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Ten Thousand Days

Goodnight, Sir / God Save the Queen

April 17, 2021

Photo of Windsor Castle by King’s Church International

Day 2433 – Day 2436

I will be up in the wee hours of the morning to “attend” the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh.  The Queen is the monarch of my adopted country and the head of state of the country of my birth.  But the royal family are – as Russel Brand called them – totems as well.  The highs and lows of their lives have marked my own humble passages.

When I was young, I thought my mother was on the money.  She was beautiful, dark haired, and regal like the Queen.  The Queen was my Power-animal Mum and she wasn’t a totemic-grandma to me until later in life, when my own mother and grandmothers passed away.  Being the youngest in an enormous Catholic family means that many of your relatives die when you are a child.  But the Queen’s enduring presence is, in a way, a comfort to me, because I get to see what my mother might have looked like, and what she would have endured, had she lived.

When Diana and Charles married, my mother and I rose at some silly hour and watched their wedding from my mother’s home in Florida.  Both of us were romantics but life proved to be disappointing to us both in that regard.  Sadly, it proved to be disappointing for Diana, as well.

The death of Diana marked a period in my life where I was grappling with separating from family, too.  Individuation and emancipation didn’t come with balloons, banners and raise but with a healthy dose of punishment, too.

When I moved to London, it was on the Queen’s land at the Windsor Castle estate that I was initiated into a weekend intensive to launch my post graduate coursework.  Coming home on a dreary day from classes, I rounded the corner to enter my student housing in London to find myself 50 feet from Her Majesty the Queen who was visiting a primary school on my street, as if reminding me of the importance of education and tradition.

When William married Kate, I “attended” their royal wedding in Hyde park where visitors were treated to big screen televisions, an official wedding programme/order of service and a live band in the park who played the hymns.  We all stood and sang together and prayed together and cheered together.  I attended the wedding with the man I came closest to marrying, but by then we both knew that we would never be married and were learning to live with the disappointment of the decision that was never really a decision but became the inevitable.

And in a few hours, I will awaken and “attend” the funeral of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and rehearse the emotions and the protocols that I know will soon befall me, as I bid farewell, inevitably, to my own 90-year-old father.

As I ponder and work on my own altruism this month, I am in wonder at the devoted life of Service that Elizabeth II and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh have each given to the Commonwealth and to me, as my totem.  Goodnight, Sir.

I am grateful to the royal family for being a symbol throughout my life for they have given me stability in a family that lacked it and an ideal on earth to which I could affirm my allegiance, when my own life lacked personal mentors and role models.  They have been an emblem of home, no matter where I have roamed and I’m grateful for their constancy.  People living in a republic will never know the blessings of having lived under the reign of the longest reigning monarch.  Whatever may happen to the institution of the monarchy when Her Majesty the Queen passes away, she and her family have been a part of the great task of meaning-making in my life.

Send her victorious, happy and glorious, long to reign over us.

God Save the Queen!

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

Ten Thousand Days

The Great Divide

April 13, 2021

Day 2421 – Day 2432

I have crossed the great divide.  I have crossed the generational divide and apparently the “woke” divide.  When HRH The Duke of Edinburgh died this past week, I saw again the generational divide on the royal family and I was not on the “woke” side of the divide.  To be fair, I find myself less and less on that side of the divide anymore – not because I’m not a champion of social justice but because it seems – too frequently – to go hand in hand, lately, with cancel-culture.

I would never call myself a traditionalist or a conservative but I do value good manners, which seem to be a thing of the past.  Of course, when I was in the UK, I knew far more people with traditional manners and I found myself sometimes embarrassed by my fellow Canadians who acted superior, entitled and privileged, overseas.  I had a fellow Canadian who was staying temporarily in the UK tell me (online) that they “pay to live in the UK,” because they spend their wages there, so they can make fun of the dead Prince and can crap on the institution of the monarchy and that those who don’t like it can “suck it.”  There were more off-colour words from other commenters.  I guess what that person didn’t realize, being on a 1-year “working holiday” visa that is a special privilege for young people of the Commonwealth countries, was that if the Queen is removed, then that would end the Commonwealth and also their visa to be in the country, in the first place.

The comment demonstrated, at least to me, that there is a belief that money buys anything, including the right to live wherever we want, it affords us the right to throw out manners, and we don’t need to respect the leadership or system of governance of the host country.  Essentially, it confers the right to impose our beliefs on the culture we are visiting, even though we have no intention of staying and making it our home.  It also tells me that opinion trumps reason and even points of fact, for some people.

I also notice that many Canadians herald themselves as being superior in terms of etiquette to the British (to anyone, really) whilst simultaneously looking down their nose at the people and the culture of the country in which they are a guest.  When I was raised, we acted courteously towards our hosts and if we thought they were jerks, or that their house was crap, we kept that to ourselves whilst we were in their homes.  Of course, if we bought the home and moved in, we could trash the place if we liked. And I kind of feel the same about being an extended visitor to a country.  When I was on a visa in the USA, I respected the office of the President, whether I would have chosen the incumbent or not.  Even if I had the belief (which I don’t) that the USA should do away with the presidency and take back the British Monarchy as their supreme ruler, I would have thought it uncouth to be publicly trashing the president and first lady and making jokes about the death of one of them.  I would call that bad manners, as a guest.

This week, I saw Canadians, living in Britain,  making comments about HRH’s aged and rotting appearance, hours after he died.  He said some off colour remarks more than 20 years ago and so they decided that he was nothing more than a racist.  And because he said racist things back then, it was permissible for Canadians of all races to say ageist things about him and the Queen, now.  I’m not an apologist for his comments but haven’t women been liberated from responsibility for their husbands? Why batter the Queen? Maybe my white privilege is in the way of seeing the logic of that.

Many people took offence to the ageism but were shouted down, and anyone who tried to paint a balanced picture of the man by mentioning his life of public service was mobbed.

I got mobbed, cursed at, and called out for something I said (in error), without having seen a previous comment.  I admitted my mistake but even when I apologized for having misspoken, I was mobbed.  Apology NOT accepted. Once mistaken, always evil.

There is no room for a moderate opinion or human error.  I happen to believe that a person is complex and has admirable and less admirable qualities and that all people make mistakes.  Our principles of justice and mercy allow for atonement of errors, in our culture.   But it seems increasingly so that wherever “woke” cancel-culture hones in on someone, if there is anything imperfect in the person, or in their history, they are absolutely BAD and to be damned.  Forever and ever, amen.

Absolutism is something I think we should be very wary of.

I had a call with a long-time friend today.  She said to me that “now is the time to silence herself and let other voices be heard.”  I agree with amplifying voices that haven’t been heard and of using our platforms to do that, but I don’t think it requires our own voices to be silenced.  There is intersectionality to privilege and we are still women, after all.  She told me that she was afraid of the consequences of saying anything these days and it was this mobbing and absolutism of the “woke” cancel-culture that she feared.  My friend thinks that by keeping silent, the mob will create for themselves a backlash worse than anything she could say.

But, a culture of bullying is where we are headed if we don’t slow this ship down and consider the course.  With bullying comes a culture of silence, even in the face of what one might believe is morally wrong.  Nobody wants to get shot.  We’ve been there before and history shows us that it doesn’t turn out well for anyone.

It feels strange though, to be on this side of the great divide.  I’m younger than a boomer and I’m not a republican conservative.   But, I’m really worried about the way that cancel-culture is both dumbing down the conversation with curse words, rejection of compromise and logical fallacies that leads to black and white thinking.  I’m also concerned with its impact on free speech, for fear of being cancelled.

Call me privileged (I am, although I’m not as privileged as some).  Call me Karen (that’s not my name).  My goodness, even call me Boomer, if you must (I don’t fall into that demographic).    Sticks and stones can’t dismiss me, break me or dissuade me from working for justice for all.  And they will not silence me.

I’m grateful to have been raised the way I have been.   I am grateful to continue to be a moderate, who judges issues on their own merit rather than by ideology.  I’m going to stick to moderation, traditional manners, to rational discussion and to the view that all voices can and should be heard, even if some need amplification to counter a long history of marginalization.  I hope I don’t fall, or get pushed, into the great chasm that exits in the divide.

For what are you most grateful, today?

Ten Thousand Days

Have A Little Faith

April 1, 2021

Photo: John Towner

Day 2384 – Day 2420

I think we all can agree that this pandemic has been difficult for many people.  At the macro level, we’ve seen worse times.  World War II comes to mind.  On a micro level, I can’t recall a time when things have been worse, as a whole, for myself and those closest to me.  For me, personally, being ill 18 months ago and watching my organs fail put so much of my life in sharp contrast and I was able to see things very clearly.  Morphine helped.  I remember feeling a heightened sense of awareness of every sensation and wondering if I had suddenly become “woke” from my brush with death.  To an extent, yes, that happened, but it was at a sort of spiritual level, not at the level of heightened sensation.  For that, I must thank the morphine.  It may be a very addictive drug, but I will give it credit.  For those who are facing death, the sense of wellbeing it provides is priceless.

I could use some morphine right now.

But, this is not Ten Thousand Days of Bitching, as much as I sometimes would like to shift focus.  I told my aunt that this has been a very difficult time – and it isn’t just a difficult time for me, but for a group of us who are bound together in a bit of misery right now.  She texted me back and said that she hoped I would soon return to my happy and grateful self.  Oh no, I said.  I’m always grateful.  Otherwise, that sense of gratefulness would just be a kind of greed over good times, not true gratitude.  Happiness, on the other hand is something that is fleeting and is dependent on circumstances.  There is a lot we can do to boost our happiness and much research has gone into the science of happiness – both at the macro level of society and at the micro level of the individual.  But in February, I led my followers on YouTube in a focus on Joy.  Having taken the time to contemplate Joy more deeply, I had a few insights about the difference between Joy and Happiness.  I would love to be known for my happy self but I’d feel it was a true life-achievement if I were known for my Joyful self.

Joy, it seems to me, is a bit different from the feeling of happiness.  Joy, as I defined it, is a feeling of peace, contentment, vitality and an enjoyment of life, on its own terms, independent of circumstances.  Joy is at the centre of just about every major spiritual tradition, even if it is not apparent on the surface.  Dig deeper and joy is at the heart of the work and rewards of a spiritual life.  I’m so grateful that I’ve always had a strong spiritual call.  It makes Joy accessible even in the darkest times.

When I first started this work on gratitude, I had a chat with Professor Lord Layard whose work on Happiness was ground breaking and he is one of the editors of the UN World Happiness Report.  I remember vividly one piece of advice he gave me.  He challenged me to consider how to encourage gratefulness in those who were not people of faith.  To whom, he asked me, are they grateful?

And so, I made it a point to speak to the secular majority, and to always focus on how any person could practice gratitude and the many other practices that arose as I observed myself in that first year of gratitude.  Over the years, of course, new practices emerged as being part and parcel of the practice of a life of gratefulness.  (Purpose, Meaning, Mindfulness, Authenticity, Empathy, Love).  Joy arose so quickly, as an additional practice to couple with gratitude – it was part of the original Facebook challenge that I set myself in those first 3 weeks.  But it wasn’t until I sat down and really did a deep dive on Joy this past month that I realized that what I was offering at TTDOG was a spiritual path for the non-believers.  Essentially, these practices are spiritual practices and engaging in these practices is spiritual discipline.  At the heart of that, there must be faith – in something.

For those of us who have a faith in the Divine Quantum (and who I consider fortunate to have that), faith is easy to define.  But for those willing to do the work of Ten Thousand Days of Gratitude, without a God concept, the repository of that faith is a little different but it is there.  Perhaps it is a faith in the innate goodness of humankind.  Perhaps we might replace the word faith with a more palatable word ‘belief’ and it becomes a belief in statistical evidence for the science of happiness or a belief in the neuroplasticity of the brain.  Whatever it is, there is some belief, some faith, some hope, that leads someone to decide to embark on a course of practices to improve their well-being or the well-being of the society in which they live.

And so, in the midst of Joy, I found another crucial component of a walk of Ten Thousand Days of Gratitude, and that is Faith.  With a renewed focus on Oneness this past month, it is clear that faith is an underlying element to all these practices.  Faith in something greater than ourselves enriches all of our practices whether that something is some God concept, science or one another.

What keeps me from falling into a pit of despair with the current situation and what keeps me joyful, able to remember Oneness, and committed to looking for the good and feeling grateful for all of this wonderous, fragile and fleeting life – is faith.  Faith allows me to be joyful, even when I can’t be happy.  And so, this year, we will be adding a new practice and a new focus on finding and strengthening our faith.

 

Photo: Sergio Capuzzimati

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

Ten Thousand Days

Sleeping Bear, Pregnant Ox

February 23, 2021

Photo: Daniele Levis Pelusi

Day 2358 – Day 2383

I identify with Bear Spirit, but I cannot recall a time when I have so fully been in a winter hibernation as I have been this past month.  I have been undergoing intensive physiotherapy for a tremendously painful complication of an old injury from 2019.  At first, the pain was manageable between sessions but in December it became so intense that I was unable to sleep for over a month despite my physiotherapist’s best efforts and then an ultrasound and X-Ray pinpointed the cause of the problem.  Thankfully, there is a non-surgical intervention and my physiotherapist and deep tissue massage practitioners have been working to heal me.  I’m still a long way off, but I have treatment 3 days a week.  With the help of some legal, over-the-counter painkiller/anti-inflammatories and the application of heat,  I’ve more than made up for all the sleep I lost.

After each session, I have some fluids, take some medicine and sleep for several hours while my body repairs itself.  I wake, eat and return to sleep for an inhuman amount of time.  I seem to come out of this healing coma just in time for another treatment.  I do only what is absolutely necessary in a day and am asleep almost from the moment I arrive home till the moment I leave again.

While this healing coma was not expected, it is, I am told by my practitioners, not harmful and probably helpful.  I do, however, rather feel like I am sleeping my life away and as the Lunar New Year has come and gone, it is time for me to get on with getting on with my life.  It’s time to improve my range of motion – physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

And yet, I want to honour what has gone before.  In honouring the hibernation of Bear Spirit, I recognize that I have been conserving my energy – not for survival – but for revival.  I am coming out of this sleep having done a lot of physical healing as well as psychic healing through dream work and letting go of some old attachments and fears.  Not every sleep has been peaceful but while my body has been healing at a cellular level, my mind has been processing a lot of junk and burning up what no longer needs to accompany me in the year ahead.  It’s time to thank Bear Spirit for the healing rest and see what the year of the Ox has yet to birth.

Photo: Macau Photo Agency

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

Ten Thousand Days

Twin Flame Recall

January 28, 2021

Photo: Elizabeth Munro

Day 2343 – Day 2357

About a year ago I started noticing repeating number patterns and specifically the number 11:11. In the New Age world there is a belief that this represents the presence of one’s Twin Flame, in one’s life.  What a Twin Flame really is and whether they really exist, I don’t know.  I do know that there was someone who felt very familiar that had appeared and was taking up a lot of my headspace at that time.  He continues to occupy some headspace but not in the same way.

At first, I was attracted to him.  And then I developed a crush on him.  And then I grew to feel that he was a burden.  I kept asking myself and the Universe: Why am I stuck with this bonehead for a Twin Flame?

Admittedly, I see a lot to dislike in his behaviour.  I was charmed by him but charm can be deceiving.  And it was probably this pattern of narcissism which was familiar, not some form of woo-woo mystical connection.  Watching what he actually did, and not always what he said, I grew to lose respect for him and I questioned his trustworthiness.  When I had joked that he was a 2.0 version and took my mind off the previous man (who was certainly narcissistic, if not worse), I already knew what I could expect, even if I would not yet admit it.  He left me feeling rejected and hurt and round round we go, again.  So familiar.

In the beginning, I dreamed of him and it was sweet.  As the rose-coloured glasses started to slip, I continued to dream of him but the dreams were at first, ambivalent and finally, downright dark.

What is a Twin Flame?  Apparently, the theory is that it is your own soul in another human form.  I don’t buy that idea.  But what is interesting to me is that there is a sense, with a Twin Flame, that you are looking in the mirror.  He’s not a reflection of me, but he reveals the contours of something that I could only catch a glimpse of, with these men 1.0 and 2.0.  In a way, I felt like I could read him like a book, and he was familiar.  And in another way, what I was reading was the familiar.

We all look in the mirror and focus on the positive: our eye colour, the cute haircut we’ve gotten, the virtues that we uphold in the world.  What we try not to see are the warts, the ugliness and the darkness in our own psyches and the way we willingly fit together with a puzzle piece that has jagged edges that will make us bleed.  How can we see into that darkness?  Dreams provide a clue.  Life patterns provide a clue.  And perhaps whatever this thing they call a Twin Flame provides another clue.

Each of us is a being of light and an ogre in the shadows.  We are upright citizens and we are liars, thieves and murderers.  We have the potentiality of all of these things within us.  The more we repress the darkness, the more we project it onto others and say – see how horrible that person is, see how horribly they behaved!  Look at how they victimize me!  And as we focus outward on their savagery we can fool ourselves that it does not exist within ourselves and that we are not an active participant in the game.

I am grateful for this person in my life.  I’m not grateful for their bad behaviour or for the way they have mistreated me and others.  I am, however, grateful for the role that he is playing in my spiritual development.  He provides for me a metaphor for all the things which I cannot and will not (at least so far) accept about myself.  In my most recent dream, he was a tornado that was coming to destroy me.  But, he was made of light.

When we begin to confront our shadow selves, it is dangerous.  We invite the trickster, the thief, and the wildman into our lives and we must find a way to dance with their energies in a creative, rather than a destructive way.  We also must let go of the idea of who we are and make room for all of the archetypes, not just the saint, but also the sinner.  Shining light on the dark places creates a storm of transformation.

And now, the real work begins.  I can’t say if I have any impact on him but he certainly continues to embody a whole lot of psychic energy in my life.  I suspect that, for my part, at the end of this work, I will find that he and I are not so different, after all, and what I needed to make myself whole will be found in dreamwork.  Our soul work will be done.  11:11.

 

Photo: Everton Vila

For what are you most grateful, today?

 

Ten Thousand Days

Give Me Till February

January 13, 2021

Photo: Doran Erickson

Day 2309 – Day 2342

Give me till February.

Over a few dishes of dim sum, a friend once noted that I really don’t kick into the new year until Chinese New Year.  At the time, I attributed this to the fact that I would be jetlagged for much of January and would require several weeks to really recover from a trip overseas.  Those trips were hard on my body.  But I think there is something else at play, as well.  The holidays are difficult.  I need time to decompress, do a good purging of closets, and practice self-care until I can return to a state of equanimity and equilibrium.

I also never buy into an arbitrary date when everything changes or the idea that a new year brings about a new me.  Change is an arduous process.  Sometimes we take two steps forward and then slide back again.  I’m grateful that I do not buy into the New Year’s hype.  I am a bit more realistic.  We do not change overnight.  Circumstances do.

The world is traumatized.  We all need some self-care.

I do believe that globally, the prolonged stress of this period of our history is going to leave a lot of mental health challenges and widespread PTSD.  If you can, practice self-soothing and seek help if you need it.  I did a series on self-soothing, to which I will return in 2021, on my YouTube channel.  You can find it here.

I’m not ready to get back to YouTubing just yet.  I considered calling it a day after a year on YT and while I don’t enjoy it, I have the privilege of having the attention of over 100 subscribers. I am incredibly grateful for that privilege.   If I can, I will do my best to inspire them to grateful living, even in the worst of times.  But to do that, I need a full well on which to draw.  Some people love the process of making videos.  I find it a lot of work and it takes time from pleasures that I have been missing.  I am going to spend today painting.  Sometimes, when words fail me, making music, taking photos or painting seems to be the best medicine.  I’m so grateful for my voice and for my ability to create through a visual medium.  I hope that you, also, have something soothing and expressive that you can turn to, to help yourself express the inexpressible and to ease into this new year.

I will be ready to tackle goals and take on the world once I’ve spent some time alone in my simple pleasures.  I will post, but it may not be anything earth shattering or profound.  In the meantime, we begin 2021 with a re-focus on the simple practice of Gratitude Journaling.  I’ve created a free downloadable calendar for the practice which you can access by signing up to my email list here.  Each month, on YouTube, I will be focusing on one of our core practices, but of course, I always encourage people to continue journaling and see how it changes as we add on new practices and states of being.

I’m off to make a cup of tea and look deeply and quietly at things.  For anything else…give me till February.

Photo: Elijah Hiett

For what are you most grateful, today?

Ten Thousand Days

Hold On Just A Second!

December 10, 2020

Photo: Eduardo Flores

Day 2293 – Day 2308

I know you might disagree with me that gratitude and kindness are important for making the world a better place.  I agree, we need justice for victims of violence against women, against racialized communities, against the oppression of dictatorships and for the uneven distribution of wealth in the world and the impacts of climate change.   I’ve never been one to say these things are not crucially important and I’ve spent a considerable portion of my professional life working on policy to change these things.  I also think that these softer but sublime practices can lead to better understanding and compassion, rather than violent self-interest.

Everywhere I look right now there seems to be positioning and aggressiveness.  I had a call from a friend this week and even as I tried to say that people are no longer able to disagree without becoming entrenched in a position, the friend became intrenched in their position and gave examples of how others were wrong in what they were saying and doing.  There was no pause to hear what I was saying before digging into the trench from which they would do battle.  If I had thought of it, maybe forcing a pause might have slowed down the conversation so that we were actually listening to one another.  Not feeling heard, I struggled to want to follow them where they wanted to take the conversation.  Maybe if I had just hit pause on the conversation, I could have just taken that moment for a breath for myself, gotten present with my feelings and then, with presence, returned to the conversation, ready to follow where they needed to take the conversation and affirm what they needed to have heard.  I wonder what would have happened if I had used phone technology as my ally.  “Hold on.  Just a minute.  I need to feel this anger, this sorrow, this fear and let it pass.  I can find my gratitude in this situation and return with kindness.”

I am grateful.  I am grateful for the phone call that let me know that I am still a treasured friend, even if we cannot see one another.  I am grateful to hear the news and to know that illness and death has not touched their home.  And I’m grateful for the lesson that our failed ability to hear one another taught me.

In our trenches, the explosions from the grenades we lob at one another and the constant shelling from one side on the other makes us deaf, even to those who stand beside us as allies.  We cannot hear one another, let alone the perceived enemy or those who normally go unnoticed by us.  It is maybe no coincidence that in what seems an increasingly isolated and polarized world, where our echo chamber has become our support network, the suicide rates are rising at alarming rates.

To anyone out there who feels alone, and unheard, I want you to know that you are not alone in your despair.  I feel it sometimes, too.  I believe that it may not be tomorrow.  It may not be next week.  It may not be next month.  But I believe that external conditions will improve and we need to cling to our practice of finding the good in bad times until the good times return and make living easier.  Next year might seem too far away and so we take it moment by moment.  To anyone struggling right now, I say:  Hold on.  Just a minute.

Let this anger, this sorrow, this fear pass.  And then, find gratitude.  I will be grateful if you hold on, just a minute and continue to live.  This world needs you and it wouldn’t be the same without you.  Even if you can’t see that, right now.

Recently I read an article in the Economist about the impacts of mass trauma on individuals and societies.  In it, the author notes that this kind of trauma “can also change group dynamics. People stop trusting each other. It becomes harder to bring people back together and easier to open new wounds. If nothing is done, this can permanently damage a society—and even destroy it.”

I feel like we are at a point of choice here, and the future of our mental health, our relationships, and our very society is at stake.

In this month where our focus is on kindness, I know we can do better and we can turn this around.

There is evidence that if we can opt for kindness and make a conscious effort to trust and listen to one another and have compassion for one another we can make it through.  The author writes that in recovering from mass trauma, “‘received support’ … is less important for psychological outcomes than ‘perceived support’ the feeling that people can rely on their neighbours.”

Kindness, to self and others, may actually be one of the most important things we can do right now, to save the world.

To those of us who may be tempted to be blind to the struggles of others or turn a deaf ear to their concerns because we’ve got our own, to those of us who are tempted to respond to this unprecedented time of stress and trauma by cutting off our partner in mid-conversation or by hurling an accusation at a friend, or to take out our frustrations on our children who are constantly underfoot in a time of social distancing, I say: Hold on.  Just a minute.  Let all this anger, this sorrow, this fear pass.

Take a breath. Exhale slowly. Do this as many times as it takes.

And then, find gratitude and pay it forward, with kindness.

 

Photo: Tom Parsons

For what are you most grateful, today?

Service, Ten Thousand Days

December 2020: Giving Back

December 1, 2020

Photo: Freestocks

Day 2299 – Happy December, everyone!

Positive psychologists have found that those who benefit from altruism are more inclined to pay forward that gift and become a source of gratitude to others.  It therefore is no surprise that we should find that the season of Thanksgiving  leads to the process of giving our thanks into the world.  We are surely all familiar with the Random Acts of Kindness movement that follows on from the season of gratitude.  Giving Back is a way of “doing thanks,” in the words of professor Elizabeth Bartlett, or giving our thanks into the world.

I’ve created free downloadable calendar for December 2020 with some daily suggestions for ways to give back into the world.  These are suggestions that have taken our current pandemic into account and, while some involve a financial outlay, many do not.  I hope that they will inspire you, this season of giving.

I’d like to challenge you to join me this December in a giving back challenge.  Sign up for my email list for more information on how we can be a counterpoint to a culture of consumerism and to make one gesture – small or large – each day this month, that becomes both an act of service on our parts, and a source of gratitude for others.

If you have some favourite small acts of kindness, I hope you’ll leave a comment and share it with others.

For what are you most grateful today?

Ten Thousand Days

The Things We Do For Love

November 24, 2020

Photo: Tony Liao

Day 2280 – Day 2292

On Sunday I spent the afternoon alternately watching a video with my dad and hiding my face in the folds of my cowl-neck sweater.  My dad loves war movies.  If you read my previous post, you will know that I have a respect for the sacrifice of soldiers but I don’t enjoy the glorification of war.  Recently my dad asked his wife about the film We Were Soldiers and she tried to find the videotape in the stores but didn’t succeed (video? does anyone actually sell videos anymore?) When I heard that my dad had asked again, I quickly tapped my fingers and bought a DVD version online and planned to give it to him for Christmas.  If there is anything that Covid has taught me, it is this: Don’t delay enjoyment and spending time with family.

My father had an outpatient surgery on Friday and I’ve been over every day to see him as he recovers.  I was in the hospital a year ago for over a month which is pretty long, by Canadian standards, since we only have 2 hospital beds per 1000 people in this country.  I know that visits mean the world to a person who is unable to get on with their normal life.  Dad has enjoyed the golf masters and some football games over the weekend but there was a lull in the entertainment for him and so I brought over the movie.

His wife tells me that I “watched it” with him some Christmas past.  I suspect that while he was watching it, I was busy wrapping presents or scrolling through Instagram or texting with my ex-boyfriend.  I cannot imagine that I actually watched it.

I had a panic attack when I was a young woman and as sometimes happens, I developed the fear of having another panic attack in the same public place and so I started avoiding places like sporting events.  I am highly sensitive and the first panic attack revealed this to the world, if nobody had ever taken me seriously before.  We were in Las Vegas and we had ring-side seats for a boxing match.  I think Evander Holyfield was one of the fighters.  It looks almost civil on television.  I can tell you that when you are ringside, you can get pretty dizzy with the sound of boxing gloves pounding flesh, bones crunching and blood and sweat flying out of the ring towards you.  My father worked in an abattoir as a teenager to earn money for the family so flying blood and guts was probably nothing to make him squeamish.  I, on the other hand, had the first panic attack that would turn into a year of recovery from agoraphobia (generalized avoidance of all places where a panic attack might occur).

Violence traumatizes me.  So, to sit and stare at the fireplace or out the window for the length of the movie was all I could do.  I didn’t know the history of this particular battle (although my father knows the history of pretty much every battle of the 20th century of American, British, Canadian and allied soldiers) but I knew well enough that big trouble was coming when one platoon ran off from the rest.  I dove my face into the folds of my sweater, as my intuitive filmic sense unfolded the ambush I knew was coming.

I didn’t want my dad to feel that I was not enjoying spending time with him and keeping him company as he recovers.  But wow, getting through that film left me feeling very queasy.  I’m happy and grateful that he enjoyed the film and it made him emotional to remember the sacrifices made by so many American soldiers in that battle.  He doesn’t usually recall the sacrifices on the other side of the battle but I suppose he has a similar outlook to the Colonel in the film: Lord hear both our prayers, but let our side prevail.

War is complex and so has our relationship been.  I used to be able to spend time with him playing golf but then about ten years ago, he injured himself and had to stop playing.  We used to go out for breakfast on weekends but then that started to fade away because it wasn’t really what he wanted to do on a Sunday morning.  He would have rather had an extra hour in bed to read a novel.  And with Covid, I’ve hardly seen him at all, for fear of bringing the virus to him.  It is sad and frustrating when you consider that I left my entire life in the UK to come and spend time with him, while we were still able.

This looks like it will be a long winter and we will be in lockdown again.  Here, where I live, you are allowed to visit outside your home bubble, with your safe one or two people and I’ve decided that my safe two will be my dad and step-mom.  So, maybe now is my time with my dad.  And for that, I’m grateful.

I’m grateful that we could spend some time together and that I’m able to be of service to him in this time.  He has certainly given up a lot of his own desires to provide for 3 children, and 3 grandchildren so it makes me happy whenever I can find some small way that he will allow me to give back.  I’m grateful that I could find something that would bring him pleasure when he’s not feeling so well, and I’m grateful that I know how to manage rising anxiety so that it does not become a panic attack and how to ride the waves of one if it should come.  I’m grateful that I survived the movie with only a slightly queasy tummy.  There are sacrifices in war and in peace times.  These are the things we things we do, for love.

 

Photo: Katarzyna Grabowska

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

 

Ten Thousand Days

We Will Remember Them

November 11, 2020

Photo: Laurentiu Lordache

Day 2274 – Day 2279

We are born in an instant, we fall in love in an instant and we die in an instant.  It is the stories we tell that connect these moments into a lifetime worth remembering.

When I met my Belgian ex-boyfriend, I had some idea of how his mind worked and I had expectations of him based on his age, education and culture.  He dismantled a lot of those expectations.  I remember waiting for him just outside the Grote Market in Antwerp, standing under the giant statue of Rembrandt.  I didn’t recognize him at first.  He was so much more handsome in person and the shock caused me to drop my bag full of my day’s shopping. But I didn’t fall in love then.  It was only when we were sitting in a pub, hours later, after a lovely Tanzanian dinner, a walk beneath the river to view the city, and a stop at another watering hole, that it happened.  And it happened when he said these words:  I love Canadians.  We owe everything to Canadians.  They liberated us in World War I and we don’t forget that here.

My grandfather fought in WWI.  I was told, or remembered or mis-remembered, perhaps, that he was a tail gunner in the war.  I didn’t grow up with my grandparents as a frequent part of my life so I’m sure my cousins will know more of the truth of that story.  But my grandfather served in two wars and I had uncles that were also in the military.  I am always so grateful for their service and their sacrifices.

Today is Armistice Day or what we call Remembrance Day in Canada.  All of the Commonwealth remembers this day on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year.  11:11:11.  Take that, Twin Flame community.

On the other side of my family, I come from a community of pacifists and among them would have been conscientious objectors and many who see the wearing of a poppy of remembrance as a symbol that glorifies war.  I’m grateful that my mother was not one of them and so I wore the red poppy every year like all the other children in school and I prayed along with them for the fallen soldiers of all wars.  I don’t glorify war and I do remember the soldiers who were undoubtedly crying for their mothers or sweethearts in those scary trenches just before going over the top and too often, to their death.

I’m grateful that my Belgian ex-boyfriend took me to the poppy fields of Flanders, to a preserved section of the trenches of the Ypres Salient, to the Tyne Cot cemetery full of commonwealth soldiers who gave their lives, to the In Flanders Fields museum in Ypres (Ieper) and to the Menin Gate at 8 pm for Last Post.  I cannot hear the trumpet call of Last Post without crying for all the sacrifice of lives and our continued warring nature.  Oh, I’m grateful that I was able to see the places I learned of as a child and hear the stories of ordinary young men and women whose lives were torn apart by war.  I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to walk through a section of the trenches and imagine the horror of wet feet for months, rats running about and the prospect of death, over the top.  I’m grateful for the story of the Christmas cease fire, where Germans and the Commonwealth and American soldiers played football instead of shooting one another.  That one story gives me hope that peace can happen, even in my lifetime.

I hear a lot about “letting go of our stories”.  I get where this is coming from and it’s noble to want to achieve our highest potential and remove our limiting beliefs about ourselves.  But, as we remove our limiting beliefs we must remember not to remove the empowering stories of who we are.  In the words of my friend and fellow writer, TCBC, it is our stories and our ability to tell stories that makes us human.

I am the granddaughter of a war hero and the great great niece of a martyr to pacifism.  The story of my ancestors shaped me into an open-minded and tolerant person.  As I age, I become naturally less tolerant than I was at one time but I’m more tolerant than many who are just starting in life.  I appreciate that about myself and I know that it is one source of equanimity in my life.  As we remember them, those who have fallen, it would do them a disservice NOT to seek to be more tolerant of one another, more cooperative towards achieving common goals and values and more earnest in our efforts to wage peace.

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

Ten Thousand Days

Anniversaries

November 5, 2020

Photo: Dariusz Sawkowski

Day 2238 – Day 2273

This time of year holds a lot of anniversaries for me.  Some are sweet and some are horrible.  It starts in September and goes through November.  I’m fortunate to say that the season ends with some sweet anniversaries.  Last week, it was my parents’ wedding anniversary.  Had my mother lived, they would have been married 70 years.  Seventy years.  As it was, my mother died 1 year short of her 40th wedding anniversary.  I can’t imagine all the ups and downs, the sacrifices, the joys and heartaches that would have accompanied 40 years together, let alone 70 years.  I wonder, if my father, who misspelled my name recently, remembered the anniversary.  He’s been remarried for nearly 30 years, himself, and his memory isn’t what it used to be.  He’s not the kind of man that would tell me, if he remembered, but I do know that when the memory begins to go, those things that happened 40 or 70 years ago are the things that are most clearly remembered.

I could have reminded him but I believe that whether someone chooses to remember or forget something about their life is their own choice.  We all cope with memory and markers in our life in our own way.  I’d gladly forget the events of 9/11 or the violent crime that I survived in October of 2007.  I remember, in private, my traumas just as I celebrate, in private, my parents’ anniversary and my mother’s birthday, lest it make others around me sad, to be reminded.

Last year, I was not well, and so I did not get to mark her death anniversary in July or her birth anniversary in November.  This year, I quietly remembered her day in July while I worked in my garden.  This year, for her birthday, I have resurrected a tradition to go on an adventure “with” her.   There is little adventure to be had in the midst of a pandemic.  There will be no fancy London tea room for afternoon tea, or an evening in Key West for the sunset or an exhibition of Caravaggio art works in Budapest.  We could not drink tea in the shadow of the Hagia Sophia, but we did get to have an adventure.  You can hear about it and see some photos on my YouTube channel.

Anniversaries are a kind of mixed bag.  On the one hand, are they keeping us locked in a past that we’ve outlived, drawing us back into a cycle that we’d rather escape?  Or, are they the way that we make sense and meaning of our lives?  One might say the violent episodes that mark my autumn every year are the ones best left in the past.  But, as much as I’d like to forget them, I do reflect every year on the bonds of friendship that were formed that September in 2001.  Every year I reflect on how I survived the events of October 2007 and sought (but ultimately failed to receive) justice.  I reflect not on victimhood but on survival.  And while I work to unlearn the stories I tell myself about myself and how I managed my traumas, I do enjoy remembering my mother and reflecting on how my life has been so different to that of my mother’s and how she has been a model of strength, bravery and kindness for all the women who came after her, in her family, whether they were conscious of her influence or not.  We are the story our ancestors tell and we have the chance to retell and reshape the story every time we remember them.

I’m grateful for anniversaries.  I am not a person that spends her mental energy on shallow thoughts and so anniversaries and birthdays give me pause to stop and think about relationships in my life, on the events of my life and how they’ve shaped me, and, in making meaning of them, how I have re-shaped those events.  I’m grateful that I have a mind that tends to be reflective.   I’m grateful that of the few adventures left to us in pandemic times, and I am grateful for my ethereal companion.

Photo: Fred Kearney

For what are you most grateful, today?

Ten Thousand Days

Make A Plan

September 30, 2020

Photo: Daniele Levis Pelusi

Day 2223 – Day 2237

Life just sometimes F’s with your plans.  It’s not like I’m a natural at planning, in the first place.  However, I have had to work hard to learn to work with a values-based time management and life goals plan.  Now, when life comes along and drops a bomb in those plans, I get thrown off balance, despite being someone who naturally likes spontaneity.

Last time I wrote, I was deeply disturbed by an assault on some children that I witnessed.  I’ve reached out to people I know in child protection and learned that I basically did all that I could, save for finding a way to report the man to the police for assault.  It is a huge problem that is happening right now for all vulnerable groups who are forced into more restricted isolation with their abusers.  I’ve looked into volunteering with the Child HelpLine in Canada and while there is a backlog of processing volunteers, my interest in children’s human rights and child protection is long standing and isn’t going to go anywhere.  There will come a day when the organization needs more volunteers.  I have offered my services as a researcher, given that I have a Master’s degree specializing in Child Poverty and Children’s Human Rights.  We will see where that goes.  I am patient and I want to find a way to use my skills and experience to better the lives of children.  If it can’t be in Canada, well, remote working means that I can volunteer my research skills just about anywhere.

I’m behind in writing and I’m behind in posting to YouTube.  The thing is that sometimes life throws up curveballs and we look to our values and reprioritize our plan.  This past week, I’ve had to deal with a lot.  Right now, I’m really tired and in need of a good amount of solitude to process it all.  I hope that I get more than a temporary breather in the onslaught of unexpected crises.

Today the sun is shining and it is going to be another scorcher.  This glorious weather seems quite unusual for essentially the first of October, but I do remember kayaking two years ago on thanksgiving, wearing nothing more than a swimsuit and a t-shirt so who knows what kind of autumn we will have.  I would love a sunny but mild autumn as I’ve started walking 1.5 to 2 miles every evening with a friend, and it is nicer to do when it isn’t scorching hot.  Still, I’m grateful for the weather and for my friend who keeps me company.  I’m also grateful that the season of gardening is coming to an end.  I’ve pulled out a lot of plants but my winter squash, kale, collards, leeks and Brussel sprouts will remain.  The kale and collards might even last me right through the winter.  But constant care will be finished soon and I will retreat into the cave that is my painting studio.  I’m itching to paint and I have been for a couple of months, now.

I have decided not to participate in a couple of group shows.  I’m not interested in painting to their specifications.  I’m working on a body of work and I don’t have any interest in painting anything much smaller than 24 inches x 24 inches.  I’d like to start working on very large pieces.  I’m looking forward to these projects this winter and I’m grateful that I have my artwork and creative projects to stimulate me in the long dark winter that will inevitably see increased pandemic restrictions.

There are several videos that I know I need to make.  I’m simply too tired to record them at the moment but I will.  I’m hoping to have a couple posted this week, but you know how to make God laugh, right?

Make a plan.

 

Photo: Daria Nepriakhina

For what are you most grateful, today?