Thursday, January 31, 2008

i don't have a clue.

Is our soul the last real frontier? Is it our own endless constellation, where vitality is the eternal binding of our essence? Is soul the keeper of paradoxical emotions, where lamented sorrow mixes into a harmonious hymn of broken need?
I wonder.

Is a soul ever visible to the naked eye, or can it only be felt by the naked vulnerability of an open heart? Is this where mystery of the reason for being dwells as an apparition only to be revealed after death? Do we receive clues to the mystery while we wander through our personal journey of life?
I wonder.

Does a soul chant during the moments of solitude captured after sitting with loneliness or does it wail? Does it sound like the winter wind or a summer breeze? Does the soul knock loudly when disharmony of thought and action is felt or when a deep stirring of love fills one with electricity?
I wonder.
Does it sound like Tom Waits in a whiskey soaked bar or Pavorotti on the steps of the cathedral? What about Springsteen or Bono or Morrison standing in the spotlight in a concert hall? Or perhaps the soul sings like Nora Jones at sunrise, sunrise....or a Mozart symphony or a solo violinist......
I wonder.

I do wonder. Do you wonder about it too or am I the only nut in the box of chocolates?

these flowers are for you.

"The life I touch for good or ill will touch another life and that in turn another until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt..."
Frederick Buechner.

Sometimes you don't know just how much of an impact your touch has on someone.... It's never the sweeping big gestures either, though I must admit if some stranger came knocking at my door with a wheelbarrow full of money and a new car in the driveway for me, I'd be totally touched. I may even give the stranger a big hug and embarass him/her with my yelps and yeehaws. Who said that money is root of all evil?

OK.......let me restart....

One small kind gesture can make you feel beyond rich. And then if you pass it on? Well........think of the possibilities. We all have the magic touch to offer someone an enriched heart. You can't put a value on smiling validation. It's priceless.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

An invitation

"Come to me, all of you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls."

The weather worn man whose voices trip him into believing he will be safe and warm under the bridge on a January night.
The woman who lives alone in her apartment and can't find the bravery to leave it
The young child who wills herself to sleep while listening to the screaming tirades of hate coming from the family room.
The old woman lost in dementia, forgotten on the 4th floor of a beige hospital wing.
The heartbroken father whose making a new life on the outskirts of town.
The overtired, worn out new parents of a colic baby whose crampy belly makes her wail all night long

The stressed out business owner who is trying his best to keep all of his employees working through a recession
The mom with a chronically ill child.
The poverty trampled family living in that shack with no running water or electricity.
The orphan whose parents have died of AIDS.
The addict whose desperately searching for the next fix.
The runaway teen whose turning tricks to find illusionary love.

The invitation is for them.

The abused, neglected, addicted, disabled, sick, tired, mentally ill, .....the fearful.

The lonely souls lost in the sea of humanity.
The lover yearning for the heartache to go away
The workers with young families to feed who have been laid off at the mill.
The survivors of a hurricane, tsunami, drought, earthquake....
The human beings living the waking nightmare of war, trying to stay alive.

He sends the unconditional invitation to everyone.......shouldn't we go and do likewise?

Hope feeds the hungry soul. Faith sustains it. Humanity passes it on.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

holy ground

I have a good friend whom I havent seen in a long time. As much as I would love to see him, I know it's going to be a long time before that happens. Strange circumstances, which are very complicated and will have to wait until the story unfolds as the plot of a "B" movie, will keep us apart geographically. However, emotionally.........spiritually.......the love that links us will always be there. This is what makes me feel calm knowing that whatever happens in our lives, we are always connected.
Our friendship grew over one particular summer when we were both adolescents and working at a children's camp. We had been given the task to share being in charge of two activities..........the craft shop and the canoeing program. In the mornings Martin was down at canoeing while I was up in the craft shop. In the afternoons, our roles reversed.

You'd think that because our days were spent in opposite ends of the camp activity spectrum that we wouldn't find our common ground, but we did during all the inbetween activity times, in the evenings when the campers were sound asleep, on staff days off away from the melee. Whenever we had time, we were together laughing, singing, playing pranks, sharing inside jokes, listening to music, working on our own art in the craft shop in the evenings, hanging out on the swim dock during the post lunch rest hour break.

Our lives intertwined like it does with your best friend. Even in the absence of one another, we were inseparable.

Sometimes at night, we would sit on the beach in the stillness under the stars. There were solemn spaces between our words as we found peace in each other's company. Those big night sky evenings where heaven feels close enough to touch sealed our friendship. We were safe to share our strongest yearnings, our deepest secrets and our dreams. There was no biting judgement, and no worries that we would hurt each other's feelings. Sure we would argue and disagree, but our respect and trust of one another communicated unconditional acceptance. Comfortably meant to be. That's how it always felt between Martin and I.

One of the dreams we had was the desire to collaborate on a book. I would write the text and Martin, who was very good at drawing would create the pictures to go with the words. We even sketched out various storylines and plots, usually revolving around the magic of summer camp. I still hope that one day it will happen. In fact, I have the text written......... he doesn't know it yet.

There are very few people in our lives where we are completely comfortable being quiet with. Have you ever experienced this? It's a very different quiet than when you're alone because theres an energy........not a zingy zappy energy...........more like a comforting hum that fills the space and envelopes the air.
Henri Nouwen, in his book Reaching Out -- The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life, writes about this kindred essence as holy ground. His own experience felt in the quiet contemplative moments shared with another human being offered him this insight. He believed that this kindred essence was the very heart of true community. When I read this last night, I responded as I usually do to new learning and I looped back into my own memory bank to find an example in my life which would offer me understanding of what Nouwen was conveying. I naturally thought of Martin. Since then, I have felt that holy ground again and wondered where he is.

I have no idea what brings two people together into a powerful bond of a friendship like this. Attraction, synchronicity, temperment, being in the right place at the right time.........destiny.... it's that and other intangible reasons. At the time, we never questioned it. It just seemed perfectly expected. It was truly meant to be.

One of the other activities that Martin and I shared on occasion was planning and running the Sunday Chapel together. Chapel at camp was the only time when the whole camp reflected together. Songs, poems and stories were shared.........around a theme, which of course often included friendship. It's the crux of any summer camp....... We would plan the hour, choose the flow of the informal service and then when the camp bell was rung quietly to invite the campers and staff to join us, we would stand together side by side and lead a group of 120 kids and 30 staff through the songs and shared readings, all the while surrounded by the holy ground hum.

On the last day of camp that year, after the last of the kids had boarded a bus for home, Martin and I found ourselves in the craft shop together to clear out the remnants and to clean up the memories of creativity. The old tape recorder played our music, but apart from that, the rest of camp which was normally vibrant with a cacophony of spirited voices, was now settled and silent. As we plugged away sweeping clay dust, cleaning out old plaster molds and throwing away nubs of crayons, dried paints and forgotten masterpieces, we reflected on the summer.....on the fun, the days off, the crazy antics, the hilarity......on the dramas and the relationships formed between staff.........we shared our sadness of another summer coming to a close and planned out our first reunion after we returned to the reality of city and university life.

As the last day unfolded, our reflections held us in suspension of the was going to be over soon. Our days living together, seeing each other from morning to night were about to come to an end. Of course we saw one another when we returned to our homes, we knew it would be forever different. This led to more quiet........comfortable quiet solitude.

I don't know who said it first. "I love you" was spoken....thrown out there into the hum that resonated between the two of us. It wasn't like it wasn't felt. There was never an urgency to speak it out loud. But the spoken words sealed the holy ground between us. I remember stopping whatever i was doing.....and looking at him as he looked at me smiling. We looked at one another for a long time........both of us knowing......just knowing how lucky we were.

Much water has flowed under that proverbial bridge since our last day in the craft shop and some of our most memorable personal moments we have shared. In fact, I shared an apartment one summer with his fiance whom I grew close to automatically and then he was the emcee at my wedding, having grown close to my husband as well. For years, we wrote each other letters, talked on the phone, visited whenever my growing family and I would returned to Ontario for the holidays. And every time we'd meet, no matter what the circumstance, my best friend always made a point of quietly telling me that he loved me.

But that now seems long ago. As I mentioned, circumstances and life choices have pulled us apart. It's been several years since that comfortable solitude hum resonated between us while we were in the same room and I find myself feeling the hurt of not really being in his immediate life all over again tonight. It's a mixed bag of emotions I seem to carry......there is a calm knowledge that our deep feelings for each other will never alter, but there is a sadness that he isn't just a phone call away anymore.

I will take solace in the new understanding that the kindred essence ground between us will forever remain holy.

"I got God on my side
I'm just trying to survive
That if what you do to survive
Kills the things you love
Fear's a powerful thing
It can turn your heart black you can trust
It'll take your God filled soul
And fill it with devils and dust"

Bruce Springsteen, Devils and Dust

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.
Carl Jung
Interestingly, our personal shadows don't reveal themselves when we are bathed in contented light. Rather, they loom large when we find ourselves visited by darkness. It is in the discomfort of darkness where our desires form and envelope us until we are forced to acknowledge them.
Or not. Some people never acknowledge their true wishes. They will live a life trying to maintain a homestatic blandness, a tight sphinctered repressiveness of thought control. I pity them because they are basically getting through life without the taste of it.....without inhaling the freshness of a new day.........without quenching the thirst and hunger of passionate living.
Desires disturb our sleep with chain rattling discomfort and manifest themselves as seemingly unreachable visions of longing. It is a longing fed by our sensations that drive our quest to satisfy our appetites....our cravings.
They loom on the shores of our personal destinations. They make us put one foot in front of the other. Sometimes attainable and yet sometimes forever beyond our fingertips.......beyond reality. They remain in an illusory cloud hovering state, dreaming temptations of forbidden fare, searing heat, bitter cold unfulfillment. We are driven by our desires, motivated to reach out beyond our cocooned safety in order to climb our next summit. It is a fire in the belly feeling.......which pushes us into the arms of awareness.

Shadowed desires can be cloaked as both positive and negative. They are formed by our unresolved and unfulfilled parts of who you are. Given that we all have in us good and evil, love and hate, greed and generosity, wants and needs, our desires may clash with magnetically strong sirens. They form our internal conflict. They force us to wrestle with God. They can push us down onto our knees in prayer. Desires strike at the core of temptation.
What is the real purpose behind our ability to desire deeply when they can lead us to both anguish and ecstasy? Why were we born with such strongly fueled passion if it often leads us to the shore of tempation? Perhaps it is desire which offers us the reason for the journey. If we didn't have this fuel, we would never leave the cocoon. We would never seek out a new signpost for discovery. We would never question, ponder, dream, aspire, want, crave, envision, create, reach out for...... Our "will" would fade away to an apparition of used to be...... Without desire, there would be no passion in creating new life....

Desire more than you can ever achieve.
Awaken the stirrings.
Desire is the cord attaching our feelings to our soul.
Love like you've never been hurt.

This week's prompt at Writer's Island is "desire".......a quenching delectable stirring thought. To read more desirous posts, check out this site........

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Humbling, Mumbling, Stumbling......

As I have written many times, the blogging community...... well the one I was lucky enough to be adopted into, has offered me many gifts. Comments, encouragement, ideas, challenges to my own ramblings, have provided much inspiration and motivation. Most importantly, I feel a strong sense of fellowship with the individuals who have visited my site and have shared some of themselves with me. Over the course of the life of this site, I have developed friendships through emails and conversations with people around the world........this is an absolutely amazing gift; one I was not expecting. I treasure these blossoming friendships.

I have never believed more strongly of the concept of a global village than I do now. This is the pot of gold the internet has offered to all of us. Our homes and our lives form a beautiful neighbourhood. You're just around the corner from me...........albeit 4 time zones away! The feeling that we can send out our human touch to one another is a blessing.
When I did my tour of Europe backpack trip years ago, I was always thrilled but also taken aback by how the conversations one started up with a stranger in a hostel automatically went to sharing dreams, feelings, opinions......the important stuff. There was never any lollygagging around the piddly nonstarter topics. Reflecting on this, I guess I figured there was an assumption that since we had all made travelling and backpacking a priority (and a reality) in our young lives, that we had much in common. Hence, we could strip away the fluff and get down to the big stuff. Every night seemed like a buffet of kindred talk. I loved this part of the trip more than any aspect. It's the same aspect of my job in the frontlines that I love.

Who knew that blogging would offer up the same buffet? My intentions when I began this writing journey was to simply develop an archive of my ideas.......all the while trying to tackle various subjects that somehow managed to swim free of other measley thoughts littering my noggin. So, I'd write on a that may have "refreshed an irritation" as my lovely emerald friend Pip says......or one that began as an opinion on something I had read, or heard or discussed or experienced...... and then I'd post it.

More times than not, I have felt like I was writing from the dark, gathering light as I went along figuring out what it was I was trying to convey. On many of the topics I have tried to tackle, the learning for me has come while chewing through the thoughts first and then finding the phrase or words to give it meaning. Or rather, the phrases and words found ME, the scribe who tries to capture them in flight. In other words, most of what i've written has felt like a stab in the dark by a sham artist (me).......... because I am learning as I write.

I am writing as I learn. And as I learn and write and write and learn, I am hopefully becoming more aware of who I am, where I fit, who we are, where we fit, and what this life thing is all about.

On the other side of the coin, it became apparent pretty quickly that I had stored a whole bundle of stories and people interactions that were ready to be shared..........and they continue to spill out of me without any inkling of them stopping. I read somewhere that there's no point in learning something if you're not going to share it. Theres no point in holding onto some insight if it can't help another person...... it might as well not exist if it isn't shared. It's like hoarding your Halloween candy until it goes stale. Whats the point of that? So, this outlet has provided a circle of friends for me to pass on AND to receive perspectives from our personal histories.

Our stories make up our humanity. Our stories will be the way to understanding humanity.

Over the past week or so, I have been given 4 awards for my mumbling and stumbling and to tell you the truth, they have left me feeling very humbled. As I have stated, much of what I have written has been a selfish act of trying to figure something out. It's very humbling to realize that while I have been doing this, I have managed to offer food for thought for others. And maybe even this is an insight for me...... another example of how we are all on the same journey. The sites and sounds and personal experiences may be different, but the journey is fueled the same. I want to thank the beautiful human being bloggers who have bestowed these awards........... and I want to pass them onto to a few others. I hope you find a new blogsite and a new friend through one of these links.....I think you will.

I received this from Marja, who lives and works and thrives and BLOGS from New Zealand. We "met" one another through Writer's Island, where we have both posted stories over the past couple of months. Since then, Marja and I have realized we have much in common with respect to our interests in working with children and our background formal training in this area. How cool is that?? I'm sitting here and Marja is halfway around the world from me.....and we have found terrific common ground. Thank you Marja.

And I'd like to pass this award onto the lovely lyrical gentleman poet and creator of Writer's Island, Rob Kistner. His blog, Image and Verse is always a delight to visit......his poems are spiritual, sensual, thought provoking, wonderfully imaginative. His pictures and photos that accompany them have a magical feel to them. Please visit his sites to enjoy his take on life, and to say hello. And, if you want.........try your hand at writing something for Writer's Island. There's a new prompt word each week.

I'd also like to pass this onto my blogging buddy, Charles Leblanc who is single handedly showing the rest of the world what his view of Fredericton is all about. The good, the bad and the ugly. Charles is MORE prolific than the rest of us, often posting two or three stories and photos a day. He blames it on his ADHD....... personally, I just think he likes being a bit of a pot stirrer (aka a shit disturber). Charles and I connect for a chat at least once a week........catching up, swapping stories...... and talking blogger talk. Given that both of us are boisterous yappy talkers, our conversations run the gamut of topics during the course of 10 minutes! He keeps the politicians and media types on their toes and drives them CRAZY in the process. Ya, gotta love him! Plus, he gives me a hug every time I see him, which tells me I'm on his good side and not on his shit list. Thank God.

Gypsy writes from her heart always........who's site is visited by bloggers from all walks and thoughts, which makes for an interesting dialogue in the comments section after Gypsy has shared a story or an opinion. We too have linked arms despite the fact that she's in SummerOz down under and I'm in Winterwonderland up north. Aside from both liking the idea of sharing a good bottle of wine together....... we too have found much common ground. I always look forward to reading her insights because i never know if I'm going to be touched in a weepy way, or whether I'm going to be laughing out loud. I encourage you to visit her blog and wish her a Happy Australia Day!

Thank you Gypsy for the "Mentor" award. It means a great deal to me.

I would like to pass it onto an individual whom I have just met in the virtual world..... Mark from The Naked Soul is kicking it up a notch with his thoughts on many of the same topics I have tried to tackle. When I stumbled onto his site serendipitously, I blinked and read and realized that perhaps I had found someone who may be blogging for the same reasons as myself. I encourage you to check out the Naked Soul...... I guarantee you'll find a few gems.

The blogging mentor award was also designed as a way to recognize the people who helped you get started in blogland in the first place. So, I'd like to send a smile and an Irish jig to my Finnan friend. You can blame him for my incessant yapping, though he's known to be quite a random topic talker as well.

Deb at Jane Poe and I met through another award bestowing (is that a word?) a while ago. When was it Deb? I feel like we've known each other for YEARS. Our worlds gravitated to one another initially through our mutual enjoyment of each other's creative writing, but it became clear very quickly that we too had much in common on the career front. Deb is also a beautiful poet.......her verses stir up your senses like a sensual whisper.

Thank you Deb for this uplifting nod..........what you share of yourself on your blog and the encouraging comments you leave on mine ALWAYS make my day.

I'd like to pass this award onto Katie at Rainbow Dreams. Katie's a Guernsey girlfriend from way back now...! We have shared much about our lives with one another, our struggles in making changes in our careers, our yearnings as well as our day to day dealings of being Moms and juggling home and work etc. Her friendliness, and kindness always makes my day.
I'd also like to pass this onto Barbara/Layla who manages to keep two or three or four blogs hopping! Barbara has been a Godsend when it has come to my spiritual learning.....suggestions of readings, comments about my writing, and mostly posting thought provoking stories and quotes on her blog have fed my thinking. I love her openbook honesty......... and how she can spill her feelings and doubts and struggles as a way to help herself figure it out, but also as a way for her readers to ponder. And if I ever, EVER manage to get something published, she has promised me that she would be my agent! Right Layla?? :) Check out these two and here.

Lastly but definately not leastly..........Claudia, who gave me this award with the following comment which cracked me up......

"Awareness and I are fairly new to each other. I find her posts to be very thought provoking and helpful. I believe she’s a therapist too - which is always a little scary because therapists can be complete wack jobs. Her comments to my comments are always thought, probing, encouraging me to go deeper and be more thoughtful. That’s really wonderful. "

My, there are days when I feel like a wack job! And who knows, maybe there's a whole crowd of people who truly believe I am. Thank you Claudia. I LOVE being a world wide web woman. It sounds so classy and sleezy at the same time. :)

Claudia is a full time writer...... and a beautiful one at that. She also has a sense of humour which is very similar to mine. We both were born with the absurd gene I think. Please check out Claudia's's full of sunshine, sunflowers and insights......her most recent post about bubble gum is hilarious! Please say hi from me and let her know I'm not a wack job. :) Thanks.

I'd like to pass this award onto a two women bloggers who tickle my thinking and offer good reading and good fun.

Judy at imagine what I'm leaving a beautiful blogger floral designer. Her photos of her work are sometimes posted and I love seeing her creativities. Judy also posts great stories from family history, wonderful quotes, little tidbits of information, links to interesting sites. She also has a unique hobby collection. Judy collects bizarre names. Ask her about them! She's got some hilarious doozies.

Michele is a Canadian bloggie social convenor who arranges and encourages weekend "meet and greets" between bloggers. During the week, Michele posts questions and ice breaker type activities for anyone to take part in. She has single handedly introduced new readers and writers to one another through her social network. It has definately broadened my own network. Thank you Michele........ oh, and when you visit her fun bloghome, please tell her I say "Hi." And then jump right into the meet and greet...... :0)

there you go.......... hopefully a few new friends to meet......... I didn't go by the rules and award these the way I was supposed to, but then again, I suck at rules. It's my wacked nature.

ps. I've run out of bloggie time today, but I will be fixing my sidebar tomorrow......the links, plus others will be there again...........thanks again......

Friday, January 25, 2008

kissing silence

When I need silence the most is when it seems to slip out of reach. In fact, it is deafening. There's a stirring of mismatched notes clashing and banging into one another like an orchestra tuning up before a concert. Harmony found in the coupling of complimentary instruments is missing. It's just incessant, complicated, thunderous noise. Stress is the red light indicator which makes us aware of the need to find a way to hush up.

Sometimes silence is found in the wind. If I'm walking on a blustery day, the constant sound of the wind acts as a buffer which shelters my own quiet thoughts as I process them and then let them flow away. I think some people like the white noise of a fan at night when they are trying to go to sleep. It allows them to feel some kind of protection from other external sounds, which then allows them to focus on sleep.

Music can do the same thing. Surrounding yourself in a favourite song or melody, one that is pleasing to your senses can calm down the noisy internal jitteries in an instant. A long day of interactions, reactions and connections ......... the bustle of busy can all slip away while listening to music ......... leaving you in a much better place to reflect. It's like the music wraps ribbons around your thoughts and pulls them out one at a time instead of all at once.

We need it more than we need thunder. When you think about it, planet earth revolves and evolves in silence. Sunrises make no noise. Flowers keep to themselves. Have you ever heard a blade of grass yelp due to growing pains? A sunkissed afternoon in the garden has the healing power of allowing you to learn from nature's hushed prayer.

If we want to be able to listen for the footsteps of understanding ourselves and the world around us, we need to find our focus through the incessant noises of life no matter how much discomfort is felt initially. It's funny how we will sometimes do everything in our power to cloak ourselves in the busyness of chaos just to avoid a moment alone with our own thoughts. Silence can be very frightening. What is it that we are afraid of? Could it be the fear of confronting parts of ourselves newly revealed that we may not like? Could it be the agony of recognizing the regrets of past actions and behaviour we may not be proud of? Could it be the scary idea that we are temporarily on this planet and we are all going to die one day? Of course it is..... We aren't unique. There's only so many fears to go around and we all experience them some time or another.

And yet, if we can push through the discomfort by offering ourselves to meditative silence, if we can work through the fears and intrusive thoughts, we will find ourselves in a meadow where peace and prayer reside. Faith needs the sustenance found in our moments when we try to talk to God. Faith grows during the silent opening of our vulnerable hearts when we are brave enough to listen for His whispering footsteps. And when we need it the most, we may have the biggest struggles to find that small holy space lost in the shadows where our fears reside. Nothing important comes without effort does it? I guess all the soul wrestling we do is well worth it in the long run.
Now if you would excuse me, I need to go stand in some hurricane winds. The screeching has got to stop.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

one day we meet.....imagine

what would it be like if we were to meet?
would there be an awkward moment of transition from virtual to reality?
would the air be gobbled up with an onslaught of sensations and thoughts?
a hushed lack of focus as real flesh fingertips touch for the first time.

pinch me
is this happening?

what would you sound like?
is your voice how I expect it to be?
how do you think I sound?
what would we say first?

can you believe this?
there you are in front of me
here we 3D!
you look and sound EXACTLY like I imagined!
i love your accent
what accent? you're the one with the accent!

And if we met, I know what we'd do first.
We'd go for a walk
in the woods
down a street
in the neighbourhood
along the river
close to a shoreline
it doesn't matter where........does it?

our ambling, rambling stroll is a moving setting to finding our way
to one another

And while we walked, we'd talk.

Not in cliches or small doses of facts.

Rather, we would JUMP right into the big bold open heart stuff filled with our stories, yearnings, dreams, questions....

Of course we would..........we do virtually.......reality would be no different. but it wouldn't be all serious. levity would be present too as we laugh over funny words and terms common in your own world but not mine.

silly snogging slang that has to be explained.

time would flow fast as we try to slow the pace

clinking pints

skipping stones

stoking a fire

enjoying a meal together

sipping cointreau

and the conversation would ramble on

filling the air with the warmth of friendship.



can you believe's really me. it's really you. hello friend.

i wonder how you imagine it?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Acceptance vs. Resignation

We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.
Carl Jung.

I sat with a woman who is just coming out of her cocoon.......a place where pain resides in her joints. Sometimes, the pain is so harsh and so overbearing that she can't do simple things like stand in the bathtub and let a warm shower comfort her, or even get in and out of the tub which leaves her sitting on the cold porcelain side to clean herself as best as she can. Getting dressed is near impossible and anything tight fitting feels like rope digging into her skin. Reaching up into cupboards, opening a can of soup, peeling a potato hurts in winces. Breath catching winces. In her cocoon of pain, she couldn't hold a book. It was too heavy. Besides, her body was overwhelmed with fatigue. What got her through this? She always believed that relief would find her again.

I sat with a woman who suffers from arthritis. Her limbs are bent permanently but the swelling comes and goes, comes and goes...... She talked of how she looks out her window at 7:30 in the morning and watches her neighbours leave their homes and go to work. She longs to go to work again, but the last time she did, it lasted 2 weeks and then she was in bed for 3. This experience helped her accept her diagnosis and the permanance of it.

It would be easy to slip into an abyss of resignation...........just simply resign to never working, never living as fully as she once did.........allowing herself to be swallowed up by the "nevers..." but apathy isn't an option for her. Yes, she has accepted that arthritis is a reality and that it may continue to worsen. However, she refuses to let it oppress her.

We talked about the difference between acceptance and resignation. Even when she has to surrender to the pain and go to bed, away from the world, she is still in control of her life because she holds a strength of will. Her commitment to herself to hold onto hope, and her understanding that we can't stop the rain from falling keeps her emotionally liberated. She then shared her secret...........that she never feels all alone because her faith grows stronger when she feels the weakest.

I am always amazed at the power of the mind of a survivor. This woman hasn't had an easy life whatsoever. Every single day of her life has been a struggle. If it wasn't the arthritis, she was coping with a dysfunctional family, abuse and poverty. She has lived on the margins scraping by, barely coping from day to day. Every morning however, she awakens in hopes that maybe she can go to work again, that she will be able to commence with accomplishing the simple things again, that maybe when she takes her daughter to the Mall, that she will have the stamina to join her daughter browsing in the stores rather than sitting in the car waiting.

Some days she can. And some days, she needs to let the rain fall with the knowledge that it too shall pass.

Apathy is not in her vocabulary. May the sun shine on her.

Monday, January 21, 2008

beauty and bread.....

Everyone needs beauty as well as bread
Places to play in and pray in
Where nature may heal and cheer and give strength
to body and soul alike.
John Muir.
This was a quote left on my blog a while back by a beautiful tree climbing human being whose own writing often fed mine. I loved it then, and I love it now because it captures my personal inclination to feel the most connected to God when I'm outdoors surrounded by nature's holy spaces. I've spent too much time indoors lately, though was on the road all day today meeting with people in their homes. It felt good to be off the main roads taking in the bright sunshine and the very cold winter air. Theres a sense of freedom of spirit when I'm outdoors enjoying nature.....a freeing up of thoughts and an opening of possibilities. It does heal. It does bring cheer. And it certainly strengthens the soul.

the full monty.....

The the boldfaced moon followed us home tonight.....not in a sneaky manner like it does sometimes when it teases you with peaks behind the clouds, or when it only gives you a partial half-monty looksee. No tonight, it flashed it's fullness, courting a swaggering sense of bravado. You couldn't miss it, the brassy bugger.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

acceptance and easing the pain........

"A neurotic is someone who worries about things in the past that never happened. Not like us normal people who only worry about things in the future that won't happen" Anthony de Mello

Last Sunday, I woke up with a small pain in my back. It felt like a tightened muscle and it continued to worsen until I ended up wincing in pain everytime I moved the wrong way or tilted my head down. By Thursday I found myself drugged up, in bed laying on a heating pad. Its always surprising how your body can physically inform you that there's too much stuff going on in your head isn't it? Whether it's a cold or a headache or its a pain in your neck, your body will let you know that it's time to figure it out again.

The past two weeks have been whirlwindish. Since the New Year bells tolled I have jumped right back into a very busy and emotionally pulsing work environment. Several counselling sessions, facilitating a two day meeting for a group who had never met before, planning a workshop, writing reports, working on a proposal have filled my days, along with preparing for a job interview, writing a 3 hour french proficiency test and being assessed in an oral french proficiency test which I worried incessantly about throughout the whole Christmas season. None of this even touches on my home life!

When things are busy like that, I usually tackle it by staying on task and in the moment. What was different this time around was the fact that I have been focused on the future as I try to seek out a new job as well as completing the day to day tasks.

Moving forward, but feeling very stuck........ does that make sense? It's like I have a pair of rubber boots on and have just walked into a big puddle of muck........the strain of trying to pull out of the muck did a number on my back.

So, with the help of muscle relaxants, music, time and permission (my own) to drop out of life for a day or so I turned off the work switch and let my family look after me and themselves. When I was able to sit up again, instead of reaching for the novel I had started reading, I found myself gravitating back to a book entitled, Praying Naked, which I had read a while back that is filled with the insights of the late Father Anthony de Mello, author of several books including Awareness. It was like I was reading it for the first time because I was reading it with different set of eyes and a different frame of mind. I had moved emotionally, spiritually and psychologically since my first go around.

My last two posts have been generated by this book..........

The more I read, the more I realized how silly it is to overwhelm yourself with frets and worries about the future. I struggle with my lack of patience. I struggle with being a control freak. If I could only remember that I can only do what I can do and let go of the rest of the muck and just let life run it's course.

let life run it's course..........

That doesnt mean I have to hand over the reins completely. It means that I need to be more cognizant that there truly are some things which I have no control over. It means that if your feet are in one place and your head is in another, your back is going to hurt. There's no point in keeping your thoughts in the future if you want to enjoy the present.

A stillness did find me again. By Saturday, the back pain disappeared. And as I write this tonight, on the eve of yet another busy week, I try to stay on task right here and now and not fret about what MAY or MAY not happen between now and next Sunday...... because anything can happen right?

What's that serenity poem again.........??

Saturday, January 19, 2008

illusions and outcomes........

Fifteen years ago, a good friend of mine was travelling through Portugal on her own. She was an experienced traveller and prided herself on her ability to navigate her way in countries she had never been to before. In fact, the confidence she exuded was what attracted me to her on our first day of classes together. In a room full of 30 others, Maxine's energy radiated strength and confidence. It turns out that she felt the same about me..........we ended up as roommates and lifelong friends because of our awareness of one another.

The last thing that Maxine would've predicted was that she would be mugged during her trip. She knew the typical tricks played on tourists and she felt she was always on alert remaining aware of all around her. She thought she had protected herself well......most of her money was in travellers cheques. She carried her valuables in a leather satchel with a wide strap that crossed over one shoulder and under the other. With everything zipped up and sitting on her front, she walked confidently through the marketplace in Lisbon. All of a sudden, someone came out of the middle of nowhere, grabbed her satchel with both hands and RIPPED it off her body. Maxine tried to fight back, yelled loudly to no avail and even tried to chase them down. Within minutes, she was left without any money except a small amount in her pocket, a passport, or identification.

Shocked and shook up, she went directly to the local police station for help. Certainly, she thought, they would help her right way........ she was an honest woman in need. She was an honest Canadian woman in need. That must mean something. However, what happened instead was..... well nothing happened. Maxine found herself in a Catch -22. No I.D, no verification. No I.D. no passport replacement. At least not right away.

She phoned home......called collect.........and got them to wire some money to tide her over until her ID and passport could be replaced. For the first couple of days, she was angry.......angry and unsettled. She had been violated.........her confidence was battered, her sense of infallibility decimated. She was suffering.

Then, something happened. Her thinking changed. Sitting on the beach one day, she suddenly realized how free she was. With no identity, no destination, no way of fighting her situation, she let go of the phony control.......and surrendered to going with the flow. Instead of suffering and feeling sorry for herself, Maxine chose to hang out on the beach and relax. It was probably the most relaxed she has ever felt............

Suffering is a state we can easily succumb to. It kicks in when what we expect to happen clashes with what really happens. Desire clashes with reality. Maxine could easily have remained in that state.........emotionally attached to the event of being mugged, feeling sorry for herself and her situation, overwrought by the violent act. Initially, her desires were all focused on regaining her "identity," because she felt that her happiness and safety depended on it. Then, the thought "theres not a damn thing I can do about this. I might as well make the best of it," occured and she unhooked herself from the suffering. Once she detached from this assumption, and realized that her contentment and happiness was not tied to this event.......OR any event for that matter, she settled in for a "responsibility-free" gift.

It was a lesson she has never forgotten........that her happiness is not a matter of what happens or doesnt happen to her. Rather, it is a choice and a way of looking at the world around her. It comes from within. Favourable feelings are generated internally.........

We all have difficulties to overcome and more often than not the outcome results don't look anything like how we envisioned them or what we expected. Sometimes I find this very frustrating. I have this picture in my head of how something will work out..........and it rarely happens that way. Life seems to be an ongoing process of learning how not to attach yourself to the desired outcome. ...... even if you really really REALLY want it to turn out YOUR way.

"Desire the world, but don't become attached to the outcome of your desire." Deepak Chopra

Friday, January 18, 2008

The approval addiction........

Why is it that we are always seeking approval? Is it an addiction with us? Are we so uncertain of our own decisions that we have to have validation all the time? Some will say that seeking approval is just a way of being respectful to others, as a way of including them in the decision you are trying to make, but it isn't. Because if you think about it, asking someone for approval is basically giving them the last say......THEY get to make the decision.

Can I?
May I?
Do you like?
Can you validate me?
Is my idea worthy of your approval?

When does the time come when you say to yourself........."I have decided to become"......... or "tomorrow, I plan to"........ or............This is my opinion. I've thought it through. I'm comfortable with this opinion and I'm not going to ask someone if they think its right or wrong."

We all have had mentors and parents in our lives who have guided us and have hopefully provided us with the skills and gifts to get along in this world. Though we will always be students, or always be a son or daughter.............we outgrow the need to check in for approval. And yet, our conditioning kicks in...........and off we seek it. This is exacerbated if one works in a hierarchical environment when one has to ask for permission all the time........where you're monitored and evaluated all the time just like school......just like when you were a kid.

It's hard to let go of this addiction................

Can I
May I
I want you to approve of me..................

I read recently that spirituality is a matter of becoming who you really are. We seem to live under the illusion that it's important to be loved, important, respected and well thought of. This sets us up to be on the constant look out for approval, affection and love. But here's the paradox. If we turn that around..............instead of always looking for approval and we put all of this energy and attention on thinking well of others....... we will fulfill the two true real urges we human beings have: to love and to be free.

If we are constantly seeking approval, we will never feel free. There will always be a sensation of feeling shackled.........waiting for the nod from someone.

If we reach out to others instead of trying to convince them to reach out to you through approval, then you are freely offering your love.

There are healthier ways to gain the respect of the important people in our lives. Seeking approval isn't one of simply gives the power of your life over to someone else. Isnt there enough out there that we have no control over??

When the time comes when we can break away from the approval cycle, is this when we can honestly say we are adults?

just wondering............

All caught up in the reverie
Every word is a symphony
Won't you believe me
Christopher Cross
A beautiful scene taken from my car on the way to work yesterday morning. That old song Sailing was playing on the radio........the serenity of the song met the serenity of the scene.
for Tara.

Morning Has Broken

"Beauty isn't a thing. It's a way of seeing."

Anthony de Mello

Clarity is found in the simplicity of beauty

Nothing in all creation is so like God than stillness.

Meister Eckhart

A clear crisp Canadian winter morning produces a stillness in the landscape. The sharpness of the cold initially feels like a slap on your comfortably warm face when you take your initial steps through the front door into the outdoors. With no breeze to speak of, the only audible sounds were my own....a swishing of my coat, and the squeakcrunch of my boots on the snow covered walkway.

I was in a hurry. Work beckoned. But as I put my bundles of books and bags down to open the car door, I looked up and around and saw what had been left on the branches of the trees the night before. My "way of seeing" shifted from closed focused goal driven busy-ness to an open minded sweep of seeing what was all around me.

take the whispered.......take the time to gaze.

Snowfrost, in splendour sparkling beauty adorned the branches of the normally naked trees. It had dressed them up in wonderland. Each branch was delicately brushed by the winter faeries who had quietly (and busily I might add) sprinkled diamonds of snow in the night when we were all asleep. It left a feeling of stillness, a natural holy space of contemplative presence.

I saw a pastel colour filtering through the fog.......a pale hue contrasting with the predominant morning white fog. I saw the glistening of snowbranches on a bush which would easily had blended into the snowbank behind it if it hadn't been for the shadows of the light reflecting onto the snow.

All alone..........not another person in sight........and yet I felt far from alone enjoying these gifts. After I took a few photos, I stood at the end of my driveway where I could see the river and a sweeping vista of the whole area. So peaceful. So quiet, even with the moving traffic on the road below. It seemed like the faerie dusting had muffled the sounds........ I took some long deep breaths of my cold crisp canadian air.........and felt empowered by the meditational gift offered to me and I swear all of a sudden I could hear a familiar hymn of peace fill this natural holy space.

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning

Born of the one light, Eden saw play

Praise with elation, praise every morning

God's recreation of the new day

..........a blessed new day........


Wednesday, January 16, 2008


There's a restlessness gurgling inside me tonight........a churning stew of thoughts and emotions that isn't allowing me to drop my arms and body into the exhaustion it feels. It's like my insides are zipping around in a caffeine frenzy while the outside limbs feel weighted down unable to move with any kind of panache. This happens when I find myself at the end of a busy few days that have been wrought with undulating emotions.

up and down

up and down








Gee...........given that description, someone could easily slap a label on my forehead that yells out "bi-polar!"

I've heard many stories of late that have touched a deep chord. Pain has been poured out along with admissions, confessions, and painful pasts. In order to be able to listen and to be present, I must compartmentalize the stories so each one, and each person receives my undivided attention while I am with them. Normally the stories don't dwell too long. They can't or I would've burned out long ago. This time, perhaps because of a lot of "follow up" and phone calls have been required to make sure others are involved in helping and intervening when it was warranted, my insides remain restless.

I worry. I worry mostly about the innocents involved in the messes of adults' complicated lives......and it makes me wonder whether these little ones will EVER experience normalcy and untarnished love rather than the the love that dangles like a carrot in front of them.....within sight, but out of reach.

Lately, I have found myself getting angry inside listening to the stories from some of the adults. Knowing that the emotional lives of their own children have been manipulated and mangled so badly that they will never fully recover, I have felt a boiling surge of anger that wipes away the empathy I normally feel. It is striking a nerve and I've had to hold back my desire to recklessly point this out to the guilty adult sitting in my office pouring out their own pain. It's tempting, but completely counterproductive because if a partnership can be formed, more good can come out of it than if I decide to shut it down with loud judgements and finger pointing.

Human interaction and making strong connections in my world of work sometimes involves trying to understand another's crazy mixed up life.............trying to figure out has impacted and interfered with their decisions.

Why have they made the choices they have made?

Why did they decide to hook up with a known abuser?

Why have they ended up sitting in my office pouring out their admissions and confessions?

What is the reason behind the behaviour???

What has caused the really bad decisions?

Where have they come from and why are they so misguided?

Yearnings gone awry. We all have yearnings. Most of the time they are manageable and don't interfere. Sometimes however, because of the baggage we carry or the wounds we sustain along the way, we end up with big gaping holes in our souls which we fill with longings and yearnings that are so big that they scream at us to do something about it. Loneliness, pain, hurts, abandonment, grief, illness, sustained stress are all culprits which can easily turn our lives inside out because when they accompany the yearnings, they can suffocate our level headed thinking. Our actions may completely fly in the face of our own values and beliefs and yet we can't stop ourselves from falling into that paradoxical precipice. We don't even realize most of the time until it's too late that the actions we take not only affect us negatively, but can impact the lives of our loved ones. It could be blatantly obvious to others, while we remain oblivious to the consequences. Until some damage is done.

We are human beings whose lives intertwine and connect. It's what I try to remind myself when I am trying to walk a mile with someone whose behaviour hits a negative chord in me. If I bark out my judgement right away, I have more than likely shut down any chance to understand better but more importantly to help someone learn from their choices and consequences. And if I believe that what I do and say is intertwined with what others do and say, I must try to recognize when my own triggers are punched........

As Thomas Merton explains, "Only when we see ourselves in our true human context, as members of a race which is intended to be one organism and ‘one body,’ will we begin to understand the positive importance not only of the successes but of the failures and accidents in our lives. My successes are not my own. The way to them was prepared by others. The fruit of my labors is not my own: for I am preparing the way for the achievements of another. Nor are my failures my own. They may spring from failure of another, but they are also compensated for by another’s achievement. Therefore the meaning of my life is not to be looked for merely in the sum total of my own achievements. It is seen only in the complete integration of my achievements and failures with the achievements and failures of my own generation, and society, and time."

I think maybe I need to print that message out and tape it to my fridge for safe keeping and then go to bed. I'm tired, both inside and out.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

it's what matters.........

At the funeral of my father in law, George, last May I was struck by the story his best friend told as part of his eulogy. Peter and George had been close friends for many years. They had fought in many political elections together......George the candidate, Peter the organizer and fund raiser. Both big presence people, with the ability to draw many into their magnetism. George had an illustrious career in politics in Ontario and held many ministerial portfolios. Peter is a self driven businessman, self made millionaire in land development. He has travelled the globe, skied many mountains, and continues to live a very full life. Busy successful men, the two of them.

Peter had an armload of "war stories" he could've told about their antics and experiences together........stories that would've been impressive on many levels.......the people they had met, the inside meetings they had attended, etc. Many of these stories were shared with family the night before over scotch and some good reunion laughs. The remember whens which included wives and kids, other friends and other families were all set aside.........for before and after the funeral.

Instead, Peter drew us all a picture of two friends sitting at the end of the dock one summer evening in the early 1960's. They had rented a cabin and had spent the day fishing in a part of northern Ontario known for that. After a dinner of fresh catch, they sauntered down to the end of the dock with a drink in hand and sat quietly in the peace. He described the endless starry sky and the quiet solitude of the moment where two friends realized together that life doesn't get any better than that. Stillness shared.

It was the most poignant moment in the whole service. One elderly man remembering his dear friend with a single treasured slice of life. Together that moment as one and it hit Peter in the core of his heart as he spoke of it. When he finished, he unconciously looked up, smiled his infectious smile and composed himself again.

Friendship, as comfortable as a favourite shirt worn soft, recognized in the stillness of a moment shared under the breath of the stars. Warm breeze, contentment, carefree acceptance when your insides tell you that you may feel like you're fighting the good fight day in and day out all alone........."HERE is moment of reassurance, your insides speak, to let you know that you are never alone. Treasure it."

Friends, the worn shirt kind, are the treasured gifts we receive from God.

The prompt this week from Writer's Island was treasure. To read more, click here.