Seeking comfort through connection

Some of the things I value most, I recently realized, are things that bring me comfort.

white teddy bear
much loved white bear

I still have my white teddy bear who’s “fur” has been worn off in many areas and has been sewn back together at the seams more than once. His eyes have lost their shine but he’s still mine! I feel angels around me and their presence comforts me. I’ve sought comfort in books, movies, the viewpoints of people like Dr. Wayne Dyer and others. I’ve found comfort in the assurances of psychics that my loved ones are still with me. I enjoy certain photos because they stir up memories that bring me comfort. And I work to retain memories from years ago that I hold onto dearly because that comforts me too.

I remember looking out through the bars of my crib and seeing my sister sitting on the floor in darkness. She sang in a comforting voice to help me get to sleep. I remember my other sister concocting an elaborate portrayal of an Indian that visited me and my desire to keep pretending I thought it was real so I wouldn’t lose the comfort of the experience.

It seems so much of my life, my decisions, and what I value most are about seeking comfort. But I wonder why I seem so wired to seek comfort. Perhaps it’s the me from my childhood seeking refuge from the chaos or perhaps the me who often feels the ache of loneliness.

This week I bumped into my cousin whom I haven’t seen in many years. It was such a strange coincidence to meet him in a store we had both taken our mothers to, in a city that neither of us lives in. And as it turned out we had parked right beside each other. I can’t help but wonder if there was more at work than coincidence to bring us together that day.

My heart sang and my soul was fed to see my aunt for the first time in decades and to have an authentic sincere conversation with my cousin. Typically, in the past, as the youngest in my family I often felt dismissed by the cousins who were closer in age to my siblings. How nice it was to meet with him on an adult level, to feel respected and valued. And yes, I felt comfort in that connection.

Woman standing in doorway
Viola Hickey, the grandmother we never knew

While we didn’t see much of each other through childhood, there’s a bond in knowing our fathers were brothers, we shared grandparents we either didn’t meet nor had little contact with, and great-grandparents and other members of our family tree we never knew as well.  A shared but separate experience, a bond that feels familiar and comforting even though years or decades pass between visits, and yet a comfortable familiarity and yes love that extends beyond the passing of time.

Perhaps my drive to seek comfort is also about seeking connection. It is feeling connected to angels that provides comfort, it’s the way photos, movies and books connect me to memories, experiences and perhaps even strangers. It’s the connection to relatives, to our common threads of history, heritage and the people we’ve loved that also brings comfort.

I suppose this insight reveals the dark side of seeking connection. In an extreme sense perhaps that’s how gangs or mobs form. Perhaps that desire to belong, to connect, to be part of something is the lure that opens the door in extreme circumstances to ugliness. Perhaps if we concentrated a bit more on providing that feeling of connection and comfort to our children and those we love they won’t be left looking for it among those who manipulate. As much as I seek comfort and connection, I’m confident that I’m pretty good at providing it too. My children know I love them and that is probably the one thing that provides me the greatest comfort.

I’m so thankful to the angels, to spirit, to God, to whatever wonderful contributor connected our paths and connected me with my cousin this week. May I continue to be grateful for connections and open my heart to the coincidences that bring joy.

Learning to accept that which I have kept in the shadows

To define myself by my gender, age, physical appearance, talents, characteristics or any other measure can only express a part but not the whole of who I am. Wouldn’t it be great to only consider that which you are most proud of? I have a tattoo that says, Let Love Define Me. My ability and capacity to love is probably the quality I’m most comfortable with.

I love the line in the song Dress Rehearsal by Carolyn Dawn Johnson that says: When the show is over, And they lay me down, I wanna be remembered, For the love I spread around. 

The truth is that I have no control over how I’ll be remembered. It is funny how I’ve tried in certain circumstances to control how I’m seen by others but it rarely works. I often feel I’m misjudged or misinterpreted even when I think I’m being completely honest.

Perhaps a year or so ago, a friend of mine loaned me The Shadow Effect video and I really connected with it and told my friend at work all about it. She proceeded to purchase the book on which it was based. As with many of the self-help or self-reflection books I read the message tends to fade as time passes. In the late fall I asked if I could borrow the book and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. The book is divided into three sections, each by a different author. My favourite is the first section by Deepak Chopra. If you are interested in looking into this topic further, try this link: http://vimeo.com/10611853.

Upon reflection, I can clearly see how pointing out the faults of others allowed me to indulge in the “at least I’m not like that” mind set. Wayne Dyer says: when you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself. I see more clearly than ever the truth in that. How do I measure against that person? If I can see greater faults in them can I see value in myself? The sad truth for me is that old messages from childhood still sometimes play on loop in my head and my worth is hard to see.

Growing up in a home where I perceived vanity to be judged a critical fault, where celebrating my own wins or successes were labeled selfish or self-centred, it has been challenging to allow myself to see my own value. Even more difficult sometimes is to acknowledge those bits of myself I’d rather keep hidden in the shadows, those qualities or characteristics that when I recognize in others I have criticized and disliked.  Those shadowy bits of ourselves that we’d rather not see, haven’t we come by them quite honestly? The Shadow Effect helped me to look at those more negative qualities and see why they may have developed in myself and others – to protect or counter some injustice perhaps.  It has also helped me to see those qualities in others that I find so distasteful and to consider they may be compensating for some deep pain or insecurity.

Am I proud of all my traits? No, but like the grey hairs I hide with colour, they are part of me, part of my life experience. Instead of ignoring those qualities, I’m learning to accept them and realize they are a product of my life. When I see those qualities in others that make me uncomfortable, I’m learning to be more accepting and see them in a more empathetic light. There is a freedom; it seems, in not having to hide. It was as if I didn’t name those qualities I wouldn’t have to admit they existed. However, in accepting them I can bring them out of the shadows and they lose their grip. If I’m not hiding them then perhaps they won’t show up so intensely under stress or when they are least welcome.  Perhaps in accepting our shadowy qualities we are better able to accept them in others and for me, acceptance is love.

 

May I be Safe

Metta meditation

Today I experienced a Metta Meditation centred around:

  • May I be Safe
  • May I be Healthy
  • May I be Happy
  • May I live with Ease.

I practice kindness but struggle with applying it to myself. Guided to use my breathing to bring loving kindness to myself was a very new concept but somehow it was easy to welcome as a peaceful calm came over me. With candles surrounding me I really felt the phrases become part of me and felt a healing hug envelop me.

Next, I applied these phrases to other whether they were people who positively impact my life or those who struggle or have caused me pain. This concentration on loving kindness felt like an old friend or an extension of my intentions that I hadn’t quite seen before. It was as comfortable as my name and helped me connect with my purpose.

Another meditation (Tonglen) guided me to breathe in negative and exhale that which I would want to share with the world. This seemed so odd having been programmed with the “in with the good, out with the bad” approach. As I practiced this, however, it became more comfortable. As I reflect back now, I realize in my past this concept existed once before when my ‘self’ was contained in a body much smaller. I remember just knowing that I was exposed to things a child my age should not see or hear but I consoled myself that I could be okay.

On one evening as my inebriated father sat on the sofa, with a dark look of hatred in his eyes, he spat out words at my mother that I knew were not meant for my ears.  As if on auto-pilot I knew I had to protect her. Perhaps at age five or so, being a veteran of the fights and abuse it didn’t scare me as much as the hatred he spat out disgusted me.  I crawled up onto her lap. I’ll be her shield I thought. As the hateful words hurled across the room at her I breathed them in and I exhaled love. I can block them, I can keep them from hitting her heart, I thought.

I watched as her hand reached for her coffee and how the caramel-coloured liquid first sloshed up one side of the cup, swished over in a wave and then repeated its motion on the other side of the cup as her hand shook. How can one man hold so much hate? I wondered.  I breathed in again and tried to absorb that hate so my beautiful mother would stop shaking and crying.  I’m not sure what happened in the following moments but my next memory is dad banging on the bathroom door and me wondering why he couldn’t let her pee in peace.  Next, there was a lot of commotion. The carport was lighting up red on and off, on and off.

Later, I sat with my big sister on the hardwood stairs that led to the second floor of our two-storey house; she told me that mom was at the hospital. The nurses would take good care of her and they’d be waking her up every few hours to make sure she was okay. Somehow I understood that she had taken some pills and she had just wanted the hatred to stop. I failed to protect her. I had let her down. I coloured a picture for her in my colouring book dividing the girl’s outfit right down the middle, colouring one half green for my mother and one half red for me.

Today, I take a big breath in and I forgive my father. I send him a prayer in that moment so his spirit can heal. I send my mom a prayer too sending her strength and love both now and in that moment as well. And to the self that I was then, I send loving kindness, for that is what I think I needed the most then; and perhaps now too.

<I mean to offend no one. If this post is upsetting, I apologize and refer you to my disclaimers.>