Mystic Sunrise Memoirs

“Age has given me what I was looking for my entire life- It gave me me. It provided the time and experience and failures and triumphs and friends who helped me step into the shape that had been waiting for me all my life… I not only get along with me most of the time now, I am militantly and maternally on my side” Anne Lamott.

Our lives are like the ocean; there is an ebb and flow that can be a stormy wild ride filled with chaos, doubt, loss, struggles, and pain; other times, it can be a calm and beautiful journey filled with joy, love, confidence and contentment.

Life can change in an instant, and what comes next is sometimes not easy, but it can start an inner transformation that is a powerful reminder of the resilience of our Spirit. This blog is a collection of short stories about both the ebb and flow of my life and occasionally everyday people who have taught me life lessons along the way. I also share the many inspirational quotes and books that have, without exaggeration, helped form who I am today.

I call this Blog Mystic Sunrise. Every day is a new beginning, a chance to start all over again. If any resonates, join me on the journey and share, we can learn from each other. The one thing that has sustained me over the years has been hearing peoples stories, and through this, I discovered that I was not alone. So many amazing souls have shared their stories with me either through their books or in person. These stories seemed to show up at the exact right time when I needed them the most. This is dedicated to those people who created a path for me to follow and gave me the support I needed to find my own.

For as long as I can remember, even as a child, I have been on a quest, especially in my adulthood. To learn about life’s deeper meaning, spirituality and connection to a Higher Power I call God. Although I am a Christian, I have found inspiration from many spiritualities and religions. For I believe there are many paths to God. Our Higher Power is a profoundly personal journey and is called many different names. I respect and honor all, no matter what that looks like.

I still have shitty days; some lessons I still need to re-learn repeatedly, but I also share why I am way gentler with myself when I do; I share these in the hope that more people will learn these lessons sooner than I did. I finally like who I am most days. All of me, the dark and the light, I have learned to forgive myself and others along the way, and as Anne Lamott says “I am militantly and maternally on my side.” Age has given me the privilege of living long enough to figure some of this shit out and I am grateful.

Dates are factual as much as my memory remembers; the essence of what I share is all true. At the heart of these stories are lessons I learned along the way as I was and still am “broken open” at times. This quote sums up this journey; it’s from one of my favorite books.

“The promise of being broken open and possibly of being opened are written into the contract of human life. Certainly, this tumultuous journey on the waves can be tiresome. When the sea is rough, and when we are sufferings, we may want to give up hope and give into despair. But brave pilgrims have gone before us. They tell us to venture forth with faith and vision.” Elisabeth Lessor in Broken Open

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This one of my favorite places to be in Nova Scotia, Boulder Cove Cottages. Every year a women’s group I have been a part of for over 25 years goes here on a retreat weekend. www.bouldercove.com

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The Universe brought me to my knees

This is an edited version of a previous blog ( AKA A hurricane is coming )

The wound is the place where the light enters you,” Rumi.

It’s July 5th, 2014

I’m on my daily walk; It’s barely dawn; the sun is just coming over the horizon, the golden rays warm my face; the scent in the air this early is so sweet and fresh. Walking is my meditation and sometimes my sanity. I love the early hours before the world stirs as the birds sing louder to bring in the new day. Trees line both sides of the road; they feel like old friends. I am communing with these majestic tall guardians. The hardwood in full summer foliage and the evergreens are vibrant with newly growing life. They are all standing perfectly still on this calm morning.

I feel powerful in my body these days. My heart beats faster as I start walking up a steep hill. I notice Saint John’s Wort. Its dainty yellow flowers have buds with ruby red oil inside. I love exploring the fields and gathering wild herbs for making healing salves. My mind wanders as I think about how much I love my job and the new client I am starting with this week. I turn 52 this month. Life is good.

I heard on the radio that Hurricane Arthur is landing over us early tomorrow morning. My husband is away at work. It’s late afternoon; however calm it felt early this morning, I now hear the waves crashing on the shore. They pick up momentum as the hurricane sends its strength into the ocean ahead of the storm. The hurricane is coming. I start clearing the patio and tie down the BBQ.

It’s late in the evening, and the phone rings; it’s Bernie, my hubby; his voice is reassuring. “Remember Babe, we often get hurricane-force winds; it’s only a category one or less; you will be ok.”

After hanging up, I settle in for a night of restless sleep. It’s 4 am, and I hear the winds howling outside. The roof is cracking; the hurricane clips are working. The clips are galvanized pieces that reinforce the roof-to-wall in case of high winds.

As twilight illuminates the darkness, I see twigs and debris flying around. Crack; I am startled as I look out the window; I see a small apple tree falling over. It’s an hour later, and the rain is coming down in torrential sheets, falling sideways as the wind picks up. I see a flash; shit, the power is out. It’s another hour later; I shiver and put on a sweater. I better go out to the shed and start the generator; I stumble to stay upright as the rain stings my face. I get into the shed; my clothes are now sticking to me. Finally, the acrid smell of gas and the loud deafening noise of the generator is giving me a sense of relief. It is sometimes difficult for me to start, but it brings electricity back into our home. I am tired and chilled to the bone. I’m anxious to get dry and start the furnace; I run back to the house. I am almost to the door. F==k! My boots are slipping! I fall forward and slam hard onto the deck. Most of the force hits my right knee, and I feel excruciating pain—my life changes instantly. Later the surgeon said that my x-ray looked like a hand grenade went off in my knee.

I get back up, limp into the house, dry off, turn on the furnace and put ice on my swelling knees.

After the hurricane, another journey began; this injury would teach me a lesson I had refused to learn up until now.

The first few months after, I stayed positive. I was raised not to complain; “Suck it up, buttercup,” I would hear my mother and brothers often say when I was a child. My dad had a violent temper that could go off without warning. Our mom, my siblings, and I learned to freeze our emotions. We did not shed a tear or complain in our home; there could be dire consequences if we did. The word stoic comes to mind. I looked up the meaning in an oxford dictionary a long time ago, and it describes my whole family—”Stoic-a person who can endure pain or hardship without showing their feelings or complaining.” I have discovered this is not the virtue I once thought.

I struggle silently and rarely ask for help. I manage; for the most part, I keep thinking my knee will get better. The intense pain settles enough to handle, then it swells again, back on crutches. Stoic as ever, no one realizes what a loss this is for me; I smile and suck it up. Over the next year, this becomes my reality. I get tired of people looking at me with pity or asking me every time I am out, “Oh, what happened?” “Your hip, right”? Or worse, “Are you still on crutches?” I am sick of repeatedly explaining the same story to the same people. Don’t they know I am still me? People no longer see or hear me; I have become invisible. I am becoming more reclusive.

Now my elderly mom and her husband have severe health issues. I also have more health issues. My older brother Earl calls and needs to come and speak to me about another brother; this can’t be good.

He has a grim face and watery eyes. “Rick is dying of pancreatic cancer and only has a few of months to live; we need to go and tell mom.”

The Perfect Storm of events pushes me over the edge. I hide that I barely got up some mornings for the next two years. I don’t want to shower or get dressed some days. I numb myself with food and binge-watch TV late into the night. I no longer work; I am angry and bitter; My stoic mask has cracks. I vacillate between two extremes, a victim bitching and moaning to the few who will listen and a stoic frozen shell who smiles on command and “stays positive” for others to feel comfortable. I am good at this game, or so I think.

A friend of mine asks me to go to a retreat. Sharon, an ex-monk whom I knew many years ago, will be facilitating. I am in a car with friends driving to the retreat center. All I can think about is, “what the f**k am I doing. I’d rather be home” We finally pull into the driveway; It looks peaceful, yet I feel out of place and on edge. After introductions, Sharon shares a beautiful talk. We now break up into small groups; I’m with three people, a nun, one other person and Sharon. I sense they are genuine and kind. I am listening politely, though my feelings of frustration inside are growing. I feel so f**king distant from all of this. I cannot relate anymore. Sharon asks a question; I snap! Oh my God, my mouth is opening; I cannot believe what I hear coming out!

“I don’t give a shit anymore. I honestly don’t want to be here! I feel numb, angry and lost. All I know, at this moment, I have no energy left for pretending, platitudes, or politeness! Sometimes I think this is all bullshit.”

My heart is pounding. I had spent too much of my life saying and doing what others thought was right even when it was no longer true for me. I can not hold back anymore, no matter who I am sitting across. I take a breath and slowly look up; I am relieved to see they have tender smiles and seem to have a hint of understanding in their eyes. I feel my body relax a bit; at least I am no longer pretending.

A week after the retreat, I remembered that Sharon told us she was a trained spiritual director. I hesitate to reach out to her because I am embarrassed, but I feel compelled. A few days later, I sent her an email. She agrees!! I ask her why, especially after my spewing and cursing? She replies, “It is why I feel called to; you were so honest in sharing that I know I can work with you.”

It is emotionally painful at times. Sharon does not give me answers; she is helping me find my own. Finally, someone sees who I am underneath the emotional and physical pain and past the cane or crutches. Part of my emotional agony is discovering I still suffer from my childhood conditioning even after years of healing work. It took the Universe, bringing me to my knees to finally look at it. I am ready, to be honest with myself.

So much of my emotional pain comes from my false pride and ego. I refused to surrender to what had happened to me. I was not too fond of the feeling of being so-called weak.
Brene Brown has a definition of vulnerable,

“To be vulnerable, it means to show up and be seen, to ask for what you need, to talk about how your feeling , to have hard converstions”

This is what courage is, the opposite of weak. I still struggle with this at times, but I now understand it only leads to more pain.

Life can change in an instant. What comes next is not always easy. Only after I was willing to ask, accept help, feel, and share my emotions was I able to move through to the other side. Being stoic only made everyone around me feel comfortable, while it hijacked my pain into numbness. Sharon slowly, in time, guides me back to living life again with my physical pain, not despite it.

Hiding my hurt from others was not the strength I once thought it was; it only exacerbated my emotional distress and feelings of isolation. This experience gave me a larger capacity to be with others’ pain without the need to give advice or fix them.
This injury gave me the ability to embrace vulnerability, maybe for the first time in my life. Being human is excepting that I am a combination of light and dark contradictions. I now understand asking for help seen as a weakness is only a myth that can create deep-seated feelings of loneliness and frustration. Finally, once again, for the most part, life is good again.

“Consciously suffer the impact, to become the ground where the sorrows can be held and reworked. These things can be carried with grace. But it can’t be faked. If you go to someone with 99 percent of goodwill and are still caught in 1 percent anger, all they feel is the anger, and it pushes them from reconciliation. The heart has to willingly hold the whole of suffering for it to be transformed.”

― Jack Kornfield, After the Ecstasy, The Laundry

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Morning Ritual

Photo by George Dolgikh @ Giftpundits.com on Pexels.com

Enlightenment does exist, unbounded freedom and joy, oneness with the divine … these experiences are more common than you know and not far away.
But even after achieving such realization — after the ecstasy — we are faced with the day-to-day task of translating that freedom into our imperfect lives. We are faced with the laundry.”
Jack Cornfield

It’s eight am. The overly zealous song alarm on my phone is going off. Ugh, I have to drag my butt out of bed to feed our dog. For some reason, I don’t understand; I stayed up until midnight watching TV. It was so riveting that at this moment I cannot remember what I was watching. I am not a fan of staying up late; most nights, I am in bed by eight, asleep by nine and up at seven. Boring, but it works for me.

I’m not fully awake; I feel groggy, achy and stiff. I am hungover from the handful of chocolate eggs I ate last night. As a general rule, I don’t eat sugar, so when I indulge, I feel it for a couple of days until it’s out of my system again. Something is brewing inside, an understanding I have come to know about myself when I binge on TV or food. I will unlock that later when I journal.

Aragon is patiently waiting for his breakfast. I let him out for a pee while I prepare his dish.
After he finishes eating, I pour one quart of water into a glass jar to drink, put the ball launcher in my pocket, grab my cane, and we go outside to play fetch.

I have my favourite, well-worn, heavy green plaid sweater on, as it is a cool, damp and grey morning. After I throw the ball, I feel a peaceful surge of energy settle in my old bones, and my body relaxes a bit. I close my eyes and listen to the cacophony of sounds that some mornings annoy me. The sporadic roaring of diesel engine transport trucks as they drive by on the distant highway, and the flock of crows’ blaring cawing. It’s jarring, at first. I chuckle as I remember a friend, who lives in New York City, made fun of me when she saw where I live. “Noise is relative,” she says. 🙂 I take a deep breath, open my eyes, throw the ball, and close them again. Now, these noises are mixed with the melodies of the chickadees, goldfinches and a cardinal. As the sounds blend, they elevate into a symphony. There is a sweet-salty scent of the distant ocean and morning dew in the air, and suddenly, my feet feel grounded to the earth, and there is only this moment. My mind is settling, and my heartbeat slows, my body relaxes; I am in this soulful, mindful moment of bliss. For a few seconds in time, there is no war, no pandemic, no dishes to do; here, there is only relishing in these sensations. I feel deliciously calm; it’s been a while.

I throw the ball a few more times. I grab my half-full glass jar, limp back to the house, and open the door. I put the jar down on the floor inside the porch. I grab the side of the door-jambs with my hands and struggle with a bit of pain as I lift myself up and inside. As I do, I knock the jar over and water spills everywhere. “FOR F**K SAKE!” Bliss is over 🙂 ; Aragon runs past me, forgoing his treat, for this woman is nuts! Seeing him hurry to slink past me startles me back to reality; I call him back with a softer voice and give him his treat.

As I clean up the water, I laugh at myself at the overreaction to the spill. I remind myself these are all parts of being alive; life is a series of ordinary moments that are sometimes frustrating, but they remind me of a well-lived life. I feel a bit of hope in those tiny moments of bliss I have in between the rest of everyday living. They remind me of Buddhist Monk, Jack Cornfield’s book, “After the Ecstacy the Laundry.” How lucky are we to still be able to do our laundry and to be able to refill our glass of water from a tap after we spill it.

Off to do the laundry. I like mornings like today when I am reminded to get over myself.

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The Soft Side of Surrender

Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.” By Scott Peck in the Road Less Traveled

This book was one of my favourites as a young woman. I reflect on it from time to time, especially on this quote.

While my knees are less painful this morning, I decide to take a short walk outside on this crisp gray fall morning. I feel slight jabs of pain as I walk when my foot hits the ground with some of my steps. I refocus by using my senses. I hear moments of silence as the traffic in the distance goes quiet in between vehicles. My body sinks into these moments. I stop; I listen to the seconds of stillness; I slowly inhale and exhale; I feel my feet on the gravel road. The invigorating salty scent of the distant ocean is still in the air. I close my eyes; I hear the slight rustling sound of the wind as it goes through the almost bare brush beside me. In the distance, I hear the soft chirping sound of the winter birds that remain. I feel my whole body grounding in place. I am so calm, so peaceful. I open my eyes, and they go right to one of my favourite trees, tamarack or hackmatack, as many of us call them here. They stand tall as guardians scattered along the road where I walk. I am in awe of their presence. 

This very unusual tree is an oxymoron. It is both a coniferous (a tree that changes colour and loses its leaves in the winter) and a deciduous tree (an evergreen that grows needles and has cones for reproduction.) Some say it is both hard and softwood.

My thoughts float back to spring when I took pictures of this same tree, rejuvenated and ready for new growth from its winter slumber. It had cones just budding that looked like dainty pink rosebuds.

Today I see it has lost most of its needles, and the cones are now brown and dry; it is going dormant for the winter again.

There are seasons of joy and grief, abundance and loss in our lives. At 60, I have had my share of these seasons. With waining health issues, my thoughts start to wander back, reminiscing about my younger years when I was stronger walking this same road. My knees and muscular legs walked for miles up and down these large hills. I remember how it felt as my thighs strained to climb and the feeling of exhilaration as I went down on the other side. Once again, I pull myself back to the present walk and refocus. 

The hackmatack tree is strong and tender simultaneously, its needles are soft, and the strong wood grows tall and robust as it reaches for the sky. 

The human journey is about learning to lean into the vulnerability of “what is.” This delicate balance of strength and softness, much like the tamarack. I have learned that surrendering to “what is” brings me much sooner to the next season. I feel the new growth of spring in my soul again, even as the cold winter beckons outside in nature. I have come to love the winter solstice. The longer days of darkness invite me into a deeper reflection of life. I am in a good place. It has come from a year of the bitter-sweet exploration of my inner life. I have learned a lot in my life, and my prayer is that I continue to stay open to new possibilities for growth for my time on this earth. I relish the silence of my days. I feel so much gratitude for the new and old friendships with fellow inner journey warriors. There is a time for emotional strength with fortitude, but sometimes some of us get stuck here, I did for a while. Life will always bring difficulties; sometimes, emotional strength becomes hardness and it takes over and stays too long. Accepting is the soft side of strength. This is where I land more these days, thank G_d! 

This incredibly adaptable tree reminds me of the many seasons of life and how important it is to lean into them. I am thankful for these reminders in nature.

I walk slow and attentively once again, one step at a time. The pain is less now. My slower pace sees things I would have missed as a young woman. I walked briskly then, as time demanded more of me. 

I only walk a small distance, 15 maybe 20 minutes on a good day. These tiny slivers of grounding in nature up close and personal have become a treasure, maybe even more than before. 

I have shared that I still have days that I struggle and resist, but I find I can “be still” more often and like the hackmatack tree, I have found strength in the soft side of surrender, and days like today feels good inside. 

In the 12-step program’s there is a prayer that I love, and so many of us know that says this beautifully. In OA, we have an extended version that I will add on.

“G_d grant me the SERENITY to accept the things I cannot change, COURAGE to change the things I can, and the WISDOM to know the difference.”

“Grant me patience for the changes that take time, an appreciation for all that I have, Tolerance for those with different struggles and the strength to get up and try again, one day at a time.”

This lesson was also given to us by the 13th-century mystic poet Rumi long ago in one of my favourite poems of his.

Translated by Coleman Barks

The Guesthouse

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Rumi

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My Daring New York Escapade

It’s 2006, I’m forty-five years old, and my husband and I are empty nesters.

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Albert Einstein

I’ve always been drawn to quotes that both challenge and inspire me. This particular one has recently been cycling in my thoughts, like a mantra that I find myself reflecting on often. It plays like a melody that lightens my spirit, especially when I find myself weighed down with the burdens of daily life. It reminds me that life gives me miracles every day – I just have to stop and take a breath every now and then to notice.

I have lived in the same rural town in Nova Scotia all of my life. I appreciate the stillness and quiet that living on 21 acres of land can bring. 

We are only five minutes from the ocean. On blowy days, the sound of crashing waves on the rocks is calming for the soul. On those windy days, in particular, the distinctive scent of the ocean air feels fresh, clean and invigorating.

I enjoy the simplicity of our lives, although we have worked hard over the years.

My husband has been a lobster fisherman most of his adult life, working dutifully on the open ocean in a forty-five-foot boat. In mainly harsh and bitterly cold winters, he worked to catch a delicacy eaten worldwide. He also spent most summers off the coast swordfishing. It was a dangerous living but honest work that fed our family.

I’ve primarily been a stay-at-home mom to our two sons. I loved growing an abundance of organic fresh vegetables for our dinner plates every year. I spend time volunteering at our church. I took care of all the administration for our fishing business while also attending school to earn my GED, then a diploma in Ministry from Saint Xavier University. As a mom, I have had many roles, including being a full-time cheerleader and driver for every concert, boy scout, soccer, baseball and hockey event.

I relished our time together as a family, especially when our boys were small.

Our sons are grown and on their own now, and my husband has sold his fishing boat. 

We were just kids when we got married at eighteen and twenty-one. We had to grow up fast. Now, we are both restless for change. It has been challenging at times, yet we are contented and happy together. We now find ourselves pondering what we could do next with our recently acquired freedom.

I have been searching for a Life Coach Certification program for a few months now. Nothing I found seemed to speak to me until recently when I finished reading Debbie Ford’s book, Dark Side of the Light Chasers. At the end of this book, I read that she had a Life Coach Certification course. I was captivated! Her book radically spoke to me, and I was intrigued to explore more.

I decided to call and find out the details of the training. I talked to a man and discovered I would be eligible. First, I must attend a Shadow Process prerequisite retreat – a three-day intensive with Debbie Ford at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York. I registered for the retreat and proceeded to call Omega to ask how I could get to the Retreat Center from JFK Airport.

“Hello, I have just registered to come to Omega to attend the Shadow Process with Debbie Ford. Could you please help me with how to find transportation there from JFK?”.

“Sure, that is no problem whatsoever Miss, from the airport you take the bus to Penn Station, and there you take a train to Rhinebeck. When you arrive in Rhinebeck, take the shuttle here. Easy as can be.”

There is a delightfully cheery inflection in his voice as he shares this information, as though it’s as easy as taking a walk in my own backyard. I feel my heart start to beat faster in my chest. “What the Hell?” my thoughts are racing “bus, Penn Station, train, and shuttle? I politely say thank you and hang up and cry out loud, “HELL NO!” – I have only been on a plane twice in my life, never alone nor internationally, let alone on a bus, train, and shuttle by myself in New York! This was too much.

After receiving a pep talk from my hubby, I find myself a little more than a month later on my way. I am now on a plane heading to Toronto from Halifax.

As the plane lands at Toronto airport, this hefty piece of metal rattles as the landing gear hits the ground, shaking my body. I am still shaking as it rolls down the runway toward the boarding bridge. I now hear that the plane is running late; I have to hurry to the luggage carousel, grab my suitcase, and go through security again to catch my connecting flight to JFK!

“You have got to be kidding!” I softly say to myself.

I follow the arrows and signs to the carousel.

“Where is it? Where is it? Damn it! Where is my suitcase?” I am privately panicking inside, as my body still feels shaky. Finally, I see it coming around, but it’s hard to get through all these people.

“Excuse me, that’s my suitcase!” gently pushing past layers of people, I reach out to grab it just in time as it floats by me. 

I am rushing again now to find security. I chuckle at the people using the moving walkways, thinking, “How lazy is that?”. If you have ever been to our small Halifax airport, you will understand my ignorance.

As I am losing my breath, running as fast as I can, I jump on. “Oh, that’s why,” I grin and think sheepishly. I’m finally in a long line at security where an agent fast-tracked us through. I have 15 minutes to get to my gate. Now I have to run again; “Where is the end of this damn airport?” I think to myself. I arrive just as they are boarding the last passengers. My heart is pumping out of my chest; I am out of breath, and I fall into my seat exhausted.

Thankfully, the flight is uneventful. I have mixed feelings of panic and excitement at the announcement we will be landing at JFK soon. My thoughts wander while the steward’s voice fades to the background as I imagine stories about my adventure ahead. The next thing I know, my body is being shaken again by the sudden jerk of the plane landing.

I exit the plane to go through customs. I am now in line, and a 6ft, 6in huge man with bulging biceps and a stare that would scare the piss out of anyone comes toward me and stands towering over me. In a demanding voice, he says, “Do you have your declaration form, ma’am?”

“Oh shit!” I say to myself. “My what Sir?” Now with a slightly louder voice, “Do you have anything to declare?”. I am visibly shaking by now, so he bends over and snatches this paper out of my boarding pass folder. I guess this is the part I missed while daydreaming on the plane.

“This needs to be filled out now.” He puts it in my hand, and my stomach is flip-flopping, “I don’t have a pen, Sir.” He is visibly not amused but forcefully grabs a pen from his shirt pocket and passes it to me. I fill it out. 

As I make my way through customs, another not-so-huge, more relaxed man comes over and asks one other person and me to step aside. OK, now I am feeling faint! 

“This is just routine ma’am,” as he proceeds to go through every inch of my luggage, pulling all of my clothes out. I think to myself, “Do I look like a criminal, for God’s sake!” – I am sure at this point I look like a deer in headlights. 

I’m finally cleared in customs, I realize I am running late to catch the bus, so I run outside to find the station. There are so many people here! The temperature outside is 98F; everyone is hot, sticky and understandably moody. I ask a woman for directions; she rolls her eyes and turns the other way with a loud sigh. Yikes, I won’t do that again. The street noises are loud, and the smell of gasoline and diesel infuses my sinus cavities. My body is beyond tired at this point, but I rally; I have no choice. As I drag my suitcase and carry my backpack, I feel tears welling up in my eyes again.

I come to the bus station just in time to see the bus leave without me; tears start to run down my cheeks. It means I will miss the train at Penn and then, in turn, the shuttle at Rhinebeck to Omega. Just then, a short, stout middle-aged man with the first smile I’ve seen since I landed comes over and “kindly” offers his yellow taxi cab to take me to Penn Station.

“But I only have forty minutes to get there to catch my train.”, I whimper, trying hard to suck it up. The taxi driver smiles again, “No problem at all ma’am, I can get you there in thirty minutes.”. 

So, instead of waiting for the next bus that would cost me fifteen dollars, I am now taking a taxi costing me fifty – but I don’t care if it means I catch the train!

I have now been in this f**king taxi for over an hour, which is stuck in gridlock on the 2089-metre-long Manhattan bridge, with no air-conditioner. The door handles of this car are inches away from the vehicles in the next lane on both sides. I could not open a door if I wanted to. Did I mention I am nervous on bridges? I am feeling claustrophobic at this point, fighting a panic attack with deep breaths. With each breath, I inhale a combination of chemical cleaners, locker room sweat and a hint of vomit. I don’t dare drink any water. Sweat dripping down my face, I am trying my best to hold back the tears again. 

Finally, we are at Penn Station; I pass him the money and climb out of the taxi. As I enter this thunderously tall colossal building bustling with crowds of people, I read that it serves over 500,000 people a day! I feel overwhelmed and woozy. At this point, I am famished, but I need to find a washroom first. I follow the signs to the restrooms. When I go around the corner, my nose is assaulted again with a disgusting scent of urine and feces, and I start to gag. Regardless, I have no choice; I drag my suitcase and backpack into the stall, and there for the first time, holding my breath as long as I can between inhales, I stand and pee in a toilet. Then I rush out, washing my hands with lots of hand sanitizer outside where I can breathe again without gagging. 

Next, I call Omega and tell them my dilemma. This time the man’s soft, irritatingly delightful voice pisses me off, but I remain polite, despite my anxiety rising. 

“No problem at all, in two hours, we have a bus that will take you right here; you can catch it at the corner of 34th street. Take a walk around the city in the meantime, and enjoy.” 

“Really, again are you f**king kidding me?” I think to myself, but I quietly say, “Thank you.”

I am feeling the effects of the day in my body. I am weak and dehydrated. I see a little coffee shop and order a sandwich and water. I have not eaten in hours, so I quickly take a bite; damn, this is the best sandwich I have ever tasted! It is a creamy egg salad with just the right amount of mayo, salt, pepper, onions and celery and a hint of relish on the most amazing fresh whole grain Kaiser roll. I am going to savour every morsel. However, I only sip on the water, for I do not want to straddle that toilet again.

Now, I start to feel nervous again about how the hell I am going to find 34th street. I once again begin dragging my suitcase looking for signs, for by this time, I have learned not to ask people here for directions. As I walk outside along the sidewalks, I look up and realize there is no skyline. The buildings are so tall that the only blue I can see is the small space between buildings at the rooflines. I cannot even see the sun. It’s very disorientating. I am used to the expansive skies of my Nova Scotia home, where you can see the skyline for miles, see the sun all day, and witness some of the most exquisite sunrises and sunsets. I feel a slight pang of missing home.

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As I walk, I can’t help but observe people. So many interesting faces, but I notice one similarity in most of them: each person seems alone and in a protective bubble – aloof and disconnected from the world around them, even though they are sometimes shoulder to shoulder. They have no smiles, just intense blank stares. It feels so foreign to me, somewhat suffocating and even a bit lonely. I have met some very dear New Yorkers in my life and know not everyone is always like this, but somehow here crammed altogether on the streets, these people seem unreachable.

Luckily, I see the signs to the corner of 34th street; as I arrive, I join many others waiting.

Now I am feeling sick; I feel very weak and have a sweltering headache. I know these are signs of dehydration, and I am scared now. I don’t t want to drink water, for I have no idea how far the nearest washroom would be. I look around and scan all the faces. I want to tell someone who I am if I faint (says the naïve woman from Nova Scotia in me). I whisper a small prayer for guidance, then again gaze around at the dozens of people. They all have the same dull bone-weary look in their eyes that says -leave me alone. I make eye contact with a woman in a shaded corner, and she smiles back at me; her eyes look genuine and kind. That is all I need and go over to her like a bee to honey. 

Amazingly, Susan from Brooklyn is going to Omega too. I explain my circumstances.

Susan chuckles and replies, “Girl, that taxi driver saw you coming cuz he damn well knew that gridlock happens at this time every day.”

Then she hands me a bottle of water and gives me two cookies as we sit down in the shade. She assures me that she will bring me to a nearby washroom as soon as I feel better, for we have plenty of time. I cringe and raise my eyebrows as Susan explains: if there is no available parking spot on the corner when the bus arrives, it will wait around the next street corner. The “delightful” gentleman from Omega forgot that tidbit of information. The bus is overdue, so I follow Susan around to the next street corner and there it is; I breathe a sigh of relief as we board. We sit together, my angel from Brooklyn. A unique, funny, kind-hearted, hard-as-nails, take-charge woman. I chuckled each time she passed people around us speaking too loud on their cell phones little cards that say, “get off your f**king cell phone!”

We arrive at Omega with no time to spare. I have 30 minutes to register, get to my cabin before the doors of the retreat hall are closed; the brochure was very clear, “be on time.” I catch a ride on a fast and silent electric cart to my cabin. My clothes are soaked with sweat and dirt. I take a quick cool shower, run to the hall, and sit down with 5 minutes to spare. 

I look around me; the room is buzzing with anticipation, nervous laughter, and excitement. Most everyone seems to be with someone they know. I am among over 100 people, all complete strangers at this point. My body aching with the stress of the day, yet a sense of satisfaction and peace settles inside. I did it; I got here. I reflect on the day; I realize that many small miracles were among today’s chaos and fear. Then I pick up the journal for the weekend, and on the front page, it reads:

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Albert Einstein

and I know this is right where I am supposed to be.

………….

As it turned out, over the next three years of training, I travelled back and forth to San Diego for in-person intensives with Debbie Ford a few times, earning three certifications. I was no longer terrified of travelling alone. I met some of the most interesting, loving, kind, unique people there. I am honoured to say some are still dear friends today. Those years were some of the most transformational extraordinary times of my life. 

With gratitude and sometimes hindsight, I can still discover many daily miracles in my life. I forget some days, other times, for long periods, but nonetheless, they are always there when I look, no matter what life throws at me. The greatest miracle of all is that I still wake up every morning, have a family and friends I love, and still live in a beautiful little town in Nova Scotia that I call home.

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Holding Space for Pain and Grief 

 “One of the tasks of true friendship is to listen compassionately and creatively to the hidden silences.” — John O’Donohue.

I’m often asked what ‘holding space for pain and grief” means. This concept can be hard to understand; it’s uncomfortable at times, it may even trigger our pain and feel counterintuitive, yet it can be the most loving and healing thing we can do for each other. It is also known as deep or compassionate listening.

Most of us are kind, loving and compassionate people. We want to help, and we are often conflicted by the need to do something tangible. Simply listening might seem like doing nothing. On the contrary, listening to or witnessing someone else’s pain can create an opening for that person to find healing for themselves. Often doing or saying something more concrete can interrupt a person’s pain. Deep listening is a way to hold space while we are with someone in distress.

I am blessed with knowing a few people who understand this well. I have been the recipient of this gift and see the depth of healing this practice can bring. Those times when someone does this for me are heartfelt, healing and freeing. When my emotional pain almost seems too much to bear, having one person who I can trust who is willing to deeply listen cracks open my heart to a stress release that I feel in my entire body.  I have also known this in rare communities, such as the Shalom retreats I journeyed on many years ago. Or the women’s group I have been in for over 20 years. I recently discovered another community that does this exceedingly well: a writers group called “Soulo,” which I’ve joined this year.

One of my favourite spiritual teachers is Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. He is a Buddhist monk, a global spiritual leader, and peace activist, revered worldwide for his mindfulness, global ethics, and peace teachings. I have learned a lot from his teachings about holding space for others in pain.

Thich Nhat Hanh explains : “Deep listening is the kind of listening that can help relieve the suffering of another person. You can call it compassionate listening. You listen with only one purpose: to help him or her to empty his heart. You just listen with compassion and help him to suffer less.”

I don’t always say or do the right thing, but over time, my experience and what others have shared with me have taught me a lot. I believe, like any skill, it takes practice. Some of the most profound moments in my life have come from being in the moment and attentive to someone’s pain. When I can listen and even occasionally cry with someone in their pain without saying a word or looking away, it is known as compassionate, or deep, listening. I always try to remember while holding space for someone to take slow, quiet, deep breaths; this helps me not take on the other person’s pain, although sometimes I still do. 

Deep listening asks nothing from us other than listening without interrupting, fixing, or giving advice. Most people do not want to be rescued when they are expressing grief or sadness. I have made this mistake many times. When we advise without being asked, we are making it about us by trying to fix them. It interrupts a sacred moment, a moment when someone is trusting us with their heartache. It may also mean sitting in silence with someone who needs to cry and wants to have someone near. 

It can also mean not touching someone’s hand or hugging them; this will often shut some people down. I try my best to wait for a person to cue me before hugging them or taking their hand. We all experience pain differently and are as individual as our fingerprints, yet it’s what unites us in our humanity. 

“People who are hurting don’t need Avoiders, Protectors, or Fixers. What we need are patient, loving witness. People to sit quietly and hold space for us. People to stand in helpful vigil to our pain.”― Glennon Doyle 

I have been married for over 42 years, and it’s only been in the last few years that my dear husband Bernie finally fully understands. We had been struggling a few years back. I remember my pain was mainly about not being heard. Like so many of us, he was busy trying to think of the right things to say to rescue or fix me. These thoughts always resulted in him being distracted, therefore not being present to me in the moment, which often exacerbated my pain. I have felt his love over the years – he has shown me in many beautiful ways – but his communication or listening skills were disappointing at times. It would sometimes take a few days for us to work things out because of this.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand: they listen with the intend to reply.” Steven Covey.

Finally, one evening after we had yet another disagreement and I had a few tears running down my face from frustration, I felt a shift in his energy and body language. It was like a light bulb went on, and Bernie became fully present; I could see it in his eyes. I felt a release that surged up and out of my throat from my gut. Tears fell like rain as I sobbed, soaking my shirt. I shared what was at the root of my struggle. I finally felt able to express myself fully and honestly. I cried and cried while he intensely listened without shutting down, averting his gaze, or saying a word. After what seemed like a long time, and I was utterly spent, he lovingly looked at me and said, “you feel much better now, I can see it in your face, I see you.” I cried again, but this time happy tears.

I remember those three little words in the movie Avatar, “I see you,” hearing them made me cry. Bernie and I loved that movie. I shared with him why I cried at the movie when I heard them; it was because it had been a long time since I felt them. 

“I see you.”. For the first time, my dear hubby got it, and from that day forward, we have given each other the gift of holding each other’s pain with deep listening. When any of us trust someone to express our pain, all we want is to be heard and seen. 

 

Sometimes in our discomfort, while listening to a person in pain, we will use platitudes. Although this may be well-intended, it can be frustrating to the very people we want to help. Phrases like: 

“Everything happens for a reason.”

“When God closes a door, He always opens a window.”

“What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.”  

“Time heals all wounds.” 

And many others that most of us have said at one time or another. There may be wisdom in most truisms, but that is for the person in pain to discover. When someone is in the middle of a grief or pain storm, that is not the time to share these. 

“We only trust people with our pain who won’t cut or steal it from us and who are brave enough to be as clueless and helpless as the one in pain. Friendship is not about fixing each other’s pain.” Glennon Doyle from her podcast “We can do hard things.”

Holding space allows someone to find their way out of a pain storm, allowing them to be the hero of their own story. We often need to hear ourselves out loud to break through to the other side of our pain. Life can be challenging at times; the ebb and flow continue throughout our lives. Sometimes, the greatest act of love is to do or say nothing at all but listen. “I see you” <3.

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Reclaiming my Wild Heart; Who am I really?

Even as a little girl, I would look into a mirror and wonder, “who am I? Why am I here?” The world seemed scary, but I felt something deep inside that I did not understand or know how to express until much later in life.

“I stand with my hands on my hips and my eyes on the truth; unflinching in my gaze and courageous in my resolve, I’m no longer on simmer, relegated to life’s back burner, pushing everything and everyone out front in place of me; I am radiant and determined, wild and untamable, and at long last woke.” Alicia keys from her book “More Myself” as she describes a picture of herself on an album cover

Damn, that Alicia Keys quote and her book went deep and were the catalyst for this short story.

I cherish the few memories of being wild and free as a child. I was a precocious redhead little girl with big feelings and very intuitive but learned that quiet and well-behaved little girls were preferred early on. That was hard for me, but it was a skill I learned quickly to survive in the first seven years of my life. The most genuine palpable memories I have were playing outside in nature, where I felt wild and free.

I loved climbing trees. I would choose the tallest fir. I loved the scent of the amber-coloured resin on the bark. I loved feeling my hand on the rough bark and my foot maneuvering and testing each limb to feel its strength. My quickening heart as I climbed higher and higher on each branch until I reached the top and could see what seemed to me, for miles. My hands would be full of sticky resin, and the scent would remain for most of the day. I loved playing in the creek that flowed out of a large pond. I loved the cool, slimy soft feel of frog eggs as I scooped them with my hands out of the water. I would put them in a bucket and, three weeks later, watch them wiggle and hatch and then release them back in the pond. I loved catching and releasing snakes, grasshoppers, frogs, and my favourite, the tiny red salamanders. I loved lying down in the tall grass and watching the clouds float by as I daydreamed.

I remember riding bareback on my chestnut mare called Princess. I love how muscular and strong my thighs felt as I pressed them firmly against her warm body when she went into a full gallop down a trail in the back of our home. I felt free and wild! I loved swimming. I remember feeling so sensual and expansive when I went skinny dipping for the first time in the river with friends—allowing my nude body to float and be supported by the water looking up at the endless milky way in the dark night sky. I loved skating on ponds in the cold crisp maritime winters. I loved the feel of the icy wind on my face as I glided around the edges of the ice as fast as I could; it felt like flying! In moments like these, my body tingled with the energy of my blood coursing through my veins.

At a very young age, I felt the energy of everyone around me, often dismissed as being too sensitive. I was sensitive and am still today. Being sensitive for a woman is a superpower when understood and embraced. Sadly, I began that destructive journey like many women, learning to be stoic and numb instead of expressive and passionate. 

“This life is mine alone. So I have stopped asking people for directions to places they’ve never been,” Glennon Doyle.

As I mature, I understand this truth. This wise quote is powerful. I have discovered I need help sometimes because, without good reflective mirrors in times of pain, we can get lost in the internal struggles that keep us small and stuck in our dark shadows of self-doubt. The key is to choose wisely; the second part of this quote is essential. For me, most recently, it was my Spiritual Director who saved my ass a few years ago; she had gone through where I needed to go and could shine a light for me so I could uncover what I needed to heal. I am inspired by women on this journey of reclaiming their wild; I learn from others who have gone before me. I am careful to take only the wisdom that speaks to me as I forge my own unique wild path, seeking guidance from God. Each of us has to define what it means to us.

I don’t know about you, but the pandemic has given me a sense of urgency not to take life for granted. As I turned 60 this summer, I understood that too much of me still stays hidden and unexpressed. Today a lot less, certainly way less than before; as a younger woman, I worked too hard, and too often, to prove that I was “enough” and “strong.”

I want to reclaim some of the freedom of spirit I shoved away growing up as a child. When children feel safe and are nurtured and loved, they are naturally spontaneous, creative, curious, and forever exploring their environment. They have no filters and, therefore, no trouble expressing big emotions. As a result, they stay in their body without the need for numbing. They are clear about their feelings and what they want. Their eyes sparkle and dance, and they move their bodies with ease; they grow up trusting themselves, their bodies, others and life. A wild heart always includes a creative force that requires expression. Some of us only discover this when we start to rediscover our wild.

“Unused creativity is not benign. It metastasizes, it turns into grief, rage, judgment, sorrow, shame” Brene Brown.

Wild also means the maturity of adulthood being fully expressed with necessary filters of love and compassion. This means communicating in honest, respectful ways and setting boundaries with those I love when needed. Being wild is holding myself accountable, which is why I believe in having a loving friend, partner, or community who can do this in respectful and direct ways. Wild can also mean saying nothing when I know what I say will be unkind. Not speaking to others I know will not allow what I am sharing to land or be respected. It’s not letting fear of failure or embarrassment from keeping me from exploring creative endeavours. I am more fully alive through these actions, and doing these more often helps me no longer need to numb or distract myself.

An important lesson I have learned along the way is to choose fewer people to share and see inside my inner heart sanctum—only those who are sincere, respect others and themselves. And most important, non-judgmental people who own their shit and dare to keep evolving who are comfortable with all parts of themselves, both their light and the dark, their strengths and their vulnerabilities, because I know they will accept all of mine too. 

I have spent a lot of time alone and in silence this year and things have become much clearer. Writing has saved me; it’s my creative outlet. Also, OA and my writers’ group are new communities where I have discovered new aspects of myself. It’s only been through vulnerability that I have ever been able to find people who are some of the most honest and genuine people I have ever known. Only when I am willing to be seen can others see me. Each one of them has opened my heart and allowed me to see myself in a new way over the years. I am also privileged to be a part of a woman’s group now for over 20 years. The six of us have gathered every month ( until the pandemic ) and shared our lives in profound ways. We all need community, but now, I make sure to choose people I can be myself with, all of me.

I have entered into my wilderness during this pandemic. Brene Brown talks about the wilderness that is the necessary loneliness of staying true to yourself. Yet, the power of allowing ourselves to be creative is the very salve for this loneliness. There is a delicate balance between being alone and community, but being alone is where creativity and trusting ourselves begins.

I will always belong to and believe in myself first.” Brene Brown 

A wild heart often gets quashed early on, in little girls and especially young women. 

I am still working on reclaiming living fully in my whole body. Part of this is allowing intuition to guide me, comprised of my heart, gut and senses. I believe this is how God or the Divine Feminine as I see her speaks to me; God is more feminine for me these days. It’s becoming easier, but it has been a long time unlearning default thoughts and habits over my adult years. I still carry the scars of a negative body image from abuse as a child, but they are fading. Being comfortable in our skin is vital to embrace our wild hearts fully.

We get swept up in our family of origins model and our western ideas of what a woman is or is not. Adolescence often creates a detour into self-doubt, low self-esteem, body issues and struggle that sometimes lasts a lifetime.

The natural wild in young women can slowly be dulled by their peers and the drama of trying to fit in and be liked. Also, in my youth, as it is today, young girls are “mirrored” a very narrow idea of what a woman “should” look like, which can create all kinds of body dysmorphic visions of themselves. Our sexuality is often exploded, which creates a disconnect to our bodies; then, we no longer feel grounded to the earth, which often numbs our sensual, passionate, authentic, creative selves. The good news is, as women, we are also warriors at heart. We can begin to heal the moment we allow ourselves to start to feel.

Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you’re a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself. To be nobody-but-yourself- in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to be like everybody else- means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting” EE Cummings.

“To be yourself” is a battle worth fighting for. And only when we realize the battle is only with ourselves can we begin to heal. A woman’s wild heart is boundless, ever-expanding, creative and untamed no matter how old our bodies are if we dare to claim it. Every single woman on the planet has the ability and courage to heal and find their wild again. When we do the work, we show our daughters, granddaughters and other women the way. I have been so blessed to have met a few wild women. I see in them what is possible for other women and me at any age.

These are just of few of my favourite books about women who have reclaimed their wild hearts, such as

Cheryl Strayed “Wild”

Elizabeth Gilbert. “Eat, Pray, Love”

Elizabeth Lesser “Broken Open” 

Jewel “Never Broken,” 

Joy Harjo, “Crazy Brave,” 

Mirabai Starr, “Wild Mercy,” 

Diana Beresford-Kroeger, “To Speak for the Trees,”

Michelle Obama “Becoming” 

Meggan Watterson “Mary Magdalene Revealed.”  

Tara Westover “Educated.” 

Anne Lamott “Bird by Bird”

Glennon Doyle “Untamed” 

Alicia Keys “More Myself”

-are just a few that I highly recommend! 

We ignore this call to our wild heart in many ways. We have addictions. We stay crazy busy by becoming martyrs by filling all of our time taking care of others to the detriment of our health and wellness. We spend more time judging and gossiping about others instead of looking inside ourselves. We have life-sucking careers. Some of us stay disconnected by trying to control our loved ones by being overly involved in their lives; we stay numb by any means possible not to hear that wild voice inside for fear of rejection. I have done all of these. We often shrink, lose our voice; we are usually the peacemakers and people pleasers in our families. Most often, we are empathic, compassionate, kind, and we deeply feel the pain of others in the world. Our feelings and emotions are vast and messy, and others who are comfortably numb in the world find us too much, so we learn to comply to be excepted. So many of us become part of that matrix. 

Today I am less inhibited with my feelings, yet I still allow people to shut me down sometimes. I still dull myself way down when I am around certain people.

I love how comfortable my hubby is with me shouting or crying when we watch TV. I love how excited I can get with him at little things. He gets me in ways most do not. When I am upset, he does not try and tame or rescue me anymore. 🙂 He knows I am strong in important ways, and I am just working my way through pain instead of ignoring it.

I am not as quick-witted as I would like. I do my best, to tell the truth about how I feel. I speak up when others are unkind or disrespectful. Not as much as I would like because, quite frankly, I am stunned into silence when it happens, or worse, I find myself defending myself, which is pointless when people don’t hear what I have to say. At different times in my life, I found myself closed-hearted, so I know that underneath their projections, they are good people with painful stories of their own. This is why I try hard not to be triggered, but it still happens sometimes.

Women are very capable of being chameleons. Yes, I understand it is more comfortable and much easier in the moment, but we lose all sense of who we are over time. I watch people, especially women, become beautifully crafted chameleons around each person in their lives to appease and manage them separately. I hear their tone and inflection change and become different for each person; they say precisely what the other person wants to hear. God forbid they would tell the truth, even though their body language gives them away. Early on, many women learn to amour up and stuff away what they genuinely want to say or do to keep the peace. I have not had the energy for this for a long time, thank goodness.

I have had the honour of hearing hundreds of stories from women who opened up their deep true thoughts and feelings about their painful lives. Yet, most go back into their lives and act out the same unhealthy patterns that have made their relationships and bodies sick in the first place. I have learned that the truth is freedom. I am talking about the truth that often stays hidden about what is genuine in our hearts, even from ourselves. Too many of us have become too comfortable with lies, and they are killing us. 

There is a sacred spiritual truth that is at our core. When I say telling the truth, it does not mean saying obvious things to others to manipulative to get our way, as we are all capable of doing. It is sharing authentically who we are, not what others want to hear. 

Wild also means to show up fully expressed and not muted into being a peacemaker to the detriment of our own needs. The truth is a firm “NO” when we usually say yes and regret it every time. Or saying an excited “YES” when we have always said “no” too afraid of what others might think. Over time, this causes internalized resentment and anger, and if we are peacemakers, it turns in on us. 

“What is better: uncomfortable truth or comfortable lies? Every truth is a kindness, even if it makes others uncomfortable. Every untruth is an unkindness, even if it makes others comfortable.” Glennon Doyle.

I want to end with another quote from Alicia Keys’s book, “More myself.”

“As long as I am alive, I will be growing and improving, wielding my pen as the author of my own forever. But even as I lift myself to the next level, I hope to always recognize my reflection, I want to know who I am, and except every part of that identity. I am frightened and I am fearless, I am weak and a warrior, I am uncertain and I am confident, And by learning to embrace the paradox and all of it, I am more myself.”

I feel the truth of this quote viscerally.

Over the years, for me, life has been a quest to find out “who am I really?” This is what I know for sure up until now. I am contemplative, gregarious, honest, open and closed-minded, sensitive, complicated, brave, anxious, wildly curious, strong, vulnerable, stubborn, flexible, cautious, adventurous, quiet, loud, spontaneous, ridged, gentle, tough, and creative. I procrastinate sometimes, I am not as organized as I would like, my house is often cluttered, but I am finally OK. I am all of that and more to discover, both dark and light. I, too, am learning to embrace the paradox of who I am. I will forever be a student of life and have come to love the human spirit, primarily when it is fully expressed.

I look at this picture of me as a little girl; I understand her now and love her dearly. I used to wonder who I might have been if life had been different, but I now know that I was given the exact life I’ve had to become who I am. I am who I am. 

Let us all embrace our wild, untamed creative selves. It is more critical than at any other time in history. Yin is rising. Gaia is waiting ❤

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Trust the Process

Shalom Retreats

“Compassion arises naturally as the quivering of the heart in the face of pain, ours and another’s. True compassion is not limited by the separateness of pity nor by the fear of being overwhelmed. When we come to rest in the great heart of compassion, we discover a capacity to bear witness to, suffer with, and hold dear with our own vulnerable heart the sorrows and beauties of the world. — Jack Kornfield

I am now on the road towards Hantsport, and I am wondering to myself, “what am I doing?” It’s 1992, and I am on the way to a retreat called Shalom that my friend Bob told me about, or should I say he told me nothing about except that it was life-changing and I should attend. I trust Bob, he and his wife have been good friends of mine for a few years now, and he seems really excited about these retreats. 

I have an address and directions; I have been struggling in my marriage for a while, we were so young when we married, and we have been arguing a lot lately. That, along with other issues I wanted to work on. According to Bob, this retreat would help. 

It is a long road to this house, it seems as I am driving further and further into the countryside. “What am I going to, it’s in the middle of nowhere? What if he has me going to some kind of cult?” My mind races and makes up all kinds of stories, so I am nervous as hell. I slide my right hand over my crucifix and take a deep breath; I chuckle out loud as though that would ward off some kind of evil. My imagination runs wild as I make up stories that make me even more anxious. I drive up to a quaint large home that is surrounded by lovely colourful flower gardens. The gardens were rustic and not uniform in design and beautifully laid out all around the grounds. I felt a bit more at ease, so I walked up the door, took a breath and knocked. 

A man and woman open the door, “welcome, come in. I’m Roy, and this is my wife Mary.” Mary says hello, and we chat for a min. They own the home and are hosting the retreat. Mary seems nice; she reminds me of a modern-day hippie with long straight blond hair, dressed in loose cotton clothes. She is a beautiful young woman who looks Swedish, she has carefree energy about her that is kind and genuine, yet I could tell she is also a bit shy. Roy has a broad smile and is very welcoming with a much bigger personality that is somewhat mysterious. Roy has pensive dark eyes that look like they have seen a lot of pain. He is kind yet has an intense energy and a much louder voice that is a bit intimidating. Mary asks me to follow her upstairs to my room, where she tells me I will have a roommate. 

Sadly many years later, Roy and Mary both passed away within the same year. I cannot thank them enough for opening their home to these retreats all those years ago.

“Caroline is not here yet, after you settle in, when you are done, come down to the kitchen, I’ll be there finishing some snacks, and I’ll take you into the Shalom room and introduce you.” “Shalom room?” I say to myself

As I settle into the bedroom, I choose the single bed next to the window. I look out the window and see a lovely forested property that looks over the parking lot. There is a knock at the door, and Caroline introduces herself. We chatted for a bit. This was her first time here also, so we exchanged our mutual nervous energy. She is tired and decides to take a quick nap, for it is about another hour before we are supposed to be downstairs to the Shalom room. “I think what is a Shalom room anyway?” I had looked up Shalom in the dictionary before I left. It is a Hebrew word meaning peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare, and tranquillity. As beautiful as that all sounds, I am still wondering what kind of retreat is this? Still in the dark, I go downstairs and meet up with Mary. I follow her into a vast room full of people. They are all sitting on the floor, most look very engaging in conversations, and a few others are sitting alone, looking quiet and reflective. I only know Bob.

There is a wooden platform with a double-sized mattress on a carpeted wooden frame with a giant stuffed carpeted hump on the front against the wall at the front of the room. A sign above it says “Trust the Process” I search around for Bob and find him smiling at me as if to say, just wait, don’t panic. I must have wide eyes because inside, I am thinking, “What the hell is a double-size mattress contraption doing on the floor for!!” I am about to bolt out of the room as the stories I am making up in my mind are far from what I am willing to do; thank you very much! But something keeps me there, an inner calm that I have come to trust in times like this. Mary shouts, “Hey everyone, this is Joyce; welcome her!” Everyone graciously smiles and says hello.  

I sit down and look over at Bob a few times for reassurance, trying to stay calm and not run out of the room; my mind keeps racing with thoughts. 

When the retreat starts, seventeen of us from all walks of life, ten women and seven men, are in a circle. As the next three days unfold, I listen to my intuition and let go of my fears bit by bit. This weekend with no exaggeration, not only saved my marriage but started a healing journey that still continues today. I had some of the most life-changing moments of my life that weekend! No, it was not a cult; and there was no sex involved 🙂  

After a day of ice breaker exercises, we began to bond as a group, and a very safe container started to be built with all of us. And then the real work began.

When we protect ourselves so we won’t feel pain, that protection becomes armor, like armor that imprisons the softness of the heart.” – Pema Chödrön

Each person is invited to lie down blindfolded on the mattress with Carol, a professional counsellor. Carol would gently, with healthy boundaries, great respect and reassurance, lead each of us one by one on what is called “a mat trip.” She used different therapy modalities such as Gestalt, Bioenergetics, and others to help us look inward and feel the pain that most of us locked away while the rest of us stayed silent and witnessed. The mat trips were powerful! The carpeted hump at the front of the mattress was used if someone wanted to stand or kneel and do rage work. A few of us silently would lift this up and hold the back strong as some would pound it with their fists or sometimes with it down, hitting it with a bat. I witnessed the depth of human pain and misery to the height of triumph and victory as Carol led each of us through the dark recesses of our minds and hearts, processing trauma, shame, guilt, and heartbreak in ways that were beyond anything I could have imagined. In the end, Carol would, with great care, lead us to a healing conclusion that left us feeling safe, complete and empowered by our own ability to heal ourselves.  

“A healer does not heal you. A healer is someone who holds space for you while you awaken your inner healer, so that you may heal yourself.” ~Maryam Hasnaa

“As you learn to TRUST YOURSELF something miraculous happens. You begin to TRUST THE PROCESS you are living and the miracles life brings!” ― Iyanla Vanzant

I had never felt that kind of love and support emanating from a group of people before. Each mat trip would sometimes take up to 2 hours. Most were about 1 1/2 hours. Carol found the energy to take each of us through this astonishing journey.

I helped hold the space for 9 women as they shared their own struggles one by one. Some shared painful stories of rape, others of violent childhoods, others of betrayal and heartbreak of many kinds. I heard their voices change from soft scared little girls to loud, powerful warrior women. Many of us silently cried as we watched and listened. At the end of each mat trip, we all celebrated each person’s courage as, one by one, we found validation, support and healing.

I witnessed stories of 7 men expressing emotional and psychological pain from trauma, betrayal, neglect, and heartbreak. How they were taught vulnerability was weak and worse, not part of being a man. I had never seen such strong men be so emotional or open-hearted before. As I heard their stories, I realized I had created a tiny box that I had put all men in, which was primarily inaccurate due to my childhood experiences. I saw my husband in so many of their stories. I understood him as I had not before; I fell in love with my husband again that weekend because I understood who he was as a whole man, not just a part. Our love grew after that because we understood each other more. As I shared what I had learned, I was lucky enough to have a man who would listen and learn with me.

I loved this weekend so much I attended a few more. I began to see people and, for that matter, the world, with a different pair of eyes and heart and wanted more. I had the rare opportunity to see others in a way that felt real, honest and unfiltered, the way people are without judgement or masks. Compassion grew more and more inside me after each person’s story unfolded. 

Mat trip after mat trip over 5 years, I went to several Shalom retreats and witnessed hundreds of stories. As I watched each person courageously talk through their pain with Carol and see the transformations at the end, I began to understand how healing this could be if I allowed myself the willingness to step into this process fully committed. I now understood “Trust The Process.” That is just what I did.

Today, I express my emotions and feelings more openly; they are often misunderstood as weak, but they get stuck inside unless we are willing to allow our feelings to flow through us. When things get tough for me, I still reach out for help, but for the most part, I have learned to heal on my own with my spiritual practices, writing, and my connection with God. Oh, I still can be stoic when I need to protect myself from those who do not understand, but I allow my deepest self to be revealed for those very few. They know the power and courage it takes to step in and feel.

“We cannot heal what we cannot feel” John Bradshaw

What an honour and privilege it was to be a part of those weekends. All of the stories I heard have lived on in me as a beacon of light and inspiration. Each one of them was a part of teaching me just how strong the human spirit is and to trust myself and others. I had lost that trust for a while, but I continued with intuitive guidance that I call God, She brings me back each time. Trusting the process of life is the lesson I have learned more than any other. We are all whole souls with stories that make us who we are, and we all have the resilience to get up again and take on life one day at a time.

Trust the Process

What we are waiting for is not as important as what happens to us while we are waiting. Trust the process.” ― Mandy Hale

“Trust the process. You may not end up where you thought you were going, but you will always end up where you are meant to be.” Author unknown

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The Magic of A Rainy Day

“You have traveled too fast over false ground; Now your soul has come to take you back. Take refuge in your senses, open up to all the small miracles you rushed through. Become inclined to watch the way of rain when it falls slow and free. Imitate the habit of twilight, taking time to open the well of color that fostered the brightness of day. Draw alongside the silence of stone until its calmness can claim you.” John O’Donohue

There is something about a rainy day that calms my nervous system. I feel that when I can stop and take some time to listen, it becomes a meditation for me. I love to shut off all noise in my home and sit with only the rhythmic melody of the rainfall. I keep my screen door at the back of my kitchen open in the summertime to listen to the drops as they hit the deck. Even my windows in the front of my kitchen are open, covered by an overhang above our veranda, so no water comes in. This creates a kind of surround sound as I sit in my favourite hair and stare out and watch the rain as it hits the trees and scrubs swaying in a summer wind. As a heavier downpour starts, I smell the scent of fresher air as the dry earth soaks in the moisture. I feel my breath go deeper into my lungs as I inhale the fresh air. A torrent of droplets hit the planks with so much force that it bounces off the deck like boiling water; it looks like it’s dancing. Later the parched grass, shrubs and trees seem to perk up with brilliant brighter shades of green as the day goes on. 

“Last night the rain spoke to me. Slowly, saying, what joy to come falling out of the brisk cloud. That is what it said as it dropped,” Mary Oliver

Something about a rainy day permits me to slow down, a kind of pause of sorts. I love to read books these days, nothing like curling up on a couch with a good story that I have not had a chance to finish. 

Looking out my patio door

Surrendering to “what is” is a lesson I work on continuously; not consistently successful, but when I can, I feel peace. Learning to pause throughout the day and take a deep breath, and land at the moment. It’s the kind of lesson that I remind myself of every day. I have lost too much time being crazy busy, worried, or frustrated this year. It’s time for me to take a renewed perspective on life once again. Life is precious, and when I am anxious, I lose moments like watching the beauty of rainfall. To awake in the morning is magical. There is so much in every day I want to become more present too. This pandemic taught me a lot of lessons. I am glad to be awakening to the magic of nature again. Each morning is a chance to start all over again. 

I love the fact that ageing lets us know that life and time are precious. 

As Mary Oliver reminds me 

“Doesn’t everything die at lastand too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? “

I intend to move into living a more fully expressed life. Which, for me, means becoming more creative; I have a bucket list of things to accomplish! I want to do more photography; I want to learn to paint, write more, dance more, laugh more, hug more. I want to take small adventures around our Maritimes meet people with broad smiles and belly laughs. Most of all, spend time with friends and family again with a new appreciation of each one of them. 

That is what I want to do with my one wild and precious life!!  

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Owning My Shadow of Food Addiction

This post is dedicated to my mentor and teacher Debbie Ford.

“Our shadow is all the aspects that we reject out of shame, fear or, disapproval. It is made up of any part of ourselves that we believe is unacceptable, will be met with disapproval by others, or that annoys, horrifies or disgusts us about other people or about ourselves.”

“Your Life will be transformed when you make peace with your Shadow” Debbie Ford

Photo by Nikki Deveau

Do you want to be cured? Do you want to be Free? How free do you want to be?” John O’Donohue

Food addiction is the hardest for most people to understand. Addiction of any kind is hard, and it is even harder to explain for those who don’t struggle with the same addiction. Although this addiction has been a constant companion of mine for many years, I, too, could not let myself believe it was a true addiction. That is part of the problem why I could not overcome this. This is silly in retrospect, for I have been obese most of my adult life despite mainly eating healthy. Addiction has more to do with finding ways to numb from emotions and feelings that seem vulnerable or weak, yet in reality, they are a necessary part of the human experience.

Debbie Ford suggested that those who were overweight may want to join a 12 step program during training. I thought to myself, “what does she know.” At that point, I was in training to become an Integrative Life Coach with her. I had already lost about 70 lbs and thought I had a handle on my overeating and did not need to join Overeaters Anonymous. How ironic, over fifteen years later, I am finally listening to her wise counsel. I am sure she is chuckling from heaven at my final surrender.

What you don’t own, owns you,” Debbie Ford.

Addiction takes many forms; it is not only food, alcohol, drugs, and gambling, commonly known. Other forms are gossiping, being a work acholic, co-dependency, overly controlling, and the list goes on. We all have coping mechanisms that can be, at times, unhealthy, but if they are dominant, they can become destructive over time. If this starts at a very young age, it can become a hardwired default in our brain that can be tough but not impossible to reroute.

Eating when stressed started for me when I was a little girl. Today I often turn to food, even for minor stressors, even with healthy foods. When more significant stressors happen, I often become stoic to survive then crash emotionally when I feel some relief; usually, my compulsive overeating happens. It’s a delayed stress reaction. That was a survival coping mechanism that served me well as a young child living with a very unpredictable dad who could be violent at times. I had to hide and stay silent, barely breathing as not to be seen, and when the threat was over, I would eat something to calm myself down as an unconscious reflex. My brain created a strong neural pathway to food, not just for pleasure but an emotional survival. I went into therapy for the abuse I witnessed as a child many years ago as a young adult. Later with shadow training, I uncovered many other parts that I learned to integrate and heal. But somehow, owning the food addiction part had alluded me until now. Oh, I would tell people I had a food addiction but did nothing to own it. Therefore I was not ready to do something about it. 

“Its only when we have the courage to face things exactly as they are, without any self-deception or illusion, that a light will develop out of the events, by which the path to success may be recognized” Debbie Ford

Part of my illusion story as a food addict was I mainly over ate healthy 80% most of the time, and I had kept 50 pounds off all these years; I thought the rest would work out in time. The truth is, I did not want to honestly admit this. The Pandemic revealed the truth to me after I gained 35-pounds. I did not want to own this because I coped well for most of the Pandemic, even losing weight at first, but compulsive eating was obviously there. There it was, staring me in the face again, but I still was in denial. I did not want to be cured, but it was getting exhausting to keep it up.

By choosing not to allow parts of ourselves to exist, we are forced to expend huge amounts of psychic energy to keep them beneath the surface.” Debbie Ford

I finally was ready to own this shadow in March of this year; I joined an OA 12 step program; It’s been such a breath of fresh air. I have landed in a community that understands me in a way I only appreciate now. I found it interesting that some members have multiple addictions, and they say that food is the hardest. This is because of the other addictions you can stop, such as smoking or consuming drugs or drinking alcohol; not an option with food.

So it begins a very layered, complex challenge to uncover. This is my newest journey of self-discovery, my dance with compulsive overeating, a food addiction, one day at a time.

On July 21st, I am sitting here after eating an entire 12-inch Greek pizza. I am uncomfortably full. I am disconnected but comfortably numb. I am not even sure that I enjoyed it, to be honest. My stomach is bloated and even a bit painful. I sit here trying to understand why I chose to do this after 54 days of abstinence from compulsive overeating. I fell down on my knees two weeks ago and was in quite a bit of pain until yesterday. Yesterday I felt much better and ended up eating two massive plates of pasta instead of a regular serving and felt uncomfortable after. This was the beginning of the downward turn that ended the next day eating a whole pizza. I knew something had shifted.

Ironically, I have learned it is not the act of compulsive eating that is most destructive; it’s the rabbit hole of getting lost in anger, frustration, self-pity, and disappointment after. At first, I am pissed at myself for a while, realizing this is futile. Instead of lamenting, I need to be compassionate to ask myself constructive questions to help figure this out. I have learned that getting angry with myself prolongs the agony. Self-deprecation is a form of self-sabotage. When I go there, I readily allow the default habit to give me more reason to continue overeating, thus the never-ending cycle of self-sabotage. Because I stopped beating myself up, sat in silence and meditated a bit, I remembered “delayed stress reaction of course!” This is the essential information and a way to prepare the next time after a significant stressor; I will need to reach out to my OA community more. 

“Remember, all the answers you need are inside of you; you only have to become quiet enough to hear them” Debbie Ford

Self-compassion, curiosity and honesty bring healing to me as I stay on this journey, and because I am human, I will create stories of self-pity from time to time; it’s the awareness that will and does save my a** every time.

I remind myself of the questions again by John O’Donohue

Do you want to be cured? Do you want to be Free? How free do you want to be

All these years of not admitting that I am powerless against this addiction without help has kept my cycle of denial and self-sabotage going. It’s a way of feeding the excuses to keep my addiction. I have owned and transformed so many other areas of my life, but this one has continued to haunt me. Do I want to be cured? Do I want to be free? I feel my body become defensive as I’m answering this in my mind, “OF COURSE I DO!” Then I am reminded of something else Debbie used to say 

“If we want to know what we’re really committed to, all we have to do is look at our lives.” Debbie Ford

I have been way more committed to keeping my addiction than being free of it all these years, so I kept lying to myself. Thank you, Debbie, for guiding me from beyond. It’s taken a long time, but I am ready to be free one day at a time. 

This understanding is a powerful awakening for me. It will take a lot of awareness to redirect each time this comes up again. Life will continue its ebb and flow of highs and lows, and I need to learn to gently cultivate healthier ways to release stress as it’s happening.

There is a delicate balance of allowing ourselves to be ok with feelings of vulnerability and fear without going completely numb or into a tailspin of unproductive projections that can also create a prison of the mind. When we are not taught as children to process huge emotions, we can lose the ability to cope as adults in healthier ways; usually with some form of addiction. We find ways to lock the stress away. Unfortunately, they do not go away without processing them just because we don’t allow ourselves to feel them. They stay locked away in our bodies, and when they are not expressed, it can create havoc in the form of anxiety, anger, illness, exhaustion, burnout or depression over time. Denial is a great survival mechanism and sometimes necessary. Unfortunately, it does not allow us to live a fully expressed life when it becomes automatic for all stressors. 

Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh say “Suffering and Happiness are not separate” Like the beautiful lotus flower which can only bloom when its roots are in the mud;

I have found this out the hard way. An old Robert Frost quote says, “the only way out is through” When I create a prison in my mind by staying numb, I keep myself from being truly free! When expressing my emotions in healthy ways, I can let them go, creating healing and relief.

If you have deep unexpressed abuse trauma, it’s essential to seek professional help with a therapist or counsellor. It was one of the greatest gifts that I gave myself and my loved ones when I did. I learned many coping and healing practices that I will be implementing again as I walk through this new journey with my OA community. We are not meant to explore our traumas alone, especially if we have abusive in our histories. But finding the right person and the right kind of therapy is essential and can take time, but we are so worth the search. As Brene Brown reminds me

“We share with people who’ve earned the right to hear our story.”

I also love this quote by Anne Lamott.

‘”My mind is a neighbourhood I try not to go into alone.” 

These days, I explore my thoughts and emotions mainly with God through journaling, my hubby and a few close friends. All of these are soul connections whom I trust with this part of me now. I feel so loved and supported these days, it took me a long time to let people deep into my inner world, but I’m glad I did.

I will end this post with exquisite quotes from John O’Donohue’s audiobook called “The Invisible World.” It was a reminder to me that I had the key.

“A lot of people like have turned the wild mystery of their own mind, into a shabby cold negative little room where the windows are blocked, and where there is no door, and they live in there. And it isn’t like anyone else did that to them, they do that to themselves. So you should be aware that you are responsible for the prisons you that you create for yourselves. There is no one outside that can open the door of your inner prison, the person that has the key is you.” “You are the god or goddess of your own inner world. It’s artistic material in your hands, and you can shape it any way you want.”

Freedom comes with self-compassion and the curiosity to ask loving questions to ourselves when we mess up. One question Debbie Ford taught me is a start. This question will become my touchstone as I move forward, one day at a time.

“Is this an act of self-love or is it an act of self-sabotage?” 

Thank you, Debbie 

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The Pandemic; The day all Hell broke loose

“The soul always knows what to do to heal itself. The challenge is to silence the mind.” Caroline Myss

It feels like our lives in the 21st century have diminished to an individualistic, very self-centered, small world. It seems to me we have much less time or empathy for each other. Many of us have lost sight that we are all interdependent on this earth. We soon were to be reminded in a frightening way.

March 2020, our world turned upside down; almost every person on the planet was feeling some level of fear all at once. Some, of course, who were economically more staple, were able to isolate easier than others, giving them a small but significant safety advantage. Still, rich, poor, and everyone in-between felt the floor drop underneath us into a collective uncertainty. Covid-19 crossed every barrier and was killing more and more people every day. It was a collective fear, unlike at any other time in history. For the first time, together, most of us knew what was going on on the entire planet. Our world irreversibly changed in the blink of an eye.

This was how I navigated this chaotic time and the lessons I am learning everyday along the way.

March 15th, 2020

When faced with a crisis, do three things: breathe, pray, and be kind.” Anne Lamott

What the HELL! A pandemic has reached here in our little Nova Scotia. My mind cannot take this in; it is surreal, yet, it is here. OH my God! The terror is setting in my body, and I feel my chest tighten, my stomach is churning, and my legs are weak at the thought.

Our first case of Covid 19 is in Nova Scotia, and I am on my way to town; there is such panic everywhere, people are cleaning out the essentials in every store. Shelves are empty in the stores; this is crazy! I cannot find any toilet paper anywhere. I go from store to store to store. My heart is beating faster, and I feel hurried and shaky. Not even a thermometer to be found. No rubbing alcohol, no hydrogen peroxide, hardly any canned goods. It feels crazy, unreal! I finally find a small four-pack of toilet paper and a few other things. I have never felt so relieved in my life to be driving up to our home, my safe haven. Who knew that going to town would become such a frightening thing to do. At this point, we do not know if it was in our town.

Those first two weeks, the fear was palpable. With daily updates, the numbers were climbing. Then tragically, on April 7th, a woman dies in Nova Scotia, and it began; glued to the daily updates took a toll on many of us, including me, but I could not stop watching and listening for many days.

Every day, with more and more deaths worldwide, it feels like the ground beneath me is no longer steady. My body is so restless; it’s hard for me to focus on anything. I find myself binge-watching the TV, for I don’t know what else to do. There is a collective fear everywhere, on the radio, TV all over social media.

It is one am, and I’m wide awake again; I cannot sleep; the darkness has a foreboding that lingers in the air as nighttime heightens my fear. Bernie, my husband, is over 1500 kilometres away at work; I am so frightened for him, I feel desperately alone. Sunrise cannot come fast enough. I am thinking about our sons, who are grown men with families of their own who I am sure are worried. We are all locked in our homes, waiting for what this means for our futures. What does this all mean for the world?

It’s Monday; it’s been over three weeks since lockdown, and I am once again awake in the middle of the night. I know I cannot go on FB or watch TV again; I take a deep breath and decide to shut out the world and my thoughts of fear, so I play a guided meditation instead. It feels like home; my body sinks into my bed. I felt carried by a quiet undercurrent that was just below the hurricane of this pandemic. I re-discover that deep place of calm refuge inside again. I can do this. Listening to guided meditations was a familiar tool I had used before, and I knew I would have to implement a lot now to settle my mind and body.  

“Let the waters settle and you will see the moon and the stars mirrored in your own being.” Rumi

Over the next year, as the pandemic continues, I also discover audio autobiography books read by the authors. I loved hearing the actual author’s voice reading each line. Their voices are infused with lived inflections, passion and emotions that no one else could ever capture. These inspirational people found resilience despite having experienced harrowing lives early on. They found a way back to living life in very authentic, honest, fulfilling ways. These authors held a mirror for me that reminded me of the resilience of my spirit, and on those days when I was filled with fear, they helped me remember “this too shall pass.”

I am so glad I had done so much inner work before this pandemic. Yes, as I had written in “A Hurricane is Coming,” I spent a few years in a dark place, but, what got me through even on my worst days was my curiosity to find answers. That is what I have learned most on my life, to keep searching and with time, the answers come. My life was and still is, at times, a messy journey of self-discovery that has brought great healing at times. I try my best each day to revisit the tools I’ve learned along the way that helps me deal with the daily pandemic ebb and flow madness.

Any time of stress; I need go out in nature to avoid getting stuck in a rumination loop of negative thoughts. A much healthier choice than eating, staying manically busy or watching TV to numb the anxiety. For the first few months of the pandemic, my knees were in a good place so I could go for short walks, and as luck would have, it is springtime. Nature becomes my church; it forces me to slow down, breathe and notice beauty.

“The beauty of nature is the wisest balm. When the mind is festering with trouble or the heart torn, we can find healing among the silence of the mountains or fields, or listen to the simple, steading rhythm of the waves. The slowness and stillness gradually take us over. Our breathing deepens and our hearts calm and our hunger relent…. ” John O’Donohue

I open the door to go for another walk. A sweet scent of apple blooms is in the air; I love seeing the trees and flowers growing once again. I chat with the tiny gentle chickadees as they search for food and nesting material. The bright, cheerful dandelions open their pedals for the wild sleepy bumblebees; they are just waking up from their winter slumber and need nutrients for energy. Just looking at them makes me smile. Mother Nature works overtime this time of year, helping to create new life everywhere. My soul is renewed each day I am outside and find some semblance of inner peace again.

Each day is one day closer to my dear hubby coming home; my thoughts of him getting on a plane and coming home are terrifying, but we are not alone. Millions of people work on the front lines. That is so strange to write; it sounds like wartime. Front line workers were now truck drivers bringing us our essential goods to the stores, rotational workers like my husband, who work away in other provinces. Retail clerks show up every day to work in the stores in this madness to keep the stores open. I can’t even imagine the sacrifices of the dedicated medical staff directly in the line of fire of this horrible disease. This is where the best of humanity shows up, so many heroes and s-heroes. I think and pray for them every day. There has never been a better time to try and cultivate one moment and day at a time for sanity’s sake.

As I did my best to stay open and curious despite my anxiety, magical things would show up perfectly timed. At the beginning of 2021, I discovered a zoom writers group called Soulo facilitated and created by Tracey Erin Smith. Her style of teaching is truly magical and one of a kind. She sets up a safe and sacred space that built a kind, supportive community that I have come to treasure. Zoom became my lifeline during the pandemic for connection. This group, in particular, became a saving grace. I found a home with people who were not afraid to show themselves. They are gut-wrenchingly genuine and honest. They are all a breath of fresh air to me. Their stories were authentic and open-hearted. Even if I never meet them in person, I considered them friends. They helped me not feel alone, and I will forever be thankful for the love and caring they all showed me and each other. I learned to cultivate another level of vulnerability by trusting my inner world with this unique group of beautiful souls. I love how Tracey says (this is a paraphrase)

“People keep saying they wished life came with a manual or instructions, there is one; they are called stories.” 

This pandemic brought out the worst and the best in all of us. There was positive social activism that created a global shift in our consciousness that was long overdue. Our planet has been jolted awake several times. Our world was and still is dying and giving birth simultaneously. I suspect we have all changed in ways that will only be fully understood in years to come in retrospect. I know I discovered more strengths and weaknesses, and both are good. Both have taught me a great deal.

This reality is not the story anyone thought we would be living. Even so, every day, I still try to find joy and beauty in my ordinary moments. Simply living in the moment is harder some days, yet I strive for it imperfectly. I stumble; some days are a total wash with numbing myself. Every now and then, I will watch TV most of the day, but I am learning to be in this new reality bit by bit. I am grateful I find gentleness and forgiveness in myself and others more these days, thankfully.

“May there be kindness in your gaze when you look within.” John O’Donohue

I would like to believe no matter what, all of us worldwide found some kindness and compassion in this insanity for one another and more gratitude for the things we once took for granted. Kindness, compassion and gratitude are big medicine that sends their roots far and wide and can change even the most hardened hearts. Instead of the ugliness birthed out of our fear, let these attributes be the legacy of this pandemic moving forward.

“Always remember, No matter where you go… there your are” Unknown

“A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new tress” Amelia Earhart.

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