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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ourhearts 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.
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.”
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.
I moved into my house in Bedford, Nova Scotia 10 years ago. A decade. 2010 to 2020. I realized it is the longest I have ever lived in one home in my entire life. It’s been a decade full of life and death, transition, rebirth, renewal, magic, evolution, transformation and increasing coherence. There is a lot to reflect on and a lot to celebrate.
My boys were 7, 17 and 19 when we moved. They have, for various times and for varying lengths of time, lived with me in this house. Now the older two are married and one is a father. They have lovely families and all of them (sons and daughters-in-law) are on good career paths. The youngest is forging a path which is his to walk, the outcome of which is not clear yet nor will be for some time. But he and his path, like with the others, is held in love and light.
I am privileged to be able to spend a lot of time with my grandson developing a relationship that I dream will be close and connected over the rest of my life. I wait with delight the arrival of his sister with the same anticipation of relationship.
My Partner and Work
Not only were there literal births of children, there was the birth of an unexpected relationship and new business in my life. When Jerry Nagel and I met just before I moved into this house, a deep friendship immediately blossomed. We hosted together in powerful work – each better because of the other – and we created a new business, Worldview Intelligence, born out of what we could see and discover together which we are still building. We also birthed a book about our work: Building Trust and Relationship at the Speed of Change.
Our deep friendship became intimate relationship although “unconventional” in that we live in two different countries. The relationship has not been without its challenges as we each work to step out of habitual and dysfunctional patterns created in previous relationships. We do this because we each recognize we are building on a foundation of mutual love, respect and strength. Because of this relationship and our work I have traveled more in the last decade than ever before. Now we face a new challenge with travel restrictions and the not knowing of when we will be able to be together in person, taking it one day at a time. We know the foundation of our relationship will carry us through.
The Loss of My Parents
While in this house I lost both my mother in 2012 and this year my father. I feel my mother’s loss more keenly since my father departed. While my father was alive and a significant presence in my life it partially filled the void left both by mother’s dementia and entry into long-term care and her subsequent death.
Now there is a nothing. But it is not really nothing. It is more of a quiet in which memories leap into view through photographs and through the bits and pieces of my parents’ belongings that have found a new home in mine.
A Slowing Down and Chaos
In this time of the great slowing down caused by the responses to Covid-19 and the great disturbances and chaos created by one more Black death too many and protests co-opted in the US by the Boogaloo Bois intent on violence and creating a civil war, other things are amplified.
During this time I cleared out and sold my parents’ home. 45 years of living in one place. Hardly anything ever thrown out. A 3 story house and full garage. Of memories. Of identity. Of stuff. Three truckloads of stuff not useful to anyone taken away. A houseful of furniture given away. Boxes of kitchen and other small items given away. Tools and machinery accumulated over a lifetime sold or given away as gifts. A house washed down, ready for a new owner, new memories, new identity.
Chaos, Order and Flow
Chaos in my house as it stores the things waiting for their new home – either with my brother or through a charity. Chaos which is being turned into order. And newness.
This house and land were waiting for me when my youngest son’s father and I finally sold the house we had lived in together to move into separate homes. It was a time of flow when things moved quickly – very similar to the sale of my father’s house. Once we put our old house on the market it sold remarkably within 24 hours. My house had just gone on the market. Within 3 weeks I was here.
Other than building an office in what had been a very large storage space on the first floor, nothing much has changed. The colour schemes were perfect in the moment. The house is big enough to accommodate everyone here at the same time and small enough that I don’t rattle around in it when it is just me and the cats. The cats are new-ish too. We arrived in the house with two older cats. They are buried in the back yard. The “new” cats have made it their home these last five years with their unique personalities.
My House Demanding a Refresh
Last year, something started to stir. The kitchen and the main living room seemed to be calling out to be painted. And you know once you start….. This year, the rest of the house is calling out to be painted. And I am on a mission, putting in 8, 9 and 10 hour days painting. I have the summer to complete the mission since it appears I may not be traveling anywhere. Hallways, stairwells and 9 rooms to be refreshed. The house is demanding a reboot. It may sound strange to describe it this way, but it is how it feels to me.
Deepening Spiritual Journey
The last decade has invited a deepening of my spiritual journey. For anyone who has read Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness, you know how my spiritual journey has been guided in ways I could not have anticipated. In the 2000’s this journey began with developing a much greater sense of my guardians, guides and allies and still left me with a dissatisfaction and unrest of not quite knowing what to do with that information. (By the way, I will be publishing a follow up to my memoir later this year. It will be more of a how to guide of spiritual journey and practice.)
In the mid 2010’s the answer showed up. I found a teacher and a deep community of practitioners and learners of “practical magic”, divination and enchantments. I heard clear yeses in my animal knowing to step into the offerings that were available. And, that has made all the difference.
I have learned how to be in relationship with spirit in a myriad of ways – through divination, prayers, offerings, talismans, blessing work and more. It feels to me that my father’s death has opened a wider portal to the world of spirit and a closer connection to the allies, guides and guardians who support me and my loved ones. I walk in a different space now than before he died. I have artefacts from his house that strengthen that connection including his rosary and a statue of the Mother Mary who he felt a deep connection to. I feel his presence on a daily basis. I know he – and my mother and other ancestors – are actively watching out for me and my family and working on our behalf. It brings me joy and delight, even as I miss him on the physical plane.
Shifting Identity and Relationships
I have been shifting my sense of identity. I am learning to acknowledge that I am a powerful creator. I am changing my relationship with money, work and power. Through this network I have discovered a cadre of other teachers. In the times when it seems there is nothing I can do to change the state of the world – like now – I can turn to ritual, practice and meditation to transport myself to a different place to continue to imagine the future that is shaped by my conscious participation in it.
We talk a lot about coherence in these spaces – being coherent with what you want in your life, being internally and externally coherent. With each new level of coherence it is like there is a levelling-up in identity, in confidence and in walking in the world, sensing the sentience in everything.
So when I say the house is demanding a refresh, it is completely consistent with a levelling-up of my identity. It is part of the external coherence and it is bringing order to my spaces and a new kind of order to my life. Before the walls are painted they are covered in symbols representing what I want to draw into my life and my home. There is power in the symbols and you can feel it in the house. I am focused and I get more done that I want to do even as the world has slowed down. Even as the world has turned to greater chaotic upheaval than I ever expected to see in my lifetime.
I would not have wished this time on me or the world I live in. However, since I’m here, I’m grateful for the practice of magic, ritual and deepening relationships with Allies. I am soothed by family connections. And, putting energy into transforming my house through painting highlights the other transformations which are changing the ground I walk on.
Here is to the next decade. To more births, inevitably more deaths and to an enduring spiritual journey that gives power and agency to my life.
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.
Dad 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.
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.
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.
So, my dad, Raoul Hector Jourdain, died recently at the age of 86 and 3/4, as he liked to say. His goal was 90 and another more important goal was to live out his days in his own home. I had the good fortune and grace to be there when he passed on January 16, 2020.
He went into the hospital – again – just after Christmas – for an issue with his bladder, which was going to be a forever reoccurring issue due to damage from prostate cancer and radiation therapy a decade ago. He also had congestive heart failure and diseased lungs. He was on home oxygen, had a permanent catheter and walked with a cane. Managing a cane, oxygen tank and urine bag all at the same time when your mobility is increasingly limited is not for the feint of heart.
He had already walked up to the edge of death many times in his life, looked over and said, “Nah, not yet.” More of those stories to come. Three years ago when I was sure he was not going to live after two stints in hospital for bleeding, I started a blog post about him. A couple of days ago, I took it out and brushed it off, because, well, this time he decided to fly over the edge.
I had a good laugh when I read about boiling eggs. He had been in the hospital just before Christmas and I sprung him loose in time for the holidays. The first morning home, he wanted boiled eggs. So, he instructed me on how to boil them. Then he instructed me on how to peel them after he tried but didn’t have the strength to stand and do it himself. I did what he asked and at some point he shook his head and acknowledged that I probably did know how to boil eggs and had probably done it many times. Yup. And, he had also instructed me in this task just three years before. He was particular in his ways and his approach.
When we drove around Lunenburg, he often gave me directions. For those who don’t know, Lunenburg is a small town, emphasis on small. I grew up there. Pretty easy to find your way around. But it made him happy to give directions.
My dad had his ways of doing things. He had two workshops – one for woodworking and one for metal working or machining. Each workshop had a place for everything and everything was in its place. He was a gifted diesel mechanic and machinist. When he left National Sea Products in the early 1990s he set up shop in his garage, calling his company Lunenburg Marine Diesel. He was in demand because his skill in engine repair and rebuilding was unsurpassed. If he couldn’t find a part or didn’t want to pay the price for it, he made it.
Raoul Hector Jourdain doing what he was extraordinarily gifted at.
It is only very recently that I became aware that my dad had a nickname: Hector the Corrector. I think he was kind of proud of that. I totally get where it comes from although I hadn’t heard it before. Dad’s specificity of instruction made me believe he was not such a good teacher or coach. He never taught me how to Captain the Bluefin for instance, but that could be as much about my own desire to just be a passenger as his to have it done in a certain way.
Receiving this story from dad’s friend and one time neighbour, John Pollack, expanded my own worldview about my dad in a beautiful and generous way.
“When word got out that we were planning to spend a year on our boat (1996) and to sail towards the Caribbean, your dad became worried about our safety and ability to look after ourselves. He didn’t say anything, but I guess he gave it some thought. One day there was knock on our back door. It was Hector. He had a plan. I was to attend his garage every morning at 9:00am for the foreseeable future to watch and learn as he rebuilt one of many diesel engines.
“Hector’s ‘College of Diesel Knowledge” was born.
“We had a pretty good time. He teased me about having “school-teacher” fingers. (His thumbs looked like spatulas!) He taught me how to take engines apart and mostly put them back together — I usually wound up with a few extra bits. He was patient and funny. I suspect we made a pretty odd pair to anyone observing, but we became good friends.
“When we were finally ready to leave for the boat trip, Hector delivered a few small boxes of parts and spares he knew we’d need. This was all stuff he had made. Everything was machined and custom ready for our needs. He had made spare zinc anodes for all the places he knew I’d need replacement parts.”
I knew the friendship between John and Cathy Pollack and my dad had been enduring and this story gave me insight into why as well as making me smile. Maybe he was Hector the Corrector. But he wanted things done right and he cared deeply for quality and for friends. Sometimes it just wasn’t worth arguing with him.