Feeling Hopeful for a Future Where All Humanity is Valued, Respected and Equal

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the United States of America. As I reflect on the impact he had on the lives of people of all ethnicities, I am inspired. For me, Martin Luther King demonstrated through his example how the possibility for change can be manifested into reality. Now is the time to dare to dream bigger and bolder and then make it happen.

Dreaming about possibilities, my muse is ignited with passion for change, not only in ethnic communities, but for women and the LGBTQ community as well. I write today with the mission of discovering and sharing uplifting and hope-giving examples of change, even inside the tumultuous political climate of our time.

The Black Lives Matter movement, which began in 2013, is one of the forums for change that continues to influence politics and challenge communities and individuals to be better. Since its inception, #BlackLivesMatter has been tweeted nearly 30 million times. The message has been heard not just in the United States, but on the global stage. As a forum for equal rights, the movement has popularized civil disobedience and activism.

In his Ted Talk, Embrace Your Raw, Strange Magic, Casey Gerald calls us all to have the courage to stand up against societal pressure for perfection, obedience and submission, choosing instead to speak our truth in our quest to build a better world.

 

 

The MeToo Movement is another example of the building willingness of people to speak out for human rights. While focused on the de-sexualization of women, the most prevalent victims of abuse and harassment, the movement takes a stand on sexual discrimination against both sexes.

I read an article recently in Time magazine where author Laurie Halse Anderson shared her stories about boys’ perceptions regarding sexual abuse while visiting schools following the publication of her novel, Speak, which tells the story of a girl who was raped.

Anderson was astounded to discover that many of the boys had uniformed views. They felt that if a girl was raped on a date, if she had led him on in any way or had been drinking, it wasn’t rape. They’d been raised to believe that rapists are the bad guys in movies, with guns or knives; that rape necessarily involves that level of violence. They had no concept of consent.

But Anderson believes there is hope for change with educational programs. She believes we have to talk to our boys and we have to talk to our girls; we have to have the tough conversations.

Conversations continue around the issues of gender inequality. While the gap between wages between men and women is narrowing, there continues to be a need for government policies and business objectives to reflect equal pay for equal work and experience, particularly in the developing countries of the world.

In her moving speech at the Golden Globes, actress Glenn Close takes it to the heart of the matter; women have to be able to follow their dreams.

Glenn Close Dedicated Her Golden Globes Acceptance Speech To Women

In a recent advertisement by Gillette titled The Best Men Can Be, bullying and sexualized behaviour towards women and men is challenged. Men are encouraged to hold one another accountable, to say the right thing and to act the right way.

 

I know from personal experience just how amazing a man can be. Men like my Mister, my brother, my son-in-law and my son demonstrate character and integrity with their words and with their actions. They model respectful behaviour and strive to be the best they can be. They may be a part of a minority, but the numbers are growing.

I believe that as a society and as families we need to start teaching our children, our boys and our girls, about the boundaries of their bodies. They need to know from a very young age about permission. We need to dismantle traditions that don’t honour that by telling children who to kiss or hug. They have to be the ones that decide what happens with their bodies and they have to know it is their undeniable right.

The LGBTQ community is making strides in the effort toward equality too. The National Women’s Law Centre is expanding the possibilities, urging Congress to pass the Equality Act. This bill will allow basic rights for fair treatment for the LGBTQ community for the first time in the history of the United States.

I can feel the energy of the movement rising. I can hear the hum of voices filled with courage speaking their truth. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream of a united brotherhood of America. I have a dream of united global community of citizens of all ethnicities, genders, and sexualities.

As Fannie Lou Hamer stated so succinctly, “nobody is free until everybody is free.”

 

So yeah, I’m feeling hopeful for a future where all of humanity is valued, respected and equal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feeling Aware of My Ability to Choose to be a Part of the Solution

It seems like everywhere I turn there are stories being shared by people who have survived trauma and it’s no wonder; according to statistics, one in three girls and one in five boys have suffered abuse.

Theo Fleury, a famous ex-NHL player from Canada, spoke on Goalcast in a powerful presentation called Play Your Part. He describes a childhood of neglect and fear, living with addicted parents. He shares his story; that he was raped, repeatedly, by his hockey coach.

Fleury tells how after writing Playing With Fire, at his first book signing in Toronto, he met his first MeToo confidant. He goes on to share how one person turned into over 500,000. He states that trauma is the string that binds us all together and that we have an opportunity to talk with compassion, love, and connection, to have the tough conversations and be a part of the solution.

 

What truly inspired me while listening to Fleury speak was the choice he made when he decided to take the gun out of his mouth. He chose not to punish himself or blame others. He chose to embark on a healing journey. He chose light. He chose life.

Choice. Few things drive me crazier than people who pass off their responsibility by claiming they didn’t have a choice. You always, always, have a choice. Some choices are harder than others. Some take a great deal of strength and courage. But there is always a choice.

In 2007 I was in a similar place as Theo Fleury. I didn’t have a gun in my mouth, but I was contemplating suicide as the only choice. I felt desperate and hopeless. I was in an unhealthy marriage to a controlling, abusive and manipulative man. I had three children. I had debt and a huge mortgage. I was afraid. I didn’t know how to free myself and I definitely couldn’t see the choices I had available.

In the end, I too, chose light. I too, chose life. I walked into the Emergency department of the hospital where I lived, taking the first terrifying step forwards. That step led to being admitted to a short term mental health unit. With the stereotypes our society has towards mental health, that choice wasn’t easy. But with the support of my daughter, and many others, I did it.

That was the beginning of my healing journey. In the hospital I received more support, as well as education and skills. When I was discharged, I advocated for myself. I engaged in intense counselling therapy despite objections from my husband about the financial costs. I engaged in positive relationships. I found meaningful work that I immersed myself in. It took time, but eventually, in 2011, I had the confidence and courage to leave.

At that point I embarked on my grandest of journeys; to discover my authentic self. I drove the epic road trip from Calgary to Vancouver Island and started a new life. I found out who I was and I liked her way more than the mask of me I’d been parading around as. From this place of openness and honesty, I met Mister. I’m currently writing a book about that time in my life called The Healing.

With that one hard choice, of speaking up despite the shame and seeking help, I opened the door to an entire life I never could have imagined. A life that every day, no matter how joyful or challenging it is, I feel gratitude for the blessings of my crazy, beautiful, complicated life.

In her presentation on Ted Talks, The Revolutionary Power of Divine Thought, activist Elif Shafak shares her story. Elif claims that NOW is the time, a vital moment in global activism and sisterhood movements to make change. She urges, “One should never, ever remain silent for fear of complexity.”

 

Life is complex. There are a myriad of social issues including economic, educational, and emotional challenges. There are people making the dark choices of complacency, numbness, isolation, competition, greed, and corruption. In my experience, there are far more people who choose Light. Who choose activism, sensitivity, involvement, generosity, cooperation, balance, and equality.

Equally complex is the relationship of dark and light. They are the polar ends of the same entity. Life and Death are the same thing and both forces live in all of us.

As a modern society of the information age, we have foregone our wisdom in the quest for knowledge. We have exchanged the complex stories of our ancestors that address the complexity of our nature for Disney versions where good and evil are dualities expressed in separate characters. Children are denied the teachings that were layered in fairy tales. We need to tell the scary stories. We have to engage in the tough conversations.

We cling to our life-happiness-positive-good model. We ignore or pretend that darkness-sadness-negativity-evil do not exist. When we do acknowledge evil, it is outside of ourselves, in the other. It is contained within a different religion or country or person. With this head-in-the-sand mentality we don’t learn how to confront the negative forces inside ourselves. We don’t learn how to win the battle in our minds; how to feel, release and then return, by the power of our choice, to our Light.

Darkness may have the power to swallow light, but Light has the power to enlighten. If you ignore the darkness, it doesn’t go away. If you surround yourself with positive people, their light will join with yours and ignite to create a powerful and enduring flame.

What will you choose?

So yeah, I’m feeling aware of my ability to choose to be a part of the solution.

 

Feeling Devastated, Wanting to Speak Up About How to Identify and Recognize Predators

I woke up sometime after midnight. Hot. Anxious. I checked my phone and there was a message: We need you.”

Within 24 hours I was on a plane.

As it turned out, we all needed each other.  A family secret was uncovered that had us all instantly and thoroughly plunged deep into the darkness, having to somehow wade through the horrifying details. I can’t be more forthcoming; it is still too raw, too unresolved. It was and is the single most agonizing time of my life.

The feelings. An anvil of heaviness, of guilt and shame, sitting on my chest, crushing my heart. My mind exploding in agony, trying to reconcile what I thought was my life with what is. My spirit, crushed, with the shame, anger, grief, regret and despair. These are only a few. They stay with me, my first thoughts upon rising, my last before sleep. They even haunt my dreams.

Despite everything, or perhaps because of, I was blown away by the integrity, courage, and solidarity of my family. I know that in time there will be healing. I don’t know if there will ever be any earthly justice. But I do know that each when the time is right I’m ready to speak my truth, go to battle, and be a warrior in the fight to bring down the patriarchal legacies of abuse and power.

I took inspiration from Oprah’s Golden Globe speech where she addressed a myriad of issues. She talked about the media’s insatiable dedication to uncover the truth and expose corruption and injustice. She called out to the tyrants and victims and secrets and lies. She spoke about the MeToo movement.

 

The words that Oprah spoke which impacted me the most were, “What I know for sure: speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.” When Oprah concluded that “their time is up,” and that survivors overcome because they have an ability to maintain hope for a brighter morning even during their darkest nights, I took solace. Oprah proclaimed, “A new day is on the horizon,” and that “we will fight for a time when nobody has to say ‘me too’ again.”

I wrote about my own MeToo story in my blog, Feeling Anything but Shocked, Compelled to Action by the MeToo Movement.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes in The Women Who Run with the Wolves about the archetype of the wild woman, of our feminine instinctive nature and the Life/Death/Life force. She identifies the wild woman as the one who thunders after injustice and maintains that the remedies for repair are contained in stories.

Estes writes about the natural predator, the most deceitful and powerful fugitive. She tells the story of Bluebeard, the dark man, the innate predator, who fools the naïve woman with his false charm. He is filled with a heartless pursuit of the light of others and to restrain him it is necessary for women to remain in possession of all of their instinctual powers.

Many women have lived the Bluebeard tale, including me. They enter into relationships while they are still naïve or are have injured instincts and they choose someone who is destructive to their lives. They are determined to cure that person with love. My bluebeard even tried to warn me once, admitting he cared for no one but himself, but I refused to believe his confession, thinking I could love him into rekindling the light I imagined still lived inside him.

Predators desire superiority and power over others. It is unfortunately the harsh reality that all beings – young and old, male and female – must learn that predators exist and look to understand the predator so that they are not vulnerable out of naiveté, inexperience or foolishness.

Clarissa states, “when a woman is attempting to avoid the facts of her own devastation her night dreams are likely to shout out warnings.” This was true for me. When I was first dating my Bluebeard, I had a vision of a wolf coming to my window. I didn’t know at the time what the wolf signified in my own psyche; I discovered much later, in therapy, that the wolf represented the sexual predator of my childhood. I didn’t have the teachings. I didn’t trust my intuition. I was vulnerable.

In, The Women Who Run with the Wolves, Estes describes how to retrieve and restore intuition:

  • Expose yourself to the shadows and navigate the dark
  • Be your authentic self, even if it causes you to be exiled by many others
  • Feed your intuition by listening to your heart
  • Respect great power and recognize your power as a woman
  • Live and learn
  • Honour your cycles
  • Learn fine discrimination and discernment
  • Observe and learn about the Life/Death/Life cycles
  • Trust that some things belong to God
  • Refuse to allow anyone to repress your vivid energies, opinions, thoughts and values

In our society, we do the opposite. Instead of educating our girls we train them to be nice and ‘make pretty’, which causes them to override their intuitions. This must end now. We need to dismantle the predators by maintaining our intuitions and instincts and resisting the predator’s seductions. We also need to learn to recognize the predators who live amongst us.

Which brings me back to my story, my truth. I was absolutely and completely shocked that I did not recognize my predator. But in the time since my discovery I have become educated. First of all, predators who prey on children are most likely a male in your family. We’ve done a great job teaching about ‘stranger danger’ and warning our children about men in vehicles offering candy. But that is a myth. Child predators gain access to their victims by carefully constructing facades that fool us into trusting them. They are master manipulators and cunning concealers.

Predators by the very nature of their sickness should be identified as sociopaths. They possess a clear disregard for the feelings of others and have the ability to lie in order to achieve their goals. When they do something wrong they accept no responsibility but instead they blame others or circumstances. They are often delusional to the point they believe their lies are truth. They lack emotional empathy and are great at charming people. They understand human weakness (and who more vulnerable than a child) and exploit it maximally. They use diversion tactics as smoke screens. They think they are superior. They are selfish, needy, and often highly intelligent.

If someone you know demonstrates several of these tendencies, you should consider them red flags. An appropriate response would be to cut them out of your life completely, but at the very least you should do some investigating.

I ignored the red flags. I fell for the manipulations and lies. He offered evidence of his true character in a drunken confession, but I toned it down and tried to bury it. I was sickened and disgusted. I wanted to leave. But I was afraid. I sought counselling and was advised that it wasn’t appropriate to condemn him for a disclosure that was a thought, not an action. And it is something I will forever regret.

I felt ashamed that I was duped, but as I dug into the issue of child predators I discovered that it isn’t just us who are naïve and trusting who get fooled. In fact, lawyers and judges in our legal system make these errors in judgement too. A devastating example is the recent case reported in the news in Victoria, Canada.

A judge ordered shared custody despite reported violence and sexual abuse and now two little girls are dead. Andrew Berry, the father, filed for shared custody. The mother, Sarah Cotton, fought against him in Supreme Court for five days before the judge declared, “this is not a case where family violence is a significant factor,” and proceeded to grant shared custody. This decision was made despite knowing that Andrew Berry had a previous restraining order and two investigations by the Ministry of Children and Family Development for inappropriate touching.

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/father-charged-with-two-counts-of-second-degree-murder-in-deaths-of-bc-sisters/article37490258/

A complete opposite conviction was ordered in the case of the judge who, disgusted with his abuse of power and privilege, sentenced Larry Nassar for up to 175 years in prison for molesting young female gymnasts.

As I endeavoured to identify the predators amongst us I conducted a search on Ted, one of my favourite forums. I found an interesting talk by Pamela Meyer titled, How to Spot a Liar that gave me a few more tips to add to my growing file. Apparently, when giving a statement, liars will use more formal language than usual, will use distancing language such as that woman (think Bill Clinton) or the boy, the child, and they use qualifying language like, in all candor. Liars sometimes have body language slips like freezing their upper bodies. You can fake a smile with your lips, but not your eyes, so if their smile doesn’t reach their eyes, it is likely inauthentic. And there is often a discrepancy between their words and actions.

 

Of course, these again, are only red flags, not proof. But as in the markers for sociopaths, if someone in your family or circle of friends displays these lying tendencies, it is worthwhile to at least conduct an investigation.

Brene Brown is one of my role models who speaks the truth even when it is uncomfortable. On Super Soul Sunday she spoke out about sexual abuse and shame. She stated that victims keep sexual abuse a secret from a feeling of shame, but secrecy, silence and judgment allow the abuse to continue. In her book, Braving the Wilderness, she talks about facing the challenging social injustices of our time with, “a strong back, soft front, wild heart.”

 

So yeah, I’m feeling devastated, wanting to speak up about how to identify and recognize predators.