There is No Pity Party Here

Yesterday evening I received a message from a well-meaning friend. She went on quite a bit about the latest antics of my Wild Child (my youngest who I blogged about Here.)

How I must be “suffering”, my friend lamented, at the “odd” behaviour of my free spirited hippie baby girl. How “horrible” for her to not attend the latest family event. Then the whole diatribe was summed up with the not so subtle accusatory statement on my “silence” regarding this episode, which I suppose was odd as well. Why ever would I have not yet contacted her to discuss all the sordid details of my latest apparently very public and extremely strange family drama!

My reply to her was short. We are doing fine as a family. We are no more nor less disfunctional than any other family out there, truth be told. In fact, I believe we put the proverbial “fun” in disfunctional!

And now I am taking to blogging over this, because I know in my heart this issue is simply an advanced form of the same old “Mommy bashing “ I and others experienced with our toddler and preschooler delights tantruming in grocery stores, at schools, and appearing in line-ups everywhere, to a rapt audience of “perfect “ on-lookers who have never seen the likes of such a scene. (Ya, right! You know you are secretly thanking god it’s not you this time and, in fact, you know it probably WILL be you next time!) But I digress. My point is as follows.

First of all, no one member of this family holds the key to control the ENTIRE emotional temperature of the rest of us. Yes, we care about and love each other. But we are healthy enough to know we are each separate individuals and we don’t judge ourself on the other member’s behaviour. We accept our differences. We may not like and support the other person’s actions, so we are quite willing to hand over the consequences of unacceptable behaviour to the person at fault. Hey, maybe we even need to distance ourselves for a while. But make no mistake, when the chips are down, each member returns to their roots. My hubby and I just received a call from said wild child alerting us to the fact that her sister needed us and was trying unsuccessfully to get in touch with us. And then she gave us a curt “good bye” hanging up promptly. Perfect, we are not, but family we will always be.

Secondly, to my concerned friend (and anyone else who feels beyond reproach enough to offer an opinion), please give me the courtesy and space to figure out and experience my OWN feelings. Maybe I am reserving judgment on my Wild Child because I want to wait and see how things progress over time. As my beloved late Father in Law used to say, “You don’t know if something is a good thing, or a bad thing. In the end, only time will tell”.

And, you know what else? This instance of a family member missing an event is only ONE THING in a plethora of happenings occurring in our life. Many events are actually very wonderful. For instance, my eldest daughter is marrying this May and she just achieved her Masters in Education. Not to mention the fact she has held a full time job for the last 8 years. I would describe this as a successful launch into adulthood! Something to rejoice and be happy about! Let me also mention, that at this up-coming wedding, I have my own very special friends and former bridesmaids in attendance! How blessed am I to have kept connections throughout a lifetime with these wonderful women! Oh, and this July? My hubby and I celebrate 30 years of marriage – for better and for worse, we honoured that, all of that, and we are still together. Something to be proud of, I would say.

I could go on and on about happy blessings, but I won’t. At the end of the day, my life is as beautiful as it is difficult. And may I suggest, if we were all honest, this is true of everyone. So let us all suspend judgement on each other’s families and the situations that arise within them, and instead let’s just replace all this with grace. Let’s call each other, of course. But let us simply say hello and ask how the other is doing.

Let us give each person the grace and space to narrate their own story.

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I Have Retired!!!!

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But before anyone brings out a cake, I must clarify – I have not retired from my work. At 55 I feel I am at the top of my game and still have a lot to contribute. Plus, I love getting up each morning and heading off to work – the people, the satisfaction … the paycheque!!!  No, it`s not that type of a retirement. However, at this age, I have finally retired from some things that have been dogging me for years. They are as follows:

I have retired from Meaningless Drama and the People that Cause it

Lets face it, some people are only happy when they are centre stage. And to ensure this position, they are more than willing to create many incarnations of the same old sh*t storm and pull you right into the middle of it! (Be honest. I know you know such people!) I have put in my notice to them and all their nonsensical drama. I wish them well, and am continuing on my own journey of peace and sensibility. There is no room or time left in my life for irrelevant issues. No, I will not be laying awake tonight, crying into my very comfortable pillow over them and their self-created soul-sucking cyclones. At this age, I need all the beauty sleep I can get!

I have retired from spending time and energy in places and with people I would rather not interact with

It`s nothing personal, but you are either my people or you are not. Period. I  no longer feel the need to justify why I don`t enjoy certain company. I just don`t.  It is what it is. And I will no longer, out of politeness or a misplaced sense of duty, be accepting invitations that I really do not want to be a part of. It`s a waste of my time as well as the other person`s time. And it`s phoney. I`m well aware that I most likely have less years left than years I have lived. I want to spend this time with the people I enjoy, doing activities that bring me joy. It`s as simple as that.

I have retired from worrying about all the What If`s

It seems to me that I have wasted too much precious time worrying about the future (what if I lose my job! or my house! or my relationship! or all three!!!), worrying about how I am presenting myself (what if people don`t like me!) worrying about how well I am doing (What if I`m not the best mom, wife, employee, friend)  etc, etc, etc ad nauseam! Truth be told, I have majored in the art of worrying my whole life. Like, I have a doctorate in it! (Flexibly Worrying, PhD!) I am ready to leave this tendency in the dust. It occurs to me that throughout my life, most of what I have worried about NEVER HAPPENED! And the times that difficult things happened were situations that I NEVER ANTICIPATED! They blind-sided me! And, to be clear, I hold a 100 percent survival rate over each and every one of these disastors! Those are some amazing odds! So, to Life, I say: Bring it! I`ve got this!

And finally,

I have retired from being hurt over unfair and hurtful treatment from other people

At the end of the day, not one of us is perfect; not me, not you, not any one of us humans. So, I am quite content to boomerang any hurtful behaviour right back to the source of it. Not one ounce of my self esteem depends on anyone else`s opinion of me, or their treatment of me. I know enough now to not take personal the behaviour of other people. I am responsible for me; you be responsible for you. You do you. I`ll do me. And that`s the end of it.

Truth be told, I did not enter my 50`s on a happy note. I was so down about aging, wrinkles and grey hair. But, as I am half way through this decade (unbelievably, time goes so fast!) I am loving and embracing it. I have worked hard, built an adult life, and learned so much. I know how much I can survive and I know how strong I am. I would not trade my life now for any other decade. Freedom 55! I am loving it!

Laurie

My Quirky Fun Little Family of Bloggers

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My eldest daughter has become a blogger! I could not be more proud. And, now, her latest entry has gotten so many views (If you would like, you can view it here!)

How I love the perspective my daughter’s words bring. Her writing emphasizes our connection, yet from differing vantage points – the view of a baby boomer and that of a millennial.

Her latest blog discusses milestones so many of the 20-somethings are facing. And I have to say, I am so proud of her strong and courageous perspective! She remains true to herself as she navigates the sometimes stormy waters of age-mates getting married and settling down, when this is something she is not yet ready for.

I recall myself, at the tender age of 23, and the social group I was involved with as a result of my then-boyfriend (and now husband!) They were all getting engaged, married, buying houses and having babies. I was still so excited about my job as a legal secretary for a “Bay Street” law firm, and my lovely little apartment at Yonge and Eglinton in Toronto (coined “Young and Eligible” at the time!) Eventually, their constant domestic conversations overwhelmed me. After all, we were still so young! I asked myself, was this all there was to life now? All the anticipation of growing up culminates in this?

I recall one New Year’s Eve in particular, where we were all together. In keeping with what had become customary, the boys were in one group talking and the girls in another. The female conversation quickly turned to the usual – who is getting married next? Who is preggers now? What is the best choice – breast feeding or formula? Ugggg! I finally reached my limit! With a large dose of frustration, and a wee bit of liquid courage, I dared to say the unsayable: “Is this all we are going to talk about from now on? Is this the only thing we have in our life now? Marriage and babies? That’s it?”

Well, let me tell you, the silence dropped like a bomb. It was like a brick descending on me with such force to knock me out. Multiple saucered eyes turned my way and stared wordlessly. And finally the silence was broken with this icey-toned comment: “You have a problem with marriage and babies??? You don’t want that?????” A quick exchange of horrified looks, then more curious silence followed, eyes still fixed on me – the aberration of nature apparently. Suffice it to say, what a damper that was to the evening. I was left feeling that there was something seriously wrong with me. And I vowed to keep my mouth shut moving forward. After awhile, the ladies resumed their conversation, this time subtly excluding me.

I am so glad my daughter is in a better place than I was so many years ago!

Flash forward to 2017, and I actually did become a married lady (29 years in the next few weeks!) and I did manage to have the standard two kids, with the beautiful home – and even a lovely grandchild thrown into the mix!

But, I am thrilled to announce, that was not all there was to it!!!

Though raising my children turned out to be the most enjoyable job of my life – there were other careers!!!! And each has enriched my life so much in so many different ways! I have grown and met new people and learned new lessons and enjoyed all of my years, including those parts that had nothing at all to do with my husband and marriage and children! How very blessed I am!

So, I was so thrilled to read that my daughter is looking forward to a future that includes, yes, marriage and children, but also SO MUCH MORE! And the huge thing for me is, she feels quite free and confident to voice this! How incredible! What a leap from my night so many years ago.

I am so incredibly proud and grateful.

Please check out her blog!

Breathe Past it

Once upon a time in yoga class, we were laying in savasana and the instructor guided us to breathe into each part of our body. She advised that, should we have an injury, no matter how old, to breathe past it. Breathe past it to a time before the injury, when there was no pain.

Today I paid a visit to my home of nearly 30 years ago – the place where I came of age. I walked the surrounding familiar streets, stood outside my former apartment building, and sat in the green space behind it. And I breathed. I breathed past it all. Past 29 years.

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I breathed past disappointments in myself and others;

I breathed past “what ifs”;

I breathed past struggles, hurt, anger and all the other baggage-injuries that 29 years can hold.

I sat as I did as a 20 year old. Full of youthful confidence, strength and hope for the future.

I was just quietly myself.

How lovely. I found the essence of me.

Such peace.

Such healing.

I decided right then and there –  I am taking this me back as I leave.

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Friday Afternoon Gratitude

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It’s a rainy, dark, chilly and dismal day here in my neck of the woods. Yet, I love a rainy day! And I was able to score some time off of work leaving the hectic schedule behind to pause and simply be grateful.

Lately, it seems I have focussed too much on what has gone awry in my life. “My former church hurt me, it was so unfair, now what …” But, you know what? It’s time to leave all that behind. Life rarely goes as planned. And why waste time and energy meditating on things and people that went wrong? With a little change in perspective and a slight shift in direction, unplanned circumstances can lead to wonderful places. This, in all actuality, is what has happened. I need to remember that.

So, here I am today, making Coq au Vin in my slow cooker and anticipating a lovely night in with a dear friend who has become like a sister to me. I’ve messaged back and forth with the precious grown up daughters, and with the hubby. Life is good!

I realize how very blessed I am. It seems the small events and happenings all add up to a wonderful life. I couldn’t go another day without acknowledging this.

And now I look forward to the future.

My New Year’s Wish for All of Us

A few days ago, I was at McDonald’s and had ordered our darling grandson a Happy Meal. He was jumping around, looking at everything and everyone. And when the meal came, he was SO EXCITED about the little toy inside. He jumped up and down and gave a little “whoop”! One lady passed by us and said: “I want to be as happy as he is”! And I thought about that. This is what I want for myself and for all of us in 2017 – to be happy, joyful, excited; to notice the little everyday small blessings that occur and to be so excited and thankful for them! Life lessons from the little ones are the best lessons of all!

Now New Year’s day has come and gone, and I think a good way to start off is to set some intentions. I did this last year, and upon review, noticed writing them down helped me to assess how things were going 6 months down the line.

So, without further ado, here is my 2017 list:

  1. I want to reconnect with my faith. Anyone who has read this blog will know that a few years ago I suffered a deep hurt within my former church. I have noticed that unfortunately, this has caused me to disconnect a bit with God. And I’ve realized that what happened in the church had nothing to do with God. It was not God’s will. It was not something God permitted in order to “teach” or “refine” me. It was an unfortunate and very human event. Period. It’s time now to reconnect with the Divine. To accomplish this, I am setting the intention to read a bit of the Bible each day. Even if that means one verse. I believe this will reignite my faith. I also believe this will further contribute to my spiritual healing.
  2. I want to care even less about what other people think of me. Not that I don’t want to be social. Of course I do. And of course I want to get along with people. But, at this age, I realize that a life lived to please others is not a life fully lived. I am responsible for my choices and the consequences thereof. I want to live as I please so far as it causes no harm to anyone else. As a former “people pleaser”, I believe this intention will further contribute to my healing.
  3. I want to find a way to help others outside of a church/religious environment. Maybe I will take a turn at a food bank. Maybe I will give a gift card to a homeless person. Maybe I will sit and listen to someone who needs to be heard. I would like my heart to be open to these opportunities.
  4. I want to return to my yoga practice. I have been busy for the last couple of years helping my daughter raise my wonderful grandson. But I realize I need to build in some time for myself again. A lovely friend has signed me up for a yoga class starting this month, and I intend to carve this time out for me.
  5. I want to continue to support and love this little family. I can’t think of anything more worthy to do. As Mother Teresa said: “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”

I wish everyone a lovely successful and joyful new year. May all your dreams for 2017 come true! vicky-and-laurie-2

 

No Nonsense Guide to Compassion

Shoving your own needs and dignity aside in the name of feeling sorry for someone else, is NOT an act of compassion. In fact, it can be the most uncompassionate stance to take for all parties involved! 

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Hey! Guess what?

I do not feel sorry for people anymore! And I realize that “feeling sorry for” is NOT a synonym for compassion.

Where is this coming from?

Well … I have been struggling for quite some time now, with a wibbly-wobbly exit from a very unhealthy long-term “friendship” (read “entanglement”). I blogged about it here. Sometimes I feel like I have been caught up in a giant sticky spider web where escape is one heck of a struggle and can only be reached through a series of strategic maneuvers! Yikes!!! Yes … I know this sounds all so very dramatic. But, in my defence, the whole situation has gone on too long.

Anyhow, as I work my way out of this, I have been considering what factors landed me here in the first place. You see, I want to take responsibility for the part I have played. I sense that this accountability is a very important part of healing. Through reflection, I have discovered that a big contributing factor has been my tendency to show compassion through “feeling sorry for”. I now realize how very  inappropriate, harmful and destructive this tendency really is.

This is what I have learned.

When I feel sorry for someone, it’s almost like I am saying that there is something lacking in them and their life. It’s like I put myself above them – “Oh, here I am with everything all worked out and an amazing life, and here is this person who just can’t seem to get it together. Poor dear! She just doesn’t have what it takes to get herself out of her own messes. I am wiser. I know her answers.”

You know what? I don’t have everything worked out. My life is as amazing as it is brutal. Just like everyone else in the world. I struggle through my own self-created messes like we all do. Like the person I feel sorry for does. Hey, we all have our own burdens to bear. That’s life. And it’s our own unique responsibility and privilege to work and struggle through difficult issues. After all, it is through the struggles of life that we gain maturity and become the people we were born to be.

So how was it ever appropriate for me to usurp this growth opportunity from My Enfranglement (my new mix-up word for “friend” and “entanglement”)? Never! Her issues were a gift that Beautiful Life offered to her in order to guide her along her own spiritual path.

Now, to be sure, My Enfranglement plays her part well. She is quite adept at drawing people in through sympathy. Somehow others are left feeling a little uneasy and as if they are owing her something. She also chronically uses words like “depression” or “anxiety” to excuse really bad, rude and hurtful behaviour.* This is just how she is. But just because she invited me to the party, does not mean that I needed to attend!

I realize now, that a more compassionate response would have been to be completely honest with her. I could have ended this decades ago. I could have had the courage to confront her with her inappropriate behaviours and unrealistic expectations. I could have told her the truth: I did not enjoy her company. I was discouraged by her constant biting remarks. I was frustrated by how she would ignore my personal boundaries. I disliked the animosity she seemed to create between my family members. I am going to get super real now, okay? The truth is I never particularly liked her. I simply “felt sorry for” her and, subsequently, believed that I had to be her friend. I didn’t like to disappoint. I wanted to be seen as a kind person.  I didn’t like to say “no”. I didn’t want to seem mean. Etc., etc., etc. For me, it was a relationship based on my own ego insecurities which were driving me to prove I am a worthwhile person because I am a good and faithful friend. The idea of standing up for myself brought fear that others would not see me as caring. This was not good. This was not compassionate for either of us. And I accept my share of responsibility for the whole crap-show that has ensued as a result.

On a positive note, though, I have been gifted with an important Life Lesson. I now know the truth about Compassion – what it is and what it is not.

Compassion has nothing to do with shoving one’s own rights and feelings under the carpet in order to patronize someone who frankly will never be happy and will never treat me right.

Compassion is brave enough to put the kibosh on inappropriate behaviour before it implants itself in someone’s brain as a way of relating to me.

Of course everyone is responsible for their own behaviour and their own choices. But, if I had have known how to be truly compassionate years ago, I could maybe have influenced My Enfranglement in a more positive direction. Even if that influence came by way of ending the relationship. Even if that influence meant she was displeased with me and took a temper tantrum. Even if that influence resulted in other people not understanding how I could be so “cold”. True, real and responsible compassion would have been difficult and scary. But you know what? It would have saved decades of grief. And the alternative, “feeling sorry for”, has resulted in nothing but hurt for both of us.

So, here we are – back at the beginning. I do not feel sorry for people any more!

I do, however, feel great compassion for others.  Should you need:

  • a listening ear?
  • a hand-up if you trip?
  • some tea and a dose of encouragement?
  • a hug?

well, I am your girl!

If, however, there’s a pity party happening, I will not be available. I no longer have the heart to do that to either of us.

Wow! I wish I could have realized this 30 years ago!

* (With respect to my use of the words “depression” and “anxiety”, please understand that I am in no way diminishing the importance of understanding and addressing these issues, in their legitimate form. I have suffered from both myself … but that’s another blog entry).