In a comment on yesterday’s post, Iwona wrote, “The timing of this post is uncanny given the resurgence of news about the RCMP’s class action lawsuits and the release of the special report by former Justice Bastarache on the long standing “mysoginistic, racist and homophobic attitudes” within the RCMP. Equal rights. Equal voice. Equal opportunity. Maybe one day, maybe.”
I wish it were just the RCMP where such attitudes and behaviour persisted.
It happens everywhere. Not always to such a blatant degree as the report found in the RCMP, but throughout our world. As Justice Bastarache says, “The problem is systemic in nature and cannot be corrected solely by punishing a few ‘bad apples.’
We must Rise Up. Speak Out. Act Now.
Many years ago, I worked as a stockbroker. (I know. Seriously? Me?) I only lasted 4 years in the business.
In part, because I was good at longterm portfolio planning. Terrible at day-to-day trading, the bread and butter of the trade.
And also, because I grew weary of the misogynistic attitudes many of the predominately male brokers held, particularly those of ‘the older generation’. Like my VP at the first firm I worked at. He offered to share his ‘book’ with me (a book is a list of client names and contact info – gold to a broker) if I had sex with him. “I can make your life easy. Or make you wish you never set foot in this office,” he tsaid. He went on to inform me that whether I accepted his offer or turned him down, if I told anyone, no one would believe me – “I’m a VP. I make this firm a lot of money,” he said. “You’d just be some little chick looking to either sleep her way to the top or stick it to ‘the man’.”
I stayed silent and left the firm. It felt like my only recourse.
A few years later I was working for a technology company as their Director of Marketing. A counterpart in the US office kept making sexual innuendoes on the phone. My response was to laugh and pretend I didn’t get ‘the message’. I treated it as a joke. Until one night, while we were at a conference together in Dallas, we happened to be the only two people in the elevator at the end of the day. The elevator stopped at his floor first. The doors opened, he turned to me and asked, “So? You coming with me?” And once again, I laughed it off. He turned and walked away. The doors closed and I thought that was the end of it.
He didn’t agree.
The next day, where once he treated me like the golden child of marketing, suddenly, everything I did was crap. And he made no bones about telling everyone how incompetent I was.
Even the president of the company noticed. In a meeting one day he asked me what was up. I told him the truth. His first response was one of disbelief. “You sure he wasn’t just kidding?” Eventually, he shrugged it off as ‘boys will be boys.’ The solution – say nothing. Pretend like it didn’t happen.
I am not alone as the Me Too movement and others so clearly illuminate.
In my response to Iwona, I wrote,
“I get so tired of what some days feels like ‘same old, same old’ misogynistic, racist, homophobic practices all packaged up in some worn-out patriarchal suit. To raise myself up, to find my balance and calm my pounding heart down, I must write and paint it out. It is there, in the creative field that courage draws me out to face my fear that these ‘things’ will never change. They must. And they will if we continue to speak up, act out, and raise our voices above the fray so that those who have been bullied into silence can find their voices again.”
May’s Woman is the reminder I need – Silence is the adversary of change.
Silence allows disbelief and make-believe to overcome truth and reality.
To change the world, to make a difference, we must speak out against the practices, policies, social mores and discriminatory laws that disenfranchise, minimize and segregate people into ‘haves and have nots’, ‘worthy and not-worthy’ of being treated as human beings worthy of dignity, respect, kindness, fairness, equality and justice.
It is just one century-in-time since most women were enfranchised in Canada (Asian Canadians and Indigenous Peoples had to wait a few more decades.)
The roots of patriarchy that kept us ‘in our place’ run centuries deep.
We must keep digging them out with our hands, our feet, our bodies, our voices. We must keep working together and stand up tall for what is right, just and fair, again and again.
And we must not allow our silence to be heard as a vote of confidence for the voices who would tell us to not ‘worry our pretty little heads about the state of the world.”
It is those voices that have created the state of the world.
It is our voices united, calling out for justice, rising up in a song of freedom and equality for all, that will make the difference that will change it for the better and make a difference for everyone.
I am not good with surprises. I like to know. Before things happen. This trait is so deeply ingrained that I generally read the ending of books first. Even non-fiction.
Some of it’s possibly because I can be somewhat competitive. Ok. Highly.
I like to think I can figure out the ending of movies and books before they happen. Hence why I read the ending of books first. Somehow, my brain thinks that if I know the outcome I can go back to the beginning and focus on the story without having to spend time trying to figure out where it’s all going before I get there.
I didn’t say it was a rational thinking pattern. It’s just the one I’ve adapted to for most of my life.
Yeah. I know. But… My thinking pattern does have its benefits.
Seriously. It does.
I am an observer by nature. I love to watch both the world around me and how people move through it. And, I love to watch myself as I journey through any given set of circumstances or events to bear witness to ‘my process’. My state of mind. My attitude. My blindspots. My weaknesses and strengths.
And here’s what I’ve noticed about my mental state in the past while.
I’m on edge.
I’m not focused.
I have a tendency to start one thing and then another and then another only to discover I have 3 or 4 things ‘in process’ and nothing finished.
I also immerse myself in mundane tasks (and complete them), which is great except, there’s no pattern to how or what I’m tackling.
For example. On Monday I cleaned out all my flowerpots. I’d started the process a couple of weeks ago when the forecast was for snow the next day. After cleaning out the six pots that line the front walkway, my hands were frozen as was the earth surrounding the roots of the plants so eventually I stopped. As an aside, it took about half an hour for my hands to warm up once I stopped digging in the ice cold dirt.
Did I mention I’m also stubborn? Yeah well. It’s possibly true.
As Monday was unseasonably warm, I decided it was as good a time as any to finish the unpotting job. ‘The job’ included wheeling the giant green compost bin down the hill at the side of our house to the bottom deck to give me easier access. After emptying all the pots on the lower deck, I positioned the bin on the grass so I could then go out on the main deck above it and throw all the dead plants off the deck into the bin.
Worked like a charm.
Except… I then had to wheel a now completely full bin up the hill and back into the garage until pick-up next week.
Which wouldn’t have been too bad except for the fact I’d just spent two days flat on my back with Sciatica.
Yeah. Well. I did say I was stubborn….
I spent most of the rest of that day flat on my back again.
But the pots are all winter ready!
See what I mean though? I’m doing things without being fully present.
Granted, I could have asked C.C. for help but… remember that competitive streak thing? Mix it with a dollop of stubborn and I am convinced I can do it myself. Thank you very much.
Which brings me back to my state of mind.
Yesterday, after cleaning the oven (it really needed it and my sister was cleaning hers so…) Anyway. Clean oven makes for a clean mind. Or something…
I went into the studio and began to work.
The first piece left me feeling very dissatisfied.
I could feel my nerve endings, zapping one another, seeking contact.
I could feel my thoughts skittering about my mind like a fly trapped in a bottle. Ever notice how they seem to fly in squares. Weird. Right?
Back to my story.
So. Knowing I was unsettled and unfocused, I decided to work small.
I decided to create a mini art journal and call it, “Hope is…”
I can’t tell you why this idea popped into my mind other than to say that the muse is my ally. In times of distress, she tends to gather my thoughts and target them on an idea she knows will help me focus.
Working small helps me focus. Working on something inspirational, does too. It soothes my troubled mind and eases the strain in my heart and reminds me that trying to know the future is like trying to control how fast the river flows outside my window.
Now is the only moment I have to be present.
Now is the place and time to invest my best.
Now is where I find myself at peace. In harmony. Full of gratitude, leaning deeply into… HOPE.
What about you?
What do you do to bring peace of mind into your state of being?
How do you settle yourself in the present?
Bonus! The muse also offered up four more quotes for my Hope Is… journal. That’s what I’m going to focus on today.
Thank you universe for your beauty. Your gifts. Your everything!
And as to the world out there. I am of much better service to the ALL when I am All Present in the Now.
It is done. This journal I began several months ago with my mother’s prayer cards. It is done.
When I began my intention was to honour my mother’s life journey through using her prayer cards as a collage element on each page in the journal. I wasn’t thinking about healing. Or growth. Or change.
I was focused on diving into the creative field of creating an altered book art journal with her cards.
And then… Transformation beckoned.
Which makes sense, given that the premise of an altered book art journal is using an existing book to transform it into something else.
Don’t you love how art mirrors life and how when we open up to creative expression, life awakens in all its magnificent hues like a crystal prism hanging in a window refracting and reflecting rainbow shards of sunlight?
Through working on this journal, I have found myself falling with grace into all the colours of my human emotions. Grief. Joy. Sorrow. Gratitude, Regret. Compassion. Denial. Appreciation. Sadness. Joy. Anger. Love…
As I’ve written on one of the pages, “There are no mistakes in the human heart. There is only Love.”
In the end, and in the beginning… there is only Love.
There are no mistakes in my life. No paths not taken I wished I had. No roads wandered I wish I hadn’t.
Every path, every road, every step and word and gesture and action and encounter have all added up to create this space in which I live today. Breathing deeply of the divine nature of life.
It is here I find myself floating on a sea of gratitude, waves of joy and love and friendship and laughter and harmony and grace washing over me as I bathe in the waters of sacred communion with Life.
And so I say the prayer that stirs my soul and fills my heart with gratitude. “Thank you.”
For the past two days I have been working on a flip through video of the book.
On each page I share the words that are most evocative of that page.
I am pleased. The book has turned out better than I imagined (Yes Jane. I’ll say it. “I did a good job!” 🙂 )
But, more than how the book has turned out, I am so very, very grateful for having taken this journey. I began without expectation of an outcome. I end with gratitude for the transformation that has appeared on my path through stepping into the creative exploration of My Mothers Prayers.
A note on the cover — my mother loved baubles and bling. She always wore sparkly things. On her fingers. Around her neck. In her hair. On her wrists. The original cover was orange – not one of my mother’s favourite colours. I painted it purple, covered that with gold spray paint and sprinkled gold dust over the entire thing. The jewelled pieces were my mother’s earrings and on the back, the embroidered bird is from excess fabric from the skirt I wore when C.C. and I were married. Made of hand-embroidered silk from India, I felt it would bring my mother to our wedding as she was too frail to attend. Underneath the bird is one of my mother’s prayer cards.
We are, once again in the season of the long shadows. The sun’s light dims and shadows reach far across the earth like a memory that will not die in yesterday.
“How do you forget the awful things someone did to you?” a friend asked me awhile ago.
“I don’t strive to forget,” I replied. “I seek to forgive.”
When we forgive someone, or ourselves, it is not that we are saying the deeds that hurt us do not matter, or that it was right for those things to happen, or that the other is not accountable for what they have done.
Forgiveness isn’t about righting wrongs. It’s about accepting the wrong happened and letting go of the pain of reliving the wrongs day after day after day. In letting go, we become freed of the past. Freed of the past, we are free to walk in the light of today savouring its beauty, wonder and awe without carrying the burden of the past into our tomorrows.
To forget we must be able to wipe the slate of time and our memory banks clean. I’ve never found the magic wand that will do that.
What I have found is the power of forgiveness to take out ‘the sting’ of remembering. Just as when stung by a wasp, it’s critical to take out the stinger so that you can heal more quickly, removing the stinger from the past frees you to embrace this moment without the pain and trauma of what was in the there and then casting long shadows over your journey in the here and now.
Forgiveness takes conscious practice.
I remember when I was in the depths of healing from a relationship gone really, really bad, well-meaning people told me that to heal I needed to write a list of all the awful things he’d done so that I would remember how awful he was.
I didn’t need reminders of how awful those days were. The evidence was all around me. His transgressions were many. My brokenness profound.
I was not powerful enough to make him change or even be accountable for what he’d done. I could be accountable for my role in the debacle and aftermath of that relationship. I could make amends in my life. To do that, I needed to focus on sifting through my brokenness to find myself in peace, joy, harmony, love.
And it all began with forgiveness.
Forgiveness was my path to setting myself free of him. It meant, whenever a thought of what he’d done and what had happened arose in my mind, I repeated to myself the simple phrase, “I forgive you.”
No listing of the countless ways he’d ‘wronged’ me. No remembering of all that had happened. I did not need to recite the litany of his sins. Recitation wouldn’t change them. Repeating “I forgive you,” could and did change me.
“I forgive you” had nothing to do with him. It was all about me. And after almost five tumultuous and devastating years of his abuse, I deserved and needed to make my life all about me.
It also meant I had to forgive myself. To write a litany of all my sins in those first heady months of healing, to force myself into ‘the remembering’ of all I’d done to cause pain to those I love would also have forced me to relive the trauma. And in those early days of healing, I was not strong enough to withstand my desire to whip myself with the lashes of all my transgressions.
I had to rest beneath the soothing blanket of being free of his abuse, until the cold, harsh winds of the self-destructive voices inside my head that wanted to ensure I never forgot how much pain I had caused in the lives of so many, abated.
Just as every spring’s arrival awakens new life, forgiveness awakens gratitude for the beautiful dawning of each new day.
In gratitude, there is no need to remember, there is only the call to forgive and grow. In gratitude. Joy. Beauty. Harmony. Love.
Forgive and grow.
And slowly, like snow melting under spring’s lengthening days, memory will release its hold on dark days and cold nights. As shadows shorten and the sun’s warmth awakens the earth, buds will once again appear and beauty will grow brighter day by day by day.
The words for this page appeared before I began creating it.
“And in the end, when the veil that separated life from death was lifted and she slipped through into the ever-after, all that she left behind were her prayers and the Love that carried her through her life into the eternal grace of God’s embrace.”
This is the final page of the altered book journal I’ve been creating for the past few months with the prayer cards my mother left behind.
When I first began this journey I thought it would be… effortless. Seamless. A traipse through memory sweeping the past clean and closing doors on remembered words and perceived hurts that haunted me in my mother’s silence.
It has been non of that and all of that and so much more.
This deep dive into the power of prayer and my ‘mother memories’ of the rights and the wrongs, the beauty and pain, has brought me face-to-face and heart-to-heart with the quintessential ‘mother wound‘.
Healing the mother wound has been a lifelong journey for me. While it might seem all about a woman’s relationship with her mother, it is bigger than that.
The archetypal mother wound is generational. It is the universal struggle to fit into a world that is constantly changing, yet struggling to transform. It is a world that does not make room for a woman’s exploration of her power and potential because the world itself is constructed by a patriarchal set of rules that do not acknowledge the power and potential of women. It is the fight against the ties that bind while holding onto the apron ties that taught us how to be women in a world constructed in man’s ways.
“The mother wound reflects the challenges a woman faces as she goes through transformations in her life in a society where the patriarchy has denied us ongoing matrilineal knowledge and structures.”
“This agenda tells females not to shine, to remain small, and that if you are going to try to be successful, that you should be masculine about it.”
I am still searching. Scouring mind and heart for the words that will describe this journey I am on. This journey of reckoning.
With my mother’s passing. The words unwinding. The deeds undoing. The messages deconstructing. The lessons unlearning.
It is a journey of Repatriation. Reclamation. Restoration. Rejuvenation. Of myself.
It is a journey not just through time and space and generational legacies and patriarchal ties that bind me to a way of being that does not fit my skin, my soul, my sense of who I have the right to be in this world. A world that does not know how to create space for the art of the feminine to rise up and be heard and seen and known with grace.
I have come to the final page of this journal I have been creating of my mother’s prayer cards.
I can no longer blame my mother or hold her hostage to my unrealized dreams. I can no longer pray for my freedom from the past, from all that has kept me tied with invisible threads of silence and shame to beliefs and ways of being that do not fit me.
I have come to the time when I must claim my right to be free or crumble beneath the sorrow and rage of a life not lived.
My mother has taught me well. Through her silence and her belief it was better to not make waves, I have learned to rock the boat.
Through her insistence I walk with both feet firmly planted in obedience, chastity and faith, I have learned to peer into the darkest night of the soul and see the light within.
In showing me how to be a woman bound to man’s ways she has gifted me the freedom to be unbound. To run wild of heart and free of spirit.
And now it is time.
Time for me to dive into the rising tide full of the song of the soul rushing in to greet me on the shore where I stand in anticipation of life washing me clean of the past. Body arced, arms flung wide above my head, waves crashing over my feet, I dive deeper and deeper into the sacred waters of the Divine Feminine. Into the depths of the great mystery where magic flows free and life dances gloriously unbounded by the conventions of a way of being that is not mine.
It is time for me to hold onto only Love and say to the rest, “The hell with that. That ain’t my gig!”
My father was a curious man. He read voraciously and always replied to questions such as, ‘How do you spell ___________?” or “What’s does _________mean?” with the response, “Go look it up in the dictionary.”
Of course, I’d try to find a ‘smart alecky’ answer like, “If I don’t know how to spell it how can I look it up?
It never phased him. He’d make me think about the spelling, what I thought it was, and work from there.
Question about the meaning of life, or things or processes were always answered with, “Go look it up in the Encyclopedia Britannica.”
The EB was the fount of all knowledge when I was growing up. If it wasn’t in the Encyclopedia, it wasn’t worth knowing.
Because French was my mother’s native tongue, I seldom asked her those kinds of questions. For her, I reserved my curiosity about God.
“Why would God place a sin on an unborn child? Aren’t we born perfect and whole in God’s image?”
“Why do dead people have to wait it out in Purgatory for prayers of the living to release them? Doesn’t God forgive all sin? Isn’t that why Jesus died?”
To my mother, my constant questioning of God was an assault on her faith and her being.
I didn’t intend it to be but, because so much of what I learned about God as a child was fear-based, I wanted answers so I wouldn’t feel so afraid.
I didn’t like feeling afraid, especially if the adults around me didn’t have ways to assuage my fear.
And I definitely didn’t like the anxiety of waiting for ‘the Hand of God’ to come crashing down from the heaven’s above and knock some sense into me. Which is something my mother often wished for, at least that’s how I translated her entreaties that I ‘be like the others’ (my 3 older siblings) and stop disobeying her constantly.
“God knows everything,” my mother would say. “He sees you and hears you and he is angry at you for being so bad.”
And she would cry and wonder out loud what she had done to deserve such a difficult child as me.
After years of therapy and inner child work and personal development courses and journalling and a host of other practices to make sense of the mess I felt was ‘me’ inside, I understand how my mother and I walked on such unsteady ground.
How could she keep me safe from the world if I was constantly putting my eternal soul in danger by questioning God’s will?
How could she have peace if I was constantly searching for answers to the things she did not want to speak of?
One of the gifts of art journalling is its invitation to experiment. With products, process, perspective…
Awhile ago, I watched a video on using Vaseline with alcohol inks. I wasn’t using Alcohol Inks on this page but was curious what would happen if I used it with acrylic inks.
The vaseline acts as a resist so that when I spray onto the page, where ever I’ve applied the vaseline, the ink doesn’t adhere. When the ink is dry, wipe it off and voilá! (Ok. The wiping off takes patience but it’s well worth it!)
The lighter spaces, including within the dark image on the left which was the photo on the page I was working on, remain untouched by the ink.
For me, this page speaks to the mystery of my mother’s faith, of life, of relationships, of the universe.
I see the scrolly piece at the bottom as the filigree frame that separated the penitent from the priest in the confessional.
The lone figure walking towards the lit area of the image on the left is me, searching for answers while staying true to myself — which was not always easy when my path took me far from the Catholicism of my mother’s way.
And the entreaty to, “Be. Here. Now.” is the reminder that the past is not alive in this moment, nor is the future.
Life lives in the now. It is here where the mystery flows with grace into the mystical nature of life, creating magic and wonder in my life today.
Now is where Life happens.
Celebrate it. Cherish it. Create beauty within it.
My mother was devoutly Catholic. She was also very superstitious.
Though putting shoes on a table isn’t particularly hygienic at the best of times (like if they’re new) for my mother, it was cause for panic. It was a harbinger of impending death.
Stir with a knife. Stir up strife.
Black cat on your path. Look out!
We used to tease her a lot about her superstitions. Here response was to pray for us with another Hail Mary.
And, though her faith was firmly embedded in Catholicism, her roots were grounded in the land of her birth and the Hinduism of Southern India.
In my parent’s home, the Crucifix along with statues of Mother Mary and Jesus Christ dominated. But there was always a place for Shiva and Brahma. And, because my father liked to stir things up, there was always a Buddha or two sitting on a shelf high above our heads. As a little girl, I loved to rub the Buddha’s belly. No matter how high the Buddha sat, I’d climb up on a chair or reach up on my tiptoes and rub away. My mother told me it would bring me good luck.
I still have a Buddha on a shelf in my kitchen along with a statue of Shiva and an elephant with its trunk upturned (its good luck). The crucifix my mother carried around the world with her since leaving India decades ago, sits on the mantel in my studio and yesterday, I carefully placed the figurines of Jesus and Mary that sat on her bedside throughout her life on the side table by the sofa. A tiny Laughing Buddha stands with them.
My parents taught my siblings and me to listen and see and feel and know and honour everyone. Not by the labels of society, but by their hearts. They taught us that there is room for everyone at the table no matter where they came from, where they were going, or what they brought to the table.
If Buddha and Christ could stand side by side on a counter, why couldn’t we sit side by side at a table?
Yesterday, after finishing rearranging and organizing my studio, I delved back into the altered book journal I’ve been creating in honour of my mother. “My Mother’s Prayers”.
It is not an accident that the left side of the page has a prayer card of Mother Mary. Just as it is not an accident that Brahma graces the right side of the page tucked beneath the purple flowers I painted in remembrance of my mother.
As my parents taught me; There is no ‘Us and Them’. We are not our faith, or colour of our skin or land of our birth. We are our hearts and there are no accidents in the human heart. There is only Love.
There is a quiet, slow, lyrical rhythm to my days. A calmness that never existed in the past, no matter how much I meditated or breathed into the moment.
And I wonder…
Is it possible to be ‘in the moment’ when working in an environment that by the very nature of the circumstances of those who use its services, is fraught with drama and angst?
For almost 20 years I worked in the homeless-serving sector. Aside from 4 of those years when I worked in a Foundation, my office was situated in a homeless shelter.
I loved the work. The people. The sense of purpose that filled my days.
I did not like the stress.
And I wonder…
With Covid’s necessity of working from home for so many people, and so many companies talking about reconfiguring their offices to include permanent ‘work-from-home’ opportunities, will stress levels decrease?
And, will decreasing stress levels change the timbre of the world’s heartbeat? Will the earth’s pulse slow down?
And I wonder…
If as a ‘people’ we become less agitated by our busy scurrying from here to there, will we collectively embrace a calmer, gentler way of being present in this world?
The sun is shining this morning. The smoke that clouded the sky for days has lifted.
Sun dances through the leaves that dance to the music of the wind whispering through the branches of the trees swaying provocatively.
The river flows. Steady. A blue/grey ribbon of life moving ever forward. Always eastward to a distant sea.
I sit at my desk and watch a squirrel run across the lawn, its mouth stuffed with edibles its found on its foray through the garden. It leaps up onto the fence, hops onto the closest tree trunk and scurries from branch to branch back to its lair.
It seems unconcerned by Covid’s presence. It is oblivious to my watching eyes. The branches swaying in the morning breeze. The river flowing past or the sporadic traffic travelling across the bridge. It carries its bounty home. It is preparing for winter days to come.
And I wonder…
Does the squirrel’s blood pressure rise as it scurries around preparing for icy days to come? Does it worry about its capacity to survive Arctic blasts of bone-chilling air or, is its mind filled with visions of being warm and toasty, curled up with its den-mates over the long cold days of winter that lurk just beyond the horizon?
Does a squirrel know there is a tomorrow to worry about or does it live naturally in the moment of collecting food to carry home?
Wednesday morning wonders bring me back to earth. To this moment where I sit at my desk savouring the beauty and the loveliness of the world around me. The sun shining, the leaves dancing and the river flowing.