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 Warm-hearted for my Loyal, Furry Companion, Lola

Anyone who is a dog lover will likely relate to the sentiments expressed in this blog. I apologize in advance to those readers who don’t understand how some of us dog owners can become so attached. But for everyone who has met her, there can be no doubt that there is something special about Lola.

 

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Lola

 

Lola came into my life ten years ago. She was born into a litter of six pups at Pooch Palace, a dog breeding facility just outside of Calgary, Alberta. A friend who had purchased her sweet-natured dog from the Palace had recommended them. From a humanitarian perspective, I know the better choice would have been to check out the local animal shelter but I can’t in all honesty express even a drop of regret when it comes to the circumstances that led me to adopting this lovable creature.

 

We went to the Palace with open hearts and met so many adorable puppies, we thought at first it would be a difficult decision. Then we saw Lola. She was only five weeks old, not old enough to leave her mother, and no larger than a compact box of tissue. I picked her up, attracted by her caramel brown fur and white tuft at the forehead, and she snuggled into my chest like she belonged there. I fell in love with her in that moment, her tiny puppy heart beating next to mine.

 

It was quite the procedure to bring Lola home. We had to be approved, and to do so required filling in an extensive application that outlined our commitment to owning a dog and making the time required in our schedules to train her properly. She wasn’t ready to be weaned until she was ten weeks old, so every weekend for five weeks I made the hour drive, often with one or two of the kids in tow, to go and visit with her. While we were waiting there were purchases to be made of dog food, grooming supplies, and stuffed toys. Choosing a name was another ordeal that involved a computer spreadsheet of possibilities generated by each family member and a democratic vote.

 

Finally, the day arrived and the whole family drove with excited anticipation to pick her up. It was a chilly November day in Calgary and we bundled her up in cozy blankets.

 

When we got her home we immediately took her outside in our backyard to begin the process of training her. I never anticipated how fast those short little legs could go, nor did I judge how large the opening between our fence and the culvert was. In mere minutes Lola, had escaped into the neighbour’s yard. I heroically jumped the fence, a stunt I’m sure I would have difficulty replicating, scooped her up and brought her home amid a flurry of kisses and admonishments. Immediately I found an old piece of lumber to wedge into place, blocking the escape route. It wasn’t long before Lola picked up on the procedure. It has been a perk to have a dog who not only knows to do her business outside, but prefers to make her deposits in locations outside of her own yard’s boundaries.

 

Lola developed a variety of skills over the years. At puppy school, she was extremely motivated to perform any trick that involved receiving a treat. She learned how to sit, lay down, leave it, and her most impressive, give a kiss. She has an uncanny knack of discerning the sound of a cheese package being opened. When I attempted to teach her how to use her nose to ring a bell on the wall to indicate she wanted to go outside, it was a colossal fail as she only saw it as an opportunity to gobble down the chicken strip that was the treat given for ringing it and proceeded to ring the bell all day, regardless of her need to go outside. Even after we took the bell down she would go over to the place on the wall where it had been hanging and bump the wall with her muzzle in hopes of chicken treats. Silly dog!

 

Lola accompanied our family on numerous camping trips across Canada over the years. She didn’t like to join the other dogs frolicking in the lakes or ocean tides for sticks, having an aversion to being cold and wet. But she did and does love to roll around in anything stinky, including dried up old fish corpses on the beach or bird poo littering the grass. Not one of her more endearing qualities, I admit. Despite not liking her bath, her frequent rolling tendencies require that she have one often and her good nature has her accepting her fate with a somewhat sad look of resignation.

 

Lola was my loyal companion when I suffered a deep episode of depression. She never questioned my mood swings or abandoned me when I was irrational. She loved me unconditionally, her tail wagging enthusiastically in greeting when I returned from the hospital. She would lay in bed with me when I had no energy to face the world and alternatively accompany me on my long brooding walks through the ravine.

 

When I left my ex-husband and my comfortable suburban life in Calgary, moving with what I could fit in my sporty red Mazda 3 to start over on Vancouver Island, Lola was with me. Driving through the mountains with the explosion of fall foliage all around us, the sun-roof open and Michael Buble crooning “It’s a new life,” Lola sat on my lap and took all the changes in stride. When I arrived in the Cowichan Valley, alone and on my own for the first time in thirty years, Lola was again my faithful friend, accompanying me on walks through the orchards and down to the pebbled beaches and curling up on the end of my bed at the end of each day.

 

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Me and my faithful companion

 

Not long after we moved to Longwood we met Tom and Virginia and their dog Bobbi Jo, who became dear friends of ours. They invited us over for Halloween festivities. The adults visited one another, comfortably seated on lawn furniture around a roaring fire, drinking wine or hot rum while children came and trick or treated. A local was giving me a hard time for having Lola on a leash and said maybe in the city such things were necessary, but in the valley, she ought to be let free. I should have known better, but let myself be influenced and wouldn’t you know it, shortly after being set free Lola ditched the party. I was a mess of tears and heart-racing anxiety, scouring the dark streets with a flashlight and praying she wouldn’t be found hit by a car. Luckily a member of the search team found her. She had followed a couple of trick or treaters home, upgrading to a warm and cozy house and in fact was found cuddled up on their couch with the kids, likely thinking herself a clever dog.

 

When I met my Mr., he was of the non-dog loving crowd. Being of an open and honest nature, he never tried to conceal his dislike, but I knew right away by the way he quickly went to wash his hands after she licked them enthusiastically in greeting. As mentioned above, Lola was used to sleeping with me at the end of my bed, so on the occasion of our first sleepover it was all a bit awkward. I attempted to have Lola sleep on her bed in the office, but confused, she kept coming in and whining to get up. I snuck her in on my side, feigning surprise in the morning, but soon confessed and her spot on the bed was accepted. I wondered if it was going to be a deal breaker, but the more we fell in love, the more Lola’s magic transformed him. Mr. has not only developed a fondness for her, I tease him that he is the dog whisperer as he has become so attuned. He often predicts accurately when a sniff means a roll or business and when a bark means someone is at the door or let’s play and he takes very good care of her. Air heart!

 

Therapy dogs are a new phenomenon that is having great success in a variety of settings, and Lola most surely would be a fantastic candidate. As mentioned previously, her unconditional love was a special part of my recovery. She also formed an immediate and inseparable bond with my daughter Kara, allowing her to tote her around and scoop her up for cuddles whenever it was required.

 

When I made the decision to move to Riyadh, there was no question that Lola would be accompanying me. The stack of legal documents that I needed to procure for her entry into Saudi Arabia was almost as thick as my own, and included documents from our local veterinarian certifying her health, documents from the provincial veterinarian society supporting the validity of our veterinarian and documents from a notary certifying all the documents enclosed in the application.

 

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Lola & Me

 

The day of our departure arrived. We were taking off from Toronto Pearson airport, where, for a small fee, I could store Lola in her carry-on bag under the seat in front of me. It was a nine-hour flight to Frankfurt and I was anxious that she might have an accident, so I lined her carrier with absorbent pads. Surprisingly she made it, but then at the airport in Frankfurt she refused to use the pad to relieve herself in the washroom, despite my efforts to demonstrate the procedure for her. After a five hour lay-over it was time to board our plane to Riyadh for another seven-hour flight. Miraculously, that dog held her bladder for the entire duration, including the long line-up through customs. In total, she went over 21 hours and earned her new nickname, Ms. Iron Bladder.

 

I’ll admit, neither one of us was impressed with the desert relocation at first. In May in Riyadh the temperature often reaches forty-five degrees Celsius, and neither one of us appreciated the feeling that we were being roasted in a convection oven each time we ventured outside. The first time I tried to walk her mid-day and she started lifting her paws I tossed aside my flip-flop and discovered the fry-an-egg-on-it heat of the sidewalk, then had to carry her the rest of the way home. It took some adjustment for her to transition from a dog walk that skirted along the ocean and through the rainforest of Vancouver Island to the sand and rubble of the desert. Fortunately, our compound is a virtual sanctuary and the gardeners have created beautiful patches of grass for her to roll around in, not to mention outings to the Diplomatic Quarters and into the desert camping out with her Holiday Mum.

 

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Mr., Lola and me at the Diplomatic Quarters in Riyadh

 

Most days Lola is a low maintenance, low key and mellow addition to the family. She isn’t fussed if we miss a dog walk here and there, especially during the hot months. She likes to gobble down treats as frequently as they are offered, completely oblivious to her expanding waistline. Often it is a simply a matter of moving from laying on one piece of furniture to another. Lately she’s taken to laying around on my meditation pillow while I’m writing in the office, even when her own puppy bed is sitting vacant right beside it. Oh, Guru dog, if only you could talk and share with me the secrets of the universe!

 

It would seem that dogs, like people, can adjust to their surroundings and new situations and, in fact, Lola did so with far less drama than me.

 

So yeah, I’m feeling warm-hearted and grateful for my loyal, furry companion, Lola.  

“Feeling Challenged on my Letting Go Journey”

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I’ve been on a journey of learning how to let go for a long time now. In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that letting go is my life lesson. It has shown up in so many different places, it’s hard to account for them all and difficult to identify when it began.

One thing I know for sure is that this lesson surfaces for me whenever I face a new health challenge. When I was diagnosed with Diabetes I had to let go of my ideas on eating and being a free spirit, unrestrained by routines. Eating regular meals and planning became an important part of my management. I had to let go of my discomfort with needles and embrace having to inject myself daily. It hasn’t been a linear learning curve. I’ve had to make many adjustments along the way, continuously letting go of regimens that are no longer effective and developing new strategies to manage my blood sugars. I’m still working at it, doing my best.

When I experienced depression for the first time I had to let go of a definition of myself that didn’t allow me to accept what I was feeling. I had a concept of myself as a positive, optimistic and happy person and that just didn’t seem to fit with what I was feeling. On that journey of letting go I came to understand that there are different experiences of depression. What I suffered from was situational in nature, not chronic. When I identified the triggers and dealt with them I no longer suffered from depression. The in-depth story of that journey is the theme of the novel I am currently writing, Darkness to Dawn.

In 2014 I was diagnosed with Lyme’s Disease, but it was the almost two years before my diagnosis when I had no idea what was wrong with me that was the most challenging. I was told I might have Lupus, among other auto-immune diseases. I struggled with the pain and the worry of not knowing. I had to let go of an image of myself as strong and vital. At one point I could barely walk up the stairs I was so weak, let alone practice yoga or work-out at the gym. I had to quit my teaching position because I couldn’t manage the demanding work load. I couldn’t even keep my arm raised long enough to write on the whiteboard. I let go of the mainstream approaches to curing Lyme’s and embraced a naturopathic/homeopathic/western medicine integrated approach that was completely off the grid and totally individualized and now, two years later, I am cured.

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During one of my periods of feeling challenged my oldest daughter bought me a copy of Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart. Reading that book helped me to recognize the value in letting go of all of my limiting ideas about how and who I should be. Pema wrote that when you feel fear you should feel lucky, for it is an opportunity to grow. Furthermore, she postulated that you need to let go of your old identities in order to become someone new. It comforts me to meditate on this wisdom and recognize how illness brings up our ultimate fear of death. I believe that working through fear with grace, resilience and faith is key to achieving happiness.

All of these health challenges had something else in common. They pushed me to let go of all limiting ideologies. In order to achieve wellness, I had to be open to all points of view, including sometimes conflicting western and eastern approaches to well-being. Self-help books provided some insights, but it in the end, I had to create my own individual path. I had to trust my intuition and recognize that I know myself best. I had to take the time to be silent, so that I could hear the whisperings of my heart.

Becoming a parent has been another facet of my letting go journey. I discovered I was pregnant with my first child when I was still a child myself. I was sixteen in fact, and unmarried. I had to let go of my idea of what it meant to be a single teenage mom, because quite frankly most of the role models and societal views were limiting and negative. I had to let go of the discouraging associations and learn how to create an image of myself in that role that was strong, resourceful and capable.

That journey began with yet another letting go. I had wanted to pursue a career in journalism. Trying to support a child on your own with the unpredictable pay and hours of a beginning journalist seemed unrealistic to me. So, I chose to go to university to become a teacher, knowing that I loved education, loved working with children, and that the work hours would support me in raising my little girl. It was a perfect choice and I cherished being a teacher for many years.

My father’s death in 2000 was another pivotal moment in my letting go journey. Losing him was like losing a reflection of myself where the image projected was perfect. My father and I shared such an incredible bond that it took me seven years of grieving my loss to truly accept his death and move on. Letting go of his physical presence and learning to connect with his spirit took time, patience, and determination on my part, but it happened. I recently finished writing a novel based on my relationship with my dad titled My Father’s Hands and I’m looking for an agent to represent me.

As each of my children have made the transition to adulthood, my letting go journey has been challenged yet again. When they have made decisions as adults that I don’t agree with, I have had to accept their choices. It is no longer appropriate for me to tell them how to live nor advise them, without their requesting my advice. I have had to summon all of my strength to have the courage to allow them to live their own life journey, even when I’ve been scared of the possible outcomes. The truth is, there are no guarantees in life.

Which brings me to the current situation that is having me feeling challenged on my letting go journey. I have someone in my life whom I love dearly who is struggling with mental health. I feel that from my position of relative objectivity, experience and wisdom, I have the opportunity to make a difference. I feel like if my advice could be listened to and followed, there would be a greater chance of success in managing the illness effectively. I have felt a need to have control, fooling myself into believing that I have the power to keep her safe. I have felt so scared of losing her that I have allowed myself to forget my letting go lesson. I have come to understand, from a place deep in my soul, that her journey is hers to live. It isn’t my cupboard. I need to find the strength and courage to allow her the opportunity to discover her own self. I need to have faith. I need to remember that the only thing I really have to give is love. Loving her is easy.

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So yeah, I am feeling challenged. I’m also feeling the power of hope, prayer, faith and love.