Category Archives: letting go of fear

Snow? In September? What the Weather?

Autumn falls in golden glory, shedding summer blossoms and leaves like rose petals falling upon the smiling faces of a newly wedded couple.

There’ll be snow tomorrow, the weatherman drones on, his smile masking his dismay at Autumn’s duplicity. Like the river flowing endlessly to the sea, the wind pays no attention to the slithering fear the weatherman’s words convey into the heart’s of city folk who throw their words at television screens like a magician throwing knives in the hopes they do not hit their mark. “Snow tomorrow? Too soon. Too soon.”

Autumn leaves falling pay no heed. Impervious to our pleas for one more day  the winds blow free of summer’s promise bringing with them dark clouds brewing up an early winter storm.

In this moment, right now, I sit at my desk watching the river flow endlessly to the sea. No ice in site. I want to keep this image, right now, as my future state but know, I must release it so I can flow freely in the beauty of this moment, right now.

Snow will come. The ice will dam the river. Birds will flock south. The leaves will fall.

There’s snow coming tomorrow, the weatherman intones and I breathe deeply into the beauty of each golden leaf falling gracefully.

I cannot change the weather. I can change my state of being present in this moment, right now.

I breathe in. Breathe out and move into acceptance.

The weather will be what the weather will be. For this moment, right now, I choose the peace and joy of being present in the beauty falling all around me.

Perhaps though, it would be wise to go buy a new pair of winter boots today.

The Rainbow Chasers Guide to Changing the World through Loving Self-Talk

You can be hard on yourself or kind to yourself.

Either way, you’ll get things done.

The hard way will be harder. The kind way will be easier.

The hard way, or the easy. Which do you choose?

I know, it sounds so simple. Just be kind to yourself and it will all work out.

Being kind to ourselves isn’t all that easy when the habit of being hard on ourselves takes up most of our inner conversation.

Many years ago, I kept track of the number of times I gave myself negative self-talk versus positive. I carried around a little notebook and for one week I made a check mark in either the negative or positive column on the page.

It kind of made me want to cry to see how much the negative outweighed the positive.

It was definitely an eye, mind and heart opener.

I sure wouldn’t want to hang around me if I was constantly shedding negativity into the world.

Oh wait! I was. And I was holding it all inside me. Ugh.

Hanging around with myself wasn’t a choice. The choice was, what was I willing to do to make the experience of being with me more enjoyable?

Right.

Change my relationship with me.

I’m not saying it was an easy transition, moving from always talkin’ sh*ttalk to myself to being a voice of gentle loving-kindness. But it sure made a difference once I made the decision to stop the sh*ttalk and get with the “I’m okay. I’m human” talk.

For me, it meant ensuring the ‘Positive’ column in my notebook was filled with more check-marks than the negative side. My consciousness of that goal kept me aware of my inner talk. Every time I caught myself saying something negative to myself, I had to find one positive to match it. That way, at least the negativity didn’t grow into the longer column!

Eventually, I moved from one positive to two until, now, when I do say something negative to myself, like ‘how could you be so stupid?’ or, “Seriously? What were you thinking?” I quickly breathe in (deeply) and give myself grace. “It’s okay Louise. You made a mistake. Your job is to be accountable for your mistakes, not give yourself a life sentence of grief.”

See, sometimes, when I do make mistakes, like say something that hurts someone, or do something I’m not all that proud of, I want to revert back to that place where my mistakes are worthy of my being whipped, tarred and feathered. In those moments, I must surrender my need for punishing myself by making myself ‘not okay’ and call on grace to love me through it.

We are all ‘okay’. It’s our behaviour that can be optional. And when our behaviour gives evidence to our not being as okay as we’d like to be, then we work on our behaviour.

Changing behaviour isn’t about working on our essential goodness, our inherent human magnificence. Those are givens. They are universal in all humanity. Remember?  We are born magnificent and then… life interferes and gives us reasons to doubt our magnificence. Our job then becomes remembering what we forgot so long ago, we worry it no longer exists.

That’s our universal human journey. Returning to love and our inherent magnificence.

What’s not so universal and not such a given is that we treat ourselves, and each other, with dignity, respect, kindness, Love.

And that’s where the work is — in shifting our behaviours to be a reflection of the values that make this world a better place.

We can make it hard. Or do the easy.

The easy begins with talking nicely to ourselves so that our hearts are at ease, our minds calm and our spirits lifted up by our generosity of spirit.

From that place, well let’s just say, changing the world becomes a cakewalk! (Okay maybe not quite so Pollyanish but if we’re all talking nice to ourselves, we’ll be talking nice to everyone else too!)

See, the Rainbow Chasers Guide to Changing the World through Loving Self-Talk! Easy-peasy!

By Golly! I think I’ve got it! My new career.

Day 29 — 30 Day Art Project
Song of Joy

I’ve got it!  My new career! I know exactly what it is.

Seriously. It came to me this morning as I was sitting watching the sun come out from a cloud laden sky and dapple the golden leaves of the trees outside my window and the sun fairies dance on the waters of the river flowing by.

You know how tornado chasers race all over the countryside in search of winds to follow and photograph, to document and capture?

Well, I’ve decided my new career will be kind of like that… but not really.

I’ve decided to become… A Rainbow Chaser!

Okay. so it’s not really a well-known or probably even a ‘real’ career that will earn me a gazillion dollars but, hey, if it brings me joy, Why not do it? And anyway, who’s to say my donning the mantle of Rainbow Chaser won’t make it ‘go viral’ and all that jazzy stuff that happens when something someone does captures the imagination and whims of others?

Why Rainbow Chaser?

Because I can.

Because who doesn’t love rainbows?  And heck. The world is filled with them! They’re universal. They’re magical. And they always appear after the rain when the sun comes out and sparkles through the light.

Me, I love rainbows and after several days of wallowing in the dark  matter of the icky stuff that sometimes clogs the free-flowin’ style of my living life on the outside of my comfort zone, chasing rainbows is so much better than living under the dark cloud of my own unease.

See, sometimes I get stuck in the story I am telling myself about why I am not wanted, not needed, not welcome on this journey called life.

Sometimes, I believe my own critics who troll the avenues of my mind, seeking out weak spots on the edges of my limiting beliefs and the fears tucked away in hidden alcoves where the sun don’t shine.

And here’s the thing, I figure as a Rainbow Chaser, I’ll be dancing in the rain and the sun because everyone knows, rainbows are always waiting in the wings for their star appearance after the rain.

To be in the right place to capture the rainbow, I gotta be willing to stand in the rain knowing the sun is still shining behind grey clouds. I gotta hold onto my belief that if I breathe deeply enough, the wind’s of time, supported by a whole lot of Love, will blow those grey clouds away and the sun, along with its beautiful sparkling light-lit rainbow, will appear.

And then, another question popped into my head like a gopher on Ground Hog day popping out of his hole.

Are there rainbows in the night? Do they appear by moonlight after the rain has passed but we never see them because we’re sound asleep waiting for the sun to rise?

Oh boy! My Rainbow Chasing career is off to a good start.

A deep question to dive into and explore. Because, seriously, if I’m sleeping through the dark, how will I know when the sun has risen? What if, I choose to let rainbows and moonbeams cast away the dark and create a world of joy. A world, my heart can really sing about!

Yup. Rainbow Chaser, the career of dreams and flights of fancy.  A career worth dancing in the rain for and singing out loud my song of joy.

Not bad for a day that started under gloomy skies!

Now that I’ve got my eyes wide open and my heart a beatin’, I’ll see ya’ll later.

I’m off chasing rainbows, and fairy dancers and sunburst making daydreams worth chasing! And maybe, when the sun sets, I’ll go chasing moonbeams and starlit staircases leading up into the glittering beauty of a beguiling night sky strewn with a gazillion diamonds — cause the more I think about it, the more I’m thinkin’ there are rainbows in the night —  diamonds cast ’em when they capture the light just so… Why wouldn’t the stars?

Ain’t life a wonder?

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.

__________________________________________________________

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.

 

The Cloak of Worry (A Fairy-tale)

Once there was a little girl who loved to dance. She danced so much her mother feared she’d never find her feet on the ground and if she never had her feet on the ground she’d never be able to take care of herself when she grew old. So she took the little girl’s shoes to the shoemaker and asked him to line them with lead.

Convinced it was the right thing to do, she put the shoes on her daughter and made her promise she would never take them off. “If you remove the shoes your feet will fall off and you will fall down, never to get up again.”

And so the little girl who loved to dance learned to walk with heavy step.

But still she loved to sing and laugh no matter where she went. Her mother feared her daughter’s voice, which sounded like birdsong, would keep her from ever taking life seriously and if she didn’t take life seriously, how would she ever watch out for trouble?

And so, she made her daughter a cloak of thorns and knit it together with threads of worry. “You must always wear this cloak,” she told her daughter. “If you dare to take it off, your skin will grow brittle and hard and fall off and your body will fall down, never to get up again.”

And so the little girl who loved to laugh and sing forgot the power of her own voice beneath the weight of the cloak as she took each step. She was careful to always look out for trouble.

One day, when the little girl had become an old woman and no longer needed lead lined shoes to keep her feet firmly planted on the ground, or a cloak of thorns with worries sewn into every stitch to keep her taking life seriously, went into the forest to gather firewood for her hearth. As she carefully picked up wood to place into her basket, she saw a child dancing and heard her singing amongst the trees.

The sound of the child’s voice that sounded like birdsong, the sight of her spinning and twirling about set her heart racing so fast she had to sit down in a hollow at the bottom of a tree to catch her breath. But, before she sat down, she had to check the ground for spiders, and sweep away all the dirt and place a cloth upon the earth to keep her clothes from getting dirty. Worried that a wild animal would come and attack her, she sharpened one of the pieces of wood in her basket into a spear and placed her back firmly into the tree trunk where she sat.

But still it wasn’t enough.

She was worried that an animal might sneak up from behind her, or a storm would blow in and knock down the tree beneath which she sat.

“Oh this life is such serious business,” she sighed as she moved her body deeper into the open space at the bottom of the tree trunk. “It is wise to keep your feet firmly planted on the ground at all times. It is right to always look out for trouble.”

And as she sighed and kept shifting her eyes around, making sure she was safe from attack, she forgot all about the little girl laughing and dancing in the woods.

And the animals never paid her any attention. They didn’t see her tucked into the tree’s trunk and they were busy anyway. They were doing what animals do in the woods and did not have time for an old woman sitting in a tree, glaring out at the world, fearful of every noise.

And the little girl never saw the old woman sitting in the tree trunk either. She was too busy dancing and singing to her heart’s content as she continued on her way through the forest.

Slowly, over time, the old woman fell asleep to dream of a dancing girl with a voice like birdsong who long ago danced in the woods and sang to her heart’s content.

And as she dreamed, the seasons turned and the leaves fell and snow blanketed the earth and her heart grew still until only the sighs of the wind could be heard whispering through the leaves.

She sits there still today, tucked inside the tree, her body entwined in the ivy that spun its way around her like a cloak of thorns knit together by worries.

*********************************************

I originally posted this story in 2016. This story wrote itself from a dream. It has many meanings for me. I’m curious to know what it means for you?

Please, do share your thoughts.

Namaste.

Where the wild things howl.

Photo by Anton Strogonoff on Unsplash

The howling of the coyotes wakes me up.

Beaumont the Sheepadoodle hears them too. He leaps up from the floor at the end of our bed where he has been sleeping. Races down the stairs to the patio doors. He stands. Barking, body tensed, eyes fixed at what he cannot see, somewhere out there on the top of the hill beyond.

It is 3am.

I try to calm him. To get him to stop barking. He wants to get out there.

I close the blinds.

Finally, the howling stops and Beaumont lies down by the glass doors. He does not want to come back upstairs.

And I am reminded, no matter how much concrete surrounds us, we are not far from the wild.

It is in our roots, our DNA, our genetic history.

We have seen a coyote a couple of times since moving into this place in December. I don’t know if it’s the same one, or a different one each time. We see him, or her, loping silently across the hillside in the early evening. We know there’s a den, somewhere at the top. We’ve heard their howling before. They are the wild things.

I wonder if they howl to entice unsuspecting prey into their space. Beaumont always wants to take off after the sound. He wants to investigate.

I don’t let him. I keep him on the leash now whenever I let him out.

He is not wild. Though I wonder if the howling awakens deeply-buried wild memories of life before domestication.

Deer live somewhere on the hillside too.

We see them often. Four or five. Every day they traverse the slope. Walking elegantly through the snow, scrubbing through the bushes and trees for fodder.

They too make Beaumont bark. Whenever we’re outside and they see us, they take off, their long legs leaping through the snow with ease. Beaumont strains at the leash, barking. Inevitably, one of the deer will stand at the edge of the trees, staring. Unmoved by Beaumont’s barks, he seems to be enticing him to play, ‘catch me if you can’.

In those moments, it takes all my strength to get Beaumont to quieten down, to not pull and strain at the leash.

The wild stirs within him, calling him to run after it. To be part of it.

We are not that far from the wild here. The city limits stretch further into the rolling hills at the edge of that liminal space where wild meets tamed and man keeps pushing the wild further and further away. Yet, still the wild things roam. They have adapted to the citylife. They have formed their trails from the wild spaces to cityscapes.

The howling of coyotes woke me at 3am.

I feel the wild calling me. Let go it calls. Come. Outside. Run. Barefoot in the night. Dance beneath the belly of the fullness of the pregnant moon. Throw your head back and howl in the pure delight of being alive.

I calm the urge and go back to bed.

Beaumont is on guard. He will keep the wild things at bay.

___________________________________________

The howling of wild things in the night reminded me of a song my brother used to play long ago on his record player when we were teenagers and not yet tamed by life.

Perhaps it is fitting I am reminded of my brother this first day of March. It was this month, 19 years ago, that his journey on this earth abruptly ended.

My brother loved music. He’d play a few bars of a song, stop it and ask me to “Name that Tune”. I wasn’t very good at that game. He’d laugh and tease me and play another song. “Wild,” he’d exclaim as some drum roll or guitar riff caught his fancy.

My brother was a wild thing. He loved life.

 

Jail Break!

comfort-zone-break-out-copy

It was a simple statement made at a retirement party for a dear friend.

We had each been asked to state our wishes for the man retiring. One woman said, “I wish for you the courage to do something new. To try new things, things you’ve never thought of doing or things you’ve always dreamt of doing but never did.”

What a perfect wish. For any time of life.

Why wait for retirement?

It is easy to get trapped into believing there is one way and one way only to live your life. It’s easy to tell yourself that there are limited options in what you can or can’t do, can or can’t change.

Over time, we become accustomed to living our life ‘this way’. We become comfortable in the known and venture less and less beyond the corridors of our comfort zone. Eventually, our comfort zone gets narrower and narrower until the ruts become walls of regret, disappointments, fears, disbeliefs and limitations. Stepping out, over, around, beyond those walls is important — no matter your age you’re never too old to break out of the jail of your self-imprisonment!

This Christmas, a friend and I are launching a project to tell the stories of those whose lives once included homelessness. We will be filming Season’s Greetings from people who once walked the streets, slept rough or in shelter beds, and who are now living in their own homes. The vision, to connect heart to heart via the wishes and stories people share, to family and friends far away.

I used to do this every Christmas when I worked at a homeless shelter. We’d invite clients, staff and volunteers to film a Christmas greeting and put the greetings online at the shelters website. The difference this time is we will be visiting people in their homes. Sharing their greetings from a place many people never imagined they would ever find themselves again — at home.

Our vision is that through these stories/greetings we will expand our understanding of what it means to have a home, a place, an address.

Stay tuned for more as we develop ‘the idea’ for The Gift Project into something concrete, something meaningful, something we believe will open all of us up to the conversation of our human condition. The conversation around belonging.

Starting this project is a stretch. A step beyond the comfort of celebrating Christmas the way I always do. I’m not doing it as part of an ‘agency’. I’m doing it as part of a team that wants to make a difference by contributing to our human story.

I’m excited. We have a film crew and a film production company on board to edit the videos. The website is under development. The possibilities are expanding.

What about you?

What’s exciting you to step beyond the walls of your comfort zone into expanding your understanding of what it means to live your life on purpose?