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.”

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.

What Futures are You Mourning?

Easter morning 2020. This already would have been a different Easter since my dad died in January of this year. Like most, we typically would have gathered as a family, my kids and grandchild – here at my home or, as has been the case more recently, we would have taken Easter to my dad in Lunenburg.

March 1-2020

March 1, 2020 – the last time most of us gathered as a family just after my father’s funeral.

Not only is my dad gone, so too, for many of us is any sense of traditional celebration or family gathering for this year. Day by day the assessment of how long we will have to self isolate and physically distance seems to extend. It started with two weeks, expanded to two months and now there are ruminations that it could be as much as two years.

This means an indeterminate unknowing about what the future holds. Groundlessness continued for an indefinite amount of time. Will we reach a breaking point or a breakthrough point? Probably both. Probably more than once.

I am mourning my family celebrations. I grieve that my family and I cannot come together in person and reminisce about my father, among other things. I get this is for the greater good and the longer-term future but that doesn’t mean I can’t grieve this current moment or that I can’t grieve the future as I imagined it to be. As we all imagined it to be. We all get to acknowledge our emotional reactions and the rollercoaster global moment we are in. It is healthy to do so.

I grieve the uncertainty of knowing when I will be able to be with my beloved again. The time of reunion keeps getting pushed off. First it was maybe the end of May, then June, then the summer and now who knows when. We have a long distance relationship nurtured in mutual love and respect and the ability to travel to be together frequently. Now complicated by the fact it is an international relationship – me in Canada, him in the US. I feel despair in this, even as I know our relationship is strong enough to weather this.

What will be the impact on our business? Our livelihood? I get this is a moment of great opportunity in the midst of uncertainty. But what will that look like?

In the middle of all of this, I am clearing out my father’s house, getting it ready to hand over to new owners. It is a lonely task thanks to social distancing. I drive from one empty house to another, bringing back contents from one to the other, waiting for the opportunity to give away that which my brother and I have decided to let go of. Holding onto other things until such a time as he can travel back to NS from PEI safely and my kids and I and my partner can gather.

It is not just this moment that is unsettling. It is the loss of futures we dreamed of that are not available to us right now. The weddings that are cancelled, postponed or happening in a different form. The funerals that can’t be held right now. Being with loved ones in the time of death or the time of birth. Birthday, anniversary celebrations and so much more. We each have our own lost futures and it is okay to grieve them. Give yourself permission with compassion, forgiveness and care.

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.

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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

Hector Jourdain: A Modest Man, Life and Legacy

Today would have been dad’s 87th birthday. He wanted to live until he was 90. He also wanted to live out his days in his house, which he did. He was a walking miracle over the last few decades of his life. He was sustained by a strong will to live and a deep faith.

Over the years and various health crises he kept adjusting his ideas of what good quality of life meant for him until he reached the point where he could not see beyond sitting and sleeping in his chair and making his way into and through the kitchen to the back door or the bathroom. He knew he could no longer find his way downstairs to the “magnet” in the basement that was the Bluefin model he was working on.

71 - 32087394_10155921192792740_8555127562852892672_nDad was partly defined by the patterns of his generation. He craved relationship with family and friends, with my children and their partners. Although everyone valued their relationship with him, he wished it could be more. The pattern of his generation is that it was the younger ones who minded the older ones. My mother always used to say, “Age before beauty.” It was another way of voicing respect for your elders.

My father taught me the importance of nurturing relationship. Our relationship grew over the last decade of his life. I learned a good pattern of checking in with him by phone or by visit. I used to leave him a list of my travel plans so he knew where I was when. If I called too often, he would get irritable. If I didn’t call often enough, he got irritable. I know he was lonely and he missed my mother and he wished my brother and I would visit more often and for longer.

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My mother had been in long term care for awhile when this picture was taken on some special occasion. In this picture, you can see the love my father had for my mother radiating out in his gaze.

His desire for relationship stays present with me as I reflect on what is the relationship I want with my children and grandchildren? How do I make sure I nurture and sustain them, individually and collectively? This applies to my partner, my siblings and other close relationships too. It is easy to lose track of people, even people who have been close and for far too much time to go by without reaching out.

My brother and I are now charged with the dismantling of dad’s house, which is akin to the dismantling of the physical aspects of his life. Some things are easy. There are books that are decades old that nobody has read in forever, papers that were important to dad but of no value to anyone else, things that have accumulated over the years that were part of dad’s day to day existence but, again, of no value to anyone else.

There are other things that have value and that are harder to deal with. My father was careful with his money. He often worried about whether he would have enough money to live out his days. He did. Robert and I were reflecting on how dad never threw out any furniture and some of it is from when mom and dad got married 62 years ago.

Very little expense was spared for the Bluefin, for his machining workshop where he repaired engines or his woodworking workshop where he built rowboats, repaired a canoe and worked on the model of the Bluefin. But there was not a penny spent without careful consideration and a lot of thought about whether it was the right choice. He has boxes and boxes of screws, nails, washers, fittings and so much more, because he could see potential in them. He often said he should probably get rid of some things but as soon as he did he would need it. Now Robert and I need to figure out what to do with it all.

My father’s parents had been millionaires in their lifetimes. My mother’s parents hadn’t been millionaires to my knowledge, but they lived well enough. My grandmothers each outlived my grandfathers by 2 or 3 decades. In the end, when they all left this world, there was no inheritance left for my parents for a variety of valid reasons.

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Summer 2019. Painting the porch had been on his mind. I finally took charge and did what I could for him.

My father was a self made man. I’m sure he is satisfied that he managed his affairs well and well enough that there is a legacy left for me and my brother. It certainly isn’t millions. It is a modest amount that reflects the modest lifestyle of a modest man.

Happy birthday dad. Know you are remembered well and will always be loved by so many of us still walking on this side of the veil.

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.

Grief and Love

I have been thinking a lot about grief lately. How we each carry grief. How we experience it differently. How it is sparked in different ways. It could be the loss of a loved one who has died. This is the way we often think of grief. Yet, there are so many other sources of grief.

Grief for one’s own journey. Grief for the journey that someone you love must experience although it is heart wrenching and heart breaking to observe.

Reminded over and over again that you cannot save another person from their own journey and you cannot rescue them. Patience in the waiting and the observing is a practice to be recalled over and over again.

Will they find their way? You cannot know for sure until they do. Or do not.

But you can hold the faith, in whatever way and practice that shows up for you, that they will.

The grief you feel personally may be amplified by any grief you feel for the state of the world these days. For Mother Earth and a climate crisis you might feel helpless to prevent. Grief amplified by the toxic state of public discourse that has created so much fragmentation and polarization in our communities and in our families.

It can be hard to look. It can be hard to look away.

Overwhelmed by grief, it can be hard to remember to tend to self, to your own internal condition. Yet, without this, survival feels remote and joy feels impossible.

You can grieve and also allow joy. States of the human condition do not need to be mutually exclusive. You can feel both and even more at the same time.

It starts with allowing yourself to feel. This can feel risky, even dangerous. There may be fear that allowing yourself to feel will result in becoming more deeply lost, though it is in the feeling you can move through the faces and phases of grief and any other emotional state you may be experiencing.

Sometimes it is head down, one step at a time, one foot in front of the other – literally or figuratively. Remembering to breathe. Breathe deeply. Breathe into the pain. Breathe into the love. Breathe into the heart and the soul.

Other times it is head up, looking around at the wonders of the world that still exist despite the desperation of the times.

The rising and setting of the sun. The phases of the moon. The rising and ebbing of the tides. The stars. The light drizzle. The pounding rain. Snowflakes and snowstorms. The fresh morning air, the high heat of a noon sun on a summer day, the cooling temperatures at dusk.

Look within. Look to nature. Look to love. For what is underneath the grief but the sense of loss. For people. For relationships. For other things held dear.

And if there is grief, there is also love. Love that lives on that, when you touch it, you can touch beyond your grief and find your way into another day.

Sunset on the St. Lawrence SeawayJPG

Grief.

It washes over the soul

Like waves wash over the pebbles

On the beach.

Sweet agony

Captured in the constant

Roar of crashing waves.

Grief.

The soothing motion

Of gentle waves

Lapping the shore.

Tears well up,

Dropping into the endlessness

Of the ocean,

Becoming one

Both with the tumultuousness

Of raging storms

Close to the surface

And with the quiet depths

So far below.

Grief.

Not just one face.

Not just one expression.

Not just one cause.

Feel it.

Let it wash over you.

Go deeper

Beneath the storm

To the calm.

Find the love

Beneath the grief.

~ August 2019