Monday, October 24, 2011

The Invitation

                                         (by Oriah)
It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon...
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

Life List

Checking in on my 30 things to do before I'm 30 list... I'm a little more than halfway through but only have one and a half years to go... uh oh. Some of these things are almost definitely not happening in the next year and a half and some of them I'm not really interested in anymore (I did write the list 8 years ago, things have changed a little since then)... but its still interesting to see how I've progressed.

30 things to do before I'm 30...  (newly completed things are in pink)

1. Graduate with my BA

2. See Lifehouse in concert
3. Play in the pit band of a musical
4. Live outside of Ontario for at least 1 year
5. Find the perfect dress
6. Go to Europe
7. Go to South Africa

8. Open a youth drop-in center
9. Fall in love
10. Get married
11. Wear contacts

12. Own a piano
13. See Les Miserables

14. See a musical on Broadway (technically it was off-Broadway... good enough!)
15. Get blue highlights

16. Paint a picture on a canvas
17. Go on a cruise
18. Go on a round the world trip
19. Wax my eyebrows

20. See Rent for a second time
21. Take a photography course
22. Get a Masters degree
23. Watch an entire season of a TV show in one day
24. Buy a car 
25. Sleep under the stars
26. Make a scrapbook for myself
27. Tithe consistantly
28. Work at a job that fulfills me
29. Get a piercing

30. Write a book

Sunday, September 4, 2011

We are in Desperate Need

Do not hold against us the sins of past generations; 
may Your mercy come quickly to meet us, 
for we are in desperate need.                                        - Psalm 79:8

This verse has been in my journal, up on my white board, in my heart for the last 10 months.

Earlier this week my boss was talking about generational trauma. Someone experiences a trauma in their youth and does not know how/is unable to deal with it and lives showing symptoms of PTSD/anxiety/depression as a result. They grow up, have children, and their children are then experiencing the trauma of growing up with a parent struggling with mental health.

When the bible says "He punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation” (Exodus 34:7), I don't believe it actually means God is actively punishing the children. I believe it is a warning that in the world He created sinful acts carry consequences that affect our children and our children's children. In asking God to not hold the sin of past generations against us, we are asking God to break that pattern and release the legacy of bondage that we have been born into. Because we are suffering the effects of that legacy, we beg for God's mercy to fall on us. Quickly. For we are desperate for the freedom only God can bring. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Safe Space

Recently, I've been having trouble shutting off my mind at night. I worry about friends and the young people I work with. Swirling concern about their safety are loud in my head along with questions as to how I can be a support. One night at yoga, as a lay crying in shavasana, a visualization came to me.

An orchard of trees, bathed in golden light, tended to by a loving God. Beside one of the trees is a locked chest which holds securely all of my worried and racing thoughts. From the strong tree branches hang cocoons in which precious souls are sleeping. They are bundled up among blankets and pillows in an egg shaped structure, bound in soft cotton. A warm light comes from inside the cocoon as their glowing hearts rest. They sleep surrounded in safety, comfort, and unfailing love.

I'm certainly no artist, but this is the best rendering I could create:

If you are one I worry about, you too may find yourself resting here.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Rules for Life

One day last week at work we encouraged the youth to think about their rules for life and how they effect the way they live. Having rules to live by guide the choices we make, effect our self-talk, and influence the way we feel and experience life. They are also helpful tools when it comes to decision making. Whatever challenge you are faced with, you can measure it against your rules to see if it will help or hinder your ability to achieve these things and choose the option that will be most helpful on your path. 

Since I am someone who struggles with decision making, and believe that I should practice what I preach, I challenged myself to examine my own rules for life. And here is what I came up with so far...

Rules for Life

1. Every human life is created and cherished by God, treat them that way 
          This means we are all equal and all deserving of love and respect, regardless of life
          choices or circumstances. 

2. Trust that God is present and aware
          I carry with me many questions about why God does or does not intervene in
          situations. Despite this, I trust that God sees everything that happens to His children
          and is present with them in the circumstances.

3. Always act with integrity 
          I was thinking about a lot of different concepts that I try to live by - honesty,
          trustworthiness, loyalty - but I think the idea of integrity embodies all of these. The
          word integrity is derived from the Latin word integritatem, which means wholeness.
          Living with integrity creates an inner wholeness that comes from being congruent in
          thought, word, feeling, and action.

4. Trust your intuition
          This may seem like a hokey concept to some but I've been learning more and more to
          trust the things my spirit knows. John 14:16-17 says, "He will give you another
          Counsellor to be with you forever - the Spirit of truth... you know Him, for He lives
          with you and will be in you". My spirit and the Holy Spirit reside together and bring
          wisdom that should be trusted.

5. We are created for relationships, so invest in them
          Born out of the love of the community of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we are
          created to be in community. This means that our actions affect the whole of the
          human community as we are all connected and that it is of great importance that we
          foster and nurture strong relationships.

I'm curious... what are your Rules for Life?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ten Rules for Brilliant Women

(by Tara Sophia Mohr)

It’s time to step up, brilliant women. Here are ten principles for owning your brilliance and bringing it to the world:
1. Make a pact. No one else is going to build the life you want for you. No one else will even be able to completely understand it. The most amazing souls will show up to cheer you on along the way, but this is your game. Make a pact to be in it with yourself for the long haul, as your own supportive friend at every step along the way.
2. Imagine it. What does a knock-the-ball-out-of-the-park life look like for you? What is the career that seems so incredible you think it’s almost criminal to have it? What is the dream you don’t allow yourself to even consider because it seems too unrealistic, frivolous, or insane? Start envisioning it. That’s the beginning of having it.
3. Gasp. Start doing things that make you gasp and get the adrenalin flowing. Ask yourself, “What’s the gasp-level action here?” Your fears and a tough inner critic will chatter in your head. That’s normal, and just fine. When you hear that repetitive, irrational, mean inner critic, name it for what it is, and remember, it’s just a fearful liar, trying to protect you from any real or seeming risks. Go for the gasps and learn how false your inner critic’s narrative really is, and how conquerable your fears.
4. Get a thick skin. If you take risks, sometimes you’ll get a standing ovation, and sometimes, people will throw tomatoes. Can you think of any leader or innovator whom you admire who doesn’t have enthusiastic fans and harsh critics? Get used to wins and losses, praise and pans, getting a call back and being ignored. Work on letting go of needing to be liked and needing to be universally known as “a nice person.”
5. Be an arrogant idiot. Of course I know you won’t, because you never could. But please, just be a little more of an arrogant idiot. You know those guys around the office who share their opinions without thinking, who rally everyone around their big, (often unformed) ideas? Be more like them. Even if just a bit. You can afford to move a few inches in that direction.
6. Question the voice that says “I’m not ready yet.” I know, I know. Because you are so brilliant and have such high standards, you see every way that you could be more qualified. You notice every part of your idea that is not perfected yet. While you are waiting to be ready, gathering more experience, sitting on your ideas, our friends referenced in rule five are being anointed industry visionaries, getting raises, and seeing their ideas come to life in the world. They are no more ready than you, and perhaps less. Jump in the sandbox now, and start playing full out. Find out just how ready you are.
7. Don’t wait for your Oscar. Don’t wait to be praised, anointed, or validated. Don’t wait for someone to give you permission to lead. Don’t wait for someone to invite you to share your voice. No one is going to discover you. (Well, actually, they will, but paradoxically, only after you’ve started boldly and consistently stepping into leadership, sharing your voice, and doing things that scare the hell out of you.)
8. Filter advice. Most brilliant women are humble and open to guidance. We want to gather feedback and advice. Fine, but recognize that some people won’t understand what you are up to (often because you are saying something new and ahead of your time). Some people will find you to be not their cup of tea. Some will feel threatened. Some people will want to do with your idea only what is interesting or helpful to them. So interpret feedback carefully. Test advice and evaluate the results, rather than following it wholesale.
9. Recover and restore. If you start doing the things that make you gasp, doing what you don’t quite feel ready to do, and being more of an arrogant idiot, you are going to be stretching out of our comfort zone–a lot. Regularly do things that feel safe, cozy, and restorative. Vent to friends when you need to. Acknowledge the steps you’ve taken. Watch your tank to see how much risk-taking juice you have available to you. When it’s running low, stop, recover and restore.
10. Let other women know they are brilliant. Let them know what kind of brilliance you see, and why it’s so special. Call them into greater leadership and action. Let them know that they are ready. Watch out for that subtle, probably unconscious thought, “because I had to struggle and suffer on my way up…they should have to too.” Watch out for thinking this will “take” too much time – when the truth is it always has huge, often unexpected returns.
Clear a path by walking it, boldly.

Monday, June 27, 2011

As I Release You

I pray that you will soar
to great heights on strong wings
but as you leave
I watch you trip and stumble
on your way out the door

I pray for the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change
despite my fear of skinned knees,
broken bones, debilitating injury

I pray that you will not be satisfied with ground-dwelling
that you will not allow yourself to be broken or weighed down
that your eyes will stay fixed on the clouds
and you will keep strengthening your wings
and you will one day soar so high
that this place you left from
will be nothing more than a tiny dot
on your horizon

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both...

The struggle in making a choice is not so much in walking through a door into a new experience but in closing the doors that you are not going to pursue.

When I was born, in my privileged white north american family, I essentially had every possible door open to me, I could do or be anything. As I grew and made choices, doors started to close.

I put my time and energy into reading and music rather than sports, there goes the professional athlete door.

At some forks in the road I was very cognizant of what I would be giving up by making my choice. When I was choosing a university I visited a number of different schools and read about their programs, eventually deciding that UW would best suit my needs and dreams and was aware that by coming here I was not going to those other schools.

As I've been getting older I have become more and more aware that when we are choosing a door there are often other hidden door that we don't, maybe even can't, see at the time. The sum of the choices we make are closing those doors as well, unbeknownst to us.

Every once in a while I come across a closed door that I had not realized my choices had closed, and despite how happy I am with the choices I have made, I feel sad about its loss. As I chose to be one version of myself, I did not always realize that I would be loosing an opportunity to live a different way.

I don't wish that I was aware of every path I would not be able to take when I walk down one, decision making is difficult enough with the options that I do know about, but whenever I realize an opportunity is now closed I can't help but wonder 'what if...'

Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I'm not living. -Jonathan Safran Foer

Monday, May 30, 2011

I'm in that weird and frustrating stage of learning something new
where I know enough to know what I need to do
but am not experienced enough that it comes as second nature
so I miss things and remember that I missed them later on
rather than just being ignorant of my errors
leaving me feeling like I'm doing a poor job

Sunday, May 29, 2011

I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen. [Benjamin Disraeli]

I should not be surprised to discover that my preferred way of travelling is similar to my preferred way of life.

I took a short vacation to New York City over the long weekend. My travelling companion and I had made a list of all we hoped to see and then tried to fit as much of it into our 3.5 days as possible. We moved quickly from place to place snapping pictures and praying that our aching feet would hold out until we sat down for the next meal or fell exhausted into bed at night. From a tourists perspective, we saw it all! However, looking back on the whirlwind it all goes by in a blink of an eye.

And what do I remember? Enjoying a warm chai latte late at night in the middle of Times Square, listening to live music in Madison Square Park, wandering through a craft fair seeking inspiration for future projects.  The times I sat, breathed, and experienced what was going on around me.

Note to my future self: When I travel, like in my every day life, I need space and rest in order to absorb and understand what I have witnessed.

Monday, April 25, 2011

To Whom It May Concern

Why are you so far from me?
In my arms is where you ought to be
How long will you make me wait?
I don't know how much more I can take
I missed you but I haven't met you
Oh but I want to, how I do

Slowly counting down the days
Till I finally know your name
The way your hand feels round my waist
The way you laugh, the way your kisses taste
I missed you but I haven't met you
Oh but I want to, how I do

I've missed you but I haven't met you
Oh how I miss you but I haven't met you
Oh but I want to, oh how I want to
Dear whoever you might be
I'm still waiting patiently

                                                (The Civil Wars)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I myself have never been able to find out what feminism is; I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute [Rebecca West]

I'm generally not one to spend much time on feminist thought... I'm more likely to be interested in issues of poverty and unequal access to resources than I am in gender inequality... I personally can't think of a time where I've felt as though I have been disadvantaged by being a woman, other than occasional hesitations about walking by myself at night or travelling alone (which I by no means think is an OK state of affairs). However, I noticed something today that made me wonder about more subversive forms of gender inequality, and who is playing a part in it.

Today I was at a training session that was attended by around 30 professionals in the mental health and addictions field. As you might be able to guess, in a room full of social service workers, there were about 22 women and 8 men. At one point we were asked to split up into 5 groups and then within our group appoint a representative to speak for us. Four of the groups had at least one male member and in all four of those groups a male acted as the representative.

As I noticed this I took note of how it had happened in my group. There was one male in my group and when we were instructed to pick a representative he was the first to ask "who wants to talk". When the women in the group all looked around in silence he said, "I'll do it". I pointed out what I noticed to a male friend who had been the representative for his group. He replied, "No one else offered to do it".

In both these instances, he wasn't taking the lead away from the women, they were giving it to him. Why didn't any women take the lead (myself included)? Why did we passively sit by and let the men do the stepping up?

Now, being your group's representative at a small workshop is hardly important in the grand scheme of things, but it made me wonder... if women were giving up their power and influence in this environment (a room full of counsellors is probably the safest place you could dream of for putting yourself out there), what other arenas is this playing out in? And as it plays out in arenas with bigger consequences, what effect is that having on our gender and on the world?

As I work with a population of young women, who regularly give away much bigger parts of themselves than their chance to lead a group, these questions are gaining more and more importance for me. What do we need to build up in our young women in order to empower them to be strong and be seen?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice -
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations -
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice,
which you slowly recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do -
determined to save
the only life you could save.
                                                             -By Mary Oliver

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sleep, don't weep, my sweet love...

We all have ways of self-soothing.
Babies can not self-sooth, they are developmentally incapable and rely on their parents to provide the soothing they need. As we grow up the goal is to find appropriate ways to calm ourselves when our emotions threaten to get out of control.
The youth I work with have unhealthy ways of self-soothing. They depend on drugs, alcohol, self harm, and promiscuity. One of the goals of counselling is to help them find healthier ways.
My methods of self-soothing are apparently healthier. My main tactic is watching TV or movies. This week, as I've attempted to give up TV during Lent, I've been forced to find other ways to self-sooth like eating, reading, journalling, or cooking.
But I started to wonder, are these methods really so much healthier than what my clients use when really I should be getting my comfort from God?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

On my bedside table: ROOM by Emma Donoghue

At the end of a year there are always a lot of "best of" lists floating around and at the end of 2010 I noticed that this book, ROOM by Emma Donoghue, was near the top of many best book lists. This was enough to peak my interest and after a quick read of the synopsis I knew I had to read it!

ROOM is told in the voice of 5 year old Jack who lives in an 11x11 room with his mother, a young woman who was kidnapped 7 years ago when she was 19 years old. The idea for the story was triggered by this case.

I stayed up reading this book until 4 am last night! Its been a long time since a story captured me so strongly. Having the story narrated by Jack and exploring a unusual life and major changes in circumstance through his eyes definitely increases the interest level of the story.

However, what really stood out to me is what a great mother he had! It blew my mind how she was able to be so present with him and worked so hard to approximate a normal life through routine and creativity even in the midst of such horrifying circumstances. Although I know this is a fictional story, it created negative feelings in me towards mothers with freedom and access to resources who do not work as hard to create security for their own children. I suppose in the book she had no other priority because Jack was all she had, but shouldn't all children be treated as number one by their parents?

This is definitely a book I recommend :)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Change is the essence of life. Be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become.

I think we underestimate how difficult change is. A change in circumstance is hard enough, but a change in your being? Its going to take all that you've got.

With the youth I work with, often their parents get frustrated with their lack of follow through but I often want to ask them if they've tried to make any changes lately - lose weight, change your diet, go to bed on time, stop being late - its hard enough as adults to make these changes, try to being a teenager trying to stop using an addictive substance!

I have the ability to pursue an opportunity for change at my job. There are warring instincts within me as I consider this chance... one part that is still a student and gets antsy every four months wishing for a change in semesters and another that fears change and questions my worth and ability in the face of every challenge, one part is ambitious and looking towards my future, the other enjoys the comfort and safety of what is known.

The url for this blog is couragelove, when I was doing my practicum placement I had the saying "Courage my Love" posted on my wall and in my agenda to remind me to be brave and to be kind to myself. Perhaps I need to start reminding myself again...