Monday, November 26, 2018

Going With the Flow

If I am to trust that the Universe/Life/God is on my side, then I have to learn to see how it's always leading me to smoother waters. 

A few years ago, Tom and I went to buy a lounge chair on sale to replace a stiff, shabby 60 year old poolside lounger. We couldn't find one on the store shelves so we looked for a salesperson. After a long delay, we found someone to help. "The extra stock is out in another building. I'll get someone to find one for you." Another long delay, a repeated attempt to find it, and finally success after an hour or more. All that perseverance paid off!

Except that it didn't. The chair is too heavy to lift/store/move around. The finish on the wheels rubs off on anything they touch - fabric, flesh, everything. And it looks more comfortable than it is. When I want to sit outside, I drag out the old one.

At some point, persistence becomes inflexibility, and my efforts to push through challenge become the opposite of going with the flow. 

When I take a new way through the forest, I ask the trees to show me the best way, even if it feels like whimsy. I have learned from experience to trust this. If I find my way suddenly blocked on the path I thought was best, I can push through, but I'll likely find the path impassable farther along. If I seem to be directed down an unlikely pathway, I have learned that it'll probably open up a bit farther along. 

I get it wrong often. Sometimes I'll be almost stuck in the mud before I admit to myself that my persistence was actually stubbornness, and laugh at the discovery. But I often get it right, too, something I find reassuring.

Going with the flow is flexibility in action. I must be willing to change plans on the fly. Which action seems the most joyful, easiest, warmest? If I can, that's the direction I take. A playful approach helps. I try to be like the kid I used to be. As kids, we know what calls to us, with uncomplicated notions such as, "I like it here," or "I want to move away from here." 

I was all set to drive to town for a few veggies before the forecasted freezing rain arrived. I started the car, got dressed for the weather and saw rain freezing on the steps. Maybe tomorrow. 

I just spent a little while looking for synonyms for a word in the dictionary. It wasn't working. To move with the flow, I rephrased the sentence, and ended up with a better result. (Which you are currently reading.)

Building trust requires practice but the rewards are endless. The more often I stop and do a gut check, the more often I'll hear what life is telling me. The more often I hear and act on the signals life is giving me, the smoother life goes. The smoother life goes, the easier it is to trust that the Universe/Life/God is on my side.

It's a good way to live.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Level Playing Field

It's the time of year when Canada Geese by the dozens rest in the bottom pond for a few weeks before flying south. As I walked by, a few grumbled a warning. I didn't want to disturb them - thought about how it'd be nice to reassure them that I'm not a threat. 

I stopped myself. They may already know I'm not a threat to them but choose caution anyhow. They may see a different threat near me that I don't see. 

They have their own reasons for grumbling (or not) when I come near. I may not be giving them the credit they deserve. 

It's understandable. As kids we were taught that other species were not as smart as humans. It was so ingrained in the culture, we may not have even noticed it. Common phrases like "bird brains" reinforce the lower status we place on other species. Yet we know a lot more about their intelligence than we did in the 50's. And even without scientific proof, we know in our hearts and our personal experience that animals and birds and trees are more than we have been taught. 

So, geese.

I want to approach on a level playing field. I may still quietly tell them I'm not a threat, and still send my attention in a different direction than them, so they can read the lack-of-threat in my intentions. But I want to interact with no assumptions about them.

Maybe a better approach is to be nearby and make no demands. Settle nearby like Jane Goodall when she developed a rapport with Chimps. Let the geese choose for themselves if I'm someone they want to know, and then make myself available to what they may have to say.

There's more to learn. But it's a start.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

What Have I Missed?

It wasn't until I was half-way through the walk that I realized I'd been so preoccupied with my latest frustrations, I hadn't noticed anything up until then. Are my worries more important than what's right in front of me? Well, I may think so at the time, but no. 

So I stopped. And I heard something new - a bird call I've never heard before. And I've lived here over 40 years. I moved closer to the source of the sound and carefully took out my camera. Maybe I could get a pic to identify it. I could! How marvellous! A Redstart. A Redstart with a lovely voice.

I'm so glad I stopped. 

Sunday, August 5, 2018


I'm not one of those people who believes that we have to get everything right before we die. We don't have to reconcile friendships or relationships that ended badly. We don't have to mend all the broken fences, understand all the puzzling people in our lives, or forgive when it's just not in us yet. We may not have the time or the opportunity.

Instead, I like to imagine us sitting beside each other on a cloud in heaven. In heaven we have the perspective we need to see the bigger picture. The bad feelings have vanished, and what is left is the love that was always there beneath the turmoil, misunderstanding and broken relationships. As we reflect on the difficulties and trouble in the life we've left, we can turn to each other with love and say, "Boy! That was intense!"

Monday, July 30, 2018


One pic is my mother Audrey showing my niece Mary how to play the organ at Christmastime in 1991. Mary named her daughter Audrey for Mom. The 2nd was taken Friday June 22, 2018 at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. Our beloved Mary passed away peacefully on Monday morning holding her husband’s hand. Oddly my mother passed away on the same date, June 25, in 1999.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Breaking Open

Sometimes even the worst of things can be beneficial. Some months ago, one of my favourite people got a terrible diagnosis, and all of us who loved her had to watch her life wind down. Every family has its tragedies, our family is no exception. This one hit me hard; it broke me open in a way that I haven't broken since I was a kid. Yet even though it was awful, the 'breaking open' part was a good thing.

You know how you feel after a good cry? Empty, neutral - an open space waiting to be filled back up. It's like a fresh start. Everything unessential gets stripped away and all that's left is just, well, me. A reboot.

I spent a lot of time in prayer and meditation in the last 6 months or so. It's the best way I know to meet things like this. In meditation it's about coming back to the moment again and again, being willing to accept what life has given me. In prayer, my focus was less about asking for miracles (although I never would rule them out) and more about asking for help to process the tough feelings. When frustrated by my inability to do any more to ease the situation, I found small things I could do around the house to bring order. I cooked. I couldn't focus on reading much, or working much, or many other of my usual activities; my body seemed to demand that I just sit and let things be. I spent a lot of time out on the front deck watching the birds.

At first I couldn't contain the emotion. I found myself blurting out the news. It was exploding outwards so strongly that I couldn't bear the compassionate hug of someone who cared. That was new. Once the floodgates opened, I discovered feelings I hadn't known were there. Rage. In capital letters. That was a surprise, too. I suspect a lot bubbled up from past angers, using the current emotional upheaval to process some old stuff. 

Yet I knew it didn't matter where these feelings came from. Nor did I need to figure out whose feelings I was feeling. Many of the women in our family are empathic and connected emotionally over long distances. When terror rose at a certain hour of a certain day, I had no idea whose terror I was feeling. But that didn't matter either. It just needed to be experienced.

This helped me realize it's ok to feel cranky, but not so ok to feed the crank. It's okay to cry, but not so ok to dwell on sadness. It's ok to be scared, but not so ok to start a blame story to sidestep the discomfort. The shaking always passes, as does the sadness, anxiety, pain. By spending as much time as I could being in the moment, I was reminded that no matter how uncomfortable, none of these feelings last forever. 

Yet not all the feelings were bad. 

Strange how that works. While difficult feelings did rise, so too did a deeper appreciation of the living energy of the air and trees and birds - the joy and vitality and shimmer of life itself. That cold drink felt more refreshing, the music on the radio that I might otherwise have missed more beautiful. Compassion automatically rose for all those who are struggling. Joy rose when watching the squirrels chase each other, in the complex patterns of a spider web, and in the scent of soup on the stove. Sometimes it felt a bit like a roller coaster - tearful one moment and filled with peace and gratitude the next. Yet all of this gave me a greater sense of our interconnection. The boundaries between me and the world got blurred - in a good way. 

Now that the intensity of the grief has passed, I feel like someone else. A little emptier. A little less interested in the things that occupied my attention before this. A little more interested in being in the moment. Things like this remake us. They give us a chance to be reborn, to pick up whatever pieces are left of ourselves and arrange them in a new order. Or choose not to pick them up quite so urgently. 


Want to hear something nice? 

Months ago, I prayed to my Mom (who died in 1999) to help Mary pass over when her time came. I didn't say anything to anyone or even give it another thought until I got a message from my daughter, "WEIRD. So I'm sitting in the driveway. Just got back from dropping J___ at school. And I saw your mom standing in T___'s yard holding Mary's hand." My daughter isn't interested in metaphysical stuff. This came out of the blue 2 weeks before Mary died. Then a few hours after Mary died, she messaged me again: "Both your parents are with her. BOTH. She had one on each arm. They were walking away. All three. And she was regaining strength as she walked. Holy crow mom. It's like they were walking away from here, helping her and she was frail, and then standing more and more straight, and more and more energetic as they walked away"