Powerlessness, resistance and hope

There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called Yesterday and the other is called Tomorrow. Today is the right day to Love, Believe, Do and mostly Live.”  Dalai Lama XIV.

Such a beautiful quote., she thought to herself. Yes, this is the ultimate goal, to be able to think in this way. All will be well right? She was angry, furious, a rage just seething inside. Well her yesterdays were being played out right in front of her, today, except she was not the star of the movie. Her daughter, her heart, was playing the role. The story had been modified a bit. In her opinion, it was worse, far worse. So she could not do anything about her yesterday. She was worried about tomorrow. She knew she was powerless over tomorrow too. Today was unknown. For the moment she had a text confirming her heart was okay. She could not believe the determination her heart had to destroy herself. To harm herself, to treat herself with such disregard. Is this what she had taught her? Is this who I am? Life is a reflection, mirrors. Fucking mirrors. She wished she could break them, smash them into a billion pieces. Reflections of inside were all over her house too.

She had destroyed old plates when her mother passed, and then more when the father of her heart passed barely two months later. She had kept it together. She had not self-destructed. She had healed that part of herself. She knew her life was worth living, she reminded herself of all her blessings. But she was very aware of the anger boiling up inside and would release it by screaming, punching and breaking things. Like a child. Perhaps she never had wanted to grow up, but in life there are things that cannot be denied and growing up is one of those things. Recently there was an incident. A bomb exploded and she was the furthest thing from calm. She recalled those priceless moments in her life when she felt so serene and at peace, no matter what was happening around her. Where did that go? Look within, look within look inside. Sure, she remembered that too. She could not find it there and outside, she had destroyed her TV, more glasses and there were marks on the walls.

Maybe she was perceiving recent events as bombs and maybe they were not so bad. Maybe these talks she was having with her heart were exaggerations, maybe they were not true. She laughed sarcastically, «yeah right, wishful thinking, sticking your head in the sand, just deal with reality» At least her heart was talking. She recalled years ago, the therapist had said that to her when her heart had started talking but they were not all true stories. What was important was that she was talking. When it came to her heart, she was not very adept at taking things calmly, with a fair, logical approach. Anything that could harm her heart had the power to set her off. This is where she was the weakest. Her heart and the two boys. The thing that was killing her was her heart was harming herself. Sure there were unsavory elements that were helping and participating but even she knew that removing outside elements would simply be replaced with new ones. The fucking roots were her heart and her choices. How do you help someone remember their self-worth and self-love? She found it years ago in meetings, books and reconnecting with herself and her family, especially her mom. She still practiced that every day to the best of her ability. She remembered and always would.

She thought of her parents. She talked to her family and her second dad. She always thought he had a calming effect on her mom. So she reached out to him. He understood and told her all they did was love, love and have faith. They did not judge. They ensured they were always there for all of us. She decided to do that for her heart. She would do what her mom did. Then she thought, wait I cannot sit by and do nothing. Is being there and reaching out nothing? Is spending time with someone nothing? Is texting and calling and telling someone you love them nothing? Should she stage an intervention and wreak havoc in many people’s lives with the goal of restoring later calm, for the good of everyone? While it would be a good action step, she was not sure it was the right action. How could she be sure she would be saving someone by forcing an intervention and removing them by force from harms way?

She aligned with the partner in her hearts life. He was being very supportive. A friend had reached out and met her for coffee. She was an action person and she was grateful for her advice. She decided to make a plan. In this plan was the intervention. Down the road. First, she had to keep going at work. She had recently been promoted. She was now a senior manager in the advisory department, in risk consulting. The irony still baffled her. Advisory services and she could not even give the people closest to her any advice that was working. Risk consulting and there was no measure, no control to prevent or stop this shit show. She had plans with her heart that week. One of those included going to a meeting. She would go with her happily. She was looking forward to it. She was also babysitting this weekend. This was good, keeping contact with family and spending time together. This was an action step.

The meeting went as well as could be expected. It was their talk before the meeting that had her in shock. She was feeling numb and could not process what she had heard. She reverted back to the stoic self, all to disguise the hell stirring up inside. Smiles were met with half smiles. She could barely endure the hugs. She wanted to throw things and scream, but she could not. Keep it together, keep it together, never let people see you sweat. So she observed. herself, her heart, the people. She tried to feel nothing. Just breathe and stop thinking. Stop thinking about the what ifs, what if this happens or that? That is not now. That was tomorrow or later. Now was back in focus.

She reflected on one pressing question, given her own issues with substances in the past, how she had overcome them, why was this still prevalent in her life? She felt like she was surrounded by this. Her own boyfriend had issues. She was a master at managing that. She did not expect anything from him. She had given up control totally. Or was it just giving up.? Who knew……………..now her heart was going down that devils road. Why? Why could she get out and others could not or would choose to even go there? What the fuck was it that she had not healed in herself that just kept presenting itself in her life?  Unanswered questions. Life does not happen to you it happens for you. She remembered that quote. It was not helping.

Then there was the text – I am okay. She was relieved. Just for now, things were ok, not what she wanted, but at least her heart was safe. Safe. There was a time where she had been looking for safe. She did not even know what that meant anymore and was not sure it was even what she wanted anymore.  Then the phone call. She was relieved, they made plans for next week. Tuesday and Friday. And today there would be her little one. She would live today and play and all thoughts of death, overdose would just have to go away. She remembered her blessings, her family, friends and her work. They had kept her semi sane this week. She reflected on those principles that had and continued to help. She was being honest with those who mattered, including herself, she was even being open minded to various approaches, and she was certainly willing. But she could not be all those things for anyone else. So she remembered the serenity prayer. It applied, even to her own life. She was no longer struggling with addiction, but she sure was struggling with her heart’s.

She said to herself « 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.» Oh and could she please try to stop breaking things as well. This habit was starting to be costly. Just for today, just for now, this would have to be enough.


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To should or not to should – that is the question.

What is the goal of this piece? What is the central theme? How will it flow and present itself? How will this piece be laid out? How will this piece end? What is the conclusion? This is what I ask myself every time I write. I have not written a full piece of anything in over a month. The last time I wrote, I could not even finish it. I just read it – I stopped at the part where things went from fun to a nightmare. My daughter has mentioned to me at least once per week that I should write. I know she is correct. I know I «should» and still could not bring myself to write. I even re-read my last piece «As Good as it Gets». It is cute. I liked my life at that time. There was acceptance, there was a beginning, a middle and a nice end. Just looking at this paragraph, I can see that my writing is a reflection of my life. The same questions I ask about my piece can be asked about my life. I have a lot of questions at the moment. I used to believe whatever I put «out there» «should be» a positive force. Something good, not destructive. My writing was supposed to be good for me. A safe way to express myself. Safe – What is safe? Why look for or even desire safe? Is that not being afraid? Why all the questions? I think maybe I am onto something with my questions. It brings me back to when I was a child. I was curious. How do I know this? My mom told me. The thing is, I find myself questioning myself a lot these days. I also question other things, and they are large and relate to world events and baffle me even more.  Quesitons? Oh I have a few……………

How to deal with loss?

That one I thought I sort of understood. Feel it, accept it, and understand that the person is not dead, they are «non-physical». Their sprit is with you all the time now. You never have to miss them, they are «there». I felt so solid and confident in my ability to feel. When it happened this year, twice, I did not run away and get fucked up on substances in order to feel numb – I was so proud of myself. I thought I had experienced it correctly. As I «should». I felt my feelings. I cried. I accepted to the best of my ability. I did not focus on my questions as to why? I did not focus on my questions of unfairness or mistreatment by certain individuals in hospitals. No, that was the «blame game» and in my new belief system, there was no room for that. Accept and feel, accept and feel……….oh and then that means I should move the fuck on with life. Suck it up buttercup. You got this. Now be strong and carry on.

My mom – I miss her. As I stated, I believed that I «should not» miss her because she was non-physical, therefore she was with me all the time. Blah, blah, blah. It is not fun to mock oneself, but I am doing it anyway. The plant I named after her is still special to me and helps me more than words can express. But my mom, in her physical form, her cooking, her laugh, her eyes, her talks, her words of encouragement, her unconditional love, and her hugs are things I find myself missing. I feel oddly alone at times like a lost little kid. I also feel sad. You see all those above coping mechanisms, and they are good ones – feel and accept I mean – «should» make this go away. That is what I thought. I realize this feeling will probably never go away. I am sad just writing this.

I am told this is normal. That is wonderful, to be «normal». Maybe I had some expectations about myself that were unrealistic. This «should» word is coming into question. Only where is the answer? Maybe I should stop «shoulding» my feelings into a beginning, middle and an end. Maybe there is no end.

How to help someone else go through unspeakable loss?

I just read an article about what we «should do». My daughter also lost two loved ones this year, her grandmother and her father. Ouch. She adored her dad and they did not have the healthiest relationship for many years. However, in the last 4-5 years, their relationship was on a good track. The loss was sudden, unexpected and a total shock. One thing the article said we «should do» is manage our own feelings first. I am beginning to think that with my daughter I am the blind leading the blind. As I stated above, I thought I had «managed» my feelings. That is funny – manage and feelings. Makes me think of managing water. Good luck with trying to control water. Feelings and water – cannot be managed, but I digress……….Apparently I did two correct things, according to the article. I told her I did not know what to say and I listened. Did it help? Not so sure. She started having panic attacks, so severe she ended up in the hospital. She was given medication that I was against in the past, but now had to accept because it was helping her. Pills are bad- people «should not» take pills to heal anything. That is what I believed. There’s that should again. The pills are helping with the panic and anxiety disorder she has developed. Not having answers and listening are not.  Well not enough.  I feel powerless – in some circles this is a wonderful thing to admit. I am powerless over my daughter, how she feels, what she does. I am NOT powerless within myself – how I react, how I think, my choices. Now if I could just find myself again – that would be great.

Sailboat

What about alcohol?

So alcohol is a drug. It does not interact well with the pills my daughter is taking. I know this because it almost caused her to choke to death. These pills do not interact well with alcohol – at all. Not even a 1 ounce drink. My youngest grandson, William, turned 1 year old on August 29th. On Sunday September 3rd, we held his official birthday party. My daughter asked me if I could host it at my place. I loved the idea and was so happy. I prepared a delicious roast beef, if I do say so myself. I bought balloons and decorations to make the place look and feel special. I am a kid at heart and I wanted this day to be so very special. It really was. Special. In more ways than one.

I found the perfect gifts, the prefect cake, the perfect balloons and decor. The perfect finger foods, the perfect everything. Tessie was in full bloom. Moving along………….my daughter arrived with my little ones and her boyfriend / father of the kids. My simple apartment was full of love and positive energy from all the joy, laughter and love.

My boyfriend offered me a mojito. I happily accepted. My daughter also said she would try one. She never drinks. I can count on one hand the number of alcoholic beverages she has consumed in her life. The mojito was a very balanced and weak drink. It was refreshing. Jade was enjoying it very much. We ate, she prepared Williams cake. He smashed it up into bits and was covered in icing. It was then that things went very bad.

Jade started to react as if she had been drinking all day. She was dizzy and incoherent. I could not believe this was happening after one drink. There was no abuse. Only moderation and enjoying an accompaniment to the day. It was not required, it was simply enjoyed. Until that moment.

We had her lie down in my room. The kids were happy and playing. Her boyfriend took her pressure and monitored her and we all thought she was fine. I got this odd feeling and decided to check on her. I am glad I did because she was lying on her back, choking. I rolled her on her side and she was able to release whatever was ailing her. Thank God I had the instinct to go check on her. What about alcohol? It is a drug and sometimes one really is too many. And sometimes it is not. I suppose it depends on the individual, and so many other factors. One thing I do know – a glass of wine with my second dad is one of my favorite things to experience. It is our thing and whether I should or should not – I will continue having that glass of wine with him, whenever the occasion comes up. Well that is one question resolved for the moment. I stopped «shoulding» myself on that one.

How does one manage feelings?

As I mentioned above, in order to help someone else grieve loss we «should» have managed our own feelings before focusing on the other person. So how does one manage feelings? Example – I was recently fortunate enough to travel for a work related project in Kitmat, B.C. This allowed me so stopover in Vancouver and visit my dad, my friend Lisa and this time Leah too. I had not seen Leah in 25 years. She was my best friend at the time. We were like kids looking forward to Christmas. We spent the day walking and talking. We walked all the way to a beach about 1 hour from her house. We talked for hours there. Anyone who knows me, understands I love the beach and the ocean. I was thrilled we chose to do this activity that day. When it was time for me to leave, I realized I didn’t want to leave. I realized how much I had missed her. She is like me in so many ways and we are so different too. The interesting part is that neither of us judges the other for the differences. It is an unspoken acceptance of the way we both are. She is so open about herself, and I, in turn found myself expressing things to her that only my daughter now knows, with no fear of being judged. I did not feel vulnerable. My last night in Vancouver I went for dinner with my dad and his wife for his birthday. It was the first time since 1985 that we were in the same city for his birthday. We went to a place called «The Boathouse». He wanted to celebrate my promotion and I wanted to celebrate his birthday. His wife was talking about activities that they enjoyed doing in the city because I was thinking about coming back to Vancouver for a personal vacation and had many questions about certain activities I had seen and wanted to do. She talked about how she gone on an outing with an old friend of hers. Suddenly I felt my eyes well up with tears, ready to overflow and I could not explain why. I was mortified. I typically do not get emotional in front of my dad for these unexplained reasons. She noticed and asked if I was okay. I tried to explain that I was fine but I suppose I found myself feeling something unexplained about my friend Leah. I had not expected to feel that way. Maybe that is why that day I had decided to walk the whole distance around Stanley Park. I needed to be with myself and just drink in the ocean, forest and beaches as much as possible. Almost like being at a buffet and binge eating before a fast.

I had such a wonderful time connecting with my dad, his wife and my friends. I even had time to do what I wanted to do alone. It was as if I had an abundance of time, activities and loved ones. With that comes an abundance of feelings. I still am not 100% certain how to manage feelings. I am not even I «should» try. I compare managing feeling to managing waves. You just don’t. You just let them be.

Waves

If not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck – what happens if you end up getting the thing you were at peace with not getting?

Yes, this happened to me. I ended up getting the promotion I thought I was not getting. I had realized that I was okay with not getting it. I had marvelous epiphanies because of not getting it. I was at peace, in full acceptance and happy, and then…………….a full 180 happened and I got it. What to do now? I am going with it. I will see where it leads and I am already seeing the wonderful learning experiences I am currently and will live through. I suppose I have a plan. Plans are to be approached with caution. Plans are much like waves too. You think you know how to body surf one – you establish a plan and then one wave comes along and tosses that plan to the sea – literally. So my root plan is to see how things flow and go with it.

But then, the greatest experiences come from throwing caution to the wind and taking risks. As I mentioned at the beginning of all this, what is safe? Isn’t caution much like fear and looking for safe? Where is the thrill in safe? It is ironic that my career involves risk management. Isn’t that ironic? Managing risk is much like looking for certainty. I am beginning to see there is no such thing. But we like certainty and because of that I have a job. As a result of my job I have some sense of certainty. Ironic. I have concluded that I cannot manage outcomes and I «should not» try. I am going to «should myself» out of that one too. All I can manage is my choices in response to the outcomes that are sometimes outside my control. Cute – outcomes, outside myself………..and remember….

Everything is always working out for me

Questioning the status quo?

Well this one is tough. In my experience one «should not» question the status quo or popular (read mainstream) opinion. Because I have a brain, I do. If it does not make sense I will question it. All these questions about how our western society is structured, the news, the politics, the economics, the effects on society, the impacts of religion, the beliefs that are 100% polar opposites to what certain religions preach. All of this is considered normal and I question it all. Yet, at the same time, I work in one of the most fundamental elements of the very structure I question – an accounting firm. Based in capitalism and business practices. I suppose I find myself relieved that I am a consultant whose objective is to help businesses and their operations. But then again, I cringe at severe cost cutting measures that put people out of work. I have opinions about the big corporations that are considered evil, yet I have learned so much from one of my larger clients. I have enjoyed working with most of the people I have met with this particular client. The people I have met are not evil. Their intentions are not evil. I feel like an oxymoron. I work the «9 to 5» job, actually more like 9 to whenever sometimes, but I do not see myself as a sheep.

I refuse to watch the news but I am told I «should» to keep up with trends. I must be informed, but I truly question the information that is meant to keep me informed. I look at trends with caution – trends are another word for status quo.

Politics is another subject I shy away from – so much energy invested in this and for what? Where is the benefit to the majority of people? Two sides of the same coin or three sides of the same triangle or four sides……..well you get the point. My perspective is they are the same. Are we really just sheep? If I have to be compared to an animal, I would like to be a wolf. Just not a wolf in the US, where they are perceived as a threat and shot to death. I conclude that I «should» remain curious and questioning.

What about mass tragedies?

Lately hurricanes have destroyed many islands in the Caribbean and other palces too. I know this because anywhere I walked it was all people were talking about. The news is now shown in elevators, subway stations, in hotel lobbies, everywhere. I felt so bad for all those people. I cannot make sense of any of it. Just as you cannot manage waves, you cannot manage Mother Nature either. I was angry at her. She destroyed places that in my view should be immune to such tragedies. It shook my belief in the one thing I did believe in – the Universe and its energy – that is my «God». I do not believe in any one religion. But even the Universe behaves strangely. I just do not understand it. Cuba is one such island. Their motto is «Be happy». Apparently they reacted to the hurricane in typical fashion. From one video I watched, they were swimming and dancing in the streets. They worked together to repair and rebuild. I hope the other affected areas succeed in the same way.

Weather

Mass shootings – the most recent one in Las Vegas – by one person with absolutely no history or motive. Very strange. I question the whole story. It does not make sense. I also predict that in the end, they will show evidence all over the news about this person and will have all the proof necessary – the victims need this closure. If I take this tragedy at face value-that one man did this – Maybe some new law will come about. Or maybe, just maybe, the powers that be will realize that civilians do not need automatic weapons to protect themselves? I have heard this way of thinking challenges the 2nd amendment (not sure of the number but I digress…..) but seriously, if I am guarding my home, I think these weapons are overkill (apologies for the unintended pun). Maybe, just maybe it is time to change those laws. I can hear the NRA screaming obscenities and yes I am totally challenging their apparent status quo. In addition, I also find myself wondering what else was going on that day that nobody knows about.  We are systematically fed crap to distract us from real issues. Alternatively, I suppose if Mother Nature can up and lose it in the form of a hurricane, so too can humans. We are a part of nature too. It is sad and makes no sense. Maybe we are trying too hard to make sense of things? It is what humans do – well some do – they analyse things to make sense of them and then try to prevent or control these things from ever happening again. Prevention is key in my business as well. I do not know what the «should or should not» is in these cases. I do know how I feel – a range of sadness to disgust depending on the nature of the tragedy. And compassion for those that lived through it. Powerlessness too – there it is again……………..

So what to do?

It is Thanksgiving weekend in Canada. For Hindus there is a festival of lights. Sounds nice. We received a message from the head honcho at my firm about being thankful for the people we work with. I am thankful. I agree with this – no question.

I also find myself thinking of other things I am thankful for. There is a list of things. I know many people cringe from feeling grateful or making «gratitude lists» when they feel like shit, betrayed, sad, depressed, angry, worried or hopeless. I understand. That article said it was one of the things to NOT do. They generally start the sentence with «Yeah, but…….or sounds great but……………or seriously, fuck that ,I feel like this right now……………» I respect that. I can relate because I have reacted that way and sometimes I still do. However, at the end of the day or in hindsight, it always puts things into perspective to reflect on what I am thankful for. Do I feel 100% better? No. Do I suddenly become happy and full of glee? No. Do I receive the answers to all world problems? No. Do I have all the answers? No. BUT! There is something calming and soothing, almost meditative about reflecting on the things, people, experiences, that I AM thankful for. In that moment, I am less (notice I did not say 100% relieved or cured) overwhelmed, worried, sad, angry, depressed, hopeless, and I feel more like myself. You know, the one that is at peace and just likes to be and accepts and loves herself. I am a human being after all.

So let’s give it a go – what am I, you, we thankful for?

Appreciation

My family, my friends, both near and far, my work, the people I work with, my clients, travel I have experienced as a result of my work and personally, my health (my body could use some work but back to the thankful list), my daughter (yes I worry about her, it is not a joke, I worry but she is here and talking to me more and more and I am listening even if I feel it does not really help, I am trying), my grandsons, (yes they are family, but in my heart they deserve a special mention) maybe I am grateful for being a grandma? Even if I am perceived as being old as a result and I do not like feeling old? Back to being thankful – being my age – it means I have lived this long. This is a privilege – to be alive and breathing. I can still kick too – so I am alive and not only breathing but kicking. I am thankful for my apartment, the two closed bedrooms, the location, the windows, my blue couch, pillow, and the open layout. I am thankful for public transit- because of it I no longer notice traffic so much. I am thankful for the free running water we have here. I am thankful for my plants, my peppers and tomatoes. I am thankful for my senses. I am thankful for nature – even if it pisses me off at times- the ocean, forests, mountains and beaches – these are elements that evoke wonder and awe within me. Seashells and the little things that make me happy. I am happy for my childlike wonder at simple things. I am thankful it does not take much to make me happy or smile. I am thankful for the unconditional love I have received in my life and can now try to give. I am thankful for the people who go through horrible conditions with grace and strength. I hate their conditions, but they are examples of human courage and ability to overcome adversity. I am thankful for that but I pause at why it has to happen for us to learn about such things. I am thankful I wrote today and for the 3 day weekend ahead.

I do not have scheduled plans but I love that. No «should dos» in the forecast. And on that note. I wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving in Canada and a happy weekend in general.

 

 

As good as it gets

I have been back at work for about a month now. My vacation was…..well………perfect. I suppose the sign of a good vacation is coming back and feeling ready to face whatever life presents to me. I had taken the time to re-energize or re-align myself. I felt like I was in touch with me again. I could breathe and I felt very solid- no matter what may happen.

In the past. I would return to work with a feeling of dread. As if work had the power to take away my feeling of inner well-being. Now I am not saying that I have felt perfectly fine during the last few weeks, but suffice to say, I feel an odd sense of peace, despite what has been happening around me.

I had plans to meditate every single day, as I had at the beach. I had plans to stay active and do physical activity- as I had during my vacation. Oh so many plans. The reality is, I gave myself to my work and when I could, I would meditate. I have also discovered just being. I think «Ease» is the feeling I have been exploring. Allowing myself to take it easy. This time I was perfectly aware that it was ME making the choice, to take or not take, the time to do my planned list of activities. This time, I could not blame anything on work or outside circumstance. The freedom felt in just accepting that I may not always achieve my planned routine has been…beneficial.

The 180 turnaround

Work has been much the same, but slightly different. Last week, I received the news that I did, in fact, get my promotion. It is now official. In hindsight, I see the benefit in experiencing the exact polar opposite of this news before I left for my vacation. I had felt a sense of freedom, no matter what I was told back then, I knew then that I was deserving and good enough. I had become open to new and exciting opportunities. I still am, although they are currently with my firm. I may not know for certain what caused the 180 turn of events, but suffice to say, I think I have some clue. The lessons learned from that whole experience taught me that I no longer have to believe in other people’s perceptions of reality. My own count as well, if not even more. For example, the other day I started to get really stressed about a presentation I had to finish. A presentation that «presented» itself to me last minute with little time to achieve the planned objectives. I became aware that I really enjoy a challenge and I had invested and committed myself to this. Nobody forced me. Although I know that it is understood that I must do these tasks, another part me was very much aware that I wanted to nail it. I then realized that in my stressed out moment, I had bought into another person’s perception of reality. I was actually able to distinguish between my perception that things work out, desire to do well versus another’s perception of urgency. «Worry pas» is an expression my second dad always says, it means «don’t worry». We used to always say it and laugh, but now I am living it, or at least trying to.

I have been learning new things at work too. Proposals are something new to me. This is how we get new clients, business and projects. I had always wanted to be involved before, however now, I am in a position where I have to be. It is required that I become adept at writing proposals. Understanding the context, client needs and submitting a concise approach that reflects that are key. Sales, selling our team and myself in a concise, precise articulate way. I am new to this, Ironically, I had many review notes and did not react as I had in the past. This time, I did not feel unworthy or not good enough. I turned those suggestions into lessons learned and enjoyed the process rather than dread it. Yes, I will always be someone who will need to focus more on details, but I was able to produce good enough work, in my view, and still enjoy the detailed process. This is progress.

Acceptance and appreciation

In my soul, the memories of the ocean are never far away. I love remembering how the ocean and waves felt. I enjoy finding shops where ocean and beach items are sold. Case in point. Many beach and ocean themed stores have furniture that is wood, with a white tint. I adore the look. I am thinking of turning my mom’s bedroom furniture, given to me many years ago, into my new project. The furniture currently has a green tint and always reminded me of spring. My mother had done that all herself. I could never bring myself to dispose of the furniture despite the fact that it is «old». My project is to sand it and tint the wood white – to resemble the furniture I have seen in beach homes, cabins or even huts.

Ocean

In my little piece of the world, I have noticed myself appreciating what is around me. I can list a number of things that upset, worry and anger me. I know this. However I am learning acceptance and awareness of how I feel. In addition, I have noticed that I find myself looking at the things I do enjoy and really focusing on them. Case in point, I recently went for a walk along the Lachine Canal, there were boats on the canal.

 

It seemed busier than usual. The Atwater market is just 10 minute walk, maximum, from my apartment and I found myself really appreciating being so close to local farmers. I purchased fresh blueberries and strawberries and other local produce. I loved looking at the flowers. They will forever remind me of my mother. I cried at the sight of some of them and did not mind one bit. You see I have become comfortable with tears. I know she is in a much better place. I also know that my tears are because I do not appreciate how she passed, and I miss her physically. And that is okay. It is perfectly acceptable. I feel very grateful to be able to accept myself in this way. It feels new. It feels like I did bring back a piece of my «Cuba self.» The walk on the canal is free. It costs nothing. So many people, all outside, co-existing, enjoying nature and life in their own way. There is a boat called «Canal Lounge» where you can go eat, drink and be merry. During my walk, I noticed a man playing the trumpet by the water, jazzy blues. It was the perfect accompaniment to that afternoon by the water.

 

I look back on my life in the last few weeks and I feel very blessed. I have a wonderful family. Being able to see them for a visit, dinner or just call and chat on the phone matters to me. I had dinner with my brother and his girlfriend, and, not long after I had dinner with my second dad. I really enjoyed those dinners. I had been somewhat worried that those family dinners would no longer happen, now that my mom had passed. They still happen, they are just different. That is perfectly acceptable too. I have come out of my little bubble and re-connected with an old friend. She has some issues with her health. I was able to be there for one of her treatments. We just sat and talked at the hospital. I had never felt comfortable doing that before. I felt inadequate and felt I would not know how to help or do anything of value. I feel differently now. It was an honour to be there with my friend.

My daughter is going through difficult times. I cannot say I am not worried and I wish I could do more. However, even in feeling powerless, I know that just by being available to talk with her and listen, more importantly, is helping in some small way. Over the past few weeks, I was given the gift of a phone call from her. One time she called me at work. Why? Because she felt good. She was calling me to tell me she felt OK because she always calls when she is not feeling so hot. I have never cared when she calls. I am just happy she calls, no matter what. The fact that she called just to tell me that day was ok blew my mind and my heart. I am very blessed. Since that day, we speak even more than ever before. I enjoy listening to her talk. I had always hoped she would, but always respected her space. Well now we are chatty Cathy’s on the phone almost daily.

The self help people always say «Do what you love», or. I agree. That is one fine goal. However, these days, I am finding it pretty satisfying just being aware of how I feel, accepting what I do and loving what I have. I may not have the prefect boyfriend but I try to see his qualities. I know now I have enough boundaries set that no one can take advantage of me. I am no victim. That is progress. It is nice to know I can appreciate being accepted for who I am. I do have the perfect family for me and I have never really had many expectations from friends. I do however appreciate that they accept me for myself. My wonderfully «imperfect but perfect in my imperfection» self. Accepting what I do and have in my life is a perfect first step. I have found love in appreciating where I live, my family, my friends and yes, even my work. I hope it sticks.

In the news there is a lot of hate and now more recently, Mother Nature unleashed some severe weather in the USA. I dislike it. I am not comfortable with it. I am unsure how I can contribute to change, except for doing my very best to do no harm to people and to treat those around me, strangers or family or friends with kindness. Perpetuate my belief that we are all human. Race, religion and whatnot are simply labels created by man. However, in my personal life I do not experience this hatred. I have friends of all religions, race, colour, sexual preference and I love that. In the world it seems things are different. I am able to accept that I do not know what to do or have all the answers. I do know one thing – I do not condone hate, and I will not join in the hate. No matter who you are. I feel like this is another way to control people. Get people worked up over ancient issues that have been existent for centuries, distract them enough and they will not pay attention to what is really important. I will not play this game. I will not hate, or condone violence. And you know what? That is what I am capable of right now. I will perpetuate energies I consider to be more beneficial like love, appreciation, kindness, and tolerance, understanding and general gratitude.

Speaking of those principles, earlier this week, Louise L Hay passed away. She lived by the principles of love. She was one of my favorite authors. Her books have helped me immensely. Over the last few years I would find myself thinking of many of her «quotes» from her books. She really helped people learn to love life and especially themselves. I have carried her book «Life Loves You» with me many times since 2015. She also believed that you could heal yourself from many physical and mental illnesses. She wrote books about it. The world needs people like her in it. I wonder, will she be even more powerful in the non-physical? I smile as I think to myself that my mom and Natalino, Jade’s dad are also there. I had always hoped they would read her books when they were not physically well. Now they are all together.

I used to wonder- Is this as good as it gets? Today I think I am happy about how my life is. Perhaps another word would be acceptance. Perhaps that is the difference. Who knows, but until I do know, I will continue to focus on what I love. Until I do have my beach cabin by the sea, I will act as if I am there. I will walk along the canal, fall asleep to ocean sounds and recycle my old furniture into something that would befit a beach house. I will adore my plants and talk to Tessie, my African violet. Ironically, she is in full flower mode again, even though it is winter in Africa and this plant typically does not flower in the summer – well our summer. She is thriving too. I like to think she is my mom in physical form. Who knows but it sure feels good talking to her. The day I received the news about my promotion, I came home, there was a new flower. I sat with her, told her the news and thanked her.

On that note, I think the lesson is to love what you have and try to ignore the rest, I know it is not easy, but accept what is and focus on what is loved. This may not be as good as it gets, but boy am I happy my life is this good. And that makes all the difference.

When plans change

When I retunred from Cuba, I was really looking forward to a family trip. Initially, this road trip was supposed to be with my daughter, her boyfriend and my two grandsons. I had reserved a two bedroom cottage, The Beachcomber, at the Old Shipyard Campground, Spencer Island in Nova Scotia. Instead, because my daughter was feeling quite ill at the time, she suggested that I go with Aidan. I was not overjoyed that she was ill, however, I was happy to have this opportunity to bring Aidan to the ocean with me for the first time. The road trip to the ocean with Aidan was supposed to be for three nights.

Instinct told me to call to confirm my reservation because after giving my credit card information, I had not heard back. It just so happened, they never received that email. However, it also just so happened that they had a 1 bedroom cottage for the same number of nights available. Ironic that I no longer needed two bedrooms. They told me to drive safe and they would see us the next day.

We left Montreal around 3pm. He is quite the good little traveller. Road stops along the way were ensured to help Aidan not feel bored or restless. We would run around the trees and pretend they were magic forests. Indeed, they were. He would ask repeatedly «Where is the ocean Nana? » This warmed my heart because I felt the same way. Except I am an adult and I know it takes a while to get there. So I would explain that we had to get back into the car so we could get closer. No problems there.

I had promised him he would see the ocean before his head hit the pillow that night. We succeeded in driving to St John, New Brunswick. This choice was because there is a harbour there and, while my geography skills need improvement, I knew that was the «beginning» of the ocean. I was determined to keep my promise. We drove through fog, and darkness. There are moose in New Brunswick, so I was very cautious. We drove slowly, but we made it to the ocean by midnight. The place we stayed at for the night was next to the water. I showed Aidan the ocean before his head hit the pillow.

St John

The next morning, we had breakfast and left for our ultimate destination. Spencer Island. This place has meaning for me. I had never been there, but my second dad and mom would go there every year and they adored the place. Claude had told me about the tides and the ocean. How they would come in so high that they would almost touch the camper. He told me about the cottages. He told me about the serenity of this place. How you could fall asleep to the ocean sounds. I listened to him. Going there with Aidan was meaningful to me on so many levels. I knew I would feel my mom there and I knew she would be overjoyed to see her great grandson there as well.

It was about 3 hours away and Aidan was very excited. I had been told about the road there. It would twist and turn and then a clearing where the ocean would appear in full view. When I saw this, I told Aidan to look and see the ocean. We were beside ourselves with excitement. We were so very close. Then I saw this:

 

May 28th we are at a family gathering. My dad and his wife are in town. My daughter, son in law, grandsons, brother, sister in law, nieces are all together for brunch. They took Aidan for a walk by the river. It was time to leave and Aidan cried «I don’t want to go, I want to see the sea!!!!!!!!! »

I laughed and cried at the sight of that sign.

The couple that owns this campground knew my parents well. When I arrived I was, well, emotional. I said I had a reservation. I told the lady that my parents had been going there for years. She asked their names and then slowly, recognition crossed her face. She asked if Claude had a water company. I confirmed he did and then she said «We were just talking about them yesterday, wondering why they had not been here in a couple of years. » I explained why. She called her husband and explained what had just happened. They hugged me. We cried. They asked how many nights the reservation was for. I explained that it was available for 2 nights. She stated that a third night had just opened up. That was a no-brainer. I took it. They told me they had never seen a couple that enjoyed just being together so much, walking hand in hand on the beach, going for dinner. I agreed.

Our cottage was named «Sea Urchin» and it was perfect. Fully equipped and so cozy. The view from the cottage was perfection.

Interesting how the ocean is. In the Bay of Fundy, the tides are in, out and the ocean looks different every hour. Every day there is something new about it. No matter what, it is still the ocean. So many facets, so many changes, still it is the ocean. The tides are high or low. I suppose that is how life is too.

This location had rocky beaches. Aidan took to the beach immediately and played in the rocks. Aidan would run, trip and fall. He would get up and in minutes, all had passed and all was well again. He found seas shells, rocks and I did too. I even found my first piece of sea glass. One day, we walked along the beach for 2 hours, exploring, playing in the rocks, sand and finding our treasures.

We visited the surrounding areas. Lighthouses, cliffs with each view more breathtaking than the last. Each view of the ocean in all its glory, different that the last.

On the day we were supposed to return to Montreal, we decided to extend the trip. We went to Parlee beach, a beach on the ocean with sand. Aidan would love that. We made sand castles and when the tide started coming in, we were in the water. Aidan felt the little waves on his legs and started to laugh. I wish I had caught that sound on video. The sound of his laughter filled my heart. He sounded just like me. I laugh like a child when I play in the waves. I could relate to Aidan. We had a picnic on the beach. Then it was time to move on to our next destination. We chose Alma. New Brunswick, the Bay of Fundy, NB side. Always by the ocean of course. There was a quaint motel with rooms that had kitchenettes. We had bought food for our journey, opting to cook instead of eating out. We had a nice little dinner by the ocean that night. Aidan wanted to speak to his mommy, daddy and William each night. I loved this because I would get to chat with William. I requested one more night with Aidan and my daughter agreed.

Aidan settled down for bed and I decided to check my work emails. There was one from my partner entitled Personal and Confidential. He thanked me for responding to a client request. Then he informed me that they had decided to present me for a promotion to Senior Manager with a rating of 2. The decision of yay or nay was in progress. The exact polar opposite of what I had been told during my evaluation. I did not know what to make of this email. I was surprised. I had come to some realizations in the recent weeks about work. I went outside to reflect, by the ocean. In the silence I understood that this was out of my hands and I would let the Universe reveal what would happen with this. I let it go.

The next day I walked along the shore and thanked the ocean for a wonderful time, again. You see, there was fog in the mornings but it would always dissipate because of the sun. We had not seen a drop of rain this whole time.

We did not know which route to take on our journey home. I knew of Rocky Harbour, where there is a ferry, a huge boat that goes to Grand Manan Island. The trip is 90 minutes one way. Just anything to keep me on the ocean. However, we had just missed the ferry when we arrived. At that moment, my brother sent me a picture of his African violet that just so happened to have three beautiful flowers. It was my mom’s plant. It had not flowered since her passing. He was in Vancouver visiting my dad and my sister in law had informed him of this news. I was overjoyed for him. I too had purchased an African violet, named her Tessie, after my mom and she had given me three flowers just before my vacation started. It would appear that mom was watching over all of us during our vacations.

We headed towards Fredericton, away from the ocean but next to the St John river which eventually does lead to the ocean…………but I digress. We enjoyed a wonderful sunset that night, as we had every night of our vacation.

Sunsets 2Sunsets

Eventually we made it back to Montreal the next day. I promised Aidan to make a treasure jar with what he had found at the beach.  The following day, I left to go to Sainte Agathe in the north of Montreal. The following day it rained. I walked in the woods and enjoyed the rain. My first day of rain since my vacation had begun. I came across a stream. I decided I would return the next day. I had been hoping to see some animals in the woods, but they were absent that day

I was sitting by the stream in silence. Listening to the rustling trees and feeling the breeze. It was so serene there. A butterfly flew around me. I was surprised because I was wearing black. They are typically attracted to bright colours. It would not stop flying around me. Eventually it flew around my face and fluttered against my eyelid. I called out «Mommy» and it flew around me once more and then went on its way. On my way home, I stopped at Mont Tremblant National Park and saw deer within minutes of entering the park. I spent the rest of the afternoon at the beach. I thought of Aidan as I made castles in the sand with plastic beer glasses to the interest of little children around me that had boatloads of sand toys.

I suppose things do not always go as planned. I understand there is something precious in this when it happens. Trees, oceans, lakes, streams and nature in general hold secrets to life. This has been my experience in the last three weeks. No matter what the conditions, nature carries on with grace and finds a way to thrive. Every once in a while I feel that way. More so when I am alone, but slowly I am finding ways to be in that state around people. That was one gift of my time spent with Aidan and my vacation in general. Sometimes you really do need to talk with a three year old just to understand life again.

Wherever you go, there you are

I went to Cuba, not to explore the culture, but to take one week of time to myself to sit and relax by the place I love so much – the ocean. The thought of waking, meditating, swimming and just being by the ocean for one week felt like the perfect thing for me to do. One week may not seem like a lot, but then again, time is relative. I had little expectations for this week other than to be gentle myself and reconnect with my spirit. I felt like I was a human doing instead of a human being.  I was tired and this was my plan. Nothing earth shattering happened in 7 days. But then again, that is also a matter of perspective. What happens when you try to reconnect with your spirit and open your mind to letting things flow? To begin with, I flew through passport control and got my luggage in very little time. I got in the bus to the resort. The tour guide starts off by saying that in Cuba the motto is «Be happy – there is no room for complaints or sadness here. Just be happy». I laugh inside. I will do my best. I am the only person checking into this hotel. There is a terrace and I see palm trees and the ocean is in the distance. I can hear its waves. I go downstairs to explore a bit. The ocean is right down the stairs. I go to the beach. There is lightening, it is spectacular. I put my feet in the ocean. I have arrived.

Day 1

I slept until my eyes opened. All work out plans are out the window. I am going to explore this resort and figure out where i can get a «cafe negro grande» (Americano). The coffee here is delicious. The lady that served it to me is happy and dancing around. It is stunning here. I am noticing how my breath is deep and slow. I am relaxing. This is good. The ocean is calling my name. Time to go for a swim. I see a secluded place under the cliffs with a dot of beach. I decide to swim there. It appeared closer than in reality. I realize I have been swimming a long time now. Once there, I explore and, happy with my accomplishment, I swim back. I then lay back and let the waves do their dance. I am at peace. One nice side effect – work out for today is complete. I moved and did what I love, swam in the ocean. I am liking this time with myself. Me, myself and I are getting along just fine. Success number 1. I am lost in my bubble and hear someone next to me. I realize I almost bumped into this person. I apologize and laugh that I was in my bubble and then realize maybe she is French, I say «Désolé» (Sorry). She laughs and is very happy that I speak French. She too is from Montreal and here alone and is happy to make a friend. I go with this and it becomes apparent that she also likes her space and will not be imposing herself on mine. I say a silent «Thank you» to the Universe. I will call her Miss N. We make plans to eat dinner together at some point but nothing firm and nothing resembling commitment. Success number 2. I am sitting on the terrace and the palm trees are swaying in the wind, the sound is soothing and with the ocean waves, it is almost like the Universe is breathing or meditating. I see a tiny bird and notice it is a hummingbird. I am very happy to see this, I love birds.

At dinner, I am enjoying the mango in my plate and the song «Tears in heaven» plays. I feel tears rising, I am happy .My surroundings have not changed. I realize it is acceptable to let the tears flow and still be okay. I love my mom and Natalino very much. Success number 3.

Day 2

I wake up when my eyes open. I am going to the beach to exercise. I bring my music and start running. I am laughing. I feel a sense of freedom like I have not felt before. It is hot and humid but I run. Until I feel like stopping. I look around at the sand, the waves and the sky. I turn around and run back. I do this multiple times. I notice Miss N is also working out by the beach. I smile to myself. I can relate to Miss N.

It is now time to meditate. I feel this is a good place and time. My guided Davidji meditation is called «Awakening acceptance». I love this theme. I find the buffet and there is mango! My favorite fruit. I only eat fruit because this is all I feel like eating. So it is.

More swimming and relaxing. I have my book «Life loves you» by Louise L Hay. Today’s chapter is «Affirming your life». The question asked is «How would it feel to stop judging yourself»? I ponder on this for a moment. I realize that I would feel good enough, my mind would feel healthy enough. My body would feel good enough and healthy enough. I would be a good enough writer. I would feel capable, competent, and creative enough. My soul pure enough. I imagine I would love myself the way I am. I let myself feel this way for a while and I realize, if I am he thinker of my thoughts, then I can feel this way more often. I can notice when I am being unkind to me. Success for the day. I notice my mind reverting to work. It is thinking «check your emails». I notice this thought and let it float away, like a cloud. These thoughts come from doubt and / or worry and are not soul thoughts. The waves are crashing on the shore. I am going to play in the waves. I do not have to check my work emails. This is more in line with my soul.

Day 3

I decided to check out the gym. There is a stepper there that reminds me of the machine my friend and trainer has at her gym »Jacobs ladder». I decide to give it a try and do intervals for two minutes and then run on the treadmill. It is hot in the gym. I finish my session and decide to go for my mango. As long as it is available I will be eating it. Today’s meditation is « Awakening forgiveness». The chapter in my book is also on the topic of forgiveness. It asks on a scale of 0-100 how much I have forgiven various people in my life, including myself. The first time I had read the book, I had forgiven myself 58%. My parents and Natalino were at 90%.When I saw this, I felt sad. I realized from my previous meditation and now reading this, I had some forgiving to do. I went back to the waves and reflected on this for a while.

I hear music in the background. There is a band playing. I go closer to observe. There are people sitting, enjoying the band. I see a table of three men smoking cigars and having a good time. A table is free next to them. One of the men asks me if I am Spanish. I answer no, and he is disappointed that I do not speak Spanish. He looks like he is from Lebanon. I think of an old friend there. He looks a lot like him. They ask me to take a picture of them. I happily oblige. One of the men is not smiling so much. So I smile directly at him and say «Smile for the camera» and slowly but surely, by the third photo, I get him to smile. Yay me. I sit back down and enjoy the music. I have dinner plans today with Miss N. We are going to the international restaurant here. It has gotten rave reviews.

There is a group of violinists that are playing at dinner. They are extremely talented. The music is gorgeous. One of them comes to ask us what we would like to hear, so I suggest that they play something they love. This is usually where an artist will perform the best. They play Hallelujah. My heart swells and the tears rise because one of the musicians is just beautiful when he plays. His eyes are closed and you can feel the passion he has. Spectacular.

Play the violin for me, play it with passion, your eyes closed for all to see, you’re feeling. Our eyes meet but I look away, I cannot show you me that is not for you to see. Only an artist can expose themselves and right now, that is not me. 

Play the violin for me, I see me in you, the passion you feel, your eyes closed again as you play. I thank you for your artistry. As our eyes meet again, I do not look away. You see me, I see you, playing the violin, a beautiful melody.

 Day 4

I found a perfect spot on the beach. There is an area that is away from the main space. The massage gazebo is just behind it. There are tiki huts with tables. Close to everything but just secluded enough. There are towels on chairs but nobody there. There are two men standing at the last tiki hut with a table not reserved by towels. They ask if I would like the spot. I confirm but did not want to disturb their conversation. They happily let me have the spot and they step back and continue talking. Meditation today was «Awakening Gratitude». I have much to be grateful for. Today my thoughts are with my family. I am also thinking of Aidan and William, my grandsons and my daughter. I adore them. There is nothing quite like meditating by the ocean.

I am relaxed go swimming / playing in the waves. When I return, to my surprise, a man is sitting at the chair next to mine and has taken the other half of the table. I am surprised because there are a multitude of free chairs available. It appears he too thinks this is the perfect spot and has decided that there is only one resident under this tiki hut and therefore the other space is free. I nod hello as does he. We are both sitting in our chairs, relaxing, reading and not speaking. I find this oddly enjoyable. I have accepted the idea I have a roommate for the day. One who does not speak. He gets up to go get a drink. I go for a swim. When we return we both smile and carry on in our shared spot.

Activities have begun. He goes to check them out. The band starts playing so I now go as well. I have always dreamed of dancing the salsa in Cuba, under the sun, outdoors to real live Cuban music. A song starts and one of the entertainers comes right up to me and asks me to dance. I say yes, get up and start dancing with him. He pauses, looks at me and asks where I am from. I respond Canada and he lets me know that I dance very well, that it is not often people keep up with him from the start. Then he asks if I have danced before. I have not really. I just love to dance. We keep dancing I am laughing and feel wonderful. The band is really good too. The song ends and he says I should dance more. I agree. My goal of dancing the salsa has been achieved with someone from Cuba no less.

When I got back to my shared spot, I was grateful my roommate was there. We smiled at each other. I continued reading my book. The chapter is on Gratitude. I realize I have had a most pleasant day at the beach with this stranger. We were mutually watching over each other’s belongings. It was very nice and I decided to write him a thank you note for a nice day at the beach. I decided I would slip it into his bag when he got up to go somewhere.

I was at the restaurant having a beverage when he returned. I noticed him find my note, look around and smile. I giggled. I was having a great time and nobody was invading my space. When I returned, he introduced himself. Mr. X. is from Belgium and had spent 20 days travelling around Cuba. He was not even staying at this resort, but a «casa particular» and had wanted a nice beach to spend the day. The hotel charged him some pesos and here he was. We were both getting ready to leave. It was almost 6pm. He said he would be back tomorrow. Maybe we would run into each other.

I had dinner with Miss N again. We then went to the terrace where I met more of her friends who were in their mid-20s, Italian and also from Montreal. I was not sure about how long I wanted to spend with this group. I figured I would see how I felt as the night went on. I chatted for a while with Mr. M. Age is a funny thing. I used to think it was just a number. In the last few months I noticed myself starting to doubt that. Tonight became clear that age means nothing. I will not go into more detail on this but suffice to say, the message was received. That doubt can now be put to rest.

Day 4

Day 5

Sure enough, Mr. X and I were in the same spot today, sharing our space. I meditated to «Awakening compassion» He asked me to join him for a beverage. He works in marketing, for a chocolate company. He lives 5 minutes away from his work. He told me about his friends and their traditions, such as a men’s weekend once per year, no matter what. Wives and girlfriends are warned this is happening. He let me know he was the only bachelor of his group. He asked what I did and I explained I was a chartered accountant working in the advisory department at KPMG. He had friends that work at KPMG in Belgium and they all left due to long hours, stress and lack of advancement in their career. How ironic I thought. He was leaving tomorrow, going to Havana for a couple of days before returning to Belgium. I enjoyed our little chat and was not sure how to proceed. I did not come to Cuba to meet people or anything of that sort, although he was very interesting and pleasant. It was almost as if he sensed that. We returned to our beach chairs and our little hut and carried on with our day. When 6pm came around, I got up to leave and get ready for dinner. We said goodbye, it was nice meeting you and I wished him safe travels home. I hope Mr. X made it safely back home.

Miss N and I had dinner with her friend Peter. The sunset was glorious, the most beautiful this week. We exchanged information. She is leaving tomorrow.

Day 6

Today is my last full day here. My meditation is «Awakening the divine». Both my companions have left. I am thankful for them too. I see gorgeous flower trees and thank my mom. It might sound stupid but Natalino had this hair gel and I kept it when I emptied his apartment. I asked Jade, our daughter’s permission and she said it was fine with her. In the humidity, his gel is keeping my hair manageable. I feel like he is with me. After dinner I went to see the show. It was my first this week. It was dancing. However, I was not prepared for what would happen here.

March 30 2017, it is just past midnight. I am with my mom and she has just taken her last breath. I am waiting for Claude now. As he walks in, a song is playing. It is one that our little circle know. The name escapes me. He kneels down by my mother’s bed to say his last goodbye. My heart is breaking watching this.

The couple on stage is dancing to this song. The routine is brilliant. Tears start to well up.

June 2017 – sidewalk sale on St Laurent Blvd. – I am packing Natalino’s things. I am in the apartment, alone. I find one of his hoodies, on the armchair. It smells like him. I hold it in my arms, like we are dancing. I dance with the hoodie in the living room and I say my goodbyes.

Then the song, «All of me» came on and a man, alone on the stage, danced with a pink dress. That is when I lost it…………..

I thought all the tears were out and gone. I thought I was finished. I started to cry, but wanted to keep it together. I thought I had succeeded.

One week in Cuba was for me to take time to realign myself with myself. Be with me and take care of myself. One week in Cuba and I feel so grateful, blessed, abundant and happy. I spent as much time with the ocean as humanly possible. However, this last night in Cuba taught me that just like the waves don’t play around, emotions don’t either. I cried like I never have before. I was not even depressed or heartbroken. I just had to let those tears out. I had no choice. They were coming like waves. There was no stopping them. This last night in Cuba, got to me. The dancing, the songs, the everything. There was no stopping the tears, just like you cannot stop a wave. I went to my room. «I accept» I said out loud, «I accept, I accept, I accept». I know one thing – I may not have transformed in one week but I do know that I released something significant this last night. And for that, I am grateful.

Day 7

I went to the beach and meditated to «Awakening abundance» I certainly feel abundant this week. The weather has been perfect, the location has been perfect. I have done what I wanted, when I wanted. I have swam in the ocean for hours on end and relaxed listening to the waves. I thank the Universe over and over again. I went to the ocean and talked with it for quite a while. I thanked the waves and the ocean for being the way it is. I wanted to stay for as long as possible until it was time to leave.

As I went for my last swim, I realized that I had not found one of the beautiful spiral shells that I am accustomed to seeing in Cuba, it is almost like they are not in season. I thought to myself wouldn’t it be nice to find just one? As I looked down, there was one beautiful spiral shell at my feet. No waves were coming to take it away. I was able to pick it up. I started to laugh out loud. I was so happy about this shell. I kissed it and thanked the ocean over and over again. I thanked the palm trees, the flowers, the birds, and the people who had taken care of me during the week. I would prefer to stay but I was also happily accepting that I had to leave and go home.

Mom and Natalino I know you are here with me. If I have to cry like that again, I accept. With all my love to Cuba, the ocean, beach and everyone who was so nice to me. I will never forget these 7 days on my own in Cuba, where on the last night I broke the rule. In Cuba people come to be happy and this is where I let out my deepest sorrows, in happiness, gratitude and acceptance. No matter where you go, there you are. If that is the case, I want to bring back the «me» that I was in Cuba and practice what I did in Cuba at home. It is possible, all I have to do is close my eyes, hear the waves and remember to breathe. I have that seashell as a tangible reminder.


Not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck

Today is Canada Day where I currently live. Canada is 150 years old. I feel thankful to live in this country because there is an abundance of beautiful nature, natural resources, fresh water, and it is generally a peaceful country. It feels good to reflect on what I have that is «good» versus what I do not like. I have noticed over the  last two weeks, that we or I often look around and find so many things wrong with the world, politics, wars, the so-called «elite».what we don’t have and what we did not get.  It is all noise. It certainly does not feel good or right inside when I focus there. My energy feels much better when I look around at what I love, my family, my friends, my little grandchildren, our overall good health, the list goes on, but one simple thing we take for granted – just being able to breathe – that in itself is abindance.I have come to realize that this attitude serves me well in every area of my life. The last two weeks have been full of intangible elements that have contributed to my ongoing internal shift.

Remember that not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck – Dalai Lama

I have read this quote in the past, many times and always wondered how nice it would be to actually truly understand internalize and appreciate what this meant. Sure, if I look back years ago I can see that not getting what I wanted was actually for the best. I was hoping that one day, I would arrive at this happy conclusion with less time between the «not getting» and the realization that «this is a wonderful stroke of luck». Well I happily report that this week, it happened. I did not get what I wanted at work from the parties I had wanted it the most from. This week was evaluation week at work. This is where we receive feedback about our performance and we discuss our rating, from 1 to 5. 1 being the best and 5 needing improvement. I did not get a glowing evaluation. As a matter of fact, I received valuable feedback on what I can improve. I am perceived, by the person who evaluated me, as inconsistent and while I did good work on one client (our biggest global client), I did not perform as well in two other instances. Anything I thought I had done well was to be expected and nothing to write home about. Because of this, my promotion is at best doubtful.

There will always be someone who can’t see your worth. Don’t let it be you.

What happened after this meeting was that I did not feel bad. In the last few years, the evaluation period had me stressed, as if my self-worth as a professional depended on it. I was always trying to prove myself. This is clearly not anybody’s responsibility but my own. I just did not «get it» back then. I would read books about «Not giving a fuck» and these were excellent reads, but I had not internalized it, truly.

The saying «Rule #1: Fuck what they think» sounded good on paper, but I would only get there in my head out of anger, or resentment. This does not last. What does last and what is a major shift is when I was sitting there and a little voice glowed in my head that said «Your opinion is not my reality». That is when I knew, I finally knew that I could truly let go of the need to please these people because I no longer wanted to in order to feel good about myself. I already did feel good about myself and nothing they could say would be changing that.

I left the office and did not feel destroyed. On the contrary I felt relief and pretty solid inside. I went outside to take the air. The Universe works in wonderful ways. As I was standing there contemplating things, a colleague, who had resigned in January, came walking towards me. She was my performance manager in the past, and seeing her was really nice. She asked me how I was, I just looked at her, my  liquid eyes doing the talking. She hugged me and told me «I am your friend, not your PM». I told her what had just happened, literally 10 minutes ago and she provided me with her own experience/wisdom. What stood out to me most in what she said was «You are worth gold, trust me». Interesting that so little time passed between my perception of reality and the Universe giving me the confirmation of what I now no longer needed or craved in order to feel self worth. It was coming from within.

I am now open to other options in my career. I feel hopeful, I feel free, like I have truly been given a gift. I also recalled how many times my mom, my two dads, family, even colleagues that had left, friends, had all been telling me all along what I now realized for myself.

What used to bring me fear about looking elsewhere, at other opportunities and leaving the place I had worked for so long, was now a breath of fresh air, full of possibilities. I would be doing this out of wanting something good for me, a fit for me, to do what I love instead of leaving a situation I did not like. The difference is subtle and intangible, but how it feels is the evidence. Anything i spossible. Things truly do work out for me.

We cannot control the wind, but we can direct the sail

I love this quote because of its reference to sailing. I associate sailing with freedom. I spoke to another colleague who is new and he provided some valuable insight. I kept an open mind. I did end up following his advice, and let’s just say that in doing so, other unexpected opportunities have presented themselves. Being open to «whatever it is», arrives in unexpected forms. The perspectives I have received from various people this week are so appreciated and reminded me to look at the bigger picture. The «where», no longer matters. There are people in my «work life» who do inspire me. Those people have provided me valuable insight and joy in working with then. Ironically, I never sought to prove myself to these people and these are the people I receive it from. So what, how and when are completely unknown. And I could not be more thrilled. «“Freedom is the only worthy goal in life. It is won by disregarding things that lie beyond our control.” – Epictetus. The same day that I saw my friend outside, I received an email from her, the subject «Taking back control». If there is one thing I accomplish in my life, it will be that. Taking back my power or understanding what I can control. It started years ago in one area and now I am seeing the fruits of that presenting itself in other areas of my life. Realizing what is in my control and outside of it, is truly an art I would love to master. Like sailing.

«Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t». – Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free. From where I sit, one thing I do have control over is my attitude and my perception of reality. The last 6 months, and all the events in it, appreciated, sad and outright unpleasant, have helped me to arrive at this realization. So in other words, contrast is my friend and I now see the value in looking for the lessons, because, I was given the proof in the most ironic way- not getting what I thought I wanted.  I do love the Dalai Lama and Buddhism. I am really enjoying how this is all playing out right now.

I am reminded of a Native American proverb: «Listen to the wind it talks, Listen to the silence, it speaks, listen to the heart, it knows». In exactly 7 days I will be with the ocean, on a beach, with myself for company. I am really looking forward to that. I feel like it is the perfect way to start my vacation. I will use this time alone to meditate, create and visualize. I so appreciate the ocean and its power. I will drink it all in as I surrender and let myself flow with the waves. Another irony, the place I initially wanted, was completely booked and no longer available.  I wonder what wonderful experience I will have at this new place that I previously had never been interested in.  Maybe I will write about it.

Have a wonderful weekend.


Balance

Balance  has been on my mind. I accept that I have created a life that includes working for someone else. I understand that I put myself through University and CA classes in order to become of member of the Chartered Accountancy profession. I wanted to be a professional. I wanted a stable career. I wanted these things because I wanted to provide for my family. I wanted to be a responsible member of society. These are not bad things. Nothing is good or bad. It really depends on your perspective. I understand that too. I imagine that an artist would probably despise the path I chose. They would not understand the choice. To an artist, this life would be torture. Then, they would make a different choice. The choice they would likely make would be one I would find scary, unknown and I would not have been able to make that choice in the past.

Career and work life balance

My career choice has a lot of benefits, but there are also elements I do not appreciate as much. Lately, I have allowed work to take over my life. I work long hours and, for the first time in a long time I worked all weekend last week. I had a report to write that was important, not only to our office, and to the client, but the report was important to me. The one thing I love most about my work is helping the client and working with a team. Our team is a good team. The people are brilliant. However, there are also politics and a way of doing things in my firm that are simply the reality of the many people that work for the firm. There is an unspoken rule about how many hours we should work. If you want to get ahead, you just work, day, night and weekends. There is hardly ever an eyebrow raised when this is discussed. It is the norm. Expected. The way it is.

Perception of reality

That is «their» perception of reality. It is clashing with mine now. I do not believe in working this way. I want something different. I just do not know what that is right now.

This year I truly believed would be my year to thrive. In October, they had spoken of a promotion for me and I latched onto that. I imagine this was a good step for me to attain. The title would reflect appreciation for my work and that I had succeeded in some way.

To that end, I took on many projects, with the goal of proving I could do it. I wanted to prove I was capable of multi-tasking so many projects for a large client, I wanted to prove I was able to coach our team, deliver, and manage the complexities that come with a large global client and their politics. I wanted to prove I could do all of that – and of course, I may have gone overboard. I was told that I was 85% there – I was told what I needed to work on to make it. So my goal was to be 100%. Perfection.

Whose perception of perfection?

Perfection is a lofty goal. In making the choice I made, I ensured that I could not attain it. I have come to realise that I was relying on other people’s perception of what perfect is. In striving to attain this promotion, in making my choices based on other people’s perceptions, I forgot about something – myself. What do I believe is good enough? What do I believe perfection is? I also forgot the most important question – why do I want this promotion and does it really prove success? Whose definition of success? What do I believe now?

I was asked to work with a new client, with a team outside my department. This is supposed to be a good thing. I was happy to learn something new, get different experience and add that to my portfolio of clients. My department told me it is good to work with other departments, but then followed that with a message that I may be putting my current clients at risk. In their view, I have little time to spare until my vacation and I will most likely work nights to make all this possible. They were very concerned about this report I had to deliver. I responded that I was already working nights and this was not an issue – like a good little worker.

In my department, there is no room for any mistake, it would appear. For every good thing I achieve, I am always told of something to work on, to improve. The idea is to keep people striving to be the best, compete, and keep getting better. From where I sit, after 9 months of working this way, I do not feel appreciated, I feel overworked and overwhelmed and I find myself wondering what I am doing this all for?

What happened?

That report, I gave my 100%. I know I did. I re-read that report, I ensured no detail was missed, I ensured all the links were made, I ensured I covered the major points for this client. The client is what was most important to me. I also knew my report would be reviewed, and changed, modified, ripped apart by the senior people in my office.

Then something happened. I stopped caring about what they thought. It was very uncomfortable this week. I was told this and that about my report. Some of the advice was good and I took it, but I never once believed I was not good enough and that my report was not good. I did not listen when the conversation got negative and in my opinion, of no value. I remained professional and calm. I watched as the person rewrote my sentences to fit their view. It was then that I knew – I would never be 100% for these people. I would never be perfect and they would always do this. So I surrendered and I have stopped wanting to achieve perfection in their eyes.

I started to relax a bit. I decided that I would question other people’s perception of me. Just because someone believes something about me does not make it true. They may believe I am lacking in some way, but I no longer do. I have decided to be happy with the way I am now. I am always willing to improve and be better, but not at the expense of my self-esteem, self-acceptance and self worth. I have decided to pat myself on the back more often for every little thing I am able to achieve in a day. I have decided to provide even more positive feedback, more frequently to my team. I have decided to let the water roll off my back – like a duck. I am tired of trying to please and achieve in order to receive validation from other people where my work is concerned. I have decided that my validation is important. My perception of myself is key. These decisions did not come in anger. I feel no resentment towards anyone. I just gave up on trying to get their approval. It is no longer necessary. I have given up on the promotion as well. It is no longer my goal. My goal now is to be happy with me, do the best I can and try to improve on myself, for myself. If they appreciate my work, that is a bonus, if they do not, that is not my problem. I know I have a generally good relationship with my clients. I was told by one partner that the client was impressed with our conversation. I was happy with it, and so that comment was received with appreciation. It confirmed for me that I am not crazy, that I do know what I am doing. I already thought that the conversation had gone well and then I received confirmation. Not validation.

I came to all this realization stuff because I have been thinking of my mother. She always thought the best of me and was proud. I never accepted that fully, until now. I imagine she would not be happy to see me doubt myself and place my beliefs about myself in the hands of other people. Therefore, I am going to make her proud and love myself as she did. In this way she lives on. I am also happier as a result. Not perfect.

New goals

There will be more consequences to thinking this way – my goals will be to learn about balancing my work with my life. I will re-invest in myself as I had started doing in early April – re-implement my routine of training consistently, and not haphazardly as is the current situation. My vacation is coming up and I have made the decision to go away, by myself for 7 days. I will ensure self-care is part of my daily routine. They say it takes 21 days to break or make a habit. The 14 days remaining of my vacation will be to implement my strategy. It is my year to thrive – for myself, not for other people. I get to define what thrive means for me. I get to decide how I want to thrive. Progress, not perfection. Life and living, not slaving away for other people’s validation. If I choose to work hard, it will be for me, or because I choose to do so to help a client. I will no longer struggle for some promotion or to get approval or validation. I have proof that this does not work and I have decided to stop the circle of insanity- doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.

It is time for me to set goals based on what I love and my perception of reality. You know, all this unpleasant, stressful stuff is not fun, but I persevered and never give up, and got through it. I see the lessons that were to be learned. It is time, to let go of resistance and struggle, it is time to reap the benefits of these experiences. Self-care is more important than anything and that is now my new goal.  I am now thankful for the experiences that led to this conclusion. If it were not for that, maybe I never would have realized that I was imbalanced and not really taking care of me in all the ways that really matter. Life really does happen for me and not to me. I can remain positive and optimistic. It also helps that my vacation starts in 21 days. I will keep visualizing the ocean where I intend to be, on my own, for 7 days YaY!!!! Have a great week!


Questioning my beliefs

The last few weeks I have not kept the two promises I made to myself this year – to write every week and to train 3 times per week to the best of my ability. Life has been mostly about work, although I have spent the weekends with family. I have nothing to complain about, I just see that time has been a factor and I have felt overwhelmed by the number of things to take care of at work and in my personal life. I think what has happened as a result is that I have become aware that I am questioning some of my heartfelt beliefs. They have been turned upside down and examined. When this started a few weeks ago, I was feeling angry, resentful, overwhelmed and confused.  The trigger that started this was the «expected» passing of my mom and then the totally unexpected passing of the father of my child. I am seeing so many analogies between life and what I do on a daily basis for work. My work is in the consulting field. I have clients and we go into their business and assess their processes and provide recommendations to improve their processes and help them mitigate risk. How does this translate into challenging my beliefs? Hang on, here we go.

Control environment

In my line of work it is best practice to have a sound control environment based on a set of principles for which the company should have elements, or mechanisms in place to help ensure the environment is sound. There is documented guidance around this. A theory or policy, if you will, that details these principles and provides examples of what good mechanisms would be. It is called COSO 2013 and three important elements are control environment, risk assessment and control activities.

In daily life I have come to the conclusion that society also has the same thing but for control environment, the main one is religion, the one of your choice, and for those that do not believe in any religion, we have spirituality. Many spiritual principles are found in religion. I am of the opinion that religion is more rules based and prescriptive whereas spirituality is more guidance based. Documented policy for religions are found in the Bible or the Quoran or the Torah to name just a few. For spirituality we have hundreds of «teachers» who have their own view on spiritual principles and how to apply these in our daily life.  The risk here is inconsistent guidance and application of these religions and spiritual principles that I believe in.

Risk assessment and controls

Nevertheless, in the business world, once you assess your risks – what could go wrong – you are supposed to implement controls to mitigate the risk, or reduce what could go wrong to an acceptable level – i.e. no huge impact on operations and / or profit or life as the analogy. The following chart provides only a few examples of things that could go wrong and controls:

chart

Spiritual teachers do not really believe in things going wrong, examples of this are as follows:

  • Dis-ease – because there is no such thing as disease, it is simply your mental state of being causing the dis-ease.
  • Death is not really death but «passing» and nothing has gone wrong because we are infinite beings and we have merely transitioned to the non-physical. There is absolutely nothing to feel bad about. Our loved ones are still with us and life goes on. They have merely gone to a better place and we physical people are here continuing the circle of life. We are born, we live, and we die. No problem.

Many of the spiritual teachers preach that your thoughts create reality, therefore thinking about what could go wrong will surely bring it to be and therefore the focus is mainly over loving, kindness, truth, understanding, compassion, tolerance, gratitude, and service or helping one another. Stay positive. I think the Dalai Lama said that these basic principles are found in all religions. I have not read the Torah or Quoran so I am basing this on his word and corroborated with what other people have said. The only one I know enough about is the Bible and therefore the bible will be used in my analogy.

Life – In life we have my example, the Bible, and it has Ten Commandments. These would be the rules. The authority is God and if you break the rules you are to feel very bad and go to hell. This is the control. Comply or burn in hell. Until you do, feel guilty about it. In addition, monitoring is through the form of weekly attendance at meetings – church. To ensure adequate revenue to offset increased expenses and help ensure adequate profit, or enough to go around and be of service to others, there is the donation portion of the church mass. However, in my humble assessment, they have done a poor job of ensuring consistent understanding of their basic guide. The Bible has been translated over thousands of years, leaving the book open to some questionable interpretation. For example, intolerance and killing is frowned upon, except in war, and intolerance over those who do not fit into a box. Whose box? Who decided? Oh right, the authority God, but he, as portrayed in the bible, is shifty at best and inconsistent in His own application of his own rules. I am reminded of the monologue from the movie the Devil’s Advocate:

« Who are you carrying all those bricks for anyway? God? Is that it? God? Well, I tell ya, let me give you a little inside information about God. God likes to watch. He’s a prankster. Think about it. He gives man instincts. He gives you this extraordinary gift and then what does He do? I swear, for His own amusement, His own private cosmic gag reel, He sets the rules in opposition. It’s the goof of all time. Look, but don’t touch. Touch, but don’t taste. Taste, don’t swallow. And while you’re jumpin’ from one foot to the next, what is He doin’? He’s laughin’ His sick, fuckin’ ass off. He’s a tight-ass. He’s a sadist. He’s an absentee landlord. Worship that? Never! »

But I had questioned this belief system long ago. I feel more comfortable with spirituality. But some beliefs I have come to hold dear to my heart, or as Louis CK likes to call it «believes» have been turned on their head and I have a new assessment today.

Believees around «Thoughts create your reality, stay positive, everything happens for a reason»

This sounds like the perfect control to mitigate anything ever going wrong. Just think love, compassion and be grateful and all will be well. Anger is a secondary emotion, only the «good feelings» should be given attention. Anything else is a sign of sickness or dis-ease, ignore these and they will go away. There is something wrong with you if you feel sad, depressed, and angry. In some groups, these are signs of addiction. Everything happens for a reason. Go to church or a meeting. Meetings would be those monitoring controls like church mass for support groups.

In my recent experience, this is completely and totally false. It is blanket statements like this that are dangerous. Case in point, the unexpected passing of my daughter’s father. He was released from a hospital with a severe skin infection and at risk for sceptic shock. He was an amputee with no legs, living alone. There was no compensating factor to help ensure he would be ok if something went wrong in his apartment. What went wrong? He fell over from the sceptic shock and could not do anything to help himself, like reach his cell phone and call for help. He was left that way for 3 whole days and died of sceptic shock. What were his thoughts before he passed this way?

  1. He was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, having been released from intensive care and on the road to recovery.
  2. He was looking forward to moving into his newer larger apartment and looking forward to seeing myself, his daughter and grandsons.
  3. He had been working out to improve his upper body strength.
  4. He had recently stated «Life is a process, not a struggle. Keep smiling».

Sounds pretty positive to me and if those thoughts were supposed to create his reality, then something went horribly wrong. Not according to the spiritual gurus though – no. He is in a better place now and no longer suffering. I have a question: should we just off all these people we consider to be suffering? Of course not. It is not up to us physical beings, there is infinite intelligence out there that decides all that. Circle of life remember? Everything may happen for a reason?

Believees around Spiritual principles – Love, compassion, tolerance, understanding, hope, faith, gratitude, and open mindedness

I still believe in these. I do. However, the challenge I faced recently was in the application of these by other people who apparently follow these same principles, supposedly. I see a lot of intolerance from spiritual people towards people who do not follow their rules. Case in point – my daughter was feeling very shocked by the sudden loss of her father. Well-meaning people reached out to her, with heartfelt intent, and told her that anger was not a healthy emotion and it was secondary. She was told to get over it and let it go. At least now she could get over her daddy issues. She asked for space but she was told to go to meetings and that her life was at stake if she did not go. Really? That because she did not identify as an addict at this time of grief she could die. She was not listening to advice and people were getting intolerant of her feelings and her.

It would appear, that much like the bible, if you do not follow the rules and do not attend that monitoring control, you will be faced with the same inconsistent application of those very principles that are preached. If you disagree with something, you are in denial. If you do not comply, you are sick. If you feel angry you are unhealthy and, again, are negative, attracting shit and etc……… If everything happens for a reason, then maybe feelings and emotion arise for a reason too? Maybe open-mindedness is a two way street?

Believee #3 – Believing in other people’s perception of reality

I became aware that all those above guidance examples had driven some of my beliefs. Other people wrote books, articles and policies. I found myself believing in their perceptions. Not my own. I never questioned them because they were embedded in my mainstream day to day life. Experts must know better, books that have been around for centuries must know better, despite the fact that the same nonsense has been occurring for the same number of centuries. I never questioned any of these, and always doubted myself. It felt awful, but negative feelings must be ignored and so on and so on. I believed more experienced people telling me I was not good enough. I believed that professionals knew better than me. I felt very conflicted. I should be allowed to question things. That is what my mind is for.

So I felt all of those feelings. I did not attempt to change any of them. I was no longer afraid to attract negativity because I was angry, resentful, and sad. I went through it. I am stubborn by nature and pretty determined, and on a positive day perseverant. I did not give up during the overwhelming moments of the past weeks but I stopped beating up on myself for anything. I started to question the above. I allowed myself to chill and accept at my own pace. Nobody else’s. I would find relief in breathing, appreciating the wind, trees and flowers, seeing/talking with my daughter and grandsons, and of course, thinking of the ocean.

Conclusion

Here is my conclusion – there is no control. You cannot prepare for things going wrong to ever guarantee they will not. We humans were given a mind and feelings. If feelings are here to guide us then there is NO secondary emotion. They are all valid and must be addressed in order for these feelings to provide the value they were supposed to provide, otherwise we would not have all these feelings. Just like there is a reason for every part of our physical body, so too is there a reason for those pesky intangible things like thoughts, and feelings/emotions. Logical, scientific and now what? What happens now?

I was feeling pretty shaky when I lost my faith in my believees. After all, these are what helped me get out of my cycle of self-destructive behaviours. I started wondering if maybe I was wrong and that maybe I was sick in the head. Maybe I was a diseased addict and needed to go back to meetings. If I was losing touch with my spirituality, where could I find it again?

Here is where I found it – in myself. I have heard multiple times that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond. THIS makes sense. This is how thoughts help with perception of reality.  The reality is that life will happen on its own terms. No matter how loving, compassionate, tolerant, understanding, patient, grateful and kind you are, life will happen and it will not always be your preferred way. No matter how many positive thoughts you think, negative things will happen. Why? Because that is life. You cannot control life. The one thing you can control is your response to it. And in optimal scenarios, learn from it. Lessons learned. Resistance is still futile, but it exists, until it passes – the choice is mine.

I have a mind, feelings and thoughts and I am able to make choices. Because of that I no longer believe that I am powerless or diseased. I have the power to change how I think, not to prevent reality (fear) but to make the most out of reality (love).  I will not always comply with everything because I a human being. I will make mistakes, let myself and other people down. I will not be perfect. I will feel all ranges of emotions and this will not make me sick or diseased. I am alive and life is to be experienced. As a result, I know the following to be true in my experience, that ironically those mistakes previously alluded to, helped me learn:

  1. In order for me to accept that life is good enough, I must also accept that I am good enough. I will continue to do my best and that is enough.
  2. My perception of reality is as valid as anyone else’s – it is time to believe in my own and myself for that matter.
  3. Life is not a dream but an experience, best felt in appreciation, but with the understanding that when it is not fun, this too passes, like waves.
  4. Experts can make mistakes too. Mistakes lead to learning. Learning leads to more awareness.
  5. It feels better to love, understand, empathize, tolerate and be compassionate, not because I am told to but because it feels better to me. How I feel matters.
  6. I need to learn to prioritize myself, listen to myself, my mind and body.
  7. I also need to learn to chill and relax. Finding balance in my life has become a goal.
  8. Regardless of how some people preach and apply spiritual principles (sometimes using blanket statements and intolerance when their rules are not followed) I still believe in spiritual principles. My mind is open.
  9. Thoughts create your perception of reality, life creates reality with all of us being players in it.
  10. I still love life and believe that life does love me.

I feel relieved having written this. The waters feel calm, still, more at peace somewhat. I understand that changes in my life are required, but I think I am in good shape to change what I can and I accept that which I cannot. My new found belief in myself feels good enough for today. Just the way I am. I will still talk to my mom and loved ones that have passed, because my perception of reality is that they are here in spirit and that makes me feel better. Regardless of what the experts say. After all of the recent events, I still feel hope and appreciation for life. I am happy about that. It means that all those feelings had a purpose and brought me to where I am at this moment. So seize the day, make the most of what you have. Relax – nothing is under control.


The circle of life

It is Mother’s Day weekend. My mother passed away not too long ago, so this weekend is bittersweet. I am remembering my mother, of course, with love. She is in my heart. My first experience with losing a parent. This week, my daughter was informed that her father had passed away unexpectedly and she was the one who had to inform me of this news. As a mother, my heart breaks for my daughter. As someone I loved deeply, my heart is also saddened because the love that we shared, lives on in my daughter. Having made our amends, we had remained friends and shared in the joys of being grandparents. We are told death is part of life that the people who pass are happier and no longer suffer. This is supposed to help us feel better. It seems that sadness and all that goes along with grieving the loss of a loved one is supposed to go away because this is life and they are in a better place.

Reflections

Today would have been his 45th birthday. He was very young to have passed away. Of course, that is my belief. We are “supposed to” live a certain minimum time, otherwise, I do not understand. Life is funny. I see there are no rules. Nothing is guaranteed and there is no threshold with respect to the number of years we have. I have so many feelings that are all welled up inside. As they come up, I find myself dissecting them as either appropriate, inappropriate, questioning whether these thoughts and feelings serve me. I think this is indicative of desperately wanting to be in control and to feel the way I am “supposed to”. Then I question: Who decides what is “supposed to” be appropriate and correct?

On another note I am so touched by his family in Portugal who have been son kind and keeping in touch with Jade and myself. Ironically we are now keeping in touch after all these years. My mother had such grace and love and I am hoping I learned from her to apply to this situation. It appears we learn a lot from people, and usually in hindsight, or too late to be able to apply the lesson learned with the people who taught us the lesson.

Crazy stupid love

Our relationship was complicated. I have heard the best ones usually are. I do not know that for certain. However, as I reflect on our past I remember the good times, the more difficult times and the gift that is our daughter. We were so young when we met. I was getting over a heartbreak. I had been in love with an older man, my teacher in college. When I met Natalino, I was with a friend at a bar. I sitting at the bar, and he appeared from the door at the top of the stairs. He lowered his sunglasses and our eyes met. He had the most beautiful eyes, contagious smile and laugh. He kept that until the day he passed. That evening he bought me a rose after playing a round of pool, where he cleared the table in one turn. We were together pretty much all the time after that. However, I was rebounding, he had a jealous streak, we both had anger in us and coupled with chemistry and passion, was a lot of fighting. He called me cold, I called him controlling. But were crazy about each other, loved going to the “Mountain” we loved the outdoors, we loved each other but we could also hate each other. There is a fine line between love and hate. When he broke up with me, I felt lost, abandoned and devastated. I did not deal with it well. I did everything I could to get him back. He was the love of my life then.

The father

After a couple of years, we did reunite and not long after, I got pregnant. It was a surprise. He was overjoyed and even though we were young, unprepared, no education or career to speak of, I knew I was going to keep this baby. Our daughter Jade. My mother was so supportive. Those were the best times. He was a really good dad. One of my favorite memories is when he was being a clown, dancing and making funny faces while we were changing her. It was the first time she belly laughed. A real heartfelt laugh out loud baby laugh. I still hear her laugh, I still see his clown act. I will never forget. His aunt, a wonderful woman with great energy and a kind soul would take care of Jade when we worked. She has children too, they were amazing. All was well with our little family, except the moments when things were not.

Things happen in life, we make choices and we ended up separating when Jade was 3 years old. He moved out, and I would bring Jade to her dad’s every weekend. She adored him. By all accounts, from his aunt, he was the happiest on weekends when he was with Jade.

Judgement

Then, mistakes caught up to us and he went away for a while. Consequences of bad decisions. I moved on with my life and did what I could to take care of Jade. He did what he had to do as well to get his life back in order.

He did exactly that. He became a counsellor at Portage, a drug rehabilitation centre and became a guidance counsellor to younger adults and teens. He dedicated his life to that. He did not brag about what he had succeeded in doing or how many people he helped. In fact, much of him remains a mystery to me, even today. Upon having to announce his passing to family and friends, I discovered many, many people telling me how he had saved their life. How much he helped and inspired people. How he had given so much of his time to guide young souls who are now happy healthy functioning adults today. These are the things not everyone knows. These are the things I could not allow myself to believe.  You see I had visited him in Portage with Jade while he was there, and I was full of judgement and refused to believe he could be well again. I found it easier to keep the anger and resentment, than to forgive because it had taken me so long to put him out of my heart that I did not want to allow anything to crack that wall. I desperately wanted to feel indifference and worked very hard at getting there. Lesson learned – judgement – don, t judge a man by his past, appearance, or how about do not judge another at all?

Life goes on

I was a hypocrite, I had my issues with substances too but felt I was functional responsible, having raised my daughter gone back to school and made a career for myself and Jade. Denial, is not just a river in Egypt.

I remember a time in 2005, when I was engaged to be married and he reached out to us. That had me spiralling. You see, the truth was, it affected me. Here I was about to be married and one phone call from him and I was upside down. I only ever told one person, my best friend at the time. She advised me to really think about getting married if this is how I felt. I blamed it on the alcohol that I had consumed at my bachelorette party and denied I felt anything at all. I was determined to get married and provide a stable family life for my daughter. I got married in 2005 and was separated in 2009.

Forgiveness and love

When I decided to clean up my act in 2011, I reached out to him to make amends for my part in our past. He was generous and forgave me. He even helped me with books, guidance and an ear to listen. I really wanted him and Jade to reconnect and that happened. She had always adored her dad and I knew he adored her, but where there is guilt, there is difficulty letting it go. I think that is why he kept his distance from us during those years when he was getting his life back and making such a huge difference in those lives he touched. Jade knows that and so do I, now.

In the last few years, they talked and saw each other. He attended her birthday party, we went to a New Year’s Eve party together and he spent some time with his grandson Aidan. Aidan loved him immediately. He never really talked about his health issues. He lost a leg due to DVT and then more recently lost the second one. He was always so upbeat and optimistic when we saw him. I thought how brave and strong he was. I wondered how he could go through that. He kept that to himself. When he would share just enough information to explain why he was away for long periods of time, he would always say not to worry, that he would be fine. He even said he understood how busy we were and not to go see him. There is my regret. He would say not to bother. Well I regret and feel guilt about that.

More recently his health issues were severe and he spent some time in intensive care due to unknown infections of the skin. One phone call I remember is he said how sorry he was about everything that happened. I just sat there and wondered why, because I thought we had put that in the past and made peace. I told him I bore no ill will or harboured no resentment about any of it. I told him we were good, all was well with us. The past was the past. Done. He thanked me. In my opinion, he never truly forgave himself for certain things and guilt can really harm a person. It is one thing to become aware of a mistake and try to change it. But it is quite another to have changed for the better and still hold on to that guilt.  He would often tell me he loved me, but I always figured it was out of respect as the mother of his child. I could not allow myself to believe or feel different. Therefore I could not say it back out loud. That is the last time we spoke. Recently he did post some pictures if himself after being released from intensive care – Ho quoted “life is not a struggle it’s a process” and said even after going through all that he had, he would keep smiling. A man who had lost both legs and had skin grafts.

That is character. That is strength. That is hope. That is spirit. That is embracing life. That is love. That is a man. I am humbled.

In loving memory

It is therapeutic for me to selfishly write a memoir about Jade’s father. I want to put something out there that reveals that while he was a private person, he was passionate for life and so optimistic. How much he helped other and never spoke about it. I choose to recall the love we shared, the laughs, the talks, the passion, the joy, the wonderful father he was to Jade when given the chance, by himself and by us. I want that to be his memory. He is proof that your past does not define you. He did succeed in learning and growing from his mistakes. I want to do him justice and refuse to allow people to remember him based on how he was when he was in his early twenties. Nobody is perfect. I certainly had my flaws. He was not the same man. Hell no. He was a grown, mature, kind and gentle spirit but so strong. He not only got his life together. He did more than that, he gave back. He gave time and energy and hope and required nothing in return. Nothing. He never asked for anything.  He never spoke of himself. He was a strong man, an optimistic, kind, loving, brave man. This is what I want to leave as his legacy. His generous loving spirit. He taught people about faith and helped people reconnect to their spirit. There is no price for that. These are priceless gifts he gave people. You cannot buy that. That is who Natalino Duarte truly was. Any outward appearance to the contrary is but an illusion. I want to thank the people who have reached out and told us of how much Natalino meant to them, even the man from the online chess club, who never met him in person but told me there were hundreds of people online who were inspired by him. He was hoping to come to Montreal one day to meet him. More revelations that I was not aware of. I hope Jade can see now how much he did love her. In his own way.

Going forward

I like to imagine that he is with my mom because she always saw the best in him. He respected and loved her too. I hope they have connected wherever they are and are watching over Jade, Aidan and William. He never got to meet William but he surely sees him now. That is what I like to believe. Hopefully he will find a way to help sooth Jade’s grief and maybe she will find some peace in talking with him. I am sure he can hear. He believed in the afterlife. I imagine that he can “speak” to her now. He lives on through Jade, Aidan and William. As does my mother. I will keep that in mind this weekend. I will go visit my mother’s urn and leave her a Mother’s Day gift. Today, I will help Jade plan her father’s funeral. On her father’s birthday. I hope to be able to be the mother Jade needs me to be. It is mother’s day weekend after all and she is one beautiful, loving, and inspiring mom. She deserves to be happy. She is my heart and I know hers is breaking. I hope I can help her fix it. I will do my best to channel all the good that was my mother.

This is the circle of life. My uncle gave me this piece of advice when my mom passed away. I need that now. I need to be able to help my daughter. I heard once that when we agreed to come here, we knew this would be the case. Just once we get here, we seem to forget that. It is part of being human I suppose. The thrill of life, inevitably ends with death. Lesson learned- enjoy life while you can; tomorrow is not guaranteed.

I believe that guilt can kill someone and we need to be aware but not beat up on ourselves so much for our past mistakes. We all do the best we can with what we know at the time. Feel the love, accept the fearful feelings but challenge them with love. Break down the walls and set up healthy boundaries. Believe we are good enough. It is okay to be okay with who we are. Let go of resentment and judgement.And most of all just love. I will do my best to practice these lessons in my life.

On that note, I wish all the mom’s out there Happy Mother’s day, whether you are a biological, adoptive or step mom. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend filled with love, peace, hope, serenity and joy. Happy Mother’s Day Jade and mommy. I love you.

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PLAYING TO WIN VERSUS PLAYING NOT TO LOSE

The last couple of weeks have been busy, to say the least. Feelings of overwhelm at work , while trying to move on in other areas of my life while remaining as positive as possible and looking to the areas in my life that are easier, has been a bit more difficult than I would prefer. I did not even write last week. Saturday was so beautiful that I headed out early in the morning and played tourist in my city. I suppose I could have written about that, and perhaps I will soon. I just could not bring myself to open my computer last weekend. It reminded me of work and I really did not want to think about that for the weekend. I know these times pass and this is life. This week, I was given a little nugget to reflect upon.

I was sitting with a senior manager in our team. He is new and we were reviewing a client scoping document to present to the partner. He noted a few semi-colons missing and I would say “Sorry, that is my attention to detail, I am working on that.” Then we discussed wording. He had some very valid points and I learned from the review. Once we were finished, he told me that I apologize far too much for little things. He perceived that there is a sense of not wanting to get things wrong and apologizing when they do. I just started at him. You see, this “new guy” is different from the other senior managers I have worked with in the recent past. He is positive, easy going while respecting the quality that we have as our mission.

He told me about this article he had read Playing to win versus playing NOT to lose. In this article about athletes, it stated that they perform better when they are playing towards achieving a wanted goal. When athletes were coached to perform in order to prevent something unwanted, they did not perform as well. He had experienced with both mind sets and he knew what it felt like to play not to lose. His advice was that I play to win.

So I did some research.

How this applied to Athletes

The article Don’t Choke: The Difference Between Playing to Win, and Playing Not to Lose, by John O’Sullivan, investigates the two mind sets. The article studied the research performed over penalty kick shootouts in professional soccer, which are used to determine a winner in knockout competitions such as the World Cup. “Researches Gier Jordet and Esther Hartman studied the conversion rate of penalty takers who were kicking the final shot of a penalty shootout. They compared the following scenarios:

  • The shooter’s team was down by a goal and he had to make the kick to tie; if he missed, the team would lose
  • The shooter’s team was tied, and he did not have to make the shot, but if he did, the team would win the game

Jordet and Hartman found that in the first scenario, when missing the kick would cause the team to lose, professional players only converted 62% of those shots. However, when conversion would result in a win, kickers were successful 92% of the time! Same kick, same distance, same target, but a 30% improvement when the player was shooting to win, and not shooting NOT to lose.”

The article leaves the reader with the question: “Have I framed today’s competition as a challenge to be aspired to, or a threatening test where the consequences of failure are grave.”

Application for the “business world”

I felt like I was getting some clarity over my feelings of dissatisfaction at work. So I did more research. I am not an athlete and lucky me, I found another article from the Harvard Business Review entitled “Do You Play to Win—or to Not Lose?” by Heidi Grant and E. Tory Higgins. This article examines in what kinds of situations are people most effective and what factors strengthen—or undermine—their motivation. The two types they present are as follows: promotion focused or prevention focused individuals.

Promotion-focused people

Prevention-focused people

work quickly work slowly and deliberately
consider lots of alternatives and are great brainstormers tend to be accurate
are open to new opportunities are prepared for the worst
are optimists are stressed by short deadlines
plan only for best-case scenarios stick to tried-and-true ways of doing things
seek positive feedback and lose steam without it are uncomfortable with praise or optimism
feel dejected or depressed when things go wrong feel worried or anxious when things go wrong

I feel I fit in the promotion focused side of the table. According to the article, prevention focused people tend to work in administration, bookkeepers, accountants, technicians, and manufacturing workers. Work where knowledge of rules and regulations, careful execution, and a propensity for thoroughness and jobs in which attention to detail is what really pays off.

On the other hand, promotion-focused people are likely to seek work in areas such as musicians, copywriters, inventors, and consultants, where thinking outside the box jobs being creative and innovative is the key and being practical is not emphasized.

Ironically, I am a Chartered Accountant, however I work in the Advisory department of my accounting firm, as a Management consultant. No wonder I sometimes feel uninspired and confused  about my work.

How to provide instructions

Then, the kicker is the article goes on to discuss an experiment given to people to write a report. One set of instructions was to fit a promotion focused individual. They were told to imagine a convenient time, and a comfortable, quiet place to write the report where the individual visualized themselves capturing as many details and making the report interesting. That sounds like a really good idea to me. I love it.

The other set of instructions was to fit prevention focused individuals. They were told to imagine a time that would be inconvenient, uncomfortable and include lots of distractions for writing to avoid them and to visualize not forgetting any details and being careful not to make the report bland or boring. This is my work environement in a nutshell when it comes to reports. In my case, I am told to make sure my report is not unstructured and I am always told not to forget details. At my work, I am constantly told to improve my French report writing skills and to pay attention to detail. The new senior manager is of the opinion that I have been repeated this far too much. I would tend to agree.

I work with prevention focused people and I am getting the sense that I am a promotion focused person. The results? “Students who received instructions suited to their dominant motivational focus were about 50% more likely than others to turn in their reports.”

Giving feedback and incentives

As a manager, the following quote gave me something I can use for my team when giving feedback:

“Don’t be overly effusive with the prevention-focused or overly critical with the promotion-focused.”

This made me laugh. I really do not enjoy overly critical people, especially when their criticism is directed at me. I am thankful for this senior manager. I think he will bring some necessary positivity to our team. After all, perception is everything, but it is difficult to perceive over 60% of a department leaving as anything other than a sign that things need to improve in our department, especially in the way the “upper management” manage people. I, in the middle of this hierarchy, have a great team. They are really intelligent and talented people. I would like to keep them and not have them leave, as so many others in my posiiton have, recently.

Going forward

This new senior manager, appears to be a promotion focused individual. I really appreciate the talk I had with him this week. He gave me a nugget of information and upon investigation and reflection, I now have new information to help me manage my team as well. In addition, I have a new found understanding of the root cause of the conflict I feel at work. Now it is up to me to adjust how I will manage that and try to bring out the best in myself, regardless of prevention focused individual I answer to and to keep bringing in out from my team – who already are amazing talented individuals.

That is enough time spent on work today, I suppose that is another irony. I wrote about work on a weekend. I have a bit of clarity but not all the answers, and that is fine. I will continue to focus on playing to win. That fits who I am and feels right to me.

Today I think I will go for a run even if it is raining here in Montreal. My friend and trainer told me it will help clear my mind. She is right about that. Not only that but she told me “Don’t let it get to you, you are a soldier.” Just that little note meant the world to me. Something else to keep in mind. We make far too much out of all this. Days like today remind me of St Stephen’s Green in Dublin. It is a beautiful park, right in the middle of Dublin, except when you enter it, you feel secluded in a peaceful green space, calm and serene. Now that is a nice place to visualize.