It is 7:30am. I have been awake since 5. Completed my NYTimes puzzles – not my best Wordle performance but hey! I got it in 5 so I’m happy. Taken Beaumont the Sheepadoodle for his first morning saunter. (On an aside, I love those dark early morning hours where only the sound of the rushing waters of the river accompanies us as we stroll along the back fenceline of our property.) I’ve meditated for 20 minutes, written my morning pages in my journal, made a dozen lemon cranberry scones, cleaned the kitchen, and am now sipping on my latter in the glow of the candle on my desk.
Saturday mornings are made for this.
And now, I’m writing a post for my blog. This is a deviation from the norm. I don’t usually post on Saturdays but…
Stepping away from the norm keeps things fresh.
And, the reason to step away this morning is very simple and compelling –
In August, I wrote about playing singer/songwriter Laura Hickli’s mom in her upcoming music video release
It is sublimely thought-provoking and moving. It is a deeply personal reflection of Laura’s journey to finding herself — and her voice – in the big, wide, world of possibility that exists for everyone when we step away from what we know and dive deep into what makes every human on this planet so divinely miraculous.
I hope you watch and listen and feel inspired to share. (It’s easy to do from the YouTube link – just copy and paste into your own feed. 🙂 ) It’s really, really good for an artist to have their creations shared broadly. Building her audience is critical to her career – see! You’ll be making a difference by contributing to the growth of an artist’s career! Win/Win!
Transitions can be frightening and necessary. We can’t see the road ahead. We don’t know what will happen. We feel unsafe in unknown territory.
And…we worry that to step forward into the unknown means leaving the past behind. Including the anger, the loss, and the pain that fuels us.
Somewhere, in a book I have long forgotten the name of, I read that we must look to nature for inspiration. The author wrote of how the beauty of fall is followed by the death of every leaf. The leaf lets go because it knows it’s time to move on. It is not striving for something else. It is not angry with the tree for letting it down. It isn’t about being perfect, it’s about the willingness to acknowledge its journey was perfect.
For humans, that perfect journey includes acknowledging our human imperfections, making amends where our imperfect behaviours have caused harm (where possible) and forgiving others so that we can transform our hearts and lives throughout our journey as change is as inevitable as the sun’s rising every morning.
To let go of what was and to allow what is unfurling to unfurl, we must forgive what was, what was, what wasn’t, and what did hurt us, and caused us angst, or pain.
And in that forgiveness is the gift of more. More peace. More gratitude. More possibility. More grace.
It isn’t that forgiveness negates justice or the need for justice. It is that forgiveness sets the forgiver free — and possibly the forgiven too. It is that forgiveness opens our hearts to possibility. Renewal. Hope. Peace. Love and Joy.
Forgiveness makes me whole. Because no matter what justice I deem necessary, or the law determines right, there is and always will be room for Divine mercy.
Mercy is the right of the God, the Divine, the Universe, the unknown and forgiveness is the deepest mystery of all.
A mystery is not something that cannot be solved or to be frightened of. Mystery is something I do not understand enough. And in the quest to understand the mystery of forgiveness, I am strengthened in my quest for inner freedom through learning what it means to forgive.
Those words in a book I cannot remember, continue to resonate as I explore what it means to be human on this journey of my lifetime.
A human being who makes mistakes and is never a mistake.
In file folders on my laptop, I have a number of projects I’ve started, and never finished.
In my studio, on shelves and in drawers, tucked into drawing pads and sketchbooks, I have a number of projects I’ve started, and never finished.
Pithy words about ‘starting’ abound. We talk about one door closing and another opening, about the journey of a thousand steps beginning with one. About how to begin anything you must take the first step.
And all of that is true. Taking that first step is important. The next step and the next are also important because, the fact remains, without follow-through, you will never cross the finish line.
When I stop to survey my started/not finished accumulations against my completed projects, I find there exists a delicate tension between the two.
I could look at the ‘started/not finished as an example of my failures, my lack of discipline, commitment, staying power.
I could see them as stepping stones that taught me invaluable lessons along the way.
Sure, I sentenced some of them to the pile of forgotten flotsam that crowds cupboards and drawers, but, each of them helped improve my techniques, my abilities, my capacity to create, AND my understanding of myself.
Each piece of forgotten flotsam adds value to the whole. And the whole picture, actually the whole truth, is… the projects I have completed are the ones where my follow-through was motivated by my passion to cross the finish line.
But, here’s the thing.
The reason I don’t cross the finish line on some projects isn’t that I don’t have the discipline or willpower to not ‘give upl.
The reasons I don’t cross the finish line on some projects are more a complex psychological dance with internal messaging about my self-worth than a ‘this art isn’t good’ kind of decision-making process.
Finishing a project is exciting. Fun. Self-rewarding and satisfying.
Not finishing is an opportunity to grow my self-awareness, to strengthen my commitment to me and my journey, and to learn and grow through every step of that journey.
And, isn’t that what life is all about? Learning from this journey that grows in value with every step we take.
It was just a plain cardboard box labelled with my name and address. The name of a town in New Brunswick the only clue as to the sender.
I knew who sent it. A woman named Sharon who for the past three years had been sending an identical box because two of her children had once found their way to the emergency homeless shelter where I worked before finding their way back home several years later.
In her note that year she wrote:
“Enclosed is a box of handmade mitts and hats from two gals from New Brunswick who truly believe in the work that you and your volunteers offer the residents of Calgary. As in the past, you have supported our children as they went out west to find employment, and start a new life, that may not have been so glamorous, and ended up in your shelter.
In our appreciation, please accept these small tokens, made with huge hearts by mothers who know what it is like to have a child that has lived on the streets in Calgary. May these warm gifts from our heart help others that are in need this coming winter.
As in past years, these items are made with wool from sheep that have grazed in New Brunswick, wool spun and manufactured at Briggs & Little in New Brunswick and knitted by myself, a New Brunswicker and Marg, a Newfoundlander.
May you and your volunteers know that your work has not gone unnoticed but has encouraged many, even mothers on the east coast of Atlantic Canada.”
A plain cardboard box that held all the prayers and hopes of mothers the world over. May my child come home, safe and sound — for Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan. Whatever the occasion. May my child come home, safe and sound.
We never know when something we do will make a difference. We never know what that difference will be. We never know whose heart we’ll touch.
Sharon touched my heart that day and memories of her grace and kindness continue to resonate in my world today.
She reminds me that this is an amazing world. A world where on one side of the street people walk wrapped up in the warm coats of lives stitched together from one moment to the next filled with things to do, places to go, people to see. A world where, sadness and bleakness wear weary paths to the place where shelter is found in every kind of weather, just across the street.
A world where, just across the nation, mothers, like Sharon and Marg, sit together and knit away the dark hours of winter to the soothing hum of knit one, pearl one.
A world where knitting needles click and two mothers create a gift that will shelter the hands of those who have been left out in the cold.
With each knit one, pearl one, Sharon and Marg stitch together the possibility of hope arising in the hearts of those who receive their gifts — no matter the state of their lives or their position at the shelter — because each stitch has been cast with a pearl one of gratitude, a knit one of hope.
In opening the box of multi-coloured mittens, I was reminded that when we knit one in hope, pearl one in gratitude, we stitch into the tapestry of this world all the love a mother’s heart can hold. A love that, no matter the distance between us, can never be torn apart, can never come unstitched. Is never lost, no matter how lost we may feel.
May we all be blessed with pearls of hope stitching our lives into a tapestry full of the possibility to our returning home where ever that may be.
OK. So maybe ‘amazing’ isn’t the right word, but it truly does fascinate me how lack of doing something, in this case building a video, can make building a video more difficult when I come back todoing it!
Take the video I’ve created for my She Dares Boldly 2023 Calendar. It took me DAYS! And over the course of those days (which were more precisely my weekend and evenings as my days were busy) I made countless mistakes, rebuilds, retakes, re everythings to complete the video. And, because I don’t have the finished product yet, I had to compile the pages manually – which took a bit of figuring out too!
Yet, here’s the thing. I learned lots. Enjoyed the process (even though it was chocker-block full of missteps) and have the joy of experiencing a great sense of achievement now that I’ve got it done.
There is another aspect to this calendar that is new to me! For the past 4 iterations, I’ve sold them via my Etsy store or e-transfer.
I’m still planning on doing that this year but, I wanted to let people use their paypal accounts too. Getting that properly set up on my blog took a lot of effort, and a lengthy chat with a WordPress expert – they were very patient.
In the end, it’s on my site. Etsy’s the next shop stop.
That’s all to say — theShe Dares Boldly 2023 Calendar is available. Thank you to those who kept messaging me to ask if I was creating one. You inspired me. And, in the process I had the gift of learning, growing, accepting and becoming. What a lovely gift.
I am unlearning a lifetime of habitually believing that to regret is to sentence myself to a lifetime of always looking back, never moving on.
Dan Pink’s The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward is the impetus for my unlearning.
Now, I could be cheeky and try to turn the tables on his teaching by saying, “I regret reading this book! It’s making me change my mind about something I thought was one of those unalterable life truths.
Fact is, I don’t regret it at all, which in this case, is a good thing because I can’t unread what’s already read.
Regret makes us human. Regret makes us better, writes Pink.
I’d also add, it makes our journey richer – as long as we enlist our regrets to improve our future.
Like, when you say something to your best friend that is insensitive or snarky. Regret rides in fast (at least for most of us it does) compelling us to apologize and make amends.
Pink calls those ‘regrets of action’. The premise being, I have a chance to recalibrate the present by owning and making amends for what I’ve done to harm/hurt another.
The more challenging regrets, he expostulates, are ones of inaction. The roads not taken. The deeds not done.
Those are harder to course correct, and in more instances than not, according to Pink, seldom are.
Those are the ones we carry with us to the grave.
Which gives credence to the oft-quoted Mark Twain aphorism (which apparently he never said)
Years ago, I heard a story about an eagle who was raised in a chicken coop and because of his environment and companions, believed he was a chicken. One day, another eagle high above saw him in the coop and couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t eating all the chickens. They were perfect prey.
The eagle swooped down from above, confronted the eagle who thought he was a chicken and asked, “What’s wrong with you?”
The eagle who thought he was a chicken thought the eagle was there to eat him and was scared. Eventually, the eagle who could fly said, “Look, come fly with me once and I’ll prove to you that you’re an eagle, not a chicken.”
The eagle who thought he was a chicken agreed, but first, he had to go say good-bye to his chicken coop companions… just in case.
The eagle who thought he was a chicken ran into the chicken coop, slammed the door and laughed. “I’m the smartest chicken in this coop,” he said to his companions who were all cowering in the dark afraid the eagle outside was going to eat them. “I just fooled that eagle!”
And the eagle who thought he was a chicken never learned how to fly.
It’s possible that the eagle who thought he was a chicken was also displaying great resilience. He figured a creative solution out of his dilemma and survived to fight another day — and that’s the challenge, an eagle who doesn’t know he can fly turns from predator to prey. Rather than soaring, his resilience his expended fighting for survival every day.
We humans are hard-wired to fight for our survival every day. Survival is in our DNA..But, when we don’t know, or never had the opportunity to explore, our possibilities, we spend our time in survival mode. We don’t have the energy, nor the awareness that beyond survival there is mystery and awe, wonder and magic, beauty and possibility.
Life is the game of survival.
My friend Diana equates it to swimming in a lake. You know how to swim. Your’re strong. You can easily swim an hour. Maybe two. But three… four… five… Add in boats. Water-skiers. Flotsam. Deadwood. All the resilience in the world isn’t going to keep you from tiring out. Your very survival is at risk.
Which says to me, resilience isn’t about strength. It’s about our ability to overcome obstacles, endure hardship and make it through to the other side.
Challenge is, in life, there is no other side to dying. It is our only way out.
As we age, it is perhaps the fact it is our only way out that can make living so much more precious, beautiful and awe-inspiring.
Life can be hard. But… with age, the beauty can outweigh the hardships. The inherent magnificence of our human nature can shine so much brighter than the darkness we’ve come through, the hardships we’ve endured, the obstacles we’ve climbed over, when our focus is not on surviving but living.
As we age, the realization ‘the end’ is not just some ethereal thought shimmering far away on a distant horizon, but rather, a near and closing-in companion. In that awareness, the sweet juicy preciousness of life can fill our senses with the realization, fighting to survive is a one way street to nowhere but the end of life. Why not let it go and start swimming with abandon in the sea of life, filling each day with joy, harmony, serenity and love?
Thank you everyone for being my companions on this journey. I am fascinated by where it’s taking me. Curious about the unexplored mysteries it holds. Enchanted by each gem I am discovering as I let go of believing I ‘know what it’s all about’ and instead, lean into the questions blowing in on the winds of change all around me, inviting me to flow with them into the sea of my life abounding with joy, harmony, serenity and love.
I wonder sometimes how my uncles and aunts felt when they left the land of their birth in search of a new land to call home.
India was no longer a welcoming place for them. Their passports, language, customs were French with a melange of Indian culture thrown in. Their father and his father had all been born in India, as had many centuries of their maternal line. Raised in the then French protectorate of Pondicherry, none of them had ever visited France.
When India reclaimed its independence, they had to make a choice – stay and give up their French citizenship. Or leave. Most of them left for the next closest French protectorate, Vietnam.
At first, Vietnam was a safe haven. But then, war broke out and they were forced to flee.
Like many refugees around the world who run grasping battered suitcases and broken promises, they wanted peace. Not war.
Eventually, they mostly settled in France. Even though their skin was a beautiful blend of white and brown, it was easy to ‘fit in’. French was their first language. Their schooling had followed the French curriculum and even though they blended cultures into a beautiful Euro-Asian tapestry, they were Catholic. They knew the rituals and the faith of their new ‘home’ land. Few questioned their pedagogy, though some of my relations, particularly those whose skin was darker than their neighbours, faced discrimination at times.
Some struggled. Others thrived. Others, like my mother, never let go of their love for India, her Shangri-la as she called it.
The heat, the smells, the vegetation, the food, the singsong of Hindi and Tamil voices, the raucous chattering of monkeys in the yellow neon palms and bougainvillea that surrounded their home, ran through her blood like a strand of DNA that could never be altered.
In some ways my mother lived her life as a refugee yearning always to return to the land of her birth if only to hear the sounds of the ocean lapping against the shores she loved so much.
As news of more refugees fleeing Eastern Ukraine fills my newsfeeds, I am reminded of the stories I heard of my mother’s family’s flight from Inida to France. They faced an uncertain future. They endured bombs falling and lives crumbling before finally reaching ‘home’.
And though a few have remained in India, few of those who left returned to take up residence in the land of their birth, the land where both my maternal and paternal grandparents are buried. My cousins in France all return to India for visits. They all have a deep connection to the beauty of the land. But they always return home to France.
I think of the refugees fleeing their homes, carrying their children in tired arms, fearing that each step could be their last. Fearing they might never be able to return as they race ahead of the bombs into an uncertain future.
And my heart breaks and my mind swirls with thoughts of when will we ever learn? When will this destruction of our humanity, this killing of our fellow human beings stop?
And I cannot find an answer.
There is no answer in war. Just as there is no peace. For, with every mother’s son or daughter killed we risk seeding germs of hate and anger that will grow into endless branches of conflict and unrest.
And so, to no longer be a refugee of my own heart, I return to the origin of it all. To Love. For while there is no peace in war, there is always love. Waiting… Patiently. Steadfastly. Always.
Love for our humanity is all that will save us now.
Let us all remember love is present. Love is always the answer even in war.
At a popular restaurant, a young man with Down’s Syndrome has an important lesson to teach.
Several years ago, he wanted to find a job. He asked an agency that supports people with barriers to help him.
And they did.
His career advisor helped him write his resume, develop and practice his interviewing skills, worked with him on improving his ability to handle human interactions, change and conflict in particular.
The agency also works with employers on diversity hiring and best practices in accomodating special needs and had a roster of opportunities for him to apply to.
After several months, the young man went for an interview and got a job as a dishwasher in a busy restaurant kitchen.
His career advisor stayed connected, helped him adapt to a busy workplace and worked with the employer to develop their comfort in working with the young man’s ‘style’.
After 4 years as a dishwasher, he is a valued member of staff, one of ‘the family’. Well-liked, he is included in all social activities, has made friends and is considered an essential worker, so vital to the organization that even with COVID’s downturn, the organization didn’t lay him off.
One day, the young man announced he wanted to work front-of-house, in particular, the cash register. This is a big move and everyone, including his career advisor who has stayed connected, tries to dissuade him.
“I can do it,” he says. His persistence finally convinces management to give him a chance. They move him to front-of-house as a busyboy. He excels.
After several months, the young man still hasn’t given up on his dream. He wants to work the cashier register and serve customers at the counter.
Several months ago, he got his chance.
He’s a star. Friendly. Always accurate in his work. Steady and solid in his service. Customers love him and the rest of the staff, along with his family and support team and career advisor… They learned a valuable lesson.
Barriers are limitations that haven’t been tested.
Our human minds perceive barriers to be concrete. Immovable. Insurmountable. So why bother testing them?
Everyone involved wanted to protect the young man — taking on such a big challenge left him exposed. “What if you fail?” they asked.
His response, “What if I don’t?”
Next time you face a new opportunity, experience, barrier, ask yourself… What if it’s not about protecting myself from failure? What if, it’s about giving myself the opportunity to succeed?
What if instead of fearing falling, I chose to believe in my wings?
Sometimes, on mornings like this when darkness still wraps the world outside my window in its embrace and ice glistens on the river’s surface, and the world continues to hold its breath beneath Covid’s thrall, I wonder… when will it end?
When will booking a flight to somewhere far away in the world, or just to Vancouver to visit my grandchildren, not come burdened with vaccination passports and endless thoughts of should I or shouldn’t I as I weigh the risks and calculate the cost of travelling on my life and the lives of my beloveds?
When will the simple act of going to the grocery store not include wearing a mask, sanitizing my hands at every turn and worrisome thoughts of… What if I get it?
When will it be okay to hug again, or hold hands or sit side-by-side on a park bench or in a restaurant without measuring the distance between us to ensure we’re safe?
And then, I think about the boys and men who went off to war decades ago unsure of when or if they’d make it home and the mothers and children and grandparents and those who had to stay behind. Did they wonder every day, “When will it end?” Did they have doubts and fears that would not lay quiet in the night? Did they worry would they be safe going out the door if they were not close to a bomb shelter? What about their children at school and so far from their loving arms when air raid sirens blasted? Did they worry every day about their loved ones somewhere far away fighting a war so they could be free? Did they wonder when Year 3 started, “Will this be the last year of this war gripping the world in its terror? When will it end?”
And then, I think about the wars that are still being fought today and the millions and millions of refugees uprooted by guns and natural disasters who sit in crowded tents and live in crowded quarters where Covid is not the only risk they face every moment of every day. And how they must worry every single moment about food to eat, a safe place to sleep and wonder, “When will it ever end?” as they go about their days yearning for peace and safety, worrying and wondering about when they will ever have a home to call their own again. Worrying and wondering which country in this world will accept them so that they can build better lives for their children. When will it end?
And then, I think about this freedom I have where I can choose to wear what I want, speak how I want, disagree with government and not be jailed, or killed for my impertinence. This freedom I possess to be myself, to worship or pray or send blessings into the sky or sit at a pew of my choice, to walk the streets without needing a man to accompany me or having to walk a step behind, to drive a car even though I’m a woman, to enter establishments of education, justice, government or places of worship without being barred because of my gender, this freedom… not even Covid can deny me that.
Billions of people around the world do not share in the freedoms I possess.
If killing Covid means I must get a jab or two, and wear a mask and take into account how close I stand to a stranger, then I will do it. It’s good for me and good for you and good for those billions of people around the world who do not share in the freedoms I possess. At least if I take care of my world here now, we all might have a chance to live without Covid in our midst tomorrow and one day, one year, one millennium in the future, we might all walk in freedom, peace and love.
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