, one world.

What about you?

 


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Forgiveness is the bridge to love

Twelve years ago, when I was released from a relationship that almost killed me by the police walking in and arresting the abuser, one of the greatest challenges I faced was to forgive myself.

“You have nothing to forgive yourself for,” well-meaning people would tell me. “He was a psychopath. He abused you.”

That wasn’t the point. No matter how cruel, abusive, or deceitful he was, I did things that hurt the people who love me most. To accept their forgiveness, (which I desperately wanted) I needed to believe I was worthy of their forgiveness by forgiving myself.

It took a lot of work. Commitment. Loving honesty, (not to mention therapy) to get to a point where I could look in the mirror and not see that mother who deserted her children. Not see that woman who did not love herself enough to believe she was worth more than his abuse.

It took a lot of belief in the power of forgiveness to not whisper back to myself every time I looked in the mirror, “Shame on you.”

In her blog today, my eldest daughter Alexis writes, after spending the last five days here at home:

“No matter how far or fast or long we run, our pasts remain the same.

And though I wanted for my visit to Calgary over the past five days to be different, I still carry the weight of a girl that used her pain as a weapon to drive the love of her family away. I am still condemning her for a past she cannot change.

When we don’t make peace with our mistakes, we recreate them over and over and over again. Though I left home in my rearview mirror, I am afraid of its shadow.”

If we do not hold our hearts in the light of forgiveness, shadows lengthen and block out love’s presence.

 

Throughout her life, I wanted nothing more than for my daughter to know that there was nothing she could do that would make me stop loving her. There was nothing she could say that would close my heart to her forever more.

I wanted her to see what I see when I look at her. But she could not see through my eyes. All she could see was the road to the past and the little girl who never felt like she was enough, who felt abandoned, who felt unworthy of love, and in many ways, unworthy of life.

There was a time when I carried my shame like a badge, even though I told myself I wanted, needed, had to, let it go.

I remember in those first days of freedom after that relationship ended, feeling like if I let go of my pain and shame, I would be saying, what I did to those I loved didn’t matter. I thought I would be making small of all the pain and harm I’d caused.

Fact is, those who love us want only the best for us but we can’t know that when we are holding ourselves in unforgiveness by holding onto our past.

While I can look at my daughter and tell her she does not need to forgive herself, she did not know any better at the time how to handle her pain, fact is, she is smarter than me. She knows what she needs to be free to love with all her heart.

When shame blocks the access to feeling your heart calling you home, letting the shame go is the only way to open the door.

Because no matter how far we run, Love is the shortest distance between two hearts. And forgiveness is the bridge.

 

 

 


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Monday, Monday

My computer has decided to have a sluggish start to the week. I think it’s objecting to my dependency on it.

See you tomorrow.


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It’s time to roar!

Years ago, when I was a rookie stockbroker working for a big name brokerage house, a senior VP offered to ease my way into ‘the big times’, if…

The ‘if’ was the catch. It involved sexual favours and the threat that if I told anyone, no one would believe me. He was a senior partner. I was a rookie. No contest.

I believed him so, rather than submit to his sexual advances, I did the only thing I thought I could do at the time. I said nothing and moved to another firm.

Several years later, after leaving the brokerage industry, I worked for a Canadian hi-tech start-up with offices in Silicon Valley. I was situated here. Most of the team I worked with was in California. Everyday I’d have a conference call with one of the VPs in the California office, and every call, he’d make some type of sexual innuendo over the phone.

I thought the best way to handle it was to laugh it off. To pretend I didn’t hear, or didn’t get his meaning.

That worked, until we were alone in a hotel elevator while attending a conference in Dallas. His floor was before mine. The doors opened for him to exit, he turned to me and asked if I was joining him in his room. I laughed it off. Pretended like I just thought he was being funny.

The next day, he began to make my life hell. There was nothing I could do that was right. Nothing my department created that met his needs for sales and marketing support.

My boss asked me what was going on. I feigned confusion. I told him I didn’t know. I suggested it was perhaps a mis-communication.

And then the guy in California got really nasty. I couldn’t ignore it so I went to my boss and told him the truth.

The solution. They reorganized our work so that I did not have to work directly with the man in California. He was too valuable to lose. To critical to our agenda to let go.

I said nothing. Got pregnant soon thereafter and left the company.

I felt responsible, culpable, accountable for what happened. And, for my actions, I was. Except, I thought it was all my responsibility. That their bad behaviour was my fault. That if I had just… (pick your poison) … THEY wouldn’t have felt they could make such advances.

Truth is, what I am most responsible for is my silence.

Truth is, millions of women continue to encounter such treatment today. It’s not because we deserve it, or ask for it, or ‘know’ we want it. It’s because sexual politics continue to play a role in our society, and we stay silent.

Last night at dinner with my eldest daughter, she talked about power and control and how if women do not know they have choices, or understand their power, or believe the stakes are too high to challenge the status quo, they cannot be held accountable for their actions.

For me, having walked away in silence, I disagree.

At the time, I thought I had no choice even though I had lots of choices — I just chose to take the one that I thought ‘hurt’ the least.

Truth is, I was scared to rock the boat. I was afraid to take on the male establishment, to challenge the ‘acceptable’, to poke the bear of sexual power and confront the underbelly of sexual power.

Truth is, I was afraid to speak up.

I can rationalize my fear away by saying it was too hard. I would have been pilloried by the men. I would have been ridiculed, mocked, black-listed, shunned.

It doesn’t matter.

Truth is, I stayed silent in the face of abuse.

If we want to change the world, if we want to stop abuse, end violence, end sexual predation, then we must not let fear drive us into hiding.

We must let courage draw us into giving voice — and stop being afraid of the consequences.

And we must stop saying, I didn’t know any better.

I knew better when I walked away in shame. I knew better when I didn’t speak up. It’s just, I was afraid of the consequences. Afraid of what might happen.

Sure, it’s not fair that women have to rise up to claim their voice and create equality. I mean really, why can’t men just do it for us?

And that’s the thing. Men can’t do it for us.

We must do it for us.

It is our right.

It is our duty.

It is our obligation.

If I could go back and change anything in those two encounters, it would be that I did not silence my voice. It would be that I recognized the moment in time where I had the opportunity to make a difference, not just for myself, but for women, and men, today.

‘Cause here’s the thing. What happened to me happens to millions of women everyday. And for the majority, we are still saying silent.

It’s time to stop the silence and roar.

 


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This AND That.

It is the thing I am adjusting to the most with my neck — it is slowly improving though I don’t sleep as well as I normally do which means, I don’t wake up as easily, nor as early, as I normally do. After a restless night with sleep interrupted by my neck calling out for attention every time I roll over, I have been waking up at least an hour later than my preferred 5am.

Which means, I often don’t have the morning time to meditate and write.

I tell myself — You have to make a choice.

What feeds my soul?

I know that when I take time to meditate, my day begins in balance and harmony. The same can be said for writing every morning.

They both feed my soul.

“Is it an all or nothing? Either/or?” my inner guide asks me.

Can I create an opportunity for this, AND, that?

Writing is a form of meditation for me.

Write less. But write, my inner guide whispers.

Heeding her voice, I place my fingers on the keyboard to find the words flowing out.

Sometimes, we must adapt. To adapt, we must accept what is and not bemoan what was or spend our time wishing and hoping it was something else.

To bemoan the lateness of my arising, to wish my neck didn’t hurt or wake me up during the night, would be to diminish what I find, right now, waiting for me in this moment. It would steal this joy of sitting at my keyboard, typing and allowing the words to flow without worry and resentment clouding my mind.

Embracing what is, I let go of wishing now was any way other than how it is. In the presence of what is, right now, I breathe deeply into being present to allow myself the grace of treasuring this moment right now and finding joy in every breath stirring the beginnings of my day.

And the words flow and my awareness of my power to create value and find myself in this moment, right now, awakens.

I am so blessed.