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Ten Thousand Days

What’s In a Name?

December 3, 2019

Photo: Jon Tyson

Day 1925 – Day 1935

It is said that everyone has 3 names: the one that our parents give to us, the one which we are called, and the one that we go out and claim for ourselves.

What is in a name?  A name defines us, in ways that we may not even realize.  I was named Tania after my mother, and her mother, and her mother’s mother.    I lived among French Canadians with a Russian name that was difficult to pronounce and harder to spell.  And when I visited my cousins, aunties, uncles and grandparents for whom Russian was a first language, I was the odd English speaker.

Although an outsider, I was an ultimate insider, too.  My name created a strong maternal bond that was like an anchor in a life where I was tossed around on the seas of parental aspirations, moving home and having to make new friends and to fit in somewhere new, every year or two; sometimes, twice in a single year.  Of my siblings, I became the one who spent serious time researching my heritage and working to live up to the high ideals of the women from whom I came.  My mother passed away just as I was reaching womanhood, and so I am grateful for that thread of matrilineal Oneness that stretches back through time, as I made my way forward, without them.

Some believe that we ought to name our children based on qualities they appear to possess.  Others believe that the greater power is in being named for qualities we lack, in the hopes that we will grow into our names.

I have been on a spiritual path for as long as I can remember.  Along the way, I was given a Sanskrit name by a teacher. I think he chose my particular name because my stars are pretty awful.  Any astrologer who has looked at my chart – whether working with Western or Vedic astrology – has looked upon me with pity.

With those stars, I grew up believing that my destiny was to be forsaken by fate.  My spiritual name, however, means “greatly auspicious.”

When I first heard my new name, I hated it.  It was harsh and aggressive, and not at all sweet and feminine sounding.  My teacher reassured me that I could pronounce the consonants in their softer form, and so I did.  I learned to live with the name and it grew on me. It became the name by which I was known, and when I traveled to India I was quickly informed that I was mangling the language, and requested, politely, to stop.  Hard consonants and great auspiciousness; such was my fate to bear.

While others have recognized and sought to siphon  my spiritual power, the legacy, with which I struggle, is a lack of belief in the gifts of my own potential.  Perhaps without my second given name, I would never have been inclined to practice deep gratitude.  If the good favour of the universe precedes you, follows you, surrounds you and is the meaning of own name, how can you fail to feel blessed?

The name that matters most, it is said, is that which we give to ourselves.  I remember playing outdoors as a child and a stranger, who mistakenly thought I was lost, demanded to know my surname.  I was frightened by him, and frightened that I would get in trouble for playing where I shouldn’t have been; so I lied.  I told him my surname was Pink; I became Tania Pink.  Pink was my favourite colour and while joyful, it served then, as now, as my shield of privacy.  It is a word that conjures femininity, even if in a hetero and gender normative way.  It is a colour that, while oft dismissed as passive, universally symbolises female sexuality and celebrates feminine power.

Before I even went to school, I had, of my own volition, set myself on a path to be a warrior woman.

Every name I’ve had – the one given by my parents, the one I became known by,  and the one I chose for myself – have been neither frivolous nor always easy to bear.  Each has taught me to be the woman I was born to be and to become.  I am grateful for each of them.

In what ways are you grateful for your name(s)?

Articles, humour

5 Reasons to Be Grateful for the Holidays (Funny)

November 28, 2019

Photo: Angelina Jollivet

 

    1. You get to spend loads of time with family – including some members who crawl out of the woodwork only once a year.  We should be grateful for our family time.  Think of those poor people who have decided to live and celebrate, independent of their extended family.  They miss out on all the possibilities for personal growth that interacting with the family narcissist, martyr and black sheep provides.  Oh wait!  They ARE the black sheep.  Well, not only do they miss out on those relationship dynamics, they also miss out on the fun of building a new relationship with a therapist.
    2. This is a glorious time of year for gift giving.  It is the time of year when we can seek approval through overspending.  And, what better way to show our patriotism than to keep the myth of continuous economic growth alive through our own share of personal debt?  If you happen to be of another cultural tradition where a fat man in a red suit does not drive the economy, what an splendid chance this is to conform to societal pressure and adopt Santa! Oh, and we are truly blessed if we get some of that wholesome and quality ‘family time’ that storming the doors at the Black Friday sales affords us (since we won’t be able to afford anything afterwards).  Don’t forget to bring Grandma along.  Old ladies have the sharpest elbows.
    3. The holidays are the perfect time for a health check-in.  How will we know we are truly healthy if we don’t push our organs to the limits?  The holiday season is simply not the holiday season without massive consumption of alcohol to smooth all the wrinkles in the fabric of our families and to help mellow our experience of all this togetherness.  So go ahead and make sure to give your health a good check.  Emergency room staff like visitors, too, you know.
    4. Imagine what New Year’s resolutions would look like, in the absence of a month of gorging ourselves on rich and fatty foods?  How would personal trainers make a living, without seasonal indulgences?  In a way, we are going beyond simple gratitude here.  We are, in fact, providing a service to others in our community.
    5. If you happen to find yourself alone over the Holiday Season that seems to stretch into one single abyss until Valentines Day has passed, this is the perfect opportunity to spend quiet time reflecting on those solid life choices.  For the fortunate few, this ‘alone in the crowd’ feeling can be cultivated, even surrounded by loved ones.


      What a wonderful time of the year!!!!

      Photo: Justin Lim

       We know that, for many of us, the holidays are difficult.  Let’s not make it worse on ourselves.

      I wish a very Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers, who celebrate the day.  If you do venture out shopping, please remember who you are.  Remember also that you have financial goals of your own that are worth honouring.  Please don’t let cultural pressures push you out of self-care, into debt, or make you feel somehow inadequate, this season.  Nobody’s life is like the Hallmark Channel.

      I propose that, instead, we play a global game of Treasure-Hunt, this season!  Let’s redouble our efforts to hunt for joy in everyday life, to be grateful for what we DO have, and to find every opportunity we can to be kind, to connect with and to serve others.  This is the surest way I know to have a happy Holiday Season and truly happy life.

      What are your REAL reasons to be grateful for this time of year?

Ten Thousand Days

Waiting

November 22, 2019

Photo: Ashim D Silva

Day 1915 – Day 1924

I’m trying to get back to a more regular posting schedule, but if you’ve read my last few posts, you will know that I’ve been through hell and back this past year.  This summer, I had come to a point of awakening – from what, I do not know – and I was ready to leave 2.5 years of shock and disappointment behind me.  It was time to clean up my life and move on.   Just as I stepped out to begin to cross the street of my life, I was hit by the truck of medical errors.

Nobody knows what anyone else is going through.  Certainly nobody can tell how well you are by looking at you.  I know that some of those close to me, or in positions of power over me, think that I should be back to normal following my medical traumas of the late summer.  I find there is compassion fatigue in the world.  When someone is grieving, for instance, people swarm around and compassionately care, for the initial period of bereavement.  After the first few months, and certainly after the initial year, compassion is missing.  It seems that this is human nature, in our fast paced and self-focused world.

The same applies to anyone who has been through a traumatic event – medical or otherwise – and who is in the long and gradual period of recovery.  In my case, even though I’m up and trying to get back to normal, I look pretty awful, if you have eyes to see.  I look forever tired, my post-surgical hernia is bulging above my horizontal incision, and my hair (as expected, given all the anaesthetic) is falling out.  Not a vision of wellness, but I am a vision of recovery.  I still require at least one more surgery for the post-surgical hernia, and nobody wants me to be fully well again, more than I do.

Other people’s expectations need to wait. I am learning to live with my own waiting: waiting till I’m well again, waiting to make plans, waiting to move on with my life.

I have been humbled, beyond what I thought was possible, this year.  I don’t like to talk about most of what’s going on with me, because it brings me down.   I am at the mercy of something I cannot control, and the waiting is sometimes nearly unbearable.  It leaves me feeling vulnerable, alone, exhausted and powerless.

I always think that there has got to be something of value in every tribulation.  I don’t know what the value here will be because I’m still so much in the middle of it.  I feel that it is an opportunity and a crossroads and only I can discern what my choices will be, let alone what choice I will take.  I am guessing that when one is powerless, vulnerable and alone, the best – if counter intuitive – thing to do is to surrender.  And so, I surrender to the state that my life is in, to the fact that there can’t be anywhere out but through, to the fact that the amount of time that this will take is not within my power, and to the fact that my attitude and my choice to have faith are the only things that appear to be in my control.

I get up every morning and give thanks for what I have.  It doesn’t make the situation change, but it helps me to navigate what has been the loneliest, most serious and sacred time in my life.  Gratitude and my faith have been my companions as I sit alone and I watch and I wait till I have agency once again.  What others think of this is really their own business.  It is hard to be impervious to what others think, when there is an element of disapproval in it and the person is of importance, in one’s life.  But, as Maslow theorized, self actualization requires one to be independent of the ‘good opinion of others.’

For whatever this unbearable period of waiting is teaching me, I am grateful.  For the reminder that it is important to be impervious to the opinion of others, I am grateful.  For some sage advice on this, I am grateful to my friend, TP.

By choice or not, something deep within my spirit is growing quietly more indomitable from the very experience of waiting, watching, and being watched.  As lacerating as it is, I am most grateful for it.

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

Ten Thousand Days

When Good Things Happen To Bad People

November 12, 2019

Photo: Peter Forster

Day 1881 – Day 1914

Recently, a friend said that my life lately has resembled a page from the Book of Job.  Now, if you’re not big on knowing the books of the Bible, you might just want to know that the book of Job is where a Christian is directed to answer the Question: “Why do bad things happen to good people?”  I’ll leave it to you to look at the Book of Job if that is something that interests you or read some summaries that can be found all over the internet.  One example is here.

I don’t often fall into either thinking that the Universe is against me or that I’m to blame for everything bad that happens to me.  I get disappointed, and, I get discouraged.  But, this is where gratitude practice really helps me to keep going, even when life isn’t going as smoothly as I’d like.  Instead of focusing on what I don’t have, I try to focus on what I do have.

I struggle with finding the ways to be grateful when a person has done me wrong.  I get angry at the injustice of it.  I find this particularly frustrating when it seems that all good things seem to follow the person who did me wrong.

I am thinking of someone in particular who did me wrong.  He is handsome and charming and a very good liar and, as I later found out, was involved in criminal activity.  He has loads of money, and he never has to work.  He seems to be doing marvelously.  Everyone believes that he’s a great guy.

For a long time after my experience of him, I found myself wondering: “Why do Good things happen to Bad people?”  It’s a simple turn of phrase and I won’t call him ‘bad’ because I think most people are not bad people but many people do bad things.  His antisocial, cruel behaviour towards me was bad.

When I thought about the guy who did me wrong, I got angry that he and his siblings had so many breaks in life because they have wealth and connections that seem to have been accumulated in a not completely ethical manner.  As a friend pointed out, the fact that the guy has never struggled also accounts for his cowardice, his haughty sense of entitlement, and his other character flaws.  And, she’s right.  The guy seems to have no gratitude.  Even in the face of what others would call a bounty, that guy could always find something to complain about.  I remember that I once took him canoeing at my parents’ cottage and I asked if he had enjoyed himself.  He said it was ‘alright’ and then complained that the boat was not a very nice one because it was made of fibreglass and not of wood.  He complained about my cooking, when I was feeding him, in my home.  He complained about the traffic when I drove him, two hours out of my way, to take him home.  He complained about being hard-done-by in several different settings and I found him tiresome for never being happy or grateful for anything anyone did for him.  He once complained to me about growing up wealthy and that he sometimes wished that he was poor.

Yeah.

Well, be careful what you wish for, I guess.

Maybe abundance really does come at a cost that we cannot see.  If one has never had to rely on other people to survive – as those of us who have to go to a day job to pay our bills do – this hinders one’s development of empathy, which in turn hampers one’s ability to build relationships.   If you’ve never struggled, it is hard to develop grit, and if you’ve always had everything you wanted, it can create a sense of entitlement and paranoia that can destroy meaningful relationships.   Empathy and gratitude are qualities that lead to developing a wish to be of service.  Service, in turn, is the key to living a purposeful and meaningful life.  Money and status – beyond a basic level – contribute little to increasing our happiness.  Most things that contribute to individual happiness – strong relationships, trust, gratitude, purpose, and meaning – may be hard to achieve if good fortune has always been heaped upon you, from an early age.

Maybe having everything you ever wanted is as much a test of character as having had to struggle. And, maybe who is tested in any instance is not so obvious.

I am grateful for every challenge that I’ve faced, albeit more grateful once I’ve come out the other side.  My struggles have made me who I am, and I like the person that I am. I’m even grateful for the months of anger and resentment that I once felt towards the guy who wronged me and whose life seemed to be platinum-plated.  Those months of soul struggling taught me a valuable lesson.  My concern for a “just” outcome took my eyes off of my own journey and all of the things for which I had to be grateful.  It pitted some of my precious life energy in opposition to another person, rather than pursuing those life affirming moments of being in the flow of Oneness.  It fueled my bitterness at injustice, instead of stoking my wish to be of service.  It sometimes kept me out of the present moment and stole my joy.

If you read the book of Job or even the summary, you will see that the Christian story concludes that we are not to judge the distribution of blessings and tribulations.  In the story, only God has the whole picture.  A secular approach would argue that unless my job was fighting crime, it was not my right or my business to worry about anyone’s share of the distribution of life events and fortune.   I’m not a cop, a judge or a jury.  Justice was not my job, and it was I who was choosing to be in handcuffs, energetically shackled to a guy that I disliked.

My job is to choose how to approach this life that has been given.   I freed myself from those chains by firmly resting my attention on my own practice.  Good fortune is largely a matter of attitude: If you can’t find gratitude within yourself, no amount of abundance will help you find it; and for the attentive and grateful heart, even a simple life, with ups and downs, is a contented life.

For what are you most grateful, today?

 

Milestone

5 Years Strong

October 21, 2019

Photo: element 5 digital

Some of you may have wondered if we didn’t miss an anniversary party.  Well, yes, we did.

On 17 August, I was in acute recovery, having undergone a significantly traumatic and life threatening episode with 4 surgeries/procedures in 3 different hospitals.  I knew it was my 5th year anniversary of this powerful gratitude practice, and while I quietly and privately recognized the milestone, I was not able to have a celebration.  Being alive and being grateful for my life was celebration enough.

Sure, I think it is unfortunate that the 5 year marker went without celebration.  A year ago, I decided that I wanted to have a big marker for my 5th year anniversary.  I was thinking of a big party or a podcast with contributors through the years.  I wasn’t thinking of a near death experience and the natural gratitude and shift in attitude that this would bring.  We put out our wishes into the universe, with our thoughts, but we don’t control the form in which our wishes are manifested.

Be Careful What You Wish For!

Gratitude is easy when things are going well.  At my first anniversary party, someone expressed their frustration with their own inability to practice gratitude, because life had been so hard for them.  I get it.  It’s easy to be grateful when life is good.  Easy, but perhaps, not profound.   I honestly believe that it is in the darkest times where we uncover the acute beauty of gratitude.   It is easy to ask “Why is this happening to me?” and to feel bitter about our circumstances.  While I did not feel this way about my surgeries, on several occasions over these past 5 years (more so the last 4), I have fallen into self-pity over my unjust circumstances, and I’ve experienced a crisis of faith.   Life experiences, even the worst experience, are opportunities for us to learn.  I believe that we get these lessons with life challenges that offer us the opportunity to develop our characters.  I know it doesn’t always feel that way.  In the moment, it hurts.  Sometimes, that pain is soul crushing in its intensity and the worse it hurts, the deeper is that wound.  The way I see it, so too, is the greater our potential for healing and growth.

I call this post “5 Years Strong” not only because I am gradually healing, physically, or because I feel grounded, and strong in my spirit, following my hospital stay.  I call it 5 Years Strong because getting to this 5 year milestone has taken more strength than I could have imagined I would be called to find within me, when I started this journey.  The first year was a piece of cake.  Sometimes I was actually grateful just for cake!  But, as I moved deeper into this practice, I have found myself challenged to be grateful in the face of a series of life events that a friend characterized as a page from the book of Job.  I made a major change in my life, only to find that I did so under false pretenses on the part of the other contracting party.  And I had a relationship that I could characterize in much the same way, which ended with cruelty and brutality.  My living situation and my financial security have been precarious throughout this time, as has been my health.  Oh, yes, it has been hard to be grateful and to walk my life in Oneness, and service, living and celebrating moments of joy.  Sometimes I have failed.  It has sometimes been beyond my power to stay positive about life.  In those moments, all I could do was find 3 things – 3 small and simple things – for which to be grateful, every day.  Holding on to gratitude gave me a light, (sometimes the tiniest of candles) – even when I had lost my faith, or was in so much despair that I couldn’t see my way forward – to guide my way through the dark times.

As I stood on the threshold of my 5 year anniversary, looking back and forward, beyond that threshold, I felt that I’d come through hell, and survived.  It is time to learn whatever this era in my life has offered to teach me, to complete this cycle and to move on to building a better life for myself and others.

I was feeling pretty proud of myself for my achievement, as the 5 year milestone approached.  Maybe my lesson came in getting slapped down in a big enough way to learn that the practice is hindered with egoistic ideas about personal achievement.  The practice is about surrendering to the deep humility and wonder of this incredible gift of life.  I see where I need to improve my practice.

We’ve made it through great times and some tough times, together,  in these past 5 years. We are as vulnerable as delicate Kintsugi pottery; and sometimes we’ve all failed at something or felt broken.  In healing all the places where we are broken – in body, heart and spirit – our scar tissue makes these wounds stronger and they become an inseparable part of us, like a memory or a marker, on our journey, of the lessons we’ve learned that made us grow.  Therein, lies the gold.

Welcome, year six.

Photo: Raychan

For what are you most grateful, right now?

 

Ten Thousand Days

And Yet, I’m Still Here

October 9, 2019

Photo: Sharon McCutcheon

Day 1757 – Day 1880

It has taken me a long time to even begin to put words to this post.  I have had a lot to process, and I have a deep well that is yet to be examined and re-ordered.

I had a life altering brush with death this summer.  Despite how daunting that is to say, I found myself in hospital with immense gratitude on a daily basis.  In brief, I went into emergency at the start of July with what I thought was food poisoning.  A minor surgery was indicated and performed.  It went terribly wrong, and my organs began to shut down.  In total, I had 4 surgeries to correct what had gone wrong and in the end, I was with the best liver specialist in the country.  For that, I’m grateful.  My belly looks much like the incision in the photo although I also have one that traverses my body horizontally as well.  The words on her body resonate with me as well.  In such stark moments, they will resonate with us all.

Farewell, bikini body, I like to joke.  But you can bet that I wear these scars as my badge of courage, of will, and of strength.  I have one more open surgery to go, in 2020.

I remember a friend once told me that when she left hospital, she sat on a park bench and had a heightened sense of awareness of everything.  Likely that was the drugs, still in her system.  I can attest to that, after 30 days of high doses of intravenous morphine.  But, I didn’t have to wait till I left hospital.  I learned many things about myself, about being a good patient, about being one’s own advocate (thankfully, I was conscious, most of the time), and about the people in my life.  The petty stuff had to go.  This displeased some people some of the time, but I had one focus…getting through this and being alive at the end of it.  I learned a lot.  My learnings are too private to share here, and I hope you will understand, my friends.  But, I hope that we will all see the learnings applied in my life, in the months and (hopefully) years to come.

I am grateful for my doctors at Vancouver General Hospital and St. Paul’s Hospital.  They saved my life.  I am grateful for my nurses and their 24 hour care.  They eased my pain and helped me with the little daily tasks like bathing that make a person feel human.  I finally felt I was in safe hands.  I am grateful for the visits from my family who brought me things like boiled eggs (when, after 10 days of no food or drink, I was able to eat once again), headphones and freshly laundered clothes.  I’m grateful that they kept my deck garden alive while I was in hospital – although nobody actually expected me to be in hospital as long as I was.  And I’m grateful for the many friends and relatives that came to visit on a daily basis.  They did not take offence when I asked them to come often and come for short visits.  I tired (and still do) very easily.  I’m grateful to the kayak buddy who picked me up from hospital, drove 2 hours to my house and helped get food for my house and my medical equipment to help me to recuperate.  I’m particularly grateful that she was able to spend the night and helped the next day when others came to move over 20 plants off my deck because my landlady needed to do construction commencing the day after I was released from hospital.  That particular situation is not something I welcomed but I’m grateful to those who helped get me through it and to those who stored my plants for an entire month while contstruction stretched on.  I’m grateful for many people in my community garden that took care of my plot while I was in hospital and even after I was released, clearing the plot, and cleaning it up for winter.  It was beyond anything I could have hoped would happen.

And, being a person of faith, I am grateful most of all to the Divine.  I both surrendered to and co-created with my concept of the Divine all the time I was in hospital.  I believe this deep sense of faith has always been the source of my strength.  I’m sure that those who are not people of faith will have their own reservoir from which to draw.

As difficult as some of the lessons were, and some of the things I recognize that I want to change, I’m grateful for the wake-up call that this has given me.  I’ve been granted a second chance at this life and whatever time I have left, I intend to use it well albeit, in some ways, differently.

I will leave this post with a singular focus on gratitude.  I know that there were moments of oneness, and joy and even a few moments of service.  When one is faced with their mortality and must put all of their will and energy into fighting to survive and heal, one is truly in the moment, nothing but authentic, and extremely mindful of everything that is important, and equally, that which is not.  What became very important for me was the concept of purpose and meaning, and being aligned with them in all that I do.  Life is short and I intend to live it even more purposefully than I ever have, before.

I have a lot of words in this post and yet, I haven’t really said much.  Good writing comes in the detail.  But these details are among the most private one can have.  Let me just say this:  I’m altered and yet, I’m still here.

For what are you most grateful?

Ten Thousand Days

Summertime

June 7, 2019

Photo: Matthew Schwartz

Day 1728 – Day 1756

When I lived in the USA, Memorial day was always the official start of summer.  Now that I grow a vegetable garden, I know that the rule of thumb is that the end of May is also the ‘safe bet’ for having all your summer crops planted.  This year, Memorial Day happened to fall on my birthday.

I am incredibly fortunate that I was speaking to a friend and she suggested that I fly out to see her in Cape Cod for the weekend.  There was an incredible seat sale and the airfare was her gift to me.  I jumped at the chance.  I had to get my garden planted before I left, because I knew the tomato seedlings would not last in the hot temperatures that were predicted for the weekend that I was away.  All of my patio plants went into as many buckets and barrels of water as I could find, to keep their roots wet and I tried the old water bottle inverted in the soil trick to keep the soil moist.  This, plus a shade cloth meant that I came home to lush and thriving patio plants.  All things aligned so that I ran into a fellow gardener who agreed to water my plot while I was away.  With 4 hours sleep in the 48 hours before I flew, I planted my garden, packed my things and set off for Cape Cod – a coast to coast adventure.

I’m so grateful that my friend offered me this gift and that I decided to be spontaneous and take it.  I’m also grateful that I could get a few days off from work at short notice.

We had a great time.  My friend had to work every day for a few hours and while she was at work in the wee hours of the morning I went to the beach, explored her town, and did some necessary grocery shopping considering my vast array of food allergies.  We visited Martha’s Vineyard, Provincetown, Mellerton for raw oysters, Truro Vineyard, the National Seashore, Race Point Beach at Provincetown and spent time on the beaches around Hyannisport.  I went to art galleries, exotic food markets and to the Kennedy and Korean war memorials as well as spending a morning at the Kennedy Museum in Hyannisport, where the Kennedy Complex is still actively used by the family, to this day.  It was a whirlwind and we ate out, cooked in and had takeaway and watched movies.  For 4 days and 5 nights, I got to spend time with an old friend that I’ve not seen in over 15 years.

For me, the beach was supremely relaxing and enjoyable. I’m delighted we got to spend a whole day together just hanging out on the beach.

We drank our fair share of wine, as well.  However, for those of you that might have had the same impression as me – Martha’s Vinyard is not a winery.   It’s a pretty vacation island off the coast of Cape Cod, with an interesting history.  Imagine my disappointment when I didn’t get to have a good glass of wine and a tour of the non-existent vineyards.   Instead, I learned about the Methodist Summer-camp Retreat that drew 30,000 visitors back at the  turn of the century and that welcomed the African American slaves during the civil war.  No wine, but an interesting time and some very cute gingerbread houses, as well as some lovely beaches.  We took a ride on one of America’s oldest carousels and got our fortunes spat out of the Zoltar machine. (If you are old enough to remember Tom Hanks in Big, it was Zoltar that granted his wish).

And, I had a bloody Mary on the ferry to make up for the lack of wine.

I have grown up with a difficulty accepting gifts, particularly a sizeable gift such as this, because there were always strings attached.  I’m grateful that I could overcome my challenge through the generosity of a dear friend who financed my flight.  It was not only a joy to have the holiday but a joy to break down some learned beliefs.  Of course, I also treated my friend to a few treats as well.  What would be the point of going if we didn’t have the chance to have a few adventures?  After all, with our time on earth, we only have the choice of a good time, not a long time.  It was a wonderful way for us both to be in service to the other.

If you ask me how I am, these days,  I’ll say come si, comme ca.  Some things are going okay and some things are very challenging.  But, that is a big improvement over how I’ve felt for several years.  What is different, as I begin another trip around the sun, is that I have been the recipient of a truly selfless and loving gift, and this has both refreshed me and renewed my faith in humankind through a loving connection.

I really needed a mini holiday.  I have not been enjoying my life much lately.  The dynamics under which I spend much of my waking hours are hostile, abrasive, and soul destroying.  My trip was an exception and, I hope, the start of a new phase of my life.  The trip revived me enough to start thinking of how to change some of that and make, yet a new way, for myself, in this world.

It has given me hope.

These feelings are delicate and fragile and in a world that is often hostile to my fragile improvements, I’m keeping it locked in a tower, beaming light out above the heads of those who would like to tear me down, and out across the horizon.  Is it to remind people of my presence so far away and affirm that I’m ready for a new adventure? Or, is it scanning for risks and storms that may be yet beneath my radar?

After the past few years, I’ve had, let’s be honest – it’s both.

But hope reminds me that it is Summertime; People are out at sea more, and my light will travel farther in the clear of the night.  Perhaps the living really can be a little more easy.

Photo: Kelly Sikkema

For what are you most grateful, right now?

 

 

Ten Thousand Days

No. More. Excuses

May 9, 2019

Photo: Analise Benevides

Day 1721 – Day 1727

When I was a  girl, I was bullied on the playground.  My mother taught me to try to overlook bad behaviour and with empathy, see what might be driving people to act so badly.  ‘Maybe there is something going on in their life that you don’t understand and it is making them behave in a mean way’, she would say.  I suppose that my mother did this to help me see that being bullied by a kid on the playground was more about them and their issues than it was about me.  But, as an overly empathetic young person, I grew up always trying to understand the psychology of people who treated me like dirt, rather than getting out of the way of their abuse.

Empathy is a great thing.  It is, in fact, one of the core underlying practices (along with mindfulness and authenticity) that makes practicing gratitude, magnifying joy, being of service, experiencing our oneness and living a life of meaning, with purpose possible.  Empathy and pro social behaviour are requirements for belonging to society.  Without empathy, I don’t think it is possible to actually be happy, because empathy is key to forming relationships.  Those lacking empathy, as far as I understand it, are often diagnosed with Cluster B personality disorders that include psychopathy and narcissism.

Empathy is a good thing.  Too much empathy, to the detriment of mutual respect and self-preservation, is a very bad thing.

Someone treated me badly recently and I was recounting the story to a friend.  The first thing she did was jump to hypothetical reasons why they might have behaved so badly “Maybe they think this or maybe they feel that.”  My feelings were not acknowledged.   I’m sure she had good intentions, but this is not empathy.  It is looking for rationalizations of bad behaviour.

I notice this is common with some women – at least women over 40 –  and I notice that my male friends do not bother to try to understand, rationalize, or find excuses for bad behaviour.  They say it like it is.  The behaviour was unacceptable.  Usually, they use more colourful words.  I also notice that those women who tend to look for excuses have stayed in situations where their potential has been limited or where their needs aren’t being met.  I put my hand up as one of them.

People of my generation were raised in an era where women were working full-time outside the home, en masse, for the first time.  My mother was a stay at home mom and while many of my friends had mothers who worked outside of the home, it was rare that they were ‘career women’.  We were the first generation who had no expectation or hope that we would ever be taken care of by a partner who was a breadwinner.  We were the first generation who would have to make our own way in the world, a world that was ruled by men.

Our mothers had no idea what it would take to get along in the world, for their daughters.  Our mothers had to practice the subtle art of persuasion and ego stroking, and they had to learn to overlook the flaws of their husbands.  They had to do this, no matter how bad his behaviour was, at times, because it was a matter of survival.  And for their part, some of our fathers – used to having their bad behaviour overlooked – modeled, for their daughters, that this was what men expect of women.  Many men of that generation still expect to be obeyed, no matter what their behaviour.

Mine is the first generation to make her own way in the world.  And, our parents did not prepare many of us to do that.

Even at my ripe (rotting?) old age, I have tended to still make excuses and try to be understanding of people who aren’t always pro social and in control of their mouths or behaviour.

But, something has changed in me, and it is growing stronger.

I wrote about germinating ideas and the need to change my life.  One of the first things I’ve found myself feeling is that I no longer want to make excuses for bad behaviour.

My life took a very hard turn in 2016.  I think about the young man who said he loved me and with whom I fell in love.  He had a charming and gentle exterior when we met in 2015.  That was who I believed him to be.  Who he turned out to be was a man who was self involved, opportunistic and exploitative, who had no empathy for others, and had a moral compass that was strongly anti-social.  I had believed his lies.  Like my mother, and her generation, I stood on my head and turned myself inside out for months that turned into years, trying to make sense of his treating me with disdain and cruelty and then vulnerability and sweetness in turn.  I tried to find a reason why the sweet and vulnerable man was lying to me and hurting me.  Like my mother, I chose not to see what was right in front of me if it meant I could not rationalize his anti-social ways.  I had clocked what was either embarrassment or disdain, towards a bouncer who didn’t want to let him into the pub for dressing shabbily, on the first night we met.   That was a red flag.  But, I gave him the benefit of the doubt on that first night and every night after, for over 2 years.   The bad behaviour was who he really was, and he had pegged me for a gullible target.  He exploited me, betrayed me and broke my heart, and when I finally got pushed to far, I reacted, in kind.  All that did was allow him to alleviate his own self hatred and position me as the bad guy.   While I am not victim blaming, I must admit that up to that point, I had made the excuses that let him continue, for years.  I’m sure I’m not the only one.  He likely lied to and exploited the other women who were, unbenownst to me, in his life, as well.

His sweet exterior was a necessary mask he wore to disguise his anti-social self, in order to make his way in the world.

I went through the worst time in my life, and I sort of sleep walked through 2017, but I’m awake now.

I have forgiven him, not because he is remorseful or because his behaviour is excusable.  Whatever made him the way that he is, whether nature or nurture, it was not in his control.  I don’t feel any joy in knowing that he is probably still stuck in a spiral of anti-social behaviour and shame, but Il struggle with the knowledge that his shame is not remorse.  I feel sad for what has become of him, but don’t mistake me – he is still accountable for his behaviour.  He could have behaved differently.  He’s certainly capable of being charming and likable with those who aren’t particularly close to him.   He can behave pro-socially when he wants to, he just chose to lie and behave badly with me because he didn’t care how his anti-social behaviour would hurt me.

Empathy is good, but not everyone has our best interests at heart and deserves our efforts to understand their less than shining moments.  I’m grateful for this lesson, though I wish it had come earlier in my life, and I wish it had come at a much lower personal cost.  But, we learn when we learn.

And I do feel joy that I am free of it.

Having come through that I’m working on forgiving myself for making the wrong (overly empathetic) choices with him.  A part of forgiving myself for letting it go on too long is to have zero tolerance for disrespectful behaviour being directed at me and to resist the need to rationalize, that I learned from my parents.     Yes, sometimes we can’t completely end toxic relationships (example: co-parenting) but we can enforce our boundaries with people who do not have our best interests at heart.  We are all One at the level of the soul and spirit.  At the level of the mundane, where most of us live our day to day life, we must honour the light of our own soul by protecting ourselves against abuse.

To let anyone dump on us is to dim our own spiritual light.

No. More. Excuses.

Photo: Sandeep Swarnkar

For what are you most grateful this week?

Ten Thousand Days

A Good Time, Not a Long Time

May 3, 2019

Photo: Sharon McCutcheon

Day 1701 – Day 1720

In my last post, I talked about things germinating but since then, I’ve been thinking about the other end of the life cycle and how quickly life passes by.  In any garden, the germination happens quickly but the seedling takes a long time to grow into a mature plant.  Then, all of a sudden, with the warmth of the summer sun, the plant shoots out flowers, bears fruit and dies in a rapid display of the full and glorious cycle of life.

Last week, I had some banking to do and I realized that I’d held my bank account for 30 years…no, wait, I thought…40 years(!)  I feel like I’ve gone from the age of 30 to the age I am now, in the blink of an eye.  I still think of myself as 30 but I’m really, really not.

Life is so precious and as we get older, it feels as though time speeds up.  Our finite time here is the fact of our human existence and we might as well acknowledge it.  To fail to do that is to risk squandering our lives over petty little things.  As I was making a deposit at the branch and marveling that I’d had done anything for 40 years, I thought about this, and realised that since life is so short, we have to make sure we live it to the fullest.  I don’t mean the whole ‘quit the job and travel the world’ major mid life crisis act (but maybe that is the right thing for you or somebody out there to do, right now).

I mean, simply this: I want to make sure that I am enjoying my life, each and every day.

I’ve been dealing with some toxic people who I’m unfortunately exposed to, on a day to day basis.  It makes life not enjoyable, when I’m interacting with them.  And so, I’ve decided that even if I have to be ‘around them’ every day, I don’t have to interact with them more than is absolutely necessary.   We all have challenges and toxic situations that we sometimes can’t escape.  Loads of people have toxic relationships with their ex spouses, who happen to be the parent of their child.  Many of us just need to learn to limit the damage that this situation causes, and to never let it rob us of our peace.

That is easier said than done, I know that.

As I reflect on my return to Canada, it has been one hell of a tough ride.  At least, I am grateful to be able to say that the toxic relationship with the young man is over and that is firmly in the past.  It is forgiven, but it will never be forgotten.  I’m grateful to be far beyond that crazy-making lunacy, now.

I’m in a better place but yes, it is still far more challenging than I would like it to be.  We all have challenges.  I get sick quite often, and I have a chronic something in my body, making it turn against me and perhaps it is food allergies, but perhaps it is something more challenging.  We just don’t know yet.  I have toxic people in my life that I cannot currently escape.  And, I’m not being utilised to my fullest skill level and I am underpaid for my skills and experience in the local marketplace.  I’m aging and facing changes in my body, mind and soul that impacts all these things.  And, I’m single when I thought I’d have a life partner to grow old with.  I’ve had my heart broken in a more devastating way than I could have ever imagined another person of being capable of.   I live in a town that I really don’t like but it is where I need to be, right now, for other goals.  And, I miss my friends and my social support in London, desperately.  I have no social circle where I live and it is hard to build one.  Family dynamics are a challenge, and the man who hurt me terribly and his ‘other’ lover keep cropping up in my extended circles because it is a small art and music scene.  I’m not feeling creatively fulfilled and I struggle to find the time to do the things that I really love doing and that I feel will be my life’s legacy.

Yeah, that is true.

And, I have a roof over my head.  I’m not in the hospital dying of an illness.  I have food in my cupboards and in my fridge.  I’m not living on the streets, I’m not eating out of a refuse pile.  I’ve seen people facing all of that.  In the grand scheme of things, I’m fortunate and I’m grateful.

Sometimes I feel that people race to the bottom complaining and imagining they have it worse than anyone they know, when they’re actually just as fortunate or more fortunate than I am.  At times, I want some empathy.  I had a very painful fall that was not my fault over the weekend.  My leg hurt like heck last night and after 1 am, I couldn’t sleep any more.  I am working on 2 hours sleep today and feeling in a lot of pain.  It would be nice if folks were empathetic about that and didn’t ask me to walk more than necessary.  But, I do not want to race to the bottom and be awarded the medal for being the best martyr I can be, and having the ‘worst problems.’  Be careful, what you wish for.  I wouldn’t wish that award on anyone.  Know what happens to martyrs?  They die.  Usually painfully.

I’d rather get on with working on my challenges and having the energy to do that by staying positive.

Most of my challenges are able to be changed.  Maybe, not overnight.  And some may never be changed, so, a process of acceptance and mourning is needed.  I’ll probably never be able to eat wheat or cheese again.  I may never fall in love again after experiencing a total betrayal.  But, I’m learning to cook new foods that can excite me and distract me from that fact.   And, I’m loving myself more than any man could do.

We either adapt to life’s circumstances and make the best of it, or we rot in our own stew of bitterness.

Someone this week said to me: I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes.  I just wouldn’t stick around, with all those challenges.  And, it didn’t really feel like empathy.  I wondered what was the point of that comment.  We don’t climb mountains by counting how far away from our goal we are.  We climb mountains by tracking how much progress we have made.  The first approach makes us miserable, overwhelmed and depressed.  The second approach gives us a sense of accomplishment and hope.  In both cases, we are standing in the same spot, with the same distance between ourselves and the summit.  But only in the second case, are we enjoying the journey.

Life is short.  If we aren’t enjoying our lives, we need to change that.  Standing in that bank, I had already realised that, in a lot of ways, I’m not enjoying life.

And, that needs to change, but the only place it can change is inside of me.

I think that people focus on their circumstances to the exclusion of our attitude about our circumstances.  In the aftermath of moving to Canada, I got caught up in that.  But believing that our happiness is found in our circumstances is why we have such high levels of personal income, nutrition and education but people are still reporting anxiety and depression.   Yes, I want to change some things about my life and I have some dreams that I want to fulfill.  I can be frustrated about not being in a position to immediately change these things.  Or I can work steadily towards my goals, treating my waiting room like a classroom, and reflecting upon all the good in my life.

A few days ago, a fellow gardener was lamenting that the sunshine had turned his clay soil into a patch of cracked earth.  He was beating himself up for not tilling his soil better before he  had planted.  And yet, from where I stood, all I could see where 6 inch tall pea shoots that had managed to find their way through the clay and to the light.  Some things grow terrifically in clay soil.  I kept reassuring him that what he had planted was going to survive and that he learned some new things for next year.  And, I reassured him that there were remedies that he could use, over the summer.  He marvelled:  You’re always so positive.  And he also said, in the same sentence, that he was envious of my bumper crop of tomatoes, last year.  I had a horrible plot full of weeds.  But I tilled the soil, weeded the garden and planted tomatoes.  And then,  I talked to my tomatoes and gave them encouragement and thanked them for their fruits.  Things grow better with encouragement, with gratitude, with love and with that wonderful sun.  I’m sure his garden will work out.  And, I’m going to keep telling him that.  His peas are listening.

Gratitude is the one choice we can make in every moment that will help us enjoy exactly where were are, and be happy,   even if it’s not where we hope to be a year or five years from now.  As the old (truly Canadian) Trooper song goes….we’re here for a good time, not a long time, so have a good time, the sun can’t shine every day.

….And, the sun is shinin’, in this rainy city….

 

Photo: Court Prather

For what are you grateful, right now?

Ten Thousand Days

Germination

April 12, 2019

Photo: Marcus Spiske

Day 1662 – Day 1700

It has been so long since I posted!  I have been thinking of you and wanting to sit down and post something but it has just been such a busy time.  I thought about it yesterday and I’m happy to say that although, in the past, a long gap in writing was associated with a period of grief, this gap has been associated with so much good stuff (and a little of life’s irritations) happening!

I’ve been planting seeds.  Not in the garden, yet, because it has rained every weekend that I’ve been well enough to garden, but I’ve been planting them in my life.  I had a very busy work year this year and have been working on a project since January that wrapped up three days after I was supposed to leave to be on annual leave.  So, I had to curtail my annual leave to make sure we had a successful conclusion to the project.  As soon as results were in (I’m still wrapping up the paperwork), I jumped in my car and zoomed down to Portland, Oregon to spend a couple of days in a class with the man who I credit for unleashing me on the world of acrylic painting, Jesse Reno.  I’m so grateful to have met him in 2017 and to have been able to continue to study with him every year, since.  I had a tiring but joyful trip, meeting old friends and new, and producing some great new works that I’m hoping to exhibit this summer.

As soon as I returned from Portland, I had to rush to my drawing class at Emily Carr University of Art and Design.  My relationship with drawing is a complicated one and teachers have tried to press me to spend years learning to draw before I learned to paint.  I’m not willing to do that.  And so, I was delighted to meet Jesse Reno who told me that I didn’t need to draw to learn to be a good painter.  He’s right.  And, this year, I decided that my painting would be helped with better drawing skills.  It’s been a humbling experience because I struggle with drawing in a way that I don’t with painting.  But, it was MY decision to improve my drawing skills and so I was happy with each little improvement.  My teacher, Keith, has been amazing, encouraging even my worst efforts and through his positive approach as well as technical knowledge, I’ve seen my skills improve.  There is still nothing I would want to show anyone, but I learned to use new drawing tools and got a bit of theory under my belt.  It was never ‘work’ or a ‘chore’ and I never felt like I wasn’t doing it ‘right’.  He worked very hard at helping us to not judge our work and I’m very grateful for that.  My classmate were wonderfully supportive as well.  The class finished last night and I’ve got two projects that I’m going to continue to work on, to help me continue developing until I return to classes in the autumn.

I also took a great class with some street artists in Vancouver this month and created some collaborative works with them one sunny Saturday.  Again, it was great to develop and reinforce old skills and to spend time with like minded people, making a new friend or two.

In the past few weeks I’ve also been to a thrilling, joy-inspiring couple of workshops with Moira Smiley in Seattle at Frontier Home.  I was very tired that weekend and, in hindsight, I was coming down with the flu, but I had a blast at the workshops and I hope to study with her again in the future.  Moira has a real joy in singing and in teaching and the group really came together as a supportive environment even though most of us were strangers to one another.  I love the sense of community that I get when I attend events at Frontier Home, and Moira was a particularly wonderful facilitator.

Of course, I did what we all must do at this time of year – I spent ages working several nights into the wee hours, putting together my tax paperwork for my annual tax return.  It’s been a busy time.

And, yes, I got run down from all the work, and yes, I had the flu.  Last weekend I slept for 4 days and missed the annual general meeting of the Garden, which made me sad.  I’m still not 100 percent well, but I’m getting there.  I’ve got some of my lettuce and spinach planted and I hope to get more planting done before dark tonight as its set to rain all weekend again, but little by little, I hope to have my garden planted by end of April, save for the hot weather crops.  I’m doing some service again this year by leading the Greenhouse volunteers, and I’m really looking forward to a new growing season.

Since I’ve had to change my diet so radically, I’ve been working on watching loads of YouTube videos of cooks who cater to my skill level and dietary needs.  I should be a chef by now, with the number of videos I’ve watched!  I’m looking forward to growing my own vegetables and using them in new ways this summer and autumn.

All of this has happened on top of more than full time work load.  So, as I said, it’s been busy.

But, part of my purpose is not only living this journey of ten thousand days of practice, it is also documenting it.  And in that I have been remiss.  I’m grateful that today, I could drop my wish to have a wonderfully meaningful epiphany and simply sit down and spend my lunch hour putting a few words to the gratitude I’ve been feeling.

Last night, on the drive home from my final drawing class, I noticed that most of the time, I’m feeling pretty wonderful, emotionally.  Yes, when I was sick, I felt a bit isolated, but frankly, I wanted to just sleep anyway.  I’m in a good place and I believe a lot of this happiness has been down to really making an effort to focus on the things for which I’m grateful, and noticing the really sublime moments like being conducted, with my fellow workshop attendees, by Moira Smiley.   I haven’t been posting my gratitude, but its been overflowing in my life.  When it comes to writing, a former creative writing professor once told me that sometimes you write and sometimes you are immersed in living and gathering the raw material of writing.  But, it’s good to keep coming back here and I’m working on re-setting some of my commitments to align with my deepest priorities,  so that I will be more regular, again, in my posting.

I’m grateful that you’ve come back again to witness the journey.  Lots has been germinating over the winter and particularly the past few weeks.  I’m looking forward to working with it all in the coming months!

Photo: Melissa Askew

For what are you most grateful, today?

Ten Thousand Days

Couscous Crisis

March 4, 2019

Photo: Jo Sonn

Day 1655 – Day 1661

My friend Bruce (the brat) (Brat being Jackey’s suggested word) suggested that I break my writers block with the word antidisestablishmentarianism.  I think he chose the word because it is long and would help my word count.  However, I’m in favour of a separation of church and state.  I believe everyone has the right to worship (or not) in their own chosen religion and that the state, which represents all of a nation’s citizenry, should not fund institutions that promote only one religion.  So, writing about antidisestablishmentarianism (the counter political movement that opposes those who oppose the separation of church and state) would be a short post.

Instead, I will carry on and incorporate Hugh’s word ‘sad’, and Richard’s word ‘want’ as I lament the passing of couscous from my life.

Recently, I wrote about my issues with food sensitivities.  I’ve been trying to be positive and grateful for all the food that I can still eat.  However, having to refrain from eating gluten, dairy and soy is quite a cluster when you look at the ingredients of most foods in the grocery store.  By choice or chance, I’ve ended up cooking all of my food at home and struggling to eat out.  I ate out last week and was immediately sick, because the ingredients did not list mayonnaise and it was not detectable to me.  I had told the waitress my dietary restrictions, but it seems she was also unaware that the dish contained mayonnaise.  If the mayo was truly mayo (eggs and oil), I would be fine.  But modern commercial mayonnaise contains cream, in many cases, to improve the flavour.  I’m not sure if there is wheat or soy on top of that.  Wheat is in the most unlikely places – tomato soup, for instance.

Because I can’t eat out, I have been trying to bring the kind of flavours into my cooking that I’d normally save for dining out:  Moroccan, for instance.  Last week I made a delicious butternut squash and chickpea stew with Moroccan seasonings.  I didn’t have any couscous and so I made some sprouted rice and quinoa to serve with it.  It turns out that sprouted rice does not agree with me.  And so, I had to dump the whole pot into the garbage.  Because I have to plan ahead and food prep most, if not all of my meals, I sought out couscous and looked forward to eating it for my lunch today.

It wasn’t until I was in my car, arriving in the parking lot to work that I had a niggling doubt.  I got out my phone and asked Siri:  “Does couscous contain gluten?”  Alas, I am sad to report that it does.  There are gluten free alternative couscous on the market, but these are made with corn.  Because most corn sold in North America is genetically modified, and since I am sensitive to GMO corn, this also is something I cannot eat.

I don’t recall the last time I ate couscous.  I used to eat it a lot in London because I made sweet potato and red onions with couscous quite often.  I just hadn’t really thought of buying it here because Moroccan seasoning is not available in the stores here (indicative of a small Moroccan contingent in the pacific northwest, I guess).  But, having made my own seasoning mix, I was so excited to have a whole seasoning palette open up to me again and I was really looking forward to cooking with couscous again.

Knowing that I will probably never be able to eat it again, it’s all I want.

And so, gratitude is becoming vitally important.

I wrote many posts in my first year of this practice about being grateful for the simple comfort of a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of tomato soup.

All of that is off limits to me now.

It may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but I remember how sad my mother was when she was told that she had to go on a low sodium and low fat diet.  She had to give up avocados and she loved avocados.  She acted as if life, as she knew it, was over.   I never really understood the big deal until now.

Today, when I had to throw out my lunch, and faced, afresh, how difficult it is to replace it with anything store or restaurant-bought, I’m grateful that even though I can no longer eat most canned foods, eat in most restaurants, can no longer pop out and buy myself a sandwich for lunch when I’m running late or go to the drive through when travelling, I can still eat avocados.

I had an avocado and two slices of gluten free bread for lunch.  I’m grateful for the bakers who have figured out what flour combinations and guar gum would work to create a gluten free bread.  It’s not the same, but I can get used to it.  I’m grateful for olive oil margarine that contains no dairy or soy.

Even with all my gratefulness, my inability to ever eat couscous has me a little sad.  Last week I was feeling rebellious about cheese and hot chocolate.  It crossed my mind to eat them despite doctors orders.  That is, until I accidentally ate mayonnaise, and it made me so sick.  This couscous crisis of mine reinforces for me that practicing gratitude, joy, oneness and service is not about overlooking or minimizing our challenges.  We have to accept the hand we are dealt and do the best we can with it.  But, before acceptance, comes mourning.

Food is central to our lives, our identity, our memories and our ways of coming together and of celebrating.  All of those things are forever changed for me.  Like my mother, I can see how life, as I know it, is over.

But, I know there are others out there that have similar constraints and after I allow myself a few moments of feeling sorry for myself, I will move on from this couscous crisis, and somehow tell myself that couscous is not very good anyway, that it is bland without all sorts of seasoning and flavourings and I will convince myself that rice is a far better grain, all around. I will continue to offer suggestions and accept recipe advice to others, in forums, who face the same issues as I.  I will be grateful that my want is not for food itself.  I am deeply grateful that I have access to healthy and nutritious food, even if particular foods that I enjoy are no longer healthy for me.   I will be grateful for unsprouted rice, the staple grain of peoples and cultures around the world, and I will try not to think of how water intensive it is to grow.

Photo: Juan Cruz Mountford

 

For what are you most grateful today?

 

Ten Thousand Days

Quelle Drag!

February 25, 2019

Photo: Pawel Szvmanski

Day 1635 – Day 1654

I’ve been working on an idea for a post for ages now.  It isn’t that I haven’t wanted to write, nor that I’ve been feeling ungrateful.  It’s an important idea and one that I’ve been churning around in my life but I haven’t been able to see it to fruition.  Failing to write that post has left me feeling a bit let down.  Winter is dragging on and on, and at the same time that time seems to stand still, the inability to write has left me watching time march on without producing anything.

To break out of this rut, I asked my niece for a one word writing prompt that I would work into my next post.  I’m grateful to her for helping me to break through what I feared was becoming writer’s block.

She chose the word: ‘drag’.  Edit:  I asked friends on social media to give me one word writing prompts which I will work into future posts and my cousin Adele gave me the word ‘inclusive,’ after I had already completed this post.  I guess great minds think alike.  This post will be inclusive of both prompts. (see what I did there?)

As well as friction, there is another meaning of the word drag that comes immediately to mind, and that is the act of dressing against one’s outwardly observable gender, without being transgender.  I love to go to drag shows.  There is something rebellious and fun loving about flouting convention and of being way over the top.  But dressing in drag is something very different to being transgender.  Years ago, that line was very distinct.  Now, identity politics makes this a bit more blurry for me.

I’ve been noticing that I see the world through a certain lens.  I am a well educated, white, Western woman.  I see the world firstly with a cis-gender and fairly straight lens.  I see it the way that I am.  I then expand out to include queer reality and that of people of colour.  I take into account what it might be like to be non-white and not straight.  But I usually sort of stop there.  I don’t exclude those who are transgender or pansexual or asexual.  I have people in my family and friend group that identify as one or several of these identities.  I just neglect, in my language, to reflect this.  I ‘m grateful for my friends of the younger generation who are automatically much more broadly inclusive in their language, as a matter of course.  I know that there are many people out there whose bias would say “Those people should not be included,” and that isn’t my bias.   Now that I have noticed it, I make a conscious effort to be more inclusive, but habits of a lifetime are hard to break.  If reminded, I certainly will broaden my language, and I believe we all have equal rights and all deserve to be treated inclusively.  My limited language does not mean that I am not liberal.  But I can easily be misunderstood.

I try to overcome my own bias to use language that reflects how I am, and thoughts that reflect my own world view, but I will probably never succeed, because the fact is that I can try to empathize with those who are not like me – and I can get pretty far with that – but I will never know what it is like to be you.  I can wear your clothes for awhile; I can go in drag, but I will never be in your skin.

I take the attitude that we are all One at a more spiritual level and I look for the commonalities between us.  And I am grateful whenever I find common ground with people.  But that is not to negate that your experience is different from mine.  Your lens on the world is as valid as mine.   We may not agree, but we can respect one another and find our commonalities, together.

On social media, I notice that people seem quick to take offence and to assume that someone’s perspective can somehow keep another person down.  I understand the concept of white privilege, and I’m sure that I am blind to some of the ways that I benefit from it and some of the assumptions I make.  In addition to confirming that this is a place of inclusion for all people, regardless of gender, sexuality, race, national origin, religion or belief, I ask readers to assume the best of intentions on my part.  One’s choice of language seems to be the start of arguments on social media, and I wonder how many people are intentionally being exclusive, as opposed to having good intentions, but being unaware of the ways they are stuck in their own perspective.

If I have a blind spot, I welcome being made aware of it, with respect for one another.

There will be, in everyone’s life, some people with whom we cannot agree.  I remember an evangelist trying to convince me that I must do this or that in order to “be saved,” and I told them what seemed obvious to me at a very young age: you cannot drag someone kicking and screaming, to your point of view.  If they are to come, they must do so willingly, in their own way, and in their own time.   I can still respect people with whom I disagree, because I can put myself in their shoes and see why they believe what they do.  And I hope that they will do the same, for me.  As long as neither of us imposes our opinions on the other, we can overlook big differences in opinion, finding our common ground and dwelling there, because we respect one another.

However, when respect is gone, they’re gone.

Respect is the one non-negotiable requirement, that must be present, in order for me to engage.

That might seem harsh, but, as we used to say in school: “quelle drag”

 

For what are you most grateful this week?