A Journey of Insight

Somewhere in my skepticism and excitement I allowed myself to travel. I didn’t see the blackness or the single bright star I was supposed to be moving toward. I didn’t see the green-blue mist and I wondered if this was even going to work for me. I didn’t feel myself moving at all. However, in that split second when my feet were to hit the ground, they did. They did. The feet I saw when I looked down were bare and so were my legs. I wore a cotton or muslin dress or nightgown, my long blond hair blew around beside my face and the long strands of green-gold grass bent toward me in the fields as the wind blew.

I stood there alone but unafraid. I looked toward the horizon and out onto the choppy ocean with waves crashing against rocks and to the beach inside a basin whose walls were rocky cliffs that contrasted with the blue and white of the water they surrounded. I could see the cabin, rustic, grassy and I was in no hurry to go there. She was there. Her long grey and black hair hung down loosely as she swept the floor; always sweeping, always with her back toward me. She didn’t love me, she barely tolerated me. She was nanny. My mother had died. My father? He had sailed away on a ship with great white-grey sails and I had known he’d never come back and I had followed my instructions to not act like a baby.

As guided, I moved to another time in my life when they boy waited for me at the place where the path met the rail fence of his family’s property. He cared for me. He was kind. His light brown hair was combed straight down evenly all round his head. His white shirt had puffy sleeves and cuffs and his brown rough pants were held up with strap that ended in an upside down v with a button on each side.

Again guided to another point I held our baby girl in my arms and felt joy. Later I saw her off on a ship so she could become educated. She returned and taught others but never really was close to me. Next, he held my hand and my chest was tight and it hurt to breathe and I wasn’t afraid to die because he was there for me. I looked on the wall and I saw the end of a word “shire” and 1792.

I confronted nanny and father, I forgave them and released them and was once again guided to another journey. I thought I couldn’t possibly be really experiencing this and maybe the whole thing would be over soon. However, again my feet hit the ground and when I was guided to describe what I felt, my feet hurt so much. I was wearing tight white boots with so many tiny white buttons. I saw layers of skirts that were pushed out by the layers nestled underneath. I saw that dark stone road under those boots and was aware of the hustle and bustle around me. I walked across the street to look inside the shop windows but I didn’t go in. I wasn’t to spend money but I looked longingly through the shop window wondering if any shoes that wouldn’t hurt me feet could be found within.  I was encouraged to walk to my home only a few blocks away. It was a tall house that reminded me of the Banks’ home in Mary Poppins. As I walked in through the door everything was neatly in its place and very formal. My mother didn’t have time to acknowledge me as she went about ensuring the perfection of it all. I knew my father was disappointed that I hadn’t been a boy who would take over his business. My role was to give evidence to his success with my appearance, to be seen and not heard. The only time I felt joy was to take my painful shoes off and read my books alone and out of site.  My older sister was perfect, her name was Gladdy. She married well and left and rarely visited but did give me a little black dog for comfort.

My mother passed away of the chest and my father grew older until, at last, he sat in a wicker wheelchair his hair greyed and his posture slumped. I was with him when he passed. A short time later I opened the window coverings and let the sunshine in. Guests came for tea and my sister returned with her three children. I was especially fond of the red-haired girl who loved to kick off her shoes and read with me.  At the end, I was alone, in my bed and I wasn’t afraid for the angels came and gently took me with them.

In the discussion with my guide afterwards, I realized I had strength and that if my fear of being truly alone came true, I’d be okay with that. I felt stronger and I felt connected. I searched Pembrokeshire Wales and it looked exactly like my vision – http://nt.pcnpa.org.uk/website/sitefiles/nt_page.asp?PageID=2

Thank you to Olive Readers for this experience

 

Christmas – Traditionally Always Changing

As our children get older and the reality that they may not always want to share their Christmases with us becomes a worrisome thought for me, I can’t help thinking, ugh, just my Guy and I alone on Christmas, how will that be any fun?

My eyes well up with tears when I remember each child’s first Christmas and oh so many fun memories. I worked hard to create our own traditions. We would celebrate Christmas eve with a birthday cake for Jesus, before bed the kids would open one gift then I’d tell them the story of Jesus’ birth using pictures I’d created from construction paper followed by Guy reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. In the morning they had to wait until 7 am before waking us but they could open their stockings.

I remember the year they started to care about giving instead of just receiving. The year they all posed for pictures in matching onesie pyjamas would be so fun to recreate. I was recently remembering too the year they all decided to re-gift old toys to each other and they laughed so hard and had so much fun opening them. Each December we’d take them to the dollar store, Guy would wait out with the kids sending one in at a time to select items for the others and I’d have to remember who was giving what to whom.

Somewhere along the way I gave up on turkey dinners that no one seemed interested in eating and switched to appetizers on Christmas day and after a few years of finding myself all alone after the Lego was built and the kids were off in their rooms we started the tradition of going to a movie on Christmas day.

Over the years we’ve stopped having the birthday cake for Jesus, no one wants to hear the stories. Some traditions remain, some do not. But reflecting helped me to realize that when something, no matter how precious to my heart, stopped working we adapted, we changed, and we started something new.

The truth is, Guy had my heart first and we enjoyed Christmas together before we had children. So in the future, when my kids want to start their own traditions and create their own family Christmases I’ll have happy memories to warm my heart and I feel confident that Guy and I will create new traditions – perhaps Christmas in Florida will call our names!

Giving My Worries Away

Today, when meditating, a vision came into my head. I saw my hands extended in front of me. Placed in my upturned palms was a package wrapped neatly in a handkerchief. The handkerchief was white with a pretty pattern on it and the ends were tied up to form a pouch. Then I noticed there were shiny strings like fishing line tied to the package. As I looked up it was as if they connected to a hot air balloon. I knew immediately what I must do and I knew that package contained all my worries. I closed my eyes, drew in a long peaceful breath, raised my hands above my head and released the package and watched as it floated upwards.

Somehow I could breathe easier, I felt lighter and more free. I suppose I just released my worries to God and gave myself permission to be joyful.

I’ve heard Doreen Virtue speak and she says the angels want to help you; they are just waiting for your permission or your request. I’ve always felt the presence of angels with me. Even as a child the idea of having a Guardian Angel gave me much comfort.  I pray and I speak to angels.  Just as they say it takes a community to raise a child, I believe as adults there are resources helping us and we have only to ask.

I experience the evidence of asking the angels, God and the Holy Spirit to be with me and my children, to help guide us to that which we need most.  In the past I’ve tended to dismiss emails and Facebook posts or unsolicited advice but I’ve begun to view it differently. I’m following up on leads for employment opportunities, I’m listening to the words and advice of those whose intentions come from love and I’m witnessing the angels work. I feel blessed and grateful.  I don’t think I ever noticed the abundance of gifts that surround me every day. The gifts that come from friends who encourage, former colleagues who acknowledge my value, wisdom from my children and just the faith, hope and love that is all around me, just waiting for me to access.

This is not to say that life isn’t still providing struggles, it is. I feel helpless, at times, not knowing what to do to help my kids in their struggles too. Stress is never far from our family it seems. But maybe it’s there to help me see the grace that also exists, the strength of survival and the honour of living it.

Today I feel peace and love and I extend it outward.

 

 

My Spirited Child

I wrote this piece 20 years ago from the perspective of my second son whose spirit was sometimes more than he, or any of us, could manage. It helped other parents to understand their children so it is in that spirit I share it now. Dedicated to Drew Wakutz.

Hi!  My name, although very important to me, is not relevant to what I have to say.  I am a spirited child.  I am often exuberantly overjoyed or I can be uncontrollably angry – seldom in between.  You never have to guess how I feel about anything.  I need to have control over me and my surroundings.  I know there are things I have no choice in whether or not I do but, give me a choice in how they get done and I’ll try to cooperate.  I like to do a good job, especially when its a job I choose to do and one I think is important.  I have a lot of determination and I don’t like to be interrupted when I’m focused on a task.  Give me a little time, a warning, when things have to change or happen and I’ll cope a lot better.

I like to plan ahead and be prepared, let me know what to expect or what you expect from me beforehand and things will go smoother.  I get very confused when people’s faces and gestures don’t match what they say.  I prefer honesty.  If people try to hide their feelings from me or keep secrets, it’s like just challenging me to uncover the mystery!  I feel things deeply, all things.  Other people’s reactions and moods often affect my own.  When I get out of control, I need the people around me to be calm.  Teach me self control, don’t try to control me.  I wish when you see me out of control, instead of looking at me as if I were strange, give me some space, a chance to calm down, remind me gently what my choices are, what I need to do to calm down.  I don’t like feeling that way.  I am so full of feelings, there just isn’t any room in my head for thinking.  When I’m myself again I feel bad, so please, don’t remind me how I sounded, what I said or did or how I looked.  What I really need to know is that you love me and that I’m okay, and you’re not ashamed of me.

When I love – I love intensely, when I hurt – I hurt deeply, when I laugh – I laugh boisterously, when I cry – I find it hard to stop.  I have a lot of energy and it just takes me over sometimes.  If I can’t get rid of it physically, I’m pretty creative at finding ways to use my energy.  I know I often tire my mom out but I know she loves me.  Sometimes she makes mistakes, but she says mistakes, even the whoppers I make are okay, as long as we learn from them.

Sometimes, Mama screams and yells and cries, we all feel bad.  When I do those things, Mama says I’m SPIRITED.  I think Mama must be spirited too.  When I turn a hanger or two twigs into a bow and arrow, a brush and dustpan into a fiddle or when I want to colour the same picture for five days in a row until its just right, Mama says that takes spirit.  When I invent new words or new things, when I create what Mama calls “my masterpieces” or when I figure out just the right way to get that candy hidden on the top shelf behind the big can in the little plastic tub, Mama says, yes – I’ve got SPIRIT!  Spirit must be what makes my Mama still twinkle her eyes and hold me close after I’ve made a big mess; spirit must be what makes her count before she talks to me after I have done something I shouldn’t have, and spirit must definitely be what Mama has when she tells someone that I’m not bad, that I just need space, that I don’t like to be rushed into things and that – that was just my creativity showing.  My Mama lets me know that my spirit is what makes me ME and spirit is something to be proud of.

December 1994

Canoe Trip August 2011

As a cub leader, when our pack gathered to enjoy a ceremonial camp fire, I would begin by inviting them to participate. I’d tell them that this was a very special and unique opportunity. No other person, anywhere else or at any other time, could ever experience our campfire exactly as we would. I’d invite them to appreciate the magic, to feel how this experience bonded the members of our pack and to think about how lucky we were to have this unique time together.

How lucky am I to have experienced again, this enriching camaraderie with colleagues in an experience that reveals so many truths, wonder, fun and challenge. My heart is filled with infinite love and gratitude for the privilege of paddling and portaging with my esteemed, determined new friends on the 2011 Chiniguchi Tour.

Wolf Lake canoe route
entry point sign

Filled with some nervous apprehension, hopeful anticipation and even a few fears, my approach was to embrace this new challenge with an open mind and to participate as fully as possible. From the first time I considered putting my name forward for this trip our guide was encouraging and supportive. His confidence boosted my own. We began the adventure with the knowledge we’d be challenged and we’d learn.

Almost immediately, as we divide up into our packed canoes there is a spirit of co-operation, of support and acceptance. Nothing is forced. There are no pre-set lessons, no mandatory activities. Woven throughout every step or paddle there is time for individual contemplation, while at the same time an understanding that each member is part of the group. It fascinates me not only to put myself to the test and observe my reactions, but to see the vulnerability and strength in the others as well.

Like the water lilies that start out egg-shaped pointing towards the sky and throughout the day relax and open to reveal their individual beauty, my colleagues and I begin to gain comfort with each other, and an ease and kindred spirit descends on us encouraging us to share our own true selves with each other without fear of judgment or rejection, but rather acceptance and appreciation. There’s a bond in knowing we are in this together.

water lilly
Water Lilly

In time, my favourite paddling position is at the bow of the canoe rather than the middle. My paddle strokes become more confident and effective with time and practice. Even more satisfying, sometimes when the synchronicity with the stern paddler becomes so meshed, the rhythm seems to assume the form of my heart beat connecting me with the water, the canoe and all the paddlers. I close my eyes and breathe in as I draw the paddle up and exhale as I push the water with the paddle toward the stern.  The movement so natural at times I feel so connected so in tune and so peacefully close to meditation. It is everything and nothing at the same time. So many thoughts racing in my mind but yet at the same time there is just a calm knowing that somehow links me to the past and those who have travelled these waters before.

Later, as I lay in the tent at night, my breathing seems to take on the rhythm of the paddle and although our tent is firmly perched upon a rock, I can almost feel the sway of the water.

We’re told we paddled about 55 km over four days. My body believes that! When the muscles in my shoulders and back burn intensely and the old me would have thought about quitting, the changed me sees things differently. I replay scenes of those in our group who carry canoes and heavier packs than I can. I think of those in the other canoes along side, behind, or way in front who are paddling too and of course I think of the one or two others in this canoe as well. What was that line Jeff had shared with us about perseverance? “Persevere at difficult things. It may not be as concrete as a mountain or as immediately rewarding as cinnamon rolls, but the world is given to those who persevere.”  (Copyright, Morgan Hite, 1989-1991) That is what we do, we persevere. I wonder if my kids will be proud of me and I realize that it really doesn’t matter. I am proud to be here, to be paddling with muscles that burn, because I am part of the group and whatever role I play helps move us all forward.

Through shoe-sucking black muck, over sharp-tumbling rocks, in mosquito-laden forests and pine-needle floors, along waterfall-lagoons, rocky outcroppings, water so clean and skies so clear, with swamps and streams and lakes both smooth and choppy. We persevere together.

It seems quite obvious, I suppose, but I soon realize that like the ripples that roll out when the paddle cuts into the water, our actions ripple out and affect everyone. If you don’t carry that pack, someone else has to. If you don’t take your turn washing dishes, making the fire, preparing a meal, it will fall to someone else. You also realize you have limits. On the first day, after portaging with a pack that was obviously too heavy for me, my body feels shaky for a few hours and my ability to contribute seems diminished. I take note of how I feel and I understand that each of us has limitations.

Our guide reads to us an excerpt from 1637 written by Jean de Brebeuf that says “Always carry something during portages.” This simple instruction for Jesuit missionaries so long ago replays in my mind during every portage. With everyone carrying something, whatever they are capable of, we move the group forward. If I can’t carry the heavier packs, I can carry the lighter ones and at least help people get shed the heavy ones at the other end. And I can paddle, damn it, even if my shoulders and arms burn.

Truly, the days also take on a rhythm. It is of waking, making fires, coffee and breakfast, of taking down tents, organizing packs and moving on to the next step. Paddling, portaging, shore lunches, of hands reaching out to hold canoes along side your own, of connecting, sharing, enjoying, swimming, exploring, experiencing, of making camp, getting wood, eating supper by starlight, of “good night John boy” and giggles and tent zippers zipping. Then there is quiet and the haunting call of loons and sometimes the lapping of water.

There is no lack of impressive sites, from beaver damns and moose prints to colleagues exhibiting unexpected feats of strength and comedy. Ever present is the comforting knowledge that our guide is there to gently provide instructions and reminders, to share words with us that encourage our reflections and our fun. He springs around rock faces with what looks like an arrow through his neck, he runs the longest portages with canoe hoisted over his back and he sleeps without tent under stars overhead. It is certain that Hawkeye and Chingachgook would be proud of our guide.

I applaud all who share this journey for their strength, their help, their commitment and ability to keep moving forward. Our group embraces our challenge carefully considering our options and quickly arriving at consensus to continue on our journey.

This experience for each who takes it will be unique. Some may think it too much work or too long away, and some will remember the joy, laughter and accomplishment and wish it wasn’t over. I don’t speak for anyone but myself.

I learn:

  • to look within
  • I am capable
  • laughter is a great relief, a unifying, de-stressing, expression of joy and friendship
  • to respect and acknowledge my limitations but to give everything I have and more
  • by observing others and shedding ego your path becomes easier and your spirit lighter
  • that if you ask for help, someone will be there and similarly, there’s always something you can do to help someone else
  • a person can waste a lot of time not appreciating the gifts of others
  • a thunder box can be a good thing
  • resistance is futile (lol) – going with the flow and accepting whatever comes next is much easier than worrying or dreading the next part of the journey, and
  • living in the moment while preparing for the next is optimal.

I feel sadness wash over me as the end of our journey comes closer into view. On our way home, when we all stop to eat at a fast-food place I am not alone in wanting to finish my meal and escape to the outdoors. The building’s confining walls and groups of chatting people seem almost intolerable.

And now as I sit writing I am overwhelmed with the busyness around me and the indoors, the lack of stillness, of silence. As much as I’m happy to have chairs with backs to support my tired shoulders and to sleep upon my comfortable mattress, there’s part of me yearning to feel the paddle in my hands and the canoe underneath pushing forward across the water.

One of my colleagues says she feels as though part of her spirit is still there on the trip and she knows it will be a while until it returns to her. She need not elaborate as her words echo my thoughts. It reminds me of a verse from a song.

Land of the silver birch
Home of the beaver
Where still the mighty moose
Wanders at will
Blue lake and rocky shore
I will return once more
Boom-diddy-ah-da, Boom-diddy-ah-da, Boom-diddy-ah-da, bo-oo-oom

Hearts and spirits are free among those blue lakes and rocky shores and with that knowledge there is yearning.

Indeed the 2011 Chiniguchi Tour was challenging, exhausting and exhilarating. It had me close to tears and doubled over in laughter; it taught me perseverance and peacefulness; it taught me when I feel I have no more to give, I really do. It pushed me beyond where I would have normally drawn the line and it was completely awe-inspiring.

canoe, river
Canoe on shining water

Truth and Consequences

I put out my hand and selected one of the angel cards fanned out and extended toward me. The card had one word on it. “Look at your word, let it permeate you,” we were told. I drew air in deeply filling my lungs as I sat in a chair trying to keep my back straight. I let the air out and heard others’ whooshing the air out of their lungs as they also exhaled. I tried to relax my tight neck and shoulders and listened as the meditation leader guided our breaths and thoughts. See your word and think of how it is you… As I continued to breathe deeply and slowly and thought about my word I felt it was a cornerstone of who I am and what I value. Truth.

I kept my index finger of my left hand on the corner of the card that rested on my left leg towards my knee somehow needing to be connected physically to the card and my word.

Truth – so important to me.
Truth – so much easier to accept than lies.

Whose truth? I wondered. Is truth actually anything tangible? Is truth anything more than an interpretation? A perception? Why would my truth have more value than someone else’s? Is truth just a set of beliefs?  Is it ego that drives me to think truth has value? What if what I believe to be true is just my ego or just my perception?

“Focus on your breathing, if your thoughts wander acknowledge them and bring yourself back to your word,” I heard.

Truth. Truth. Funny I should pick that. No one seems to want to hear the truth or my truth. Truth doesn’t seem valued. I’ve been experiencing people telling me to detach from what is out of my control and they act like everything is good and there’s no acknowledgement when projects derail and people aren’t held accountable and why is truth so unwanted in certain circles? I wonder.

Back to breathing in deeply and out deeply and the tears are filling up inside my eyelids and I’m wondering where I fit. Where does truth fit? Why do I feel so alone like I’m hanging off a cliff, clinging to truth like it’s my only connection to safety? Does truth define me? I sure let other’s dismissal of truth define them. What if the truth evaporated I ask myself, would I feel differently? The tears threaten to escape from between my eye lids.

“Bring your awareness back to the room and when you are ready, open your eyes.”

I open my eyes, and when asked, I quietly share my word. “Truth,” I say still fighting the tears. I hug the meditation leader and he whispers in my ear, “I continue to pray for you.”

I walk down the long hallway after I exit the room a co-worker walking by reaches out, grabs my hand gives it a squeeze and continues walking. A few steps later another hugs me. Still later after gathering myself together with the help of my friend and office-mate I notice a note of appreciation on the door and there it is. It hits me. That is my truth. People care and the ones who care – they know my truth, they are my truth and I am okay.

Signs from above

Feeling like I needed to escape from the house yesterday I went out to get a few things at the store and I stopped in St. Jacobs. I felt a need to find something with the prayer of St. Francis on it so after finding that at one store, I went to one of my favourite places to be among the angels who comfort me. Once inside, I enjoyed a conversation with a woman I know. After she left, I moved through the store stopping to pause wherever something caught my eye. I finally settled on one angel ornament with a red sparkly heart for the tree. Just as I was checking out I noticed one key chain sitting all by itself so I picked it up. Engraved on it was, “Give your worries to the Angels.”  Messages come when I need them most it seems, so I purchased that too.

angel ornament

Later, as part of my renewed effort to use my time off (not working) in a healthy way, I decided to take Hogan for a walk – even though I don’t usually think of my little cocka-poo as much of a walker.  I decided to try to keep thoughts of my work situation (or lack of it) at bay and to be open.  Against the blackness of the wet driveway something white caught my eye. I was going to keep on walking but I decided to stop, go back and see what was there. How strange to see a puffy dandelion all white and fluffy in December. I looked around but there was only the one. I wondered had some small child found it somewhere and dropped it? I wondered where it would have come from as the November snow storms must have surely covered and destroyed any that had remained. Who left this here? I’ve heard of angels or departed loved ones putting pennies or feathers in your path but dandelions? I didn’t want to waste it so I picked it up, held it to my lips, made a wish and blew the fluff away, smiling and feeling like I wasn’t alone.

As Hogan stopped to sniff and leave his mark on each tree or hydrant, I paused and waited. It felt odd to me that I had no schedule to keep, no one waiting on me for anything. I smiled and remembered that is what freedom feels like.

Hogan and I chose some paths not explored before but at one crossing, again something white caught my eye. I looked down and in the sand pushed from the road onto the curb were two perfectly-white little feathers that fluttered as the wind gently moved them. I smiled, collected them, placed them in my pocket and felt loved and protected.

Although at times, I feel completely alone, even when I’m in the midst of many, I’m learning that there is love and comfort.  I feel that energy as angels and I believe that loved ones who have passed are never far from my side as well.  I am Blessed!

When one door closes…

Only last week I was restructured for the third time in my career in communications. The first time a new CEO met with all employees and asked if they had time in their jobs to squeeze in new projects. I naively embraced that and replied that I did. Next, I was downsized. After buying a cake and telling my kids when they got home from school that we were celebrating new beginnings, I vowed never to make that mistake again!

The next time, it was easier to not feel personally responsible as 210 employees across the organization were “restructured” at the same time.  What was very hurtful though, was that except for one person who reached out to me, none of my colleagues contacted me to say they were sorry it was me. It’s one thing to be downsized, but a very different thing to be dumped by the people you’ve spent seven years alongside at work!

Most recently, I suppose I saw the writing on the wall but didn’t want to see it. After having been told only a few months ago when two colleagues were let go, that I was part of the team management wanted to move forward with it was still shocking. I suppose I’m guilty of expecting integrity where it doesn’t exist and honesty where propaganda is promoted. This time, though, many colleagues sent me messages of hope, empathy and acknowledgement that provided healing.

So, here I am, only weeks until Christmas, unemployed but thankful for a severance package.  Sure, I’m angry, hurt, and feeling foolish for trusting. I’ve been remembering times I went above and beyond, countless hours of dedication, even going out of my way to be support to a manager who marginalized me at every turn. I’ve replayed in my mind situations that made me uncomfortable.  Yes, I have resentment. But can I really regret how I worked and the things I did that were above and beyond? No. Regardless of who I report to, I have a set of expectations about myself and I am proud that I stayed true to them.

In the recent few weeks I had been asking the angels to help me. I believe they worked to rescue me from a negative work environment that was causing me to compromise the way I feel about the work I do and the level of dedication I put forth.

I want to free myself of the negativity, resentment and anger I feel. I do not want these emotions to become a permanent part of me. I’m working to let go and to forgive myself and others so I can release the burden of negative feelings and allow myself to fly free.  I’m thankful for past opportunities and I’m thankful for the new opportunities that will be presented to me and I’m hoping I’ll recognize the doors that are opening as previous ones close.

Looking back, I think in all these three situations, the angels have been there for me, knowing what’s best. I’ve learned from each job, gained new skills and made valuable friendships. I have to trust that I’ll find a job soon where my skills and approach will be valued, where I’ll continue to learn and I’ll be happier. I hope it comes soon and I’m trying my hardest to be patient and trust that I’m in good hands!