Most of us, if not all of us, have experienced shame at some point in our lives. The work of shame is so powerful that it shuts us down, depletes us of energy and makes us want to hide. It can rob us of vitality and voice. It can feel like shame is sending out signals that you are a person who has failed, that here is someone who wasn’t smart enough to figure out something, someone who misjudged a situation.
An antidote to shame is transparency, using your voice, sharing your story. From my own experience when I felt the power of shame, a few times over the course of my life’s journey, relief started with sharing my story with one or two trusted individuals who witnessed me in that moment. Their reactions – acknowledging, witnessing, validating, seeing the fullness of me beyond the particular situation for which I felt shame – was freeing. It restored trust in myself. Not immediately, but over time.
A partial definition of transparency is “the quality of allowing light to pass through” – and how uplifting to consider light passing through to our heart and soul, soul essence, the core of who we are. Transparency doesn’t have to mean proclaiming everything loudly to everyone – although those who do share profound stories that have been kept secret for a long time provide inspiration and hope for others who have experienced similar situations.
If you have experienced, or are experiencing, shame, know you are not your shame or your experience. Take the time you need to move through it. Find trusted spaces to share your story as transparently as possible and allow yourself to be witnessed into healing.
I am currently near a wild fire zone, near Bedford Nova Scotia, where I live. All my attention, and that of those around me, is focused on news and updates about the fires, evacuations, comfort stations, acts of courage (thanks to the fire fighters and everyone working to contain the many fires in our province right now), generous acts of kindness, people in search of support.
It is all consuming and can feel paralyzing. Grateful to be outside the fire zones and feeling for those who have lost their homes and, for some, their pets.
Inertia is the tendency to do nothing or to remain the same. It is also, in physics, the tendency of something in motion to continue in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, unless that state is changed by an external force. For some of us, this could mean moving along in a mechanical or automatic manner, not thinking about what we are doing.
An antidote to inertia is movement. Intentional, thoughtful movement. Because I was very close to an evacuation zone last night, that thoughtful, intentional movement was packing up, preparing to leave quickly, with my cats, if that was needed.
While this is a very specific, situational example, the same can apply to any situation or time in life. Any time you notice that movement, or lack of movement, is automatic, mechanical you have an opportunity to make a choice. Sometimes, inertia serves us. It helps us get through a situation, a time, an emotional experience, a freeze or flight moment. When you realize it doesn’t serve anymore, you can make conscious, intentional movement toward the future you want to bring alive in your life.
Today, I will combat inertia through writing. Proposals, book editing, blog posts. And remind myself of all the people, things and situations who fuel my passion, life, love and joy. Because that is all still here, even as danger lurks nearby.
An absolute favourite. We likely first heard it from Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea in Circle Practice. Jerry and I use it with every group we work with and we are often quoted for the statement, curiosity and judgment cannot exist in the same space.
When you notice you are judging someone or something, you are feeling defensive or are dismissing someone else or their views, curiosity is an antidote. Become curious about your own reactions. Be curious about the other person, group or situation. Why are they acting the way they are, saying what they are saying? How have they come to see the situation the way they have?
Curiosity provides a way to connect and to open explorations. It can also bring new insights and new learning. It can help us expand our worldviews and worldview experiences.
When it comes to people and disappointment, it is often because expectations have not been met – whether this is self or other, whether they have been spoken or not. An antidote to disappointment is compassion.
Sometimes we are aware we carry expectations and sometimes we are not. Either way, a feeling of disappointment can reveal whatever expectation(s) we are carrying. Bringing compassion into the equation can help us move past disappointment.
People do not usually mean to disappoint. Viewing them, the situation or ourselves with compassion will bring peace, could allow us to approach the situation or the person in a different emotional state or state of mind, to have a conversation or just let it go. Not everything needs to be a thing.
The more we can bring compassion, the more love and relationship will flourish. I don’t mean romantic love necessarily, I mean love that fuels the bonds with people who matter to us or that fuels our bond with ourself. Releasing expectations and disappointment is freeing.
Overwhelm can stop us in our tracks. It can feel like we are buried … or drowning, in murky waters. Even just reflecting on overwhelm in this moment of writing I feel the need for a deep inhale and slow release of breath. Calling me to presence.
An antidote, for me, to overwhelm is connection. Connection with my partner. With his kids and grandkids. With my kids and grandkids. They bring me to presence immediately.
I just had a conversation with my oldest son and his wife about how grateful we all are for an afternoon spent together, hanging out, going to the playground, being outside, doing yard work, grounding in nature. We feel fortunate that our extended family connections are nurturing circles of support – for all of us.
Connection with others who are experiencing a similar sense of overwhelm or related emotional state. Remembering we are not alone. Allowing ourselves a moment to be in our experience and then looking for how to renew our spirits, hope and faith, to keep ourselves inspired or just re-invigorated enough to find the simplest, most elegant step forward.
Connection reminds us we are not alone and it is possible get through this moment of overwhelm too.
I was in a conversation on the weekend with two women who I have a lot of respect for. We talked about the challenges of these times and how easy it can be to fall into despair.
We all have our days, hours or even minutes. It prompted me to wonder, what is an antidote to despair? Hope. And, by hope, I mean looking for the things that fuel us, that shift our emotions so we can acknowledge what we feel but not be stuck there. It serves no one to stay permanently in despair if we can find a way to a different emotional experience. It does not diminish our experiences of despair, but it offers us choices.
I experience despair when I stay focused too long on the things I can do little or nothing about – the state of public discourse, divisive politics, social media violence.
What gives me hope is seeing nature unfurl its spring growth and colours, the children in my lives, individual sparks of curiosity, clarity and illumination of ideas. Music. Seeing people succeed. Seeing people overcome challenges. Displays of kindness.
My father had 2 goals in the latter years of his life. Live to be 90 and live out his days on his own in his house. There was never any question that he would go anywhere else. Unfortunately, those 2 goals turned out to be mutually exclusive. His health and mobility deteriorated to the point where even he could see he would no longer be able to live in his house. He died January 16, 2020, with all his faculties still intact. He was in hospital and knew he was dying. At one point on that day he said, “I’m on my way out.” Today would have been his 90th birthday.
There is so much I could say about him, and have said about him in previous blog posts. Dad must have marvelled that he lived as long as he did, given the health issues he had for most of his life. He had a strong will to live and he was stubbornly determined. I love how he adjusted his expectations of what he could do to keep pace with the slow down of his body. He was resourceful and created many workarounds to be able to continue to do the things he wanted to do and loved to do.
It’s been 3 years and it feels like yesterday. I think about him and my mother almost every day and they both come to me regularly in my dreams. I am grateful for the deepening of our relationship over the last decade or two of dad’s life. I am grateful he got to know and become friends with my partner, Jerry. I am grateful he did not have to live through the chaos of the last three years. I think it would have devastated him.
I know how proud he was of me and I think about my own struggles in life and building a business, how challenging the last few years have been. I always I hope that I can live up to my father’s sense of pride in me, his hopes and expectations for me and my life. He continues to guide me and inspire me, both through what I have learned through his “mistakes” or struggles in life and what I have learned through his accomplishments. As my family constellations continue to expand in unexpected ways, I am grateful he and mom took me in as a baby and for his words, “It was love at first sight.”
He loved his grandchildren and always enjoyed spending time with them – even as he wished it was more time.
In the end there is only love, although in many ways, the story never ends.
New Year’s Day 2023. My 61st birthday. A quiet morning reflecting on a tumultuous and now bygone year. Also, a year of abundant joy, good company growth with the creation and development of new offerings, and the beauty of deepening family relationships as we continue to create a village of support for our grandchildren.
Tumultuousness in The World and the Emotions This Evokes
Tumultuous largely because of world events that disturb and anger me that I am helpless to influence. I have a hard time grappling with how one deranged man can be responsible for so much destruction of life, infrastructure and peace. I imagine Ukrainian families waking up a year ago… life was normal. Their courage, bravery, persistence and passion for their homeland is an inspiration even as it brings out sorrow for hardships they should not have had to endure.
The state of political divisiveness in the world is another thing that disturbs me. I am exhausted by the lies, by people believing and acting on the lies, by the loss of moral compass for too many in political leadership and by the name calling. Name calling! Like children on the playground, except worse. Is it even possible that these public figures could return to a state of diplomacy and decency?
The repression of women’s rights – not just in faraway countries like Iran and Afghanistan but close by in the US as well – is another thing that enrages me. It makes me understand how fragile our rights are while fuming about how this happens. I see the courage of women who are standing up and taking incredible risks, putting their lives on the line, and I fear for them.
It’s Been Hard to Write About Life
I haven’t written much on this blog, mostly because there is so much I don’t know how to make sense of and in reviewing them now there is a lot of emotional angst expressed. (And also because we have been very focused on creating content for Worldview Intelligence and our clients.) There is a comic Jerry and I use in our work as an illustration of cognitive dissonance: my desire to be informed is at odds with my desire to remain sane. It completely describes how I feel about world news these days. I scan it because I want to know and scanning is usually as much as I can take. And I realize how privileged that makes me.
Focusing On What is in Your Circle of Influence is Not Trivial
The antidote, as always, is to focus where you have influence and on what brings you joy, contentment and peace. It can seem trivial when there is so much heaviness in the world. But if I can’t actually change what is happening in Ukraine, in politics or in so many of the systems that seem to be crashing – like health care – my sitting home, worrying about it, becoming depressed by it or sinking into despair is not going to change anything about those things, but it does impact me, my health, how I live and how I engage with those I interact with regularly. So, it’s not trivial. It is life giving, life affirming and essential.
Welcome the Children and Fresh Eyes
We welcomed a new grandchild into our family in February, making three grandbabies for me, in addition to Jerry’s four. I am blessed to have an active participation in their lives. I love having visits with any and all of them, with and without their parents. They call me into presence, joy and remembering how to see the world through new eyes. The relationships with my adult children are different in the best of ways as they have become parents. All of the grandparents have relationship and presence with the grandchildren, providing support for their parents but also providing the little ones with unique relationships with the adults in their lives. All of our lives are richer for it.
The Beauty of a Deepening Relationship and Learned Wisdom
Jerry and I often express appreciation and gratitude for how our relationship has evolved and deepened over the years, how we have each grown in being with each other. It is an unconventional relationship in some ways because we live in two different countries and we are also business partners. But it works for us. That is partly due to confidence and faith in our relationship. We have similar goals, which include each of us living close to our kids and our grandkids. We travel well together.
It is also due to the fact we have figured out how to let the stuff go that doesn’t matter. When we do have arguments, we have become wiser in disengaging with them before they get out of hand and we don’t pick up arguments that might have been unfinished because we recognize how little value there is in fueling them. We also know when to stop talking about politics or the differences between our two countries.
We focus on what works, what we appreciate about each other and the greater number of things that go well in our lives, relationship and our work.
While I wish for world peace, my contribution has to be through my peace, and that is not a trivial thing.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Do what brings you joy. Laugh a lot. Dance. Sing. Move anyway that feels good. Get outside. Enjoy the weather – all of it.
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.
One year ago today I got the call from a resident at the hospital saying that dad had had a restless night, his oxygen was low, they had moved him to a private room and I should get there as soon as possible. I notified my children, my brother and my partner. I got in the car and the tears streamed down my face the whole drive to the hospital. This was the moment we had anticipated, literally for years. I have written before that dad tiptoed up to the edge of death many times, looked over, shook his head and said, “No, not yet.”
This time, there was no going back. He (and I) could not envision how he was going to continue to live at home with any semblance of satisfaction. He couldn’t go to his workshop in the garage. He couldn’t go down the stairs to where he worked on his Bluefin Model. He had so many health issues over the decades. His pacemaker and many medications were keeping him alive as long as his will to live prevailed.
It’s been a strange year. The year of the pandemic and shut down where time disappeared in a vortex. I carry the memory of clearing out his house during the months of March and April, of feeling that his guidance was in every part of what happened. The stories of people and connections that have carried on beyond those days, new life long relationships forged.
My dad comes to me in dreams every week, often several times a week. My mother often comes with him, which was not so much the case before he died. I think perhaps she was with him more often then and they are together now.
I feel his absence during the storms when we would check in with each other to see how things were and what was being taken care of. I could imagine how difficult this pandemic and US politics would be for him to comprehend. When I have traveled, I imagine his concerns for my travel and his relief when I am back home.
There are moments when grief overwhelms me, the tears flow just as they did that morning, a year ago, when I drove to the hospital. Not because I wish he was here now but because of the great, unexpected love that was between us. I was his person. The time I spent with him has been filled in other ways. His and mom’s presence are in my house along with the few items of theirs I have incorporated into my home. I carry them everywhere in heart and soul.
This morning, I lit dad’s candle in front of Mother Mary with a candle and matches from his house. I lit another candle for my mom. I put out coffee with Bailley’s in cups from dad’s house for them both and Jerry and I drank a toast to the two of them. In my mind’s eye, I see them as they might have been when they met in the late 50s – young, beautiful, slim, in love; wearing the clothes of the era. With spiked coffee and mom smoking a cigarette. Dad was an avid smoker until he quit in the 70s to save his life. In my vision, he is not smoking even though it is from a time when he would have been smoking. My mother was a social smoker. She would have a cigarette with her coffee, when a friend dropped by for tea or with a drink, at a party. She pretty much quit when dad did but in this vision she is smoking a cigarette, laughing and joyful. Trust the symbols that appear.
Their impact on me and my life is indelibly imprinted on my heart and soul. I will forever cherish all my relationships in my lineage and it will always influence the relationships I want to nurture with my children, their partners and extended families, my own grandchildren and my partner.