Feeling Curious, Wondering How Shifting from Me to We Might Impact Humanity

My last blog was about learning to trust in the truth of my authentic self. Now I’m switching gears, making a total one eighty. Because my awareness of my own truth has drawn me into exploring how my purpose contributes to the big picture of human destiny.

I refuse to buy into the doom and gloom predictions of the naysayers who claim that humankind is not evolving. Frustrated with current challenges, it is all too easy to become nostalgic for the good old days. In my opinion, going backwards is never the way forward. We need to learn from history while at the same time forging ahead into a bright new future.

According to Rabbi Jonathon Sacks, the key to facing the future is to move from focusing on self to considering others. In his Ted talk, “How We Can Face the Future Without Fear, Sacks addresses three components of this shift: relationship, identity and responsibility.

 

When we get to know people who are not like us we grow in our understanding of what it means to be human. Sacks believes in the power of sharing our stories, extolling the view that a strong identity of ourselves as part of a community is what allows us to not feel threatened by the ideas and values of others. He urges us to take responsibility, quoting powerfully, “We, the people.”

The far-right dreams of a golden age that never existed and the far-left dreams of a utopia that will never be; a divided society misses out on the powerful opportunity to work together towards creating a reality that most likely lies somewhere in-between.

While sitting in the modest and excessively air-conditioned lounge in the Panama City airport, Mister and I had the pleasure of making just such an acquaintance; with an “other.” The fellow in question struck up a conversation with us that was incredibly interesting. An American hailing originally from conservative Vermont, currently living in liberal San Diego, and sharing our passion for Panama, his ideas defied stereotypes of Americans, particularly in this age of Trump leadership and divided politics.

The American was also a scientist and globalist. He shared informed opinions on a wide range of topics, from new experiments involving correcting diseased DNA to the lack of integrity, among other qualities, demonstrated by President Trump. Listening to his enthusiastic vision of a future where resources are shared globally, I couldn’t help but wonder if the current state of political corruption might be the catalyst that has people from all nations join forces to create a better future.

What constitutes a better future is a matter of opinion, but viewing Robert Waldinger’s Ted Talk, “What Makes a Good Life?” leads us in the same direction, from me to us. In a 75- year study of adult development conducted by Harvard University the conclusion they reached was that good quality, close relationships keep us happier and healthier.  It wasn’t money, fame, hard-work, or education. It wasn’t success of self, but success in sustaining strong connections with others.

 

The Truth Inside of You is an inspiring news feed I follow and recently I viewed two great posts. The first featured a Denmark advertisement for diversity that demonstrated the power of dismantling our labels to discover what we all have in common and then work together to achieve.

 

 

The second post documented how a boy’s perception of his father changed when he learned how much his father sacrificed of himself to make a difference in the lives of sick children. Putting the happiness of others before his own brought a richness to his father’s life that his son never appreciated until after his father passed away, which unfortunately is so often the case. We take for granted the relationships we have until we lose them.

 

Chatting with my daughter the other night, our conversation typically dynamic and philosophical, she casually mentioned that Craig Kielburger, a Canadian social activist, humanitarian and inspirational speaker, was on the same plane as her. I couldn’t help but be present to the synchronicity and excitedly told her that I was currently writing a blog about exactly what Craig and his brother, Marc, stand for.

Craig and Marc Kielburger are cofounders of a social enterprise that includes the We Movement, We Charity, Me to We, and We Day. Beginning at the age of twelve, these men were drawn to change the world by empowering kids to help kids. They set about investing in young people internationally and through their leadership have grown their not for profit organization into a vast global enterprise. Their message is that every person’s contribution is an impact that leaves a legacy.

https://www.metowe.com/speakers-bureau/craig-kielburger/

One of the inspirational visionaries that Craig and Marc give credit to is Oprah. Regardless of your opinion of her, there can be no doubt as to the impact she has made on the world through her works, charities, and enlightened journalism. In a powerful speech on Goalcast, Oprah furthers this idea of legacy, stating powerfully that “your legacy is every life you’ve touched.”

 

When I wrote about trying to discover my dharma, I postulated how my mandate to create meaningful relationships by encouraging and supporting others might be my purpose. It would seem that my legacy just might be exactly that – every life I’ve touched.

Some of us, like Oprah and the Kielburger brothers, touch millions of people with their vision, inspiring people all over the globe. Others, like myself, touch only a few. The number doesn’t really matter. We all have a different path to follow. We must trust in our journey and move our focus from ourselves to others. We, the people, can work together to achieve a common goal of a happier, healthier, future for all of us.

So yeah, I’m feeling curious, wondering how shifting from me to we might impact humanity

 

Feeling Aware, Learning to Trust in the Truth of My Authentic Self

In the age of the internet, google, and social media, we are increasingly bombarded with self-help advice on how to do everything and even how to be. We are told what to eat and not eat, how to raise our children, how to dress, what our personality is, how to succeed, how to exercise, how to be happy. The list is endless and it can be confusing.

Scrolling through Facebook for a few minutes, I was inundated. Pop-up ads and articles abounded. Dryer sheets that cause hormone imbalance.  Pro-vaccination versus anti-vaccination rhetoric. Current diet trends. The 36 habits that will make you a millionaire. How to exercise for your body type. How to attract and keep a man.

In my observation, there is no one path that suits everyone. The best advice, in my opinion, is no advice. Instead of trying to propagate right action, our efforts as parents, teachers and mentors need to encourage people to learn how to trust their own intuition.

As Jennifer Lopez stated in her speech on Goalcast, “Nobody knows what’s inside you. Only you know what you can accomplish and what you’re capable of… your gut, your dreams and your desires.”

Are we born with this innate knowledge, or is it something we need to be taught? According to Toltec wisdom, we are born knowing. Toltec wisdom arises from the essential unity of truth, embracing a spiritual way of life. In their book, The Fifth Agreement, Don Miguel and Don Jose Ruiz share the magic of the agreements and how practicing them can help you to recover your authentic self. The result of practising the fifth agreement is the complete acceptance of yourself and everybody else, just as they are.

As little children, we are free, without self-consciousness or self-judgment. We speak the truth because we live in the truth. Then we are taught all the symbols and stories of society and we start to judge ourselves as not good enough. We learn to deny what we perceive; the truth of our own greatness.

Education is imperative and information needs to be transmitted, but without judgement. We have a responsibility to teach our children language and skills, stories and history. But we must also teach them that they are the creators of their own belief system and corresponding reality. We must assure them of their uniqueness. We must express to them the power of the word, in thought and intent, because you become who you believe you are.

Anthropologists, psychologists, philosophers and scientists alike have postulated that we live in a common reality. I watched a Ted Talk by anthropologist Wade Davis who stated that “all people share a common experience.” In, “How to see past your own perspective and find truth,” Michael Patrick Lynch referred to a common reality and gave three tools to determine truth: 1. Believe that there is a truth; 2. Dare to know through understanding; 3. Adopt humility.

 

Isaac Lidsky, in his talk on “What Reality are you Creating for Yourself?” also speaks of a virtual reality. He posits that what we see as reality is unique and personal and is masterfully constructed by your own brain. You can choose to see through the fiction of the collective story through awareness. You can be taught and learn with practice how to create a reality that is empowering, that brings about change, and most of all, that brings you deep happiness as you fulfil your highest purpose.

 

Brene Brown is a psychologist who speaks of the power of stories, and particularly the power of owning our own stories. To abandon the social story of who you are and embrace your individual story, you must believe that you are special. You must learn to listen to your intuition and trust it.

Several years ago, my story of who I was, my reality, was shattered. I had a breakdown that forced me to re-examine the evidence. I meditated and prayed and engaged in intense psychotherapy. I thought deeply about my truth and created an authenticity outline. I learned to let go of the stories that were holding me back and I learned to embrace my true self.

Recently I have been struggling to process events from the past, and then in a moment of synchronicity I experienced enlightened thought where the past and present collided. The readings, prayers, wisdom, and faith that were coming into my awareness in my present were the key to my healing from the past. I understood that the past is over and that the light of my spirit is as alive and vibrant as it always was.

While struggling to process past trauma, I have also been challenged with my weight. I have been feeling unhappy about it. When a good friend of mine whom I respect and trust suggested the ketogenic diet, I was drawn to consider going on it. Then I recognized that it is only another belief system. It isn’t right or wrong. It is not the truth, it is an idea. If I approach the knowledge with skepticism, I can see it for what it is – an option.

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I am confident the ketogenic diet works for some people. So does the End Diabetes diet, which is a completely opposite approach. It’s all about our beliefs. When I felt the happiest, most vital, alive and free in my life, when I was at a weight that felt perfect for me, it was on Vancouver Island. It was after I left a controlling, unhappy marriage and lived in freedom for the first time in many years.

When I had the freedom to choose whatever I wanted, to create my own reality, I chose to make good decisions that felt right for me. I exercised a lot, especially jazzed to have found a passion in the practice of yoga. I spent tons of time outdoors in the abundant nature of the island. I ate delicious food and drank gorgeous wine, as I liked. And the weight literally fell off. And it stayed off for a long time. I thought I’d arrived, that I’d figured out the happiness diet.

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Then I got Lyme’s disease. I suffered for two and half years with chronic pain, fatigue, and weakness. At one point, I had to crawl up the stairs, not strong enough to stand. Stairs were the most challenging, the Lyme spirochetes having burrowed into the connective tissue in my knees. I put on almost fifteen pounds.

Despite my illness and my pain, I was ridiculously happy. I was head over heels in love with Mister. I was confused. My happiness diet theory was clearly flawed. I have been so tempted, so many times, to diet again, feeling judged by others as less than. But I resisted, choosing to focus on my health and my intense healing regimen.

When I could start exercising again, and especially after I was healed from Lyme’s, I thought the weight would magically fall off again. But it didn’t. I went on Fuhrman’s End Diabetes diet, ostensibly not to lose weight, but to improve my blood sugar. In the twelve weeks of being diligent I didn’t lose a single pound. Mister did. But my body could not let the weight go.

As I was sharing this story with Mister, he looked at me with his loving eyes, and I knew that none of it mattered. Whether I lost the weight, stayed the same, or gained more, I’d still be me. And me is good enough, exactly as I am in this moment. I don’t need to be constantly driven to be better, look better, live longer, be healthier. I can relax and choose in each precious, blessed moment of my life to be who and what I want to be.

Our power and happiness is in our choices. It is in the acceptance and love of ourselves and all others. That’s where everything begins.

Light-heartedly I laughed at myself and Mister joined in, saying, “Ain’t nobody gonna tell my Baby what to do!” He held my hand and kissed me tenderly, affirming I am perfect, just as I am. In that moment, I knew, in the depths of my heart, that I am going to be okay.

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I’m still a warrior, aware of the stories and searching for my truth. I respect myself and I respect what others have to say. I listen to the stories, the ads and the advice, but I listen through the filter of my awareness. I will not disrespect other people’s points of view and I won’t allow anyone to disrespect mine. I love myself. I will be a part of the change in the world by changing my own.

So yeah, I’m feeling aware, learning to trust in the truth of my authentic self.

Feeling Certain of the Depth, Breadth and Intensity of my Love for my Family

Ramadan began on May 25, marking the beginning of a whirlwind five week adventure for me and Mister. We caught the red eye out of Riyadh to our connecting flight at London Heathrow, then on to Victoria via Vancouver. It took over thirty hours, crossing ten time zones. Despite exhaustion, the pristine beauty of Vancouver Island invigorated my soul and the lure of connecting and sharing stories with family had me tapping into a third or fourth wind.

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My mother, two daughters, son-in-law and grandson all live on Vancouver Island. I knew it was going to be a challenge to be with each of them in authentic communication within four and a half days, but I was committed. Inspired by Elizabeth Lesser’s Ted Talk, Say Your Truths, which I referenced in a previous blog, I vowed to create space for deep time or sacred awe to manifest. And it did.

We engaged in the usual traditions of preparing and sharing food together while engaging in deep discussions.

Re-connecting with my grandson was a gift to be cherished, from that first moment I peeked into his room and he shyly regarded me for all of a minute before crying out in delight, “Grandma!” and that final heart-wrenching kiss goodbye.

We established our motto, “party every day,” belting it out in an off-key version of The Black Eyed Peas, repeating the chorus frequently throughout our visit.

Our first day Mister and I took Em with us into Victoria where we picked up my mom (nana) and drove to Willows Beach. All the adults were enamoured with Em and we traipsed after him as he navigated the playground equipment with confidence. We ate ice cream and drew pictures in the sand with old driftwood sticks. We ate crispy-gooey-greasy pizza and engaged our imaginations in play. Mister pushed my Mom on the swing and me and Em on the merry-go-round. We dizzy-walked and fake crashed into the soft green grass. I felt present to expansive possibilities and the innocence of his loving young heart.

Driving back home we sang songs and told stories, Mister sharing a smash-up impersonation of Foghorn Leghorn, a character from the Looney Tunes of our youth and me giving my Southern accent version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Em revealed with the frank honesty of young children that my story was horrible because it was too scary. He loved Mister’s Foghorn vignette and kept asking him to tell it again.

The next day Mister and I took Em on a walk down by Fisherman’s Wharf in scenic Cowichan Bay. We spotted fish and looked for sea lions, holding hands and seeing the beauty and wonder of the world through Em’s eyes. We had a pirate pool party in their backyard and I relished the freedom to be childish.

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Whether he was busy being a boy, playing and chattering non-stop or snuggled up to me while I read him his bedtime stories, Em’s soft spirit spoke to me. My time with Em brought me back to my purpose, which as Mister identified, is simply to love.

I didn’t create as many opportunities to connect deeply with my Mom as I would have liked. However, it was a gift to witness her youthful, spirited energy as she interacted with Em. During one of our family dinners Mom shared a little of her Ancestry Circle. I felt honoured that she expressed her vulnerability. The day before we left she invited us to lunch at her place and while  I was in a bit of a muddle that day I gave her a big hug goodbye, managing to stay fully present, if only for a few moments.

Scarlet was at a workshop when I first arrived. When she got back early Sunday afternoon I was thrilled and ran to the door to wrap my arms around her. Tamara supported us in our desire to create one-on-one connection, looking after Em. Scarlet drove us to Mill Bay, to a part of the ocean we used to walk together when I lived nearby. We walked along the waters edge sipping our coffees and releasing all of our heaviness, baggage and updates.

When we reached a craggy boulder overlooking the ocean we spread out her yoga mat and settled into the space, holding hands and sitting in spiritual silence. Scarlet led us into deep and sacred communion. We were in deep time and the hours melted into moments where watches don’t exist and our heartbeats marked the passage of time. I felt like I was glowing, acknowledging the grace and gift from God that is my angel daughter.

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My time with Tamara was not as plentiful as I would have liked. I felt grateful for the time we shared together in Goa. We did manage to engage in a few open and honest conversations. I was able to hold and behold her.

On our last evening, after Em was all tucked into bed and the dinner dishes were tidied away, me, Scarlet and Tamara participated in a spiritual bonding ceremony, sharing our vulnerable hearts in deep connection with one another. I experienced some stickiness, but both my girls responded in their own individual ways to support me. My heart was filled with fiery hot pride of the strong women that my girls have become. At the same time, I was present to the approaching end of my visit and my heart was drenched in the tears of goodbyes.

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So yeah, I left Vancouver Island feeling a lot of things, but certain of the depth, breadth and intensity of my love for my family.

Feeling Expansive; Hoping to Bring Down the Walls of the Ghetto Mentality

I wasn’t feeling inspired to write a fresh blog this week, life being pretty much same old, same old of late. Then before one of my friend Carol’s yoga classes three of us got to talking about how sometimes in our small community, instead of coming together and supporting one another, people, especially women, will ridicule and condemn one another. We speculated as to the reasons why. We identified the common suspects of jealousy, spite and a negative outlook. Lynn described it as a ghetto mentality, and my muse was inspired.

Ghetto mentality is used here as a slang term associated with people who, unhappy with their own situation in life, blame others. It refers to the behaviour of people in a community who feel they are disadvantaged and the way to overcome their feelings of injustice is to bring down those they perceive as advantaged. They usually compare what they have to what their neighbours have.  It is related to a perceived scarcity of goods, money, attention, status or other measures of self-worth or success.

I’ve written in other contexts about this kind of mentality in broader settings; Brexit and Trump are examples. Trump campaigned to make America great again, blaming current problems in the USA on other countries, other races, other political ideologies and other religions. Deflecting onto “the other.” Brexit blamed the EU for their economic challenges and immigration issues. This lack of taking responsibility is not only unhealthy, it isn’t helpful. In my opinion, the only way to make change is by empowering yourself, whether as an individual or society.

I’ve made a commitment to focusing on positive emotions and energy in my blog posts so I will move on to tackling how to bring down the walls of this ghetto mentality.

One possibility is to foster cooperation and collaboration rather than competition and separation. Barbara Gray defines collaboration as “a process through which parties who see different aspects of a problem can constructively explore their differences and search for solutions that go beyond their own limited vision of what is possible.” Furthermore, Scott London attests that “collaborative efforts tend to be loosely structured, highly adaptive, and inherently creative.” Sounds like a positive framework.

His Holiness Pope Francis makes a compelling argument for collaboration in his Ted Talk: Why the Only Future Building Includes Everyone. Michael Green also gives a brilliant presentation on How We Can Make the World a Better Place by 2030. And it’s worth mentioning the Venus Project again, as it is an organization working towards an alternative vision of the future based on shared resources and equality.

https://www.ted.com/talks

Perhaps just tuning into Ted Talks once in awhile instead of watching the news or a sitcom on television could be a powerful tool in expanding your own mind-set. And while media can be inspiring, attempting to step away from all media and technology and getting involved in events in your community is a great way to feel engaged. It doesn’t always have to be serious. It could be taking in a spoken word or acoustic evening at a local pub/coffee house. It could be going to a festival for music, health, or spirituality. It could be inviting your neighbour over for coffee or a glass of wine and making a connection over conversation.

Story-telling can be a powerful way to invoke change because stories move us. That is part of my mission in writing musings of an emotional creature. In her Ted Talk If a Story Moves You, Act on It, Sisonke Msimang claims that stories can heal rifts and bridge divides because they make us care. They show us the bigger picture. Yet without action, stories don’t create change. You need to act on the emotions that ignite and inspire you. That’s where a lot of us get stuck.

 

Joining a group of like-minded people has the potential to offer support and volume to your voice. You can get involved in local branches of international organizations such as Amnesty International, World Health Organization, or various NGO’s.

If you are a feminist, you might want to check out http://www.globalsisterhood.com.

In Saudi Arabia, the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, or KAUST is focusing on creating and nurturing talent and the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) is prepared to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world. “Around the world the image of the authoritarian hero-leader is being challenged, and the Middle East is no exception,” says David Altman, CCL EMEA’s Executive VP & Managing Director – See more at: http://www.iedp.com/articles/creating-collaborative-leadership-in-saudi-arabia/#sthash.aykg1x32.dpuf

In Canada, there are a plethora of organizations, depending on your passion. If you are an environmentalist you can get involved in Friends of the Earth. If science and health are where your skill set lies, LEADS promotes collaborating in research and development. These are only two examples to inspire you to google organizations based on your own interests.

In direct contrast, sometimes it can be powerful to befriend a person from a group that you are in opposition to. I watched a short clip on Now This where four people were asked to participate in a collaboration to build a bar together. Each of them was affiliated with a label; there was a sexist, a feminist, a transgender and a climate-change denier. They didn’t inform each other of their labels. As they worked on their project they talked. They were given several questions to discuss and during the conversation they built a rapport. Then their labels were revealed. They were given a choice, to discuss their differences over a Heineken at the bar they just built together, or leave. They chose to talk.

 

Making a friend with a person in a group whose ideology isn’t in alignment with yours breaks down barriers. As you get to know the representative from the group as an individual, you often discover you have more in common with them than the things you disagree on. You can then agree to disagree while working together, in harmony, to make the world a better place. Ted is at the forefront once again, with a great talk by Elizabeth Lesser titled:  Take “the other” to Lunch.

 

If you are interested in breaking down the walls of the ghetto mentality and are feeling stuck about how to act on it, here’s a summary of the suggestions put forth in this blog. Collaborate. Listen to and tell stories. Join a group of like-minded individuals. Befriend “the other.”

So yeah, I’m feeling expansive; hoping to bring down the walls of the ghetto mentality.

Feeling Hopeful; Digging for Light in the Darkness with my Daughter in Goa, India

A few weeks ago I received a message from my daughter, asking me if I would consider coming to spend time with her in Goa, to hold and behold her. She had been living at an ashram and had decided to leave earlier than intended due to difficult experiences with her teacher. That is her story to tell. My story is about how my heart called me to be with her. I said yes.

 

 

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My daughter, Tamara Dawn

 

Stepping for the first time onto an Air India vessel was like stepping backwards in time several decades. Thin, faded retro carpet. Stained, damaged, upholstery. I took comfort in the silver lining that I was seated at the front of economy (extra leg-room) and the plane wasn’t booked to capacity (extra two empty seats beside me). My smoky-screened personal entertainment system was dysfunctional; with no power what-so-ever, but the cheery attendant happily moved me to the vacant seat directly adjacent on the opposite window.

I watched the movie Arrival, an interesting feature based in the future. It addressed the current movement of fear-based policy and politics that have humankind cocooning into their separateness, building walls around their countries, making choices from fear, misunderstanding, mistrust, and ineffective communication. The message of the movie was that for the planet to survive it is imperative that people focus their energy on building a global community.

I peered out my window as I approached the massive, sprawling city of Mumbai; a combination of the usual city spires and domestic architecture, as well as a heart-wrenching number of horrific slums, the aluminum structures propped precariously against one another in row upon row of human degradation. Tears flowed down my cheeks at the inhumanity of it all.

I’d worn my abaya throughout the flight, taking some solace of comfort in it’s protection. I felt vulnerable, a woman travelling alone in a patriarchal social milieu. But the heat and humidity were radiating in the arrivals terminal and so I removed my abaya and slid it into my carry-on. I quickly realized that in Indian culture women generally dress more conservatively than Canadian women. Clad in colourful, gauzy saris, they would never show their shoulders in public as I was, although curiously, they weren’t averse to having their tummies or mid-backs revealed. Interesting to observe, the nuances of culture.

I had six hours to wait in the Mumbai airport before boarding an even sketchier plane to Goa. As I boarded I couldn’t help but think of Airplane Disaster episodes I’d watched with Mister, where the investigations led to discoveries of faulty old parts in old planes. I pushed the negative thoughts from my mind, settled into my shabby seat, cranky with lack of sleep and intense air conditioning blasting down on me, to doze in and out until landing just over an hour later.

I collected my bag from the luggage carousel in the tiny airport and found my way outside the terminal where I spotted my beautiful daughter waiting for me, looking like a contrasting vision of vulnerability and fire. The hot wind blew a welcoming kiss across my skin and I felt alive with the hum of India as I embraced my daughter tenderly, ready to shower her with all the force of my motherly love.

It was dark, so all I could discern of Goa was the coloured twinkly lights and the smell of curry and waste and the sound of horns beeping, dogs barking, and chickens squawking as our taxi driver navigated the narrow dusty roads to Tamara’s apartment. We each carried one of my cases up the narrow winding steps, through the creaky iron gates. It was past midnight and as we’d connected on the hour and half drive, we flopped into bed, the fan purring above us.

Suddenly, it stopped. The fan died. The heat fell on us like a heavy wool blanket, suffocating and thick. Sleepily, Tamara informed me, yes, the power goes out sometimes. What to do? I thought perhaps I couldn’t breathe. I managed somehow to stay calm and keep breathing and when the fan started up briefly I lit up with joyful enthusiasm, pulling the sifted air deeply into my lungs, only to have it stop again as suddenly as it began. I fell asleep, despite myself, and awoke much later to discover the fan back on and felt the kind of gratitude only absence can induce.

Waking to a new day, I was present to my mission of loving, supporting, and being there for my daughter. We went about the task of preparing food and talked easily together, as well as with her roommate. Then we gathered our bags and left with the intention of viewing retreat options in the vicinity. Tamara had rented a scooter, and while she drove quite skillfully, I was tense with the lack of helmets and the crowded narrow roads and the hazards of wild dogs and cows appearing out of nowhere to dart dangerously across our path.

Our first stop was a quaint little set-up of white canvas casitas situated right on the beach. In hindsight, I wish I would have just trusted Tamara and said yes, but I was still unfamiliar with India, still transitioning, and I wasn’t ready to make a commitment without checking out a few more options. We decided to walk along the quiet little stretch of beach that sparkled in the sun just steps from the resort. We plunked ourselves down in the hot sand to let the sun soak it’s healing magic into our skin. Worried about my possessions, I declined joining Tamara for a dip in the salty blue-gray waters of the Indian ocean, preferring instead to sit in peaceful solitude.

 

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Tamara enjoying the Indian ocean in Goa

 

 

We talked and walked to a café and ordered mint lemonade and talked some more. We processed together some of the darkness that she experienced at the Ashram, remembering even in that space to also dig for, and acknowledge the light.  I urged her to allow herself to heal from her experience before taking on the responsibility of holding the Guru accountable. It felt like flow and it felt like love and it felt like it was good enough.

Later, we found a restaurant on a different patch of beach where the ocean lapped lazily in ebb and flow along the silky shoreline. We ordered traditional vegetarian Indian cuisine; eggplant and spinach and paneer in flavourful curries with rice and naan. We held hands, then drove back to her apartment, having somehow forgotten in our ebb and flow of connection to look for a retreat. I also forgot my commitment to be supportive and leave behind my own agenda. I allowed myself to be distracted by discomfort and put that into her space. I’m sorry.

The next morning, we hopped back onto her scooter to go investigate retreat options, as originally planned. We viewed the hotel Lalita, Goa’s apparent 5-star facility, but it was booked to capacity. We checked out a whimsical property called Dreamcatcher, but it didn’t have air conditioning. We ended up realizing the first place we’d looked at the day before, Blue Moon, was the perfect compromise and we recognized it was the sanctuary for healing we had been searching for all along.

Our healing journey expanded. Tamara knew of an establishment nearby that offered authentic Ayurvedic massage. I found myself drifting in and out of time and felt gratitude for the gift of deep pressure on my aching muscles. I hoped that Tamara’s body would receive the strength of our Indian masseuse’s talents too. Namascar.

We ate lunch together in an open-air café, drinking chai tea, which I would become slightly addicted to over the next few days. I savoured the crispy rice flour crepe stuffed with spicy mashed potatoes and a grated beet and carrot salad with peanut dressing. Then we gathered our belongings from her apartment and loaded them into a Tuk-tuk taxi to make the short journey to Blue Moon.

Situated at the edge of the forest, where the river and the ocean converge, sits a semi-circle of white canvas tent-style casitas each with a name of a planet, Neelchamp, or Blue Moon as I prefer to call it. With a bit of persistence in our negotiations with Sunil, a very friendly and accommodating member of the staff with excellent English, we booked the Venus, an air conditioned unit with a back-up fan powered by solar energy. The seven huts encircle the modest but attractive restaurant overlooking the ocean, where we consumed most of our meals over the next few days.

 

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Blue Moon, Goa

 

 

We deposited our bags inside our tent. Tamara left to spend some time meditating and practicing asanas by the beach while I indulged in a large glass of Italian red wine and a bottle of icy cold water on our porch, writing in my journal as the cool breeze from the ocean caressed me. Suddenly I felt a tiny pinprick of concern and I decided to go and look for her. I found Tamara sitting cross-legged on the beach, lightly dusted in sand; she was glowing and looked grounded in her centre. I looked in her eyes, smiled broadly, and said simply, Hello … welcome back.

 

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Me writing on our porch

 

 

 

We went for dinner at the restaurant, Earth. Sunil brought us the remainder of the bottle he had opened for me earlier; Tamara commenting leave it to you to find a good wine in India. I ordered Mariana Trench followed by bananas soaked in rum with ice-cream. The tastes and textures tantalized my tongue and I was finally at home in the vibrant, organic experience of India. In that moment, everything in my world felt exactly as it should be, or, rather, even more perfect than I could have hoped for or imagined.

We spent the next few days drenched in rest, relaxation and rejuvenation. We moved in and out of easy flow and challenging stickiness as we processed emotions in the present that triggered memories from the ashes of the past. At one point, watching three crows and a crab, the mysteries of the Universe seemed so simple and my muse was inspired to write a poem; something I hadn’t done in awhile.

At my favourite time of day, the time in-between day and night when the sun and moon converge in the sky and the air embodies a surreal quality, we took our yoga mats to the place where the ocean sand is greeted by a wall of forest. We practiced yoga asanas together, Tamara leading us in a tantric series with a gentle invitation to honour our bodies and relax into each posture with intention. At times, I found myself distracted by the barking of approaching dogs or the scuttling of crabs in the sand or Indian women walking by with their children, their bangles dangling merrily. I felt playful and patient, grounded and light.

 

Tamara on the beach in Goa

Tamara Dawn; namaste

 

 

The sun set on the drama and emotion, offering new beginnings, our relationship as complicated and as simple as the Universe. I prayed, as my brief time with my daughter came to an end, that she would find a way to integrate the lessons while being gentle and loving and supportive to herself inside of her vulnerability. I prayed for the insights she gained to be manifested and multiplied by the multitudes of people faced with similar situations, where vast spiritual teaching is corrupted and misused by Gurus and other people in positions of power. I prayed for my own courage, to let my daughter find her own way, remembering my purpose is to love.

So yeah, I’m feeling hopeful; digging for light in the darkness with my daughter in Goa, India.

 

 

Feeling like I’m Going Around in Circles, Trying to Discover my Dharma

I began this soul-searching quest long before I’d ever heard of the term Dharma, but desperate to discover its existence none-the-less.

My initial query into the realms of living a purposeful life began in my early thirties. I was in a challenging marriage. I had three children. Money was tight. I felt overwhelmed. Watching Oprah one afternoon, the baby asleep, the toddler busy crafting and the eldest at school, folding what seemed like a never-ending flow of laundry, the tiniest of sparks was ignited. Oprah was interviewing Sarah Ban Breathnach and they were discussing the topic her book, Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self. Inspired, I bought the book, along with an artist’s sketchbook, a towering pile of glossy magazines, and a fresh package of pencil crayons. I went about digging into my past, trying to resurrect my identity through photos and memories and compilations of artistic endeavours.

I suffered a severe depressive episode in 2007. Despite having made some discoveries and even making some changes in how I lived, I was still trying (and unsuccessfully I may add) to please others. The daily denial of my very identity, as well as unprocessed traumas from the past, left me experiencing thoughts of suicide and hopelessness. During my recovery, the spark I’d identified years earlier expanded. I awakened, again, to the knowledge that I had to make some profound changes. I knew I had to unearth my authentic self once again.

In 2015 my interest piqued again. This time, thankfully, the journey of self-discovery was not triggered by depression. It was activated by a series of life events that had me curious about what path my life would take next. I was in transition, no longer teaching, and yearning to change directions. I was looking for insight into how my talents might manifest into a new career. I picked up a copy of Ken Robinson’s Finding Your Element and began to devour the readings and complete the activities with earnest.

While I appreciated the insights I gained around my aptitudes, attitudes, passions and opportunities, the answer didn’t announce itself to me with dazzling clarity. Frankly, I was still just as muddled up and confused as when I began. It seems that I have been gifted with a plethora of lovely gifts, but none of them stands out as “the one.” I have many talents and interests, dreams and desires, but none seems more pressing or important than another.

So, I carried on as people do, still confused, yet happy enough engaging in a multitude of different tasks. I filled my days with a variety of writing projects I have on the go, household chores, trying out new recipes, exercising, and engaging with family and friends. Then a close friend of mine invited me to join a book study of Stephen Cope’s The Great Work of Your Life. I was back on the hamster wheel, running, or perhaps sauntering, in search of my apparent greatness.

From the start, I was irritated by this book, which seemed to hold forth as its premise a promise of being able to discern your dharma if only you look to it. Inspired by the dialogue between Krishna (God) and Arjuna (a human warrior) in the ancient and sacred texts of the Bhagavad Gita, I felt certain that my dharma would finally be revealed to me. But alas, I felt even further confused as the examples held forth of great lives seemed too magnificent and grandiose.

The women in my group felt similarly challenged, finding the examination of the lives of famous artists like Beethoven and Emerson daunting. The flavour was patriarchal, despite the inclusion of women like Susan B. Anthony and Jane Goodall. These women devoted their entire lives to their causes. The important work of raising families and being wives and mothers didn’t seem to be acknowledged. As women, each of us present felt drawn and divided. Laughing, we quoted the song by Meredith Brooks, I’m a Bitch.

 

After reading the first three pillars of dharma, we were gathered together for discussion and Kim shared with us a video by Adam Leipzig titled How to Know Your Life Purpose in 5 Minutes that was illuminating for her. She found his road-map to finding your purpose useful, while I got derailed with the statement, “What do you feel supremely qualified to teach other people?” I was educated and worked for over twenty years a teacher in a variety of educational settings, but none of my life experiences left me feeling supremely qualified.

 

As it turns out, it isn’t uncommon to find it difficult to discern your own area of supreme qualification. It is often a skill that comes so naturally and easily, the fact that you didn’t need to work your ass off to obtain it obscures it. Sometimes your dharma isn’t so easily identified because it doesn’t manifest as a career or calling, but as a way you live your life. My friends encouraged me to let my feelings, not my thinking, guide me.

I finished reading the book. I meditated. I prayed. I tried to let it go, claiming, who cares anyway? I’m living my life! I’m happy! But it is next to impossible for me to lie to anyone, let alone myself, and I couldn’t shake this grasping need to know the answer to the question, what is the purpose of my birth?

One evening my Mister and I were scrolling through possible Ted Talks when my eye was drawn to a presentation by Elizabeth Lesser titled, Say Your Truths and Seek Them in Others. She shared, among many poignant stories, a truth that was revealed to her when she was a mid-wife delivering babies; that we’re all born completely unique. At birth, we are certain of our magnificence and shine in our authenticity. Then we are socialized into covering up our differences and attempting to conform. She challenged viewers to uncover their souls, challenge themselves to stay open during painful life situations, and look for the sacred awe.

 

Exploring my feelings, I recognized that what has always held the most meaning for me in my life are connections with people. Not the fluffy exchange of niceties we practice in polite passing, but the powerfully, fully engaged and meaningful sharing of souls. When I looked back on my life, I noticed that the benchmarks I valued weren’t when I graduated from University or started teaching in a new placement or bought a new home. They were all about relationships. When my children were born. When my father died. When I married. When the adoption was granted. And how I felt in all the little moments, when I saw souls bared naked before me, and felt, in return, seen.

And so, I finally arrived, if there is such a thing, at an answer that feels good enough. Kim, you will be happy to know I completed my homework assignment. It’s a little bit late, and I’ll probably even change my mind, but this is my elevator pitch: I create meaningful relationships by encouraging and supporting others to express their authentic thoughts and emotions.

So yeah, I’m feeling like I’ve been going around in circles, trying to discover my dharma.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feeling Passionate About the Rising Global Sisterhood on International Women’s Day

 

When I was on Vancouver Island in January I was gifted with the opportunity to attend a Celebrating Your Sacred Divinity Workshop. Led by my talented daughter, Scarlet and her friend, Jayde, it was an intimate gathering held at the Matrea Centre in Duncan. After introductions and making a commitment of confidentiality we were led through a series of experiences and postures. It was empowering and had me feeling grateful and honoured to be a woman.

Then, a few weeks ago, my attention was drawn to a series of posts Scarlet shared on Facebook highlighting the Global Sisterhood synchronized meditation that is taking place today, March 8, 2017. I contacted her to ask more about it and checked out the post in more detail. The objective of the meditation is, “transforming ourselves and transforming the world –  together.” Last year there were over 650 circles in 65 countries world wide. The Global Sisterhood is working to bring women together to transform jealousy, competition, gossip, shame and exclusivity and heal through unity. In the Circle, everyone is equal and sacred.

https://www.facebook.com/Global-Sisterhood-315309372198226/?fref=ts

I decided I wanted to be a part of the collective experience so I asked the women in my book study if they were interested. They agreed, and when I set about determining what the Circle might look like my thoughts were taken back to the first International Women’s Day I participated in. I was teaching in a special education setting for girls with emotional and behavioural challenges. The girls I taught were marginalized; victims of the cycle of mental illness, poverty, and a lack of education. They were often difficult to engage, but not that day.

We began the lesson with a circle. We borrowed one of the Aboriginal Nations customs of smudging to cleanse ourselves and the classroom. We lit candles and held hands and sat in silent communion and support of one another, honouring everyone there. After our brief meditation, I shared a TED Talk on the Smart Board, featuring the powerful Eve Ensler. The title was Embrace Your Inner Girl, and they did just that.

https://www.ted.com/talks?sort=newest&q=Embrace+Your+Inner+Girl

The girls listened and viewed the presentation with rapt attention, as Eve Ensler described girl’s ability to survive and overcome adversity. Before it finished, they were erupting into a volcano of chatter, joining Eve enthusiastically with their exclamations, “I am an emotional creature,” “You don’t tell the Atlantic Ocean to behave,” and “I love being a girl.” It was a joy to witness these young women come alive with excitement, celebrating their girl cell. They left behind, if only for a moment, their hyped-up sexual grasping for control for something so much more pure and powerful.

My wish is to share a list of inspiring women, hoping to light up readers with the same kind of passion and excitement that was palpable in my classroom that day. Women still have a long way to go to achieve their full glory and equality with men, but there are remarkable strides being made with courageous women blazing the trail.

My list of women who have been the most influential on me must begin with Oprah. Born into poverty, she has since been ranked the richest African-American and the greatest black philanthropist in American history. When I was a young mother of three, struggling to balance work with raising a family, watching Oprah often lifted my spirits. When I saw her interview Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame, I was inspired to continue pursuing my dream of becoming a writer. And then there were all her give-aways, charities and foundations. Mister bought us tickets to hear her speak at a live show in Vancouver in 2013, which has become one of my fondest, bucket list kind of memories.

 

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Meryl Streep is another woman I look up to. In the world of Hollywood, with all the gossip and competitiveness, she is not only outrageously talented, but conducts herself with integrity. I’ve also listened to many speeches made by Michelle Obama. She is another example of a woman who rose above her circumstances through hard work and determination. Women like Princess Diana, Toni Morrison, Mother Theresa, Brene Brown, Emma Watson, Adele and Beyoncé. They have all touched my heart with their passion and commitment to make a difference in the world.

https://www.ted.com/talks?sort=newest&q=Michelle+Obama

On a personal level, there are many non-famous women who inspire me to be my best and reach my highest purpose. My mom set an example for me, raising me with open and accepting attitudes that were years ahead of her time. She always encouraged me to pursue my dreams, was adamant that I could do anything, and loved me unconditionally. My mother-in-law is a woman I respect deeply as well. She is a woman who acts with integrity and discipline and who raised her four boys to be strong, sensitive, and confident men.

My daughters are all amazing women, each with their own special talent and contribution to their community. Scarlet is a social worker who works with passion and determination to empower youth who struggle with addiction. She is a loving, dedicated mom who is always challenging herself to be her best in that most precious and important role. Tamara is an artist who refuses to be identified by a label and is constantly reinventing and rediscovering how to show up authentically in the world. She’s passionate about her role in the collective consciousness of the world and uses her talents as a writer, artist, yogi and spiritualist to make a difference. Kara is a young woman of incredible resilience and intelligence. She is a self-described highly sensitive person who demonstrates deep compassion and empathy for other people.

Then there are my friends. Carol is a Yogi who emulates deep wisdom and a gentle heart. She is an incredibly vibrant, healthy, and beautiful woman who inspires me to embrace being over fifty with grace. Kim is a woman who I look up to for her fierce expression of the Goddess. She is a self-confessed woman of many faces, and it’s hard to decide which expression of herself I am most fond of.  Anne Marie is another woman who dares to be outstanding and doesn’t let anything, including her age, stop her. Newly retired from a brilliant career as a lawyer, she still finds energy to work as a consultant in conflict resolution, practice yoga, and be an integral part of her social community.

Currently, there is a plethora of Women’s Movements working for change in the world. Be Girl is a social enterprise focused on empowering women. NFCC International, based in Nepal, is empowering women and girls and ensuring human rights through support in education and work opportunities. Miss Heard Magazine is a submission-based digital start up magazine created by teen girls for teen girls. There’s U.N. Women, Women for Women International, WOCAN, and Plan Canada’s “Because I am a Girl” campaign, just to name a few.

For more inspiration, you can check out TED Talks, which features an array of internationally acclaimed speakers. Some of my favourites include Brene Brown’s: The Power of Vulnerability, an interesting perspective on human connection and our ability to empathize, belong and love. I also found Amy Cuddy’s: Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are to be a thought-provoking study on the effects of what she terms power posing. Jill Bolte Taylor’s: My Stroke of Insight is an astonishing story of the many complex functions of the brain.

As Eve Ensler stated so eloquently, women are the key to the world’s healing. Ultimately, the very survival of humanity and the Earth is at stake. Our emotions call us into action and our passions ignite change. The time for the Rising Global Sisterhood is now. The time for women to be regarded with respect, dignity, and equality, is now. The time for women to thrive in roles of leadership is now.

So yeah, I’m feeling passionate about the rising Global Sisterhood on International Women’s Day.

Feeling Mixed Emotions about Christmas

Christmas is a confusing time of year for me. It is both a sacred religious holiday and a worldwide cultural and commercial phenomenon. The dichotomous nature of Christmas has caused many to wonder, what is the real meaning of Christmas, including me. One of the most endearing answers was narrated by Linus in the classic Charlie Brown Christmas, which first aired on television in 1965.

Linus personifies the child of great faith, a perfect foil to the ever- questioning Charlie Brown. For Linus, it is simple; Christmas is about the birth of the Saviour, Jesus Christ. It is about showing glory to God, peace on Earth, and Goodwill toward men. I wish I could accept his explanation as readily as Charlie, but it would appear I am more jaded and cynical.

While Linus so eloquently paraphrased Jesus, who said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind… Love your neighbour as yourself,” I still find myself struggling to make the connection to Christmas. Deciding that Linus lacked credentials, I googled the history of Christmas and discovered some interesting facts on History.com.

Long before Christmas there were holidays during the same time- period. In Scandinavia, Yule was celebrated from December 21st through January in recognition of the return of the sun. In Rome, Saturnalia was a hedonistic winter celebration beginning on the solstice where social order was turned upside down and businesses and schools all closed for a month of excess.

In the early years of Christianity, Jesus’ birth was not celebrated. In fact, it wasn’t until the fourth century that church officials decided to institute a celebration, known as the Feast of the Nativity. Uncertain as to the actual date of Christ’s birth, Pope Julius I chose December 25 in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan holiday, and make it a holy day. The celebration spread to Egypt in 432 and to England by the end of the sixth century. In the eight century Christmas spread to Scandinavia.

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painting of the nativity

In early Puritan North America Christmas was outlawed in Boston from 1659 – 1681. It became an official holiday in the USA in 1870.

Christmas traditions took hold after the publishing of A Visit from St. Nicholas in 1822, and somehow Santa Claus got mixed in with the worshipping of God. Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in 1843, focusing on the virtue of thinking of others at Christmas. Dr. Seuss wrote How the Grinch Stole Christmas in 1957, furthering the ideals of generosity and kind-heartedness.  At some point, Christmas became a secular holiday with vaguely religious overtones. And while the excessive commercialism of Christmas has been lamented since the 1850’s, the present-day focus on gifts and material preparations has many of us disenchanted.

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An examination of the history of Christmas was interesting, but didn’t seem to help me with my own dichotomous love/hate relationship. I confess, I have struggled with the pressure to make everything perfect. I have felt overwhelmed with the expectations. It seems like each year the Christmas advertising and placement of goods in stores starts earlier and earlier. The Halloween candy is barely removed from shelves before the Christmas extravaganza begins.

Gift giving has escalated from a few special gifts to a mile- high pile under the tree. Santa’s gifts don’t fit in a stocking anymore. Christmas trees have morphed from a fresh tree decorated on Christmas Eve with home-made decorations made by children to a work of art coordinated by the mother of the household. Said mother is expected to be a Martha Stewart clone, who not only decorates trees like an interior designer, but has the rest of the house tastefully laid out with appropriate tablecloths, table settings, hearths and wreaths.

In Christmas’s past, I have allowed myself to be drawn in by these fantasy-laden expectations. I’ve tried to make my lists and check them twice, outside of working all day and my regular chores, and in so-doing I used to develop Christmas anxiety as soon as the fall leaves started to change colour. Planning baking days and lavish Christmas feasts, parties and celebrations. Shopping for gifts, wrapping gifts and sending gifts in the mail. The Christmas letter with attached photos, everyone smiling gleefully in Christmas sweaters and fancy dress wear. Shopping for fancy dresses for Christmas parties, with matching shoes and hair and make-up. I’ve wanted to yell out in Charlie Brown fashion, “What is the meaning of it all?”

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But then…. Parceled along with all of the materialism and mayhem is the magic of Christmas. The nostalgia of a time when I was young and believed in Santa Claus. The memories of going to church and hearing the Christmas story and believing in the miracle of a Saviour. The excitement of seeing cousins and Grandma’s and Grandpa’s, of riding in cars and trains over snow-clad prairies.

I remember with fondness simpler times, when all that I found in my stocking on Christmas morning was the Grover puppet I’d been pining for, a candy cane and a mandarin orange. And I was thrilled. I remember when my children were little and how fun it was to watch them excitedly anticipate the arrival of Santa Claus as they laid out cookies they’d baked and carrots for the reindeer.

At some point, when I started living my life for me, things changed. I jumped off the Christmas commercialism carousel and allowed myself to experience Christmas in whatever way felt good for me. I’ll never forget the amazing Christmas we shared with my brother and his family in Maui. My first Christmas with Mister was relaxing and stress-free; we went to see the movie, Les Miserable in the theatres and ate Pad Thai and papaya salad for Christmas dinner.

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Santa Claus

Now that I’m in Saudi Arabia, it’s even easier for me to make the choice to celebrate Christmas how I want to. It’s also easy to let go of something old to make room for something new. Looking back, I am so grateful for all the traditional family Christmas’s I enjoyed, hectic or not. They were a gift. At the same time, I am excited for a romantic Christmas in Bahrain, just me and my husband. No tree and no presents and no big turkey dinners. Just love, which, to me, is what Christmas is really about.

That’s what I’m choosing this year, but who knows what next year will bring? It would be wonderful if we all felt free to choose what we believe and how we celebrate, at Christmas and all through-out the year. It would be wonderful if we carried the spirit of Christmas with us all the time, not waiting for this one time of the year.

 

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Merry Christmas from me, Mister & Lola

 

I have a vision of a world like that. Where peace reigns and people accept one another’s different ideas, beliefs, religions and politics and rejoice in the beauty of humankind every day.

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Until then, I’m feeling mixed emotions about Christmas.

Feeling Blessed for the Gift of my Relationship with my Mister

It was bound to happen eventually. I think my last blog featuring my sentimental feelings for Lola opened the floodgates. That, and I’ve been having a hard time of it lately, and in such times, I tend to lean on my Mister, who is my rock. So, without further ado, I shall share my story of falling in love and perhaps a few words of wisdom along the way.

 

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Me & Mister

 

In the beginning, I wasn’t looking, but there he was. In fact, when I met my Mister, I was enthusiastic about exploring the world as a single person. I was open to meeting new people and sharing experiences, but I certainly had no inkling of making a pledge, far less a commitment.

 

I had left Calgary after thirty years and my marriage of twenty- two years in October of 2011. My eldest daughter was ill at the time, and she and her husband were on a healing journey abroad. They were looking for someone to sublet their home in Cowichan Bay, BC, and I was the lucky candidate. I fell in love with the healing aura of the land, home to the first nations people, a place where nature unfolds in abundance. Little did I know, I was about to fall in love again.

 

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Me & Mister in Panama

 

My daughter’s good friend, an amazing and talented social worker like herself, as well as a cupid it would be revealed, took me under her wing when I arrived. In February of 2012 she called me to say that the father of one of her past clients was in town to support his daughter, on compassionate leave from Saudi Arabia. He didn’t know anyone and since I, not having found employment, had oodles of free time, she wondered if I might show him about a bit. I was more than happy to make a new acquaintance so she gave me his contact information and we set up a lunch for the three of us to meet.

 

Our lunch was rather hurried as they had an appointment following, but I enjoyed both of their company. Mister paid the bill, his treat. It was my first experience of Mr. Generous, and being of a similar generous minded heart, I suggested we meet again so that I could return the favour. We made plans to meet at a new restaurant in Duncan, just the two of us. From the moment I arrived to the moment we left together, I felt an ease and flow, like I’d known him forever. We talked nonstop in a fluid exchange of ideas on a wide range of topics. Time seemed to lose it’s hold and before we knew it three hours had passed. Our spirits recognized the connection between us, but it took a little longer for our hearts and minds to catch up.

 

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Me & Mister in our first rental in Victoria

 

 

We met up next for a dinner which included my mother who was visiting from Calgary. The three of us experienced a fluid, joyful connection, where once again, it felt like we were all old friends. At one point my mother started rubbing her arms, asking us did we find it a bit chilly? Mister excused himself politely, went out to his car, and returned carrying a sweater that he placed gently over her shoulders. I found out later he had only purchased said sweater that afternoon. Mister earned his first and most enduring nickname, Mr. Charming Pants.

 

We decided it was time for another date, just the two of us, as both of us recognized some feelings were budding. We met at a pub in the area. During our conversation, I casually asked him if he knew what values were most important to him in life. He thought about it for a few moments, as is his way, and then he replied, “Open, honest, integrity and character.” I almost fell out of my chair. I had just spent considerable time reflecting on my values and had created an authenticity outline. The first two, and most important values I identified were open and honest! I could feel the electricity of synchronicity in the air. It was so palpable, that as he went on to explain how he felt open and honest communication was vital to building trust, I interrupted him to ask him to kiss me. Rather than be offended at my rude behaviour, he knew it was my heart impatiently opening to him and he obliged.

 

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Me & Mister in our garden in Riyadh

 

Recently I was looking over old emails and I discovered it wasn’t long before we knew we were in love. At one point, we both were suffering from horrendous colds, but still couldn’t be kept apart. Mr. Charming Pants arrived at my door with the classic chocolate and wine, along with the not so classic tissue and Tylenol. We snuggled on the couch and watched a movie, our sea-lion coughs erupting every time we laughed. My good friend Virginia noted my high praise and accolades, along with the serious amount of time we were spending together, and referred to Mister as “your Saudi Prince” and “Super Dave.”

 

When Mister had to return to Saudi Arabia for three weeks at the beginning of March we started using the love word with one another in our email communication. I still hesitated on offering a commitment, preferring somehow a pledge. I admitted my feelings rather candidly to the cashier at the grocery store, when I was rushing to pay for my purchases before closing. I apologized for my tardiness, explaining that I was too busy falling in love to get my chores done and she swooned right along with me.

 

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Me & Mister @ Noowick

 

As time went along we became deeper in love and soon knew we were destined to be a couple. Mister earned new nicknames along the way, including Mr. Taking Care of Business, Mr. Five Hands, and Mr. One-ups. I’ll leave the circumstances of those titles to imagination. I had a few nicknames of my own, but the two most popular were Ms. Bossy Pants and Ms. Sensitive Pants. We often spotted two deer together when we were driving back and forth to Victoria. When I googled deer wisdom, I discovered that if a deer crosses your path they are helping you walk the path of love with full consciousness and awareness. Deer teach us gentleness, the ability to listen, the power of gratitude and giving, and the beauty of balance. How appropriate.

 

Two mule deer bucks with velvet antlers interact

I had the pleasure of meeting Mister’s mom and dad, as well as his brother, in Vancouver that May. His mom walked over to me, took my hand in hers, and with a beaming smile proclaimed, “It is a pleasure to finally meet the sun in my son’s life!” Her loving acceptance of me seemed to seal the deal, and that July we decided to move in together, along with his daughter, in Victoria. Many people warned us it was too early and we were jeopardizing our relationship, but it only strengthened our pledge to a commitment. At the same time, I fell in love with Kara. But that is another story for another blog.

 

Christmas of 2012 Mister’s mom and dad flew in from Winnipeg to join us in Whistler for a family Christmas. As we drove from the ferry, the boys up front and us girls in the back, Julie took my left hand and sang, “If he liked it then he shoulda put a ring on it.” I couldn’t help giggling at her precocious gesture. On Christmas day as the family was gathered around our tree opening gifts, I was passed a parcel from Mister in the shape of a ring box. All eyes were on me and the tension was thick. I opened it, my heart pounding, to discover a beautiful set of silver hoop earrings. Mister never once considered I might think we were about to get engaged. Two days later, when our company had departed and we were alone together, he produced a second ring box, this time with a ring inside, and proposed. I accepted without hesitation and we were married just a few weeks later.

 

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Me & Mister on our wedding day

 

It was and is a whirlwind love affair. We have been together now for almost five years and I still feel as over-the-moon in love as those early days. My Mister is my best friend. We enjoy one another’s company more than anyone else’s. We rarely argue. Me being be and him being him naturally suits us. We don’t have a desire to change anything about each other. Some of that is the wisdom of being older. Most of it is the blessing of a union that feels heavenly blessed and Divinely orchestrated.

 

So yeah, I’m feeling blessed for the gift of my relationship with my Mister. And by the way, it turns out the name David means beloved.

Feeling Sentimental; Missing my Father

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I’ve been sending off query letters every week, hoping to catch the attention of an agent willing to take a risk and represent my manuscript, My Father’s Hands. I write about how my relationship with my father inspired and defined me. I share with complete strangers the depths of my connection and the despair I felt in his passing. Sometimes I write those words with a detached complacency born from repetition and the passage of time. Other times the tears streak down my cheeks as if it was only yesterday.

 

In truth, it has been sixteen years. I hadn’t done the math, but the other day I was showing a photo of my dad to someone and they asked when he passed. I told them in 2000, and it was a shock to me that so much time had passed. Sometimes I speak as if it were a recent event. It is often the case with memories; elusive, fragmented and hazy.

 

At any rate, I’ve decided to honour my feelings towards my father in today’s blog by sharing two poems I wrote about him. The first is now the Prelude in My Father’s Hands, the novel. I wrote the poem for his funeral and it ended up becoming the outline for the book. The second is the Epilogue, which I wrote only recently in my thirteenth and final edit. Together they are the beginning and the end; the story encompasses everything in between.

 

Prelude

When I was born

My father’s hands were young hands.

They held me when I cried

And patted my back to sleep.

They tickled me on my tiny toes

And held my bottle while he fed me.

My father’s hands were perfect

For encompassing a baby girl.

 

When I was small

My father’s hands were busy hands.

They held my hands to show me the

Feel of swinging a baseball bat

And threaded bait onto fishing lines.

They pierced marshmallows onto campfire sticks

And steadied my bicycle when I learned to ride.

My father’s hands were perfect

For playing with a little girl.

 

When I was a teenager

My father’s hands were worried hands.

They wrung themselves together

When I didn’t bother to call

And grasped me firmly when

I didn’t come home at all.

My father’s hands were perfect

For caring about his growing girl.

 

When I was a young woman

My father’s hands were relieved hands.

They could let go a little now,

Making room for my husbands’ hands in my life

While remaining strong for me.

They held my excited hands as I walked down the aisle,

Waved to me when I moved away,

And welcomed me whenever I returned.

My father’s hands were perfect

For setting free his little girl.

 

When I became a mother

My father’s hands were teaching hands.

They showed me the “magic touch” when Michelle was crying,

Wound up the motorized swing when Tamara was colicky,

And turned the pages of Kevin’s favorite stories.

My father’s hands were perfect

For nurturing my children.

 

Several years ago

My father’s hands became crippled hands.

Rheumatoid arthritis bent them, giving them pain.

It was hard for him to do the things he wanted to do.

His hands needed medications and operations.

They became tired and it was my turn to be strong.

My father’s hands were perfect

For loving me.

 

Two weeks ago

My father’s hands became ravaged hands.

Infection spread into them yet they comforted me

As I held them and stood helplessly by his bedside.

They managed, even amid such struggle,

To return my affectionate grasp;

An unequaled gift of love and reassurance.

My father’s hands were perfect

For speaking to me.

 

Today my father’s hands are gone.

They are in God’s hands.

They cannot encompass me, play with me,

Care for me, let me go, nurture my children,

Love me or speak to me.

They cannot give him any more pain.

My father’s hands are perfect,

Forever in my memory.

 

Epilogue

Looking out the window into the dark night sky

I glimpse the beginning of a new and spectacular dawn.

The sky in the east transforms from inky black to rusty indigo.

It slowly melts into magenta, then dissolves into a soft cherry pink,

Creating candy cane clouds.

I gaze transfixed.

The sky seems to speak to me of promises and dreams

Of someplace I recognize

But feels like long ago.

 

Daddy, I remember you.

Playing baseball.

Standing at the plate,

Legs planted firmly,

Expression deadpan.

Then looking over at me,

Sitting in the bleachers;

A conspiratorial wink.

The pitcher releases the ball,

It sails through the air.

You swing the bat.

Crack.

It makes contact.

You drop the bat in the dirt,

And start running.

 

I pray that somewhere in that forever sky

You are running free,

Looking over me,

Connected in spirit for eternity.

 

I pick up my pen,

And begin to write.

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Feeling sentimental; missing my father.