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Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 45: From Grief to Gratitude While Visiting Hollywood

28 Jan

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 45: From Grief to Gratitude While Visiting Hollywood.

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Angst on an Airplane:  Recently I flew to Hollywood for Christmas.  From my flight from Vancouver to LA, and into the first couple of days of my trip, I was riddled with the stress of my job, and the anxiety of a couple of personal matters.  I felt emotionally consumed by worry, and felt unable to escape some of it, even by leaving home to do so.   No matter how hard I tried, I was not able to shift out of my work gear, and into my holiday mode which I had been looking forward to for several weeks.  I found myself reviewing many of the negatives like a silent picture show in my mind.

Fortunately, I have incredible travel angels, and I landed in the world’s most interesting bed and breakfast called The Hollywood B and B.  It was filled with fascinating relics and art from all over the world.  The theme of most of this boutique inn was vintage America.  Anything and everything that tied into American film, music and art was residing somewhere on a table, wall or available space in this historical home.  This was an exceptional hoarders’ paradise because everything truly was beautiful, not only to the hoarding hosts, but to their guests.

Shifting Emotional Gears:  It took me awhile to recognize the signs of worry, distress, depression and exhaustion, but eventually I surrendered to it through rest and recovery.  It had been a difficult fall at work grappling with a traumatized school district just coming out of a strike, and where I was learning the ropes in a new organization on multiple levels.  As well, I was starting to feel some homesickness for my friends and family in Calgary.  Despite having many positive things happening in BC with work, new social connections and hobbies, I was not feeling very happy about my circumstances.  No matter how I looked at everything, it kept leading me back to this sense of loss and failure, even though I knew that logically, this was not the case.

After a couple of days of ruminating, I chose to go out.  I started exploring Hollywood Boulevard; Sunset Boulevard; The Griffin Observatory; The Getty Museum; the LA County Museum of Art; the Norton Simon Art Gallery; Pasadena; Santa Monica, and the surrounding area down to Malibu.  Somewhere in the middle of all of this, as I was learning to drive the six lanes of traffic, I started to shift gears from grief to gratitude.

Serendipity Works Its Magic:  When I first arrived at 2 in the morning, I switched on the light of my “Maverick Room” (likely called this because there were two decorated cow skulls on the wall which some might call artwork). I  figured out how to turn on the satellite television and the first thing that came on was a program about “fear”.  At first it didn’t seem to be very profound, but I found it odd that of all 886 channels, the one program that kept coming up was talking about this topic of fear that I was vividly experiencing at that very moment in time.  The people on this channel appeared to be experts on this topic, and the quote that stood out for me in their dialogue (and then became my mantra for the next few days of my holiday), was this:  “If you give faith to fear, you give yourself to the enemy.  If you give your faith to God, you give yourself back to yourself.”  It was a profound starting point of other little “signs” that good things would be happening on this holiday.

The Maze:  What I also started doing was counting my blessings, and I realized that there were many of them.  I realized that part of my dilemma was this idea of turning 50 years old in the new year.  As the days of the holiday counted down to 2015, I was feeling my mortality.

When I was looking out from the Getty Museum overlooking Beverly Hills, I realized a few things.  I had more to be grateful for than I would ever to be sorry about.  As well, I marvelled at the key life events that had happened over the last fifty years that had turned me into the person that I had become.  Most of these life events involved people supporting me and helping to launch me into new and important directions.

From this vantage point at the top of the Getty, I could look down and see exactly the right way to go through this beautiful foliage maze.  It was a bit like life.  When you are right in the middle of it, you cannot see which way to go.  However, when you stand back, you can see it all very differently.  I decided then and there that I was going to acknowledge the 50 people who had most impacted my life over my lifetime.

My Top 50 People:  Who would my top 50 people be?  I had so many people to be thankful for, but I decided that I would narrow it down to the key change agents in my life journey.  These were people who had made a substantial shift in me physically, emotionally, intellectually, and/or spiritually.  My family automatically came to mind…then my doctors who had operated on my feet, knees and shoulder (so that I could move easily)…and then my mentors who had helped nominate and support me through my career–all of this started to come into focus.

As I was considering this list of names, I went into the gift shop, and there on the gift shop stand was a postcard of the very maze that I had just been looking out over.  It seemed to represent the maze of my life.   I decided to buy all of them!   When the shop owner carefully counted them out, there were exactly 50 cards which matched the exact number of my gratitude mission.  I spent the next few days jotting down names and making decisions about who I would write, and what I would say in each card.  Then, while I sat each evening in the dim light of the bed and breakfast while listening to some lovely guitar music and sipping hot ginger tea, I began to write.

Re-focussing:  No longer was I thinking about my worries and challenges.  I was thinking about my life in technicolor gratitude.  Important memories were coming back to me, and I was making some significant revelations.  I was connecting the dots.  Had these people not entered in my life at key times, my life could be very different than it is presently.  My good fortune in life was a result of a series of spiritual interventions of key people along the way.  In each letter, I decided to include a quote by one of my favourite authors, Marianne Williamson who I have been reading recently because as I am in the mid-life that she so graciously refers to as The Age of Miracles (2008):

It takes a decade to understand the basic nature of spiritual principles, another decade while the ego tries to eat you alive, another decade while you try to wrestle it to the ground, and finally you begin to walk more or less in the light.  Anyone who thinks a spiritual path is easy probably hasn’t been walking one…In A Course in Miracles, light is defined as “understanding.” What a beautiful thought, that to see the light is to understand. (p. 28)

I was starting to understand on this trip to Hollywood where people’s dreams came true, that my bright lights were coming from within.  Perhaps it was fed by the music from the wonderful music of the singer Olita Adams that I heard on New Year’s Eve at the famous Catalina Jazz Club, or it was the riveting comedians at the Laugh Factory that snapped me back into happiness; I’m not sure.  However, I have a feeling that what helped me to get my bearings most was travelling.  Again, by finding another vantage point from which to see my life maze, and to know that there was an entrance, a path and an exit, I felt reassured.  It was just a matter of taking the time to appreciate that everything was going to be alright because everything had already been alright.

Happy New Year 2015

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Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirty-Nine: Creating the Grand Adventure

6 Aug

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirty-Nine: Creating the Grand Adventure.

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Getting on the Train: My recent move to the Comox Valley to live on my own in a new culture, and in a paradise setting, has taught me three things. I can do it. Secondly, that it is not exactly where I want to be at this time in my life, and thirdly, I am not living out my true potential in my major career (although I appreciate my good fortune in having such a good job in the Comox Valley, and I enjoy some of this work very much). I am at a critical turning point. Pender Island, the cottage that I bought in tandem with moving to BC to work as an administrator, was clearly the right decision. This has become a place where I will set down some roots and return to it time and again, as my little sanctuary for as long as I can afford to do so.

My friend, who recently visited my cottage, left me with an interesting quote that she found from watching the movie The Lunchbox: “Sometimes the wrong train takes you to the right station.” To some degree I feel similarly to the lead character in the movie. I have gotten on a train, and am confident that this was a good step towards getting towards where I need to be (although I am not exactly sure of my destination). At least I got on a train, as many of us talk ourselves out of doing that because we want guarantees that we are safe in whatever we do. Whereas, life is really a journey. It is about taking a series of steps that head in the direction of our souls, and hopefully, allow us to do what we are called to do along the way so that we live authentic and rich life experiences.

What is the Grand Adventure? It is difficult to describe to someone what a grand adventure actually means. So many of us get into relationships to achieve the outcome of having a relationship. We work at jobs for the satisfaction of achieving our career goals. We have children to raise and launch them into adulthood. In many ways, we go through a series of developmental tasks that help us to experience key personal and professional goals through to fruition in very componential and linear ways.

Whatever the goal, the Grand Adventure is something big, important, meaningful and memorable. It is deemed an adventure because it requires preparation, courage, and possibly, training, to carry it through to fruition. It is something that we will be proud to tell our friends and family, and to look back on with happiness and pride. We will be able to reminisce in the glow of accomplishment, and say, “We did this together!” Or, “We built this!” This memorable lived legacy can be something either internal, external or both.

I believe that a Grand Adventure is something bigger than any one developmental task in our lifetimes. It affords us to have a relationship within a bigger life trajectory. It allows us to consider our career within a larger overarching plan or series of plans. We can then bring our children into a bigger conceptual space about their purpose for being. Rather than simply raising them within some established structures and formative milestones that are typically accepted as “growing up” in our cultures in safe and acceptable ways, we broaden their life experiences through a bigger life vision that often involves building strength, confidence, and helping ourselves and others to be better people.

Vision-Making: The Grand Adventure is something that we can do ourselves, or with others. I believe living out this type of big dream would be most satisfying, albeit, most challenging, to do with a partner. I also think that this is the type of thing that relationships benefit from to help us align our spirits. Living on a shared Grand Adventure requires a kind of vision-making of each partner so that we can first find meaning in our own independent plans, and then in our shared visions. I believe that it is important that both people in partnership own part of the dream so that we feel some shared passion and motivation in fulfilling it. We are co-pilots and rely on each other flying towards our connected dreams.

Essentially, when striking out towards this vision, we each sit side-by-side at our easels considering what colours we will throw onto it, or how we might delicately paint over our blank canvasses. Everyone has a different visioning style. There are no paint by numbers. There are no rules that make one painting right and the other wrong. It is dreaming aloud without any preconceived notions. Writers refer to this as “free writing”. As we create, ideas come into shape, rather than what is typically accepted which is that all things need to have an outline, or clearly measured blue prints.

From time to time, we will peek over at our partner’s painting, and see what is emerging. We give each other space to dream and grow, trusting that we are both committed to building something together and in some synchronicity and on a similar timeline. And then together, we compare our creations. It might be a cacophony of colour, or a clearly rendered painting from a picture held in our minds, perhaps from childhood. Then we consider how the ideas align. What brainstorming needs to occur to make each one independently as beautiful as possible. And then, what happens when we bring them together and merge them? What are even more possibilities when both dreams are combined? The logistics are not the point at this part of the adventure. All that is required is hope, enthusiasm, inspiration and raw courage.

Imagine travelling to a foreign country to work with a non-profit charitable organization to help bring water to communities. Consider what it might be like to climb key mountains in the world that are both beautiful and challenging. What if the grand adventure is to co-author a book while travelling and living somewhere that is unfamiliar and new? What if it looks like sailing from one coast to another and learning to live off of the sea? What if it means living in a community of people working towards the goal of saving an animal or ecosystem that is fragile? Perhaps it is living for a year or two discovering different spiritual practices? What if it might be to research a certain thing or situation and publish the findings? It might be simpler, and could involve setting personal goals of physical well-being or building something tangible that has value to both people and is helpful to others who need this support. What if…? is the type of talk that occurs at this stage.

Living the Dream Aloud: Eventually, the time comes to live it aloud. The architect and the carpenter need to work together to carefully craft what the dream might be. The logistics of how the blocks from the quarry are lifted, cut and crafted together, need to be considered. It takes ongoing communication and disciplined planning in order to see it through so that there is a nice sense of possibility and momentum in its creation. Most importantly, both partners need to share in the leadership. The skill set of each partner is respected, but neither is made responsible for motivating the project. Instead, it is agreed that if it matters to both, both must contribute to its launching. Each must relish in the work and joy that it will bring the partnership. Both must appreciate how to open our arms and abandon ourselves openly to the unknown that happens on every adventure. No one person is left holding the bag, as having a trusting and reciprocal commitment is the key element of a shared adventure. At times, this takes discipline, effort and might require education or guidance from external sources where challenges emerge.

Doing It: Finally, the adventure begins to unfold. It can sometimes happen while it is still being planned, and it might continue and branch off into many directions; but most importantly, it happens. It might not happen exactly as planned. It might become too large or too small, and require revisions along the way. There might be some breaks for rest, or modifications so that both people can sustain the journey. However, again, the point is that there is follow-through. The dream comes to life. There will be a wonderful story to tell before, during and after it happens. I like to believe that the partnership will benefit and grow from the experience, and so will others that we encounter along the way, provided that we act from a place of love and integrity. And then, at the end of the adventure, hopefully we will find that it is really only the beginning of our next adventure together.

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt

Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirty-Six: Coast to Coast Calling

30 Jul

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirty-Six: Coast to Coast Calling.

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Coast to Coast Calling

Impenetrable darkness

The Pacific bonfire questions the night sky
“How bright am I?”

Aurora’s luminescent spirits
hiss at the stars

Thunderbird’s wings
slash open the skies

Forest’s wild flames
scratch the night awake

Cygnus’ crystals in milky galaxies
flicker and fall

Light wars
Merely distractions

The Atlantic waters
quietly phosphorescent
reply

“I see you”

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirty-Five: There is Something About Roberts

22 Jul

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Roberts Abound: It is with some trepidation that I confide a phenomenon in my life that revolves around the many Roberts that I have met as friends or dated. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, and at the risk of sounding like a Robert stalker, or a delusional Robert reporter, I was told recently by a friend that perhaps I should share my interesting Robert journey and see what people think. It is an interesting tale.

The Tale of Roberts: From eighteen years of age on, I have had the good fortune of knowing many Roberts. I have been single most of my life, so I have had some periods throughout it where I have been dating and not in a significant relationship. Until recently, it had not really dawned on me how many “Roberts” I have known. Just to clarify, I have never actually sought out, nor asked out a Robert. Instead, they seem to find me…on trips, in stores, at sporting events, at special events, etc. For example, when travelling to Italy, I met a Roberto. I also was friends with a Robert from Australia for years. Very recently, I was asked out by yet another Robert. It finally dawned on me that something supernatural about Roberts was unfolding. I sat down and made the connection. In some ways, it felt embarrassing to know that I had overlooked this very glaring phenomenon for so long. What was it about Roberts?

Robert the Recent: Recently, I have been writing a novel with the main character named Robert. It seemed natural to choose this name as a protagonist seeing that this male name kept popping up over the past thirty years of my life. The choice was unconscious until I had my recent epiphany. The irony is that shortly after I started writing this novel, another Robert, or “Rob” entered my life. He tried a couple of times to get my attention. It was then that I started connecting the dots. Again, what was it about Roberts? I shared with him my interesting background with his name, and he was intrigued (and likely taken aback a bit) by the unusual circumstances. (Had the situations been reversed and he told me the same about Shelley’s, I think I might not have responded with as much grace).

Behind the Name: I wonder if perhaps, my last name “Robinson” has anything to do with it in some sort of magical or spiritual way. Robin is a derivative of the name Robert, and thus, “the son of Robin” could be the same type of equivalent to Robert. Another possibility is the sheer popularity of the name. In the United States, the name Robert is ranked as number 62 on the popularity scale. The name itself is from the Germanic name Hrodebert meaning “bright fame”, derived from the Germanic elements hrod “fame” and beraht “bright”. It is true that all of the Roberts that I have met have been nice men, and interesting to be around–gentlemen.

The Universe Conspiring: What I wonder is why the universe is conspiring to have me meet Roberts. Or, am I supposed to have learned something from Roberts and then move on?  Perhaps I am to stay clear of Roberts.  It is just an interesting anecdote worth sharing.  

Cheers!