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Pressed:  One Week to the Wedding by Shelley Robinson

23 May

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Final Thoughts as a Single Person:  It is interesting how as I get closer to my wedding on December 19, 2015, how important the whole thing has become to both of us.  What started out as a simple “yes” to a romantic proposal has now required me to really take stock of what I value in a commitment of this nature, especially when it is not my first time around.  This time, I am heading into this marriage odyssey with my eyes wide open, and that makes it all the more interesting.

Some describe these last few days as wedding jitters and succumb to cold feet.  Others talk about it as this euphoric time of heady excitement and overlook the reality of what they are undertaking as a couple.  Interestingly, despite Chris and I having lived together before hand and having some life experience under our belts, I have been feeling a whole array of emotions from nervousness to joy.  Where before we both felt that getting married to each other was just a nice romantic gesture to “seal the deal”, we now see some larger value for each of us.  Perhaps we too have been indoctrinated, domesticated, and enculturated into a society that promotes this type of thing.  It has become evident to us that despite our initial non-challance about going through these traditional formalities, we do value the institution of marriage.

It has been interesting to watch ourselves evolve as we meet with the minister, go through the exercise of gathering our families in a small affair, and to decide how we want to commit to each other in a special sort of way.

Family Ties:   At first we were more interested in eloping.  The wedding seemed to be all about us this time.  However, when it came right down to it, we realized that where our families are all far apart, and disconnected from each other, this small affair might be the only time where they actually travel distances to meet.  Although this was not our sole purpose for marrying with friends and family, it became an important consideration.  Our children are adults, and our parents are getting older.  We grew up in different provinces, and our families have very little reason to know each other.  Therefore, we felt this a valuable opportunity to introduce them.  As well, we wanted to share this special event with our children, in particular, to model the value of this relationship experience.  We are learning that it is more than just an official photo opportunity.  It is a meaningful event that has forced us to really discuss our future in great detail and to ask our families to once again believe and support us as we make another commitment to someone new.

The Questions:    We decided to have a minister marry us.  We felt that there was a spiritual purpose in our marriage, and that a minister would be more apt to capture this essence of our union than a justice of the peace.  With this being said, we were careful about how that looked in a religious context for each of us based on our faith and beliefs.  The minister asked us some probing questions.  As well, we chose to do our own marriage preparation through some readings and questions, and the work proved to be both valuable, and challenging.  Again, this time around we recognized that part of marriage is romantic, but another part of getting married is very practical.  We were entering into a marriage of business, and at this age, impending caregiving of one or the other.  We have a window of a couple of decades before the “end is near”.  We both know that we need to use our time together wisely, and so our life priorities have been a focus of many discussions.  The link we found most valuable was the following put out by Nathan Cobb, PhD at http://www.nathancobb.com/support-files/marriagequiz.pdf.

Questions emerged over our past two months, and the really important ones in the last couple of weeks:

  • Love:  How do we meet each other’s love needs?  We talked quite a bit about hitting our love targets, and explored the idea of love languages:  http://www.5lovelanguages.com
  • Experience:  What do we want to do with our next ten years in the window of opportunity of our best health years together?
  • Time:  How do we want to prioritize our time?
  • Money:  How will we finance our lives together through sickness and in health?
  • Relationship:  How will we “do what it takes” to sustain a strong connection as friends and lovers?
  • Communication:  What works and does not work to help us align our thoughts and feelings together?
  • Self Help:  What work do we need to do to be our best selves so that we can be the best for this relationship?
  • Conflict:  How must we best address problems together so we are honest and respectful of each other?
  • Intimacy:  How should we live to insure that we cherish our intimacy together?
  • Employment:  How do we want to spend our final years before retirement?
  • Retirement:  What will we do when we retire, and how will we support our retirement years?
  • Prenuptial Agreement:  What happens should the unthinkable happen?
  • Celebration:  How do we celebrate and find joy in our wedding and honeymoon, and beyond?

What I have Learned:   It is really simple.  Marriage is a lot of work.  It requires telling someone that I will do what it takes to keep us loving, healthy, relationally functional, and financially viable for the rest of our lives together.  It is a big step for Chris coming our of a more than 25-year marriage; and a big one for me having only been married for a few years of my life, and a single mother for most of it.

Our first kick at the can involved a lot of hope, naivete, and steep learning curves.  Now, we have another chance to say “I do”.  This time, we have to develop the necessary marriage skills to be ourselves in the larger context of being a couple.  Both of us must unlearn, re-learn, and learn all of the things we will need to best be together as man and wife.  These are big steps for both of us, and as we get in the final stretch of the wedding, we see the enormity of the commitment.  It is best to admit that this is a scary proposition, but a valuable one.  I can never learn about relationships if I do not take on living one to the best of my abilities.  I am excited, happy, scared, and oddly calm, all at the same time.  How lucky am I to have this special opportunity to marry a wonderful man.

Source: One Week to the Wedding by Shelley Robinson

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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 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

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

5 Aug

IMG_7181

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 Thirty-Four: Mail Order Bride and the Leap of Faith

6 Jul

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What if… you were a young woman in Finland, writing back and forth to a young man from Finland living in Canada (whom you have never met) who has taken it upon himself to pioneer out to Canada in the early 1900’s? You have been hooked up to each other through friends and are now part of a series correspondence blind dates. Through beautifully scripted hand-written letters (as you are both creative), you forge a strong friendship over the course of a year. You start to learn more about him and his adventures in Canada, and he starts to learn a bit more about you. You exchange a couple of photos, and the rest of the correspondence is an outpouring of hopes and dreams.

You realize that you are getting older (late 20’s), and are now one of the few single ladies left in your town. This is an eligible bachelor, well-respected in his community (through word of mouth) regardless of his desire to live in another country. Even though you haven’t met him, you have a pretty good feeling and intuition about him through his letters because he is educated, articulate and motivated to make his way in the Canadian frontier. If he proposed on his next visit to Finland and asked you to go with him to Canada, would you?

From Mail to Meeting: This was the correspondence that occurred over the course of several months between my grandmother, Tyyne Kattelus; and my grandfather, Onni Kattelus while he was getting oriented in British Columbia. In 1931, he went back to Finland to finally meet my grandmother, Tyyne Kattelus) in person; marry her; and, as a result, return with her back to Canada (all in one trip). It was a magnificent leap of faith. The words and the time that they took in their initial correspondence helped them to forge a strong enough belief in each other and their respective dreams, to act upon them.

Settling: After much hardship surviving the rough and undeveloped landscape around Field, BC, they eventually settled into Golden, BC where my mother and her two siblings grew up. They had a hard-working life amongst other Finnish settlers in the Columbia Valley with very little leisure time. I remember from my visits to their home that they were always working at something on their property: chopping wood, planting and harvesting the orchards and gardens, making carpets on the loom, etc. However, I especially enjoyed the hot steam saunas that we would share at the end of the day.

They had a small farm, a larger garden and ran properties within the town, while my grandfather worked on the CPR as a carpenter until he passed away and left my grandmother to tend all of it on her own. She took care of her property admirably until she passed away in her 90’s. In the end, they were well-respected members of their community, and she in particular as one of the oldest living Finnish pioneers. In retrospect, both of my grandparents were highly conservative people with an incredible aversion to risk and failure. They worked hard and were incredibly meticulous and careful about everything that they did. By nature, they were not prone to making large risky decisions.

Leaps of Faith: Sometimes our circumstances, personalities, dreams, fears and issues call us to make leaps of faith. I am always fascinated by what actually motivates people to take that final step. The idea of “readiness” is an important one, but sometimes, people may not be entirely prepared for the big jump, but they do it anyway. Why?

Impetus: I would suspect that sometimes people want to jump out of the fire, hoping that they will land anywhere but where they have been. The fire that they are escaping is burning them alive, and they need to jump away, just as people sometimes do from burning buildings. Other times, people believe that what they are jumping to is so incredible–this fantasy opportunity, that they will do anything to experience it. These motivators, I believe, are the two extremes on the leap of faith continuum and can also sometimes be equated with being “impulsive”. However, other leaps of faith happen for other reasons (sometimes ranging from the simple to the complex). The stories about why people make these life-changing decisions can be fascinating as each tale holds some very small detail of their impetus for change. “Impetus”, from the Latin word “Impetere” means “to attack”. It often involves the passion to actually “attack” our dreams.

Second-Order Change: However, what is even more fascinating to me is why so many of us don’t leap. Fear is the obvious reason. None of us like to be outside of our comfort zones for long. In some cases, it is wise to stay put, and be present in the now without having any need to search and grasp beyond this moment in time, place or people. However, there are times in our lives where if we pay close enough attention, we know that we need to make a change. However, sometimes, in order for the change to be the meaningful one that we know that it needs to be, it has be to be a big change. There is no other way around it. We can’t just talk about it. We can’t pick at it or tweak it. Instead, it needs to be true “second order change” (starting all over again and building from the ground up). It requires incredible courage and then fortitude to first make the change, and then to make the change work.

Commitment: I think of so many immigrants to Canada whose stories were successful ones. They made their decisions work. There was simply no choice. They had no safety net or people or finances. They just did it. Others pioneers, some from my father’s ancestral family (writing that I will save for another article), were not as successful. Therefore, leaps of faith require leaps of intentional action, but they also need steel-willed fortitude and calculated follow-through. It may not need to all be preemptively planned and orchestrated ahead of time, but there needs to be a deep commitment by the people involved so that they can draw upon it when they need to count on it for determination: “I am going to land on the other side, and I am going to enjoy the landing.”

Sisu: I write this article because I have taken a leap of faith moving to BC, and am now working on “enjoying the landing”. What will I need to do to be sure that I am happy and successful now that I have made the leap? It will continue to require of me a tenacity that is sometimes evasive. Therefore, I look to my Finnish ancestors as examples of those who took a leap of faith (independently and interdependently) and made it work on the other side. I have to trust that I, too, have this Finnish personality trait defined as “sisu” that my grandmother always said that I possessed. It means “bravery, determination and resilience”. In some cases, I also think there needs to be a measure of good luck, and so I will wish for a little of that as well.

“If we never had the courage to take a leap of faith, we’d be cheating God out of a chance to mount us up with wings like eagles and watch us soar.”
― Jen Stephens, The Heart’s Journey Home

Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 29: A Fatherless World

8 Jun

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 29: A Fatherless World.

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Absent Fathers: On the advent of Father’s Day next week, I have been thinking about this topic of fathers. It has often been my observation throughout my lifetime, and again, more recently, that many of the men in my life (not all), have had what they have described as fatherless experiences. This is not to suggest that they were all orphaned (although this was sometimes the case); rather, they expressed knowingly being forgotten or overlooked in their fathers’ lives and feeling something that I would describe as an “absent father syndrome”. From the time that I started dating through to sharing significant relationships with men; and, as well, my ongoing male collegial, teacher-student or friendships have given me reason to pause and reflect on the importance of the role of fathers in the lives of sons. I am also intimately aware of the impact of the father-son relationship on my own son’s life and his subsequent relationships with other people.

Distractions of the Father: Over the last few generations, and perhaps very prominently in my own generation, the roles of men have been in flux. They have had to really consider the competitive, fast-paced and demanding world around them, and to discover how to be successful within it. The ego-driven distractions that tempt them in their professional and personal lives, in my opinion, have posed as obstacles, pulling them away from having healthy intimate and responsible relationships with the people around them. Where the world has become obsessed by money, materialism, pop culture, technology and, in some cases, addictions, young boys have grown into adult males that have not had time to really adapt to the world that is constantly changing its expectations of them.

Because the men of the past hundred years have been busy being pioneers, going to war, building new lives, providing for their families, rising out of poverty, carrying on family businesses, making a name for themselves, dying young in their struggles, or other, they have not always been available to mentor the younger generation of men beneath them. As a result, each generation of men have not always had significant male role models on which to form their own strong and healthy identities, nor have they had substantial rites of passages that have helped them to establish where they are at in their journey into maturity. Therefore, many men have not truly been taught by other men how to have responsible and successful relationships. With the changing roles of men and women in society, marital relationships have also changed, and again, children are sometimes disconnected from having full-time relationships with their fathers.

My Son’s Mentorship: Since the time my son was very little, he has always watched men carefully, perhaps because he is trying to figure out who he is; what it means to be a man in the world, and who he should best emulate as he tries on different male identities in his coming of age. It has always been fascinating to me to watch him watch men, and assess them for their various strengths and weaknesses. He has had a quick eye, and is quick to point out any flaws of my dates. Fortunately, through his family, education, sports and music, he was put in contact with some very strong and generous men who took him under their wing and made the time to mentor him in some very important ways.

One of his most significant male relationships that he was able to count on throughout his lifetime and into the present is the one with my father. His “Poppa” (grandfather) was the one who was always there for him, regularly and reliably, and would take the time to show him how to “be” in the world. From a young age, my father took the time to teach Andrew things, attend his special events, and to be emotionally and physically available where Andrew would call him for virtually everything. Their time together had a profound impact on how Andrew operated in the world with strong morals and principles. It is now of particular joy to me when I know they are playing chess or pool together and enjoying the privilege of being men together now that my son is almost twenty-two years of age.

Interestingly, my father was fostered out, along with all of his siblings (who were adopted out across Canada) due to family difficulties and extreme poverty as a new Irish immigrant family on the bald headed prairies. He was raised by a hard-working (and busy) foster father who took time to show him how to work on cars and take care of the family. His biological father returned into his life in his later teenaged years, and then he was also reacquainted with all of his siblings. By this point, he had met his wife (my mother), and had determined that the most important thing for him to do in light of his difficult upbringing, was not to replicate any of the mistakes of his family of origin, but rather, to become a dedicated father himself. I imagine that he was a bit disappointed that he did not have a son, but he never let both of his daughters know this. Instead, he made a point of connecting with us regularly and always being their for us when we needed him. He made the choice to be the man that he knew we would need as a father. However, later in life, he clearly made his grandson the apple of his eye.

Father’s Day: I suppose that my conclusion in all of these observations about men and mentorship is that being a good father is a choice. Despite some of the gaps of mentorship that men may have experienced in their own lives, they have the opportunity to turn around and raise their sons differently. They can be the fathers that they may not have had, or wished that they had experienced in their own lives. They can model other ways of being and break the cycles of the fatherless world. For many of us, good fathers have made a difference in our lives, and we have been fortunate enough to know them. We have benefitted from their time and attention. For my son, I know that he always makes a point of remembering his grandfather on Father’s Day (along with his own father) because he knows that fatherhood is about mentorship, love and the dedicated time that is spent helping him to be a better man.

I would like to say how much I admire all of the men out there who are taking the time to be incredible fathers (you know who you are) and are doing their very best to raise their sons to be good men themselves.

Happy Father’s Day!

“When a father gives to his son, both laugh; when a son gives to his father, both cry.”

William Shakespeare

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 28: Sparking Serendipity

24 May

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Bonfires of the Heart: When listening to the song by James Blunt called “Bonfires of the Heart” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1j1qwQQ8-Q) the other day, I realize that our lives are often very much about laying down the paper, kindling and firewood with the hopes that the fire in our hearts will set ablaze when the right situation, opportunity or person comes along. Too often we are searching for exactly what we think will turn us on–that little spark that ignites the flame. I’ve spent much of my life thinking that there is a certain type of person–an alterego, that fits a profile that would be my perfect match. However, when “Mr. Perfect” happened to come along recently, fitting all of the criteria that I had outlined for myself, it ended up being very ordinary, and not longstanding. I got swept away for a brief time, thinking that I knew what I was talking about, and that I had actually found “it”.

Magic Happens: What I learned is that the Universe prefers “magic” to happen instead. It is not satisfied with the ordinary for any one of us, unless, of course, we insist upon it. If we arm wrestle with the powers that be, we will get what we want, and that is often very average dreams embedded in fear-based outcomes that demand assurances and security. However, when we let the universe call the shots, real change and opportunity come alive. This life altering shift is no ordinary change, but it often involves a quake that results in massive “second order change”. Second order change is not about tweaking what we are already doing, but it can sometimes mean blowing up the house and rebuilding it from the ground up. It means that after the earth quake that can shake up our worlds, we have to look down into the faults that have opened up in the earth around us, and let the spirit rise inside of us.

In other words, we have to let ourselves fall back into the abundance that is being offered to us and trust that the spirit will catch us.

Serendipity can be defined as “look[ing] for something, find[ing] something else, and realiz[ing] that what you found is more suited to your needs than what you were looking for” (Lawrence Block). This requires us to shed the expectations that we held up so highly in our hearts in the first place. When we “accidentally stumble upon something truly wonderful, especially while looking for something entirely unrelated” we have to stop and open our hearts to the possibilities. I am finding that the more I shift my own path to the one of my inner calling (a disconcerting process), that serendipitous moments are opening up all around me. I notice them where I may not have paid attention before. They resonate with me to my core.

Recently I met someone who is the type of person who I was attracted to when I was younger. He is not the person that my grown-up persona would assume is my right match. He has not followed my ultra-responsible path, nor is he a duplicate of my polished personal and professional resume. He is instead, this charismatic person with sky blue eyes that pierce through to my soul and ask me questions that I haven’t had the courage to ask myself in a long time. Interestingly, he is from Salt Spring Island which I can see from my Pender cottage. Mount Tuam and Mount Maxwell loom in the distance across the Swanson Channel. Unbeknownst to him, he took me on a couple of our “dates” to explore these vantage points where I can see down on my little island. Fortunately, we are both in love with nature and its healing power. We are joyful souls, disparate in our circumstances, but completely aligned in our intense spiritual connection. Together, we flow into each experience we have the opportunity to share, one to the next, side by side in utterly fluid comfort that is fed by the heart and the spirit. It seems to make “sense” as it unfolds, even when I think it isn’t “sensible”. It ends up reminding me that this is exactly what was intended for me in my life at this time.

Ignoring the Road Signs: When someone touches us in ways that soften our edges and allows us to see ourselves with kinder and more loving lenses, we are being warmed by the bonfires of the universe. It will not burn us if we trust it. It is asking us to step up and get closer to warm our bodies and souls next to the fire that we were meant to experience all along.

For example, when I was younger, I naturally and intrinsically knew exactly what turned me on when it came to the opposite sex. I was closer to my essential self at that time. I had not had years to convince myself of who I was supposed to be, and to be led by my overly-responsibly parenting standards, nor an ego that steered me away from the things that are most important to me. In my early years, I gravitated to the type of people where I could truly be myself which has always been a feisty, sassy girl who liked to speak her mind, dance, play sports, debate, race, enjoy cards at night, listen to music (and actually hear the lyrics), swear on occasion, read and write poetry out loud, appreciate being outside in the middle of the woods (lost sometimes), party late, write often, compose music, crack jokes, laugh a lot, and more importantly, have fun.

I am designed to have fun and what a joy it is to remember how to do so when for so many years, reason stepped in and held up the signs that said any one of these things: “you have things to get done…you are too old for this…you have a child to take care of and launch…you need to be safe…other people need your attention…you might get hurt…make money…be responsible!” In following these road signs, I accomplished a lot, and I don’t have many regrets because I made a solid career for myself, and raised a wonderful son. However, what I forgot was my biggest asset (and one that I hope that my dear friends will remember about me), and that is my ability to abandon myself to joyful moments.

Reminders from the Universe on the Fairway of Life: I believe that we know that we are being nurtured by universal serendipity when all of sudden, something wonderful catches our attention. The essence…taste, smell, look, touch, sound…whatever, take our breath away, and we cannot move. It jolts us awake. In my case, I could not breathe. If I tried to walk away and ignore it, I had a visceral response to the pull. I had to turn around and wonder, “What just happened? Who are you? What is this?” I had envisioned something like it, but when it came along, it caught me by surprise.

Life feels just a little bit differently when something or someone comes along that we are supposed to experience. Some people describe it as falling in love, but I baulk at this description because it implies that we are relying on the “other” for our happiness. For me, serendipity is more powerful than simply a chemical reaction between two people that captivates their attention, and draws them together for awhile. Serendipitous experience involve spirit at a profound level, like a falling into self. In my case, I feel like I can rest into it. When I swing, it follows through. The sweet spot connects, and before I know it, I catch myself looking up a fairway that I didn’t even know that I was playing. There is remarkable joy to see my little white ball landing right in the middle of the green. How did that happen? The universe seems to answer: “It has always been there, and where the hell have you been? It is your turn to putt. Everyone is waiting for you.”

The Spirit Moving
Shelley Robinson

Asynchronously around me
The playlist
Bursts everyone open into flame
A free flow frenzy of dance
I lay pressed to the floor
Shallow breathing
Heart flatlining
Tears trickling
The wooded floor vibrates
Their footsteps recalibrate my soul
I stir, and breathe, and wake
Quietly