Archive for the ‘Journeying’ Category

Steven Page, stigma, and me…

I went to hear Steven Page speak at Laurentian University with two friends a couple of weeks ago. It was a wintry evening, with wind whipping snow all over the road that wraps around the edges of Lake Ramsey. I don’t like big crowds, but I have loved Page’s music for as long as I can remember. His voice has always captivated me, but his words, the lyrics of all of those songs, in Barenaked Ladies as well as in his solo and collaborative ventures since then, and even in his music for plays at the Stratford Festival, have always spoken to me. (I also have to admit that I had the biggest crush on him in my early 20s, back in the early 1990s. I’m amazed by how quickly the time has gone, and how music, how specific songs, can mark important moments in your life.)

I don’t like big crowds. I’ve said it before here, just up there in the first paragraph! 🙂 I avoid places like Costco, or the too-tall shelving at Canadian Tire, where I tend to feel trapped and a bit frantic, and I tend to grocery shop when it’s almost ‘dead’ so that I can speed through the aisles with a purpose. I’ve always dealt with some mild anxiety, most often in tandem with bouts of depression. The last two big episodes of depression, from 2008-2009 and in 2011, paralleled logically to the deaths of my parents. The depression tends to go away, with the help of medication, therapy, and exercise, but the anxiety has always sort of just sat there, gargoyle-ing and shadowing behind my back. I’m used to it. I’m not, however, used to what it became this past fall.

Work-related stress pulled me under in June. I thought the summer off would lift the weight of it, dampen its intensity, but this bout of anxiety was unlike any other I’d encountered. In early July, I thought I was having a heart attack, so I went to emerge and sat for two hours just to hear some doctor tell me that I was ‘just a bit anxious.’ I know my mind, and I know when I need to take care of it, so I went to see my doctor and then my psychiatrist. My therapist is constantly on standby. After the darkness of my previous depressive episodes, I never want to risk slipping back there. Chest pains are a scary thing when you’re a woman in your forties. (C’mon, we’ve all seen the commercials!) They’re even scarier when you’re a woman whose parents died due to complications of heart disease and other such assorted gremlins. After they died, I made the conscious choice to lose fifty pounds. I changed my patterns. I became more pro-active in terms of my physical and mental health. It’s a daily decision to move forward and not backward. You don’t just do it for a while and then stop. You continue on, as you must. After all, we’re made to move forward, to adapt, to face challenges and overcome them even when they scare the shit out of you.

My autumn was hellish. I was overmedicated for a while, so that my “chest pains” would vanish. For the longest time, I didn’t think they would, and I wondered if I’d just have to live with being haunted by worry and the ghostly memories of my parents’ ill health. In the darkest of months, I couldn’t sleep, felt dizzy, had constant nausea, was exhausted at times when I ought not to have been, and felt like my mind had beaten me.  I felt vanquished more than once. I’m blessed, though, to have about four or five really good friends who pop up to walk with me. They can’t fix it….they know that…but they listen, over the phone line, or they sit and drink tea with me, or they just let me cry in their office at work when I don’t even know why I’m crying. (Sometimes, these medications help you, but they can also hurt you at the same time; spontaneous crying fits are probably one of the most embarrassing things because you never know when or why they’ll occur.) Finally, in late December, the chest pains left me. For a few days, I kept looking around, as if I wondered whether or not they would just pop up again. Then, I could finally begin the descent from the meds. As always, when the meds decrease, I lift up. Usually, when I need meds, well, they lift me up, but at some points, they can overwhelm and deaden me. That’s when I know (usually) that I’m coming through it all. I never know when I’ll hit that wall, or if I’ll push through it, but the more often you do this journeying through self, the more you are able to emerge again. It’s like a constant kind of chrysalis…but you never know if you’ll emerge as a butterfly or a wonky moth.

Hearing Steven Page speak two weeks ago made me want to cry. He spoke openly, honestly, and even admitted to being extremely anxious about speaking to a large group about his dealing with mental health issues and stigma. The thing that struck me, though, was his sheer bravery. He spoke about how, when he is struggling, he is of two minds. One is the confident mind that says he is capable, clever, skilled, and worthy of sharing his creative art. The other is the ‘sick mind’ which tells him is unworthy, not valuable, and which questions every good thing he tries to create. He said that quietly but firmly, he explained that duality, and I took a deep breath. No one else had explained before, to me, in such eloquent terms, what it feels like to be inside my head. Just knowing that he could understand it took my breath away. Then he spoke about stigma. This is something that gnaws at me often, especially in this last few months of grappling with severe anxiety and managing to work through it to get to the other side.

Here’s the funny thing about stigma, and I don’t mean in a ‘fun, joyful’ way, but I do mean it in a ‘peculiar’ way. That distinction needs to be made. While you’re in the midst of a mental firestorm, people will notice that you are not yourself, or maybe they will not. All you care to notice is whether you can put one foot in front of the other each day, to not fall, either literally or metaphorically, as you walk. All you can manage to notice is whether or not you can troubleshoot your way through minutes and hours, and days and nights. You are constantly, as I say, “mindful of your own mind,” and that can be one of the most exhausting things. If you haven’t dealt with mental health issues, then you likely won’t understand it. This past fall, I’ve had people I’ve considered friends say “well, maybe you need to find a less stressful job,” or “don’t glorify stigma,” or “do you really think stigma exists here, in this retail store/restaurant/hospital/school/hairdressing salon/government office?” The last one always throws me for a loop. Then, I start to think about it. Of course, if people haven’t lived in a busy head, and in my case a creative head, then maybe they won’t understand how it feels to sense the sting of stigma. They’ll think “Well, we’re following all the procedures and supporting mental health initiatives. We’ve done the Bell Let’s Talk text and retweet thing. We put up posters talking about awareness of mental health issues. We’re good!” When it comes to actually talking to the struggling person, though, people are so unsure of how to do that…and sometimes the person struggling is, too. It’s a quagmire.

Here’s the thing: No, we’re not good. Organizations have implemented mental health awareness plans and ad campaigns, and it’s definitely a start. I love the idea of Bell Let’s Talk, but I also know that dealing with mental health issues is still problematic in most workplaces in Canadian society. People will say it isn’t….but I don’t know that they’ve lived with these shadows dancing around their shoulders for an excessive amount of time. Most of my friends are creative, people who live in their heads and hearts. It doesn’t make it easy to live inside the structure of organizations. None of this mental health stuff is romantic. It’s not romantic or dramatic to feel so anxious that you shake like a leaf, and it’s not comfortable to feel overly emotional for no apparent reason when you least expect it, and it’s not easy to connect with people who don’t understand what it’s like to live with a necessarily keen awareness of your mind’s intricacies. In fact, it’s about the most exhausting thing you can do, and it’s a constant monitoring of the mind’s moods, even when you’re having a good day/month/year. Moments of sheer joy emerge, though, and, for me, writing makes me thankful for the way in which my brain has formed itself. It’s a blessing and a curse, a light and a darkness. I couldn’t give up my words…or my imagination…so I’ve learned to dive into darkness and anxiety when it arrives. For me, the only way back out is through it, and each time I learn something new about my own internal strength. Other people may not understand it, but that’s okay….I’m learning more and more about why I’m on the planet as I journey.

Here’s a gorgeous new song from Steven Page…it speaks to me. I’m so glad I got to hear him speak, and to hear these beautiful new songs of his. Good to know we are not alone on the journey….

….and, in the words of one of my literary mentors, Timothy Findley, we go on, “Against Despair!”

peace, friends.

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Losing a student at the school where you teach is traumatic. We lost a young girl, just seventeen, to a terrible car accident about a week and a half ago. I knew who she was, but I had not had the pleasure of teaching her. I have taught her sister, though, and I keep thinking of her in all of this grief. I only have one sister, too, and even though we may not always see eye to eye, she is still my sister. The bond is there, and bonds don’t break.

We also lost a fine young woman, a graduate, in the winter months of this year, too. Deidre Urso Paulin was a bright star, much too young to have passed in yet another tragic accident. She was the mother of two young boys. It hit those of us who had taught her years ago very hard. I learned that, even if it’s been years since you taught a student, they sit in your heart and hold space there. You see them, years later, in grocery stores or in Chapters at the check-out counter. (My most recent encounter was with a girl who now is in her late twenties. She introduced me to her two little girls, both under five years of age.) I remember thinking, ‘where has the time gone?’ and ‘look how she’s grown up!’ Even though I don’t have kids of my own, these girls are mine. You don’t easily forget them, your students.

I teach Grade 11s and 12s, so many of them were friends of this young girl. Kodee had touched so many spirits at school, and the girls were broken. The day after the accident was awful, surreal and deeply sad. There is such a sense of loss when a young person dies before their time. Her friends were bereft, the teachers tried to offer balance, as well as open hugs and listening ears, but even we were adrift. How do you explain or make sense of such a tragedy? Even adults have a hard time….

Her friends loved her so deeply; the stories they told me touched my heart. Sometimes, they just wanted to talk. Other times, they just wanted to weep, or to get a hug. They needed to grieve. For most of them, this was the first death they had encountered in their lives. Anyone’s first encounter with death, especially tragic and sudden death, is shocking and surreal. It never makes sense, no matter how hard you try to make sense of it in your head. Your heart breaks, taking precedence over the head. Emotion overtakes logic and you get to see the raw human soul that people try (so often, too often) to hide when they go about their day to day business at work or school. (Why are we so afraid of truly seeing one another, I often wonder?)

This past week, on the day of the funeral and the day afterwards, the girls were empty, flat, exhausted. The next day, they were wired and spinning with energy. I found the contrast sharp and bittersweet. They were on a roller coaster of emotion and there was no real manual for dealing with loss. Some fell asleep in class, some looked out the window with grief etched on their faces, while others seemed hyper. My Grade 12 class was spinning, so I tried a session of guided meditation. Some of the girls thought it was silly, but I told them it was one way I find peace in a frantic day. Whether you are angry, saddened, afraid, or excited….finding even five to ten minutes of mindfulness through meditation can root you to your own breath. Sometimes, it seems to me, our breath is the safest anchor in the day.

At first, they grumbled and moaned, saying that it was ‘silly’ and ‘not part of the curriculum.’ It was a resistance that I had expected. Once I asked them all to close their eyes, though, explaining that no one else would be looking at them, they did close their eyes. What I saw, as the guided meditation went on, was a sense of relief passing over their faces. They were exhausted. Having five minutes to just be in their bodies, to just focus on their breathing patterns, gave them respite from constant movement and thought. Afterwards, when I asked them what they thought of it, they asked if we could do it once a week. They said they felt peaceful, centred, less frantic. It didn’t mean that they escaped the pain of the grief they were living through (and still are living through)….it just meant that they could breathe again, without thinking, for just a few minutes of that one day.

My meditation this week has been raking leaves. It is not one of my most favourite autumn tasks, but I turned it into a meditation on movement as I went over the grief of the week in my head and heart. My two dogs, Gully and Sable, snuffled through leaf piles, chewed (illegally, I might add!) on pieces of twigs and leaves, and then stood looking through the backyard fence at passersby. I focused on raking: the stretch and the reach of the arms and shoulders, the pulling backwards, the drawing in, and then the reaching out again. I watched the green of the lawn emerge from under a sea of golden leaves. Patch by patch, I found a centring and calming force. My breath slowed, my body moving in motion with my breath, until I had finished raking. With each drawing in, of gathering leaves together, I thanked Mother Earth for the gift of the trees. I thanked Gaia for the shade in summer, for the birds that had been housed there, and even for the crazy little black squirrels who natter at one another in overhead branches. I gave thanks to the earth for a season of growth, offering it rest and helping to put the earth “to bed” for winter.

Tomorrow, I’ll come home after work and plant a few spring bulbs in my flower beds. I’ll forget where they are planted, I know, but I’ll enjoy the springing up when they arise in April or May to surprise me. In a season of endings, there are always beginnings. In a cycle of nature, energy doesn’t dissipate but it transforms. As we all move forward, again, with each new breath, I know that Kodee’s spirit continues on, in bright light, with those she loves, watching over those who are here still. I wish her family, her parents, and her sister, Jenny, especially, peace in this sorrowful time.

Remember, friends, to love the ones you’re with….and to tell those you love that you do love them. We never know what a day or night will bring us, and we need to, more often I think, bare our souls more openly. We are here to be light, so why are we so afraid to share that?

Beam brightly.

peace and blessings,

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I confess….it’s been more than two months since I’ve blogged. There are reasons. I’ll begin: returning from my Scandinavian and Russian sojourn in late July took the wind out of my sails. You go from the beauty of a Russian ballet one night, and stores packed full of gorgeous green Baltic amber or lovely stacked Russian dolls, and then fly into Frankfurt and finally home to Ontario. Well, it’s all a bit of a time travel jump. (This is when I wish I had a Tardis with David Tennant in it!) 🙂

As a result, I spent the first few weeks of August trying to get my sleeping patterns back in order. It wasn’t easy. Once that settled, I read Joseph Boyden’s masterpiece, The Orenda, putting it down when it hit my heart too heavily and then picking it up again when I worried about how the characters were doing. Most of August, though, to be honest, was spent dealing with severe anxiety attacks. Yup. Not the nicest way to spend an August and now it’s dragged into the fall, so I’m dealing with that the best I can. It’s always an uphill battle when you least expect it in life, I’ve found…and being creative often means (I’m afraid) that one’s head is too busy for one’s own good. More on this struggle in some future post, when I’ve gained distance from the demons, but for now….

I bought my first salt lamp in August! This is exciting because I have lusted after salt lamps for years. My friend Charmaine Kennedy owns the beautifully calming Tree of Life shop on Regent Street. Knowing they are good for cleansing your chakras and other esoteric things, I purchased one. Now, when I write or read, I put that little lamp on, and a bit of classic music, and occasionally peer out at the still green leaves on my front yard trees. That salt lamp makes me thankful. Those green leaves and trees make me grateful. The classical music calms me when I get swamped with writing deadlines or heavy loads of marking. I have big senior English classes this fall, so it’s a new learning as to how to balance my marking with my writing. My classes are lovely, though, and I am always impressed by the girls I teach.

My love affair with Kate Bush’s music spans my adult lifetime. I think I may have first heard of her from my friend Mel, back in the early 1990s, when we were studying English together at Laurentian University in Sudbury. I have a short one-act play, “Ghost of a Chance,” that will be produced at the Sudbury Theatre Centre in March 2016, so I spent part of August listening to Kate Bush’s music on my CD player (yes, I’m officially old!) and working on re-writes of the play. I think it was the link between “Wuthering Heights” and my ghost in the play….and also that I think of Kate Bush as a ground breaking feminist. The character in my play is in her late twenties, searching for herself. (I find it amusing that I’m now about to enter my mid-40s and I’m searching just as much for myself these days. Mid-life crisis? No, I don’t think so. Mid-like awakening, perhaps. If I follow my parents’ leads and don’t lead a long full life, based on genetics alone, then I’m more than half way through it all already….and maybe part of this pressure I’m feeling is that I know I have many things to do before I go….and an awareness of mortality.) Anyway, listening to Kate Bush while re-writing plays in August is not a bad way to spend your time as a hermit writer type! 🙂

I also spent the last few weeks of August, and into this month, working on moving my novel forward. It still doesn’t have a title. I’ve written just over 200 pages, so I’m thrilled with what I’ve done since February of this year. It’s coming along….but I wonder about the ending and how it arrives, or how I should best usher it along. It’s all very mystical, this first-time-novel-writing-experiment, so I’m trying to be gentle with myself.

Now, this week….in the midst of a lot of stress, I watched the Pope arrive in America and took great comfort in his visit. I’m not usually a fan of CNN, being more a BBC and CBC type of girl than a big glitzy media imbiber! Still, CNN had excellent coverage of the Pope’s visit and I was glued to the TV. I love Pope Francis. I know, I’m likely an odd one. I’m a practicing Catholic, Mary is my “home girl”, and I still have a bag full of my grandmother’s old broken rosaries that she gave me in the mid-1990s, before she died. (She used to say them in bed at night in her old house on Wembley Drive, and I’m sure the things snapped when she slept on top of them, tangled up in her nightclothes, or maybe they slipped off the mattress in the dead of night, or she may have just prayed too hard for everyone else but herself! 🙂 I’m lucky I had her as a guide in my life. We had plenty of conversations about religion when I was in my 20s. She was a fascinating conversationalist and I miss our talks tremendously. In any case, she loved John Paul II, or JP2 as my generation might have referred to him. She missed seeing Benedict arrive on the scene, but I truly believe she would have loved Francis. His devotion to Mary, his care for the environment, and his awareness of world poverty, all would have been things that would have resonated with her sweet heart.

I know a lot of people think Pope Francis is “too soft” in some ways. In truth, though, I think he’s brave. He speaks his mind, making comments about things that matter. He speaks of love and mercy, and of forgiveness. I want to believe in a world where what he preaches can be true on a daily basis, in our work places, in our shops and in our streets around the world. I know I’m idealistic. I think that’s why I’m drawn to what he preaches. He sees people on a human level. He doesn’t seem infallible to me…and maybe that’s why I am so fond of him. I love how he always closes everything with “and please, I ask you, pray for me.” He admits he has faults. He admits he struggles. He is human. Yes, he is human, but the light of Christ shines through every smile and every well chosen visit to homeless shelters or prisons. I love how he does things unexpectedly, launching himself into a crowd of faithful and shaking hands or taking selfies. (In some ways, he reminds me of my dad. He died at 78, but had a bright spirit, always laughing and joking, but full of good virtues. This guy has the same kind of steadfast kindness. I like that.)

I know that people say he hasn’t done enough, but then I read everything he has done so far and I think that he is saying things that no one has ever dared to say before. He speaks of things the Vatican has always wanted to sweep under the rug. I’m sure there are some Vatican people who don’t like his forward-thinking approach to creating a more inclusive and welcoming Catholic church in the world, but I’m glad he’s brave enough to speak of the sex abuse scandal without mincing words. On this visit, he spoke of women having a more visible role in the church, which is something I think would be wise indeed. I don’t expect things will happen instantaneously, but I am pleased that he speaks up and reminds rich bishops and cardinals of what their true role ought to be, as servants of Christ. He has to begin somewhere. At least he’s begun….it’s a start.

Yeah, so….that’s August and September for me. Quite a mishmash of thoughts, I know. I’ll be better in my next post, which I promise will be better formulated.



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Left Helsinki at a reasonable hour this morning. Shifted from a tour of many people, to a group of just twelve of us. It’s been nice getting to know people more thoroughly now, having time to chat as we tour together.

All started well this morning in Helsinki. We said goodbye to our various travel companions who were headed back to America this morning. Then we went to the train station with our new guide, Timofei, and got on a fast train to St. Petersburg. The trip took 3.5 hours, but it was (unfortunately) eventful.

We were all a bit nervous about crossing into Russia. There is no big fanfare, but you are not permitted to take any photos of the border. Before you leave Finland, the border guards come in with their dog and sweep the train, but also take account of your passport details. A little while later, the Russian border guards come in and do the same thing. It can be a bit daunting.

Our tour guide told us to check the dates on our Russian Visas. Our friend, Dot, realized that hers had an initiation date of Thursday, July 23. Not good, as today is Wednesday, July 22. She told our tour guide, he went off to speak with a Finnish guard and then came back to tell her that she would not be allowed into Russia today.

It was quite a shock. We had about ten minutes to try and get her connected to the right people and information. It was hectic, and scary, and upsetting for Dot. We all felt horrible. We did get her a list of hotels near the train station, information about trains into St. Petersburg tomorrow morning, and promised to guard her bags. Then, before we knew it, she had been left at a little Finnish town close to the border. We pick her up tomorrow morning at the train station, on the way to our tour of the city. Then, in the afternoon, we’ll hang out at the Hermitage for a few hours. Tomorrow night, we’re going to take part in a show called (yes, it’s true!) “Feel Yourself Russian.” Mostly, though, we’re all thinking of Dot tonight and hoping she’s well. Thankful, too, tonight….for technology. Cell phones and ipads come in handy when you’re having a travel crisis.

When we arrived, we met up for a quick walking tour of part of the city, taking the extremely crowded St. Petersburg metro to get into the centre of town. (I can say that I do not like steep subway tunnels, or crushing, roiling masses of people thronging around me….especially in a small subway car that looks like it’s an antique.) We also went to see one of the grand churches, the women walking through and having to ‘cover’ our heads with hoods and scarves. It seemed surreal, to see such grandeaur and beauty when there is obviously poverty here. The church we saw was beautiful and I’m looking forward to seeing a couple of other churches so I can light a candle for Mum and Dad, as well as buy a small icon for myself. They are beautiful here, all bright colours and silver or gold inlaid.

Finally….the water: the city doesn’t have the best water, so hotels leave you two complimentary bottles in your hotel room fridge each day. You can only brush your teeth with bottled water. You also have to drink bottled water. You can take showers but you literally still need to keep your mouth closed. Not the nicest thing to think about, but obviously a city-wide issue, so we trundle onwards…dreaming of drinking excessively large amounts of water.

Tomorrow, it’s all about us getting our New Orleans spitfire, Dot, back on tour. Then, we’re off!


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In case you weren’t aware, February 1st is St. Brigid’s Day. She’s an Irish saint, the patron saint of poetry, and is known for having founded a number of convents in Ireland. She actually started the first double monastery, where monks and nuns studied together. Brigid has a number of names, including Mary of the Gael, which always strikes me as interesting. A lot of saints in Ireland have roots in a druidic and Celtic past. The Catholic stuff is always built on top of (or very near) holy wells. One thing I love about Ireland is how, as you’re driving down the twisty roadways, you’ll come across a statue of Mary, with fresh flowers at her feet, snuggled in amidst a tuft of wild green grass or tucked into a little cluster of rocks. Mary happens to be my home girl and one of the reasons I like being Catholic. It may not be “hip” for most people my age, but I pray to Mary a lot. I love saying the rosary before I go to sleep at night and I often ask her for help when I’m in dire straits.

So, when I had to chance to attend an event that would celebrate Brigid’s spirit and essence, I was all in for it. I wasn’t sure completely what I was in for, but I was willing to honour the woman with whom I have always felt connected. In my 20s, when I lived in Ottawa, I found a copy of Danta Ban: Poems of Irish Women in one of those quirky bookshops in the Glebe. I come from a family of strong Irish women. It was all matriarchal magic, storytelling, and no nonsense Irish Catholic, on my mum’s side. Really, it sort of makes sense that I’d be drawn to Irish goddesses and saints. My own great aunts, the Kelly Girls, were strong and feisty. My grandmother and my mum had both been women to reckon with if you ticked them off, or if you crossed them. For both of them, well, family was everything. I miss that a lot these days. My grandma, in particular, was the glue that kept everyone together. Her going was a loss and I think of her almost every day, even though she died over seventeen years ago.

When I first started teaching, the art teacher in my school had an art show. I looked at a variety of paintings, but found one that spoke to me. I knew right away it was a likeness of a goddess, all female fire and fury. I bought it from the artist and it’s still a cherished piece. Then, later in life, a friend gifted me with Bridget Mary Meehan and Regina Madonna’s book, Praying with Celtic Holy Women. I’ve read about Irish legends and lore, know a lot about traditional Irish music, and just generally love storytelling of all sorts (but especially poetry).

Anne Kathleen McLaughlin has written and now performs her one-woman play, “Wooing of the Soul,” which is set on Tara Hill, in Ireland. I’ve been to Tara Hill, so seeing a play that was set there appealed to me on a basic level of curiosity that needed to be satisfied. When I visited there in the summer of 2012, I had just lost my dad a few months earlier, was climbing up out of a depression, and was searching for some kind of origin so that I could move forward in my life. I’d spent years being dutiful and loving, taking care of ill parents, but leaving myself aside too thoughtlessly. Now I had begun to reclaim my true self. Tara Hill resonated with me. It shivered. And then I shivered. (I know it sounds nuts, but if you go to these ancient sacred sites in Ireland, well, tell me you don’t feel that the land and air shivers!) The faery tree off to the base of the hill had ribbons that rippled in the wind, offerings left by local people asking for the faeries’ intervention. It’s a space in place where the veil is thin, and I love how the soul shivers in a such a place. That same day I visited Newgrange and, as I journeyed into the dark centre of that passage tomb, I felt I’d been there before. None of it is logical, but a lot of it is intense. I’m still working out that day in my head and heart, using memory and mind to make sense of it all.

Anne Kathleen’s play is about one woman’s journey to Tara Hill, but it really speaks to how a woman finds herself while she journeys. I often find that traveling, the physical journey, cracks me open in a creative and soulful way. The woman in the play journeys to Tara and ends up finding out that the old Irish female storyteller is likely the sacred feminine part of herself, as represented by (I think) the essence of Brigid herself. What struck me most about the play was that, in the morning introduction, when Anne Kathleen spoke of Irish history and lore, she also spoke about how we might feel we are at a juncture in our own lives as women. There were many different women in attendance that day, of a variety of faiths, philosophies, ages, and experiences. We all, though, were journeying inwards. Anne Kathleen said that, when we are growing and evolving, we feel uncomfortable. It is as if we are inside a womb, as if we are growing, ready to be born in a new way. That spoke to me. These days, I’m more and more dedicated to my path as a writer, but my day job is demanding and draining. It pulls energy away from the reading and writing that I need to do for myself, as I strengthen my own writing skills. She spoke about us pressing up against the womb, of the discomfort, and of the need to end one kind of existence to begin another. That resonated with me. It does still a week and a half later.  It isn’t easy being a creative person in this too busy world, trying to balance what you are called to do, through your art, with what you do in society, to work in a field that may not be solely creative.  (There are always creative aspects that you can bring to your work each day, but it differs from the time you spend in your passion, whether that be writing or painting or dancing or playing an instrument or singing….)

It doesn’t matter, I thought, as I listened that day in honour of Brigid, which country or continent you speak of… there are examples of the sacred feminine in all world cultures. Whether you think of Mary in Catholicism, or Brigid in Celtic lore, or of the First Nations peoples of Canada, or of New Zealand’s Maori people…it doesn’t matter. We are all rooted, as women, in a strong matrilineal lineage that we cannot deny or ignore. Anne Kathleen’s story of searching inside ourselves, in finding out how to woo our own souls, is to learn how to find our own goddesses within.

I’m still searching for her, but I’m getting a better and clearer sense of my higher self. I know there’s a goddess in here somewhere….I catch glimpses of her soul fire on occasion and am impressed by her passion. She’s rising up now, so I’m looking forward to meeting her, to meeting myself, as I evolve.

I wish the same for all of you.


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My heart is too soft. It is too broken. Words spoken, and even unspoken, wound me too easily. When I’m tired and ‘overdone,’ I am my own worst enemy. This week, I have been feeling what I like to call “crunchy” inside. It’s a discomfort, a niggling, painful, ache of a ripple that sits in my heart and makes me restless. All week, I have felt rubbed raw, as if my skin were not covering my bones. The world seems too big most days. Last week, I was good. What, I wondered, made the difference?

I’m sure, to my colleagues and friends, I might seem stand-offish (is that even a word?) or distant or grumpy. Inside, though, there is an anger that simmers and cannot be dampened. It rips me apart from the inside out. What is it and where does it come from? Why has everything irritated me? Noise, harsh or condescending words, a misplaced comment or question that makes me doubt myself (yet again). . .all of it piles up inside. Why this week, and not another? Why the sudden tidal pull or sea shift?

Ironically, it was sister Stacy who helped me figure it out tonight. We had supper together and she said. “It’s that time of year again. It affects you even when you don’t think it does, or when you think that enough time has passed to forget about it….” I almost started to weep. Of course. I had thought I had ‘beaten’ grief. No. It seems that, despite my intention to spend this Christmas season surrounded in more light than darkness, grief has had other plans. All week, my emotions have raged inside….so that I’ve pulled myself inwards like a turtle, listening to classical music at lunch in my office to re-centre myself between parts of the day. No point being around people when you’re so raw. Tears spring from nowhere, and then people wonder if you’re depressed or out of your tree. Nope. Just sad. Just missing people I loved….and dreading the empty space of two weeks off, without a routine to distract me from memory.

Driving home after supper, I wondered why today was the hardest day thus far this week….there have been other hard days over the past years, but today seemed harsher than most. It was the date. December 11th. I had forgotten. It marked the beginning of my mum’s final decline. It marked her departure from her life and her entrance into a palliative ending in hospital. It really marked the end of her being able to converse with us. She died on December 18th, but the week leading up to it is seared into my heart and mind. It seems, even though I had forgotten the date’s importance in terms of bookmarking the season, my body had not. It’s been presenting me with ittle sleep, a restless mind, and sharp stomach pains. Not the flu, as I’d imagined or rationalized, but grief rising up.

I think of C. S. Lewis’s lovely “A Grief Observed,” which helped me through both of my parents’ deaths. Maybe I need to re-read that this week. I’m not sure where the anger comes from. It’s not directed at anyone else but me. I wonder if it means that I wish I’d had more time with her, or that I feel angry that I can’t recall the sound of her voice or her mannerisms, or maybe I blame myself for something I can’t understand. My friend, a poet, says that grief is sometimes like a ‘wavelet,’ while at other times it’s a tsunami. There is no rationalizing it. Letting go of that expectation might help too. You’d think six years would be time enough to move forward. I have, but the words we didn’t speak likely haunt me when I don’t even think they do.

Maybe I just need to be quiet inside and try to find Mum again in a new way, where I can forgive myself and her. Maybe, as my sister wisely said tonight, I just need to be kinder to myself….to realize that none of this has to make sense, but that it must need walking through, to air out the memory, to dispatch it outwards so that I can gather up stars again….

Remember to hug your loved ones during this holy season, friends…

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