Everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story … Patrick Rothfuss
When I think about the universality of suffering, the number of walking wounded among us astounds me.
For all the years as a nurse, I am thankful I did not have pandemic issues in my career. During these past Covid months, I have finished a book that has rattled around in my head for some time.
In the Becoming is a spiritually reflective look at life, in the aftermath of severe loss. Adversity comes in all shapes and sizes. From the moment we are born we are trained to expect adversity, trained to overcome it. But there are times when the struggles of life overcome us. And where do we go from there?
It intrigues me that becoming is verb, noun, and adjective. As a verb it indicates transition, as a noun it means the process of coming to be something and as an adjective, becoming describes a person with attractive qualities.
The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be. Ralph Waldo Emerson
The choices I make have incredible power to move my life story in the direction I want it to head. Although I would never wish tragedy on another person, the Becoming journey has proved to be life-giving. This book carries stories from my journey of becoming. I am inspired with the power of hope and the resilience of the human spirit.
In the Becoming – carrying on after life derails, to be released November 2020.
I am the song of Easter,
Many voices add fullness to my tune
My anthem began before the creation of the world
It took shape and form as the earth was birthed
It wandered the wilderness in search of a homeland
It has been the aching of the ages
It became visual with the birth of a baby …
I am the song of the seasons
The praises formed in the heat of summer
The harvest song of a well-lived life
The frozen despair in the dead of winter,
The irrepressible burst of new life in spring.
I am the song of celebration, the song of beauty.
I am the song of despair .. the longing song
How long oh Lord will you hide your face from us?
I am the song of confusion and fear, with notes unclear
I am the song of plenty and the song of want
The lament of pain, the balm of comfort
I am the song of amnesia, words forgotten in the dark
I am the song of light and memory
Sing this in remembrance of me.
I am the voice in the crowd … joining the Hosanna of Palm Sunday …
and I am the same voice in the crowd calling crucify him, crucify him …
I am the song of silent shame
And I am the song of Grace … of Forgiveness
I am the song of strong surrender
The song that hung on the cross.
I am the song of resurrection Power
I am the song of green seeded Hope that overflows
Hope to see loved ones again
I am the song of Rest, abide in me, hear my lullaby
I am the song within your heart
We join in the song, with voices weak or strong …
This is the song of humanity
This is the song of a God who sings over us in the night
This is a song of gratitude, of praise, of sorrow
This is a song unstoppable.
And centuries later I am the receiver of this song
I am the one at the graveside of a son, a daughter
and I can barely whisper …
we do not grieve as those who have no hope
Others help me to sing the tune when I cannot hold it
The spirit sings the resurrection song to aching hearts around the world.
Will you join singing the broken Hallelujah?
This poetry came out of an assignment to portray a character of the traditional Easter story. The hope of Easter is a challenge for many people whose hallelujah has been broken.
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 packing 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.
What 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?
As 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.
If you want to feed your insecurities, stand naked in the pool shower. But if you want to feel okay about yourself, also stand naked in the pool shower. There are many body shapes and sizes … get over yourself. You can also shower with your bathing suit on.
One morning a group of grade one students arrived after my aqua-size class was done. Most of the ladies in the class are in their sixties with real grandma bodies, soft and comfortable for hugs, with a little extra pudding. It is freeing to be among these women who are comfortable with their bodies, and peculiar vein-marked appendages. The six year old girls chattered non-stop while they got their swim suits on … the chatter continued as they marched towards the pool, you have to walk past the showers to get to the pool … as they rounded the corner they went dead silent, their mouths stopped mid-word, they could not take their eyes off the nakeds in the showers. Somehow I think this was not the picture of grandma they envisioned. Each wave of girls repeated the sequence of chatter, silence, eyes wide-open fixated on the marshmallow ladies. The grannies had their own chuckles after the education session.
Some mornings the lanes are labelled … Slow, Medium, FAST. With only four lanes, I tend to choose medium or slow. But, after the triathletes have vacated their fast lane, I choose it, and discreetly nudge the fast sign to the edge of adjoining lane. This morning as I joined in, my lane partner said “I’m not that strong a swimmer, I do some swimming and some jogging back and forth.”
“Whatever works,” I said. She jogged on and I front crawled past her. I wondered why she told me that. After half a lane, I realized, she was apologizing for herself. She was in the lane swim, but not doing the standard strokes.
How many times hadn’t I felt out of place when I started at the pool? People would lap me again and again. When I swam alone, I didn’t care, but when there were two or three other swimmers in the lane, I felt the need to apologize each time my arm or leg bumped into another swimmer. So sorry to have been in your space. I stopped at the end of the lane, lifted my goggles from my eyes. I was not in this for their sakes, I was here for myself. We all had a right to be there, and as I stopped comparing myself to others the more buoyant I became.
One stroke of pool luck … I have found a solution for my increasing facial wrinkle count. This morning as I struggled to get a swim cap on – yes, I wear a swim cap to keep my ear plugs in, and the water out of my ears, as I pulled this girdle like cap on my head, I could feel my scalp sucking upwards … then I smiled as I noticed my skin pulled tight, a face lift without surgery. Hmmm, I wonder if my navy swim cap goes with my little black dress?
“There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.” I can still hear those words as each episode of NYPD’s 65th Precinct came to conclusion. I realize the series ended in 1963, likely the time a black and white television arrived in our home.
Earlier this week I heard a story that would not have made the Naked City episodes as there was no official crime involved, unless neglect and regret count.
After swimming lengths in the overcrowded lanes, I met a woman as we headed to the showers of the local pool. We started with weather chit-chat, of how nice the January chinook was and we ended with her sharing the story of her under valued mother-in-law, whom they had buried about ten days earlier.
“She just stopped moving. She didn’t have a real disease, it wasn’t like she had cancer or any real diagnosed illness. She didn’t move.” Sheila expressed guilt, that had she lived closer she could have been of more help, could have helped Annie up, taken her for walks, out shopping. She was convinced that her mother-in-law would be alive if more care had been shown. She expressed the group guilt they felt for having missed out by not knowing who this incredible woman truly was. More of the story spilled out as warm shower water washed over her sadness.
Annie had three sons, was a registered nurse, as well as a co-owner of several business she and her husband started. In the sixties, Annie was ahead of her time in that she worked alongside the men in the oilfields. She was tough and swore with the best of the men in the field. And yet according to my shower friend, Annie had a heart of gold, and only after she passed did they realize how much they would miss the woman who’d hidden behind the gruff facade. Annie was only forty-five when she lost her husband to a work related accident. In spite of that, she carried on and expanded the business with her sons, but it was always referred to as her husband’s business, even years after he died. Sheila held her tears as she expressed the sadness that they had never recognized mother-in-law as someone who wanted or needed affection. In order to survive, the tough exterior was presented, if any man tried to make advances, the sons made sure it did not happen. Annie never again experienced the power of a romantic love in her life—regret filled this daughter’s voice over the missed opportunities.
At 79, Annie just quit moving.
I think Annie decided to shut down her business, got tired of running it … got tired of feeling the need to be tough, the need to push hard, to pretend it didn’t hurt to live without love.
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
another Annie said that―Annie Dillard, (The Writing Life)
A few things I ponder: how to let my heart be open, before it is too late. Never presume the tough exterior is the true one, what is the story beneath it? The importance to keep on moving. Doing does not replace being or knowing.
I never met Annie, but I wished I had.
From an email sent to a friend:
If you are reading this now … I hit Send
If you aren’t reading this, you won’t even know this conversation almost took place.
I am chuckling as I started this email four hours ago ….
Sometimes I feel incredibly young at heart, sometimes I feel like the vulnerable little girl, wanting to be accepted, sometimes I feel as though I could be a hundred years old.
And I fear I might hit send, and regret it … or hit delete and regret that even more ….. Well, it’s coming your way.
It seems whenever I meet up with someone new, I have to play the little “how much do I want them to know about me?” game. This is the mental jockeying done with new encounters. Will they be a small part of my life, a work connection, a friendship, deep, superficial?? The mental assessments happen very quickly. In a recent conversation, I realized I said something that would lead to revealing more of myself than I might have wanted … I said, “they contacted me after having read my book.” As the words tumbled from my mouth, it registered in my head that in all the conversations we’d had, I never mentioned my book. The reluctant author in me, does not want patronized sympathy in place of genuine friendship.My grief story is generally not the first thing I share with others. And yet, I have had the most meaningful connections with people, because of the willingness to be vulnerable. But the little voices in my head warn me, as I verge near the precipice of letting someone in on the painful parts of my story, that when I let my guard down I risk getting hurt. Stephen Russell has said that “being vulnerable is being open for wounding … being open to the wounds of life means also being open to the bounty and beauty. Don’t mask or deny your vulnerability: it is your greatest asset.” (I can’t say that I am in complete agreement with him—my greatest asset?)
Now I know I don’t want to be, or need to be a jellyfish, exposed to everything, self-protection is needed for survival, but I also know that I want to be willing to risk. I’m still working on the risk plunge, but I am further in that direction in the wanting of it, of trusting my instincts of when to risk. I have not yet succeeded, but I’m taking great aim towards this thing. And then when I get hurt, as inevitably still happens … recovery time is lessened.
I try to keep a soft shell around my heart, it allows for more expansion.
Madeleine l’Engle said: When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown up, we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability … To be alive is to be vulnerable.
I also used to think, I would have the answers as I got older … instead I see the number of questions increase.
(Jocelyn has published a book on grief; Who is Talking Out of My Head – Grief as an out of Body Experience, available at DWFriesen Press, and through Amazon)
Things sneak into the closets of my mind …
Your house is your home only when you feel you have jurisdiction over the space. Joan Kron
Every year I am challenged to declutter and this year is no exception, and I have found that one of the best ways to avoid doing and to just talk about doing, is to do online research on the topic, and thus further avoid doing.
January is a busy month for donations at the second hand clothing store where I spend Tues afternoons. People are cleaning out closets. Out with the old and in with the new … and this is the time of year to question why I hang on to some unused items. (But I paid good money for it—and I know I might need it, someday.) While discussing with a friend about the stuff that collects so quickly, she hauled out Peter Walsh’s book, which I interpreted as a divine sign. (Note to self—she is organized and can find items immediately.) And No the clutter does not make my butt look fat, but it does make me feel heavy in spirit. While I have accepted that I will never be a Good Housekeeping poster child, a cluttered space carries a feeling of chaos, and I prefer a sense of calm in my home. And my calm is disrupted by my clutter. When I have trouble finding things, I know it’s time to re-organize. Most of my friends maintain their homes well, but I am acquainted with a range of house keeping habits, from one that vacuums three times a day, to a spinster librarian, with cats and cat food dishes located in bulk around her small house, to a dining room table that has not seen food for years, because it is covered with stuff. Twenty-one is the number of Srabble games she owns—just in case the church might ever hold a scrabble tournament. (Does no one else own scrabble?) Everyone of us has our own reason for clinging to unneeded items, and lately my reasoning has come into question.
MIT finds a correlation between smarts and messiness, but it’s MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and the writer went on to suggest messy-desked people might be skewing the results in their favour. Anyways, they say that “Messiness is often associated with artistic, creative and scientific or mathematical genius, spontaneity, but also with carelessness, eccentricity, madness and unreliability.”
Cleanliness was next to Godliness in my childhood days … my sisters and I rushed through the Saturday morning chores so we could watch Dick Clark’s American Bandstand at noon. An automatic association for me is to clean and then celebrate with dance, not unlike a Guy Davis blues song —his line goes, had some old shoes on, got new shoes now, and I feel like dancing …. thinking old thoughts, got some new thoughts now, and I feel like dancing … Yes, decluttering the closet and the mind leads to dancing and an increased mood of feel good.
An immaculate home (or conception) has never been part of my story, but the closets have become slightly more organized and I feel like dancing.
Trains, planes and automobiles … all in a day, plus bumping carry-ons over cobblestone streets. A privilege to be reading pages from the book of Four Great Cities of Eastern Europe: Dubrovnik, Budapest, Prague and Vienna. The destination is only a part of the journey. Four weeks of travel and what have I learned:
Communication, communication, communication.
The barrier of language,
The connection of smiles,
but precise words can direct you to the correct train platform.
A face tells a story. (Be in charge of its cover.)
Titles are deceiving, and customer service does not guarantee anything,
Information desks may or may not dispense accurate information.
Be prepared, travel light.
(Prepared for what?)
Be prepared to be flexible, and always have tissue in your bag.
Judgements over differences can arise quickly,
Open travellers practice seeing the world with the eyes of the heart,
Culture bleeds into opinions, even when we feel we are open-minded.
There are countless ways of living life, the wise traveller practices
Giving up the need to be right.
Smiling faces at arrival gates dissipate travel weariness. (Especially if they are grandchildren)
“This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through.” (And I want to pass through as much of it as I can.)
The 3 minute egg versus the 5 minute egg: “Would you like a 3 minute egg or a 5 minute?” The blank look on my face gave evidence that I did not understand my Austrian host’s question, so she repeated it. I opted for the 5 minute, egg … we are called to breakfast 6 min later, with a boiled egg in a white egg cup, a white plate for bread, a white bowl for fruit. Cheese, meat and jam set on the table alongside fresh squeezed orange juice. We began, and as I approached my 5 minute egg my host corrected my angle of attack with an expression of horror. (There is in an egg cup for a purpose.) When I confess that we usually shell our 8 minute eggs in Canada, I am informed that 8 minute eggs are eaten only at Easter. I like to think that I carry the hope of Easter all year round, perhaps that explains my egg eating habits? With an outer smile and an inner grimace I recognize there are numerous ways of getting egg on one’s face.
Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends. **
**Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_travel.html
You bet your wrought iron she does!!
(She likes to think of it in terms of having conversations)
And has she been struck by lightning? Not yet, but she is considering a weathervane as an early warning device.
This past weekend, I discovered that my new hometown boasts Western Canada’s first and largest artistic bronze foundry. Studio West is located in what looks initially like a small building, but then you see add-on, to add-on, like the little house that added a bedroom with each new baby. Karen Begg, the grand-daughter and daughter of the original founders, was my tour guide. She explained their success story of steady growth and right time expansion. Their humble bronze pour beginning in a Calgary garage had the neighbours talking.
Karen’s passion for the creative process is evident in the stain of the hands, the caress of the finished products, the excitement in her voice as she shares the history, the process, and the Canada to Europe locations of their finished pieces. From concept to larger than life, she provides the short version of how to create a lasting monument. The quality of their works have garnered numerous awards, five of their pieces have been unveiled by the Queen.
It is Karen’s explanation of the Lost Wax foundry process that intrigues me. In a nutshell, they cover the original sculpture with rubber, then a layer of hot wax is poured over top, cooled, and then the outer mould is crafted from the same material used in the space shuttle tiles. The wax is lost-or melted out. Space the wax occupied, becomes bronze. Experience has taught them to make a small model before the full size. The final statue is poured in sections approximately 325-500 lbs at a time. Pieces are welded together, after which smoothing out the joints and fine detailing takes place … always going back to the original model as their guide. (Note-this does not happen overnight.)
In the back room, we met a pair of one hundred year old dogs, to be refinished and given a new home.
“What turns the parts of the statues golden?” one of our group asks.She replies, “when they are loved, see the tips of the nose, and tops of heads.” I wonder if I develop any golden character when I am brushed up close and personal with people.
So many comparisons to ancient words … about, a Creator that has crafted artistic works, being made in His image, always going back to the original, the potter’s hands.
I forgot to ask Karen if any of her monuments ever talked back to her …. or were struck by lightning.
An interesting book I recently discovered is: Conversations With Monuments in Winnipeg by Kathleen Francis. Photography and thoughts around some of Winnipeg’s bronze characters.
Studio West Bronze Foundry & Art Gallery – Galleries West