Making Space: The Genius of Silence

coffee lakePractice makes perfect.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve relied upon this little nugget of wisdom as a parent when my kiddo whines about not being able to do something. My response has always been; “How do you think I got so good at it? Practice makes perfect; get to it.

Yesterday I was anxious. The kind of anxious that feels like you have a thousand bees buzzing in  your head telling you all of the things you need to do, have to worry about, and can’t control. I was miserable; inside and outside.

Fortunately for me, I had a few hours of quiet time at the end of the day .Quiet for me is heaven. Quiet in the morning gives me time to meditate, and to take in just how fortunate I am.  It’s never a process whereby I sit cross-legged on a cushion wearing a mala made in Bali or a tunic made of hemp. No. It’s simply sitting with my thoughts.

Last night, in the quiet of solitude, I was able to spend some time reading the words of Thich Nhat Hanh.   It reminded me that my practice is not perfect. Far from it in fact. Just because I studied at the temple, attended dharma classes and go to silent retreats does not mean that my meditation muscle is exempt from a good workout on a regular basis.

As adults, we forget that our health as a whole is something that we need to practice on a regular basis.

It’s time for me to make space for some of the books and advice that I’ve gotten in the past. It’s time to make an effort again putting theory into practice.

It’s time for the genius of silence, and for my practice of peace to become a little bit more perfect.

Inspiration: As Far As You Can Carry It

Artists know that inspiration comes in waves; sometimes in the gentle, steady rhythm of a lake waking up to the sunrise, and other times overwhelming, crashing into you like the Pacific coast tide.

The thing about inspiration is it’s only as good as how far you can carry it. After all, we can only balance so much. The mundane tasks of everydayness often take up both hands.

In her book, Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert talked about inspiration as a living thing, that moved on if it wasn’t nurtured in our care.  What she had to say as a professional writer resonated with me, and made me feel a bit better. Careless with inspiration, but at least not the only one.

As a full-time working, single mom, my second novel kind of bit the dust. But I’m nothing if not resourcesful, and optimistic too. Instead of trying to twist it into some kind of tome, I’m going to use what I have and craft a short story. I’m also hoping that by doing this, the inspiration my be wooed back, and stick around for the long haul required of a novel. I know if that does happen, that the success or failure of the project will depend on me; on my dedication, devotion and prioritizing.

Either way it will be fine. The inspiration will be freed; to move on, or to take up residence in the pages of my creation.

Inspiration comes my darling friends, but how long it stays with us depends entirely upon how long we are able to carry it.

One in a while we have to reassess what’s weighing us down in favour of what lifts us up.

Just Because You’re Supposed To Doesn’t Mean You Should; Maiden Mother Crone

maiden mother croneI’m old now. Ok, not really old, but older, and women in their 20’s and 30’s think I”m the wise old owl. I kind of dig it.

I’m the lady younger women come to for advice, to air their worries, and that they see as some kind of icon of independence, strength and compassion. They also think I’m eccentric, old and clueless at times. It’s a fine balance,and I think I can handle it.

At the root of all issues for most young ladies and old alike is the fine balance of fulfilling our practical obligations and doing the things that make us feel good.

We slip into our roles as caregivers in a Stepford-kind-of-way. So much of what we do falls into a less-than-conscious way of being. We do because that’s what we’re supposed to do; because that’s what everyone expects.

And then we lose ourselves to all of that. We simply do not have time to do the things we love. We don’t prioritize it. Women’s soul-work is not valued. We become mothers to our partners subtle demands. Guilt can be sinister and subtle.

So, to the younger ladies who come to me with their relationship, career and creative struggles, my one piece of advice is to do what makes them feel alive, and make sure they have a solid resume to support themselves.

I’m as guilty as the next woman when it comes to romantic ideals, but I’m older and wiser now.  If a partner tells you they’re not good enough for you; they’re not. If they tell you they’re not sure where the relationship is going; it’s not going anywhere. Embrace what brings you joy and go do that .

 

Bottom line, do not stop prioritizing the things that bring you solitary joy. For me it’s writing, painting, going to art galleries and camping.  Stick with your tribe. You need your girlfriends and you need to keep your own zest for life alive.

crone poem

 

Sports Moms – When It’s Your Turn to Be Inspired

football benchAbout two weeks ago I was brought to my knees by sharp pain and then was overcome with panic.

I thought I had a heart attack.

A little thick around the middle, and always in the kitchen, I made a quick decision to become more active. Not running-marathons-and-and-eating-kelp-sandwiches-active, but more active.

Flashback a billion years to all of the summers, winters, springs and falls that I sat on the sidelines cheering on my athletically gifted kiddo. I drank a lot of tea from drive-thru windows and kept the company of other parents doing the very same thing.  As he ran and played, I was plopped in a lawnchair, making sure that when he looked up, Mom was there. I also spent a lot of time in the kitchen, cooking at 11pm after late baseball games so he went to bed with a full tummy. So my  butt got a little chunky.

I have been all of the following; a baseball mom, a football mom, a cricket mom, a basketball mom, a curling mom, a badminton mom and  a did-you-do-your-homework-mom.

During the past two weeks, I have developed a greater appreciation of my child’s experience during his childhood of sporting.  How much did my presence feel like pushing? How much did it feel like support? I guess I’ll never really know.  What I always hoped was that he was doing something he loved, that made him feel good, and made him feel proud of himself. I wanted my boy to have confidence.

What I do know is that pushing through the discomfort of new levels of physical movement takes some grit. Trust me, I’ve had to have grit a’plenty during my lifetime, but it’s been a mental grit. A determination to get through one day at a time. Physical grit, not so much.

My body has always had a comfortable ease about it. I was built for hugging, cuddling, and lounging during long, philosophical conversations about religion, politics and gender equality issues.   Wine adores my body. So does chocolate, champagne and puff pastry.

So I’m swinging a golf club for the first time, and running my ass off, and sweating. Like a man. It’s not pretty, and parts of me actually hurt.

I can’t help but think of my son. I think of how hard he as worked to accomplish the things that he has. He’s on a national sports team, plays a bahzillion sports, and maintains his grades, and also puts up with a rather flamboyant mamma.

My old bones ache in places where I forgot it could possibly hurt in the first place, and it reminds me of how hard my son has worked and what strength and grace he’s had to develop in order to accomplish  it all.

Running at my little gym, I have an extraordinary view of a public play-space and just beyond that a beautiful lake in the middle of our bustling city. I watch parents come out and play with their kids, some of them shooting baskets, and others, likely tired single-moms like I was, sitting in a chair and keeping an eye on their kids as they play.

portable locker roomI want to go out there and tell those weary parents that it’s all worth it; that team sports and athletics are worth every early morning, every weekend taken up with tournaments, and all of the leaving early and working overtime that has to happen to make it work.  Not because it just keeps their bodies healthy, but because it develops character and forms strong bonds of friendship. I want to tell those parents that gaining an extra ten or twenty pounds is not the end of the world. Missing your kids’ childhood is.

So, this afternoon, when what I really want to do is nap with the cat. I will likely be running my little 30 minute marathon, because my son sets a damn good example and if he can push himself to do it, damn it, so can I.

When you raise an athlete, there comes a turning point where you are no longer their inspiration. Instead, they become yours. It’s a very hard feeling to describe. Pride doesn’t quite cut it, but joy comes close.

 

 

Saturday Morning Coffee; Child Killers & The People Who Have to Be Nice To Them

saturday morning coffeeLast night I had my sweetheart, his son, and my son together around the table to enjoy a meal together for Easter. With young adult children and their crazy schedules, family time is precious, and to have both families blend together during these holidays is a true joy.

Simple things like having dinner together every day, and making sure you say, “I love you”, before you head out the door are mandatory at my house. Maybe a little too obsessively-compulsively so.

You see, my career is death and dying. The fragile nature of life is not lost on me, and maybe I have some PTSD going on. Ok, I do have some of that going on,  but I think that’s normal under the circumstances.

Easter dinner with the kids was extra meaningful for me in ways that I’m sure people who don’t work around loss and trauma will never know. Nor should they.

This morning I sat down to my little window, with my coffee and kitty mentor, Mr. Willy Nelson. I cruised over to www.thestar.ca and read the article about Ontario’s Chief Pathologist, Dr. Micheal Pollanen.

Basically, the crux of the article was that Dr. Pollanen has been guilty of confirmation bias;

Among them was confirmation bias — reaching a conclusion and working backward to find evidence to support it, and professional credibility bias — being unwilling to change an opinion once stated.

 

Fine. I get it, and god forbid I was on the receiving end of a case where a professional reasoned that I was guilty and then tried to prove it. Basically, you’d be screwed.

But the point of my little blog here isn’t to crucify Dr. Pollanen. I worked with him. I didn’t really like him – let me be clear, that’s my personal opinion. He seemed to be book-smart-brilliant, and socially awkward. But most of the doctors down there fit that description.

At the Office of the Chief Coroner, one finds that ego-with-a-capital-E runs rampant, and the term Doctor warrants a god-like-untouchable-status to anyone who doesn’t have the same credentials. Humility has no place there. There are few exceptions.

The reality however is that those coroners are human too, and I would argue, because of their perceived status as stronger, more intelligent and wiser-than-the-average-bear, they are at higher risk for PTSD, burn-out and the other psychological monsters-that-go-bump-in-the-night. Sure, they have  access to support, but there is no system in place to monitor it. There is no formal support in place to insure that the mental health of  professionals subjected to the most brutal trauma imaginable is cared for.

During my training, a past Chief Coroner ended his lecture to my graduating class by telling us that if we ever felt that we needed counselling or help coping with trauma, that we should suck it up because that was our job. This was hands-down the worst advice I’ve received in my career.

I too have seen the trauma of a child’s lifeless body marked by abuse, accidental injuries or what appears to be a cold-blooded homicide. I’ve looked into the teary eyes of grieving siblings who are too young to have know what grief feels like.  I’ve done it many times, it’s part of my job.  Unless you’ve physically had to take part in the autopsy or preparation of the body, you do not have any idea what it’s like to be a professional in death care, so stop judging and proselytizing.

You don’t know the deeper level of concern that we bear when our child or spouse takes the car, or is running late. Working with trauma brings you face to face with the fickle nature of mortality every. single. moment. of. every. day.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not excusing Dr. Pollanen, I’m simply empathizing with him. You might want to try it sometime.

Ask yourself this; In a courtroom full of adults unwilling to admit that they either abused or neglected a child to the point of death, I wonder what the average reader of the morning paper would do? Part of me likes to think that they would rage and deliver a little eye-for-an-eye justice, the other part of me is a passive Buddhist.

So, as I sit here this morning, sipping my flavoured coffee, looking out at children in the courtyard giggling and scurrying during the annual Easter Egg hunt, I ask you to think of Dr. Pollanen as a human being who has dedicated his life to making our society a safer place.

 

 

 

I Need Your Help: Podcasts & My Fat Ass

rsbushesBefore I go on a rant, let me point out that the purpose of this post is to get your feedback…

This morning, on my day off, my precious day off, I woke up early to annoy my kiddo before he set out for school and maybe, just maybe get in a nice walk and some writing.

So, it’s raining, and some big goof ball in a blue shirt just walked all over my daffodil greens while using his  leaf blower. Not only do I subscribe to the theory that the use of the leaf blower is evidence regarding the downfall of civilization (I’m sure Donald Trump has one to shoe away the leftover talcum powder that he spritzes his undies with apres shower).  I also subscribe to the theory that some giant lanscaping a-hole should know enough to not be blaring that ridiculous contraption prior to 9am outside of bedroom windows.

Anyway, with the drizzle and the bad atmosphere at my little writing window, I decided to make my way to the treadmill next door and walk a bit while my laundry was laundering.

Why? Well, because I’ve been unwell and rather inactive lately. Walking is easy exercise, and frankly, I need it.  I’ve done classes, punished my body with hard workouts and long runs, but I just can’t seem to work up the chutzpah to spank myself into fitness submission lately.

I’m more in the mode of loving the goddess. Which means my taste in music has changed. In fact, I want to listen to stories. As a writer, I do believe that we are nothing but the stories we tell ourselves, and that sharing our stories is the spiritual equivalent of excellent nutrition.

Which brings me to my latest fascination; Missing Richard Simmons. It’s a Podcast about the theories surrounding the disappearance of Richard Simmons.

Not only am I fascinated with this story, I’m a big fan of Mr. Simmons. Despite a terrible relationship with my late mother, I fondly remember her telling me to get off my fat, ugly, ass and sweat to the oldies with her. Ah, yes, Richard Simmons.

I’ve listened to TEDtalks and CBC writing podcasts, but there’s something about this one that has me hooked. Maybe it’s the anticipation of an answer about why such a charismatic man decided to duck out.

But I’m almost finished with the series, and I want more really great stories; nothing sinister or dark, just a really, good story and a sincere desire by the storyteller to enhance our lives. With this, I feel like I could walk forever. Fitness could be my bitch.

Please share your podcast suggestions to keep my butt and my heart in shape. Also accepting DVD copies of Sweatin’ To the Oldies. Not kidding.

PS – To GK – give up your argument about massive amounts of leaves, give up the wasted fuel and instead give the neighbour kid thirty bucks and a rake.

 

 

 

Empty Coffee Cans & Gas Tanks – The Small Costs of Living With Intention

 

empty_coffee_pot_blasphemy_in_the_morning_mugsThis morning I opened the top of the coffee container to find that someone had used all of my flavoured coffee while I was on vacation. In 2013, all of my delicious half-caf vanilla flavoured coffee would still have been there.

And without my current employment, I  also wouldn’t have been able to afford a little escape to worship the sun near the equator. So, I guess I’ll take the near-empty coffee can, thank you very much.

Without an awesome kiddo, I also could not have taken a break. I mean, how many parents feel comfortable leaving their kid home, with access to the car?

I am truly blessed.

Three years ago during my annual June life review (yah, I do it in June, don’t ask why…that’s another story for another time), I decided that there were a few things out of order in my life, and I set an intention to work toward them. One of them being a coffee-addicted-partner who leaves just enough of my favourite coffee for four cups and a kid who has such a busy social and sports schedule that he needs the car most nights. Good damn thing they’re both cute.

Lately I’ve been waking up with a health concern on my mind. First thoughts being hopeful; is it gone? No. Is it any better?

Health was at the top of my 2013 list, and I’ve been pushing my own self-care aside like most women do when they are juggling parenting, work and relationships. It’s evident that I need to adjust my priorities. It’s also evident that I can.

What I mean is, my life is pretty darn good right now (knock on wood).

So, if you are like me; A ‘Type A’ working mother with a creative streak, life can often seem overwhelming and time extremely limited to work on all of the clever projects that cultivate vital energy in us.

Just take a moment to let the piles of paper remain where they are. Take a deep breath and sit your ass down with a cup of tea. Count your blessings. If you don’t have that many, begin to think about what you need and how to get there. Live with intention despite being pulled in a million directions; resist distraction and carve out the time you need to apply for a new job, create a relationship with a loving partner, take a walk…

And be sure to be thankful for the near-empty coffee can and empty tank of gas. It’s all a matter of perspective.