Throwing plans out the window

We must let go of the life we planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us” – Joseph Campbell

Recently, I have come to the realization that I have been hanging onto a fierce longing for everything in my life to return to “normal”. I am also working towards accepting that aspects of my life may be permanently altered. And, I am trying to be okay with that.

Going through a journal I found last year that dates back to my university days, I had typically started all of the entries I wrote with a quote and so happened upon some of the wisdom from Joseph Campbell. Managing expectations and building in flexibility to my skill set was something I thought that I had achieved quite awhile ago.

Apparently, these are skills that must be worked on in an ongoing fashion in order to be available when you actually need to draw upon them. As my emotional responses to the events that are shaping the world right now become more rigid and as I struggle to not apply inappropriate expectations on goals and plans I had for my life at this stage, I realize I need a refresher course.

Understanding the areas of my life that define my purpose and give shape to the meaning I attach to activities and people that I value had started to fade into the background. Taking time out for reflective thought rather than simply staying “busy” for the sake of just being busy has actually grounded me in ways that I had been losing touch with.

My journaling practice had fallen by the wayside and I was struggling with my writing practice as my headspace was full of “woulda, shoulda, coulda” types of thoughts. This crept up on me just like your shoulders begin to reach towards your earlobes when you are stressed.

Recognizing that I am in transition once again and that I need to accept where this is taking me to at this time is hard work. I have always had to apply focus to relax my expectations of myself. So I am doing everything in my power to let this self-knowledge be my guide during these challenging times.

What do you do to get through times when your plans are thrown off kilter, activities of daily living change, and your relationships become altered?

Stay healthy, safe and keep moving through this wild journey we call life!

Smile at a child today, please!

As I finished my walk this morning, the final leg required me to walk over a narrow covered foot bridge that spans across a local creek. The custom for physical distancing at this bridge has been a delicate dance requiring people on foot and on bikes or roller blades to wait for someone to get all the way across and then the next person would be able to go. At times, this has meant that you had to wait your turn and for the most part people on the walking path were patient and respectful. Especially in the early part of this pandemic.

But times have changed and human behaviour is shifting. More often than not these days, people seem to avoid eye contact and at times it appears they shrink into themselves not offering a hello or a smile.

This avoidant behaviour has become more prevalent as the pandemic progresses and at times, facial expressions on people crossing that bridge signal annoyance or agitation. As our community moves towards re-opening, it feels like we are participating in a three legged race. Some of us are still practicing physical distancing as we did when we first began to shelter in place and others seem to have shrugged off any concern about risk and appear visibly annoyed with those that do.

Today while out on my daily walk, I encountered a young family. A mother steering a large baby stroller and a small boy riding a tiny two wheeler could be seen at the other end of the bridge. I had arrived before them and had already begun walking so I was about half way across the bridge when the boy on his tiny bike starting riding. His mother told him to stop and he quickly moved back when she asked him to and his face clearly communicated that he was upset. As I grew closer to where they were, I could see that his upset face was more fearful than angry and I wondered about that.

When I came to the end of the bridge, I smiled at this boy and thanked him for waiting for me to get across. He looked up at me with a mixture of astonishment and amazement on his little face, clearly surprised. He said loudly to his mother, “that lady smiled at me mommy and she said thank you!”. This young mother briefly looked down at him and then up at me as I passed. Her silent thanks seemed odd to me at first, but then I started to consider what some aspects of this pandemic experience must be like viewed through the eyes of a child.

I know that I am sensitive to the non verbal facial expressions of those I encounter on my daily walks, so what must that be like for a child? As this period of social and physical distancing has progressed, those expressions have shifted. Shifting from smiles and waves and saying hello. To gazes cast downward, pointed looks of annoyance, and at times, obvious frustration. How must young children interpret this strange new world where at times blatant disrespect and lack of common courtesy can be seen in everyday interactions.

How frightening this all must be. So if you have a chance today, smile at a child. And for that matter, smile at others, whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Stay safe and healthy!

Shifting Truths

What will be required to create meaningful, equitable change in our lives? Certain truths have become evident to me during this pandemic that suggest collectively we have the need to pause, reflect, and consider what is truly needed to make sustained and real change so we can move forward in a good way. Having vacillated between watching the news too often and not watching it at all, I thought I had achieved some type of balance. This past week I have found that my focus has once again been on what has been going on in the world around me.

Thinking about some of the larger issues that we must confront, has caused me to wonder if we are simply spinning without direction only to end up with just more of the same problems we had pre-pandemic. Consider news events over the past week – the focus has shifted from how will we safely reopen and stave off a second wave of the virus that has wreaked havoc across the world to a long overdue and serious dialogue about systemic racism.

Hundreds of thousands of people from across the globe have been involved in lending their voices to the Black Lives Matter protests in spite of the possible risks of spreading the coronavirus. Stories of racism that are being shared right now are heartbreaking and have precipitated a plethora of ideas about how to effect real changes.

One of the ideas that has been circulating through many communities is that police should be defunded. Journalists around the world are sharing news about more protests, petitions, and equally as many stories from politicians and police officials stating that they believe this is the wrong approach.

This seems to be a repeating process that we have seen with other critical issues such as climate change, the best strategies to manage this global pandemic, and better ways to care for the elderly and marginalized members of our society, etc. etc. Just as quickly as these stories are told, and shared widely we hear all of the rationale as to why suggested changes can’t be made. Point and counter point. Or worse yet, nothing more is written or discussed as the news cycles bring other issues forward.

During this time of loosening our lockdown, it seems more plausible that we might have an opportunity to come together to make changes that have been discussed for decades. There has been more emphasis on our collective global needs than ever before in my lifetime. So I can’t help wonder if this will be the moment in our history when we will change course en masse. Focus, tenacity, and individual commitment to change will be required on a large scale.

Electing politicians who are not narcissistic, self absorbed, and can be held to account would be a wonderful place to start. One can be criticized I suppose for dreaming of a kinder, more generous way of treating one another as well as a bonafide coming together to save our environment. But I don’t think that would stop me from writing about the need to do better than we are now. How about you? What do you think we should do to make a real impact at this time in our lives?

Meaningful change through peaceful protest

We have experienced some of the most chaotic and heartbreaking moments in the past few days along with some uplifting events that have served as counterbalance weights. These swings between historic lows and highs have been drastic and at times, shocking and beyond comprehension.

I sit at my desk as I think about what I should write, listening instead to a peaceful protest being held at our legislative grounds. I want to applaud the youth in our community for organizing an event to denounce the egregious events that have taken place south of our border and to share their own stories about the racism and discrimination they experience in our community.

A few days earlier, I watched along with the rest of the world, a video that captured the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of one police officer while others stood and did nothing but watch him die. Indeed, I wondered what fresh hell is this? This unbelievable murderous act serves as a stark reminder of the depths of hatred and systemic racism that continue to plague what should be one of the world’s largest peaceful, democratic countries.

Thankfully the counterpoint to this horrific event were mass protests to register justified outrage and demands for real change across the United States. The risks of increasing the spread of the coronavirus through large public gatherings seemed balanced by the importance of people standing together to speak out with one voice against hate in all of its forms. To give voice to their pain, anger and enduring frustration. But without strong leadership, the protests became overshadowed by looters and anarchists.

Chaos was sparked in many of the protests by groups of self-interested individuals who seemed motivated by destruction and criminality rather than any desire for meaningful change through peaceful protest. The world woke up to numerous images of fires set, police cars overturned, looting, and lawlessness. The time seemed ripe for the United States President to step up, calm the nation, and begin the process of reconciliation and rebuilding.

Just when a person couldn’t imagine things getting any worse, the President decides not to calm this crisis but instead opts out by invoking a law and order mantra and hiding away in a bunker. Using social media to escalate and further inflame tensions and threaten citizens of his country with their own military. It all seems surreal.

We sat transfixed to our screens as the United States President stunned the world by using the National Guard to remove protestors through aggression and tear gas for a mind blowing photo op in front of a church he doesn’t actually attend, holding a bible in an outstretched hand like a theatrical prop.

This was the backdrop for the peaceful protest that has been organized by youth of colour in our community to show solidarity with George Floyds family and for the people hurt by continued systemic racism south of our border and here at home. They need to share their own stories about injustices and racism. Our job is to listen to them and then to take positive action for meaningful change.

Stay healthy and safe.