Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Could Vs. Should

As I reflect on the progression of my calling to teach, as well as this present call that I answer, I am reminded of a time, early on in my career, when I actually thought that children “should” behave a certain way and that children “should” be at a certain developmental milestone at a particular time on a particular schedule. I now believe that should, is one of the most destructive words in our vocabulary. It denotes that something is amiss or wrong. I once had puzzled thoughts like, she should know her alphabet by now - or he should be able to tie his shoes by now.
I no longer wonder why I thought in this way, but have in its place, enveloped a new way.
If we, instead, consider that these developmental milestones are simply guidelines, we begin to open up to genuinely honouring each child for their uniqueness and we in turn, create and discover ways to reach and teach each individual. If we replace “should” with “could”, we are open to many more possibilities with not only our wee ones, but with everyone we come into relationship with.
She could learn her alphabet if…
He could tie his shoes if…
She could understand this if…
He could choose differently if…
Could, takes the pressure off and we are then never in a battle between right and wrong – instead everything, (Inspired by the teachings of Louise Hay) and in the same way, we then take ownership in the relationship even if that relationship is with our own self.
The paper book that I am reading right now is The Call by Oriah Mountain Dreamer. Yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised to read about another one of her books, The Invitation. I thank Annie for this passage from Oriah.
The Invitation

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
for love
for your dreams
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon…
I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow
if you have been opened by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your
fingers and toes
without cautioning us to
be careful
be realistic
to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.

If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand on the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after a night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the center of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments.

This is The Invitation, however at this moment in time, I look towards The Call and what I have presently decided to honour, which is my life as a writer. When I sit down at my desk to write each day, I do so from my heart but also from somewhere else deep inside of me. From a place that I did not know existed. There are times I am quite surprised by the words that emerge on the paper before me. These words leave me raw and vulnerable and I wonder if they are the coulds inside of me that have been waiting to burst forth. Maybe for far too long now, I have trapped myself by the shoulds of life.
What should a good daughter write about?
What should a good partner say or not say?
I will instead, let myself be inspired by an old friend who recently told me that he is celebrating sixteen years of sobriety and now knows that he can do anything, by a close friend who knows who she is on this earth and dares to be that person in utmost “Beauty even when it is not pretty” (Oriah Mountain Dreamer) and by my partner who chose to stay with me while I unraveled in the shoulds of my life so that we could build once again. It is in these coulds that I am grateful to reside.
What could you do, if you threw away the word should?

Just Me and B!

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Emergence of Spring...

Spring is arriving and with its rejuvenating entry comes the promise of new life. This is my 49th spring and still I marvel at a landscape heavily laden with the whiteness of winter, inviting what appears to be, new buds forming on the willows, young partridges along the roadside emerging causing me to slow down, and calves and kids and near to bursting mama cats in the barn.
However, it is the return of the wild geese that encourages me to stand where I am, raise my head, breathe audibly and then weep. 
I know that the wild and free animal in me has been tamed and for the most part, I am content with this but will honour these feelings, let them course through my being, dry my tears, swallow, smile softly and as I take in a deep, cool, fresh breath of spring air, say a silent prayer for myself and for all who yearn to fly, even if it is just for a moment.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

In Honour of International Women's Day

In honour of International Women’s Day I offer my thoughts in gratefulness, reverence but also vulnerability. My first child born was a son and although I was in love with him before he left my body, I felt drastically different with the emergence of my daughter Jillian…
The moment that the doctor placed that baby on my body my arms enveloping her, I felt a frightening surge of utmost responsibility. It was now my job to see to it that she lived in a world where she could do anything that she wanted to do without external society-created barriers. For her, I wanted a world where each individual was honoured for her or his gifts. This has been one of my challenges, especially living in rural Alberta where Jillian comes into daily contact with some boys, men and sadly women, who continue to create barriers for her and all of her female counterparts.
I am thankful that Jillian has more than just me as a mentor and so I offer out a tribute to women who have played a direct role in Jillian’s life towards becoming a strong young woman.

A teacher Michelle who introduced the Famous 5 to Jillian causing her the desire to see where they are buried and where they are honoured.
Her minister Barbara who continues to marvel at Jillian and other young women and their pursuits.
Her best friend’s mama Laura who Jillian believes is capable of getting out of any scrape – and she probably is.
My best girlfriend Kaye with whom Jillian sees as larger than life and more than capable of surviving anywhere she might be dropped.
Her piano teacher Karen who listens to her dreams.
Strong Femme Fatales of the past in black and white that adorn my girly’s bedroom walls.
             And her grandma who paved the way for many women in business and who left this earth but did not leave Jillian.  
Happy International Women’s Day and Thank you.
With Jillian in front of The Lincoln Center.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Beauty In Death...

Something quite profound has touched my life recently. A girlfriend’s eighty-four year-old grandfather died suddenly. Even though he was showing the early signs in the first stages of Alzheimer’s disease, he and his eighty-two year-old wife remained living in their family home. His wife of sixty-two years was beginning to fuss about how she would continue to physically care for him. After a wonderful, albeit typical morning coffee time visit with a friend, he settled into the passenger side of the vehicle and when his friend came around to help him engage the seatbelt, he was gone.  Just like that, he gifted his lovely and revered wife any decisions she might have to make surrounding his care. He had lived a full, rich and love-filled life and it was time to go.
There is beauty in death if we take time to see it…
Over six years ago, after a stroke and an incidental finding of inoperable cancer, my mama had a wish to die at home. Along with my dad, my siblings and some amazing earth angels called Palliative Care Nurses, we ensured that this could happen. My mom had been a beautiful dancer but the stroke had left her legs in such a state that she could not bear weight on them in order to walk independently and of course, would never dance again. Facing him and supported atop his feet, my dad would guide her to the bathroom, the living room and the bedroom. He called this “The Dance” and one evening with his grand singing voice, as he guided her to bed, he sang, “Could I have this dance for the rest of my life…” 

On beauty in death, Kahlil Gibram writes
Dry your tears, my friends, and raise your heads as the flowers
Raise their crowns to greet the dawn.
Look at the bride of Death standing like a column of light
Between my bed and the infinite;
Hold your breath and listen with me to the beckoning rustle of
Her white wings.

As I sat at the dining room table that evening and in the moment when my dad danced my mom to her bed, my brother’s eyes met mine and without any words spoken between us, I discovered beauty in death - for this I am truly grateful. I invite you to share with me, your stories about this remarkable beauty that endures even in what might be our darkest moments.