Friday, April 29, 2011

Another look at counselling.......

 easter sunset, from the Fredericton walking brigde.....
a beautiful place to contemplate

I do love my job.  Everyday is different.  Everyday brings new faces, new stories, new connections into my life.   It's like I have a front and centre seat for the unveiling of life evolving.  It is an intimate place to be when secrets, big dreams, past faux pas, enthusiastic announcements are revealed in my small corner of the world.  Big monumental events may be occuring all around the world.  But let me tell you, big monumental events are simultaneously occuring in my office.  

Change, growth, transitions, grief, health issues, new beginnings, conflict, discomfort merging with comfort, all emotionally charged tales from humans striving to make decisions, letting go of the stuff once considered important...... pairing down what matters.  Big stuff!  Family, relationships, friends, roommates, support vs non support, academic struggles.   It is an endless combination unique to the individual who finds their way into my office.  Stretching beyond comfort while managing life/school/work........... amazing how much one person can juggle and do it well.  Sometimes, though, they need a place to relax........ a place to spill the confusion in order to find clarity.  This is where I come in.  

What I'm finding is that my skin is thinner than it used to be.  Having said that, I don't bring the stories home or the angst.  But, what comes home with me is extreme fatigue.  Its like I run out of gas more quickly than I used to.  This week has shown me this reality again.  I have nothing left in my personal energy reserves when I cross the threshhold into my home.  Ironic that I preach, promote, encourage balance and I've tipped over into the well of overwhelmed.  I can't seem to keep up with everything at home.  AND, I realize that I'm in a point in my life whe I can't rely on the noggin to remember everything............ I have to make a list or I forget to deal with some pulsing task that needs my attention.  The mundance stuff!  But, it still has to get done.

On any given day, I hear about depression, suicide, health issues that are extreme, mental health concerns, family strife, family health problems.  I hear about test anxiety, the inability to study properly, to focus enough, to get in the groove to continue studying.  I hear about conflict between classmates, or disagreements between a student and an instructor.  So, some of what I do is predictable.  What isn't is the personality behind the issues along with the history/baggage that goes along with the individual.  

Counselling is puzzling, challenging, brain work.  It also strums at the heart, and creates shared beautiful moments of vulnerability.  I love it all............ and often find myself in life situations outside of the office when I'm caught in the  middle of counselling which is fine. But, I guess i'm sitting here tonight wondering just how much longer I can continue this gig?  It's probably not the time to be questioning things.  I need a fresh mind, a good night sleep, a chance to catch my breath before I should seriously look at this dilemma.   

It is a calling.  The act of counselling so bred in my bones.   Why then is it leaving me feel exhausted and aimless at night, to a point where i can't seem to stick to a task, accomplish it from beginning to end?  Why has my writing dropped off even though I have time to write, but end up bouncing around doing a variety of things that are not related.  When was the last time I read a novel?  When was the last time I felt organized?  

These are the questions pushing on my brain................ I know I'm not burnt out while I'm in the realm of counselling......... when I'm really in the middle of it.  But, I'm burnt out at night.  

No answers yet......................... just striving to find some linearity.  Perhaps I must succumb to making more thorough lists.  Perhaps I need to hire someone to help me get out of the messes that surround me in this home that is in desperate need of some TLC and spring cleaning.  Perhaps if my sleeping wasn't so wonky, I could find some comfort in the answers.............

The jury is out............ Tired and out.  But, I know its time to find another route.  My journey needs new direction.  Cause change is as good as a rest! 


Monday, April 25, 2011

emotional manipulation revisited

This is a long post, but hopefully you will find a few gems in it that may help you.  I know it's helped me understand it more deeply as I've written it....... put it aside, and then returned to it again and again.  

 I've been plugging away at it one and off for a year!  Why?  Well, of all of the topics I've posted on this blog, the one piece that is "googled" the most  (at least 4-5 times daily!) was one I wrote about over two years ago.  I continue to receive emails and comments from people all over the world who are trying to find the answers to dealing with an Emotional Manipulator in their lives.......... whether its a friend, a lover, a partner, a family member...... they are seeking out answers, looking for some understanding as to what is happening in their lives.  It is a messy topic....... one that comes from the dark side of us.  We can all relate.

We can all manipulate.  We all have this skill in us.  However, there are human beings out there, who are masters of this way of being.  For whatever reason, their lives and their internal wiring lead them into interacting with others using games and mind benders.  To me, they are one of the most difficult individuals to help.  Their needs are bottomless.  Their tactics are so hurtful.  Their ability to take ownership of their behaviour is flawed because more times than not, they don't believe there is a darn thing wrong with them.  It's the rest of the world that is messed up..........
This post is written based on my own experiences, observations, and studies.  I believe self awareness as well as the awareness of the symptoms and sickness is our best attempt as looking after ourselves.  

My first experience happened with a first boyfriend....... age 16.  He had unrelenting anxiety issues and became so ill he couldn't attend school.  I juggled both his homework and my own, trying to be helpful.  He would respond by telling me that if I broke up with him, he would kill himself.  This is where my first learning took place.  I continued on in that toxic relationship for an extra year out of fear.   No one has the right to put their life in your lap!  Oh guess what?  He lived! And every now and then, I receive an email from him at 3 am.  Out of the blue.  My stomach does backflips all these years later when I see his name in my in-box!  Crazy!!

IF we can see it, feel it, hear it, we can make the decisions to get out of the way.  We have choices........ always.  No matter what the consequences are.


bleeding heart........

Its amazing how quickly we are drawn to the drinking fountain that spills the nectar we crave and not even recognize its damaging consequences until the sweetness rots a hole into our hearts.  Its amazing how quickly we sidestep into the same dance moves despite the fact that the music beat seems completely different than the past.  You'd think we'd learn to stay clear of these trappings.  But cravings stilt our thinking while heightening our feelings to a point where they begin to control the choices we make.  We get drawn in as fast as flames up the chimney.

SWOOSH!  Off balance and confused by the swaying persuasion of a person who uses emotionally charged tactics to get what they want, we succumb to the hypnotic allure of their game. We become victimized and are held hostage by a professional victim who knows our weak points and knows how to use an arsenal of Emotion DARTS that target our weak points  Its like playing chess with a master.  The problem is..... in the rush to play the game, we don't recognize fast enough that we have become one of his Pawns. 

How does this happen so quickly?  How do we end up emotionally tied to another person who craves control because they don't feel like they have any in their life?  How do we recognize the manipulator who smoothly uses mind manoeuvering techniques like a tonic we choose to drink?  Why does this seem to happen more often to people who are kind and full of goodness?  How do we become enablers in a game you will never win?  

The way I see it AND believe it?  It comes down to the idea that we are getting some of our own personal needs met!  

Lots of questions!  Lots of ruminations!  LOTS of time spent trying to find your footing with professional victims who use the terror filling tactics of emotional game playing. 

Ask yourself.............. Is what I am doing to help one of these victims getting me what I want??  What do I want?   What are my needs?

Ask yourself......... Which of the most important relationships in my life are spiritually and emotionally healthy? What is is about them that make them feel healthy?  Why are they healthy?  Is there a respectful balance of give and take?
Ask youself.... Which ones are toxic?  IN what ways are they toxic?  Why?  What am I getting out of it?

Ask yourself......... What role do I play in the push and pull of a relationship that may not be a healthy one?  What am I sacrificing of myself and my life to try to maintain/fix/change the relationship? 

We all have the same needs.  According to William Glasser, Choice Theory guru guy, our needs fall into 5 categories.  Survival, Love and Belonging, Control/Empowerment, Freedom and Fun.  That's it.  5 needs.  5 goblets...... filled or not.  If one of our goblets is nearing empty, our actions, according to Dr. Glasser focus on re-filling the need goblet.   It affects how we think, feel emotionally, feel physically and act.  In other words, it tints the lens we use to look out at the world around us because we crave to fill the emptiness.

For example, if  Love and Belonging needs goblet is empty,  thoughts turn to conjuring up statements like....."I'm unlovable.  I'm ugly.  I'm alone.  No one loves me....Nobody cares that I'm even alive." This is the biggie!!!  Emotional feelings may sour into loneliness, shame, sadness, anxiety, rejection, anger.  Physical feelings turn to hunger, belly aches, headaches, energy heaviness.  Every ache and pain is felt, which in turn twists thinking into morbidity.  

Actions??  They can run the gamut.  You may slink away into my bed and succumb to depression, or you may become the busiest butterfly flitting out and about with a broken wing in search of love. OR, if you are aware of what's happening and what the need is, you may choose a much more balanced healthier approach.  You reach out to others.  You get into counselling. You start up a project or immerse yourself in a hobby.  You learn to be still and find happiness with your own company.  

Instant gratification through sex, food, alcohol, online sexual risk taking with others out in the mean world.  It comes down to looking for that elusive unconditional love but only ever finding love with conditions.  With rules.  With "do this" and I will love you conditions.  Its amazing how far we will go to seek out love...... to feel a sense of oneness and belonging ........... to rid ourselves of our misfit persona.  Values be damned when we are empty vessels in need of affirmation.

When my "love and belonging" needs have been depleted,  I am vulnerably open to tripping into the kind of relationship that will devour instead of soothe. I try to MAKE the relationship work even if it is toxic.  They will use their manipulative charm to get their own needs met.... empowerment, control and maybe even love and belonging too!  At first glance, it appears that this relationship is a healthy partnership..... I'll scratch my back, you scratch mine scenario.  But, when you are dealing with someone whose "need cups" can never be filled..... when they are a bottomless pit of need, there is no give and take balance.  The relationship runs amok..... as the game of give, give, give and take, take, take continues until the giver has nothing left and the taker remains hungry for more.  

give, give, give......
take, take, take.....
the giver pulls away, trying to look after themselves
the taker reacts by uttering demands, threats... even to a point where they say they will harm themselves.  Even to a point where they DO harm themselves......... all in a ploy to shake up the guilt and shame of the Giver. 

We are not dealing with a person who is healthy.  Chances are, there is serious mental health issues simmering under the surface.  But, they are smart.  The anger and aggression eventually rise up through their skin, but days and weeks can go by when all seems so serene!   They need professional intervention.  Sadly, Emotional Manipulators are the last ones who will ever admit there is something wrong with them. They are professional victims. The world is out to get THEM. 
So, we need to look after ourselves.  Like they say before the plane takes off, we need to put our oxygen masks on first before we can attempt to help someone.  We need to be aware of our own needs .... this is Emotional Awareness.  This is Emotional Literacy!  Read on!!!

If all of our behaviour is our best attempt at fulfilling our needs, how much control do we have over our actions?  A heck of a lot more than we do trying to control the actions of others or their needs. We may be the most "aware" person in the whole world, sometimes our needs drive us blindly down some thorny paths even if we think we are being careful.  And the worst thorny path to find yourself tumbling down is one that is owned by an emotional manipulator.  

More often than not, this is the foundation of domestic violence, which  INCLUDES more than a husband and wife scenario.   Domestic violence  includes elder abuse, child versus parent abuse, parent/child abuse, sibling violence, extended family abuse.  Emotional, physical, sexual or a combination of all.   More often than not, the manipulators who take advantage of our goodness are family.  I've experienced it first hand through marriage.  I've read about it, studied it, and have helped others in counselling sessions try to come to terms with it.  Emotional Literacy is lifelong learning.......  I am a student.  I hope you are too. 

Incredibly smart but sadly their self image is badly damaged, people who play with someone else's emotional stability are not only difficult to recognize right away, they will never admit the games they play.  In fact, they often feign victimhood.  This is their defence. This is their "comfort zone" they fall into when they feel any sense of wrongdoing.  They are bullies seething on the verge of some serious mental health issues.  Sadly, Sociopathic behaviour remains elusive in terms of change and treatment because an Emotional Manipulator is the last person to admit there is anything wrong with them.

No one is immune to the twisty turns of a person who has the smarts to turn a relationship into one of victim and aggressor.  All we can do is be aware of our boundaries as well as our own needs.  We have to learn to protect ourselves, learn how to walk away, let go and be firm about our own health and safety.  This is very difficult to do when one is the kind of person who is considered a helper.... a doer.......... a person who has a lot of love to share.  It is almost impossible to do when the person who has NEEDS that have no bottom pit is a family member or a lover.  But, it is doable.  Usually after many attempts and situations...... we do reach a place of readiness to put down the rules!  To learn to let go and let it be rather than losing your own freedom and empowerment in your own life.  

We do have the power to offer love and compassion while not getting entangled  in the web of psychological destruction.  We do not have the power to "save" another person from their own machinations, threats and self harm when they don't want to change.  Tragically...........

Love is out there.  Good love.  Healthy love.  Humans can provide this for other humans, though we are not perfect.  When two people meet, they bring along their "needs" goblets........... its a merging of the head and heart.  A blending of goodness and compasion as well as empathy for one another is reachable.   And our guide to showing us what unconditional love is and how it can be reciprocated?  God.

Look after yourself.  See the toxic relationships through the a clarification lens.  It may take a long time to let go of the threads that bind.  No doubt it may be one of the most painful decisions to make because it leads to actions that may even feel inhumane to you at first.  Get support around you, whether its through friends, family and/or professional help.  Lean on your faith. Know there will be grieving.  Sadness.  Guilt. Shame.  Be aware that it may even feel selfish to think of yourself first.  It's all there.  It goes against the grain of our compassionate hearts.  But, it comes down to the fulfilling the very basic need of all........... Survival.  Your own.  

Sunday, April 24, 2011

altering life's journey..........

It began with an early morning trip, one with a dappling of spontaneity, to a secret beach adorned with shiny shards of broken glass softened by the pull and the dawn of the tides.  This treasure was left to be discovered by three friends with pails on a seeking mission while taking a break from routine and over reaching ruminations of the tough side of life.  Actually, these two girlfriends of mine were on a mission to help me get through a very tough anniversary date.  I couldn't have asked for a better gift.  Their love and understand AND a beach full of sparkling glass destined to be an art project of some kind!   

Not only was it the anniversary of my marriage break up, it was the first day of Lent. Ash Wednesday.  Timely this Lenten season was this year.  In order to be by the shore when the tides were at their lowest, we left home before the sun was up and made it to our destination, after a non stop jabbery car journey, at 7 am.  We were greeted by two white tailed deer gracefully standing by a clump of trees that hung close to the water.  Peaceful beauty. Like a wink from God.

I had made the decision earlier to experience the momentum of Lent for the first time.  I had never allowed myself to take it on fully.  Always more comfortable standing on the outskirts of commiting to the formality of religion, I found myself this year with a desire to embrace it.  I guess that happens naturally when one finds themselves into the routine of attending church services regularly throughout the year.  My curiosity was piqued.  My sense of connection with a congretion was growing along with my desire to take a step closer into the circle of this community propelled me towards tasting the mystery of Lent.  

Ash Wednesday began along the Bay of Fundy shoreline inhaling the salt air, feeling the cold icy glare of the water, collecting the glass shards that held marine stories.   It was a morning I will not forget for a long time.  It filled me with kindred love, fresh air thoughts, a sense of adventure and one or two incredible moments that literally took my breath away.  

I am a water girl.............. healing happens by the shoreline.  So does the regeneration of my creativity.  So does the re-clarification of my thoughts and feelings.   So does the reflection of my life and where it may be headed.  It happens like an instantaneous miracle.

Lent.  Over the years, I have acknowledged it briefly with only the basic understanding of its symbolic meaning and reverential mystery.  On the surface, it always appeared to me as a dour and daunting day....... the beginning of giving up something meaningful in my life.  Of suffering. To give up was our human attempt to feel the suffering that Jesus experienced.  But, how can one really meet that level of suffering?  

My first immersion. I was eager.  It has always felt that I was sitting on the sidelines observing and half listening because it seemed too dauntingly religious.  Only the fully committed folks with unrattled faith seemed to take it on. Or so I thought.  Until I sat amongst a congregation who were invited to attend the service as a means to re-commit to "the"  journey.  That hit home. I was looking for a way to re-establish my footing again after a winter of reaching new heights and slipping down into dark crevices.  I wanted to seek some kind of balance but didn't really have any structure or parameters to make it happen.  It was given to me as a gift. 

After a gorgeous day at the beach, sharing lunch in a great diner, sipping on wine late in the afternoon as our way to stretch the holiday feel of the day, I headed to church to take part in the Ash Wednesday evening service.  Nothing could've prepared me for the beautiful intimacy, the divine feeling of connections and the spiritual presence that floated in and around everyone who attended.  This small group of independent pilgrims, all there for their own reasons, for their own curiosity, for their own desire to recommit to the journey were privileged to be a part of a service which literally left me grounded and determined to commit to being present for the whole season of Lent.   

The day began along the shoreline collecting beach glass and old pieces of with stories from the mysterious deepness of the ocean floor.  The day ended grounded in entering a story as eternal as the tides that pull and dawn every single day.   Yes, I recommited to a journey of faith that excited as well as intrigued me.  My steps were less tentative, and were very different than any other steps I had taken in the past.   

I left this magical service with new thinking as well as a decision to push the sorrowful walls of the past and the anxious walls of the future back in order to allow the space to live in the here and now with more breath and depth. Lent was going to be a journey of the unknown........... but one draped in the stories as old as the hills.  

To be continued................... 

Saturday, April 23, 2011


Ok, I am. Relaxed in the cozy comfort of my home.  I have a lot of thoughts growing and moving inside my head tonight and will continue to finish a few pieces of writing that seem to finally have met fruition.  My own quiet vigil on this blustery night. I am in a good place emotionally and spiritually.  Blessed.  Truly. 

I have been generating half baked pieces and for some reason I just couldn't get to the finish line with them.  This piece began one day when I was feeling a little lonely.  It created a source to dig deeper into that dark pit of loneliness, which I don't think I have truly felt myself, but have been privy to others sharing it with me.

The question I pondered........... how can I humanize the feeling?  How can I capture its essence in a descriptive picture that others could relate to?  After a great deal of thought about how to describe the real dark side of "lonely,"  the vision of an abandoned heart in a field covered in fog kept surfacing.  A little beating heart lost in a fallow field.  Once tended.  Now, left.

Somewhere along the line, I was struck by the realization that the feeling of loneliness is the devil's best friend.  We tend to succumb to our growling needs when we feel the most alone.   Humans need love and belonging and if it isn't attained?  We satisfy it by any means, despite our values.  Despite our better judgement.  Loneliness makes humans ripe for temptations.  

Here is the poem that finally fell out of my inside journey.  Sometimes its a good thing to peel away the layers to reach deeply into a feeling.......... just so you know.  Just so you can be with another who may be living in such a place.   Loneliness may be the friend of the devil, but it can also be the enlightenment we need to reach out with love to another human who may be suffering............


Shivering on a bed of dew,
a tearstained heart tugs on the hem of temptation.
If only........
Flattened by the heave of an unheard sigh
it sits on the edge of green fields blurred by dawn's fog
and looks longingly for a diamond balanced on the tip of tall grass.
hope..... if only.

Sleepy head dreary shivers with cold feet reality. 

Grey light drapes its folds over dismissive hills.
Devoured comfort breathes
the sound of chattering teeth behind parched lips.
Lips in need of a kiss.
Lips in need of moistened lips.  
A heart in need of love
beyond temptation.
If only.......

Ripped flannel, once heart protection
now reveals untended wounds.
This recluse in rags pumps with fear of being one,
Only one in ragtag tunes.

It begins to tumble
through thistles that whistle its name.  
Lonely.  Heart.
seeking..... comfort
only the lonely........
"Hello lonely......."
thistle whistles
hurting wounds.... 

One and only one it mumbles..........
as it succumbs to abandonment smothered in grief.

A crow cackles in the distance.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Love is a direction

He tells me his shoes are all scuffed from walking. ... Scuffed by the heaviness that make his knees ache under the burden and his arches throb from the extra weight.  His energy depleted, he can barely lift his feet.  Still he walks.  And walks.  With a shuffle.  A scuffed up suffering shuffle. 

At night,  he lays on his side of the bed, his body taut in buzzing anxiety, clenched jaw, tense muscles ... his unsettled heart fibrillating off beat. Erratic thoughts race through his dreams.  He is caught like a fly in a spider web as he volleys between questions and answers.   
 "I'm stuck in a place of indecision,  caused by too many to make," he says, "so I keep walking even in my sleep."

The bed....their now as comfortable as a concrete slab, unwelcoming in its reminder of what had been,  what IS, and what seems to be the conclusion....
He can't think beyond immediacy and it hurts.  From head to toe it hurts.  His present moment has become a slivering doubt, with the lament of the past merging with the heart thumping anxiety of the future.  When he awakes from a dreamless night, his whole body aches from restless wanderings, steeped grovellings of ungranted forgiveness. It takes every ounce of energy not to roll over to face the wall as he makes himself sit up to a wave of unwelcome bile brought on by realization that its over.  It's over. 

But life still goes on despite the grief of his clenched  soul. Work, bills, meetings, appointments, family, errands, responsibilities ... listening to the drab complaints echoing all around him. There's no escaping the hum of a scuffed life.
"I have to maintain the grip," he says, "because if I let go even for a second I will fall off the ledge and break into a million pieces.  I wouldn't be fixable. It would be the end of me." So he holds on, fingertips on ledges, hoping the nightmare will end.

With memorized motions,  he shuffles off to work, his hands closed tightly,  stuffed in his pockets. He walks against the bitter  April wind.  His breathing's short snippy gasps lacks fresh air oxygen.  It shorts out his thinking,  and leaves him clouded in confusion. A clenched soul, stuck in the discomforting transition of change, numbed by too much real, feeling like if he surrenders to his feelings, he will be sucked into a vortex.   Lost in his own miserable meanderings, he rarely registers the world around him.  It's like he's formed a bubble of discontent around his body.  Love can't escape.  It can't get in either.   
For some reason this morning, he looks up from his self absorption and sees two men, homeless and huddled under a ratty wool blanket leaning against the corner of the grey brick wall away from the entrance to the park. Their winter wool caps are moth eaten worn. Their faces are haggard from a tangled hard life. He sees one of the men pull a worn lunch bag out of his jacket  pocket and take out a sandwich. 
Without a word spoken, the man carefully unwraps it, and gives half to his friend to share. As these two ragamuffin men sit in a moment of kindred serenity, oblivious to their surroundings, sharing the only food they have, the clenched souled man stops dead on the sidewalk and stares at them.  The scene pierces through his armour, as he realizes he is witnessing the essence of love. Humanity in its ordinary glory. 

 In a rush of awareness, his warm tears trickle down his cheeks.  His shoulders give way to humble gratitude.  His heart softens as his thoughts percolate with a nod towards what matters and a dismissal of all that doesn't.  In one marked moment, he lets go of the myriad of questions as he realizes he simply has to trust in love. 

Tired and spent but now wide awake, the bubbled of discontent bursts as he catches the eyes of the two friends sharing lunch.  He smiles at them, then wipes his nose on his coat sleeve, inhales the biggest breath of much needed air and walks on towards the little chapel he passes everyday on his way to work. Though empty and silent, the chapel still beckons.
He pulls open the heavy wooden door to find a stream of sunlight dappling through the stain glass and walks over to the pew bathed in the sun's rays. He sits quietly ..... alone .... silent, and realizes his heart pain of loneliness had lifted, replaced with the comfort that perhaps love gets lost in the jumble of complicated feelings that wax and wane.  

Once found, perhaps love is a direction. The guide.  It is how you choose to see life.  It is where you  choose to place your gaze.  He had allowed his feelings along with his stubborn will to shut himself off from the person who loved him the most.  She had done the same. 
He unclenches his hands, and gently lays his fingers together, his palms touching........and looks up at the ceiling.  Despite the uncertainty of the future, he felt a calmness bathe over him and his determination return.  In silent reverence to his new found direction he turns his face towards the beam of  sunlight and whispers the words, "thank you."  

He found the tonic for his clenched soul...... in the sharing of a sandwich.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


 "Let our advanced worrying become advanced thinking and planning." 
Winston Churchill

It travels from a plucky part of my brain down through my central nervous system.   It re-oxygenates my red blood cells as they course through my veins, my heart, my soul.  It pokes me in the ribs when I've sat still too long pondering my navel.   Sometimes it sounds so much like that jowly Winston Churchill booming his tempered message in my ears ...... "Never, never, never, never give up.........."  

On the other hand, sometimes it has a light whispery message, just as motivational...... a feather touch blue angel with a voice like Glinda, the good witch of the North..... "Home is knowing. Knowing your mind, knowing your heart, knowing your courage. If we know ourselves, we're always home, anywhere."  

Music to my ears.....temporarily merry enough to push me forward when my socks feel laden with rocks that weigh me down.   

"I can't do it....."  I say with tired repose.
"Oh yes you can.  Push through the wall of indecision.  Pull back the drapes blocking out your light. Stop thinking.  Grab hold of your courage and get off your ass!" replies an inner voice, with a familiar assertive tone I can trust.  I can hear the caring feelings behind the pushy encouragement.  "Get ready.  Do what you need to do first.  Then what is left is all reward."

Gee, I never knew Glinda would utter the word ass....... That witch surprises me every day. 

I get up  off the couch that grabs hold of my energy ..... drag my sorry ass down the hall to the have a shower.  A hot pulsating shower  rinses away doubt.  I stand under the nozzle, wet warmth soaks my hair, my wrinkled freckled skin puckers until I can feel it feed my resolve.    Tunes return to my inner repetoire.  Through the hum of knowledge, I feel at home again.  T

hat is when that jowly booming voice enters in the picture again......
"Never, never, never, never give up................."  

Persistance is back.  That plucky rib poking friend.  Its back.  

never be held hostage.....

My goodness we take this for granted don't we?  So much so that we need signs to remind us of this gift from God.  Don't forget to let that imagination of yours roam past the picket fence, above the rules, into the mystery, out into the wild pastures of poetry. 

Feelings can hedge us in if we let them ..... especially if one predominates over the other.  They can flood us too.... right up to our temples, pushing out any room for creative or critical thought.  

I know.  I've been there.  You have too. Stuck in an intrusive thought which uncorks the scary serpent emotions to slither around determined to gorge on the negativity of presumptions.  A-Musings turn into wretched internal wiring.  

Free up those feelings.....  Let them go.  They are only visitors anyways.  Guests who begin to irritate after a few days of using up the tissues and drinking all your spirits!  Send them off!

Think Free..... Unleash it.  Let it gallop like a happy dog on an open field.  Feed it by going on a good long walk with no destination.  Let it expand beyond what you believe is truth to a place where good pondering produces new truths.  

I'm off for a good long walk............................

Sunday, April 10, 2011

renewal of our senses

This morning, I will be reading this prayer..... I wanted to share it with you in hopes you will be there with me in spirit.....!  Happy Sunday Morning!!


Let us take a moment to be still together and take in a collective deep breath............

Good morning dear God.

As we gather here before You with refreshed breath of Your Spirit, we give our heartfelt thanks for the simple extraordinary gifts You provide with abundance every single day. Sometimes miss them in the flurry of our lives.  Today, in our stillness and in our hearts…….

We hear…….

the song of the birds
the voice of a troubadour
the encouraging words of a friend.
Vivaldi’s Four Seasons streaming out into the open air....

Let us feel…..

the touch of a loved one
the peace of tranquility
the marvel of a connection.
the embrace of gratitude.
the breeze of a spring day.
The kiss of respect.

Help us inhale….
the aroma of fresh mown grass
the sun bursting with rain
the lingering scent of clean laundry
the wafting essence of lavender bubbles
Our Grandmother’s perfume

let us remember the taste of…..

fresh strawberries
cold water
peppermint coolness
The sweet miraculous drop of maple syrup

Let us envision….

Our children engaged in play
A solitary paddler gliding upriver
a white tailed deer stepping out of the woods
our own beautiful reflection
the smile of a friend.....
the eyes of a stranger.
Humans all around us who may be lost on their journey.

In our stillness, God, help us to remember how to take those steps towards accepting the changes in our lives knowing that sometimes you have to grieve a thousand times before you can inhale the refreshed scent of an old breeze.  Help us to walk into the centre of our vulnerable holy space over and over again to touch upon the wound that weeps those trapped remembering tears so that the old stories of a loved one can be told again with a merciful heart and a smile.   Help us help others who are in need of this support too.

Thank you God for surrounding us with those signs of renewal….. beacons which allow us to reflect upon our own transformations.  Through our life experiences, we learn that we share the same feelings, similar moments of happiness and heartbreak.  This is what blends our souls in a spiritual sense of oneness.  We all know the feeling of hungry hope.  You have provided us with this gift, God.  Hope, you have taught us, is a companion of a broken spirit.  It is the oxygen in the breeze that caresses our restless sufferings with tenderness.  Hope reminds renewal to be patient with its re-emerging and teaches renewal that most of our personal growth will be invisible on the outside, but colourfully recognizable when we gaze inwardly to speak to You.

Through our suffering God, we are learning to let go…. To surrender our pain.  Through surrendering, we are learning how interconnected we are with You with one another.  Its good to feel loved in a much different way than perhaps we have ever felt before.

Forgive us dear God, for we are often slow to catch on because we tend to veer out into the wild and lose our way busy trying to deal with the events life throws at us.  Please help us remember that what may feel overwhelming today will soften in the light of days to come.  Please remind us God that renewal doesn't occur because of one event.  It may be the spark that ignites the change in direction, but it is not the conclusion.  Rather, it is the foundation we rely upon for support as we ride the waves of change, one wave at a time.

With your Guidance God, we will learn to walk aided and unaided........ to take risks while learning as much from our hurts as we do our triumphs.  By so doing, we learn that we belong to a universe who shares the same feelings, who thrive and survive, who suffer and feel joy, who nurture and are nurtured by one another.

As pilgrims dear God, guide us to share a story with another, to have that conversation that feels too difficult to start, to use the gift of our senses so that we can appreciate the freshness of this season, to delight in the knowledge that we are unfinished beautiful human sculptures who know how to give love and kindness with respect.  

May we leave here today with a lighter fullness in our walk, refreshed breath of the Holy Spirit  and the energy to pass our goodness onto to others. 


Saturday, April 09, 2011


 "It is not the events in our lives that determine who we become, but the meaning we choose to place on those events." Viktor Frankl
We can talk ourselves into believing just about anything. Our viewpoint is impacted by so many variables .... From life circumstances to emotional awareness or lack thereof.  We are fed opinions, comments, other's views.  We feed ourselves from a buffet of experiences, learning, relationships, interactions.  We see our world through the lens we choose.  In turn we then share the stories that "fit" the way we interpret what we are living.  How we are living.  Where and when and why we are living as we are.   
The glass is half full or half empty? Bad luck?  Good luck? No luck? 
We choose from two types of settings to define ourselves and our life meaning through stories.....
down in the valley verses or high peak vista versions.
puddle prose or flowing river recitations.....
dry ditch descriptions or long country road ramblings.... 
victim bantering vs. empowered expressiveness....
One type hedges us in leaving us stuck in the same old rhythm which in turn defines us using small circles of sameness.   The other type opens us to interpretation and a much broader view of meaning.  Its an environmental thing.  
I am .......... because of this and this and this.  Broken record stories.  Rutted.
I am....... becoming........human.  Songwriting with new notes.  Never quite finished. 
Meaning isn't a standing pool of water.  Meaning is a river that flows as we grow in our understanding from the events which help shape our destinies.  Sometimes, we are not given a reason for the things that happen in our lives.  We make it up.  We're inherent storytellers, convincing others as well as ourselves of the meaning behind the events.  It gives us a sense of purpose, a sense of being who we are.  We have to be careful our stories don't grow stale from the same old air. 
Sometimes we need to go in circles like an apathetic bird confused by the air currents so we can grasp onto some form of understanding.  Why has this event happened?  How has it changed me?  How can I let go of what has happened in order to move forward?  Who can help me learn a new way of viewing the event?  How do I fly up from the valley so I can see beyond the horizon?   
Its not until a new whoosh of wind captures the space under our wings that our flight pattern returns to free us from the trappings of stagnant interpretations. Sometimes we are able to do this ourselves.  Sometimes it is through our interactions with others that we are able to see meaning differently.  Sometimes, it takes peace and quiet in our hearts and minds to hear the lessons in the wind.   That's when shifts happen.......  

Wednesday, April 06, 2011


Lent this year has been like a rolling black out. On purpose.  Its what I wanted it to be.  Determined to use this time to grow within my faith space, I have wanted it to be a learning room of trial and error through risk taking, discussions, readings, involvement, fellowship and solace.  Sharing with others.  Sharing with myself.  Sharing with God. 

Are you there God?  Its me, Muskie....full on some days with spring energy, empty on other days searching for peaceful existence in troubled waters.  Believe it or not God, there are even days when things seem balanced.  Calm.  Sharp.  Connected.  Empowered.  Able to accept the troubles.  Why so many rumbling troubles?  Is it so I have a better choice of what to learn to let go of???  You are do have a wicked sense of humour oh Higher Power!  Thank you!

You know I've learned God?  Just like everyone else doing the best they can do with the tools they have, I am an unfinished piece of sculptured art, anxious to know how the mystery of future experiences and endeavours will help continue to form me, sad and troubled about the parts that have been smeared or chipped from the past. ...... I am learning to look at the sculpture from different angles and in different lights.  Oh, the shadows from the angle of the lights!  And the glimmering beauty sometimes hidden in the folds.  I see them.  It leaves me trying to push back on the pressure of what was and and what will be......... and just BE.

Light on.
Light off.
Rolling blackout.....
Beauty and downright ugliness. 
Feelings so softening. 
Feelings so raw and edgy they leave me so so so vulnerable to any slight. 
Cravings coming from some abyss...... needs I didn't even know I needed.
Caressed when one of those needs are filled to the brim. 
Oh my God.  Thank you for human caresses.
Light on.......sunrise.
Light off.....tossled sleep.
Light off....comfort.
Lights on.....across the river waters.
Light off.... can I ever learn to trust as openly as I used to?
Please don't leave me within that place of doubt too long ok?  It hurts my stomach.

When I'm least expecting it or when You think its just the right moment, a blinding bright light  shines  into the corners of my gut.  Glaring discoveries encountered.......... dust bunny messes, lost gems, dirt and bits that I can't even identify yet.  I am learning to reflect and to let go. 
Reflect and let go. 
Own it. 
Sit in it. 
Let go of it. 
Keep what I can handle.
Put the unidentified bits on the kitchen counter so I can see them when I am calmly making dinner in a relaxed atmosphere.  This helps me from automatically moving to a place of fear and defensiveness.... to turn away so I can learn exactly what those bits of me represent. 

Its easier to look trouble in the face when you are personally in a place of safety.  My kitchen.  Heart of my home.  Heart of me.  No emotional flooding happens in this space that isn't unresolved.  I'm grounded in music, colour, familiarity.  Kettle and tea close by.  Air flow brings memories of conversations with family and friends.  Laughter, questions, topics ranging beyond the walls happen here during cooking fests, parties, steeping tea, pouring wine........ breakfast chat before the day begins.   Late night wrap up when the day has ended.   Even deep heavy sharing that illuminated wounds and loss, discoveries and confessional brokenness....the troubles that have percolated with an aroma of openness are in the air here.  It's good.

I can think, feel, breathe, write while reflecting quietly and not feel that rolling blackout of energy...... I can learn how to figure it out. Or at least give it my best focus. 

Recently I realized that one of the bits of me sitting on my counter I had identified. The enlightenment happened away from my kitchen, but my reflections/processing has taken place here.  Right here.  

God, you gave me the gift of connecting with others in a meaningful way and provided me with a venue for using this gift productively.  As a Counsellor. More succinctly, as a counsellor whose gift it is to be in the moment with another who is deeply troubled.   In no time, when my attention and energy is shared with another, some kind of grace happens.  They open and they spill inside the bubble of safety.  Deep heartconnections whose purpose is to make shifts.  Swift shifts happen.....

God, you help me find the words to encourage this as well as to soothe.  Yesterday, this happened with a young person deeply wounded.  His vulnerability spilled out without hesitation.  His anxieties were alleviated and in a brief moment, he smiled.  He saw hope again as his wounding feelings subsided, like a tide going back out into the bay.  He left our counselling bubble with a plan, and with the new knowledge that he was not alone despite the trauma he had recently endured.  I thanked you God.  Did you hear me?  Because I honestly didn't know what I was going to say or do just before this young man arrived.  As soon as he sat down, I was fine.  He became fine again too.

I saw his raw vulnerability.  He knows that. He also knows now that feelings are our visitors with messages.  Sorrow and pain hurt like hell, but they leave.... The relationship I have with him has altered considerably.  We shared a few stories.  But, it is a counsellor/human being relationship.  Not a life long friendship.  So, when he sees me again, he sees me as someone who can help..... someone to guide ..... someone who will encourage him to love again like he's never been hurt.  I can shine a light on it and help guide. It's my job.

This is my gift God.  But, I knew this.  What I didn't realize was how it impacts some of the people in my life who are friends or  family.  Sometimes what is shared with me is deep and its all fine.  But, sometimes what is shared is an unexpected secret........a rawness that isn't healed...... unfinished and newly discovered bits from their gut.  Meaningful and magical always when it happens.  But, there are times after the encounter when our relationship has moved into an intimacy that leaves the other person uncomfortable.  I am not a beacon of light for them.  Rather, I am the bright blinding reflection of discomfort.  Does that make sense God?

Somehow, my intentions and the gift I have been bestowed turns me into a mirror of hurt... a reminder that they chose to crack open a part of them they had held and protected. A representation of the troubles.  I don't own theirs, though what I have been privy to alters me...... it would alter anyone.  But, its the perception and the view some have of my person that causes them to relive the hurt story again.  The result?  Discomfort around me.  Do these people just feel too naked?  Or have I pushed too hard on a secret and I am blamed for it?  Am I too curious..........too pushy or too quick with my own need to know the secret? 

When someone feels uncomfortable with me God, I can feel it right away.  Its something I know intuitively.  This in turn hits my own panic button.... the rejection button.  The light goes off. My footing is off balance.  My energy drains out of my fingertips when I feel that sense of rejection. Logically, this is silly.  Emotionally, I'm left troubled and second guessing myself.  I'm left feeling undesirable.  Ugly in the eyes of some.

Interesting that a gift can also be seen as one's Achilles' heel...... 

light on....... insight through a crack in the dark
light off..... time to rest
beauty and downright ugliness
feelings soft, raw, unwanted, welcoming.....
shifts happen .... swiftly like a swollen river after the ice breaks
Lent opens the flood gates.  It reveals new discoveries that make us realize we will never be the same again.  At least it has for me. I am learning how I cause others to feel their troubles when perhaps they aren't ready, or they really don't want to? In turn, I become the mirror reflection of this ugly wound? 

God?  I don't know if I've explained myself well enough to be understood..... This insight is in its infancy.  Maybe I will leave it on the kitchen counter a little longer until I can get a better grasp on it. 


Friday, April 01, 2011


We grow dreams in the fertile soil of our imagination.  We see their apparitions in the haze of a crackling bonfire, in the mist off the river, in the heart of a cloud moving across the sky.  Sketches of dreams dance in the night sky, unravel along a quiet stretch of highway, form in the opening of a meditation, stir in water circles after the strong pull of a paddle.

These wish-full, wist-full yearnings have the strength to push against those nasty walls of doubt that stall us into believing it was just a foolish idea.  "Nothing more than silly childishness," states the writing on the walls.  But the dream desires pare down the negativity and use the moments of doubt as food for thought.  "Your obstacles are food for thought..." is the reply...  A chance to shift perspectives, to fine tune.  Doubt can motivate, generate, irritate.  We need doubt to help enhance the broadness of a dream.....

Hope and optimism and a little bit of luck nourish them as we set up a plan to provide the sunshine and water needed to nurse them towards fruition.  Some wilt and die.  We let them go.  Surrendered after grieving them as our creative friends who may have accompanied us for a long time.  

Sometimes dead dreams turn into mulch for other dreams........ ideas retooled, re-gazed under a new lens.  They may have had good roots to begin with but previous attempts to grow into blossom just didn't pan out.  We can use the gifts left and blow the rest of it away.   Other times, a dream has run its course or the conditions just aren't right for the moment.  For those ones, we allow them to turn to ash.  Ash is good fertilizer for future soil. 

Vivid dreams collect momentum once we have a clearer understanding of ourselves.  The more we learn about what we are capable of, what our yearnings tell us..... the more we learn about what it is we believe in, dreams become tangible.  Putting words to them, sharing them, listening to the opinions of others whom we trust, testing the waters by dipping one's toe into the imagery, all help us move closer to a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that accompanies the fruition of a dream.  

Interestingly, the best kind of dreams......... the ones that seem outlandish but desirable, doable but daring ..... come to us when we allow ourselves to be foolish.  Foolishly flexible to think beyond our lives, beyond our small worlds.  Where would this world be now without the Fools who have the fortitude and confidence to walk past the naysayers, the critics?  

What inventions, paintings, events, tools, anything new really would we have missed because we slammed shut the door of possibility for the Fools who want to take a risky chance on a dream?  This world would be in a very different place.  Some may think that perhaps we should slam shut the door.  This world is in a mess.  

Maybe its the Fools who have brought us to the brink of global chaos many ponder.....Maybe the ones who have leadership responsibilities in society are recognized as Fools.  I'd categorize them under Fool's Gold.  Not real.  Tempting sorts. Phoney. Devilish. Counterfeit.  Untrustworthy foolish dreamers are the bane of our chaos.  We have enough of these floating around creating havoc while feeding their egos.  We give them way to much attention and airtime. Silly ego driven fools with dreams that put themselves front and centre. 

Perhaps we need to pay more attention to the one Fool who stands on the margins of community developed propriety and rigid rules.  Maybe they are the ones we should listen to, encourage and applaud?  The Fools.  With the integrity dreams.  Good wholesome, helping the world out, reaching for the light in the stars right dreams.  

Today, I met with a young man fresh out of high school which he hated so much, he drifted through the motions.  Now, he drives the midnight shift.  He arrived unannounced, tired and tongue tied from working.  A little confused about how to start, he finally spilled and spelled out his dream.  He had a plan.  He had always had it....... life long dream unfolding.  Initially from where I sat, the dream seemed too big!  I didn't know the depth of his yearning, nor did I know if it was feasible.  He was a voice from the margins.  Barely scraping by, wondering if he had blown his chances of pursuing the career he really wanted because he floated through high school and left with poor marks.  

Architecture.  He wants to build.   The more he shared, the more encouraged that his beautiful foolish dream could be attained.  With some more direction.  With sheer determination and focus.  He has the gifts.  He needs the fertile soil, the hope and optimism of others around him.  I'm sure he's heard from more than one person in his life.... "you're crazy!  You can't do that!"  But, he's motivated and foolish enough to take this dream of his right to fruition.  I heard it in the timbre of his voice as it grew stronger. 

Today, I also sat with a young man whose dream may be expiring.  As much as he wants it.  As much as he can taste the sweet nectar of accomplishment too many factors are blocking his ability to take his dream to fruition.  A heartbreaker for sure.  His journey has been long and complicated.  He has tried his best, and now he and I are working through the grief of possibly letting go of that dream image he has had in his head and heart for a long time.  We are working at salvaging the good bits, the roots of his dream to see if we can graft it into another possibility.... one that may be more realistic. .... more achievable. 

Today, I realized just how often I am a dream catcher and sounding board.  Every single human being I come into contact with during my workday (and at night when I morph into being a Momma) has a dream.  Or two.  Or three.  I am blessed to be the one who they trust to share it with and to share the frustrations and setbacks with.   They are my daily inspiration!!  It is a blessing and an honour........ and its hard work to help them clarify, dissect, develop, decide, drop, move on, grab hold of, seek more help....... all in a dream frame.  But, I wouldn't miss it for the world because when every single person walks across the stage to receive that diploma in June, I will be the one standing off to the side full of pride for them, full of enthusiasm for those human beings.   Dream fruition.  Can it be more delectable that that? 

And the ones who pop into my office for a chance to explore the initial stages of their dreams?   The ones who are still on the periphery of decision making.  Well, I hope they know I'm in their corner too and that they will keep in touch as they take the baby steps needed to move forward.......  Chances are I may never see many of them again.  I was simply a step in their journey of career exploration.  But, I do hope they will drop me an email from time to time.  I love receiving emails from Fools who have started off in the margins and have made strides towards being a part of a bigger world full of fools doing the same thing..... Dreaming.  

It is now past midnight............April 1rst is upon us.  A day for Fools.  May we all recognize and admire the beautiful fools all around us........ and may we be inspired to allow one of own crazy dreams we are afraid to give oxygen to be filled with the spirit of life.  Give it a name.  Draw it out on paper, in words, in pictures.  Start from there.   See if it is one you can bring to fruition.  Don't let fear be the stopper.   As my new friend the night shift cabbie said today.... "Life is too short.... I want to make the most of my life.  I want to dream big.  I want to be an Architect.  Where do I start???" 

And I said....."right here.  Consider yourself started!"

Happy April Fools Day everyone!   Go for it!