And then … I remembered.

Source Unknown

Source Unknown

The other day I was reflecting upon the day as I drove home from work. As I rounded the corner into my cul-de-sac, I recalled that during ‘check-in’ at our staff meeting, I had reported that for all intents and purposes I was doing “really good”.  I remembered acknowledging that I felt like I was in a period of grace given all the challenges that had been landing in my life over the past few years.  As I parked in my drive-way, some of the unfavorable realities I had neglected to acknowledge in my check-in  spontaneously popped into my awareness and I thought:  “Hey … wait a minute.  I need a re-do on my check-in.”  Upon deeper reflection, I had to concede that things were not really as rosy as the picture I had painted for my colleagues.  I mean …

  • How could I say  I was “really good” when  my dryer had just broken down and left me with two heavy wet loads threatening to mildew in my basement?
  • Wasn’t it a bit of stretch to say that I was “really good” when my husband’s computer was still crashed after two attempts to replace the mother board by really techno-savvy geeks had failed … ?
  • How on earth could I  say I was “really good” when my house was covered in a ¼ inch of rock dust that was perpetually drifting down from the seemingly snails-pace renovations?
  • Was it really honest to say I was “really good” when  I have been somewhat indignant and grumbling about having to park outside ever since my garage was converted into a workshop for the renovations?
  • Was it “really good” that I had just spent the lunch hour in the washroom trying to dislodge some chicken that had caught in my esophagus and was causing painful spasms?
  • I wasn’t feeling “really good” about choosing to be courageous in the face of an ethical dilemma … I was feeling downright vulnerable.

In light of these realities, whose ‘really good’ life was I telling my colleagues about?  I found myself curiously wondering how all that stuff had completely fallen off my radar during the meeting.

And then … I remembered.

I remembered that it started out like a usual day.  The sun was shining and the day was planned …BUT … things don’t always go as planned.  On this particular day,  a very cherished friend/colleague of my daughters had been hit head-on in a horrific accident that promptly claimed the life of her best friend.  Her own precious life was miraculously hanging in the tentative balance between staying ‘here’ and going ‘there’ to join her friend.  No one knew what the next moment would bring.  Tears flowed … spirits gasped … and … fears all but eclipsed the tenuous hopes timidly trying to prevail amidst the uncertainties that no one dared to sputter aloud …

They said her prognosis was grim. They said most people could not survive the extent of her injuries. Pelvis broken in 3 places, back fractured in 3 places, all ribs crushed, a punctured lung, a perforated aorta and every bone in her face  pulverized.  It seemed though, that the feisty spirit of this most beautiful soul was determined to defy the odds as the minutes turned into hours turned into days.  I carried her in my heart as I went about my usual routine.  I know I was not alone. She remained foremost in all our thoughts and prayers.

As I reflect on it now, I am guessing that  during ‘check-in’, I was subconsciously taking my own inventory from this humble, tender and fragile space.  I’m speculating that I neglected to mention the realities that were irritating me, because they were simply that … irritating.  I can live with irritating.  My choice is whether I decide to do it begrudgingly or not.  I’m guessing that somewhere deep within my psyche, my testament to being “really good” reflected my perception that, in the grand scheme of things,  irritations are preferable to crises … but only 100% of the time.

I am recognizing, more and more, that in each and every moment, it is not what we are looking at that matters, it is what we choose to see.  Our perspective frames our interpretations.  Perception creates reality and as Debbie Ford points out in her book “The Right Questions” we can spend our moments looking for what is right or we can spend them focused upon what is going wrong.   It all depends upon the perspectacles ( a term coined by Glennon Doyle Melton) with which we choose to look … we can see things as desirable or undesirable in any situation, event or circumstance.  I don’t consciously remember putting on my rose-colored glasses before the meeting, but clearly something inside me was wisely adjusting the lens through which I made my assessment. I wasn’t lying to my colleagues or to myself.  I wasn’t in any kind of Pollyanna-ish denial.  Despite the irritations that could have shifted my perception to an unfavorable place, I can see that I probably was feeling “really good” … all things considered.

When I am looking for what is right, I can see miracles are unfolding around us with each and every breath.  In fact, my daughter’s friend continues to affirm my belief in miracles.   So far, she is still ‘here’ … and … so many hearts are holding her with much tender love and eager hope for brighter moments ahead. She is teaching me to believe that a prognosis does not have to be your reality. She is teaching me to not let the moment define you, but rather, to define the moment. She is teaching me about never giving up.  She is teaching me that there are blessings worth living for … but only 100% of the time.

As for me, when I am looking for what is right in this very moment , I can see that my the dryer is fixed, my husband’s computer was replaced free of charge by DELL (Yeah DELL!), my esophagus is not currently in spasm so I can eat again  and the dust is mostly cleared.

When I am looking for what is wrong in this moment, I can see that the door of my medicine cabinet broke off in my hands, there are a few imperfections in the renovations and I am still parked in the driveway … I guess I’ll be scraping ice and snow off my car for a while yet.

Although it’s tempting to let the ‘wrong’ steal the ‘right’ from my view, in the final analysis, I am ‘seeing’ that I don’t need a re-do on my check-in after all.  Despite what I am looking at in my life (at any given moment),  the truth of the matter is this:  I really am “really good” … until I decide that I am not. But only 100% of the time.

Looking for what is right and seeing so many blessings that tears have filled my eyes,  Karen

P.S. Since writing this yesterday, we had a big dump of snow and my husband very unexpectedly cleared the garage.  We just never know what the next moment will bring.  May we be looking in such a way that we miss not a single blessing as we all see our way through the days to come …

“KNOWING is the booby prize …”

embrace your inner idiot

With deepest gratitude to “frogandthewell.com” for this graphic.

Ever notice that when you think you already know something, you have no room to hear anything different?  Our tolerance for being wrong is hotly contested and fiercely limited by our fragile human egos.  As a result, in the space of evidence contrary to what we think we know, we quickly and effectively (often without conscious awareness) disqualify any differing proof  in order to stay ‘right’.  For example, if we have decided someone is a “liar”, we tend to scrutinize their every thought, word and deed seeking to confirm our unfavorable perceptions.  Likewise, if we have determined someone is a “loser” … then when they do the ‘right’ thing, we chalk it up to an unlikely exception.   As well, the beliefs we hold about ourselves are equally insidious.  If we believe we are “stupid” or “not good enough” , then any smart or worthy moments are often minimized, dismissed or overlooked.  This kind of discounting has the capacity to derail any dreams/visions that are not consistent with our self-limiting perceptions.  Sadly, when you think you already know …  you are no longer open to learning or seeing anything new or different.

One of the greatest blessings of my post secondary studies in anti-oppressive practice was that we were invited to critically assess how we were thinking about things rather than being taught what to think.  We were invited to unpack the things we thought we already knew.  We got to  embrace our inner idiots and UN-learn so much of what we had involuntarily come to accept as ‘the’ truth rather than simply ‘a’ truth..  This powerful exercise in critical thinking rendered visible the beliefs that were simply socialized into me  … by those who raised me, schooled me and befriended me.  Their opinions became my truths because I never thought to question them … or  … learned it was not OK for me to question them.

Learning to embrace my inner idiot took me to places I had no idea I needed to go.  I will spare you all the details but what I learned is this:

  • unlearning can be painful.  (What does it mean about me and my perceptions if I am wrong about this, that or next thing?)
  • unlearning can be deeply humbling(It hits you right between the eyes when you recognize that the culprits you have been judging harshly  might also need to include YOU.)

Let me offer one example of my unlearning.  As a well-intended, socially conscious, educated white woman, I have always contended that I do NOT condone racism’. I blushed with a deep sense of shame when I learned, instead, that I don’t even have to do anything obviously “racist” to condone racism … I benefit from it by sheer defaultSadly,  we live in a socially constructed system where one part of our humanity counts for more than the ‘others‘ … and … having white skin puts me on the ‘favorite’ team in a world that plays favorites.  As a result, I get all kinds of unseen, unearned perks:

  • I don’t have to worry about whether people will rent accommodations to me
  • I don’t have to worry that the job will have “just been filled” as I arrive for the interview.
  • I don’t have to worry about whether someone will sit beside me on public transportation
  • I don’t have to worry about my children being stereotyped at school
  • I don’t have to worry about being followed in a department store
  • I don’t have to worry that my speech patterns, body type or food and dress will be mocked and/or ridiculed

Guess what my skin color gives me the unmitigated privilege of worrying about?  Sunburn.  Yep … that’s it.  If only a slather of SPF30  could so easily protect people from prejudice, marginalization and oppression.  As White people, we typically author the educational curricula and, therefore, we have not been taught how we are complicit in perpetuating racism given the advantages we reap from it.  You might be tempted to leave this blog right now … but I hope you won’t.  I hope you will be willing to consider that if we are not actively and persistently resisting racism, we are silently condoning it.  I am not suggesting I have figured out how to best use the power and privilege attached to my White skin to counter racism … but increasing mainstream awareness is certainly the first step.

If what I am saying is making you squirm, you are ripe for a moment of unlearning and embracing your inner idiot.  I hope you will be brave enough stay with me here because the struggle to comprehend a ‘truth’ outside our comfort zone is a point of real awakening.  We can’t be expected to know what we don’t know …  until we do.  And, once you do know … you can’t pretend you don’t.   And when we are  open to the profound power of unlearning  … we begin to realize that the more we know … the more we know we don’t know! 

From that humble space,  I become aware that  my mainstream sexual orientation does not preclude people’s comfort with me being around their children.  The folks in the GLBT community are not so fortunate.  I also notice that I managed well in a traditional school setting because it favored my left-brained, sequential kind of thinking.  The right-brained, kinesthetic learners have not been so lucky.  My  married, double income status earns public respect and has afforded my children many advantages.  Single parents endure public censure and many luxuries are beyond their reach. My able body means I get to go places without worrying about access. My office is located in a ‘public health unit’ that has a ramp but no button to pull open the door! Argh!  Some how this all continues to be tolerated in our society.

When I embrace my inner idiot, I have to seriously question everything I think I already know.  I must also consciously consider whether my personal and professional  ‘successes’ have truly been  earned by me … or  … if I simply got a head start and an extra advantage over ‘others’ because they are outside the margins of the ‘favorite’ global team.  I now know that the essential unlearning of what we think we already know is the critical portal from which true compassion and empathy can emerge … not just for ‘others’ but also for myself!  It takes a whole lot of courage to unpack our own misunderstandings and misconceptions.

I have learned that by allowing myself to see what I was unable, unwilling or unprepared to see … I have opened  the door to a world of  miraculous shifts in perspective. Much to my pleasant surprise, it is from a place of not knowing that I have been humbly granted the capacity to see what might have been there all along … even when I thought I already knew.

Let’s continue to embrace our inner idiots, because as my amazing mentor Debbie Ford always told us “Knowing is the booby prize

Still unlearning, Karen

“Find what you have lost …”

With deepest gratitude to Kelly Rae Roberts for this enchanting graphic!

With deepest gratitude to Kelly Rae Roberts for this enchanting graphic!

I am a counsellor and a life coach and, in both jobs, it is ethically essential that I protect my client files in order to maintain their confidentiality.  I had a crazy dream the other night that I had misplaced a client file.  In my dream, as I scrambled to relocate the lost file and retain my professional integrity, I was ruthlessly berating myself for being so careless.  How could I have so recklessly compromised my client’s privacy?  As a recovering perfectionist, it simply is not like me to lose things … precious things … important things!  I am usually too darned anal to lose stuff!

However, in this nightmare, I looked in all the predictable places for it, but was feeling increasingly more exasperated when I still could not find it.  As with most dreams, there were a lot of things going on simultaneously.  For example, my client was STILL waiting to be seen and in my hunt for the lost file, I realized that someone else had used my office and left it in complete shambles.  It was a mess of equipment and electrical cords and there was a small child (I’m not sure who) sleeping in a bed in my office.  Not that my office has ever had a bed in it (but you know how dreams are) and, as a result, I not only had to find my client’s file, but I would now need to find another office to see him in!

At the same time, my cell phone was ringing with important concerns from two family members and I remembered I had failed to return several other calls. I was trying to eat my lunch… and … I couldn’t find the light switch!  I was overwhelmed by all the confusion and chaos but, in the midst of all these competing calls for my attention, I knew that my priority in that moment was to find my client’s file!

I was beyond relieved to finally awaken and realize it was just one of those crazy dreams that we often find ourselves curiously analyzing.  I was trying to find the message in it when I heard the still, small voice inside of me whisper “Find what you’ve lost”.

It was such an ‘aha’ moment!  Although I have never lost a client file in real life, I recognized that my life is much like my dream in that I have a countless cacophony of distractions, diversions and dilemmas clamouring for my attention as I make my way through each day.  I realized that if I am not vigilant, I might unwittingly get lost in the chaos and lose sight of the really important things in my life.

As I continued to unravel the wisdom woven into my nightmare, I found myself reflecting upon what I might have already lost … and … I noticed a number of possibilities.  Whatever happened to my ability to relax? When did I lose my courage to ask for what I need? How come I no longer record my 5 daily gratitudes during my morning solitude?  Will I ever ‘run’ again?

This crazy but wise dream alerted me to the fact that the most important task for me right now is to ‘find what I lost’.  I sense that, in an effort to do so, my life will have less breadth, but certainly more depth.  I sense that my spirit will be enriched and my heart will be more nourished. I trust that I will have more space to enjoy the miracles tucked into each of life’s ordinary moments.

So, it is with a humble heart that I invite you to join me in considering what you may have lost that needs to be found.  Could it be:

  •  your sense of purpose in life?
  • a connection with an old friend?
  • a feeling of well-being?
  • your ability to trust yourself or others?
  • your childhood dreams?
  • your energy and enthusiasm?
  • your sense of humor?

Take heed of whatever you notice … and … commit to making some time to ‘find what you lost’!  I intend to do the same.  In that sacred space of allowing ourselves to see what we often step over, let’s listen to our hearts, and allow that wisdom to awaken our spirits in the most remarkable ways.

Who knows, we might find something precious that we didn’t even realize we had lost …

Sweet dreams,  Karen

Better … Because of You Debbie Ford!

everything-shapes-us-kelly rae robertsWith gratitude to Kelly Rae Roberts for this lovely graphic.

The first time I heard the chorus in Kelly Clarkson’s hit single  Because of You  I caught a tear sliding down my cheek as my thoughts were high-jacked from  whatever I was doing in that moment to my less than Hallmark childhood. 

Because of you
I never stray too far from the sidewalk
Because of you
I learned to play on the safe side so I don’t get hurt
Because of you
I find it hard to trust not only me, but everyone around me
Because of you
I am afraid

As I tried to dodge the discomfort brought on by hearing those heart wrenching ‘truths’, I knew exactly who I’d been holding accountable for my ever cautious and hyper-vigilant approach to life. I credit blame my dad the most … but … my mom gets nailed quite often as well.  The shame and neglect of my early years has shaped my overly ‘anxious mind’ and unfortunately, it takes a whole schwack of energy to manage the various worries, uncertainties, reservations , doubts, qualms and fears that persistently and unpredictably pop into my awareness.  When uttered in the past, my husband would shake his head in stunned disbelief as my neurotic ramblings effectively sucked any potential for joy out of the moment.  Pretty soon, I just quit sharing them out loud …

As long as no one could hear the alarm bells going off in my head … I think I appeared pretty capable, confident and successful.  Most people who know me would probably be very surprised to hear this. I managed my fears as inconspicuously as possible but, it wasn’t until I was introduced to the remarkable work of Debbie Ford about 12 years ago that things really changed for the BETTER!  I had no idea how powerfully this would shape me …  

I have been so profoundly shifted and transformed by the last dozen years of training and learning with/through The Ford Institute for Transformational Training.  Who would have thought that this journey would invite me to make peace with so much!  Yes, we are undoubtedly shaped by the negatives in our lives, but we are also shaped by the positives! (Not that it always feels so positive in the process of tackling this kind of personal growth!) 

As I write this now, I am aware of another tear sliding down my cheek.   Debbie Ford transitioned on February 17th, 2013 … but … my amazing mentor, teacher and guide touched so many lives in magical and miraculous ways!  Fortunately, her body of work is vast and her legacy will live on in the hearts of so many!!  Thank you Debbie for loving me enough to hold me in my highest … to bravely risk my wrath and call me on my s*#t … to hold me through the ugly cry … to laugh with me as I finally surrendered my need for control and learned to lean in. 

Thank you for inviting me to stray from the sidewalk … to trust myself  enough to step out of the fears that have caged my soul and courageously reach for the untold possibilities beyond my self-limiting beliefs.  Because of you, I have learned to embrace my vulnerabilities with love and acceptance rather than trying to resist and suppress my fear-filled mind chatter. Because of you …I am now a part of an amazing, loving, supportive family of Certified Integrative Coaches. Thank you, thank you, thank you Debbie Ford.  

If I could sing like Kelly Clarkson, I’d write you a song, because I have been profoundly shaped by knowing you!  I truly am so much Better … Because of You !

With deepest gratitude, Karen

 

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