There Are No Victims Here

Most of us are familiar with the idiom ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me’ and most of us will agree it is untrue.  Words hurt. Words can be turned into weapons that pierce hearts, crush dreams and break spirits.  I have always been particularly sensitive to how we use words and what compels us to choose one word over another.

If you watch the news or keep up with events online or in print, you will have read or heard a phrase like this a thousand times over  ‘he/she was victim of a heinous crime’ and description of said crime.  The truth is most of us (if not all of us) have been ‘victims’ of something less-than-desirable through no fault of our own.  We have been victims of neglect, absence, abuse, unfairness, misfortune and crime and not because we ‘deserved’ to be victimized but because things happen all the time to the best (and worst) of us.  That’s life.

I am one of those people who crave the ‘after story’.  I want to know more about said ‘victim’ of wolverine attack, avalanche, burglary, rape, molestation etc.  I want to know if you saw the road ahead fork in two.  I want to know if you believe in second and third chances.  I want to know if you still get up in the morning to shower, brush your teeth and get on with creating your life.  I want to know if you hope again, love again and dream again.  I want to be inspired and am inspired by people who refuse to be labelled or prescribed to.  I am inspired by people who will not be defined by an experience or a poor word but fear for those who continue to play the victim card.

Words can also heal.  They have resurrective properties. Someone who has overcome; someone who has fought back; someone who has clawed their way back out and up and resisted is a survivor.  I wish more journalists would adopt the word ‘survivor’ and drop the word ‘victim’ when reading the news. I wish more of us realized this world is populated by survivors. Victims are dead.

What word do you find pejorative or inadequate and wish would be dropped from the lexicon?

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Believing In The Improbable, The Impossible and The Illogical

Sometimes, on my way to or from work I walk past a park with a playground and when the weather is good (which it has been for a while now) the park is full of mothers and toddlers and children no older than nine (my estimate). I enjoy listening to the children scream with glee as they scamper down the slide (sometimes on all fours, funny monkeys!) and reach for the clouds from the seat of the swings.

I love how children believe in the implausible, illogical and impossible and how despite the odds being against them, continue to reach for the man on the moon or search, flashlight in hand, for the purple monster under the bed.

Growing up takes some doing.  It’s hard work trying to suspend if not abandon entirely, certain heart-truths or beliefs.  Imagine for example trying to communicate to your dearest and nearest that you suspect you were abducted by aliens or that Bigfoot carried off your cooler on your last camping trip.  Chances are they’d recommend you cut back on the boozing and look into therapy… unless of course you’re a writer.  Like me.  And your family is, well, used to all kinds of ‘fantasies’.

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I’m going to share with you a story today that I have shared once or twice at family gatherings.  It is a story that always draws a few ‘ahs’ and ‘aws’ while raising a few eyebrows and a fervent apology from my husband who thinks I’m bonkers.

My eldest son’s birth was a traumatic experience for me and not for any of the reasons you would suspect.  I was scared.  Very very scared.   Believing I was ill-prepared, inadequate and unworthy in equal measures.  So  instead of pushing when I was told to, by an increasingly irate obstetrician I focused all my energy on keeping my child inside me.  I don’t recommend this course of action.  I can assure you if you have not given birth yourself that the pain I endured (natural birth, no epidural) defies description.

Anyway my son made his appearance and was and is a perfect boy. I remember holding onto him feeling ill-equipped and unprepared.  M was about two months old when it became clear to my husband, my doctor and immediate family that I was suffering from post-partum depression.  When I wasn’t sleeping (which wasn’t often of course) I was crying.  And I mean crying. Long, ugly, messy bouts of deep sorrow.  I turned to prayer and sometimes with my baby in my arms I would sit on the rocking chair in his nursery and lament.  Yes, lament.  I wish I could say I soothed my firstborn with lullabies but the truth is M would doze off to the sound of my pain.

Then one day  all hope drained out of my body, I fell silent.   I remember that day clearly.  It was late afternoon and orange light fell in a ray over my son’s cot and a bird sang his last song for that day somewhere in the distance.  The nursery door was wide open and I could see the corridor from where I sat.  Something stirred.  A breeze from an open window? The colliding of molecules?  I watched transfixed as a pair of beautiful, impossibly white wings materialized by the door.  They were long feathered wings, like those of giant dove’s, attached to an invisible back and trailing behind them a slow moving mist.

I know how this sounds.  M says I’m weird and sharing this is a bad idea.  But you should know I wasn’t on medication even though I should have been.  I will end by saying this.  I believe in angels.  Do you?

What belief do you hold onto because you know it to be true however illogical and improbable it may seem to others?

 

 

 

 

 

What is your INTENTION for 2014?

Happy 2014 everyone!  I have to agree with most posts I have read and add to the chorus by saying that I was quite happy to see the tail end of 2013.  I am looking forward to a brighter, healthier and happier 2014 not only for myself and my family but for everyone.

I start every New Year not so much with a resolution but with an intention or theme for the coming 365 days.  That theme is usually comprised of one word.   2012 for example was my year of CREATIVITY.  My intention then was to be more available and open to creative outlets.  So not only did I write a novel but I started drawing again which I loved doing as a child but stopped when I got my training bra.

My word for 2013 was RESTORATION and I have to admit here that it was in fact a word chosen for me and not a word I would have consciously decided on.  You may already know from previous blogs that I read the Bible or at least I try very very hard to carve the space and time to read it and reflect on a passage from the Bible every day.   I knew by late 2012 that 2013 was going to be a challenging year for my family and I. Not only did we have BIG goals to meet as individuals and a family but we also had to meet certain residency requirements and make Canada, once and for all, our permanent home.   For those of you who have moved countries/immigrated you will know what I mean when I compare it to moving mountains! (which I can assure you God will do for you if you ask nicely).    I don’t have a ‘systematic’ way of reading the Bible  since I have read it from cover to cover many times.  Instead I open it up and read whatever chapter catches my eye.  I got this idea from Debbie Macomber’s wonderful book One Perfect Word.

(The theme of RESTORATION comes up throughout the Bible but the passages that I was ‘compelled’ to read were mostly found in Jeremiah, the Psalms and Acts I)

Now you don’t have to be religious to find your word for the year.  You don’t even need a Bible.  What you do need I believe is faith. Faith that your Spirit knows what lessons need to be learned or qualities need to be explored or earned and it all starts with some quiet time.  I made that time for myself yesterday and I discovered that my year of RESTORATION was also my year of APPRECIATION.    I learned that real change only comes after you have learned to appreciate your current circumstances.  Demanding change in yourself or in your environment only creates tension and builds barriers to progress.  You have to start by appreciating what you have right now.  2013 was the year the scales fell from my eyes and I saw things clearly.  I have a lot to be thankful for even when it felt at times, like I was ‘losing’ out on so much by turning down what I knew would be soul-crushing work and letting go of certain ‘friends’.

My word for 2014 is REFRESH and again it was chosen for me.  I know.  It’s strange.  I need to ponder on this one.

What is your WORD (or words no need to limit yourself!) for 2014!

In the meantime I can tell you I am working on my goals for this blog and I am looking forward to sharing them with you.

On Winter and Writing

I awoke this morning with a glad heart to the sight of  downy snow falling.   I  love the way it cloaks the earth and powders the trees.

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Winter is associated with hibernation and stagnation and yet I find that when it comes to writing, Winter is my most productive season.  Is it because of the clean, white slate outside my window?  Or the deep stillness?  Is it because for all it’s apparent barrenness, Winter is about reflection and about digging deeper?  An invitation perhaps to find richer landscapes within?

What do you think?

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Dust of Snow by Robert Frost

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

 

 

The Gift of Listening

A few weeks ago a homeless man got on the bus with a large canvas bag full of empty cans.  I estimated his age to be around sixty-five because of his weathered and broken face but he could have been forty for all I know.  I thought of this man as we entered this Season of Merry-Making and Spending Sprees and again last night as I watched from the comfort of my toasty living room the temperature gauge plummet to -16.

I felt very fortunate to be inside and out of the cold and cutting wind.  I felt especially grateful to have a roof over my head and a working furnace remembering like I do every winter that not everyone can afford heating or hot water.  And while you may be reading this thinking this is yet another post about gratitude and learning to count our blessings (it is) it is actually about what this homeless man did on the bus and how that drew my attention to another problem.

The man dragged his canvas bag along the bus floor and sat across from me.  He then proceeded to answer his cellphone (a cellphone that did not ring or beep) and went on to have a lengthy conversation with his mother.  The conversation went something like this:

‘Yes, You must come visit.  I have a nice place down by the river.  A little drafty but I have great views.  Just yesterday I watched an eagle take a salmon out of the water.  Yes.  I’m telling you it’s a great place.  Yes. It’s mine.’

He went on to tell her he had a dentist appointment later that day. Yes.  He needed extensive dental work but he was finally going to get ‘fixed up’.  He told her he was ‘living the life’ but it would be great if she came to visit.  He hadn’t seen her in – what was it – oh yes, fifteen years.  He missed her.  He missed his brother.  He hadn’t spent a Christmas with them (his family) in ages (they were in Halifax).  He was still holding a conversation on a dead phone when I got off but this scene brought home to me the problem we face as a society – as a species- with loneliness.

I read somewhere that when asked Vancouverites said that what bothered them most was not the high cost of living or drugs in the street but the fact that they felt lonely and unconnected.  When I worked at a clinic I would sit and listen to elderly people tell me how much they missed talking.  Sometimes I would wonder if there is something wrong with me because I love listening to people recount his or her story.  I have heard the most incredible WWII stories from people who were in the very thick of it.  I even got to talk to a man who was a pilot during WWI.  I value that alone more than gold. I get it that we all lead busy lives.  I get it that we all have our share of burdens and responsibilities but during this season of giving perhaps the biggest gift we can give is an ear and an hour or two with someone who has no one left to talk to.

Further thoughts on the Art of Waiting

We do a lot of waiting don’t we ? We wait in line at banks, at bus stops, train stations and airports…We wait for results and feedback and answers to problems, we wait for news and babies and crops but few of us are socialized to do all this necessary waiting gracefully.

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I worked for a time in a physiotherapy clinic as a receptionist and it was one of the more ‘illuminating’ jobs I have ever held.  I watched people arrive, usually on time for their appointment (surprisingly very few people actually arrive early for appointments) and when advised by me, that they would be waiting a ‘few more minutes’ to see the physiotherapist their faces would crinkle with irritation or exasperation..  When I waited on tables (for a spell in my misspent youth) people sighed at being told they would have to wait a ‘few more minutes’ for their grilled chicken and after the (inevitable) complimentary drink would begin to whine loudly for all to hear of ‘waiting for ages’.    One ‘gentleman’ actually asked me if we were busy plucking the chicken in the kitchen, it was taking so long.  I wanted to say something smarmy like ‘hey dude ever heard of salmonella poisoning?” But of course I didn’t. 

Now that I have been lying in bed for six days waiting for my chest to clear and the aches and pains to disappear (I have now progressed to extra strength Tylenols which is a big deal for me because I’d rather be chewing Echinacea roots) I’m getting a sense there is a whole lot of ‘soul making’ going on and I am all for it.

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I leave my bed only to use the bathroom and to refill the tea pot otherwise I am here – in my cocoon with my books (my husband has taken to calling it Hadrian’s wall) and my laptop.    The rest of the house is a game of Clue or a crime scene of sorts.  There is a clear trail of crumbs and ketchup from the refrigerator to my sons’ bedrooms, a tower of dishes in the kitchen sink, a girl’s hairclip in the sitting room sofa (who? And when did this happen?), Halloween candy wrappers under every table, a thickening coat of dust on every surface…

It beckons.  The house calls for my attention as does my job in the city.  But I am not ready to leave my bed.  I am in no rush to rejoin the world of deadlines and quick fixes.  Thomas Merton wrote: ‘The imagination should be allowed a certain amount of time to browse around.’  I am happy to dip my toes in foreign waters; to nose around in secret places; to poke and pry into others’ lives while mine for the time being is on hold.  And so my body strengthens, my spirit stretches and stories – marvelous stories – incubate.