Me and my shadow side, or, the only one I can change is me!


As I write this the washing machine is filling and I cannot help but think how appropriate when I am about to write about self reflection versus self recriminations. You may have noticed I’ve been rather quiet of late. That’s partly because I’ve been busy with work and just living life. But it is also partly because I have been doing a great deal of self reflection after spending a fair amount of time mired in self recriminations – which does nothing to help me or anyone else. Bear with me as I try to articulate the differences, as I understand them.

How does that saying go? “The unexamined life is not worth living”? Or words to that effect. My washing machine can wash the dirt and accumulated daily grime out of my clothes, but to “wash” my self of less than stellar qualities requires more than one trip to my internal “washing machine”, and a lot of time in prayer!

Yes, I have been awash in memories that have led to a fair amount of regret and sorrow. Taking out and fully examining past words and actions has caused me a lot of guilt and shame. The shame is never productive and leaves me feeling “less than” the person I’d like to be. It also leads down a dark tunnel of self reproach and self loathing.  It has led to days of depression, which are also not productive nor good for anyone least of all myself.

Guilt, on the other hand, can lead to positive change, and that’s a good thing. Personally, prayer helps me a lot. The Creator is much more merciful with me than I am with myself and it’s that mercy and compassion that helps me pick myself up and try again, making amends where needed and apologizing when that is appropriate.

Oh yes, I can be judgemental, arrogant, bossy, and generally not very nice. On the other hand, I can also be very thoughtful and kind. Yet, those traits are not the troublesome ones – arrogance and judging others – those traits need to go. Yet, it is these traits, when they rear their ugly heads, that keeps me humble. I am blessed to have family and friends who ask the right questions to help me gain balance and perspective and of course the endless love and compassion of the Divine One who placed these people in my life to help me on my journey. I am so grateful for them!

I spent many years in therapy facing these demons and others. I asked this wise woman, my therapist, once if I spot these negative traits in others does it mean I have them as well. She answered in the positive, qualifying that with the caution that if not these traits, then the possibility of developing them. (Yikes!) But she continued, so too do the wonderful traits of compassion, empathy, and kindness. (Yay!)

So, after many days of prayer and self reflection I have been led to a place of forgiveness for being human and encouraged to go out there and try, try again, to do better, to be better. We are all mere human beings – none of us are perfect and so, I shall carry on and with prayer I will be better. I hope.

Slow down the quick, quick


These days I have a lot of time on my hands as my husband receives treatment and recovers from some serious issues. I am in the big city far away from home; from family and friends; from work; from the people, pets, and things that make up my daily life. I am grateful to my son and daughter-in-law for sending me a notebook to use while I am here. It allows me to access my emails, social media, and gives me a tool to write with.

 It’s an older model and in combination with public Wifi, it can be a little frustrating doing anything online. Which got me to thinking about the fast pace of life. Being forced to slow down for a spell is a good thing.

I am being taught patience – by a machine no less! For instance, allowing the notebook to do a “performance scan” seems to take forever. I can get pretty impatient with it, and yet I have no choice but to wait until updates are installed and the antivirus cleans things up. Perhaps it is high time I used a personal antivirus program to defog my life – some call it prayer.

It also makes me think of the last time I took serious stock and really reflected on my life. In a sense this time away from home is helping me do a “performance scan” of a different sort. As the saying goes, “the unreflected life is not worth living”. I am not sure who the author was of that bit of wisdom, but I find it so true. It is in the deep reflection of one’s life that personal and emotional growth happens. So, I am doubly grateful for this notebook!

In addition to the path of self-discovery, this extended hospital stay has made me appreciate anew the gift of each minute, hour, and day I have been given and helped me to realize how much time I have allowed to be consumed by technology.

It is as if the universe is sending me a message to slow down the quick, quick.

How much time do you spend online?

“Children should be seen and not hurt”.


TEDDY

Children are born so innocent. Unfortunately, they are born into an imperfect world peopled by imperfect human beings.  Cycles of violence repeat themselves again and again, both in families and in society as a whole. I don’t have any answers. I wish I did.

Many people are broken as children through abuse of many kinds and it leaves them (us) with terrible wounds. I once read or heard that childhood is what we spend the rest of our lives getting over. I think there is a lot of truth to that.

However, some people do not have the courage, or the ability to trust, in order to do the arduous work to ‘get over it’. And some things are much, much harder to get over than others. Some abuse leads people to use alcohol or other drugs to self-medicate in order to deal with the pain. And that, naturally, leads to more issues, more problems.

I think the whole ‘war against’ drugs is a mistake. We should be fighting child abuse, in all its nuances and colors. Healthy children grow up to be healthy people. And by healthy, I mean every aspect of health: emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual.

I think we should be treating the pain before we can treat the addiction. I think we have a long road to travel before we can really address all the ills of society and I think we should begin at the beginning: in childhood.

Recently I have read articles about a particular school that is offering mental health education in primary grades. I think that is an excellent idea – one that is perhaps overdue, but it gives me hope for tomorrow.

On Privilege


Privilege: according to the Oxford dictionary is “A special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group”.

There has been a lot written about privilege, especially recently. Last evening, I was listening to a speaker at the library, an accomplished business woman and active volunteer in our community. She also happens to be Cree. Her name is Cheryl Alexander and her talk was about the indigenous people’s experiences in Canada, a country she nevertheless agreed is “wonderful”.

She was describing her mother’s experience in residential school, one of which left her unable to speak her native language. As a child she had been forced to eat a bar of soap for daring to speak Cree at school. Her experiences left her traumatized in many ways, and left her unable to give her children the legacy of her language because every time she would try to speak Cree she would experience anew the taste of soap in her mouth and the feelings of shame that accompanied it.

So, this morning I am thinking about everything this wise woman shared with the group. Unfortunately, I was unable to take in the whole of her talk and sat in for only a part of it during a lull in the library where I work. At any rate, I heard enough to compare the experiences of the downtrodden with the life of privilege many have known and still know today.

There are people who say, “why don’t they get over it? After all it happened so long ago.” Of course, the people I hear say these things are white, and perhaps do not understand the long-reaching consequences that continue to reverberate as a result of childhood abuse. The pain many people have suffered led many to self-medicate using alcohol or other substances to numb the pain. It left them unable to parent their children in many ways. And the cycle of neglect and/or abuse of children continued, and in many cases still does.

The purpose of the talk was to bring awareness around the experiences lived by most, if not all, indigenous people in Canada.

Comparing the story of First Nations Peoples to the Kavanaughs of this world is mind blowing. When a group of people are privileged they seem to be woefully ignorant of the experiences of those who are not so fortunate. It seems to me that privilege has a price too often paid by those who can ill afford to pay it. My mother used to say two things, “there, but for the grace of God go I”. And, “walk a mile in their shoes”. I have to say it is incredibly difficult to imagine the pain and the suffering experienced by indigenous people. It is almost too painful to even try to walk a mile in their shoes. It is equally as difficult to imagine why the privileged of this world seem to think it’s okay to live in gated communities and to continue to amass wealth on the backs of the poor.

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to hear Cheryl’s talk. And I am grateful for the discussion that is continuing in the wake of the Ford/Kavanaugh story, and others like them. We have an opportunity to learn; to grow; to make a better world. I hope we do.

Three months…. Time goes by so slowly


So tomorrow marks three months since your death; A death that need not have been if only that other driver had not been inebriated; if only you had stopped by our sister’s place as you had planned to do; if only you had been held up at work just a little longer; if only….

Anger, grief, sadness…sometimes I stick my head in the sand like the ostrich hoping when I pull it out I will discover it is all a bad dream. But it’s not. It’s a nightmare that threatens to engulf my very soul if I let it. I will not. I will look to see the good I may be able to do to honour you in some way. I will work toward making others aware of the suffering that comes as a result of impaired driving – and as my niece correctly pointed out: there were two families adversely affected that day. Our family lost a loved one and there is no end to the questions. And the pain seems like a shadow that follows us everywhere. The other family…well I can only surmise that their lives have also been adversely affected. They also have to deal with court cases and the criminal justice system.

One bad decision is all it took. One bad decision and we all have to live with the consequences of it ….if only…

Do not look to the stars


 

Do not look to the stars

The answer is not there

Nor is it in the widest ocean

Or on the mountain tops

But look inside, deep inside

Where you will discover

The secrets hidden in your heart

Behind some thick and heavy door

That you can open if you have the will

And the courage

To face what lays there

Curled and forgotten

Within the confines

Of your self

Sleep walking through life


It is amazing to me how little I noticed all the socially acceptable jokes about drinking, about getting drunk, about celebrating with a drink, about bad days being made better with a glass of wine…or beer or whatever. I simply did not pay much attention. But now I am super sensitive about it – and these jokes do not even draw a smile from me as they once did. And no, this is not going to be some rant or lecture about the evils of drink. I will not insult your intelligence with such a stance. It is just weird to suddenly be so aware. This awareness has come about following my brother’s death at the hands of an impaired driver. If not for that I would still be unaware. And I wonder, what else in life have I become immune to?

Years ago I was writing an article about mental illness and interviewed a young man who suffered with severe anxiety disorder. He pointed out how often we will say someone is “crazy”, when what we really mean is that person is exuberant, wild, unique, and perhaps a nonconformist.  Unless or until someone close to us is struggling with a mental illness we are blissfully unaware of the pain and the difficulty people live with, or the pain caused by some of our language such as “retard”, “insane” and yes, “crazy”. Labels are never good.

Life is a mystery whereby we walk around like zombies at times – like sleep walkers. We are totally unaware and live in total ignorance. I am not sure I like this new sensitivity, but I also know it will serve a purpose. I just haven’t yet figured out what that may be.