Category Archives: finding joy

The Darkness and The Light

When I was a little girl I remember my mother being very sad. My father was away a lot and she was far from her motherland.

Her first language was French. She was used to heat and sun, to servants taking care of everything, to living a carefree life surrounded by family, the sounds and smells of India where she was born and raised and the Catholic faith that had filled her life with meaning.

And there she was, no family to support her, raising four children mostly on her own, ill prepared for the loneliness and coldness of a Canadian winter and the harshness of the landscape. All she had to cling to was her faith, and in that she felt God had foresaken her to this foreign land so far from home. She was lost.

My mother seldom yelled or screamed. One of her favourite sayings was, “If you can’t say it in a whisper, don’t say it at all.”  She did cry. A lot. Sometimes, when she was really desperate, she’d hold a knife to her breast and threaten to kill herself.

I remember as a five-year-old standing in front of her, confused, terrified, not understanding what was happening. I learned to smile through her pain. To never show I was afraid. To never acknowledge my fear. Somehow, the knife was always put back in the kitchen drawer and life would go on. I still struggle to let go of smiling when I’m in pain.

My mother’s mental health overshadowed all our lives. We became accustomed to her mood swings, her habit of crying while making supper and ironing my father’s shirts, her seemingly irrational fears and her constant caution to ‘be careful’.

As a teen, I began to resent my mother’s tears, her constant sadness, and what I deemed her unending criticism of me and my life. I could never do things right enough for my mother. I was always causing trouble she would tell me before asking, “Why can’t you be like the others?”

My mother’s journey through life has been constantly overshadowed by her mental health. She is 97 now. She finally got help in her 80s. That’s a long time to live in the darkness before finding the peace of heart and mind she’s always sought.

I no longer resent my mother and even though she’d often ask why I hated her so, I never hated her. I just never understood her. And the truth is, I always loved her. She gave me the gift of my life, and many other gifts too.

Because of her mental health, I learned to differentiate between ‘the person’ and the behaviour.  The person is ‘the person’. I can love the person. I do not have to love their behaviour. Behaviour can change. As an adult, I had to change mine so that I could let go of my anger and find peace in my relationship with my mother.

Albeit awkwardly at times and sometimes not soon enough or steadfast enough, my relationship with my mother taught me that I needed to set boundaries. In my 60s now, I still struggle with this one, but I’m getting better.

I learned that seeking help is important. I first started seeing a therapist in my 20s. I had to. I thought I was ‘the crazy one’. I thought my mother’s sadness and tears were all about me. And while I no longer have my therapist on speed dial, I know when the darkness clouds my thoughts, it’s time to call to get some light.

I learned my behaviour, who I am, is all about me. I am the only person I can work on and I am deserving of my loving care and attention.

I learned that I can’t change what is happening in another person’s mind. I didn’t create it. I can’t cure it.

I learned that I’ve got to take care of my mental health first.. I can’t do the work for another, but when my mind is clear, I am not at risk of climbing into the darkness with them and can hold the light steady as they find heir way out of the darkness into life.

And I learned it is not helpful nor healthy to defend against what someone is saying or doing when they are lost in the darkness. Loving them is and I can choose to always keep loving them, though sometimes I must do it from a distance to keep myself safe from the darkness.

All these things I learned from my mother and her journey.

The darkness is real. So is the light. The light is more powerful than darkness because when you stand in the light, you can see where you’ve been, where you are and where you’re going.

In the darkness, all you can see is that there is no light.

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According to the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, today in Canada 10 people will end their lives by suicide; up to 200 others will attempt so.

For each death by suicide, between 7 and 10 survivors are profoundly affected. Today in Canada, suicide will leave up to 100 people in a state of bereavement. Latest research shows there were 3,926 suicides in the year 2016 in this country. In 2015, over 3,396,000 Canadians aged 12 and over had suicidal thoughts.

Tuesday, September 10th was World Suicide Prevention Day. Let’s all stand in the light together.

 

Mountain Magic at Twin Falls Chalet

Twin Falls from a distance

When my daughters were young, I imagined sharing mountain time together. Of hiking and skiing in the backcountry. Of getting away together to places far from the maddening crowd, where Internet and cell phones did not interrupt being present in the presence of being together.

This weekend my youngest daughter and I created magic together on a trip into the backcountry to Twin Falls Chalet, a remote mountain lodge run by the irrepressible Fran Drummond.

It was a weekend of pure bliss. Of time to kick-back, relax, spend time with my daughter, and to push myself physically. It was also an unexpected gift to fall in love all over again with being in the mountains.

I had forgotten. Forgotten how mountain time, especially in the backcountry, is restorative and rejuvenating. And in this time of my rejuvenation post leaving the formal workforce, it was a welcome and much appreciated respite.

Beginning of our hike into the Chalet

The hike into Twin Falls Chalet is not a cakewalk, but it is beautiful. It’s just over 8 kilometers with about a 300 metre elevation gain to the Chalet. Lots of switchbacks and lots of views that take your breath away. (Our second day we hiked the 10km trail – up to the top of the falls (another 350 metres elevation gain) and then hiked along the Whaleback down to Marpole Lake and back to the Chalet — exquisite!)

Arriving at the Chalet Friday evening felt like finding Hansel and Gretels cabin in the woods, without the mean old witch stoking the fire.

Instead, you stumble into the Chalet to be greeted with a warm welcome and offer of coffee by its proprietor, Fran Drummond, a tiny speck of a woman with 82 years of life under her belt and an attitude that goes on into forever.

As my daughter and I were hiking out yesterday we talked about Fran and her incredible attitude. There’s no ‘end game’ for Fran. There’s just ‘the game of life’, and one she sees herself playing with every bit of her being until her last breath in some distant future. Fran sees herself going and going and going, continuing to run the lodge, which she’s overseen for the past 57 years, with the same passion and vigor she does now. She’s feisty, determined, stubborn and did I mention opinionated?

Sitting down to an incrediblely hearty and delcious meal at the large family style table includes Fran’s recounting of stories of her years spent hosting dinners and guests at the Chalet as well as her work in the oil patch as a librarian for a major oil company and a trainer. It also comes spiced up with her commentary of Parks Canada, how Canada is working (or not) and what the government, on every level is doing wrong (with a few rights tossed in with the same elan as the Amaretto she’d liberally sprinkled over the fresh peaches she’d hiked in earlier in the week that she served for dessert on Saturday night along with fresh baked Butter Tarts straight out of the wood burning oven). Fran is that unique ingredient that makes the stay at Twin Falls so enchanting, invigorating and fascinating.

At one point Fran told us that she was considering running as an MP for the PC party but she wasn’t sure she could take 4 years of living in Ottawa. “Why would you want to?” I asked.

“Because Canada’s not working,” she replied, nodding her head and giving us her mischievious grin and laugh. “Everybody’s got a responsibility to make it right and I can’t just give up.”

Giving up is not in Fran’s books. And, even though Parks Canada is looking to shut the chalet down at the end of this year for a major overhaul next spring that will see it out of operations for 2020, Fran is determined to fight them to the bitter end.

Having spent the weekend amidst the rustic and magical environment of Twin Falls Chalet listening to Fran share the history and lore of the area, I believe her. She will not give up.

I spent a weekend in the backcountry with my youngest daughter. It was a beautiful time spent connecting and communing with nature.

It was pure Love in action.

I forgot my reading glasses — which made reading and writing challenging. I also didn’t take in any paints and only had a ball point pen to work with.  it was kind of fun and challenging!

The beauty of daily routine

I like the familiar. The well-worn path. The knowing of what to do next, of what is coming next, of what is on my path.

Which is why I like my morning routine.

From Where I Sit

I awaken (later than I used to which is getting to be quite lovely). I pet Beaumont for awhile (it’s hard not to, he jumps up on the bed as soon as he hears me move and lays on my stomach). I get up. Take him out for a short wander. Sit in the quiet of the morning. Meditate. Make a latte. Sit down at my computer and begin to write.

Some mornings, like today, I take a couple of photos of my world. Sometimes, it’s because I think they may go with what I write. Sometimes, it’s just because.

I’m okay with it all.

In the presence of my morning rituals, I find my pace, my rhythm, myself.

This morning, I am adding back a step in my morning ritual that I had begun before I left for the west Coast — writing my 3 pages.

I left my 3 pages journal at my daughter’s — I’d intended to keep up the practice while I was away but found myself diving headfirst into my days as my grandson rises early and I love the early morning hours with him — and the morning hours are my preferred writing time.

And the river flows

Though, with my arising time getting later, that may change too. Perhaps it is in my “Sage-ing” time is becoming less the measurement of how I spend my days.

I am also falling in love with the word and concept of “Sage-ing”. Yesterday, I signed up for an online course with Spirituality and Practice — Infusing Your Life with Creativity. The course is presented by two Elders of Sage-ing International and while my life is fairly infused with creativity, the reminder to slow down, to consciously move through my day with a creative frame is important. Plus, I love to learn new things and there’s always something to learn about being a creative and its many joys.

Which all means, I’ll be adding the coursework to my morning routine. What fun!

And today, I begin the process of clearing out the back room where all my art supplies and paraphenalia are stored, in ernest. Not a small task but cloudy skies and a keen desire to create order and make space for renewed creativity and unknown possibilities are spurring me on.

As I cleanse and clear, unpack and sort, I shall carry with me the word that I pulled from my Shell of Plenty which sits on my desk, “Joy.”

To do all things with a Joyful Heart is a beautiful gift I bestow upon myself today.

May you find joy in all things today as well.

Namaste.

The Bucket List

A morning visitor

I am sitting in bed at my sister’s home on Gabriola Island. The view is stunning. The morning fresh and dewy. A deer walks past the window. And then a racoon. A squirrel bounces up a treetrunk. An eagle soars overhead.

Morning rush hour has arrived.

Two years ago, my sister and her husband moved to their island home on Gabriola. It is their own personal paradise, their home filled with treasures, a reflection of their eclectic lives.

I arrived yesterday afternoon via float plane. One of my favourite ways to travel. It feels so in the moment, so close to the sky and the sea. So personal.

Ryan, the pilot, has been flying for Gulf Island Seaplanes for 13 years. There’s not a day when he hates his job, he told me. Sure, there are days when he doesn’t want to get out of bed, but once up and at work, he’s reminded of how fortunate he is to do what he does, and live where he lives.

The Islanders

Like my sister and her husband, living on Gabriola Island is a dream come true for him. A bucket list kind of thing.

It’s a relatively new term, ‘bucket list’, coined by screenwriter, Justin Zackham for his 2007 movie of the same name.  He had a list of things he wanted to do before he ‘kicked the bucket’. Having a hit movie was one of them.

While visiting with my daughter and her family in Vancouver she asked me what was on my bucket list. It’s not something I think about a lot, I told her, the list of things I want to do or see before I die. Mostly, I want to live my life fully each day, experiencing life’s juicy moments with uncensored joy.

Love in a bucket seat

Yes, it would be lovely to see the Taj Mahal. The Great Wall of China, but even more, it would be good to know I have lived fully. Shared love. Spread kindness. Savoured each moment.

Where I do it is not as important to me as how I live and with whom.

And that’s where my bucket list lives. Not in places or things to do but in the heart. My heart.

And when my heart is full of time spent with those I love, my bucket list is full.

Namaste.

 

 

May 21. A day like any other. A day like no other.

Last night, as I was out walking with Beaumont, it struck me what day today is. May 21.

It was on this morning in 2003 that I got the miracle that set me free.

For the final 3 and a half months of an almost five year relationship that had been killing me, I was missing. My daughters, family, friends, even the police didn’t know where I was. And I was too afraid to let anyone know.

I only had one job in those dark days, and that was to be the person he told me I had to be. To do the things he told me I had to do. Say the things he told me I must.

And so I did.

I was lost.

To myself. To those I loved and who loved me. To the world. I was lost.

And then, at 9:14am, on this day in 2003 a police car drove up and arrested the man who’d promised to love me ’til death do us part and was taking the death part into his own hands.

And I let him.

I didn’t want to live. Didn’t believe I deserved to live. I only believed what he told me. I was worthless. Nothing. Garbage. I didn’t deserve to live.

I write those words this morning and I embrace that woman who was so lost. I embrace her and love her and remind her, she is so worthy. Of love. Of joy. Of LIFE.

And my heart knows it’s true. I am worthy.

Recently someone asked me about what they should do about someone they know, not well, but whom they believe is in an abusive relationship. Should I intervene they asked?

I remember my friends who tried to intervene. Their care and concern, their love hurt. How could they still love me when he told me every day how worthless I was? Could they not see their love was wasted on me?

It isn’t just our sense of direction, our knowing of self and our worth that is lost when we are in the darkness of an abusive relatiopship, I told this person. It is our hearing and our capacity to understand that what is happening to us is not happening because we deserve it, or caused it. It’s because the abuser is choosing to use violence and emotional blackmail to ensnare us and keep us trapped in the web of their lies and manipulation and fear.

And in our deafness, even when someone who loves us tells us we deserve a life without the abuser, we cannot hear them because to hear them would mean the love we imagined in those first fairy-tale days of our romance is not true.

It wasn’t until I was released from that living hell that I realized the truth. I wasn’t healing from a love gone wrong. I was healing from abuse.

I was very, very fortunate. Because of friends who did not give up on making sure the police kept looking for me, the police found me and I was set free.

That is not the case for other women. Every 2.5 days one woman or girl is killed in Canada. The majority by someone they know intimtely or well, which is the opposite for men, the majority of whom, the data shows, are killed by casual acquaintances. Source

Today is May 21. It is a day like any other. A day to laugh and smile. To spend time with friends and family. To work. To play. To be free.

And for me, it is a day to embrace the woman within me who once upon a time was so lost she didn’t believe she deserved to live. And in that embrace, to tell myself the truth. I am so loveable and deserving of joy. I am a woman of worth. A woman of integrity. A woman who didn’t just survive an abuser but who has gone on to live her life fearlessly in love with everyone and everything in it, daring boldly to live brave, love fiercely, and dance joyfully in each new day dawning.

I am so blessed.

 

 

Moving In. Getting Connected.

It is quiet here in this new space in the early morning hours. I sit at the kitchen island, lights dim, music playing softly in the background. Morning is still somewhere over the horizon. Dawn waits as I awaken.

We are settling in.

Yesterday, the installation guy came from Shaw and hooked us up. We had spent the week searching for the modem. Finally found it buried in a box marked, Spare Room. Diane’s stuff.

I don’t know who Diane is, nor what was in her Spare Room but the items in that box didn’t come from our Spare Room.

It was all a jumble.

There is a gift in having movers come in to pack everything up. Less packing equals less strain on my back which equals less pain.  There’s also value in the fact for both the environment and our pocket book that they reuse boxes and give you money back when you return them.

But…

Ah yes, that ole’ butt…

Not scratching out the identifier’s from old users’ rooms and contents and replacing them with ours has made unpacking an… adventure!

I have mostly found all our kitchen things — which is always my priority. It did take until Thursday to find my cappuccino maker (it was in a box marked, Dave’s workroom). Now it’s all set up and I feel ‘at home’.

We are loving our new abode. Loving figuring out what goes where, what needs to go, what needs to have more thought before deciding if it stays. And of course, figuring out where things are!

Our contractor is still working on finishing touches. Friday afternoon he installed the rods in all the closets which meant Saturday C.C. and I unpacked wardrobe boxes and put clothes away.

There are still lots of tools and building debris in the laundry room and downstairs as the contractor finishes off final touches. Once he’s done, this week, I’ll begin the task of organizing the boxes currently taking up floor space in what will eventually become my studio downstairs.

I’m grateful for the counsel of friends, like Iwona, who suggested I think of moving-in as a 6 month timeline. No need to stress about getting it all done today. It’s a process. Not a race.

For now, I shall savour my quiet mornings seated at the island as Beaumont sleeps on the chaise by the window. I bought him a new bed which is on the floor by the deck door, but for now, he prefers the furniture. Marley the Great Cat is finally settling in. He’ll sleep on any spot he pleases but seems to find the desk by the window most welcoming. Though he’s a bit tiffed with me right now as I moved some things around and ‘his’ desktop is now covered with plants and a bowl I’m not sure where to place.

He’ll get over it.

Just as we will get over the anxiety and angst of a move-in to a not-quite-finished renovations home.

Because, no matter the unpacked boxes and the chaotic disorder around us, we are always connected to the Love that fills the spaces between and within our hearts. Like the river flowing past endlessly racing towards the distant sea, it is Love that carries us from this moment to the next, flowing endlessly into the Sea of Love that is always present.

No matter the times, all we have to do to be connected to its deep and abiding grace is to Breathe. and Be.

In Love.

 

Home again, home again, jiggedty jig.

Do you remember the nursery rhyme, 3 Little Piggies?

It was what was rhyming through my head as C.C. and I left the terminal on Saturday night, bracing ourselves against the onslaught of cold we knew we were about to encounter.

“Home again, home again, jiggety jig,” I said as we stepped from the aircraft into the port leading to the main terminal. “Brrrr!” I added as the cold air rushed at me through the openings where the port joined the aircraft.

“Just think of it as natural air-conditioning,” C.C. joked.

And the lady behind him laughed and said, “Yeah. And you can’t turn it off until May, no matter the temperature.”

019c09882520d689e20cc695a2edcdccd3c6148329_00001We Calgarians love our weather. We love to talk about it, groan about it, wish we could change it. But secretly… Well secretly I think we kind of like it. It makes us who we are. Hardy. Willing to take on anything. Not afraid of the elements. And optimistic (the summer will come, it always does) and maybe a bit pessimistic too. (Don’t worry. Wait five minutes and the weather will change — for the worst probably because you know, it can snow in July in Calgary!)

Yesterday, as I took Beaumont for his walk, I didn’t mind the weather. Sure, it was cold. Very cold. And yes, the slight breeze had a bite. But it was crispy clear and fresh! It definitely reminded me that I was alive. Everyone I met at the park was bundled up against the elements, but they were smiling. Our dogs played and romped and we laughed together and talked about how silly the puppies were being, and the weather, naturally.

I had to laugh when I saw myself all bundled up for the cold. Last week I was trying to strip down to the bare necessities to accommodate the heat and now, I’m bundling up to survive the cold.

And that’s the thing about we humans. We are adaptable. We are capable of adjusting our sails, shifting our perspectives in order to live as gracefully as we can in the circumstances in which we find ourselves today. Because that’s the thing about the weather. You can’t change it. You can breathe into it and find the joy in whatever you’re doing, where ever you are, no matter the temperature, because weather is weather and accepting what is as what it is makes for a more grace-filled life.

After I unpacked and stuffed the laundry basket and tucked my straw hat and sandals away for another day, I tackled the bigger job I hadn’t had time to do before we left for Huatulco. Put away Christmas for another year.

I lit the tree for one last time and began to unrobe it as if preparing it for the heat of summer. As I worked, I was reminded of Christmases past and the many changes my life has encountered over the years. Carefully wrapping the beautiful silvery balls and the decorative birds I cherish, my mind leapt back to the gold filigree ornaments I’d purchase many years ago at the Christkindl Market in Cologne, Germany. I loved those ornaments. The delicate design. The exquisite detail of each curved edge.  I lost those decorations in the aftermath of a relationship gone terribly wrong and for a long time, as I healed from the ravages of what had happened, I missed those ornaments and the life before the ‘bad man’ that they represented.

01fc4974d699cd78e8d81f3d9a2ce71730c8780f85_00001Today, I still remember those ornaments. But I no longer miss them. My life is so full of precious moments, of wondrous adventures and people I love that those ornaments remain gracefully in the past. When they do pop into my mind unexpectedly, I see them in all their intricate detail as a beautiful reminder to cherish what is in the present today.
I grounded myself in my world here at home yesterday. In this place that is filled with people I cherish and a life I love.

I am blessed.

And I do a little jiggety jig in the soft glow of morning and greet this day with joy.

It may be cold outside, my in my heart it is warm and toasty as I am surrounded in Love.

Namaste.