Generations of Genorsity

My mother recently asked for the return of $4,000 she had lent me; to access Botox treatments for a condition called, Cervical Dystonia (Medically called Spasmodic Tortocollis) …which I had been at the mercy of for (at the time) 5 years.  I could not afford the treatments, and after 3 tries, with no positive results aka reprieve  – and a $10,000 bill, I quit.

My daughter recently graduated from College, I could hardly breathe to access the opportunity to pay off her student loan and her Visa card…as an honouring of her accomplishment.

Am I the better parent – Hell Yes!

Yes, financially, I am in a better place than back then when I was struggling with the onslaught of dystonic symptoms.  And that is not the point.  It’s my belief, that as parents, we support – we are there – we put our money where our mouths are – we realize, that our children are a result of DNA.

So – I paid the $4,000 (again I might add), because this I know:  I will do my best to reduce my children’s suffering, while I am around.

 

 

 

Divorce is about 2 things

IMG_4053It has been 14 years since we divorced.  14 years.  We were married for 18 years.  And it seems that its now, only now, that I finally got that I had carried the same relationship expectations through our marriage into all the subsequent years of divorce – that he would show up with more desire to listen-to-understand, to openly communicate, to be authentically present, care, learn and grow, than he wanted to.  I have realized in the last little while that I had retained my hope and my commitment and my expectations, that we would do our best in marriage and divorce, to be completely in sync as parents, and (magically) that we would find our way parenting together post divorce, with more conviction to positively influence each other, than we had managed during our marriage. (This is called ‘magical thinking’.) As I write that, wrote that, reread and reread it, I feel like I really am a fundamentally character-blind person…and I have always been more able to love someone’s potential no matter what the over-proved reality evidence is!

Other than the first couple of years post divorce that filled with me the ugly pain of disapointment in myself and my shame and blame stopping me from being able to share holidays and birthdays; we moved into sharing again family times – even going on small family trips together, sharing a bed once because that was less weird than sleeping on the floor, sharing financial and talking-it-through support for each other’s momentary life challenges,  having endless co-parenting conversations through the years…helping with house maintenance problems (mostly mine)…even living in the same house at one point to help me out when I wanted to go overseas to work…which is all really to explain this:  we never actually divorced.  I retained all the benefits of having a partner, minus the lovely sex, the awful snoring and having to iron.  He unwaveringly kept his commitments, he did everything he did during marriage and divorce; he reliably and consistently showed up in his best possible way and he continued to cook the turkey and gather the family for every holiday.  When the chips were down, he has always been an unwavering rock and presence.  So, what’s wrong with that?

There is an opportunity cost to every decision and action.  Our committment to our post-divorce relationship cost us the opportunity to move on into other relationships.  We have both tried several times, but we both learned the hard way that no future partner wants to know they are second to any call of need from the ex.  In this past 14 years, neither of us have had the opportunity to be fully loved by another, to create a more integrous relationship with another person, to have had the experience of growing and changing as a human being in ways that shape and deepen a partnership. Our commitment to our relationship created for us both a ‘fractured’ life.   We had separate friends, some were his, some had been ours, and they sometimes melded together.  In times of fear and when life was extra hard, it was easy to slide back into judgement, criticism and silence as a response, vs communicating truthfully.  Mostly it was easier to continue to ‘work around’ each other, rather than address real values conflicts. We were not and have not been authentically committed to each other’s growth and learning – that’s not part of our commitment to each other.  So, though we did help each other out with the ‘daily life tasks’ we have in equal measure continued to hold each other back from life.  Oddly, the core reason for our divorce, was my frustration that he was unwilling to learn and grow (at my pace), to examine (and change in my opinion) his beliefs and behaviours which I found limiting; and at the core, our relationship lacked a fundamental integrity – on both sides – to tell our truths to each other.  It scared me, to know that what I wanted was to be fully accepted and to be freed or liberated from my immature life mistakes and beliefs, when in fact neither of us felt safe enough in our relationship to risk the ‘safety’ of our marriage for the authentic safety of being fully loved for our fullest humanness. [A conundrum two people often encounter within any relationship of mattering: when what we want most is the fullness of human relationship acceptance (safety) and the thing we fear most risks that very acceptance.]

My former husband and I shared an incredibly deep commitment to support each other as a post divorce ‘couple’ and to completely share our children’s lives and upbringing.  Yet this beautifully intended committment also held he and I in patterns of unhelpful limiting behaviours.  This commitment to be present for our children, and for them to know that their parents had each other’s ‘backs’ (so they would feel safe) –  led he and I, at times, to sacrifice our individuality and our growth, which has likely created a false-family-hood experience for our children.

I hated the concept of divorce, always had publicly proclaimed – not us – ever.  Never never will we do that.  And yet – when I found myself on the divorce path – I loudly proclaimed that our commitment to shared parenting and doing our best for our kids together was our shared priority – regardless, it did not ever change the fundamental differences their father and I shared.  We do life differently, we explore life differently, we care about different things, we wanted different experiences, and though I always felt he didn’t want to grow, I think now, its that his growth choices were not mine – and that is where the real rub still is – will always be.  The lack of respect, acceptance and valuing the need for me and maybe for him too, to find ‘safety’ in the inherent risk growth equation, brings an expansion and treating growth as a ‘distancing’ and separation – that was the chasm in our relationship.

For 14 years, I have been divorced, but in reality, we have never not been in a relationship of mattering and caring for our family together, just that this 14 years we did it together from mostly separate homes and mostly separate bank accounts, and mostly different friends.  We just have now, I realize, divorced; because divorce is putting down the expectation, the investment, the choice to show up.  It’s not a diminishment of prioritizing my care for him, its about realizing that my care and my commitment for him, has to change, for me to actually grow and change and to be available to be loved fully by myself and another.  That is what divorce is intended to do – to liberate the commitment – some of it, maybe all of it; but it did not liberate me 14 years ago – it did create breathing room, it did create opportunities to do for myself what I had to do and to stop putting on him, my own claiming of my own integrity – for myself – separate from anyone else’s approval.  That is probably the most unsung or unrealized chapter of my divorce journey, til now.

I don’t have regrets.  I could get lost in them…in the dark nights; but, what I know is that we have done our very best, and our commitment served a purpose, far beyond what I could have seen.  He provided a relationship container and our fierce shared commitment to our children created a vehicle for me, to try things out – to grow up my own self.  And for that and so much more, I am deeply grateful for his presence in my life.  Claiming my integrity, liberating myself from my need for the approval and acceptance of others, yes, I imagine, that is likely my life long journey.  Just as learning that it is a soul destroying mistake to make trading my integrity for another’s approval – for placing my happiness in someone else’s hands – for putting my judgements on others as a projection of my own disowned parts of my perfectly imperfect self.  I borrowed his courage and his integrity, and I leveraged it so I could be bolder and to keep going even when I was afraid to fail.

I went to Bali this April for a holiday and I realized mid-way that I had had, for the first time ever, zero worry about our kids.  Since returning from Bali – I didn’t set about contemplating or looking for profound realizations, yet, the unconscious sifting has occurred and new ‘pictures’ and understandings have emerged.   The biggest maybe is that though we were married a few years longer than we have been divorced, in truth, this last 14 years of divorce has been the maintenance of a commitment we made to each other in 1986, and though the divorce papers were signed in 2004, we have only just now completed our real-time commitment.

Our relationship will be freer going foward –  my care for him will always be a part of me; he’s a good human and I’m grateful he chose to show up for all these years together.

Our children stopped asking years ago, why we got divorced…it was unexplainable…many of our friends and family didn’t understand it – then or for years.  I couldn’t articulate it well, without feeling like I would sound like a selfish heartless bitch, or a flake…until now.   I wrote this in recognition and honour of our committment, I wrote this for our children and for him, and for me. I am very, very grateful for their extension of Grace – because in all these years, with all our life trials and achievements, we have never abandoned our commitment to each other.

Divorce is a legal change of marital status and it is a journey of liberation and of claiming; if you will let it.  I’m deeply grateful that I’ve finally come to understand this and realizing now, that the journey had been happening all along, I just couldn’t see it, til now.

 

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The Magic of the Great Bear Rainforest

“Serenity is the depth of being that holds difficulty, not the resting point after we’ve ended difficulty. And peace is the depth of being that holds suffering and doubt, not the raft we climb on to avoid suffering and doubt. This leads us to joy, which is much deeper and larger than any one feeling. Happiness, fear, anxiety, contentment, doubt, regret, unworthiness, anger, despair – all these are the waves that rise and fall in the sea of being. Joy is the ocean that holds all feelings. “

Mark Nepo, The Endless Practice.

 

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I love overcast blustery windy not-quite-but–almost-rainy-days, hot breezy sandy oceanside days, books with provocative titles (like; Dancing Naked at the Edge of Dawn, Good Grief…), steaming hot tea, awakening into a day relaxed in the knowing that there is no where to go and my day is in front of me to choose; almost-but-not-quite-pee-my pants laughing, holding hands, the natural world; and hiking and paddling…to name a few…and I do not love the doubt, the fear, the anxiety, the regret and the unworthiness I feel at varying times to varying degrees. The unsettled emptiness of ‘what now’ and ‘how to’, have had me over the years clinging to memorable moments of joy – gnawing away, pulling my awareness….and I’ve never had a sense of lasting serenity nor peace nor the deep content of knowing I can deal with life on all levels and still have peace…until a trip I went on this past summer.

 

I’ve been wanting to write about this past summer’s kayaking trip around the Great Bear Rainforest in the Queen Charlotte Islands…except it was not really a kayaking trip – well, on the ‘outside’ it was – and yet, the magic of the trip was discovering the trip was an inside job.

 

This experience was cellularin-nature, some would call it a spiritual experience, some might say it was an awakening, certainly for me, it was a soul-touching expansive experience. I am hopeful I can convey the freedom this trip has created inside of me. Liberation is exactly my best word to describe the core feeling, of what really occurred and continues to occur for me, as result of this trip.

 

I didn’t know what I had truly encountered until the end of the week…it stealthily emerged; made itself known as the week unfolded.

 

Like how this trip was a Sea Kayaking trip, and the Crew were Sea Kayak Guides, a Cook and a Captain…those turned out to be woefully limited titles for the roles they have cast themselves in. What was ‘done’ by the crew, is true, authentic facilitation. Their facilitation occurred as if it was the floating text of a story or the undergirding of a building structure; yes they were all highly skilled at their titled-practical-roles, but really they were in service to a much higher calling; The calling of stewardship of humans and their intersection with the majestic environment we were immersed in. Their facilitation was deeply centered in respect and kindness, with an offering in every interaction of a quiet, in-service, light-hearted, love for humans and the natural world. It bespoke of a shared camaraderie of intention far beyond the loading and unloading of kayaks and people, the guiding of paddling passageways. It worked on us, in quiet ways, as we grew individually and collectively lighter and quieter, more solid and yet freer. I have since wondered to myself often, about this way of being these Guides provided us with, and it has had me contemplating – what are my deepest commitments and how do I live them out-loud, how do I relate these commitments inside my world of teaching, facilitating, coaching, friending, parenting…

 

Returning to the hustle and bustle of my ordinary life, I was desperate to put the Genie back in the Bottle – except first I had to figure out what the Genie was…and I needed to talk about it, ruminate about it, hear from others what they had experienced…which we did – some said to stop unpacking the experience because the constant attention to it would dissipate the magic…

 

I was born with a deep appreciation for nature and the ever differing landscapes the world offers…and I do have a strong affinity for the ocean and the natural world as a safe, centering place for me – the wind on my face and physical movement are certainly part of my personal definition of bliss – this natural world is a place that has offered me solace and joy, and flashes of peace often in my years.   But this, this trip, it was an immersion, and as I relaxed into it the more my body and mind gave-way, the freer I became and the clearer I became – I emerged different.

 

It was a trip that turned out to offer healing, it was an experience of complete acceptance, no striving, no proving…the Guides and ‘program’ had a rhythm of a gentle open hand here’s what is on offer…care, acceptance, support for choice, in the accompaniment of the freedom of whales, grizzly bears, eagles, seals, sea lions, elephant seals…boundless ocean, stunning waterfalls, fjords, streams, estuaries, the wide endless expanse of open water, lunches on white sandy beaches, blissful quiet paddling, dead rotting whales, beach games, spontaneous ocean dipping, the presence of companionship if wanted, conversation if desired, steadying of kayaks, unassuming Guides with a mentoring of reverence for the environment…choice, safety, quiet activism, offers of whole hearted embracing care, blankets of stars, sunsets with dancing sky-pink-cloud ballet shows, gratitude and appreciation flowed, alongside belly laughter and heart-full connections. Snoring, banging doors, cramped berths, were a background part of ‘what is’…no resistance, all a part the greatness of the totality of environment. It was an experience of witnessing Human and Environmental Stewardship, or by another name, Grace-in-Action.

 

I have often wondered if the Mothership Adventures Owners and Crew are intentional in this quiet hand, open offer of their mentorship, extending an authentic reverence for each guest …Yes, they offer kayaking trips…and yet they are truly facilitators of growing human environmental stewardship – helping others realize our responsibility to grasping a real individual experience of here-now, of acceptance, of the no-need for titles and who you are in the world beyond this week – but instead here’s an experience of genuine interest in how you are, who you are, and connecting the gift of our life, our lives, within the opportunity to deeply connect to that which gave us life and within that realizing more deeply that our true human and natural world environmental conditions are our ultimately and inescapably individual and therefore collective responsibility.

 

My deepest learning from this week, was my realization that the only sustainable way forward is to move with suffering and not be beholden to it…it is the only way to transform.

 

This trip, this experience, dissolved my anger, my fear; about a condition I developed some years back called cervical dystonia (spasmodic torticollis). If you had told me even 6 months prior to this trip, that I would paddle a kayak reasonably comfortably again, or play beach games that required accuracy of throwing…or just be able to be in a place of acceptance for what is here, now – for me – without struggling against it…I quite simply would not have believed even God or Buddha combined. If you had told me I would scramble over rocks and have complete blissful solitude on an island in the middle of the ocean – being fully present, where I blessed this dystonic condition for bringing me to my knees, I would have wondered about your sanity. If you had told me I would find a way to share this trip with my daughter and that she would, in her words, say to me as we flew then drove home, “How do we keep this feeling, this real way of being, back in our worlds…I have had a pinnacle experience”, I would not have believed you.

 

We did come back to our ‘usual world’, to discover my beloved Uncle had died. I also came back to recognize I had lost my ability to tolerate some of my family members unkind behaviours. I came front and center with how much pain many carry and then try to distance ourselves from – through expressing judgements, assumptions, and old stories that hold others and ourselves in-stunted-places (a form of living the past and future into the present.) It was impossible for me when in that space, to practice acceptance, to let go and let people have their separate experience of life. It was a difficult and humble moment, then and now, to know that my GBR experience was so new, and like a mother protecting a newborn chick, I lashed out in my protection of my own new, knowingess. Failing to hold onto the peace, the serenity, the honouring of life… in that moment, I failed miserably. The Good Grief that followed was in knowing, that I could choose differently…”just give me time”, I have since thought with a forgiving, peaceful smile, I will get this.

 

Life, at our best, is a noble act. Growth, invokes strangeness, fear, joy and humility, failure and success; embracing growth, being unwilling to stay stuck, is our way forward past the old to the new. Life is meant to be lived here and now, individually separate and whole, holy connected and in an unfolding way. That is our one great act to play, to be noble, humble stewards of the gift of our life and our personal and world environment. To fail and not be caught in the net titled, failure forever more. To know too, that all exists in our experience, and to hold lightly with an open hand, to deeply know that right here, right now, is new and available to us to make anew.

 

 

Sit and Feast on the Here and Now

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Derek Walcott

 

A friend and I were recently discussing our Ah-Ha’s of late and she was wondering how we turn Ah-Ha’s into actions…different beliefs…and I not so quietly said that I agree…morning pages or brains full of AH-Ha’s are quite worthless without action. So – here’s just abit of my journey since the GBF trip…

 

Over the past few months, some of us from the trip have shared our experiences. Some of us have lamented about the challenge of ‘re-entry’, holding onto the peace and joy. Some of us were fundamentally changed or awakened through this trip.

 

Since returning, I have taken up Yoga…alot – in a new, committed, real way – i.e.: 2 hours a day – and I continue – to the point of wondering of late, if I was nurturing a future addiction. What I have noticed is that my practice has expanded to engaging and connecting my mind, body and soul…encouraging me to let go of spiritual and physical ‘dog crap bags’ (even if they are biodegradable). Challenging myself to identify that which I no longer need to carry around…encouraging more compassion with myself, working with my physical challenges whilst I look fervently for evidence of my healing and I acknowledge and celebrate the moments of ever increasing physical alignment whilst smiling at my mental chatter that I can now shift to gentle and kind towards the dystonic activity.   And, I’ve lost 28 pounds, because I realize that truly clean eating is an act of self-love, not consuming alcohol is equally a way of reducing inflammation and a living commitment to wanting to be fully present with myself.   I booked a trip to Belize for a month at the end of this year…a long awaited trip to visit an old friend and do more ocean kayaking and snorkelling and lots of outdoor yoga. And, I adopted an orphan 7 month old kitten soon-to-be-cat, appropriately and loving christened Oliver. My daughter, well I will say – (though she may have a differing opinion) – her kaleidoscope view of what is within her sphere of control has become clearer and she’s embracing knowing what contentedness, peace, means to her….plus since the GBR she made happen her own bucket list trip to swim with manatee’s.

 

It is not possible to put this Genie in a bottle…because this Genie is in me, is in each of us…I am thinking today, that life is actually about freeing this Genie. Facing ourselves, our limitations; reaching for compassion, worthy conversations and accepting that we are truly responsible for our selves, our part.

 

Our natural world is a reflection of the tumultuous human condition we have for all time been a part of using and abusing, creating and destroying.   It is up to each of us, to create the personal environment inside of ourselves, in our most seemingly minute of interactions within ourselves and with others, within our families, our communities, our work worlds, to be ever more kind and considerate of our thoughts and our actions.

 

I have searched for a long time for a core question that will help me, guide me. I have found my question. Will this thought, this action, this behaviour I am engaged in or contemplating…. generate more life or bring death closer to the door of my life, our world?

 

There is no past, only this step. All the relapses, all the failures, all the troubles … these now exist only in our heads.

 

Be Here, Now. Present. Give the gift of your life, your best shot. I am.

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Mark Nepo

Fighting The Instrument

Often the instruments of change
are not kind or just
and the hardest openness
of all might be
to embrace the change
while not wasting your heart
fighting the instrument.

The storm is not as important
as the path it opens.
The mistreatment in one life
never as crucial as the clearing
it makes in your heart.

This is very difficult to accept.
The hammer or cruel one
is always short-lived
compared to the jewel
in the center of the stone.

The Way Under the Way

For all that has been written,
for all that has been read, we
are led to this instant where one
of us will speak and one of us will
listen, as if no one has ever placed
an oar into that water.

It doesn’t matter how we come
to this. We may jump to it or be
worn to it. Because of great pain.
Or a sudden raw feeling that this
is all very real. It may happen in a
parking lot when we break the eggs
in the rain. Or watching each other
in our grief.

But here we will come. With very
little left in the way.

When we meet like this, I may not
have the words, so let me say it now:
Nothing compares to the sensation
of being alive in the company of
another. It is God breathing on
the embers of our soul.

Stripped of causes and plans
and things to strive for,
I have discovered everything
I could need or ask for
is right here—
in flawed abundance.

We cannot eliminate hunger,
but we can feed each other.
We cannot eliminate loneliness,
but we can hold each other.
We cannot eliminate pain,
but we can live a life
of compassion.

Ultimately,
we are small living things
awakened in the stream,
not gods who carve out rivers.

Like human fish,
we are asked to experience
meaning in the life that moves
through the gill of our heart.

There is nothing to do
and nowhere to go.
Accepting this,
we can do everything
and go anywhere.

 

Santiago- David Whyte

Santiago

The road seen, then not seen, the hillside
hiding then revealing the way you should take,
the road dropping away from you as if leaving you
to walk on thin air, then catching you, holding you up,
when you thought you would fall,
and the way forward always in the end
the way that you followed, the way that carried you
into your future, that brought you to this place,
no matter that it sometimes took your promise from you,
no matter that it had to break your heart along the way:
the sense of having walked from far inside yourself
out into the revelation, to have risked yourself
for something that seemed to stand both inside you
and far beyond you, that called you back
to the only road in the end you could follow, walking
as you did, in your rags of love and speaking in the voice
that by night became a prayer for safe arrival,
so that one day you realized that what you wanted
had already happened long ago and in the dwelling place
you had lived in before you began,
and that every step along the way, you had carried
the heart and the mind and the promise
that first set you off and drew you on and that you were
more marvelous in your simple wish to find a way
than the gilded roofs of any destination you could reach:
as if, all along, you had thought the end point might be a city
with golden towers, and cheering crowds,
and turning the corner at what you thought was athe end
of the road, you found just a simple reflection,
and a clear revelation beneath the face looking back
and beneath it another invitation, all in one glimpse:
like a person and a place you had sought forever,
like a broad field of freedom that beckoned you beyond;
like another life, and the road still stretching on.

– David Whyte
from Pilgrim
©2012 Many Rivers Press