It’s a girl! Birthday wishes to my youngest daughter.

liseanneWhen she was little we nicknamed her Ghee! because that was the sound she made when she was excited about something. The exclamation mark was important. Even as an infant it was obvious that her mode of travel through life would be to always put an exclamation mark after everything she did.

Yesterday, my youngest daughter turned 29. I couldn’t write my blog about her yesterday as I had forgotten to ask permission. She’s particular that way. Determined. Confident. Assured.

On Sunday night, six of us went for dinner to celebrate her big day and I sat and watched her and felt awe wash over me just as it had that day, 29 years ago, when she burst into the world with her delightful laughter and way of being and said, “I am here!”

It was cold on January 30th, 1988. Her father and I were just finishing off touches to her bedroom when my water broke, two weeks before my due date. There was a nurses’ strike happening, the temperature was sub-Arctic and I hadn’t quite finished doing all the things I wanted to get done before her arrival as Alexis’ little sister. I wanted to wait. At least until after the nurses’ strike. My doctor informed me waiting was not an option. Liseanne agreed. She arrived just after 3pm in the afternoon of the 30th. Two weeks early. 6lbs 1 oz. A perfect miracle of life.

And that is how she has rolled for 29 years.

Taking the world by storm. Ready or not. Here I come.

It is one of her many gifts. She doesn’t wait for the world to catch up. She leads the parade.

Inspiring. Thoughtful. Thought-provoking. Liseanne likes to challenge ideas, shake-up the status quo, see things through different perspectives.

And she likes to invite everyone into her creative way of seeing the world.

Once, when she was about eight, she really, really wanted a dog. When she asked me if we could get one, I told her I didn’t think so. I was a single-working parent of two young daughters. I didn’t want to have to care for an animal. A few days later, she asked me if we could get an elephant. Of course not, I laughed. An elephant’s too big. What about a giraffe? Same thing, I told her — plus the fact our roof wasn’t high enough to accommodate an animal that tall. She pretended to think about it some more and then asked if we could get a tiger. Tiger’s don’t do well in the city, I replied. Oh, she said. Do dogs? Of course, I casually responded. And they’re not too big or too tall for our house are they? No. They’re not. Good, she said. Then a dog is perfect.

It wasn’t until two weeks later when we were on our way to the SPCA to check out dogs that I realized I’d been outsmarted by my 8 year old daughter.

And when we came home with Bella, an 80lb shaggy black bear of a dog, I realized I’d been out-smarted again. I’d insisted that if we got a dog, it would be a small one.

Liseanne was right though. We needed that big shaggy girl in our lives. And so did their dad, she would later convince me.  Travelling back and forth between houses with the girls, Bella had become his best friend. She’ll only be a block away, mom, she told me when she asked if Bella could go live with their father. You’ve got us. He needs someone in the house with him. And so Bella, the dog she’d lobbied for so convincingly took up residence in their father’s house a block away.

Because it was the right thing to do and doing the right thing is at the heart of who Liseanne is. She cares about people, animals, everything. And beyond caring, she turns up. She takes action.

During the floods, she volunteered around the city helping to sweep out flooded basements, carry out sodden belongings of strangers. It didn’t matter. She was needed. She was there.

Liseanne is a successful young business woman now. She holds a responsible job. She sits on the board of a not for profit. She gives of her time, her talents and her treasures.

It’s who she is. It’s how she is in this world. Loving. Laughing. Living life her way.

And I am so blessed. She has gifted my life with grace and love. And when I really needed it, she gave me the forgiveness I so desperately needed and kept on loving me just the way I am.

Yesterday was my youngest daughter’s birthday. My life and the world are a better place because she’s in it.

 

A Homeless Shelter is a Place to Belong

seeking_human_kindness-homeless-hub-york-uniWe all need a place to belong.

In the homeless-serving sector, a shelter is where many people find a place to belong, and for some, it is the first place they’ve ever felt like they fit in.

It’s what makes a homeless shelter work. At a shelter, people find a place to belong that does not judge because they have nothing, or are broken, or lost. A shelter accepts you as you are.

You don’t need to prove your worth. At a shelter, you’re worth can’t be found in the things you possess.

At a shelter, you don’t have to pretend you’re not broken. You wouldn’t be at the shelter if something in your life wasn’t broken.

At a shelter, you don’t have to fake you know exactly where you are going. Nobody planned on being there and, up until ending at a shelter’s doors, everyone has done everything they could think of to avoid ending up at the one place they never imagined they would be.

Beyond food and shelter, a homeless shelter represents a place of belonging for those who feel outside the norm. It represents community. Safe haven. A place of last resort. A place where you know having nothing doesn’t matter. Everyone else is in the same boat.

And, it is a place for human kindness. a place where conversation happens. Friendships blossom. Lives change.

“Hey, I got a lead on a new place but I’m looking for a roommate.”

“I’m trying to find a way back to [and they name a country, province, town, or an area somewhere in the city], but I need a ride.”

“Know anyone who’s hiring?”

“I hear ABC has a couple of spots for the next month.”

“Got an extra smoke?”

“I’m workin’ on getting outta here. I just gotta find a place to rent that I can afford.”

As individuals move into and through and hopefully, out of a shelter, one of the biggest struggles isn’t always to find a place to live. It’s to find a place to belong, out there, like they felt, in here.

One man, Karl*, spent four years struggling to move beyond the shelter doors. He was a natural leader. Once, he encouraged others on his floor to contribute their bottle money to buy a young 10 year old a gift because she’d donated her birthday money and created a blanket drive for the shelter. Addiction kept him trapped until gradually, he gave up on staying drunk and reconnected with his former life, eventually moving out of the shelter. But he was lonely.

“In here, I know who I am,” he explained one night, six months after he’d moved out and turned up at the doors, drunk and hollering for access. “Out there, I’m a nobody. A peon. Just a face in the crowd.”

We are all just ‘faces in the crowd’ but when the crowd are the people we know, people we work with, play with, volunteer with… When our crowd shares a common bond, sense of purpose, we feel more connected. More safe. Welcome. Part of something that stretches us beyond the daily routine of: Get up. Get dressed. Go to work. Come home. Watch TV. Have a brew. Go to bed. Repeat daily.

Being a face in a crowd where we feel a sense of belonging gives our daily life purpose, direction. We are moving with the flow. Not standing like an island being buffeted by the waters raging around us.

And in that place, where we see ourselves reflected in the faces of those around us, we don’t feel different. Lost. Alone.

We feel like we belong. And in that belonging is the possibility of something different. Maybe. One day.

But until that day, at least here, we have a place where we know we fit in. A place where we belong.

 

 

The path to nowhere goes somewhere

lost-in-nowhere-copy

Awhile ago, I spoke with a woman whose mother had recently passed away. “We are all part of the ocean of life,” she said in response to my question about her well-being. “Though my mother is gone, we’re still connected. The essential part of ourselves will always be connected, if not on this physical plane, then some other place.”

And I felt the ocean of humanity wash over me.

We are all connected.

We are all spirit. We are all human. We are all miraculous beings of life and light. Energy in its purest form.

In that deep realization is the possibility and the knowing that there is nothing to fear in this world. Not failure. Not success. Not falling. Not flying. Not life. Not death.

As FDR famously said, “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.”

In this life, it is fear that keeps us from loving one another, accepting one another, knowing one another, as we are, without wanting the other to be different. To be more the same like me, like you, like the way we want them, not the way they are.

It is fear of being rejected, displaced, embarrassed, and so much more that keeps us walking the paths we’ve always walked, fearing to change will bring upon some unknown catastrophe, or perhaps to change would be to admit, we didn’t fit the shoes we were walking in.

In my twenties I wrote a poem that still fits today.

I don’t always know
that what I do is
right
or even that it’s
best.
I can only wear the clothes
I know
that
fit me.

Yet, sometimes I’ll try
a dress too large
or a shoe too small.

And when I do
I take them off
and try
another size.

Sometimes, we walk a path only to discover it is not going where we thought, or perhaps it’s going nowhere. Yet, we stay the course because we can’t see another path, and tell ourselves, we can’t turn back.

I wonder what would happen if instead of looking for another path, we created our own?

Namaste.

Let’s Talk #BellLetsTalk

bell-lets-talkI am crazy about my mental health.

Crazy about being healthy of mind, strong of body, and spirit.

I am crazy about keeping my mind focused, sharp, capable of thinking great things, capable of guiding me through each day without pulling me off track into the darkness of darkness, the sadness of sadness that blankets every thought, every word, every thing when depression hits.

I am crazy in love with being free of thoughts that would drag me down into the swamp of believing the only way out of life is death. Death is part of life, but it is not the all of life. and that’s what depression would have me believe.

I am not depressed.

I do not suffer from depression.

Anymore.

I had a big encounter with it. Once.  I was in a relationship that was almost killing me. I wanted to die. I thought about ways to die. Dreamt I could make it happen. Tried a couple of times.

I’m grateful I failed.

I was lucky. I lived through it.

Because of the stigma though, I never reached out for help. Never told anyone. Never called the Distress Centre. Never talked to a professional.

I was too scared. Too ashamed. Too fearful of what people would say if I told them how dark it felt living inside my mind. Too ashamed of how crazy-making my life was in the terror of a relationship that was so bad for me, I thought the only way out was to die.

Today in Canada, 11 people will end their lives through suicide. Approximately another 210 will attempt it. Source

We need to talk about it. It’s crazy not to.

We need to talk about our mental health and mental illness. About the darkness, and the light. We need to talk about the challenges, the pitfalls, the hurdles to staying sound of mind when  darkness falls and we can’t see the cracks where the light is trying to get in.

Because mental illness affects every Canadian, either directly or indirectly.

20% of Canadians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime.

8% will experience major depression at some point in their lifetime.  Source

I am one of the 8%.

I survived.  I’m not crazy. I’m alive, and today I thrive.

Others won’t survive their mental illness. Others will believe they’re crazy to feel the way they do, and take matters into their own hands.

We need to talk about it so they know they are not alone. They are not crazy.

We need to talk about it before it takes their will to live, before it drags them so far into the darkness, there is no possibility of the light getting through the cracks.

 

Today is Bell Let’s Talk Day.

You can make a difference by clicking  HERE and on Facebook, HERE.

 

Take Action | 52 Acts of Grace | Week 41

acts-of-grace-week-41-copy

Meeting yourself on the path to reaching your goals, taking up the call to TAKE ACTION to create the change you want to see in your life, is how goals are achieved. Step by step.

This year, I have a goal of getting fit enough so that I can run the half marathon in the summer of 2018 before my 65th birthday in December. I love running. Ran half marathons a lot and also ran the marathon. And then, life took a different direction and I forgot about the importance of being in shape and having a running goal.

I am starting out small. Getting physio therapy on a persistent issue with my left knee, losing weight by eating healthily, walking every day (albeit baby steps until my knee is in shape), doing strengthening and stretching exercises everyday and breathing deeply into my resolve to stay the course.

Each small step will bring me closer to my goal. Each advancement will keep me moving on the road towards my destination. Each hurdle surmounted will bring me closer to a place where I am ready to begin jogging again.

It’s about pace. About not biting off the whole goal in one big indigestible swallow, getting discouraged, spitting it out and quitting.

Small steps bring you to the Big Guys without dragging you back to the beginning again and again and again.

With small steps, each step matters. Each step makes a difference that builds upon the last until you find yourself so far down the road, there’s no going back, the finish line is in sight.

To reach a Big Guy goal, divide your path into small, measurable steps and take each one, day by day by day. Start out small and build upon your momentum. Feel each win, celebrate it and build it up with more and more and more.

See you at the finish line!

And so we marched.

On Saturday, we marched.

Beaumont at the march. “Where are all the pussycats?”

Over 5,000 women, men, children (and dogs too).

We marched.

We marched for human rights, indigenous rights, minority rights, women’s rights, immigrants’ rights, LGBTQ2S rights. We marched for the right to march. The right to speak up, have a voice, give voice to what we believe in, what we want in our world, what we do not want more of in our world.

Discrimination. Misogyny. Brutality. Divisiveness. Unethical and unfair treatment of those who are vulnerable, living on the margins, struggling to find their way.

We marched so we could say, “We will be quiet no more. We will not give into fear, discrimination, misogyny, brutality, divisiveness, unethical behaviour and unfair treatment.”

We marched to tell the world we are ONE. One planet. One humanity. One human race. We are all together on this giant ball spinning through the universe, orbiting one sun, the light and heat and warmth of which we all share.

We marched to tell each other we care. We are connected. We are in this world, this life, together.

We marched to tell each other we must treat one another as equals, as human beings, as party to the same world upon which we walk, breathing the same air, needing the same oxygen, food, water, space.

We marched because we know that fear is not the answer. Action is. Giving voice is. Speaking out is.

We marched because we know…

Love is what matters and Love trumps hate. Just as love trumps fear and misogyny and divisiveness and exclusionary practices, and lies and bullying and all host of human ills.

And in our voices joined together all around the globe we said…

Human rights matter.

Women’s rights matter.

Immigrants’ rights matter.

LGBTQ2S rights matter.

All rights matter to us. We the people.

We marched because we chose to take action.

It was one action we could take that mattered to each of us who came out to support the millions of people walking with us on that day, at that time, all around the world. Because to each of us, each of us matters. Whether you were marching with us or were not, we all matter.

We are one humanity. And when we treat one another with dignity and respect, when we are inclusive and accepting of our differences, when we let go of the things that keep us fighting as ‘us versus them’, when we show each other kindness and love, the earth becomes a better place for every living thing on this planet .

Are you a slave to reaction?

Just when you think the universe is sleeping on the job, it turns up. But then, the universe never sleeps. It’s just we humans sometimes shut down our senses and quit feeling its presence.

Yesterday’s divinity card was one of those, remember Louise, you are 100% accountable for your life. You are the one who can take action. You are the one who chooses not to when you don’t.

inactionToday, I pulled out a mini, 3″ x 3″, book my daughters gave me some time ago, The Goddess Within, and opened it to a random page.  I had to laugh all over again at the universe’s sense of humour, and timing.

Okay. Okay. I get it!

To be a slave to inaction is to live a life devoid of intellectual and spiritual stimulus. It means that creativity lies fallow, joy seeps out through every crack and peace flows ever onward missing the shores of where you live.

It is so easy to give into reaction. To say, I’m too tired today. Let me take the path of least resistance. Let me go ‘with the flow’, when it’s not the flow of life’s energy you’re going with but rather, the ennui of apathy. It has you in firmly in its grip and is pulling you deeper and deeper into living life on the shallow side of reacting to everything that happens from the darkness of believing in the impossibility of taking action that makes a difference.

The universe doesn’t really care if you take action or not. It just keeps humming along, doing its evolutionary thing, regardless of whether you get on board with its invitations to create, live large, be your most magnificent self, or not.

The universe has no expectations of your being brilliant, divine, magnificent. It already believes you are.

The doubt comes from within each of us. The fear of taking action, of being 100% engaged in the process of creating a life worth living out loud, is all ours.

So, ask yourself, “What am I a slave to?” and then, emancipate yourself. Give into the impulse to fight for your freedom and set yourself free of reacting to life so you can live your life fighting every day for your right to live fierce and true to the magnificence of your being you.

And then watch the miracles happen!

Stop indulging in the big questions.

I like divinity cards. Decks of inspirational cards that give advice, inspiration, ideas on living life in the now.

I have several different decks to pull from and most mornings, I randomly choose a deck, pull a card and use it as my meditation guide.

img_0887Today’s card, pulled from The Artist’s Way Creativity Cards by Julia Cameron, is titled, Daily Action.

When I first read it, I made myself laugh. I thought it read — Take one small daily action instead of indulging in the big operations.

Upon second read, I realized my mistake.

Take one small daily action instead of indulging in the big questions.

Oh. Questions!

And then I had to laugh again at the little Freudian action I had going on.

I have been stuck in avoiding taking action on a couple of things because I’ve been indulging in big question asking.

Like, what is the purpose of making art if I don’t have a plan for marketing it?  Which, when I dig even deeper gets into that whole indulgent quagmire of ‘if a tree falls in the woods and nobody’s there does it make a sound?’

And that is a big question that can suck all the life out of leaning into creativity, revelling in the full expression of being alive!

Being creative is at the essence of our humanity. We are by nature creative expressions of life. Every one of the 7+billion humans on this earth is a unique creative expression of the human form. No two people have the same DNA, same fingerprints, same biometrics.

We are all unique — which to me is the ultimate creative expression.

When I create, throw paint on canvas, words to paper or let them flow through  my keyboard, I am letting my unique creative expression of life have its way, my way.

Indulging in the big questions simply inhibits my process of self-expression and thus, limits my expression of my life. It keeps me spinning around unanswerable questions (like the tree falling in the woods scenario) and thus, keeps me from taking action.

Without taking action, one step at a time, one act at a time, we become stagnant, trapped in the swamp of fear, confusion, worry, negative-fortune telling and a whole host of other messy  habits that continually drain us of our life force.

Be a force of life on the wild and exuberant side of your self-expression. Let go of indulging in the big questions and focus instead on asking yourself, “What’s one thing I can do right now that will bring me closer to the ‘more’ of what I want in life. What’s one action I can take, right now, that will express my passion for being alive?”

And then do it.

 

 

 

What will you do with your 30,000 days?

Three separate yet connected events inspired this post.

  1. An interview on CBC radio, The Current, where several authors including, Neil Parischa, shared the books that changed their lives. Parischa talked about the life expectancy of the average Canadian as being 30,000 days. That got my attention.
  2. On Monday, I co-presented to a group of first year medical students on homelessness in our city. Before the session began, I chatted with a palliative care doctor who has started a program here in Calgary to deliver palliative care to people dying in homelessness. His passion, his commitment to provide care that respects the individual, treats them with dignity and provides them support in their final days was inspiring.
  3. A share on FB of an article on CBC Radio on palliative care in the homeless sector in Toronto. (Thank you @NFalvo )

homeless-graphic

And then, I heard the 30,000 days quote and wondered, what will I do with my remaining days — whatever the number I have left.

What will you do?

By the law of averages, I have used up approximately 2/3rds of my 30,000. Like everyone of my 30,000, the next 10,000 are precious. Filling them with heart-driven purpose is vital to my well-being.

But what about the 2/3rds already used up? How well did I employ them?

Fact is, I cannot change the days past. They are gone. Used up. Spent.

Today is all I have in my bank account. How will I spend it? Because, spend it I must. I can’t save it for a rainy day. I can’t deposit it into some huge cauldron where days not spent are accumulated so that I can get the biggest bang for my buck by using all my days together.

I only have today. How will I fill it with meaning and purpose? How will I inspire the best version of myself today?

How will you?

Here are 3 + 1 ideas to inspire you on living this day of your 30,000 well.

  1. Say ‘Thank you’ to yesterday. 

Gratitude is the seed of joy. Be thankful for everything that appears on your path and in your life. No matter how dark or grim, no matter how bright and shiny, be present to the opportunity to experience it by acknowledging everything as an opportunity to learn, to grow, to become. And remember, just because something appears on your path, doesn’t mean you have to keep it there or pick it up or hold onto it forever. It simply means, it’s on your path — what you do with it is your choice. Choose compassionately.

2. Let yesterday go.

Whatever you did, or didn’t do, whatever embarrassing moment, hurt or slight you perceived/received, let it go. Holding onto slights from the past will not improve the quality of your life today. It will only get in the way of living today freely. (And yes, I know. They were mean. They didn’t hear you. They didn’t care for you the way your deserve.  You cannot change what happened, just as you cannot change what they did. You can change how you hold on to it, how you respond. Find a way to respond that sets you free of carrying someone else’s stuff.) And if you caused someone pain or hurt, acknowledge it, apologize, make amends, commit to doing better and let it go.

3.  Live today free of guilt.

A friend was telling me how they feel so guilty about the fact they have….. and then they listed the beautiful things in their life. Later, another friend was telling me about how guilty they feel about something they’d done to someone else that they knew they shouldn’t have done. They’d already apologized but the guilt was killing them, they said.

Guilt is just a way of staying trapped in the ego. Guilt keeps you roiling around in the past, preventing you from living compassionately, authentically, lovingly in today. Guilt is not your friend. It’s the enemy of joy. It’s the killer of hapiness. Make the decision today to let go of guilt. To get out of your ego’s desire to be the centre of attention (good or bad) and set yourself free to live in this moment right now unburdened of guilt. You can’t change whatever was done to you, or whatever you did. You can change its hold on your joy and appreciation of this moment right now. Let guilt go.

Whatever days we each have, living them as if each one counts is what matters most. Because everyday counts. Every  moment creates the possibility of the next being filled with the more of what you want in your life — what ever that is.

Which leads me to the +1 idea.

4. Whatever you do today, make sure it creates ‘the more’ of what you want more of in your life.

Whatever you are faced with today, choose to do the things that bring you closer to your ‘more’. In your ‘more’ is where your passion lives.