Peace

Everyone is talking about their word of the year. A word that can be the theme for them for 2020. Something to aspire to or remind you who you are. Mine is Peace.

Definition of peace

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1a state of tranquillity or quiet: such as
afreedom from civil disturbance peace and order were finally restored in the town.
ba state of security or order within a community provided for by law or custom breach of the peace
2freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions I have been in perfect peace and contentment— J. H. Newman
3harmony in personal relations The sisters are at peace with each other.
4aa state or period of mutual concord between governments There was a peace of 50 years before war broke out again.
ba pact or agreement to end hostilities between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity offered the possibility of a negotiated peace— New York Times
5used interjectionally to ask for silence or calm or as a greeting or farewell

at peace

in a state of concord or tranquillity The problem was settled and his mind was at peace.

 

In my cube, there is a sticky note that says, “You are meant to live in peace”. I look at that when I am angry or frustrated with various scenarios. I sometimes feel rage bubbling up inside me that makes me want to lash out. It happened twice this week. Once in my personal life and once at work. Two separate times an incident happened and I filled with rage – it felt bigger than anger.  I began meditation for this very reason. I needed somewhere to put my anger. I don’t want to feel that way all the time. I took a walk, breathed deeply, and made myself a pot of tea. Both times I repeated “I am meant to live in peace.” and promptly affirmed I am not in control of other’s actions. But… BUT! But!!!!! I am in control of mine.

I need to stop looking at things that frustrate me. I cannot change others, I must accept. Image result for I am meant to live in peace

Face facts Robyn, nothing is going to change because it hasn’t thus far. Accept, move on, live in peace. Release and begin again.

I am meant to live in peace. It sounds like my new Sankalpa.

I am peace.

Happy New year friends. May 2020 bring you peace.

 

 

Care

I have become a very social being. This is contrary to who I thought I was or what I thought I needed. I think what happened was I just made an effort to spend time with people who and matter to me and care about me. I think it all goes back to that day about 10 years ago when I started this blog (shout out to those who still read regularly – thanks mom!). I was looking for more. I had a light bulb moment Friday when I saw this:

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First of all, I don’t know if Oprah said it. It sounds like something she or Maya Angelou would say, but I haven’t heard her say it. That part doesn’t matter. The words do.

I sat in reflection of those words for two days. Things that roll through my mind while I drive or while I knit (yep still knitting two weeks later). How do you know if the people you like don’t care? And more importantly, are you prepared to accept they don’t care? There is nothing you can do to change their minds. No amount of doing for them, giving to them or pleading with them will make them care for you. The hard truth is, you need to walk away.

Here is my handy checklist to determine if people care.

  1. Do they say “I am sorry I didn’t call/meet/see you, I have been JUST SO BUSY.”? If they care they make time for you. If they are busy you might hear them say, “Look, my schedule is stupid busy right now but I have a Saturday free in 5 weeks, are you in? Or can I call you right back as soon as I finish this? And then they actually call you back? Yep – they care.
  2. Do they call you and tell you their problems, then when they are done talking they say, well I should let you go? If they didn’t ask about you, chances are they are using you to release their problems to make themselves feel better. Once they have unloaded, they feel great and can go back to their life. Meanwhile, you are carrying this burden of truth and have no idea what to do with it. Now if they say, hey I am calling to hear how you are doing, tell me everything. Then they share their stuff, chances are they care. If you are not mentioned in the conversation except to tell you their mother/wife/friend doesn’t like you, chances are they don’t care. But sometimes you don’t see people for a year or more – just facebook or Instagram stuff. But you just know you can call them and cry or say hey I was thinking about you. Quantity doesn’t matter, quality does. Yep – they care.
  3. Does it always cost you money to get them to spend time with you? If you are always spending money to go visit them and it isn’t reciprocal. Chances are they are not the best choice for you. This includes family.
  4. Do they reach out on a special day that is important to you? Your birthday, your dog’s surgery or the last day of Mercury Retrograde? Do they know what is important to you? If they haven’t asked, they likely aren’t interested.
  5. Do they use guilt as a way to control your time? Relationships are a two-way street. If there is an ultimatum list of things you must do to get them to care about you. Walk away right now.

I think I was looking for more because I wasn’t engaging with people who cared back. Once I released the people who didn’t care, my life began to fill up with people who did. This past week I went for lunch with two friends from my teaching days. We’ve met yearly for 15 years since we stopped teaching together. It takes us all day to catch up and we send notes to each other all the time. When one of our mothers died, I asked, are you okay and she said no. We immediately went to each other. Then I had another lunch date with a gal who I  see weekly – or almost weekly. Just an hour, but the regular catch up is reciprocal. It’s lovely. I text my sister and sometimes she texts first. I invited my aunties over for tea once every one hundred years, but when we meet up, it is amazing. My mom calls me every Sunday morning and we catch up for a half-hour.  She lives in Europe so call all the time isn’t easy. We make time for each other.

I wasted a lifetime trying to get people to care about me. Here is the kicker, once I accepted the idea that there was nothing I could do to make them care about me, a new person popped into my life. I spent a lifetime being supportive, remembering details, supporting these people when they had no one. I don’t think they have even noticed I am not in the picture anymore. I just faded away. I finally believe they don’t care. I was lonely the whole time I tried to get them to care. Walking away has brought new people who actually care about me in my life. How do I know?

  1. They call me to ask to hang out.
  2. They ask me about my dog, kids, work, hobbies, my book, trips, sadness and happiness.
  3. I receive tiny surprises, a note, a text, photo, a coffee or candy for no reason.
  4. Hugs are tight and I feel them giving me energy not just taking it.
  5. They remember important days, my birthday, an interview, surgery or a doctor’s appointment.
  6. They ask about my welfare because they actually care.

I think about the years I have wasted trying to be someone special to people who just didn’t want me. It breaks my heart and now I want a do-over. Believe someone when they treat you like they don’t care because they don’t. And that is okay, you aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Let them go and hold space for those people who do care. All we can do now is do better.

 

Sankalpa

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I have been trying a lot of new things lately in an effort to find my tribe, my people, my kindred spirits. If you watch Anne with an E on Netfilx/CBC or have even read the book or series by LM Montgomery, then you know what I am looking for.

kin·dred spir·it
/ˈkindrid ˈspirit/
noun
plural noun: kindred spirits
  1. a person whose interests or attitudes are similar to one’s own.
    “I longed to find a kindred spirit”

     

I have always been the odd duck surrounded by people who want to hang out with me. I am the stranger in a room full of friends. Since forever I have looked for people who think like me and who share the same values.  Sharing the same interests is nice but not a requirement. I have always wanted to feel or experience a connection knowing they were the person or people who belonged like me. The tricky part is allowing this to happen and to force the situation.

I have tried out various groups and types of people and this has resulted in a very large group or base of people I like to spend time with on occasion. Allowing the situation to unfold is harder for me. I want to influence the direction in an effort to find my tribe.

Have you ever met someone that you feel an instant connection with? All you want to do is spend time with them or think about them a lot. Sometimes their life circumstances don’t match yours so you need to be apart or they are surrounding themselves with people who don’t fit with you. The hard part for me is not controlling the situation so they align better with me. Just allowing it to happen is hard for me. Maybe they will return to me or maybe they won’t. Either way, I value the time we had together and miss them when they are not in my life.

Recently I met a woman whom I connected with instantly. We share a common interest and enjoy spending time with each other. Our friendship is new but I have a good feeling about this. She is part of my Tuesday meditation circle and I look forward to attending regularly for a lot of different reasons, allowing life to unfold is a major part of why I want to attend. It has taken me 52 years to figure the art of allowing. Sitting in allowing is a new thing for me. Saying yes when an invitation arises is part of that and saying no when I feel uncomfortable is also important.

I have reached 1050 days of consecutive meditation using only three Sankalpa during that time frame. I was meditating irregularly since 1992. I started a daily practice on December 13, 2016. I sit in meditative silence for 30 minutes a day and an hour and a half when time allows for it – like weekends and vacations. I recite my Sankalpa three times to begin my meditation and offer gratitude. I end each meditation with my Sankalpa and an offering of gratitude. Three years ago, my intent was to be less angry or at least have somewhere to put the anger. I began every meditation with ‘I am forgiveness’.  Over time the anger subsided and I began to feel calm or neutral towards those who I felt anger towards. When I could think about those people without emotion, I knew I was able to move onto the next Sankalpa. That is not to say I don’t experience anger because I do, but it comes and goes like a leaf on a stream. I watch it as if I am detached. I see the anger and ask myself, what do I need to learn from this. It has been transformative and I am grateful. 

My next Sankalpa taught me about self-love and self-care. I cannot believe in me if I don’t care about me. I had a lifetime of believing what others said to me or about me. The greatest advice I ever received was “It is none of your business what other people think about you.” I sat with my Sankalpa ‘I am loved‘ since February 2019. The biggest change I see in me is boundaries. I don’t let bad things happen to me because I say no. I put me first and take care of me. This allows me to take care of others because my well is full. You can’t be kind if your well is empty.

In July a big change happened. I went back to my Sankalpa of forgiveness briefly and then resumed I am loved because I needed boundaries and I wasn’t going to let myself down. I think about 5-year-old me and she needs me to do this. So I sat daily. I found I needed a longer time in meditation. I gave myself that gift of time and went longer. I can’t explain what goes on for me during meditation because it is an experience that no one else has. Your experience will differ from mine, but we are all connecting because going inward is where all the answers are.

I began my ‘I am allowing’ Sankalpa about mid-September. I watch things float on a leaf down the stream. It is calm and peaceful in allowing. I am detached from anger and hate. I experience joy and happiness at a rate and volume I have never experienced before. I have no idea what is around the corner for me, but meditating daily for the last 1050 days has provided me with a gift I cannot explain in words. I seek out things and people that bring me joy. I allow situations I cannot control to wash over me. I ask myself ‘What do I need to learn from this’ when situations become uncomfortable. The inner me always has an answer. I trust my intuition and I know I got this. On my desk, I have a note I look at daily, “I am meant to live in peace”. You are too. It’s awesome living in peace. I want it for you too.

I am pretty sure it all starts with forgiveness.

Judgement

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I fell flat on my face, literally.

Friday morning I was walking my dog Cap and we reached the end of my block, so I was six maybe seven houses away. The road was uneven and my toe to caught the lip between the sidewalk and the street. I fell flat on my face.

  • My first thought was my new glasses, I hope they don’t break – they broke.
  • My second thought was, Cap come back! I had let go of the leash to save myself and put my hands out to protect my new glasses.
  • My third thought was, oh no Cap, don’t get hit by a car! He didn’t because he was saving me.

This all happened in the intersection. As most of you know, my acoustic neuroma creates an unbalanced life for me. I am used to navigating on the uneven pavement while my brain is telling me I am not upright. I am in a perpetual state of dizzy.  This is why I fell, I try to right myself but there is always a point of no return. When it happened at Disneyland in the Haunted Mansion, I had friends catch me. Here in Edmonton, my dog couldn’t catch me but he stood sentinel blocking cars from running me over.

Four cars, not one person asked me if I was okay or needed help. They all watched me struggle. All of them. Every single one.

I stood up and was disoriented. I took my sweet time. I couldn’t remember what my plan was. Apparently, I was to take Cap for a short walk and then drive my daughter to the train so she could get to class at the U of A on time. (I forgot to go home. I walked for two hours.) I got up, looked at my hands and touched my face. Then I walked to the middle of the intersection where my dog was watching the traffic ready to pounce and protect. I picked up his leash and we walked to the corner where I did a deeper diver of my injuries.

My left eyebrow was bleeding and numb. My left wrist and thumb were sprained and badly bruised. My right wrist was bruised, the palm of my right hand had rocks embedded deeply under the flesh. I took a moment to dig out the rocks I could see.

My glasses were bent, not scratched! (Thanks Universe!) But they were no longer in alignment and it made me feel unstable. I looked at the leash and Cap looked at me. Right, we were going for a walk!

I asked Cap which direction he wanted to go. He loves getting to choose. So we went North. I was still amazed that everyone stayed in their car and no one offered a word. People are disappointing.

Along the way, Cap took me past an apple tree, so I picked one. It was sweet and juicy with a hint of tartness. They were small but tasty. I suppose I stole it. So now I am a disappointing human taking what isn’t mine.

Further north, through the trees there was a pile of leave to trek through. I love the crunchy smell, I realized I messed up someone’s pile. I tried in vain to sweep them all back into place with my feet. Again, I was the disappointing human ruining some else’s work.

I expected Cap to turn right to go grab a snack at PetSmart. He walks in and sits at the til waiting for a treat. The staff are very accommodating and are happy to see him. But instead he turned left and we made our way to the local elementary school.  There is heavy construction building a junior high next door and there were cigarette butts in front of the site. this time people were disappointing. This made me think about what others are thinking and why can’t they just put trash in its place? Why is that so hard?

Disappointing strangers 2 Disappointing me 2 – score is tied.

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Along the sidewalk I noticed poetry etched into the concrete. Each meant something different to me. I was surprised at the amount of joy it gave me. When I came to the end of the poetry pieces I saw it was placed here by the Meadows Community League. The project is called Poetry Pathways, Love Letters to the World. I went to the website to learn more, “Poetry Pathways in the Meadows connects in practice and vision with the City’s Walk Edmonton project which understands that walkable communities are healthier, safer and friendlier.” Two pathways are located in front of schools and two pathways are located in community parks. I am going to take my pal Cap south next time to explore the other two poetry pathways.

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Humans do nice things.

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I suppose we are all guilty of being disappointing. But on the other hand, we all do some lovely things. I guess we shouldn’t be too quick to judge but instead look for the good things.

Listen

Day two of my Staycation had me exploring Whyte Avenue in Old Strathcona. When I was in my 20’s, I worked and played in Old Strathcona. It still is a place that I love to explore but I don’t get here very often anymore because to unwind I tend to head into the forest. It energizes me. Occasionally I need to be around people and that’s when I grab a friend or famjam member and head to Whyte Ave.

We popped into shops, bought books from Wee Book Inn and a tiny plant from The Little Plant Shop. We ate the best ice cream on the planet at Made By Marcus, saw cool and interesting things at the Plaid Giraffe and headed towards Chapters before it leaves the neighbourhood.

Along the way we spotted this sign:

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I was intrigued.

There were two people, one male and one female, sitting back to back with chairs in front of them. The female had a gentleman sitting in her chair and he was talking to her. Her partner looked at me and offered me a chair. Not one to miss an opportunity to try something new, I sat opposite him. He began to explain that he was there to listen to anything I had to say. He promised a safe environment where no one would know what we talked about unless I confessed a murder or something else that was criminal because he would have to report that. But other than that he encouraged me to talk to him about anything. My companion stood beside me and I asked them to leave because I wanted some private time with the listening man.

I looked into his eyes and felt compassion. He smiled and asked me what I wanted to talk about. So I began to tell him how angry and hurt I was over a situation I have been living with and I didn’t know what to do with the feelings. He asked questions that made me think and draw out the conversation. For the first time in a long while, I felt like someone was invested and interested in what I had to say. But me being me, I quickly turned the tables and began asking him questions about why he was doing this and to tell me his story because I am also a listener. He began telling me his story and then as if he could hear the sound of a needle scratching a record, he said “Whoa whoa whoa…You are supposed to be talking and I am the listener.”

I smiled because I am good at gaining other people’s confidences and getting them to talk about themselves. I explained, “This is what I do. I get people to talk so I don’t have to talk about myself.”

Listener: Why do you think that is?

Me: Easy question, it keeps me safe.

We continued the conversation and he had me thinking about my role in my relationships. It takes two to have a conversation. Equal parts sharing and equal parts listening. I do feel as if I trusted the wrong people and maybe that shouldn’t stop me from trusting completely. Not everyone can be who I need them to be, but I do need to accept who they are. I often feel like I take things too seriously when I should be practicing the social norm of How are you, I am fine type of conversation. But I detest small talk. I’d rather jump right into the conversation. I test people to see if they are loyal, trustworthy and kind. When they blow me off, I get my answer. I haven’t found the loyalty I am looking for. With people I am close with, I haven’t shared enough.

I do know far more about other people than they know about me. Listening man gave me lots to think about by just listening and asking the right kind of questions. I briefly fell in love with him while he listened and asked questions for clarity. It was a wonderful feeling to have someone be that …I don’t know the word….intense? Kind? Involved? Interested? Compassionate? Caring?

Me:  I am grateful you invited me to sit.

Listener: I am grateful you sat. I get as much from this as you do. Now, let’s circle back to your original story about your hurt and anger over that friend. What is it that you really want from them?

Me: <I thought about this for a minute or two.> I want them to say what they mean, be truthful and honest so it shows respect for me and my time. Show me that I am as important to them as they are to me. But what I really want is for everything to be different and that isn’t going to happen. I cannot change the past and turn it into something that never happened.

Me: I really appreciated this.

I reached in my purse and he was worried I was going to give him money.

Listener: NO NO NO, keep your money.

Me: Can I take a photo of your sign?

Him: Absolutely.

We shook hands and I stood to leave but I wanted to hug him. I thought about taking his photo but I knew his face would be etched into my memory forever. He was the kindest man, the type you suspect was an angel that came to chat with me because I needed it and he likely doesn’t exist in this realm.

I thought a lot about what he had to say and how he made me feel. I think that is the important part. He listened hard enough so I knew he cared and that made me feel special. I have been thinking about our conversation since.

As you go about your day or your week or the rest of the year when someone talks to you maybe you should listen. I mean really listen.

  1. Ask them questions so you can gain clarity. This helps them think you are interested.
  2. Don’t offer solutions, they just want an ear. If they want your opinion they will ask for it.
  3. Look them in the eye or gaze on their face. Check to see what they are looking at.
  4. Don’t make it about you. It’s not about you. It’s about them and how they feel. They aren’t thinking about you at that moment.

I haven’t been a good listener or a good friend lately. Listening isn’t as easy as you might think. But when you find that friend who is really good at it, hang onto them. They are a keeper.

 

Gratitude

As I sit here this morning with my coffee in my hands, I gaze out the window in my office that overlooks my back yard. The sky is blue, the leaves on the trees are shimmering in a light breeze and the flowers still look good considering the rain and hail they have endured this summer. One week left of what I consider summer. As an Edmonton gal, summer for me is only July and August. Even at that, it has been cooler than most people would like. I sat on my deck all day yesterday wrapped in a shawl and had a blanket over my legs. If I hadn’t been wearing shorts and a short sleeve tee, I am sure I would be fine, but its SUMMER damit and I was dressed in shorts. Even this morning, the back door is open to allow for fresh air as my pup sits and enjoys the summer’s end and its not warm.

Its been a hecken couple of weeks. Hecken is my daughter’s favourite swear word. I have taken to it fondly as well. The busiest two weeks of my summer of work things had me leaving work early on Friday and sleeping for four hours only to wake up to Fringe and then I slept for another twelve hours, ate some food and slept hard for another two. I worked hard for the last two weeks putting in all the hours the day had to offer. I still am sore and tired but I am no longer delirious and can actually spell my name: Robyn – see? It wasn’t a sure thing Friday morning.

Heading into those busy two weeks I was feeling as if I lost my best friend…I did. And I felt as if I would be alone for a really long time…I’m not. I had been meditating on loss for about a month. I was focusing on what I didn’t have instead of what I did have. I suppose grief does that for people. You look at what you don’t have rather than what you do have. I was grateful for my heavy workload because I was able to stay focused and in the moment. I was too busy to dwell on what was absent from my life. I knuckled down and got to work. I am incredibly grateful for having that at this time. What I didn’t expect was reconnecting with things at bringing me so much joy. Joy was the last thing I expected while feeling so low. I changed my meditation practice to gratitude and the most amazing things began to happen.

  1. Usually, in my line of work, you need to have a lot of plans in your back pocket anticipating failure or wrenches or bombs thrown into the mix. Sure we ended up going through plans A-H and maybe ended up with plan Q but it wasn’t stressful. It went very smoothly. There was an energy I didn’t expect. Everyone was happy, grateful and kind. It made everything worthwhile and I actually loved my job for the first time in 30 years. (I loved my first year of teaching – it went downhill from there). What do I think the difference was? Gratitude. I was never grateful for my job, my coworkers or any part of my work life. I was this time and my experience was a million times better than I ever expected. Every night as I tucked myself into bed I said, ‘Thank you”.  I was rewarded with more of the same.
  2. I continued to be grateful as the week progressed and I found myself in Southern Alberta. Everything that could go wrong from my hotel room being cancelled to not having resources to extend to those who required them. I even was detoured on my route a few times and none of this made sense. I was rewarded with not feeling angry and defeated. I even got the sense that all of these roadblocks were there to prevent something worse from happening. Who knows what that might have been. In the end, it all turned out better than imagined. I continued to say “Thank you” at the end of the day and as I opened my eyes in the morning, it was my first thought. Thank you altered my frame of mind and kept me calm. Sure it could have been better but it could have been much worse.
  3. I have been searching for someone or something for a while. I haven’t found it in the people I know. I can’t tell you what it is I am looking for because I don’t really know myself but I can tell you I will recognize when I do find it. I have been treating myself better and I have acknowledged that I deserve better than the way some people treat me. Sure they have reasons, but I still deserve better. I think I have finally broken the unending pattern of abuse I have lived with since ‘the dark times’. I kept attracting people who treated me the same way. This happened in my personal and professional life. I would end it and a new person or situation would pop up teaching me the same lesson. I finally recognized it as a pattern. I purged all those people and have left space for them if they want to change and be kinder. I don’t expect them to. I am grateful they were in my life. I learned a lot and let them go. As soon as I did that, two old friends resurfaced. They were always kind and loving but I don’t think I was a match for them. I am now. Gratitude amplified my vibration and now I feel connected to them. This makes me incredibly happy.
  4. I grew up with a sense that you have to do everything to be valued. Let me be clear, it was never told to me or expected of me, it was just something I saw and therefore placed those expectations upon myself. Do more, be more, ignore your health because you can do more when you aren’t sick. Fuck that. Being sick and nearly dying two Christmases ago taught me a valuable lesson. I matter, not my work, not how clean my house is, not how much I can get done in a day, not how little sleep I get so I can produce more, me – I matter. I am taking time after these past two weeks to sleep and rest and read and write. I am doing what I feel like, napping when my body needs it and only looking after myself at this time. Nothing matters if I am not around to enjoy it. When my well is full then I can do for others, but right now, I am replenishing the well and I am grateful for the time I have to do that.

I used to think gratitude was about being thankful for the things I have. My kids, my hubs, my home, my family, but I learned its more than that. It’s a feeling you live in. It the sun being in the sky every damn day, it’s the fresh air I breathe, its the clear taste of water, it’s having support, it’s giving when you can, its everything I touch and everything that touches me.  I am grateful for my new outlook.

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The Important Things

IMG_0178I have experienced a shift. Things that used to be important to me just aren’t any longer. I know people who talk about their bucket list in terms of things to buy or things to acquire. The bigger the house, the more expensive the car, the size of a diamond engagement ring – all really important to these people. I am not sure what it means to them. I did go through that phase. There was a list of things I want to own, certain jewelry I wanted to possess and when I had them, I didn’t feel better/stronger/smarter, I felt less than. Things didn’t fill my well like you hope it might.

When I spend time with people who are still in this phase or mentality, it makes me feel sad. As if I am wasting my time. I could be learning, doing experiencing or helping, but instead, I am watching and listening to values that are not reflected in me. I consciously spend less time in that environment because I never want to be like that again.

This takes me down a path of thinking about values. What do I value and what do I want? I have spent the last ten years thinking about what I don’t want. Now that I am 52, I don’t want to be around angry and mean people. I don’t want to condone abusive behaviour. I don’t want to waste money on stuff that has no purpose. I don’t want to hurt people. I don’t want to see crimes against humanity and spend time with people who justify it. I just don’t.

What do I want? This was a harder list to come up with.

  1. I want to show kindness to people. It’s not always easy but I try my best.
  2. I want to support ethical businesses. Are they fundraising for white extremists? Are they providing a living wage to their employees? Are they abusing the environment?  I don’t know all the answers but when I learn that our values don’t match – I look elsewhere.
  3. I want to laugh. This is what feels best. We are living in dark times and I enjoy dark humour – but… It’s a big but. I never again want to hear or participate with someone making a joke at another person’s expense. Laughing at a person for what they are or how they look is never funny, nor is it reasonable to judge and roll their eyes because people prefer a pink Maserati or their shorts are really short. What people do and who they are should be respected. It goes back to kindness. This also applies to self-deprecating humour. Just because someone laughs at you doesn’t mean you should beat them to the punch. Your soul doesn’t know the difference. Be kind to yourself and laugh at real things that are funny.
  4. I want to experience nature things. The world is full of magical things. Some can be explained by science and some things science can’t explain yet. I want to experience those things. The vortex energy of Kamloops, Sedona and Mount Shasta sound cool. The midnight sun in the Yukon and Alaska – it was cool in the NWT, experiencing it as an aware adult is my net big thing. The strange tides of the Bay of Fundy. The lava flow of Big Island. The Blue Lagoon of Iceland. Ice Canyon walks in Jasper. Berry picking on the shores of Fraser River. I want to dip my toe in all the great lakes and watch a beaver build a dam.
  5. I want to experience man-made things that interest me. Sea Glass Beach in California. Judy Blume’s nonprofit book shop (NON-PROFIT! Why can’t all book shops be not for profit? Why can’t all stores be not for profit?) Writing-on-stone provincial park. Star Wars Galaxy Edge. Cavendish PEI. Souris PEI. I want to take the train from Vancouver to Halifax. I want to explore Ottawa and see Parliament Hill – I’ve seen the White House but never important places in my own country.
  6. I want to meet people and ask them their story. You can fall in love with anyone if they let understand them. I hope this will lead me to find my people. So far, I have not found many, only three and I live with them. I need to let people in more. I will see where this takes me.
  7. I want to learn new things, take classes, watch people who excel at their craft, listen to instructions and absorb all of it.
  8. I want to make food that is so delicious you’d think it was the nectar of the gods. My pies are close but my dinners are not.
  9. I want to sleep through the night and wake up without an alarm. I have done this a handful of times. It was delicious. The weight of worry sometimes impedes this. I am getting better at letting go.
  10. I want to experience being a grandma. I miss baby cuddles and the smell of baby heads. I miss little laughs and the surprised look of wonder. If I somehow miss out on that experience, I will take myself to the nearest place looking for grandmas to hang out with wee ones and read all the best books.
  11. I want to live in peace. I think we are all meant to. So let’s agree to disagree. Let’s look for good instead of judging the bad. Let’s spend time with people who celebrate good. Let’s lie less and truth tell more. Let’s be sensitive to people’s feelings and respect them. It’s okay to remove people from your life who bring conflict and don’t allow for peace. Don’t be deliberate with hate. Be deliberate with kindness. Look at who you surround yourself with. Everyone deserves peace.

Mister Roger and His Helpers

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Did you see the new trailer for A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood starring Tom Hanks? I did. I cried.

Did you see, Won’t you be my Neighbour? A documentary about Mister Rogers? I did. I cried.

I am surprised to see so many people happy and excited about this story and talk about Fred Rogers’ legacy. When I was a kid, people (adults and peers) called me a baby for watching it. I didn’t care. I watched it until I was 12. This was the first time I remember doing my own thing and not being influenced by others. I didn’t get influenced by people’s opinions until I was older, then I made the mistake of listening to people. That was stupid. I accepted really bad advice and it destroyed me. I have been working hard every day since to get me back.

When I was little, I mean LITTLE like three or four, my mom dropped me off at the childminders while she worked downstairs. I liked that I could see my mom whenever I wanted. I liked that I was free to go on imaginary adventures or go on errands with the adults looking after me. I liked having access to the red cookie tin in the cupboard. What I didn’t like was the teenager who was also there. He was mean. And by mean, I mean abusive. Verbally and emotionally, never physically. He called me stupid and ugly. He was angry all the time. He was scary. My brother and I were never rescued from him, we were told to ignore him, but what do little kids know about that? We learned to fight back. But those words of self-depreciation linger in the brain for decades. Mister Rogers rescued me.

PBS, channel 9 out of Spokane, played Sesame Street, The Electric Company, Zoom and Mister Rogers. I fell in love with Kermit the Frog and Super Grover, Morgan Freeman and Rita Moreno, learned nifty facts and felt peaceful with Mister Rogers.

I cry thinking about how safe I felt with him and he was on TV – not even in the room. But the way he looked into the camera and directly at me, made me feel special. He told me I was special. He was deliberate with kindness and gentle words. I remember him talking about being scared and looking for helpers. When I was five and began kindergarten, I was able to go to my great grandmother’s home after school. She sat with me every day after school to hear about my day. She asked me questions to understand my story better. We had tea and digestive biscuits with cheese and sometimes peanut butter pirate cookies. But every time I was in her presence she would look me in the eye and make me feel special. The same way Mister Rogers did. Now I had two adults who told me I was special and I mattered. I can transport myself back into my ‘Little’ Gram’s kitchen in an instant. She had her spot at the large round table that no one ever sat in and I sat beside her. I can still smell Red Rose Tea steeping in the corning wear teapot. I remember looking out into the back yard and seeing the rusty old swing set. Later on, that window was covered up by a three-season addition and it made the kitchen dark, but it still felt the same.

Maya Angelou said once you forget the things people do but you always remember how they made you feel. Mister Rogers and Little Gram made me feel important and special. I think my Little Gram was one of Mister Rogers’ helpers.

Maya Angelou told Oprah once, “You will never know what your legacy is.” Mister Rogers’ knew he made a difference to children but the vast reach of his influence he never truly knew. If a little girl in a small town in Alberta was affected by him, imagine how far his reach was after decades of being on TV. I am sure it is infinite.

As an adult, I take the time to listen to kids and ask questions to understand the story better. I let people know they are special and they matter, especially to me. Knowing you matter is one thing, but knowing you matter to someone is extra special. I have become one of Mister Rogers’ Helpers. If you need me, I am here. If you are abusive, I wish you well and send you on your way because kindness matters.

Think about your words. You may think they are kind – but would you like them to be spoken to you? Kindness matters, it’s your legacy. You have no idea how many people you will touch that are influenced by your words. Thank you, Mister Rogers.

Words Matter

I am invisible. 

I am insignificant.

My feelings are inconsequential. 

These are phrases that I was supposed to own as my label. 

The  conversation began with “My wife doesn’t like you.” Then the conversation continued to list all the things that were wrong with me. If I wanted people to like me then there was a list of things I needed to do to win the respect of everyone and continue to be part of the group.

If you know me or even spend 10 minutes with me, then you can probably figure out what my reaction was. I walked away. 

What I didn’t expect was everyone else walked away from me. A line was drawn and I watch everyone from the outside. I see them continue to meet yearly and participate in the hurtful hate rhetoric that is fundamental to their persona. I see others become pawns and are used or victims of hate speech or inappropriate actions that are meant to be ‘fun’.

Words matter. 

I thought I was done. 

I am confronted once again with a cast ‘mean girls’ (obviously a metaphor because no one is a girl). Not allowing people to sit with you at a party. Sacrificing teamwork for process  to force people into a box. Accusing a disabled man of unspeakable crimes so they can maintain money and power. Using words in a passive-aggressive manner as an effort to manipulate. Casting out people who have always worked hard to support you because a charlatan told you a story and you believed him. Lying about your situation so you can gain sympathy. This weighs heavy on me and my instinct is to walk away because high school was a long time ago. 

Words matter.

When I look at this repetitive scenario I think why am I doomed to repeat this endless cycle of hate speech and abusive patterns? Because self, you haven’t finished learning the lesson that stems from this. I asked myself through a series of reflections and meditations, “What do I need to learn from this?” 

It came to me on Saturday morning, 3:00 am to be exact. I need to show leadership and stand up for the underdog. I need to facilitate teamwork. I need to role model kindness. I need to be the change I wish to see. It won’t change the world but it will change my corner. This isn’t a Us vs Them scenario. This is an opportunity to raise everyone up to the same level. Fight the good fight.

It reminded me of my dad. 

When I was twelve, my family was eating at McDonald’s. A woman was standing in line screaming at her young daughter. The girl was sobbing on the floor and clinging to the leg of her mother begging her to stop. The women kicked her repeatedly. The restaurant was silently looking on in horror. My father stood up and walked over to the woman and demanded she stop. He said, “You don’t kick children, children are helpless. What is wrong with you?” The woman told my dad to F*** himself and mind his own business. He said no. He wasn’t going to let her kick the child.  It was like a switch went off in her. She stopped but continued to hurl abusive insults at my dad. He stood there like a shield absorbing the hate to protect that girl.  He eventually joined us again for and finished his dinner. My brother asked why he did it. My dad replied, “Because it was the right thing.” 

Since that day I have always made an effort to do the right thing. To protect children and animals because they are fragile. I made a career out of advocacy and non-profit organizations. Recently I have expanded it to warning women of predatory behaviour from men I know. I advocate where I can for indigenous rights because as a white person, I have the power to get other white people to understand. I remind people to say women instead of girls when referring to adults. All of these are superficial things that are easy to do. I ask questions that get people to think about standing in someone else’s shoes. But now I am back in the thick of it and am the recipient of hurtful actions and language. I know I am not alone. I think I am one of the helpers Mr. Rogers tells you to look for. I need to roll my sleeves and help for real. Stop taking the easy way out.  Put words into actions because, words matter. 

Journalist Joshua McKerrow explains it better than I can. Give this a read because, words matter.