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 Luxury of an Existential Crisis

As I witness events in the world, feel the sense of overwhelm and helplessness, as I am at a loss of new words to describe the wanton cruelty of what Russia is doing in and to Ukraine, and sometimes feel paralyzed by the feelings I am absorbing, I realize I am having an existential crisis, perhaps even existential dread. This is a luxury not afforded to Ukrainians or to any oppressed peoples in the world.

Last month, I wrote that I am feeling a little frayed around the edges. Now I recognize it is more than that. I am torn between the beliefs I have carried about life and humanity my whole life and the cruel, unprovoked destruction that comes into my news feed from Ukraine every single day. How is it possible that some people are so craven they can carry out these atrocities? It shakes my belief in humanity as my heart aches for the loss of life and heritage.

Far Removed From, Yet Affected By, The Unspeakable Horrors and Violence

In the face of violence and unspeakable horrors, I sit safely in my home in a relatively sleepy corner of the world, knowing my family members and loved ones are also safe in their homes. It seems far removed from the violence and, yet, there is and has been violence here too. Not on the scale of what we are currently witnessing in other parts of the world, but it exists. We just have to think back to the “founding” of my city and province or to how First Nations people who lived here for centuries before Europeans arrived were treated, including almost being annihilated, or early refugees, whether they were Francophone or People of Colour, looking for safety or escaping slavery.

In the Worldview Intelligence work that Jerry and I have created and offer out into the world, we have a framework with Six Dimensions that help us understand and explore worldviews – individual, organizational, country, culture. We draw on neuroscience research to explain human behaviour and motivation.

Violence and Oppression From the Dawn of Time

Through this work I have and an increasing awareness that patterns of violence are deeply embedded in our human history from the dawn of time. There have always been acts of inhumanity, depravity, oppression, greed, power imbalances and the desire or need to conquer or claim the land that others live on and call home. There has always been travesty in the world. There have always been some people who believe they are better than others, subjecting those they think less of to violence and harm. There has always been enslavement of one sort or another, by one people over another.

But How Is It Happening Now?

What seems so shocking now is to look at the sophistication of the cities and communities in Ukraine, knowing the multi-dimensionality of culture enjoyed throughout the country by its citizens. Living life fully, just like we are able to do here in Canada, even in this moment. We saw it in cities before this: Aleppo in Syria and Sarajevo in Bosnia are just two examples, not to mention the destruction of cities during the two World Wars. And we have seen many examples of genocide whether we choose to look or not – The Holocaust, East Timor, Cambodia, Guatemala, Rwanda, Hutus, Rohingya, Uygehur and this is not even an exhaustive list.

When Jerry and I walk the streets of Paris, the city is sophisticated – culturally, socially, economically. It is a juxtaposition to the violent history of the city going back to its origins in 8000 BC to more recently when during the French Revolution in 1788-89, the Guillotine was invented and blood ran in the streets. At that time, Paris was considered sophisticated. Was the wholesale violence and death shocking to citizens who experienced it then? To those who witnessed it or heard of it?

Being Interconnected Means We Cannot Do Harm to Another Without Also Harming Ourselves

We are all interconnected – whether we believe it to be so or not. We cannot do harm to another without also doing it to ourselves. As we are now experiencing, harm cannot be done to another without it affecting us all. We can try to look away, compartmentalize, rationalize or justify, as many Russian people (and others) are doing at the moment, but that does not mean we are not affected. The Russian invaders committing atrocities against Ukrainians will be forever marked by the violence they have wrought, even as the Ukrainian people will carry this new trauma through the ages.

How Does This Stop?

Where is the united voice for peace that can enact that desire and stop the violence? Many of us are advocating for it, some more powerful than others. NATO countries are applying ever expanding economic sanctions. Countries are shipping arms, lethal and non-lethal military supplies to Ukraine. And it is not yet enough. There does not seem to be a military course of action that the powers that be are willing to take. Stopped by the fear of a nuclear war, that Putin might wage anyway once he finishes the destruction of Ukraine? Those of us not close to the decision making can only speculate.

Threads of Humanity Connected Through a Veritable Life Force

So, I, we, sit back and grieve for the world through our aching hearts. I take in as much as I can, to know and witness what is happening in a place I have no personal connection to other than through the threads of humanity, consciousness, love, compassion, and the veritable life force that runs through us all. Like so many, I have been absorbing the violence, the emotions, the helplessness – sometimes more than I realize it. It weighs heavy in my consciousness and on my soul. That life goes on here and in so many other places, almost as if this is not happening, seems unbelievable and unbearable. How is it even possible?

And I realize, even through this existential dread, that it is my duty to do what I can, even as that means living my life fully where I am. Showing up completely for my family, loved ones, friends and neighbours. Spilling my passion into the work that Jerry and I do, continuing to develop it so that whoever is touched by it can be inspired to their own hope and courage, to build trust and relationship in the places they have influence – which will likely never be at the highest levels of government. But it matters. As many people as possible operating within their spheres of influence matters.

What We Are Called To Do – Creating Ripples Where We Can

There is nothing less that we are called to do, to honour the fierceness and perseverance of the Ukrainian people, as they stand for what is right, as they fall in the streets of their cities and towns, knowing they stand for all of democracy, for all of us who value democracy. Would I be able to take the stand that they are taking if it was my city and country that was threatened? Would you? I can only hope so – as the world stands by witnessing atrocities we have said many times should never happen again.

Love, Hope, Community and Connection – Also Through the Dawn of the Ages

Just as there has always been violence and atrocities, so too there has always been valour, dignity, hope, love, respect, integrity, kindness, community and collaboration – through the dawn of ages. It may not seem like much, but we need to keep shining a light on this. As Mother Teresa said, “I alone cannot change the world. But I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” We have many such “stones” at hand. Let’s use all we can, create as many ripples as is possible.

There are many groups active here in Atlantic Canada, across the country and around the world who are actively working to support Ukrainians. A friend of ours is in Poland at the border, welcoming refugees into her open arms. If we cannot be there, we can donate to reputable organizations – money or supplies. Take in a family if you can until they can get on their feet. Discover other methods of support.

Hang on to your loved ones – life is both fierce and fragile. We never know when it will change. If this is what we have in this moment, it is the most important thing. I have very young grandchildren. When I was having my babies, there was a question about whether it was moral to bring new children into the world. Now I am 60. People still ask that question, yet my children are having children and I am deeply moved and grateful. They are inspiration and hope as well as the reminder to stay present to the moment.

Live Life Fully in Honour of Those Who Can’t

We cannot always see what the solutions for our challenges are as they may not have been invented yet. It would be a disservice to the people of Ukraine, who are fighting for their homeland and for democracy and freedom, with their lives, to not live fully, to not have heart, to lose sight of our humanity and of theirs. So take the opportunities and chances available to you – do it for yourself and do it for the people who do not have this luxury at the moment. Жива Україна! (Live Ukraine!)

I Am a Little More Frayed Around the Edges … We All Are

These days, I’m a little more frayed around the edges. I notice that my well isn’t as deep as it usually is. Anger and frustration can spark a little – or a lot – faster. And, when I’m being really honest with myself, I notice moments of deep exhaustion. I imagine this is true for many of us, even if we are not in the epicenter of big events.

In the last 2 years, not only have we had to deal with the ordinary travails of life, we’ve been collectively hit with one big event after another. Many of us are deeply impacted at the emotional and soul level as we absorb, consciously or unconsciously, all that is going on around us, close by and around the world. We live in a constant dissonance between ordinary, daily life and the knowledge that so much disruption, pain and suffering is swirling in so many places in the world. Knowing the huge losses to Covid. Aware there is a new war that has people fleeing their country en masse, if they can.

January 2020 my dad died. End of February was his funeral. Mid-March a global pandemic was declared. As we imagined we might emerge from it within a few weeks, I started clearing out my father’s house only to have lock down hit and very little help available for a gigantic task. But it got done.

While I was doing this, in April of 2020, Nova Scotia was hit with the largest mass murder ever in Canada, making news around the world. Then George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis in May, sparking worldwide protests and an increased awareness and discussion about race and police brutality. But the murders didn’t stop with George Floyd.

While we put our seatbelts on to wait out the long haul of the pandemic, with new variations of Covid keeping the waves of the pandemic going and us on edge, we were hit with controversy over precautionary measures like masking and social distancing and the role of government and public health – a divide between people advocating for individual freedom and those advocating for taking care of each other. This divide ramped up once vaccines became available with some waiting in line to receive them and others very vocally and often aggressively questioning their validity. The Trucker Convoy in Ottawa, Canada was ostensibly about a response to vaccination mandates, speaking to and fueling the pent-up frustration that has had little or no release for two years.

Climate change continues unabated showing up in severe weather patterns, fires, floods, droughts and other natural disasters.

Conspiracy theories about just about everything abounds. The divides between conservative and liberal ideologies, right and left wing, continue to be exacerbated. It is hard to know anymore what is truth and what is lies. There are far too many interested in stoking the divide who don’t seem to care about whether what they promote is based in lies or truth, just bring on the chaos and anarchy.

The 2020 US election results sparked yet another series of exhausting disinformation campaigns, culminating with the January 6, 2021 insurrection in Washington. The investigation into what happened currently makes headline news around the world. At the same time, in Nova Scotia, the investigation into the mass murder is also making headline news. All of it is hard to take in. Because we don’t just see it. The energy of it seeps into our consciousness and our souls. We feel it, even when we feel numb.

And because that is not enough, Putin decided to invade Ukraine causing wanton destruction throughout the country and killing masses of innocent people. At 45 years old, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has become an unlikely hero of the free world, coalescing many layers and levels of support that has not yet stopped the killing. This invasion has consequences, reverberations and impact throughout the world, including the impact of economic sanctions on Russia.

Inflation added onto a housing market that has been off the charts in many places. Gas prices and stock markets bouncing all over the place. All other worries are now compounded by greater financial insecurity for many, if not food and housing insecurity. Not to mention if you are trying to flee from war.

It is one more thing on top of one more thing on top of one more thing. That we don’t just witness. We feel. And often we feel helpless.

The sun wants to shine in Sancerre, France, but is covered by a haze of dust from the Sahara desert. It feels like an apt metaphor for what many of us are experiencing in 2022.

It is no wonder a backed-up toilet, a deck that needs replacing, a new car purchase, ill health, an unexpected announcement, an empty grocery store shelf, can cause us to feel like we have no reserves to draw on. We have been living in heightened alert for two years, while more isolated from friends, families and colleagues or, in contrast, in demanding work environments that require people to be onsite whether that is retail or health care or some other front line function. Each day has added slightly more pressure and it is exponential rather than simply additive. And, if we live in our safe cities, rather than those being bombed, relief, guilt and helplessness can compete for attention within our psyches.

So, yes, I am a little more frayed than I used to be. I think we all are. It feels hard to simultaneously be in a world that is falling apart or blowing up while, for many of us, still living our daily lives as though all of that is not going on. I have had a few “normal” experiences lately that created more stress than usual. Dealing with my bank on some things, working to meet key deadlines, differences of opinion on the development of creative material. I’ve noticed the need to apologize a few times for being short or frustrated with people. And, I’ve noticed being extra complimentary to people for what they are doing, recognizing many people dealing with customers are more often on the receiving end of the publics’ frayed nerves. Expressing appreciation, kindness or support is so notable, people talk about how much they appreciate it.

Noticing it all. Trying not to be too grumpy. Remembering kindness is an antidote. Knowing that putting words and language to what we are experiencing helps. Wondering when we will have a collective reprieve. Wondering also what collective scars we will carry into the future. Remembering what fuels the spirit. For me, hanging out with my grandchildren because they call me into presence and brighten my spirit. Getting outside in the fresh air. Meditation and ritual practices. I feel a little less frayed once I’ve had the chance to center and ground myself. And I wonder how long or what it will take to feel a full renewal of the soul.

Chasing a Dream or Hosting It Into Being?

For years, with a previous partner, we tried to build a consulting company that would make a difference in the world. It was a dream, a vision we worked hard to bring into being. Sadly we were not individually or together in alignment or coherent with ourselves. We could try to chase that dream all we wanted, but it refused to manifest. Upon reflection, it was an ego driven dream.

Now with my current partner, Jerry and I have been building a company, for close to a decade, that does make a difference in the world – at least the parts of the world we move in. We did not manufacture this vision into being. It just kept appearing and growing more robust with each conversation we had, each offering we created and every time we brought our Worldview Intelligence approach to our client work. We believe Worldview Intelligence has its own life force, sparked into being, hosted, through us and it seems clear, this dream needed both of us to manifest – not just to us but to those familiar with this journey.

In the early days, when we talked about the emerging vision, I would hold my arms wide apart to indicate the size of the dream and then show how very early in that dream we were by moving my hands about an inch apart. We are much closer to realizing the fullness of that dream now.

In the beginning we would talk to potential clients about how Worldview Intelligence could be helpful and how programs could be delivered across geographically dispersed organizations. The idea of certification emerged but building that program takes time. We were told we needed an online component to what we do. We knew that; but in the early days our conceptualization of what that might mean was very basic and we did not have the resources or the talent to build the online programs. But they were part of the vision.

As colleagues took an interest in our approach, they asked us for more than just the Worldview Intelligence Six Dimensions that we were excited about working with. This led us to creating our own planning model – CIDA-W: Clarify, Illuminate, Design, Act with Worldview Intelligence at the Centre of it all. Developing a High-Performance Teams model that links together many of our ideas. And, finally, we wrote the book, Building Trust and Relationship at the Speed of Change to bring it all together.

Because the vision was clear, when the opportunities showed up, we were able to take advantage of them. Once we had the book drafted, a client we had a great relationship with partnered with us on creating the first online program based on the book (there will be 3 followed by a certification process). That partnership advanced our understanding and learning of what it takes to build effective, interactive e-learning courses. We are now developing Level 2 on our own and populating our e-learning platform with other offerings. When we agreed with our client that we should build our own site, funding support appeared through Nova Scotia Business Inc.

The most recent developments are working with clients to create multi-faceted Worldview Intelligence programs to reach employees enterprise wide. Part of the dream. Something we would not really have known how to do a couple of years ago. A three-part education series of programs that include in-real-time virtual education of leaders across the organization, a four-part animated video series to reach everyone about worldviews and Worldview Intelligence (Worldview Intelligence for All) and scheduled drop-in “coffee” sessions with Jerry and me for anyone who wants to join.

Because of this growth, we are on the verge of adding colleagues to our team on a more consistent basis.

We have not chased this dream. It has pursued us. We couldn’t not do this work. So we host it. We host it into being. And we pay attention to what shows up, which seems to show up as we are ready for it. And we are more and more ready. Seeing the path emerge as we walk it, rather than trying to force things that were not quite ready, required us to hold the vision with as wide open arms as possible and keep putting one foot in front of the other until the foot falls came faster, momentum is increasing at an accelerating rate and we are preparing for our most exciting and successful year yet in 2022 as I enter my 60s and Jerry enters his 70s.  

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.

The Anniversary of Dad’s Passing and The Year that Disappeared

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.

Smiling this morning, along with the tears.

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.

Hope and Despair and the Promise of Tomorrow

Someone in my circles posted yesterday, asking if anyone else was having difficulty finding words to share in these times. The answer was a resounding yes from many of us. Last night, in my deep dream state, these words came to me: hope and despair.

I imagine these words were also relevant in that first Christmas as Mary and Joseph looked for a place to stay, to give birth to the baby Jesus. A side note: the fact that I am not a church goer was obvious when my two oldest were young, whispering to each other in front of the nativity scene, saying, “That baby has a bad name.” So, it is kind of ironic I find myself referencing that first Christmas, but it is 2020.

2020 has been a year with all the feels. Anxiety, depression, grief, guilt, delights, joy, love. Also, at points, the absence of feelings. Nothingness. Like the monochromatic days I wrote about earlier this year. Most of us have discovered we can move through it all. Some days are full of activity and outcomes. Some days, we just manage to get out of bed and have a cup of coffee. Some days, it is enough to know we are loved and we love, no matter how imperfectly that might be.

While time has disappeared into a vortex and it is already Christmas Eve morning as I write this, we have not disappeared into that vortex. We are still here. While not everyone is still physically here with us, they are in our hearts. They are present whether we know it or not. For me, my father who died in January is a constant presence along with my mother who died in 2012. Regularly in my dreams. Likely inspiring this writing this morning. My father prayed to Mother Mary regularly. His statue of Her still has the unlikely place on a side table in my living room. A tribute to him and his faith in Her. Also possibly what caused me to think about that first Christmas morning as I woke today.

Tomorrow holds a promise. Not just tomorrow Christmas Day, which for some holds as much or more sorrow as joy, but for the many tomorrows that flow out of and through time. The promise we will still be here. The promise we will keep putting one foot in front of the other, literally and metaphorically. The promise that we will find the moments of peace in times of chaos and uncertainty. The promise that 2021 may hold more hope for us individually and collectively. My partner, Jerry, and I look to the coming year with a hopeful eye. We will grow. We will expand. We will rise above and prosper.

That is my 2020 Christmas wish for you – to rise above, to prosper, to hold your loved ones close in your heart if not physically in your hugs, to continue to find your way, to stay hopeful for tomorrow and all the tomorrows that follow. Sending love, peace, joy to each and every one of you, from my family to yours, from my home to yours. Merry Christmas.