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

5 Aug

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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

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 27: Peering in the Cracks and Finding Words

15 Apr

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Books Speak to Me: As always, when I have questions, all it takes is for me to open a book that I have found inadvertently, and an excerpt will jump out at me as a life lesson. Such was the case today when I opened the book The Wise Heart (Kornfield, 2008) and a story lept out at me:

In a large temple north of Thailand’s ancient capital, Sukotai, there once stood an enormous and ancient clay Buddha. Though not the most handsome or refined work of Thai Buddhist art, it had been cared for over a period of five hundred years and become revered for its sheer longevity. Violent storms, changes of government, invading armies had come and gone, but the Buddha endured.

At one point, however, the monks who tended the temple noticed that the statue had begun to crack and would soon be in need of repair and repainting. After a stretch of particularly hot, dry weather, one of the cracks became so wide that a curious monk took his flashlight and peered inside. What shone back at him was a flash of brilliant gold! Inside this plain old statue, the temple residents discovered one of the largest and most luminous gold images of Buddha ever created in Southeast Asia…

The monks believe that this shining work of art had been covered in plaster and clay to protect it during times of conflict and unrest. In much the same way, each of us has encountered threatening situation that lead us to cover our innate nobility. Just as the people of Sukotai had forgotten about the golden Buddha, we too have forgotten our essential nature. Much of the time we operate from the portective layer. The primary aim of Buddhist psychology is to help us see beneath this armouring and bring our our original goodness, called our Buddha nature. (pp. 11-12)

Operating from the Protective Layer: The unfortunate thing for so many people is that we have been operating from the protective layer for so long, that we forget who we are at a deeper level. Unfortunately, it takes some fundamental shift in our lives to crack the facade, and to allow light into our inner beauty. Otherwise, it can remain tucked away and out of reach.

Sometimes, the difficulty is not in finding our secret goodness, it is knowing what to do with it once it is found.

It takes risk to emancipate ourselves from the clay, and often ourselves or others will not know how to advise us once we know that we need to become reconnected to our inner purpose. People will suggest that we do “THAT” (our passion) in our spare time because we obviously have to make a living. There will be some confusion by those of us who have not taken the time to stop what we are doing to consider our own cultural domestication, and reconsider our value in the short time that we walk the earth.

Therefore, it is incumbent on us to take care to guide ourselves on this journey and to seek out mentorship of others who have made some significant self-discoveries, and through some personal risk and tenacity, acted on them. They are the ones who have the light to guide us whereas, often (not always), our counterparts, will operate from a place of security, darkness, naivete, fear, or ignorance and may steer us back to that with which they are familiar in their own journeys, and of what they have grown comfortable in their relationships with us. They may not know how to support us, nor be unconditional enough to offer what we may need from them.

Original Goodness: I often ask people this essential question: “If you had nothing to fear or risk, what would you most want?” My answer, when I ask myself this very simple question that sweeps the dirt of resistance off my table cloth before I decide to open my mouth to take a big juicy bite out of life: I want to write. That is it. Plain and simple. I can never truly get past how I might logistically do so as much as I would like to do so, but I am now confident that this is my true calling. It is the place that draws me back over and over again. It is the activity where I am always lost in flow. I am nourished by the experience. And, although I often get recognition and communication for my writing because I sometimes like to share it, the simple act of drawing words out of myself into some meaningful form is reward enough.

Someone might suggest that the act of writing does not a personality make. I would disagree that the art of bringing forth words; sharing and connecting the voices of other writers (as I often like to ground my writing in the rich diversity of other authors); and liberating new and old ideas into new new forms, comes from my soul. Therefore, it is the work of my soul and not my personality. Words leap out of me at various times of the day and night, and I am only satisfied when I have done what they ask me to do. My dissertation, (later published as a book, now in multiple countries, much to my surprise–and a little bit overwhelming as the publication itself unfolded in an interesting and unexpected way), captures my sentiments on the act of creative writing, and I am reminded to go back and re-read it: An Autobiography of the Creative Writing Experience (2009). I am reminded that through this academic research, that creative writing is my essential love: http://www.amazon.ca/An-Autobiography-Creative-Writing-Experience/dp/3639150945 It seems lately, that I need to remind myself to stay the course on my true path.

I wondered about the world as a child through words, and now, I need to bring this full circle and spend the latter part of my life in the centre of that type of work (on my own and with other writers). When I write, I draw on my deepest and rawest core, and shed the protective layer. Through writing, I let myself out and other people in. It is my lens to look inwards and outwards. It is my way way to make sense of my life that remains ahead of me, and the world around me in a meaningful and fulfilling way.

Inner Buddha: When I was in Thailand, I found a temple along the River Kwai called the Wat Tham Khaopoon that was built into the cliffs. We could only access it by climbing hundreds of steps to reach it, and then a few dozen more to get inside of it. There is a middle cave containing stalactites and stalagmites and many remarkable Buddha images. In the quiet calm of the inner cave, I appreciated the worship of its inner Buddha that people took the time to seek out and worship. Just as we seek out the Buddhas, Allah’s, Jesus’, Mohammad’s, etc. around the world, so must we seek out our inner Buddhas where we have opportunities to find them.

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 26: What I Learned in Italy

30 Mar

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52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 26: What I Learned in Italy

It seems that I always learn many things when I travel. Here are some of the things that I found important to me on my recent trip Italy to Florence, Sienna, Cinque Terra (all five villages) and Genova, from March 15 to 29th, 2014. I was particularly open on this trip to new ideas because my life was in transition before I arrived. Therefore, my head, heart and spirit were listening for information that would help me consider the next steps in my life. Travelling always provides answers to me when I have questions in my life.

Language Keeps Us Connected: It struck me on this trip, more than at any other time, that languages are all very similar in the end. If you really listen, it all makes sense. Although I relied on my Italian language guide periodically, I learned that if I paid attention I could decipher the messages. In most cases, English and French helped. In other cases, it was just exchanging words, expressions, gestures, anything, and then we found some common ground. I could hear the similarities between Spanish, French and Italian, and at times, English words. It was powerful to consider how we are all really speaking the same language through some etymological connections. The non-verbal language is still the most powerful of all the communication systems. The inflection, gestures and eye contact we share with each other is truly all of the information that we really need to understand each other’s thoughts and feelings. The smaller details require words, and when this is necessary, we find them.

Bells Remind Us to Pray: I was moved by the bells that rang from all of the church, cathedral and bell towers wherever I went in Italy. I could hear them when I was climbing the trails of the Cinque Terra, or when I was sipping wine in the Chianti vineyards. Their gentle timbre sang out to me throughout my holiday. They rang first thing in the morning, calling people to mass, and awakening me gently from my sleep. They rang in the middle of the day, calling people back to pray, or to celebrate someone’s special occasion, like a wedding or other special occasion. They rang in the evening, and sometimes later at night. They rang for funerals, and sometimes they just seemed to ring for no reason at all. Whenever the bells rang, they stopped me from doing what I was doing, and I considered them for a few minutes. They call for us to pray and think of a higher power that connects us as a whole people.

Good Food is Everything: These people take food very seriously. The discreet details about the quality of the ingredients, how they are pulled together in complement of each other, and then there is a taste exaltation later in the evening when everyone has time to come together and share in the daily festival of eating. People eat together here. Food is not just a means to and end, rather, it is a time to gather and exchange what is happening in people’s lives, and to celebrate the food with each other. The food was rich and intoxicating. Granted, my body is not designed for wheat, dairy and eggs, but I found that by embracing the experience, I found a new appreciation of the culture. I lived out the expression, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

None of my food experiences will match the taste sensations of my own homemade fresh pasta in first ever Italian cooking class. As well, my favourite spaghetti vongole in white wine sauce, Florentine pizza, pistachio gelato or tiramasu held a close second place. Unfortunately, despite my rigorous exercise of hiking mountains and ascending and descending numerous stairs, I still managed to gain weight while in Italy. Therefore, portion control, or some modification of the Italian diet would be required if I lived in Italy. However, I think that I can take some of the joy of cooking and eating back to Canada, regardless of my food sensitivities and while still staying at a reasonable weight. I just need to try different recipes that might bring just as much joy to the food experience. I think the key is simply to slow down, take time to find healthy and good quality ingredients, while creating the time to relish cooking and eating them together.

Communicate Openly: People communicate very openly in Italy. I found people hugging and kissing in public places. Rapid conversations over important topics happened all around me. Arguments, and animated ones, seemed to happen anywhere and at any time. People seemed comfortable letting out their feelings regardless of the content or context. Unlike the festering land mines or the nuclear bombs of some of the emotional arguments that I have observed at home in my Canadian culture, there was just a general outpouring of feelings in Italy. In all of the ones I observied, there was no time to wonder what might happen in them because they were over before they began. By the time there was much contemplation, the outburst had vanished like a freak weather squall that hit me while hiking up in the Cinque Terra trails. The rain came, and then the sun came out to dry me off. I found it refreshing to see people communicating so overtly, and it reminded me that it is healthy to say out loud what we really feel without fear of repercussion, hard feelings or grudges. That’s amore!

Climbing Stairs is Rewarding: This is a country of stairs. Everywhere you go, you have to climb up or down stairs in order to make your way around the towns and cities, and, as well, to go between buildings. It is truly inspiring to see very old people making their way so capably where I would have thought the obstacles of the stairs would be prohibitive of the elderly. Instead, the stairs simply serve as part of the daily exercise, and might explain the long life span of the average Italian citizen. Where we do everything to avoid stairs in Canada with escalators, elevators and electric walkways, Italy makes no such concessions. If you want to get around, you have to embrace the stairs. Some of them are wide and shallow, or deep and steep, or crooked and uneven. In general, your legs get a good work out, and you have to stop periodically to catch your breath. It always feels good to get to the top, like I felt when I made it to the top of the mountain in Monterosso, and looked down over the five villages of the Cinque Terra trail. It was a rewarding triumph to manage it…and yet, I had to then climb down the daunting 1000 or so stairs to get back into town. As well, climbing 467 stairs to the top of the Duomo in Florence made me appreciate staying in health so that I can travel into my retirement years.

My concern has always been that places like Italy might be too demanding when I get into my 60’s, 70’s and 80’s (and beyond). Perhaps this is not a bucket list place. However, perhaps the key is to stay in better shape at home so that these trips are manageable all of the way through my lifetime.

Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Sixteen: The Purple Hostel

2 Feb

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Sixteen: The Purple Hostel.

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52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Sixteen: The Purple Hostel

Am I on the Right Path? Most of us have had those times in our lives where we had to make distinct choices between opening door number one or door number two. We sometimes even chose door number three. We then wonder, “Was it the right decision?” Then when we are further down our path and we hit a point of what we perceive to be no return, we wonder, “Is this as good as it gets?” Typically, people are not always satisfied with their present course. We are always passively or actively seeking a better route, calculating what might be just a little bit nicer, easier, faster, more exciting, etc. We are so busy speculating on whether we should be where we are, being single, a parent, married, separated, committed, un-committed, and other, that we tread uncertainly on our path. We don’t take long confident strides on the ground we are on. Instead, we ruminate, perseverate, and second-guess the course we have chosen, and walk tentatively. In doing so, we do not find our rhythm, our groove, and happiness in the moments of our experience.

What if this is as good as it gets? What if right now is all we will ever have? Imagine that. If this thought is unnerving, and causes a sense of regret, then it is time to reconsider everything.

Choices: Many times in life I have made choices. I have a job where I have to make 1000 decisions a day, and hope that most of them lead myself or other people in positive directions. I have also made personal choices, some with too much calculation, and some with too much impulsivity, but I have made these choices never-the-less. The things that I have regretted most, in retrospect, were those experiences that were truly out of my control. I regretted not being able to influence the outcome more. They were, in fact, non-choices. As for those things I could influence, it has turned out remarkably well — by my own standards. This is because I have decided that it has turned out well. Someone else looking in might think otherwise, examining me as that chick who ran to BC and lives with her cats (weird). Others might think, “Wow, she ran away to paradise and lives with her cats” (enviously). Either way, I now live in Comox with my cats, and the choice has led me to the next choice that is just around the corner. In the meantime, I am enjoying my moments here.

South Carolina: One year, I remember closing my eyes and pointed to somewhere in the USA that I thought would be a good get-away on a small budget. I knew very little about the good old USA, so any place seemed like a good idea, provided that it was warmer than Calgary at that time of year. I landed on the decision to go to Charleston, South Carolina. I found a ticket online. I booked a room in a hostel in a location that appeared close to the downtown, and a month later, I landed with my suitcase in front of a wild looking old purple building on the edge of a seedy part of town. I was a little nervous. I was led up creaky stairs to a small room (again purple), and lay down exhausted on an old, but comfortable bed on some relatively clean linen.

I slept for two days. I was a single mother who worked full time, and I was finally on holidays with the luxury of having some time to myself. I think that the owner thought I had gone upstairs and died, and I could feel uneasiness about my absence in the common room downstairs. However, I chose not to care, as sleep seemed more important to me than anything else. I slept through loud music, parties downstairs and a whole host of big city outside sounds like sirens and men fighting. I finally emerged from a dead sleep on Day Three, and came down the stairs and said hello to a group of strangers that looked up at me and smiled.

They were mostly fellows from all over the world. They all had the most amazing personalities and over the next couple of days in between our independent explorations of a very historical city loaded with American history, we got to know each other. Every morning, I had someone making me breakfast, or offering to go out with me somewhere to explore the East Coast together. I connected with these people in unique ways that would never have happened in a five star hotel. Sitting together on ratty old chairs eating our Kraft dinner and drinking our whiskey seemed to be the right friendship tonic.

This choice to visit Charleston led to a series of events that stand out in my memory as one of my best holidays. I felt the water of the Atlantic on that side of the continent for the first time. I ate alligator. I learned about slavery. I grew a little bit more as a person as I grasped the reality of vivid racial discrimination.

Had I ruminated on and researched my choice to go to Charleston or even that hostel a little bit more, I might have talked myself into something a little bit safer. Instead, I was a little bit careless and a little bit intuitive, and found myself in the middle of a city that has a strong character, and an even more powerful spirit than I could have imagined. I was not insulated from it. I was in the center of it because I chose to be.

My Next Journey: In a week, I go to San Francisco. I go to a conference on creative thinking, and learn about brain-based research. http://www.learningandthebrain.com/brochures/Feb%20SF%20Brochure2013-ASHA.pdf I have volunteered to have an MRI of my body to better understand how the body and mind work as we visit one of the best neuro-science laboratories in North America. What will I learn? What will happen as a result of this one decision to attend this conference? Who might I meet? What might putting this on my resume gain me? What will I enjoy most about the experience itself? I won’t know until I get there, so it is best to not speculate too much. It will unfold the way it is supposed to. I just made the decision to go. The impetus is the critical part. Living it out with a positive attitude is the next most important step.

“Choices are the hinges of destiny.” ~Attributed to both Edwin Markham and Pythagoras

Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Six: What is My Ground Bass?

3 Sep

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Six: What is My Ground Bass?

52 Weeks Being Now:  Week Six:  What is My Ground Bass?

Background:  The Passacaglia Within:   I find when things get complicated; I often revert to musical analogy to make sense of my thinking.  Perhaps this is because music was part of my upbringing, and I believe that its style and composition resemble the way that we operate in real life which is why we are so kindred to music in everything that we do.  A passacaglia, for example, is a type of music that is built over a ground bass.  This ostinated bass line of approximately 10 to 20 notes repeats over and over throughout the duration of the composition.  A good example is Pachelbel’s Canon  (You Tube version) that we all know so very well.  Slowly as the piece unfolds, there are multiple soprano, alto and tenor voices and variations that unfold over the bass line.  The bass line is important because it sets the key and establishes the bass note of the chord progressions that can go over top of it. This particular example is a peaceful version of the idea that I hope to explain further.

What is My Ground Bass Line?  As I talk to people, both new and familiar, I realize lately that we are all playing a theme and variations over our own bass lines.  Our bass-lines get more pronounced with age, if we have not actively changed them.  Pachelbel’s Canon works very well as it is in a major key, and allows for many chord progressions that are uplifting and thought-provoking.  It does not grow tiring (unless, of course, you listen to it too often).  I would refer to its ground bass as one of “hope” and “optimism”.  This might explain why so many people (including myself, 21 years ago) have used this particular canon for our wedding processionals.

Although we all have the ability to have multiple themes and variations in our lives, we do have the tendency to have one dominant bass line that grounds us to our life path.  It is like our key message, or essential essence.  It stays with us unconsciously until we consciously decide to change the track.  Again, it sets the key and determines the harmonic progressions over which we operate our lives.  Sometimes, I learn very clearly what people have as their core ostinato, as I listen to our conversations.  Sometimes they are positive and say uplifting things, and this is why we like to be around these people as their music warms our heart:  

  • I think that good things are happening
  • I want to help people
  • I like who I am
  • I am at peace with whatever comes my way
  • I care about my family
  • I want to make good things happen in the world
  • The world is a good place to be

Sometimes, the repeated bass lines in our lives are not as positive, and it is more difficult to understand.  The melody falls flat.  It is boring and repetitive and grates on the listener’s ears:

  • I am running out of time (biological clock)
  • I do not like my role in life (parent, wife, husband, career, single person, married person, other)
  • I do not like myself
  • I need to make money to prove my worth
  • I am afraid of what is happening in the world
  • I do not think I am worth being around
  • I have failed at things, and am unlikely to be successful
  • I wish I were somewhere else

The music unravels quickly and the minor and dissonant message loses its musicality.  A fine musician can pick out the message of each composer’s bass lines pretty quickly.  Intuitively, we all can if we put on our metaphorical headphones around each other, and really listen.

Being in Tune:  I don’t know why this idea of comparing our lives to Passacaglias came up for me today.   All I know is that lately, I am reading pretty clearly what people’s dominant bass lines are that come through what they are saying, their body language or what they are not saying at all.  In my efforts to have a fresh start, I am sensitive to what people are telling me.  As well, I am listening to myself and trying to understand what my own ground bass is, and what it is telling people about me in return.  I think I am finding it is best to stay in “The Key of Shelley” (to borrow a title by CBC).  (I have always thought I worked best in the key of E flat major, but who can really say.)   Most importantly, I am accepting that it is okay to not want to continually listen to everyone’s music where it is not musical to me.  We are entitled to our preferences, and where I am an eclectic listener and appreciate all music, I tend to return to the music that inspires me.

Pachelbel’s Canon:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOA-2hl1Vbc

Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Five: Becoming Real in a New Culture

26 Aug

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Five: Becoming Real in a New Culture.

Paperwork:  I find it interesting that a new province, city, school, and community do not find new residents real until we have completed a cord’s worth (note the Comox metaphor as everything here is measured in wood) of paperwork.  Who we are is measured very much by what we do; what we make; our evaluations; our financial ratings; our legal records, etc.  There has been no greater testament to this reality than now when I am finding that I have to “prove” who I am to this new culture in Comox.  Comox is not any different than any other bureaucracy.  However, even where I am off the beaten track from the cultural mainstream of British Columbia, I need to provide evidence that I have been and will continue to be a good person coming into the Comox Valley. 

The paperwork has been endless, and this part of the journey has been a bit daunting, but made me only more determined to get through it.  I feel as though I am in the backwoods, hacking my way through the forest, and the path leading to the view is just a few kilometers ahead.  I know it is there, and people keep talking about it, but for some reason, this lone person from Calgary has to jump over a few puddles, and climb over some fallen timber to get there.  I just have to slog through this unchartered part of my journey until I get to the place where I need to be. 

Helpful People:  At every turn there have been people voluntarily helping me to find my way.  Their efforts to get me the right technology “log-ins”, or to feed me when they know that I haven’t made time to get to the grocery store (Union Bay is a bit off the beaten track), and to fix my car (with some perks) are so appreciated.  When totally new to something, it is possible to see it and everyone within it through fresh eyes.  I am very vulnerable to the help or the lack of it at this point as it is all so entirely different.  I had one fellow say to me, “You have the opportunity to totally reinvent yourself.  Who do you want to be?  No one here will know the difference.”  But, I will know the difference.  I have been thinking about his words as I make myself “real” in this new town. 

Reinvention:  What if I have already been changing, and I want to be exactly who I have been turning into which is now culminating in this very move?  I don’t have any aspirations to “be” a certain way, or to change my essential nature.  The paperwork reminds me at every turn that I am very much a culmination of my past.  My credit rating reminds me that I have paid my bills on time (thank goodness).  My driver’s licence proves that I am societally legitimate, and my social insurance number (which is in a box somewhere) is desperately needed to say that I have been and will continue to earn money for myself and the government.  I find that I do not have time or energy to reinvent myself until I am accountable to this new environment for everything that I have been and intend to be. 

What I do want to have the opportunity to do is be more present in everything that I do, and that is being clouded by the daily reminders that I need to attend to this operational minutia first.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could just look my new authorities in the eye, shake their hands, and have them accept that now I am part of their groups? Instead, the transactions are formal as I need new keys, passwords, and special permissions to do all of the things that I have always done in my previous existence, here in this new world. 

Pausing to Reconsider:   Therefore, reinventing myself will have to wait, as I continue to have to bring forward all of my personal evidence to prove my merit so that I will be accepted here.  At times, I am reminded of my value and securities (and insecurities) in this process, and am proud of who I have been and who I have become.  For example, I was introduced at the first administrative meeting by my supervisor, and he highlighted my professional history.  I was embarrassed, and yet surprised that this is how someone else would see my professional value and introduce me to others without my input.  He was eloquent, touching upon things that I have accomplished; however, I came away from the meeting, after everyone came forward to welcome me, feeling more puzzled than ever about who I am and will be here.  Like my packing that I mentioned in a previous entry, “What will I take forward as a person, and what will I choose to leave behind?”  

Language:  The biggest reality in all of this is the matter of new technological and professional language that I will have to learn.  Even though I have been in the same industry for 26 years, I am now within it in a very new way.  British Columbia Education has many similarities to Alberta Education, but they use different professional jargon and acronyms for everything.  It is truly mind boggling.  As well, these provinces are very different in how they operate in my field, especially in the various initiatives, and technologies.  I need to translate everything I know.  It reminds me of struggling through my French classes all of those years ago.  It makes each new step, three steps for me.  It causes me to pause and really think about what I thought I knew, and reconceptualize it into new frameworks, using new words, and considering different priorities. 

Who Am I?  For now, I feel as though I am who I have always been and in an even bigger way than ever as my life story is factualized and recounted for the benefit of everyone who is getting to know me.  This re-telling of who I am to people over and over again so that they will know and trust me, has me wondering about my personal narrative.  “Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status”  (Laurence Peter).   I need to be careful, however, to remember what “quo” I truly wish to sustain in my own life, and what “status” I hope to achieve that might be new and more refreshing.

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Five: Becoming Real in a New Culture

26 Aug

Becoming Real in a New Culture

Paperwork:  I find it interesting that a new province, city, school, and community do not find new residents real until we have completed a cord’s worth (note the Comox metaphor as everything here is measured in wood) of paperwork.  Who we are is measured very much by what we do; what we make; our evaluations; our financial ratings; our legal records, etc.  There has been no greater testament to this reality than now when I am finding that I have to “prove” who I am to this new culture in Comox.  Comox is not any different than any other bureaucracy.  However, even where I am off the beaten track from the cultural mainstream of British Columbia, I need to provide evidence that I have been and will continue to be a good person coming into the Comox Valley. 

The paperwork has been endless, and this part of the journey has been a bit daunting, but made me only more determined to get through it.  I feel as though I am in the backwoods, hacking my way through the forest, and the path leading to the view is just a few kilometers ahead.  I know it is there, and people keep talking about it, but for some reason, this lone person from Calgary has to jump over a few puddles, and climb over some fallen timber to get there.  I just have to slog through this unchartered part of my journey until I get to the place where I need to be. 

Helpful People:  At every turn there have been people voluntarily helping me to find my way.  Their efforts to get me the right technology “log-ins”, or to feed me when they know that I haven’t made time to get to the grocery store (Union Bay is a bit off the beaten track), and to fix my car (with some perks) are so appreciated.  When totally new to something, it is possible to see it and everyone within it through fresh eyes.  I am very vulnerable to the help or the lack of it at this point as it is all so entirely different.  I had one fellow say to me, “You have the opportunity to totally reinvent yourself.  Who do you want to be?  No one here will know the difference.”  But, I will know the difference.  I have been thinking about his words as I make myself “real” in this new town. 

Reinvention:  What if I have already been changing, and I want to be exactly who I have been turning into which is now culminating in this very move?  I don’t have any aspirations to “be” a certain way, or to change my essential nature.  The paperwork reminds me at every turn that I am very much a culmination of my past.  My credit rating reminds me that I have paid my bills on time (thank goodness).  My driver’s licence proves that I am societally legitimate, and my social insurance number (which is in a box somewhere) is desperately needed to say that I have been and will continue to earn money for myself and the government.  I find that I do not have time or energy to reinvent myself until I am accountable to this new environment for everything that I have been and intend to be. 

What I do want to have the opportunity to do is be more present in everything that I do, and that is being clouded by the daily reminders that I need to attend to this operational minutia first.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could just look my new authorities in the eye, shake their hands, and have them accept that now I am part of their groups? Instead, the transactions are formal as I need new keys, passwords, and special permissions to do all of the things that I have always done in my previous existence, here in this new world. 

Pausing to Reconsider:   Therefore, reinventing myself will have to wait, as I continue to have to bring forward all of my personal evidence to prove my merit so that I will be accepted here.  At times, I am reminded of my value and securities (and insecurities) in this process, and am proud of who I have been and who I have become.  For example, I was introduced at the first administrative meeting by my supervisor, and he highlighted my professional history.  I was embarrassed, and yet surprised that this is how someone else would see my professional value and introduce me to others without my input.  He was eloquent, touching upon things that I have accomplished; however, I came away from the meeting, after everyone came forward to welcome me, feeling more puzzled than ever about who I am and will be here.  Like my packing that I mentioned in a previous entry, “What will I take forward as a person, and what will I choose to leave behind?”  

Language:  The biggest reality in all of this is the matter of new technological and professional language that I will have to learn.  Even though I have been in the same industry for 26 years, I am now within it in a very new way.  British Columbia Education has many similarities to Alberta Education, but they use different professional jargon and acronyms for everything.  It is truly mind boggling.  As well, these provinces are very different in how they operate in my field, especially in the various initiatives, and technologies.  I need to translate everything I know.  It reminds me of struggling through my French classes all of those years ago.  It makes each new step, three steps for me.  It causes me to pause and really think about what I thought I knew, and reconceptualize it into new frameworks, using new words, and considering different priorities. 

Who Am I?  For now, I feel as though I am who I have always been and in an even bigger way than ever as my life story is factualized and recounted for the benefit of everyone who is getting to know me.  This re-telling of who I am to people over and over again so that they will know and trust me, has me wondering about my personal narrative.  “Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status”  (Laurence Peter).   I need to be careful, however, to remember what “quo” I truly wish to sustain in my own life, and what “status” I hope to achieve that might be new and more refreshing.