JOURNAL PROMPT – March 16, 2021: Do you share your vulnerabilities with others? Why or why not?

You know, for the first 40+years of my life my vulnerabilities were tucked tightly behind my shiny façade of perfection. I was all masked up so no one would be the wiser of my shoddy genesis. In addition to trying to outrun my shame with my perfectionism, I tried to distract people from seeing too far into me by people-pleasing, performing and proving myself to be shiny and bright. And, I do not say this with self-judgment. I offer up this observation with deepest compassion for myself.

And, when we talk about all this through the lens of the ‘shadow’ … i.e. the shadow of our subconscious mind, I can see that these efforts might have actually saved me. Yes. It strikes me that choosing to be so committed to my ‘story’ that all was well in my world might have spared me from ending up on a path that might have looked quite different. Seeking something better may have kept me from falling victim to the unfavorable reality of ‘what was’. I could wear a smile despite the chaos and dysfunction that I was marinating in. For the most part, I think I was pretty convincing. Most people had no idea. I even hid it all from myself to some degree. I certainly stuffed it way down deep.

As I shared in one of my blogs … I certainly did not ‘feel’ like what I appeared to be. Of course, there were also a few people … one ‘colleague’ in particular … who did not buy the façade but had no idea what was really going on behind my smile. They didn’t believe it so they called me “fake.” Perhaps they were right to some degree, but … their critical appraisal of me felt somewhat cruel to me and certainly raised some concerns regarding their professional acumen. People in their profession are supposed to help, not harm. They were a counsellor.

The truth was, I was hiding. A slight but very meaningful distinction. And, sadly, I triggered them so much that they did their best to make me utterly miserable. And I was so committed to the façade that it probably looked like it didn’t even phase me. I did share with a couple of very close friends … people I knew I could trust, but for the most part, I hid all of my pain in this regard too.

I’m not sure if their intention was to ‘break me’ or what … but … it certainly was one of the most heartachingly difficult times in my life. But, in retrospect, it was also a gift offered up in a very ugly wrapping. It grew me. Maybe it it truer to say that I allowed it to grow me. I could have let it take me down because, in all fairness, their assault on my desire to be accepted was not unprecedented. I had been told before that “You’re the kind of girl we love to hate” so … it was not the first time I had been rejected on the basis of my shiny façade.

It is really ironic to recognize that I was hiding behind my façade to avoid being rejected. And, ultimately, it was my façade that actually got me rejected. While it had saved me in some ways … it also invited incredible judgment and visible disconnection from others. It was definitely an experience of ‘both/and’ … rather than … ‘either/or’. That is how it goes with our embracing our vulnerabilities. It is both a blessing and a curse. That said … it is good to remember the words of some wise soul who said: “We are always caught by what we are running from.” Yep. But only always. 🙄

Once I started my healing journey … I was able to drop the cape of perfection and began to embrace all the parts of me I had judged so harshly. I reclaimed my shame and, much to my surprise, found oodles of gifts in it. For example, I can see that because I was always afraid that I would never measure up … I worked really hard to be top of my class. My desire to live in integrity was birthed from the realization that doing what I believed was ‘right’ spared me from hanging my head in any more shame or guilt. My inner pain has invited me to be more compassionate and understanding with others. All in all, I can honestly credit my ‘shame’ shadow (along with many other unwelcome shadows) for what I define as some of my greatest successes.

As I healed, I recognized that there were people who, in the words of the renowned vulnerability researcher Brené Brown, had earned the right to hear my ‘story.’ And so … I allowed myself to be real, authentic and vulnerable with the other coaches in my Certified Integrative Coaching training program with The Ford Institute. Wow. To be received with such compassion and understanding. To be encouraged to embrace my ‘wholeness’ was the most remarkable gift. It brings me tears, again … right now … even after all these years.

Yes … let me not skip over the fact that “hurt people, hurt people,” so not everyone is to be trusted with our vulnerabilities. We must be cautious if we put our fragilities into the hands of those who will not tend to them with utmost respect and deference.

And, I think this whole journey has made me a better counsellor/therapist myself. I tend to intuitively see when someone else is wearing a mask … in a heart beat. I know there is a whole lot of pain and fragility behind it. I know I need to be tender and careful. I know that what we see on the ‘outside’ of someone is often being driven by the opposite on the ‘inside’. You know … hard shells generally exist to protect very vulnerable parts.

And, I often share my vulnerabilities in the counselling room (not to make it about me) but to make it safe for them claim, share and get more comfortable with their own vulnerabilities. As I say this, I realize I have never, ever hidden behind my façade in the counselling room. Nope … the stories I share inside those walls are NEVER flattering. I am chuckling now, because I am realizing that I share my shame quite comfortably with my clients. It is really interesting to note that I actually use my shame in my profession to serve others … and … people continue to express how much they appreciate me being so ‘real’ with them.

And, over the years, I have also come to share my vulnerabilities in my blogs. And, speaking honestly to them here on the page has proved the idea that vulnerability invites ‘connection’ whereas trauma invokes ‘protection’ (the façade). Once again, to borrow the words of Brené Brown, I always get the worst ‘vulnerability hangover’ when I share my vulnerabilities online, but I have been both surprised and comforted by the compassionate responses that people have offered when engaging with my moments of fragility.

It’s also so good for me to learn that I can stand in the truth of my wholeness. And these days … I see that I am less likely to hide if/when I feel judgment or ostracism coming from someone else as a result of my sharing. I am far more likely to realize it shows me something about who they are … and … what they cannot be with … rather than who I am.

With deepest reverence for our collective vulnerabilities, 🧡 Karen 🧡

JOURNAL PROMPT – February 25, 2021: What life experience has strengthened you the most?

The answer to this journal prompt is easy. The life experience that has strengthened me the most was the life experience that I thought was annihilating me forever. My eldest daughter left home two months after her 15th birthday. After growing up in a less than Hallmark home, I had invested so much effort into creating what I thought was the ‘perfect’ home for my little girls. I could not fathom how she was rejecting it … and … me.

While it seemed at the time as the worst possible thing that had ever happened to me, it was actually the catalyst that led me to the path of healing. And, I must concede it was a path I did not even know I needed to be on. I naively thought I had made my way through my unfavorable childhood and had fairly effectively managed the wounds I had collected in my lifetime. I didn’t have any clue there was so much left to heal. But, thanks to my exceptional daughter, I could no longer delude myself into the notion that ‘the teenager’ was the only source of the problem in our house. When she was no longer in the picture (or in the house), I had nowhere to project my distress.

I had nothing I could do except look inward and see how I could find my way though the mess. I initially sought solace from the pain of ‘losing her’ … but in doing so … I found my way to a much grander healing. I discovered the body of work of Debbie Ford … which lead to so much growth … which led to me getting trained as a Certified Integrative Coaching Professional …which led to me going back to school ,.. which ultimately led me back to my childhood career dreams of becoming a therapist and being able to help others overcome their own wounding. It not only led me to my career in counselling, but expanded my gaze and softened my heart and widened my capacity for understanding.

And … it was not an easy path to healing. Debbie’s body of work is not for the feint of heart. As I peeled back the layers of the person I thought I was, I was flabbergasted to see that I gained as much as I surrendered. And, somehow, my relationships with ALL my daughters were optimized as I healed myself. Yes. I am stronger because I am healthier emotionally. I worked through much of the traumatic default patterns of behavior that were negatively impacting my parenting style. I started to identify things (thoughts, words and deeds) that I didn’t even realize were not serving me well.

As guided by Debbie Ford and her impeccable body of work, I embraced all my dark shadows instead of continuing to try to out run them or hide them or deny them. I learned to embrace all my perceived shortcomings … recognized my self-righteous positions. I humbled my pride and dropped the mask I had been wearing that I believed was protecting me. I tenderly touched into my shame, welcomed my vulnerability and honored my mistakes. I made honest amends (for ALL of things I was still holding judgement against myself – going back to when I was 10 years old). I courageously faced my embarrassments. I owned my anger and unwrapped the strength and wisdom that was tucked inside it. I reckoned with my fear of weakness and allowed it to help me be compassionate with myself. I settled into my vulnerability and gave myself permission to mess up and be human.

And, ironically, it was in that space of fragility that I found my freedom. I discovered such reverence and compassion for my own heartaches and heartbreaks. I became aware of the insidious ways in which I had already and could continue to hurt others. I assumed responsibility for ensuring that my intentions were honorable. I investigated when I noticed they were not. I usually discovered where I was justifying my attack thoughts in my unprocessed wounding.

I also claimed my light shadows. This was almost harder than embracing the unwelcome aspects of my personhood. I started to see both the best of who I could be (and was) and unconditionally love and accept the parts of me that I previously judged so harshly. I could go on and on and on and on and on.

There was so much to learn … so much to integrate …and so much to embrace on the other side of my perception of my daughter’s rejection. And, as crazy as it sounds, I will be ever grateful to her for helping me find my truest sense of strength by lovingly embracing my all weaknesses … and … gifting me with the path to more ‘wholeness.’ Yes. I am ever, ever, ever grateful. That horrific feeling of ‘breakdown’ of who I thought I was … turned out to be my invitation to ‘breakthrough’ and claim more of who I could be.

And, twenty-five years later … I am STILL being invited by life to unwrap concealed parts of myself. It never gets easy … but … it is always so very worth it.

Here’s to embracing the courageous warrior within each of us … 🧡 Karen 🧡

JOURNAL PROMPT – January 17, 2021 – The title of a movie of your life would be?

There is no doubt about it … the old boy and I are in the final quarter of our lives. And, this reality has been taking up more space in my awareness of late. I noticed myself thinking the other day that I have had a pretty good life. And then of course, in true INFJ fashion, I found myself questioning what I thought was so great about it???

It was a weird juxtaposition because although I feel a sense of satisfaction with the way things have turned out … when I look back over the events, circumstances and situations that have framed my existence, my life has certainly not been without many traumatic challenges, unenviable difficulties … and … unwelcome experiences/situations and people.

And yet, as I reflect back over it all, there is nothing I would change. Well, except maybe the timeliness of my responses. I can see very clearly, in retrospect, that I might have spared myself some undue pain and suffering had I responded differently … sooner … to the events in my world. But, as Maya Angelou has reminded us, we do better once we know better.

That said, I think this is where the story line of my life holds its power. While I have had my fair share of grief, loss and hardship … I do believe that, ultimately, my responses have empowered me rather then disempowered me. When I look back, I can see that I really did make the best of what was positioned before me … even if it took me a while to figure out how to accomplish that feat. I can see that I really did focus upon finding the blessings in the challenges. I really did search for the gold in the dark. I truly believed that there was a pony in the poop … somewhere.

I have never spent a whole lot of time lamenting my lot in life. Which doesn’t mean I haven’t fallen hard. I sure have. I just haven’t gotten stuck in it for too long. I know when I was a child, I didn’t have the luxury of wallowing in the muck. I knew no one was coming to save me. I knew it was on me to figure it out.

That said, I haven’t always seen things clearly. I have sometimes misunderstood myself, my loved ones and the world around me. I have been derailed by my highly-kindled amygdala. I have been unkind to myself. I have made things worse. I have got it wrong. I have been a bull in a china shop. I have been humbled beyond belief. I have cleaned up the messes. I have apologized. I have learned some hard lessons.

Nonetheless, and despite any darkness that descended around me, I can confidently confirm that I have always, always, always looked for the light. I have persistently done my best to turn the lemons into lemonade. I have been chronically committed to creating fertilizer out of the shit. And, I have remained determined to let it grow me.

And, when things have been at their absolute worst … I could unfailingly count on that still, small voice inside of me nudging me out of any hopelessness, helplessness, powerlessness and/or stuckness by persistently pushing me forward with this little query: “How are you going to live a great life anyway?”

And so … I don’t think there is any doubt about it … the name of the movie of my life would be the same as the name of my business page on Facebook/Instagram:

“Live a Great Life Anyway …”

JOURNAL PROMPT – January 6, 2021 – The three things that you need to add to your life are …

Gosh, my life is very full. Sometimes it feels too full. So, I don’t think that there is anything really missing from my life … but I can think of a few things that I would like to add some more of:

More awe … more getting lost in the ‘flow’ of the moment/experience.

I want to lose all track of time and space while capturing the cosmos in more photographs. I want to ‘freeze’ all the exceptional moments offered by Mother Nature with my camera so I can revisit them over and over again. I want to savor more sunsets and sense the sunshine on my skin.

I want to play with colors and textures and piece together more quilting projects. There is such satisfaction in the creative process.

More wonder … more miracles.

I want to abide more in the energy of love than fear. I am eager to read more and write more. I want to get lost in all the stories … both others and my own. I want more opportunity to ponder it all.

And, as much as I want to enjoy those cognitive and emotional connections, I also want to deepen the connection with my body through Essentrics and yoga and lots and lots of walking outdoors.

More wandering … both internally and externally.

I feel inspired to meditate more. I am eager to quiet my mind and embrace the energy of calm and peace. And yet, as much as I yearn for that deep sense of tranquility, I am equally excited to explore my inner landscape … to peer more pensively into all the fascinations and endless curiosities of my INFJ mind.

I also long to move about more in terms of exploring my external world. There is something so enchanting about landing in far away places and experiencing unknown cultures and tastes and energies. I have such fond memories of South East Asia … of Africa … of Europe (both eastern and western) … of Mexico … and even of the USA and Canada. Yes. I definitely crave more travel. I can hardly wait to load up my backpack (with as little as possible) and eagerly anticipating the next destination.

Oh … I have a fourth thing that I must add. I need a cat. I need to add a furry feline friend to my life. As an only child, I always had a cat for a companion. After my beautiful Skruffi passed away, I decided I would not share my life with another animal until we were done the extensive travelling that we have planned for our semi-retirement years. BUT … just as soon as we know we will be spending more at home … I will invite a kitten to join our lives again. I am tickled at the thought of it. Absolutely tickled.

JOURNAL PROMPT – January 4, 2021: Choose a word for the year and explain why you chose it …

I notice the energy of my first posts in these ‘Journal Prompts’ has been focused around the ‘fear’ and ‘disconnect’ and ‘losses’ that we have been marinating in with Covid-19. While I know that both dark and light exist within me, I am eager to balance the scales of my perceptions and consciously shift my gaze away from the fears that can dominate by default.

The word I am going to choose for 2021 is miracles. I am choosing it because as I shared in our gratitude quest, I incorporated my company under the name of “Miracles! Your Center for Well-Being Inc” in 2001 after I was introduced to “A Course in Miracles” and came to understand the notion that a ‘miracle’ is simply a shift in perspective from ‘fear’ to ‘love’.

I am excited to practice this ‘miracle-making’ in my own perceptions by ‘consciously’ focusing on the principles of the ‘Course.’ And, thanks to my Bestie, I have signed up for “Mornings with Marianne”. She is the author of A Return to Love and for this entire next year, we are going to be receiving a video in our email with Marianne discussing the principles of A Course in Miracles.

I worry a bit that I might not complete it all. I have tried … countless times in the past … to study this remarkable text. I have never yet been successful. I worry a bit that my old patterns of getting “too busy” to keep it up might, once again, pre-empt my best intentions here … but … I remind myself to be ‘conscious’ each morning of honoring my intention for 2021. I trust that If I am conscious about where I am putting my time and energy, I will continue to meet with Marianne every morning. I feel prickles of excitement as I say that out loud.

Hmmmm … and … perhaps this year will also yield a lovely celebration on September 12th? I just did the math on that and noticed that 2021 marks my 20th anniversary of founding/working for ‘Miracles!’.

So, yes … it will be a year of ‘miracles’ if I can stick with ‘A Course in Miracles’ while celebrating 20 years of working for ‘Miracles!’.

Change is a process … not an event, 🧡 Karen 🧡

JOURNAL PROMPT – January 3, 2021: Last year was a year of ______. This year will be a year of ______.

Hmmm. It strikes me that last year was a year of disconnection. Maybe this year will be a year of reconnection to that which matters most.

Last year, in 2020, as the moments turned to minutes turned to hours turned to days turned to weeks and turned into months … life (as we had come to know and expect it) was seemingly snatched from all of us – right out of thin air. Air, we were told, that had become unsafe to casually and carefreely inhabit.

And, so, we became disconnected from our daily routines. We were not allowed to go to work. We were isolated from friends and discouraged from visiting family. We were told not to hug … not to touch … to distance from others. Leisure activities were cancelled. Even television programs had to shoot from home. Restaurants closed. Shopping was forced online. All our distractions were denied. Businesses shut down. Schools were closed. Travel was denied. Weddings and funerals were limited/postponed/cancelled due to “Covid restrictions”. All planning was put on hold. Social gatherings were outlawed – first indoors and then even outdoors. And, we were even ‘ordered’ by Public Health to rewrite our most sacred holidays and traditions. The covering of faces became mandatory. An energy of vigilance highjacked our freedom to simply be spontaneous and light-hearted and carefree. We were beseeched not to get close to one another.

Isolate. Distance. Disconnect.

Perhaps, however, there is much to gain from the gap that was created. Maybe 2021 will be an opportunity for us to collectively reconnect in a very conscious and deliberate way. Maybe we can begin to assess where we have been feeding ourselves with empty spoons. Maybe we can, instead, notice where we need to fill our spoons with healthy nourishment. Yes. Maybe we can get clear about what we are really hungry for …

I know, for myself, this past year has offered me a chance to recognize what really feeds my spirit and what doesn’t. I have spent more time writing … and … I can see how much it really fills me. And, as an introvert, a reduction in the typical overstimulation of living such a busy life was an unexpected blessing. My system had more time to recharge.

I notice that the old boy and myself spent more time engaging WITH each other rather than BESIDE each other. We have played more board games and watched less Netflix. We have cooked and cleaned up together in the kitchen. We have found space to tackle ‘the lists’ that never before seemed to take priority.

I spent more time in solitude. I spent more time outside. I took more pictures. I feel more rested.

Yes. Maybe 2021 will be a year of reconnection to our own souls. Maybe we will feed ourselves more of what really matters and less of what doesn’t. Maybe we will recalibrate in the most remarkable ways. Maybe we will look back on 2020 with gratitude?

Maybe it was a gift, in some ways, that we will continue to unwrap in 2021?

Fingers crossed … 🧡 Karen 🧡

Source Unknown … but deeply appreciated.

JOURNAL PROMPT – January 1,2021: How Do You Feel at the Start of a New Year?

I am honestly not sure. I get that the notion of a ‘New Year’ is that we have a whole fresh pallet upon which to paint our days. I do love the thought that we can leave the past in the past and create a whole new future. And yet, if we break it down, we have the opportunity to start anew each and every day. We need not wait for the New Year to change lanes, take a needed turn, speed up or slow down. All of these moments are available to us each and every day. Well, actually, each and every minute of each and every day.

As I often share with my clients, there are no neutral choices. Each seemingly insignificant decision we make is leading us toward the life of our dreams or away from it. And, sadly, we are not always conscious of the choices we are making that are co-creating the shape of our existence. I remember one time we were chatting about what you would wish for if you had one wish. My Dad’s answer has always stuck with me.

“To live consciously.”

Hmmm. I deeply appreciated his wisdom. And, I am wondering what 2021 will look like if I can live consciously?? What might my relationships feel like if I am conscious about each and every thought, word and deed that I offer others? I know it would be impossible to do it 100% of the time, but I wonder what it would be like if I made this my intent for 2021 …

If I am living consciously, I will be choosing my next step rather than mindlessly moving forward by default. If I am living consciously, I will notice when I am off track and can ‘reroute’ and get myself back on track more quickly. If I am living consciously, then I can disrupt any old patterns that are subconsciously leading me to recreate the past instead of the future.

Yes, if I am living consciously, I can turn on my own internal light and let it lead the way. I really like the sound of that for the New Year … the new day … the new next moment. Fingers crossed I can remain conscious enough often enough to do it … 🤞

Happy 2021 to one and all … 🧡 Karen 🧡

Better Because I accepted the 100 Days of Happiness Challenge … Again!

A video popped up on my Facebook memories on August 8, 2019 … a full five years after the last time I accepted the challenge … and … at first when I started watching it, I was put off by my own energy.  I thought I sounded really sappy and far too ooey gooey. I was tempted to turn it off, but then, as I focused upon the content rather than the delivery of my message, I was actually inspired to take The 100 Days of Happiness Challenge again! And … as I now come to the completion of another 100 days, I am exceptionally grateful that I did!!

As I mentioned in the video, this ‘challenge’ is not in the least bit frivolous, gratuitous or self-indulgent. It is not intended to be an opportunity to use social media to show off the great things in my life. It is, in no way, a self-focused effort to draw attention to myself and take up space on-line.  Rather … it is a deliberate attempt to rewire the brain.

Yes … we are neurologically wired to notice what is wrong … not … what is right.  And, as the most prominent neuroscientists are teaching us, we must make a conscious effort to wire our brains in the direction of honoring the things that are going right in our orbits.

Rick Hanson, PhD.

Its a great question to ask ourselves!  Where has your mind been resting over the past week or so?  I have experienced that The 100 Days of Happiness Challenge can actually shift where our mind is mainly resting!  It invites us to recognize, acknowledge and savour all the positives that already exist in our lives. Without our deliberate effort, many of these ‘good’ things would unwittingly go unnoticed … they would simply slide out of our awareness like an egg in a Teflon pan.

And … posting on social media is a way of deepening the experience!  It is a way of holding the ‘good’ in the brain for long enough for new positive neural pathways to be generated … and … for older ones to become more highly myelinated. The time it takes to find a picture and to write a little bit about what made you happy sustains your focus and prompts the protein synthesis for rewiring our neural networks.  It’s kind of like sitting around the fire on a cold night … if you want to stay warm, you need to throw another log on the fire!  With each and every positive that we hold in our minds for at least 10 seconds, it’s like we are tossing a log onto the fire of positivity in our internal systems.

The other magnificent benefit of taking on this project is that I instinctively find myself looking for what is ‘right’ as I make my way through the day. Metaphorically speaking, I am always looking for ‘the logs’ to add to my wood pile so my fire won’t fizzle out.  In order to be able to keep my public commitment to posting something on social media that makes me happy (on a daily basis for 100 days) means that I need to really pay attention to what is making me happy every single day … the big, the little and all the shapes and sizes in-between.  It effectively shifts my gaze from unconsciously focusing upon whatever is wrong to consciously noticing what is right. Because … both dark and light co-exist in our lives. Only always.

Source Unknown but deeply appreciated!

And, believe it or not, doing this ‘Challenge’ has shifted my focus so that I am deliberately seeking out that little dot of good, even on the most challenging days.  And, in doing so, the hard stuff (that is also concurrently going on in my life!) is just a little easier to bear.  The unwelcome stuff can’t take me down as far or as fast when it is being balanced by reminders of what is going well in my world. Perception is so powerful!!

And, it’s actually been quite interesting to recognize that as I have collected my ‘happy moments’ through the day, I rarely find just one. It’s fascinating to notice how ‘what you are looking for’ is actually shaping ‘what you see’!! And, there were quite a few day when it was really hard to narrow down my options in order to choose just one of them to post.  And, on a couple of occasions, I think I even posted a ‘part 2’. 🙂

Source Unknown

And so, I would also like to point out that, for me, making a public commitment to post my ‘happiness’ on social media is a conscious strategy to ensure that I keep looking for what is right and well with my world.  At the risk of mixing my metaphors, it’s a deliberate effort to ensure I throw enough logs on my fire … and/or … that I keep watering my grass. I am a person who likes to keep my word … so … I am far more likely to keep making the effort if I make a public promise to post for 100 Days. Otherwise, in all honestly, it would be pretty easy to get busy and simply let it slide off my radar for a few days.  And then, it wouldn’t be long before I simply stopped doing it.

Source Unknown

So, as I arrive at this 100th day of my second Happiness Challenge … there is a part of me that is actually reluctant to stop. I really appreciate the way this project has shifted my gaze and filled my spirit.  I like the way this project has obviated many of the things I tend to take for granted. I like the way this project has added a sense of lightness to my perceptions. I am grateful for how my brain is being rewired. I can literally FEEL the difference.

I have been so very grateful to the others who joined me over the past 100 days.  I thoroughly enjoyed all your posts too … and … even found myself searching them out if they didn’t show up in a timely manner in my Facebook or Instagram feed.  And, I very much enjoyed the comments from those of you who weren’t doing the challenge yourselves, but were engaging with me as I did mine! Thank you for meeting me on the page!! You made the whole experience even richer for me! ❤

And so, in all honesty, it is really tempting to just keep doing it.  But, I don’t really trust that I will unless I have made a public commitment to do so. The good news is that I will get to keep doing it for a while.  I had started a secret group on Facebook with a couple of people who wanted to try it, but didn’t want to do it so visibly. And, I am happy to say that we have agreed to keep doing it together for a while longer!

Lastly … I would never expect you to believe my experience. However, I would certainly invite you to consider taking the 100 Days of Happiness Challenge if you ever get a chance. You might be surprised by the gifts you might gain.

With much gratitude for my newest neural pathways, Karen

 

 

 

 

 

 

Video

Grief is Like a Ball in a Box – Lauren Herschel’s Metaphor

I have received permission from Lauren Hershel to repost this magnificent metaphor she shared on Twitter about the nature of grief:

“There’s a box with a ball in it. And a pain button.”

With appreciation to Lauren Herschel for these diagrams.

“In the beginning, the ball is huge. You can’t move the box without the ball hitting the pain button. It rattles around on its own in there and hits the button over and over. You can’t control it – it just keeps hurting. Sometimes it seems unrelenting.”

“Over time, the ball gets smaller. It hits the button less and less but when it does, it hurts just as much. It’s better because you can function day to day more easily. But the downside is that the ball randomly hits that button when you least expect it.”

“For most people, the ball never really goes away. It might hit less and less and you have more time to recover between hits, unlike when the ball was still giant. I thought this was the best description of grief I’ve heard in a long time.”  (Lauren Herschel)

Thank you so much Lauren Herschel for granting me permission to share this meaningful metaphor for grief.  I suspect it will speak to many, many people who have found themselves grappling with how to manage the ball in their box.

With deepest reverence for the unbearable ache of grief, Karen

Filled with PRIDE …

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Marching with the Taber Equality Alliance PRIDE FEST PARADE 2016  Lethbridge

I marched, for the very first time, in the 2016 PRIDE FEST PARADE in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada  … the largest city nearby where I live in rural Southern Alberta.  I feel badly that it took me so long to do so, because as a social worker, I made a professional commitment to resist social injustice by advocating for those who are relegated to the margins of the dominant mainstream majority. As it states in the final line of my social worker declaration:

“I will act to effect social change for the overall benefit of humanity.” 

And honestly … I not only see sociopolitical activism as my professional responsibility, but as a result of my extensive studies in anti-oppression, it has also become a personal passion to ensure that each and every one of us feels a sense of respect, love and acceptance in our lives … despite any perceived differences between us.  We certainly don’t have to agree on things and/or walk the same paths to be kind and compassionate with one another.

As an ally, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived to march in the parade … but I can tell you that being a part of the incredible PRIDE movement was deeply meaningful to me.  It touched me in ways that I could never have anticipated … and … that are exceptionally hard to describe with these words. You might get a wee sense of the sublime joy stirring in my soul from the smile showing on my face in the picture. My enthusiasm reflects the honor and pride I felt in waving the rainbow flag … both as an act of resistance to ‘othering’ and as an allied voice for inclusion.

It’s difficult to describe the energy of acceptance, joy, love and connection that was both particularly potent and entirely palpable during this event. It struck me that it didn’t really matter who you were … straight, queer, gay, lesbian, trans, bi-sexual, older, younger, married, single, white, black, brown, red, able-bodied or differently-abled.  There was such a rich and deep sense of appreciation for all of our humanity … in all its diverse expressions and equally divine incarnations. I sensed that each and every person in attendance was marinating in this undeniably warm, accepting and welcoming atmosphere.  It was clearly a safe place for folks to stand tall in the fullest expression of who they know themselves to be.

No apologies nor concessions were required in order to feel approved of … and/or … to be valued and recognized and acknowledged and appreciated. I can’t honestly remember being in any other social situation where I sensed such a complete lack of judgment. It seemed so unusual because, quite frankly, although unconditional love is loudly lauded in our culture … in reality … it seems relatively rare for one to actually experience it.  In fact, it strikes me that it can be quite challenging to find a space where people simply connect soul to soul … where hierarchies are suspended, differences are duly honored and each individual gets to feel unequivocally respected as an equally significant member of our human family.

The reality is that because I am a straight, married, white, middle-class, able-bodied, well-educated professional woman I can wander about my life enjoying an ample allowance of cultural acceptance simply because I visibly fit so comfortably into the dominant mainstream.  Not everyone is afforded this unearned grace. I reside in a very small rural town (about 8400 people) boasting a fairly homogeneous heterosexual, white, patriarchal, hard-working, family oriented and conservative Christian majority.  There is nothing problematic about that … unless you don’t happen to visibly ‘fit’ within that demographic majority … because it’s really hard to be anonymous here … unless you are good at hiding.  And, my heart aches because I know there are folks ‘hiding’ out in our little town because, in some way, they do not reflect dominant mainstream cultural norms.  Sadly, I’m aware that those who identify within the LGBTQ+ (i.e. lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, plus more) demographic may feel obligated to trade their personal ‘authenticity’ for the safety of small town cultural ‘approval’.  Yes. It can feel like one or the other for many folks. Many may feel pressured to hide the truth of their differences in exchange for a semblance of acceptance.

In fact, even speaking up so publicly in support of the LGBTQ+ community makes me feel somewhat vulnerable because I risk losing some of the safety and acceptance I currently garner from Taberites who perceive me to be solidly aligned with the dominant, mainstream beliefs of the Christian majority.  But I have to admit that, I too, have been hiding a bit.  I have been relatively silent in the public domain about my own sociopolitical convictions for far too long. It is time, however, as a constructivist, feminist, social worker that I stand in solidarity with those whose voices have been muted and marginalized.

From what I have come to understand, June is recognized as LGBTQ Pride Month due to a rally that took place in 1969 which was touted as the first major demonstration for gay rights.  And so, much to my own chagrin, here I am … finally joining those who have been speaking up for almost 40 years in support of the LGBTQ+ cause.

Yes.  At this point, my relative silence is starting to feel like a betrayal of human rights in general. It feels both essential and necessary to utilize some of my mainstream power and privilege to publicly support those don’t feel safe enough in our community to come out of hiding.  I sense it is important to do so, because it is common for our town locals to believe that we don’t have any members of the LGBTQ+ community living here.  They assume that the LGBTQ+ population resides only in the bigger centers.  And while it is entirely possible that many members of the LGBTQ+ community do, in fact, move away in order to live more honestly and authentically … the Forum Research Poll from 2012 estimates that approximately 5% of adults aged 18 – 59 in Alberta identify within the LGBTQ+ community.  That means, that of the 8428 people residing here … 421 may not identify as heterosexual or cisgender. And, as also noted in the Taber Times (our local newspaper) on April 5, 2017   … “of those numbers, some 194 could be students or youth (based upon a population of school age children and youth of 3, 879)”  And so, if we are not ‘seeing’ obvious evidence of this diversity in our town, then we can assume these adults, youth and children are working hard at ‘hiding’ their differences.

A couple of years  ago, I was super excited to learn that a local group had been started (in our small, rural town) called The Taber Equality Alliance (TEA).  The mission of this coalition is to create a safe space in our community for sexual and gender identity minorities and their allies.  This alliance is focused upon building a more welcoming and inclusive community through engagement, partnerships, social groups and advocacy.  I instinctively knew this initiative was something I wanted to be a part of.  We meet on a monthly basis and are slowly growing in both allies and those who identify as LGBTQ+.  Our membership hit 135 people in May of 2017!  And … we are committed to gaining more visibility in our small rural community. A while back we gained some good press coverage when we acquired our ‘Society Status’.

After participating in the Pride Parade in Lethbridge Alberta, we determined that it would serve our cause well to raise our visibility in our little town.  Our first event was a fundraiser and silent auction.  It was a great evening for LGBTQ+ members and their allies to come out and connect.  And then … we got even braver and decided to put a ‘float’ into our own little community parade.  I wasn’t able to attend but our members donned their new white TEA shirts … and then … we also competed in the Chili Competition at our infamous Taber Cornfest Celebration in August of 2016.

And even though the clouds literally rained on our parade … the downpour never dampened our spirits!!

Recently, we determined that we should host our own PRIDE event … right here in our own little neck of the woods.  Our delegation of 22 people entered the officious Council Chambers of the Town of Taber to request that the PRIDE flag be raised on June 12th and then allowed to fly until June 30th.  This time frame represents five percent of the year to symbolically  honor the five percent of the community that identify as  part of the LGBTQ+ community.  Two of our delegates were seated up front to provide our presentation to the seven Town of Taber Councillors.  One of our members who identifies as transgender spoke candidly about the pain she experienced:

“The first time I attempted suicide, I was 10 years old.  I had been led to believe that how I felt was wrong and sinful.  I felt a great deal of shame for feeling things I did not understand or control. If I could not be a girl, then I didn’t want to live at all. I hated myself for how I felt, and the fact that I could not be normal. I went into the kitchen and pulled the biggest knife I could find from the drawer.  I held it to my chest and struggled with myself. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t take my own life.  I placed the knife back in the drawer and went to my room.  I couldn’t end my suffering.  I felt completely and utterly trapped in this wretched life.

This wasn’t the only time I attempted. Every day I think about killing myself. It has taken a long time, but I have now finally been able to learn to love and accept myself.  Not as a boy or as a girl but as a being.  I’m now okay with being transgender and wear it as a badge of honor.  My hope is that through the efforts of TEA, we are able to help prevent someone else from going through the same misery that I have felt.”

I have to admit I was a bit dumbfounded to witness these two beautiful souls courageously expressing such achingly hard truths …  from the bottom of their hearts straight to to the tops of the Councillors down-turned heads. Although two of the politicians were visibly engaged and consistently sustained eye contact with our delegates, the majority of them were focusing their attention on the documents on their desks. Perhaps they had not yet read the package we had forwarded to them well in advance of the meeting? Perhaps this is common practice in the political arena? Perhaps I am just too old school …?  I have no idea, but I really struggled to make sense of what I was observing.  In this culture, from the time we are children, we are socialized to look at people when they are talking to you. It is perceived as a sign of respect.  It just doesn’t feel like people are really listening … nor interested in hearing you … when you don’t have their eyes.

It took a couple of motions before they agreed (by a very slim margin of 4-3) to permit us to raise the rainbow flag on a pole behind the Town Office. We had petitioned to raise it in front of the office where it would get more visibility on one of our main streets. It was suggested by one of the politicians that TEA should be “accepting” of their decision. It struck me as kind of ironic that we, the minority, were the ones being admonished to be ‘accepting’. It’s entirely paradoxical because the central issue perpetually facing marginalized groups and minorities (over time and across history) is that they have been silenced by the those in positions of power. And therefore, for the most part, they have had little option but to ‘accept’ the will of majority.

In the final analysis, however, we choose to see this as a small victory and, ultimately, a step in the right direction.  And … we will persist.

Margaret Mead

For some reason, it also seems germane to mention that prior to the meeting, I had noticed that one of the town Councillors had a sign posted in his front yard saying “Protect pre-birth rights.”  It was tempting to hope this meant he might be equally committed to also protecting ‘post’ birth rights … but he voted against both motions … adding verbally, with a slightly perceptible shake of his head, that he could not support this initiative. I do understand that the objections around supporting the human rights of the LGBTQ+ community are often founded upon religious convictions. That said, it is certainly not my intention, here in this blog, to take issue with people’s fundamental rights to stand behind their own tenets of faith. I completely respect every individual’s right to their own opinion.

And so, if the content of this blog offends your sensibilities, please accept my sincerest respect for our differences. It’s just that, from a my own spiritual perspective, I might interpret things a bit differently. From where I am looking … I am guessing that if Jesus was still physically present among us, he would have joined us for the flag raising … inspiring a spirit of compassion and acceptance for one and all.

I trust that we truly are a small town with big hearts!  I expect that there are many folks in our small town who are also interested in supporting post-birth human rights.  And so, if you feel inclined to help raise the vibration of inclusion in Taber and create more safety and comfort for members of our LGBTQ+ community, please plan to gather with us at our first ever PRIDE event  on June 12th, 2017!  I hope we can come together (both allies and those who identify as LGBTQ+) … have a hot dog, enjoy the entertainment and stand in solidarity so that this sector of our humanity can visibly ‘see’ and ‘feel’ the support that is available within our little town.

With deepest reverence for our human differences and much enthusiasm for all that is possible when we bring our hearts together … Karen

 

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