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Pressed:  Daily Offerings: Little Balinese Gifts by Shelley Robinson

16 May

Source: Daily Offerings: Little Balinese Gifts by Shelley Robinson

Pressed:  Taking a Running Leap by Shelley Robinson

2 Sep

Source: Taking a Running Leap by Shelley Robinson

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“I advise you to say your dream is possible and then overcome all inconveniences, ignore all the hassles and take a running leap through the hoop, even if it is in flames.”  Les Brown

Letting Go:  When fear has a death grip on your life to the point that it becomes impossible to breathe, it is time to change.  It often may appear easier to speculate what change might look and feel like by dipping our toes into its frigid cold waters and slowly acclimating to it while clinging to the edge of the dock, than it is to simply take the plunge.  Taking one tentative step after another before submerging into the glorious depths of a new life, often sounds something like this when we are having conversations with people about the “what if’s” that could happen in our lives:

  • “When I get these things finished, I can…”
  • “When I have enough money saved, I will…”
  • “When my partner is ready and available to change, I will…”
  • “When I know exactly what will happen wherever I go, I might…”
  • “When I am feeling really ready, I will try to…”
  • “When I have all of the education and/or qualifications that I will need to be very employable, I will…”
  • “When I sell or rent my home…”
  • “When my children move out…”
  • “When my pets die…”
  • “When I retire and have a pension…”
  • “When I get married…”

Change is terribly frightening, especially when we are sitting on the precipice between the past and the future.  Letting go of a pay cheque; a partner; a way of life filled with a false sense of security and comfort, just seems too impossible because even unsatisfying security is some type of stability never-the-less.  Even when life is life-sucking, soul crunching and/or dysfunctional, it can be more desirable than taking the risk of truly catapulting into a new life where we do not know nor can we control the outcomes.  It is often the devil we know that we will allow to govern our lives, than the one we do not know very well.  In this case, comfort, complacency, security can be the real evil in our lives preventing us from leaping through the fiery hoop to the other side.  The other side could potentially allow us to find our true callings, passions or valuable life experiences.

The Chicken and the Egg Catalyst:  So, what comes first?  The chicken (in this case, ourselves, taking the final steps towards letting go of an old life and embracing the new), or the egg (the promise or guarantee of something to which we can cling onto at the other side)?  Do we just leap without any guarantee of another side (a job, partner, financial security, an education…)?  Should we be reckless as our conservative parents taught us not to be?  Or do we wait for somethinganything to come along and propel us into a new opportunity where we can make a change with some sense of security?  Common sense tells us that it is the latter that is the wiser choice.  We need that little catalyst or motivator.  We will wait for some sign from some source, and follow it because it represents safety within the change we hope to adopt.

However, what if the wisest choice is to let go completely, and search for that which truly inspires us to be our authentic selves?  This would mean not clinging to our old lives, nor grasping for a solid new one; rather, it means leaping with faith.  The faith would be trusting ourselves, knowing that we are capable of thoughtfully discerning what we need as we move forward.  It also means having faith that we have the where-with-all to find a means to support ourselves (either in the solo or in the tandem leap) so that we will be okay in the end.  The trust comes in knowing and believing in our own capacity to land on our feet.

Reaching for the Right Stars:   So the question arises, what do we truly need in our lives?

I need to be creative.  I need to feel efficacy in my own life experience.  I especially need to know that I have voice in relationship to others.  Having self love and respect, and the love and respect for and of others is also paramount to whatever I do from this point forward.  Nature will need to be an essential part of everything I do.  I need to know what the rest of the world looks, feels, sounds, tastes and smells like.  And most importantly, I want to share this with someone special in a long term and committed way.  Therefore, my stars need to shine on those priorities and I need to align my sextant to these stars so that I can find my directions, and get my real life bearings.  The rest…will fall into place because I will be living my truth.

Pressed: Staying Forever Young Together

8 Aug

Staying Forever Young Together.

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Staying Forever Young Together
by Shelley Robinson, July 27

Eternal Youth: People are always wondering about how to stay eternally youthful. It would be the most wonderful thing to know what we know as more mature people while having a second chance at being and then staying young physically. People pay big money to try to freeze time.  In doing so, they hope to keep their relationships with others vital and vibrant. We often blame our aging for things like not being able to be leaner, mobile, adventurous, sexual and so forth. At the head of the Wurzburg Cathedral yesterday I observed to statues of two skeletons on the front doors greeting its parishioners with the text: “We are operating from dust to dust”. We come into this world as dust, and we leave the world in the same way. The topic is a depressing one for people, and so we do everything possible to delay this eventuality.

Fighting death a futile battle, but I believe that it is a good fight to stay fit and prolong life as long as possible, even to go as far as tricking the brain into believing that it is younger than it actually is chronologically. If we are only on this earth for a short while, then I believe that we should be on the earth in our very best bodies possible, living a life that affords us the optimal physical experience. How can this be done? I have been asked quite a bit on this trip about how I stay so young looking. When I met my Finnish relative for the first time, she commented that I looked like a young girl. It has been a flattering question because aging for me has been a relative thing for me over my fifty years. I would say that the answer is quite simple: live in moderation, and by God, have fun!

I have looked very old in my lifetime at a much younger age, and I have looked very young at a much older age. The question of my aging is a matter of attitude and life experience at the time. I have watched myself shape shift from moment to moment when life joys or traumas cause my body to go through sudden metamorphoses. I suddenly look younger or older, depending on my belief of my age at the time. When I am tired, I feel old, and visa versa. Lately, I have decided to be younger, and I hope that it is coming across in the same way in how I project myself into the world.

The Logistics of Good Health: What I have learned most profoundly is that there is a direct correlation to my looking and feeling OLD when I am NOT eating, sleeping or exercising regularly nor well. As well, stress has been a huge contributing factor to creating these circumstances, or, perhaps, being a result of these circumstances. The spiral of poor health is a cycle of circumstances that we sometimes feel is beyond our control. Fortunately, I am finding that if I make positive healthy experiences my priority, that I have the ability to influence the rest of my life experiences through it. We all experience the world through the body as our temple, and we need to honour this special place in which we reside, regardless of the challenges that we each have in the universe.

This idea of being “meta-kinesthetic” that I wrote about in my research on the five meta-learning domains, seems to be of greater value to me the further that I proceed through my life. The “meta” self is always hovering above each of us to lucidly evaluate what works best in our lives. I have always been interested in what inspires or blocks us cognitively (thoughts), conatively (motivation), affectively (feelings), physically, and spiritually? The road to good health is an important experiential domain, but not an easy one. The path of least resistance is always clearly marked on the trail and can sometimes distract us from the best course of action. This idea of being disciplined to do what works best for our bodies, is a critical one.

Having a Relationship with Our Bodies First: Before we can have a relationship with someone else in these five learning domains, we have to have a relationship with ourselves first. When we know who we are and how we can best operate through body, mind and spirit with ourselves, we can offer it to the rest of the world. For example, when we are doing the good work for our bodies in this regard, we can let someone physically into our lives. Only when we can turn ourselves on sexually, can we truly turn someone else on sexually. It has not been until I have been older that I have truly listened to what my body has been screaming at me through its various signs and symptoms.

We Are What We Breathe and Eat: I coughed most of my life, likely because my body was inflamed. I breathed air and ate foods that kept me from breathing well. When our bodies and lungs are inflamed, the life breath that we need to take in and exhale moment to moment, is impaired. When we do not breath well, we do not live well. Good breathing is fundamental to a good life. The slow inhale and exhale that fills our body with restorative energy is the basis of our good living. Without it, we die. I was dying until I figured out that what I was breathing and eating were killing me. A high altitude, dry climate, polluted city, cold weather and other breathing variables were not treating me well in my native city of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and so I moved.

However, I did not move before I learned from a wise naturopath that I had been eating wheat, dairy and eggs to which I had been having terrible physical inflammation reactions my entire lifetime (phlegm and restrictive airways). My blood work indicated extreme allergies to beef, wheat (all grains and gluten), dairy (not just lactose), eggs (whole egg), and a few other odds and ends. When I cut them out, the reaction was dramatic over time. My body shed some of its weight. I could start breathing without medicine, and I was more energized than I had been before. With that being said, the external variables were still coming into play, and so I decided to move to BC to be in a warmer climate, by the ocean with a less-polluted environment. The trees became my friends with their humidity and oxygen. The ocean granted me its salt water frangrance. By managing both my diet and my air, I had discovered a healthier place to live so that I was not fighting against my own limitations. Now the challenge for me continues to be how to minimize work stress. This dilemma is a big one for many people.

Being in Relationship: Even though Chris does not need much reminding as he is very healthy, I do remind him to eat, drink water, and sleep regularly. We all need reminding. When we are in the flow of our life experiences, we can sometimes lose track. He is often so busy wanting to experience the world very actively, that he forgets that he needs to tend to his body so that he can enjoy it. Just as I remind him of what his body needs, so does he with me. He puts vitamins in front of me, and promotes various types of good food ideas so that we are living leanly and staying fit. We both enjoy hiking in the outdoors, and we are convinced that the trees speak to us in very physical ways when we are out enjoying the energy that they give back to our world for us.  In short, we are both tree freaks!

When we are cranky or unsure of ourselves, there is almost always a definite connection to what we did not do that day in terms of eating, drinking and sleeping well; and as well, any hormones (time of month) or fatigue from work. I believe that 90 percent of the troubles that we have experienced together (and for the most part, we have very few big troubles), I can attribute to our bodies having been depleted at the time of these minor relationship disconnections. What we do for our bodies, our bodies give back to our relationships ten-fold. Now, instead of delving too deeply into the angst of an argument, I just simply think, “When did we last eat?” Or, he suggests that we get into the woods.  I believe that it is always helpful to recruit someone to help us be strong and well, but not to put him or her in the driver’s seat of making us happy.

Last Thoughts: As a woman, I am both surprised and confused by my body on a regular basis; however, the closer that I pay attention, the more that I can work with it, and not against it. In turn, I can show Chris how to figure it out as well. This applies very directly to the physical domain, and one where we need to be very thoughtful of as we get older. Between the two of us, we can find ways to achieve some very positive and exciting physical experiences together. In doing so, I believe that we can stay young together for longer, and that will make all of the difference to our long term relationship. I want him to find me as physically attractive as possible for as long as possible because I find myself physically capable of being so.

Blake said that the body was the soul’s prison unless the five senses are fully developed and open. He considered the senses the ‘windows of the soul.’ When sex involves all the senses intensely, it can be like a mystical experence.

Jim Morrison

Pressed: And They Lived Happily Ever After

8 Aug

And They Lived Happily Ever After.

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And They Lived Happily Ever After: July, 2015

Shelley Robinson

Warranty Runs Out at 50: Sometimes it takes travelling away to see a new relationship for what it really means to me. Being on a trip to Hungary, Slavakia, Austria, Germany and Holland on a river boat cruise given to my sister and I by my parents to share with them, forced me to really take stock of who I am having just turned 50, and my new relationship with Chris. First of all, I had not counted on the first five months of our relationship to be when my body warranty decided to come up for renewal. Medical issues crept up on me from my bladder to shoulder to incredible work fatigue and now to a matter with my eyes. Chris had not counted on losing a position that he had quit a position for in Alberta in order to move back to the Comox Valley so that we could leap into this relationship with both feet; and, as well, so that he could become better connected with his family on the island.

However, I still see our new romance like a fairy tale. Like all fairy tales promise ” and they all lived happily ever after”, actually seemed possible for me in this new situation. I am interested in knowing what that actually means. I hope to explore that more with Chris who has agreed to document some of our journey together in order for us to make sense of it, and as well, to share our ideas with others who are learning about relationships.

Jumping Right In: Regardless of our life obstacles that seemed to jump out in front of us at every turn, Chris and I embraced our new dating relationship with a bit of wild abandon. We started with a romantic trip to Tofino. Here we explored the rain forests of the west side of Vancouver Island. Soon after, I took him to my little cottage on Pender Island where he helped me to set it up for the season. I was so pleased to share this little hideaway that I had been keeping to myself most of the time. Then we backpacked into the Elk River Valley, and experimented with our new hiking equipment. We planned how we would approach our next treks together, and more importantly, how we would lighten our pack loads. Trips to Victoria, Calgary and then again to Pender Island helped us to solidify our relationship by meeting friends and family. Words of love and forever were shared, and we started to believe in each other as a strong partnership that might enable us to approach our life dreams in new and dynamic ways.

The Peanut Gallery: Like all new relationships, there is always commentary from the gallery (family, friends, colleagues and other). Everyone has advice for the new couple, but more importantly, they want to make sure that Chris and I are incredibly happy. “Happy”, by the conservative definition, means being very very careful. “Are you sure?” “How do you know?” “This seems very fast.” These kinds of comments were anticipated, and surprisingly, despite a few cautionary tales, we were well-supported by most of the people that we cared about, despite a couple of disappointments. It seemed to be a consensus that at 49 and 50 we really had more to lose by not trying out something that we could see to be so very special, than by being laden with fear and speculation. Everyone seemed to say how lucky we were to believe that we had found our soul mates. “Taking on a new relationship would take hard work”, was the general theme of most conversations, and I was prepared to learn what I could from some of my married friends and family. It continued to surprise me that after so much time as a dedicated single person, that I had finally let down my guard to become a couple.

A Second Look: What I am finding as I look at our relationship from a distance, is that I am learning more about relationships by jumping into one than by standing precariously on the edge wondering what it might be like. It has not been our first time apart given that he was in Fort MacMurray for work, and then I was in Austin Texas on holidays for some of our time together. However, being away from Chris until the end of the month, has forced me to really evaluate where I am standing in my head and heart in our new connection together. What is abundantly clear, is that I miss him very much. What I have learned through our exciting romantic encounters, and through some real life challenges are the following three things that perhaps I am only seeing now for the first time as an older person in a new relationship:

Sex is Important: At this age, if the sex isn’t good, it is telling of the relationship. Sex is the relationship thermometer of so many things. It is good to be with someone who has a similar intensity about the physical side of a relationship as I do. This means learning to be as creative as possible while understanding what makes the other tick in so many vital ways in and out of the bedroom. Sharing a strong sexual energy with each other is a spiritual connection for us, and it helps us stay very close in ways that words and actions are not always capable of doing otherwise.

Intention, Words and Actions: Follow-through is the foundation of trust. What has meant more to me than anything about my relationship with Chris is his commitment to do what he says that he will do. We have agreed to “say what we mean and then do what we say”. I cannot believe how this is playing out so well in terms of us trusting each other. When he says that he is going to do something, despite a few normal circumstances, he always gets things done. Perhaps this type of behaviour is a sign of maturity, but it was seriously lacking for me in previous relationships. When his words turn into actions, it feels like respect to me, and I believe that it encourages me to do the same for him in return.

Mind the Gap: One thing that we have agreed to do regularly is to “check in” with each other. When we speak about checking in, it is about connecting with each other in really deep and intentional ways. We ask each other questions, usually at the end of our day, to insure that we are close and connected. Sometimes these conversations have led us into some really interesting directions because we are forced to disclose how we are truly feeling with each other where we might normally have skirted over topics in favour of a good night’s sleep. We have also agreed to talk about things when issues arise and to anticipate and respond to matters where we feel that there might be a gap developing with each other. This has been our biggest joy and challenge together to learn how to do this together.

Reflections: In a nutshell, anyone can be in love, but not everyone can stay in love. Both Chris and I have experienced the devastation of failed relationships. It can be a humiliating thing to lose people that we believed we would stay with us in long term relationships. However, we both believe that we had the good fortune to learn from our previous experiences so that at this time in our lives, we can be sure to give each other our best. Chris is always telling me that he wants our relationship “to be extraordinary”. He also says quite regularly that he wants to learn to be the best boyfriend that I have ever had. What a wonderful thing to say to someone that you love.

I have much to learn to be the best girlfriend in return. I stumble over my humanness on a daily basis. I learn more about myself and Chris everyday, and I hope to continue to feed this relationship with grace and kindness wherever possible. We both believe that we have been given a special gift, and now we have the choice to decide what we do with this chance afforded to us by the universe.

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.

Albert Schweitzer

Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Fifty: The Top Ten Things I Learned in My First 50 Years

22 Jun

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Fifty: The Top Ten Things I Learned in My First 50 Years.

 

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Shelley’s Truisms

1. Time is everything. Do not take it for granted, and do not fill it with empty experiences that you will never remember. Make every minute of it create a memory for you and the people around you.

2. Love is a verb. Do not waste time on people who do not say what they mean and do what they say. Life is too short to wait around for other people to keep their promises. The little promises mean the most.

3. Solve problems, make decisions, and stop talking about them. Life is too short to sit around agonizing over things. Roll up your sleeves, and find ways to fix things right away before they become bigger. Better yet, look ahead and prevent problems before they happen.

4. Live with integrity. It is important to be able to look at yourself everyday in the mirror, and know that you take the higher road in life, regardless of how you are treated. Your character is measured by how you behave under pressure.

5. Live with passion. If you are not doing what you love with the people who matter, you are not living. You are simply living a life of obligation. Only do (where absolutely possible) what you love.

6. Make grand gestures. Who says Valentine’s Days don’t matter? All celebrations, whether commercially driven or other, matter. Celebrate everything often, and treat the people around you with big and happy gestures of love. Again, you are making memories.

7. Do Nothing:  The sweetness of doing nothing, or as the Italians say: “Il dolce far niente” is something that I still aspire to have more of in my life. Meditate. Slow down. Do nothing…often.

8. Eat well. Avoid foods that inflame the body. You know what they are. Just make the discipline to stop eating them. Your body will thank you for it.

9. Exercise in nature. Avoid institutional exercise, and get into the woods. The trees help rejuvenate our minds, bodies and souls.

10. Be Open:  Reach out to God through intentional living. Keep all of your doors open because when you keep your options open, good things happen at every turn. Be open to whatever he has in store for you. God is taking care of us.

Love, Shelley

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

28 Jan

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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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