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.


The value of contrast

What have I been reflecting upon this week? Work. It has not been an easy time; long hours, multi-tasking, managing people, listening, navigating politics and feeling stressed. In short, a lot of contrast.  I am also in line for a promotion at work. It was suggested that, while I may deserve it, I probably will not get it. A comment like this angers and upsets me. It also increases my determination 100 fold to get it. Because I now care about getting it, it has become my goal.
I receive these quotes, daily, by email and there is one quote my mind keeps floating to:
Whomsoever may torment you, harass you, confound you, or upset you, is a teacher. Not because they’re wise, but because you seek to become so. There are no accidents, they showed up for a reason, and you can always turn the page.
Let’s review.
Torment is defined as severe physical or mental suffering – sounds pretty harsh. Harass is subject to aggressive pressure or intimidation – does not sound like a good time.
If I am experiencing this in my workplace, I should leave. I am not therefore, moving on to the next ones:
Confound, which is to cause surprise or confusion, especially by acting against my expectations. – sounds a bit better because I like surprises?  Upset is to make someone, in this case me, unhappy, disappointed, or worried. From what I have experienced at work recently, this is applicable to me.
I agree with the part of the quote that says “is a teacher. Not because they’re wise” part. It is unwise to torment, harass, or upset anyone really. I mean who would like to inflict any of the above experiences on anyone? Not me. What does this have to do with my goal?
So then the question becomes “How are they teachers?”  Am I supposed to believe that these experiences would teach me something? And do I really seek to become wise? How do I reconcile “they are there for a reason, and then I can turn the page?”
Time to reflect
I do generally love the people I work with and most of my clients. Thank God, because as a consultant, if I don’t like people and clients, well, business is not going to be very good. But work is the place where I feel the most resistance and impatience lately. As stated I have felt confounded and upset at times. It is important to me to understand this quote in order to achieve my goal.
I am very protective of my work life balance. However in the last year, I have worked longer hours and taken on more, so in my mind, my perception, I deserve that position. This year, I was told that if I act “as if”, I will get the promotion. In other words, for the position I seek, I must act as if I am that, in order to get that. It must be perceived that I am that, in order to get that.
So if perception is key, then it implies I must care about what other people perceive. I have been taught to believe that this is out of my control. In addition a quote by Lao Tzu states
“Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.”
Prisoner, follower, slave. As opposed to Leaders, who often find their own path without caring what others think.  But the position I am in line for is a leadership position. And to get that it must be perceived that I am that. This is what I would call a mind fuck. Confounding.
So how do people who confound and upset me at work teach me anything? I ask the question this week –why does this upset me? Why is this confounding to me? By asking these questions, I realized that the answers point me to something.
Lessons (generally learned from those teachers)
Lesson #1: I still care about what other people think. It became apparent this week because I occasionally get affected by some comment I perceive as a slight about me or impediment to the project. Every time I am upset, I get to look at why. Every time something confounds me it is an opportunity to reflect on why. Am I taking things personally? Perfect lesson. Another lesson, that comment – “you will not get it”, has revealed that I really do want it, and driven me even more. Thank you.
Lesson #2: After getting upset by some email from someone in higher management, I was told to breathe and let things be. Learning to let things be releases resistance and improves patience. I get an opportunity to focus on what is important. I am also reminded to breathe in, breathe out.
Lesson #3: Learning to navigate politics. Politics confound and upset me because of how I think and feel about that bullshit. However I need to let that bullshit be, as it is part of the game. Game, sounds like fun and learning to navigate that while keeping my sense of humour intact and maintaining my integrity is a great lesson that can only be learned thorough some upsetting and confounding situations around “politics”. Thank you big corporate client. I am learning a lot from you.
Lesson #4:  Stress management. The stressful situations also reveal where I need to work on how to effectively manage stress and time management. Not avoid it or run away from it, but I am afforded the opportunity through people to see what I need to work on. Doing that leads to solutions. Turning the page means applying lessons learned.
Lesson #5: Facing adversity not fearing it. There are people who say life is unfair, life is so hard. I do not relate to doom and gloom. In my case, I have found life to be pretty good. Then there are law of attraction teachers who say that if you think it is hard it will be, that you can visualize your way into ease and everything will be fine. The danger here is that people tend to do this to avoid adversity and “the bad” and the hard”. (I am one of those people who has done exactly this) Yes, it would be lovely if everything was easy and fine and just the way I want. I also now accept this is not how life works. Hence the quote I am reflecting upon. Brian Tracy is quoted as saying:
“You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you.”
 That is wisdom I seek.
I believe these are the opportunities my work provides to me in the upsetting and confounding situations.
Every upsetting or confounding situation is an opportunity to learn how to accept and manage adversity. To understand that contrast is there for a reason and face it, instead of avoiding it or fearing it.  Ironic that in doing so, things are less confounding and upsetting but more revealing? Turning the page could simply mean applying the lessons learned and could actually lead to a better understanding of what to take seriously and what to let go. Either way, I win.

The matter of clarity

I often find myself wondering about clarity. I feel really good when I have clarity. Clarity of mind, in my heart, in general. It just feels really good when I am clear about how I feel and what I want. Decisions seem easy to make and I just feel confident in general, even a sense of security, or faith, or even knowing. But I do not always feel clear. It is something I am working on.

I would like to say my resolution for this year is to gain clarity, but I decided not to resolve to do anything in 2017. I decided to be happy. I decided to make that my priority and then do whatever I can after that.

How to be happy? Well that is what having clarity might help with. Suffice to say, it is not always easy for me to feel happy. This past year was slightly difficult, in part because a couple of family members are not as healthy as I would like them to be. The fact that I even focus on this is not the best but it is true nonetheless. However, that is not all I focus on. And here is the golden nugget. How I feel when I am with them is the key. I never thought I would ever feel this way but this actually happened.

Background – My mother beat cancer not once, but twice and three years ago was diagnosed with bone cancer. She refused any chemotherapy because she wanted quality of life and had seen her mother pass of the same cancer. It was not good. When we learned this three years ago, we had one heck of a Christmas celebration. My mother was so happy and smiles were all around. We appreciated that Christmas so much.

Back to the story

It is not the cancer taking my mother away………..no – it is Alzheimer’s. Now here is the irony, she does not appear to be suffering at all. As a matter of fact, while it is very difficult to see someone you love in this state, they appear to be oblivious to it. I heard it said that a person with this condition is no longer really focused here and they are in between the physical and non-physical. On their way to the transition phase (commonly referred to as death), but they are still here physically. Some even say that the conditions humans have are an unconscious choice – but that is one subject I will not be addressing in this post.

This was not easy for me to accept. It was not easy for me to see my mother in 2016. I had a hard time and selfishly stayed away. Not for too long, but instead of going weekly, I would go monthly. My dad was a sounding board for me at that time. (He still is) He never judged me and always listened, gave me sound advice, which I would later take. I am stubborn. But his understanding and time he took to listen to me was so appreciated.

Then in December, I took her great grandson, Aidan, to go see her and her eyes lit up like a Christmas tree. My brother was there and he was thrilled by her reaction. Aidan was all smiles and he played at the table where we sat, for hours. No words were exchanged really, but a lot of happy smiles and the light in her eyes as she gazed at him was priceless. I was changed by that experience. I looked forward to seeing her again.

On Christmas Day I went to see her. My brother was there – He had breakfast with her and told me she had eaten chocolate. She was apparently in a very good mood and had eaten well. The look of recognition slowly appeared in her eyes and as I was excited about the prospect of her eating cherry blossoms, she started to laugh. Laughter, the sound of her laughter is music to my ears now. I have not had a conversation with her since Labour Day 2016 but on Christmas, she laughed. We all did and I had no clue why. For a few moments, that is all we did. Laugh. I still do not know why. I do not need clarity for that one. I do not need to know. All I know is that laugh was wonderful.

Today I went to see my mom. I really wanted to see her and my step father (how I dislike that word “step” but that is for another random musing). I wanted to see them before I left for my week. When I arrived, my mom was awake and Claude was happy to see us. I instantly felt relieved.

I thought to myself “Clarity” and then I knew. I have it when I see my mother. When I can be with her and no words need to be spoken. We communicate with our eyes. There is something in her eyes and when she smiles, the world lights up. If she happens to laugh, well angels sing you see. Today was another good day because I saw her husband of 30 plus years lovingly sit next to her and give her something to drink and eat. He talks to her and she looks at him with those eyes and you forget for a moment that this is supposed to be torture and sad. Her husband made her laugh today as he was talking to her. I did too, but again I have no clue why – I just said I was happy to have time off because I felt I needed it and as I looked at the sky she started laughing, while looking straight at me.

There is the nugget. In the midst of losing her slowly, I am seeing and feeling love like I have never seen nor felt before. I am feeling moments of happiness when I once thought it was not possible. I am able to sit in silence with my mom and feel her presence. I have the privilege of watching a real life version of the Notebook and know it is not only in the movies. I have never seen such dedication from a man towards a woman. But I know it exists. I may have been cynical in the past but not anymore. I have not lost anything, apparently, I have gained something…………perhaps clarity? A bit of faith, and maybe, just maybe even a sense of knowing?

Unconditional love was a gift my mother gave me and Claude too. They are still giving. I see it between them, even in this condition. My parents are selfless. As I sat there today, I knew it is possible to feel happy in the midst of any condition, all you need is some willingness, clarity and love. I adore my parents and seeing them always helps me feel better.  Even now.

Alzheimer’s………….yes, the long goodbye. But until then, I will take the smiles, the laughter and the meals that we have, even in this condition. That is the nugget and clarity was, for the moment, a reality for me. I then went to see my daughter and my two grandsons. I know I am blessed. Clarity and knowing and unconditional love.

Well that is about all there is to say about that (to quote a phrase, perhaps not in its exact form, from Forrest Gump – but it fits)

I am off for a week in Cuba, where I will be with the ocean, walk in the sand and look at seashells and rocks. I will think of my family while I am away.

Thank you for your visit. Have a great week. Be as happy as you can possibly be.