Yes, I Have Changed …

change

Queen Street West, Toronto

I simply could not continue to survive in this world the way I was.

I’m surprised I lasted as long as I did.

Yes, folks, there is such a thing as being too kind, too giving, too compassionate, too forgiving and too loving.

It becomes too much when it is done without regard for oneself; when serving others is prioritized to the point that the giver’s own needs are sacrificed.

What follows is a state of being which is decidedly not spiritual. What follows is the definition of martyrdom. In my case, martyring myself to useless, superfluous and thankless causes.

Take it from one who knows, this mindset attracts the wrong people.  Interestingly enough, this mindset can also extend to attracting the wrong reactions from the right people.

Not a happy place to be in.

In my own personal situation, it was very easy for others to push the right buttons to manipulate me into agreeing with and doing things when my heart and spirit were screaming “NO”!

Simply:

allude to a lack of compassion or hypocrisy;

mention selfishness and sprinkle on a little guilt;

add a dose of “What will other people think?”

And certain characters had me exactly where they wanted me – doing backflips and jumping through ridiculous hoops for their viewing pleasure.

As I look back, I see it was almost comical.

Until it wasn’t.

Until I was so exhausted, and so resentful and so burned out that I did not even resemble the original kind and compassionate person I started out as. All that was left was a threadbare, used up doormat.

So I changed.

I realized kindness and compassion are only authentic when they are first applied to oneself. And this is where boundaries began. Take it from me, there are some things we cannot do for others, because the resulting impact on ourselves is far too great for us to bear. Which brings me to the next point –

Sometimes we will disappoint people, and this is perfectly fine. They will survive it, and so will we.

In the same manner, sometimes we will be misunderstood. Also fine. Things generally become clearer as time passes.

Now we come to the hardest part –

Sometimes when we stand up for ourselves and exercise our right to say “no”, we will not be liked. Not always. But sometimes. I have come to accept this. I have no control over what other people think of me. Their opinion of me is their business – not mine. In the end, a “friendship” that is based on us not being our authentic self by saying “yes” when we mean “no”, is no friendship at all. Rather, it is an “entanglement”, in which both parties are better off without. (Trust me on this one. I spent over 30 years on such an “entanglement” and barely made it out with my heart and spirit still intact).

Over time, I have come to acknowledge that not all people carry positive motives in their hearts; that “acquaintance” is not another word for “friend”; that people can say one thing and in the end do something else entirely; and that, even those who are close, will sometimes make choices that are not in our best interest. I am okay with all of this. I have learned to look after myself and my own needs. This is my job to do. Nobody else’s. I truly am a “grown up”. Finally.

I still believe in love, compassion, kindness, goodness and having a generous heart.

But now, this is tempered with reality.

I  still am a “nice girl”.

But, make no mistake, I am no push-over.

My eyes are wide open.

The Choice of Joy

happy

I choose to walk a path of joy, in all circumstances

I know this is not always easy; that in every life, circumstances come and go. Some are conducive to happiness, while others bring pain.

Yet, still, I choose happiness.

I am committed to finding at least one beautiful blessing in life each day – even if that blessing is as “ordinary” as a warm comfortable bed, a beautiful sunrise, or a lovely gentle breeze on my neck. I want to focus on what is available in the here and now that has potential to bring joy. I want to nurture that joy. And I want to pass it on.

This does not mean there are never days of tears, fears or sadness. It just means that, along with all the other emotions I am feeling, I will also pay attention to the ones that bring a smile to my face. I hope others will smile too.

I choose the road of joy. I hope you will too.

Albert Camus

Loving the Shift

pink sky

What a wonderful, warm summer we are having here in my neck of the world. Pink skies, clear silver moons, and gentle warm breezes are filling the days and nights. How lovely after a few years endured with cold winters and short, overcast summers.

I feel this shift. And I love it.

The past seven years have taught me about shifts; about how there is really nothing to be feared in change; that things are always moving forward and transitioning.

I have come to accept that this constant motion of evolution is healthy. I can no longer imagine a life of no change, or, rather, a life that lacks acceptance to change. (I imagine such a life would be spent with clenched jaw, fixated eyes, and fingers desperately holding on to what has already come and gone)

My (very infrequent) posts since September have eluded to a sense of my own personal life in a transitioning period once more. Nothing major – no big drama or chaos this time – just a subtle and gentle shift of circumstance and focus.

My eldest daughter moved out last September, while my youngest has moved  back in  with our darling little Grandson in tow. My home has once again altered itself. What was recently a very adult home with wine, cheese, and long, deep discussions, has become a busy, slightly tousled abode hosting a busy preschooler with a continual background theme of Kids TV, quick little footsteps, shooting of webs (he’s a Spider Man fan)  and messy kisses.

I embrace this change of circumstance, for I know that nothing lasts forever. The time I am blessed to spend in this chapter of life will be short. Like all seasons are short. Even the ones that last 20 years. At the end of the day, life is short. I am committed to embracing each and every precious moment of it. Even the moment where said youngest daughter’s kitty jumped on the dream car, causing a couple claw scratches by the door handle …. (Yikes!)

Yet still, life is good.

In keeping with the transitional theme, My Magical Garden (which I have written about in a couple previous posts) has been changing too. This year there are less of our wonderful strawberry plants. I thank them for their stay and bless them on their way. They taught me so much about the beauty of letting go of what cannot be controlled.

In their place, Lavender bushes (which were once tiny dry plants I frankly thought would not endure their first winter) are flourishing. Their sweet fragrance makes me smile. Are they here to teach me about hope, endurance, perseverance?

Or are they just here to enjoy – no over thinking or spiritualizing?

Hmmm, maybe they are here for the bumble bees and butterflies. Yes, I think that is it!

Last Friday, I drove to the commuter station in the dream car, roof down and stereo cranking out my favourite 80’s tunes. I arrived early (a novelty these days, so close to vacation time) and had a few extra moments to simply enjoy …. beautiful pink sky, wonderful gentle breeze, awesome full silver moon.

How wonderful to be exactly where I am right now.

How I love this shift.

 

The Dreaded “Shake Up” Call

bird

By this age I have discovered that change is the only constant thing about life.

Our bodies alone are always morphing into something new; over a 24 hour period we loose almost a million skin cells. We were born a  baby, grew to toddlerhood, then childhood, then teenhood, and finally on to adulthood.

These changes are reflected in our lives. Our priorities shift and alter as we pass through the various ages and stages.

And then, of course, there are the changes that are individual to our own personal lives. People come and go. Things that were once so important, become a distant memory. Busy houses filled with children’s laughter become a little quieter and a little more adult.

Sometimes life will take us down paths we would never have chosen for ourselves. We may become

unsettled,

disjointed,

uncomfortable,

confused.

We have experienced a “shake up” call. We become acutely aware that control is an illusion; that certain aspects of life are beyond our command.

What we do have control over, though, is our response to the various happenings life tosses our way.

I have found that when I let go of what I think my life should be, and I accept life as it really is, a tremendous space opens. I now have room to replant and revamp. I have room to enjoy what I previously did not envision.

I know that life sometimes brings suffering. I have suffered myself in the past.

But I have discovered something that has helped; a little shift in perspective that has added insight to what previously may have looked dismal.

I have learned that when I focus on “should be’s”, my life becomes a closed box. But when I open my eyes to the truth of what “really is”, I become free to enjoy and to create new things. And, yes, I also become free to cry things out, to grieve, to be sad. All feelings are normal and natural. I believe in accepting and embracing all emotions before they can be laid down and let go of. Only then are we prepared to truly move forward in peace and confidence. And we are always moving forward. We have no other choice. Time ticks by and propels us into the future whether we are digging our heels in, kicking and screaming or whether we are gently accepting the change.

By all means, I believe in holding on to my dreams. I fight for the future I want.

But I also know that it’s important for me to find ways to love the here and now. And I allow the here and now to assist me in shaping the future.

It’s in the choices I make right now,

It’s the way I endeavour to find beauty and lessons in the present moment,

It’s in those silent prayers of gratitude for what is, what was, and what will become,

It’s in letting go of the preconceived plans of how life should go and embracing the life journey that really exists for me.

By this point in life, I have faith in two things:

The first being my track record for successfully navigating any challenge (or joy, or crisis, or loss) that life has offered so far, is One Hundred Percent. That’s pretty good odds. Please remember that we are all working with these odds;

The second would be, I have complete trust in our Beautiful Creator*. I know that I may have one thing in mind that I believe is good and I believe I want. However, when I let go of what I think I want/need (and I let go of any residual bitterness, anger or resentment at not getting my way), I find I am led to a future that is beautiful beyond anything I could envision for myself. Please understand that I am not saying this facetiously. Some of the paths I have walked have been extremely hard. Yet pressing on has paid off.

At the end of the day, Life itself is gift enough.

In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity – Albert Einstein

*I respect every person’s interpretation of what “Beautiful Creator” would mean. To some, this may be “The Universe”, to other’s “God”, or “Nature”, et cetera.

My Journey Plan for this New Year

If I were to draw a map,

Of the direction I want my spirit to take this year,

It would start and end with Love,

In between would be tolerance,

Non-judgment,

Patience,

And Kindness.

heart

 

Part of my Spiritual Map would be

to continue to learn

how to love and accept myself

just as I am,

Because if I cannot love and accept myself,

How could I possibly legitimately love and accept others?

 

journey

 

In this way,

Boundaries will be a part,

Of my Spirit Journey,

No matter what someone is going through,

Or how a person is doing emotionally,

Nobody has a right

To make another person feel small,

Less-than,

Or hurt,

I will still Love,

Those who are so hurt,

That they feel the need

To pass that hurt on,

I will love them safely

From a distance,

And I will remind myself,

This is the best I can do,

This is enough for me to do.

boundaries

 

Family is an important part of my Journey,

“Charity starts at home” is a key theme,

After all, how could I possibly give to others,

From the heart with pure intentions,

If my own family is left wanting?

 

family

 

There will be music on my Journey,

All kinds of music,

Upbeat, positive and heart-felt.

It will be from all sorts of genres,

Rock, pop, country, gospel,

It would not matter,

Just so long as it speaks to the soul and

Encourages the spirit.

music

 

The only “rules” I will place on my Spirit,

Will be to treat others

With the same love,

Kindness

and respect

That I want to be treated with.

 

I will not participate in theological arguments,

There will be no shunning or ostracizing others.

Coming on-side and journeying with me

Will be a matter of simply living the best one can,

In Love and Kindness.

kindness

 

I’m looking forward to the Journey

My spirit will take this year,

Filled with Love,

From beginning to end.

journey 2

 

 

 

A Snapshot in Time

protest

Two things I love to do each day:

Walk to and from work

Take photos of things that catch my eye.

I love to post the photos I take each day on my facebook. It gives me a running record of happenings and observations. Even the weather from year to year. And I love to look back at the news of the day and what I was noticing at a given time, compared to now.

Today, what caught my eye was the cab driver protest of the uber taxi service. The protestors shut down most of the movement of traffic in the downtown core of Toronto.

Bay and Queen Streets, Toronto, in front of Old City Hall.

A moment in time, caught with my cell phone camera.

I have also taken photos of the wonderful Christmas trees and decorations I encounter each day. One of my favourites:

tree

Commerce Court, Toronto. Taken this morning on my journey in to work.

To date, this has been a wonderful Christmas Season, blessed with wonderful warm weather and beautiful sights to see.

For this, I am grateful.

 

The CN Tower, A Magical Lamppost and Advent Hope

This Christmas Season, I have been enjoying reading through a lovely Advent Reflections book based on The Chronicles of Narnia – a much loved fairy-tale series by C.S. Lewis. If you are interested, here is a link to the book, Advent in Narnia.

I found the readings of this last week very thought provoking. Anyone who has read the Chronicles of Narnia will be familiar with the lamppost which always has light no matter what else is happening. I love the imagery in this. It reminds me of when I am in Toronto and I lose my way, or get a little turned around. I always look for the CN Tower. This tower gives me my grounding and from knowing where it lies in relation to where I am standing, I know what direction to take to get where I am going. I think it’s the same with the lamppost from the fairy tale.

I find it easy to take a leap and apply this to my spiritual walk. I know that Jesus and his Word are always there to lead me when life gets confusing and even when painful things happen. The thing is, no matter what else is happening in my life, family, surrounding friends and community or the larger world, Christmas still comes each year. It comes and is a wonderful reminder that Jesus was born, that God loves us and that, ultimately, whatever is happening, it will be okay. Not necessarily okay in a way that is exactly how we would choose things to be. But okay in the sense that God has us well in hand, and when we turn things over to Him, He can transform them the same way that Aslan (an amazing Lion from the fairy-tale) could transform an instrument of destruction used by the White Witch (another character from the story), into a beautiful ever-burning lamppost.

The first set of readings has fanned the embers of hope within me – which is the whole theme of this week of Advent. Hope. Hope for my own spiritual growth and reconciliation with church. Hope for my family and any friends who are struggling. Hope for the people I meet in the community. And Hope for our world, that Peace will come and Love will overcome all the struggles and dissention that has been present in the news lately.

Hope is a good place to be at this moment, as the journey continues through Advent 2015.

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