How is There a Rising Tide of Oppression of Women in 2022?

It is 2022. I am 60 years old. I cannot for the life of me fathom how the battle for women’s rights, women’s autonomy, women’s control over their own bodies, women’s equality in society, is an ongoing, never-ending fight.

I have always been strongly independent – to a fault, some might say. And, for the most part, I have been surrounded by men and women with similar beliefs, enough so to be able to ignore those with different beliefs, to willfully be able to see the world the way I wanted to see it, not the way it is (a nod to worldviews and Worldview Intelligence), particularly related to women’s equality.

Just in the last couple of weeks, there was the leak about the US Supreme Court’s upcoming decision to upend Roe v. Wade, denying women’s control over their reproductive rights. This will undoubtedly put some women’s lives in mortal jeopardy – once again – or still. It is galvanizing a public outcry which is good, but… it is 2022. I recently read the book, Looking for Jane, by Heather Marshall. It is a revealing look into the devastating consequences of not having choice; deadly back-alley abortions or being forced to give birth with babies taken away from their mothers and sold for adoption. Young mothers shamed for pregnancy. The role of the impregnators noticeably absent in these choices once pregnancy was confirmed.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban, after already banning girls from education, has now declared that women will have to wear the burqa and can only be out in public for “legitimate” reasons. Legitimate, according to who? And they will deliver harsh consequences, not just to the women, but to husbands and fathers if their wives or daughters are not attired “properly”.

I can barely believe this level of oppression and some small part of my spirit is dying, just knowing that this is going on in the world and there is nothing I personally can do about it.

Over the last couple of years, it is women who have borne the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic. More likely to be front line workers in all sectors including health care. More likely to have more responsibility for children who were supposed to learn from home, for others who require care. More likely to have lost their job.

In my young adulthood I was naively unaware of how alive the oppression of women still was and is. I thought feminism was a done deal, that women’s liberation was just the way it was. That women were active and equal participants in society, at work, at home. That the glass ceiling no longer existed. Just because I didn’t see it as a young CEO working for an Atlantic based health charity back in the 90’s didn’t mean it wasn’t there. I was too starry eyed and full of false bravado to see it, to understand how much feminism and women’s equality still needed to be championed. At the time, I was married to a man who believed in and practiced equality in our marriage.

Now, in 2022, I find myself filled with a disquieting rage at how dangerous the world is for women – whether it is violence directed at women, messaging that sends conflicting messages to men and women about everything from how they dress to sexual expression, less pay for the same work as men, double standards and pointing blame at women for violence inflicted upon them. Attempts through the centuries to keep women at home, subjugated to men. Naming women as witches, creating impossible scenarios to “prove” themselves, to do them harm – to drown them, burn them at the stake or other acts of violence to kill them and intimidate everyone else. I am reminded of this meme that goes around social media from time to time: why were we taught to fear the witches and not the oppressors? Because of the violence and intimidation. It was easier and safer to cower in the shadows than stand up for and with each other. We would be next.

It is hard for me to comprehend and experience, as a middle-class white woman living in a pretty safe city, province, and country, in a decade-long relationship with a partner who also stands for equal rights, how challenging it is to change these social norms, these circumstances of oppression. I know it is even harder for women of colour, for women in poverty or with less social standing, although domestic violence and oppression do not discriminate. It is harder for women who live in parts of the world where they have even less control over their own sovereignty.

I fail to understand how women, in my view, vote against their own best interests, voting against reproductive and other rights, like voting rights, that could grant them more equal status in society. Or how in some societies, mothers and grandmothers will actively participate in the female genital mutilation (FGM) of their daughters, actually and actively doing them harm. Although I do understand it is a worldview perpetuated in patriarchal systems where girls are supposed to be “protected” by their fathers until they are handed off into the protection of their husbands. Despite so many examples of how they are not always kept safe. These women are often protecting their own status and privilege – usually white – or perhaps safety in some societies, rather than advocating for rights and health of all girls and women.

I tell myself it has not always been so. That there have been matriarchal and equalitarian societies and there are some even today but they are few. That women have been warriors and hunters as much as mothers and gatherers. But then I wonder how far back we have to go to see this, to know this. Too far.

What can I do? What can we do? Continue to stand up for equality for women. I am the mother of three boys who are grown men now, two of whom are married. I know they are equal partners in marriage and child-rearing. They are advocates for their wives and families. They live and embody the kind of equality I have just assumed existed for most of us; and they make me proud.

I have not given birth to daughters but I am my daughters-in-law biggest fan and am grateful they are in my life. It is part of my life goals to always lift them up and support them in all the ways I can. Their families are my families and I am privileged to have an active role in their lives and the lives of my grandchildren.

I have a granddaughter. I am and will be her greatest champion. She already has a strong sense of self. She is one of the cuddliest children I have encountered, she loves connection – except when she doesn’t. And then she is fierce in making her desires known. And her family is fierce in protecting the boundaries she defines for herself, even as a toddler.

It is important to me to celebrate and support my female friends and colleagues. And the men who stand with us. We need each other. We need to hold each other up. We need to raise our voices and tell our stories. And we do need to fight for the fundamental freedoms that hold women equal to men, stand up against oppression in all its forms, to do what we can from where we are. It is for this reason I write. It is the least I can do.

The Road to 60

It’s a long road to 60 – and it happens in a nano-second.

This is the year I am 60. When I was in high school in the late 70’s we used to play a game: how old will we be in some future year – like 2000? In our teens, the idea that we would be almost 40 seemed like such an astonishing age, it was almost impossible to comprehend. And that in 2020, to be almost 60. Unimaginable!

Me at 60

And yet, here I am. 60 years old to start 2022. It is, and has been, nothing like anything I could have imagined. For one thing, there are parts of my mind and memory that still feel like I am 18. Or 28. Or 38. I carry all the ages inside of this one age. All the versions of me. All the many lifetimes within the one lifetime. All the identities over time, which also change over time: child, daughter, sister, student, wife, mother, divorcee, rinse and repeat – wife, mother, divorcee one more time – adoptee (discovered in my 40’s), biological family member, single adult, partner in a long-term, 2 country relationship, mother-in-law, grandmother, care-giver, neighbour, friend. Secretary/receptionist, researcher, Executive Director, consultant in many different iterations, company creator and builder. Learner. Practicing magician. World traveler.

Inhabiting the role of mother and mother-in-law of adult children and as an involved grandmother (for which I am grateful), I often wonder what it was like for my parents when they were my age. And I have no idea. When they were in their 60s and I was in my 30s with my own very consuming career and life, my own children, what was it like for them in their role of having adult children and grandchildren they loved deeply but were not so involved with? What hopes, griefs, disappointments, cherished moments did they have that we never talked about? At that age, even if I thought my perspective was wide, it was pretty narrowly focused on what was right in front of me.

At this age, after 6 decades of living, there is a much broader perspective available to me. I am much more conscious of identity, how it is shaped, how it changes over time, how it impacts our emotional state. How we will fight the changes that life brings us, sometimes even changes we are welcoming. We will feel grief moving from one sense of identity to another, even as many identities overlap.

We can fully inhabit each next stage of who we are by embracing it all, absorbing it all – and I mean all of it – the joyful, the devastating, the normal or mundane and everything in between. Many things and emotions can co-exist and be true at the same time. I can enjoy how a day turned out while being sad it didn’t turn out the way we planned. This past Christmas Eve and Day is a good example. Our social plans changed thanks to a cold – and I felt very sad about not being able to visit with friends as planned, not having a turkey dinner (and not making one for the first time in 40 years – and yes, this is a part of an identity shift too) to settle into a beautiful, lazy day with Jerry where we watched movies and warmed up leftovers for each meal. It was a day we enjoyed and fully inhabited. Sad and joyful at the same time.

I have experienced much in my sixty years, achieved a lot, struggled a lot, lost people (and pets) who are dear to me still – my mother and father being chief among them. And it is not just death that changes the nature of relationship. People we connect with deeply in one capacity or another, one job or another, on one project or another often no longer take up the same space in our life when one or the other moves on, the job changes or the project ends. Or guardian angels who show up, literally out of nowhere, in just the right moment when you most need the guidance, support and hope they offer. I have experienced several of these people in critical moments of my life. When the moment passes, the nature of the relationship changes and they recede into the background or completely disappear. No rhyme or reason. Not because we don’t want to stay connected but because priorities and attention shifts, as it needs to. And I wonder, what hopes, griefs, disappointments, cherished moments do I carry that I never talk about, but which sometimes overwhelm me with great intensity.

I feel all the losses. Like we all do. We continue to carry all these people with us – those still living and those who have passed on – in our hearts and in our memories. They all shape who we become. You cannot get through any part of life without having these experiences and for sure you cannot get to 60 without having many of them.

Often, we cannot repay others for what they offered us in life saving moments. But we can pay it forward. I think of that now in some of the relationships I tend to – paying forward not just gifts of support to me, but gifts of support to others – my dad being a good example. The people who showed up to support him who thus supported me and my brother – when we needed it most, I can never repay them directly.  

I am deeply excited for this next part of my life – my third third. A study shared in the American Elder offers that the most productive decade in a person’s life is from 60-70. The second most productive decade is 70-80 years old. As the momentum builds for Worldview Intelligence, the company Jerry and I have been building for almost a decade, this is promising and exciting news. We have been told our work and approach is much needed in this time in the world. It can be transformational for individuals and organizations. We have a BIG vision for the work we do. We anticipate gaining momentum over the next few years. We are learning so much that our creativity is ramping up. We are doing things we would not have even begun to think of a couple of years ago that makes our work more impactful and powerful.

Me and my partner in crime… I mean life and work

I am embracing it all. The work. A growing family. Deepening relationships with my own family, with Jerry and his family. More travel. More touching lives in small and big ways.

A Few Lessons Along the Way

There are some key lessons I have learned in these decades of life. A few of them follow.

  1. Don’t ever lose sight of who you are. But when you do (because you will) find your way back to core essence of who you are (and you will). Don’t let anyone hold you back from being the person you are meant to be. I was once told, when I was a lot younger and building my career, that my laugh was unprofessional – by a female colleague. It was crushing, until it wasn’t anymore. My spirit wanted and needed to express and this is one way that happens.
  2. Even as identity shifts and changes, even as we change over the years and experiences, some core essence of who we are remains the same. Connect to that essence – over and over again.
  3. Remember you are love. Love more, including yourself. Take care of the people you love.
  4. Mind what you say – do more reflecting and less reacting. Think about your motives for speaking your mind. If you recognize you have been hurt in some way, work through that first, then consider what you want to say. Sometimes you may say less, sometimes you may say more.
  5. Hold space for yourself and others. Tune into what is needed in that space and why you may or may not want or need to express yourself. But, less is often more. Speaking from my own experience here.
  6. Boundaries are important – essential to acting with integrity, to not being taken advantage of, to clarity of who and what is important.  They are not meant to be rigid walls – we only keep ourselves confined when this happens. They are meant to signal when certain harmful behaviours and people are not welcome.
  7. Don’t sweat the small stuff. So many times in a relationship with a lot of conflict I used to ask myself, how important is this anyway? How important will it be in an hour from now? A day? A month? Years from now? Don’t let those irritants erode important relationships, while learning how to decipher between an irritant and a boundary violation.
  8. Be curious more. Judge less. So easy to fall into judgment about other people, their choices in life and so hard to remember that we do not know all of what is true in their lives or their circumstances. Extend love as often as possible. It is a game changer.
  9. Do what brings you joy. Laugh a lot. Dance. Sing. Move anyway that feels good. Get outside. Enjoy the weather – all of it.
  10. Live life to the fullest you know how. Then stretch a little. And a little more. Embrace it all and embrace all of who you are.

Happy 2022. Bring it on. I am ready for all this next decade will bring my way.

Abuse, Power, Greed and Corruption; Not Faith, Definitely Not God

The Innocent Children

The children. All the children, little and big. Their deaths are not isolated events. They are endemic to a culture of abuse, power, greed and corruption. In a monolithic church that gained momentum through the ages using these patterns that have been enduring and defining characteristics of its culture. Abuse, greed, power and corruption was going on well before Residential Schools, during the era of Residential Schools and continues post Residential Schools.

The sudden explosion of sexual abuse charges against Catholic Priests, Bishops and more in the late 80s and the 90s did not bring down this monstrosity of an institution. Charges that emerged all around the world. Will finally looking for, finding and counting the bodies of potentially thousands of children across this country do it?

In My Lifetime – Yours Too

I am almost 60 years old. I was raised as a Catholic. I was the first alter girl in my small church. I was pretty proud of that at the time and also oblivious to the power structures. I taught Sunday School when I was in high school. My father was French Canadian Roman Catholic. My mother’s mother was Irish Catholic (via Newfoundland). My grandfather changed religions for my grandmother but he was not opposed to skipping mass for a good cause, like sleeping on the couch Christmas Eve to stay with the grandkids while the rest of the family went to midnight mass.

I grew up in a small town in Nova Scotia. Sheltered from most of the abominations of the world. While I was growing up in all innocence, children my age – children – my age – were still being forcibly removed from their homes, their parents and families, their communities, their cultures, their support systems. They were imprisoned in facilities claiming to be schools, sanctioned by the Canadian government and run by Catholic institutions, whose sole purpose was to “kill the Indian”, even as that meant killing the child, the human being.

These professed ambassadors of God are among the most heinous, villainous people. They have no humanity. What person sees a newborn baby and throws it into an incinerator? What person professes to love God but abuses children, starves them, lets them die of starvation and other illnesses? What person sees evil in a child – many children – and somehow believes they are justified in their actions of capital punishment and worse? Except to hide their crimes.

St. Paul’s Cathedral in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

No Person is Less Than

What society turns a blind eye to what is right there to see and then blames the traumatized people – the people we traumatized – for the ills that befall them – the inability to parent, not knowing how to be in relationship, turning to addictions because they are hollowed out cores of who they are as a person and who they are as a people, disconnected from their roots, their language, their own humanity? What person with any humanity can find any justification in what happened, the crimes that were committed? What kind of person still tries to hide the truth, still tries to believe there was good happening in those buildings?

There was no good in those “schools”. There was no humanity. There was no Christianity. There were horrors, evils, punishments, fear, isolation. There was physical, sexual, emotional, psychological abuse. Many people sought to hide those stories, including the Canadian Government, silencing anyone, like Dr. Peter Henderson Bryce, who dared to try to tell the truth. Many others just looked away, unwilling to believe this was possible, denying First Nations peoples their voices.

From its roots, Christianity has wrought harm in this world, running roughshod over other practices like paganism, taking over holidays to take root in cultures and banning practices they deemed un-Christian. Birthing the patriarchy, violating women and making women subject to men. Destructive patriarchal patterns that societies have not yet extricated ourselves from. Why were Catholic priests not allowed to marry? Because of greed. Back in the days of the European aristocracy, a son offered to the church also brought some portion of an inheritance that would go to the Church because the Priest was not married. The Church filled its coffers off the backs of the poor and built beautiful, elaborate cathedrals.

What Compassion and Humility is Needed Now?

What compassion and humility is needed now to not block the way of full exposure, the full truth? Our nation should be screaming for investigations, for arrests, for every conceivable record to be handed over. Some of the people who committed these atrocities are still alive. Apologies are needed, sure. But they are hollow words without commitment to systemic change and to what it takes to heal the harms done.

I don’t know that any of my ancestors were directly involved in these systems of oppression and harm. I long ago stopped being a Catholic – a FARC as a friend of mine said – Fallen Away Roman Catholic. But I would be remiss if I did not bear witness. If I did not clamour for justice. If I did not create the space for these stories to be shared. If I did not let myself be horrified while not making any excuses for myself, the heritage I spring from or the society I live in. There are no excuses. Stop making them. Do the right thing. We can no longer look away because it is inconvenient to look directly at the horrifying harm that we, our ancestors, and our institutions have done.

How the Catholic Church continues to be a seemingly untouchable monstrous global organization is beyond me. When the stories about the abuse of young boys by priests began to break and we learned that priests were shifted from one parish to another, moving the problem from one community to another where these same priests continued to perpetrate harm on innocent youth, to supposedly protect the reputation of the Church, it was not enough to bring down the institution. It happened by and in full view of decision makers and high-ranking authority figures within the Church hierarchy. And in happened in full view of the community with hushed whispers and the inability to confront power.

Don’t Look Away

The truth is there for all of us to see. My parents would be mortified, heartbroken and confused. And none of that would make up for the pain and destruction wrought by the Church since it was conceived all those centuries ago.

What can we do now? Add your voice for justice. Research who to contribute to. Learn about Truth and Reconciliation. Question every assumption and judgment you have ever carried about the First Nations people of our country. The fact they have and are surviving despite the extent of harm and destruction wrought upon them is nothing short of a miracle. That they were deemed less than human, by others claiming superiority is exactly the abuse, power, greed, and corruption that infuses the culture and systems of the Church, government and even our communities.

The Children’s Voices are Rising

They may have tried to take away the language of the children. The voice of the children may have gone silent for a while, but a chorus of voices is rising up now. They are creating the space for the voice of the living and the dead to finally be heard, acknowledged, seen by more and more people. We can no longer look away. The truth demands to be known.  

Wistful

I learned of the death of a high school friend yesterday. I discovered how, even for someone you have not seen in decades, some friends carve out a little space in your memories and nestle into your heart in deep ways. His obituary reflects the person I knew and remember, celebrating his soul and soulful qualities. It also gives the smallest glimpse into the challenges he faced in his life. Another high school friend described him as “that boy”. He was “that boy”. I wish his path could have been easier, but it was his path.

Last night, as I paused Shadow and Bone on Netflix and stood on the landing of my stairs, looking out the window onto my street, I felt wistful. I longed for the days of being a parent of teenage boys when our house was always full. Full of life. Full of energy. (Also full of challenges but those are stories for other days.) There were days I had no idea how many kids, or who, were in my house. Grocery bills were staggering. I cooked for them. They learned to cook. They all helped out when asked. They supported each other through a lot of challenges and most of them are still friends, a decade or so later.

Adventures

Life ambles along. It brings us all that shows up in the soul journey. We don’t always stay connected in the world, but there are threads of connection that never go away. There are people nestled in the vastness of our hearts who have carved their names into our memories in ways they will never disappear, even when our paths no longer cross, even when death intervenes.

Hope and Despair – More Than A Year In

Just when we thought we could see the light at the end of the tunnel, darkness and despair have descended yet again. So many metaphors come to mind: the wind taken out of our sails, it is darkest before the dawn, the darkest hour, dark night of the soul.

Just as vaccines are rolling out and hope is on the horizon for many of us, variations of Coronavirus are showing up around the world. India is making headlines for the devastation being wreaked by the virus and the inadequate ability to respond which is leaving people dying, not just in hospitals but in the streets. Other countries are also struggling, even while others are enjoying success like Australia and New Zealand. The tide in the US has changed dramatically with clear leadership and the dedication of resources to combatting spread and ramping up vaccinations, and they are not out of the woods yet.

Across Canada, cases are rising, hospitals are in chaos and frontline health care professionals are exhausted. In Nova Scotia, after being down to no or few cases for months, we are having the highest number of cases since the beginning of the pandemic. Last year, most of these cases were in long-term care and now they are the result of community spread. Locked down again just as plans were made for opening up.

Defiance of vaccines, mask wearing and social distancing competes with people advocating for as many precautionary measures as possible. Misinformation, both deliberate and uniformed, competes with science, medicine and public health guidelines based on sound research and evidence based results. Almost everyone I know personally is signing up for vaccines as fast as they become available.

It is easy to get lost in a sea of desolation. I am fortunate that my family is close by, we all take precautions and we do get to see each other, if not as often as we might like. My partner and I live in different countries and are separated by more than a border right now and have been for the majority of the pandemic. We are not young. These are precious years. My business was just beginning to return to some in-person work, which is sorely missed in my world.

The tides can turn fast, though. If you, like me, seem to be moving through quick sand to get up in the morning, begin your day, attend to your tasks, to find joy, we have to remember the light is at the end of the tunnel and, even if it is hard to see, it’s not as far off as it seems in the moment.

Here are 14 reminders of things to do to keep moving through the days, toward that light at the end of the tunnel:

  1. Above all, be kind and compassionate to yourself. You are doing what you can. Things are getting done, even if slowly.
  2. Be kind and compassionate towards others – family, friends, neighbours. Most of us are doing the best we can.
  3. Reach out and connect with your family and friends – including new ones. Commiserate together. Laugh together.
  4. Let yourself feel what you feel but try not to let it overwhelm you. Not easy some days and for some people not easy at all.
  5. Grieve the losses. The people. The ability to be together. The freedom. All of it. There is so much of it. Acknowledging our grief and our sorrow helps us be still or keep moving or discover whatever it is we need to continue.
  6. Look for things that make you laugh. We are allowed to laugh, even in the dark days. And laughter is good for the soul.
  7. Get outside – walk, sit in a garden, in the woods, on the lawn, on your patio or balcony. Even just open a window. Breathe in fresh air.
  8. Take care of your body. Hydrate yourself. Drink water. Lots of it. Eat as well as you can in these days. I live alone. Getting motivated to make good food is not always easy but I do what I can on the days I can. Exercise. Breathe.
  9. Meditate, if it is in your practice. At a minimum, sit quietly with a cup of coffee or tea and invite yourself to be present to that moment.
  10. Take a break from the news (says she who listens to CBC radio a ton).
  11. Listen to music that lifts you up.
  12. Use social media to lift your spirits – not drag you down. Find the groups that inspire, the people who provide hope. Spread those messages as often and as far as you can.
  13. Read. Binge on Netflix. Play games. Just give yourself permission.
  14. Allow the future to motivate you – when you will see loved ones again, be able to travel, move more freely without the fear of the virus at every outing.

I know it’s hard. It’s why we have to turn our attention to the little things. They keep us going. And, above all be kind – to yourself and to others.

Love Never Fails

I woke up recently with 1 Corinthians 13 in my mind, likely prompted by a compulsion I feel to compile my writing on love into a little book about love – Embracing Love: An Openhearted Practice. A common reading at weddings, this verse holds a promise and a commitment.

Yet, too often, it is just words. Words read but not taken in, not lived. There is such power in these words that, if they were lived, there might be more compassion and less harm, in us, our relationships and the world around us.

For many, the promises of love fade as life is lived. Too many hardships. Too many hurts. Too much despair. Too much trauma. Grudges held. Forgiveness demanded but not given or offered. Heartbreaks. Grief. We break. Our humanity breaks. We lose our way. We forget.

We forget that love is not sustained through a promise. Love needs to be a practice. Without the practice of love, the promise is meaningless. It feels like love fails, but maybe it is humanity failing love.

In his book, Born a Crime, Trevor Noah says, “Love is a creative act. When you love someone, you create a new world for them.”  He was talking about his relationship with his mother. “My mother did that for me and with the progress I made and the things I learned, I came back and created a new world and new understanding for her.”

Thus, love is generative. It is a life force that shows up in so many shapes, forms and degrees that no single definition of love will suffice. Love is at the core of who we are as human beings although it is often obscured by shadow as I wrote about in my memoir, Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness. We are all a little bit broken. It is part of the human journey.

Imagine if we remembered we are love. Imagine if we emanated that love out to all those in our circles of love and beyond. Imagine if we took these words in – love is patient, love is kind; it does not envy or boast; it does not dishonour others – and brought them alive, let them live in and through us. It would change us. It would change the world around us.

Love would be a bold, courageous, radical, creative act.

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.