Thursday, December 31, 2015

Highlights from 2015

I like making these lists every year. Helps me remember.

  • Turned 35! Half way to 70! I fell ill on my birthday so we didn't do anything fantastic. We did have a quiet brunch and chatted. 
  • Went to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra for a Mozart recital. 
  • Went to a Dance Dance Party Party session. It was amazing! Need to go more next year. 
  • Joined the Toronto Modern Quilt Guild
  • Finished some quilt tops
  • Made a quilt for Jadyn
  • Made table toppers as gifts for the family
  • Had a sewing day with Sarah at the store. 
  • Went to a couple of TMQG sewing days. 
  • Learned that Creative people need to Create
  • Took Lisa Congdon's class on Creative Bug
  • Took the How to Design Fabric class on Creative Bug
  • Watched Cirque du Soleil's Varekai
  • Went to a U2 Concert
  • Came across this quote: Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. -  Howard Thurman
  • Tasted baklava all the way from Turkey
  • Tasted Japanese green-tea crepe cake
  • Tried to look for the good in the everyday. Sometimes I could see it. 
  • Acknowledged the ME inside me that I have not let out. Realized I had to and began to work on that. 
  • Learned to have courage.
  • Got hooked on Game of Thrones
  • Received an email from a friend who said she enjoyed reading my blog and found it inspiring. 
  • Went to the Neil Diamond Concert and heard Neil Diamond do Sweet Caroline Live! This was on my 40 Things to Do before I Turn 40 List!  (Yaaay!)
  • Met my cousins who were travelling on this side of the globe. Was so wonderful to see them. 
  • Our friends visited us from Arizona and we got to meet their son for the first time. 
  • Ate better sushi. Was so good! 
  • Got a Wacom Intuos Pen and Touch Small Tablet! Bryan picked it up for me. :)
  • Went home for my mum's 70th birthday
  • Saw my family and hung out with my little nephew
  • Spent some quality time with both my brothers.
  • Saw my Hugo and played with him
  • Met my closest friends. 
  • Went to Lalbagh when I was back in Bangalore and managed to see some birds I hadn't encountered before. 
  • My friend who was ill passed away. 
  • Got to visit with her this summer. Was able to speak with her about life and death.
  • Visited with my grand aunt who has been I'll for 5 years. She passed away this year. 
  • Went to Dancing on the Pier at the Harbourfront Centre.
  • Read The Sparrow.
  • Read Barbara Brown Taylor's Learning to Walk in the Dark 
  • Read Miriam Greenspan's Healing Through the Dark Emotions: The Wisdom of Grief, Fear, and Despair 
  • Read Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry The Little Prince
  • Re-read Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Comedy, Tragedy and Fairytale
  • Went to Niagara-on-the-Lake
  • Rode a bicycle after 15 years! 
  • Spent a lot of time in IKEA.
  • Made huge home improvements - bought a new couch, bed, kitchen cart, tables and shelf. And the IKEA cart that I had my eyes on for about 3 years now. 
  • Got new tables for my workspace and so enjoying it. 
  • Bought a new phone and loving it. 
  • Went to the Belt Line and the Brick Works
  • A couple of our friends moved to Toronto and it's been great having them here.
  • Went to Thanksgiving Dinner with them. 
  • Went to the cottage. 
  • Sat by the lake for many hours. It was a very calming experience. 
  • Learned that I need to live in more open space. 
  • Learned that I now need solitude. 
  • Learned that I needed to find and make friends with people with whom I can share my interests. 
  • Began to learn to draw. 
  • Learned that drawing is about re-drawing.
  • Reminded myself that the only way I can get good at it is by doing it. Your first 100 or even thousand drawings are going to suck so you might as well get them out of the way! 
  • Moved from wanting to achieve great results immediately to experience the thing itself. 
  • Bryan bought me a bunch of drawing books.
  • I bought some drawing pencils and sketchbooks. Good fun! 
  • Took a bunch of Skillshare classes. 
  • Took the drawing class on Craftsy I bought in 2014 and can tell it has made a difference. 
  • Made some good meals in the year. 
  • Had surgery to have fibroids removed. Everything went well. 
  • Had my first surgery and first hospital stay. Quite enjoyed the hospital stay. Very relaxing. 
  • Got to spend two months at home recovering. LOVED IT! 
  • Bryan took care of me post-surgery and was wonderful. It has brought us closer. 
  • Bryan and I have had many brutally honest conversations this year. We've had to face many questions, uncertainties, and our own failings. I think we are growing as individuals and as a couple. 
  • Hung the Christmas wall hanging I started making in 2013.
  • Went to The Power Plant at the Harbourfront Center. Saw the Black Cloud Exhibition by Carlos Amorales. 
  • Hung out at the Harbourfront Centre and saw the other visual arts exhibitions. Enjoyed my time. 
  • Walked a little more in my neighbourhood.
  • Saw good work at The Black Cat. 
  • Did more Yoga this year. 
  • Quit therapy.
  • Learned that I need to create and make art. And that it might just help me find what I am looking for. 
  • Went to a Rock Eucharist - and felt that God held my face and told me it was ok. I could stand up now.
  • Got a Fitbit! Hit the 10,000 steps goal on one day before I had surgery. Hope to do it more in the new year. 
  • Went to the Drawing, je t'aime exhibition at the AGO. 
  • Became members at the AGO.
  • Ate at a dumpling place at China Town. Was an amazing experience.
  • Went to the Ritz-Carlton for Christmas brunch. Was delicious!!!
  • Watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens on IMAX 3D. First time in an IMAX theatre and oh my god! It was something else!
  • Went to the Spadina Museum.
  • Had our friends over for New Year's eve. Stayed up with them till 4am eating, drinking, talking,  singing and laughing. Loved it. 
  • This year I am feeling like I have more of that things I want than I used to. I have for a long time felt somewhat impoverished. This year I don't feel like that so much. I feel fuller. 
  • I learned something about my body - that she is healthy. young and strong. She carried me through my surgery and recovered so well. 
  • I think I am learning to change the way I look at my body. This is a good thing. 
  • I learned that I need to go through the world with the awareness that I am young, healthy and amazing! :)
  • I learned that I don't need to apologize for who I am. 
  • I learned that I need to be kinder to myself. 
  • I learned that I need to Imagine Better. 
  • I learned that I need more movement in my life. I need to experience more physical movement. Especially spiritually - my Christian upbringing places too much emphasis on cerebral and abstract experience. I've realized I need to have a more physical and tangible spiritual practice. 
  • I've realized I need to DANCE! 
  • This year I learned that I need to operate from a strong centre - from a strong self. I have, for most of my life, operated from the middle. I try hard to meet people half way but the result is usually that I can bulldozed. I end up doing what other people want to do. I am moving away from the middle now and to my self. Being more assertive and going after what I want. In time I will move back to the centre but at that time I will be a stronger Self. 
  • This year's focus - Courage - has given me next year's focus - MY SELF. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Spadina Museum

I love old houses. Visiting the Spadina Museum has been on my list for a while now. Glad I finally did it. I don't know why these things get put aside for so long. It's not an expensive tour. Maybe I wanted to go with Bryan and it didn't quite work out. These days are go alone if I want to. A friend did go with me but I was all set to go alone. It's very freeing.




Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Drawing, je t'aime

I have been teaching myself to draw these past few months so I was excited to see the Drawing, je t'aime exhibition at the AGO. Now that I am learning to observe and understand lines, shapes and forms it was wonderful to see that drawings of the masters.

More on this on my Happy Turtle Designs Blog: Drawing, je t'aime

We also became members at the AGO so I'm looking forward to spending time there next year! :)




Something Happened

Something Happened by Jane Martin at the AGO

From my notebook:
At the AGO
December 23, 2015

I'm looking at Jane Martin's Something Happened.
I looked at the drawings first. They seemed to be of a man who was ill and fading away. I felt a little anxious. I thought, "Oh... this is not good". I read the title - Something Happened - and I knew this work was about grief and loss. And instantly I was transported to my own. To the hospital room where my father died, to the tubes, and his own fading away. I felt my chest tighten and my hands tingle.


The artist took polaroids of her husband during his illness and many years later she drew these drawings. And many years later I sit in front of her drawings at an Art Gallery and my own grief from my father's death 11 years ago is unbearable. 

We have this in common, the artist and I. We have both watched and cared for a loved one as they died slowly. I remember my father's body - how it became only bare bones and skin to keep his form in space. His white strong teeth now so prominent in his face that had lost its fullness. 

He moved slowly. He couldn't do very much. This man who did everything. This man who was so strong. 

Something Happened by Jane Martin at the AGO

Every time I see someone who does something with their grief - I think I should too. Death, loss, bereavement - these are all human experiences. We like to talk about love, happiness, births and weddings - why don't we give pain, grief and death the same place in our lives? We don't like to talk about it, we want to move on as quickly as possible, keep busy so we forget. But we never do. We never forget. Not in our lifetime. 

Maybe, like artists, writers and musicians, if we took the time to engage our grief, experience it in its fullness, see it for what it is and not be afraid to express how we feel, maybe we wouldn't walk around for the rest of our lives with open wounds. 

Maybe we will find healing - true healing. Not the numbness that time sometimes brings. 


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Courage in 2015

My theme for 2015 was Courage. 

I was a little afraid to take this on. There are no easy ways to learn life's lessons and I wasn't sure what I would have to deal with to learn it. Thankfully nothing crazy. I did have major abdominal surgery this year so I think that's something. I've never had surgery before and I think I dealt with it well. I was calm and good to my caregivers. And smiled through it. So that was good.

I didn't pursue courage as intentionally as I would have liked to - I often lost sight of it. I had a pretty rough winter in the beginning of the year and that threw me off.

I am affected by the change of seasons and winter 2015 was very difficult for me. I went into the year somewhat hopeful but was faced with a lot criticism and judgement from the past. It was also a busy semester for Bryan so I didn't see much of him. I think I got very lonely and sad and questioned my life, my work, and my dreams. I do this on a regular basis but it got really intense this year.

I thought I was heading into depression. It was really very difficult. Some days I was afraid I would just stop. I remember feeling like I was only seeing darkness. I wasn't able to open my eyes fully. They would flutter open and I only saw dark, dark grays.

But, I made it through. And when I finally met the psychiatrist to be evaluated she said her hunch was that I might have cyclothymia - a mood disorder that causes emotional ups and downs. She suggested mindfulness practice to help with it and talk therapy.

I quit therapy this summer - it had gotten to a strange place and I didn't feel comfortable going any more. I've been doing well so far but I do tend to get down during the winter so I wonder if I should find another therapist. We'll see.

I'm putting this out there because it's important to tell both sides of the story and maybe, now and then, tell a secret.

“What we hunger for perhaps more than anything else is to be known in our full humanness, and yet that is often just what we also fear more than anything else. It is important to tell at least from time to time the secret of who we truly and fully are . . . because otherwise we run the risk of losing track of who we truly and fully are and little by little come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the real thing. It is important to tell our secrets too because it makes it easier . . . for other people to tell us a secret or two of their own . . . ” ― Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets

We only hear the good stories, see the happy pictures of fun and laughter and travel. We don't hear what it is like to live each day, deal with the stresses of life, the disappointments and sadness. Live with all the evil and grief there is in the world.

These stories must be told too.

And that takes courage.

So maybe - I did learn to be courageous after all. Maybe I learned to face up to my own sadness and weaknesses. Maybe I learned to seek help when I needed it. Maybe I learned that my story is important and I need to tell it.

I learned a little bit more about God this year. I forget that I did but when I read the posts from the year I can see I did.

I had the courage to accept that God is sometimes absent. That God is not in control - not necessarily out of  a weakness but maybe because he chooses not to control everything. And that maybe, control isn't everything anyway.

I had the courage to search for the ME hidden inside me and want to be that ME. The courage to face up to that person.

I decided that I will no longer be a pleaser. That I will no longer show up as the people in the room want me to show up - or my perception of who they want me to be. I decided I would be who I am.  

I am finally, after 35 years, being courageous enough to say, that I am the most important thing in my world. Not in a selfish way but in an honest way. It's the truth really. Each of us, when it comes down to it, is all we've really got. In the end, when we die, it will be just us. We could be surrounded by friends and family and knowing that will be helpful I'm sure, but we face death alone. So why, do we not think it important to invest in our Self while we are alive? Why do we not build this Self up to face life and death? 

I think the people who I really admire have understood something about themselves and about life's great mystery.

We must look in if we are to meaningfully look out.

Courage is a life long lesson and I think I should pursue it more intentionally as I go along.

Some highlights:
  • Learned that I need to spend time building my SELF.
  • Have the courage to go inward. 
  • There has been less negativity in my life. This is actually an amazing thing for me! :)
  • Began the process of emotional alchemy.
  • Decided to take control of my life and actions and stop blaming or waiting for someone else to "save" me. 
  • Became stronger
  • The path became clearer. 
  • Have a plan to follow my dreams in 2016 (more on that as the year goes by)
  • Was able to see that I am really quite an amazing human and I should live my life believing that. 
  • I became more assertive this year. I said and did what I wanted to instead of what I felt obligated to do. 
  • Had the courage to let go of some friendships.
  • Learning to experience life as life - as experience. Learning to see that I have an opportunity through my experiences to learn something I wouldn't be able to learn otherwise. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

A Moment Earlier this Year

I should have blogged about this when it happened. I want to however write about it now so I don't forget it happened.

We were at the Rock Eucharist earlier this year at The Church of the Redeemer and the Wine Before Breakfast Band was playing and they featured the music of Tracy Chapman.

We were a little late but they were playing Talkin' Bout A Revolution when we walked in.

Later Sylvia Keesmaat spoke and I felt like she was speaking to me. When did you stop talking about a revolution she said. When did you get so worn out by it that you stopped.

I wish I had a recording of her sermon or I had blogged about this earlier.

She made me see that I was not the only one despairing. She made me see that we needed to keep talking, keep working. keep believing.

They played Start All Over.

I can't remember the details but at one point during the service I felt like God was holding my face, and telling me it was ok. Telling me that the dark night of the soul had passed, that he would now be present, that I could stand up again.

They played I'm Ready for communion. And I felt like I was being baptised.
Like the rivers of grace had washed over me and God said, You can stand up now.




Saturday, December 19, 2015

Black Cloud by Carlos Amorales


I've been meaning to go to The Power Plant to check out their Visual Arts Exhibitions. I finally did and was very happy to see this one. It's a spectacular installation of 30,000 paper moths!
It's stunning!

Also blogged on: When in Toronto

Friday, November 13, 2015

Letter to my Body


Thank you for carrying, housing, holding and journeying with me these past 35 years. We have been through everything together You and I. And now here we are. You have carried me well through this surgery. You healed well, reacted and responded so well to treatment. I was weak, but you were very strong. Healthy, 35 year old body - I don't give you enough credit. 

Please forgive me. I have treated you badly. Criticized you and hated you. But you have carried me for my whole life. I promise to love you and care for you like you have cared for me. 


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Myomectomy

It's been six days since my surgery and I am grateful to be recovering well. I had a myomectomy to remove some rather large fibroids. One of them, the doctor said, was the size of a small watermelon!!
The surgery went well and I quite enjoyed my time in hospital. It was really nice to be cared for. The nursing staff at  St. Joseph's hospital were so lovely. It was all very relaxing. I did have to deal with screaming babies the one night I was there but other than that it was quite enjoyable. ☺
I think a lot of that has to do with the pain pump they hook you on to. This is the best thing ever!! You can give yourself a shot of the pain killer when you need it. Goes straight into your IV!! It's caliberated to administer small doses at a time, and only as much as you are allowed, so you can't over do it. It really makes recovery so much easier. The c-section moms can't have it so must be really hard on them!
I'm grateful that everything went well. My surgeon is excellent at what she does, the hospital was comfortable, and the nurses took such good care of me. And, thanks to OHIP, the whole thing was free! So grateful to be in this country.

Also posted on: Dropping the Overcoat

Sunday, October 4, 2015

If you Spend Time by a Lake


If you spend time by a lake in quiet and stillness, eventually your spirit will find a way to release some of the emotions and feelings it is longing to release. You will feel lighter and calmer and the lake and the trees will become your friends. They will embrace you and accept you and love you. The waters will touch you and carry away your deep hurt and you can feel lighter.

Written after I spent a few hours by the lake up at the cottage. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Imagine Better

I've been watching The Closer for a few weeks now.

On Episode 5 of Season 5 Fritz Howard - the FBI Agent married to Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson -  talks to her about having children.

She's in the middle of investigating a murder that involved an ex-con who now is working in the service of the community he grew up in. The day before, she met with his mother who lost her only son. She spoke with the community members who face this kind of thing regularly in their neighbourhood.

The mother stood by her son, through prison and parole, and helped him turn his life around. Things were better for them. Then one night, he's shot dead, probably by a random shooting completely disconnected to him.

Brenda says, I know how easily these things happen. How can I even think about having a child?

And Fritz says, The same way ER doctors do, and undertakers, and soldiers. You're so great at imagining the worst. It's part of why you're good at your job. But try, just for a minute, imagining something better.

We've been talking about this too my husband and I. I do imagine the worst. I imagine nothing good will come. And he's been trying to tell me to imagine the good. To imagine better things. To think about good and better situations, places and people.

It's funny how something you are thinking of or feeling can pop up in the most random places. Is this the universe trying to tell me something?

Either way, it's a not a bad way to go at it.
It's really how the world changes.
By regular people imagining better. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Dreams and Doubts

Last night I said something stupid.
I said my dreams didn't matter. It is what it is. It will never work. I should just forget about the whole thing. I was so sad I almost got up and threw out my sketchbooks.

Thankfully I didn't.

Apart from wanting to be a quilter I also want to be a surface pattern designer. Yes I know - in my world - everybody does. There are so many designers and so many amazing ones. So for someone with no background, no training, it's a crazy uphill climb. As it is for a lot of us with the things we pursue.

It's also an uphill climb because I work full time. I need to like everybody else. So sometimes when I am at work I think of all the time I am putting into building someone else's dream -  just so I can pay my bills. And it makes me angry. Survival is real. So what does one do about it?

I'm not sure.

I know a lot of the designers I admired worked full time and worked on their early collections.
Everyone has to survive one way or another.

Did they have student husbands to support. I don't know.

At the end of two years my husband will have a Phd and I would have paid the bills.

And drawn some and learned some.

Is that enough?



Saturday, August 8, 2015

Dreams & Truth

In a dream last night I met a woman who told me I had happiness inside me. That this happiness made me beautiful. She said my face showed it to her.

I know it was just a dream but are dreams just dreams?

Frederick Buechner says truth comes to us in dreams. Is this truth - or is it just my longing for it to be true. And does it really matter?

If I believe there is happiness inside me will it then make it easier for me to be happy?
Does someone else need to tell me this?

Is it not enough that I believe it?


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Wholeness and Sensations

Sometimes I think I go through the day as a fragmented self. I see parts of my body - the parts that are maybe the most obvious to me or the ones that are the most cause for concern. I focus a lot of energy, on my stomach, abdomen, and back and here is where I feel most discomfort.

In Yin Yoga they ask us to call these physical feelings sensations. We are asked to be aware of them but not to think of them as aches and pains - just sensations. This can be useful. Especially if you've been to the doctor a bunch of times and there seems to be no remedy for the pain.

I wonder what I can do to release the intensity of these sensation. Probably more yoga, breathing and meditation.

Maybe this will help me release the aches and pains.
Maybe this will help me see myself more whole. 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Cleansing

I need a cleansing.
A cleansing of every negative, critical, judgemental, malicious word, action, and feeling that was said and done towards me.

I need to reach down, drag it up into the open, stare it in the face, beat it down, let it go, release it, forgive it.
Forgive the people and the ideas that hurled them at me
Forgive myself for accepting them

I need a cleansing.
A cleansing of every negative, critical, judgemental, malicious word, action, and feeling that I have said and done to you.
I need to reach down, drag it up into the open, stare it in the face, beat it down, let it go, release it, forgive it.
Forgive myself for hurling them at you
And hope that you will maybe forgive me

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

I am Old Soul

I am an old soul
I have travelled through many ages
I have seen many things
Painful. Hurtful things.
They live in my being and in my body.

Have I only seen sorrow and grief?
Has there been no joy in my lives.

There must have been.
Once, or twice, very long ago.

I yearn for it with a fierceness that makes the sadness unbearable.
I long for what I cannot see in this life but know ... somewhere... somehow to be true. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

This is Good

I stood outside a books and records store this morning after brunch at a greasy diner.
The rain that had been falling since six am, sometimes heavily, was now light.
The wind gusts had quietened down to a soft, cool breeze and I could hear the jazz record playing in the store. It was too loud when I was in there a couple of minutes ago. Outside, it was just right.

I looked across the street at the apartment window above the laundromat. I thought, a young couple must live there. They had plants and books in the window. A young city couple who rode bikes and shopped organic from their local grocery store, had Saturday brunch and mid-week drinks with friends at the local bar and watched documentaries at the Revue Theatre further up the street.

I stood in the light rain thinking - this is good. Just a quiet Sunday morning with bacon and eggs, a visit to the book store, a walk down an interesting street. This is good. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

No. 34 : Pork & Summer Salad

This one was served up by the husband. :)
It's nice to be able to eat outside on our patio.
Simple Pleasures.


Monday, May 18, 2015

How Long is Too Long?

More from Learning to Walk in the Dark

Barbara Taylor Brown in her chapter on Dark Emotions draws from Miriam Greenspan's book Healing Through the Dark Emotions: The Wisdom of Grief, Fear, and Despair. Medically, the time allowed for grieving - not sleeping, sadness, crying, loss of appetite - is two months. If someone grieves the loss of a loved one for longer, they could be diagnosed with depression and possibly treated with prescription medication. Greenspan, a psychiatrist herself, calls this a low tolerance for sadness. The inability to bear these emotions often cause many of our problems she says, not the emotions themselves.

How long is too long to grieve the loss of your spouse, your child, your friend? How long is too long to grieve death in war, genocide, and violent crime? Two months the doctors say. Two months. If you don't move on, you might need medication.

I think I have grieved the death of my father for the eleven years he has been gone. I wish I could have done a better job with it in the first two months of his passing but it was too painful. Too confusing. For the past eleven years I have tried very hard to move on with my life, to not be affected, to not go through the world with an open wound in my being.

But you see, everything changed after my father died. I was 23, my mother didn't quite know what do with her grief so she leaned on me. And I had no one to lean on. I held her up but sank under the weight of her grief and mine. And so what should have been the prime of my life was spent caring for people who were ill, sad, lonely, and depressed. My aunt on her hospital bed said to me that it was not good for me. I was too young to be caring for sick people. It was not good for me. She knew - she had done it herself. She knew.

It is not the worst thing that could happen to someone - I know. Even now they are pulling bodies of parents out of the rubble left behind by the earthquake and little children sit in the streets of Nepal orphaned and weeping. They too must grieve. For how long? As far as I can tell, for a very long time. Two months will not be enough for them. Nor two years. They will have to grieve the loss of their parents, siblings and families. They will have to grieve the loss of their homes, and the lives they knew. And who is to tell what life will hold for them. Where this disaster will take them. Will they have to grieve that as well? Some of them will. And maybe some of them wont.

But how long is too long? Why are we so quick to clinically label people who feel intense grief, sadness, or sorrow with a medical condition? Are we blind to the world? Why, pray tell, don't we all go around grieving? Weeping and wailing? Not just for ourselves. But also for those who are losing their lives and homes in Syria and Nepal, for the refugees at the bottom of the Mediterranean, for the child sex-workers in Bombay, for the homeless in our neighbourhood, for every man, woman, child, and animal who will be affected by violence and abuse today. Now. This very minute?

Why don't we grieve for them, and for us, the "poor naked wretches" that we all are?

Greenspan says that our culture and societies have shut these emotions away along with everything else we find distasteful. So there is no room for us to talk about our sadness, fear or despair - for ourselves or for the world. And in doing so made it worse for us.

We need to learn to grieve. We need to learn to live with the Dark Emotions. They are part of us. They are what makes us human. Why are we only trying to feed half of ourselves and starve the other half? Why are we trying so desperately to only be half human? Is this wholeness? 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Maybe It's OK, to Not Be OK?

We read Barbara Brown Taylor's book Learning to Walk in the Dark for book club. I was first drawn to it because the description talked about the absence of God. I have long considered the idea that God is often absent - from our lives and the life of the world.

I don't fully understand what this absence means - maybe it is true that God is present in his absence. But it is good to hear people who validate the absence - whether God is, or is not present, we certainly don't always feel his presence.

There is more to be learned on this I am sure.

For now, I want to talk about sadness.

If you've read my blog you might have seen that I use the word a lot along with grief, fear, and despair. And of course, struggle. I have wanted very much to not feel these emotions. I have wanted very much to be happy, joyful, ecstatic even. These latter, lighter emotions don't come easily to me. Or maybe they are locked away somewhere so deep that when they come to the surface they are beautiful and precious that I want so desperately to hold on to them for as long as I can. Before they are taken away from me again. Before I have to let go of them for the heavier emotions, the more unappealing emotions.

I have always been a melancholic person. I'm not the life of a party but I can join one if I really like it. I like to have fun but I have always leaned more to the serious side.

I have always felt very deeply. Somewhere in the late 80s and early 90s we began to hear a lot about starving children in Somalia. I was about 10 or 11 then. I remember feeling so bad for those children and I often thought about them just going about my day. I might have been 7 or 8 when I watched a video about a young girl who died in a road accident. I didn't know her. I cried for her that night.

I cried for a week when one of my dogs was sent away.
I cared deeply. I loved deeply. I felt deeply.
I don't know why or how. I just did.

I didn't really know what to do with all this feeling and emotion and neither did my parents. Their standard response was that I carried the weight of the world on my head. And they hoped one day I would stop.

We don't know what to do with sadness, or tears, or angst. It's all a bit much for us.

There are no dark emotions, Greenspan says - just unskillful ways of coping with emotions we cannot bear. The emotions themselves are conduits of pure energy that want something from us: to wake us up, to tell us something we need to know, to break the ice around our hearts, to move us to act. 
- Learning to Walk in the Dark, p 78

We live in a world where we must think positively and be happy. Who wants to be around a sad and despairing person? Even I don't - it makes me feel worse that I already do!

But if you think of some of the greatest artists, writers and musicians of our world - many of them were plagued with despair. Some of the most beautiful poetry and music comes from people who constantly struggle with these emotions.

So maybe my struggle is not a bad one. It's just what some of us must do.

Maybe it's time for me to face these emotions. To see them as they really are and try to learn from them. Maybe it's time for me to stop trying to be something I am not and embrace who I am - melancholy and all. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

God is God

I came across Joan Baez's song, God is God last year. The song was written by Steve Earle.

I feel close to the song. It helps me put words to what I have come to understand and it carries me along in my journey.

Every day that passes I'm sure about a little bit less. 

One thing that has definitely happened over the years is that I cannot believe everything I was taught. A lot of the language of my early Christian upbringing doesn't mean much to me any more.

I remember telling my brother when he asked me what I believed that I was not very sure. All I knew is that I needed an open space. I needed to be able to breathe and be free. The Christianity I once knew put me in a box and limited me, limited my learning, limited my experience.

I don't like limits.

I have come to believe that I don't really need to be sure. I don't need to know everything and I am OK with saying that I don't really know much at all. And that it doesn't really matter. I don't need an argument or a miracle to convince me of the existence of God. Or one to deny it.

I believe that there is grace in the world. That there is goodness, mercy, wisdom and love. This I know from experience. Again - not the best argument I suppose - but I am not trying to convince anybody!

These are good gifts. Gifts that make us more human. Gifts that tap into our Spirit Space and nurture us. We can receive these gifts, and give them to others. They can be given to us in so many different ways - music, art, poetry, neighbours, friends, family, lovers... even just a simple hello from a stranger on the subway. Deciding before hand to only receive them in a particular place and from certain kinds of people limits our experience of the gift.

And there is more - much more that I do not know and probably never will.

God,in my little understanding, don't care what name I call. 
Whether or not I believe doesn't matter at all. 
I receive the blessings. 
That every day on Earth's another chance to get it right.
Let this little light of mine shine and rage against the night.

One Saturday - after months of personal struggle - I was listening to this song and I thought - maybe God doesn't really care if I am "following him", "reading my bible", "praying", "being his disciple"... maybe it doesn't matter whether "I believe". Clearly I have received the blessings. Clearly I have been cared for and loved. I have been shown grace and mercy. I have even experienced the divine. Why do I beat myself up so much?
Why do I judge myself so harshly?

The kind of  Christianity I was exposed to laid so much emphasis on what we did as individuals. Just as we tried desperately to win our parents love and approval - we did the same thing with God. And if we were not doing everything we should - being good, reading the word, going to church, praying, trusting - then God would do nothing for us.

Even now, even after realizing that this was a false way to live, I still cannot shake this idea. Now I don't do any of those things that I thought would bring me closer to God.
But I think that I am NOT close to God.

Maybe I don't need to actively be close to God.
Maybe God is already, actively, close to me.


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Dark Night of the Soul

The past four months have been very difficult months for me. Things were worse than usual. I felt like I was sinking and was afraid I would not get up.

Then we read Barbara Brown Taylor's book Learning to Walk in the Dark for book club and she talks about The Dark Night of the Soul.

Like darkness itself, the dark night of the soul means different things to different people. Some use the phrase to describe the time following a great loss, while others remember it as the time leading up to a difficult decision. Whatever the circumstances, what the stories have in common is their description of a time when the soul was severely tested, often to the point of losing faith, by circumstances beyond all control. No one chooses the dark night; the dark night descends. 

When it does the reality that troubles the soul most is the apparent absence of God. 

- Barbara Brown Taylor, Learning to Walk in the Dark, p133-134

I have been thinking about the Absence of God for a while now. Thinking that I might just be able to accept that sometimes God is absent. It's a harsh concept to live with but apparently not a new one. Many have known this to be true.

From reading Brown's book it seems that the only you can do when you feel the absence of God is to wait.

You wait to feel the presence again. You wait for the dark night of the soul to end. The only way to do it is go through it. To face the sadness, anger, suffering, hopelessness, despair, and tears. To feel it all. To ask the questions. To rage and rant. To wish that you didn't have to feel these things.

You wait.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Neil Diamond Concert & No.26 is Done!


I had the most AWESOME time at the Neil Diamond Concert today. I bought my ticket in January this year and have had it on my fridge for these past months.

I was excited all day!

I walked into the Air Canada Centre and gasped. There is something breathtaking about being in such a large venue. I sat there. Taking it all in. I went alone to this show - B is not a fan and another friend wasn't sure if she would make it. I was alone but I didn't feel lonely. There is  a strange comfort in being amidst 30,000 people who are all in one space for the same reason you are. I had talked with someone earlier as we stood in line and she told me how she doesn't wait for people to join her any more. If she wants to do something she just does it! Her husband was with her today but she has been to concerts before on her own.

A lovely mother and daughter duo sat next to me. They were so sweet.

From the minute he came on stage I felt like I had transcended. Right through the show I had a big smile on my face. I laughed. I danced. I cried. Raised my hands. Cheered and clapped. It was so beautiful. His voice is still fantastic and you can hear those familiar tones and intonations you heard on the recordings. And the band was fabulous!

He performed straight for two hours. No break. Clearly age does not change things for some! The man is 74!

He did all the big hits - started with I'm a Believer. I don't remember the order of the rest but he did Love on the Rocks, Hello Again. Solitary Man, Cherry, Cherry, Forever in Blue Jeans, Cracklin' Rosie, Kentucky Woman, Red Red Wine, Heartlight... and more!

Play Me and I Am... I Said were exceptional and Brother Love's Travelling Salvation Show was so much fun!

And of course - he did Sweet Caroline! :) I have no words. It was surreal really. Many years ago while listening to this song at a friends house at seminary I said - this feels like a worship song. I just want to lift my hands and close my eyes and sway!

And now - 12 years later - I did - listening to Neil Diamond sing Sweet Caroline live! :)



Weep

I read this note on facebook today. Wrong Gender! Wrong Country! by Puja V.
The issue of the note is not new and some of the incidents she refers to I have heard about before. Yet when you read about sexual violence on a 3 year old child it is hard not to feel completely devastated by it. Or when you read about men who penetrate women with iron rods and sticks, slash their throats, leave them for dead it is quite impossible to not feel the deepest despair. It is not shocking any more... there have been too many stories. But it is is still so horribly saddening. It is the kind of sadness that jolts your whole body, a despair that you can feel in your throat.

Two Decembers ago when I heard about the gang rape of a young medical student on a bus I was so traumatized by the incident. That was also the year of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Both events came a little before Christmas. I was actually having a good week after a long bout of dealing with a nagging cold and exhaustion. I had picked myself up that week. Decided I was going to be happy and enjoy the season. I had dressed up to go to work that day. There was a Christmas party after. I had straightened my hair, put on my green suede boots and a little make up. Then at lunch time my colleague came back from the restaurant and told us the shooting had happened. She had seen it on the news.

I didn't know how to deal. What to do with the emotion I felt? What to do with the helplessness?

The Delhi rape had already happened. I had avoided reading about it. But a day or so later I did.

And I couldn't deal. I just couldn't deal.

I lay awake at night thinking about that young girl and her friend. I lay awake at night imagining horrible things on the men who did what they did. I lay awake at night crying for her, for her friend, for her parents, for women and children and boys and men who are raped. Brutally and violently raped.

And then - this might have been one of my worst times - I lost faith. I lost faith in God and humanity. I lost hope. I lost everything that was good. Everything that I had worked on building up in the months and years before that December. I couldn't just dust this off and carry on. The truth is I have never been able to let go of these stories, these acts of violence, these inhumane actions. I carry them with me. I carry the sadness.

A couple of years before that December I had had a bit of a revelation. God had become real to me. I felt closer to God, more in touch, more connected than ever before.

That winter, God became a strange and distant thing in my life. I couldn't find comfort or solace there. I couldn't come to terms with an absent God. A god who does not protect. A god who cannot stop evil. A god who lets violence live.

I was angry. Angry with the people who violate other people. And angry with a god who lets it happen.

I couldn't deal.

Over the past two and a half years I have been trying to find my way back to hope, and grace, and love, and goodness. I have been learning that there is good in the world and human beings can be human and humane.

People rallied as they often do. And that is comforting in some way. People stand up and demand justice and demand that laws be changed. And laws were changed and that is hopeful. People call our attention to the deeper psychological and social issues at hand and that is necessary if we are to move forward. These things help.

I have even been learning that my idea of God might not be the best one. Maybe god is not in control, maybe god does not have a master plan, maybe god is not omnipresent. Maybe, god is often absent. Maybe god knows every sparrow that falls to the ground but maybe he cannot stop that sparrow from falling.

Maybe god knows that his friend is dead and has been dead for three days and maybe all he can do, when faced with his friend's death... is Weep.

And maybe, when we are faced with such evil as we are in these times, maybe it is not out of turn, to WEEP.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Emotional First Aid




As I get older I find that I have been accumulating emotional pain and hurt for the past 35 years. We truly do so little to heal ourselves of emotional pain. The truth is - it shows up as physical pain at some point and dis-ease as they call it now.

I think we need to not only practice emotional first aid but emotional well being and healthy emotional living. The focus has been so much on what we eat and how much we exercise and that is supposed to show us how healthy we are. It does - but it's not the whole picture.

I have long believed that my weight, my backaches, my headaches and so on come from emotional cuts and bruises that have not been healed.

This is a good read:  The Seven Habits of Highly Emotionally Healthy People

I find yoga helpful in this healing. And therapy. And journalling. And also blogging to some extent.

I think I need to do these things with more rigour and discipline for it to have an impact on my life.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Truth & Wisdom




Listening to Jason Mraz's music is like listening to a wise teacher. Someone who sees the beauty and truth of the world and human beings and is able to teach us what he knows in the most beautiful way.

Frederick Buechner says that poets and artists, like the prophets, are the truth tellers of our world. They are able to call things the way they are and also give us ways to understand the world.

Music does this most easily it seems.

This song - 93 Million Miles - makes me lift my head up and look at the world. At the sun. At the sky. At the stars. At the moon. At people.

It makes me see that we are part of something so beautiful and awe inspiring. A world that is breathtaking. And we are able to experience this great and amazing world in ways only a human being can experience.

Sometimes I think it should be enough just to be a human being. To be someone who can walk, and talk, and eat, and move, and look, and see, and hear, and speak, and make, and be, and become, and laugh, and cry, and sing, and dance, and learn, and teach, and write, and read, and love, and hate, and feel, and think, and shout, and whisper, and draw, and paint, and build, and break, and ...

... there's no end to what we can do. Who we can be. What we can become.

He reminds me of this.
He reminds me to lift my head. Open my eyes,
And see the world and my life for the absolutely fantastic thing it is! 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Good Days

The past couple of weekends I have spent sewing.
They have been happy days.

I feel good when I make something. When I finish a quilt. When I have a new design idea.
It gives me great satisfaction to see my work take form, take life, be complete.

It seems I need this in my life - I need to make my quilts. I need to draw my patterns. I need to color.

It took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to do with my life - and even though it sounds simplistic - all I want to do is quilt. And now design surface patterns. I guess I want to create and I found my medium - the hard way.

So - I am hoping that I can make Saturdays my quilting days. It's harder during the week and as much as I try I don't have the energy for it.

Saturdays it will be.
Saturdays will be work - but work that I love and enjoy.

Here is my project from today.
You can read more about it here: Eastern Sunrise



Saturday, February 14, 2015

Tell your Story

I was listening to Nerina Pallot's Nickindia the other day. It's a hauntingly beautiful song.

Here is my story- 
A little sad of soul, a little weary 
Maybe I am that? 
Will nobody love me? 
Is an empty heart and a conscience all I have? 
If I die tonight, if I give up the fight 
Will you do something for me? 
Tell them my story, 
tell them well Tell them everything you know

She goes on to tell her story.
In the end that is all we have - our stories.

Stories about our friends, our families, our dogs, our youth, our childhood.
Stories about the places we have seen, the things we ate, the people we met.

Telling stories is part of what it means to be human.

When someone passes away, we almost always in the days following their death, talk about them. Tell their stories. Smile, cry, laugh. It is how we remember them. It is how they live on.

I think we should tell our own stories too.
Our stories will, we hope, be told after we are gone.

But we should tell it now. While we live.
So we can remember.
So we can learn.
So we can understand.

Friday, February 13, 2015

I Won't Give Up - II

I was thinking about my last post - I Won't Give Up - in the context of my own relationship with my husband. And I wondered why I wanted so much for someone to feel that way about me - but I didn't really feel that way about anybody else...

Maybe - to love someone else, to not give up on someone else, you must first learn to love yourself and not give up on yourself?

Or at least - begin to love yourself.

Maybe what is needed for a healthy and thriving relationship is for the ones involved to learn to love themselves, accept themselves, and not give up on themselves. To forgive themselves. Maybe, as they learn to be at peace with themselves, they can then be at peace with each other. Love each other. Not give up on each other.

I was reminded of Henry Nouwen's The Return of the Prodigal Son and Becoming the Father.
Nouwen says that we are both the younger son and the elder son at some point in our lives. What we need to learn to do is become the Father.

Maybe that is what is required of me now.

Not giving up - on myself. And on the people I love. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

I Won't Give Up




It's hard for me to get through this song without weeping. The first time I heard it I thought, how insightful and loving. I was crying by the end of the first verse - and it's been like that ever since.

And just like them old stars
I see that you've come so far
To be right where you are
How old is your soul?

I wished someone would sing a song like this to me. I think I cried because I felt like I could see myself in the person he was describing but I wished someone would say it to me. A lot of people have told me I am old soul - but they say it, and I suppose that I also felt it, in a sort of heavy way. It seemed more a burden than a gift.

But listening to this song I felt like it wasn't a burden at all. It was just who I am. Just a person who does some navigating now and then, someone who learns along the way, and feels deeply, and keeps going.

Still, if only someone would say it to me - that would validate it.

Many listens later I realized that the song is as much to another person - a lover, a friend, a child, as it is to oneself. It can be sung to another but it really can be sung to ourselves.

To myself. To my young self. To my 35 year old self. To my future self.

I don't need this validation from someone else.
I don't need someone else to sing this song for me or to me - I can sing it for myself and to myself - because I, more than anyone, know it to be true. Of Me.

And so...

I won't give up on us
Even if the skies get rough
I'm giving you all my love
I'm still looking up

Sometimes, when things get really dark and painful, I need to hold on to this song. I need to remember not to give up on myself, to love myself, to wait and see what I will learn. I need to remember that I have worked very hard, and walked many miles to become the person I am today. I need to remind myself that I am strong, and that somewhere deep inside me there is an undying hope that things will get better.

So I keep walking.

We had to learn how to bend without the world caving in
I had to learn what I've got, and what I'm not, and who I am

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Growing Food in your Apartment!




I loved this idea. I loved that she came up with a way to grow food and grow it in a city apartment! I love that she made this a community thing - made the technology available to anyone who wanted it and asked people to make it better. I love that people are doing this across the world.

I love that they are creating another world. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Profile Pictures

I changed my profile picture on fb today and so many people liked it. Smiles and thumbs ups all around. It's a good picture.


I am rather proud of it.

But I changed my profile picture because I couldn't bear to look at the one I had up.
No it's not an ugly picture of me -in fact - it's a really nice picture of me. I am smiling. I had had my hair done for my husband's graduation. I had my make-up on. It was a summer day and we were happy and shared a sense of accomplishment. He for this MA, his thesis, his two years of hard work. I for supporting him. For being the primary earner and care taker. It had not been an easy two years but we had made it and here he was, getting his degree.

I was happy in that picture.

I don't feel so happy tonight.

In fact, I have not felt happy for a long time now. Most of fall and all of winter. My therapist thinks I may have low grade depression (yet to be evaluated - why does the health system in Canada take so long to refer you to a specialist - what if you die in between appointments?)

I probably shouldn't take those on-line quizzes but in the absence of real medical help one can only rely on Web MD. And the specialists of the Internet all seem to say the same thing - see a professional now!

I wanted to change my profile picture to a black box. A dark screen. Coz that's really how I feel right now. But I thought people might think that I was protesting something.

So I chose this. It brings me a sense of calm this picture. It feels like I could be free. Flying off into the horizon with no weights attached, no burdens to carry, no people to support.

Just me and the open sky. Free. 

Live Creatively

I had a really bad day the other day. I spiralled to the point where I simply couldn't get myself up again. I could see no hope. No possibility. No light. It was strange because the evening before I was so positive. I had figured that a lot of my sadness came from being limited. Feeling like I could not do what I want to do or be who I wanted to be. And believing that to be true.

I realized that every human being is limited in one way or another. Rich, poor, educated, uneducated, young, old - we all have things we can and cannot do. The people who stand out are the ones who overcome these limitations, who break out of the boxes they are born into or find themselves in, and who do what they love doing.

I realized that I had for the most part of my life believed that "I Can't". I come from a practical family who loved and took care of me, gave me a good education, fed and clothed me, and did everything they could to give me a good start.

Only I wanted different things. In my naive mind I thought the house, the family, the financial security would be something I would acquire as I got older. What I wanted was to find meaning, joy, purpose, life and love. Spirit things. Soul things, Things that I couldn't touch. Things that I couldn't buy.

My family didn't know how to fill this need. I suppose they tried to fill it with Christianity and Church as did I for many years - but that didn't quite work.

Anyway - realizing this - this conflict of being, this push and pull, this fight with who I am and who I was raised to be - gave me a great sense of freedom Wednesday night. I came home and told my husband what I thought. I said I was now going to focus on finding myself, and nurturing myself, and finding the ME that was hiding deep down inside. I knew what I had to do!

Then Thursday came. And I got up in the same bed, in the same apartment, showered in the same shower, went to work on the same train, went to the same job, did the same things I had done the day before. And by the time I came home I was in despair. I wanted to change but my life hadn't. Was it ever going to?

I lamented on how I had made stupid decisions that had brought me to this point in my life. I lamented on how when I looked at job sites there was not a single job posting that I could fit into. I lamented that I had no money, no security, no freedom, no time to do the things I really wanted to do. I lamented, and wept and despaired.

My husband said many things to me that evening in an attempt to help. At times I wanted to ask him to stop. But he said one thing that was important. He said I had not made stupid decisions. Every turn I took in my life I had taken because that was who I was and who I wanted to be. And that was not a bad thing. It is true that the world can be hard on those of us searching for meaning and truth and joy. It is true that the world doesn't reward our pursuits with fat pay cheques. But it is who we are and it is what we must do because we cannot do otherwise.

You have to, he said, think creatively about how you will live your life. You can't be a mainstream person, so you have to find a creative way to live in the world you want to live in. You may never own a big house or a fat bank balance and you will have to be OK with that. But you can find a way to make your way in the world but it won't happen if you are only going to focus on the sadness of it all. You can think of what you have now as not enough or think of it as a resource to where you want to go.

Friday came and I made sure I got a good shot of coffee for the day.
And I thought about what my husband said and realized that he was right.
And I was grateful for him.

I also realized that I am not the only one doing this sort of thing. So many people want different lives. So many people are fighting the system that only values certain kinds of work or certain kinds of intelligence or certain kinds of abilities. I am not alone.

So I decided to surround myself with people and information and books and videos of people who are not running in the big wheel. I decided to seek out people who are searching for and building a different world. A world where people like me - soul searchers, meaning gatherers, spirit seekers can be just who they are and enjoy it!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

I Struggle

I realized something the other day.
I struggle because I am me and the people who raised me are them.
I struggle because I wanted to be free and they were afraid.
I struggle because I cared about spirit things, and they cared about physical things.
I struggle because I wanted to nurture my soul, and they wanted to secure their bodies.
I struggle because I cared about the world, and they cared mostly about their own.
I struggle because I am weak sometimes, and they are stronger.
I struggle because I am often unsure, and they are always right.
I struggle because I want to break free, but they love me.
I struggle because I am not them.
But they love me.
And they are the people who raised me.
And I love them.

And so now I struggle to be me, to become me, and to still love them. 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Creative People Need to Create

The good thing about being a certain kind of person is that there are other people who are a lot like you! Whether you are a writer, a scientist, an artist or a philosopher, you can be sure there are people who have asked your questions, wrestled with your thoughts, fought your battles. This doesn't let you off the hook from asking your own questions, thinking your own thoughts, or fighting your own battles but it can help, inspire, and encourage to meet and listen to others who seem to share a little bit of your soul.

I came across Lisa Congdon when I started dabbling with Surface Pattern Design and have been drawn to her work. Today I found these videos and am further drawn to her.

If you watch the videos you will hear Lisa talk about how she came to art in her 30s and wishes she had done it sooner.

Me too!

You will hear her talk about how she was a Project Manager at a not-for-profit organization and even though she was passionate about her work and loved her job she felt a hole in her life. At the time she did not know why but later realized that she was a creative person and she wasn't creating!

ME TOO!

It's been five years since I quit my Project Management job at a not-for-profit organization and decided to quilt full time. As much as I could do many different things and do them well, I could not get rid of the ache inside me. The only time that I did was when I quilted.

The ache is still there. The hole is still there.
The world is not easy on us creative sorts. It's not easy on those of us who don't want to swim in the main stream.

But we must do what we cannot but do.

The only time the ache is lifted is when I quilt, or draw, or make patterns.
And each day I must find a way to do more of this.






Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Singing as Defiance

“Singing in the midst of evil is what it means to be disciples. Like Mary Magdalene, the reason we stand and weep and listen for Jesus is because we, like Mary, are bearers of resurrection, we are made new. On the third day, Jesus rose again, and we do not need to be afraid. To sing to God amidst sorrow is to defiantly proclaim, like Mary Magdalene did to the apostles, and like my friend Don did at Dylan Klebold's funeral, that death is not the final word. To defiantly say, once again, that a light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot, will not, shall not overcome it. And so, evil be damned, because even as we go to the grave, we still make our song alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.” ―

Nadia Bolz-Weber, Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint

 A very close friend of ours passed away in 2007. She was 45. She took ill suddenly, went into a comma and a month later she was gone.

For one month we had prayed, hoped, and believed that she would come back to us. We thought, someone so wonderful, so young, so lovely could not be taken away from the world so soon and in such a strange way. The family did not have a chance to say goodbye. We did not understand how someone we saw at church earlier that week could now be in a comma.

Surely this was something God was doing to make himself known in the world. Surely her healing would be miraculous and testimony worthy! Yes, she would wake up, like Lazarus, and tell the world how the Lord had saved her.

She did not.

The day she died I was at work. I got a text that she was gone. I didn't want to believe it. I still hoped that they were wrong. That the text was wrong. That it had not happened.

The finality of death is very real to me since my father died when I was 23. I know what it means to never see a person again. Never hear their voice. Never feel their touch.

I couldn't believe that my friend's husband and children would have to live with that now.

I went to their home. She was at the hospital morgue.
Friends and family had come home. We sat together. Wept. Talked.
But mostly there was a hushed silence.
A murmuring quiet.

My friend's brother who lived out of town arrived a little later that night. After spending a little time with the family he said, "We should sing. You cannot not have singing in Lali's house."

And so we sang.

I couldn't find sound within me except to cry.
But they sang. Her brother and sisters. Her friends.
They sang.

As I read the passage I mentioned at the start of this post I was reminded of this. Singing is an act of defiance. Singing together says that even though our hopes and prayers were not answered, even though something tragic has happened, we will still stand, we will still believe, we will still hope.

We may not be completely aware of this at the time of our grief but we can still do it.
We don't deny that we are broken, and hurt, and devastated but we will stand up.
Today. Tomorrow. We will stand back up.

My friend's life, illness, and death were testimony worthy. Her husband went on to speak about her and his experience through the tragedy. Sometimes the stories that don't have happy endings (in this world) are the ones we connect to the most. And there is something to be learned from them.

... death is not the final word. To defiantly say, once again, that a light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot, will not, shall not overcome it. And so, evil be damned, because even as we go to the grave, we still make our song alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia. ― 

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Courage to Be Me

It's funny how you can go through life and never really figure out who you really are.
I know I've been through this before - this searching for myself - and I did find myself at the time. 

But the self is so vast, so complex, so deep that finding oneself must take a lifetime of searching. 

And even then we may never fully know ourselves. 

As I get older I am convinced that there is a Me inside of me that I don't know anything about.
As I get older I am convinced that there is a Me inside of me that I know something about but have been too afraid to let out. 

We become, some of us, who we need to become for our families, our friends, and society.

Inside me I am free. I am beautiful. I am fabulous, I am flamboyant. I am larger than life. I laugh. I love. I live with the audacity and elegance of someone who fears nothing. 

In the world I am heavy. I am cautious, I am practical. I am despairing. I am afraid. I am fragile.

I think it takes courage to find your inside Me and it takes courage to wrench that Me out from deep within your being and birth her into the world. First into your own world so you can look at her. Understand her. Love her. 

And then into the world of others. Not knowing if the others will love her and accept her. 

I think it takes courage to be able to bring her into the world and whether she is loved or accepted by the others... to love and accept her yourself. 


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Not Yet...

I have spent the last month feeling quite sad. It might be a mix of turning 35, of visiting family who are successful and "doers", of having finances being limited again... or just the winter blues... either way I have been feeling sad.

 When it comes close to my birthday I always think that another year has passed and I have still not... I think the right attitude would be to say Another year has passed and I have not yet ...

Things I am learning:

  • Make Clear Goals. 
  • Remember the ones you have not met... you have not met yet.
  • Work hard to meet them.



 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Courage for 2015

In 2010, as I turned 30, my mantra if you will was "No Fear in My 30th Year" and I would say this with a warrior pose. It was a good mantra. I learned to let go of some fears.

And held on to others.

We watched Dr. Maya Angelou on Super Soul Sunday over Christmas break and she talked about Courage. And I thought that it was time for me to move from "No Fear" to Courage.

Just like joy is not the absence of sadness, health is not the absence of illness, so too Courage is not the absence of fear.

There is much I will learn about courage. I am in fact ... almost afraid to say that this is a lesson I must learn. I know only too well that when you ask for something ... you get it... and the important lessons are learned the hard way.

Courage - I think - is strength,
is your head lifted up,
is joy,
is the ability to be in the world, the ability to do in the world,
the belief that you are good enough,
is trust
is love
is wholeness

I don't understand courage but this year I would like to.

This is also a good read: Oprah Talks to Maya Angelou

The Four Agreements


I watched Don Miguel Ruiz on Oprah's Super Soul Sunday. I haven't read the book but I think it would be helpful. I like the "Don't Take Anything Personally". I did this a lot when I was younger and it still happens sometimes now... but it's a big lesson to learn. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Notes to My Father

My father passed away 10 years ago - August 23, 2003. I have been thinking a lot about him and the time he was ill and those last few months of his life. It seemed like everything changed once my father passed away. Nothing was safe anymore. Nothing fully enjoyable. Nothing purely joyful.

At 23, I was introduced to excruciating pain, regret, tears, anger, insecurity, fear, illness, death and a deep, deep sense of loss. My father's death would forever change me - it would make me unsure - of life, love, God, faith, healing, and myself. It would...

I started this post on the 23rd of August, 2013. I don't know why I did not finish it then.

I have a quilt project in mind. I was at the Bruce Cockburn show in Toronto last year and the backdrop to his stage was interesting. It looked like a net with squares of fabric. Like a fishing net but with patches of fabric on it. I thought then that a way for me to deal with my father's dying was to make a quilt. A quilt with notes to my father.

I was big note writer in college. Notes to my friends - little colourful pieces of paper telling them that I had though about them. Some of my friends still have them. I think I might have written a couple of notes to my dad too during those days.

I longed very much to have a different kind of relationship with my dad. One where we could talk freely with each other and express ourselves well. I know he loved me very deeply and his way of expressing it was to provide for me, take care of me, take me to the places I wanted to go, drive me home when I needed it. He would do anything for me. But he was not very good at expressing his emotions or talking and I longed for that. Something that showed me that he was proud of me or that he enjoyed having me as a daughter.

I don't think I dealt with my grief very well. I'm not someone who acts out or harms myself visibly. I do however develop thoughts and ideas that limit my enjoying and being in the world.

Maybe I need to work out my grief. Heave it onto something. Wrench it out of me. Maybe then I will feel lighter.


Friday, January 2, 2015

It's Been a Good Year

I didn't blog much this past year but its been a good year when I look back at it.
I want to learn to live in the Now so that I can see that the year is good even as I live through it.

In 2014 I...
  • had a wine and cheese New Year's party with my husband. We took time to talk about the year that had gone by
  • had a wine and cheese birthday party for my friends. I had a great time hosting.
  • got a nice haircut! I hadn't cut my hair since September 2011 after we moved - couldn't bring myself to spend the $50! In the early years - that's a luxury.
  • made a meal plan and stuck to it for about 3 months.
  • lost a couple of kgs
  • went to the Ripley's Aquarium
  • began my journey to become a surface pattern designer
  • made a trip home after 3 years
  • met my family and my old friends
  • built my relationship with a couple of my closest friends
  • realized that I need to build better friendships with the people I like 
  • met my nephew for the first time - he was born after we moved
  • met some of my old colleagues and was very touched by the warm welcome. Made me feel like my time there was appreciated and that they were really friends. 
  • realized that love is really the only rule. :) And that I have been showered with love my whole life. 
  • met my dogs and played with Hugo whom I adore and miss very much
  • went to Quilt Market! This is a big deal in my world. Quilt Market is a trade show for the quilting industry and you can only go if you are in the business. I remember sitting at home in our apartment in Bangalore telling my husband how cool it was and how I wanted to be there! 
  • went to the US for the first time. 
  • went to the US twice in the year
  • spent Christmas with my older brother and his family
  • saw my entire family 
  • read The Naked Now by Richard Rohr
  • learned to live in the Now - a little
  • learned that my struggle was bringing me to consciousness and awareness
  • learned that the cosmic flaw in reality needs to be forgiven
  • read Telling the Truth by Frederick Buechner
  • learned that carrying the cross of my own life is enough for now
  • learned that I must look at my life carefully - there is much to learn there
  • learned that self awareness is probably the best thing I can do for  myself and the world
  • read Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber
  • learned that singing in the face of evil and death is an act of defiance
  • watched Dr. Maya Angelou on Super Soul Sunday
  • was reminded that I need to learn to forgive
  • had a good work year
  • got a raise and hit the sales goals for 2013 - 2014
  • got a bonus
  • did better creatives at work
  • got restless about my life again
  • learned that my restlessness is a good thing that will push me to do more with myself
  • became certain that I want to be a surface pattern designer and a quilt artist
  • bought a Craftsy class: 10 Essential Techniques for Better Drawing
  • bought Bonnie Christine's Design Surface Patterns from Scratch on CreativeLive
  • learned to use Inkscape
  • started a design blog
  • made my mother a quilt
  • sent out Christmas Cards
  • went to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra
  • watched their ABBA show and it was a surprise from the husband. Such a great night! 
  • got a great winter coat
  • wore boots! 
  • bought 2 amazing pairs of heels!
  • travelled on my own to India
  • went to church more often than last year
  • went to the cottage and loved it
  • emailed my brothers
  • was at peace with myself at different points in the year - progress
  • learning to love 
  • went to D.C and saw the historic buildings
  • saw a Monet, Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso, Rembrant for the first time at the National Gallery of Art, D.C
  • saw Bruce Cockburn in concert
  • bought Rumours of Glory and got it signed
  • took classes on Skill Share
  • made Thai food
  • heard about a friend's diagnosis with cancer. Wept. For her. For my father. For her family. For mine. For me. 
  • talked to the friend who was diagnosed with cancer. She is strong. And honest - some days are good. Some days are bad. But she holds on to God. And holds on to joy and laughter and friends. It is possible it seems to live with cancer but still have joy.
  • Enjoyed listening to music and started to listening to some new people
  • struggled with some colleagues at work - this was not pleasant but hopefully the learning from this experience will carry forward
  • learned that I don't need to feel judged even if people are judging me. 
  • learned that I have power. 
  • happy with the team at work now. very happy. 
  • had a couple of good interactions with a homeless man. Then withdrew coz I got scared. I should renew those interactions again. 
  • learned to see the beauty in the world - in its brokenness
  • learning to appreciate the every day. The goings and comings of our lives. Learned that the secret to a good life might just be to live each day intentionally, deliberately, aware of the many gifts we already have and be open to give.
  • learned that the greatest gifts are the people who love us and the people we love.
Songs for the Year

Beautiful World - Bon Jovi
Love's the Only Rule - Bon Jovi
93 Million Miles - Jason Mraz
I Won't Give Up - Jason Mraz
Living in the Moment - Jason Mraz