Riding the Moving Wave

 

Moving Day is coming!!

There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred, and that is one of the deepest messages of the Incarnation. Madeleine L’Engle 

Moving in and of itself does not seem to be a very holy event, in fact packingtrtimages brings out some of my least holy language. It would feel more sacred to be transported supernaturally to the next location. The advice column tells me to be decisive. Handle every item only once-decide do you take it, donate it or junk it? How can it be that I have collected so much stuff in my time of living next to the Rocky Mountains? An oversized van and my mother’s small car, both with tire rims bulging transported all the carefully selected items across three provinces in order for me to commence a new life. A bed, a chair, a lamp, pictures, some books and clothing buoyed my anticipated new beginning. Not one face was familiar to me on my arrival and now, half a decade later, both the stuff and my relationships have mushroomed exponentially into a beautiful life developed in this region. The mountain’s grandeur present in my every day has reshaped my soul to look upwards, to breathe deep of clear fresh air, and to take the time to process life.

e20ef70cc41f5bf00d498c2af86f2976What the experts don’t tell me, is how to pack up the benefits reaped while living here? How does one box up the richness of relationships to take to the next location? And in the relocation process I wonder what does it mean to be at home? My soul has found a resting place, a nesting place here. Can I find that again? I firmly believe so.

When people asked what brought me to Cochrane … I said it was a series of events. Now another series of events, fuelled by cupid’s arrow, draws me back to my prairie home province. While there has been a longing in my soul to move on, many times I felt at home living in the identity of a grief survivor, although as a survivor I wanted to live, not just exist. Can I now allow myself to live in this new land of dreams? It seemed unthinkable to imagine that I could experience deep joy again. And now I am in the wonder phase … I have been given the gift of a fantastic relationship of a lifetime.

Eric Clapton sings—Nobody knows you when you’re down and out—not true, I had many people walk alongside the grief journey … and now many more are clapping their hands with this turn of events … They tell me, I deserve this … and I wonder, do I deserve to get to be so happy? That begs the question, did I deserve the tragedy? While it is true that we often reap what we sow, no one sows seeds of earthquake, floods, accidents, and disaster. One wall hanging that is packed to make the move reminds me that:

In the end, what matters most is how well did you live, how well did you love, how well did you learn to let go?

img_4489As I pack I am letting go of stuff. I will pack up fond memories, rich friendships and lessons learned. I will move to this next phase of life a better person for having spent five years near the Rockies exploring what it means to be at home in my own life. And the mountains will continue to unfold, even from the Prairies. 

 

Jocelyn is author of Who is Talking out of My Head, Grief as an Out of Body Experience.

 

It’s All About the Shoes!!

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.IMG_2136 Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage. Anaïs Nin

For the past decade the concept of The Journey has intrigued me. Foot shots in over a dozen countries have been a way for me to keep track of the pilgrimage and to say: I was here, I have walked in this place. In many ways the journey of the spirit has been a parallel trek.

IMG_2456Any journey of significance begins with the step of daring to dream, followed closely by the courage step. Courage ties the laces of desire’s boots to provide stability to wavering ankles.

Those boots help us walk the path we have been called to, or the path that has chosen us.
While Psalm 37 tells us that the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, we still have to pay heed to those orders and get up off the chair to move, or pick up the pen to write, or sign up for that class, make that phone call, or book that flight.
In 2009, after a series of events in life, I began to pursue a long time dream to IMG_9218live in another country. What began as a longing to relocate to Australia, needed courage to make the inquiries to pursue the goal and file the paperwork. The pursuit of that dream has changed my life and helped me realize that I can do things I had not believed possible for me. While in the land down under, I also took my first writing class.
I realize relocating countries is a major step, and many smaller steps are needed to make that happen. Life is full of daily decisions to choose courage, to choose to conquer the fear that would hold us back.

It’s all about the shoes

Cement Blocks
Ill fitting shoes
Doubt on the left
Fear on the right
Laced with guilt
It is hard to walk
Harder to dance
Impossible to fly
Barefoot she skipped ahead.

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Jocelyn is the author of Who is Talking Out of My Head, Grief as an Out of Body Experience.

 

What are you waiting for?

Summer is not waiting for me to catch up, I must catch her. This is the only summer of 2016, realize how precious and fleeting she is. Hold her hand, dance in her flower meadows … laugh with a child, blow bubbles, sprinkle in the water, dip your toes in and get wet. Don’t waste a single moment. When the heart is light, this advice is easy to take, when the heart is heavy, laughing and dancing seem far away.

But I have discovered that as I choose to smile, to dance to dawdle … to breathe in the mountain air,IMG_1541 something happens to me …  a revitalization, a realization that life still has much beauty to unfold. When beauty asks me to dance, I should get off the couch.

Beauty is found everywhere, it is ours for the viewing, ours for participating in. It has a way of enlarging the soul. I was talking to my 92 year old mother, who enjoys the view of two large poplar trees from her deck, that and her flower pots are what make her smile on a summer day as she sits in the sunshine. And then she will say, before you know it, the snow will be coming. Oh yes, so for this day I ask you the question Mary Oliver has in her poem …

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?IMG_0375
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver

Breathe in the prayer of summertime and exhale joy … Happy Summer!

IMG_8990“So you must match time’s swiftness with your speed in using it, and you must drink quickly as though from a rapid stream that will not always flow.” 

Seneca, On the Shortness of Life

Kayaking photo by Catherine-thanks.

Care for some Tear Soup?

Grief is the guaranteed price you pay for having loved well. (author uncertain)

This blog goes out to the group that met in Dryden, Ontario early June. Friday evening I wondered if hope could support the collective weight of sadness. Several of us belonged to the exclusive club you do not wish to join, because the membership cost is that of losing a child. Everyone was at a different stage of grief. All of us were there because we had lost someone very precious in our lives, lives that had been forever altered by the grief that brought us here. Together we stirred the pot of tear soup.

The setting was picture perfect … large glass windows framed what I had renamed as Lake Woe-Begone … if only the woes could begone. Along the railing of the deck, squirrels and blackbirds fought over the bird feeder seed. And yet there was hope in the group. The question came up-How do you define hope? Good question. A sense of being able to live having something to look forward to again in life. Emily Dickenson defines hope as the thing with feathers. Yes, it takes flight easily.

Similar to the AA meetings, this could be defined as the GG meeting. (What is Good Grief?) There were tears, there was laughter. The laughter is deeper when you have also shared tears. We had a session of proprioceptive writing, which is similar to journaling on steroids, I explained. It’s a formatted way of writing down the thoughts that come to you.  Thank-you to each of you for being brave enough to show up. Thank-you Garth for your journal entry, it spoke to each of us: (shared here with permission)

Here it is, this is pretty much what came out of my heart in that few minutes.

There is a prison that is not of this earth. Outside of it birds fly, squirrels jump and the Jays chase the chickadees. Water moves in waves and gulls ride the current of warm rising air. Inside of this prison are those serving a sentence that has no end. It is a sentence not based on a crime and not given by a judge or jury.

The prison is one where day passes are given freely but revoked without notice. Each person serving a sentence only wants to be free, but to be free means that they may need to forget. Therefore we serve the sentence, but we simply know that we really want to be able to live the life we had.

IMG_3660We deserve to once again enjoy the beauty outside of the prison. We will not settle for less that what we had. We deserve it and we refuse to live a second rate life. It is worth the sorrow. Move onward, move forward.

I don’t know where it came from but I had read a couple books previous (Ghost Rider by Neil Peart and On Grief Hope and Motorcycles by Candyia Mann) so some inspiration may have come from them.
In the end writing that few lines made me come to realize a few things. I really did not deserve second rate, I deserved to live a decent life and that my wife would be saddened if I did not. Our love was fiercely strong and if I were in a prison she would do what ever it took to break me out of it. The next day, June 5, was her birthday. I thought of all the symbolic things that I could do, but in the end my decision was to celebrate through the action of beginning my breakout of that prison.

**Thank-you Kate for hosting, Dorothy for supporting, and each of you that was brave enough to be there to flavour the soup. 

As Grandy says in the end of the book: “I’ve learned that there is something down deep within all of us ready to help us survive the things we think we can’t survive.”

 

There’s Always Something …

IMG_8892There’s always something …

In the midst of spring’s great expectations, both a wild fire rages and a fridge breaks down. And I can tell you I’d choose a fridge breakdown over the flames any and every day.

It’s also Mother’s Day weekend, and I know that many women dread this day, along with its suitcase of hidden pains and unmet longings.

I hope my daughter calls, but she lives in a country that does not recognize this Hallmark Day. She is also a busy mother and I will try to call her; as I do want to acknowledge the fantastic job she is doing of raising my grandchildren. My surrogate (official definition: a substitute, especially a person deputizing for another in a specific role or office) daughter in Australia, has asked for my mailing address so she can send me something. I don’t need or want a gift I tell her, I would just like a conversation. What I would really like is the connection with the two that don’t call anymore, but like many other Moms, that catching up will have to wait for heaven. Over the years, I’ve heard many of the sadnesses women express over Mother’s Day: the sadness of remaining childless, the sadness of children buried, the sadness of rocky relationships with children. The pain is always greater for the mother separated from a child, than for the child. A little piece of the mother heart goes to each child; and when that daughter has her own children, she will understand the way a mamma’s heart gets divvied up.

This week I had a delightful mother/child encounter while biking the Rocky Mountain Legacy trail, from Canmore to Banff. About half-way, Parks Canada has set up two lovely red lawn chairs; I decided to stop on the return trip, to sit and take in the view. As I arrive to the red chairs, I see that a trio has also just stopped and it looks as though we might both be IMG_4257heading for the chairs. I take one, as a mother plops her little one in the other, and we both take photos. She offers to take my picture, I agree. She sets her drink down on the adjoining arm rest, I say “I’ll raise the cider. I’m sending this to my sister that joined me on this trail last year, she’ll like the drink addition.” After she takes my photo-I reciprocate the offer. The three moms scurry the young ones …  scatter the kids amongst themselves, raise their drinks and I keep shooting. “Look this way, say cheese, do the cheer. How about one from the back, so we see the mountains?” After thanking me, they ask if I’d like the fourth cider. “They came in a pack of four so we do have an extra.”

Yes, I say, that would be great.”

I discover they met in prenatal classes just over a year ago. Then the interesting birthing stories began. Two of them had C-sections. As a former nurse, I asked a few questions. “Were you disappointed to end up with a C-section?” Not really “Did you have a doula?” One had. “Is this your first mother’s day?” Yes.

To Danika, Jessica, Adrianna and all the other first time moms—Happy Mother’s Day to you!

For those with a first sad Mother’s Day—May you be encouraged. You gave the world something beautiful, and you yourself are a better person for that. To the mature mothers & grandmothers: Let’s encourage the young moms. The pressures put on moms can be overwhelming, stifling and self-diminishing. The blend of home, career and parenting is a daunting task, even more challenging than it was in our day.

Adrianna asked about my mothering experience. After briefly explaining my loss, they knew I meant when I said what I have held to be true for a long time: “Motherhood is a high calling. Spend as much time as you can, because you never know what the future holds.”

There is always something … and the forest fire rages in Northern Alberta, while my fridge has been fixed and has resumed its cooling.

Mother’s Day flowers found near Canmore—a special treat: Wild Orchids.IMG_8898

Jocelyn is the author of Who is Talking Out of My Head- Grief as an Out of Body Experience

Thoughts from A-Broad

Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world. Gustave Flaubert

People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home. Dagobert D. RunesDSC_0186

When I was a child I spoke like I child, I acted like a child, but when I became an adult, I stayed in the neighbourhood, I dwelt in the safety zone … until one day … I left, I realized there was more to life than security.

My daughter expresses continual surprise at how different the childhood of her children is, as compared to her own. My daughter went to the same elementary school as I had. (I think most of the teachers had left by then.)

My grandchildren live in North Africa, in a country with French as the second language, after Arabic. Minimal English is spoken in their Muslim neighbourhood. My nine year old grand-daughter rises grumpily for an 8am start at a local private school. Do not think Western style private school. The reason my granddaughter had been keen on this school was because this one had real washrooms, not a converted house bathroom that still had a bath-tub; there were four stalls for girls and four stalls for boys.

IMG_3193It was with great fanfare and delight that I initiated a doubles ride on the single speed bicycle as a way of getting her to school fairly quickly, which was very important last year when she was an eight year old who dawdled efficiently. “We are rocking the hood,” I said to her, as we pedalled the sandy partially paved street, dodging large stones and garbage. She perched on the mounted rear rack keeping her feet slightly apart, holding on to my seat with as firm a grip as her still small fingers could. Like clockwork, our traveling bicycle circus passed the local high school at their arrival time, forcing us to navigate at least two hundred students crossing the street. The head-scarfed girls were thrilled to say a bonjour-presuming I must be French. That day as we pedalled, I responded to a few of the greetings with a smile and either Allo or bonjour. Some of the boys made comments and my granddaughter said “Grandma they’re making fun of us, let’s just get out of here.” As I could not understand the Arabic comments, and saw only smiles and laughter in eyes; I didn’t think they were making fun of us. We were a novelty in their monolithic landscape, this mature blonde woman, with red streaks in her hair. (She couldn’t be a grandmother, for grandmothers would be fully covered in their long jellabas, and never on a bicycle.)

Don’t worry Maisha,” I said, “they’re not being unkind. They’re just not comfortable in their own skin.”

I don’t get it … You’re not a snake grandma, you don’t shed your skin. What do you mean?”

Sometimes people aren’t comfortable with who they are, and then they make fun of other people, to feel better. If you feel okay about who you are, you don’t have to make fun of other people.”

Ah, my dear girl, (I thought) perhaps shedding skin is exactly what we need to do to become who we wantIMG_4854 to be.

Mark Twain’s words ring true: Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, especially as one shares peanut laden strong tea with new friends. 

Jocelyn is the author of Who Is Talking Out of My Head, Grief as an Out of Body Experience.

Of Boogie Boards and Mermaids

The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears, or the sea.             Isak Dinesen

IMG_2157In three days time, I will be on the coast of North Africa. For thousands of years this land has intrigued and invited people to take part in the rituals and magic of life by the sea. Remains of ancient Roman villas, public baths and libraries remind me that others have walked those places before me. Their footsteps have all washed away, as will mine. But while I am in that space, while I am in any space I want to live and breathe the energy it gifts to those who are open.

I connect with Jill Davis’ line about the waves of the sea help me get back to me.

My grandchildren explore unmarked ruins, dip their toes into clear waters of the Mediterranean and barbecue hot dogs along blonde sandy shores. There is a sense of infinity as cerulean blue of sky and water blend into each other. Earth meets sky as thoughts of infinity and divinity merge together on the distant horizon … The land of hopes, dreams and mosaic memories.

And my bags are packed to the gills. Last summer I bought boogie boards for the grandchildren’s visit to my Canadian home, but we experienced end-of-summer-snow and warm campfires. Now the crazy thought to take the boards to North Africa had entered my head, and after a request for life jackets came from across the ocean, my decision was made. Even though my grandchildren live by the sea, my son-in-law could not find life jackets in the local stores. We may be over safetied here in Canada, but they are definitely under the mark. This just meant a second checked in bag … There are times I try to travel light, with only one checked in bag, but when considering gifts for the grandkids and their safety … some of the reasoning went by the sea side.IMG_2250

Certain things make me feel small – mountains and oceans are definitely in that category – especially oceans as they seem to have no beginning or end. Their vastness, can be calm or unrelenting. They not only make me feel small, but they give me a sense of the bigger picture, and my place in it. And the reality that all the trivial daily fussing is not worth its energy. There is a much grander scale of life beyond the routine. There is also an infusion of sacred in the ordinary. Mother Theresa said: We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.

I can hardly wait to stand by the sea, to feel the water on my toes.

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Mermaid image by: quotesville.com

Jocelyn is the author of Who is Talking Out of My Head, Grief as an Out-of-Body Experience