Posted in Andshelaughs, andshelaughs writing, Anxiety and Depression, Art of LIving, Faith, Fearless Living, Graceful Living, Gracious Living, Healthy Living, ideas, Inspiration, Joyful Living, Living, Mental Health, Mindful Living, Personal Development, Psychology, Religion, Religion and Spirituality, Religious Studies, Simple Living, Social Commentary, Spiritual Living, Spirituality, The Art of Living, Uncategorized, Whole Living, Writing Inspiration

The Season of Mystery & Light

street lampI’m early, I know.

Advent is not officially upon us, but the shitty greyness of November sure is.

We are smack in the middle of the time of year when everything is bare, grey, and tired.

Not quite officially Advent, the season of mystery, of waiting, of germinating in the darkness so that we may blossom in the light is definitely upon us.

What better way to embrace it all than to try some new stuff?

This year, it’s all new to me; my home, my relationship status, and most significantly, my role as a mother.  Whatever you call your celebration of light in the darkness that you celebrate, the reality is November is often a month of feeling less than sparkly.

As always, I’m embracing it. All of it.  Well, at least I’m trying to. Trying ‘new stuff’ may help ease the doldrums, but is it the solution? I’m not so sure about that.

Being able to be still in the darkness takes incredible strength of mind and spirit. Allowing yourself to feel it deeply without running from the discomfort may be the secret to rising into the light refreshed and enriched. It may also send you to the psych-ward for a few weeks. Chacun son gout.

I try to remember the significance of the tiny lights twinkling in the cold and the darkness. They are the symbols of hope when we are not sure of our place and where we belong, and sometimes that’s all we have.

 

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Don’t Speak to Me That Way

mean manLately, for some reason, the universe is reminding me what it’s like to have to stand up for myself.

I mean, come on! I’m middle-aged for goodness sake! Apparently not too old to learn though, and life likes to teach lessons in depth as we move on…or so it seems.

Differences of opinion and disagreements can be interesting, enriching and even enlightening. That is if the people involved can communicate – you know, if they can listen. That’s a BIG part of communicating; I hear what you’re saying and understand how you feel, now let’s see how we can make this work. In life; work, home, school, politics…it’s really the best way.

But it doesn’t often work like that. Often it’s heated, and as I’ve learned lately -mean. Mean can throw you off.  Mean trumps anything that actually gets said because it’s scary, and meant to be intimidating and oppressive.

Screw mean.

We’re too gloriously wonderful to let mean people make us cower, shrink, or make us believe that we’re crazy. It’s called gaslighting, it’s emotional abuse, and it won’t stand.

When meanness is a stream of relentless arrogance, it’s easy to get tripped up and argue. Trust me, don’t get sucked in, and if you do, pull out as soon as you become aware that you’re caught in an energy-sucking game. That’s what happened to me recently. I got sucked in, and then I realized what a shit-ball-of-a-circus-conversation was happening. I wasn’t as angry about the issue at hand as I was at the way I was being spoken to.

Sometimes it takes a firm shout/yell or even a scream; YOU DON’T GET TO SPEAK TO ME LIKE THAT.  Don’t ever speak to me that way.  Repeat as necessary. Step forward into their space and let them know you will not be treated in such a disrespectful way, you will not tolerate their meanness, and above all, you will not be broken.

Your energy is too precious. Your gifts are too sacred.

When someone is mean to us, we tend to let our emotions rule when really, it’s pretty straightforward and logical. Save your emotions for joy, love, sorrow, grief, and the things that make us human. Do not spend them on someone who is undeserving.

Meanness will not be tolerated.

Keep that in mind. Repeat as necessary.

 

Posted in Advice for Men, Advice for Women, Andshelaughs, Columns, Columns Relationship Advice, Creative Life, Friendship, Health, Healthy Living, Life, Meaning of Life, Mental Health, Psychology, Sexual Health, Uncategorized, women, Women's Issues, Women's Issues

Mean People Suck: Don’t Let Them Suck the Life Out of You

ugly buzzardNice and mean. Two simple words not often given enough credit for how important they are.

Nice matters. Mean sucks.

Today I’m going to be writing about mean, because recently someone has taken all of the vulnerability I shared with them, and been very mean.

In the past 24 hours I have been told that my friends and family are crazy. That’s pretty damn mean when the person spewing bile knows that mental health struggles that have gone on due to physical, sexual and emotional abuse throughout my family and friends lives.  The security of my home has  been threatened and I’ve been told some nasty, nasty things from a person who was dear to me.

But I’ve done mean. I survived it in my childhood home, in the workplace and even relationships. Which is to say, that my ability to overcome it is great. In other words, when someone is mean, the only thing I know that I can do is to disengage, and enter survival mode.

And how much fun is that? It isn’t. And I’m too old for this shit quite frankly. I’m due for some free-spirited, joyful living, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

When someone shows me how ugly their spirit really is, I choose not to invest my time or energy there. After all, I’ve got more important shit to do, like create a non-fiction masterpiece, and have wine-soaked discussions with kindred spirits. Fuck mean.

If you’re out there with someone who is a nasty little troll, whether it ‘s at home, at work, at school or in the community, try your best to disengage. Try your best to identify the hardest times to control your reaction. Focus on what you love; your art, your job, your pet, your kids, your daily walk around the block….

beautiful birdMean sucks.

Remember, mean belongs to the person spewing hate. It doesn’t belong to you, so don’t carry it. Take a deep breath, envision yourself surrounded by light which protects you from anyone else’s bullshit, and step forward into your own life.

 

 

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Maternal In Memorium & Mother’s Day Manifesto

IshtarToday marks the second anniversary of my mother’s death.

Ours was an unusually complex relationship, with  complete estrangement over twenty years ago. Despite the common cry of making amends by well-meaning acquaintances who do not know the depth of the family’s dysfuncionality, I have no regrets when it comes to this relationship, or lack thereof.

My mother was a victim of her times and of abuse. She was the poster child of body loathing and repression.  I grew up surrounded by women’s magazines, and I confess, I still regularly take Woman’s World for their feel-good stories and their little strips of inspiration. It reminds me of a simple time when my paternal grandmother would clip the posts and pin them to the fridge, or tear out the Ziggy comics and pin them to her inspirational bulletin board in the sewing room.

My paternal grandmother was in touch with her power as a woman. She was wise, fierce, kind and strong. She lived fully and taught me what it meant to be my own person.

ziggy Times have not changed so much, and maybe even for the worse. Not only are we expected to manage our homes, but bear the burden of less feminine roles as well.  We are still surrounded by racks full of magazines, air-brushed images of the female form, with covers that imply we are flawed; how to be thinner, how to be happier, how to please our men, how to de-stress so we can be all of the above. We are ingrained in a culture who continues to devalue the natural life-affirming work of women.

You may wonder what this has to do with the anniversary of my mother’s death. Everything.

I was raised by a woman who was  estranged from her own beautiful, glorious and powerful self. I had a choice as a young woman, continue the trauma, or claim my own glorious divine feminine. I chose the latter.

So many of us hate our ankles, our bellies, our hair or our skin.  We punish our bodies and ridicule our own needs. We ignore the call of primitive intuition, and we diminish the great power of fertility and motherhood.

We live in the world of magazine promises; to create a common, submissive self that perpetuates a world where our value and spiritual gifts are damned.

As the years passed and I healed into my own femininity, into my own woman, forgiveness came. My mother was not a bad mother as such, she was  truly a victim of her times, of her inability to seize her own power, and grow into her own, always determining her own worth by the praise of abusive men.

On this Mother’s Day weekend, I hope that all of the women in my life,  spend some quiet time, reflecting on their own beauty and how their body has served them well, their own natural, intuitive intelligence, and their own power to embrace the fullness of what it means to be a woman.

More than that, I hope that whether maiden, mother or crone,  that all of the ladies reading this live each stage of life and every transition fully.  I believe that is the secret to a well-lived life. That is the secret to having no regrets.

Posted in Andshelaughs, andshelaughs writing, Criminal Justice, Current Events, Fearless Living, Healthy Living, Life Lessons, Living, News, Toronto Star, Uncategorized, World News

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.

 

 

 

Posted in Art of LIving, Buddhism, Buddhist Philosophy, Buddhist Writers, Creative Life, Fearless Living, Girl Stuff, Graceful Living, Gracious Living, Healthy Living, Joyful Living, Life, Life Lessons, Living, Meaning of Life, Middle Age, Mindful Living, Religion and Spirituality, Simple Living, Spiritual Living, Spirituality, The Art of Living, Uncategorized, Whole Living

Letting Fear Scream Like the Child It Is

It’s April 7th and there is snow on the ground. I feel (physically) like I’ve been hit by a truck , and you know what? I’m so miserable I want to crawl out of my own skin.

zen circle.jpgWhich is really crappy. But sometimes crappy is ok. Sometimes we must embrace the tired, sore, discouraged and frustrated parts of our psyche and let them have their say.

Today I’m not in a shit mood, that’s why I’m writing about it. I’ve gained a little more perspective and had a little more sleep.

You see,  I was also in a shit mood on the 9th. Despite the sun shining in as I drove to work,  some poor sod got the finger when he rode my bumper, and not just a flip of the bird. I must have held it up there  and waved it around for a full 10 seconds like a hillbilly waving the confederate flag. I wanted to make sure he saw it. Yah, not a proud moment.
It’s in these moments, I want to not only be aware of, but practice, Thich Nhat Hahn’s famous teaching about cradling our suffering like a newborn baby. I want to be aware of that, but what I usually do is spiritually squirm like a spoiled toddler, wanting to stamp my feet, whine until someone gives me ice cream and then tucks me in for a nap.  But I am getting better at it.

Spiritual practice is long and sometimes it feels grueling. In a culture that praises speed, cultivating grace is a long, slow, lifetime process.

Recently I’ve had the benefit of more solitude and silence than usual. Unlike during years past, I’ve had questions of clarity pop into my mind about my attitudes, reactions and fears. Better still, I’ve had the opportunity to let the reasons why come to the surface.

angry trollWaving a white flag and needing a hug, all of these reasons have come crawling out of the past. Finally. Since the distillation of my emotions and thoughts, fear seems to be their leader.

When you’re angry, jealous, sad or hurt, ask yourself why? And then ask yourself why again. And again, and again….trust me, it always, always boils down to fear.

So give yourself the bad days, the pissy, miserable moods, and yah, every once in a while you might slip up and lay on your horn for thirty seconds or flip an intentional bird. Just look a little deeper if you can when the clouds have passed. You might catch a glimpse of your fear poking out of hiding, ready to make friends.

 

Posted in Advice for Men, Advice for Women, Argument, Art of LIving, Creative Life, Entertainment, Fearless Living, Girl Stuff, Graceful Living, Gracious Living, Guy Stuff, Healthy Living, Joyful Living, Life, Life Lessons, Living, Meaning of Life, Men's Issues, Mental Health, Mindful Living, Personal Development, Professional Women, Simple Living, Spiritual Living, The Art of Living, Uncategorized, Whole Living, women, Women's Issues, Working Women

Pithy Advice, The Artwork of Our Time

shadow-work

There’s a lot of advice out there. Everyone gives it out like it’s the best thing in the world. But it’s not. It’s usually unsolicited and fucking awful.

When I’m feeling like this, the most therapeutic thing to do is to pour a beer, play some Janis Joplin on the annoying side of loud, throw my hands in the air and let the universe take over.

Nobody ever gives out cool, easy  Janis-Joplin-fuck-it advice. Nobody.

Today while meandering through a home decor store, I cruised by the aisle with the paintings and plethora of signs with pithy sayings.

in-this-house

 

Seriously? We all know that in ‘this house’, we do life the best we can, and that all this schmarmy shit is  a bunch of Stepford-bullshit-hoo-ha.

 

left-the-gate-open

 

Oh, bugger off.

dream-picture

 

Dream, hope, love…yes, I never want to lose those soft elements of my soul, but sometimes, it’s a little too much.

Tacky quotes have replaced art, creativity and independent thought. We have been so brainwashed that we hang our directives to suck-it-up in our living rooms.

Carl Jung is my hero. He championed the balancing of our shadow selves and touted it as the key to wholeness. If only the commoner could come to terms with their own anger, jealousy, fear and whatever other emotions aren’t considered pleasant.

I’d love to see some signs that say; you’re doing ok under the circumstances, and you are under no obligation to marginalize your less-Disney-like emotions? I once even thought I was going to embroider a sign to hang over the liquor cabinet that said:

Come unto me all who are weary…Matthews 11:28

Humour helps. When advice is plentiful and patience scarce, you don’t have to dance like no one is watching, or love like you’ve never been hurt.  Because people do watch (and give advice on how to dance better), and we’ve all been hurt.

For those who are also weary of placating the powers that be by stealing our passion and swallowing our sense of injustice, trust me when I tell you that telling the universe to fuck off once in a while can be completely, and utterly cathartic.

Now, excuse me while I commune with Janis and carry on exactly as I am.