F**k the Law of Attraction

I struggled with the Law of Attraction for a long time. I felt the guilt, shame, frustration and self-blame of not doing it right, not consistently enough guarding my thoughts to stay positive and focused on what I wanted, to not get stuck on the intentions but to let them go once created.

I knew it could be done, I just wasn’t good enough at it to do it repeatedly, to improve my financial situation, to create the business of my dreams. I was bound to continue hobbling along with limited success and fruitless hope, even as I practiced gratitude for the good things that showed up – my family, my partner, our business, my book, our book, our clients.

I first came across the Law of Attraction in 1998 after my first marriage fell apart and my job blew up. The shards of the glass walls fell down around me, resting in small piles at my feet making any step I took in any direction somewhat precarious. Five years ago I wrote about my Passive-Aggressive Relationship with the Law of Attraction. There is a lot of good advice in that post, things to do to keep yourself centered, grounded and focused that are not dependent on the Law of Attraction.

Now, though… now I am done with the Law of Attraction, its hope filled promises for the price of positive thoughts, a book or many, a course or two or a life coach. The premise is that you attract everything in your life to you – the good and the bad. You attract the bad things because of worry, fear, frustration. They arrive to teach you a life or spiritual lesson. And, if you attracted those things to you, you can also attract the equal and opposite good things, once you understand everything happens for a reason and you need to consistently think good thoughts. There are too many hard things too easily explained away through this premise that don’t quite add up.

When you come from a place of privilege, even if you are struggling and don’t quite see your privilege, it is practice of luxury. I don’t mean the luxury that comes from millions of dollars at your disposal – lord knows I’ve never had that. But I also haven’t had a real fear of living on the streets no matter how much financial stress I have endured.

I mean the luxury that many people not only can’t afford but don’t have access to. Like a roof over their heads. Or food. Or a safe place to land. Or adequate healthcare. Or any range of other things that can hobble daily existence.

The Law of Attraction premise begins to fall apart when we think about people living in poverty, or in violent situations, family breakdown or dealing with chronic or terminal illness or addictions. People who have been the victims of sexual or other violent assault, experience war conditions and the wanton destruction of life, property and nature. People who have experienced natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, tornados, earthquakes, erupting volcanos. Did people really attract those circumstances to themselves? And to all of those around them who were are also impacted.

Then we revert to “all things happen for a reason”, “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle”, “what doesn’t break you makes you stronger.” Ways to try to explain or understand the level of hardship that has come our way.

And this Covid thing? We can make up a lot of stories about how and why “we” have “attracted” this pandemic to ourselves individually and collectively. “Life is showing us we need to slow down.” “The world is falling apart so we can put it back together better.” We use stories to try to make sense of the situation after the fact. These do not validate the Law of Attraction. They trap us into a line of thinking that is hard to escape from. I’m not aware of Law of Attraction stars or enthusiasts from countries and communities focused on survival.

When I wrote that post five years ago, I was still trying to sort out why I wasn’t manifesting the abundance in my life that was promised to me through the Law of Attraction. And I had “proof” that it worked because when the house I owned with my second husband went on the market as we were divorcing, it sold within 24 hours and the house I have now lived in for 10 years beckoned.

I knew I should be able to do it over and over, but I was failing far more often than I was succeeding. The Law of Attraction had me blaming myself for this failure because I obviously wasn’t guarding my thoughts clearly enough. I wasn’t doing it right. And even though the Law of Attraction would say things don’t necessarily manifest right away, it is a pattern of thought over time, what happens when that pattern of thought is interrupted by sadness, disorientation, hopelessness, fear, anxiety or frustration? Emotional states that are all naturally occurring and we all encounter them.

Looking back, I now understand what happened with the house. Regularly for months before we put it on the market, I would go for a walk or run, come back to the house, walk down the driveway, behind the house to the stream out back. I would sit on a rock in the middle of the little brook and meditate. Then I would walk back up the other side of the house. I was meditating on letting go and asking my spirit guides to make the house welcoming to the next owner. I was powerfully weaving a spell, reinforcing an enchantment for the house over and over again. That is why the house sold right away, not because I wished it so but because I was a conscious, active participant in the process. Over a sustained period of time, in consistent practice. And that is why other big things didn’t manifest. Not because my thinking was wrong but because I was not weaving enchantments. I was not in a regular practice or ritual that supported my intentions.

I get now that I get to want what I want, no matter what that is. I no longer believe in “magical thinking”, that all I have to do is visualize it, then release it and if I think about it right it will come into being, which is not to say I don’t believe in magic. I have stopped following Law of Attraction posts and advocates and I am living into both the hard stuff and the joyful stuff as a conscious active participant in my life, feeling more grounded and more expansive in the journey. I am looking for coherence, so that my thoughts, my surroundings, my intentions and practices are all aligned, inquiring into how I can be my most powerful self, most consistently. It is part of embracing my identity, embracing my gifts, sludging through the hard moments and dancing through the joyful ones.

A moment of Embracing Power – Brazil, Warrior of the Heart

Monochromatic Days

My father once commented on the passage of time. He said, “Minutes are like seconds, hours are like minutes, days are like hours, weeks are like days, months are like weeks.”

Seven months into this pandemic, I think about my father every day. I feel like I have greater insight into what his days were like as he lived them out alone in his house. Day after day, unremarkably the same.

Monochromatic days. There are colours and yet there are so many more that are missing.

Wake up. Feed the cats. Make coffee. Scroll through social media for longer than is wise, especially given the chaotic nature of these times. Have breakfast. Go for a walk. Shower. Fill in the day. Finish up the day. Have a glass of wine. Read. Feed the cats. Plan a trip to the grocery store. Make dinner. Have another glass of wine. Watch an episode or two of a favourite show. Give the cats treats. Go to bed. Rinse and repeat. Plug and play.

I am grateful for all of the things that are part of my plug and play. A day a week with my grandson. The great 2020 Painting Odyssey with multiple days of painting the rooms in my house. Work that includes zoom calls, writing, strategizing, monitoring the discussion boards of the online programs we are piloting. Visiting my granddaughter. Visits with my kids some days or a friend or two on other days.

And yet most days I wake up with sadness, sometimes grief. There is a sameness about the days. They lack adventure. They lack work with clients – how I miss that work right now. They lack planning for the next trip whether for work or pleasure. They lack the in-person connection with my sweetie who I haven’t been with since March.

There is a listlessness. Even as I bring new colour into every room of my house and marvel at the transformation, the endless march of days miss the full spectrum of colour. They are monochromatic. How is it already October? Time has been sucked into a vortex of repetitiveness, even with the plug and play.

I miss my life. I want it back. But, for the moment, I will go apply a second coat of paint to my bathroom – room/area #12, finally feeling like I have turned the corner of this painting odyssey with only 3 rooms left after this. When the painting is done, one less plug and play for my days. Pining for the days of full colour spectrums.

I Love You More

We didn’t always say “I love you” to each other, but in his latter years, when we did, with increasing frequency, dad would say, “I love you more.”

This remembrance came to me this week as surprisingly deep wells of grief have opened, hearing about the passing of another in the group of friends who boated together for decades. Seven months since my father passed.

Dad once said to me that in his family, growing up, these words were never spoken. I don’t know where or when he decided to say, “I love you more” but it would make me smile every single time he did.

Even without the words, I knew he loved me. He knew I loved him. He loved me as unconditionally as he knew how and this was not easy for him – a perfectionist who liked order and control.

I learned to love him in the same way – as unconditionally as I knew how. I have written that he was not the easiest person to be around at times. He could be grouchy. He had moments of feeling sorry for himself. He had his own moments of deep grief that I witnessed through listening. Just listening; witnessing. Holding space for him and his process. Not trying to make it better, explain it away, side with anyone. At times he focused more on who wasn’t coming around than who did come around. He yearned for the joy, happiness and fun of the past when everyone was younger and mortality seemed a long ways a way. A past that our family friend was part of.

From “the good old days”

Dad knew his mind. He knew what he wanted. I came to recognize his humour. How he lit up when he gently flirted with waitresses or other young women he came into contact with, as inappropriate as that may be in this day and age, and even though my mother was his one and only true love. How he used to tell everyone, “She’s not my girlfriend…. She’s my daughter.”

He cherished his independence even while at times he was lonely. In the last year or so of his life, his ability to get around became increasingly impaired. He had leg pains and he couldn’t breathe. He had difficulty getting up from a chair and walking up stairs. I always honoured his independence. I would adjust my pace of walking to his. I would carefully watch him as he struggled to go up a set of stairs or get out of his seat. I would not do for him what he wanted to do for himself, even when it was hard to watch.

Last summer, we were trying to get him qualified for home oxygen, paid for by the province. We went to the hospital for a test but his legs gave out before his oxygen could register at a qualifying level. We were told, when I asked, he could go back for a retest. It was his idea to do the stairs because they taxed him more than just walking. I will never forget the young technician’s ashen face as he emerged through the door of the stairwell with my panting father. If he wasn’t so young, I think having dad on the stairs may have given him a heart attack! It did the trick though. Dad qualified for home oxygen. Unfortunately, it was not the “cure” dad hoped it would be.

I miss him even as I feel his presence with me every day. He is often in my dreams. I “saw” his welcoming committee when he arrived on the other side. I “see” him welcoming the newly transitioned friends as the clans regroup. I feel the emptiness of what was and the fullness of what is. I allow my grief to leak through my eyes as I smile at the memory of, “I love you more.”

My Mortality is Calling to Me

My mortality is calling to me.

Another cherished member of the generation before me? Gone. Crossed through the portal, to the other side. Received by a welcoming committee. So many have gone this way in recent years.

Among them, my mother. My father. This friend. Number three, in 2020 alone.

The inevitably of time, passing. A line of elders crossing, from one world to the next. Leaving vacant, places of eldership.

The next generation? My generation? Reluctant. Reluctant to occupy these spaces. Not a mantle willingly or joyfully embraced. A mantle passed on by necessity. By the advancement of time. Cycles of life. And death. Venerable, honourable, vacant spaces.

My mortality is calling to me. With some astonishment, I realize, I am in my third third.

I can look ahead. I can look ahead and see. Clear to the end. Is it another decade? Two? Maybe three? If I’m lucky? Or if I’m not?

Who am I now? Who do I want to be? What is it that is mine to do in this third third?

Life is a current. It has pulled me along. It has shaped me. Shaped my journey. I see the nuances. Fluctuations. Tributaries. Of this current. Sometimes meandering. Sometimes radical passage. Eddies and rapids that have been wake up calls. And decision points.

A stream near my home, in the spring, when it was full and overflowing, bubbling along.

My mortality is calling to me. I am invited to examine this moment. To scan the future. To choose pathways. To invoke the whole of who I am. To step courageously into divine destiny. Burning with passion, for contributions, only I can make.

Potent. Powerful. Radiant. Joyful.

Looking back, I see departure points. A very different choice would have taken me to a very different place. To a very different me. In some ways.

Looking forward, from decision points right in front of me, very different pathways stretch into the future. I can see each through to the end. Different choices. Different versions of me.

My mortality is calling to me. What is the destiny I want to grab hold of? To live fully? Unapologetically? Meaningfully?

Of the paths before me, which will take me to the wildest, most coherent, most loving, version of who I can choose to be?

That. That is the path. The path that invites me. Into its embrace. Its adventure. That is the path I choose to shape. That I choose to let shape me. In my third third.

My mortality is calling to me.

Doorways, Thresholds and Portals

My home refresh project has brought me to the entryway of my house. I am having a surprisingly emotional experience as I prep the area for painting.

There are threads that have been woven from the third floor hallway, down a stairwell to the main floor, with the next stage down to the bottom stairwell to the front door. It is part of the magical energy I have been building in my home for years now.

These hallways and stairwells pass by rooms, some of which have already been refreshed, reordered and refocused with the remainder on the summer 2020 to-do list. As each room is taken apart, it is put back together, somewhat to significantly differently. The entire energy – and dare I say identity – of the house is shifting.

Doorways. Thresholds. Portals. Who and what passes through. Who and what is invited. Who and what is discouraged or even barred from passing through. Because it is my home and boundaries are important. Coherence is essential.

Doors opened and closed. Literally, figuratively and metaphorically.

Thresholds crossed daily with little thought about them. Other thresholds requiring intentionality.

Portals that open vast new worlds of transformation or that open the threshold between the visible and the invisible, known and unknown, seen and unseen worlds.

Practical magic. Being a conscious, active participant in my own life and my future. Allowing myself to want what I want without self-judgment, self-recrimination or self-censorship. Relying on my own moral authority and my ancestors, guides and guardians for guidance.

It’s been a full 10 years. I had planned to paint this year anyway. Started last summer with two rooms. With the disorientation and disruption of being grounded due to the Coronavirus, there is a different sense of urgency and compulsion attached to this refresh. To my sense of who I am. To how I want to engage life. My life. Now and in the future.

Many people have passed through my front door. I have passed through that door too many times to count. An abundance of experiences of the ins and outs of life, relationships, phases and stages. Ups and downs on the stairwells of my house and of life. Joy. Grief. Happiness. Disappointments. Struggle. Regrets. Yearning. Development. Spiritual growth. It is all here. Right in front of me. Behind me. Ahead of me.

Collectively, we are still in a period of not knowing. Not knowing what is next. Not knowing when it will be wise to travel. Not knowing when or if there will be a second wave. Not knowing what my business will look like or how I will support myself. Not knowing when I will be with my sweetie in person again. Not knowing what is ahead. Ready and not ready at the same time.

Living through grief, sorrow, regret and yearning. Some days pushing through inertia. Knowing reflection, connection, meditation, practices and ritual connect me to the vastness beyond myself in ways that are grounding, supportive and orienting to me. This changes my imaginings about what is possible. It opens me to love and LOVE. One more day. One more practice. One more dream. One more enchantment. One more action. One more coat of paint. One more phase of transformation.

What are the next doors that will open, thresholds I will cross or portals I will travel? Discovering as I go?

Inhabiting Identity

Who are you? Who are you really? Who do you aspire to be? How are you creating your life? How much thought have you given to these questions? For me, they are a guiding inquiry providing ample fodder for deep reflection.

I have been actively engaged in identity work for the last couple of years, becoming more of an active conscious participant in my own future, in creating my own destiny. I am doing this by becoming a magician (yes, you read that right) and living into being a powerful creator. Not a show magician full of dazzling tricks or someone who engages magical thinking, but a person who recognizes the power of combining deep spiritual work with practical mundane steps to advance a vision, intent or desire for my life. Learning how to do magic, be magic, live life magically.

A fitting image for the month of July 2020

I have found amazing teachers and tuned into a whole new world that has been waiting for me for decades. A world that has attempted to reveal itself through my spiritual journey but which often left me wondering what to do with what was revealed, with the spirit guides, guardians and supporters I knew to be available to me. Now I am learning how to build relationship, how to open the lines of communication more fully. And, I feel like my father through his death has opened a portal of greater access. Through this work, I am learning much more about identity, about my identity.

I recognize over the decades I have inhabited several identities – some more fully than others and none with the degree of consciousness I am bringing to this next evolution of who I am, who I am growing into.

Like everyone, I have a number of roles that shape who I am and contribute to my identity. Mother, grandmother, daughter, granddaughter, sister, lover, partner, friend, neighbour, consultant, trainer, teacher, coach, author, co-author, traveler, cat parent, caregiver. And these many roles are not the consummate of my identity.

My identity is more than my roles. Although all of my parents and grandparents are now departed, I am still a daughter and a granddaughter but these roles are different now. Since my father’s death, I am no longer a caregiver for my elder(s), which was a consuming role. I am no longer part of the sandwich generation – sandwiched between parents and children. I am now the elder in my family.

Since putting a period on 70 Dufferin Street, clearing out my parent’s house where my dad had lived for 45 years, a house my brother and I also grew up in, I have turned my attention to my own house of 10 years. There are a few items from my parents’ house that have made their way into my house and they needed to be made way for. They have sparked a transformative effort in my living space. And, it’s more than that.

My evolving identity is demanding a space to inhabit that is refreshed through paint, cleared of clutter, bringing a sense of order to each individual space and the house overall. I am in the midst of this now, in the summer of 2020, the year of Covid-19, the year in which I hope we see the tipping point of racial injustice and a rewriting of social contracts, a year in which the global economy is struggling and Jerry and I are reimagining our business and strengthening the foundation of it to ride the possibilities and opportunities post Coronavirus.

In the painting of each room in my house, a transformation takes place. When I painted my bedroom, I took everything out of my closets and cupboards and only about a third of things went back. Clothes that had been in the closet for a decade, brought here from another life, another identity, were shed. A wedding dress and shoes. Clothes given to me by other people that I did not wear but had a hard time letting go of. Gowns I would never wear again. Clothes I bought because I liked them but every time I put them on I took them off again because I didn’t like how they looked. Shoes I had barely worn. All gone. And as I caught sight of a few sweaters that had been much loved and enjoyed a few years ago, I recognized that the clothes we wear are all part of the identity we inhabit at any given time and it is hard to fully inhabit a new and evolving identity when the ghosts of past identities clutter our spaces.

I am on a mission. As I turn my attention to the next space(s) in my house, things are removed, new order is brought in. By summer’s end, all of my living spaces will have been refreshed and transformed. My sense of my identity will continue to deepen and I will walk in the world with more confidence and hopefully more grace than in all of the decades before.

For those curious about who I have been learning from, my main teacher is Fabeku Fatumise. Through him I have discovered Dan Carroll and chaos magic, Jason Miller and Aidan Wachter among others. Buy any of their books and prepare to immerse yourself in a new journey. For me, it is a healing journey full of new awareness. It is a journey that has kept me sane through difficult times and it offers me practical things to do and focus on in times when it feels like there is little that can be done. And, as I said at the beginning, it has given me practices that enable me to be an active conscious participant in my own life.

A Decade of Transitions and Transformations

I moved into my house in Bedford, Nova Scotia 10 years ago. A decade. 2010 to 2020. I realized it is the longest I have ever lived in one home in my entire life. It’s been a decade full of life and death, transition, rebirth, renewal, magic, evolution, transformation and increasing coherence. There is a lot to reflect on and a lot to celebrate.

My Children

My boys were 7, 17 and 19 when we moved. They have, for various times and for varying lengths of time, lived with me in this house. Now the older two are married and one is a father. They have lovely families and all of them (sons and daughters-in-law) are on good career paths. The youngest is forging a path which is his to walk, the outcome of which is not clear yet nor will be for some time. But he and his path, like with the others, is held in love and light.

I am privileged to be able to spend a lot of time with my grandson developing a relationship that I dream will be close and connected over the rest of my life. I wait with delight the arrival of his sister with the same anticipation of relationship.

He’s snuggly one. Here he’s beginning a nap.

My Partner and Work

Not only were there literal births of children, there was the birth of an unexpected relationship and new business in my life. When Jerry Nagel and I met just before I moved into this house, a deep friendship immediately blossomed. We hosted together in powerful work – each better because of the other – and we created a new business, Worldview Intelligence, born out of what we could see and discover together which we are still building. We also birthed a book about our work: Building Trust and Relationship at the Speed of Change.

Our deep friendship became intimate relationship although “unconventional” in that we live in two different countries. The relationship has not been without its challenges as we each work to step out of habitual and dysfunctional patterns created in previous relationships. We do this because we each recognize we are building on a foundation of mutual love, respect and strength. Because of this relationship and our work I have traveled more in the last decade than ever before. Now we face a new challenge with travel restrictions and the not knowing of when we will be able to be together in person, taking it one day at a time. We know the foundation of our relationship will carry us through.

The Loss of My Parents

While in this house I lost both my mother in 2012 and this year my father. I feel my mother’s loss more keenly since my father departed. While my father was alive and a significant presence in my life it partially filled the void left both by mother’s dementia and entry into long-term care and her subsequent death.

Now there is a nothing. But it is not really nothing. It is more of a quiet in which memories leap into view through photographs and through the bits and pieces of my parents’ belongings that have found a new home in mine.

A Slowing Down and Chaos

In this time of the great slowing down caused by the responses to Covid-19 and the great disturbances and chaos created by one more Black death too many and protests co-opted in the US by the Boogaloo Bois intent on violence and creating a civil war, other things are amplified.

During this time I cleared out and sold my parents’ home. 45 years of living in one place. Hardly anything ever thrown out. A 3 story house and full garage. Of memories. Of identity. Of stuff. Three truckloads of stuff not useful to anyone taken away. A houseful of furniture given away. Boxes of kitchen and other small items given away. Tools and machinery accumulated over a lifetime sold or given away as gifts. A house washed down, ready for a new owner, new memories, new identity.

Chaos, Order and Flow

Chaos in my house as it stores the things waiting for their new home – either with my brother or through a charity. Chaos which is being turned into order. And newness.

This house and land were waiting for me when my youngest son’s father and I finally sold the house we had lived in together to move into separate homes. It was a time of flow when things moved quickly – very similar to the sale of my father’s house. Once we put our old house on the market it sold remarkably within 24 hours. My house had just gone on the market. Within 3 weeks I was here.

Other than building an office in what had been a very large storage space on the first floor, nothing much has changed. The colour schemes were perfect in the moment. The house is big enough to accommodate everyone here at the same time and small enough that I don’t rattle around in it when it is just me and the cats. The cats are new-ish too. We arrived in the house with two older cats. They are buried in the back yard. The “new” cats have made it their home these last five years with their unique personalities.

My House Demanding a Refresh

Last year, something started to stir. The kitchen and the main living room seemed to be calling out to be painted. And you know once you start….. This year, the rest of the house is calling out to be painted. And I am on a mission, putting in 8, 9 and 10 hour days painting. I have the summer to complete the mission since it appears I may not be traveling anywhere. Hallways, stairwells and 9 rooms to be refreshed. The house is demanding a reboot. It may sound strange to describe it this way, but it is how it feels to me.

Deepening Spiritual Journey

The last decade has invited a deepening of my spiritual journey. For anyone who has read Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness, you know how my spiritual journey has been guided in ways I could not have anticipated. In the 2000’s this journey began with developing a much greater sense of my guardians, guides and allies and still left me with a dissatisfaction and unrest of not quite knowing what to do with that information.  (By the way, I will be publishing a follow up to my memoir later this year. It will be more of a how to guide of spiritual journey and practice.)

In the mid 2010’s the answer showed up. I found a teacher and a deep community of practitioners and learners of “practical magic”, divination and enchantments. I heard clear yeses in my animal knowing to step into the offerings that were available. And, that has made all the difference.

I have learned how to be in relationship with spirit in a myriad of ways – through divination, prayers, offerings, talismans, blessing work and more. It feels to me that my father’s death has opened a wider portal to the world of spirit and a closer connection to the allies, guides and guardians who support me and my loved ones. I walk in a different space now than before he died. I have artefacts from his house that strengthen that connection including his rosary and a statue of the Mother Mary who he felt a deep connection to. I feel his presence on a daily basis. I know he – and my mother and other ancestors –  are actively watching out for me and my family and working on our behalf. It brings me joy and delight, even as I miss him on the physical plane.

Shifting Identity and Relationships

I have been shifting my sense of identity. I am learning to acknowledge that I am a powerful creator. I am changing my relationship with money, work and power. Through this network I have discovered a cadre of other teachers. In the times when it seems there is nothing I can do to change the state of the world – like now – I can turn to ritual, practice and meditation to transport myself to a different place to continue to imagine the future that is shaped by my conscious participation in it.

We talk a lot about coherence in these spaces – being coherent with what you want in your life, being internally and externally coherent. With each new level of coherence it is like there is a levelling-up in identity, in confidence and in walking in the world, sensing the sentience in everything.

So when I say the house is demanding a refresh, it is completely consistent with a levelling-up of my identity. It is part of the external coherence and it is bringing order to my spaces and a new kind of order to my life. Before the walls are painted they are covered in symbols representing what I want to draw into my life and my home. There is power in the symbols and you can feel it in the house. I am focused and I get more done that I want to do even as the world has slowed down. Even as the world has turned to greater chaotic upheaval than I ever expected to see in my lifetime.

I would not have wished this time on me or the world I live in. However, since I’m here, I’m grateful for the practice of magic, ritual and deepening relationships with Allies. I am soothed by family connections. And, putting energy into transforming my house through painting highlights the other transformations which are changing the ground I walk on.

Here is to the next decade. To more births, inevitably more deaths and to an enduring spiritual journey that gives power and agency to my life.

A Radical Thought About Forgiveness

My radical thought about healing is that we can release ourselves from the hold and from the impact of the harm others have done to us without necessarily having to forgive them. This is an evolution of my thinking about forgiveness and counter to much of the prevailing thought about it. Hear me out.

In the new book I am writing, Accessing Your Healing Power Within, there is a chapter dedicated to forgiveness. I start the chapter with a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.: “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”

I completely agree with this quote. I would say it is about touching into our humanity to see the humanity in someone else and to not get lost in our own hate of another. I have thought about the topic of forgiveness a lot over the years, having experienced intense, sustained emotional and psychological trauma by someone who was in my life for quite awhile.

In psychology, forgiveness is generally defined as “a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.” This is followed by the caveat that forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning or excusing offences.

In thinking about the person who did harm to me, who had power over me and some of my emotional experiences for far too long for reasons I will not get into here, recently I have been asking myself, “Have I forgiven them?” This person no longer has a hold on me, no longer impacts my emotional experience, no longer has the ability to take power from me and I no longer give away my power to them. I don’t hate them, I don’t feel resentment nor do I feel a need for vengeance. But, when I sense into the question, “Have I forgiven them?” the answer keeps coming back as no. Which I find fascinating and which has sparked this deeper inquiry. Will I forgive them eventually? It is doubtful and I am realizing it is okay.  That person not only harmed me, they harmed other people I love and continue to do harm to others. This will likely until the day they die.

IMG_3420

New growth comes out of the hardest spots.

A person I love deeply is currently in the grips of someone who is doing my person harm. Eventually, I trust that my loved one will find it in themselves to become free from this situation. I choose to believe this and that is another story. Will I forgive the person who is doing the harm? I understand where they are coming from. I understand the background. I can have empathy for why they act the way they do. But will I forgive them for the harm they are doing to my loved one and, by extension, to a network of loved ones? What about the harm they are likely to inflict on others over time, even once my loved one finds a different path? I am doubtful I will forgive that person for the havoc they have wreaked. Unless they are able to change their ways, how they treat others is unforgivable.

There are many people, acts and behaviours I can, have and will forgive. I get that true forgiveness does not condone behaviour. I get that we forgive for ourselves, not the other person. But really what we are striving for is to be released from the emotional hold that another person, their actions or behaviours has or has had on us. My radical thought is, we can release ourselves from that hold and from the impact of the hurt without necessarily forgiving. And I think that might be okay. Maybe this is what people mean when they talk about forgiveness. Maybe we need another word for this.

In the book I write, “You cannot wear your forgiveness for someone else as a badge of honour. Forgiveness is an act of humility. And, in my experience, especially in the most challenging of situations, it is one of the most difficult things to do and also one of the most freeing.” I still think this is true in many ways. And, I am now expanding and reframing my thinking. We can heal without forgiving the most atrocious things that have been done to us. We can become free through healing that does not have to include, or preclude, forgiveness of others.

Which leaves me with another question. Can we heal without self-forgiveness? And my initial response is that we need self-forgiveness, like self-compassion and self-love to truly access our healing power within

My Father Was a Complex Man

My father, Hector Jourdain, was a complex man. He grew up in challenging circumstances, the full extent of which I will never know. He was the youngest of six children of entrepreneurial and demanding parents. He grew up in Cap Chat on the Gaspe coast in the 1930s and 40s. He worked hard but never quite felt like he measured up to the expectations laid out for him. It shaped him, like we are all shaped by our upbringing.

For people who knew my dad, they know he was not always the easiest person to get along with. He was very particular, which is likely why he was known as Hector the Corrector as I wrote in my last post about him.

He lacked some social sensitivity, particularly for today’s age. He didn’t always listen well. Perhaps because he couldn’t hear well. Perhaps because his mind was going a mile a minute all the time. He was known to express his frustration to friends he hadn’t seen in awhile, “You drive right past my house but you don’t stop in to see me.”

Dad and my brother Robert in Perce, Quebec

And, he had a quirky sense of humour and an impish grin. He could as easily light up a room as darken it. He drew people to him in unexpected ways. New neighbours, others he met along the way, who became good friends, some of whom saw the charming side of him and some of whom learned how to put up with the ornery side and show up for him anyway. And many people could see the multi-dimensionality of who he was.

Looking like a celebrity at Jacob and Nellie’s wedding in 2017

He had trouble understanding the fluctuating nature of friendship or what we might now refer to as the “reason, season, lifetime” that explains why someone is in your life. He wanted all his friends to be lifetime. He wanted the camaraderie of the Bluefin days to exist in perpetuity. That people’s lives changed and families expanded from children to grandchildren and different interests, even as his own did, challenged him and his memories. My brother Robert reminded me the other day that when and where my dad grew up, people lived in the same houses for lifetimes and families lived within walking distance of each other much of the time.

Our memories are fuelled by the stories we tell of our past and our experiences. My father loved my mother. A love that was enduring up until the day he died. There was never anyone else for my father, not even the entertainment of the idea of someone else, even though he outlived mom by 8 years – 12 if you count when she went to live at Harbourview Haven.

I didn’t always see or understand that love because not all the days of their marriage were calm – to put it mildly. So, in his latter years when he described my mother as his best friend, saying they never went to bed angry any night during their marriage, I only raised my eyebrows but never commented. It is not quite how I remember things. But, he was entitled to the stories that were true for him. Especially because it was his love for my mother that guided his care for her as she was overtaken by dementia. He went above and beyond for years. Even after she went into long-term care, he visited almost every day and, with my brother and me, was there with her when she passed in 2012.

Dad defied medical odds. He tiptoed up to the edge of death on many occasions, looked over and said, “No, not yet.” Doctors would look for the medical reasons why my dad recovered – from being in a wheelchair because he had no strength in his legs to walking again, from being diagnosed with chronic lung disease to having his home oxygen removed because his lungs improved to other inexplicable recoveries. There were no medical reasons. There was a strong will to live.

One such time of defying medical odds was during his second open-heart surgery in 2006. His first open-heart surgery was in the 1970s. This time, he was on the wait list for the surgery – waiting for the call. Instead, I got the call in the middle of the night that he was in the hospital. He had driven himself to emergency with my mother who later drove the car home – which was all she could talk about since getting out of the parking lot was perplexing to her. Dad was being sent to Halifax via ambulance. I had to drive to Lunenburg to pick up my mother. Driving down the 103 at dawn, as I got near to Mahone Bay, there is a stretch of road where you can see a long distance ahead. There came the ambulance as the sun was rising, lights flashing. Driving past that ambulance, knowing my father was in it and I was going in the opposite direction, was one of the most surreal moments of my life.

Dad was exhausted because his heart was in bad shape, because he had been taking care of my mother and who knows why else. He was afraid they would send him home too soon. He fixed that. He didn’t wake up from the surgery for 10 days. When he did wake up he was, naturally, disoriented. It took him a long time to understand how many days he had been out. He chastised me for keeping him on life support when I knew his wishes. I told him, there was never any question about his recovery.

Years later, he shared a story with me. He said, during that time when he was not fully conscious, he went “up above”. He was in a corridor with a lot of doors. He was knocking on the doors and trying to open them but was not successful. Finally, one of the doors opened. It was Arch-Angel Michael and he said to dad, “It is not your time, you need to go back.” My dad believed he had not yet atoned for his sins. He told me he knew what it was he needed to do. Apparently he has either completed that mission or come to terms with it.

Dad had confided that story in someone who told him that it could not be true because “once you go there you do not come back.” It took him years to share the story with me. “Do you think I’m crazy?” he asked me. I told him, “You’ve read my memoir – several times. Of course I don’t think you are crazy.”

I made my peace with my father a long time ago, as part of my own journey. I was his patient advocate and his chauffeur. I will miss our jaunts to Busy Bee, Princess Auto and other spots where he would pick up tools and other supplies. I won’t miss the numerous doctors’ appointments so much. I will miss our lunches – just the two of us usually but sometimes with a guest or two – my children or my friends. His favourite joke to the wait staff was, “She’s not my girlfriend. She’s my daughter.” I will miss our trips to Quebec of which we were fortunate to have a few in the last few years. We had plans to go again this summer. Life is quiet without him in it.

Surrounded by nieces and nephews in Rimouski at his sister-in-law’s funeral

On the board walk at St. Luce – summer 2019

We often say it takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a village to care for our elders. And my dad, grumpy as he could be, as difficult as he could be, had a village of love and support beyond which he fully knew or always appreciated. My brother and I are grateful for the enduring friends and the more recent friends without whom life – and care for my dad – would have been a lot harder.

“Hector the Corrector”

So, my dad, Raoul Hector Jourdain, died recently at the age of 86 and 3/4, as he liked to say. His goal was 90 and another more important goal was to live out his days in his own home. I had the good fortune and grace to be there when he passed on January 16, 2020.

He went into the hospital – again – just after Christmas – for an issue with his bladder, which was going to be a forever reoccurring issue due to damage from prostate cancer and radiation therapy a decade ago. He also had congestive heart failure and diseased lungs. He was on home oxygen, had a permanent catheter and walked with a cane. Managing a cane, oxygen tank and urine bag all at the same time when your mobility is increasingly limited is not for the feint of heart.

He had already walked up to the edge of death many times in his life, looked over and said, “Nah, not yet.” More of those stories to come. Three years ago when I was sure he was not going to live after two stints in hospital for bleeding, I started a blog post about him. A couple of days ago, I took it out and brushed it off, because, well, this time he decided to fly over the edge.

I had a good laugh when I read about boiling eggs. He had been in the hospital just before Christmas and I sprung him loose in time for the holidays. The first morning home, he wanted boiled eggs. So, he instructed me on how to boil them. Then he instructed me on how to peel them after he tried but didn’t have the strength to stand and do it himself. I did what he asked and at some point he shook his head and acknowledged that I probably did know how to boil eggs and had probably done it many times. Yup. And, he had also instructed me in this task just three years before. He was particular in his ways and his approach.

When we drove around Lunenburg, he often gave me directions. For those who don’t know, Lunenburg is a small town, emphasis on small. I grew up there. Pretty easy to find your way around. But it made him happy to give directions.

My dad had his ways of doing things. He had two workshops – one for woodworking and one for metal working or machining. Each workshop had a place for everything and everything was in its place. He was a gifted diesel mechanic and machinist. When he left National Sea Products in the early 1990s he set up shop in his garage, calling his company Lunenburg Marine Diesel. He was in demand because his skill in engine repair and rebuilding was unsurpassed. If he couldn’t find a part or didn’t want to pay the price for it, he made it.

Dad with an engine

Raoul Hector Jourdain doing what he was extraordinarily gifted at.

It is only very recently that I became aware that my dad had a nickname: Hector the Corrector. I think he was kind of proud of that. I totally get where it comes from although I hadn’t heard it before. Dad’s specificity of instruction made me believe he was not such a good teacher or coach. He never taught me how to Captain the Bluefin for instance, but that could be as much about my own desire to just be a passenger as his to have it done in a certain way.

Receiving this story from dad’s friend and one time neighbour, John Pollack, expanded my own worldview about my dad in a beautiful and generous way.

“When word got out that we were planning to spend a year on our boat (1996) and to sail towards the Caribbean, your dad became worried about our safety and ability to look after ourselves.  He didn’t say anything, but I guess he gave it some thought.  One day there was knock on our back door.  It was Hector.  He had a plan.  I was to attend his garage every morning at 9:00am for the foreseeable future to watch and learn as he rebuilt one of many diesel engines.

“Hector’s ‘College of Diesel Knowledge” was born.

“We had a pretty good time.  He teased me about having “school-teacher” fingers.  (His thumbs looked like spatulas!)  He taught me how to take engines apart and mostly put them back together — I usually wound up with a few extra bits.  He was patient and funny.  I suspect we made a pretty odd pair to anyone observing, but we became good friends.

“When we were finally ready to leave for the boat trip, Hector delivered a few small boxes of parts and spares he knew we’d need.  This was all stuff he had made.  Everything was machined and custom ready for our needs. He had made spare zinc anodes for all the places he knew I’d need replacement parts.”

I knew the friendship between John and Cathy Pollack and my dad had been enduring and this story gave me insight into why as well as making me smile. Maybe he was Hector the Corrector. But he wanted things done right and he cared deeply for quality and for friends. Sometimes it just wasn’t worth arguing with him.