Marbles

She had read an article about trust and the marble jar. The author quoted Brene Brown:

«Whenever someone supports you, or is kind to you, or sticks up for you, or honors what you share with them as private, you put marbles in the jar. When people are mean, or disrespectful, or share your secrets, marbles come out.»

She liked this analogy. This week she had really good days and she had some downright sad days where she was barely able to function, although she did, it required a lot of effort and there was a lot of crying.

On the great day, Monday, she woke up feeling awesome. She had a good night sleep, 8 hours. A first for her in the longest time. She was so grateful she was thanking life, her mom, the Universe, any spirit that would listen. She was thrilled. Ironically Monday was the day she read the article – that morning. The marble jar.

She reflected on how she had managed her marble jar. Over the last 9 years, she had filled up this jar and then smashed it (quite literally) many times. Whenever she would feel hurt, ignored or betrayed by her boyfriend, She too could be downright cruel with her words. Over time she had worked on this aspect of herself, but last November, as she was burning out and denying that, the flaw was coming back in force. She wanted to hurt the person in her life that she believed should be there for her but was instead hurting her. She was getting tired of losing her marbles so she would deliberately hurt the person responsible. Using this analogy, in November there were little marbles and she just smashed the jar. However, personal events caused her to change her mind, and put that jar back together, to «help» the person she no longer trusted, but did not know how to leave.

She realized that she was in a vulnerable state herself. She was afraid to be alone during a period where she knew she was burning out, had severe anxiety, but she wanted to manage it herself and not admit weakness to anyone. She prided herself on being positive so depression made no sense to her. It could not be possible for her to be depressed. So, instead of turning to drugs, as she had done in the past, she turned to her security blanket, the boyfriend. The one who could fill up a jar of marbles and then empty it just as quickly. No wonder she was losing her marbles.

Today there is no more jar. It had been smashed so many times, she could no longer put it back together. On the bad day, Tuesday, she was filled with deep grief. The numbing, overwhelming grief. Panic over the finality of the relationship, she started to doubt herself. Thank God she had an appointment with her doctor. She went in, a crying mess and told him that over the last month, she had made progress although she did not feel or appear that way at the moment. She had done all of this without any prescribed medication. Her doctor was an angel to her. He gave her this perspective on grieving the end of a relationship:

« The end of a relationship is painful, even if you end it. To grieve is human and normal. It is healthy to feel your feelings and cry. This is the healing process. »

She was reminded of the saying «You have to feel it to heal it. »

Then she asked him why it hurt more when she realized that her ex had found someone else, in a nano second and was now getting clean. She felt happy he was clean and then inadequate and not good enough to have deserved that when he was with her. He offered up this perspective:

«It is part of the process for an addict to get clean when they lose something precious to them. The term rock bottom stems from this. In addition, the person will tend to fill the void with another addiction, someone or something. This is called rebound in the case of relationships. »

Then he looked her straight in the eyes and told her there was nothing wrong with her. None of this was a reflection of herself. Instead, he told her that she had made significant progress since February and that she had taken a huge step in ending a toxic relationship. She had stopped trying to fix the marble jar. He also informed her that when in depression, a person’s self-esteem is low. She was making progress by sticking up for herself.

She left that day feeling better. She was also looking forward to her therapist appointment the following morning. In being completely honest with herself, she realized she had stayed in a relationship out of fear. She thought she was being forgiving and loving to her boyfriend but she was not being loving to herself. She was afraid and stayed in it. She knew her therapist would have some valuable insight. She had been right and guided her so well since the very beginning. She opened up, was vulnerable and honest with her. She told her she felt ashamed for being sad over something that was supposed to be for the best. Her therapist re-iterated her doctor’s words and then gave her three things to do (if this helps even one person going through a break up then this would be wonderful):

  1. On a good day, write a letter to the sad self. There will be days of sadness and in that moment, a letter to her sad self from her happy strong self would be a loving thing to do and read.
  2. Given she had no appetite and was not eating, she suggested eating small things, like nuts, yogurt, smoothies, a banana. Anything small and healthy. Despite her ups and downs, she was still working out every day so she reminded her to be kind to my body and feed it.
  3. Stop all contact with the ex. She could not heal her wounds by keeping contact with the person that helped hurt her (she replied that she took full responsibility for allowing this to happen but…..). This, she said would be entirely up to her. However, if she chose to continue contact she risked prolonging the hurt, the healing process would take longer or she could end up back in the relationship.

Upon hearing point number 3, she paused. She admitted that they were in contact. He would text her asking if she could talk. There were still things of his in her house. The therapist replied that she had finally ripped the band aid off, smashed the marble jar and was at risk of leaving a wound fresh and ripe to stay open.

She was honest, again, and told her therapist that she realized that when his mom passed away, she may have changed her mind and forgiven him again out of pity or guilt as she had done in November and December. But this time, his decision to be with someone else had removed that self-doubt from her. She felt gratitude in that moment. This is what we call getting a different perspective from fear to love. Instead of feeling betrayed, she felt that the Universe did have her back. She felt loved and supported.

So what of this marble jar? Well as she was working out today, she felt pretty good. Her reflection for today was gratitude. She was grateful for the gym, the time to work out, and her body for allowing her to do so, on and on she went with all that she was grateful for. As she was working out, this song came on. It was a song that had played in a bar they had gone to while in Amsterdam. It was a really good day that day. She felt a wave of sadness, and like she had been punched in the gut. She kept on doing her reps, and then suddenly thought « MARBLE!!!! »

Those good memories were marbles that she would stumble upon every now and again. All she had to do was remind herself when she stepped on one to say to herself «marbles» and remember that the jar may be gone but those marbles were still rolling around out there. If she ran into one and recognized it, she may slip but she would not fall.

She left the gym and treated herself to an Americano coffee. She loved the lady that served it. She was grateful for her too. As she was crossing the street to get into her car, and felt like she was going to have a good cry, someone called her name. It was her ex-husband. The man she had left 9 years ago to be with the one she was now currently grieving. He had always been kind and graceful during the the whole marriage, even at the end. He asked if she had time to talk. She did. She was honest with him about her current situation.

He was kind and replied «9 years ago I told you one thing and I promised I would never say it again. »

She asked, «What was that? »

He replied «I told you I did not think he was good for you. You deserved better. I think you were afraid of being alone. »

She thanked him for that and told him many people had said that to her over the years. Maybe she needed to figure that out for herself. Maybe now, because she was given the time to focus on herself, she finally realized that it was time for her to fill up her own marble jar. The urge to cry was gone as he left her at her car. The urge to write was strong. So she followed her gut. In the 12 step community they say « you can only keep what you have by giving it away. » So she did. Marbles………

 

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Chaos

What the hell happened? She could get through anything – many, many anything’s. She had had her share of ups and downs and tried to view them as a nice roller-coaster ride. Surfing waves, ups and downs. Not recently. It had been a not fun kind of roller coaster. She was no longer surfing those waves, she felt like she was drowning. The worst part is, it got to her. Mentally.

She felt broken down, overwhelmed and weak. Nothing she did was enough. She felt as though she was barely scraping by. Getting the minimum done. She had always worked hard. Worked towards her goals. Achieved them as validation she was good enough. Worked in a Big Four firm – for validation she was good enough. Got promoted throughout the years, performed to an above average level for 80% of her time at that firm. Achieve, perform, achieve, and perform – all the while being told how she was not good enough at this or that. Never a kind compliment without a BUT after it. For years she tried her best not to take this personally. This year, it all got to her. Adapt, adjust, deliver, and keep on going like the energizer bunny. Deliver, adapt, no big deal. She was waving a flag, she was drowning, she felt really, really sad. Odd for her as the positive little optimist. Things always work out. Things always work out repeat, rinse, repeat. All the while seeking validation from the outside.

Her faith was next to shake. Her family was blowing to bits, going to hell. No worries, circle of life. Worry solves nothing. Control what you can. She was going out of control. She felt like she was losing her mind. Random reflection is right. This blog would not be organized, no sub titles – just a release of what had been in her head for months. Months of not even doing one of the things she loved – writing, going to the gym. Oh the critics at work about her writing. Her thoughts are not structured, her lack of attention to detail. She guessed it depended on the reviewer. No mistakes were allowed there. Not even small ones. To err is human, that is how you learn – nope not at work.

There were two people who had a different approach. She started to love working with them and took their comments with joy. She felt like she was contributing and doing well. What a change. But even that was not good enough. She was criticized for working on one client too much and had to expand. So throw more work her way on top of the global client – so just do more, adjust, adapt and let them validate her entire existence with their lack of compliments. Their constant criticism and micro management was par for the course. Adjust, adapt. Oh and don’t take things personally. She had allowed this, chosen this. She was baffled. It was all coming to the surface.

People died? OK take some days, but remember you pay for your vacations before and after. The unwritten rule of corporation. Who died? Your mom? Let us remind you of that on Mother’s Day in the mass email sent out to the team not even 2 months afterwards. Classy. The father of her child died suddenly and unexpectedly? Too bad so sad. Not a relative. Does not count. Fuck her grief, fuck her daughter – she is an adult. Why did she have to help her? She is an adult. She has a partner. She had to help with the kids? Why – she had no time for that! She had a career to think about. She could not have no life other than work? She was concerned about her daughter spiraling out of control? She was too emotional, too worried, too weak, and too personal. Something was wrong with her. That was the message.

She found herself waking up in the morning crying. Repeating over and over «I got this, I got this, I can do this» just to be able to leave the house and go to work. Deadlines looming with resources taken away – «I got this, I can do this, I can deliver. I must deliver». She really care about her clients. Breaking down crying at the office in private because nobody could see this weakness. No way. NO WAY.

Crying and unable to breathe. Rocking back and forth begging for her power back. Where did she go? Where was she and who was this person who was so weak?

A colleague walked in and closed the door. He helped her back to a sense of calm – no crying. They talked. He helped her. She can keep doing this. She had the support of a colleague. She was not burning out. She was just stressed. She called the Employee Assistance Program (EAP)  and asked for an appointment – no time? No problem, phone call therapy. She accepted the December 21st phone appointment – two weeks away. No call on  that day. No call. No help from the EAP. No problem. She was on winter vacation now. She had this. One week in Cuba alone would set her straight. She would find herself, realign herself and be strong, solid. A bomb could go off and she could deal with it, manage it and get through it. ZEN……….

Back to work after 4 hours of sleep. Had to negotiate that week in Cuba. The date changed 3 times. Adapt, adjust, and negotiate vacation time that she actually had banked. She was zen enough and that lasted 5 days. Gone. 5 days. She was not right. The Cuba solution that had worked so well in the past was no longer working.

Untold story about her daughter. Cannot talk about that. She is alive and making insane choices. Not her problem though. She is an adult. People keep telling her that like it helps.

The colleague helped her get her grandson into pre-K mid-year. She was so grateful. He gave her a recommendation to a therapist. She made the appointment and went to see her. The therapist was a good fit for her. One week later, the therapist told her to go see her doctor. What a joke. She did not have a doctor. She had not been to a doctor in 21 years. Walk-in clinic –  there was an alternative. So she went back to work. «I got this, I got this, I got this»………she could not stop crying. She just hid in her office wanting to crawl under the desk and hide there. She could not breathe. Her colleague knocked. She let him in. He told her to go home and say she had gastro. Nobody argues with gastro. They want you far away. OK she thought. OK. So she left.

The next day she stayed home and called that walk-in community clinic. They told her to come in and see a nurse. When she arrived, they asked if she also needed to see a therapist. She could not stop crying. She said no that her therapist had told her to come in this clinic.

She waited. Two women came to get her. They talked to her. They had her complete a questionnaire. They took her vitals. Then they said she could not leave until she saw a doctor. She said she had to get her grandson from school. It was just one street over from the clinic. They allowed her to leave and get her little one. The doctor then saw her. She was not going back to work. She was burned out and placed on medical leave for 30 days. He offered to be her family doctor. She was stunned. There was a shortage of family doctors. He was offering. She accepted. He gave her a battery of blood tests to take and urine. She went to the lady to make the appointment. The lady told her she was happy she had come in today. She then said «Open your heart to receive». She left and marveled at how kind every single person had been to her. She was amazed and grateful.

She then took her second little one into her temporary care. The people from Youth Protection came and visited her house. The plan would work. Not so fast. Two weeks later, she got a call saying that this was going to family court and the care of the children was going to be entrusted to her. Out of the blue. No notice. In the next 4 days a meeting was held and the court date took place. She was baffled. She was getting accustomed to feeling stunned/baffled. She was starting to wonder if this was really her life. She could not recognize her daughter or anyone anymore really. Everything had changed so much. This was insane. People were hurt, angry, felt betrayed. All she wanted to do was help. Powerlessness was the ever-present theme. It is overkill really, she thought to herself. Why must it be so over the top this powerlessness? Must everything be out of her control? Yes, even her own state of mind seemed to have escaped her. She was now responsible for two boys, while trying to figure out how to get mentally healthy again to go back to work.

Fuck work. 30 days was not enough to get over this. The medical leave was extended. She now had 30 more days to figure it out. Get better, get stronger. Stop feeling overwhelmed. Get her Zen back, herself back. It all just seemed impossible. But she remembered nothing is impossible. Must everything be so hard? She did not have Syria problems, she had first world problems. She made gratitude lists:

  • I am grateful I live in a peaceful country.
  • I am grateful these are the problems I have instead of bombs
  • I am grateful that nobody else has died
  • I am grateful for the clinic and the kindness received from them
  • I am grateful for my colleague
  • I am grateful that I can help with the boys
  • I am grateful to be alive
  • and so on for pages…….

She was grateful for many things. It helped for a little while.

Then back to reality. Drugs, drugs everywhere – people she loved taking the most horrid substances she could think of. She hated drugs. She remembered a time when they would all go to 12 step groups. Everyone was «clean». She hated that word. Like no one was dirty before. She had a nice family. All was well. This too shall pass though. Boy did it ever pass. What happened? Never mind what happened. No sense wondering about the past. It is done.

Drugs – the doctor asked if she wanted pills to help with sleep – she refused. No way was she going to take drugs to feel better. Not this time. That was done. No sense in adding to the insanity. He prescribed them nonetheless.  The bottle remains, untouched.

She followed her treatment plan to the best of her ability. She even looked into photography classes. Her dad had told her this burn out was probably the best thing that could happen to her. She was trying to see the positive or the opportunity in everything. She really was trying. She made photography collages with her photos. She decorated her apartment with pictures of the ocean. She made an aqua garden, bought a little beta fish and named him Alpha.  She went to therapy weekly.

One Saturday while the boys were with their dad, she even got to spend the day with her daughter. She was so happy. They came home and talked a bit. Her daughter helped pick out the last photos for the frames she had painted. It was great. She caught a glimpse of her daughter, the one she used to know.

They discussed birthday plans. She would have them over for dinner and make her daughter’s favorites, including a lemon meringue pie. Her mom had always made the best lemon pies. This was good. She felt her mom’s spirit with her. Her plant Tessie was thriving. The boys were now in school and daycare. The weekdays she would try to relax, meditate and hopefully feel a sense of peace. One day at a time. She dreaded the day she would have to go back to work. She was not ready, not yet anyways. But this too would pass. Doesn’t everything?

Today, she would take care of the boys and hopefully herself. For today, that would have to be good enough. And pray her daughter would be okay and find the help she needs. One day, this chaos would pass, or she would become an expert at accepting it for what it is instead of resenting it so fucking much. She dreamed of the day when she could again surf those waves instead of being drowned in them. She had always loved waves.

 

 

 

 

 

Happy New Year

2017 is a prime number. I was born on a prime date, prime month and I was sure that 2017 would be my year to thrive. 2017 – My mother passed away from Alzheimer’s, my daughter’s father also passed, and I feel like I lost my daughter. She has not been the same since he passed. I just counted the ways my year hurt me. I feel hurt and pain and it has not gone away just yet. I know it will. I know I want it to. I also know that 2017 brought me many experiences that were beautiful. Family moments, moments with my grandsons. Moments by the ocean that took my breath away. Moments at work where I persevered and I got promoted. Moments where I placed my health first. Moments where I was really strong. Then there were moments where I was really weak. As I write this I realize that this is life. I am not stupid. I know.

There will be days where one will be strong and moments that knock us to our knees. This year I feel like I was knocked to my knees. Many times. I took things personally. I did not expect most of what happened. As a result I did not react like I have been used to. I did take things personally. I felt offended by the Universe that I believed always sought to help me, not hurt me. I did not accept so easily. I still do not. I know this. I also know that I must. I need to accept otherwise I will only be hurting myself.

I really wish I had thrived this year like I had planned. This is the hardest thing to accept. I do not feel like I thrived. I feel like I lost a lot and did not deal with it so well. But maybe, just maybe, the fact that I am still here, still going forward, still willing to try, maybe that is thriving. Maybe I can redefine what thriving means. I know that there are people in war torn countries who would dream of what I have. This does not help. I know it but I still feel how I feel.  I am so tired of comparing my feelings to others. I am not supposed to compare myself to other people when it comes to defining success but when it comes to defining sadness, this is the measurement that people use. They tell me these things. Fuck that. Maybe that is one good thing. I no longer care what other people think about my feelings? Maybe this year I can no longer care what other people think in general? That would be a gift.

I also know that I have a good life. A good country, a good city, a good home, a great family, a good job. It is simple but I love where I live. I love my family and all the good people in my life. They never judged me this year. We all respected how we each grieve. This is priceless. It was hard to do where my daughter is concerned. I have learned to let that go too. So many things I had to let go this year. That is the hard part. The letting go. I feel sad. I had to let go of a lot this year. Practice makes perfect? Maybe.

So as I reflect on this past year I am grateful and thankful for all that I have. I know I have a lot. My two boys are priceless. My family is priceless. I have so many priceless moments that no amount of money could replace. I saw my two girlfriends of so many years in Vancouver. That is a gift. I saw my dad too. I was able to have wonderful vacations that gave me joy. I spent time alone and with my grandson Aidan. I did so many things that I love. I was able to spend the last moments, breathes of my mom’s life with her. Just like I asked. I am thankful to have had a mother so amazing that losing her causes me grief. I am thankful to have a daughter so amazing that her pain causes me pain to watch. That means she was a force to be reckoned with and anything less is something I just need to accept and know that this too shall pass. I have two healthy grandsons. I was fortunate to be able to spend the last day of this year with them. I am able to cook for them and laugh and play. Who gets to play anymore? I do. I still do. My son in law has been an inspiration. He went through hard times too and he persevered. I see that I have so very much to be grateful for. My work that has been a cause for much reflection is also a blessing. I will admit it. I am not sure what the hell I am doing or why but I know I am challenged and have a good job. I will see it this way. OK. For today.

I will try to accept that the things that happened this year must be left behind for a new year to start, even if this causes me pain. I feel like letting this all go means I am ok with losing the people I loved so much. I want to keep them with me and if I let them go………………..what happens? What does the New Year look like?

Well I have no answers right now except that I am happy to see the end to 2017. I am also sad. I am looking forward to 2018. But with a different outlook. Something inside has changed. I am no longer to hopeful optimist with belief in the Universe. No. I no longer believe that things happen for a reason. I no longer believe in the airy fairy stuff. What I do believe in is the ocean. It is real and tangible. I do believe in gratitude, goodness and kindness. I still believe in that. But I do not believe things happen for a reason anymore. I believe that I must not. I must not take things personally. To do this, nothing happens for a reason per say. It just happens. The Universe is random and chaotic. Constantly changing. Physics, chemistry, biology, this makes sense to me. Don’t think about it too much. If it feels bad, let it go. If it feels good, enjoy. Do not look for meaning in anything anymore. Things are the way they are. Let them be. Maybe that is my gift this year. A new perspective. I am willing to see it through. I know one thing. I am blessed, I am grateful even if I am sad and happy at the same time for different reasons. It was a good year at the end of the day, despite the stuff I am still working through. Maybe I can say I did thrive. Maybe by writing this last piece, having spent time with my family, being with my two grandsons, having spoken to my daughter, packing for my trip to the ocean, I can say, I made it and I did thrive. Just not the way I planned.

When I look at William and Aidan, how they are with each other, this inspires me. William reminds me of my mom. He has this look he gives me with his eyes, like the one she gave me near the end when that is how she could communicate. They are the wind beneath my wings, as is my girl. I will hold on to that. I will remember how lucky I am to have sisters and brothers who are wonderful and create family events. They dote on the boys. I will remember my second dad who shares his feelings with me and my dad who tells me all I have to do is call and vent. I am lucky girl. I must remember that. I know I have all the support I need. All I need now is to give myself my own support. I need to be there for myself.

From the bottom of my heart I wish everyone a wonderful New Year. Live, love, laugh. Thank you for giving me a safe space to write. It was so therapeutic and helped me release and express. May 2018 be a wonderful year for you all.

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.
Perception
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.